Comments

  1. says

    More:

    Democrat Doug Jones of Alabama was asked if he’s worried he’ll lose his seat after he announced he’ll vote to convict Trump.

    “No,” he told reporters as he left the Senate floor. “Did you all all hear that speech? Did anybody hear that speech? It has never crossed my mind.”

    “A couple of days ago it just all came together,” Jones added. “It just all came together and I just did what I thought was the right thing to do.”

  2. says

    Akira @479 in the previous chapter of this thread, you have been warned before about advocating violence when posting on this thread. Please do not do that.

    Even if you think you are speaking metaphorically and/or joking, you cannot advocate physical violence on this thread.

  3. says

    BuzzFeed – “She Shunned Islam And Was Embraced By Trump World. Now, She’s Turned Against Them.”:

    A former rising star in MAGA world recently renounced the orbit of operatives who support President Donald Trump, calling them a “cult” and saying they broke campaign finance laws by requesting and taking her campaign donations.

    Now, Rabia Kazan is talking to the FBI.

    “I lost everything with these people,” Kazan told BuzzFeed News from the lobby of the Connecticut hotel where she now spends most of her time.

    Kazan’s time in the MAGA world saw her make connections with top figures and lesser-known operatives. But she now believes she was “used” for her money — and for her identity as a former Muslim to help smooth over Trump’s incendiary comments about Islam.

    After that incident, Kazan’s love for the MAGA world faded. “I completely lost the feeling,” Kazan said.

    “Almost five years everywhere I go, I said, ‘President Trump is not racist,’” said Kazan. “I know for one thing, he’s encouraging it. His tone, his behavior, his actions are encouraging racist movement.”

    In October, Kazan started writing on social media that her views about the Trump world had changed. “I WILL NOT BE SILENCED!!!!!!!!!!” she posted on Instagram, along with the hashtags #trumpcult #trumpbribery and #corruption.

    Intense social media harassment and threats drove her to visit an FBI field office in Connecticut to start talking with authorities about her time as a rising MAGA star. The FBI declined to comment on those conversations.

    In recent text messages obtained by BuzzFeed News, Butler-Short, the president of Virginia Women for Trump, sent Kazan a ghostwritten Facebook post in intentionally broken English, in which Kazan would declare her love and loyalty to President Trump and assure followers she was now seeking professional psychiatric help.

    In one phone conversation about the posts, reviewed by BuzzFeed News, Butler-Short told Kazan, “Listen to my advice, you go on [Facebook], you put the other picture on and say, ‘I’m very sorry for what I wrote about the president, but not the other people. I am seeing a doctor. It is not- there is no mafia, but there are evil people who did terrible things to try to destroy my life and even have me deported.’”

    Butler-Short confirmed in a phone interview with BuzzFeed News that in recent weeks she sent Kazan two posts ghostwritten in Kazan’s voice. She said of her intentions, “I was very, very clear — only if this comes from your heart, not as a cover-up.” Kazan didn’t post Butler-Short’s words.

    And in a text conversation, right-wing activist and radio host for America’s Voice News Jane Ruby — a featured speaker at events Kazan was asked to sponsor — dangled an exclusive “bombshell interview” in exchange for publicly retracting her criticism of the president.

    Ruby told BuzzFeed News via text, “The accusation that I simply offered her a show in exchange for her retraction is incorrect.” Kazan never posted a retraction. But in a recent Facebook post addressing her former friends, she showed her cards. “I have faced worse than the pathetic, ignorant people who attacked me,” Kazan wrote. “You don’t scare me at all.”

    More at the link.

  4. says

    CNN – “Pentagon officials stunned by White House decision to block Ukraine aid, new emails show”:

    Days before the July 2019 call between President Donald Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart, US officials were still working to expedite the delivery of Javelin anti-tank missiles to the country, according to emails and other internal documents reviewed by CNN.

    The new information underscores how the July 18th decision to hold the military aid stunned officials, who had already assessed Ukraine deserved to receive it and were preparing a Javelin missile order as well. The decision reverberated across the government for weeks. Officials grew so concerned over the deferrals by the Office of Management and Budget that they noted the aid was at “serious risk,” and questioned if the move was illegal.

    In an email to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, who was in his first week on the job, a top Defense official communicated his concern over Trump’s “reported view that the US should cease providing security assistance” to Ukraine and its impact on national security.

    Defense officials hoped Esper might be able to persuade the President to drop the hold, and included their rationale in briefing notes provided to him for an August meeting at the White House.

    The documents reviewed by CNN — none of which revealed classified information on military operations or sensitive personnel matters — are linked to communications and meetings from July and August last year related to the aid freeze that was at the center of efforts to impeach Trump. The documents paint a broad picture of bureaucrats scrambling to understand and push back against a sudden, unexplained White House directive that disrupted months of careful planning, contradicted Pentagon decisions based on US national security concerns and undermined Ukraine’s efforts to defend itself against Russia.

    The revelations follow a refusal by the Department of Justice last week to disclose two dozen emails which it said should remain confidential because they describe “communications by either the President, the Vice President, or the President’s immediate advisors regarding Presidential decision-making about the scope, duration, and purpose of the hold on military assistance to Ukraine.”

    Democratic House impeachment investigators have repeatedly highlighted OMB’s refusal to turn over any documents when subpoenaed during the probe and suggested that emails may exist showing acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney’s role in passing along the President’s order to halt the aid to Ukraine….

  5. says

    What Trump said during his SOTU speech:

    My administration is also taking on the big pharmaceutical companies. We have approved a record number of affordable generic drugs, and medicines are being approved by the FDA at a faster clip than ever before. (Applause.) And I was pleased to announce last year that, for the first time in 51 years, the cost of prescription drugs actually went down. (Applause.)

    And working together, Congress can reduce drug prices substantially from current levels. I’ve been speaking to Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and others in Congress in order to get something on drug pricing done, and done quickly and properly. I’m calling for bipartisan legislation that achieves the goal of dramatically lowering prescription drug prices. Get a bill on my desk, and I will sign it into law immediately. (Applause.)

    AUDIENCE: H.R.3! H.R.3! H.R.3! [That’s a reference to House Resolution 3, which was passed and which is now in Mitch McConnell’s pile of bills he refuses to bring to the floor for a vote.]

    Commentary:

    […] For now, let’s put aside the fact that Trump isn’t “taking on the big pharmaceutical companies”; he’s hiring pharmaceutical companies’ employees for key governmental posts. We can also brush past the fact that his claim about the cost of prescription medications actually going down was demonstrably false.

    Let’s instead focus on his request for legislation on the issue, and why Democrats were so eager to reference “H.R. 3.”

    Whether the president knows this or not, it was just two months ago that the Democratic House majority delivered on one of its top priorities for this Congress, approving the “Lower Drug Costs Now Act” (H.R. 3), which intends to lower drug costs by empowering the federal government to leverage its Medicare purchasing power – a position Trump used to agree with before he was lobbied in a different direction – and negotiate directly with the private pharmaceutical industry.

    It passed with relative ease, though nearly every House Republican voted against it.

    The bill came six months after House Democrats passed a related bill addressing the cost of prescription drugs, which was designed to make it easier for generic drugs to enter the market.

    In other words, Trump asked Congress to pass legislation to lower the cost of prescription medication, to which House Democrats effectively replied, “We already did.”

    On the other side of Capitol Hill, however, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has ignored the House-backed bills and has declined to offer Republican-backed alternatives. The likelihood of anything happening on this issue anytime this year is practically zero.

    Link

  6. says

    Trump’s mindset regarding the impeachment vote in the House, and Trump’s delusion laid bare:

    At an event in Michigan last week, Donald Trump referenced the U.S. House vote on impeachment and how pleased he was with the final vote tally. “We won 196 to nothing,” the president said. For emphasis, he added soon after, “196 to nothing.”

    In reality, the vote on the first article of impeachment was 230 to 197, while the vote on the second article was 229 to 198. But in Trump’s mind, it was a shutout in the other direction — because the votes from the Democrats and Congress’ lone independent, in a rather literal sense, didn’t count.

    I thought of this watching Donald Trump’s State of the Union address because it was a continuation of the theme: the president seems vaguely aware of the existence of his political opponents, but he’s convinced himself that they simply don’t count, and as a consequence, there’s no point in acknowledging them […]

    In 2020, the state of our union is bitter, but that’s not an accident of circumstance; it’s the end result of a deliberate strategy, hatched by a president who believes toxicity works in his favor. […]

    He lied about matters large and small. He refused to shake House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s outstretched hand. He talked up a divisive culture war. He saw no need to extend an olive branch to his partisan foes […]

    When First Lady Melania Trump put the nation’s highest civilian honor around the neck of a right-wing media personality, it served as an oddly appropriate capstone to the president’s broader goals. The New York Times reported:

    In an unusual departure from protocol, Rush Limbaugh was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Trump during the State of the Union address on Tuesday night, one day after the conservative talk show host revealed that he had advanced lung cancer.

    Mr. Limbaugh, 69, sat next to the first lady, Melania Trump, in the gallery of the House of Representatives, where he joined Venezuela’s opposition leader, a top border patrol agent and several other guests of Mr. Trump…. The first lady presented the medal, which is usually bestowed during a ceremony at the White House, to Mr. Limbaugh.

    Limbaugh’s rhetorical record is too lengthy to review in a single blog post, but a compelling Media Matters’ assessment noted that Trump “conferred one of the nation’s great civilian honors upon a man who has trafficked in hate and is responsible for some of the most vile degradations of the nation’s political discourse.”

    As disappointing as it may be to see the president cheapen the Medal of Freedom – again – it wasn’t exactly surprising. Limbaugh is on Trump’s “team,” and last night’s national address was intended to send a signal that the president is indifferent to those who are not.

    It’s also a sign of things to come. Election Day is 39 weeks away, and Trump used his State of the Union address to signal his intentions: the next nine months will be devoted to motivating the Republican Party’s far-right base, ensuring they’re both satisfied and electrified.

    Link

  7. says

    Another example of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s cluelessness, and of his increasingly trumpian tendencies to engage in mindless insults:

    One of the more dramatic visuals from Donald Trump’s latest State of the Union address came at the end, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, clearly disgusted with the president’s display, tore a copy of Trump’s remarks in half.

    The president’s Republican allies, pretending to care a great deal about decorum — an ironic point of concern given Trump’s antics — have been quick to condemn Pelosi’s gesture as somehow inappropriate. The president himself seems to care more about the Democratic leader’s display than the content of his remarks.

    But it was a member of the president’s cabinet who decided to mock the House Speaker with a single image he promoted via social media.

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in an apparent swipe at Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), on Tuesday night tweeted an image from “The Simpsons” of Lisa Simpson tearfully ripping up a sheet of paper.

    The tweet came after Pelosi tore up her copy of President Trump’s State of the Union speech immediately after he finished addressing a joint session of Congress. Pelosi later told reporters it was “the courteous thing to do given the alternative.”

    If you haven’t seen the tweet, it’s entirely straightforward: Pompeo highlighted an image of Lisa Simpson, sobbing and tearing up a piece of paper. The point, evidently, was for the nation’s chief diplomat to compare the House Speaker to a dejected second grader.

    But for those of us who actually know The Simpsons well, Pompeo may not have fully appreciated the point he was inadvertently making.

    The image the cabinet secretary promoted came from a 1991 episode called, “Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington.” In it, Lisa, inspired after a trip to Springfield Forest, writes an essay on American greatness. Her work, “The Roots of Democracy,” was so well received that she qualified for a trip to Washington, D.C.

    While in the nation’s capital, however, she overheard a lobbyist paying a bribe to a congressman for the rights to tear down Springfield Forest. Heartbroken, Lisa tears up her essay, replacing it with a new one: “Cesspool on the Potomac.” She tells the essay-contest judges, “The city of Washington was built on a stagnant swamp some 200 years ago, and very little has changed. It stank then and it stinks now – only today it is the fetid stench of corruption that hangs in the air.”

    In other words, the image Pompeo saw as apt was symbolic of disillusionment in the face of corruption. The image showed a patriot, eager to see the best in her country, disgusted by those who fail to honor the nation’s highest ideals.

    If Pompeo sees a parallel between Nancy Pelosi last night and Lisa Simpson’s shattered faith from that episode, the Speaker should probably see that as a compliment.

    As for how the episode ended, the corrupt politician Lisa saw – the one who caused her to tear up the paper in front of her – ended up arrested. […]

    Link

  8. says

    Clarification: Romney’s voting to convict on abuse of power but not obstruction of congress (which makes no real difference). His speech makes the other Republicans look even worse than they already did, which is a feat.

  9. says

    AP – “Report: At least 138 sent from US to El Salvador were killed”:

    At least 138 people deported to El Salvador from the U.S. in recent years were subsequently killed, Human Rights Watch says in a new report that comes as the Trump administration makes it harder for Central Americans to seek refuge here.

    A majority of the deaths documented by Human Rights Watch in the report being released Wednesday occurred less than a year after the deportees returned to El Salvador, and some within days. The organization also confirmed at least 70 cases of sexual assault or other violence following their arrival in the country.

    The violence underscores the risk faced by people forced to return by U.S. law that mandates deportation of non-citizens convicted of a range of crimes and Trump administration policies that discourage asylum seekers, said Alison Leal Parker, the group’s U.S. managing director.

    “Our concern is that many of these people are facing a death sentence,” Leal Parker said.

    Between 2014 and 2018 the U.S. deported about 111,000 Salvadorans back to their homeland, which has long been in the grip of fierce gang violence.

    The. U.N. reported last year that killings in El Salvador, a majority of them linked to gang conflict, have declined from a peak of more than 6,000 in 2015. But the country still has one of the highest homicide rates in the world.

    Meanwhile, the number of Salvadorans seeking asylum in the United States grew by nearly 1,000% between 2012 and 2017, many citing threats from gangs. Only about 18% are granted asylum.

    Human Rights Watch confirmed the 138 deaths during that period through official records, interviews with families and media accounts but believes the actual toll is much higher, in part because some aren’t recorded due to the stigma of having been deported from the U.S. The number of assaults is likely low also because of under-reporting in the country of 6.5 million.

    The deaths tracked in the study occurred under this administration and the previous one. But Donald Trump has made immigration enforcement a centerpiece of his administration, and that has included a policy of forcing asylum-seekers from Central America to wait in Mexico while their claims are evaluated and be sent back to their homelands if their claim is rejected.

    Many of those asylum-seekers could previously have been released on parole in the United States for a decision that could take a year or more….

    Human Rights Watch urged the administration to repeal the policy that requires asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico along with the agreements that allow Guatemalans, Salvadorans and Hondurans to be settled in other countries of Central America while seeking refuge. They also want the attorney general to reverse restrictions that made it harder for them to claim U.S. asylum because of threats posed by gangs or gender-based violence.

  10. tomh says

    As for Romney, why not? He’s already on Trump’s enemies list. Of course, Bolton is on top, with Trump wanting a criminal investigation of him for “mishandling classified information.” He’ll probably get one too, he gets everything else he wants.

  11. says

    Dan Bongino: “Mitt Romney will vote for the hoax impeachment articles which means there are STILL no Republicans supporting this sham. Romney is a fraud, a fake, a phony, a coward, a chump, and a liberal. I’m horrified that I voted for this snake sell-out.”

    Matt Gaetz: “Mitt Romney is a sore loser.”

    Trump Jr.: “Mitt Romney is forever bitter that he will never be POTUS. He was too weak to beat the Democrats then so he’s joining them now.

    He’s now officially a member of the resistance & should be expelled from the @GOP.”

    He’s working to get #ExpelMitt trending on Twitter.

  12. says

    What Trump said during the SOTU address:

    I’ve also made an ironclad pledge to American families: We will always protect patients with pre-existing conditions.

    “Ironclad.” Nope. That’s a lie.

    Commentary:

    I don’t doubt that some people will fall for this. Indeed, congressional Republicans applauded the line last night, as if Trump were telling the truth. But he wasn’t, and reality on this point is unambiguous.

    To be sure, the president is clearly fond of this lie. Given the frequency and apparent sincerity with which he repeats the lie, part of him may actually believe it. It was several weeks ago, for example, when the Republican claimed on Twitter, “I was the person who saved Pre-Existing Conditions in your Healthcare.” He added, “I will always protect your Pre-Existing Conditions, the Dems will not!”

    When that faced immediate pushback, and the president’s brazen deception was exposed, he doubled down, publishing another tweet repeating the lie: “I stand stronger than anyone in protecting your Healthcare with Pre-Existing Conditions.”

    […] He didn’t “save” protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions — protections created by Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act –[Trump] fought to take those protections away through a series of far-right repeal-and-replace proposals he couldn’t get through a Congress led by his own party.

    Those efforts are ongoing: Trump is also helping champion a federal lawsuit, which is currently pending in the courts, and which would strip protections from Americans with pre-existing conditions.

    That’s not opinion; it’s reality. Even for a president known for lying to the point that observers have questioned his mental stability, this is as offensive a lie as any Trump has told.

    The question is whether he’ll get away with it. NBC News’ Benjy Sarlin did a nice job recently explaining a realistic scenario that may very well unfold in the coming months. The scenario involves Trump and his team urging the courts to end protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions, falsely telling voters that Trump actually wants to save those protections, winning re-election in part thanks to his transparent lie, and then waiting for Trump-appointed Supreme Court justices to eliminate those protections in the Republican’s second term. […]

    Link

  13. says

    You can view Romney’s full speech here:

    https://twitter.com/NBCPolitics/status/1225141483487055878

    A few excerpts below:

    “With my vote, I will tell my children and their children that I did my duty to the best of my ability, believing that my country expected it of me.”

    “Care for the welfare of the whole body politic and not in serving the interests of some one party to betray the rest.”

    “You see, I support a great deal of what the President has done. I voted with him 80% of the time. But my promise before God to apply impartial justice required that I put my personal feelings and political biases aside.”

    “Does anyone seriously believe that I would consent to these consequences other than from an inescapable conviction that my oath before God demanded of me?”

    “I will only be one name among many — no more, no less — to future generations of Americans who look at the record of his trial. They will note merely that I was among the senators who determined that what the President did was wrong, grievously wrong. We are all footnotes at best in the annals of history. But in the most powerful nation on Earth, the nation conceived of liberty and justice, that distinction is enough for any citizen.”

    “The great question the constitution tasks senators to answer is whether the President committed an act so extreme and egregious that it rises to the level of a high crime and misdemeanor. Yes, he did.”

    “The President is guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust.”

  14. says

    A discussion of Trump’s attack on public education in the SOTU address:

    […] Trump continued the campaign against public education as a public good in his State of the Union address, with a reference to “failing government schools” and a push for a federal education privatization plan in the form of “Education Freedom Scholarships.” That’s a giant voucher program that would give tax credits to people who give money for scholarships at private and religious schools—schools that may discriminate against LGBTQ kids or exclude kids with disabilities and special needs, for starters. […]

    In one of his made-for-reality-TV moves, Trump highlighted a Philadelphia girl whose future he claimed had been damaged by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto of an education privatization bill, and announced that she would now be given a voucher for use in private education. In refusing to expand that program, Wolf noted that it “lacks proper accountability and oversight, and little is known about the educational outcomes of students participating in the program due to a reporting loophole in the current law.” In contrast to the lack of “fairness and accountability” in the privatization program, Wolf said, “We have an accountable public education system in place that is underfunded. I have and I will continue to fight to fully fund Pennsylvania’s public schools.” […]

    “They do not answer to a locally elected school board. They do not have to follow laws protecting students with disabilities. They do not have to follow the same stringent reporting and hiring requirements as public schools,” said Heather DuBois Bourenane of the Wisconsin Public Education Network, describing her state’s voucher schools. “They can use curriculum that is religious, unvetted and unscientific. They can—and frequently do—‘counsel out’ students who do not meet expectations, distorting the data on their performance and creating unfunded cost burdens for local public schools. This is unethical and we know it is wrong.”

    Yes, and it’s what Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos want to turn the entire U.S. educational system into.

    Link

  15. says

    Adam Schiff:

    Having proven Trump guilty, I asked if there was just one Republican Senator who would say “enough”

    Who would stand up against this dangerously immoral president

    Who would display moral courage

    Who would do impartial justice as their oath required and convict

    And there is.

  16. says

    From Mark Sumner:

    […] Susan Collins took the first swing at Trump’s learning experience when she told CBS News that Trump had learned a “pretty big lesson” from the whole process of hearings and trial, and that she was sure he would be “much more cautious” about soliciting political slander from foreign governments in the future. “[…] The president of the United States should not be asking a foreign country to investigate a political rival. That is just improper. It was far from a perfect call.”

    Once he heard of this, Trump was immediately so contrite that he … immediately dismissed the idea that he had learned the first thing from his impeachment “lesson.” Instead, Trump showed that he had not moved a single inch from the place he started at the beginning of the whole scandal, calling his extortion “a perfect call.”

    […] Collins wasn’t alone. Lamar Alexander was first onboard the train of Republican senators acknowledging that the House managers had proven their case, and that Trump had in fact tried to force an allied nation into interfering in the 2020 election by withholding military assistance. Only Lamar wasn’t about to do anything about it. Instead, he’ll go back to Tennessee, where people apparently say, “Yep, that looks like murder” and then go on about their business.

    Lisa Murkowski was also on board the Yes He Did Express. She defended her refusal to call witnesses by saying that no witnesses were needed. Trump’s behavior was “shameful and wrong.” But not so shameful that Murkowski would do anything, such as allowing the public to hear the full case.

    […] There’s also Rob Portman. “I believe that some of the president’s actions in this case—including asking a foreign country to investigate a potential political opponent and the delay of aid to Ukraine—were wrong and inappropriate, “ said Portman. Some of Trump’s actions in this case happened to be every action that the House managers placed in their articles of impeachment. Still, that doesn’t mean that Portman is going to do anything but collect his ticket to the afterparty.

    Ben Sasse was one of the most Trump-supportive Republicans when it came to tossing softballs to Trump’s defense team. That didn’t stop him from declaring that “delaying the aid was inappropriate and wrong and shouldn’t have happened.” Neither should his vote to sustain Trump. But it will.

    And then there’s Republican Majority Whip John Thune. Following the lead of America’s most unpopular senator, Thune declared that Trump was just inexperienced and naive. He’ll be sure to mend his ways and be more careful going forward. Quick: Someone ask Trump about that one.

    The truth behind the Republican position is the one that was made clear when Murkowski and Alexander teamed up with Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham on Team Lickspittle: They do not give a damn. And from the excuses they’re providing, they also don’t give a damn who knows it.

    Link

  17. Akira MacKenzie says

    Having proven Trump guilty, I asked if there was just one Republican Senator who would say “enough”

    Yeah, and that the problem: There was just one.

  18. says

    Akira @29, agreed.

    SC @31, oh no. That’s a problem. Republicans are likely to never see/hear Romney’s remarks. They won’t be aired on Fox News. Republicans will know what Donald Junior tweeted, and that Romney supposedly betrayed them. Other than that, no information will enter their bubble.

  19. says

    From Amy Davidson Sorkin, writing for The New Yorker:

    When Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, tore a copy of Donald Trump’s State of the Union address in half, it was hardly a furtive move. Pelosi was standing behind Trump, who had just finished speaking and was angling for an exit; she looked straight ahead and raised her arms high enough to make sure that everybody could see what she was doing. She ripped one stack of paper, and then, since there were still sheets left, she tore another stack, then another, before neatly putting the remains in a folder.

    […] her raised eyebrows and grimaces mark the spots where fact checkers have work to do. When Trump claimed, for example, that he was the protector of health-care coverage for people with preëxisting conditions—he is not—Pelosi shook her head.

    […] When Trump praised the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell—“Thank you, Mitch!”—it was for getting Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch confirmed, along with other federal judges. McConnell acknowledged him with a small, tight smile and a wave. When Trump added, after naming the Justices, “And we have many in the pipeline,” the Republicans cheered. At another point, there were chants of “Four more years.” If Trump couldn’t celebrate the end of his impeachment, he could celebrate himself.

    […] Notably, Trump did not thank the Democrats for getting the U.S.M.C.A. through Congress, or for the changes they had insisted on that made it a more progressive (if imperfect) deal.

    At the best of times, Trump is not the type to share credit. Several of the many falsehoods and distortions that FactCheck.org catalogued in the address had to do with his attempts to erase President Obama’s legacy, whether by misrepresenting wage statistics or the cost of health-care premiums. Trump also bragged about hurting vulnerable people when he said that “seven million” had stopped receiving food stamps [….] (And, as the Washington Post noted, the actual number is slightly more than four million.) […]

    As for extending health coverage to those who do not have it, Trump said, “To those watching at home tonight, I want you to know: we will never let socialism destroy American health care.” And he didn’t even pretend to have much sympathy for migrants. He railed about how providing coverage for undocumented people would “bankrupt our nation,” and about “criminal illegal immigrants” and a “gruesome spree of deadly violence.” He said that a “powerful wall” is being built. […]

    The State of the Union was, if nothing else, a timely reminder for Democrats, as they head into the campaign, that as a showman Trump is not incompetent. But then neither is Nancy Pelosi.

    One can understand why Pelosi would tear up the speech. She told reporters she did so because it was “the courteous thing to do, considering the alternative.” […] A gesture like Pelosi’s is most powerful when it either serves as a rupture, shaking an audience awake, or reframes what has come before […] But Trump’s speech was already too gaudy for the speech-tearing to have quite that effect. A State of the Union, at its best, is a stately festival of democracy. This one was a carnival, down to the moment when, as Trump exited the House, he autographed a Republican’s tie. It was almost remarkable that there wasn’t a surprise marriage proposal somewhere on the House floor, with Trump offering a hotel suite for the honeymoon. Maybe that’s coming at the Republican National Convention, this summer. And, soon after that, Democrats will be able to do something more effective than tear up speeches: they can vote.

  20. Akira MacKenzie says

    Lyanna @ 33

    Republicans are likely to never see/hear Romney’s remarks.

    I seriously doubt it would have mattered if they did. Romney, who failed the GOP in 2012, is not changing anyone’s minds in Trump’s GOP, a party only concerned with “winners” be that economical, cultural, or political.

  21. says

    Josh Marshall: “Schadenfreude is highly, highly addictive and has led to the downfall of many. But if you have someone to lash you to the mast to resist the siren call, I recommend dipping into the #RecallRomney Twitter stream.”

  22. Chris J says

    Well, we’re long past conviction on the first article, but so far only Republicans have voted “Not Guilty.” Hopefully that holds.

  23. Chris J says

    Second article, 47 to 53, again only republicans voting “Not Guilty.” Romney votes not guilty this time.

  24. Chris J says

    Ugh. Even though this was the expected result, it was still depressing to see the votes roll in. We’re basically back to Garland logic: yes, this is the correct thing to do (vote for a justice, find Trump guilty), but it’d be too disruptive to do it so close to an election, and gee whiz everyone’s being so argumentative about it.

    The history books are going to have some choice words about today.

  25. says

    Months before Trump pressured Zelensky to open investigations during the infamous July 25 phone call, henchmen working for his attorney nearly succeeded in doing the same with the previous Ukrainian leader.

    Yes, as expected more proof of Trump’s guilt will continue to roll in long after the Republican lickspittles in the Senate voted “not guilty.”

    As the Senate votes to acquit President Trump over his bid to extort the Ukrainian government into providing him with domestic political help, TPM has new evidence suggesting that the pressure campaign came far closer to succeeding and at an earlier stage than was previously known. […]

    Text messages obtained by TPM show that former Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko was scheduled to announce investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 election to John Solomon of The Hill in March 2019. Ultimately, Poroshenko backed out of the interview at the last minute.

    The planned appearance came in the wake of a late February meeting that the then-Ukrainian leader held with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, in which they offered what Parnas has described as a “quid pro quo” on behalf of Rudy Giuliani and his client, […] Trump: announce investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 election, and receive in return a state visit to the U.S. that could bolster Poroshenko’s re-election chances.

    […] “This was not just the July 25 call, it was a months-long scheme, or effort, or whatever you wanna call it put together by the President, Giuliani, and others,” Parnas told TPM in a telephone interview with his attorney Joseph A. Bondy. […]

    Parnas sent Poroshenko’s press secretary a list of questions ahead of the planned interview: “this will be questions,” Parnas said in an accompanying text. The questions, obtained by TPM, goad Poroshenko into describing the allegations that Trump would later want Zelensky to investigate.

    The questions cover two distinct topics: allegations that Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was bad-mouthing President Trump in Kyiv and allegations that Joe Biden had abused his position to have a Ukrainian prosecutor fired in a bid to protect his son Hunter Biden from an investigation. […]

    The line of questions about the Bidens conclude in the following sequence:

    “Did VP Biden have an interest personally in the prosecutor’s office and its activities?”

    “Was the VP’s son and his company Barisma Holdings under investigation and how serious were the allegations?”

    “What happened to that case after the vice president’s intervention?”

    Parnas told TPM that Solomon formulated the questions. The topics do not cover allegations of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election — a right-wing hobbyhorse raised on Trump’s call with Zelensky, and a story in which Poroshenko is supposedly implicated. […]

    Darya Khudyakova, the Poroshenko spokeswoman who communicated with Parnas, did not deny the matter in a statement to TPM, but also did not directly address the allegations.

    “We greatly value the relations of strategic partnership between Ukraine and the US, and thus would ask you not to drag Ukraine into the internal debates that belong to the US and American people only,” Khudyakova said. […]

    On Feb. 20, Poroshenko had effusively praised President Trump in a separate Fox News appearance during a visit to New York City. […]

    Parnas’ allegations about the Poroshenko pressure campaign are supported by contemporaneous Russian-language texts between Parnas and Yuriy Lutsenko, Ukraine’s prosecutor general at the time.

    Once again, Parnas brings the receipts. Rudy Giuliani is already saying that Parnas is lying.

    […] On March 8, Parnas sent Lutsenko the names of Solomon and Fox News’ Sean Hannity along with a March 5 Washington Post article that took a critical look at “the feedback loop between Fox News and the Oval Office.” In the same exchange, Parnas sent Lutsenko a story from The Hill from December 2018, casting doubt on the FBI’s conduct in the Russia investigation.

    In response to the messages, Lutsenko began to complain about Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and the State Department’s support for her as a response. […]

    “Try to do an interview tomorrow at one,” Parnas added, apparently referring to an interview that Lutsenko later had with Solomon. […]

    Lutsenko gave Parnas the phone number of Poroshenko’s press secretary, Svyatoslav Tsegolko.

    Parnas wrote that “we are now in the [studio] and will now call the President’s secretary.” He followed up with screenshots of what appeared to be Solomon interviewing Nazar Kholodnytsky, a Ukrainian prosecutor whose firing Yovanovitch demanded.

    TPM obtained texts between Parnas and Darya Khudakova, Poroshenko’s foreign media press secretary.

    […] something happened in the intervening time, and Poroshenko called it off.

    Lutsenko told Parnas “these are not questions for an acting President — in the heat of the campaign he cannot respond to questions about the ambassador, Biden, etc.” […]

    It would appear from the texts that Poroshenko’s team chose at the last minute to walk away from the interview, perhaps sensing it unwise.

    Or, as Lutsenko wrote a few days later, “I’m ready to screw your competitor, but you just want more.” […]

    But Lutsenko himself eventually spoke to Solomon and got his end of the deal, or at least part of it: Yovanovitch was removed from her post as ambassador in late April, and formally removed from Kyiv in early May.

    Lutsenko told Bloomberg in a May 16 interview after Yovanovitch’s departure that there was no evidence to suggest wrongdoing on Biden’s part.

    “I do not want Ukraine to again be the subject of U.S. presidential elections,” Lutsenko told Bloomberg. “Hunter Biden did not violate any Ukrainian laws — at least as of now, we do not see any wrongdoing.”

    TPM link

  26. says

    From Zach Wolf:

    Biden adviser @SymoneDSanders will NOT say she believes the data coming in from Iowa is correct.

    This is not going to help anyone trust the process. “I guess we’ll have to take the Iowa Democratic party at their word.”

    https://twitter.com/zbyronwolf/status/1225123797034061826
    Video available at the link.

    From Patrick Caldwell:

    […] This is shockingly irresponsible. Biden’s staff is essentially trying to foster unreasonable doubts in order to cover for the fact that he didn’t do well there.

    Sure, it is frustrating that the Iowa Democratic Party has been slow to release results and less than open about when final numbers will come out. But despite technical issues with that app that was supposed to transmit results to the state party, there is absolutely zero reason to believe that the final results will have been skewed.

    There are many, many problems with how caucuses are conducted, but one upside is that they are near-foolproof when it comes to preventing election-rigging, because the process unfolds entirely in public, giving each side’s supporters a chance to call foul if any numbers don’t add up. […] each person had to fill out a card marking their preference, creating a lengthy paper trail. […]

    Biden himself is at least a bit more honest about what happened, saying in New Hampshire on Wednesday that “we took a gut punch in Iowa.” But he needs to get his campaign staff to keep to that line. Otherwise, questioning the integrity of the results is copying a bit too much from the president he wants to defeat this fall.

    Link

  27. says

    The White House’s response to Nancy Pelosi’s ripping up of her copy of the SOTU address is just a wee smidgen over the top:

    Speaker Pelosi just ripped up:

    One of our last surviving Tuskegee Airmen.

    The survival of a child born at 21 weeks.

    The mourning families of Rocky Jones and Kayla Mueller.

    A service member’s reunion with his family.

    That’s her legacy

  28. says

    The Department of Justice is reviewing allegation that Erik Prince misled Congress during the Russia probe.

    Adam Schiff says Prince impaired the House Intelligence Committee investigation of Russian links to the 2016 Trump campaign.

    The Justice Department has begun reviewing a 10-month-old allegation by the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), that Erik Prince, an ally of […] Trump, repeatedly misled lawmakers during the panel’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

    In a Feb. 4 letter to Schiff from Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd, obtained on Tuesday by POLITICO, Boyd expressed regret for the lengthy delay in responding to the chairman’s April 30, 2019, request.

    “We apologize for the delay in responding to your letter,” Boyd wrote, adding, “[T]he Department acknowledges receipt of your letter and will refer your request for investigation to the proper investigative agency or component for review.”

    Schiff initially referred Prince to the Justice Department and sought “prompt” action for what he described as a series of “manifest and substantial falsehoods.” In that letter, delivered to Attorney General William Barr, Schiff said that Prince, the billionaire founder of a military contracting firm, intentionally misled the House Intelligence Committee and impaired its investigation of Russian links to the 2016 Trump campaign.

    It’s unclear what led the Justice Department to return to Schiff’s request 10 months later on the eve of the Senate’s decision to acquit Trump on two impeachment charges. […]

    In his April 30 letter, Schiff highlighted six instances in which information revealed about Prince in Mueller’s report diverged from his testimony in November 2017 before the committee. He homed in on Prince’s meeting, in the Seychelles in January 2017, with a Russian banker who is reportedly close to President Vladimir Putin of Russia, an encounter Prince later told congressional officials took place purely by chance.

    Prince told Schiff’s committee in late 2017 that he had no “official or, really, unofficial role” with the Trump campaign. He said he wrote unsolicited policy papers that he forwarded to Trump adviser Steve Bannon, attended some fundraisers and contributed to Trump’s campaign.

    “So there was no other formal communications or contact with the campaign?” then-Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) asked.

    “Correct,” Prince replied.

    But a succession of news reports indicated that Prince’s relationship with the campaign was deeper than he let on. According to a New York Times report last May, Prince helped facilitate meetings for high-level Trump campaign staff.

    https://www.politico.com/news/2020/02/05/erik-prince-doj-russia-110955

  29. tomh says

    The Hill:
    GOP states tell Supreme Court to wait on reviewing ObamaCare case
    Greg Nash

    Texas and a coalition of conservative states on Monday urged the Supreme Court not to step in and hear a lawsuit seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

    The states said that a lower court first needs to rule before the Supreme Court can take up the case.

    Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) said it was premature for the justices to take up the case without first waiting for a decision from a district court judge in Texas.

    “This Court should not allow petitioners to leapfrog lower-court consideration,” Paxton wrote.
    […]

    The Trump administration, which declined to defend ObamaCare in court, is expected make a similar argument today.
    […]

    Compare this to the number of times the Trump administration has sought expedited review, leapfrogging lower courts to rule immediately. It sought expedited Supreme Court action in lawsuits over the administration’s travel ban, its efforts to end the DACA immigration program, its changes to the 2020 Census, and the Pentagon’s ban on transgender troops.

    In many of those cases, the Trump administration has argued that lower-court rulings invalidating a federal policy are simply too pressing to leave to the normal process, which can take years.

    Yet in this case, which would invalidate the entire ACA and remove health care from who knows how many people, there is no rush.

    In other words, LET’S JUST WAIT UNTIL AFTER THE ELECTION.

  30. says

    Yep, this is more or less what we expected.

    “After Senate acquittal, Trump tweets video showing him running for president indefinitely.”

    If you want to see the tweets, you can visit @realDonaldTrump on Twitter.

    […] The edited clip that Trump shared on Wednesday afternoon is set to the tune of “Peer Gynt Suite No. 1.” It zooms in on an additional campaign yard sign reading “Trump 2048” that Trump is standing behind. The sign ticks up by several hundred years and eventually transforms to read “Trump 4EVA.” […]

    Link

  31. says

    Yep, this more of what we expected:

    […] Trump will give a speech from the White House on Thursday to take a victory lap on his acquittal from two articles of impeachment.

    “I will be making a public statement tomorrow at 12:00pm from the @WhiteHouse to discuss our Country’s VICTORY on the Impeachment Hoax!” Trump tweeted shortly after his acquittal in the Senate.

  32. tomh says

    Here’s one problem with this system.
    “The 48 senators who voted to convict represent 18 million more Americans than the other 52. “

  33. Akira MacKenzie says

    tomh

    Well, it’s an important prerequisite of a sophisticated, progressive, democracy to make sure that the votes of inbred, uneducated white trash count more than others.

  34. tomh says

    WaPo:
    Trump couldn’t get Ukraine to smear Biden, so now he has the Senate doing it.

    GOP senators announced request for Hunter Biden travel records

    Shortly after the Senate voted to acquit Trump, GOP Sens. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa) and Ron Johnson (Wis.) announced they would be probing Hunter Biden — just as Trump had wanted Ukraine to do.

    In a letter to the head of the Secret Service, the senators write that they are “reviewing potential conflict of interest posed by the business activities of Hunter Biden and his associates during the Obama administration, particularly with respect to his business activities in Ukraine and China.”

    They are seeking from the Secret Service any times that Hunter Biden traveled with protective security detail when his father was vice president and whether he flew on government planes.

    By Colby Itkowitz

  35. says

    Brian Kilmeade lambasts Mitt Romney for invoking his faith in voting to convict Trump: “‘My faith makes me do this’? Are you kidding? What about your faith and this case meld together? That is unbelievable for him to bring religion into this. ‘His faith.'”

    Video atl.

    (A rare shout-out to Brian Williams on MSNBC for calling out all of the others in the media with their dependent-variable sampling. Claire McCaskill, for like the twentieth time in the hour after Romney’s guilty vote, started to talk about how his decision was a result of his faith and he’s a “man of deep faith” and so forth, when Williams interjected to point out that most of the other Republicans say they’re people of deep faith and there they all were voting to acquit.)

  36. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 60

    What Williams doesn’t realize is that Romney comes from a state that is run by his church. He’s hoping that if he invokes Mormon god enough, his magic-underwear-cult constituents won’t turn on him.

  37. says

    southpaw at Yahoo – “Treasury Department sent information on Hunter Biden to expanding GOP Senate inquiry”:

    The Treasury Department has complied with Republican senators’ requests for highly sensitive and closely held financial records about Hunter Biden and his associates and has turned over “‘evidence’ of questionable origin” to them, according to a leading Democrat on one of the committees conducting the investigation.

    For months, while the impeachment controversy raged, powerful committee chairmen in the Republican-controlled Senate have been quietly but openly pursuing an inquiry into Hunter Biden’s business affairs and Ukrainian officials’ alleged interventions in the 2016 election, the same matters that President Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani unsuccessfully tried to coerce Ukraine’s government to investigate.

    Unlike Trump and Giuliani, however, Sens. Charles Grassley, chairman of the Finance Committee; Ron Johnson, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee; and Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, have focused their efforts in Washington, seeking to extract politically useful information from agencies of the U.S. government. They’ve issued letters requesting records from Cabinet departments and agencies, including the State Department, the Treasury, the Justice Department, the FBI, the National Archives and the Secret Service.

    Grassley and Johnson have sought to obtain some of the most sensitive and closely held documents in all of federal law enforcement — highly confidential suspicious activity reports (SARs) filed by financial institutions with FinCEN, an agency of the Treasury that helps to police money laundering.

    The senators’ requests to the Treasury have borne fruit, according to the ranking Democratic senator on the Finance Committee, Ron Wyden of Oregon, who contrasted the cooperation given to the Republican senators with the pervasive White House-directed stonewall that House Democrats encountered when they subpoenaed documents and witnesses in the impeachment inquiry.

    “Applying a blatant double standard, Trump administration agencies like the Treasury Department are rapidly complying with Senate Republican requests — no subpoenas necessary — and producing ‘evidence’ of questionable origin,” Wyden spokesperson Ashley Schapitl said in a statement. “The administration told House Democrats to go pound sand when their oversight authority was mandatory while voluntarily cooperating with the Senate Republicans’ sideshow at lightning speed.”

    The “rapid” production of sensitive financial information from the Treasury Department in response to congressional requests is apparently uncommon….

    “Republicans are turning the Senate into an arm of the president’s political campaign, pursuing an investigation designed to further President Trump’s favorite conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election and smear Vice President Biden,” Schapitl said. The Biden presidential campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    Aside from the statement from Wyden’s office, there has been scant information about what investigators have uncovered, if anything….

    Grassley and Johnson courted controversy with a letter to the Department of Justice seeking to obtain a broad swath of information that Chalupa, the Democratic Party consultant, who says she voluntarily provided private personal information to the FBI in 2016 when she felt harassed by Russian hacking. [This sentence needs fixing.]

    in a January response letter to the Justice Department, Wyden calling the request “outrageous.”

