Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Last Call For Crafting A Mess

As expected, the Senate GOP has confirmed former Trump regime Ambassador to Canada, Kelly Knight Craft, to Nikki Haley's old post as UN Ambassador.  Sadly, Craft has even less experience than Haley did, considering she was absent from her job in Ottawa for more than a third of her assignment.

Craft’s confirmation was all but certain, thanks to a Republican Senate majority and her family’s close ties to fellow Kentuckian Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who recommended her for the ambassadorship.

That doesn’t mean her nomination was without controversy.

Craft came under scrutiny during her confirmation hearing in June over a slew of absences from Ottawa, where she was posted as US ambassador to Canada. Democrats pressed Craft on her attendance record, with Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) saying State Department records showed that Craft had been absent for more than 300 days between October 23, 2017, and June 19, 2019.

Craft defended her days away, stating that she was traveling to negotiate and promote the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the updated version of NAFTA that was negotiated during her tenure.

Democrats didn’t really accept that answer, and have largely continued to resist her nomination. Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee published a lengthy minority report on Wednesday, which outlined her poor qualifications for the UN ambassadorship, including her lack of relevant experience for such an important job and her excessive number of absences in Ottawa, which diminished her service as US ambassador to Canada. Democrats also cited potential conflicts of interest, specifically her family’s ties to the coal industry.

“Ambassador Craft has neither the experience nor the skillset to represent U.S. interests or challenge the world’s most seasoned diplomats on the global stage,” the report said.

But that opposition did little to change the final result.

Now Craft has an enormous challenge ahead of her as UN ambassador. Her diplomatic experience is still pretty thin, and she revealed at her hearing that she doesn’t have a great grasp on some of the workings of the United Nations.

She will also represent the United States as part of an administration that sometimes doesn’t have its messaging straight, including on foreign policy. And she’ll have to deal with UN-skeptical officials like National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. And, unlike Haley, Craft likely won’t have the benefit of serving in a Cabinet-level post.

Craft will need to balance the president’s agenda while collaborating and finding compromises with partners at the United Nations — something Haley was largely able to achieve. She will also need to move quickly to rebuild the US leadership at the United Nations, which has eroded in the more than half a year without a confirmed ambassador in the office.

And her biggest test is coming soon, when the UN General Assembly kicks off toward the end of September.

At this point, the Trump regime no longer cares about the United Nations in any meaningful way, and the UN no longer cares about the Trump regime, so Craft is doomed to an embarrassing failure.  John Bolton will steamroll her, and when he finally convinces Trump that war with Iran is the only course of action, Craft will be crucified on the world stage.

I'd feel sorry for her, but she chose to join these villains, and deserves what she gets.

It's All About Revenge Now, Con't

There's no doubt left that GOP Rep. John Ratcliffe has been nominated for the post of Director of National Intelligence in order to help Donald Trump bury the investigations into his criminality.

The comments from Rep. John Ratcliffe in television appearances and closed-door interviews with Obama administration officials questioning the US intelligence community's actions during the Russia investigation show how the Texas Republican aligns with the President's skepticism of the entire Russia probe, which ultimately became special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. 
Ratcliffe was one of the key Republicans leading the GOP-run congressional investigation into the FBI and Justice Department's handling of the Hillary Clinton email and Trump-Russia investigations last year. Ratcliffe had a central role in interrogating FBI and Justice Department officials on how the investigation began, and it helped Ratcliffe get on the radar of the President, who often seized on developments in the congressional investigation and twice this year tweeted about Ratcliffe's Fox News interviews. 
A CNN review of the Republican-led interview transcripts from their FBI investigation, as well as dozens of Ratcliffe's Fox News appearances of the past year, reveal his deep skepticism of not just the FBI and Justice Department actions in 2016, but also of the intelligence community he would lead if confirmed to succeed Dan Coats as director of national intelligence. 
Ratcliffe's worldview that emerged from his role in investigating the Russia investigation will now be thoroughly examined as he heads into the confirmation process to lead the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, particularly from Democrats who are criticizing his selection as overtly political. 
While Ratcliffe didn't call for Mueller's removal or use inflammatory language like Trump -- he never called it a "witch hunt" or "a hoax," for instance -- Ratcliffe questioned the actions of the former special counsel, argued that the beginning of the investigation had tainted his findings and accused Obama officials of potentially committing crimes. The Texas Republican criticized both President Barack Obama's CIA Director John Brennan and DNI John Clapper, his potential predecessor. 
"Think about that, a dossier funded by the Democrats, peddled through the Obama intelligence community, falsely verified by the Obama Justice Department, then sold to the American people by those very same elected Democrats and willing folks in the media," Ratcliffe said in a March 24 interview with Fox News' Maria Bartiromo, the morning before Attorney General William Barr released his letter summarizing Mueller's findings
Trump signaled Tuesday that he expects Ratcliffe to clean house, telling reporters that he had picked Ratcliffe in order to "rein in" the intelligence agencies. 
"I think we need somebody like that that's strong and can really rein it in," Trump said. "As you've all learned, the intelligence agencies have run amok. They've run amok."

Ratcliffe is there to dispose of everyone in the intelligence community who has investigated Donald Trump or anyone related to him, and keep in mind these investigations are still ongoing.  They will be ended, and the experts, analysts, agents and investigators will all be fired.

Ratcliffe is also completely unqualified for the job.

Ratcliffe’s experience pales in comparison to any of his would-be predecessors. He served as the mayor of Heath, Texas—population 8,000—for a decade, and while he did a brief stint as a politically appointed US attorney in Texas in the final months of George W. Bush’s administration, his résumé on national security matters is practically nonexistent.

He had previously claimed to be involved in a single terrorism-related case, against the Holy Land Foundation, but appears to have far overstated his role. As ABC News’ James Gordon Meek reported Tuesday, “The fact is that @RepRatcliffe did not convict anyone in the Holy Land Foundation trial. His staff now admits he simply reviewed the first mistrial and issued no report to [attorney general Mike] Mukasey, which is why no one we contacted remembers him at all.”

Similarly confounding, he asserts on his House website that he once “arrested 300 illegal aliens in a single day,” which would have been quite a feat, since US attorneys don’t have arrest authority.

That lack of experience is almost certain to make Ratcliffe an ineffective DNI, a position that has little direct power and whose few levers and moral suasion only Clapper—the longest-serving DNI yet—managed to handle effectively.

But while Ratcliffe will likely have trouble herding the cats that make up the nation’s 17 sprawling intelligence agencies, ranging from the Justice Department to the State Department to the Pentagon to even the Energy Department, that’s not what seems primed to make him a dangerous DNI.

The biggest danger Ratcliffe poses is to the integrity of the job of director of national intelligence in the first place; the core principle of the intelligence professional is to speak truth to power

Instead, Trump will have another smarmy, lying, yes-man in the position, whose real job will be firing hundreds, maybe thousands of personnel in a mass purge, something Vladimir Putin is salivating over.

When Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr turn the country's law enforcement against Trump enemies and the arrests begin, it will be Ratcliffe's job to justify the intelligence used for the deed.

It will be ugly.

A Taxing Explanation, Con't

Once again the only real question is how quickly the Roberts Court strikes this down.

President Trump will be ineligible for California’s primary ballot next year unless he discloses his tax returns under a state law that took effect immediately Tuesday, an unprecedented mandate that is almost certain to spark a high-profile court fight and might encourage other states to adopt their own unconventional rules for presidential candidates.

The law, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on the final day he could take action after it passed on a strict party-line vote in the Legislature earlier this month, requires all presidential candidates to submit five years of income tax filings. They must do so by late November to secure a spot on California’s presidential primary ballot in March. State elections officials will post the financial documents online, although certain private information must first be redacted.

