Friday, August 17, 2018

Last Call For Russian To Judgment, Con't

There's very little doubt now that both Republican US senators in my state are deeply involved in the Trump regime's Russia malfeasance, Mitch McConnell because of his role of protecting Trump as GOP Senate majority leader, and Rand Paul as proxy for Russia's powerful oligrarchs in the Senate.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) says he will ask President Trump this weekend to lift sanctions against top Russian officials so they can visit the United States later this year.

Paul said members of both bodies of Russia's legislature had agreed to come to the United States to continue talks after the GOP senator visited Moscow earlier this month.

"They have both agreed to come to Washington in the fall for further meetings. That's a good thing. The downside is the chairman of each of the committees is banned from coming to the United States because of sanctions," Paul told Fox News's Laura Ingraham. 
He added that to overcome the blockade he will ask the president, when they talk this weekend, to "take people off the list who are in the legislature."

Paul didn't specify who specifically he would ask be removed from U.S. sanctions lists.

But Paul met with Konstantin Kosachev, the chairman of the Russian Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs, during his trip to Moscow. Kosachev was targeted during a new wave of sanctions announced earlier this year.

Paul's trip to Moscow raised eyebrows in Washington, where many of his colleagues have been skeptical of Trump's warmer stance toward Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Spokesmen for both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told The Hill last week that they had not invited, and we're not discussing inviting, their Russian counterparts to visit the Capitol

Kosachev indicated earlier this month that Moscow would be interested in organizing a meeting between members of the Russian legislature and their U.S. counterparts.

Paul and his Ron father have been deep into Russian "useful idiot" damage to the US for years, unlike Trump's overweening greed, for Paul it's ideology.  Even McConnell thinks this is a bad idea, removing sanctions on Russia's legislative leaders, all installed by or members of Putin's circle of oligarchs, is foiling exactly the "hit them in the wallet" damage that Congress insisted on Trump doing.

Rand Paul doing this under the cover of "diplomacy" is atrocious.  Both of my Senators need to go, but neither one is up for reelection this year unfortunately, and KY Dems have all kinds of problems putting together any sort of real challenge anyway (see Conway, Jack, and Grimes, Alison).

Russia has both my senators in their grip.  That terrifies me as an American and as a Kentuckian.

It's About Suppression, Con't

The prospect of states becoming purple has caused Republicans to go insane and push massive Jim Crow-style laws, voter identification scams, intimidation tactics, and disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of black voters over the last four years. It's happened in Ohio, it's happened in Alabama, it's happened in Wisconsin, it's happened in North Carolina, it's happened in Mississippi, and it's happened in multiple other GOP-controlled states

When President Obama reminded Democrats that this was going on and that the way to fight this was registration and exercising that right to vote, we ignored him and had the lowest midterm turnout in generations in 2014, and one of the lowest turnouts for a presidential election in 2016.

Now Jim Crow has returned to Georgia in the Trump era just in time to prevent the nation's first black woman as Governor.

Civil rights advocates are objecting to a proposal to close about 75 percent of polling locations in a predominantly black south Georgia county.

The Randolph County elections board is scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss a proposal that would eliminate seven of nine polling locations in the county, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. Included in the proposed closures is Cuthbert Middle School where nearly 97 percent of voters are black.

"There is strong evidence that this was done with intent to make it harder for African Americans," ACLU of Georgia attorney Sean Young said. The ACLU has sent a letter to the elections board demanding that the polling places remain open and has filed open records requests for information about the proposal to close the polling places.

County elections board members did not immediately respond Wednesday to a phone message seeking comment on the proposal.

Young and others from the ACLU plan to attend the elections board meeting Thursday.

According to the latest census figures, Randolph County's population is more than 61 percent of black, double the statewide percentage.

The median household income for the county was $30,358 in 2016, compared to $51,037 in the rest of the state. Nearly one-third of the county's residents live below the poverty line, compared to about 16 percent statewide, according to U.S. Census figures.

