Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Last Call For Meat The Press, Con't

I've been warning about this coming for months now and the Trump regime's vengeance for last night's Trump tax story was the catalyst for a swift and brutal purging the White House press corps of credentials across the board.  

The White House today immediately instituted a "new standard" for credentials based on how often reporters were on the White House grounds, something of course that happens to get rid of credentials for most non-FOX reporters completely.  Again, the vast majority of press reporters, technicians, and camera operators for America's press organizations all lost their White House press credentials today.

As Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank lays out, "exceptions" were made for some "senior" reporters, but those can now be revoked at will by the White House.  And those "senior" reporters do not include Milbank, who has covered the White House for 21 years.

The Post requested exceptions for its six White House reporters and for me, saying that this access is essential to our work (in my case, I often write “sketches” describing the White House scene). The White House press office granted exceptions to the other six, but not to me. I strongly suspect it’s because I’m a Trump critic. The move is perfectly in line with Trump’s banning of certain news organizations, including The Post, from his campaign events, and his threats to revoke White House credentials of journalists he doesn’t like.

White House officials provided me no comment for the record.

I’m not looking for pity. Trump’s elimination of briefings and other changes have devalued White House coverage anyway. But there’s something wrong with a president having the power to decide which journalists can cover him.

Now, virtually the entire White House press corps is credentialed under “exceptions,” which means, in a sense, that they all serve at the pleasure of press secretary Sarah Sanders because they all fail to meet credentialing requirements — and therefore, in theory, can have their credentials revoked any time they annoy Trump or his aides, like CNN’s Jim Acosta did.

Last year, Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee, ordered the White House to restore Acosta’s press credentials, saying that the White House’s process for revoking his access (after Acosta had aggressively questioned Trump) was “shrouded in mystery.”

In response, it seems, the White House established a clear — if nearly impossible — standard: No credentials to any journalist who is not in the building on at least 90 out of the previous 180 days — in other words, seven of every 10 workdays. The White House wouldn’t provide numbers, but it appears most of the White House press corps didn’t qualify for credentials under the new standard, including regulars for The Post and the Associated Press. (Trump, who has spent more than 200 days at Trump properties and many more on travel, is barely in the White House this much himself.)

The White House said it would grant exceptions for “senior journalists” who are “consistently engaged in covering the White House” and for those with “special circumstances.” Though the culling properly eliminated some (including at The Post) who no longer needed credentials, the victims hurt most were freelance camera operators and technicians who now could lose their livelihood.

The White House, in rescinding my credentials, told me I had only been in the building seven times in the previous 180 days (two foot surgeries during that period kept me at home, though I never came close to the 90-day standard).

More important is that the White House is drastically curtailing access for all journalists. Briefings have been abolished in favor of unscheduled “gaggles” ( on the record, but impromptu and haphazard) in the White House driveway. The Pentagon and State Department have done similarly.

The fact that this policy was rolled out less than 24 hours after the Trump tax story hit the presses last night is no coincidence.  The White House was given the heads up on the story some time ago when the NY Times called for comment.  They had the time to work this out, and when the story landed with a bang last night, today was the revenge.

We've taken a dark and rapid turn into authoritarianism with a looming shooting war and possible impeachment hearings.  No doubt this message pitch for America's press is very clear: you will report what we want you to report, or you will be gone...

The Reach To Impeach, Con't

Neither the Trump regime nor House Democrats were bluffing today when it came to carrying out their threatened actions this week on the impeachment front, as the House Judiciary Committee voted 24-10 to hold AG Bill Barr in contempt of Congress, and the Trump regime asserted executive privilege over the unredacted Mueller report.

President Donald Trump has asserted executive privilege over special counsel Robert Mueller's unredacted report as the House Judiciary Committee prepares to vote to hold his attorney general, William Barr, in contempt of Congress.

Faced with "blatant abuse of power" by Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the president "has no other option than to make a protective assertion of executive privilege," the White House said Wednesday.