“As one of the largest economies in the world and home to one in nine Americans eligible to vote, California has a special responsibility to require this information of presidential and gubernatorial candidates,” Newsom said in a statement that accompanied his signature on the bill. “These are extraordinary times and states have a legal and moral duty to do everything in their power to ensure leaders seeking the highest offices meet minimal standards, and to restore public confidence. The disclosure required by this bill will shed light on conflicts of interest, self-dealing, or influence from domestic and foreign business interest.”

Trump, who is not singled out by the law but is clearly its inspiration, is likely to fight back.

“The Constitution is clear on the qualifications for someone to serve as president and states cannot add additional requirements on their own,” said Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the president’s reelection campaign. “The bill also violates the 1st Amendment right of association, since California can’t tell political parties which candidates their members can or cannot vote for in a primary election.”
Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Commitee, called the new law “gimmicky” and “just plain dumb.” And during legislative debates on the bill, GOP legislators repeatedly accused Democrats of being motivated solely by their anger at Trump.

“To continue to consistently be hostile, from this legislative body, to the president of the United States is just not something we should do,” state Senate Minority Leader Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) said during a floor debate earlier this month. “Quit poking the bear.”

“We’re not poking the bear,” said the author of Senate Bill 27, state Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg). “We’re doing what’s right.”

Although it would keep a candidate off the March primary ballot, the new law does not appear to block a candidate who refuses to disclose the information from appearing on the November 2020 statewide ballot. The law also requires candidates for governor to release their tax returns before the statewide primary, beginning in 2024.

Three outcomes then:

1) the law somehow survives and Trump refuses to disclose his info, setting off another court battle which he wins,

2) Trump refuses to disclose his info, is left off the primary, but is forced to be put on the November ballot, and

3) The Robrts Court strikes the whole thing and Trump refuses to disclose his taxes.

Note in all three cases we never see Trump's financial info, which is the point.  The way to get that is through the Democrats in the House, and even they don't think they can win that battle.  This state ballot law will never survive the courts.


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Last Call For The Return Of The Blue Wave

Enough of the doom and gloom. Several of you made the point that 2018 was where Trump's racism lost.  There is one unalloyed, really good piece of news for Democrats right now, and that's a large number of House Republican retirements in 2019 heading into 2020.

Three House Republicans said last week they would not seek another term next year, catching party strategists off guard. Those announcements came earlier than in a typical election cycle, when members who are ready to hang up their voting cards usually wait until after the August recess or after the Christmas break.

Republicans in Congress strategizing to win back the House say the rush to the exits reflects the depressing reality of life in the minority and a pessimistic view of the GOP’s chances of regaining the majority.

“We are in the minority. That is never much fun in the House,” said one senior Republican member of Congress, who asked for anonymity to provide a candid assessment. “The odds are against us retaking the majority.”

Transitioning from the all-powerful majority to the back-bench minority can refocus one’s outlook on public service, said Tom Davis, a former Virginia congressman who ran the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).

“Moving from the majority to the minority changes your mindset about why am I here, am I getting things done,” Davis said. “It’s a very frustrating life for some of these members right now. There’s been no pay raise for 11 years. You’ve got to maintain two households.”

The job of serving in Congress itself has changed in recent years. Members of Congress now routinely skip town hall meetings to avoid being confronted by angry constituents, they are frequently asked to defend President Trump’s Twitter habits and the House Republican Conference is increasingly influenced by a small group of hard-right conservatives.

Serving in the era of Trump has few rewards. He has made an already hostile political environment worse. Every day there is some indefensible tweet or comment to defend or explain. It is exhausting and often embarrassing,” the member of Congress said. Even if Republicans were to win back the majority, “our edge would be narrow which means we would live under the tyranny of the Freedom Caucus. Frankly I wonder if this conference is capable of governing.”

Republican strategists say they are bracing for a new wave of exits after members check in with their families over the August recess. Two dozen Republicans won their reelection bids in 2018 by fewer than 5 percentage points; another 25 won by fewer than 10 points.

There are going to be a lot more [retirements] to come,” said one consultant who works for House Republicans. “Between people finding themselves having to actually work hard for the first time in their long, lazy careers and members who came in in the majority and now hate life in the minority, it's just getting started.”

2018 did prove that defending Donald Trump is a losing proposition.  House Democrats had their best midterm in decades, and turnout was through the roof.  Unlike the polls, the retirements and the 2018 wins are facts.

Having said that, with Trump on the top of the ticket in November 2020, things could be different enough that  Republicans could easily win the House back and then some.  There are a lot of swing districts that Democrats are going to have to defend, and the gerrymandering issue is still a problem that Democrats will have to fight in states like Ohio and Michigan, Florida and North Carolina, where even massive Democratic margins will break against gerrymandered firewalls.

But defending Trump is becoming increasingly impossible for Republicans not named Trump, and that toll is becoming higher and higher for Republicans both in the White House, and increasingly in Congress.

[UPDATE] And another Republican, Mike Conaway of Texas, announced his retirement tonight.

The Racism Is The Point, Con't

Yesterday I made the case why Trump's racism will only get louder and more overt, because it will work and he will draw in people who didn't vote in 2016 in a dark mirror, twisted version of Obama increasing turnout in 2008.

Demographics aren't going to save us.  White Millennials are even more racist than previous generations and they love Trump, and what's more, they love that whole "glibertarian nonsense" angle where they profess no love for either party as independents, but vote Republican in even higher numbers than any other generational cohort.

Most of all, they want an authoritarian leader like Trump.

Authoritarian-style leadership is much more attractive to white working-class Americans than to white college-educated Americans. Six in ten (60%) white working-class Americans, compared to only 32% of white college-educated Americans say we need such a strong leader; two-thirds (67%) of white college-educated Americans disagree.

Greg Sargent today argues that white non-college educated women are actually turned off by Trump's racism, and that 2020 will be much more like 2018, as in the latest Quinnipiac poll, these women are starting to turn on Trump.

And once again, per the data Quinnipiac sent me, this is driven by women:

That’s also striking: A bare plurality of non-college-educated white women disapprove of Trump. (And again, the depth of alienation among college-educated white women is really something to behold.)

Now, to be fair, this is only one poll. But this dovetails with the extensive amount of data and focus grouping Brownstein reported on, so it’s plausible that this is a real thing.

And if this broader dynamic is right, it could be a big deal. This has been a Republican-leaning demographic for many election cycles now, which alone makes this seeming shift striking. More specifically, Trump’s racist attacks are all about three states — Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — where Trump hopes to supercharge turnout and vote share among non-college-educated whites from non-metropolitan areas, allowing him to win the electoral college, even plausibly amid a larger popular-vote loss than last time.

But as Democratic pollster Greenberg told Brownstein, this becomes a taller order if the women in that demographic are getting alienated, even if the men are as gung-ho for Trump as ever. “White working-class men look like they are approaching the 2016 margins for Trump,” Greenberg allowed, but he added, “it only works if women are part of the story.”
As Brownstein summarizes it, Trump’s hopes of pulling an electoral college miracle again by winning those “blue wall” states a second time will turn heavily on “whether Democrats can fan doubts about Trump that have surfaced among blue-collar white women." That’s because those women cast slightly more than half the overall votes cast by working-class whites.

In the background of all this, the electorate continues to diversify. And it seems obvious Trump will struggle to win back the college-educated and suburban whites, particularly women, who defected from the GOP in 2018. Which may only increase Trump’s need to squeeze more electoral juice out of the non-college-educated white demographic. And if the women are not there for Trump to the degree they were last time, that means Trump’s hopes depend to an even greater degree on non-college-educated white men.

In other words, if Trump can make up what he loses with white working-class women with college-educated white men, he still wins.