It is Republicans who say we have to cut polling precincts, but always in blue counties with large numbers of black and brown voters.  It is Republicans who say we must have strict voter ID laws to stop non-existent voter fraud that happens to disenfranchise black and brown voters. It's Republicans who say we have to end early voting in order to "save local governments money" after cutting state voting budgets and preventing black and brown working-class voters from casting votes on days other than Tuesday.

This is voter suppression.  It's working better than the GOP could have ever hoped.

Deportation Nation, Con't

Attorney General Jeff Sessions continues to remove as much judicial oversight and due process as he can from deportation proceedings in order to speed up the Trump regime's inevitable mass deportation scenario.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday sought to speed up the deportation of illegal immigrants, telling immigration judges they should only postpone cases in removal proceedings “for good cause shown.”

Sessions, in an interim order that was criticized by some lawyers, said the “good-cause” standard “limits the discretion of immigration judges and prohibits them from granting continuances for any reason or no reason at all.”

Unlike the federal judiciary system, U.S. immigration courts fall under the Department of Justice and the attorney general can intervene. Sessions, a Republican former U.S. Senator appointed by President Donald Trump, has been unusually active in this practice compared to his predecessors.

Sessions has led efforts by the Trump administration to crack down on illegal immigration, including a “zero tolerance” policy that separated immigrant parents from their children while they were in U.S. detention. Trump abandoned the separation policy in June under political pressure.

Critical in showing “good cause” is whether a person is likely to succeed in efforts to remain in the United States, either by appealing for asylum or receiving some form of visa or work permit, Sessions said on Thursday.

Stephen Kang, an attorney with the ACLU immigrants rights project, described Sessions’ order as “troubling” and one of a series that “has moved in the direction of restricting due process rights for individuals who are in removal proceedings.”

Kang said Sessions seemed to portray immigrants seeking more time to prepare their cases as trying to “game the system and avoid deportation.”

Kang said removal proceedings were complex and people needed time “both to get lawyers to ensure that their due process rights are protected and time just to make sure their cases get a fair hearing.”

Sessions doesn't want fair hearings or due process or any of that.  He wants deportations of people deemed undesirable by the Trump regime.  And if you think for a second that this will be limited to just "illegal immigrants" you haven't been paying attention to the regime's stated plans this year to remove due process, end legal immigration, denaturalize immigrant citizens and revoke their citizenship, discharging immigrants who served this country to earn citizenship, turn ICE and the Border Patrol into intelligence agencies, sue states and cities over sanctuary laws, turn the 2020 Census into a tool to hunt the undocumented and harm blue states with large immigrant populations, separate immigrant children from their parents and keeping them in detention camps, all but end refugee settlement programs, and revoke green cards for those who get on social safety programs.

It will not be long before the regime starts applying these tactics to citizens of the US who are critics. We cheerfully call them "dissidents" in other countries, people locked up by autocratic regimes for "crimes against the government".  We're not that far away from having our own dissidents rounded up here in America.  As I said two months ago, we're at a hard six, heading for seven in the ten statges of genocide.


Thursday, August 16, 2018

Last Call For It's Mueller Time, Con't

The revocation of former CIA Director John Brennan's security clearance, and Trump's tweets this week suggesting that both the firing of Peter Strzok and the decision on Brennan were made as petty revenge, roundly clear the decks for Special Counsel Robert Mueller's obstruction of justice recommendations.

President Trump drew a direct connection between the special counsel investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election and his decision to revoke the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan and review the clearances of several other former officials.

In an interview Wednesday, Mr. Trump cited Mr. Brennan as among those he held responsible for the investigation, which also is looking into whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Mr. Trump has denied collusion, and Russia has denied interfering.

Mr. Brennan was director of the Central Intelligence Agency in the Democratic administration of former President Obama and one of those who presented evidence to Mr. Trump shortly before his inauguration that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election.