The committee vote and Trump's assertion of privilege represents a major escalation of the battle between congressional Democrats and the president. It will likely lead to a protracted legal war over Mueller’s 448-page report on alleged obstruction of justice by Trump and Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

The Justice Department had told lawmakers Tuesday ahead of the session that it would recommend that Trump assert executive privilege to that material.

Members of the Judiciary Committee were expected to spend the Wednesday markup discussing the resolution to hold Barr in contempt, as well as a supporting 27-page report in which Democrats raised the prospect of impeachment as a result of their investigation relating to the Mueller probe.

In his opening remarks, Nadler said it was "not a step we take lightly," but rather the "culmination of nearly three months of requests, discussions and negotiations with the Department of Justice."

"In response to our latest good-faith offer, the Department abruptly announced that if we move forward today, it would ask President Trump to invoke what it refers to as a protective assertion of executive privilege on all of the materials subject to our subpoena. Just minutes ago, it took that dramatic step," Nadler continued.

"Let me be clear: The information we are requesting is entirely within our legal rights to receive and is no different from what has been provided to Congress on numerous occasions, going back nearly a century," he added.

Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the ranking member of the committee, said in his opening statement that Democrats on the committee were rushing the oversight process because they are "angry" that "the special counsel's report did not produce the material or conclusions they expected to pave their path to impeaching the president" — sullying Barr's reputation in the process.

"I ask you to recognize that craven and insincere politics yield anemic dividends for Americans who have asked us to legislate," Collins said. "As I have told you on multiple occasions and proved at last week’s pharmaceuticals markup, I stand ready to work with you to promote solutions. I will not, though, become a bystander as you assail the attorney general and this committee. Our democracy deserves better."

Once the Judiciary Committee signs off on the contempt resolution, it will go to a vote in the full House. The timing of that vote would be up to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Pelosi, for her part, says Trump is becoming "self-impeachable".  Whatever that means.

“The point is that every single day, whether it’s obstruction, obstruction, obstruction — obstruction of having people come to the table with facts, ignoring subpoenas . . . every single day, the president is making a case — he’s becoming self-impeachable, in terms of some of the things that he is doing,” Pelosi said at a Washington Post Live event.

I agree with Greg Sargent.  The only Democrat right now really taking Trump's impeachment seriously as a necessary duty to preserve the republic is Elizabeth Warren.

Is President Trump an aberration whose defeat in 2020 would allow the nation to begin rebounding toward normalcy? Or does his ascendance reflect long-running national pathologies and deeply ingrained structural economic and political problems that will intractably endure long after he’s gone?

The answer to this question — which has been thrust to the forefront by the Democratic presidential primaries — is, in a sense, both. Trump represents both a continuation of and a dramatic exacerbation of those long running pathologies and problems.

As of now, Elizabeth Warren appears to be the Democratic candidate who most fully grasps the need to take both of those aspects of the Trump threat seriously. The Massachusetts senator is, I think, offering what amounts to the most fully rounded and multidimensional response to that threat.

In recent days, Warren has addressed the deeper issues raised by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report — and the reaction to it from Trump and Republicans — in by far the most comprehensive way.

In an important moment on the Senate floor on Tuesday, Warren took strong issue with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s profoundly cynical effort to treat this all as a closed matter. “Case closed,” McConnell said, speaking not just about Mueller’s extensive findings of likely criminal obstruction of justice by Trump but also about Trump’s eagerness to reap gain from Russia’s sabotage of our elections, which McConnell blamed on Barack Obama.

In response, Warren again called for an impeachment inquiry, but she did more than that: She indicted the Republican Party as a whole for shrugging off Trump’s epic misconduct and wrongdoing.

Warren has also pointed out more forcefully than any rival has that Trump tried to derail an investigation not just into his own campaign’s conduct, but also into the Russian attack on our democracy — which Trump has refused to acknowledge happened at all, hamstringing preparations for the next attack.

It is this dereliction of duty on Trump's part that poses the most serious threat.