Unless, of course, Democrats are able to increase their turnout by more.

We'll see who's right, but betting on Trump's racism being a losing proposition in 2020 is a sucker's bet, 100%.

Saudi Arabia, Coca-Cola

And now we know why Donald Trump specifically attacked House Democratic Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings over the weekend with a barrage of racist tweets: Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner has been selling nuclear technology to the Saudis.

A longtime Trump insider has been pushing a proposal to build dozens of nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia while seeking to avoid restrictions on the transfer of U.S. nuclear technology and has at times stood to profit from the effort, according to an investigative report by the House Oversight Committee.

“Today’s report reveals new and extensive evidence that corroborates Committee whistle-blowers and exposes how corporate and foreign interests are using their unique access to advocate for the transfer of U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, the Maryland Democrat who chairs the committee.

The 50-page report, which relied on 60,000 documents and statements from whistle-blowers inside the administration, was made public Monday. It focuses on the actions of Thomas Barrack, a wealthy Los Angeles businessman who oversaw President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee, as well as earlier efforts by retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn to push a Saudi nuclear energy plan. Investigators said they found evidence that “private parties with close ties to the President wield[ed] outsized influence over U.S. policy towards Saudi Arabia.”

“These new documents raise serious questions about whether the White House is willing to place the potential profits of the President’s friends above the national security of the American people and the universal objective of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons,” according to the report.

The investigative report was completed late last week but is being released on the heels of a barrage of critical tweets by President Trump targeting the Maryland Democrat and his Baltimore district. There is no indication Trump knew the report was imminent.

The White House did not cooperate with the investigation, providing none of the documents requested. Congressional investigators said documents they did recover showed that some Trump administration officials used personal email accounts to communicate with executives from private companies pushing the plan. In several instances, it was “unclear” if those officials “took steps to preserve this email as required by the Presidential Records Act,” the report said.

The White House declined to comment.

Committee Republicans, in a report issued last week, pushed back on the Democrats’ review, saying the Trump administration did not act inappropriately in contemplating the potential transfer of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.

Republicans also argued that Barrack had no conflicts by promoting the nuclear proposal because he ultimately did not join the administration.

The investigation focuses on company called IP3 International, which is run by a group of retired American generals, and their years-long effort to promote a plan to sell dozens of nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries. The company has been aided in its efforts by two well-known Trump advisers: Flynn and Barrack, a California investment executive who has deep ties in the Middle East.

The report alleges that Flynn and later Barrack helped push the proposal during the 2016 campaign, in the White House and later during briefings with senior White House officials including Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and ultimately President Trump. IP3 officials also briefed cabinet officials including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, according to the report.

Once again, pay-for-play corruption is endemic to this regime.  Jared Kushner especially would be prison right now if he wasn't married to Trump's daughter.


Monday, July 29, 2019

Last Call For The Racism Is The Point

Donald Trump figures in an electorate that is 70-75% white that overt appeals to racism will win him re-election in 2020, and he's most likely going to be correct.

President Trump launched another broadside Saturday on a Democratic political opponent, calling a prominent black congressman’s Baltimore district a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” and saying “no human being would want to live there.”

That Twitter attack on Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) plunged the nation into yet another anguished debate over the president’s divisive rhetoric. And it came just two weeks after Trump called out four minority congresswomen with a racist go-back-to-your-country taunt.

The assault on Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, prompted immediate condemnations from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. Young and several other top Democrats.

The outburst also undercut efforts by many Republicans over the past two weeks to defend Trump and insist that his earlier attacks were based in ideology rather than race.

But Trump’s advisers had concluded after the previous tweets that the overall message sent by such attacks are good for the president among his political base — resonating strongly with the white working-class voters he needs to win reelection in 2020.

This has prompted them to find ways to fuse Trump’s nativist rhetoric with a love-it-or-leave-it appeal to patriotism ahead of the 2020 election, while seeking to avoid the overtly racist language the president used in his tweets about the four congresswomen

Racism wins with white voters, especially younger white voters.

A slim majority (51%) of white working-class Americans identify with or lean toward the Republican Party.2 About one-third (34%) are affiliated with or lean toward the Democratic Party. Americans overall lean the opposite direction, with significantly more identifying with or leaning toward the Democratic Party rather than the Republican Party (47% vs. 41%, respectively).

White working-class Southerners stand out for their exceptionally strong attachment to the Republican Party. Nearly six in ten (58%) white working-class Southerners identify as Republican or lean Republican, compared to fewer than half who live in the Northeast (46%), Midwest (48%), and West (47%).

In the general population, younger Americans are significantly more likely than older Americans to identify with or lean towards the Democratic Party. But younger white working-class Americans are actually less Democratic than those who are older. A majority (57%) of white working-class young adults identify as Republican or lean towards the GOP, compared to only 29% who identify as or lean Democratic—a gap of 28 percentage points. Among white working-class seniors, the party identification gap is only 15 percentage points, with 51% at least leaning toward the Republican Party and 36% leaning toward the Democratic Party.
The patterns of ideological identification among the white working class largely follow the patterns of partisan identification. White working-class Americans are twice as likely to identify as conservative (43%) than liberal (21%). Fewer than one in three (29%) identify as politically moderate.

Notably, however, even though younger white working-class Americans are more likely than white working-class seniors to identify as Republican, they are less likely to identify as conservative. White working-class young adults are less than half as likely as white working-class seniors to identify as conservative (23% vs. 50%, respectively). Four in ten (40%) young white working-class Americans are moderate, and more than one-quarter (26%) identify as liberal.

Demographics aren't going to save us.  White Millennials are even more racist than previous generations and they love Trump, and what's more, they love that whole "glibertarian nonsense" angle where they profess no love for either party as independents, but vote Republican in even higher numbers than any other generational cohort.

Most of all, they want an authoritarian leader like Trump.

Authoritarian-style leadership is much more attractive to white working-class Americans than to white college-educated Americans. Six in ten (60%) white working-class Americans, compared to only 32% of white college-educated Americans say we need such a strong leader; two-thirds (67%) of white college-educated Americans disagree.

There is significant disagreement by age. Roughly two-thirds (66%) of white working-class seniors, compared to roughly half (52%) of white working-class young adults, say the country needs a leader who is willing to break the rules.

White working-class Christians across denominations are about equally as likely to express a preference for a leader willing to defy the standards of conduct, including approximately six in ten evangelical Protestants (63%), mainline Protestants (62%), and Catholics (67%). White working-class Americans who are religiously unaffiliated are far less likely to say such a leader is desirable (42%).

They want someone who will make everyone else suffer.

They know exactly why they voted for Trump.  If anything, Trump isn't racist enough.

Let that sink in.  He needs to "widen his lens even further".

Here in Kentucky, the plan is working.

Witch Hunt," "Treason Dem" and "Racist AOC" were seen on the brick walls of the Louisville Democratic Party Headquarters on Sunday afternoon in large white letters that appear to have been painted on with a roller.

Louisville Metro Police said they received a call of criminal mischief around 10 a.m. Sunday at the Louisville Democratic Party Headquarters at 1501 Durrett Lane.

AOC is a common nickname for freshman U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is often criticized by Republicans, including the president, for her liberal policies.

President Donald Trump and his supporters have frequently called special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election a "witch hunt."

It's not clear when the vandalism took place, and there have been no related arrests reported.

The Louisville Democratic Party issued a statement Sunday evening that called the vandalism "hate filled graffiti" and an "unfortunate symptom of today’s environment where folks won’t come together for honest debate and discourse."

"Free speech is about buying a billboard with your opinions," the statement reads, "not vandalizing a building with graffiti.

Stochastic terrorism is working.  Known Democrats will be targeted, scared, terrorized, discouraged, and won't venture out to vote.  Not when it could cost you everything.