“I call it the rigged witch hunt, [it] is a sham,” Mr. Trump said in an interview. “And these people led it!”

He added: “So I think it’s something that had to be done.”

Mr. Brennan—who since leaving office has become a frequent critic of the Republican president—in a tweet called the revocation of his clearance “part of a broader effort by Mr. Trump to suppress freedom of speech & punish critics.” He wrote it “should gravely worry all Americans, including intelligence professionals, about the cost of speaking out.”

Brennan is correct here, but let's set some ground rules on this particular debate.  First of all, Brennan was a terrible Obama choice, and he was problematic well before he ever became CIA Director.  But at least he went out swinging on Donald Trump and Russia.  He may be a career CIA crapsack, but he recognizes the threat that Trump represents.

And that brings us to the fact that Trump is happily bragging that Strzok, Brennan, and other critics of Trump who worked on the Russia investigation have been fired for working on the Russia investigationTrump is happily copping to obstruction here.  Remember, Brennan left as soon as Trump became Commander-in-chief.

So yeah, at this point Mueller has to be ready to recommend obstruction, and the fight will go to SCOTUS.  Trump wants to make sure Brett Kavanaugh is in place before that happens.

Stay tuned.

The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

Nate Silver and the 538 crew give the Democrats at 70-75% chance to take the House at this point, with a predicted gain of 32-35 seats, with the polls showing an average of an 8-point lead in the generic ballot for the Dems.

Things are so bad for the GOP at this point that Republicans are openly predicting the loss of control of the House will assure an easy Trump 2020 reelection bid, because Democrats can never, ever win.

There’s a new way of demonstrating loyalty to Donald Trump and his Republican Party: Claiming that the president could not only survive an impeachment effort, but that it would guarantee his victory in 2020.

The idea gaining currency on the right is that Trump can be Bill Clinton, not Richard Nixon. It depends on a delicate political calculation — that a Republican-held Senate would never follow a Democratic House and vote to remove Trump, and that voters tired of the long-running Russia scandal will, as they did in the late 1990s with Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky scandal, want to move on.

The notion has surfaced spontaneously among a diverse set of conservatives, including politicians with Trump’s ear and young ultraloyalists of the president whose institutional knowledge of the GOP begins with its new standard-bearer. They’re also the die-hards who aren’t afraid to align themselves with pro-Trump positions even before the president has warmed to them himself.

In interviews, more than a dozen Republican politicians, activists and consultants — including some current and former Trump campaign aides with direct lines to the president — said they are increasingly convinced a Democratic House victory in the midterms and subsequent impeachment push would backfire and ultimately help the president in 2020.

If they take the House, he wins big,” Barry Bennett, a former senior adviser to the Trump campaign, told POLITICO. “The market always overcorrects.

The reality of course is that Clinton was capable of contrition.  "I feel your pain" saved him, whereas Trump couldn't perform even the most simple act of empathy.  Of course, it wasn't enough to save Al Gore because of the Supreme Court, and much the same may await us in 2020.  There's no reason to believe Trump will win the popular vote then, either.

But he can still very well end up being reelected...

Russian To Judgment, Con't

At this point, we have to actively consider that Donald Trump is encouraging countries like Russia to use cyber warfare against the United States in order to take advantage of the damage done by both state and non-state actors to help ensure Republicans maintain control of Congress after the midterm elections.

President Trump has reversed an Obama-era memorandum governing how and when the U.S. government can deploy cyberweapons against its adversaries, in an effort to loosen restrictions on such operations, according to people familiar with the action.

Mr. Trump signed an order on Wednesday reversing the classified rules, known as Presidential Policy Directive 20, that had mapped out an elaborate interagency process that must be followed before U.S. use of cyberattacks, particularly those geared at foreign adversaries.

Although the policy was classified, its contents were made public when it was leaked in 2013 by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden. It was signed by Mr. Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, in 2012.

It wasn’t clear what rules Trump is adopting to replace the Obama directive. A number of current U.S. officials confirmed the directive had been replaced but declined to comment further, citing the classified nature of the process.

