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.


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