And white Republican racists?  They will vote for Trump again and again.  Democrats still think they can win back the heartland of white working-class voters in 90% white states

They are wasting their time.

Trump is their permission slip to do all this stuff their hate-filled hearts have been itching to do for decades years now.  He's giving them the power to do it and to get away with it.  And they will never stop now that they have a taste for it.

It's going to end in massive bloodshed.  History assures it.

The racism is the point.

It's All About Revenge Now, Con't

Trump's new Director of National Intelligence nominee, Rep. John Ratcliffe, has been given his marching orders right out of the gate, and it's to help Attorney General William Barr arrest and prosecute Democrats.

Mr. Ratcliffe met privately with Mr. Trump at the White House July 19 to discuss taking the job, administration officials said.

Mr. Ratcliffe sharply questioned Robert S. Mueller III, the former special counsel, at last week’s hearing and accused him of not following Justice Department guidelines after Mr. Mueller said he could not exonerate the president of obstruction of justice charges.

If a special counsel cannot bring charges, Mr. Ratcliffe argued, he should not presume to say a target was not cleared.

“So, Americans need to know this as they listen to the Democrats and socialists on the other side of the aisle as they do dramatic readings from this report,” Mr. Ratcliffe said of the part of Mr. Mueller’s report that described how the president sought to impede the investigation, “that Volume II of this report was not authorized under the law to be written.”

On Sunday morning, Mr. Ratcliffe said on Fox News that Democrats “accused Donald Trump of a crime, and then they try and reverse engineer a process to justify that accusation.”

“I’m not going to accuse any specific person of any specific crime, I just want there to be a fair process to get there,” he added. “What I do know, as a former federal prosecutor, is that it does appear that there were crimes committed during the Obama administration.”

Both Barr and Ratcliffe are on board, and Ratcliffe will sail through Senate confirmation, no matter what Intelligence Committee Chair GOP Sen. Richard Burr thinks, because Trump will hang him up and butcher him like a side of beef if he doesn't.

“Now the things that Bob Mueller said he didn’t know about and his team clearly didn’t look at, those are things that would be fair for Bill Barr and the Department of Justice to look at. Because we know that things happened in the Obama administration that haven’t been answered. There’s been no accountability for that yet," Ratcliffe said.

“Well, the special counsel told us ... that they didn't do it. And if they didn't do it, the only place we can get the answers is from the Justice Department right now," Ratcliffe said. "The American people want that. Their faith and trust, Maria, has been shaken in our Justice Department, and the only way to get that back is for there to be real accountability with a very fair process. Again, I have supreme confidence in Bill Barr's ability to deliver that. And at the end of the day, wherever the outcome may be, as long as we know that the process was fair, the evaluation was fair, justice will be done. Look, the truth always defends itself.”

Again, we have the new AG and now potential new DNI promising the investigations of and possible arrests and indictments of former Obama administration officials, most likely coming over the next 12 months, possibly leading up to Obama himself.

Does anyone here think Trump is somehow above trying to put Barack Obama in jail in order to feed his base the ultimate red meat hate stew?

Putin On A Show

As things get dicey in Russia with the largest anti-Putin protests in over a decade, Vlad the Impaler is moving quickly to crush dissent.

Nearly 1,400 people were detained in a violent police crackdown on an opposition protest in Moscow, a Russian monitoring group said Sunday, adding that was the largest number of detentions at a rally in the Russian capital this decade.
OVD-Info, which has monitored police arrests since 2011, said the number of the detentions from Saturday’s protest reached 1,373 by early Sunday. The overwhelming majority of people were soon released but 150 remained in custody, OVD-Info and a lawyers’ legal aid group said Sunday.

Crackdowns on the anti-government protesters began days before the rally. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny was arrested and sentenced Wednesday to 30 days in jail for calling for Saturday’s protest against election authorities who barred some opposition candidates from running in the Sept. 8 vote for Moscow city council.

Navalny was unexpectedly hospitalized Sunday with a severe allergy attack, his spokeswoman said.

Kira Yarmysh said Navalny, who did not have any allergies beforehand, was taken from the Moscow jail to a hospital in the morning, arriving with severe facial swelling and red rashes. Hours later, she said Navalny was in a “satisfactory condition.”

Russian police violently dispersed thousands of people who thronged the streets of Moscow on Saturday to protest the move by election authorities. Several protesters reported broken limbs and head injuries. Police justified their response by saying that the rally was not sanctioned by authorities.
Along with the arrests of the mostly young demonstrators, several opposition activists who wanted to run for the Moscow City Duma were arrested throughout the city.

Police eventually cordoned off the City Hall and dispersed protesters from the area, but thousands of demonstrators reassembled in several different locations nearby and a new round of arrests began. Russian police beat some protesters to the ground with wide truncheon swings while others tried to push the police away.

Police said the protesters numbered about 3,500 but aerial footage from several locations suggested at least 8,000 people turned out.
Dmitry Gudkov, an opposition figure who was barred from running for city council office in Moscow, was detained Sunday afternoon as he delivered food to some of the Moscow protesters still in jail.

Worse, it looks like Navalny's "allergy attack" was a Putin poison special.

Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny was hospitalized Wednesday for an "allergic reaction," following his arrest during mass protests against election authorities in Moscow, according to his spokeswoman. Navalny's personal doctor later wrote on Facebook that she does not believe he is suffering from an allergic reaction, but the effects of "undefined chemical substances."

Why it matters: Navalny is an anti-corruption lawyer whose fierce opposition to Vladimir Putin has caused him to be arrested and jailed by Russian authorities a number of times. Navalny's spokeswoman says he has never had an allergic reaction in his life, raising questions about whether his illness could in fact be the product of political retaliation. Putin has been accused of poisoning or having political opponents assassinated in the past.

Police reportedly did not want Navalny to be transported to the hospital, and relented only when the ambulance crew threatened to make a scene, according to Navalny's spokeswoman
About 20 journalists who showed up at the hospital where Navalny is being treated have been detained by police, according to Russian media.

Of note: The "allergic reaction" is not Navalny's first physical ailment resulting from his advocacy. In 2017, a chemical attack on his face caused him to lose 80% of his vision in one eye, per his website.

Putin certainly isn't above murdering or harming critics.  And once again,  Trump is watching and taking notes.


Sunday, July 28, 2019

Last Call For Sugar Coats-ing The Problem, Con't

President Trump is expected to nominate Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) to replace Dan Coats as director of national intelligence
, according to three sources familiar with the president's deliberations.

Behind the scenes: Trump was thrilled by Ratcliffe's admonishment of former special counsel Robert Mueller in last week's House Judiciary Committee hearing. "The special counsel's job, nowhere does it say that you were to conclusively determine Donald Trump's innocence or that the special counsel report should determine whether or not to exonerate him," Ratcliffe, a former prosecutor, said to Mueller.

"I agree with Chairman Nadler this morning when he said Donald Trump is not above the law," Ratcliffe added. "But he damn sure should not be below the law which is where Volume II of this report puts him." 
But while Ratcliffe's performance in the Mueller hearing helped his chances for the DNI appointment, it wasn't what put him on the president's radar. Advisers to Trump said the president was already seriously considering Ratcliffe to replace Coats. Trump had previously shortlisted Ratcliffe to replace Jeff Sessions as attorney general before he ultimately chose William Barr. 
The New York Times' Maggie Haberman was the first to report that Ratcliffe was in the mix to replace Coats as DNI. And CNN reported that Ratcliffe was under consideration for an unspecified job in the administration.

As with all of Trump's decisions, his advisers caution that the president could still change his mind at the last minute, but senior administration officials familiar with the president's deliberations say Ratcliffe is the favorite.

