Friday, August 2, 2019

Last Call For Ratted Out And Off A Cliff

Today Donald Trump pulled the nomination of GOP Rep. John Ratcliffe as Director of National Intelligence, not that Trump had a choice after Ratliffe was busted with a fake resume.

President Trump’s choice to lead the nation’s intelligence community often cites a massive roundup of immigrant workers at poultry plants in 2008 as a highlight of his career. Rep. John Ratcliffe claims that as a federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of Texas, he was the leader of the immigration crackdown, describing it as one of the largest cases of its kind.

“As a U.S. Attorney, I arrested over 300 illegal immigrants on a single day,” Rat­cliffe (R-Tex.) says on his congressional website.

But a closer look at the case shows that Ratcliffe’s claims conflict with the court record and the recollections of others who participated in the operation — at a time when he is under fire for embellishing his record.

Ratcliffe played a supporting role in the 2008 sweep, which involved U.S. attorneys’ offices in five states and was led by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, according to a Justice Department news release. The effort targeted workers at poultry processor Pilgrim’s Pride who were suspected of using stolen Social Security numbers.

Only 45 workers were charged by prosecutors in Ratcliffe’s office, court documents show. Six of those cases were dismissed, two of them because the suspects turned out to be American citizens. One of those citizens, a 19-year-old woman, was awakened in her home and hauled away by immigration agents, the woman said in an interview.

Two people involved in the planning or execution of the enforcement effort said they could not recall Ratcliffe playing a central role

Trump announced on Twitter this afternoon that Ratcliffe would not be accepting the nomination.  With Coats stepping down, that leaves Deputy DNI Sue Gordon in charge.  Or it would, except she is not seen as sufficiently loyal to Dear Leader.

The White House is planning to block Sue Gordon, the nation’s No. 2 intelligence official, from rising to the role of acting director of national intelligence when Dan Coats steps down this month, according to people familiar with the Trump administration’s plans.

The decision to circumvent Ms. Gordon, who has served as the principal deputy director in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, will probably upset Republicans and Democrats in the Senate. They have expressed doubts about Representative John Ratcliffe, Republican of Texas, who is President Trump’s choice to be the next Senate-confirmed leader of the agency.

Mr. Trump did not allow Ms. Gordon to personally deliver a recent intelligence briefing after she arrived at the White House, according to a person familiar with the matter. A spokeswoman for the Office of the Director of the National Intelligence, Amanda J. Schoch, said Ms. Gordon was not blocked from attending any recent briefing, but she declined to comment about what happened inside the Oval Office.

Opposition in the White House to letting her serve as acting director has raised the question of whether she will be ousted as part of a leadership shuffle at the intelligence director’s office that will be more to Mr. Trump’s liking
A federal statute says that if the position of director of national intelligence becomes vacant, the deputy director — currently Ms. Gordon — shall serve as acting director.

But there appears to be a loophole: The law gives the White House much more flexibility in choosing who to appoint as the acting deputy if the No. 2 position is vacant, said Robert M. Chesney, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, who specializes in national-security legal issues.
Ms. Gordon will retire if told by the White House that Mr. Trump wants someone else in the deputy’s role who could then rise to fill the vacancy created when Mr. Coats departs, according to officials.

So Coats is gone in two weeks, Gordon will be gone shortly, Ratcliffe won't be confirmed so he was pulled, and that means the search is on for a semi-permanent Acting DNI.

The Trump administration is taking inventory of many of America’s top spies, The Daily Beast has learned. The White House recently asked the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) for a list of all its employees at the federal government’s top pay scale who have worked there for 90 days or more, according to two sources familiar with the request.

The request appears to be part of the White House’s search for a temporary director of national intelligence—a prospect that raises concerns in some quarters about political influence over the intelligence community.

The request, which specifically asks for people in ODNI at the GS-15 level (the pay grade for most top government employees, including supervisors) or higher, comes as ODNI’s leadership faces turmoil. Earlier this week, President Trump tweeted that Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats will step down on Aug. 15, and that he plans to nominate Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe for the post. But Ratcliffe faces a contentious confirmation process that’s all but certain to stretch past the 15th, and the White House needs someone to take the DNI role in the meantime.