    “To use [Chalupa’s] voluntary cooperation in order to weaponize her personal information against her in furtherance of a political attack based on unsupported claims and potential Russian propaganda would compromise public trust in our law enforcement, undermine Americans’ rights, and damage our national security interests,” he wrote.

  38. says

    NBC – “‘Clog the lines’: Iowa caucus hotline posted online with encouragement to disrupt results reporting”:

    The phone number to report Iowa caucus results was posted on a fringe internet message board on Monday night along with encouragement to “clog the lines,” an indication that jammed phone lines that left some caucus managers on hold for hours may have in part been due to prank calls.

    An Iowa Democratic Party official said the influx of calls to the reporting hotline included “supporters of President Trump who called to express their displeasure with the Democratic Party.” The party official’s comments were first reported late Wednesday by Bloomberg News.

    Users on a politics-focused section of the fringe 4chan message board repeatedly posted the phone number for the Iowa Democratic Party, which was found by a simple Google search, both as screenshots and in plain text, alongside instructions.

    “They have to call in the results now. Very long hold times being reported. Phone line being clogged,” one user posted at about 11 p.m. ET on Monday, two hours after the caucuses began.

    “Uh oh how unfortunate it would be for a bunch of mischief makers to start clogging the lines,” responded another anonymous user, sarcastically.

    Some users chimed in, posting alleged wait times on hold, imploring others to “clog the lines [and] make the call lads.”

    The telephone reporting problems exacerbated other issues, notably a smartphone app that did not work for some people and also had a coding problem that prevented results from being reported properly, pushing more caucus volunteers to the phone lines.

    Iowa Democratic Party officials said that party staff members and volunteers flagged and subsequently blocked repeat callers who appeared to be reaching out in an attempt to interfere with their reporting duties. These included callers who would hang up immediately after being connected and callers who expressed support for President Donald Trump and displeasure with the Democratic Party.

    The Trump campaign denied any affiliation with people clogging phone lines on Monday night.

    4chan, which hosts an anonymous and often extremist politics board called /pol/ whose users have largely supported Trump since 2015, is known for extensive online political trolling and targeted harassment campaigns.

    On debate nights, 4chan users often direct one another to swarm and manipulate specific online polls on other websites with repeat votes, a practice known as “brigading” in online communities. The polls would then be used by politicians and partisan websites to claim shocking upsets….

  39. tomh says

    WaPo:
    These southern Utah sites were once off limits to development. Now, Trump will auction the right to drill and graze there.
    By Sarah Kaplan and Juliet Eilperin
    Feb. 6, 2020

    The Interior Department finalized plans Thursday that will expand drilling, mining and grazing in southern Utah that had once been protected as two national monuments, sparking an outcry from tribal groups and conservationists.

    The decision comes more than two years after Trump dramatically cut the size of the monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, and will likely intensify a legal fight over the contested sites.

    The expanses of windswept badlands, narrow slot canyons and towering rock formations are sacred to several Native American nations and prized by scientists and outdoor enthusiasts. Bears Ears contains tens of thousands of cultural artifacts and rare rock art; in the rock layers of Grand Staircase, researchers have unearthed 75 million-year-old dinosaur fossils.

    But the lands also harbor significant amounts of oil, gas and coal the administration hopes to develop, as well as grazing land valued by local ranchers.
    […]

    A coalition of groups sued the administration immediately after Trump announced the new boundaries. They argue that the act does not give a president the authority to revoke their predecessors’ national monument designations. The Justice Department last year sought to have the two lawsuits dismissed, but a federal judge denied the motions.

    [Interior Department’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management, Casey] Hammond said Thursday that the Interior Department could not wait for those cases to conclude before it finalized plans for the areas now excluded from the monuments.

    “If we stopped and waited for every piece of litigation to be resolved, we would never be able to do much of anything around here.”
    […]

    The decision to overhaul what activities are permitted on large swaths of federal land in southern Utah comes as the Bureau of Land Management is eyeing much bigger changes to how it manages the 245 million acres of public land and 700 million acres of minerals buried underneath them.

  40. says

    Well, MSNBC is carrying Trump’s remarks at the White House live while he piles on lie after lie. He even reverted back to lies about Mueller, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page and the Steele Dossier. He lied about Adam Schiff … and on and on. Because he is the president, Trump is using an undeniably huge platform to spread more lies. This is just unbelievably bad.

    The only thing that may have been on a par with this in terms of awfulness was Trump’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast this morning. From NBC News:

    […] Trump blasted “dishonest and corrupt” people Thursday morning at the National Prayer Breakfast, bashing his impeachment before the nonpartisan event with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just steps away.

    “As everybody knows, my family, our great country, and your president have been put through a terrible ordeal by some very dishonest and corrupt people,” Trump said. “They have done everything possible to destroy us and by so doing, very badly hurt our nation. They know what they are doing is wrong, but they put themselves far ahead of our great country.”

    Commentary from Steve Benen:

    […] Trump sees little distinction between the health of the nation and the health of his political standing – a point he seemed eager to emphasize at an event devoted to worship.

    The rest of the speech wasn’t much better.

    After Harvard professor Arthur Brooks delivered the keynote address, in which he encouraged attendees to love their enemies and set aside “contempt” for opponents, the president began his remarks by saying, “Arthur, I don’t know if I agree with you…. I don’t know if Arthur is going to like what I’m going to say.”

    Moments later, Trump seemed to take shots at the faith of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), saying, “I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong. Nor do I like people who say, ‘I pray for you,’ when they know that that’s not so.”

    This gave way to the president telling attendees, “For those of you that are interested in stocks, it looks like the stock market will be way up again today.”

    Indifferent to the point of the National Prayer Breakfast, and its ostensible non-partisan nature, Trump soon added, “You better get out and vote on November 3rd because you have a lot of people out there that aren’t liking what we’re doing.”

    It’s been a long time, but one of my first jobs after I left school was writing for Church & State magazine, where I paid pretty close attention to the National Prayer Breakfast. In fact, over the last couple of decades, I think I can honestly say I’ve heard or read every presidential address to the event.

    But I don’t think I’ve heard one in any way similar to Trump’s remarks this morning. That’s not a compliment. While the president’s faith is certainly his business, he acted this morning as if the point of the event was himself. And with that in mind, the Republican delivered a petty speech in which he appeared preoccupied with personal grievances.

    It was the latest reminder that Trump is whom he appears to be.

    Link

  41. says

    From the editorial board of the Washington Post:

    […] There is much that remains unknown, including whether the president extracted favors in 2017 and 2018 from Ukraine’s previous government. There is also a public interest in the airing of evidence that the White House has illegitimately suppressed about the pressure campaign against the current president, Volodymyr Zelensky. The House should subpoena former national security adviser John Bolton, along with documents related to Mr. Trump’s withholding of military aid from Mr. Zelensky’s government.

    If court battles are needed to obtain this evidence, the House should fight them. It is vital that Congress’s power to conduct oversight of the executive be confirmed. Otherwise, Mr. Trump can be expected to continue a blanket refusal to cooperate with congressional investigations during the remainder of his time in office, thereby neutering what should be an equal branch of government.

    Last night, Rachel Maddow that, “we’re still in the middle of it,” when it comes to the Ukraine mess.

  42. says

    TPM – “DNC Chair Calls For Recanvass Of Iowa Votes: ‘Enough Is Enough’”:

    The chairman of the Democratic National Committee on Thursday called for a recanvass of the results of the Iowa caucuses, potentially delaying yet again the results in the first-in-the-nation presidential contest.

    “Enough is enough,” DNC chair Tom Perez tweeted. “In light of the problems that have emerged in the implementation of the delegate selection plan and in order to assure public confidence in the results, I am calling on the Iowa Democratic Party to immediately begin a recanvass.”

    Recanvassing requires double-checking existing vote counts, not re-doing the caucuses themselves.

    Perez’s announcement added to confusion about the Iowa tally. The state party has delayed completing the count of the state’s caucuses for days, first blaming a faulty app that was used to transmit data from the precinct level to the state, and then saying they were still collecting and verifying vote tallies.

    As of Thursday morning, the state had released result data for 97% of precincts, showing Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg neck-and-neck in the count of “state delegate equivalents,” which the state uses to determine the contest’s winner and allocate convention delegates.

    Analysts had noticed errors and inconsistencies in some of the data that the party did release.

  43. says

    From former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch’s new op-ed for the Washington Post:

    […] When civil servants in the current administration saw senior officials taking actions they considered deeply wrong in regard to the nation of Ukraine, they refused to take part. When Congress asked us to testify about those activities, my colleagues and I did not hesitate, even in the face of administration efforts to silence us.

    We did this because it is the American way to speak up about wrongdoing. I have seen dictatorships around the world, where blind obedience is the norm and truth-tellers are threatened with punishment or death. We must not allow the United States to become a country where standing up to our government is a dangerous act. It has been shocking to experience the storm of criticism, lies and malicious conspiracies that have preceded and followed my public testimony, but I have no regrets. I did — we did — what our conscience called us to do. We did what the gift of U.S. citizenship requires us to do. […]

    I had always thought that our institutions would forever protect us against individual transgressors. But it turns out that our institutions need us as much as we need them; they need the American people to protect them or they will be hollowed out over time, unable to serve and protect our country. […]

    [O]ur public servants need responsible and ethical political leadership. This administration, through acts of omission and commission, has undermined our democratic institutions, making the public question the truth and leaving public servants without the support and example of ethical behavior that they need to do their jobs and advance U.S. interests. […]

    These are turbulent times, perhaps the most challenging that I have witnessed. But I still intend to find ways to engage on foreign policy issues and to encourage those who want to take part in the important work of the Foreign Service. Like my parents before me, I remain optimistic about our future. The events of the past year, while deeply disturbing, show that even though our institutions and our fellow citizens are being challenged in ways that few of us ever expected, we will endure, we will persist and we will prevail.

    Link

  44. says

    Josh Marshall:

    THREAD: Today we’re republishing almost 200 posts Elizabeth Warren wrote at TPM between 2005 and 2008. Some of these have been available online at the Wayback Machine, many – and the earliest – are back online for the first time in a decade.

    We believe they are a newsworthy and illuminating window into Warren’s thinking and views when she was already a widely known author and activist but well before she became a politician with all that entails.

    From December 2004 through the first months of 2005 TPM devoted itself almost exclusively to President Bush’s effort to partially phase out Social Security and replace it with a system of private investment accounts. That alerted Warren and her HLS students to the potential of online advocacy focused on policy debates that affect average Americans. They contacted us and that led to standing up a short term blog focused on the federal Bankruptcy Bill then moving through Congress. When that ran its course we made it permanent as Warren Reports, part of the launch version of TPMCafe. That ran through 2008. We hope you find them illuminating and interesting, both in themselves and for insight into the current presidential primary campaign.

    Here’s the link.

  45. says

    OMFG, during his speech at the White House today, Trump invited his supporters in the audience to stand up and say something nice about him. It’s Dear Leader time again.

    Other comments on Trump’s speech, from Daniel Dale:

    Trump says the only Republican who voted against him was “a guy that can’t stand the fact that he ran one of the worst campaigns in the history of the presidency.”

    Trump says Bob Mueller looked like a good G-man but didn’t have things other than looks. He calls FBI leaders, I think, “the top scum.” He says 99% of the FBI supports him, the issue was just “top scum.”

    Trump says Strzok and Page “are the crookedest” people.

    Trump is talking, I think, about a years-ago CPAC straw poll he supposedly won. He’s previously claimed to have won CPAC straw polls he didn’t win. [Fact check: Trump’s best showing was third place in 2016, with just 15% of the vote.]

    Lisa Page and Peter Strzok. “Two lowlives.” “Insurance policy.”

    As was perhaps predictable, this is one of the wildest speeches of Trump’s presidency — and we haven’t gotten past the part where he reads people’s names and talks about them.

    Trump describes the hard-hit ground ball Steve Scalise managed to field after he was shot as…a “shot.”

    Trump is now talking about former Yankee Bobby Richardson, and his great range at second base, compared to the limited range Steve Scalise had after he was shot.

    Trump is recounting the shooting of Steve Scalise in great detail. He says the shooter was a “whack job.” He says Scalise was shot with “a bullet that rips you apart.” He does a “boom, boom, boom” with a gun-shooting hand gesture as he describes the response from armed security.

    Trump of Rep. Steve Scalise: “He got whacked.” He then vividly recounts Scalife’s wife’s devastation after Scalise was shot. He says she was “a total mess.” He says other wives wouldn’t have been that upset.

    “Boy, my kids could make a fortune” if they behaved like Hunter Biden, Trump says, omitting the fact that his kids are currently involved in international business dealings.

    Trump calls another person, Rep. John Ratcliffe, “central casting.” He says “if we’re doing a remake of Perry Mason,” he would pick Ratcliffe to play the role.

    Trump calls Rep. Devin Nunes “the most legitimate human being.”

    Trump said he liked Rep. Debbie Lesko’s name, and her face, and that’s why he picked her to be on his impeachment team.

    Trump repeats his usual false claim about European countries not paying money to Ukraine. European countries have spent billions since Russia’s invasion in 2014. The EU has been the largest contributor, though the US has provided more military-specific aid.

    Okay, that’s enough of that. You get the idea.

    And MSNBC aired that bombast live.

  46. says

    Nancy Pelosi spoke to the press this morning.

    A notably animated House Speaker Nancy Pelosi decried […] Trump’s State of the Union address Thursday, calling it a “manifesto of mistruths” and a “reality show” using the House of Representatives as a backdrop.

    “The whole State of the Union was beneath the dignity of the White House, an insult to the Congress of the United States and the American people,” she said at her weekly press conference, calling it a “state of his mind” address rather than the State of the Union. […]

    When pressed on the act [tearing Trump’s speech in half ] Thursday, she snapped that she doesn’t need “lessons about dignity” from anyone, but especially not from the President.

    She added that she felt “liberated” after shredding the document, that as soon as he was about one-third of the way through the speech she knew that she had to do something to show the American people that the address was full of falsehoods.

    She said that the President himself “looked to me like he was a little sedated,” an impression she said she had last time he delivered the State of the Union too.

    In another tense moment on Tuesday before Trump started speaking, he turned his back on Pelosi’s outstretched hand, refusing to shake it. Pelosi was unmoved. “That meant nothing to me,” she told reporters.

    A Trump act which did provoke her ire, however, were his comments Thursday morning at the National Prayer Breakfast, where Pelosi was in attendance.

    He made thinly veiled swipes at both her and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), the sole Republican who voted to convict Trump on the abuse of power article of impeachment.

    “I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong,” Trump said. “Nor do I like people who say I pray for you when they know that’s not so.”

    Pelosi jumped to Romney’s defense, saying that the comment was “particularly without class” and that it was rich for Trump to “mischaracterize” people’s motivations stemming from prayer and faith, things he knows “little about.”

    She added that she does pray “hard” for the President because he’s “so off track.”

    Romney and Pelosi are both deeply religious: he a Mormon and she a Catholic.

    Her voice rising, Pelosi said that it is an “absolute imperative” that America have a new President next year, one who does not “denigrate our values,” is not “disloyal to the Constitution” and does not “degrade the environment.”

    “He has shredded the truths in his speech, he has shredded the Constitution with his conduct,” she thundered. “I shredded his state of his mind address.”

    TPM link

  47. says

    Comments from Mark Sumner on Trump’s speech at the White House this morning:

    […] this is clearly not an actual news event. It’s just a big ego-stroke for Trump with a handful of Republicans who he feels are sufficiently bootlickerish to deserve applause. […]

    Trump’s defense team emerges first, to hoots and applause from Republicans gathered for this apparently invite-only event.

    And WTF … Trump is getting played on with a full blown “hail to the chief,” complete with trumpet fanfare. Jeebus. […]

    As usual, Trump is applauding himself. Because … who does that?

    So we’re getting a full recap back to Comey? Hoo boy, buckle up, this could be a long ride. […]

    Trump mentions the State of the Union then pauses in a clear signal to his handpicked audience to applaud. This is all about him getting his ego fed. […]

    Trump now bragging about how he insulted Nancy Pelosi at the National Prayer Breakfast. “I meant every word.” […]

    Every single pundit who has criticized Pelosi over “decorum” needs to choke on their words. On national TV. In front of the entire world.

    The good news is that so far, Trump is so discombobulated and rambling that he hasn’t been able to announce any particular demands for vengeance. It’s just the usual stream of past statements mixed with riffs based on whose face he’s looking at. [He riffed on Jim Jordan’s body, then on Jordan’s ears … not kidding] He also seems to be having a little trouble breathing […]

    This asshole thinks he’s in charge of interviewing people for the Senate. He still thinks it’s g–dammed Apprentice. […]

    Trump says he doubts that Nancy Pelosi prays at all. […]

    Dead silence in the room as Trump attacks France, Germany for “not paying.” Says U.S. is a “bunch of suckers.” Dead. Silence. […]

    Link

    From Jeff Tiedrich:

    Is it possible to invoke the 25th Amendment in the middle of a drug-fueled unhinged stark barking bonkers batshit insane TV speech? asking for 65 million friends

  48. says

    Also from Mark Sumner: “Trump will emerge at noon to see his shadow, forecast one more year of fascism.”

    At noon on Thursday, Donald Trump will sally forth to gloat. Or whine. To gloatwhine about his less than perfect acquittal in the Senate. Robbed of his ability to declare total victory by Sen. Mitt Romney unexpectedly casting a safety line back to the world where Republicans existed as something more than Trump’s eager footstool, the vote in the Senate has not gotten the 10,000 or so tweets it surely deserves. Tweets about “exoneration” and Rep. Adam Schiff’s collar size.

    Still, Trump will not be denied his opportunity to stand before the nation and complain about a bipartisan vote of “guilty.” So he comes forth at noon to check his shadow, complain that the do-nothings done something, and talk about the real national tragedy—how eight sheets of number two copy paper meet an untimely death at the hands of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. […]

    Link

  49. says

    Kevin Kruse: “I’ve studied the National Prayer Breakfast a good bit, and I can’t say how bizarre it is for a president to use the moment — traditionally one devoted to bipartisanship and unity — to strike such a petty, vindictive tone at the event.”

  50. says

    From Wonkette:

    Tuesday night, Donald Trump gave his torchlit State of the Union address in which he warned that scary sanctuary cities are stockpiling criminal illegals to come rape and kill you all.

    Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security sent a nastygram to New York state officials, informing them that effective immediately, no New York residents would be able to use most of DHS’s popular programs that let travelers get through airports more easily. Because national security, you see, and also good old revenge against any state that doesn’t buy into Trump’s Deport Everyone agenda.

    The letter, first reported by Fox News, insists that since the state won’t let DHS paw through driver’s-license databases in search of undocumented immigrants, then it’s just not safe to let anyone from New York use the expedited-travel programs. You know how it is, with those MS-13 guys putting their machetes in their checked baggage and then flying executive class to do crimes.

    While the timing of the new policy and Trump’s latest bloody shirt attack on immigrants may be coincidental — chaos and weaponized incompetence being key strategies — the policy itself is the sort of evil manipulation of everyday government operations that reeks of Stephen Miller’s nasty little mind. New York pissed off all the anti-immigration howler monkeys last year by allowing undocumented people to get licenses; the law also shields driver’s license records from DHS snooping without a court warrant. […]

    Politico ‘splains which programs for airborne elitists will be affected:

    New York residents will be prohibited from enrolling in DHS programs including Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI and FAST. The letter does not refer to TSA’s PreCheck program.

    The first three are CBP programs which help expedite security for travelers upon arrival to the U.S., and FAST is a commercial clearance program for low-risk shipments.

    In the letter, (acting) Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf claims New York’s failure to let ICE go rummaging through the state’s data “compromises CBP’s ability to confirm whether an individual applying for [trusted traveler] membership meets program eligibility requirements,” because apparently there’s simply no way to verify the identity of anyone. Somebody should alert the State Department, which somehow manages to process passports without also going on warrantless fishing expeditions through state ID data.

    The letter even claims that by making DHS get a warrant, New York’s law will hinder the fight against child traffickers. […]

    If DHS’s primary concern really is protecting New York from “menacing threats to national security and public safety” and the agency needs state-collected data to do it, it could act like grownup law enforcement agencies and get a fucking warrant.

    Still, as with other Stephen Miller Joints, we do have to at least acknowledge the low cunning of it all. Remember how last year’s government shutdown really started falling apart when TSA lines backed up, air traffic controllers got the blue flu, and Important Business Travelers couldn’t fly off to do their Important Business?

    Miller and company appear to be betting they can enlist pissed-off travelers to pressure the state to reverse its policy. Why do I have to wait in line because some illegal is being protected by — as Trump put it in his pep rally — the “radical politicians” who “have chosen to provide sanctuary for these criminal illegal aliens”? […] The idea of using the business class to make war on undocumented migrants is so perfectly Trumpian.

    Also too, New York Times reporter Zolan Kanno-Youngs passes on this comment from (acting) DHS Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli, who ought to win all kinds of support for invoking 9/11 for the sake of getting revenge on an uncooperative state:

    Here we have one of the other targets of 9-11, New York, walking backwards quite intentionally in the other direction to bar the sharing of law enforcement relevant information.

    […] We’re also betting the corporations paying for a lot of that travel will take their gripes to the feds instead of the state, too, since “please deport people so we can travel more easily” would be bad publicity. […]

  51. says

    McKay Coppins in The Atlantic – “The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President”:

    …As I swiped at my phone, a stream of pro-Trump propaganda filled the screen: “That’s right, the whistleblower’s own lawyer said, ‘The coup has started …’ ” Swipe. “Democrats are doing Putin’s bidding …” Swipe. “The only message these radical socialists and extremists will understand is a crushing …” Swipe. “Only one man can stop this chaos …” Swipe, swipe, swipe.

    I was surprised by the effect it had on me. I’d assumed that my skepticism and media literacy would inoculate me against such distortions. But I soon found myself reflexively questioning every headline. It wasn’t that I believed Trump and his boosters were telling the truth. It was that, in this state of heightened suspicion, truth itself—about Ukraine, impeachment, or anything else—felt more and more difficult to locate. With each swipe, the notion of observable reality drifted further out of reach.

    What I was seeing was a strategy that has been deployed by illiberal political leaders around the world. Rather than shutting down dissenting voices, these leaders have learned to harness the democratizing power of social media for their own purposes—jamming the signals, sowing confusion. They no longer need to silence the dissident shouting in the streets; they can use a megaphone to drown him out. Scholars have a name for this: censorship through noise.

    After the 2016 election, much was made of the threats posed to American democracy by foreign disinformation. Stories of Russian troll farms and Macedonian fake-news mills loomed in the national imagination. But while these shadowy outside forces preoccupied politicians and journalists, Trump and his domestic allies were beginning to adopt the same tactics of information warfare that have kept the world’s demagogues and strongmen in power.

    Every presidential campaign sees its share of spin and misdirection, but this year’s contest promises to be different. In conversations with political strategists and other experts, a dystopian picture of the general election comes into view—one shaped by coordinated bot attacks, Potemkin local-news sites, micro-targeted fearmongering, and anonymous mass texting. Both parties will have these tools at their disposal. But in the hands of a president who lies constantly, who traffics in conspiracy theories, and who readily manipulates the levers of government for his own gain, their potential to wreak havoc is enormous.

    The Trump campaign is planning to spend more than $1 billion, and it will be aided by a vast coalition of partisan media, outside political groups, and enterprising freelance operatives. These pro-Trump forces are poised to wage what could be the most extensive disinformation campaign in U.S. history. Whether or not it succeeds in reelecting the president, the wreckage it leaves behind could be irreparable….

    Much, much more at the link.

  52. says

    So it turns out the spiral of escalation that led to the US assassination of Suleimani, and to the brink of war, may well have begun with the Trump administration wrongly attributing the death of an American contractor to an Iran-backed militia.

    This is a valuable reminder that whenever Trump or Pompeo says anything about Iran, the default assumption should be that it’s not true, pending further investigation.”

    NYT link atl.

  53. says

    Chris Hayes: “Part of what makes Trump so potent in harnessing his base is that he genuinely feels bitterly aggrieved all the time, for his whole life, despite his immense privilege and power. It’s the molten core of Trumpism.”

  54. quotetheunquote says

    @Lynna #76:
    I know there was a heck of a lot of batshit insane in that speech, and it did go on and on, but I’m surprised that there isn’t more attention being given to one particular passage, the bit where he talks about Steve Scalise’s wife being “devastated” over the fact that her husband had been shot. This struck Hair Furor as extraordinary – he seemed to genuinely think of this as something unexpected. He then uttered what I believe is the most projection-y projection of his whole career (obviously, lots of competition for the title):

    A lot of wives wouldn’t give a damn. (Laughter.) A lot of — a lot of wives — a lot of wives would have said, “Oh, yeah.”

    A lot of my wives, is what he meant, of course. Perhaps all of them. God, what a turd.
    I like MSNBC’s take on this

  55. johnson catman says

    re quotetheunquote @90 the MSNBC take: All very true, and yet, the christian base will continue to support him.

  56. says

    “‘I never did that’: Haspel’s clapping for Trump rankles intel veterans”:

    CIA Director Gina Haspel’s attendance at President Donald Trump’s State of the Union on Tuesday—and her decision to stand and clap at certain lines—has surprised former senior intelligence officials who say the agency director should consistently appear nonpartisan.

    Haspel entered the House chamber for Trump’s speech on Tuesday—for the second year in a row—with other members of the president’s Cabinet, including political appointees like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. And she stood, as they did, at Trump’s comments about Medicare and Social Security, abortion, paid family leave and immigration. She clapped at his line about rebuilding infrastructure.

    “I never did that,” said former CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden, referring to Haspel’s clapping at the domestic policy issues. “That wouldn’t be right.”

    As a career agency official, Haspel is generally held to the same standard as military leaders, who usually clap sparingly, if at all, during the State of the Union to avoid any appearance of partisanship, the former officials said. (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley did clap on Tuesday night in memory of Kayla Mueller, who was kidnapped by ISIS and killed in 2015.)

    It’s definitely uncomfortable to be sitting in the middle of the president’s Cabinet area of the audience, “where enthusiasm would be unbridled,” and be the only one not clapping, noted Larry Pfeiffer, a 32-year intelligence veteran who now serves as the director of the Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy and International Security at George Mason University.

    “It may be just human nature—and very awkward to do anything but—clap along,” Pfeiffer said.
    Everything you need to watch from the SOTU

    But CIA directors haven’t traditionally made it a habit of attending the speech to begin with, former officials said, for just that reason.

    “Generally CIA directors have felt awkward at these things and have not gone often,” said former acting CIA director John McLaughlin.

    “It’s not my job,” said Hayden, who noted that he “never” attended the address as CIA director.

    Neither did John Brennan when serving as CIA director, though he previously was a top official in the Obama White House. “Never once,” said Brennan’s spokesman, Nick Shapiro.

    “I can’t remember this being regular practice in recent years,” said George Little, a former CIA public affairs director.

    The optics of Haspel’s standing and clapping at the president’s remarks were particularly jarring…given Trump’s notoriously rocky relationship with the intelligence community.

    Haspel, a veteran intelligence officer known for her fierce loyalty to the CIA and acute political antennae, has rarely made headlines during her nearly two-year tenure as CIA director, turning her focus inward on building morale and boosting recruitment. That strategy has kept her out of Trump’s sights, and may also inform Haspel’s willingness to appear overly enthusiastic about the president and his policies in his presence.

    But generally speaking, said Pfeiffer, “those who come to the director’s job as career professionals would be held to the same standard to which we hold our military leaders, particularly by their colleagues in the intelligence service.”

    A spokesperson for the CIA declined to comment.

  57. says

    Update – the Intercept – “Brazilian Judge Declines to Move Forward With Charges Against Glenn Greenwald ‘for Now'”:

    A judge today declined to proceed with cybercrime charges lodged against Intercept co-founder Glenn Greenwald for his reporting on prosecutorial and judicial misconduct in Brazil.

    In a decision announced Thursday, Judge Ricardo Augusto Soares Leite ruled that Greenwald’s prosecution would not go forward, but only on account of a previous finding by the Brazilian Supreme Court that The Intercept’s reporting on Operation Car Wash had not transgressed any legal boundaries. In the absence of the injunction issued by a Supreme Court minister that prohibited investigations into Greenwald related to this case, Leite said he would have let the charges against Greenwald move forward. The judge also said that, if the Supreme Court injunction were to be overturned, he would be open to charging Greenwald.

    Greenwald had been accused of criminal misconduct related to his reporting on Operation Car Wash, a wide-ranging anti-corruption investigation. The cybercrimes charges stemmed from allegations by a public prosecutor that Greenwald worked in collaboration with hackers to obtain an online chat group used by prosecutors and judges in the Car Wash cases.

    “While I welcome the fact that this investigation will not move forward, this decision is insufficient to guarantee the rights of a free press,” Greenwald said in a statement. “The rejection is based on the fact that the Supreme Court already issued an injunction against attempts of official persecution against me. This is not enough. We seek a decisive rejection from the Supreme Court of this abusive prosecution on the grounds that it is a clear and grave assault on core press freedoms. Anything less would leave open the possibility of further erosion of the fundamental freedom of the press against other journalists.”

    “We will continue the fight against this authoritarian escalation before the Supreme Court, all while we will keep reporting on the archive provided by our source,” Greenwald said.

    The Intercept also welcomed the ruling, with reservations.

    Beginning last June, The Intercept has published a series of stories, in both English and Portuguese, based on leaks about Operation Car Wash. Car Wash rocked Brazilian politics by charging high-profile companies, as well as two former presidents. Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was imprisoned as part of the investigation and prevented from running in the 2018 presidential election, clearing the way for the far-right politician Jair Bolsonaro to take office.

    The Intercept’s stories document high-level misconduct in the Brazilian justice system relating to the sweeping investigation….

    The decision to dismiss the charges against Greenwald, albeit while leaving the door open to his prosecution should the Supreme Court change its decision, comes in the wake of an international campaign of support for Greenwald and condemnation of the Bolsonaro government. Last week, a coalition of more than 40 civil liberties groups denounced the legal intimidation of Greenwald and The Intercept Brasil. That message has also been echoed by high-profile political figures in the United States, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., both 2020 presidential hopefuls. Other progressive figures, such as Reps. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., and Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., also condemned the charges. A statement from the Committee to Protect Journalists described the charges as “a disproportionate abuse of power by Brazilian authorities [that] poses a threat to any investigative journalist.”

    Bolsonaro has attempted to throttle civil liberties in Brazil since coming to power, waging a campaign of intimidation against rival politicians, the independent press, and civil society activists. The Car Wash investigation represented arguably the largest and most embarrassing episode for Bolsonaro since he came to power, highlighting, based on internal leaks, conversations that had taken place between Bolsonaro allies to help subvert Brazil’s democratic institutions.

    Greenwald and The Intercept Brasil never planned to cease or scale back coverage at any time since being charged.

  58. says

    Guardian – “‘Hero who told the truth’: Chinese rage over coronavirus death of whistleblower doctor”:

    The death of a whistleblowing Chinese doctor who was punished for trying to raise the alarm about coronavirus has sparked an explosion of anger, grief and demands for freedom of speech among ordinary Chinese.

    Li Wenliang, 34, died in the early hours of Friday local time after he was infected during the fight against the outbreak, said Wuhan central hospital, where he worked, in a statement.

    Li warned colleagues on social media in late December about a mysterious virus that would become the coronavirus epidemic and was detained by police in Wuhan on 3 January for “spreading false rumours”. He was forced to sign a police document to admit he had breached the law and had “seriously disrupted social order.”

    “They owe you an apology, we owe you our gratitude. Take care, Dr Li,” said a Weibo post from Xiakedao, an account under the overseas edition of Communist Party’s People’s Daily.

    “Good people don’t live long, but evil lives for a thousand years,” said another post mourning Li’s death, with a candle emoji. An image also posted on Weibo showed a message, “farewell Li Wenliang”, carved into the snow on a riverbank in Beijing.

    His death crystallised the outrage and frustration felt across China over the initial cover-up of the deadly virus. On Friday, China’s social media was awash with posts expressing immense anger and grief.

    Li’s death became the top-read topic on China’s microblogging site Weibo overnight on Friday, with more than 1.5bn views, and was also heavily discussed in private WeChat messaging groups, where people expressed outrage and sadness.

    Even blog posts from state media outlets mourned his death and issued veiled attacks on the Wuhan authorities who censured him.

    Fearing that the uproar over Li’s death could spill over onto the streets, the authorities quickly deleted posts calling for action. A post forwarded on Wechat but now deleted said: “I hope one day we can stand on the street holding Li Wenliang’s picture.”

    Li was one of eight people who were detained for “spreading rumours” about the deadly disease’s outbreak – the fates of the other seven, also believed to be medical professionals, are not known.

    Images of Li were ubiquitous on Weibo and messaging app WeChat; a last photo of him lying on his hospital bed wearing a breathing mask; a pencil sketch of Li; a photo of the humiliating police warning document on which he signed “I understand” to admit “spreading false rumours” along with images of candles and white flower.

    Many posts referenced his “confession”, with people posting photos of themselves wearing surgical masks emblazoned with the words: “I don’t understand”. Others swore “We will not forget”.

    The outpouring of grief quickly turned into demands for freedom of speech, but those posts were swiftly censored by China’s cyber police. The trending topic “#we want freedom of speech” had nearly 2m views on Weibo by 5am local time, but was later deleted. The phrase “#Wuhan government owes Dr Li Wenliang an apology” also attracted tens of thousands of views before it too disappeared.

    Caixin, a Beijing-based financial publication, posted a black-and-white selfie of Li wearing a mask with the title “A healthy society shouldn’t have just just one voice: Novel Coronavirus whistleblower Li Wenliang dies”.

    In its Weibo post, the Economic Observer, a state-affiliated financial newspaper, demanded the vindication of all of the Wuhan “rumour mongers”.

    Elsewhere, posts from ordinary Chinese people continue to direct their outrage towards the authorities.

    Johnny Lau, a veteran China watcher and former journalist at Beijing-backed Wen Wei Po, said Li’s death has become an emotional flashpoint amid the tight control of speech under Xi Jinping’s rule.

    “Here is a doctor with a conscience … people on the frontline have been sacrificed but the officials have not been held to account,” he said. “It is an example of how evil has triumphed over the good.” He said the quick deletion of posts demanding speech freedom has aroused further anger.

    “The authorities are anxious that his death would trigger a huge wave of anger, so felt the need to maintain stability and suppress people’s voices,” he said. “But this has aroused further pushback.”

    Sarah Cook, a senior research analyst and China Media Bulletin Director at Freedom House, said the public outcry over Li looked “widespread and unified”, but it still unclear how big a turning point it could be….

  59. says

    Daily Beast – “Fox News Internal Document Bashes Pro-Trump Fox Regulars for Spreading ‘Disinformation’”:

    Fox News’ own research team has warned colleagues not to trust some of the network’s top commentators’ claims about Ukraine.

    An internal Fox News research briefing book obtained by The Daily Beast openly questions Fox News contributor John Solomon’s credibility, accusing him of playing an “indispensable role” in a Ukrainian “disinformation campaign.”

    The document also accuses frequent Fox News guest Rudy Giuliani of amplifying disinformation, as part of an effort to oust former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, and blasts Fox News guests Victoria Toensing and Joe diGenova—both ardent Trump boosters—for “spreading disinformation.”

    The 162-page document, entitled “Ukraine, Disinformation, & the Trump Administration,” was created by Fox News senior political affairs specialist Bryan S. Murphy, who produces research from what is known as the network’s Brain Room—a newsroom division of researchers who provide information, data, and topic guides for the network’s programming….

    Much more atl. Much of the disinformation they point to in the document was cited by Trump’s legal team in the Senate trial.

  60. says

    Daily Beast – “NSC Russia Director Was Under Suspicion Before He Got the White House Job”:

    Multiple officials in the State Department and the White House are cooperating in a security-related investigation into Andrew Peek, the former senior director for Russia and Europe at the National Security Council, The Daily Beast has learned.

    Peek was escorted off the grounds of the White House on Jan. 17 and placed on administrative leave pending investigation, the details of which have been closely held. Axios previously reported that Peek was expected to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos prior to his exit. He had barely been on the Russia job for two months.

    Since then, rumors have swirled within the ranks of the White House, State Department, and on social media about the reason for Peek’s sudden exit. The Trump administration has said nothing to explain Peek’s departure.

    But two officials familiar with the probe tell The Daily Beast that the investigation has been ongoing for several months and that Peek’s State Department colleagues raised concerns about him before he left to join the White House’s staff. However, one official who spoke to The Daily Beast also said Peek had close, collegial working relationships with several individuals at the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs during his time at State. Peek has also retained counsel, those officials said.

    Peek did not comment on the record for this story. The White House and State Department also did not respond to a request for comment.

    Peek, a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, got his start in the Trump administration working in the State Department as deputy assistant secretary of state for Iraq and Iran. Before that, Peek worked as a U.S. Army intelligence officer in Afghanistan after Gen. David Petraeus selected him for his commander’s initiatives group. He also previously advised Sens. Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Mike Johanns (R-NE).

    Peek’s mother is a contributor to Fox News and his father works in the Manhattan banking industry. Several days after his departure, President Donald Trump tweeted and quoted Elizabeth Peek: “‘This is all about undermining the next Election.’ Liz Peek, @FoxNews.”…

  61. says

    quotetheunquote @90: yes, Trump’s extended riff about Steve Scalise’s wife being “devastated,” along with the very creepy description of the details of Scalise being shot, showed Trump in all his disturbing addled-brain-state.

    Right. Trump doesn’t love anyone and he expects to receive only some semblance of “love” from others if he demands it, buys it, or trades for it. He thinks everyone is like that. He does seem to realize that if he uses the word “love,” he can fool people into thinking that he has normal human feelings.

    I was disturbed by Trump’s long riff on Jim Jordon’s body (wrestler body) and in particular on Jordon’s ears.

    Trump is descending into some kind of dementia right before our eyes. To the extent that he can focus at all, he is going to focus on punishing his perceived enemies. News this morning repeats the idea that Trump is going after Colonel Alexander Vindman. Slate link

    Now that Senate Republicans have formally voted to allow President Trump to act outside the law, Trump is reportedly eyeing retaliation for all those career public servants that testified in his impeachment trial. At the top of the list appears to be Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council aide who brought his concerns about Trump soliciting foreign campaign help on the July 25 call with the president of Ukraine to the White House counsel’s office. Vindman, a Kiev-born, naturalized American citizen was on the call as the NSC’s top expert on Ukraine. Vindman testified during the impeachment hearing, setting him square in the Trump crosshairs for reprisal.

    Now that the impeachment trial is done, Trump is looking for revenge and Vindman reportedly could be on his way out as early as Friday. The senior aide was already scheduled to end his stint in the White House early, as the Purple Heart recipient informed the NSC he was planning on leaving his post at the end of the month. Vindman was appointed for a two-year term in July 2018. But allowing Vindman, someone who testified with conviction as a public servant, to respectfully exit the national stage having said his piece is not how Trump world operates.

    “Trump has complained about Vindman in private, mocking the way he spoke, wore his uniform and conducted himself during the impeachment inquiry,” the Washington Post reports. “But Trump is eager to make a symbol of the Army officer soon after the Senate acquitted him of the impeachment charges approved by House Democrats… [Vindman] will be informed in the coming days, likely on Friday, by administration officials that he is being reassigned to a position at the Defense Department, taking a key figure from the investigation out of the White House.”

    Ah yes, of course Trump mocked Vindman for his speaking style and his uniform … not for the substance of his testimony.

  62. says

    CNN – “Exclusive photos of Giuliani in Spain show Lev Parnas has lots more to share”:

    Stored in devices seized from Lev Parnas by law enforcement, there’s a 34-second cell phone video of Rudy Giuliani relishing a bullfight. There are also photos of Donald Trump’s personal attorney posing with two matadors, a flamenco dancer twirling her skirt and an image of the father of Venezuela’s opposition leader beside a tray of hors d’oeuvres on the lawn of a Spanish castle.

    The videos and photographs of Giuliani’s trip to Spain, obtained exclusively by CNN, show the efforts Parnas went through to document and save a trove of information. They have aided a slow-drip campaign by Parnas’ legal team to keep the indicted Giuliani associate in the limelight as he builds a defense for his indictment, and could plague Giuliani—and ultimately the President—well after impeachment has passed.

    Parnas still possesses an unseen stash of photographs and recordings, Bondy says. Those exist in addition to the notes, text messages and other evidence that is currently in the hands of Congress. The materials were seized by federal investigators in New York from Parnas’ phones and computers when he was indicted in October and shared with Congress by Parnas’ legal team after the judge in his case allowed them to do so in December.

    “Over the past several months, it has been revealed that Lev Parnas is a prolific collector of photos and videos,” Bondy told CNN in an interview. “Contrary to what one might expect, Mr. Parnas has not destroyed any. Rather, he has preserved them. The universe of subject matter is yet to be publicly revealed but is of interest in matters well beyond the impeachment inquiry.”

    The images obtained by CNN are of trips that provide a peek into relationships Giuliani has not been willing to discuss, specifically work he’s done for legally embattled foreign clients whose interests could intersect with his most prominent client — the President of the United States. Parnas says that the photos help show ties that Giuliani had with business and political interests in Venezuela….

    Much, much more atl (including some truly weird photos and the odious but typical US-media spin on Venezuela).

  63. says

    quotetheunquote @ #90 and Lynna @ #100 – I was also struck by his repetition of the phrase “He got whacked.” I’ve never once heard that word used to describe someone being shot and badly injured. It means someone was killed in a hit. Unless it was a coded threat (which is not at all implausible), it’s another sign of his deteriorating ability to find words.

  64. johnson catman says

    re SC @102: I think he just liked the sound of his own voice saying the phrase. He thinks of himself as a mob boss, and that term is associated with mob hits.