The big picture: Trump has been mulling replacing Coats since at least February, as Axios recently reported. The director of national intelligence serves as an overseer of the U.S. intelligence community and a close adviser to the president and National Security Council, producing each day's top-secret Presidential Daily Brief.

Ratcliffe is loyal to Trump, not the country or the Constitution.  This is why he's getting the job.

Ratcliffe, who has served in Congress since 2015, argued during Mueller's hearing before the House Judiciary Committee that in the second volume of the report, Mueller offered "extra-prosecutorial analysis about crimes that weren't charged" and accused the former special counsel of breaking Justice Department regulations by doing so. 
Ratcliffe has been under consideration for a job within the Trump administration, sources told CNN, including an intelligence or national security role. The congressman speaks with the President often, and Trump is a big fan of his, the sources said. 
The congressman's name was floated last year as a possible replacement for former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was eventually succeeded by William Barr. 
Ratcliffe, a former federal prosecutor, has been critical of the way the Democrats on the committee have approached Mueller's investigation after it ended, arguing in April against the panel authoring a subpoenafor an underacted version of the report. 
"Let Bob Mueller come, and let's ask Bob Mueller to come and whether or not he thinks the report he created should be disclosed without considerations of redactions for classified national security information, or without redactions for grand jury information or other information related to ongoing investigations," he said at the time.

Remember, Coats is being fired because he's not sufficiently loyal enough to the idea of protecting Dear Leader.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats has installed a new czar to oversee election security efforts across the spy world, he announced on Friday.
A veteran agency leader, Shelby Pierson, has been appointed to serve as the first election threats executive within the intelligence community, or IC, Coats said.

"Election security is an enduring challenge and a top priority for the IC," said Coats.

"In order to build on our successful approach to the 2018 elections, the IC must properly align its resources to bring the strongest level of support to this critical issue. There is no one more qualified to serve as the very first election threats executive than Shelby Pierson, whose knowledge and experience make her the right person to lead this critical mission."

Pierson has served within the intelligence world for more than 20 years. She was "crisis manager" for election security for the 2018 election within the office of the DNI and also has served in top roles in the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, according to one official biography.

Her appointment isn't the only change Coats announced on Friday. He also is directing other agencies within the extended family of spy services to appoint their own executives responsible for election security efforts.

"These agency leads will work with the [election threats executive] to help ensure IC efforts on election security are coordinated and prioritized across all IC elements," Coats said.

Let's be clear why Ratliffe is being hired: His first job is to fire or neutralize Shelby Pierson and put an end to the election security efforts in the intelligence community.  Trump needs somebody willing to do that and take the slings and arrows for such an obvious political move that casts suspicion on the Trump regime.

Trump can't have increased security on election matters, especially coming from the intelligence community. Ratliffe's job will then be to clear the way for neutering our counterintelligence, just what Putin wants.

How To Steal An Election, Con't

The lawsuit, filed by the Coalition for Good Governance, argues that state officials "almost immediately" began destroying evidence after a 2017 lawsuit alleged Georgia's voting machines were outdated and vulnerable to hacking.  
"The evidence strongly suggests that the State's amateurish protection of critical election infrastructure placed Georgia's election system at risk, and the State Defendants now appear to be desperate to cover-up the effects of their misfeasance — to the point of destroying evidence," the lawsuit reads. 
Georgia's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger rebuffed the accusations in a statement -- pointing to a US Senate Intelligence Committee report, which concluded that no machines were manipulated and no votes were changed. 
Raffensperger went onto say, "The office is also in the process of replacing the state's current voter machines with machines that print a paper ballot for an added layer of security. Those new machines will be in place by the March 24, 2020 Presidential Preference Primary". 
The current machines however, are still planned to be used for special and municipal elections this year. 
Thursday's lawsuit alleges a broad effort from state officials to "intentionally" destroy "fundamental" evidence. 
"This type of evidence is not merely relevant and unique, it is fundamental, and it is forever gone. After abundant notice of their well-known duty to preserve evidence, the State Defendants did not simply neglect to disable some automated purge function in their IT systems. Rather, they intentionally and calculatingly destroyed evidence," the lawsuit states. "Such conspicuously outrageous conduct can only raise the question: What were the State Defendants trying to hide?"

I don't know what else to say, other than if state election officials destroyed evidence deliberately in order to protect Brian Kemp being the Secretary of State in charge of monitoring his own 2018 gubernatorial race against Stacey Abrams, then Kemp should be removed from office.

But we all know that this isn't going to happen, and that the voting machines with the paper ballots are still manufactured by companies that donate heavily to the GOP.

Sunday Long Read: Up In The Air

This week's Sunday Long Read comes to us from Narratively, where Caroline Rothstein writes about her father Steven, one of the few people on the planet who was in the right place at the right time and with the right resources to purchase a lifetime, first-class pass on American Airlines.  Steven Rothstein used that pass for two decades, and then in 2008, the airline revoked it, setting off a major court battle and, as Caroline recounts, the loss of her father's lifeline to the friends he had made around the world.

On March 10, 2009, a case was filed in the U.S. Circuit Court for the Northern District of Illinois, where I grew up. Rothstein v. American Airlines, Inc. starred my father, Plaintiff Steven Rothstein, and the Defendant, then the world’s third-largest airline. With $23 billion in annual revenue, American Airlines had nothing to lose. For my father, it was a last-ditch effort to save his life.

Here’s how it all took off. In the early 1980s, American rolled out AAirpass, a prepaid membership program that let very frequent flyers purchase discounted tickets by locking in a certain number of annual miles they presumed they might fly in advance. My 30-something-year-old father, having been a frequent flyer for his entire life, purchased one. Then, a few years later, American introduced something straight out an avid traveler’s fantasy: an unlimited ticket.

In 1987, amidst a lucrative year as a Bear Stearns stockbroker, my father became one of only a few dozen people on earth to purchase an unlimited, lifetime AAirpass. A quarter of a million dollars gave him access to fly first class anywhere in the world on American for the rest of his life. He flew so much it paid for itself. Often he’d leave in the morning for a business trip, fly back, and I hadn’t even known he’d left. Other times, I remember calling his office to find out what country he was in. He (and our whole family) was featured on NBC’s Today Showin 2003, and then on MSNBC in 2006. For 20 years, he was one of American’s top fliers, accumulating more than 30 million miles, which he acquired every time he flew, even with the AAirpass.

Then, on December 13, 2008, American took the AAirpass away.

For several years, the revenues department at American had been monitoring my father and other AAirpass holders to see how much their golden tickets were costing the airline in lost revenue. After 20 years it seems, they’d decided the pass wasn’t such a good idea. My father was one of several lifetime, unlimited AAirpass holders American claimed had breached their contracts.

A few months later, my father sued American for breaking their deal, and more importantly, taking away something integral to who he was. They fought out of court for years. The story became front-page news. The LA Times. The New York Post. Fox News. A slew of online outlets. It’s even a perennially popular conversation topic on Reddit.

The obvious story is that my father was a decadent jet-setter who either screwed or got screwed by American; depends on your take. In the coverage, whether he’s mentioned by name or in off-handed attributions to ostentatious wealth, it’s always this: sensational. And I think — as does my whole family, including my dad — that at the very least, it doesn’t quite land.

What follows is a cracking good read, as my friend from college used to say.  For Steve Rothstein, it was a super-power of flight, and he used it around the planet for the kind of adventures that one can only dream of.  But most of all, he used it to teach a little girl how to fly.

A Taxing Explanation, Con't

Like his predecessor Jerry Brown, California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom is trapped between his base and reality as he considers vetoing legislation requiring Trump's tax returns before he'll be allowed on the ballot in 2020, a bill that Newsom fear will only piss off Republicans and get nuked by SCOTUS.

