Tuesday, April 9, 2019

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

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report will be released “within a week,” Attorney General Bill Barr promised Tuesday at a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing.

“Within a week, I will be in position to release the report to the public,” Barr testified.

“This process is going along very well,” Barr said, adding that the “original timetable of being able to release this by mid-April stands.”

The Attorney General said his office was working with Mueller’s team to identify information that falls under four categories Barr previously said would need to be redacted. Those include matters related to ongoing investigations, information that would damage innocent third-party individuals, secret grand jury materials, and classified intelligence.

Barr said that that information would be color-coded and that his office would provide “explanatory notes for each redaction” in the report that goes to Congress.

Chairman Jose Serrano (D-NY) asked if the report would include the potential instances of obstruction of justice that Mueller investigated but had not yet been publicly reported.

“As things stand now, I don’t think that they will be redacted so they will be identifiable,” Barr replied.

It is this color-coded version that will be handed over to Congress, and, Barr said, hopefully made “available to the public.” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) is among the Democratic leaders saying nothing less than the full, unredacted report is acceptable.

Barr said the redacted version was a “first pass.”

Expect massive redactions in the report that Barr will control completely in order to minimize the damage to Donald Trump.

Attorney General Bill Barr has no plan to try to seek the public release of secret grand jury materials included in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

“My intention is not to ask for it at this stage,” Barr testified Tuesday before the House Appropriations subcommittee.

Democrats on the committee asked if Barr intended to seek a court order to make those materials public, as House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) has pressed him to do. He offered only to listen to Nadler’s case on why that would be necessary.

The attorney general also testified that he had grand jury material in mind when he made the decision to write a March 24 letter offering what he claimed were Mueller’s “principal conclusions.” He confirmed that he declined to use the multiple report summaries that Mueller’s team had reportedly already prepared. Every page of the report Barr received from the special counsel’s office was marked by the indication that it may contain secret grand jury material, he testified.

Barr said he took the restriction barring the release of grand jury material seriously, citing a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling last week affirming that there were only five exemptions that would allow a court to release grand jury materials.

Barr struck a somewhat defensive tone in explaining his letters to Congress characterizing the report. He repeatedly insisted that he tried to use “as much of the special counsel’s own language” as possible without revealing any classified grand jury information.

Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL) asked about press reports that members of Mueller’s team were frustrated that Barr did not accurately describe their extensive, serious findings about President Trump’s obstruction of justice.

“I suspect that they probably wanted more put out,” Barr replied. “But in my view I was not interested in putting out summaries or trying to summarize because I think any summary regardless of who prepares it not only runs the risk of, you know, being under-inclusive or over-inclusive but also would trigger a lot of discussion and analysis that really should await everything coming out at once.

The theory is that Democrats in Congress will only see the full, unredacted Mueller report if they impeach Donald Trump and subpoena the report as evidence.

One of the exceptions to grand jury secrecy is disclosure “preliminary to or in connection with a judicial proceeding.” To authorize disclosure of the Watergate grand jury information, the special prosecutor’s office argued that the House had authorized its Judiciary Committee to conduct a formal impeachment inquiry and that such an inquiry could be fairly analogized to a “grand jury” investigation and thus a judicial proceeding. Both the district court and the court of appeals agreed, and the Judiciary Committee obtained both the report and the underlying evidence.

Significantly, the appeals court decision several days ago reaffirmed that exception. All three judges agreed that an impeachment inquiry falls within the “exception for judicial proceedings” and “coheres” with other rulings about the proper scope of grand jury secrecy.

But Pelosi has declined to allow the Judiciary Committee to open even a preliminary impeachment inquiry, asserting rather bizarrely that Trump is “not worth it.” That decision may hamstring Nadler’s quest for the complete Mueller report. Nothing in the federal rules creates an explicit exception allowing congressional committees exercising general powers of government “oversight” to demand access to secret grand jury material. So, Pelosi and Nadler are confronting a dilemma of their own making: either revisit the politically fraught impeachment question or concede that the House is at the mercy of whatever judgment the attorney general makes in excising grand jury information, which may include the most salient material about possible collusion and obstruction of justice.

For his part, Barr also has delicate judgments to make. If he is so inclined, the attorney general could properly opt to exclude only the names and actual testimony of grand jury witnesses while nevertheless informing the Judiciary Committee — and the public — about the substance of the information developed during the proceedings. Unfortunately, Barr has given every indication that he intends to make needlessly sweeping redactions, especially having ruled that, in his judgment, the evidence of obstruction of justice did not rise to the level of a prosecutable crime. Trump’s selection of his new attorney general may prove to be his best line of defense — unless Pelosi revisits her stance and directs the House Judiciary Committee to include impeachment within its investigatory ambit.

Whatever the decision, expect the fight over the Mueller report to drag on for months, if not years.

Republicans Get Drugged Up

The House Republican Freedom Caucus for some reason certainly doesn't seem to be too concerned about prescription drug prices or the older Republican voters suffering because they're so high, going so far as to publicly warn pharmaceutical companies not to cooperate with the House Oversight Committee's investigation to determine why Americans pay more for prescription drugs than any other country on Earth.

In an unusual move, House Republicans are warning drug companies against complying with a House investigation into drug prices.

Republicans on the House Oversight Committee sent letters to a dozen CEOs of major drug companies warning that information they provide to the committee could be leaked to the public by Democratic chair Elijah Cummings in an effort to tank their stock prices.

Cummings requested information from 12 drug companies such as Pfizer Inc., Johnson & Johnson, and Novartis AG in January as part of a broad investigationinto how the industry sets prescription drug prices.