According to federal law, ODNI’s Senate-confirmed second-in-command—the principal deputy director of national intelligence, currently Sue Gordon—steps in if the DNI departs. Gordon, who has spent decades in the intelligence community, is revered there and on Capitol Hill. But as a career intelligence official, she isn’t viewed as Team MAGA. And the White House is reportedly eyeingways to put someone they trust in the top role after Coats departs.

That may not be as easy as it sounds. As Bobby Chesney of the University of Texas School of Law detailed at Lawfare, the law indicates that if both the DNI post and the post Gordon currently holds are vacant, then the president could choose from a fairly wide pool of people to take Gordon’s post and, therefore, become acting DNI. That includes any Senate-confirmed officials in the Executive Branch, and any senior employee who’s been at ODNI for 90 days or more—in other words, anyone on the list the White House just requested from ODNI.

It’s unclear why the White House asked ODNI for that list, but a search to replace Gordon appears to be the most likely explanation. A White House spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

So the plan will be the Trump Cabinet Special: oust the insufficiently loyal sap who wouldn't sign off on Trump's authoritarian rule, find a temp who will, let them run the place as long as it takes to find a confirmable yes-man.

And let's remember not even Mitch McConnell could deliver on Ratcliffe's confirmation.

Trump's Race To The Bottom, Con't

Here in Cincinnati last night, we didn't see the return of "Send her back!" chants.  We got threats of violence against the press and actual outright physical violence against people protesting his visit instead

Punches were thrown outside U.S. Bank Arena as Trump addressed the crowd, defending his record and attacking Democrats for what he said were their destructive record for inner cities.

Though many of the protests were peaceful, this one turned violent, forcing Cincinnati police to intervene in the 200 block of Broadway Street.

Dallas Frazier, 29, of Georgetown, Kentucky, was arrested on a misdemeanor assault charge and escorted away in handcuffs.

He was taken to the Hamilton County Justice Center, where he was booked and held overnight without bond.

He appeared before a judge Friday afternoon and was granted a $10,000 bond at 10 percent, meaning he only has to pay $1,000 to be released.

“Victim stated suspect exited a vehicle, stated ‘You want some’ then struck the victim multiple times in the face causing visible injuries and breaking victim’s glasses,” Cincinnati police wrote in Frazier’s criminal complaint.

The victim, Matt Alter, went to Christ Hospital to get checked out. After, he told FOX19 NOW he was punched six times in the face.

Alter said he was with anti-Trump protesters and the man who hit him pulled up in a truck, didn’t like what he had to say and started attacking him.

“I was standing with a group of people around and the truck pulled up. He was yelling at people. People yelling back anti Trump stuff whatever, nothing specific and he just started getting violent and I’m like come on guy,” Alter said.

Both men involved in the fight were white.  I'm very thankful that the bastard who jumped out of his truck didn't attack a black protester, because who knows how that would have ended, especially with the police already on scene.

Inside US Bank Arena last night, it wasn't much better.

Open throats, captive minds. Maybe 17,000 of each, deafening in different ways. Joy, fear, love, hate, fellowship. Unbridled, roaring nationalism. Shirts that said “JESUS IS MY SAVIOR, TRUMP IS MY PRESIDENT,” though it was hard to tell the difference here at rally No. 64 of his presidency, on day 923 of his first term.

About 15 minutes into his speech Thursday evening, Donald Trump riffed on one of his favorite topics: American “inner cities,” and how they are utter hellholes.

“We can name one after the other, but I won’t do that,” Trump said. “Because I don’t want to be controversial.” He paused to let the crowd goad him into being controversial. “We want no controversy.” This was his first rally since his pillorying of Baltimore as “infested,” since his last audience chanted “send her back” in reference to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), the Somali-American congresswoman.

Would he go there again? Would he go beyond? Would they? How racist was everyone feeling tonight?

When asked earlier in the day about indecent chants, outside the White House, Trump said: “I don’t know that you can stop people.”

