Friday, January 13, 2017

Last Call For Heartbeat (Bill) Of America, Con't

Folks, you knew this was coming, and I've been warning you about it for months. Republicans are making their move early to eliminate legal abortion in America, and of course the man behind it is Steve King.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) on Thursday introduced the first federal “heartbeat bill” modeled on a failed Ohio attempt to end legal abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy—before many people know they’re pregnant.

“Heartbeat bills” amount to total abortion bans. They have been declared unconstitutional in federal court.

King’s office confirmed that HR 490 marked the first introduction of a so-called heartbeat bill in the U.S. Congress. Former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) introduced a forced ultrasound bill in 2011, but her measure did not ban abortion—King’s stated goal.

A King press release called Roe v. Wade unconstitutional, adding that under HR 490, “if a heartbeat is detected, the baby is protected.”

His spokesperson provided Rewire with legislative text specifying that an abortion provider “who knowingly performs an abortion and thereby kills a human fetus” without determining a heartbeat, informing the patient of a heartbeat, or proceeding regardless of a heartbeat would face fines and up to five years in prison. The bill includes limited exceptions for the physical health of the pregnant person but not for “psychological or emotional conditions.”

King worked on the bill with anti-choice activist Janet Porter, the Faith2Action leader deemed too extreme for Christian talk radio, the congressman’s spokesperson said. Porter was behind Ohio Republicans’ recent failed attempt to push through a total abortion ban. Anti-choice Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) vetoed the measure the same day he signed a 20-week ban into law, reasoning that the 20-week ban would be more constitutionally prudent. It’s not.

Porter persuaded King to act while both attended the funeral of Phyllis Schlafly, the notorious Equal Rights Amendment opponent, as People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch first reported in October.

“I gave him a packet and he has agreed to introduce a federal Heartbeat Bill, which would protect every baby whose heartbeat can be detected,” Porter said on a conference call at the time. “That will actually end abortion in nearly every case. Ninety to 95 percent of the abortions will be ended with that bill.”

It's bad enough that this will probably pass the House (and hopefully dies screaming in the Senate) but King outright calling Roe unconstitutional is nonsense.  It's pretty clear what King expects, that this will be the vehicle to destroy Roe and end legal, safe abortion in America and move it to back alleys and illegal clinics.

How far it will go, we'll see.  But expect many more attempts to end Roe over the next two years, minimum.

Comey Chameleon, Con't

Meanwhile over on the domestic side of things, it's not turning out to be a good day for FBI Director James Comey as intelligence officials briefed the House on Russian interference in November's election, and suddenly quite a lot of House Democrats want his head on a pike.

A number of House Democrats left Friday's confidential briefing on Russian hacking fuming over the actions of FBI Director James Comey and convinced he's unfit to lead the agency. 
"I was nonjudgmental until the last 15 minutes. I no longer have that confidence in him," Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), ranking member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, said as he left the meeting in the Capitol. 
"Some of the things that were revealed in this classified briefing — my confidence has been shook." 
Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), senior Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, delivered a similar condemnation.

"I'm extremely concerned — extremely," he said. 
"I'll just — I'm very angry," echoed Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.).

Ahh, but it gets worse for Comey as now he's being investigated by the Justice Department.

The Justice Department inspector general on Thursday announced that it will launch an investigation into the FBI’s conduct leading up to the 2016 elections. 
The probe, which comes in response to requests from numerous chairmen and ranking members of congressional oversight committees, will look into allegations that Director James Comey broke bureau policy with his various public disclosures regarding the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

The FBI’s role in Clinton’s unexpected defeat in November has remained a subject of fierce debate — with Comey himself in the middle of the controversy. Clinton's campaign has blamed Comey and the FBI for her loss to President-elect Donald Trump.
Eleven days before Election Day, Comey sent a letter to lawmakers telling them investigators had uncovered emails that appeared to be pertinent to the bureau’s probe, considered completed at the time, of Clinton's private email server and her handling of classified material while secretary of State. 
The announcement exploded in the final days of the campaign. And with a subsequent missive from Comey, a Republican nominated by Obama to his position, saying the emails had turned up no new evidence did little to quell the storm. 
“In the matter of the email investigation, it was our my judgment — my judgment, the rest of the FBI’s judgment — that those were exceptional circumstances where the public needed information,” Comey told the House Judiciary Committee in September.
But critics have called the disclosure an unprecedented break with bureau policy. The FBI typically does not comment publicly on ongoing investigations. 
The internal review will not change the outcome of the FBI’s findings in the probe against Clinton, Justice Department Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz told lawmakers in his announcement of the probe.

Further details of todays briefing meant things just kept getting worse for him.

