Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Last Call For Russian To Judgment, Hope Less Edition

As expected, today's closed-door testimony before the House Judiciary Committee by former Trump regime adviser Hope Hicks was a bust as she refused to answer questions about her time at the White House, claiming immunity via executive privilege.

House Democrats erupted Wednesday at what they said was the White House’s repeated interference in their interview with Hope Hicks, a longtime confidante of President Donald Trump who was a central witness in special counsel Robert Mueller’s obstruction of justice investigation.

Several House Judiciary Committee members exiting the closed-door interview said a White House lawyer repeatedly claimed Hicks had blanket immunity from discussing her time in the White House. They said she wouldn’t answer questions as basic as where she sat in the West Wing or whether she told the truth to Mueller.

“We’re watching obstruction of justice in action,” said Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.).

“It’s a farce,” added Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who said Hicks at one point tried to answer a question about an episode involving former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski only to be cut off by the White House counsel.

“She made clear she wouldn’t answer a single question about her time unless the White House counsel told her it was okay,” an exasperated Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) said in an interview. “She couldn’t even characterize her testimony to the special counsel.”

Deutch added that the White House was not formally asserting executive privilege to block Hicks from answering certain questions; rather, the lawyer was referring to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone’s Tuesday letter claiming that Hicks was “absolutely immune” from discussing her tenure in the Trump administration.

Lieu said the White House lawyers were “making crap up” to block Hicks from testifying. He said she answered some questions about her time on the Trump campaign that provided new information, but he declined to characterize her comments.

Jayapal said lawyers even objected to Hicks discussing episodes that occurred after she left the White House — and that Hicks went along with it.

“She is making a choice to follow along with all the claims of absolute immunity,” Jayapal said, adding, “Basically, she can say her name.”
Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) took a more forgiving tone, saying Hicks did answer some questions and said a transcript of her testimony released in the next few days would reveal what she said

My guess will be it's not much, but what did Jerry Nadler and the Democrats on the committee expect?  Remember that "absolute immunity" means whatever at least five Supreme Court justices decide it means.

On the other side, Nancy Pelosi outright said today that censure of Trump is not going to happen.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi officially shut the door on censuring President Donald Trump Wednesday but plans to view a minimally redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report this week, her latest attempt to juggle the competing impeachment factions within her caucus.

Pelosi initially rejected an offer from Attorney General William Barr in April to view the less-redacted report, rebuffing Barr’s demands that only top congressional leaders have that access. The speaker’s course reversal on the report comes days after key House panels secured agreements to give more lawmakers access to the evidence underpinning the special counsel’s conclusions.

“We will be having access to a less redacted version of the Mueller report,” Pelosi said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast Wednesday morning. “I accepted that because I’m afraid — I really don’t trust the attorney general of the United States.”

Pelosi told reporters she has made the request with the Department of Justice to view the report. A Democratic aide later confirmed that is expected to happen this week.

The California Democrat remained firm in her opposition to opening an impeachment inquiry into Trump right now but quashed the notion of censure — a less severe reprimand for public officials. Pelosi’s censure comments are significant because she is leaving the House with one option if they want to punish Trump — impeachment.

“I think censure is just a way out. If you want to go, you gotta go,” she said. “If the goods are there, you must impeach. Censure is nice, but it is not commensurate with the violations of the Constitution should we decide that’s the way to go.

So, impeachment or nothing.

Your guess as to which one happens.

The Juneteenth Papers

It's no accident that today's House hearings on reparations came today, on Juneteenth. Ta-Nehesi Coates responded in today's hearing to Mitch McConnell's dismissal of reparations yesterday, and it was amazing.

This rebuttal proffers a strange theory of governance: That American accounts are somehow bound by the lifetime of its generations. But well into this century, the United States was still paying out pensions to the heirs of Civil War soldiers. We honor treaties that date back some 200 years, despite no one being alive who signed those treaties. Many of us would love to be taxed for the things we are solely and individually responsible for, but we are American citizens and thus bound to a collective enterprise that extends beyond our individual and personal reach. It would seem ridiculous to dispute invocations of the Founders, or the Greatest Generation, on the basis of the lack of membership of either group. We recognize our lineage as a generational trust, as inheritance, and the real dilemma posed by generations is just that: a dilemma of inheritance.

It is impossible to imagine America without the inheritance of slavery. As historian Ed Baptist has written, enslavement “shaped every crucial aspect of the economy and politics of America,” so that by 1836, more than 600 million, or more than half of the economic activity in the United States, derived directly or indirectly from the cotton produced by the million-odd slaves. By the time the enslaved were emancipated, they comprised the largest single asset in America: 3 billion in 1860 dollars, more than all the other assets in the country combined. The method of cultivating this asset was neither gentle cajoling, nor persuasion, but torture, rape, and child trafficking. Enslavement reigned for 250 years on these shores. When it ended, this country could have extended its hallowed principles: Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to all regardless of color. But America had other principles in mind. And so for a century after the Civil War, black people were subjected to a relentless campaign of terror. A campaign that extended well into the lifetime of Majority Leader McConnell.