  65. says

    emptywheel – “The Real News in Bill Barr’s Announcement: He’s Vetoing Campaign Finance Investigations, Too”:

    …This is, quite literally, a guarantee that no crime Trump commits between now and election day will be investigated — not even shooting someone on Fifth Avenue (at the federal level, at least, but DOJ has maintained that NYS cannot investigate the sitting president either). Barr has just announced, using fancy language to avoid headlines describing what this is, that from now until November, he will hold President Trump above the law.

    Barr has snookered reporters into believing this is the same announcement as he made in January.

    It’s not. This is not about spying on a campaign, much as Pete Williams wants to pretend it is. This is about telling Trump and his associates they will not be prosecuted by DOJ, going forward, for the same crimes they’ve committed in the past.

    Update: Two more details. The memo requires signed approval by the Deputy Attorney General to open a preliminary investigation of any presidential candidate. But it also requires prompt notice to the Assistant Attorney General for any assessment. That means the AG is demanding that his top deputies learn when someone does a database search.

    I recommend The Panama Deception in general and for more on the history of Pete Williams.

  66. says

    johnson catman @ #103, but the phrase doesn’t make sense in the context in which he used it, was my point. It’s one problem for him to talk like a mafioso, but a separate problem for him to use that lingo in a way that doesn’t reflect its actual meaning.

  67. says

    Tom Steyer took credit for impeachment happening by citing his NeedToImpeach petition drive – which was a transparent attempt to build a campaign email list – and now he’s suggesting that Senate Democrats are to blame for Trump’s acquittal? That is some bullshit.”

    I didn’t realize it until Debbie Dingell talked about it in interviews recently, but prior to the Ukraine scandal Steyer spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to run ads against Democratic representatives who were reluctant to impeach.

  68. says

    RightWingWatch – “‘The Party Has Become a Cult’: Joe Walsh Suspends Republican Presidential Campaign”:

    Former Rep. Joe Walsh, who served one term in the U.S. House representing Illinois, announced he was suspending his campaign for president Friday after having received less than 1% of the Iowa caucus vote on Monday.

    As Right Wing Watch noted in August, Walsh’s candidacy was immediately met with skepticism and dismissal—even from Walsh’s ideologically aligned cohorts in conservative media. It was unclear who exactly Walsh’s base in the modern Trump-worshiping GOP was supposed to be. On Monday, Trump delivered a blowout against Walsh and former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, who were contesting Trump on the Republicans ballot. Trump won with an overwhelming 97 percent of the vote.

    Walsh, having received just 1.4 percent of the vote, announced the end of his candidacy on Friday. Even National Review noted Walsh’s unwelcome presence in Iowa. Walsh accused the Iowa GOP of doing “did everything they could do to make sure their dictator got 100 percent of the vote, and they almost did,” HuffPost reported.

    Walsh told CNN: “Nobody can beat him. It’s Trump’s party, John. It’s not a party—it’s a cult. He can’t be beaten in the Republican primary, so there’s no reason for me, or any candidate really, to be in there. The party has become a cult.” He said that he would do his “level best” to stop Trump by helping to elect “any Democrat” who wins the nomination, even if that Democrat is a socialist.

    On Twitter, Walsh announced his campaign suspension and stated: “I’m committed to doing everything I can to defeat Trump and his enablers this November.”…

  69. says

    SC @87, I agree with Chris Hayes. And it is Trump’s genuine feelings (of being aggrieved) that come across to his supporters as Trump being sincere. People value sincerity in politicians. The fact that Trump’s feelings are based on lies and on a narcissistic/bullying nature — that fact totally escapes Trump’s supporters. The supporters become enablers.

    It’s a very twisted relationship.

  70. says

    TPM – “Trump’s Properties Charging Secret Service Hefty Rates For Stays”:

    The Secret Service is spending big at President Donald Trump’s properties, forcing taxpayers to foot the bill.

    According to invoices obtained by the Washington Post and its unnamed sources, the Trump Organization charged the President’s security detail $650 per night in 2017 for their stays at Mar-A-Lago dozens of times.

    In the same year, Trump’s company also charged Secret Service a rate of $17,000 a month when agents stayed at a cottage merely consisting of three bedrooms at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey.

    In 2018, Mar-A-Lago’s nightly rates dropped to $396 for the Secret Service, but the Post noted that agents had longer stays and used more rooms that year.

    Sometimes there were days when President wasn’t even at the luxury properties the Secret Service had booked. Those properties charged the government full price anyway….

  71. says

    Josh Marshall at TPM – “Will Trump’s Operatives Now Biden Bernie?”:

    …So is Brady Toensing going to help or goad to get Jane Sanders put in jail? It’s hard really to see that as a question since he literally already has. When you add to that that he’s a new nepotism hire under Bill Barr, courtesy of his right-wing power couple parents who were at the center of the Ukraine scandal to manufacture evidence against the Bidens, what’s probably coming down the pike really speaks for itself.

    In another political moment this might simply be a matter of the Toensing’s dishing stories to Drudge or hiring a Breitbart hatchet man to write an Inside the Sanders Corruption Crime Family book. But remember: Bill Barr has made it pretty clear he sees the law as an adjunct of President Trump’s personal and political interests. This is crystal clear. What we’ve seen from Trump in the last 48 hours shows a President who has tossed off whatever minimal restraints have contained him in the last three years….

    If Sander’s momentum towards the nomination grows this political targeting will happen as surely as night follows day. So it’s important to start preparing for it now.

  72. says

    A temporary win for Trump regarding emoluments:

    A federal appeals court on Friday dismissed Democratic lawmakers’ lawsuit against […] Trump alleging he has violated the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution on technical grounds.

    In the ruling, the three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found the members of Congress did not have legal standing to bring the lawsuit against the president for violating the clause, which bars federal officials from collecting payments from foreign governments without the approval of Congress.

    In their unsigned ruling, the judges cited Supreme Court precedent, noting the 215 lawmakers on the lawsuit are not the majority of Congress, and that they might have had standing if they had filed the suit as a majority. “[O]nly an institution can assert an institutional injury,” the ruling says.

    NBC News link

    Commentary from Steve Benen:

    […] That makes it sound as if the U.S. House, currently led by a Democratic majority, were to re-file the case, the D.C. Circuit would be more inclined to consider the challenge on the merits.

    The unanimous three-judge panel included a George H. W. Bush appointee, a Bill Clinton appointee, and a George W. Bush appointee.

    […] This president has refused to divest from his private-sector enterprises, which means he continues to personally profit from businesses that receive payments from foreign governments. The problem isn’t just theoretical: plenty of foreign officials and representatives of foreign governments have spent money at Trump’s properties, indirectly putting money in his pocket.

    The Republican has described the constitutional provision as “phony,” though I’m not altogether sure what he thinks that means. (The provision is, in reality, in the Constitution. There’s nothing phony about it.)

    Trump briefly celebrated the ruling during a Q&A with reporters this morning, describing the decision as “a total win.” As is usually the case, that’s not quite right: the appellate court didn’t rule on the merits.

    Yeah, that sounds like Trump. Totally predictable.

    What’s more, it’s not the only pending case. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals is considering a related challenge brought by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia, while the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals is also weighing a lawsuit filed by New York hospitality business owners. […]

    Link

  73. Akira MacKenzie says

    Lyanna @ 108

    People value sincerity in politicians. The fact that Trump’s feelings are based on lies and on a narcissistic/bullying nature — that fact totally escapes Trump’s supporters.

    Escapes them? Not at all. They know he’s a lying, preening, bully, an that’s what they love most about him. They think that’s how a REAL leader is supposed to behave. As long as the target’s of the lies and bullying are the people they hate they’ll cheer him on.

  74. says

    Akira @112, good points. I still think that many of Trump’s cult followers smell some sort of sincere sense of grievance beneath his lying and bullying. They think he is a real guy. They don’t care that his sense of grievance is ill-founded. Their own since of grievance is likely ill-founded. Nevertheless, they feel it strongly.

    If you argue with them, they think you are trying to invalidate their feelings. It’s weirdly religious for them.

  75. says

    Update on the primary caucus results from Iowa: Despite widespread concerns about the process, it appears all of the votes from Iowa’s Democratic presidential caucuses have been tallied: Bernie Sanders appears to have narrowly received more votes than Pete Buttigieg, while Buttigieg appears to have eked past Sanders in terms of the total number of state delegates allocated on the basis of the caucuses.

    Two “winners”: Buttigieg and Sanders. Warren is still a solid third place.

  76. says

    Debate schedule. the 8th presidential primary debate between Democratic Party candidates is tonight, at 7:00 pm eastern time. ABC will carry the debate live from St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. Chris Hayes will host a live audience reaction and analysis show afterwards, on MSNBC.

  77. says

    NBC – “Food stamp change would hurt kids, educators and advocates testify”:

    A rule change to the federal food stamp program proposed by the Trump administration would cause children in low-income families across the United States to go hungry, educators and hunger advocates told Congress on Thursday.

    The four people who testified Thursday said that a proposed Agriculture Department rule change to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, was a fundamental misunderstanding of a regulation known as broad-based categorical eligibility, or BBCE. As of now, states are allowed to waive asset tests — ignoring whether recipients have a car, assets or savings — and raise gross income eligibility limits.

    Currently, a family of three can qualify for SNAP if they earn 130 percent of the federal poverty level, or $27,700, or if states raise that to 200 percent, $40,840. The Agriculture Department proposes to do away with that state flexibility.

    Critics argue that eliminating BBCE would limit states’ flexibility to address their unique populations, leave more than 3 million people without access to food through SNAP and cause nearly a million children to lose their automatic enrollment in the national school breakfast and lunch programs.

    The plan, the second of three proposed rule changes to SNAP by the Trump administration, is expected to take effect soon. An earlier rule will impose stricter work requirements on able-bodied adults without disabilities, and it is expected to cut benefits to approximately 700,000 people when it takes effect April 1.

    Many families across the country have gross incomes slightly above 130 percent of poverty but still have difficulty feeding their families because of the other financial burdens like housing, child care and medical benefits, Lisa Davis, senior vice president of the No Kid Hungry Campaign, testified Thursday.

    The point of SNAP is to provide those families with some savings so they can become financially secure and move out of poverty, while reducing bureaucratic red tape, she said.

    “BBCE allows these families to remain eligible for SNAP and free school meals,” Davis said. “It creates efficiency and reduces administrative burdens on state agencies and schools, but most importantly it encourages work. It helps low-income families move out of poverty and build financial security. It allows them to accumulate modest assets to weather an unexpected financial crisis. It also ensures that their children can receive the nutrition they need at home and at school.”…

    More atl. The Republicans are waging all-out class war.

  78. says

    From the Washington Post:

    […] Trump’s company charges the Secret Service for the rooms agents use while protecting him at his luxury properties — billing U.S. taxpayers at rates as high as $650 per night, according to federal records and people who have seen receipts.

    Those charges, compiled here for the first time, show that Trump has an unprecedented — and largely hidden — business relationship with his own government. When Trump visits his clubs in Palm Beach, Fla., and Bedminster, N.J., the service needs space to post guards and store equipment. […]

    Commentary:

    […] Team Trump appears to have been dishonest about the nature of the arrangement. Eric Trump, for example, said in a Yahoo Finance interview last year that the Trump Organization effectively does not charge anything to those who travel with the president. “[T]hey stay at our properties for free — meaning, like, cost for housekeeping,” Eric Trump claimed.

    Whether he knew this to be false is unclear, but there’s now ample evidence that the president’s business charges the Secret Service — and by extension, us — quite a bit.

    […] there’s still no meaningful transparency surrounding any of this. The Post’s reporting offers an important look behind the curtain, but it conceded that the “full extent of the Secret Service’s payments to Trump’s company is not known,” and the agency “has not listed them in public databases of federal spending.”

    The article quoted Jordan Libowitz, of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), saying, “It is more than a little disconcerting, knowing this is going on, and not knowing what the actual numbers are. That’s kind of crazy that we know the president is benefiting from the presidency, and we do not know how. We do not know how many taxpayer dollars are in his pocket.”

    And finally, there’s a foundational question that’s hard to shake: why does the Secret Service have to indirectly pay Trump while also protecting him and his family? After all, the president still owns and profits from these properties, so when the Trump Organization sends the Secret Service an invoice, and the agency uses taxpayer to pay the bill, Trump ends up benefiting from the arrangement.

    The Post’s report added that the Republican “has spent more than 342 days – a third of his entire presidency – at his private clubs and hotels.” In more ways than one, that means more money in his pocket.

    Link

    Emoluments? Abuse of presidential powers?

  79. Akira MacKenzie says

    Lyanna @ 113

    Oh I agree they sincerely feel aggrieved. For decades, right wing commentators and politicians have tolled them that the white, male, heterosexual, Christian and their precious “values” are under attack by “PC thought police,” “intellectual elitists,” “secular progressives,” etc., so they need a no-holds-bar fighter to strike back.

  80. says

    Stephen Colbert’s analysis of the situation is correct:

    […] “Folks I hope you’re sitting down, because I’ve got some terrible news,” the Late Show host said at the top of his monologue Wednesday night. “The news.”

    “So there it is, it’s official,” Colbert added. “Nothing means anything. Right is wrong, up is down, Missouri is Kansas. Now we know that asking a foreign power to interfere in our elections is the new normal, the Democrats have no choice but to do the same thing.”

    From there, Colbert pivoted to the Senate Republicans who defended their collective decision—Mitt Romney notwithstanding—to vote against removing Trump from office, because they believe he has been chastened. “The only lesson that Trump ever learns is that he gets away with everything,” he said. “Multiple bankruptcies, nothing. Multiple sexual-assault allegations, nothing. He’s in perfect health despite eating like a rat behind the Bob’s Big Boy! Nothing!”

    Senators Joni Ernst, Lamar Alexander and Mike Braun and others have all made some version of that argument, but no one has done so more brazenly than Susan Collins, or as Colbert described her, “the senator who has most successfully talked herself into believing that she believes in something.” Before her vote, Collins predicted that Trump “will be much more cautious in the future.”

    Imitating Collins’ vocal tremor, Colbert said, “In the future, he’ll be more cautious and not get caught. By the way, Mr. President, if you need help getting rid of a body, I’m your girl. The secret is removing the hands and teeth and killing the guy who sold you the shovel.” He added, as Collins, “I seem really folksy, but if you listen closely to what I’m justifying suddenly I seem like a skin-bag filled with writhing tentacles.”

    But it gets worse. On Wednesday evening, after voting to acquit, Collins told Fox News that perhaps she shouldn’t have said she “believes” Trump has learned his lesson. “Well, I may not be correct on that,” she admitted. “It’s more aspirational on my part.” She also said that a better word than “believes” would have been “hopes.”

    “Yes,” Colbert replied. “And a better word for Senator Susan Collins would be Former Senator Susan Collins.”

    Daily Beast link

    I particularly like Colbert’s take on Susan Collins. Video available at the link.

  81. Akira MacKenzie says

    Lyanna @ 117

    Emoluments? Abuse of presidential powers?

    Now, now. I’m sure that the president believes that his enrichment is in the national interest, so it can’t be illegal.

  82. says

    The GOP Is Sending Out Political Mailers That Look Like Official Census Documents

    They’re continuing despite criticism.

    Here’s something sleazy: In 2019, the state of Montana had to twice warn voters about mailers from the Republican National Committee disguised to look like official 2020 Census documents. They were actually requests for money and voter information to help re-elect President Donald Trump.

    But the GOP hasn’t stopped.

    In response to our recent request for your political mail, a Michigan resident sent us a document that looks almost identical to the one the GOP came under fire for last year. […] Our reader isn’t alone—a Michigan TV station wrote about the practice causing “confusion” recently, too. We’ve contacted Michigan’s census officials and are awaiting comment. […]

  83. says

    Lindsey Graham is trying to kick start a Senate investigation of Hunter Biden in order to cement his lips more firmly to Trump’s ass. However, some other Republican senators do not agree with Graham.

    […] “I know there’s been some discussion about the Judiciary Committee taking a look at that. I think what I would like to see happen around here is a return to normalcy,” said Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Republican senator, in response to a question from The Hill about talk within the caucus about investigating the Bidens.

    “People just kind of put their spears down and let’s get back to work and focus on I think what most people in the country think we ought to be doing,” he added.

    Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said Graham might feel “obligated” as the Judiciary Committee chairman to investigate the Bidens and Ukraine but added he thought the Senate’s focus should be on other priorities.

    He said people when he goes home are not talking about impeachment or the Bidens.

    “They are talking about … the cost of their insulin, they’re talking about the fact that the roads need to be built,” Cassidy said. “That’s what they’re concerned about. I think we need to speak to the American people’s concerns.” […]

    Link

    Some Republicans are backing Graham’s play:

    […] Minutes after the impeachment trial wrapped this week, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) — the chairmen of the Finance and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees, respectively — announced they were asking for details of any travel Hunter Biden took with a protective detail when his father was vice president.

    The two chairmen, sometimes in conjunction with Graham, have been sending letters to a slew of departments for months asking for details on Ukraine, Burisma Holdings, Hunter Biden and their respective associates.

    The Treasury Department is handing over documents to Grassley and Johnson as part of their probe, a spokesman for Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), the top Democrat on the Finance Committee, said on Thursday.
    […]

  84. says

    Democrats are calling for Twitter and Facebook to take down a Pelosi video posted by Trump.

    A growing number of Democratic lawmakers are calling for Twitter and Facebook to pull down an edited video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that was posted by President Trump on Thursday, reigniting a battle over how much responsibility social media platforms should assume over viral footage that could mislead viewers.

    The back-and-forth over the Pelosi video is opening up fresh wounds, as Democrats are still incensed by Twitter and Facebook’s previous decision to leave up a different manipulatively edited video of Pelosi that went viral last year.

    Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill, on Friday said the “latest fake video of Speaker Pelosi is deliberately designed to mislead and lie to the American people.” […]

    From David Cicilline:

    Hey @Twitter, this video is clearly edited in a way that’s intended to mislead viewers. You should take it down.

    https://twitter.com/davidcicilline/status/1225833265371676672
    The video is available at the Twitter link.

    […] “The American people know that the President has no qualms about lying to them — but it is a shame to see Twitter and Facebook, sources of news for millions, do the same,” Hammill said on Friday. “Every day that these platforms refuse to take it down is another reminder that they care more about their shareholders’ interests than the public’s interests.” […]

  85. says

    Climate news:

    The Antarctic Peninsula recorded a high of 65 degrees this week, the hottest temperature ever recorded there.

    The reading was taken Thursday at Esperanza Base along Antarctica’s Trinity Peninsula.

    That temperature is hotter than the previous record of 63.5 degrees from March 2015. […]

    Link

  86. says

    Topher Spiro:

    Sanders says his strategy for passing Medicare for All is to rally the people of Kentucky to pressure McConnell…

    Sanders says Medicare for All is a compromise because it has a four-year transition…

    Notice here that Sanders is implying a two-step strategy without saying so – lowering the Medicare age first. He and his camp raked Warren for this….

    Quotes atl.

  87. Akira MacKenzie says

    Maybe it’s just the clinical anxiety talking, but I’m starting to think it might be a good idea to steer clear of Milwaukee and the surrounding area during the Democratic National Convention this summer, especially given Trump’s desire to drop a nuke on something.

  88. says

    Quoted in Lynna’s #124:

    Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said Graham might feel “obligated” as the Judiciary Committee chairman to investigate the Bidens and Ukraine but added he thought the Senate’s focus should be on other priorities.

    He said people when he goes home are not talking about impeachment or the Bidens.

    “They are talking about … the cost of their insulin, they’re talking about the fact that the roads need to be built,” Cassidy said. “That’s what they’re concerned about. I think we need to speak to the American people’s concerns.” […]

    The House has passed fucking bills addressing these concerns and they’re gathering dust on McConnell’s desk.

  89. says

    From Wonkette:

    […] Elizabeth Warren got laughs and applause for her reply to a young woman studying politics at St. Anselm College, who asked whether “the men in this race have a better chance of beating Trump solely based on their gender.” Warren was ready for that one: “I believe they think so, but they’d be wrong.” She went on to note that women have been at the head of much of the opposition to Trump, and the Democratic takeover of the House in 2018, so knock it off with the sexist assumptions, boys.

    But the question and answer that really got our attention was this exchange posted to Twitter not by CNN, but by Matthew Cortland, an attorney and health care activist, because holy crap, a substantial discussion of disability rights made it to national TV. […] [Video is available at the link.]

    Cortland only captured Warren’s answer, but the question, from Ruth Morrissette, who has a grandchild with a developmental disability, was “What role do you see people with disabilities playing in your campaign, and even better yet […] in the White House if you become president?” Warren said she loved the question, and that the short answer is “Equal means equal,” but government needs to make that meaningful. And then she got into the part captured in the video [Video is available at the link.] about how giving everyone an equal opportunity has to be more than a slogan.

    Then Warren explained why being a real leader means knowing what you don’t know, and bringing in people who do. She noted that as she was putting together her housing plan last year, it became painfully clear that people with disabilities have a wide range of needs when it comes to housing that will allow them the fullest options, and oh my gosh, that extends to every aspect of what government does. And to do it right, you need help from people who know stuff.

    I’m a woman with plans — I need a disability plan overall, and I thought, I’m not going to write this myself. I’m going to reach out to the community, to the disability communities, and say, ‘What parts do we need to be able to build that equality.’ And over the past several months we’ve been working together and now we’ve come up with a disability plan.

    […]

    https://www.wonkette.com/elizabeth-warren-cnn-town-hall

  90. says

    Yeah, that’s not going to happen:

    […] Trump said Friday that his impeachment by the House should be “expunged” because it was a “total political hoax,” as he headed to North Carolina on his first trip out of Washington since being acquitted in a Senate impeachment trial. […]

    Washington Post link

  91. says

    Steve Benen discusses Trump’s claims about job growth:

    […] the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics was definitely encouraging, and suggests hiring in 2020 is off to a great start. But the same report included something called “benchmark revisions,” which is a month-by-month tally, updating previous job totals — and those figures weren’t quite as encouraging.

    For example, the revisions for 2019 showed that the economy generated nearly 2.1 million jobs last year, which is a pretty good number. The trouble, however, is the job totals from last year were down from the year before, and were actually the lowest since 2011.

    Or put another way, while Trump spent the year boasting that the U.S. job market was the strongest it’s ever been, 2019 saw job growth slow to an eight-year low.

    What’s more, the best year for jobs during Trump’s presidency — 2.31 million in 2018 — fails to reach the job growth in any of the three final years of Barack Obama’s presidency. It adds a degree of irony to his rhetorical record: Trump ran for president in 2015 and 2016, telling the nation that the economy was horrible and he’d make it vastly better. But annual job growth totals from both 2015 and 2016 were better than any year of the Republican’s tenure, at least so far. […]

    Link

  92. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 131

    Ah, but that’s exactly what people said in 2016 about Trump becoming president.

  93. johnson catman says

    Trump escorted out of the White House by security and told his services were no longer needed.
    .
    .
    Oh, sorry. I drifted off into a fantasy for a second.

  94. says

    Alexandra Petri in WaPo – “A chastened president addresses a healing nation”:

    On Thursday, after his impeachment ended in a narrow vote to acquit, a chastened President Trump addressed the nation. Anyone who beheld him could see that the lesson Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander, Joni Ernst and Susan Collins hoped he would learn from the process had been driven forcibly home. With slow steps weighted by his immense shame, he took the podium. “We had the witch hunt,” he said, obviously chagrined. “It started from the day we came down the elevator.”

    A crowd of supporters who had equally learned a painful lesson gathered around him and emitted loud cheers — in an embarrassed way that showed they had really understood the moral of impeachment. “It was evil,” Trump continued bravely, barely able to hold his head up in public after the severity of the censure he had almost but not quite experienced. “It was dirty cops, it was leakers and liars, and this should never, ever happen to another president, ever.”

    “But this is what the end result is,” Trump continued, holding up an issue of The Washington Post with the headline “Trump acquitted.” The chastened crowd cheered, chastenedly.

    “We went through hell unfairly,” Trump went on, the mortification in his tone evident. “Did nothing wrong. Did nothing wrong.” His remorse was plain for all to see.

    “And Mitch McConnell, I want to tell you, you did a fantastic job,” Trump said, obviously struggling to go on considering the heaviness of the ignominy placed upon his shoulders.

    “Then you have some who used religion as a crutch. They never used it before. An article written today. Never heard him use it before. But today, you know, it’s one of those things. It’s a failed presidential candidate, so things can happen when you fail so badly running for president,” Trump said, barely coherent from the sheer weight of his dishonor.

    Trump alluded briefly to the original offense in a subdued and contrite tone: “A phone call. A very good phone call. I know bad phone calls.”

    He reflected upon the severity of what he had just gone through. “I’ll probably have to do it again because these people have gone stone cold crazy. I’ve beat them all my life, and I’ll beat them again if I have to,” Trump concluded, in the unmistakable tone of one who understood what he had done wrong and what he had put the nation through, one who would carry the somber burden of that lesson with him for as long as he lived.

    The crowd emitted a murmur of deep repentance.

    “I just wanted to say that this reflection today is a small reflection of the kind of support you have all across the country,” Mark Meadows yelled in a voice riven with dismay and regret. “We’ve got your back.”

    There were loud, obviously chastened, cheers. The cheers of those who had learned their lesson. They also clapped.

  95. tomh says

    Vindman’s twin brother, Yevgeny, who is also a lieutenant colonel in the Army, was also removed from the NSC, where he worked as a lawyer.

  96. says

    Lynna:

    The hashtag #vindmandeservesbetter is trending, along with several other Vindman-related hashtags.

    When I posted about it above, I had originally written that I hoped someone would get #IStandWithVindman or #RightMatters or something trending on Twitter, but I deleted it because it didn’t seem to be getting much attention and I’d be even more upset to see nothing after hoping about it in writing. It’s not a huge thing that those hashtags are trending, but it’s something, and I hope it helps him.

  97. says

    tomh:

    Vindman’s twin brother, Yevgeny, who is also a lieutenant colonel in the Army, was also removed from the NSC, where he worked as a lawyer.

    Trump mentioned the brother yesterday and it was insane, and this is even more insane.

  98. says

    Adam Schiff:

    Lt. Col. Vindman did his job. As a soldier in Iraq, he received a Purple Heart.

    Then he displayed another rare form of bravery — moral courage.

    He complied with a subpoena and told the truth.

    He upheld his oath when others would not.

    Right matters to him.

    And to us.

    Sometimes I wonder if the Republicans ever think about themselves five years ago and whether they could have imagined themselves being complicit with something like this, much less applauding the wreck of a human being that is Donald Trump as he trashes and mocks everything decent in the country.

  99. tomh says

    Another witness out of a job.

    Trump fired Gordon D. Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, within hours of the White House dismissing Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman.

  100. says

    Reminded of Vindman’s message to his dad at his hearing: ‘Dad, my sitting here today, in the US Capitol talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision forty years ago to leave the Soviet Union … Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth’.”

    I wish there were one word that described rage + heartbreak + shock + disappointment + hope + fear + sympathy + horror + incomprehension + determination + angst. That’s where I am right now.

  101. says

    tomh @ #148, I was wondering why Sondland was trending alongside Vindman – thought maybe he’d made a statement or something. You just know McConnell and Trump’s other handlers prevented him from doing all this during the trial and now either gave him the green light or just can’t hold him back. The damage the Republican majority in the Senate has inflicted on the country is incalculable.

  102. says

    David Mack:

    imagine if this happened in any other country but america

    something something “escorted out of the presidential palace”

    WASHINGTON — The US leader on Friday purged top military and diplomatic officials after they testified against him in an investigation into whether he had abused the powers of his office.

    Two brothers were escorted from the presidential palace and reassigned to unspecified roles after one of them was hauled before American lawmakers and testified that he had reported his concerns about the president to other officials.

    His brother, who did not testify and had no role in the presidential investigation other than to show up at his sibling’s hearing, was also dismissed from his posting and escorted from the palace.

    A wealthy donor to the president’s glitzy inauguration festivities who had been subsequently rewarded with an international ambassadorship was also fired after he alleged a conspiracy among the president’s inner circle.

    The oustings came a day after the American leader and his allies swore vengeance against those who had investigated him.

    The president’s son, viewed as a possible future successor to his father, demanded that those who did not stand by his father face retribution.

    The anti-corruption investigation, ultimately ended by the president’s political allies, had gripped international observers.

    One response, “Vindman’s dad was right,” is one of the saddest things I’ve ever read. We need to ensure that Alex and Yevgeny Vindman are right. Annushka might have bought the sunflower oil, but she’s not fucking fated to spill it.

  103. says

    Marie Yovanovitch retired last week, Kurt Volker turned over texts and quit, Sondland testified now fired, Taylor testified removed Jan 2., Morrison left week after testified, Vindman testified, escorted out today along w twin brother, Pence aide Williams left OVP for Centcom

    who’s still there who refused to testify: Mick Mulvaney, Duffey, Rob Blair, Ellis, Eisenberg, Pompeo, Brechbuhl”

  104. consciousness razor says

    SC, in the other thread at #93, I linked to a video of Sanders that, among other things, addresses some of your questions about the Iowa caucus. You may have already seen it elsewhere in the press, but you said you wanted him to publicly state his position (which is negative).

  105. says

    cr @ #163, I’ve watched the first fourth. Can you point me to where he discusses his camp’s work on the unity commission re the retention of caucuses, and the reasons for that position? From what I’ve seen so far, he’s simply blaming the IDC and the caucus process abstractly (and probably hypocritically). He’s advantaged by caucuses. His representatives reportedly wanted to retain them (and I’ve seen no evidence prior to the Iowa debacle suggesting they opposed them). Is this true? Does he address this in the video?

    Also:

    I’ve already discussed my issues with claims about a “popular vote” total in relation to a caucus. He’s saying he got 6,000 more “initial preference” votes in this already small-turnout, noninclusive, skewed two-step process, and 2,500(!) more in the second alignment. I mean, OK. Great victory.
    He and Buttigieg are essentially tied, with Warren a close third. Sanders got half the “votes” he did in 2016. (I’m afraid I don’t understand the “but there are many more candidates this time” argument. Yes, given other choices, half of his 2016 supporters chose to support other candidates (of course, it’s not exactly the same people, but you get the point).
    Youth turnout was I believe higher, but turnout overall was no great shakes. This undercuts Sanders’ argument that his candidacy will drive big turnout, bringing in new constituencies. (Of course, I don’t think Iowa is representative, but let’s deal with facts on the ground.)

  106. says

    And cr, since you brought this to this thread, I’m going to address the situation, from which I’d wanted to step back but which has been roiling my intellect and emotions. I like you, too, but we’re facing fascism here. There are numerous Sanders supporters with whom I have no problem, but several comments on that thread, representative or not, are disturbing:

    “this current debacle convinces me that the Democratic party must also be destroyed or radically transformed, because it’s a neoliberal nothingburger populated with incompetent chucklefucks who only care about the status quo…which isn’t working.” (- PZ!)

    ” Buttigieg…he’s a dirtbag and many people realize this.”

    “it’s just such an odd circumstance that every error the party makes, is exclusively to the benefit of the party heads, their big donors, and substandard conservative politics in the party.
    But sure, they have the best intentions in the world.”

    “I will acknowledge that Bernie is not perfect. He’s far to the right of me on most of his positions. Unfortunately, he’s the best we have, so I’m willing to vote for him as a compromise. Hopefully, we can keep up the momentum and someday tear the system down by the roots.”

    “And golly, the Iowa Democratic Party somehow keeps misreporting certified results from districts in ways which boost Buttigieg versus everybody, not just Sanders. Definitely just a coincidence that this has happened at least 3 times already. Also a total coincidence that their app was designed by a company owned by Acronym, which is funded by Republican Hedge Fund Managers and whose CEO is actually married to a Buttigieg campaign leader. Total coincidence. Not at all something which should have been widely reported from the start. No conflicts of interest there whatsoever.

    You know what would help convince people not to vote for Trump? Not constantly doing things which look exactly as crooked as Trump. (Also, maybe, not taking enthusiastic youth voters and telling them ‘you’re a bunch of misogynist Russian trolls and you will vote for our horrifying pro-war pro-1% candidate who is literally the most-hated person in the party in nationwide polls, and like it’. But that ship sailed last time.)”

    “Anyway, some of Clinton’s people were definitely close to the process, and they (and other establishment Dems) have definitely been lying and distorting the facts non-stop since the last election. Really, it’s just very hard to know what to believe these days.”

    “The centrist wing wanting to get rid of caucuses seems like reason enough to want to keep them.

    Further, if avoiding snake emojis is your aim, it might be a good idea to avoid blatant smear campaigns that your surrogates then use disingenuous appropriations of sexual assault terminology to defend (No, it is not ‘gas lighting’ to deny allegations made with zero proof or witnesses) a day before a major campaign event.” (A HEM.)

    “Oh, okay, so you don’t actually know what ‘progressivism’ means in a political context, if you think it’s a synonym for ‘wants to progress’. It is a fundamentally bourgeois ideology that explicitly attempts to defend capitalism by offering surface level pallative [sic] cures to prevent the development of class consciousness.

    Just like how the New Deal was a cynical attempt to crush the growing left of the time by offering minute benefits that helped very few people in practice, Obamacare is merely a terrible centrist concession that does nothing but obscure the fact that healthcare should not be for profit.”

    Incidentally, it’s unlikely I’d exist were it not for the New Deal (though my grandparents became Republicans). And it’s highly unlikely I’d be able to be posting here right now were it not for the ACA.

  107. consciousness razor says

    I’ve watched the first fourth. Can you point me to where he discusses his camp’s work on the unity commission re the retention of caucuses, and the reasons for that position?

    My comment mentioned several highlights, in chronological order. None of the reporters presumed like you do that he is responsible for the fact that Iowa had a caucus. Because that’s false. At best, he was one of many who didn’t change what over decades has become a very standard practice. (Still, he did help to reform it in some important ways.) So, you’re not going to find that specific item.

    He’s advantaged by caucuses.

    So you’ve claimed, but you don’t support this. You can make the empirical claim that in fact he did well in several caucuses in 2016 (maybe better than expected or worse than expected, I don’t know, but those expectations would also need support). So, you can say they’re correlated, but it’s worth noting how we’re using only a small amount of data in a single primary season, so you’d have to get a real statistician to help us figure out what that correlation is actually like.
    And the other point here is that correlation is not causation. His successes (however “great” they were) may be the causal result of many different factors, including the simple fact that he was a very popular candidate who was running a good campaign with a compelling agenda. And it may be a coincidence that those particular states have demographics that are more favorable to Sanders. (So it’s not about being a caucus or primary, but some other factor.)
    Meanwhile, there is substantial evidence that a candidate like Sanders does not do as well as moderates/centrists in rural areas. Iowa as a whole is more rural than other states. Also, the caucus (some primaries as well) awards delegates in a way that gives disproportionate weight to rural areas. This explains both Mayor Pete’s disproportionate delegate count and why he spent so much time in those areas in the first place (when such low-population precincts wouldn’t otherwise be worth the effort, even as a moderate who would have more support in them).
    So your analysis (which you don’t really support but just assert) may simply be factually wrong about what is and is not advantageous for Sanders. Then you have to say that the Sanders campaign itself made the same (faulty) assessment about all of these things as you have, which is also not in evidence.

    I mean, OK. Great victory.

    You want to minimize it, but more voters is more voters. Iowa is a small state, so if you expected “great” from them, you were digging in the wrong place.
    Since you’re not a Buttigieg supporter, and since you may (like me) think his campaign will crumble eventually, you should compare his results to Warren’s. Those seem like the relevant figures for you to worry about, not the difference between Sanders and Buttigieg.
    Sanders got 6,100+ more than Buttigieg in the first alignment, then 2,600+ in the second (Funny how you took both of those numbers, and rounded them down by more than 100, while telling me that they’re not “great”.)
    Versus Warren, he got 11,100+ more in the first and 11,000+ more in the second. To put this into context, this is when the largest Warren total vote count (second round) is only 34,771, making the difference between them equal to nearly a third of that figure. That seems like kind of a big deal.
    Is that “great”? I don’t know, but maybe you at least have a coherent reason to care about that fact and look at the results a little differently.

    Sanders got half the “votes” he did in 2016.

    I don’t know how many votes he got in 2016. And I don’t think that matters anyway.

    This undercuts Sanders’ argument that his candidacy will drive big turnout, bringing in new constituencies.

    Did you read the bit about “satellite caucuses”? Mano also discussed a very heartwarming video on his blog. (You should watch it, not to cool your contempt for Sanders, but because it may give you some sense of hope which everyone desperately needs right now.)
    Anyway, there doesn’t need to be some kind of “argument” about it – you can just see those results for yourself. Those are new constituencies, no doubt about it. I mean, you don’t need an “argument” or whatever to convince you that the sun rises in the east or that the sky is (typically) blue; you just simply see that this is the case.
    What I see is that the Sanders campaign did a hell of a lot more work to reach out to those communities – way more than Mayor Pete, as far as these satellite locations are concerned, and that itself is way more than anyone else you might care about, because none of them even register as a blip in the stats. So Warren seems to have just neglected them, presumably just floating along, relying on her tightly-knit bubble of more educated, upper/middle-class (and predominantly white) supporters in ordinary caucus locations.

  108. says

    My comment mentioned several highlights, in chronological order. None of the reporters presumed like you do that he is responsible for the fact that Iowa had a caucus.

    Regardless of how many times you claim this, I didn’t make that presumption. I said he’s supported caucuses, from which he benefits.

    At best, he was one of many who didn’t change what over decades has become a very standard practice.

    “At best”? I don’t understand what you’re saying. Are you saying that the evidence suggests that Sanders backed caucuses in the Democratic Party?

    (Still, he did help to reform it in some important ways.)

    I’ve already stated that I don’t necessarily consider these “reforms,” and that they’ve been exploited by the Sanders campaign, but that I’m willing to listen to the reasoning behind the “reforms” in the larger context.

    So, you’re not going to find that specific item.

    Don’t come to this thread with that bullshit, cr. My questions on that thread:

    “Do people want Sanders to publicly describe what his position has been over the last five years on caucuses and the order of caucuses/primaries? Do they want him to openly make an argument pro or con and stand by it? I mean, I do.”

    Do you have an answer? No.

  109. consciousness razor says

    And cr, since you brought this to this thread, I’m going to address the situation, from which I’d wanted to step back but which has been roiling my intellect and emotions. I like you, too, but we’re facing fascism here. There are numerous Sanders supporters with whom I have no problem, but several comments on that thread, representative or not, are disturbing:

    I don’t get what you’re addressing or how you’re addressing it. Just copypasta…. That’s mainly what these political madness threads consist of, so whatever, but I don’t get what you are trying to say there.

  110. consciousness razor says

    I said he’s supported caucuses,

    If this alleged “support” made no difference, then you’re complaining about something which you think made no difference. I also think it makes no difference. So do we agree, and can we move on to things that do actually matter now? I would think so.

    Don’t come to this thread with that bullshit, cr.

    I’ll come to this thread with whatever political madness I want, unless PZ doesn’t like it being on his blog. I’ve been honest and sincere with you, SC, and I wanted you to know there was a response. Your attitude is total shit right now, and I don’t appreciate that.

  111. says

    cr:

    Iowa is a small state, so if you expected “great” from them, you were digging in the wrong place.

    Is that “great”? I don’t know, but maybe you at least have a coherent reason to care about that fact and look at the results a little differently.

    My dude, you linked to a 23-minute press conference in which Sanders’ whole point is to hail it as a “very strong victory” and a “victory.” I won’t repeat my arguments.

    …OK, I will. It’s a statistically insignificant difference in a small, noninclusive, biased caucus in a small and unrepresentative state which assigns delegates proportionately. But you go on.

  112. says

    If this alleged “support” made no difference, then you’re complaining about something which you think made no difference. I also think it makes no difference. So do we agree, and can we move on to things that do actually matter now? I would think so.

    “Do people want Sanders to publicly describe what his position has been over the last five years on caucuses and the order of caucuses/primaries? Do they want him to openly make an argument pro or con and stand by it? I mean, I do.”

    He’s advantaged by caucuses.

    So you’ve claimed, but you don’t support this. You can make the empirical claim that in fact he did well in several caucuses in 2016 (maybe better than expected or worse than expected, I don’t know, but those expectations would also need support). So, you can say they’re correlated, but it’s worth noting how we’re using only a small amount of data in a single primary season, so you’d have to get a real statistician to help us figure out what that correlation is actually like.

    OK, sure, he won 2/3 of caucuses and 1/4 of primaries in 2016, and there are obvious reasons for this, and the centrists explicitly argued against caucuses, and the Sanders camp did not, but it’s all so very clouded…

  113. says

    I’ll come to this thread with whatever political madness I want, unless PZ doesn’t like it being on his blog. I’ve been honest and sincere with you, SC, and I wanted you to know there was a response. Your attitude is total shit right now, and I don’t appreciate that.

    I asked questions on another thread, which I explicitly left, and then you show up here purportedly with answers – “SC, in the other thread at #93, I linked to a video of Sanders that, among other things, addresses some of your questions about the Iowa caucus…”

    In any event, I feel like my anger is growing and I don’t want to become overly aggressive or hostile. Again, I’m not anti-Sanders but I’m very concerned by a lot of the rhetoric surrounding him. I think we can all (well, I don’t know, most of us) step back and agree – I hope – that we’re fighting for the same fundamental things and can argue but come together in the end.

    G’night, all.

  114. consciousness razor says

    OK, sure, he won 2/3 of caucuses and 1/4 of primaries in 2016, and there are obvious reasons for this, and the centrists explicitly argued against caucuses, and the Sanders camp did not, but it’s all so very clouded…

    Yes, it certainly fucking is. I gave you clearly reasoned and evidence-based arguments. What you’re doing here is only repeating your original assertions and expressing incredulity that there might be anything wrong about them. I take that as a sign that you have no substantive reply to any of the points I raised.
    And that’s sort of okay. Maybe it will take time to sink in for you, maybe someone else will correct me about something I don’t understand, etc. I’m leaving that open. But it seems pretty clear that you’re not able/willing to engage with that argument right now, so I will just let it stand and try not to make a big deal out of it.
    Hopefully, you don’t interpret me saying all of this explicitly as making a big deal out of it. So I also just said that explicitly, and I hope that’s not a big deal either.