Because I totally trust this regime with taking the safeguards off cyber warfare, don't you?

The move was described as an “offensive step forward” by an administration official briefed on the decision, one intended to help support military operations, deter foreign election influence and thwart intellectual property theft by meeting such threats with more forceful responses.

The policy applies to the Defense Department as well as other federal agencies, the official said, while declining to specify which specific agencies would be affected. John Bolton, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, began an effort to remove the Obama directive when he arrived at the White House in April, the official said.

Some lawmakers have raised questions in recent months about whether U.S. Cyber Command, the chief agency responsible for conducting offensive cyber missions, has been limited in its ability to respond to alleged Russian efforts to interfere in U.S. elections due to layers of bureaucratic hurdles.

As designed, the Obama policy required U.S. agencies to gain approval for offensive operations from an array of stakeholders across the federal government, in part to avoid interfering with existing operations such as digital espionage.

An October surprise cyber offensive against Iran would certainly make things interesting, wouldn't it?

Of course, there's still Trump doing everything he can to placate Putin, too.

When President Trump signed a $716 billion military spending bill on Monday, he claimed the authority to override dozens of provisions that he deemed improper constraints on his executive powers.

In a signing statement that the White House quietly issued after 9 p.m. on Monday — about six hours after Mr. Trump signed the bill in a televised ceremony at Fort Drum in New York — Mr. Trump deemed about 50 of its statutes to be unconstitutional intrusions on his presidential powers, meaning that the executive branch need not enforce or obey them as written.

Among them was a ban on spending military funds on “any activity that recognizes the sovereignty of the Russian Federation over Crimea,” the Ukrainian region annexed by Moscow in 2014 in an incursion considered illegal by the United States. He said he would treat the provision and similar ones as “consistent with the president’s exclusive constitutional authorities as commander in chief and as the sole representative of the nation in foreign affairs.”

The only countries that recognize the annexation of Crimea by Russia are Russia and the United States.  Think about that.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Last Call For Uncle Ben's House Of Pain

Meanwhile, the Trump regime continues to reverse every Obama-era policy it can find, and in the end few people in the cabinet will have done more damage to black people in America than HUD Secretary Ben Carson.

In a press release on Monday, the Department of Housing and Urban Development made its firmest commitment yet to tear down the Obama-era framework for enforcing the Fair Housing Act.

In a public notice dated Thursday, Aug. 9, HUD outlined its reasons for quashing the 2015 “affirmatively furthering fair housing” rule (AFFH), which had been the strongest effort in decades to crack down on segregation and discriminatory practices in and by American cities and suburbs. HUD Secretary Ben Carson cited the Obama administration’s “unworkable requirements” in a statement, saying the rule “actually impeded the development and rehabilitation of affordable housing.” Under AFFH, Carson said, cities and other HUD grantees had “inadequate autonomy” according to his understanding of federalism.

Neither criticism, fair housing experts say, is accurate. The AFFH rule told cities to set fair housing goals, but not how to meet them. It was flexible on doctrinaire questions like: Should assistance go to people or places?

Neither did the rule seem likely to dampen the supply of affordable housing. “It’s important and worthwhile and corresponded to the importance of what it’s designed to do,” says Andrea Ponsor, the COO of Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future, which advocates for the preservation and production of affordable rental housing. “We were very supportive of the rule and we don’t feel like it had its opportunity to work yet.”

It's the usual conservative bromide: protections against discrimination are always bad for business.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Monday, Carson framed the change as a way to bolster housing production across the board. “I want to encourage the development of mixed-income multifamily dwellings all over the place,” he told the paper. While it’s true that the affordability crisis is in part rooted in housing starts per capita hitting a 60-year low, the Fair Housing Act is intended to attack segregation, not scarcity.