It is tempting to divorce this modern campaign of terror, of plunder, from enslavement. But the logic of enslavement, of white supremacy respects no such borders. And the God of bondage was lustful and begat many heirs, coup d’etats and convict leasing; vagrancy laws and debt peonage; redlining and racist G.I. bills; poll taxes and state-sponsored terrorism. We grant that Mr. McConnell was not alive for Appomattox. But he was alive for the electrocution of George Stinney. He was alive for the blinding of Isaac Woodard. He was alive to witness kleptocracy in his native Alabama, and a regime premised on electoral theft. Majority Leader McConnell cited Civil Rights legislation yesterday, as well he should, because he was alive to witness the harassment, jailing, and betrayal of those responsible for that legislation by a government sworn to protect them. He was alive for the redlining of Chicago, and the looting of black homeowners of some $4 billion. Victims of that plunder are very much alive today. I am sure they’d love a word with the Majority Leader. What they know, what this committee must know, is that while emancipation dead-bolted the door against the bandits of America, Jim Crow wedged the windows wide open. And that is the thing about Sen. McConnell’s “something”: it was 150 years ago and it was right now. The typical black family in this country has one-tenth the wealth of the typical white family. Black women die in childbirth at four times the rate of white women, and there is of course the shame of this land of the free boasting the largest prison population on the planet, of which the descendants of the enslaved make up the largest share.

The matter of reparations is one of making amends and direct redress, but it is also a question of citizenship. In H.R. 40, this body has a chance to both make good on its 2009 apology for enslavement, and reject fair-weather patriotism. To say that a nation is both its credits and its debts. That if Thomas Jefferson matters, so does Sally Hemings. That if D-Day matters, so does black Wall Street. That if Valley Forge matters, so does Fort Pillow. Because the question really is, not whether we will be tied to the “somethings” of our past, but whether we are courageous enough to be tied to the whole of them.

As I keep saying, the white supremacy of the Trump regime is merely America returning to form.  It's becoming more and more obvious that the Civil Rights era of the last 50 years was not the direction of America's bright future, but an aberration diverting from America's dark past, and Donald Trump is the figurehead of the violent reversion to the mean.

The Drums Of War, Con't

As legendary test pilot Chuck Yeager would say, Trump's Pentagon just "augured into the ground" and is about to take America with it.

Patrick Shanahan withdrew his nomination to become the next secretary of defense, U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Twitter Tuesday, leaving the Pentagon without a permanent head for the foreseeable future. 
The withdrawal of the former Boeing executive’s nomination came on the heels of multiple media reports Tuesday chronicling a history of domestic violence and assault in the Shanahan family. According to the Washington Post, Shanahan’s son William assaulted his mother, Kimberley, with a baseball bat in 2011. In 2010, police in Seattle arrested Kimberley after a violent confrontation between her and Shanahan, her then-husband, according to USA Today. They subsequently divorced. 
The FBI has been investigating the domestic violence issues as part of its background investigation into the nominee, and that has delayed Shanahan’s nomination process. Shanahan was originally supposed to go before the Senate for his confirmation hearing on Tuesday. It is not clear why these issues did not come up during his confirmation process to be deputy secretary of defense in 2017. 
In a statement on Tuesday, Shanahan said he decided to withdraw his name from consideration for the top Pentagon job because “my continuing in the confirmation process would force my three children to relive a traumatic chapter in our family’s life and reopen wounds we have worked years to heal. Ultimately, their safety and well-being is my highest priority.” 
“After having been confirmed for Deputy Secretary less than two years ago, it is unfortunate that a painful and deeply personal family situation from long ago is being dredged up and painted in an incomplete and therefore misleading way in the course of this process,” Shanahan said. “I would welcome the opportunity to be Secretary of Defense, but not at the expense of being a good father.” 
Shanahan has served as acting defense secretary since his predecessor, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, resigned in December 2018. Shanahan’s nearly six months in office is the longest period in U.S. history in which the Pentagon has gone without a permanent chief. 
The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Mac Thornberry, urged the president to fill the top post at the Pentagon “in a matter of weeks, not months.” 
“The uncertainty surrounding this vacant office encourages our enemies and unsettles our allies,” he said in a statement. 
But it does not look like the top Pentagon job will be filled anytime soon. Trump left Shanahan hanging for months before he announced his intent to name him to the permanent position; any new nominee will still have to be subjected to an extensive background check, noted Byron Callan, an analyst with Capital Alpha. Meanwhile, the Senate will break for recess in August. A new nominee will likely have to wait until the fall for confirmation, at the earliest, Callan said. 
If Esper is the nominee, Callan speculated, he will likely be confirmed. But under the Vacancies Act, once nominated, Esper would have to step aside as acting until confirmed, noted Arnold Punaro, a former staff director of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The Vacancies Act did not apply to Shanahan, as he was already the deputy secretary of defense. 
The withdrawal of Shanahan’s nomination leaves the Pentagon without Senate-confirmed leadership at a time when the Defense Department is confronting a serious crisis. This week, the Pentagon announced it would deploy an additional 1,000 troops to the Middle East amid escalating tensions with Iran after Trump administration officials accused Tehran of masterminding an attack on two oil tankers.
With Shanahan out, Army Secretary Mark Esper, a former Army infantry officer and lobbyist for the defense firm Raytheon, will take over as acting secretary of defense, Trump wrote on Twitter.