    I asked questions on another thread, which I explicitly left, and then you show up here purportedly with answers

    Yes, I did. If you wanted to know where Sanders stands on the caucus, in light of the disaster that we saw, he said it was much too complicated and won’t happen again (with the natural implication that it won’t, if there’s anything he can do about it).
    He didn’t address all of your concerns, some of which are ill-founded, and I didn’t pretend otherwise.
    But if you have some genuine concerns about what his approach to elections/democracy/etc. is like — if, that is, your goal with all of this wasn’t just to try to make him look bad or whatever, which is becoming more and more questionable — then this does give you some answers.

    Again, I’m not anti-Sanders

    Sure you are. The first step is admitting you have a problem. Just being funny with that, but I don’t know what you think you’re saying with that or why you would bother. You’re in favor of Warren, unless I’m mistaken, and at a bare minimum highly critical of Sanders. You should just own that.

  115. says

    cr:

    Yes, it certainly fucking is. I gave you clearly reasoned and evidence-based arguments. What you’re doing here is only repeating your original assertions and expressing incredulity that there might be anything wrong about them. I take that as a sign that you have no substantive reply to any of the points I raised.

    Stop ignoring the evidence I presented on the other thread. There is substantive evidence that: the caucus system favors Sanders; he and everyone else are aware of that fact; Clinton and centrist Democrats nationally have wanted to scrap caucuses for years and have publicly said so; in the unity commission, created expressly to address the complaints of the Sanders camp, according to at least two participants, the Sanders representatives opposed or at the very least didn’t agree with those pushing to get rid of caucuses; in the unity commission, the Sanders representatives did push for and get additional rules (reporting the raw numbers from the first and second alignments, adding satellite caucuses around the world) that would make the already confusing and expensive caucus process even more complicated and costlier; despite Sanders’ pattern of openly criticizing the Democratic Party, from 2016 until now, again unlike the centrist Democrats, there is no record of Sanders or his campaign complaining about the fundamental noninclusivity, small turnout, systematic bias, or tendency to create confusion and acrimony of caucuses or advocating for their end – on the contrary, they went into caucuses quite enthusiastically, as they did in 2016.

    Sanders then exploited the Iowa fiasco, which he himself played a role in creating but for which he takes no responsibility, to attack the Democratic Party some more. He still doesn’t acknowledge that centrist Democrats have long wanted to get rid of caucuses, or talk publicly about what his representatives argued for in the unity commission or why. He remains silent while his supporters irresponsibly accuse another campaign, the IDP, and the DNC of cheating, promoting the same anti-Democratic conspiracy theories as the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, as in 2016. He complains about the party’s incompetence while his supporters relentless foster more hostility towards them and the other candidates. He calls the first-alignment numbers the popular vote and pronounces it a “strong victory” to have 6,000 more in the first alignment, reduced to 2,500 more in the second alignment, despite the fact that this leads to likely equal numbers of a small portion of national delegates and represents half the number he received in 2016.

    These aren’t actions working toward the greatest unity and strength of the Democratic Party he’s campaigning to lead. I want him to be forthcoming about what his position on caucuses was from 2016 to 2020. I want him to publicly discuss what the position of his representatives was in the unity commission regarding the retention or scrapping of caucuses, and why. (This was what my questions were about.) I want him to acknowledge that the changes he asked for and received contributed to the debacle in Iowa and made an expensive process even more expensive. I want him to publicly tamp down the conspiracy theories, the demonization of his competitors and the party, and the rhetoric that paints the Democrats and not the Republicans as his opponents or even enemies. This is what I’d ask of any candidate – to be honest about your positions and to treat the campaign as a campaign and not a death match with the party you’re running to lead.

  116. says

    Sure you are. The first step is admitting you have a problem. Just being funny with that, but I don’t know what you think you’re saying with that or why you would bother. You’re in favor of Warren, unless I’m mistaken, and at a bare minimum highly critical of Sanders. You should just own that.

    As I said, I’m not. If Sanders is the nominee, I’ll happily vote for him (and even if I couldn’t do so happily, I would still happily do so, if that makes any sense). I’m critical of all of the candidates, but it’s telling to me that my support for Warren automatically translates to you to being anti-Sanders. It doesn’t, but it seems like disproportionately Sanders supporters feel like supporting his candidacy means you have to be actively hostile towards anyone who “crosses” him. Which brings me to the heart of my criticism, which pertains far less to Sanders or his positions (which are very close to Warren’s) than to some people on his campaign and many of his supporters. The quotes I gave @ #166 above are examples of the pattern: the calls to destroy the party Sanders is running to lead, the vilification of his opponents and anyone who comes into any kind of conflict with him, the idolization of Sanders, the insinuations about cheating, the endless grievances and complaints, the promotion of the same conspiracy theories pushed by the Right (I’d really encourage Sanders supporters to listen to Parts I, II, and III of this podcast), the attacks on others for doing things Sanders does, the bashing of any progress achieved short of outright revolution and of any compromise at all, the hate and viciousness in the rhetoric directed at opponents and the Democratic Party.

    I don’t see anything close to this pattern with the other campaigns (except Gabbard’s). None of this is necessary to making the case for Sanders. Sanders himself doesn’t do much of this, but he tacitly condones it by not telling his campaign and surrogates to knock it off and speaking out strongly against what his online supporters are doing (and by not being more forthcoming on where he’s stood on certain issues). It’s incredibly damaging to the effort to defeat the Republicans, to unity, and to trust. I don’t even want to think about several more months of it and how destructive that will be.

  117. consciousness razor says

    Your “evidence” seems like it’s coming from a different planet. I don’t know what to do with that, but maybe I’ll come back to some things, if I can make any more sense out of them.

    it’s telling to me that my support for Warren automatically translates to you to being anti-Sanders.

    What I said is it amounts to that because of the conjunction of both your support for Warren (one of his main opponents in this race) and your severe criticisms of Sanders, his campaign, his supporters, and presumably any other Sanders-related thing that exists but I have neglected to mention.
    I get it that you’d like to make some kind of very fine-grained distinctions here, where you’re in some part of conceptual space that isn’t “anti-Sanders” but is nonetheless the sort of thing I just described that doesn’t get a real name.
    It’s a pretty weird place to be in, and I don’t know how you can reliably tell that this is where you really are. I guess you might think the input of people like me is out of the question here, but maybe it shouldn’t be. Not kidding.
    You seem to believe this about yourself because, by the end of this year, if events happen to play out in a particular way, so that you have to choose between voting for Sanders and voting for Trump, you’re going to vote for Sanders. To me, that sounds like you’re only telling me that you like Sanders more than Trump, which is saying nothing (or maybe worse than nothing). Speaking for myself, I’m anti- tons of people who are nonetheless miles ahead of Trump. That’s how it is.
    And as for right now, today, you don’t have any concrete thing to say about what that means. It will just mean something in November, possibly, if it ever comes to that, God forbid. But you presumably don’t think it’s likely (as a Warren supporter) that in November you will actually be put to this weak-sauce test, in which you happily vote for Sanders instead of Trump.
    So, fine, you’re “not anti-Sanders.” Whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean to you, today, I guess what I’m realizing here is that I just don’t care about that. And if it was supposed to be a comforting idea to me, as I think about it, I’m pretty sure it’s not. But you’d have to ask me about that sort of thing and not you.

  118. says

    cr:

    So you’ve claimed, but you don’t support this. You can make the empirical claim that in fact he did well in several caucuses in 2016 (maybe better than expected or worse than expected, I don’t know, but those expectations would also need support). So, you can say they’re correlated, but it’s worth noting how we’re using only a small amount of data in a single primary season, so you’d have to get a real statistician to help us figure out what that correlation is actually like.

    And the other point here is that correlation is not causation. His successes (however “great” they were) may be the causal result of many different factors, including the simple fact that he was a very popular candidate who was running a good campaign with a compelling agenda. And it may be a coincidence that those particular states have demographics that are more favorable to Sanders. (So it’s not about being a caucus or primary, but some other factor.)

    Caucuses are low-turnout events that inherently favor those who mobilize a dedicated, passionate base of supporters who are willing and able to come out and spend several hours at a caucus publicly supporting their candidate. This was the case with Sanders in 2016 and is still the case now.

    Meanwhile, there is substantial evidence that a candidate like Sanders does not do as well as moderates/centrists in rural areas. Iowa as a whole is more rural than other states….
    So your analysis (which you don’t really support but just assert) may simply be factually wrong about what is and is not advantageous for Sanders. Then you have to say that the Sanders campaign itself made the same (faulty) assessment about all of these things as you have, which is also not in evidence.

    OK, so out of curiosity I’ve organized the 2016 data a bit (source). Here are the caucus states and their results:

    Alaska (closed) (Sanders, wide margin)
    Washington (open) (Sanders, wide margin)
    Hawaii (semi-closed) (Sanders, wide margin)
    Iowa (semi-open) (Clinton, small margin)
    Nevada (closed) (Clinton, small margin)
    American Samoa (closed) (Clinton, wide margin)
    Guam (closed) (Clinton, wide margin)
    Minnesota (open) (Sanders, wide margin)
    Kansas (closed) (Sanders, wide margin)
    Nebraska (closed) (Sanders, wide margin)
    Maine (closed) (Sanders, wide margin)
    Colorado (closed) (Sanders, wide margin)
    Northern Marianas (closed) (Clinton, wide margin)
    North Dakota (open) (Sanders, wide margin)
    Idaho (open) (Sanders, wide margin)
    Utah (semi-open) (Sanders, wide margin)
    Wyoming (closed) (Sanders, decent margin)
    Virgin Islands (closed) (Clinton, wide margin)

    I don’t have the wherewithal to do a multivariate regression, but here’s my first-line analysis:

    I don’t think “he was a very popular candidate who was running a good campaign with a compelling agenda” works as an explanation for Sanders’ disproportionate success in caucuses given that he won 4 million fewer votes overall and only one in four primaries. I imagine he probably did better at mobilizing for caucuses particularly – they fit with the type of campaign he was running, so this makes sense. There does seem to be evidence that the Sanders campaign focused on the caucus states more than the Clinton campaign.

    Looking at the list, the idea that “those particular states [that hold caucuses] have demographics that are more favorable to Sanders” was almost certainly true in 2016. Both the majority of the 2016 caucus states and pretty much all of those Sanders won (with the exception of Hawaii) are overwhelmingly white and relatively rural. This aligns with the fact that Clinton did much better with non-white voters. Now, Sanders is doing a far better job at engaging with those groups this time around, but, as everyone recognized at the time, Sanders was favored in the overwhelmingly white states generally. So I do think that was a contributing factor, but doesn’t eliminate the role of the nature of caucuses themselves.

    What also really struck me is just how low the caucus turnout numbers were. For example, Oregon, with a population of 4.1 million, had more than 600,000 closed-primary voters; while Washington, with a population of 7.5 million, had about 25,000 caucus participants. They all seem to look like this: hundreds of thousands of people voted in primaries; thousands or tens of thousands in caucuses. Obviously, with turnouts this low, having a base of fervent supporters, especially students able to participate, makes a huge difference. But in any case, this is ridiculous. I had no idea the turnout was that low for caucuses. This year’s should absolutely be the last.

    I’m not sure this is all that relevant to my argument, though, given that I’ve presented evidence that Sanders representatives in the unity commission wanted to retain caucuses or at least didn’t oppose them, and there’s no public evidence of anything different. This makes sense given that Sanders had been successful in that format for whatever reason. As I said, I’d be happy to hear from the Sanders camp if those people are misrepresenting the history – in fact, I really want to know the full history whether I’m right or wrong.

  119. consciousness razor says

    Let me just add “not listening to Sanders supporters” as another reason to think this. I very clearly gave two seperate conditions. The sentence very clearly had the word “and” in it.
    But then another thing to add while. You then use that as a stepping stone, to say this thing you just made up about what is said is “telling”, so you can start railing some more about unnamed Sanders supporters who supposedly do this sort of thing all the time. That also speaks volumes to me, when I ask myself what it’s typically like for a person to be anti-whatever.
    Maybe “crypto-anti-Sanders” is more accurate or more descriptive? You probably don’t like that either. Too wordy.

  120. says

    cr, I honestly have no idea what you’re talking about in most of that comment, which is ostensibly about telling me what I really think or something, so whatever. You’re wrong and your insistence that I must mean something totally different from what I’ve explicitly said (especially when I have no reason to lie – if I were anti-Sanders, I’d say so, like I say I’m anti-Gabbard or anti-Bloomberg) is just weird. There seems to be a lot of projection going on.

    …You seem to believe this about yourself because, by the end of this year, if events happen to play out in a particular way, so that you have to choose between voting for Sanders and voting for Trump, you’re going to vote for Sanders. To me, that sounds like you’re only telling me that you like Sanders more than Trump, which is saying nothing (or maybe worse than nothing). Speaking for myself, I’m anti- tons of people who are nonetheless miles ahead of Trump. That’s how it is….

    No. I’d say that even given my serious misgivings Sanders is my second choice after Warren. As I said, I’d happily vote for him if he won the nomination. His positions on a number of issues are very close to mine. I’d put him second in ranked-choice voting, but I’d vote for the others as well. I think this is typical of Warren supporters. According to this poll (I have no idea of its quality), asked whether they’ll support the Democratic nominee even if it isn’t their candidate, these are the results:

    Warren supporters: Yes 90%, No 0%, Depends 10%
    Sanders supporters: Yes 53%, No 16%, Depends 31%

    I have seen other polls that put the numbers much closer together, so I’m hoping those are accurate and that what I’m seeing online doesn’t represent the majority of Sanders supporters.

  121. says

    Maybe “crypto-anti-Sanders” is more accurate or more descriptive? You probably don’t like that either. Too wordy.

    OK, once again you’re creeping me out. This is very cultish, cr. I won’t be responding to you on this subject further, and I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t follow me around to any other threads to try to engage me with this nonsense. For a second time I’m letting you have the last word, so take it and leave me the hell alone.

  122. says

    Trump is reportedly considering firing IC IG Michael Atkinson.

    Walter Shaub: “Firing an Inspector General for processing a whistleblower complaint would be an extraordinary blow to whatever shred of government integrity remains. It would be an atom bomb.”

  123. says

    Me @ #178: “For example, Oregon, with a population of 4.1 million, had more than 600,000 closed-primary voters; while Washington, with a population of 7.5 million, had about 25,000 caucus participants.”

    Correction!: The Washington numbers were delegates. I thought that sounded ridiculously low. I’ll try to find a better comparison.

  124. consciousness razor says

    Caucuses are low-turnout events that inherently favor those who mobilize a dedicated, passionate base of supporters who are willing and able to come out and spend several hours at a caucus publicly supporting their candidate. This was the case with Sanders in 2016 and is still the case now.

    I believe that, although of course that isn’t the only type of effect there is. They also favor more privileged people in general – white, richer, more educated, English-speaking, not disabled, etc. — none of the things you’d use to characterize Sanders’ supporters. But it does work for the entire moderate-to-conservative field the Dem establishment has conjured up to run against him. So there’s that.
    I’m not saying the effect you describe isn’t real. But it could all be a wash, or it could swing a little or a lot either way. It’s not obvious in any given case which it will go. But you’re being very selective, about which specific effect you thought was even worth mentioning here. Did you simply not know or not consider the other side of that coin, and if so, how does your story have any credibility? And even when we are at least mentioning the other side of the coin, why is it true in this case in Iowa that the factor you happened to describe is the more important one?
    You might have a good answer for this, but there’s at least a question to ask first. And this “it’s obvious, everybody knows” stuff just isn’t going to cut it.

    I don’t think “he was a very popular candidate who was running a good campaign with a compelling agenda” works as an explanation for Sanders’ disproportionate success in caucuses given that he won 4 million fewer votes overall and only one in four primaries.

    I’m not sure that you understand what I had in mind. The way they work, it’s not an isolated person filling out a ballot. People might have come in with little information or a lot of information about the candidates and their platforms, but whatever happens, they just pick one by checking a box and that’s it.
    When you have a compelling agenda which is rallying a decent amount of support (in that one place and time – forget about nationwide), then people are more disposed to change their mind, right then and there, during the caucus, because these people right in front of them are being very persuasive.
    I’m trying imagine going to a caucus blind, not really sure what I might do. That’s sort of what you’d get with supporters of third-rail candidates who aren’t going to be viable. (I’m thinking blind, so I don’t have to pick a particular non-viable candidate and try to adjust myself into that mode of thinking, which wouldn’t really work generically for other candidates or in other situations.)
    But then I imagine seeing the Hillary supporters and what they’re all about, then seeing the Sanders supporters and what they’re all about. There can be a really marked difference, in how their on-the-ground local supporters look and act and talk. I’m sure that sort of thing matters a lot for some people. If they’re selling a load of crap like Hillary was, while Bernie actually has something meaningful and important and genuine, I’m not surprised that Bernie would do well, because his campaign isn’t (and wasn’t) a load of crap. I’d at least like to think that many people would have no trouble seeing that.
    That dynamic may be the single likable thing about caucuses, and I sort of understand their appeal in that sense. But they have no place in an actual election. Just put on a “mock caucus” or something that sounds less idiotic, if people are into that sort of thing, then do your real election at some later time.

  125. tomh says

    @ #182

    The Vindman brothers brings the number to 8 government employees (7 of them witnesses at impeachment hearings) gone, that I know of. Yovanovitch; her replacement Taylor; vice presidential aide Jennifer Williams; State Department official Michael McKinley; special envoy for Ukraine negotiations Kurt Volker; and NSC official Tim Morrison, with more to come. Besides Atkinson, whom you mention, Victoria Coates, the deputy national security adviser, is on the chopping block.

    In addition, according to the Washington Post:

    Trump has regularly asked aides to continue slashing the size of the NSC, and national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien has said he plans to do so, telling NPR in an interview last month that the policy staff, which he put at about 180 people when he took over in September, was bloated.

    By the end of February, O’Brien said, he hoped to have cut it by a third. A senior administration official said there will be widespread departures at the NSC in the next week.

  126. says

    OK, I think these are accurate:

    Wisconsin primary: 1 million
    Colorado caucus: 120,000

    Mississippi primary: 230,000
    Kansas caucus: 39,000

    West Virginia primary: 210,000
    Idaho caucus: 24,000

    The caucus numbers are crazy low.

  127. says

    But then I imagine seeing the Hillary supporters and what they’re all about, then seeing the Sanders supporters and what they’re all about. There can be a really marked difference, in how their on-the-ground local supporters look and act and talk. I’m sure that sort of thing matters a lot for some people. If they’re selling a load of crap like Hillary was, while Bernie actually has something meaningful and important and genuine, I’m not surprised that Bernie would do well, because his campaign isn’t (and wasn’t) a load of crap. I’d at least like to think that many people would have no trouble seeing that.

    smh

  128. says

    From George Conway:

    What normally happens when a public official retaliates against a witness who testified about the public official’s criminal conduct is that the public official goes to prison.

    From readers of TPM articles about the ouster of Lt. Col. Vindman:

    Sorry, Donnie, but putting Lt. Col. Vindman’s rank in quotes in your tweets does not and cannot diminish the service to and sacrifice for this country that both Lt. Col. Vindman and his brother have given to earn their rank.
    —————-
    I find it both tragic an ironic that Trump is attacking an honorable american warrior when the most significant brush with military service in his family tree comes from his grandfather that dodged the draft, fled to america made his fortune with land speculation and by pimping women in his boarding houses. Following that, dear old grand dad moved back home, bought himself a bride and tried to buy his way back in his country’s good graces only to be kicked out again. Truly, the apple does not fall far from the tree

    Yikes! This is an official photo released yesterday by the White House:
    https://twitter.com/photowhitehouse/status/1225909811851780096?s=21

  129. says

    From Kerry Eleveld:

    The day after the GOP-led Senate acquitted him, Donald Trump held a White House rally packed with all his besties and sycophants to assure Americans he was even crazier than they had remembered. Still seething from the visible shredding of his speech by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the body blow of being the only president in history to draw a bipartisan conviction vote, Trump vomited venom for more than an hour, spewing words and phrases like, liars and leakers, scum, bullshit, sleazebag, phony, rotten, evil and sick.

    By Friday, a newly emboldened Trump initiated his post-acquittal massacre, firing not only Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who provided impeachment testimony regarding his work on the White House National Security Council, but also Vindman’s twin brother who similarly worked on the council and then Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who perhaps provided the most damning testimony that all of Trump’s top advisors were “in the loop” on the Trump-Giuliani Ukraine scheme. […]

    Trump learned that Senate Republicans were too cowardly to ever provide a check on him. He was now unbridled and free to act on his every impulse without any fear of consequence.

    […] Trump is already stepping on his coattails with his unhinged rally and campaign of retribution. […] Trump is responding like the grievance-ridden, petulant child he always proves to be. […]

    Link

  130. says

    Trump’s State of the Union claim to take a girl from a failing school was a total lie.

    […] Among those stories [that Trump told during his SOTU speech] was that of Philadelphia fourth grader Janiyah Davis, who Trump said was trapped in a “failing government school” before he made the point of awarding her, and only her, a scholarship, live, on prime time TV. Anyone watching would have seen that Janiyah was puzzled by Trump’s statements and had to be encouraged to applaud. As it turns out, there’s a very good reason—Janiyah Davis was already going to a top-notch school, had no need for a scholarship, and didn’t have a clue why Trump put her in the audience.

    As the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, Janiyah attends Math, Science and Technology Community Charter School III, one of Philadelphia’s most sought-after schools. It’s a charter school, but paid for by public funds, so Janiyah and the 900 other students don’t pay tuition.

    Janiyah moved to the school last year after previously attending a Christian school that did have a tuition. Based on a statement from the principal at Janiyah’s former school, it seems that someone called up the Christian school and asked about students who might need a scholarship. That principal apparently gave the White House Janiyah’s name. After this, Janiyah’s mother got a call inviting them to appear in the gallery during the SOTU.

    But what the White House failed to do was to check on where Janiyah Davis was going to school, or if she needed a scholarship. They also didn’t bother to tell her mother why she and Janiyah were being invited to appear, or warn them that Trump was going to turn the camera their way during his speech.

    With Republicans shouting and clapping, Trump continued the game show atmosphere of his address by informing Janiyah that she had just won a scholarship to any school she wanted to attend. Courtesy of Trump’s need for a photo-op. The problem is that Janiyah’s mother said afterwards that “I don’t view MaST as a school you want to get out of at all. I view it as a great opportunity.”

    So Trump gave Janiyah Davis nothing. Which seems like the perfect ending to a story that began with Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos applauding the idea of “failing government schools” as if neither of them had anything to do with, ick, government schools. The actual point of reaching out to someone in Philadelphia appears to be because Trump wanted to take a swipe at Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf this week, because Wolf vetoed a bill that would have awarded tax credits for attending private schools—a favorite program of DeVos.

    […] that the White House brought a fourth grader and her single mom to the State of the Union to use them as props, without even bothering to ask the most basic questions about their life, inform them about why they were being invited, or ask them about being props in Trump’s speech … seems absolutely on brand for Trump.

    Link
    Wow. Just wow. I know that Trump and Team Trump have both provided lots of examples of their incompetence, but this example still shocks me.

    Trump told a whopper of a lie. And he did so while gaslighting the entire nation about education policies. Sad.

    Team Trump failed to properly execute yet another kind of vetting process. Alarmingly incompetence. They could have gotten this right, but instead it almost looks like they conspired to get it wrong in every way possible.

  131. says

    In comment 192, the phrase “alarmingly incompetence” should be “alarmingly incompetent.”

    In other news (also related to rightwing incompetence), Dr. Nicole sapphire said on Fox News that not having health care insurance “incentivizes” people to be healthy.

    From Wonkette:

    […] Fox News “medical expert” Dr. Nicole Saphier explained that Obamacare had actually made people less healthy, because now they are taking more risks with their health on account of the fact that they can just go see a doctor if they get sick.

    Transcript via Media Matters:

    Americans are dying younger, from largely preventable disease and bad health policy decisions. And the problem that I have with this is heart disease alone costs about $230 billion to the United States, and the Affordable Care Act did nothing to help that except take away — they took away the incentivizations for good behavior choices, by saying that however you act, whatever you do, everything’s going to be covered. And so preventable illness is running rampant across the United States.

    […] I get it! I do! Imagine how great it would be if the best way to get the best results on anything was doing exactly what you feel like doing and also not having to spend any money? That would be great!

    But it’s not the way things work. If “incentives” worked, we would not have the largest prison population in the world. Shockingly enough, the cruelty of our criminal justice system does not actually stop people from committing crimes. In fact, it probably creates more crime than it prevents.

    The thing is, health care is pretty much the main thing that keeps people from dying of not only preventable diseases, but of the unpreventable ones as well. You can be the biggest health fanatic on earth and you can still get cancer, you can still get MS, you can still get any of the many, many diseases that have absolutely nothing to do with being healthy. People don’t get sick because they lack “personal responsibility” and to say so is both cruel and insane.

    Not only that, but you can be so good and so responsible and pay your insurance premium every month for your whole life and find that, when you get sick, that whatever it is you have is not covered. And you can then lose your house. Everything is stupid and there pretty much are no rules you can follow to avoid getting totally fucked in this system. […]

    The thing I’d really like to know though is, if Dr. Saphier thinks that being able to go to the doctor makes people less healthy, then why did she bother going to medical school to become one? Is she some kind of monster? Seeing people and giving them medical advice and treatment when she knows that all that will do is make them less personally responsible?

    Doesn’t seem right.

    Link

  132. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @SC #149:

    I wish there were one word that described rage + heartbreak + shock + disappointment + hope + fear + sympathy + horror + incomprehension + determination + angst.

    Galvanizing trauma?

    Still sounds too proactive. Doesn’t convey urgent powerlessness, of having desire but limited capacity to intervene.
     
     
    Article: Wikipedia – Institutional betrayal

    “wrongdoings perpetrated by an institution upon individuals dependent on that institution, including failure to prevent or respond supportively […] It is an extension of betrayal trauma theory.
    […]
    When institutions […] cover up violations […] this institutional betrayal undermines survivors’ recovery.

  133. says

    Philadelphia Inquirer link to the girl’s story Trump used (falsely, bogusly) to attack “failing government schools.”

    Followup to comment 192.

    Excerpt below:

    Janiyah Davis already attends one of the city’s most sought-after charter schools, The Inquirer has learned. In September, months before she was an honored guest at Trump’s State of the Union address, she entered Math, Science and Technology Community Charter School III.

    MaST III opened in the fall in a gleaming facility on the site of the former Crown Cork & Seal headquarters in Northeast Philadelphia, part of a charter network so popular that the school received 6,500 applications for 100 seats next year. Like all charters, it’s independently run but funded by taxpayers — meaning that Janiyah and the other 900 students at the school do not pay tuition. […]

    On another subject, many thanks to Sky Captain @194 for that info. “Betrayal trauma” … that’s apt.

  134. says

    Followup to comment 192 and 196.

    From the reader’s comments following the TPM article:

    The mom is right, it was a scam…put a black family up there, say that they are being blocked from success by the government, and then step in and “save her”. The racism is pretty plain, especially the part where blacks need a white savior, and meant to fool black voters into thinking that Trump has their backs.

    Classic Republican playbook, try not to look racist in an election year by covering up their racism in the rest of the years. They are going to have to lie a lot in order to put that one over, I’m hoping the minority communities in America don’t fall for the propaganda this time around.
    ————————-
    “Trapped in failing government schools…”

    Trump’s been president long enough to have initiated efforts to improve those schools.

    Instead, he chose to reduce the federal government’s role in education […]

    I guess he won’t be happy until we all spell worse than he does.
    ————————–
    This story of Trump’s sloppy lying in an effort to pander to black Pennsylvanian voters needs to be hammered upon repeatedly in election ads and campaign rally speeches.
    —————————–
    More from The Philadelphia Inquirer, it was not even a “scholarship” but rather a donation from a very wealthy white would-be patron. You guessed it… The Secretary of Education [Betsy Devos] donates her salary to various organizations each year, and part of this year’s donation will go to the student President Trump brought to Tuesday’s speech to the nation.
    ————————
    They were used as unsuspecting props according to the story. They had no idea. The daughter already attends a highly sought charter school (MaST III, tuition-free since it is taxpayer-funded), yet DeVos personally deducts from her taxes for a scholarship… to where?

    The Davis’ are wondering whether it makes any sense to leave the charter school and give up the scholarship. I truly hope this story gets out.

  135. says

    Followup to the “yikes” link in comment 190. (Viral photo that seemed to capture Trump’s “essential clownishness” as James West said.)

    From Chris Sorensen:

    Here’s an official Reuters pic and they don’t allow photoshop or retouching. The one circulating probably has the saturation bumped a bit, but is pretty accurate. […]

    I’m a pro photographer so I’m familiar with how editing works. News photographs at Reuters & other news agencies are not manipulated and are supposed to be a neutral reflection of the scene. I mentioned photoshop cuz the tweet I replied to was about TMZ calling it photoshopped

    https://twitter.com/sorensen_chris/status/1226243844628516872

    Trump’s response:

    More Fake News. This was photoshopped, obviously, but the wind was strong and the hair looks good? Anything to demean!

    From James West:

    Lest we forget: here’s a reminder of just how viciously Trump has attacked other people for their looks, targeting women especially by using such demeaning terms as “horseface”, “fat and ugly,” and “pig.”

  136. Akira MacKenzie says

    You can be the biggest health fanatic on earth and you can still get cancer, you can still get MS, you can still get any of the many, many diseases that have absolutely nothing to do with being healthy. People don’t get sick because they lack “personal responsibility” and to say so is both cruel and insane.

    If I may play Devil’s Advocate: If everyone was responsible for their personal health and mad to pay for their bad choices, then it would lower the overall risks for insurers and lower costs for those who became seriously ill by no fault of their own? Why should the none-smoker be MADE to pay for the chemotherapy of Rush Limbaugh, or the devout Mormon or Muslim pay for the liver transplant of the alcoholic?

  137. says

    Thank you for #194, CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain.

    Very insightful and helpful.

    I see Freyd is the developer of the concept of DARVO, which for some reason seems acutely relevant this weekend. (Incidentally, I notice that when I look up Freyd’s work, amongst the related recommendations is Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery, which I thought was very good.)

  138. says

    I’m pausing this episode of Trumpcast for a moment – “Losing the Fear of Evangelical Hell”:

    Virginia Heffernan talks to ex-evangelical writer Chrissy Stroop, co-editor of Empty the Pews: Stories of Leaving the Church, about being raised in—and leaving—a fundamentalist discipline, what she learned in her religious school, Christian apologetics, where fundamentalism and authoritarianism intersect, and how she lost her visceral fear of hell.

    She’s talking about taking AP Bio in an evangelical high school and the crisis of belief it caused. They had to work with a regular secular college textbook (for those who don’t know – Advanced Placement classes are supposed to be college-level, and students take a standardized test at the end). They didn’t learn about evolution in class, but were told to study it on their own so they could regurgitate it on the exam, which was considered acceptable. Wild.

  139. says

    Quoted in Lynna’s #193:

    Americans are dying younger, from largely preventable disease and bad health policy decisions. And the problem that I have with this is heart disease alone costs about $230 billion to the United States, and the Affordable Care Act did nothing to help that except take away — they took away the incentivizations for good behavior choices, by saying that however you act, whatever you do, everything’s going to be covered. And so preventable illness is running rampant across the United States.

    This is ludicrous. At the center of preventive health care is being able to go for regular check-ups so problems are caught early and being able to get treatments that prevent things from progressing. I recently had to go for a glaucoma screening because my pressure tested high during my annual eye exam. (Tangentially, this includes a peripheral vision test which is stressful given the context but otherwise pretty fun and cool.) I tested negative (did very well on the peripheral vision test, for which I was irrationally proud), but in response to my relief – and possibly preparing me for any future issues – the eye doctor assured me that even if I had tested positive the good thing is that very effective treatments are now available. If it weren’t for the ACA, I wouldn’t have been able to go for the annual exam (let alone have glasses that are the perfect prescription), learn of the potential problem or go for the subsequent screening, or afford early/preventative treatment. If I had glaucoma it would progress until my vision was impaired and I needed much more expensive treatment, which would probably be available to me because I have a network of family and friends who could help in a desperate situation, but so many people don’t.

    There’s a story in Stuckler and Basu’s The Body Economic about a California teacher named Diane that has long stuck with me as an illustration of the cruel and stupid US healthcare system when it comes to preventive medicine. I think about it all the time. “Diane’s story is an extreme, tragic example of an everyday occurrence in the United States: the deferral of essential medical care among Americans who simply can’t afford it. Her case is particularly tragic because if she had encountered that splinter a few years later, Diane might have been covered under the new healthcare law…”

    It’s one thing to take positions that are wrong in practice but well-meaning. These people take positions that are horrifically wrong in practice and also as ill-meaning as can be. Evil.

    Also, the rich countries with universal care aren’t experiencing the same decline in life expectancy as the US. The US decline is largely due to a rise in deaths of despair, which can be linked to rightwing/corporate rule and austerity, and the health problems associated with our dystopian corporate food system. To attribute it to the ACA is perverse.

  140. says

    And the problem that I have with this is heart disease alone costs about $230 billion to the United States, and the Affordable Care Act did nothing to help that except take away — they took away the incentivizations for good behavior choices,…

    It’s just so stupid I’m speechless.

  141. says

    Guardian – “Ireland general election: Sinn Féin surges to 22% in exit poll”:

    Sinn Féin has scored dramatic gains in Ireland’s general election, according to an exit poll on Saturday night, realigning Irish politics and boosting the party’s chance of joining the next government.

    The republican party won 22.3% of the vote while Leo Varadkar’s ruling Fine Gael party slumped to 22.4%, the poll said, potentially spelling an end to Varadkar’s tenure as taoiseach. Fianna Fáil, the main opposition party, won 22.2%.

    If replicated in actual results it would signal an unprecedented tie among the three parties, leaving it unclear which, if any, could woo smaller parties and independents to form a parliamentary majority and ruling alliance.

    Sinn Féin’s surge – up from 13.8% in the 2016 general election – reflected the anger of voters, especially among the young, at soaring rents and homelessness.

    The party’s leader, Mary Lou McDonald, cast the party as a leftwing agent of change that would break up the duopoly of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, centrist rivals that have alternated in power for a century.

    Sinn Féin, shunned by voters as the IRA’s political wing during the Troubles, also tapped voter frustration at hospital bed shortages, insurance costs, pension reform and a sense of being left behind by economic growth. The party’s agenda for Irish unification, and Northern Ireland in general, took a backseat in the campaign.

    However, Sinn Féin fielded too few candidates to fully translate its surge into extra seats in the new parliament, meaning it is likely to trail Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in the 33rd Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Irish parliament.

    However, the allocation of seats in the 160-seat chamber remains unclear. Counting of votes will begin on Sunday, with full results expected on Monday or Tuesday. No party will win an outright majority, obligating party leaders to negotiate coalitions.

    Varadkar hoped a thriving economy and his handling of Brexit would deliver a third consecutive term for Fine Gael, but he encountered voter anger at the high cost of living and fraying public services. The exit poll showed support for Fine Gael, which won 25.5% in the last election, sliding but not collapsing, giving Varadkar a chance of hanging on as taoiseach.

    The Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, had hoped to surf the public mood for change but the exit poll showed his party also slipping a few points – possible punishment for its confidence-and-supply deal that propped up Varadkar’s administration.

    Varadkar and Martin have ruled out working with Sinn Féin, and Martin also ruled out a coalition with Fine Gael, leaving it unclear if either man will be able to muster a majority.

    Both will come under pressure from some party colleagues to form a grand centrist coalition. Some Fianna Fáil members are expected to lobby Martin to make a deal with Sinn Féin. In the event of deadlock, another election looms.

    Early expectations that this would be Ireland’s first climate crisis general election faltered after bread-and-butter issues dominated the campaign. However the exit poll gave the Green party 7.9%, a big jump from its 2.7% support in 2016, which will put it in contention for a place in a new government.

    Storm Ciara whipped strong winds across Ireland, prompting organisers to cancel the opening ceremony for Galway’s year as European Capital of Culture, but voting precincts across the country reported strong turnout.

  142. says

    US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman tweeted a warning to Netanyahu this morning:

    President Trump’s Vision for Peace is the product of more than three years of close consultations among the President, PM Netanyahu and their respective senior staff. As we have stated, the application of Israeli law to the territory which the Plan provides to be part of Israel is subject to the completion a mapping process by a joint Israeli-American committee. Any unilateral action in advance of the completion of the committee process endangers the Plan & American recognition.

    If they weren’t so awful they would be hilarious.

  143. says

    At Amman meeting, Speaker of Kuwait’s parliament throws Trump’s peace plan into the trash adding ‘goodbye’. Iraqi parliament speaker hel[d] up proceeding by refusing to include word ‘Israel’ in joint concluding statement.”

    Video of the first atl. He Pelosied it.

  144. says

    AJ – “Are the loudest voices on India’s airwaves normalising hate?”:

    India is more than two months into a series of nationwide protests against a new citizenship law known as the CAA, the Citizenship Amendment Act.

    The CAA makes it easier for migrants from religious minorities to get Indian citizenship – unless they are Muslims.

    This is a political story in which the media are playing a central role. Much of the media has taken to amplifying the nationalistic, pro-Hindu rhetoric of the ruling party, the BJP – labelling protesters “anti-national”, implying that Muslims are inclined to spread terror – and, in the process, normalising hate speech and spreading it across their airwaves.

    Video report atl (this story is the first 11 minutes).

  145. says

    Aaron Rupar:

    Here’s Lindsey Graham telling CBS that Attorney General Barr has “created a process” where Rudy Giuliani can feed Biden dirt from Ukrainian sources directly to the DOJ, and the DOJ will then check it out

    BRENNAN: Who’s paying Rudy Giuliani?

    LINDSEY GRAHAM: “Uh, I don’t know.”

    *Graham changes topic immediately*

    Video atl.

  146. says

    SC @218, and Republicans made (are still making) a big deal out of the supposed unreliability of Christopher Steele’s research! Rudy Giuliani should get an Oscar for most unreliable narrator.

    Feeding Giuliani’s disinformation directly to the DOJ … that’s a very bad sign.

  147. says

    SC @211, with high level members of the Bernie Sander’s campaign saying, “Pelosi applauded some truly awful portions of the speech but at least she gave you suckers a good gif at the end,” I think we have a problem.

    Pelosi did not know, (had no way of knowing), at the time that the little girl for whom Trump announced the “opportunity scholarship” was really being used as part of a Trump/DeVos scam. (See comment 192.) What was Pelosi supposed to do, refuse to applaud an ambitious and intelligent 4th grader, a little black girl? (And that’s just one example.)

    Pelosi made it clear later that she disapproved of the “reality TV show” approach that Trump took to the SOTU speech.

    Calling Pelosi’s supporters “suckers” is part of the campaign’s anti-establishment approach that I have questioned before. I think that approach is somewhat disingenuous considering the long-term political career of Sanders. I consider him to be part of the “establishment,” without the negative connotations that are being attached now to that word. I respect his career. I know that Sanders (and other candidates) want to shake up the way the two-party system is currently being run. Fine, make your case for that. We need that discussion. However, calling Pelosi’s supporters “suckers” looks less like a way to shake up the establishment, and more like a way to create bogus “enemies” against which people with cult-follower-tendencies can rail. I don’t think that kind of attitude should be nurtured.

  148. says

    Followup to SC @218, and me @219.

    Some readers comments associated with the TPM article on the same subject:

    Something has to be done about Barr. Now that impeachment is over, he has to be targeted nonstop by Democrats. Even if it doesn’t deter him or stop him, it will lay the ground work for future action, including prosecution. He cannot be allowed to hijack the justice system with impunity. We will have a secret police in this country before long if he’s just allowed to go on his merry way, with a bunch of unaccountable and lawless political operators serving as DOJ investigators.
    ———————–
    I fully expect Barr to indict Joe and Hunter. As for #LeningradLindsay he should be indicted for treason.
    ———————–
    So The Department of Justice is now the Legion of Doom?
    ———————
    I’ve often wondered how Graham is able to speak to the media with such regularity while at the same time having his lips permanently attached to Trump’s butt.
    ———————-
    Let’s put out Barr’s capabilities. Let’s place this in the context of the danger he poses to this Republic.

    If he is Invulnerable until a Dem POTUS deposes him, let’s say so and why.
    ————————
    So the FBI and DOJ are not allowed to investigate any campaign without Barr’s express permission, but Barr has a special process for getting dirt on Joe Biden from a non-FBI or DOJ source, Rudy Giuliani.

    Yeah, that seems like the way the Attorney General should act.
    ———————-
    I’m sure that various Russian stooges are delighted to know that they now have a way to feed their wildest fantasies directly to the A.G. of the U.S. They can skip any and all “wink-wink, nudge-nudge” activity, and get down to business
    ——————-
    The acceptance of Barr in the U.S. is mind-boggling. Every dictator is kept in power by unjust “law” enforcement.

    Barr showed us his hand in March of last year. There was (and still is) little public commentary on Barr commensurate with the danger he presents to this Republic.

  149. says

    LOL – “Ireland: the counting of the votes in the constituency of Dublin Finegal—electing 5/160 MPs to the national parliament—has been delayed, as there has been a confusion over two Smiths, two O’Brien’s, a Reilly and an O’Reilly appearing on the same ballot.”

  150. says

    Pete Buttigieg says Democrats should focus on cutting the deficit, which fell under Obama and is soaring under Trump.

    ‘The time has come for my party to get a lot more comfortable owning this issue… It’s not fashionable in progressive circles to talk too much about the debt’.”