That comment does not mesh with Carson’s established philosophy. In his only published commentary on housing policy before his appointment to HUD, he called the 2015 AFFH rule “social engineering” that would “fundamentally change the nature of some communities from primarily single-family to largely apartment-based areas.” Fair housing advocates would have found that a dreamy, if outlandish scenario. Recipients of Community Development Block Grants have been required for decades to “affirmatively further fair housing,” but have rarely if ever been punished by HUD for not doing so.

A quick glance at the notice reveals that while the secretary contradicts himself, the outlines of a policy—to the extent they can be read that way—hew closely to conservative orthodoxy on housing, which is to reject federal efforts to demolish the walls that wealthy white suburbs have built. HUD’s new approach does not appear likely to increase production or decrease segregation. Instead, it poses a series of questions that appear almost painfully rudimentary on the heels of the Obama administration’s six-year effort to draft the AFFH rule (and 50 years of rampant local disregard for the FHA), such as:

• “Instead of a data-centric approach, should jurisdictions be permitted to rely upon their own experiences?”

• “How much deference should jurisdictions be provided in establishing objectives to address obstacles to identified fair housing goals, and associated metrics and milestones for measuring progress?”

One of HUD’s new goals is to “provide for greater local control,” a phrase understood to conjure the strict, racially-motivated land use laws that were developed by American suburbs to keep out minority populations.

So protecting affordable housing from discrimination is destroying affordable housing, the same way protecting lenders from discrimination by banks and mortgage shops "caused the 2008 Great Depression".  The "Community Reinvestment Act wrecked the economy because banks were forced to give loans to poor black and Latino people who couldn't afford them" is the worst zombie lie of the last decade.

Now Carson is resurrecting it to do the same thing to housing.  It's sickening.  But this is who the Trump regime is.

The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

With 83 days until the 2018 Midterm elections, it's time to check in with the Cook Political Report after primaries this week in Connecticut, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Vermont, and it's not just shaping up to be a Blue Wave in the House, it's a Blue Tsunami.

For Republicans, the 2018 House playing field is a lot like a game of Whack-a-Mole: everywhere they turn, new problems keep popping up in surprising places. In January, we rated 20 GOP-held seats as Toss Ups or worse, including three leaning towards Democrats. With today's changes, we now rate 37 GOP-held seats as Toss Ups or worse, including ten leaning towards Democrats.

Republicans are relieved that state Sen. Troy Balderson appears to have eked out a win in Ohio's 12th CD special election last week. But a new round of polls shows several more GOP incumbents, including Reps. Mimi Walters (CA-45) and Tom MacArthur (NJ-03) highly vulnerable. Their seats, along with Rep. Robert Pittenger's open NC-09, move from Lean Republican to the Toss Up column.

On the bright side for Republicans, a handful of their battle-tested incumbents appear to be defying the "blue wave" in Democratic-leaning seats. Recent campaign polling shows Reps. David Valadao (CA-21), Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), John Katko (NY-24) and Will Hurd (TX-23) with impressive initial leads in districts Hillary Clinton carried. This week, Curbelo moves from Toss Up to Lean Republican.

Here's the latest Cook chart:

Even if the Dems lose in PA-14, just by taking the ten GOP seats that now lean Dem and splitting the toss-ups 50/50 you get 22 seats, just shy of retaking the House.

Democrats will do a lot better than splitting the toss-ups.  Should the dam break as I expect it to with Dems getting 75% of the toss-ups, 50% of the lean GOP seats, and a quarter of the likely seats, that's somewhere around 45 seats, well more than enough to retake the House.

And should it be a 2010 bloodbath, that could turn into 60+ seats very quickly.  If the primary turnout last night was any indication, the Republicans are in dire straits.