Presently, onstage, the president pivoted to his left and looked into the crowd at the U.S. Bank Arena. His followers, reacting as one red-hatted organism, had detected an invasion: a few protesters who had unfurled a small banner that said “IMMIGRANTS BUILT AMERICA.” The organism’s immune system pulsed to life. People snatched at the banner, swarmed the protesters.

Trump sidestepped the microphone and addressed the fans closest to him, just off the stage. “Democrat mayor?” he asked them, hand beside his mouth, perhaps to block his audio. “Democrat mayor. Democrat?” When the slight infection was treated, the capacity crowd chanted “U-S-A
“Cincinnati, do you have a Democrat mayor?” Trump said at the microphone. “Well, that’s what happens.”

Yes, that’s what happens if you vote Democrat, or if a Democrat is in charge, or if anyone is in charge but Donald Trump in 2021: chaos, lawlessness, the slavery of socialism, epidemics of disease and drugs, criminal immigrants pillaging schools and hospitals, the slaughter of newborn babies by abortion doctors, pesky investigations of presidential wrongdoing by men such as Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), congressman from Baltimore and chairman of the House Oversight Committee.

He's talking to you, Mayor Cranley.  You're next.  All Democratic politicians are next.  All Democratic voters are next.

Fever bright Trumpies are everywhere.  They are dangerous.  And they see Trump as God on Earth.

Rewind for a moment, to about two hours before Trump’s entrance. It was the fifth rally for Steve and Tina Callahan, real estate agents from Springfield, Ohio. They were waiting in the first row of the second tier of seating, in attire patterned with the American flag, because they wanted to feel unity, to be around people with “common sense,” to see their hero in the flesh.

“He is sacrificing his life to save America from a new world order,” Tina said.

What if he is not reelected?

“God is real and He’s told many people that Trump is going to serve eight years,” said Tina, a born-again Christian. “And Pence is going to serve eight years. And Pence’s vice president is going to serve eight years.”

Jennifer Heinlein, a patient-services specialist, loves how her 401(k) has swelled. She pays “heavily” for her health insurance, but wants to keep it, and worries that a Democrat would take it away. She pointed to her compatriots moving through the concourse in Trump-branded merchandise. “When I see people wearing all this,” Heinlein said, “it makes me a believer.”
Down on the polished concrete floor of the arena, in the standing VIP section, was a woman named Michelle Sellati, wearing a shirt adorned with the letter “Q.” She was part of a noticeable contingent of rallygoers wearing the symbols of the QAnon conspiracy theory, which at least one FBI field office has identified as a domestic terrorist threat, according to a Yahoo News story published earlier in the day. Besides being a portal to uncertain revelations of a dubious nature, QAnon also helps explain the president’s foibles to those who see him as the author of living scripture.

“I wait for him to misspell or mispronounce something, and then I wait for my Serial Brain to decode,” said Sellati, referring to a YouTube channel that she says analyzes the missing letters in the president’s tweets — and the garbled words in the president’s mouth — for clues to what’s going to happen in the future.

What’s an example of something that’s happened, after a clue?

“The chemtrails,” Sellati said.

The chemtrails.

“The chemtrails are gone. Since July 4. Look at the sky. It’s beautiful.”

Do you think these people are going to accept a Trump loss without catastrophic violence against those who they perceive as responsible for that loss?

“We’re all tired of being called racists,” a 74-year-old bespectacled white man named Richard Haines told me. “You open your mouth, you’re a racist. My daughter is a liberal, and she’s [using the word] all the time. We don’t talk politics; we can’t—all the time she always accuses me of hate.”

Haines, who told me he had just returned to the United States from Thailand, where he had done missionary work for 15 years with impoverished children, said that he knew what real racism looked like—that his father was a “bigot” who “didn’t like black people.”

“Donald is not racist, you know?” Haines said. “He makes a statement, and they take the words out of context and try to twist everything so that he’s a racist. And I think it’s gonna backfire.”