    “It’s not fashionable in progressive circles to talk too much about…” is a sure sign some rightwing talking point will follow. (Joe Scarborough will no doubt be singing his praises tomorrow.) At the McIntyre-Shaheen dinner, he was trying to say that Dems shouldn’t “divide Americans further” but instead said “divide Americans future” and had to correct himself. Could not have sounded more canned.

  151. says

    Well, we might be finished with the Iowa caucus vote. Though many people are still arguing about it, and many people still point it’s many flaws, the rough result showing both Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders as winners, and Elizabeth Warren in third place — that rough result still stands as we see an announcement coming out late today:

    […] Updated results from the party show Buttigieg with 26.2 percent of state delegate equivalents, compared to 26.1 percent for Sanders. Elizabeth Warren (18 percent) was third, and Joe Biden (15.8 percent) was fourth.

    According to the state Democratic Party, Buttigieg is projected to win 14 delegates to the national convention this summer in Milwaukee, while Sanders will get 12 delegates. Warren will receive eight delegates, Joe Biden will get six, and Amy Klobuchar will receive a single delegate.

    Sanders did have the support of more caucus-goers, both on the first and final alignments. But because of the caucus rules, he will receive slightly fewer delegates.

    The announcement came after a review by the party of precincts with apparent mistakes in their results. Of the 95 instances flagged by campaigns, the state party said, 55 had small changes, 36 precincts matched what was reported by precinct leaders on caucus night and four were duplicates.

    Link

  152. says

    Update to #207 – fascinating – Guardian – “Sinn Féin to try to form ruling coalition after Irish election success”:

    Sinn Féin will try to form a government in Ireland after apparently winning more votes than any other party in Saturday’s general election – a historic result that upended the political system.

    The party leader, Mary Lou McDonald, told cheering supporters on Sunday that a “revolution” had occurred and she would try to form a ruling coalition with other parties. “This is no longer a two-party system,” she said.

    Sinn Féin, once a pariah for its IRA links, won almost a quarter of first-preference votes, possibly pipping Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, two centrist rivals that have taken turns ruling Ireland for a century.

    It rode a wave of anger over homelessness, soaring rents and hospital waiting lists as well as disillusionment with the traditional political duopoly….

    Much more at the link. It’s quite complicated.

  153. says

    Guardian – “Hitman linked to Marielle Franco’s murder killed by police”:

    Friends and relatives of the murdered Brazilian politician Marielle Franco are demanding answers after Adriano da Nóbrega – a notorious hitman, whose gang of contract killers is suspected of involvement in her assassination – was gunned down by police in the north-east of the country.

    Nóbrega, an ex-special forces police captain, also had close links to the family of the far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro. Nóbrega was killed by police on Sunday in Bahia state where he had been on the run.

    “Who gained from the death of ex-special forces captain Adriano Nóbrega,” tweeted Franco’s widow, Monica Benicio.

    Franco’s leftist PSOL party said Nóbrega was a “key piece” in discovering who ordered Franco’s killing and called for a full investigation. “Witness elimination? Another attempt at obstruction of justice? Who ordered our companion killed? We demand answers,” tweeted Sâmia Bonfim, a PSOL congresswoman.

    Police insisted that was not the case, claiming Nóbrega had opened fire on officers when they attempted to apprehend him in Esplanada – a small town 1,700km north of Rio.

    Maurício Teles Barbosa, the security chief in Bahia state, said: “We attempted to carry out the arrest but the target preferred to respond by shooting.”

    Nóbrega was hiding in a country property owned by a local councillor for the PSL party for which Bolsonaro was elected, but has since left. Gilsinho de Dedé told the G1 news site he had no idea Nóbrega was hiding there, had never met him, and suspected the fugitive had broken in.

    Franco was killed in March 2018 and paramilitary gangs – mafias made up of serving and former police officers who control vast swathes of Rio state – are widely believed to have been involved in her murder.

    Nóbrega, his wife and his mother are named in a criminal investigation into allegations of embezzlement, money laundering and racketeering involving Bolsonaro’s son Flávio, ex-police officer Fabrício Queiroz and others. Nóbrega and Queiroz had previously served in the same police battalion….

  154. says

    Yeah, this is pretty much what we were expecting when it comes to Trump’s budget plans:

    […]
    Trump on Monday will request a 6 percent cut to non-defense spending as part of his $4.8 trillion budget proposal for 2021, breaking from a bipartisan spending agreement inked in August.

    The request includes $740.5 billion in defense spending, but just $590 billion for domestic spending, which includes everything from health and education to transportation and foreign policy.

    The proposal has already riled Democrats, who along with Republicans and the White House had agreed to overall spending figures for both 2020 and 2021 in a deal last Summer.

    “Just six short months ago, the President signed a bipartisan two-year budget deal into law but now, the President is apparently going back on his word,” House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) said.

    “Instead, he is proposing deep cuts to critical programs that help American families and protect our economic and national security,” he added.

    That deal set out $626.5 cap for non-defense spending, with room for additional spending through an off budget account. Trump’s budget also scrapped the $8 billion in domestic spending through that account, while leaving in place the one for defense.

    “Our view is that these are ceilings not floors,” the official said. […]

    Like Trump’s previous budget proposals, the 2021 request will include steep cuts to major programs, including a 21 percent cut to the State Department and foreign aid and a 26 percent cut to the Environmental Protecation Agency. […]

    Like previous budgets, this one assumes an average of 3 percent economic growth, which would lower the deficit by juicing revenues. But the economy has not hit that growth level once under Trump’s rein, and dropped to 2.3 percent last year.

    The Congressional Budget Office forecasts that growth will slow further this year, but the White House estimated a 2.8 growth rate. [Unrealistic! Lying to the public with these projections.]

    In order to trim the deficit, Trump is seeking $4.4 trillion in spending cuts over a decade. Of that, $2 trillion would come from the non-defense discretionary programs that fund most of the government, and another $2 trillion would come from trimming mandatory programs.

    Democrats are likely to accuse Trump of breaking his promise to protect Medicare, which the budget trims by assuming slowing rise in health costs, capping spending, and block granting payments. […]

    When it comes to another promised round of tax cuts, however, the budget assumes that the individual tax breaks from the 2017 GOP tax law will be extended past 2025 at a cost of $1.4 trillion. White House officials said they are working on a more details plan to be unveiled by Summer. The official said that any plan would likely cleave to the $1.4 trillion carved out in the budget proposal.

    Link

  155. says

    Followup to SC’s comment 229.

    “Sergeants’ union says NYPD is ‘declaring war’ on de Blasio.”

    A union representing thousands of New York City police sergeants said Sunday that its members will go to “war” with Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) after a police officer was shot in what the mayor has called an assassination attempt.

    The Sergeant’s Benevolent Association (SBA) tweeted Sunday that the mayor was not welcome to visit wounded officers in the hospital, and added that the officers had no “respect” for the Democratic mayor.

    “Mayor DeBlasio, the members of the NYPD are declaring war on you! We do not respect you, DO NOT visit us in hospitals. You sold the NYPD to the vile creatures, the 1% who hate cops but vote for you. NYPD cops have been assassinated because of you. This isn’t over, Game on!” the union’s Twitter account posted.

    “Police are being targeted.The anti cop tone infecting our city & state is causing bloodshed. Before any public official sends their thoughts & prayers, they should ask themselves how the language & behavior they’ve been tolerating has contributed to violence against police,” read another tweet from the union’s account. […]

    Two police officers were shot within 12 hours in the city in what officials have called a premeditated attack. The identity of the shooter has not been released, but a suspect has reportedly been taken into custody.

    Link

  156. says

    consciousness razor @237, Biden was tying to make a funny reference to a line in an old John Wayne movie.

    I get that Biden was joking, but to my mind, Biden is getting even more awkward as he gets older. This is not good.

  157. says

    Former Vice President Joe Biden joked that a woman at a New Hampshire campaign event was a “lying dog-faced pony soldier” in response to a question about his performance in the Iowa caucuses.

    The woman, who said she was an economics major, asked the Democratic presidential candidate how he explained his standing after Iowa, where the former vice president emerged in fourth place.

    “Good question. Number one, Iowa is a Democratic caucus. Ever been to a caucus?” Biden asked the woman.

    She reportedly responded that she had.

    “No, you haven’t. You’re a lying, dog-faced pony soldier. You gotta be honest,” Biden responded to laughter, using a joke his campaign said he had made before.

    As the clip of the interaction began making the rounds, Biden’s campaign rushed to point out the line was a joke he had made multiple times and was met with laughter. […]

    Like Olivia notes, it’s a joke that was met with…. drumroll… laughter in the room and from the questioner. It’s from a John Wayne movie and he’s made it plenty of times before. Sorry to ruin the fun twitter!

    […[

    Hi, Jr. It’s a joke he’s made before with a line from a John Wayne movie.

    And to quote your dad, “Bing bong, Joe Biden’s beating my ass in every poll. Ukraine, I won’t give you military aid you need unless you lie about him for me. Oh shit, now I’m getting impeached!”

    […]
    In the clip from Biden’s campaign event, he goes on to tell the woman he doesn’t think the Iowa caucuses are a good measure of how a candidate will perform in other states.

    “It was a little bit confusing in Iowa, number one,” he said, referencing the chaotic and delayed results.

    “Let’s assume it was all, everything was exactly right in Iowa. The idea that you come in with half the delegates the leaders come in with in Iowa doesn’t necessarily say how you’re going to win Michigan, how you’re going to win Pennsylvania,” he said.

    He added that the Michigan Democratic Party Black Caucus endorsed him Sunday. […]

  158. consciousness razor says

    Lynna: I know, the article attempted to explain it. Doesn’t change anything, like you said.
    When a young woman comes to one of your events and asks you to explain your poor results in Iowa, presumably with the hope that you’re still maybe sort of arguably electable but she wants to understand how, this is definitely not what you should do.
    That’s not what you should’ve done, not even a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. This person will not understand your obscure (and maybe confused) reference to some crusty old John Wayne movie. You are talking to that person, who asked you about what happened a few days ago in Iowa and was definitely not asking for your snappiest insult. (Maybe that’s “snappy” if we were living in an old Western. I don’t know or care.)
    Forget all of the set-up with the conditionals and context and whatnot — she’s asking about this or that, at one of your events in NH, etc. — just don’t talk to women that way at all. The crowd’s reaction is also no good.

  159. consciousness razor says

    ‘It’s a Crime’: Iowa Reportedly Won’t Correct Errors on Caucus Worksheets

    Internal emails reveal that the Iowa Democratic Party will not correct errors on the official handwritten tally sheet from the state’s precincts, with the party’s lawyer warning that altering the legal record would be a “crime,” The New York Times reported Sunday. The party this weekend desperately re-examined results from 95 precincts to deliver updated results on Monday after last week’s disastrous caucuses.
    However, “the incorrect math on the Caucus Math Worksheets must not be changed to ensure the integrity of the process,” said the party’s lawyer Shayla McCormally, according to an email sent by chairman of the party Troy Price to its central committee members. McCormally reportedly said correcting the errors would infiltrate “personal opinion” into the official record of results.

    Yeah, far out. It’s just my personal opinion that six divided by two is equal to seven. That opinion is why I received one of only thirty-three of the coveted participation awards in my fifth-grade math class. But I did not go on to become a lawyer, so what do I know?
    It’s kind of true, in a roundabout way: “the integrity of the process” absolutely demands that we use incorrect math to count voters. At least someone understands what a caucus is all about. I just didn’t think they’d take the whole “dodgy math” premise quite this far or in this specific direction…. The story is really about subverting expectations though, and I appreciate that.

    “It is the legal voting record of the caucus, like a ballot,” McCormally wrote. “The seriousness of the record is made clear by the language at the bottom stating that any misrepresentation of the information is a crime. Therefore, any changes or tampering with the sheet could result in a claim of election interference or misconduct.”

    Yeah, how does logic work anyway? Who’s to say?
    Maybe you don’t need to physically deface those incorrect pieces of paper, while at the same time giving the correct results to all of the real voters who care about their real votes, rather than the unreal crap written on your silly pieces of paper that cannot mathematically be correct and may itself constitute “misrepresentation of the information” and/or “election interference or misconduct.”
    Maybe that’s a personal opinion too.

  160. says

    consciousness razor @240, I agree. The more I see of Biden speaking while he is on the campaign trail, the less I like him as a presidential candidate. I am beginning to wonder if it would be better for him to withdraw from the race.

  161. johnson catman says

    re Lynna @242:

    I am beginning to wonder if it would be better for him to withdraw from the race.

    He should never have gotten in the 2020 race. His time was 2016. He could have easily won in 2016 by riding Obama’s coattails and getting the sympathy vote for his son dying. Then, we wouldn’t be dealing with The Orange Toddler-Tyrant and his shit administration and his worthless offspring. He should just ride off into the sunset and go watch some old John Wayne movies.

  162. says

    “No, you haven’t. You’re a lying, dog-faced pony soldier. You gotta be honest,” Biden responded to laughter, using a joke his campaign said he had made before.

    I fail to see how this is a joke. A reference, sure, but he’s still calling her a liar. I mean, what’s supposed to be funny about that?

  163. says

    Fred Guttenberg:

    For those wondering, White House schedule today says:

    3:30PM THE PRESIDENT greets Parkland Families

    Oval Office

    Closed Press

    I guess it is not all of the families as I only learned of this today through a reporter. My family and I were NOT invited.

  164. says

    Dave Weigel in WaPo – December 9, 2017 – “Democrats recommend superdelegate fixes, keeping caucuses”:

    The Democratic Party’s Unity Reform Commission, created to retool the primary process in the wake of the bitter 2016 contest between Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), ended with a dramatic short-term win for the Sanders faction as a motion to favor primaries over caucuses was stopped by one vote.

    “The Democratic Party will not become a vibrant and successful 50-state party until it opens its doors widely to the working people and young people of our country,” Sanders said in a statement. “I am extremely pleased that the Unity Reform Commission has begun that process, voting nearly unanimously to limit the role of superdelegates along with making our caucuses and primaries more democratic.”

    The commission’s recommendations, crafted over months of meetings in five different cities, will not take effect unless the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee adopts them next year. Sanders allies, outnumbered in both committees, were not sure how much of what they suggested would be carried over.

    But over two days at Washington’s Marriott Wardman Park, as an anime convention took place downstairs, the 21-member commission quickly suggested a cutback to the number of unpledged “superdelegates” with votes at the 2020 convention, then defeated a motion that would have suggested that states hold both caucuses and primaries.

    “Imagine if we pass your amendment and the Republican legislature in Iowa passes a primary,” said Jane Kleeb, the chair of Nebraska’s Democratic Party and a Sanders appointee to the commission. “The Iowa caucus would disappear. We cannot allow that to happen.”

    Sanders, like former president Barack Obama, had dominated in caucuses in his insurgent bid against Hillary Clinton. But the caucuses themselves, which often require voters to come to single locations for hours at a time, have been criticized for limiting the ability of voters with weekend jobs or personal commitments.

  165. consciousness razor says

    SC #248

    The commission’s recommendations, crafted over months of meetings in five different cities, will not take effect unless the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee adopts them next year. Sanders allies, outnumbered in both committees, were not sure how much of what they suggested would be carried over.

    Outnumbered in both committees, meaning non-allies formed a majority. That should’ve been in bold, if we’re being fair.
    I don’t know what may be required, in terms of passing legislation in Iowa or various other states. (After last week’s mess, I’ve heard many vaguely allude to this in passing, but I don’t know much.) And the state parties definitely have some degree of autonomy from the national party….
    I’d just like to understand in what sense the commission’s recommendations and the decisions of the DNC’s committees determined the outcome that Iowans actually got in the end. (And other states, if the situation is any different.) Then, I could tell a relatively straightforward story to myself about what really caused this, or at least what seems to have caused it, not just be angry about dumb opinions that some people happened to have.
    Again, a handful of people in a commission with some silly views doesn’t by itself affect anything that I care about. I don’t have any particular reason to doubt that the article tells at least part of the story accurately, but beyond that part, the rest isn’t too obvious to me.

    Josh Marshall:

    the folks who wouldn’t let the party get rid of caucuses

    LOL. I’m going to assume we’re still in the driver’s seat and making the demands (maybe it was only for that one day, but I’m rolling with this until the dream is over). So, while the establishment is folding to us for no apparent reason, but will also sob very loudly about it (in a couple years, when they need a scapegoat), my demand is that we won’t let a bunch of oblivious, self-obsessed, wealthy hacks drive the only remotely progressive party we have into the ground anymore than it already is. We should build it up out of people and not money. They can turn to the Republican party, if that’s really what they want to do with their lives. And we should legalize marijuana, so Marshall can chill out. He can probably get some anyway, but whatever — everybody’s happy. It’s all about unity.

  166. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 246

    I’m guessing that they’re all families who still oppose gun control despite what happen to their children.

  167. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 225

    ‘The time has come for my party to get a lot more comfortable owning this issue… It’s not fashionable in progressive circles to talk too much about the debt’.”

    Because Not-a-Mayor Petey, progressives and anyone who understands modern macroeconomics knows that worrying about ‘debts” and “deficits” is just right-wing bullshit designed to appeal to Joe/Jane Beercan who think that 21st century economies work like a family budget.

  168. says

    From Aaron Rupar, concerning Trump’s removal of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman from his White House job:

    The guy who received a draft deferment because of bone spurs has the gall to denigrate the service of a Purple Heart recipient.

    Commentary:

    […] Trump’s willingness to demean those who wear the uniform has become a bizarre staple of his political career. […]

    Ahead of the 2016 election, the then-candidate mocked prisoners of war – he likes soldiers “who weren’t captured” – lied about his financial support for veterans’ charities, claimed more than once that he understood counter-terrorism better than American generals, and publicly feuded with a Gold Star family.

    But as president, Trump has become even more aggressive on this front, blaming military leaders for failed missions he approved, and deriding the former commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command for the speed with which he oversaw the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

    Trump has also reportedly lashed out at generals privately as “a bunch of dopes and babies,” while publicly going on the offensive against his own former Defense secretary, James Mattis – whom he accused of acting like a “Democrat” for questioning the White House’s less-defensible national security moves – including a tweet in which Trump asserted that the retired four-star general didn’t care about foreign allies taking advantage of the United States.

    More recently, Trump downplayed the importance of troops with traumatic brain injuries, which prompted a request for an apology from the Veterans of Foreign Wars – an appeal the president appears to have ignored. […]

    this speaks to an inconvenient aspect of Trump’s vision. As we’ve discussed before, it’s apparently never occurred to him to appreciate the distinction between superficial support for the military and genuine respect for those in uniform and the commitment behind their service. Asked if he supports the military, Trump is quick to point to symbols and gestures: he has military flags in the Oval Office, for example, and his interest in military parades is borderline creepy.

    But there’s still no depth of thought. It’s what leads Trump to celebrate those accused of war crimes, while ridiculing those who serve honorably.

    As Richard Spencer, Trump’s own former Navy secretary – who last week endorsed a Democratic presidential candidate over his former boss – explained in December, the president “has very little understanding of what it means to be in the military, to fight ethically or to be governed by a uniform set of rules and practices.”

    Link

  169. says

    Trump argued on Friday that Iowa and New Hampshire will not lose their position as the first two nominating contests so long as he’s president. Trump has literally no control over Democratic Party officials’ decisions in this area.

    On another subject, here’s more weirdness related to Trump’s influence over the U.S. Intelligence community:

    House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff recently invited U.S. intelligence agency leaders to appear before his panel on Feb. 12, the day after tomorrow, for an annual discussion of global threats. […] the hearing has been delayed — for reasons that are worth paying attention to.

    U.S. intelligence community leaders will not testify publicly or privately before House lawmakers next week about global threats, as negotiations on the timing and format of the annual hearing continue, according to people on both sides of the talks.

    The Worldwide Threats hearing that takes place in the House and Senate has become an awkward source of tension after POLITICO first reported that intelligence officials pushed for the hearing that features both public and classified sessions to be moved entirely behind closed-doors over fears their bosses might provoke President Donald Trump’s ire.

    […] the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) is responsible for producing an annual report on global security threats, which is soon followed by a congressional hearing in which top security officials brief lawmakers on the report’s findings. In theory, it need not be especially political or partisan.

    But in practice, it’s a different story. A year ago, then-Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats was joined by FBI Director Chris Wray and CIA Director Gina Haspel for a Senate hearing in which they completely contradicted the president’s position on a wide range of key issues, including Iran, North Korea, Russia, border security, and climate change. It quickly became clear that when it came to global threats, Trump and his national security team had very little in common. […]

    The president’s initial reaction was to mock U.S. intelligence professionals, calling them “passive,” “naïve,” and in need of additional schooling. Trump kept the offensive going, suggesting he lacked confidence in the information he received from Haspel and Coats.

    Soon after, the president reversed course and boasted that everyone on his team actually agrees with him, and the whole mess was the media’s fault.

    A year later, it’s time for the annual Worldwide Threat Assessment to be released again, along with another accompanying Capitol Hill hearing. Except, intelligence officials are worried about a replay of last year’s presidential tantrum, so they want to make the 2020 hearing an entirely closed-door event – not to protect secrets, but by some accounts to ensure agency chiefs aren’t “seen on-camera … disagreeing with the president on big issues.”

    The absurdity of the circumstances is striking. If the congressional intelligence committees hold public hearings on global threat assessments, the president’s national security team will tell lawmakers the truth. But in the process, they’ll also contradict Trump’s strange and baseless beliefs, which will infuriate the president. […].

    Link

  170. says

    Again, a handful of people in a commission with some silly views doesn’t by itself affect anything that I care about. I don’t have any particular reason to doubt that the article tells at least part of the story accurately, but beyond that part, the rest isn’t too obvious to me.

    The “handful of people in a commission with some silly views” were the Sanders representatives representing the views of the Sanders campaign.

    The role of different groups and organizations in the “ultimate” determination of what would happen in different states with regard to caucuses vs. primaries is quite unclear. What is clear at this point is that when the URC discussed the subject and the Sanders representatives had an opportunity to agree with the “Clinton” Democrats to push for recommending a shift to primaries, they came down very explicitly on the opposite side and in favor of retaining caucuses, and specifically the Iowa caucus! It doesn’t get much clearer than Kleeb telling a reporter on the record that if the amendment passed potentially “The Iowa caucus would disappear. We cannot allow that to happen.” The major point of PZ’s post was that he was switching his support to Sanders because the Sanders people would modernize the party and get rid of all of these archaic structures and processes, when in fact the Sanders people actually pushed for the retention of caucuses and that one in particular.

    Nomiki Konst is now claiming in the responses that Weigel’s piece from 2017 is “misreported. @daveweigel that was a motion my a clinton people to eliminate caucuses, which was shot down and we had no power to do. Love you dave but may want to adjust this!” Amazingly none of them had any corrections to make to the article at the time it was published. In the Washington Post. They obviously know how they argued and voted in the commission, and that it corresponds to the reporting at the time and since, including a WaPo article by a reporter covering Sanders that quotes one of his representatives on the commission explaining why they opposed the amendment. The Sanders camp just needs to be honest and transparent about what they supported and opposed on the commission and stand by it or back away from it. Stop evading, stop attacking, stop painting themselves as victims.

    …LOL – Neera Tanden just linked to Jim Zogby, another Sanders representative on the unity commission, tweeting to Howard Dean in August of 2017: “Howard, the caucuses are a participatory democratic marvel. Not to be trashed. And caucuses help build & strengthen their state parties.”

    And we should legalize marijuana, so Marshall can chill out.

    Are you smoking some right now? Because that paragraph is basically gibberish.

  171. says

    When Trump latches onto an issue and then becomes obsessive about it he reveals ever more strikingly his lack of good character. Other Republicans want to move on, but Trump is still hung up on Mitt Romney.

    From Politico:

    […] Trump isn’t letting up on Sen. Mitt Romney during his post-acquittal victory lap.

    Four days after the end of his impeachment trial, the president spent a sunny Sunday in D.C. continuing a weekend tweetstorm against the proceedings and his perceived foes — particularly targeting Romney, the lone Republican who voted to boot him from the White House.

    Furthermore, Trump’s invective included new, and totally false, accusations. As Steve Benen explained:

    […] At one point, the president thought it’d be a good idea to promote a tweet that accused Romney of having secret ties to Hunter Biden and a Ukrainian energy company. There’s no reason whatsoever to believe that, but Trump apparently didn’t care.

    But that was just the start of a deeply misguided iceberg.

    Trump also lashed out at Sen. Joe Manchin, who’s apparently been rebranded as “Joe Munchkin,” as well as Sen. Doug Jones. The president also renewed his offensive against Rep. Debbie Dingell for reasons unknown.

    What’s more, it’d be a mistake to think Trump is simply interested in throwing around juvenile taunts and insults. The Washington Post reported over the weekend, “The president and his advisers have also discussed removing Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community, though no final decision has been made…. Some advisers have also counseled the president to remove Victoria Coates, the deputy national security adviser, who has told others in the White House that she fears her job is in jeopardy.”

    The result is a difficult dynamic for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the contradiction between the Republican Party’s posture and their president’s actions: GOP officials keep stressing the importance of moving on from the impeachment ordeal, while Trump keeps effectively replying, “Not yet, I’m busy.”

    The president has a “revenge list” and he appears to have no intention of letting go of it anytime soon.

    Link

  172. says

    CNN – “Over 100 US troops have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries following Iran strike”:

    Over 100 US service members have been diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injuries in the wake of the January 8 Iranian missile attack on the al Asad military base in Iraq, according to a US official with knowledge of the latest information.

    That’s an increase of at least 36 cases from the end of January when the Pentagon said 64 service members had been diagnosed with injuries.
    The Pentagon and President Donald Trump had initially said no service members were injured or killed in the Iranian missile attack, which was retaliation for the January 2 US drone strike that killed a top Iranian general.

    Several Pentagon officials told CNN last month that the number of diagnosed cases is likely to continue to change. Approximately 200 people who were in the blast zone at the time of the attack have been screened for symptoms.

    Last month, Trump said he does not consider potential brain injuries to be as serious as physical combat wounds, downplaying the severity of the injuries suffered in Iraq.

    During the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Trump was asked to explain the discrepancy between his previous comments that no US service member was harmed and reports of US troops being treated for injuries suffered in the attack.

    “No, I heard that they had headaches, and a couple of other things, but I would say, and I can report, it’s not very serious,” Trump replied during a news conference.

    An influential veterans group demanded Trump apologize for those comments.

    “The VFW expects an apology from the President to our service men and women for his misguided remarks,” William “Doc” Schmitz, Veterans of Foreign Wars national commander, said in a statement Friday.

    “And, we ask that he and the White House join with us in our efforts to educate Americans of the dangers TBI has on these heroes as they protect our great nation in these trying times. Our warriors require our full support more than ever in this challenging environment,” Schmitz added….

  173. says

    NEW: AG Barr asked about ‘process’ he set up for @RudyGiuliani to share info from Ukraine with DOJ. Barr says he has an open door to “anybody.” But former DOJ officials say this is not the way it works. Barr abruptly left the stage after one question, so no follow-up.”

    Video atl.

  174. says

    Followup to comments 218, 219 and 223.

    Yep, it’s true, and Barr himself confirmed it. Barr does have an “intake process” for Rudy Giuliani’s bogus anti-Biden claims. Barr created a direct pipeline into the Justice Department for that sewage.

    Trump Attorney General William Barr finally responded to Sen. Lindsey Graham’s astonishing Sunday show assertion that Barr now had a “process” by which Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani could feed his anti-Biden claims directly to the Justice Department to be “verified”—a direct pipeline of Trump’s demanded smears of a political opponent to federal investigators.

    The Justice Department initially refused to comment on Graham’s explosive claim. Speaking to reporters today, however, Barr acknowledged his department has “established an intake process” for Rudy’s claims, while taking pains to portray it as business as usual. Barr, however, has lied throughout the Ukraine probe. And this is not business as usual. […]

    Barr responded to a reporter’s question about Graham’s claim at an unrelated Barr news conference this morning. According to Barr, taking information from Giuliani about Trump’s designated political enemy is nothing special. “The Department of Justice has the obligation to have an open door to anybody who wishes to provide us information that they think is relevant. I did say to Sen. Graham, we have to be very careful with respect to any information coming from the Ukraine.”

    […] as for Giuliani’s pro-Russia, anti-Ukraine, pro-corruption and anti-Biden pipe dreams from the likes of indicted oligarch Dmytro Firtash, “we’re taking information as we would in any case.”

    What Barr is clearly attempting to do in this response (Politico notes that some of it was read from notes, meaning it was prepared in advance) is portray Giuliani as just another crank contacting the Justice Department with crank theories that will be dutifully written down and “evaluated,” rather than as having an administration-arranged direct pipeline to his offices. […]

    The other problem is that the Justice Department does not usually respond to such cranks by establishing “an intake process” personal to them. Giuliani, on the other hand, now has that.

    […] We can also assume, based on Barr’s previous lies (e.g. about the Mueller report), that Barr’s suggestions that his office will have theoretical integrity in sifting through anti-Biden “dirt” are not meant to be sincere. […]

    This would be yet another thing that Barr should be marched before House committees to explain. He has no grounds to claim immunity from questioning on the connections between Trump “personal lawyer” Giuliani and his department. The House needs to shake the dust of the corrupt Senate off their coats, prepare a new round of subpoenas, and be prepared to use inherent contempt to compel Barr’s testimony immediately. […]

    Link

  175. says

    Audience Member: “Who is going to be your Mike Pence? Who is going to look at you with adoring eyes?”

    Elizabeth Warren: “I already have a dog.”

  176. says

    TPM – “Schumer Urges All Department Watchdogs To Investigate Whistleblower Retaliation”:

    On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) requested all 74 inspectors general, including the Defense Department IG, to investigate retaliation against whistleblowers after President Donald Trump got key impeachment witness Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman kicked out of the National Security Council last week.

    “Although LTC Vindman lived up to his oath to protect and defend our Constitution by bravely stepping forward to tell the truth, he has been viciously attacked by the President and forced to endure threats to his and his family’s safety,” Schumer wrote in his letter to the watchdogs. “These attacks are part of a dangerous, growing pattern of retaliation against those who report wrongdoing only to find themselves targeted by the President and subject to his wrath and vindictiveness.”

    The Democratic leader went on to describe their “critical role” in protecting whistleblowers.

    He requested that the IGs therefore investigate “any and all instances of retaliation” against those who report “presidential misconduct” to either the IGs’ offices or to Congress.

    Schumer also asked each of them to provide to Congress the last date their department staff was informed of whistleblowers’ legal rights, along with written certification affirming the IGs’ commitment to protecting whistleblowers.

    “It is incumbent on you that whistleblowers like LTC Vindman—and others who put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms—are protected for doing what we hope and expect those who serve our country will do when called: tell the truth,” he wrote….

    Letter atl.

  177. says

    Note the absence of any mention of the USA in a speech given by European Council President Charles Michel about changing and realigning Europe’s ties with Africa.

    […] Speaking at a state dinner organized by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for leaders attending the African Union’s annual summit, Michel said that most EU countries never even had colonies.

    “This changing Europe is looking at Africa with fresh eyes — with respect, optimism and confidence,” Michel said, according to a transcript provided by his office.

    […] prime ministers Erna Solberg of Norway and Justin Trudeau of Canada […] came to Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital and home of the the African Union headquarters, to meet with their counterparts on the sidelines.

    Abiy, who recently won the Nobel Peace Prize for ending Ethiopia’s long conflict with neighboring Eritrea, invited all the leaders to his dinner. […]

    Michel added, “We want to look towards the future, and to our neighbors. We want to tackle climate change and the digital revolution. The two major challenges we are all facing.” […]

    The event was not open to the press, and it was not immediately apparent how African leaders reacted to Michel’s remarks. Niger’s delegation to the EU tweeted out a part of the speech in which Michel said, “Europe reaches out to Africa to co-write the new pages of an optimistic and positive common future.”

    The issue of Europe’s colonization of Africa remains a highly sensitive subject. […]

    “This changing Europe is looking at Africa with fresh eyes — with respect, optimism and confidence. Africa is vibrant, full of the energy of youth and it is buzzing with new technology. A continent of opportunities: that is what Europe sees.” […]

    “We are at the dawn of a new decade,” he said. “We are ready to exchange, share and cooperate. Long live the alliance between Europe and Africa.”

    Link

  178. KG says

    Lynna, OM@263,

    I’m sure Elizabeth Warren’s dog would make a better fist – er, paw – of the job than Mike Pence!

  179. says

    The Democratic response to Trump’s new fiscal year 2021 budget proposal:

    […] The $4.8 trillion plan includes cuts that would break with a two-year budget deal agreed to by both the White House and congressional leadership.

    Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer called Trump’s proposal a “double-cross” of the Americans Trump promised to help during last week’s State of the Union speech.

    “As typical, […] Trump’s budget shows his State of the Union address was lie upon lie to the American people,” Schumer said in a statement.

    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who is pitching reforms to Congress’s budget process, called the White House proposal “dead on arrival.”

    “It’s merely a political stunt to gratify extremists in his party,” he added.

    Democrats are taking aim, in particular, at efforts in the proposal to […] cap or block grant Medicare benefits, adding work requirements to medical and anti-poverty programs or implementing changes that lower the costs of Medicare and Medicaid.

    Those would result in a $700 billion cut to Medicaid, though the administration said the decline in projected spending was the result of savings and efficiencies.

    Hmmm, the administration that is known for incompetence is touting “savings and efficiencies”?

    Sen. Bernie Sanders […] blasted Trump’s proposal as an “immoral document” and pledged that it would be “rejected by Congress.” […]

    Trump’s budget proposal also proposes steep cuts to several departments, including a 37 percent cut for the Commerce Department, a 26 percent cut for the Environmental Protection Agency and a 21 percent cut to the State Department and foreign aid.

    “At a time when we are faced with a global health threat with the Coronavirus, the Trump administration is doubling down on its efforts to gut the very programs needed to protect American lives. This is not just short-sighted, it’s actually dangerous,” Sen. Bob Menendez [said].

    […] Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez called Trump’s proposal “morally bankrupt.”

    “The Trump administration is a broken record; we keep hearing the same tune over and over, and this year is no exception. It’s time for a president who puts the middle class first,” he said in a statement.

    The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee tried to connect the budget proposal to Republicans who are up for reelection in November.

    “The White House’s budget blueprint is a plan that reflects Republican priorities in 2020 – keep attacking vital programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security,” said Stewart Boss, a spokesman for the DSCC.

    Link

  180. says

    Trump vowed to not cut Social Security and Medicare — hours before proposing just that.

    Trump is either brazenly lying about his 2021 budget or he doesn’t know what’s in it.

    […] Trump posted a tweet on Saturday vowing, “We will not be touching your Social Security and Medicare in Fiscal 2021 Budget.” One day later, the Wall Street Journal published a report indicating that Trump is doing exactly that with his budget proposal.

    […] Trump’s $4.8 trillion budget includes “steep reductions in social-safety-net programs,” including cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security […]

    That Trump is proposing cuts to these programs isn’t surprising — his 2020 budget cut all three as well. It’s a long-running contradiction for the president. He often says he won’t touch these entitlement programs, but he’s continued to employ Republican party officials who make cutting these programs central to their work.

    Trump keeps proposing entitlement cuts and then denying that he did so.

    In 2015 and ’16, Trump differentiated himself from the rest of the Republican presidential hopefuls by campaigning on a vow to not cut entitlements.

    “I’m not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican and I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid,” Trump told the Daily Signal, a conservative publication affiliated with the Heritage Foundation, in 2015.

    As his budget proposals indicate, this promise was an empty one. Trump, however, seems to realize that cutting entitlements is a political loser for him, and as a result has continued to make assertions about preserving them that are at odds with reality. […]

  181. says

    The student to whom Joe Biden said, “You’re a lying dog-faced pony soldier […],” has spoken out about that moment on the campaign trail:

    “Joe Biden has been performing incredibly poorly in this race,” Moore told the Washington Post. “His inability to answer a simple question from a nobody college student like me only exacerbates that reality.”

    Biden tried, again, to explain his comments. He messed up the explanation:

    […] “There’s a line in a movie, a John Wayne movie, where the Indian chief turns to John Wayne and says, this is a lying dog-faced pony soldier,” Biden said.

    It’s not clear if this line actually shows up in any John Wayne movie — as Matthew Dessem points out at Slate, there are 180 to sift through. The general consensus seems to be that Biden is probably thinking of the 1952 Tyrone Power film Pony Soldier, in which a character says, “The pony soldier speaks with a tongue of the snake that rattles.”

    Whatever the case, Biden has used the line in the past when responding to questions. At an Iowa event in December, a young voter said that President Obama promised his father that he could keep his existing health plan after the passage of the Affordable Care Act — but, in fact, his dad wasn’t able to do so.

    “Were you lying to my dad?” the voter asked.

    “A lying dog-faced pony soldier. No,” Biden said, before acknowledging that some people were forced to change plans under the ACA.

    When he used the phrase on Sunday, it felt like a bit of a left turn from Moore’s question. She had asked why voters should believe he could win, following his fourth-place finish in Iowa. His response was, apparently, to start explaining caucuses to her, assuming she’d never been to one.

    As it happens, he was right — Moore later said in a statement to the Washington Post that she had never been to a caucus.

    “I asked Joe Biden a fair question,” she wrote. “His immediate response was to question whether I had ever attended a caucus. In my nervousness in the presence of the former Vice President, I nodded yes.”

    Whether she’d personally been to a caucus or not, she told the Post, was irrelevant to her question. […]

    As has already been noted up-thread (LykeX @244), no matter what explanation has been offered, that Biden comment did not come off as funny. It did not sound to me like a joke.

  182. says

    Blaze TV host Jon Miller reassured us all … yes, he is a bigot. Yes, he is stupid. Yes, he is a racist.

    A man named Bong Joon Ho wins #Oscar for best original screenplay over Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and 1917.

    Acceptance speech was: “GREAT HONOR. THANK YOU.”

    Then he proceeds to give the rest of his speech in Korean.

    These people are the destruction of America.

    Some of Jon Miller’s rightwing buddies tried to clean up the mess:

    It’s clear @MillerStream didn’t mean a racial reference with this imprecisely-worded Tweet. Writers have editors for a reason.

    It’d be nice if people attacking Jon would mention the many Asian Americans targeted for hate crimes.

    Funny how you’re all silent about *that*.

    From Wonkette:

    […] I don’t know what the hell Mike Cernovich means here. [Dok Zoom jumps in: It’s Mike Cernovich, so maybe he thinks it’s still 1992 and black people in Los Angeles are burning down Korean grocery stores.] Miller’s tweet triggered a pretty epic ratio, so it’s almost impossible to follow up on everyone who dragged him. However, I think very few of them are silent on Asian-American hate crime victims. I know I’m vocally anti-hate crime.

    I’ve also worked professionally as both a writer and an editor, and it’s absolutely not “clear” that Miller didn’t mean Koreans when he wrote “these people.” He never mentions Hollywood as an industry. The subject of almost every sentence in the tweet is Joon-ho. The word directly following “Korean” are “these people.” Miller should deactivate his account — not solely because of this offensive tweet — but just on general principle.

    Joon-ho’s acceptance speech for best director was a master class in, well, class. He praised his fellow nominees, almost bringing Martin Scorsese to tears when Joon-ho cited him as an inspiration. He also took the time to thank Quentin Tarantino for supporting his work and helping raise his exposure in the US. Neither Joon-ho nor those who honor him are the “destruction of America.” Joon-ho represents what makes America great if we reject mindless jingoism and cultural resentment.

  183. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Lynna@265
    Excellent example: Trump’s “America First” means “America Alone”.

  184. says

    Lynna @ #271, Biden has always been a bizarre and terrible campaigner, and it’s only gotten worse. He says bizarre things, lies, comes far too close to people, angrily shouts at people, touches people, jabs his finger at people, literally pokes people in the chest, and just overall is extremely aggressive and personal with an undercurrent of entitlement and hostility. He’s been told about many of these problems numerous times, and refuses to take it seriously or change his behavior in any way.

  185. says

    LOL – CNN chyron as I looked up after posting #275: “Donors Call for Biden to be More Aggressive After Iowa.” There’s something to look forward to. If there’s anything the world needs right now it’s more white male aggression.

  186. says

    a_ray @274, yep. I wonder how, or if, that can ever be fixed. Can the damage Trump has caused be fixed, or is it too late? A lot of countries have just moved on without the USA. They had to.

    SC @275, I agree. Even when his cause or statement is correct, Biden messes up the delivery. I keep thinking about his angry-old-man-face when he screamed at everyone to stand up and applaud Lt. Col. Vindman. I don’t want to see that man in negotiations with, for example, European leaders.

    I don’t think Biden can “be more aggressive” in any effective way. What voters are really saying is that they can’t tell from what Biden has done so far how he could effectively counter Trump or trumpism.

  187. says

    From Josh Marshall:

    […] Trump’s rise is the polls is at best overstated. Quinnipiac puts him at 43% approval, on the high side for that poll but the same as their previous three polls back into December. Monmouth has him at 44%. Their previous three polls had him at 43%. Just moments ago Yougov released a new batch of polls which put Trump at 41%, basically where he’s been since forever. Take this all together and they suggest Trump is in a relatively strong position based on where he’s been over the last three years. But there’s little evidence here of some game-changing move. Certainly nothing like the 49% Gallup found last week, which remains a distant outlier.

    Quinnipiac has head to head match ups with Democrats. All the top candidates beat Trump by significant margins. Bloomberg 51-42, Sanders 51-43, Biden 50-43. There’s a lot of information that tells us that President Trump can definitely win reelection. But these numbers all point to an incumbent who has an uphill climb at best. […]

    They also certainly suggest that if you think Sanders is a weak general election candidate that must be based on the predicted effects of attacks that have yet to happen. Because 51-43 is pretty solid.

    The White House, in a moment of fragmentation and disappointment for Democrats, is trying to further demoralize the opposition. These numbers suggest that, technically speaking, Democrats should chill the fuck out.