While measuring primary turnout isn’t a perfect way to gauge how the general election will play out — primary voters, after all, don’t necessarily equal general-election voters — it’s unmistakable that more Democratic voters participated last night. (And while Scott Walker, for example, faced little opposition in his GOP primary in Wisconsin, there was a competitive Republican contest for Senate.) Here’s a look at the turnout in last night’s gubernatorial primaries: 
  • Minnesota: Dem 580,962; GOP 319,276
  • Wisconsin: Dem 537,840; GOP 456,007
  • Connecticut: Dem 211,499; GOP 142,890
  • Vermont: Dem 57,102; GOP 35,840

But that scenario only happens when we vote.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman predicts Trump will pardon Paul Manafort, and he's nearly assured to be correct in that assumption as Manafort's defense in his tax evasion trial has rested without calling a single witness.

Going on the stand himself was probably never under consideration, since cross-examination would have been a nightmare. It’s unclear whether Manafort had any fact witnesses who could refute the evidence that was offered in the prosecution’s case. And there may not be anyone around who would testify to Manafort’s sterling character, both because few people want to be associated with him today and because he has long been known as a particularly immoral schemer, almost a walking caricature of the mercenary lobbyist willing to do anything for a buck. It’s unclear whether, even if they had wanted to, his defense could find someone to stand up and say Manafort is a great guy who would never do the things he is accused of.

From the beginning, there has been a question hanging over Manafort’s case: Why won’t he flip? After all, other Trump aides have when faced with possible jail time, and Manafort is facing more than anyone. There’s a real possibility he’ll never see another day as a free man. One popular explanation is that he’s afraid that if he tells everything he knows, some people in Russia would become displeased enough to kill him. The oligarch Oleg Deripaska, whom Manafort supposedly owes $19 million, allegedly has links to a Russian organized crime group.

So Manafort may have decided that it’s better to take his chances with a jury than to find a strange substance smeared on his door handle one day. It’s also possible Manafort really has nothing to offer special counsel Robert S. Mueller III about Trump, that his activities, criminal though they might have been, never actually involved the president. That would mean he has no one to flip on.

So where does Trump fit in to all this if Manafort doesn't have incriminating evidence to give to Mueller?  Simple: Trump still has to pardon him.

But let’s imagine for a moment that he knows something incriminating about the president — or even that the president isn’t sure what Manafort knows, but suspects that he might know something. (This, by the way, is Adam Davidson’s extremely plausible theory of Russian kompromat: Trump acts the way he does toward Vladimir Putin not because he knows Putin has damaging information on him, but because he just isn’t sure what Putin might have.) Would Trump actually go so far as to pardon Manafort, given the firestorm of criticism he’d get?

There are some lines even Trump is unwilling to cross. For instance, while he complains loudly about Attorney General Jeff Sessions not being able to protect him by shutting down the Mueller investigation, so far he hasn’t actually fired Sessions and replaced him with someone more pliable, presumably at least in part because his aides have convinced him that doing so would be a political disaster.

At the same time, Trump has spent the past 15 months since Mueller was appointed trying to discredit the investigation, in a campaign designed less to persuade the broader public than to convince his base that it is a witch hunt from start to finish and therefore everything it produces, no matter how factual and supported by evidence, should be ignored and discounted. He has obviously calculated, and rightly so, that if he can keep that base firmly behind him, Republicans in the House will never vote to impeach him, and even if Democrats took control of the chamber and did so, Republicans in the Senate would never vote to convict.

You can already see the argument he’ll make: The whole thing is a witch hunt, the charges are bogus, the jury was a bunch of Angry Democrats, and I’m intervening in the interests of justice. Trump also seems to genuinely believe that the investigation is unfair, and pardoning Manafort would be a great way for him to both assert control and stick it to Mueller.

And this right here is why I believe Waldman is correct.  Trump will have to pardon Manafort in order to keep his base behind him.  The political kayfabe means Trump has to save Manafort from the evil witch hunt.  If he doesn't, he risks losing his base.  The second that happens, he's done.  And if he doesn't pardon Manafort now, he certainly will soon.

