Saturday, September 29, 2018

Last Call For Supreme Misgivings, Con't

As the Senate passed a procedural vote to open floor debate on confirming Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh today with a simple voice vote, it's looking like the Trump regime is stacking the deck of the FBI investigation to make sure nothing untoward is found that would prevent Kavanaugh from getting to 50 votes.

The White House is limiting the scope of the FBI’s investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, multiple people briefed on the matter told NBC News.

While the FBI will examine the allegations of Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez, the bureau has not been permitted to investigate the claims of Julie Swetnick, who has accused Kavanaugh of engaging in sexual misconduct at parties while he was a student at Georgetown Preparatory School in the 1980s, those people familiar with the investigation told NBC News. A White House official confirmed that Swetnick's claims will not be pursued as part of the reopened background investigation into Kavanaugh.

Ford said in Senate testimony Thursday that she was "100 percent" certain that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both in high school. Ramirez alleged that he exposed himself to her when there were students at Yale. Kavanaugh has staunchly denied allegations from Ford, Ramirez and Swetnick.

Instead of investigating Swetnick's claims, the White House counsel’s office has given the FBI a list of witnesses they are permitted to interview, according to several people who discussed the parameters on the condition of anonymity. They characterized the White House instructions as a significant constraint on the FBI investigation and caution that such a limited scope, while not unusual in normal circumstances, may make it difficult to pursue additional leads in a case in which a Supreme Court nominee has been accused of sexual assault.

The limited scope seems to be at odds with what some members of the Senate judiciary seemed to expect when they agreed to give the FBI as much as a week to investigate allegations against Kavanaugh, a federal judge who grew up in the Washington DC area and attended an elite all-boys high school before going on to Yale.

President Donald Trump said on Saturday that the FBI has "free reign" in the investigation. "They’re going to do whatever they have to do," he said. "Whatever it is they do, they’ll be doing — things that we never even thought of. And hopefully at the conclusion everything will be fine."

The president also said he thinks Flake's role in delaying the vote is fine. "Actually this could be a blessing in disguise," Trump continued. "Because having the FBI go out, do a thorough investigation, whether its three days or seven days, I think it’s going to be less than a week. But having them do a thorough investigation, I actually think will be a blessing in disguise. It’ll be a good thing."

"I don't need a backup plan," Trump said, adding that he thinks Kavanaugh is "going to be fine."

And of course, Trump was lying.  It's what he does.  Anyone who thought this wasn't Jeff Flake's dog and pony show to raise his portfolio on retirement from the Senate, well I have some beachfront property in Flake's state of Arizona to sell you too.

The forms are being observed, and don't be surprised if there's a quick vote early in the week, maybe even Monday, when the FBI investigation comes back with the excuse that they conducted a "thorough" investigation over the weekend.  Remember, the only reason that Mitch McConnell and Trump are playing along is because Mitch doesn't have 50 votes.

He will soon enough, and the vote will come magically as soon as he does.

A Taxing Dilemma

Reason Number One why all of us need to turn out and vote for Democrats because they need to win control of the House: Trump's tax returns become fair game because Republicans were more than happy to use tax returns against the Obama administration.

The years-old mystery of what’s in President Donald Trump’s tax returns will likely quickly unravel if Democrats win control of at least one chamber of Congress.

Democrats, especially in the House, are quietly planning on using an obscure law that will enable them to examine the president’s tax filings without his permission.

The nearly 100-year-old statute allows the chairmen of Congress’ tax committees to look at anyone’s returns, and Democrats say they intend to use that power to help answer a long list of questions about Trump’s finances. Many also want to use it to make public confidential information about Trump’s taxes that he’s steadfastly refused to release.

Probably the approach would be to get all of it, review it and, depending on what that shows, release all or part of it,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett, the No. 4 Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee.

That could bring a swift end to the long-running battle over Trump’s returns, while generating loads of fodder for what promises to be an array of investigations into the administration if Democrats win power.

Lawmakers are not doing much now to advertise their opportunity to seize Trump’s returns ahead of the midterm elections, in part because some believe it will only rile his supporters.