    The second major finding is that Joe Biden’s standing has fallen rapidly since his poor showing in Iowa. A bunch of New Hampshire polls suggest he’ll have a similar result tomorrow night, though we’re in a fluid situation and can’t rule out surprises. The Quinnipiac poll has national Democratic primary numbers which are Sanders 26%, Biden 17%, Bloomberg 15%, Warren 14%, Buttigieg 10%, Klobuchar 4%.

    That’s a five point rise for Sanders and a 9 point fall for Biden. Bloomberg rose from 8% to 15%.

    So the other question is, why is Bloomberg rising so quickly?

    The first and most obvious reason is that he is running saturation ads across the country. That’s clearly a necessary condition for his rise but I don’t think it’s a sufficient one. The Quinnipiac poll suggests roughly half of Biden’s African-American support has moved to Bloomberg.

    I have another theory for what is driving Bloomberg’s rise.

    At the moment, we have a splintered and acrimonious Democratic primary race. That happens in primaries. Nothing new there. But Democrats are really, really, really focused on beating Donald Trump. Bloomberg’s ads ignore the entire primary process. They focus on Bloomberg himself and increasingly on bashing Donald Trump.

    […] Bloomberg is already running against Trump, running ads that land hard punches on Trump. If you’re a Democrat, the Democratic primary race is exhausting and demoralizing and the ads bashing Trump get you pumped […]

    Link

  188. says

    Trump administration comes up with yet another way to destroy Medicaid and rural health care.

    The Trump administration is determined to destroy Medicaid, chipping away at it from all angles. From work requirements to block grants, Trump is using the regulatory tools at hand—largely in defiance of Medicaid law—to demolish the program. While the block grant rules have received the largest amount of opposition and attention recently, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma was sneaking out another one, the Medicaid Fiscal Accountability Regulation that could drastically reduce the federal funding contribution to states. That could mean cuts as high as $11 billion annually in the state of Texas alone. That’s $11 billion, in one year, in one state. Nationwide, it could mean up to $31 billion lost to hospitals across the country.

    It would mean $500 million, annually, lost to hospitals just in Houston. It would probably cost rural hospitals across the state a yearly $900 million, when rural hospitals are already in jeopardy. The Texas Organization for Rural and Community Hospitals (TORCH) has done an analysis finding that nearly half—46%—of the state’s real hospitals are already running at a loss, and 26 of them have been shuttered in the last decade. That’s in large part a result of Texas refusing to take Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, and the state has experienced the highest rate of rural hospital closures in the nation. This rule would result in even more closures. […]

    The hospital industry is preparing to fight the Medicaid Fiscal Accountability Regulation.

    Link

  189. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Ol’ Joe has run for President twice before. The cataclysm that was 1988 and 2008. In both cases he started out near the head of the pack, but them managed to trip over his own dick well before the halfway point. The plagiarism charge in 1988 was the beginning of the end, and in 2008, he flamed out pretty quickly. He just doesn’t wear well.

  190. says

    CAP:

    “BROKEN PROMISE: ‘I’m not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican, and I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid’.

    REALITY: Trump’s budget proposal slashes Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act by OVER $1 TRILLION—on top of cuts to Medicare and Social Security.”

    Video atl.

  191. says

    Josh Jamerson:

    @ewarren on press bus in N.H., facing an uphill battle in tomorrow’s primary: “I’ve been counted down and out for much of my life. But Mitch McConnell had it right. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

    More @ewarren: “I cannot say to all those little girls: this got hard and I quit.”

    @ewarren tells reporters the race is still fluid.

    “And the best evidence of that is how good the predictions have been over the last year. Who was supposed to still be in this race today? And who wasn’t? I think I wasn’t.”

    Warren: “And a lot of people who were supposed to have locked it up by this point are not here. So I think the prediction business right now is not something I’d be investing heavily in.”

  192. says

    NYC PBA: “President Trump is 100% correct. NYS & NYC need the support of the Department of Justice. Criminals are being released, it’s time we prosecute in Federal Court. The Mayor is ruining NYC, cops have been stopped from doing their jobs. NYC is under siege. Send in the Feds.”

    Chris Hayes: “conservatives believe in ‘local control’ like they believe in cutting deficits”

    Correct. They don’t give a flying fuck about local control. Try passing a local minimum-wage law or one to respect the human rights of trans people or immigrants. The Confederacy was highly centralized, FFS. It’s all bullshit.

  193. says

    TPM – “Prosecutors Recommend Seven To Nine Year Prison Sentence For Roger Stone”:

    In a court filing Monday evening, prosecutors recommended to a federal judge that former Trump associate Roger Stone serves seven to nine years in prison for lying to Congress and witness tampering during the Russia probe.

    “Roger Stone obstructed Congress’ investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, lied under oath, and tampered with a witness,” prosecutors wrote in the filing. “And when his crimes were revealed by the indictment in this case, he displayed contempt for this Court and the rule of law. For that, he should be punished in accord with the advisory Guidelines.”

    Prosecutors argued in the filing that given how “Stone’s actions were not a one-off mistake” and that his false statements were not “made in the heat of the moment,” a prison sentence of 87 to 108 months — which is equivalent to around seven to nine years — is “appropriate.”…

  194. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    SC on Chris Hayes All In. A classic show tonight, well worth the watch.

  195. says

    Forward – “Alexander Vindman’s synagogue is accepting letters of support following his ouster”:

    Alexander Vindman’s synagogue in Springfield, Virginia, is accepting letters of support in his behalf.

    Vindman, the Jewish staffer who was among the first to raise flags about President Donald Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate a political rival, was removed from his position as an expert on U.S. policy in Ukraine at the National Security Council on Friday.

    “The Vindman family is a valued member of Congregation Adat Reyim’s community of friends. We are proud to support Lt Colonel Alex Vindman during this challenging time,” Rebecca Geller, co-president of Congregation Adat Reyim, told JTA.

    In addition, for those seeking ways to show support, the Vindman family has requested donations be made to the synagogue via [adatreyim.org] in Alexander Vindman’s honor….

    Other than in specific circumstances, I wouldn’t give money to a religious institution, but a supportive letter is a nice idea.

  196. says

    DOJ: ‘Roger Stone obstructed Congress’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, lied under oath, and tampered with a witness. And when his crimes were revealed by the indictment in this case, he displayed contempt for this Court and the rule of law’.”

  197. says

    Brett McGurk:

    “I heard they had headaches” … “Iran appears to be standing down” … “All is well!” Trump’s reactions to date after a dozen ballistic missiles with 1000-lb warheads landed danger close to American troops—now over 100 w/TBI—has been clueless and naïve.

    Unconscionable.

  198. says

    From Trump’s rally in New Hampshire tonight: “I hear a lot of Republicans tomorrow will vote for the weakest candidate possible, of the Democrats. Does that make sense? You people wouldn’t do that” — Trump encourages Republicans to ratf*ck the Democratic primary in New Hampshire [From Aaron Rupar]

  199. says

    Why Is Giuliani Giving Info To The US Attorney In Pittsburgh? The Ukraine information that Rudy Giuliani is feeding DOJ has reportedly been assigned to a U.S. Attorney for the purpose of investigation.

    This is from Josh Kovensky.

    […] the probe is being run out of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Pittsburgh […] Giuliani has already “shared information with federal law enforcement officials” about the Bidens.

    It’s not clear at all what information Giuliani has supposedly shared, though given how vocal he and his allies tend to be, we have an idea.

    But what’s completely unknown is why this probe would be run out of Pittsburgh.

    To be fair, there are two other, similarly political investigations that the Justice Department has run out of apparently random districts. Utah U.S. Attorney John Huber was enlisted by Jeff Sessions to probe the Clinton Foundation in 2017, an investigation that appears to be dormant.

    And, more notably and currently, Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham is pursuing a criminal probe into the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation; an endeavor with which Bill Barr is actively assisting.

    But are there any fact patterns related to Giuliani’s allegations about the Bidens that may lead back to Pennsylvania?

    There is one thread which may provide a hint.

    Giuliani has accused Hunter Biden of corruption in part based off of an investment firm he ran with Chris Heinz, of the condiment-producing Heinz family.

    The family wealth — anchored in the Heinz corporation — based in Pittsburgh. Peter Schweizer himself has pointed out that Chris Heinz inherited stakes in various Pennsylvania-based investment funds following his father Sen. John Heinz (R-PA)’s 1991 death in a plane crash.

    Future Secretary of State John Kerry went on to marry Sen. Heinz’s widow. That made Chris Heinz the secretary of state’s stepson, adding fuel for those who wanted to stoke allegations that Hunter Biden and Chris Heinz were benefitting from their relatives’ positions in the Obama administration.

    It’s not clear if this is why Giuliani’s information is routed via Pittsburgh. We’ll be keeping an eye on this as it develops.

    Link

    Sounds like lots of fodder for more unfounded conspiracy theories. Giuliani will feed those bogus theories, and he will feed off those bogus theories.

  200. Pierce R. Butler says

    Lynna @ # 271: … that Biden comment did not come off as funny. It did not sound to me like a joke.

    It sounded to me like … malarkey.

  201. says

    Apologies if I’ve posted about this before, but the coronavirus has brought it to mind…

    When I was reading Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World, I gasped at a brief section about how many millions of people in India died from the Spanish Flu. I honestly hadn’t known that it had really even affected India or that part of the world.

    The epidemic was actually a pandemic that affected not just the subcontinent but the entire globe. The disease, influenza, claimed between 50 and 100 million lives worldwide—possibly more than both world wars combined—and India was the country that bore the greatest burden of death. Though other countries lost a higher fraction of their populations—Western Samoa (now Samoa) lost 22 percent, for example, compared to 6 percent in India—because of the larger size of the Indian population, that 6 percent translated into a staggering slew of death. Between 1918 and 1920, an estimated 18 million Indians lost their lives to influenza or its complications, making India the focal point of the disaster in terms of mortality. Asia as a whole experienced some of the highest flu-related death rates in those years, but the story of how the disease ravaged the continent is relatively unknown. The 1918 flu pandemic has been called the “forgotten” pandemic, and ironically the continent that seems to have forgotten it most thoroughly is the one that bore the brunt of it.

  202. says

    Reuters – “Nearly 700,000 Syrians displaced by government offensive since early December: U.N.”:

    Nearly 700,000 civilians have been displaced by a renewed Russian-backed Syrian government offensive against the rebel-held northwest since early December, including nearly 100,000 in the last week alone, the United Nations said on Monday.

    David Swanson, a spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said the situation was increasingly dire near the border with Turkey where over 400,000 people had already taken shelter from earlier anti-rebel offensives last year before the latest campaign.

  203. consciousness razor says

    The role of different groups and organizations in the “ultimate” determination of what would happen in different states with regard to caucuses vs. primaries is quite unclear.

    Then I think most our disagreement has vanished, if we ever really had one to start with.

    What is clear at this point is that when the URC discussed the subject and the Sanders representatives had an opportunity to agree with the “Clinton” Democrats to push for recommending a shift to primaries, they came down very explicitly on the opposite side and in favor of retaining caucuses, and specifically the Iowa caucus!

    Beyond saying one more time that caucuses are stupid, there’s not much to say, if this conversation is going to bracket off all of the other bad actors and bracket off all of the other ways that our elections are unfair, anti-democratic, prone to corruption and mismanagement, etc. That’s a huge chunk of the picture that we’re leaving out, if that’s how limited the scope of this conversation is going to be. I don’t think it’s especially important to have that specific conversation right now, given the circumstances we’re in.

    The Sanders camp just needs to be honest and transparent about what they supported and opposed on the commission and stand by it or back away from it. Stop evading, stop attacking, stop painting themselves as victims.

    I’m with you about honesty and transparency.
    However, many vile things do need to be attacked; that shouldn’t stop. The Sanders camp has been the victim of an awfully corrupt and incompetent system that is manifestly not working for many ordinary people like it should, and there is no denying that.
    Maybe this doesn’t really need to be said; it’s not so clear. There shouldn’t be implication in what you said above (whether it’s meant to be there or not) that your whole narrative is the only valid one, or the only side of the story that needs to be told. People will have their own perspective on a lot of things, and you’ll just have to accept that if you value it (and us). Things will be attacked and grievances will be aired. That’s just how it goes, for better or worse.
    Some of it may be frustrating, but I don’t think it’s fair to ask that Sanders people stop everything that could be construed in those terms. You should allow some kind of room for people to explain/justify/contextualize the choices they made – even bad choices that they now reject. But especially if you’re going to admit the option of standing by it somehow, they need to say something which won’t simply be a restatement of your own perspective, because they don’t need to (and probably won’t) have it. I assume we can agree on something like that. Right?

  204. consciousness razor says

    What a total mess, top to bottom, start to finish. From the NYT: How the Iowa Caucuses Became an Epic Fiasco for Democrats
    It’s worth reading in full, but here’s a relevant excerpt:

    In 2017, the D.N.C. formed a commission to propose changes to the party’s presidential nominating system, including the way caucus results are reported.
    The Iowa Democratic Party tried to comply with the national committee’s orders, which were enacted in 2018, but the two organizations sparred over how the state should address the new requirements and what role the national party should play in Iowa Democrats’ affairs.
    Since the disaster Monday night, the D.N.C. has said it took a hands-off approach to the entire operation. But an email from the summer, obtained by The Times, indicates that the national committee tried to involve itself in preparing for the caucuses — in particular, with security.
    In July, according to the email, Kat Atwater, the D.N.C.’s deputy chief technology officer, proposed language for vendor contracts that would give the national party access to source code, and allow it to test apps and other products used by the state party.
    Iowa party officials rejected the proposed language.
    Weeks later, in August, the national party cited security concerns when it vetoed the Iowa Democratic Party’s proposal to hold a “virtual caucus,” which would have allowed absentee participation by phone.
    The disagreements delayed approval of Iowa’s caucus plan until late September. The state would use remote “satellite caucuses” to allow Iowans who could not make it to their precinct caucus sites to participate, and a smartphone app for precinct leaders to report results.
    One man would oversee all of it.
    Mr. Price, 39, a lifelong Iowan who became chairman of the state Democratic Party in July 2017, had a sterling resume. He had been an aide to two former Iowa governors and a top figure in both President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign in the state and in Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 run.
    He relished the national attention the caucuses attracted. In early November, at an annual state party dinner that drew 13,000 people, he spoke for 18 minutes, longer than any of the presidential candidates did.
    Mr. Price spent the months before the caucuses defending Iowa’s pre-eminent position in the presidential primary process, as candidates bemoaned Iowa’s lack of diversity and arcane caucusing process.
    At an August news conference, Mr. Price projected total confidence.
    “Just know this,” he said, gesturing with a pointed finger for emphasis. “On Feb. 3 of 2020, caucuses will take place in this state. We will be first. And they will be, without a doubt, the most successful caucuses in our party’s history.”

    His prediction wasn’t hilariously wrong, if you gauge “success” in terms of exposing faults that may have been there all along, while nobody was watching.

    On a conference call with the campaigns later that night, Mr. Price struggled to explain the information blackout. He said the problems stemmed from party officials having to collect three sets of data from all precincts for the first time.
    “You always had to calculate these numbers, all we’re asking is that you report them for the first time,” Jeff Weaver, Mr. Sanders’s closest adviser, said he told Mr. Price on the call. “If you haven’t been calculating these numbers all along, it’s been a fraud for 100 years.”
    Mr. Price ended the call.

    Heh, I bet he did.

  205. says

    cr:

    Things will be attacked and grievances will be aired. That’s just how it goes, for better or worse. Some of it may be frustrating, but I don’t think it’s fair to ask that Sanders people stop everything that could be construed in those terms.

    Love the passive voice here. No. The behavior of many Sanders supporters, including many here, is doing great damage. The arguments and attacks the Sanders campaign is engaging in surrounding Iowa and the caucuses are dishonest and hypocritical. Your remarks that I quoted @ #187 above are gratuitous and reflexively petty. The only other campaign and group of supporters that exhibits the same patterns is Trump’s. It’s not fair to the party, the public, or the other candidates, and is actively interfering with the fight against the Trumpublicans.

    Of course there will be disagreements and arguments and some lingering distrust. What I’m asking is that the Sanders campaign and supporters stop the behaviors that resemble the Trumpers’: the vilification and swarming attacks, the endless grievances, the claims of victimization and persecution, the idolization of their candidate, the hypocrisy, the accusations of cheating, the conspiracy theories, the constant presumption of nefarious motives, the glee with which the destruction of the Democratic Party is discussed. It is fundamentally not unfair or excessive to ask that the campaign and supporters comport themselves like a normal campaign, with decency and in good faith, as Ro Khanna appears to be doing.

    (It’s also noteworthy that we went through a whole thing in which you suggested that I harbor some deep animosity towards Sanders, and then after I said I’d happily vote for him you then in a long rant weirdly accused me of being “crypto-anti-Sanders.” Yet I haven’t heard you say you would support Warren or the other candidates if they were the nominee, or really say one positive thing about anyone other than Sanders. You didn’t respond to the poll I posted @ #180.)

    You should allow some kind of room for people to explain/justify/contextualize the choices they made – even bad choices that they now reject.

    They’ve had that room all along! But before you can explain/justify/contextualize choices you’ve made, you have to acknowledge that you made them! They instead chose to blame and attack others for problems they themselves played a substantial role in creating, while claiming victimhood. I’ve said now, probably a dozen times since the other thread, that what I want is for the Sanders campaign and their representatives on the URC (there’s a lot of overlap between the two) to be forthcoming about their past positions and actions in this regard. I think that’s a very reasonable expectation.

    It would also be nice if you could acknowledge the historical evidence presented. You responded to evidence from URC participants that you didn’t trust them and the Sanders representatives were probably just trying to make the best of a bad caucus situation they had no power to do anything fundamental about. Then I presented contemporaneous reporting about their actions on the commission to defeat – apparently in coalition with some caucus-state boosters – an anti-caucus motion, quoting their actual words at the time, and you tried to dismiss it as a few people with some silly ideas that made no difference and to suggest that anything short of sole control over whether each state caucus would continue means their actions and role in the process were meaningless and irrelevant.

    This is our exchange from the other thread:

    But more importantly, if you were convinced that his representatives did push for the things the reporting suggests they did, would that inform your view? Or would you just shift to a different tack?

    I’d like to know the truth, whatever form that may take. You should know by now that I try very hard to be an honest person.
    I will honestly tell you now that, even if something about it does seem a little suspicious or disappointing or whatever, it almost certainly won’t be enough to change the fact that I’ll vote for Sanders in my state’s primary, instead of some other candidate. There are too many positives to outweigh it, and it’s hard to imagine it making a difference.
    So yes, you could trust me to accept whatever it may be, since I have no special reason to worry much about it either way, assuming you do have something convincing.

    So I assume you are now convinced that the Sanders representatives on the URC did push for retaining caucuses and voted to defeat an anti-caucus amendment from the “Clinton wing.” PZ’s post about switching his support to Sanders (from Warren, for some reason, who had fuck-all to do with any of this and is known for her competence) because of the Iowa fiasco argued that:

    [The Iowa Democrats] relied on an archaic mechanism to determine a ‘winner’ — it was so creaky and antiquated that you could predict confusion and flubbed results, yet they persist in sticking with it. Why? Because that’s the way they’ve always done it, and no one has the bones to insist on modernizing it.

    I assume you can acknowledge that the Sanders’ campaign’s attacks on the IDP and DNC here are misleading and not entirely honest.

    What a total mess, top to bottom, start to finish.

    I don’t have access, but it kinda seems like the Clinton representatives were right to recognize that caucuses have been and would continue to be plagued by multitudinous problems and to try to switch entirely to primaries for this cycle, and that the Sanders representatives were wrong when they fought to keep caucuses, including Iowa’s, and argued that they’re a “a participatory democratic marvel” and not to be trashed. Here’s the exchange that followed when Tanden shared Zogby’s old tweet (link @ #255 above):

    Zogby: “That’s a cheap shot that misses its mark. You’re blaming Iowa & Iowans. This failure wasn’t theirs. It was due to tinkering w/ their process & an app that didn’t work. Having been to Iowa caucuses since 1984, they are a marvel & democracy in action.”

    Tanden: “Jim, I appreciate your views. I know your heartfelt support for the Iowa caucuses and how you were a tremendous champion for them on the URC. But as the NYT story makes clear, the problems with the caucus was not just the app, but far more fundamental.”

    To be fair to Zogby, it doesn’t seem he was aware of the context in which Tanden had retweeted him (she was calling attention to the Sanders representatives’ position on caucuses in the URC because they, the Sanders campaign, have been attacking the IDP and DNC and erasing their own role). But as usual Tanden is a model of grace and fairness here despite constant attacks from the Sanders camp.

    Heh, I bet he did.

    Weaver was a Sanders representative on the URC. This is all really gross.

  206. says

    When I saw the report about the Stone sentencing recommendation last night, I half suspected that they had intentionally recommended a longer sentence in coordination with Trump so that he could rail against it when he pardoned Stone. Evidently not.

    The bullshit Amy Berman Jackson has had to put up with.

  207. tomh says

    The DOJ statement came hours after this Trump tweet:

    “This is a horrible and very unfair situation. The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!”

  208. says

    SC @308, thanks for posting that.

    I saw that the situation was getting even worse, but I was so depressed when I confronted the fact that Trump made this worse for hundreds of thousands of civilians that I just had not yet worked up the courage to look at the facts.

    More “Russian backed” offensives in Syria! And a lot of people seem to be ignoring this news. Turkey seems to be getting away with being a bad actor … just like Trump.

  209. says

    A summary of past Wall-related news, and an update on Trump’s new budget request for more money to build his flawed wall on the southern border:

    The news surrounding Donald Trump’s border barriers — which the White House likes to call a “wall” — has been less than flattering lately.

    A couple of months ago, for example, the president insisted that no one could “cut through” his “impenetrable” border fencing. Within hours of his boast, we learned that people in Mexico have “repeatedly sawed through” the president’s “wall” using cordless household tools readily available in hardware stores.

    More recently, modest winds toppled barriers in southern California. The same week, we learned that large storm gates built into the wall will be left open — for months at a time — to prevent flooding in some areas.

    And then, of course, there are the financial considerations. Trump has already raided the Pentagon budget for wall money, and in the new White House budget, the president goes further. The New York Times reported:

    Mr. Trump’s budget requests $2 billion to build 82 miles of border wall along the border with Mexico, as the Homeland Security Department rushes to complete 450 miles of barriers by 2021. […] The $2 billion is significantly less than the $5 billion in wall funding that Mr. Trump sought a year ago, which resulted in a five-week government shutdown.

    […] it’s worth clarifying that the $2 billion Trump wants would come from American taxpayers — not Mexico […]

    [Trump] told a group of supporters in New Hampshire last night, “What’s happening, you know, you do know who’s paying for the wall, right? Redemption from illegal aliens that are coming in. The redemption money is paying for the wall.”

    Aiyiyi. So much bullshit.

    […] at various times in recent years, Trump has said the Mexican government would pay for the wall, Americans would pay the wall, the U.S. military would pay for the wall, the wall would pay for the wall, NAFTA would pay for the wall, and now “redemption money” from “illegal aliens” is already “paying for the wall.”

    Part of the problem is that no one has any idea what “redemption money” is. If I had to guess, I’d say he meant to refer to remittances, not redemption […]

    The trouble is, even if he was referring to using remittances — an idea he’s floated for years — the policy he described last night does not currently exist, and as such, it’s impossible to say remittances are already “paying for the wall.”

    Trump has had several years to come up with a way to fulfill his campaign promise and get Mexico to pay for his giant vanity project. Those efforts still aren’t going well.

    Link

  210. tomh says

    From the WaPo story on the DOJ
    change on sentencing>

    Disagreements among prosecutors about sentencing recommendations are not uncommon, especially when it comes to politically sensitive high-profile cases. It would have been unusual, however, for the U.S. attorney’s office to endorse a sentence below the guideline range after winning conviction at trial, according to former federal prosecutors.

    In a 22-page filing, prosecutors Jonathan Kravis, Michael J. Marando, Adam C. Jed and Aaron S.J. Zelinksky wrote that a sentence of 87 to 108 months, “consistent with the applicable advisory Guidelines would accurately reflect the seriousness of his crimes and promote respect for the law.”
    […]

    Stone’s defense on Monday asked for a sentence of probation, citing his age, 67, and lack of criminal history. They also noted that of seven Mueller defendants who have been sentenced, only one faces more than a six-month term: former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is serving 7½ years.

    Given the hardships and loss of professional standing suffered by Stone and his family, “No one could seriously contend that a [reduced …] sentence would cause anyone to walk away from these proceedings believing that one can commit the offenses at issue here with impunity,” defense attorneys Bruce S. Rogow, Robert C. Buschel and Grant J. Smith wrote.

    Federal guidelines typically call for a sentence ranging from 15 to 21 months for first-time offenders convicted of obstruction offenses, such as lying to Congress, making false statements and witness tampering, as Stone was.

    The range ratchets up steeply, potentially to more than seven years in prison, if the offense involves other factors such as threatening physical injury or property damage to a witness; substantially interfering with the administration of justice; or the willful obstruction of justice. Each was cited by prosecutors.

    A seven- to nine-year term “will send the message that tampering with a witness, obstructing justice, and lying in the context of a congressional investigation on matters of critical national importance are not crimes to be taken lightly,” prosecutors wrote.

  211. says

    I didn’t know about this. Trump used to threaten people with whom he had disagreements with more than lawsuits. He threatened violence from “my friends in Jersey.” Sheesh.

    Throughout Donald Trump’s long‑running history of legal threats and maneuvers, there has been rampant bluffing, oftentimes taking the shape of verbally violent bluster. In his earlier real estate days, he was known to privately threaten businessmen, lawyers, and other adversaries with “my friends in Jersey” if he felt someone had crossed him. It is unclear if his threats of Mafia violence were backed up by anything remotely actionable or within his power to authorize, or if he was just making a big‑boy noise. Most people who heard this simply rolled their eyes and went about their day.

    […] Trump was never able to shed his affinity for mob‑don lingo, or at least his pop culture approximation of it. He’d repeatedly blasted his former fixer and attorney, Michael Cohen, for being a snitch and a rat for cooperating with the feds and making him look bad, for instance. […]

    TPM link

  212. says

    AP – “Official says Sudan to hand over officials wanted by ICC”:

    A top Sudanese official said Tuesday the country’s transitional authorities and rebel groups have agreed to hand over officials wanted by the ICC, presumably referring to long-time autocrat Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted for war crimes including mass killings in Darfur.

    Al-Bashir, who was overthrown by the military last year amid a public uprising, is wanted by the ICC on charges of crimes against humanity and genocide related to the Darfur conflict. Since his ouster in April, he has been in jail in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, on charges of corruption and killing protesters.

    Mohammed Hassan al-Taishi, a member of the Sovereign Council and a government negotiator, said the council agreed with rebel groups in Darfur to hand over those wanted by the International Criminal Court to face justice in The Hague. He didn’t mention al-Bashir by name.

    Al-Taishi did not say when they would transfer al-Bashir or others wanted by the court, and the transitional administration would need to ratify the ICC’s Rome Statute to allow for the transfer the former president to The Hague.

    He spoke in a news conference in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, where the government and rebels hold talks to end the country’s decades-long civil war.

    The ICC first charged al-Bashir with involvement in crimes in Darfur on March 4, 2009, and again on July 12, 2010. His case marked the first time the global court had charged a suspect with genocide.

    Al-Bashir faces three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and two of war crimes for allegedly leading the deadly crackdown by government forces and Janjaweed militia on the Darfur region from 2003.

    Al-Bashir was long seen as a poster boy for impunity in Africa and out of reach of the ICC. Despite international arrest warrants issued by the ICC he regularly flew to visit leaders around the world apparently without fear of arrest….

  213. consciousness razor says

    and to suggest that anything short of sole control over whether each state caucus would continue means their actions and role in the process were meaningless and irrelevant.

    That’s not what I suggested. There’s an enormous gap between, on the one hand, having “sole control” over it, and on the other, having very little actual control while voicing your bad opinion about the subject. We’ve got evidence that they voiced their opinions. They’re free to do that.

    So I assume you are now convinced that the Sanders representatives on the URC did push for retaining caucuses and voted to defeat an anti-caucus amendment from the “Clinton wing.”

    Yes, I believe that.
    In the report you quoted, as I mentioned in #250, a group described rather vaguely as “Sanders allies” were said to be a minority in both committees. (That may mean not only those in the Sanders camp itself but also others regarded as their allies. Either way, it was a minority.)
    What do you think about the idea that, most likely, a majority was needed to defeat the amendment? I think that’s extremely likely. Do you think that has any important implications or not?
    The rest of the story, as both of us seemed to agree, is not very clear. So let me say that, for me, this lack of clarity starts right about there, inside of committee. That’s on top of questions I have about any others in the national party, state parties and state legislatures, who may have played a role. Do I know much of anything about that? No, so I’ll say it again: lack of clarity.
    One thing is sort of clear now: Price, the IDP chair who worked for Clinton, was obviously very much of favor of the caucus. But I’m going to be fair and admit that I honestly have no clue if that made any difference whatsoever. He has his opinions, which are wrong, but I don’t need to jump to any conclusion about it.

  214. says

    From Mark Sumner: “There is no third rail in a cult of personality.”

    That seems to be true.

    […] Trump’s proposed budget for upcoming years guts Social Security and Medicare. It cuts the core of the Centers for Disease Control despite the looming threat of a pandemic. It leaves behind only enough of the Environmental Protection Agency to oversee the unraveling of four decades of progress. And, most importantly, it makes permanent the idea that billionaires and corporations need never again worry their busy heads about taxes. Anyone upset that Amazon or Exxon paid $0 in taxes in 2019 can just multiply that number by infinity. Because in this kleptocracy, with great power comes no damn responsibility at all.

    For decades, Social Security has been called the third rail of American politics, after the dangerous high-voltage line in the New York City subways: Touch it and die. But while it might seem reasonable that Trump supporters might back away from the suggestion that they surrender their own futures to poverty and their children to relabeled indentured servitude … they won’t. Of course they won’t. In a cult of personality, there is no third rail.

    Crushing the social safety net isn’t just the realization of an authoritarian dream; it’s the political equivalent of Trump’s Fifth Avenue claims. He can shoot people’s financial security, and they won’t just forgive him for it—they’ll thank him.

    […] When Trump issues a call of “fake news” or “crazy Nancy,” it’s treated like a call from the pulpit of the responder’s church. The response it generates is every bit as fervid.

    […] Elizabeth Warren might have found her numbers dipping when opponents attacked details of her healthcare plan. Trump would never face such an issue—because he doesn’t have issues. […]

    […] Can he pardon people obviously guilty of crimes because they said nice things about him? Of course he can. Can he spend a third of his time on the golf course after campaigning on the idea that he would be too busy to ever take a day off? Don’t even ask. Can he fire the director of the FBI and call him a criminal? Please do. Can he use his office to extort foreign allies? Sure. For political dirt? Why not. To cheat in the next election? Go for it!

    […] That Trump is offering a budget that savages those things Americans say they hold most dear should be a concern to him, and to everyone allied with him. It’s not. After all, poll after poll has demonstrated that when it comes to political positions, the majority agrees with Democrats on every point.

    Trump’s budget should be an issue. If the nation still has those. Because what remains of American democracy is only exactly as much as Trump allows.

    Link

  215. says

    Trump intends to help/enable payday lenders to rip off Americans, especially those near the bottom of the economic ladder.

    When South Dakotans voted 3–to–1 to ban payday loans, they must have hoped it would stick. Interest on the predatory cash advances averaged an eye-popping 652 percent—borrow a dollar, owe $6.50—until the state axed them in 2016, capping rates at a fraction of that in a decisive referendum.

    Donald Trump’s finance czars had another idea. In November, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (along with the even more obscure Office of the Comptroller of the Currency) floated a permanent loophole for payday lenders that would essentially make the South Dakota law, and many others, moot—they could launder their loans through out-of-state banks, which aren’t subject to state caps on interest. Payday lenders arrange the loans, the banks issue them, and the payday lenders buy them back.

    Every year, borrowers shell out close to $10 billion in fees on $90 billion in high-priced, short-term loans, numbers that only grew under the Trump administration. […] Payday loans “trap consumers in a lifetime of debt,” top Senate Banking Committee Democrat Sherrod Brown told A Plus in 2015.

    When South Dakota’s anti-payday rule took effect, the legal loan sharks collapsed. Lenders, which spent more than $1 million fighting the law, shut down en masse. But it was a success story for South Dakotans like Maxine Broken Nose, whose car was repossessed by a lender at the Black Hills Powwow after she paid off a $243.60 balance one day late. […] Broken Nose’s family watched repo men come for “about 30” cars at the powwow […].

    Georgia considers payday loans racketeering. Arkansas limits interest to 17 percent. West Virginia never allowed them in the first place. Many states ban usury, the practice of gouging consumers on debt when they have nowhere better to turn. But those laws were set up to stop an under-regulated spiderweb of local, storefront cash advance shops—they don’t keep payday lenders from teaming up with big out-of-state banks, and they can’t go toe-to-toe with hostile federal agencies.

    The Trump administration, on the other hand, has been cozying up to payday lenders for years. In 2018, Trump picked banking-industry lawyer Jelena McWilliams to run the FDIC, which is tasked with “supervising financial institutions for safety and soundness and consumer protection.” In a 2018 Real News Network interview, ex-regulator and economics professor Bill Black said McWilliams was “fully invested with the Trump agenda” and would “slaughter” financial regulations.

    […] last February, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—another consumer-protection agency turned extension of the banking lobby—rolled back Obama-era rules that told lenders to “assess a borrower’s ability to pay back debt before making loans to low-income customers”:

    The decision to weaken the payday lending rule was first proposed by acting director Mick Mulvaney, who now serves as President Donald Trump’s acting chief of staff…Mulvaney, who has concurrently been in charge of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), is a longtime friend of the payday lenders. (The industry donated more than $60,000 to his campaigns when Mulvaney was a congressman from South Carolina.) While in charge of the CFPB, Mulvaney quietly closed investigations and scrapped lawsuits aimed at payday lenders around the country.

    Mulvaney is even more unethical than I thought.

    The FDIC rule would override a 2nd Circuit ruling, Madden v. Midland Funding, that says state usury laws can follow a loan around even if they’re sold to an out-of-state buyer. The FDIC rule is based on a controversial doctrine called “valid-when-made”: As long as a loan starts out legit, the bank can sell it on, with the same interest, to anyone. If the bank lends you a dollar at 1,000 percent interest—a real rate that payday lenders actually charge—and they’re not bound by the state rule, anyone can buy that loan from the bank and keep charging that 1000 percent. According to the National Consumer Law Center, which calls the FDIC rule the “rent-a-bank” proposal, at least five FDIC-regulated banks are now facilitating ultra-high-interest loans in 30 or more states. The motivation is obvious: The banks get a cut of a hugely profitable business. […]

    both payday lenders and bankers have backed a version of the FDIC rule for years. And although payday lenders have a lobby—which brags about its access to the White House and includes some major Trump fundraisers—it’s nothing like the lobbying power wielded by the biggest banks, whose alumni line every Trump finance agency. […] Bankers were fighting for looser regulations on sketchy loans (hello, mortgage crisis) before check cashing shops existed.

    Last Wednesday, the House Financial Services Committee, chaired by California Rep. Maxine Waters, heard arguments against the “rent-a-bank” rule and in favor of legislation to override it. A bill now before the committee, the Veterans and Consumers Fair Credit Act, would take South Dakota’s 36 percent cap nationwide. A federal law, which would supersede the Trump administration, is the only guaranteed fix to the loophole. […]

    Link

  216. says

    Just Security – “Exclusive: New Unredacted Emails Show How Deeply OMB Misled Congress on Ukraine”:

    “Can we call you in 5, DoD is being extraordinarily difficult.”

    It was almost 6 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 12, and Mark Paoletta, the general counsel at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), wanted to talk to his boss, Russell Vought, the acting director of OMB, about President Donald Trump’s hold on military assistance for Ukraine.

    When the Trump administration released this email under court order to the nonprofit group American Oversight on Jan. 22, Paoletta’s complaint about DoD was redacted.

    Just Security obtained this email without the redactions, as well as the others released on Jan. 22, under the condition that they not be reprinted. Similar to the unredacted emails Just Security reported on in January, these new emails shed further light on the standoff that took place between the Pentagon and OMB over Trump’s hold on Ukraine funding.

    They confirm that OMB, including the general counsel’s office, was fully in the loop about the Pentagon’s concerns and took active steps to bury them. They also expose the extent to which OMB misled, and even lied to, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a congressional investigative body, as the GAO tried to understand the circumstances surrounding the funding hold.

    To this day, and through these redacted documents, OMB is continuing its efforts to keep its knowledge of the Pentagon’s legal worries a secret, blacking out the portions of the emails where DoD officials voiced their concerns and where OMB staffers acknowledged them. The Washington Post reported earlier this month that Paoletta reviewed the redactions before the documents were released….

    Much more in this very thorough piece.

  217. says

    Oh, FFS.

    An outside group backing Biden tries to soothe nervous donors — by raising the specter of a nightmare if one of his opponents wins.

    A super PAC for Joe Biden — in a call to arms to wavering donors and supporters — is warning of a “doomsday scenario” for the Democratic Party if the wobbly onetime frontrunner is forced out of the presidential race.

    A memo from the Unite the Country super PAC to donors […] asserts that the party could pay a steep price if Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg or Amy Klobuchar is chosen as the nominee. Most ominously, it raises the specter of Sanders and billionaire Mike Bloomberg squaring off at a split convention. […]

    “Donors hedging their bets on Biden because of Bloomberg could be creating a doomsday scenario for Democrats everywhere,” the group’s treasurer, Larry Rasky, wrote. […]

    “If Bernie has more delegates, do you really think the Bros will make way for Mike?,” it added, referring to the hard-core Sanders supporters known as “Bernie Bros.” “Not to mention that the legacy of the Sanders campaign (such as the Squad) will ravage any chance Center-Left Democrats have of maintaining hard won victories in states from Pennsylvania to California.”

    The memo is the most tangible evidence of the anxiety gripping Biden’s supporters after his debilitating defeat in Iowa and likely loss in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary. While his supporters are urging patience — they say Biden’s strength and his rivals’ weakness among African Americans won’t be felt until the Feb. 29 South Carolina primary — there are growing fears that his candidacy will implode by then. […]

    The dire warnings, and the subject line of the Biden PAC memo, “Avoid the Train Wreck by Uniting for Biden,” seem overblown to me. I smell desperation.

    Link

  218. says

    When both-sides arguments really don’t work …. For an example, see this Wonkette article:

    Last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray announced his new plans to deal with domestic terrorism. Some of it, as we have noted, was good. They will now be taking violent white supremacists more seriously, and that will probably save some lives.

    Some of it, however, is stupid.

    The really, really stupid thing is that in Wray’s description of one of the domestic terrorism issues, “abortion violent extremism,” he pretended as if the actual terrorism threats came from both anti-choice people and pro-choice people — referring to “people on either side of that issue who commit violence on behalf of different views on that topic.”

    The problem with that is, while the anti-choice crowd has killed lots and lots of people and bombed lots and lots of buildings, the pro-choice side has not done any of that. At all. For any reason.

    When Wray’s questioner, Rep. Karen Bass, pointed this out, he weaseled around it, later telling the Daily Beast about a time when a pro-choice person left a threatening comment on the internet. […]

    […] an earlier FBI training document obtained by the ACLU in 2012 referenced pro-choice violence but did not “provide a single example of violence against abortion opponents,” […]

    I have a sinking suspicion that this has nothing to do with the FBI actually thinking there is any kind of hotbed of pro-choice violence anywhere in the country. I mean, we’re certainly not the ones putting up kill lists on the internet. It’s more likely that they are throwing it in there because, if they didn’t, anti-choicers would feel attacked.

    You know, like how the white supremacists felt this weekend over the FBI considering them a terrorist threat but not “antifa,” just because of how they regularly kill people.

    […] rightwing extremists have killed 111 people since 9/11, and many, many before that. There’s no legitimate “both sides” here. […]

    And it’s even less equal when it comes to abortion. I’m sorry, but pro-choice people are not going around killing or bombing anything. It’s just not a thing.[…] And you can’t say that “a threatening comment on the internet” is on the same level as bombing the Olympics.

    There is no pro-choice equivalent to the Army of God, an actual terrorist organization that promotes violence against abortion providers. There is no pro-choice equivalent to 11 murders, 26 attempted murders, 4 kidnappings, 42 bombings, 188 arsons, 100 butyric acid attacks, 290 incidents of assault and battery, and more: […]

    That’s over 10,000 incidents of violence or attempted violence on one side, and an internet comment on the other. […].

  219. says

    cr:

    That’s not what I suggested. There’s an enormous gap between, on the one hand, having “sole control” over it, and on the other, having very little actual control while voicing your bad opinion about the subject. We’ve got evidence that they voiced their opinions. They’re free to do that.

    They didn’t have “very little actual control,” and they didn’t just voice their opinions. They obviously voted against the anti-caucus amendment on the commission, which was defeated by a single vote. But the question of the specific amount of power they possessed in the process is tangential to the central question here. This is what I meant when I asked if you would change tack if you were convinced by the evidence that they did what they did, which is exactly what you’re doing with this focus on the minutiae of the party process. I haven’t claimed that their actions on the URC or more generally were solely responsible for the Iowa mess. Their past positions and actions are relevant to a) their current attacks on the national and state party and claims of victimization, and relatedly b) PZ’s reasoning for why he’s come to support Sanders. Obviously, they believed that their votes against the amendment would make some difference, including in the case of Iowa, as is clear from Kleeb’s statement quoted in Weigel’s article. We can’t know whether in the counterfactual case that they hadn’t opposed the amendment or generally been so pro-caucus every caucus (or Iowa’s specifically) would have been eliminated (fortunately, four were), but it’s not relevant to what we’re talking about.

    Yes, I believe that.

    Great. I’ll note that you’ve done no work yourself to try to get at the truth.