It’s important to remember that no matter what the jury in this case decides, it’s only the first of two trials Manafort faces. The next one, in a federal court in Washington, will deal more directly with Manafort’s relationships in the former Soviet Union. That’s when Trump may start feeling the heat and feeling oppressed, and look for a way to let everyone know who’s really in charge. And that’s the day Manafort, sitting in his jail cell, is fervently hoping for.

Manafort may end up serving some time, or remain free on appeal, as he faces his second trial, and that's scheduled to begin just about a month from now.  That's the one where Donald Trump could take real damage, and there's always the risk that Manafort, if convicted, will suddenly have every reason to tell Mueller everything he knows about Trump and Russia.  Trump may not have a political choice but to pardon Manafort on both federal cases.

Martin Longman makes the argument that a pardon won't help Trump.

Waldman thinks Trump will ultimately pardon Manafort, but only after the second trial which will cover his dealings with Ukrainians and Russians. The problem with this prediction is that Manafort needs charges hanging over him in order to invoke his right against self-incrimination. If he’s pardoned for most of what he could conceivably be charged with, he could be compelled to tell the special counsel what he knows or face fresh charges of contempt and obstruction of justice. Is he really going to count on Mueller to give up or Trump to counter every new charge with a fresh pardon?

Maybe things really will get this weird and broken, but I think the reason Manafort hasn’t already been preemptively pardoned is that it would not solve Trump’s problems and probably would exacerbate them. Even for congressional Republicans, there’s a limit to how nakedly Trump can obstruct the investigation and get away with it. He has not fired Jeff Sessions or Rod Rosenstein, for example, and he’d run into similar problems if he started pardoning Manafort for refusing to cooperate with investigators when he faces no prospect of self-incrimination.

Add to this that Manafort can still face state charges, particularly in New York State, and I don’t see the pardon card as much of an option for Trump. If he’s desperate enough, maybe he uses it and maybe Manafort can avoid spending his life in prison. But it would not solve Trump’s problems or make all Manafort’s problems go away.

That's true, but again, this theory relies on the GOP having an upper limit to Trump's mendacity.  Pardoning Manafort will cause problems, but Republicans will eventually shrug and get behind him, because otherwise the base will eviscerate them in November.  If I were Trump, I would definitely make this move before the midterms and dare the GOP not to do anything in his defense.

They've defended every action Trump has taken so far, and for the same reason, the GOP base is a cargo cult.

Anyway, we'll see.  I don't expect the jury will take long either way.


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Last Call For Trump Cards, Con't

The Trump regime can't stop lying, and tens of millions will believe its every lie because they want to believe.  It's a cargo cult for America, and history tells us at the end of this road there's nothing but mass bloodshed.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders falsely claimed that President Donald Trump has created three times as many jobs for black workers as his predecessor Barack Obama did during his entire time in office.

Sanders asserted at a White House press briefing Tuesday that Trump had tripled Obama’s eight-year job creation record in just 18 months, quoting numbers that are not even close to accurate.

“This president since he took office, in the year and a half that he’s been here has created 700,000 new jobs for African-Americans,” Sanders told reporters Tuesday. “That’s 700,000 African-Americans that are working now that weren’t working when this president took place. When President Obama left, after eight years in office, he had only created 195,000 jobs for African-Americans.”

The claim isn’t true, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Sanders backtracked hours later in a tweet. While the U.S. economy has added about 700,000 jobs held by black workers since Trump took office, it added about 3 million while Obama was in office, according to BLS data.

But it'll make your local news and you FOX-watching uncle will believe it until his dying day.  The regime lies with impunity and will continue to do so until it is deposed.

A Supreme Scandal In West Virginia, Con't

Last week I covered the growing state Supreme Court scandal in West Virginia, where the state House of Delegates, overwhelmingly under GOP control, was moving to impeach the entire state Supreme Court over lavish spending.  This week, the WV House of Delegates made good on their threat and voted to impeach all four remaining justices.

West Virginia lawmakers completed the extraordinary move of impeaching all four state Supreme Court justices Monday night for spending issues, including a suspended justice facing a 23-count federal indictment.