Gavin Newsom has spent the first six months of his governorship positioning himself as the West Coast anti-Trump while taking pains to distinguish himself from his legendary predecessor, Jerry Brown.

Those two strands intersect in a piece of legislation sitting on Newsom's desk that would compel President Donald Trump and other presidential candidates to release their tax returns if they want to appear on California ballots.

Although going after Trump is typically political gold for Newsom, the bill — which Brown vetoed in 2017 — poses a tricky balancing act for the rookie governor: Signing it would shore up Newsom’s base and boost his national profile within the Democratic Party, with other Democratic-led states following his lead. But doing so may rile up dormant California Republicans, and fray Sacramento’s relationship with the Trump administration, which Newsom has tried to keep functional despite bitter disputes over everything from immigration to auto emissions policy.

And while Brown was no fan of Trump, the former governor contended that compelling the release of tax returns could be unconstitutional, and cautioned that signing the bill would launch a political standoff into unknown territory, like requiring candidates’ birth certificates, health records or report cards.

“It’s really going to gin up the Trump base, which could affect congressional candidates and legislative candidates [in California],” said Dana Williamson, a former political adviser to Brown. “From a purely political standpoint, the benefits don’t outweigh the risks.”

Newsom rose to the governorship after spending two terms as California’s lieutenant governor — a position that’s elected independent of the governor, not appointed. While his office was mere feet from Brown’s, the wily veteran Brown and the ascendant young Newsom had a famously chilly relationship.

Newsom has until Tuesday to decide.

He is still weighing his next step, saying this week that he was “deeply analyzing” the bill. Speaking on the sidelines of a National Governors Association meeting in Salt Lake City, Newsom said the measure’s constitutionality was “an open-ended question.”

“Some may see it as symbolic. I think it now appears to be much more substantive,” Newsom told POLITICO. The legislation is focused on primaries, so, he said, “at the end of the day, the president will end up on the November ballot regardless, and the likelihood of the taxes being released is questionable.”

The fact is Trump can make millions of Californians suffer if he wants to, and Newsom passing this bill will only assure that Trump retaliates with real lives on the line who will be affected.  It's one thing to stand up to a bully and punch him in the mouth.  It's another entirely to telegraph a swing that will never land, so the bully can get in a free hit or three.

Besides, SCOTUS will have the bill struck down before California's primary season, I guarantee. This game is rigged, and Newsom is correct in choosing not to play.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Last Call For Powering Down The Buckeye State

Ohio's fall to the GOP means the state is a solid Midwest Republican bastion, and the results are painfully obvious under new governor Mike DeWine: a state that serves the energy companies at the direct expenses in the billions for Ohio citizens. Vox's David Roberts:

Amid a flurry of ambitious state action on climate change policy, the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature has just passed an energy bill that represents an enormous step backward. It is the most counterproductive and corrupt piece of state energy legislation I can recall in all my time covering this stuff — the details must really be seen to be believed.

The bill, just signed by Republican Governor Mike DeWine, is called HB6. Though the story behind it is complex and sordid, the bill itself is pretty simple. It would do four things: 
Bail out two nuclear plants: From 2021 until 2027, Ohio ratepayers will pay a new monthly surcharge on their electricity bills, from 85 cents for residential customers up to $2,400 for big industrial customers. The surcharge will produce about $170 million a year. $150 million of that will be used by the utility FirstEnergy (one of the largest investor-owned utilities in the country) to subsidize its two big nuclear power plants — Davis-Besse, outside of Toledo, and Perry, northeast of Cleveland — which it claims are losing money and will be closed in the next couple of years without bailouts. The remaining $20 million will divided among six existing solar projects in rural areas of the state. (Note: as we’ll discuss below, nuclear power plants generate low-carbon energy and are worth saving. But not like this.) 
Bail out two coal plants: FirstEnergy customers across Ohio will pay an additional monthly surcharge ($1.50 for residential customers; up to $1,500 for big industrials) to help bail out two old, hyper-polluting coal plants owned by the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation (a collective owned by several large utilities), one in Ohio, one in Indiana.
Gut renewable energy standards: Ohio has one of the oldest renewable portfolio standards in the country, requiring its utilities to get 12.5 percent of their power from renewables by 2027. The bill reduces the target to 8.5 percent by 2026, exempts large industrial customers, and kills the standard after 2026, effectively nullifying any incentive for new renewable energy development in the state. 
Gut energy efficiency standards: Ohio utilities are required to reduce customers’ energy use 22 percent from 2008 levels by 2027 through energy efficiency programs (which were set to save Ohio ratepayers $4 billion over the next 10 years). HB6 allows utilities to abandon those programs entirely once they hit 17.5 percent, a level most have almost reached already.

To summarize: the bill would subsidize four uncompetitive power plants, remove all incentive to build more renewable energy projects, and cancel efforts to help customers use less energy. It is a bill only a utility (and the lawmakers who do its bidding) could love, an extravagant gift to FirstEnergy investors that hoses Ohio ratepayers. (FirstEnergy’s stock price has been rising all year, despite, or perhaps because of, its 2018 bankruptcy.)

Despite a tsunami of dark money supporting the bill, HB6 was overwhelmingly opposed by ratepayer groups, business groups, free-market conservative groups, environmental groups, and Ohioans generally. Its only support came from its only beneficiaries: the utilities that own the bailed-out plants, the employees of the bailed-out plants, the communities where the bailed-out plants are located, and possibly Donald Trump, who doesn’t want to see coal plants closing during his reelection campaign.

Not to mention the bill will cost state taxpayers billions of dollars per year in energy rate increases, something we've already seen in neighboring Kentucky and Indiana as their own coal bailout bills have stuck ratepayers with electric bills 50% higher than just three years ago, with multiple rate hikes under GOP governors.

Now it's Ohio's turn.

Enjoying one party rule yet?

A Supreme Disappointment, Con't

Republicans are now in the process of getting rid of what few campaign finance limits remain, and the next frontier is the Last Frontier, Alaska.  The case is Thompson v Hebdon, involving overturning Alaska's campaign finance donation limit for out-of-state individuals for state races.  It's been bopping around for the last two years in the court system.

The challenger to the law is David Thompson, who in 2015 donated $100 to support the re-election of his brother-in-law, former Republican Alaska state Rep. Wes Keller. Thompson lives in Wisconsin, and Keller had already reached the limit for out-of-state contributions, so the campaign had to return the money. Thompson’s lawyers are aping the arguments in Citizens United, contending that this limit on campaign contributions is an unconstitutional regulation of free speech. Thompson told the Alaska Dispatch News, “I thought it was pretty restrictive and it held up my ability to speak out.”

Attorneys for Alaska are citing as precedent Bluman v. FEC, a 2012 Supreme Court case ruling that foreign citizens do not have the right to contribute money to U.S. elections. The state’s attorneys wrote in their brief, “Just as a Canadian citizen is not part of the political community governed by the U.S. federal government, a Florida resident is not part of the political community governed by the Alaska state government.” Advocacy group Free Speech for People, which filed an amicus brief supporting Alaska in July, points out that the state has long been suspicious of out-of-state actors interfering in its politics. The Alaskan tundra is often the target of companies seeking to tap its natural resources and to influence local elections—presumably for extraction privileges.

Although the decision on Thompson v. Hebdon would only directly affect Alaska’s state-level elections, the legal rationale behind these limits, if upheld in court, could be of consequence for elections in other states, including congressional races. A state’s election laws must abide by the Constitution, so if a federal court decides that a state is not hindering the First Amendment by limiting outside donations, then any future laws imposing similar restrictions on congressional races would also likely be consistent with the Constitution. George Washington University professor David Fontana, whose work was the basis of Free Speech for People’s amicus brief, wrote in an email, “If our argument is accepted, the reason why it would have broader implications is because it would be a federal court interpreting federal constitutional law, and federal constitutional law is relevant everywhere and in every election.”