In their letters, Reps. Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows — leaders of the hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus — imply that Cummings may be attempting to collect the information in order to bring down the industry’s stock prices.

They write that Cummings is seeking sensitive information “that would likely harm the competitiveness of your company if disclosed publicly.” They then accuse Cummings of “releasing cherry-picked excerpts from a highly sensitive closed-door interview” conducted in an investigation into White House security clearances. “This is not the first time he has released sensitive information unilaterally,” says the letter. The authors say they “feel obliged to alert” the drug companies of Cummings’ actions.

Democrats expressed bafflement at the letters. While politicians routinely spar over committee work, warning companies not to comply with an investigation is unconventional — perhaps even unprecedented, Democrats say.

“Rep. Jordan is on the absolute wrong side here,” Cummings said in an emailed statement to BuzzFeed News. “He would rather protect drug company ‘stock prices’ than the interests of the American people.”

In their letter, Jordan and Meadows say that “while we cannot speculate about Chairman Cummings’ motives,” the committee should not pursue an investigation designed to impact stock prices.

It's ridiculous on its face, and I can't see how siding with the folks making insulin cost thousands of dollars per dose over Americans is going to help the GOP in 2020, but hey, keep making this about health care, guys.

Deportation Nation, Con't

As I said on Sunday, the next step after the summary firing of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is for the Trump regime to purge all officials not on board with Stephen Miller's hard-line white supremacist immigration policy.  We're seeing that purge happening now in real-time.

United States Secret Service director Randolph "Tex" Alles is being removed from his position, multiple administration officials tell CNN
President Donald Trump instructed his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to fire Alles. Alles remains in his position as of now but has been asked to leave. 
The Secret Service director reports directly to the Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, who resigned on Sunday amid growing pressure from the President. The director oversees the Secret Service's work on both protection and investigations. 
"There is a near-systematic purge happening at the nation's second-largest national security agency," one senior administration official says. 
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services director Francis Cissna and Office of the General Counsel's John Mitnick are expected to be gone soon, and the White House is eyeing others to be removed
The President in recent weeks empowered Stephen Miller to lead the administration's border policies "and he's executing his plan" with what amounts to a wholesale decapitation or the Department of Homeland Security leadership, the official says. 
Neither the USSS nor the White House immediately responded to CNN's request for comment. 

Anyone who could possibly be in a position to object to what's coming or to stop it is being publicly removed.  Trump already says he wants to reinstate child concentration camps for kids separated from migrant families, but if that were the full extent of Miller's plan, Nielsen would still be on board. When Trump says that America is "full" he means it. Trump means to end immigration, legal and illegal, by any means necessary.  Those not on board with this are being removed.  I've been saying this for years now, and it's all finally coming into focus.

No, after this purge, the real horrors will begin.  Miller will have free reign, and the force of US federal might will be brought to bear against millions inside the country.  Trump has already given the game away.

Two Thursdays ago, in a meeting at the Oval Office with top officials -- including Nielsen, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, top aides Jared Kushner, Mercedes Schlapp and Dan Scavino, White House counsel Pat Cipollone and more -- the President, according to one attendee, was "ranting and raving, saying border security was his issue." 
Senior administration officials say that Trump then ordered Nielsen and Pompeo to shut down the port of El Paso the next day, Friday, March 22, at noon. The plan was that in subsequent days the Trump administration would shut down other ports. 
Nielsen told Trump that would be a bad and even dangerous idea, and that the governor of Texas, Republican Greg Abbott, has been very supportive of the President. 
She proposed an alternative plan that would slow down entries at legal ports. She argued that if you close all the ports of entry all you would be doing is ending legal trade and travel, but migrants will just go between ports. 
According to two people in the room, the President said: "I don't care."

That's important, because what followed next is an impeachable offense.

Last Friday, the President visited Calexico, California, where he said, "We're full, our system's full, our country's full -- can't come in! Our country is full, what can you do? We can't handle any more, our country is full. Can't come in, I'm sorry. It's very simple." 
Behind the scenes, two sources told CNN, the President told border agents to not let migrants in. Tell them we don't have the capacity, he said. If judges give you trouble, say, "Sorry, judge, I can't do it. We don't have the room.
After the President left the room, agents sought further advice from their leaders, who told them they were not giving them that direction and if they did what the President said they would take on personal liability. You have to follow the law, they were told.

This is why Trump tweeted last weekend that he wants to "get rid of judges".  Right now they are ordering Trump to follow the Constitution.

A federal judge on Monday blocked an experimental Trump administration policy that requires asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases make their way through the U.S. immigration court system, a major blow to President Trump’s efforts to stem the surge of crossings at the southern border.

U.S. District Judge Richard ­Seeborg in San Francisco enjoined the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) policy days after outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen pledged to expand the program. The policy began in January at the San Ysidro port of entry in California but has been extended to the Calexico, Calif., entry and to the entry in El Paso, and Seeborg wrote that the approach would have been further extended if the court had not stepped in.

Several hundred migrants have been returned to Mexico under the program after seeking asylum at the border.

It's only a matter of time before SCOTUS sides with Trump again on immigration policy.  He's already telling border agents to violate American law.  Stephen Miller's job is to make sure that when Trump again tells agents to break the law, the leadership in charge of these agencies tells those agents to obey Trump and not the law.

And when they decide to obey Trump and not the law, and not the Constitution, America ends and something far more sinister begins.

History tells us that whatever follows, it will almost certainly be a bloody nightmare.  If you're still wondering how Germans in the 1930s stood by while the Nazi Party put Jews in camps, I remind all of us that we're living that scenario in real time today.


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