The state House of Delegates voted to impeach Justice Allen Loughry on eight articles, setting the stage for a trial in the state Senate.

Beth Walker became the final justice to be impeached when an article was approved stating all four justices abused their authority. It said they failed to control office expenses, including more than $1 million in renovations to their individual offices, and not maintaining policies over matters such as working lunches and the use of state vehicles and office computers at home.

Walker had dodged impeachment earlier Monday night when lawmakers decided to overlook her $131,000 in spending on office renovations. A short time later, another article was withdrawn against Chief Justice Margaret Workman, who spent $111,000 in renovations.

Justice Robin Davis was impeached for $500,000 in office renovations. And lawmakers approved articles against Loughry for spending $363,000 in renovations to his office; having a $42,000 antique desk and computers, all owned by the state, at his home; lying to the House Finance Committee about taking home the desk and a $32,000 suede leather couch; and for his personal use of state vehicles.

Loughry, Workman and Davis also were impeached for their roles in allowing senior status judges to be paid higher than allowed wages. Lawmakers say the overpayments violated state law and stopped when they were challenged by the Internal Revenue Service.

Another impeachment article was withdrawn dealing with an accusation Loughry used state money to frame personal items at his office.

Minority Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee that approved the articles last week had tried to speed up the impeachment process in the hopes of beating an Aug. 14 deadline for arranging a special election in November if any justice is removed from office or leaves office. Instead, the committee took its time, even conducting a tour of the state Supreme Court offices earlier this month.

Republican Gov. Jim Justice will be allowed to appoint new justices to replace any who are impeached — with no requirement that they be from the same party as the incumbent.

 It's that last part that makes this a coup against the judicial in the state.  Still, despite the impeachment vote, at least one justice is retiring now in order to force a special election.

A West Virginia Supreme Court justice has announced her retirement just hours after her impeachment.Justice Robin Davis announced her departure Tuesday at the state Capitol, saying the citizens of West Virginia now “will be afforded their Constitutional right to elect my successor in November.”

That means two of the five justices will be up for special election in November, but it also means Justice can appoint the other three should the Senate trials result in removal from office.

Needless to say, there's a lot going on here, and this is an absolute mess.

The Social(ist) Network

There's a lot of screaming, laughing, and pointing from the right about this latest Gallup poll on Democrats and "socialism".

For the first time in Gallup's measurement over the past decade, Democrats have a more positive image of socialism than they do of capitalism. Attitudes toward socialism among Democrats have not changed materially since 2010, with 57% today having a positive view. The major change among Democrats has been a less upbeat attitude toward capitalism, dropping to 47% positive this year -- lower than in any of the three previous measures. Republicans remain much more positive about capitalism than about socialism, with little sustained change in their views of either since 2010.

These results are from Gallup interviewing conducted July 30-Aug. 5. Views of socialism among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are particularly important in the current political environment because many observers have claimed the Democratic Party is turning in more of a socialist direction.

Socialist Bernie Sanders competitively challenged Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, and more recently, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a candidate with similar policy views and a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, won the Democratic nomination in New York's 14th Congressional District. Several candidates with socialist leanings lost their primary bids in Aug. 7 voting, however, raising doubts about the depth of Democrats' embrace of socialism.

As several people have pointed out, "Socialism" to anyone older than myself means "The failed Soviet states, China, Cuba, Venezuela, and crippling poverty brought on by corrupt Communism" while "Socialism" to anyone younger than myself means "Scandinavia, the European Union, Australia, the UK, Canada, and a government that provides many basic services, the US being the one developed country on Earth that hasn't taken this route."

Right-wing bad faith critics all believe that Democrats want the former and not the latter, conveniently ignoring the fact that Europe and Oceania and our northern neighbor that we share thousands of miles of border with, you know, exist.

But that's how the right rolls, guffawing at the "stupid socialists" (You ever notice how Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez is always called "stupid" or "ignorant" by these clowns?)


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