Unfortunately, America just doesn't give a damn.

Liz Warren is "out of touch" for wanting to save the country and the country just doesn't want to deal with it.  Period.  Maybe that changes, but that's apparently up to Democrats to convince America that's the case and despite the massive coverage of it, the country literally could not care less about it.

That's where we are right now.  We were told Hillary didn't make the case she was going to be better than Trump in 2016.  Now we're being told Democrats haven't made the case for impeachment in 2019.

All evidence points to 2020's election being far too late.

The Drums Of War, Con't

Trump's efforts to get the media off Mueller and impeachment has now reached a critical juncture.  It's now a matter of time before we're in a shooting war, the only question is where.  On one side, Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido is all but asking Trump for US troops to enact bloody regime change.

One week after Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó's calls for mass protests failed to incite a military uprising and force Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro out of office, Guaidó has suggested to CBS News that he is open to a U.S. military intervention in his country. 
"We are open to options that offer a low social cost and that will grant us the ability and the stability to hold a truly free election," Guaidó told CBS News' Adriana Diaz in Caracas. "We want the best exit out of this conflict, and if there are options we have to consider and alternatives, then we will." 
But it seems the United States isn't Guaidó's only option. A member of Guaido's team told Diaz that they are in touch with Russian officials, which Guaidó confirmed. He said those talks were happening in an unofficial capacity, with various officials from high to low levels in the Moscow government.

The U.S. and Russia accuse each other of interfering in the Venezuelan crisis. On Monday, speaking from Moscow, Venezuela's foreign minister said his country may expand the amount of Russian specialists there.

President Trump's top aides say all options — including military action — remain on the table.

As I said before, a simple US invasion won't happen.  What will happen could be much, much worse.  Look no further than Syria to see how this will go.  A civil war with Putin controlling both sides by proxy is a dream scenario for him and he knows it.

And as we get into a calculated dog and pony show in Caracas, we also come closer to a flamethrower in a fireworks factory scenario in Tehran.

Consequently, as the first anniversary of Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear accord approaches, the action-reaction spiral the administration set in motion with its maximum pressure campaign has produced a very ominous situation—one in which the risk of military confrontation grows by the day
Thousands of U.S. troops and Iranian-backed forces operate in close proximity to one another in Iraq, Syria, and the crowded waters of the Persian Gulf. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates continue to pursue their air campaign against Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen despite international outrage over the world’s worst humanitarian disaster there. And Israel regularly conducts military strikes against Iranian arms shipments and infrastructure in Syria. In this volatile context, the scenarios for an intentional or inadvertent U.S.-Iran war are legion
If Iran or its proxies respond to U.S. pressure in ways that draw American blood or deal a major blow to critical oil infrastructure in the region, things could quickly get out of hand.

All else being equal, Trump probably doesn’t want another U.S. war in the Middle East. But, if past is prologue, his gut instinct will be to respond (likely via Twitter) to any Iranian provocation with bellicose rhetoric that pours fuel on the fire. It is also easy to envision Iranian actions triggering intense political pressure from the president’s right-wing donors, congressional hawks, and regional allies—the same forces that pressed Trump to exit the Iran deal—for military action. And Trump is no longer surrounded by former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and other cooler heads. He is now enveloped by advisors like Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who have long called for war against Iran. Unlike in the latter years of the Obama administration, there are currently no high-level lines of communication between Washington and Tehran to manage a crisis. And hard-liners on all sides seem keen for a fight, looking for opportunities to escalate, rather than de-escalate, tensions.

Indeed, Trump’s advisors appear to be contemplating precisely this eventuality and its possible legal justifications. Last month, during a hearing in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Sen. Rand Paul asked Pompeo whether the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force against al Qaeda and its associated forces gave the Trump administration the authority to go to war with Iran. Pompeo refused to give a straight forward answer, but—in a dark echo of the lead-up to the Iraq War—said the Trump administration believes there is a connection between Iran and al Qaeda.

It's going to be a long summer, and a bloody one.


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