One source in the meeting said Comey would not answer “basic questions” about the FBI’s current investigative activities. The FBI chief was grilled “over and over again,” according to the source, about his standards for acknowledging FBI investigations, with legislators repeatedly bringing up Comey’s dramatic public confirmation that the bureau was revisiting classification issues with Hillary Clinton’s private email server days before the election, as well as his summer press conference announcing that he would not seek indictment. 
Clinton is said to blame Comey’s intervention, which contravened longstanding justice department rules, for her electoral defeat. 
Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat who had pressed Comey during a September hearing about his criteria for acknowledging an investigation, sharply asked Comey if the director was applying a double standard to Trump. 
Comey had said in September testimony that his standard was a “a need for public to be reassured, [and] when it’s obvious, it’s apparent, given our activities, public activities that the investigation is ongoing”. 
Nadler, according to a different source, then asked Comey in the Friday meeting: “Do you believe that standard has been met with reference to the possible investigation of the Trump campaign’s possible connections to the Russian government? And if not, why not?” 
Comey dodged the question, sparking anger amongst attendees
A spokesman for Nadler confirmed the congressman pressed Comey on the issue.

So we'll see where things end up.  But between this and Mike Flynn, things just got brutal a week before Trump takes office.  We've got a FBI chief who and an incoming National Security Adviser who are both looking more and more like co-conspirators with our president-elect.

Again, I expect things will move very quickly now.

Skinned Like Flynn

My political scandal radar is screaming at David Ignatius's op-ed this morning in the Washington Post involving the unanswered questions about Trump and Russia.  Ignatius has four big questions, including "Why didn't Obama make this public before the election?" to "What do the Russians truly have on Trump?" but the ones that immediately set off the alarm bells are the last two:

Question 3: What discussions has the Trump team had with Russian officials about future relations? Trump said Wednesday that his relationship with President Vladimir Putin is “an asset, not a liability.” Fair enough, but until he’s president, Trump needs to let Obama manage U.S.-Russia policy.

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Trump’s choice for national security adviser, cultivates close Russian contacts. He has appeared on Russia Today and received a speaking fee from the cable network, which was described in last week’s unclassified intelligence briefing on Russian hacking as “the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet.”

According to a senior U.S. government official, Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the hacking. What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions? The Logan Act (though never enforced) bars U.S. citizens from correspondence intending to influence a foreign government about “disputes” with the United States. Was its spirit violated? The Trump campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

If the Trump team’s contacts helped discourage the Russians from a counter-retaliation, maybe that’s a good thing. But we ought to know the facts.

Question 4: Finally, what’s the chance that Russian intelligence has gamed its covert action more subtly than we realize? Applying a counter-intelligence lens, it’s worth asking whether the Russians hoped to be discovered, and whether Russian operatives fed the former MI6 officer’s controversial dossier deliberately, to sow further chaos.

These questions need to be answered — not to undermine Trump, but to provide a factual base to help the country recover from an attack on its political system. As Trump rightly says, “fake news” threatens our democracy. Truth will protect it.

The big thing here is Mike Flynn, incoming National Security Adviser, contacting the Russian ambassador multiple times on the day President Obama announced that nearly three dozen Russian spies were being booted from the country.  That right there is enough to absolutely deny Flynn the position, but the evidence against Flynn of his Russian involvement is already pretty substantial even if he wasn't already a crackpot tinfoil hat lunatic who's likely to get us into a shooting war.

Also, this is a warning shot that the IC knows full damn well every word Flynn said to Ambassador Kislyak, as the notion that the NSA sure as hell wouldn't have those lines tapped is silly to the point of institutional gross negligence on the part of the Puzzle Palace.  Not only does the piece confirm that, but it almost certainly means that either A) there's a FISA warrant out on those conversations or B) the NSA is happily leaking this to the press to make a point. If Flynn was making side deals on behalf of the Trump administration, what Ignatius above calls "discouraging the Russians from counter-retaliation" that's pretty much the definition of treason, guys.

Again, it's only a matter of time before the contents of Flynn's conversation with the Russian Ambassador is leaked.  The story is giving Flynn notice that he's basically a dead man walking, and that maybe he wants to cooperate.  The larger issue is whether or not Flynn was making deals with the knowledge of Trump. Flynn only has so much protection, you see.  Should his armor be stripped, either by leaks, by an angry GOP Congress, or by Trump serving him up as a blood sacrifice, this cannot end well for him. He knows this. So what does he do?

Believe me, a lot of people are asking these exact questions right now around Washington, and I'm betting more than a few folks are going to be advising The Donald to fall on his sword over this. Whether or not Trump decides to do the right thing, well I wouldn't put good money on that.  I'm betting he figures once he takes office, all this goes away.

He's probably right.  This time.  And that will remain true until the base turns on both Trump and Republicans in Congress.  But if enough Republicans join with the Dems, Trump's support on Capitol Hill could collapse quickly.

After that, all bets are off.

New tags, long overdue: Michael Flynn, and The Big T.


Related Posts with Thumbnails