Republicans had this case on the back burner for a while, but now it's a top priority ahead of the 2020 campaign.  They want the Supreme Court to take up the case now, and that effort is being led by former Bush 43 Solicitor General Paul Clement, as UC-Irvine law professor Rich Hasen details at The Atlantic.

Supreme Court deference to democratically enacted campaign-finance laws changed dramatically as the Court’s personnel shifted, especially with the retirement in 2006 of O’Connor and her replacement with Justice Samuel Alito. In the years since O’Connor’s departure, the Court has not upheld a contribution or spending limitation under consideration, except one related to foreign spending in elections, which it upheld without argument or briefing. In Citizens United, Kennedy resurrected his McConnell argument about ingratiation and access not being corruption, this time for the majority. In a 2014 case, McCutcheon v. FEC, Chief Justice John Roberts all but laid out the road map to finish the work begun in Citizens United and start using much stricter scrutiny to review, and strike down, campaign-contribution laws. The two newest justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, have both expressed great skepticism about the constitutionality of any campaign-finance limits.

And so it is somewhat of a mystery why the Court has not taken more campaign-finance cases as vehicles to free up more big money in politics. The Court has turned down numerous challenges to the soft-money portion of McConnell, which still stands. It has repeatedly turned down an attempt to reverse a 2003 case, which held that corporations cannot contribute money directly to candidates. (Citizens United concerned only corporate spending independent of candidates.) And just this past term, the Court turned down a case from the Ninth Circuit upholding strict Montana contribution limits, and another from the Fifth Circuit, upholding low contribution limits in Austin, Texas. The latter case garnered a scathing dissenting opinion from Fifth Circuit Judge (and former Thomas clerk) James Ho, who said that if people don’t like too much money in politics, the solution was to shrink the size of government.

Perhaps the justices did not take these cases because they did not see them as ideal for overturning more precedent. Perhaps the Court is gun-shy about taking on more controversial issues that it could choose to avoid, when cases about guns, abortion, and LGBTQ rights wait in the wings.

Maybe Paul Clement can change that. He has just filed a petition, Thompson v. Hebdon, together with a conservative group, the Alliance Defending Freedom, asking the Court to review a Ninth Circuit decision upholding Alaska’s $500 contribution limits in candidate elections. The petition argues that the limits are too low under existing precedent, but Clement also drops a footnote suggesting that if existing precedent would allow such low limits, the Court should consider overturning such precedent. He hammers home the point, which Roberts reiterated in McCutcheon, that ingratiation and access are not a form of corruption.

Clement’s petition will be noticed at the Court, and not only because he argued the other side of these issues in the McConnell case, defending McCain-Feingold. A new study finds that repeat players have much greater success at the Supreme Court than novices, and Clement is one of the most talented lawyers I have ever seen argue a case. He argues without notes and has a casual, direct, conversational style with the justices. It is pretty remarkable.

If the Court takes this case and reverses the Ninth Circuit, it would not spell the end of all contribution limits immediately. But it could hasten a world in which individuals could give unlimited sums directly to candidates, buying all the ingratiation and access they want. The Court has been moving in this direction; the question is whether it wishes to act now, or delay the inevitable a bit longer.

Such a ruling in June 2020 would be just in time for the heart of the 2020 campaign season, and the wealthy could give unlimited campaign funds to the GOP.  Imagine being swamped with GOP campaign ads everywhere, tens of billions of dollars' worth, for the final five months of the campaign season.

It would be madness...and if you thought lobbying was bad before, imagine corporate giants giving billions to get the exact legislation they want from the candidates they buy in every House and Senate race.  We're essentially at that point now on a lot of things, but the last few limitations on that would be gone.

Everyone would be corrupt as Trump, and anyone who wasn't would be buried in races by people who were.  We're rapidly approaching the era where corporations are the only free speech game in town.

Deportation Nation, Con't

As I mentioned two weeks ago, the Trump regime is trying to use Guatemala as a dumping ground for asylum seekers (and eventually everyone to be deported) but the deal went south when the government of President Jimmy Morales balked at the idea of becoming America's new "safe harbor" asylum friend. 

On top of that, a federal judge Thursday blocked the Trump regime's asylum dumping scheme on the grounds that the Trumpies had no safe harbor nation as a backup.  As recently as 48 hours ago, it looked like Trump was losing this bigly.

But all of that has now gone straight down the crapper as Trump threatened Guatemala with massive economic, trade, and tourism sanctions Thursday night if Morales didn't immediately comply, and on Friday, Morales folded like a cheap card table.

The Trump administration signed an agreement with Guatemala Friday that will restrict asylum applications to the U.S. from Central America.

The so-called “safe third country” agreement would require migrants, including Salvadorans and Hondurans, who cross into Guatemala on their way to the U.S. to apply for protections in Guatemala instead of at the U.S. border. It could potentially ease the crush of migrants overwhelming the U.S. immigration system, although many questions remain about how the agreement will be executed.

President Donald Trump heralded the concession as a win as he struggles to live up to his campaign promises on immigration.

“This is a very big day,” he said. “We have long been working with Guatemala and now we can do it the right way.”

He claimed, “This landmark agreement will put the coyotes and smugglers out of business.”

The announcement comes after a court in California blocked Trump’s most restrictive asylum effort to date, one that would effectively end protections at the southern border.

The two countries had been negotiating such an agreement for months, and Trump threatened Wednesday to place tariffs or other consequences on Guatemala if it didn’t reach a deal.

“We’ll either do tariffs or we’ll do something. We’re looking at something very severe with respect to Guatemala,” Trump had said.

On Friday, Trump praised the Guatemalan government, saying now it has “a friend in the United States, instead of an enemy in the United States.

Nothing like mobster threats to get the job done, right?

And now, Trump has somewhere to immediately dump asylum seekers.  Morales wanted a friend in the United States, and he's about to get hundreds of thousands of them.

To make things worse, bet on Trump deporting non-asylum cases to Guatemala.  Potentially millions.

It's going to be bad, folks.  One of the last major logistic pieces for mass deportations has now fallen into place, and that means the ICE raids from earlier this month are going to look like a Boy Scout Jamboree by comparison.

Faster Than A Speeding Bullet

Three asteroid whizzed by the Earth this week, and one missed the planet by less than the distance from the Earth to the moon, in a demonstration of just how lucky we've been so far from a cosmic perspective, according to Alan Duffy, the science head at the Royal Institution of Australia.

This asteroid wasn’t one that scientists had been tracking, and it had seemingly appeared from “out of nowhere,” Michael Brown, a Melbourne-based observational astronomer, told The Washington Post. According to data from NASA, the craggy rock was large, an estimated 57 to 130 meters wide (187 to 427 feet), and moving fast along a path that brought it within about 73,000 kilometers (45,000 miles) of Earth. That’s less than one-fifth of the distance to the moon and what Duffy considers “uncomfortably close.”

“It snuck up on us pretty quickly,” said Brown, an associate professor in Australia with Monash University’s School of Physics and Astronomy. He later noted, “People are only sort of realizing what happened pretty much after it’s already flung past us.”

The asteroid’s presence was discovered only earlier this week by separate astronomy teams in Brazil and the United States. Information about its size and path was announced just hours before it shot past Earth, Brown said.

“It shook me out my morning complacency,” he said. “It’s probably the largest asteroid to pass this close to Earth in quite a number of years.”

So how did the event almost go unnoticed?