    In the report you quoted, as I mentioned in #250, a group described rather vaguely as “Sanders allies”

    FFS, this is tiresome. I linked to the list of people on the URC @ #312 above. The Sanders representatives included Jane Kleeb, Nomiki Konst, James Zogby, Nina Turner, and Jeff Weaver. These are not people vaguely associated with Sanders – they were his fucking representatives on the commission.

    were said to be a minority in both committees.

    Yes, a minority that joined with people with the same views on caucuses to defeat an anti-caucus amendment by one vote. It was openly reported at the time as a victory for the Sanders faction and they themselves openly declared that. Now Konst is claiming “that was a motion my a clinton people to eliminate caucuses, which was shot down and we had no power to do.” More of that passive voice. They and some others voted against it. They said so at the time. They took the same position on the Rules and Bylaws Committee:

    [Khery] Penebaker, who noted that he was among those who favored the switch to primaries during the debates over the “unity commission” recommendations, said the Sanders camp’s desire to keep the caucuses in place was the result of them “looking out for [their] candidate’s interests, rather than the interests of actual voters,” and added that the vitriol being directed by Sanders supporters at DNC Chair Tom Perez, Buttigieg, and others is unhelpful.

    I find their refusal to be straight and forthcoming and accept responsibility for their actions while attacking and condoning conspiracy theories about others to be really dishonorable. I know you said that it wouldn’t weigh enough in the larger scheme of things to change your vote, but you don’t even seem willing to admit that there’s anything wrong with this.

    What do you think about the idea that, most likely, a majority was needed to defeat the amendment? I think that’s extremely likely.

    It’s more than likely. The Weigel article states in the first sentence that it was blocked by a single vote.

    Do you think that has any important implications or not?

    It has zero important implications for what we’re talking about.

    The rest of the story, as both of us seemed to agree, is not very clear. So let me say that, for me, this lack of clarity starts right about there, inside of committee. That’s on top of questions I have about any others in the national party, state parties and state legislatures, who may have played a role. Do I know much of anything about that? No, so I’ll say it again: lack of clarity.
    One thing is sort of clear now: Price, the IDP chair who worked for Clinton, was obviously very much of favor of the caucus. But I’m going to be fair and admit that I honestly have no clue if that made any difference whatsoever. He has his opinions, which are wrong, but I don’t need to jump to any conclusion about it.

    Again, it’s not relevant. They plainly had some allies in their pro-caucus fight, likely people from caucus states who like caucuses for their own reasons. Who gives a shit? The clarity we’re seeking is about the positions and actions of the Sanders representatives on the URC in relation to their current statements and actions. Since you’ve now acknowledged that they did what I had originally suggested they had, I think this argument is finished.

  220. tomh says

    WaPo:
    Judge dismisses lawsuit to compel White House to archive records of Trump calls, meetings with Putin, other foreign leaders

    By Spencer S. Hsu
    Feb. 11, 2020
    A federal judge Monday dismissed a lawsuit brought by historians and watchdog groups to compel the White House to preserve records of President Trump’s calls and meetings with foreign leaders, saying that Congress would have to change presidential archiving laws to allow the courts to do so.

    Federal courts have ruled that the Presidential Records Act is one of the rare statutes that judges cannot review, and that another law, the Federal Records Act, does not specify exactly how agency heads should preserve records, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said in a 22-page opinion.

    “The Court is bound by Circuit precedent to find that it lacks authority to oversee the President’s day-to-day compliance with the statutory provisions involved in this case,” Jackson wrote of the U.S. Court of the Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

    However, the judge added pointedly, “This opinion will not address, and should not be interpreted to endorse, the challenged practices; nor does it include any finding that the Executive Office is in compliance with its obligations.”

    Trump has concealed details of his face-to-face encounters with Putin from senior officials in administration

    Jackson said that though those who brought the lawsuit allege Congress expressed “grave concerns” about the practices at issue, it is Congress that has the power to “revisit its decision to accord the executive such unfettered control or to clarify its intentions.”
    […]

  221. says

    From Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, Ann E. Marimow and Spencer S. Hsu; writing for The Washington Post:

    […] In a stunning rebuke of career prosecutors that immediately raised questions about political interference in the case, a senior Justice Department official said the department “was shocked to see the sentencing recommendation in the Roger Stone case last night.”

    “That recommendation is not what had been briefed to the department,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive case. “The department finds the recommendation extreme and excessive and disproportionate to Stone’s offenses. The department will clarify its position later today.”

    The statement came hours after Trump tweeted about the sentence prosecutors recommended, saying: “This is a horrible and very unfair situation. The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!” The senior Justice Department official, though, said the decision to revise prosecutors’ recommendation came before Trump’s tweet.

    Stone was convicted by a jury in November of obstructing Congress and witness tampering. His was the last conviction secured by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III as part of the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

    Stone has been a friend and adviser to Trump since the 1980s and was a key figure in his 2016 campaign […]

    Former Justice Department officials and those on the political left asserted the department’s abrupt shift on Stone was an egregious example of the president and his attorney general bending federal law enforcement to serve their political interests.

    David Laufman, a former Justice Department official, called it a “shocking, cram-down political intervention” in the criminal justice process.

    “We are now truly at a break-glass-in-case-of-fire moment for the Justice Dept.,” he wrote on Twitter.

    Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) said the move amounted to “obstruction of justice.”

    “We are seeing a full-frontal assault on the rule of law in America,” Pascrell said. “Direct political interference in our justice system is a hallmark of a banana republic. Despite whatever Trump, William Barr, and their helpers think, the United States is a nation of laws and not an authoritarian’s paradise.” […]

    Front-line prosecutors, some previously from Mueller’s team, argued for a prison sentence on the higher end, while their bosses wanted to calculate the guidelines differently to get to a lower sentence. The debate centered around whether they should seek more prison time for obstruction that impedes the administration of justice, these people said. […]

    Mary McCord, a former prosecutor and acting assistant attorney general for the department’s National Security Division, said decisions related to the sentencing of such high-profile political figures would not be made without initial consultation between a U.S. attorney’s office and Justice Department headquarters, and that it was is hard to imagine the department was truly taken aback.

    “There is no way you can come away from this with anything other than an impression that Justice is taking its orders from the president and pandering to the president,” said McCord, who was also chief of the criminal division at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington. “This is causing lasting and long term damage to the department’s reputation and credibility” […]

    It can be common for prosecutors to disagree about sentencing recommendations, especially when it comes to politically sensitive cases. It would have been unusual, however, for the U.S. attorney’s office to endorse a sentence below the guideline range after winning conviction at trial, according to former federal prosecutors.

    In a 22-page filing, prosecutors Jonathan Kravis, Michael J. Marando, Adam C. Jed and Aaron S.J. Zelinksky wrote that a sentence of 87 to 108 months, “consistent with the applicable advisory Guidelines would accurately reflect the seriousness of [Stone’s] crimes and promote respect for the law.” Leaving a hearing in federal court in Washington, Jed and Kravis — who seemed to learn of the Justice Department’s shift in position from a reporter — declined to comment. […]

    Link

  222. says

    From Wonkette:

    In a 26-page sentencing memo detailing the seven counts for which Stone was convicted by a jury of his peers, his threats of violence to a witness, and his multiple attempts to tamper with the jury using social media during the trial, federal prosecutors made their case to Judge Amy Berman Jackson that Stone deserves substantial jail time. But according to Fox News, higher-ups at the DOJ were “shocked” to see Stone going to prison for simply lying to federal investigators and Congress and threatening a witness in a federal case. It’s not like he committed dastardly EMAIL CRIMES!

    DOJ spokesperson Kerri Kupec insisted that the decision to revise Stone’s sentencing recommendation was made before Trump’s tweet, and no one at the Justice Department had discussed it with the White House.

    And if you believe either of the last two sentences in this blog post, then you haven’t been paying attention for the past three years.

    This is, after all, the second time in a month that the Justice Department has had a change of heart and gone back to the court to revise down its sentencing recommendation for one of Trump’s buddies. Just two weeks ago, DC prosecutors decided that perhaps Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn didn’t deserve jail time either. And it seems like only yesterday that we found out Bill Barr had set up a DOJ hotline for Rudy Giuliani to deliver his Biden Ukraine smears directly to the FBI.

    Because it was just yesterday! Also yesterday, Bill Barr stood up before a roomful of sheriffs and promised to scrutinize charging decisions of state prosecutors, over whom he has exactly zero authority, to make sure they weren’t undercharging undocumented immigrants to avoid sticking them with a deportable charge. […]

    UPDATE: Longtime DOJ prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky, who worked the Roger Stone case under Robert Mueller, withdraws from it effective immediately. Apparently Barr’s interference has already caused internal protests. Zelinsky is still employed at the Justice Department’s branch office in Baltimore. […]

    Link

  223. says

    This is the Bloomberg audio that is everywhere today.

    Andrew Gillum: “This is a dangerously disturbing world view. Dangerous for me, my two sons and millions more just like us. Most troubling is that this sounds like a philosophy, not a singular policy.
    We need more than an apology. We need answers…”

  224. says

    John Crabb, Jr., who entered his appearance in the Stone case for DOJ minutes ago, has filed a new sentencing recommendation–signing it alone. ‘Ultimately, the government defers to the Court as to what specific sentence is appropriate’, he writes.”

    Document at the link.

  225. says

    Elie Mystal:

    Barr is burning down the Justice Department.

    This is why I think @ewarren
    ‘s truth and reconciliation commission (I know that’s not what she calls it), is the single most important proposal being surfaced in this Democratic Primary.

    These people, like Barr, must face justice.

  226. says

    From Adam Schiff:

    I do not take a position on the proper prison term for Mr. Stone, but it would be a blatant abuse of power if President Trump has in fact intervened to reverse the recommendations of career prosecutors at the Department of Justice.

    Doing so would send an unmistakable message that President Trump will protect those who lie to Congress to cover up his own misconduct, and that the Attorney General will join him in that effort.

    Leave to Shiff to succinctly summarize the issue, the problem and the conclusion.

  227. says

    From Jerry Nadler:

    A President who intervenes in the criminal justice system to help his allies, while punishing people like Lt. Col. Vindman for telling the truth, represents a real danger and the Committee will get to the bottom of this.

  228. says

    From an article by Jennifer Rubin, writing for The Washington Post:

    […] Former prosecutor Mimi Rocah tells me, “This is absolutely unprecedented. DOJ never should have intervened in the Stone case and doing it after Trump’s Demand by tweet is the final blow to any pretense that DOJ is acting independently of Trump and politics which it has historically done by and large.” She adds, “The fact that career prosecutors are the ones taking a stand is alarming. The political appointees like US Attorneys should be insulating them from this. This is very dark and dangerous.”

    Coming on the evening of the New Hampshire primary, the latest crisis should remind us of the stakes in 2020 and the necessity that Democrats nominate someone who can beat Trump and stop our slide into authoritarianism. It should also remind us that without the cowardice of Republican senators including Susan Collins of Maine, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and others, Trump would not be lighting a fire to the Justice Department and the Constitution. Voters must remember this come November.

    Link

  229. says

    Axios – “Scoop: Trump pulls former U.S. attorney for D.C.’s nomination to Treasury post”:

    gton Post via Getty Images

    President Trump is withdrawing his nomination for former U.S. attorney for D.C. Jessie Liu to serve as the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes, a top position overseeing economic sanctions, according to two sources with direct knowledge.

    The big picture: Liu was confirmed in September 2017 to lead the largest U.S. attorney’s office in the country, overseeing a number of politically charged investigations that included the case against Trump associates Roger Stone, Paul Manafort and other spinoffs from the Mueller investigation.

    – Liu stepped down from the U.S. attorney’s office after Trump announced his intention to nominate her to the Treasury position in December 2019.
    – She was replaced by Timothy Shea, who is currently serving on an interim basis.

    Liu would have had a Senate confirmation hearing soon. I don’t see why a House committee couldn’t invite/subpoena all of these people to testify.

  230. says

    Natasha Bertrand in Politico – “‘We are not a banana republic’: National security adviser defends Vindman dismissals”:

    National security adviser Robert O’Brien on Tuesday defended the dismissal of Lt. Cols. Alexander and Yevgeny Vindman from the National Security Council, suggesting that the officials were trying to undermine the president.

    “We’re not a country where a bunch of lieutenant colonels can get together and decide what the policy is of the United States,” O’Brien said during an event at the Atlantic Council think tank. “We are not a banana republic.”

    O’Brien also insisted that the twin brothers — one of whom, Alexander, was a crucial witness against President Donald Trump in the investigation that led to his impeachment on a charge of abuse of power — were “absolutely” not retaliated against.

    But Trump tweeted on Saturday that Alexander Vindman was “OUT” because he was “insubordinate” and had reported the contents of Trump’s July phone call with the Ukrainian president “incorrectly.” It also still isn’t clear why Yevgeny Vindman, an NSC ethics lawyer who was not involved in the impeachment process at all, was fired.

    Two people close to the Vindmans told POLITICO on Monday that while Alexander Vindman was preparing to be fired after Trump’s acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial, and even began taking his belongings home from the office in preparation, Yevgeny Vindman’s firing was “a complete shock” and he had still received “no explanation whatsoever” from the White House….

    O’Brien is another criminal.

  231. says

    NBC – “Barr takes control of legal matters of interest to Trump, including Stone sentencing”:

    The U.S. attorney who had presided over an inconclusive criminal investigation into former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe was abruptly removed from that job last month in one of several recent moves by Attorney General William Barr to take control of legal matters of personal interest to President Donald Trump, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.

    A person familiar with the matter has confirmed to NBC News that President Trump has now rescinded the nomination of the U.S. attorney, Jessie Liu, for a job as an undersecretary at the Treasury Department.

    On Tuesday, all four line prosecutors withdrew from the case against Trump associate Roger Stone — and one quit the Justice Department altogether — after Barr and his top aides intervened to reverse a stiff sentencing recommendation of up to nine years in prison that the line prosecutors had filed with the court Monday.

    But that wasn’t the first time senior political appointees reached into a case involving a former Trump aide, officials told NBC News. Senior officials at the Justice Department also intervened last month to help change the government’s sentencing recommendation for Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who pled guilty to lying to the FBI. While once the prosecutors in the case had recommended up to six months in jail for Flynn, their latest filing now says they believe probation would be appropriate.

    The new filing came on the same day Jessie Liu, was removed from her job, to be replaced the next day by a former prosecutor selected by Barr. Liu had been overseeing the criminal investigation into McCabe, who was accused by the department’s inspector general of lying to investigators. McCabe has not been charged, despite calls by President Trump for him to go to prison.

    The resignations and the unusual moves by Barr come as Trump has sought revenge against government officials who testified after being subpoenaed by congressional Democrats in their impeachment investigation. In the days since the Senate acquitted him, Trump fired his ambassador to the European Union, a political supporter the president nominated, and had other officials moved out of the White House.

    “This signals to me that there has been a political infestation,” NBC News legal analyst Chuck Rosenberg, a former U.S. attorney, said on MSNBC. “And that is the single most dangerous thing that you can do to the Department of Justice.”

    In the Stone case, a new filing Tuesday says the previous recommendation does not accurately reflect the Department of Justice’s position on what would be a reasonable sentence in this matter.” A nine year sentence “could be considered excessive and unwarranted under the circumstances,” the filing says, declining to recommend a specific term and instead asking the judge considers an “appropriate” sentence.

    “I’ve never seen this happen, ever,” said Gregory Brower, a former U.S. attorney and senior FBI official. “I’d be shocked if the judge didn’t order the U.S. attorney to come into court to explain it.”

    The interim U.S. attorney for Washington, Timothy Shea, was named by Barr on Jan. 30. His announcement noted it’s the largest U.S. attorney’s office in the country and highlighted Shea’s “reputation as a fair prosecutor.”

    It didn’t mention that Liu had been unceremoniously pushed out. Liu had been picked for a job in the Treasury Department, and normally she would have remained as U.S. Attorney until the Senate voted on her nomination, current and former officials said. Trump has now rescinded her nomination as undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes….

  232. consciousness razor says

    But the question of the specific amount of power they possessed in the process is tangential to the central question here.

    Your question is not central to me. I think a central question is roughly “why and how are our elections so completely fucked up?” Many other important ones branch off from that. Yours is an extremely narrow question, tailored to you.

    Great. I’ll note that you’ve done no work yourself to try to get at the truth.

    Not great. This is false.
    I’ve spent far too much time on something that makes no difference in my personal life, will have no impact on how I will vote in the primaries or the general election, and will not help anyone get a better sense of what is broken about our elections. But I have spent that time.

    FFS, this is tiresome. I linked to the list of people on the URC @ #312 above. The Sanders representatives included Jane Kleeb, Nomiki Konst, James Zogby, Nina Turner, and Jeff Weaver. These are not people vaguely associated with Sanders – they were his fucking representatives on the commission.

    You must not have understood my point about what was vague about that phrasing. Just actually read my remarks after it to understand.
    Also, what I said there is that either way, they were a minority. That’s the point I was getting at and emphasized. (This part, at least, you had no trouble understanding.) That means you wouldn’t need to tire yourself about this little detail of the reporting, even if you didn’t get why I’d bother to mention it (in passing) at all.

    I find their refusal to be straight and forthcoming and accept responsibility for their actions while attacking and condoning conspiracy theories about others to be really dishonorable. I know you said that it wouldn’t weigh enough in the larger scheme of things to change your vote, but you don’t even seem willing to admit that there’s anything wrong with this.

    I find the lack of responsibility coming from the likes of Perez, Buttigieg and others (quite a few others) to be dishonorable. I mention those two explicitly, because I gather from your quote that they are among the people who shouldn’t be “attacked” for some odd reason, and I disagree.
    I don’t know how many times I’ve said that caucuses are terrible, stupid, dumb, bad, have no place in elections, and so on. I’m entirely opposed to them, for a large variety of reasons, perhaps more opposed to them than you are. And I have no ulterior motive for expressing that view now (or any other time), like your obvious one of wanting to have something negative to say about Sanders while Warren’s campaign is slowly falling apart. That’s simply what I’ve thought about them for a very long time.
    I’m also opposed to the way that nearly all of the primaries are run, how delegates are counted, and many other features of our awful system. But presumably, I’m still not supposed to bring any of that up, because this is tangential to the central question. Also, it’s evasive, an attack that needs to stop, or only just pretending like people are victims. Maybe it’s because I’m a cultist? It seems like you make up all of the rules for this conversation, so you tell me.
    Anyway, if you think that I do not “seem willing to admit that there’s anything wrong” with supporting it, then you have not been listening to me. That’s on you. I’ve been totally clear about it, while you haven’t been even remotely clear about the problems I care about.

    It’s more than likely. The Weigel article states in the first sentence that it was blocked by a single vote.

    That doesn’t imply majority rule. They could have needed any other level or type of support for an amendment to pass (e.g., like a supermajority in the Senate, a plurality in some other system, or whatever the rules may happen to say), and all cases it could still be true that it was blocked by a single vote. It’s pretty safe to assume it needed a majority, but that’s not at all what that statement means.

  233. consciousness razor says

    Another thing:
    The unity reform commission had 21 members:
    Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, Chair (DC)
    Larry Cohen, Vice Chair (DC)
    Charlie Baker (MA)
    Jan Bauer (IA)
    Jeff Berman (DC)
    Lucy Flores (CA)
    Marcia Fudge (OH)
    Maya Harris (NY)
    David Huynh (LA)
    Elaine Kamarck (MA)
    Jane Kleeb (NE)
    Nomiki Konst (NY)
    Yvette Lewis (MD)
    Gus Newport (CA)
    Jorge Neri (IL)
    James Roosevelt, Jr. (MA)
    Emmy Ruiz (TX)
    Nina Turner (OH)
    Jeff Weaver (VA)
    Wellington Webb (CO)
    Jim Zogby (DC)

    Let the record show that I determined the truth here by doing no work whatsoever.
    More non-work…. I count 4 from DC; 3 from MA; 2 from CA, OH and NY; and 1 from CO, IA, IL, LA, MD, NE, TX and VA.
    There were 18 states/territories holding some kind of a caucus in 2016 were IA, NV, American Samoa, CO, MN, KS, NE, ME, Northern Marianas, ID, UT, AK, HI, WA, WY, Guam, Virgin Islands, and ND. Only a little bit of non-work went into finding this information.
    Cross-referencing these, the commission had three members (from CO, IA, NE) who were from a caucus state in 2016. A majority with 21 members requires 11 votes. So 3/11 of it could be accounted for in that way, assuming none of them had an interest in fixing their state’s election system and wanted it to stay broken.
    What about the other eight that must have voted with them? Let’s do more non-work.
    You cited 5 Sanders people: Kleeb (NE), Konst (NY), Zogby (DC), Turner (OH) and Weaver (VA). That is, about 23.8% of the committee. However, Kleeb was one of the three already counted above, simply for being in a 2016 caucus state. (And he’s 20% of this five-person group, which was probably worried about maintaining their solidarity.)
    So, they only adds four to the total we already had, bringing us to 7/11 needed for the majority. The remaining four votes have to come from the other 14 people, two-thirds of the entire commission about which we’ve said literally nothing. (Since, to you, it’s all about Sanders, and his unruly supporters who I guess are supposed to already know about all of this somehow.)
    I don’t know whose campaigns those 14 were ever a part of, which factions they were in, or why they voted as they did. Nor do I care. But four of them (just as many as the non-caucus state Sanders people you care so much about) must have voted to allow the caucus.
    Only two states (IA and NV) represented in the commission are having a caucus in 2020. So that does call into question whether Webb from Colorado would have still been interested in a caucus. Maybe it’s not so safe to assume he’s of the members who voted to keep them, in which case we need to account for five more people instead of only four more.
    Several are listed as coming from DC, but they probably have some other home state that might be relevant. Looking into all of them would take a bit of work.

  234. says

    Most of the top Democratic candidates for president are coming out of New Hampshire with some good news and some bad news.

    Exactly one month before yesterday’s New Hampshire presidential primaries, FiveThirtyEight pointed to a landscape that showed Joe Biden leading the Democrats’ field, followed closely by Bernie Sanders. Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren were close behind, while Amy Klobuchar was much further back, with support around 5% — roughly a fourth of the kind of backing the former vice president enjoyed.

    A lot can happen in a month.

    With 95 percent of precincts reported, Sanders had 26 percent, or 71,950 votes; Buttigieg was at 24.4 percent, or 67,577 votes; Klobuchar had 19.7 percent, or 54,609 votes; Warren had 9.3 percent, or 25,765 votes; and Biden was at 8.4 percent, or 23,205 votes, according to the NBC News tally.

    Candidates need to reach the 15% threshold to qualify for delegates, which means Warren and Biden have little to show for their efforts in the Granite State. […]

    For Bernie Sanders, the good news is he’s now the frontrunner for the Democrats’ presidential nomination, joining a small circle of candidates who’ve ever won both Iowa and New Hampshire. He also has a ton of money in his campaign coffers […]. The bad news is, yesterday’s win was smaller than expected; he doesn’t appear to have expanded much beyond his base […]

    For Pete Buttigieg, the good news is he’s finished a very close second in both of the first two nominating contests; he’s no longer seen as a fluke; and in the delegate count, the former mayor is actually leading the Democratic field. […] it’s not yet clear if he has the national organization needed for the next round of contests.

    For Amy Klobuchar, the good news is her unexpectedly strong showing last night has put her in serious contention, arguably vaulting her from the second to the first tier. The bad news is, she’s going to need considerably more money to seriously compete in Super Tuesday races, and like Buttigieg, there are real questions about the strength of her national organization.

    For Elizabeth Warren, the good news is she did quite well in Iowa — a fact that was quickly overshadowed by the state caucus’ fiasco — and remains one of the half-dozen candidates who can still seriously compete for the nomination. […]

    For Joe Biden, the good news is Iowa and New Hampshire are over. The bad news is, he went from first to fifth in the Granite State very quickly; the perception of him as the frontrunner is gone […]

    For Tom Steyer, the good news is he’s actually well positioned for a decent showing in South Carolina. The bad news is, the California billionaire, making his first bid for public office, invested millions in Iowa and New Hampshire, and Democrats in both states apparently weren’t buying what he was selling.

    For Tulsi Gabbard, the good news is she did much better in New Hampshire than in Iowa. The bad news is, she actually tried to seriously compete in the latter, but finished a distant seventh.

    For Mike Bloomberg, the good news is his support keeps growing at the national level; he’s receiving an unexpected number of congressional endorsements from Democrats in competitive districts; and he has a limitless supply of money. The bad news is, his non-existent showings in each of the first four contests offer no evidence he knows how to compete in statewide races.

    For Deval Patrick, the good news is he met expectations in New Hampshire. The bad news is, the expectations were low, and there’s little to suggest he’ll be able to seriously compete anywhere else.

    Link

  235. says

    Trump blurted out an admission of sorts, confirming that his handpicked attorney general, William Barr, “took charge” of a case involving one of his friends.

    It was just last month when there was an unexpected shake-up in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Washington, D.C. Jessie Liu, who was leading the office, was replaced by Timothy Shea — Barr’s longtime aide — at which point there were some notable developments that appeared awfully political.

    In the case of former White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, for example, prosecutors backed off a sentencing recommendation of six months behind bars, instead telling a court that probation would be appropriate. In the case of Republican operative Roger Stone, the U.S. Attorney’s office backed off another sentencing recommendation yesterday, prompting four prosecutors to resign and sparking a crisis at the Justice Department.

    Naturally, there have been widespread questions about possible interference in prosecutorial decision-making. An NBC News report helped answer those questions last night, noting that Attorney General William Barr has, in both the Flynn and Stone cases, taken “control of legal matters of personal interest to President Donald Trump, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.”

    A quote from the piece rang true: “This signals to me that there has been a political infestation,” NBC News legal analyst Chuck Rosenberg, a former U.S. attorney in Virginia, said on MSNBC. “And that is the single most dangerous thing that you can do to the Department of Justice.”

    While the Justice Department would clearly prefer that the public believe a more benign version of events — the DOJ argued yesterday, for example, that it was just a coincidence that the department backed off a Stone sentencing memo after a presidential tweet on the subject — Donald Trump clearly isn’t helping matters. He published this tweet a few hours ago:

    “Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought. Evidence now clearly shows that the Mueller Scam was improperly brought & tainted. Even Bob Mueller lied to Congress!”

    That was soon followed by another condemnation of the original Stone sentencing memo, in which the president questioned whether it was prepared by “rogue prosecutors” and members of “the swamp.”

    Or put another way, it appears Trump, relying on Twitter, blurted out an admission of sorts, confirming that his handpicked attorney general “took charge” of a case involving one of his friends and former campaign aides, unnecessarily intervening in criminal proceedings.

    It’s a curious thing for the president to celebrate in public, though he does have a habit of inadvertent confessions.

    Link

  236. says

    From Trump:

    Who are the four prosecutors (Mueller people?) who cut and ran after being exposed for recommending a ridiculous 9 year prison sentence to a man that got caught up in an investigation that was illegal, the Mueller Scam, and shouldn’t ever even have started?

    From former FBI lawyer Lisa Page:

    To Aaron and Adam, Jonathan and Michael: I am sorry for the agony you are about to endure, and for the pain & betrayal you will feel at the hands of your beloved Dept. Know that you are on the right side of history & that we are so very proud of you for defending the rule of law.

  237. says

    From Mark Sumner:

    […] It was a staggering sequence of events—Trump demanding a lighter sentence for someone who participated in both collusion and obstruction for Trump’s own campaign; Barr stepping in to give Trump what he wants; U.S. attorneys who had spent their whole careers with the Justice Department protesting in the only way available to them by resigning; Trump responding by mocking them and threatening to prosecute both them and others. In a matter of just a few hours, every possible flare had been launched to reveal that the Department of Justice wasn’t just being politicized—it was being corrupted, turned into an instrument of Trump’s will.

    And then Barr doubled down. As NBC News reports, Barr has taken “control of legal matters of personal interest to President Donald Trump.” That includes persecution of Trump’s enemies, such as former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe. That includes protecting Trump allies such as Roger Stone and Michael Flynn. Barr isn’t turning the Justice Department into a political instrument—he’s already done that. He’s using his role to create revisionist history and to actively support and generate nothing less than corruption.

    […] Barr has already proven, with his manipulation of the special counsel’s report and his round-the-world conspiracy hunt, that he’s up to the job. And now the attorney general of the United States has officially made himself Donald Trump’s personal attorney—except that this personal attorney has the ability to protect Trump’s friends, persecute his enemies, and bring an end to the idea of apolitical justice in America.

    […] Barr withdrew the attorney who had been handling Flynn’s case from the beginning and replaced him with a new attorney who rewrote the sentencing guidelines to suggest that there was no need for Flynn to be punished for his lying, obstruction, and defiance of investigators. Instead, the new recommendation was probation.

    What’s happening in both the Flynn and the Stone cases is an overt subversion of the role of the attorney general and the Department of Justice. And Trump isn’t backing away—far from it. He has stated that he has an “absolute right” to tell the DOJ what to do. In addition to threatening the attorneys who withdrew from the case, Trump also expressed “congratulations” to Bill Barr in his new role of minister of justice, or prosecutor general, or whatever.

    When the Republicans in the Senate voted to allow Trump to get away with abuse of power and obstruction, he did learn a lesson. […] that he can do anything. There are no laws except the laws that Trump declares. No justice except that which he permits. No republic remaining except what he deigns to allow.

    That may seem like an exaggeration. It’s not.

    Link

  238. says

    About Senator Warren’s speech last night:

    It was clear Sen. Elizabeth Warren was highly unlikely to win New Hampshire as the early results flowed in. So in her election night speech Tuesday, Warren gave a boost to someone else — the top remaining female contender in the first-in-the-nation primary. […]

    Warren conceded that she would not come out on top in the Granite State, telling supporters, “Right now, it is clear that Sen. Sanders and Mayor Buttigieg had strong nights.”

    But, she added, “I also want to congratulate my friend and colleague Amy Klobuchar for showing just how wrong the pundits can be when they count a woman out.” […]

    Warren dropped in another compliment for Klobuchar toward the end of a speech that focused on her recent pitch as the party’s unity candidate and emphasized that despite stumbles in the first two states, her campaign is “built for the long haul.”

    “Amy and I are the only candidates in this race who are not billionaires or supported by Super PACs,” Warren said, repeating a line from last Friday’s primary debate that highlights her focus on removing the influence of money in politics.

    Link

  239. says

    https://www.wonkette.com/pull-the-f-cking-fire-alarm

    […] By now, unless you’ve solely been paying attention to the New Hampshire primary, you know that yesterday was a very bad day for America and for the rule of law and for our status as a free country. After career prosecutors recommended a seven-to-nine year sentence for Roger Stone, […] Attorney General Bill Barr intervened like the low rent Big Lots rest stop Roy Cohn he is, decided that sentence was too long, and embarrassed the entire justice system by having his new low-rent (acting) US attorney for DC file a supplement that said actually Roger Stone should go to jail for a lot less time. After all, Stone is a Trump crony, therefore the laws shouldn’t apply to him.

    This led all four career prosecutors on the Stone case to say fuck off, I am out of here. ALL FOUR. We hasten to point out that that is not a thing that happens, and if it happens, it means people are pulling the fucking fire alarm. Indeed, after only the second prosecutor pulled out, former US attorney Joyce Vance called it a “4-alarm fire.” […]

    But amazingly that’s not all the tyrant shit Trump and the men […] pulled yesterday. Consider these stories that all broke in the space of about 24 hours:

    […] Headlined “Barr takes control of legal matters of interest to Trump, including Stone sentencing,” it details where exactly Barr’s grubby paws have been. For instance:

    Why did the US attorney overseeing the investigation into former acting FBI director and Trump bête noire Andrew McCabe get removed all of a sudden in January, after that investigation found pretty much no crimes to charge McCabe with, on account of how he didn’t commit crimes? Barr.

    That was Jessie Liu, the US attorney for DC who was handpicked by Trump and who also oversaw the Stone prosecution, the Flynn prosecution, and everything else that’s gone through the DC district. It was weird when Liu was pushed out all of a sudden. But worry not, everyone, don’t pay attention! Liu was merely being appointed to a fancy schmancy job over at Treasury, […]

    Barr of course replaced Liu with his own handpicked idiot, Timothy Shea, in an acting capacity for now (of course), and that is the guy whose embarrassing signature is on yesterday’s DOJ “just kidding!” filing in the Stone case.

    As NBC News explains, during the throes of Trump’s impeachment, Barr’s DOJ also quietly got the sentencing recommendations for Michael Flynn, who hired a Fox News emoji-addicted conspiracy theory lawyer to literally blow up his plea deal, changed from “jail” to “what about NOT jail,” in a filing that came the very same day they kicked Jessie Liu out of her job, […]

    Except for how yesterday, Donald Trump pulled her nomination for that fancy job at Treasury, undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes, we guess as part of his campaign of revenge against all who do things Dear Leader does not like […]

    And what’s the status of Michael Flynn’s sentencing, which has been scheduled and then unscheduled 50 times in the last year? Oh, just unscheduled again. Thanks, Bill Barr!

    […] Don’t you think that, considering the political magnitude of Barr’s moves this week, a real attorney general who had done nothing wrong and really thought he was acting in America’s best interests would be out there trying to explain himself?

    Yeah, you’d think that.

    Let’s Fuck Over Somebody At The Pentagon Who Committed The Unpardonable Sin Of Not Wanting To Commit Crimes For Donald Trump!

    If you’ve been a voracious reader of the limited number of emails we’ve seen of Trump committing his criminal Ukraine aid freeze in real time, you might know the name Elaine McCusker. She’s the top budget person at the Pentagon, and you can read the back-and-forth emails between her and Trump’s political lackeys at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), but the short version is that she was saying HEY, UM, I AM TRYING TO HELP KEEP EVERYBODY FROM COMMITTING CRIME HERE? CAN WE NOT DO CRIME? In response, OMB told her that if the Pentagon wasn’t able to spend the money appropriated for Ukraine by the end of the fiscal year — DUE TO TRUMP’S CRIMINAL AID FREEZE — then they were just going to blame the Pentagon.

    “You can’t be serious. I am speechless.” That was an actual quote from Elaine McCusker, one of the many people the Senate didn’t want to hear from in Trump’s Moscow Mitch sham impeachment trial in the Senate.

    Anyway, Trump has decided to fuck her over. She had been nominated to be the comptroller and chief financial officer at the Pentagon, and now she is not nominated for that. (She had been serving in the role in an acting capacity, natch.) […]

    In other words, she doesn’t want to do crimes for Trump, and that is against Trump’s “foreign policy agenda.”

    Let’s Punish Alexander Vindman Some More, Just In Case We Haven’t Punished Him Enough Yet!

    You know, by unceremoniously firing him, and firing his twin brother, in retaliation for Vindman, the NSC’s Ukraine expert, obeying a lawful congressional subpoena and telling the truth about the Trump Ukraine crimes he witnessed.

    Trump just casually dropped yesterday that MAYBE the military should punish Vindman for his non-crimes, MAYBE, not that Trump would know anything about that, he stays out of all these things, he swears!

    “That’s going to be up to the military, we’ll have to see, but if you look at what happened, they’re going to certainly, I would imagine, take a look at that,” Trump said in response to a follow-up question about what he meant when he said, “the military can handle him.”

    Weird, that’s exactly what Trump says about Bill Barr doing his dirty work for him. Whether Trump is really talking to Bill Barr, or mob-whispering to Bill Barr, or saying nothing to Bill Barr because Bill Barr already knows what grievous acts Trump wants him to commit on his behalf, is almost not relevant. Trump is just saying maybe Vindman needs to go through some things, just like he said on his treason call with Ukraine, which Vindman witnessed, that former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was going to “go through some things.”

    Guess we’ll have to see whether Defense Secretary Mark Esper was serious when he said he would protect people like Vindman and whistleblowers who tell the truth from retribution, or if, like a common Trump official, he was lying. He already failed to protect Vindman from getting fired.

    Pull the fire alarm, that’s where we are as a nation right now.

    And reread Masha Gessen’s “Autocracy: Rules For Survival,” published two days after the 2016 election. You need a refresher, and so do we.

  240. says

    Trump contradicts himself about the economy:

    In public, President Donald Trump likes to boast about—and usually inflate—the performance of the American economy on his watch. He picks through the numbers to take credit for everything good and sorts out everything not-so-good for dumping on his predecessors. The result: lots of exclamation points!

    BEST USA ECONOMY IN HISTORY!
    —————
    Market up big today on very good economic news. JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!
    ——————–
    While the world is not doing well economically, our Country is doing better, perhaps, than it has ever done before. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!

    If you lived in a bubble where Twitter Trump was your sole news source, you’d be pretty fired up, which makes it odd that on Monday the very same Trump White House said it intends to slash a scheduled pay raise for civilian federal employees. Cutting the 2.5 percent raise set for 2021 to 1 percent for millions of federal workers seems a bit austere in the face of such self-proclaimed boom times. Even more absurdly, Trump is justifying ordering the cut on the grounds that the country is in the midst of a “national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare,” which the White House says authorizes the president to “implement alternative plans for pay adjustments.”

    So which is it? The best economy in the history of economies or a national economic emergency? Either way, somebody’s lying.

    Link

  241. tomh says

    Texas Sues California In Supreme Court Over Travel Ban To States Allowing LGBTQ Discrimination

    This week, the state of Texas filed an original suit in the U.S. Supreme Court against the state of California challenging California’s ban on the state paying for travel by its employees to other states that allow discrimination against LGBTQ individuals or families. The complaint (full text of complaint and brief in support) in State of Texas v. State of California, reads in part:

    California has enacted and is enforcing economic sanctions against Texas, Texas citizens,and Texas businesses. California has targeted Texas and its residents because To Texas protects the religious freedom of faith-based child welfare providers within its borders….
    California’s sanctions against Texas and Texans are born of religious animus and violate the Constitution’s Privileges and Immunities Clause…

    The complaint and brief in support of the state’s motion for leave to file a bill of complaint which is attached to the complaint seeks an order forcing California to take down its travel ban or remove Texas from it.

  242. says

    The Democratic presidential field is now down to nine candidates. Still too many. The top candidates in national polls are Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Mike Bloomberg and Amy Klobuchar … in that order nationally. The state by state polls vary a lot.

    Amy Klobuchar is finally raising some serious money. $2.5 million overnight after a strong 3rd place showing in New Hampshire (which is added to the approx. $2.5 million she also raised after Friday’s debate, in which she performed well).

    Elizabeth Warren is widely acknowledged to have the best ground game of all the Democratic candidates, with a well-organized presence in upcoming primary states. We’ll see how much good that does her. Former New York City Mayor Bloomberg can afford both more TV ads and more staff than other candidates.

    In other news: Mitt Romney is, so far, surviving Trump’s wrath:

    Following Sen. Mitt Romney’s (R-Utah) vote to convict Trump on one impeachment count, some GOP lawmakers in his latest home state introduced measures to censure and/or recall the freshman senator. Yesterday, Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson (R) said the Republican-led chamber will not pursue either proposal.

  243. says

    Those four prosecutors who withdrew from the Stone case found out about the DOJ reversal through Fox News!

    The four (now former) prosecutors in Roger Stone’s criminal case reportedly weren’t told directly that the Justice Department would be watering down their recommended prison sentence of seven to nine years on Tuesday.

    The New York Times reported that the four prosecutors, Aaron Zelinsky, Adam Jed, Jonathan Kravis and Michael Marando, found out about the DOJ’s shocking decision only after hearing about it on Fox News.

    The prosecutors withdrew from Stone’s case when news of the sentence reversal emerged. One of them, Assistant U.S. attorney Jonathan Kravis, resigned from the Justice Department entirely.

    The DOJ’s new filing for a more lenient sentencing did not specify exactly what sentence Stone ought to receive, arguing only that the original recommendation was “excessive and unwarranted.” […]

    TPM link

    From the readers comments:

    I hope they weren’t surprised. Trump est l’État, and Fox is the official White House megaphone.
    ——————-
    Judge ABJ will call them in for a hearing under oath is my guess. And Kravis, being a civilian now, is free to talk to Rachel. Hopefully tonight. I may be expecting a little too much on that last part.
    ——————
    She’s a federal judge with god-like powers within the scope of her courtroom, but I have a hard time coming up with any legitimate reason for her to put people on the witness stand over this. DOJ etiquette is not within her general purview.
    ——————-
    She will follow the standard sentencing guidelines, Stone will Appeal, pointing out the “revised” DOJ recommendations, the sentence will be overturned at the Circuit Level 2-1, and be referred up to the SCOTUS, who won’t take it up until next session.
    If Trump wins in November, he Pardons EVERYBODY. If he loses, SCOTUS will uphold the Judges sentence, in late 2021.
    ———————–
    Being ethical attorneys, none of them is likely to say a damn thing publicly until the sentencing and appeals are over most likely…unless called in by the judge to answer for and explain this mess.
    ———————–
    The theme here is that there is no ‘government’, with procedures, norms, rules, laws, chains of command, reporting relations, and so on. There’s only a skein of power relations.

    The US seems to be making a transition to this model with amazing rapidity.

  244. says

    More on Mitt Romney’s standing in Utah:

    https://kutv.com/newsletter-daily/we-stand-with-mitt-student-republicans-of-utah-crowdfund-billboard

    Photo at the link.

    Many Utahans know Mitt to be a man of great faith and character. Most are proud of what he has done, despite what the media might say. We want to take this opportunity to thank Mitt for his integrity, character, and faith in doing what he thought was right, especially when it wasn’t easy.

    Mitt’s decision last week was a perfect representation of how Utahans have always felt. That is, that principles and values always come before party. Student Republicans of Utah is proud to stand with Mitt.

  245. says

    Cookies: conservative “news” sites track users a lot more than do left or liberal-leaning news sites.

    This is from Andy Greenberg, writing for WIRED:

    In an age of hyper-partisanship, Americans increasingly get their news from sites that align with their political beliefs. But more separates those right- and left-leaning sides of the web than their opposite ideologies. According to a new study, the right end of the fractured online news industry also tracks its audience far more aggressively than the left does.