But it could be one of the most immediate results of Democrats returning to power. Nonpartisan election experts say Democrats will likely win the House, with the Cook Political Report putting the chances at 75 percent. They’re less likely to win the Senate, though even Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has conceded that’s possible.

It would be highly unusual for Congress to release confidential tax information, though not unprecedented.

As part of their Obama-era investigations into whether the IRS discriminated against conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, Republicans on both the Finance and Ways and Means committees agreed to release private tax information about the organizations. At the time, Democrats decried the move, though some now call it justification for unmasking Trump’s returns.

Transparency advocates have long complained about Trump bucking a 40-year tradition of presidents producing their returns. His filings could answer questions about what he earns, how much he pays in taxes and whether he gives to charity.

It could also help answer broader, nagging questions like what sort of conflicts of interests are posed by his businesses, his ties to Russia and other foreign governments and how his family benefits from government actions.

There are legitimate oversight questions that can only be answered by having those documents,” said Sen. Mark Warner, a tax writer and the top Democrat on the chamber’s intelligence committee.

My guess is there's major issues with Trump's tax returns, and if they were ever made public, he'd be in a boatload of trouble.  Not that he's currently in a boatload of trouble now or anything, but it's entirely possible he can make the Good Ship Mueller hit a sandbar or a mine once Brett Kavanaugh is forced onto SCOTUS by whatever vile means the GOP will use in the next week or two.

Enduring House Democratic (and God willing, Senate Democratic) oversight is the only real solution. This is a nice scenario and all, but it only happens if we get out and vote.

Meanwhile, In Bevinstan...

Kentucky's final remaining abortion clinic will stay open after a federal judge struck down GOP Gov. Matt Bevin's latest TRAP law requiring advance hospital agreements.

A federal judge on Friday struck down a Kentucky law requiring abortion providers to sign advance agreements with hospitals and ambulance services for emergency patient care, in a ruling that keeps the state from revoking the license of its only remaining abortion clinic.

U.S. District Judge Greg Stivers in Louisville sided with the EMW Women’s Surgical Center and Planned Parenthood in challenging a law that threatened to make Kentucky the first U.S. state without a single legal abortion provider.

“This decision keeps open the doors of the only health center in Kentucky that provides safe and legal abortion care,” Planned Parenthood said in a statement.

The Louisville clinic filed suit last year claiming that Governor Matt Bevin, a self-described “unapologetically pro-life” Republican, was using the law unfairly to terminate its license, following a 2016 licensing battle that forced the shutdown of a Lexington clinic.

Planned Parenthood joined in the suit, asserting that the state was likewise blocking its application for a license to begin offering abortion services at a new clinic in Louisville.

Bevin has argued that requirements for clinics to keep so-called transfer and transport agreements, stipulated under a 1998 law, were meant to protect women should complications arise during abortion procedures.

But plaintiffs countered that hospitals were already legally bound to accept any patient in an emergency and that local fire and rescue departments will transport patients without such agreements.

Christie Gillespie, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, said the governor had in effect turned what had been a routine licensing requirement into an obstacle by putting pressure on hospitals to deny transfer agreements with abortion providers.

Planned Parenthood said the state threatened in March of 2017 to revoke EMW’s license by citing alleged technical deficiencies in its transfer and transport agreements that had been approved a year earlier.

Following a three-day trial last September, the judge ruled that the law and its requirements violated the plaintiffs’ substantive due process rights under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The opinion was accompanied by a permanent injunction barring enforcement of those restrictions.

Bevin has been trying to regulate the state's abortion clinics out of existence since the moment he took office by adding enough burdensome regulations that the clinics physically could not meet them until they all were forced to shut down.  We've been reduced to just the Louisville clinic for almost two years now.  Bevin would be a national hero to the forced birth movement if he was able to pull it off, but no court has sided with eliminating the last clinic in the state so far.

Of course, with Judge Kavanaugh likely still being confirmed next week, the lifespan of Kentucky's last clinic, and in fact any red state clinics at all, are measurable in years, maybe even months.

America's journey to becoming the Republic of Gilead continues.
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