The domestic violence story is the official reason for his complete departure from the Pentagon. By itself, it is breathtaking malfeasance.  This is a man who should not be in government at all, but again, nobody cared about the family's staggering history until Tuesday morning.

But he already had gotten Senate confirmation as Deputy Secretary of Defense in 2017, meaning he had already been through a background check, meaning this was all known to the White House.  He was the nominee and the process was going forward anyway.  Shanahan was all set for his Senate confirmation hearings this week.

And then something went horribly wrong. The plug was pulled.  Shanahan went to the press Monday and the story came out Tuesday.

My theory is that the unofficial reason this is happening is that Shanahan, like Mattis before him, wouldn't carry water for military action against Iran.  Certainly the generals and admirals and intelligence agencies laid out what a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities or against the Iranian navy would entail, and it would be nothing short of disaster.

Understand that John Bolton's mustache is now running our military as well as our foreign intel apparatus. Shanahan was the last major holdout.  2019 so far has been a huge purge of Trump cabinet members that weren't with the new autocracy.  The same day Shanahan goes, Bolton makes his move.

Staff changes are coming to the National Security Council this summer as national security adviser John Bolton elevates some of the senior officials he brought on and bids farewell to some of the people he inherited from his predecessor. 
The NSC’s top official dealing with Russia, Fiona Hill, will return to the Brookings Institution, two administration officials told me. She will be replaced by Tim Morrison, who currently serves as NSC senior director for weapons of mass destruction and nonproliferation-related issues. Anthony Ruggiero, who joined the NSC last year to work on Asia, will take the helm of the WMD bureau as senior director. 
Rear Adm. Doug Fears, homeland security and counter-terrorism adviser on the NSC staff, will leave the White House soon as well and return to the Coast Guard. His successor will be Coast Guard Rear Adm. Peter Brown, who currently commands the Seventh Coast Guard in Miami. This is the job once held by Tom Bossert, but the post was downgraded and folded into the NSC when Bolton came on. 
The NSC’s senior director for Africa, Cyril Sartor, will also leave the White House and return to his home agency, which has been publicly identified as the CIA. Elizabeth Erin Walsh, the current NSC senior director for international organizations and alliances, will move over to lead the NSC’s Africa team. Walsh served during the presidential transition in charge of State Department personnel appointments, where she worked closely with Bolton’s former deputy Mira Ricardel. Ricardel later was pushed out by Melania Trump’s press secretary. Jason Chao will be acting senior director of the international organizations and alliances at the NSC. 
Bolton has slowly but surely changed the makeup of the NSC staff and tightened its structure since assuming office. He has replaced senior staff gradually as their details expire, and he now wants his senior team in place to establish stability in the run-up to the 2020 election, officials said. 
“This is part of Bolton’s effort to bring his own people on and promote them up,” said one administration official, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record. "He’s putting his people in places where they can execute the president’s agenda.”

This is happening as Shanahan is being dismissed from the Pentagon, as Trump is kicking off his 2020 reelection campaign, as tensions with Iran are ripe for a catastrophic scenario, and as Trump is purging his internal pollsters for the crime of revealing that Trump is well underwater right now is almost every battleground state.

When we look back on this week in history and the reporting is written and published, I am nearly certain that we will find out (much too late of course) that this was the week where Trump and Bolton's facial hair made the decision to attack Iran.

What that means for America and the world, I can only speculate.  It will not be good.  It will most likely be a disaster of epic proportions.  Between this and Trump's threat of mass deportations starting next week, we know what his 2020 reelection platform is.

War and ethnic cleansing.


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