    In a study published last week, researchers from King’s College London, the privacy-focused browser firm Brave, and the research arm of Spanish telecom firm Telefonica compared the surveillance practices of left- and right-leaning news sites across the web. They found that sites classified as right wing plant on average about 10 percent more cookies—bits of data that allow sites to identify the user and their previous browsing history—than their left-wing counterparts: 65 cookies for the average right-wing site versus 58 for the average left-wing one.

    When it comes to partisan news outlets that rank among the 10,000 most popular sites online, the difference was even more stark. Popular right-leaning outlets analyzed by the researchers placed 227 cookies in a user’s browser, versus 131 for the median popular left-leaning counterparts. When the researchers ordered popular sites by how many cookies they placed, the contrast at the top end of surveillance-happy sites was even more pronounced: The top 25 percent of conservative sites in terms of tracking planted well over 300 cookies in browsers, versus less than half that number for that same top 25 percent slice of liberal sites. […]

    The researchers then crawled both the right- and left-leaning lists of political websites that BuzzFeed had defined with a set of web-browsing “personas,” essentially bots designed to impersonate real users whose browsers had previously visited sites that marked them as belonging to certain demographics. Male personas were prepped by visiting sites like MensHealth.com and GQ.com, for instance, while female personas were preloaded with cookies from Cosmopolitan.com or Womansday.com.

    The researchers found that female personas generally attracted more cookies from all the sites than male ones, and older personas received more cookies than young ones. That targeting of women and seniors fits with assumptions in the advertising industry that both groups respond well to targeting […] But less expected was the researchers’ other finding: That conservative sites placed far more cookies regardless of demographics. FoxNews.com, the most popular right-leaning site, placed around 4 percent more cookies in women’s browsers than MSNBC.com, the most popular left-leaning site as categorized by BuzzFeed. It also placed 34 percent more cookies in men’s browsers, 26 percent more cookies in young people’s browsers, and 30 percent more cookies in seniors’ browsers.

    So why do right-leaning sites track users more than left-leaning ones? The researchers’ explanation is simple, if not altogether satisfying: Advertisers are willing to pay more to get their ads in front of conservative audiences. […]

    They found that the cost of advertising on right-leaning sites was significantly higher: on average, about 67 cents per thousand impressions, versus 56 cents per thousand impressions on a left-leaning one. Among the top 25 percent most expensive ads they saw, however, the right-leaning sites had an even greater advantage, with ads that were as much as five times as expensive as those found on their more liberal counterparts. Since those prices are generally set by an ad exchange auction, they suggest that more advertisers are bidding to show ads on right-leaning sites than on left-leaning ones. […]

  246. says

    Then and now:

    In June 2016, Bill Clinton had a chat on a tarmac with then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and according to everyone involved, it was a fairly brief and inconsequential social interaction. […]

    But as Politico reported at the time, then-candidate Donald Trump, among other Republicans, went a little berserk during a radio interview in response to the “controversy.”

    “It is an amazing thing,” Trump said. “I heard about it last night. They actually went on to the plane as I understand it. That’s terrible. And it was really a sneak. It was really something that they didn’t want publicized as I understand it. Wow, I just think it’s so terrible, I think it’s so horrible.”

    […] Much of the political world was hair-on-fire outraged about the mere possibility of political interference involving the nation’s chief law enforcement official. As regular readers may recall, Americans were told it was wildly inappropriate for the former president to engage the sitting attorney general in conversation.

    Why? Because according to those who saw the tarmac chat as scandalous, Bill Clinton might’ve used the opportunity to pressure a top Justice Department official, which could’ve had the effect of influencing the direction of prosecutorial decisions.

    There was no evidence of any informal lobbying — by all accounts Clinton and Lynch spoke about grandchildren and golf — but that didn’t matter. The mere possibility was widely seen as scandalous. Or as Trump argued at the time, it was “terrible,” “horrible,” “massive,” and “amazing.”

    Forty-two months later, we’ve seen a sitting Republican president have all kinds of conversations with Justice Department officials — even those overseeing investigations into his White House — just as we’ve also seen Trump forge a partnership with his handpicked attorney general, who’s now intervening in cases involving convicted felons close to the president.

    Everyone who took that story seriously, or at least pretended to, should face a follow-up question now: are Trump’s efforts to politicize the Justice Department as outrageous as the June 2016 tarmac chat?

    Link

  247. says

    Representative Jim Jordan is one of Trump’s most vociferous lickspittles. Jordon, however, is still in hot water over his cover-up of sexual abuse during his years as assistant coach of the Ohio State University wrestling team.

    […] Former OSU wrestling team captain Adam DiSabato testified to his state’s House Civil Justice Committee on Tuesday. As reported by cleveland.com, DiSabato had little patience for statehouse gamesmanship. “Are you guys going to do what you’re voted to do? That’s the only reason I’m here.”

    Jordan still stands accused of helping to cover up for sexual abuse of students by then-team doctor Richard Strauss during the period Jordan worked as assistant coach for the team. Multiple former students came forward in 2018 to assert that Jordan knew of the abuse, because they had told him of it or witnessed him being told of it, but that Jordan did nothing; Jordan remains defiant, claiming that all of them are lying.

    Despite the scandal, Jordan remains in good standing—possibly, even, in improved standing—with House Republicans, who have elevated him to higher and higher visibility roles in defending the party’s topmost sexual assaulter, Donald Trump. (The caucus appears to believe that covering for a predator is, in fact, the precise background needed for the current fight.) Back in Ohio, however, state lawmakers are mulling a bill enabling Strauss victims to sue OSU for his actions and their cover-up. […]

    Ohio State has tabulated nearly 1,500 sexual abuse allegations against Strauss. That is the behavior that Jim Jordan and other Ohio State officials claimed to be completely unaware of.

    DiSabato again described Jordan’s actions to the committee, as he has before, including Jordan “crying, groveling” in a phone call in which Jordan asked DiSabato to deny the allegations of his own brother Michael in order to defend Jordan.

    Whether any of this will make a dent in own Jordan’s ability to stonewall his way out of a scandal that would have very, very quickly forced the resignation of any lawmaker, back in the days when Republicans were not openly defending crimes committed by their own party members, remains unclear. None of them, after all, have a stitch of shame. From Alabama to Ohio, abetting sexual predators seems to have embedded itself as a new and rock-solid Republican Party policy plank. […]

    Link

  248. says

    Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has also ended his presidential campaign. He joins Senator Michael Bennet and Andrew Yang as the latest Democrats to drop out of the race.

  249. says

    Republicans in the House boycotted a hearing chaired by Adam Schiff.

    Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee boycotted a hearing Wednesday on emerging technology and national security, calling it a “distraction” and contending that the panel should be focused on “urgent and critical concerns” like a recent watchdog report identifying errors and abuses in the FBI’s domestic surveillance program.

    Republicans outlined their concerns in a letter to the committee’s chairman, Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), and the GOP side of the dais sat empty as the hearing began.

    “Given the committee’s access to highly sensitive information, it is concerning that you prioritize publicity events rather than the more productive work that occurs in the committee’s classified spaces,” they wrote, in a missive led by ranking member Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and signed by the panel’s eight other Republicans.

    Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), who chaired Wednesday’s hearing, called the GOP boycott a “sad and dangerous” break from the committee’s long history of “compartmentalizing” politically charged feuds to handle the nuts and bolts of intelligence work.

    “That Rubicon has been crossed,” he said, calling the GOP’s letter “as wrong-headed as it is mendacious.”

    Himes attributed the GOP gambit to bitterness over the House’s impeachment effort, which the Intelligence Committee led throughout the fall. Schiff engineered a process that led to 17 top White House, State Department and Pentagon officials testifying about Trump’s effort to press Ukraine to investigate his Democratic rivals. The committee’s final report on the matter included phone records that indicated Nunes had been in touch with Trump associates involved in the Ukraine effort.

    Schiff has previously indicated that his panel would continue the Ukraine probe in the aftermath of impeachment, but after last week’s acquittal by the Senate, the panel has yet to take any public moves to indicate the probe is continuing.

    Politico link

    Well that’s rich: Nunes accusing Schiff of prioritizing publicity events.

  250. says

    Some Republicans are speaking out publicly to say that they disagree with Trump’s meddling in pending sentencing of some of his associates (like Roger Stone).

    […] “I don’t like this chain of events where you have a … proceeding, a sentencing, a recommended sentence, the president weighs in and all of the sudden Justice comes back, says ‘change the deal.’ I think most people would look at that and say ‘hmm, that just doesn’t look right.’ And I think they’re right,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told reporters. […]

    Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told reporters that Trump “should not have gotten involved.”

    “I think the president would be better served by never commenting on a pending federal investigations. I said that back when the Mueller investigation was going on, and it’s certainly the case when you’re at a sentencing stage,” Collins said, asked about Democrats’ claims of political interference. […]

    Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he didn’t think Trump was trying to “bully” the judge who will ultimately decide Stone’s sentence. But, he added, he didn’t think the president should be publicly weighing on pending sentences either.

    “I don’t think he should be commenting on cases in the system, I don’t think that’s appropriate,” Graham told reporters. […]

    “The judge will make a decision and I have confidence in the independence of the third branch,” Romney told reporters. “[But] I can’t begin to spend time discussing the president’s tweets. That would be a full-time job.”

    Asked if he didn’t think there was political interference, Romney added, “I certainly hope not, and I think the appearance is unfortunate.”

    Link

    Those comments from Republicans are pretty weak tea considering what is going on here.

  251. says

    In the UK some teens got tired of waiting for education regarding climate change. Doktor Zoom wrote about the issue for Wonkette:

    British high school students would very much like to have a human-friendly planet when they’re older, thank you very much. So instead of just waiting for Parliament to finally get funkadelic with teaching about climate in the nation’s schools, they’ve produced their own bill that would mandate a climate education program […]

    The “Teach the Future” campaign was launched by 17-year-old Joe Brindle, who the Guardian reports “is preparing for his A-levels in Devizes, Wiltshire” […] Brindle’s motivation is pretty straightforward: He says he’s “angry about the injustice that is allowing the most vulnerable people in the world to suffer from the actions of the richest and most powerful.”

    Isn’t that just typical of the selfishness of youth? Not a single bit of empathy for investors in fossil fuel companies.

    […] The group ran a successful crowdfunding campaign to hire a “professional parliamentary draftsperson,” which is how legislation gets written in countries that don’t have the Koch brothers and ALEC to block climate legislation. […]

    “We didn’t want our demands to be half met, so we thought we’d show them exactly what we want,” says Brindle. Hiring an experienced drafter was a nifty move to quash any notion that young people’s ideas are unworthy of serious consideration.[…]

    It all sounds like a remarkably savvy strategy to at least blunt some of the inevitable “what do stupid teens even know” reaction that crops up whenever the Right is reminded that Greta Thunberg exists.

    Later this month, the bill will be formerly introduced by Nadia Whittome, who appropriately enough is the UK’s youngest member of Parliament. Beyond the proposed legislation, Teach the Future has a list of six demands for action, starting with a call for a government commissioned review into how the whole of the English formal education system is preparing students for the climate emergency and ecological crisis.

    In addition, the group wants the climate emergency to be included in all teacher training, and for all new public school buildings to have a net carbon-zero footprint starting in 2022. […] Almost makes me wish I was teaching college writing again, because it’s a hell of a good written argument. […]

    We don’t just want future ecologists to understand sustainability. We want bankers, builders and everyone else to consider it in everything they do.

    […] young people like Joe Brindle and his young American counterparts in the climate strike movement are going to need all their networking and communication skills, because the pushback from friends of dirty energy will be intense. Today, the rightwing super PAC “America Rising” launched an effort to frighten Americans about the Green New Deal, saying it would eliminate “8,000,000 jobs,” which sounds scary, at least until you consider the National Climate Assessment’s forecast that if we keep burning fossil fuels at current rates, the US GDP will drop ten percent by the end of the century, with losses of “hundreds of billions of dollars per year” in property and infrastructure. Plus, there’s the whole thing where the whole point of the Green New Deal is about job creation and strengthening workers’ rights.

    By contrast, the US Department of Energy estimated there were already 6.4 million jobs in the clean energy sector as of 2017, and that’s before we even start talking about new energy plants and the massive number of workers needed to rebuild infrastructure and buildings. A 2019 Brookings Institution report forecast that the energy sector alone would see huge growth, with new jobs being created in “320 unique occupations spread across three major industrial sectors: clean energy production, energy efficiency, and environmental management.” Plus higher wages for workers than in the overall national economy.

    Allow yourself a little optimism today. And make damn sure we all have the teens’ backs.

    Link

  252. says

    Taking a closer look at recent vote totals in Iowa and New Hampshire:

    In 2016, Bernie Sanders won roughly 50% of the Iowa vote (if not more; no popular vote was recorded). This year? His final vote was 26.5%, essentially halved.

    In 2016, Sanders received 152,193 votes in New Hampshire in a 60-38 blowout of Hillary Clinton. This year, he barely eked out a one-point victory over […] Mayor Pete Buttigieg, receiving only 75,690 votes, or 25.7% of the vote. Again, he lost half of his 2016 support.

    It gets worse for a campaign whose entire theory of the case is that they can reshape the electorate by bringing out more young voters and economically disenfranchised: He’s not only regressing from his 2016 numbers, but his numbers fell in college areas in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Buttigieg won Hanover, home of Dartmouth College, with Sanders getting 1,078 votes. He got 2,286 votes there in 2016. In Durham, home of the University of New Hampshire, Bernie got 1,660 votes last night, compared to 2,871 four years ago. Bernie Sanders is a weak candidate, having lost ground after four years of nonstop campaigning. But he’s the front-runner, because everyone else is weaker. […]

    Meanwhile, anecdotally, it seems as if Elizabeth Warren lost a great deal of New Hampshire support to Amy Klobuchar, who suddenly was deemed “more electable.” […]

    Given the volatility of this race, and the lack of any standout Obama-esque candidates, I should be wary of counting any candidates out, but Joe Biden sure looks to be on his last legs. He was already having trouble raising money, and bailing on New Hampshire before the vote was even finished being cast was a classless move. Not to mention that he didn’t go to Nevada, next on the list. He went to South Carolina, his original and only remaining firewall. His collapse in the public national polling is breathtaking. It’s as if the nation’s Democrats collectively realized what so many of us had been saying all along: He’s a terrible candidate! There was a reason he failed at this twice before!

    However, the damage he caused this field is incalculable. He single-handedly knocked out Kamala Harris and Cory Booker from the race, two candidates who might be having moments right now if they had been able to raise the money to stay in. He damaged the electability arguments of Elizabeth Warren, underscoring the bullshit idea that our best bet in November is a white male.

    No white male has ever gotten 63 million votes in a presidential election. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both hit 65 million. When our nominees look like our base, we perform better. But this latent fear of the white Republican voter, stoked by Biden, did a real disservice to the women in the race. So he stomps into the race, when no one was asking for him, damages serious, credible candidates by dint of his name recognition, and then runs the most godawful campaign of the cycle, leaving nothing but a damaged legacy in its wake. Unbelievable.

    Elizabeth Warren argues that she’s built a campaign for the long haul […] I see her as the only candidate left that can bridge the party’s left-center divide, not to mention the smartest of the lot […] Assuming she still has money in the bank, she’s going to have to show some strength in the coming contests to get back into contention. […]

    Warren may not be out of it, but she’s definitely dropped to the second tier. And there’s certainly urgency to place well sooner rather than later. Even a second-place finish in Nevada would be a welcome boost.

    That leaves the last candidate still really in the race—Michael Bloomberg. His spending is rapidly approaching the half-billion mark in his decidedly nongrassroots, media-heavy “campaign.” […]

    Now, we’ve long talked about the left splitting the vote, giving someone like Biden the chance to win over a fragmented opposition. But what we’ve just seen is the fragmenting of the center lane! Biden is on the ropes, and Buttigieg and Klobuchar are untested. So in comes Bloomberg, spending tens of millions weekly, and muscles them out of the way with that same bullshit electability argument that has been so effectively used against Warren. […] He’s a gazillionaire. Money is how he solves everything.

    It doesn’t help that he’s giving Trump fits, and it’s enjoyable to see him give Trump fits! But nominating Bloomberg would be a betrayal of everything Democrats stand for […] If we truly do nominate a former Republican white male billionaire autocrat who is buying an election, then shit, we never stood for diversity, income equality, and taking money out of politics. It’s fucking depressing. […]

    Link

  253. says

    All the best people.

    One good measure of how very, very far down an unpleasant rabbit hole the nation has plunged is simply this: John Bolton’s time as national security adviser now seems not so awful. Sure, Bolton is a paranoid warmonger who never met a bomb he didn’t like. On the other hand, he did seem to have some concerns other than whether he was making Donald Trump happy in every moment. When it comes to new national security adviser Robert O’Brien, the best that can be said is that he seems to be … unencumbered by ethics.

    On Tuesday, not only did O’Brien embrace xenophobic Twitter conspiracy theories that the coronavirus outbreak in China might be a bioweapon, but he also claimed that the removal of both Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and his twin brother from the National Security Council was not retaliation for Vindman’s testimony during House impeachment hearings against Donald Trump. […] that claim is absolutely counter to what Trump has openly admitted.

    O’Brien’s claims about Vindman came at the same venue where he made his chuckling suggestion that China might have created a virus that has now infected over 40,000 of its own citizens,[…] O’Brien claimed that he could “absolutely” say that the Vindman brothers were “not retaliated against.” Instead, said O’Brien, it was simply “time for them to go back” to the Army, because “their services were no longer needed.”

    Alexander Vindman was the White House’s top expert on Ukraine, including on its governmental affairs and its military concerns. Clearly Trump no longer needs that expertise. He has Rudy Giuliani to fill that role. Yevgeny Vindman’s role on the NSC was as an expert on international law and ethics. So … clearly a superfluous position in the Trump White House.

    Of course, Trump has given a different reason for the removal of Alexander Vindman, calling him a “never Trumper” and saying that he was “very insubordinate” for responding to a congressional subpoena and reporting his concerns about the plot to extort Ukraine. In an appearance on Tuesday, Trump told reports that Vindman had “reported a false call,” without explaining what he meant by this. […]

    And O’Brien might even have an excuse for passing on Twitter-based conspiracy theories about the origin of the Corvid-19 virus: On a National Security Council so depleted of resources that only those loyal to Trump remain, conspiracy theories from the back side of the web might be the best intelligence available.

    Link

  254. says

    Figures on the far right fringe of conservative movements have moved (and continue to move) to the centers of political power.

    […] For much of its existence, the Freedom Caucus was an annoyance to Republican leaders, who bristled as Freedom Caucus members rejected GOP bills they deemed insufficiently radical. For Republicans like former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), lawmakers in the Freedom Caucus deserved to be seen as pariahs.

    […] Roll Call reported this week that two of the founding members of the House Freedom Caucus “have risen the ranks to the top of two prominent panels.”

    On Tuesday, the House Republican Conference is expected to approve recommendations from its Steering Committee that Ohio’s Jim Jordan become the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee and that North Carolina’s Mark Meadows take his place as ranking member of the Oversight and Reform Committee.

    If there’s a GOP majority in the U.S. House anytime soon, it stands to reason that Jordan and Meadows would become chairmen of their respective powerful panels.

    […] South Carolina’s Mick Mulvaney was a Freedom Caucus member, before Donald Trump put him in charge of overseeing the Office of Management and Budget, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and ultimately, the White House.

    Florida’s Ron DeSantis was a Freedom Caucus member, before being elected governor. Oklahoma’s Jim Bridenstine was also a Freedom Caucus member, before being tapped to lead NASA.

    Jeff Sessions was considered “a fringe figure” in GOP politics, but Donald Trump made him the attorney general. During his congressional career, Mike Pence earned a reputation as something of a lawmaker on the radical periphery, with a voting record well to the right of House members such as Michele Bachmann and Louie Gohmert, but Trump chose him to be vice president.

    […] Stephen Miller “spent years on the political fringe” before he started shaping the sitting president’s agenda. Mainstream Republicans spent years keeping Southern Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress at arms’ length, but he’s now a popular figure in the West Wing. […]

    those who were dismissed as fringe extremists a generation ago […] now represent the Republican Party’s conservative wing, which dominates the party at the national level.

    Barring a dramatic electoral backlash, this won’t change anytime soon.

    Link

  255. says

    Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey:

    Let’s talk about jobs. President Trump claimed he would be ‘the greatest jobs president that God ever created,’ and has repeatedly criticized President Obama’s jobs record. Let’s compare the last three years of the Obama presidency to the first three years of the Trump presidency. Can you guess who created more jobs?

    Menendez had the data, all the numbers, to back up these facts: Trump has now been in office for three full years (36 months), and during that time, the economy has created 6.56 million jobs. In the final full three years of Obama’s presidency, the economy created 8.08 million jobs.

    Some conservatives start counting Trump’s job totals from when he was elected in November 2016, and not from when he took office, but if you do that (which is misleading) Obama still wins in the number of jobs created. In 2019 of the Trump administration, job growth fell to an eight-year low.

    Meanwhile Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin continues to heap praise on Trump’s record of job creation. Mnuchin is a lickspittle. He is helping Trump lie.

  256. says

    More discussion concerning Trump’s politicization of Justice Department actions:

    […] The New York Times has a striking report on the developments and the degree to which Trump’s actions defy American norms — especially in the post-Watergate era — and represent “ground-shaking conduct” that has demolished “once-sacrosanct guardrails.” But of particular interest was the reporting on the chilling effect taking root at the DOJ. The Times spoke with more than a dozen career lawyers in U.S. attorney’s offices, and found prosecutors who “raised new fears of what is to come” and “worried they might face more pressure.”

    Prosecutors across the United States, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid reprisals, said this week that they had already been wary of working on any case that might catch Mr. Trump’s attention and that the [Roger Stone] episode only deepened their concern. They also said that they were worried that [Attorney General Bill Barr] might not support them in politically charged cases.

    The pernicious nature of this dynamic is less obvious than Trump’s overt interference in criminal-justice matters involving his friends and associates, but it’s every bit as dangerous. At issue are prosecutors who no longer need to feel direct pressure from the White House, because they’ve internalized certain political assumptions.

    Traditionally, prosecutors would be expected to consider cases based on merit — the evidence, the seriousness of the crime, the likelihood of a conviction, the impact on related investigations, etc. — but in 2020, prosecutors are confronted with new concerns.

    If they pursue a case the president dislikes for political reasons, will their work be rejected by Trump and his sycophants? Will it be condemned on Fox News? Will their careers be derailed for filing charges against a presidential pal? […]

    Link

  257. says

    John Kelly served as Trump’s chief of staff for 17 months. That’s a long stint, especially in the Trump administration, where turnover is high.

    Kelly is a retired Marine general. He is now speaking out about his time in the Trump administration, and about current news. This is an excerpt from an article in The Atlantic:

    Over a 75-minute speech and Q&A session, Kelly laid out, in the clearest terms yet, his misgivings about Trump’s words and actions regarding North Korea, illegal immigration, military discipline, Ukraine, and the news media.

    From Steve Benen’s summary, here are more details:

    […] The retired general, who also led the Department of Homeland Security in the president’s first year, made clear he had a problem with Trump’s actions against Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. And Trump’s intervention in the case of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, an accused war criminal. And Trump’s Ukraine extortion scheme. And Trump’s policy toward North Korea. And Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric. And Trump’s anti-journalist rhetoric.

    The Atlantic’s report added, “At times Wednesday, Kelly sounded like the anti-Trump.”

    […] Kelly also took former White House National Security Advisor John Bolton’s side when the president went after him. Soon after, Kelly publicly criticized Senate Republicans for not going further to scrutinize the president’s illegal extortion scheme as part of Trump’s impeachment trial.

    It’s no small thing that the man who served at Trump’s right hand in the White House for 17 months seems increasing opposed to his former boss and Team Trump’s agenda. Kelly, perhaps more than any official alive, knows exactly how the president operates. […]

    By all appearances, Kelly did not come away from the experience with a great deal of respect or admiration for the amateur in the Oval Office.

    […] the last time Kelly expressed some concerns about Team Trump, the White House issued an official statement with a decidedly North Korean flare.

    “I worked with John Kelly, and he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great President,” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in October.

    Link

  258. says

    When it comes to Roger Stone, Trump is in a hole and still digging:

    As criminal proceedings against Republican operative Roger Stone move forward, and Donald Trump’s longtime ally and adviser prepares to receive his felony sentence, the president’s rhetoric about the case has grown more agitated — and dishonest. In fact, Trump’s rhetoric about the case appears to have helped spark a crisis of integrity at the Justice Department.

    Yesterday in the Oval Office, however, [Trump] pushed matters in a farcical and self-serving direction. He began by lashing at federal prosecutors from his own administration, insisting, “They ought to go back to school.” But as part of the same harangue, the president went quite a bit further:

    “[N]obody even knows what he did…. It’s a disgrace. And, frankly, they ought to apologize to a lot of the people whose lives they’ve ruined.”

    Say, what now!? Nobody knows what Stone did? Really? Read the charging documents, Hair Furor.

    Asked if he intended to pardon Stone, Trump added, “I don’t want to say that yet. But I tell you what: people were hurt viciously and badly by these corrupt people.”

    […] There is no evidence of corruption among the prosecutors involved in this case. There’s also no reason to believe Stone deserves an apology over his willingness to commit felonies and get caught.

    But what struck me as most notable was the president’s assertion that “nobody even knows” what Stone did. Trump returned to the point at the same White House event, adding soon after, “[N]obody even can define what he did.”

    In reality, there’s no ambiguity at all: prosecutors charged the Republican operative with a seven-count indictment, which Trump is welcome to read at any time, and after a jury trial, Stone was found guilty on all charges. There’s no mystery here; it’s all quite plain. Several people close to the president — including Trump’s former chief strategist (Steve Bannon) and deputy campaign chairman (Rick Gates) — even gave sworn testimony during the trial. […]

    what Stone did was lie in defense of Trump.

    If he pardons Stone for his crimes, it would be among the most serious abuses of presidential pardon power in American history. It would signal that a legal landscape now exists in which those who commit felonies in support of Trump will be protected from legal consequences.

    As Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) explained this week, “It’s really, really, really dangerous for the republic.”

    Link

    From MSNBC News:

    Prosecutors portrayed Stone, 67, as a serial liar who tried to bully witnesses into not cooperating with authorities. They charged Stone, a confidant of […] Trump, with making false statements, obstruction and witness tampering in a case that was an offshoot of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

    From The Washington Post:

    […] Stone didn’t turn on Trump, and Trump, in return, has risen to Stone’s defense. On Tuesday, he publicly upbraided the Justice Department for seeking a sentence of seven to nine years for his ally. Shortly afterward, the Justice Department announced plans to soften its proposal — a shift that prompted the entire prosecutorial team involved in the Stone conviction to resign. […]

    “Nine years for doing something that nobody even can define what he did,” Trump said. “Somebody said he put out a tweet, and the tweet, you based it on that. We have killers, we have murderers all over the place, nothing happens — and then they put a man in jail and destroy his life, his family, his wife, his children. Nine years in jail.”

    Stone probably won’t serve nine years in jail and, in fact, is not currently incarcerated. Trump is being hyperbolic, as he tends to be, to emphasize how unfair such treatment of Stone would be. This is also why he’s claiming that Stone’s crimes are murky, to prompt people to wonder why someone so clearly innocent should face so harsh a punishment. […]

    What Stone did is well-documented. It was also done in service to Trump, something of which Trump is certainly aware.

    Stone had a formal role with Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign until August 2015 […] From that point on, he was one of a series of informal advisers who was in regular contact with the candidate.

    […] Stone gave Trump a heads-up on a significant development in the campaign: the release by WikiLeaks in July 2016 of material stolen from the Democratic National Committee by Russian hackers. Cohen claims that he overheard Stone informing Trump of the release, prompting Trump to say something along the lines of “wouldn’t that be great?” […]

    At Stone’s trial, prosecutors made clear what they saw as his motivation for lying to Congress and, later, pressuring Credico not to testify honestly about their interactions.

    “The evidence in this case will show that Roger Stone lied to the House Intelligence Committee because the truth looked bad for the Trump campaign and the truth looked bad for Donald Trump,” prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky said during his opening statement.

    At the conclusion of the trial, prosecutor Jonathan Kravis echoed that sentiment.

    “He knew that if the truth came out about what he was doing in 2016, it would look terrible,” he said. “Roger Stone knew that if this information came out, it would look really bad for his longtime associate Donald Trump.” […]

    Trump is now going after the jurors in Stone’s trial.

  259. says

    Followup to comment 409.

    Trump is escalating this current crisis with an attack on the jury foreman in Roger Stone’s trial.

    Now it looks like the fore person in the jury, in the Roger Stone case, had significant bias. Add that to everything else, and this is not looking good for the “Justice” Department.

    Josh Kovensky:

    […] There is no evidence in the public record that Stone’s own attorneys have formally raised any issues with the foreman since the conclusion of the trial.

    “The President oughta just butt out of it and let the process work its course,” Mark W. Bennett, a former Iowa federal judge, told TPM. “There are going to be jurors that are Democrats, Republicans, Independents; just because somebody is registered as a Democrat or active in the Democratic party doesn’t mean that they couldn’t be fair in the case.”

    “The President is totally out of control,” William Yeomans, a former deputy assistant attorney general, told TPM, adding that Trump was trying to “rewrite history” and “delegitimize” the convictions that came out of the Mueller investigation. […]

    The current spate of attacks on the jury foreperson come one day after an unsealed order in Stone’s case showed that the GOP operative’s defense team had pushed for a retrial, alleging that another juror in the case was tainted.

    The judge quickly denied that request, noting that Stone’s legal team was afforded the chance at the start of the trial to select jurors and remove potential members of the jury.

    “When jurors come to court, they don’t have to be totally ignorant, they can be aware of public affairs, they can have lives outside the jury,” Yeomans said. “The only question is whether they are capable of putting aside preconceived beliefs, and coming to an honest conclusion based on the facts and the law,” he added.

    Under the federal criminal justice system, Stone’s defense had the same right to do that as prosecutors, all under the supervision of an impartial judge — in this case District Judge Amy Berman Jackson. […]

    Link

  260. says

    Followup to comments 368, 377, 381 and 385 from SC. Followup to comment 389 from me.

    U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu has resigned.

    Jessie Liu, the former U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, has resigned from the Treasury Department after having her nomination to a new post in the department withdrawn by [Trump]

    Liu’s resignation punctuates a wild, month-long ride for the former top federal cop in D.C.

    Trump nominated the prosecutor on Jan. 6 to become Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes, while she was still serving as the U.S. attorney for an office handling several high-profile political cases including those of Michael Flynn and Roger Stone.

    Then, on Jan. 30, Attorney General Bill Barr announced that his close adviser Timothy Shea would be taking over as U.S. Attorney on an interim basis, even though Liu had not been confirmed for her new role at the Treasury Department yet. The move came as prosecutors in Liu’s office revised their sentencing recommendation for Flynn, the Trump-allied former national security adviser, telling the court that probation would be sufficient for his offenses. […]

    Multiple reports linked the Stone sentencing recommendation and other politically sensitive cases to Trump losing faith in Liu as a nominee.

    TPM link

    Jesse Liu worked on the Trump transition team, and even she is not subservient enough for Trump. And from all appearances, her office’s recommendation of no-jail-time for Flynn was not enough to save her. She didn’t recommend probation for Roger Stone. I wonder how long it will be before she tells her story to the media.

  261. says

    Oh, FFS. She was out of the swamp and now she is returning. Hope Hicks is “boomeranging back to the White House.”

    […] The former White House communications director who worked on President Trump’s 2016 campaign is set to take on a new role in her old stomping grounds. The White House confirmed to TPM that although Hicks will not be part of the communications team, she will be working closely with senior adviser Jared Kushner and political director Brian Jack “in a number of strategic areas.”

    The New York Times first reported the news.

    “There is no one more devoted to implementing President Trump’s agenda than Hope Hicks,” Kushner said in a statement obtained by TPM. “We are excited to have her back on the team.” […]

  262. says

    So, Trump had Melania put the Medal of Freedom around Rush Limbaugh’s neck when Limbaugh attended the SOTU as Trump’s guest.

    Now Limbaugh is spewing this kind of hate:

    […] During his radio program, Limbaugh referred to the former South Bend mayor as “Booty-judge” and described him as “a gay guy” who “loves kissing his husband on debate stages.”

    “Can you see Trump have fun with that?” Limbaugh said.

    The radio host went on to call Buttigieg “a gay guy kissing his husband on the debate stage” another three times and compared him to Trump, whom Limbaugh called “Mr. Man.”

    “You ram it down Trump’s throat and beat him in the general election. Really?” he said with a snicker. “Having fun envisioning that.” […]

    Limbaugh is notorious for loudly spitting racist, misogynistic and homophobic remarks over the airwaves, and he actively trafficked in the “birther” conspiracy theory about former President Barack Obama.

    He lost hundreds of sponsors during a particularly infamous controversy in 2012 after calling law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” who’s “having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception” after she testified to Congress on requiring health insurance companies to cover contraceptives.

    The Buttigieg campaign did not respond to request for comment at the time of publication.

    Link

    And that, my friends, is the state of our union.

    And what the heck is the deal with homophobes always referencing something being rammed down someone’s throat?

  263. says

    Followup to comment 408.

    […] “We teach them, ‘Don’t follow an illegal order. And if you’re ever given one, you’ll raise it to whoever gives it to you that this is an illegal order, and then tell your boss,’” [said former White House Chief of Staff and retired Marine Corp. Gen. John Kelly]

    Apparently catching wind of Kelly’s remarks, Trump took to Twitter to bash his former chief of staff on Wednesday.

    “When I terminated John Kelly, which I couldn’t do fast enough, he knew full well that he was way over his head,” he tweeted. “Being Chief of Staff just wasn’t for him.”

    Trump also claimed Kelly has a “military and legal obligation” to “keep his mouth shut.”

    Trump fired Vindman from the National Security Council and he was escorted out of the White House last week. Trump also suggested on Tuesday that the military should take disciplinary action against Vindman.

    “That’s going to be up to the military, we’ll have to see,” Trump said. “But if you look at what happened, I mean, they’re going to certainly, I’d imagine, take a look at that. What he did was, he reported a false call.”

    Yeah, we knew it wouldn’t take Trump long to extend his denigration campaign against John Kelly.

    From John Kelly:

    The media, in my view, and I feel very strongly about this, is not the enemy of the people. We need a free media.

    That said, you have to be careful about what you are watching and reading, because the media has taken sides. So if you only watch Fox News because it’s reinforcing what you believe, you are not an informed citizen.

  264. says

    When is it too late?

    So William Barr says, sure, he’ll be happy to explain why he intervened to put the kibosh on his own Justice Department team’s sentencing recommendation for convicted liar and witness tamperer, Roger Stone. Just as soon as he gets around to it.

    Just let me consult my busy calendar, he says…How’s about March 31, at the earliest? No? That doesn’t satisfy you? You think by that time I won’t have shut down every single investigation into Trump’s money laundering operation for Putin, Inc., purged every Justice Department employee who took his oath to the Constitution seriously, and muscled Ukraine into concocting more dirt on Joe Biden’s son—and anyone else, for that matter– just to make sure the big guy enjoys an easy sail to re-election […]

    And then, you think I won’t just show up and lie, assuming I show up at all? Because one word from the big guy and I’ll just spend the week sipping Valpolicella in sunny Italy dredging up some more lies on the taxpayer’s dime! Or, maybe sharing a vodka toast, Skyping with my cronies in Kyiv! All he’s got to do is say, “don’t show up,” and I’m gone, boys! What, you’re going to do something about it, Congress? What are you going to do? Subpoena me?

    The most egregious failure of the Democratic Congress in this Impeachment saga has been their reflexive unwillingness to call this Administration’s bluff and subpoena everyone from John Bolton to Mick Mulvaney to Stephen Miller–all of these psychopathic wretches all the way up to the fat, sociopathic rapist himself, to testify before Congress.

    Oh no, we can’t do that—it’ll take years to wind through the Courts, the thinking went. […]

    go ahead. Serve the subpoenas. When they’re ignored, as they certainly will be, file the Motions. Ask for expedited hearings. When they appeal, ask for expedited hearings again. On every issue. Make them sweat. Ask these wonderful judges what could possibly be more important than investigating an Executive that now resembles nothing less than an organized crime syndicate. […] We’re certainly not going to be any worse off than where we are now, because these people are not going to stop.

    Let’s just get it all on record, let the chips fall. Jail the motherfuckers if they don’t cooperate, and let them file their own appeals. The way things are going right now there may never be another chance. […]

    Link

  265. says

    Here is a list of the eight contenders left in the Democratic Party presidential primary race:

    Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Tulsi Gabbard, and Tom Steyer. (In no particular order.)

  266. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 413

    This is why I don’t subscribe to the “I wouldn’t wish cancer on my worst enemy” school of thought.

  267. says

    Trump is a bigot. Many members of his administration are bigots, (looking at you Stephen Miller). Muslims are a frequent target. House Democrats disagree, and they are passing legislation that shows they are serious.

    The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday voted 22-10 to advance the NO BAN Act, which would terminate impeached president Donald Trump’s Muslim ban, to the full House floor. Politico reports that the vote was split along party lines, with Democrats voting in favor of ending this discriminatory policy, and Republicans voting in favor of continued state-sanctioned discrimination against Muslims.

    Advocates cheered the bill’s passage in committee, with the executive director of the civil rights organization Muslim Advocates, Farhana Khera, saying in a statement, “This historic bill could be the first ever passed by a chamber of Congress to specifically affirm the civil rights of American Muslims.” […]

    Advocates noted the urgent need for this legislation due to the fact that the Trump administration is expanding its ban to an additional six nations. Nimra Azmi, a staff attorney with Muslim Advocates, said during a press call this week, “Because of the expanded Muslim Ban, the total number of Muslims banned from the U.S. has increased from roughly 140 million to more than 320 million. And there are more than a million Americans who were born in these banned countries and still have family there.

    “There is no reason, apart from discrimination, to tear these families apart,” Azmi continued. During the House hearing last year, Ismail Alghazali, a U.S. citizen, testified that his wife, Hend, and their two children, 1-year-old Khaled and 5-month-old Rahf, have been stuck in Yemen and unable to join him due to the ban. While he was there for Khaled’s birth, he had to return to the U.S. to financially support the family. Rahf was born after he left. “I’ve never even met my daughter,” he told legislators. […]

    Arizona’s Rep. Debbie Lesko had the gall to claim that the Muslim ban “has nothing to do with religion,” which the committee’s chair, Rep. Jerry Nadler, said was easily disproven by Trump’s own words. “The president got up and said, we will ban all Muslims from coming into this country until we figure out what the hell is going on, unquote,” he said. […]

    Link

  268. says

    Senators voted to put the brakes on Trump’s power to attack Iran. However, Trump says he will veto the bill.

    Eight Senate Republicans voted with all 47 Democrats on Thursday to rein in President Trump’s ability to take military action against Iran, paving the way for a veto showdown with the White House.

    Senators voted 55-45 on the resolution, spearheaded by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), that would require Trump to pull any U.S. troops from military hostilities against Iran within 30 day unless he gets congressional approval for the military actions. […]

    GOP senators who supported the resolution argued it was about clawing back some of the warmaking authority Congress has ceded to the executive branch in recent decades, and not a personal slight directed at Trump.

    That group comprised Sens. Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.), Susan Collins (Maine), Todd Young (Ind.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Bill Cassidy (La.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska). […]

    Democrats have leveraged procedural loopholes that let them force votes over the objections of most Republicans, including McConnell, and pass resolutions with only a simple majority.

    The Senate marked a historic first in December 2018 when it voted to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, the first time since the implementation of the War Powers Act in 1973 that the chamber passed a resolution under the law. Republicans, who then controlled the House, blocked the resolution, but Congress passed it again in early 2019 and forced Trump to issue his second veto.

    Congress followed that up in July 2019 with legislation to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. That resulted in another three vetoes from Trump, all of which Congress failed to override.

    Each of those, similar to Thursday’s vote, passed with the support of Democrats and less than a quarter of the GOP caucus.

    The White House has pledged that the president will veto the resolution if it reaches his desk, arguing that it “fails to account for present reality.” […]

    Trump urged Republicans to reject the resolution in a pair of tweets, arguing that “Democrats are only doing this as an attempt to embarrass the Republican Party.”

    “It is very important for our Country’s SECURITY that the United States Senate not vote for the Iran War Powers Resolution. We are doing very well with Iran and this is not the time to show weakness. Americans overwhelmingly support our attack on terrorist Soleimani,” he added. “If my hands were tied, Iran would have a field day. Sends a very bad signal.” […]

    The Senate would not have the votes to override a veto. But Kaine argued that even forcing Trump to use a veto could serve as a check on the president’s actions. […]

    Link

  269. says

    From Wonkette:

    […] Kamala Harris […] demanded Tuesday that the Senate Judiciary Committee bring in Barr to account for how the Department of Justice skipped to Donald Trump’s lou over Roger Stone’s sentencing.

    From a letter Harris sent to the chair of the Judiciary Committee:

    The Justice Department’s decision to overrule its career prosecutors, immediately after President Trump’s tweet, calls into question the independence and integrity of our legal system. Failure to meet basic oversight responsibilities in the face of such alarming news would send a signal to this and future administrations that the Senate no longer conducts itself as a co-equal branch of government.

    Unfortunately, the Senate Judiciary Chairman is Lindsey Graham, who is both corrupt and shameless. Graham said Wednesday that he had no intention of interrupting Barr’s busy schedule of one-sided sentencing reform. Undaunted, Harris tweeted this message detailing in clear, concise legal terms why Bill Barr is an underhanded shady loser.

    HARRIS: The United States Department of Justice announced that they were recommending that Roger Stone, who is Donald Trump’s friend and ally and … guy … be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison for the crimes he committed. Well, guess what happened? Donald Trump then of course tweets his disagreement with the recommended sentence. Trump’s boy, Bill Barr, who is also the attorney general … and who runs the Department of Justice, retracts the sentencing recommendation.

    I love t