First, there’s the issue of size, Duffy said. Asteroid 2019 OK is a sizable chunk of rock, but it’s nowhere near as big as the ones capable of causing an event like the dinosaurs’ extinction. More than 90 percent of those asteroids, which are more than half a mile wide or larger, have already been identified by NASA and its partners.

“Nothing this size is easy to detect,” Duffy said of Asteroid 2019 OK. ″You’re really relying on reflected sunlight, and even at closest approach it was barely visible with a pair of binoculars.”

Brown said the asteroid’s “eccentric orbit” and speed were also likely factors in what made spotting it ahead of time challenging. Its “very elliptical orbit” takes it “from beyond Mars to within the orbit of Venus,” which means the amount of time it spends near Earth where it is detectable isn’t long, he said. As it approached Earth, the asteroid was traveling at about 24 kilometers per second, he said, or nearly 54,000 mph. By contrast, other recent asteroids that flew by Earth clocked in between 4 and 19 kilometers per second (8,900 to 42,500 mph).

“It’s faint for a long time,” Brown said of Asteroid 2019 OK. “With a week or two to go, it’s getting bright enough to detect, but someone needs to look in the right spot. Once it’s finally recognized, then things happen quickly, but this thing’s approaching quickly so we only sort of knew about it very soon before the flyby.”

The last-minute detection is yet another sign of how much remains unknown about space and a sobering reminder of the very real threat asteroids can pose, Duffy said.

“It should worry us all, quite frankly,” he said. “It’s not a Hollywood movie. It is a clear and present danger.”

Duffy said astronomers have a nickname for the kind of space rock that just came so close to Earth: “City-killer asteroids.” If the asteroid had struck Earth, most of it would have probably reached the ground, resulting in devastating damage, Brown said.

“It would have gone off like a very large nuclear weapon” with enough force to destroy a city, he said. “Many megatons, perhaps in the ballpark of 10 megatons of TNT, so something not to be messed with

One of these days, a city is going to get erased off the map by an asteroid.  It may not happen in my lifetime, but it's going to happen.  I just hope we have the technology to predict and deal with the situation when it does.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Last Call For The Reach To Impeach, Con't

House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler has finally had enough, and is going forward with impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump, among other things.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said Friday that negotiations with former White House counsel Don McGahn over an outstanding subpoena for his testimony, but if the outstanding issues are not resolved soon, the committee plans to go to court to seek enforcement of the subpoena early next week.

Nadler told reporters at the Capitol that the committee would also be filing an application for the grand jury material underlying former special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

"The Department of Justice policies will not allow prosecution of a siting president," Nadler said. "The House is the only institution that can now hold President Trump accountable for these actions. To do so, the House must have access to all the relevant facts."

He added, "We will continue to seek testimony from key fact witnesses," and he added that "our work will continue into the August recess."

McGahn, who was prominently featured in the Mueller report, told the special counsel's team during hours of interviews that the president had ordered him to fire Mueller, and he refused. He has already defied a subpoena by the House panel, declining to testify when the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel claimed executive privilege.

Asked about the growing calls among the Democratic caucus to file articles of impeachment for Mr. Trump, Nadler did not rule out the possibility.

"We may decide to recommend articles of impeachment at some point. We may not," he said. Several of Nadler's colleagues referred to their next step in their inquiry as an "impeachment investigation" into the administration.

This is the Pelosi plan: get the information necessary to impeach Donald Trump into the hands of House Democrats.  Whether or not SCOTUS will agree, or whether or not this will be tied up in the courts until a Trump second term, we don't know.

But the dice have been rolled.  This path, by the way, is exactly what Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent recommended this morning.

Fortunately, there is an answer to this problem: The House Judiciary Committee can launch an impeachment inquiry independently, without any vote by the full House.

In an interview, Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, suggested to me that it’s only a matter of time until the committee formally considers drafting articles of impeachment on its own.

“Somebody has to write articles of impeachment to focus this investigative and analytical process,” Raskin told me. “If not the Judiciary Committee, who is going to do it? This is our job.”

Raskin suggested that this is where the process is inevitably heading already.

“The Constitution leaves it up to Congress how to structure impeachment proceedings,” Raskin told me. “There are many different ways to get there. It can arise from floor action. It can arise within the Judiciary Committee itself.”

“I’m convinced that articles of impeachment are going to originate from the House Judiciary Committee,” Raskin said. “The question is just when.

The timeline on the inquiry part of impeachment has been answered, and that is now.

No wonder then that Trump is now specifically calling for investigations into President Obama and Hillary Clinton.

President Trump on Friday lashed out at Democrats over their ongoing investigations into his administration, suggesting there should instead be probes into former President Obama's book deal and other activities under his predecessor.

"They want to investigate, they want to go fishing and I watched Bob Mueller and they have nothing," Trump said of Democrats during an Oval Office gathering to announce an agreement with Guatemala.

"It’s a disgrace," he continued. "We want to find out what happened the last Democrat president. Let’s look into Obama the way they’ve looked into me. From day one they’ve looked into everything we’ve done."

"They could look into the book deal that President Obama made. Let’s subpoena all of his records," Trump continued. "Let’s subpoena all of the records having to do with Hillary Clinton and all of the nonsense that went on with Clinton and her foundation and everything else."

It's about damned time, Democrats.  Trump is terrified and is already lashing out in response to Democrats being serious.  He will start putting you in jail in order to save himself if you don't stop him...

Russian To Judgment, Con't

Yesterday I talked about how Robert Mueller's testimony on Wednesday included the fact the Russians are currently attacking our voting systems and have been since 2016, and that Republicans refuse to lift a finger to stop them, blocking measures to help beef up voting system security yesterday. Now we find out the Russian attack on our voting system in 2016 was so massive that they hit all 50 states over three years and absolutely interfered in the presidential race.

The Senate Intelligence Committee concluded Thursday that election systems in all 50 states were targeted by Russia in 2016, largely undetected by the states and federal officials at the time, but at the demand of American intelligence agencies the committee was forced to redact its findings so heavily that key lessons for the 2020 election are blacked out.

The report — the first volume of several to be released from the committee’s investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference — came just 24 hours after the former special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, warned that Russia was moving again to interfere “as we sit here.”

It also landed hours after Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, personally stepped forward to block consideration of a package of election security bills.

While details of many of the hackings directed by Russian intelligence, particularly in Illinois and Arizona, are well known, the committee’s report describes a Russian intelligence effort more far-reaching than the federal government has previously acknowledged.

It concluded that while there is no evidence that any votes were changed in actual voting machines, “Russian cyberactors were in a position to delete or change voter data” in the Illinois voter database. The committee found no evidence that they did so.

While the report is not directly critical of either American intelligence agencies or the states, it described what amounted to a cascading intelligence failure, in which the scope of the Russian effort was underestimated, warnings to the states were too muted, and state officials either underreacted or, in some cases, resisted federal efforts to offer help. 

Once again, the Russians were deep into our voting registration and tally systems in all 50 states and could have done anything they wanted in 2016.

Once again, Mitch McConnell was aware of all of this from the beginning.

Once again, McConnell and the GOP have done everything they can to block efforts to increase security in voting registration and tally systems.

And if you don't believe the Russians changed any votes while being in a position to do so in all 50 states, well, I don't know what to say.  The Senate Intelligence Committee may have found "no evidence" but that's like saying police knew of a group of bank robbers had access to a bank vault but there was "no evidence" of anything taken...admitting to the crime would have of course destroyed the bank, and that's what's happening here.

Of course, as several of you have suggested in the comments over the last few months is that the Russians broke into the bank vault only to discover another robbery in progress.

Only in this case, it's our election systems.  But it's fine, right?  The good guys will prevail?
Related Posts with Thumbnails