Before the rally began, I sat down on the floor of the arena with two women—Roseanna, 50, and Amy, 48—who felt similarly. (Neither woman was comfortable providing her last name for this story.) Roseanna, who wore a red T-shirt, white shorts, and a MAGA hat adorned with multiple buttons, including one featuring the likeness of Hillary Clinton behind bars, had driven an hour and a half from Lexington, Kentucky. She defended Trump’s statements about Baltimore. “He didn’t say nothing about the color of somebody’s skin,” Roseanna said, yet it seemed like everyone was “wishing him toward ‘He’s a bigot.’

“I’m sick to death of it. I have 13 grandchildren—13,” she continued. “Four of them are biracial, black and white; another two of them are black and white; and another two of them are Singapore and white. You think I’m a racist? I go and I give them kids kisses like nobody’s business.”

When I asked Roseanna and Amy whether they would join in a “Send her back!” chant were it to take place that night, both women said no, but out of deference to Trump. “He apologized for that, so I think us as Trump supporters will respect him for that,” Roseanna said. She then shared her thoughts on the chant’s target, Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who came to America as a refugee from Somalia.

“Look, but she is gonna get—you know, I don’t want her stinkin’ Muslim crap in my country,” Roseanna said.

“Sharia law,” Amy chimed in. Her iridescent CoverGirl highlighter glinted under the stadium lights. “Sharia law.”

“That’s not America,” Roseanna said. “She is a Muslim through and through …She wants that all here.” She wondered aloud whether Omar had come to the U.S. illegally. (There is no evidence this is true.

Should Trump win, they will be justified in their racism.  Should Trump lose, they will not accept it. They will want to do something about it.

And they will.

I am terrified of what may happen in 2020.  I will vote, and I will continue to write, and I will continue to witness.  But I would be lying if I said I didn't expect brutal, historic violence in the wake of a Trump loss.

Return Of The Blue Wave, Con't

The latest high-profile Republican retirement is the lone black member of the GOP in the House, Texas Rep. Will Hurd.

Rep. Will Hurd, the lone black Republican in the House and the rare GOP lawmaker to criticize President Trump at times, will not seek reelection, he told The Washington Post.

Hurd’s retirement is the third by a Texas Republican in the past week and the ninth by a party incumbent, dealing a blow to GOP efforts to regain control of the House in next year’s election.

Hurd barely held the seat last year and Trump lost the congressional district, which covers more than 58,000 square miles between San Antonio and El Paso along the Mexican border, by four percentage points in 2016.

In an interview Thursday with The Post, Hurd criticized Trump’s racist tweets last month in which the president said four Democratic minority congresswomen should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Three of the women are from the United States; a fourth, Rep. Ilhan Omar (Minn.), is a Somali refu­gee who became a U.S. citizen as a teenager.

“When you imply that because someone doesn’t look like you, in telling them to go back to Africa or wherever, you’re implying that they’re not an American and you’re implying that they have less worth than you,” Hurd said.

But Hurd also repeated his earlier pledge to vote for Trump if he’s the Republican nominee in 2020. He said Hispanics, African Americans and other groups would be receptive to conservative themes if they weren’t drowned in racially charged rhetoric.

More recently, Trump targeted House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) and his city of Baltimore, tweeting that “no human being would want to live” in the “disgusting, rat and rodent infested” city. The remarks prompted widespread accusations of racism, which Trump has denied.

You read that right, Hurd is the third Texas House Republican to retire this week.

The defections are now threatening to become a deluge.  The last remaining Republicans with a shred of dignity left are fleeing the GOP in droves.

Why is Hurd out?  Sick of the GOP's racism, perhaps, but Hurd says he plans to vote for Trump in 2020 and will almost certainly continue to vote with Trump in the House where has has done so 81.3% of the time.

Hurd wants out and into the private sector, the revolving door, because he has calculated that he can't win. He's already advertising his availability as a China expert, border consultant, and cybersecurity czar.

We are in a geopolitical competition with China to have the world’s most important economy. There is a global race to be the leader in artificial intelligence, because whoever dominates AI will rule the world. We face growing cyberattacks every day. Extreme poverty, lack of economic opportunity and violence in Central America is placing unbearable pressure on our borders. While Congress has a role in these issues, so does the private sector and civil society.

But here's the bigger picture that Hurd's retirement reveals, first, that an incumbent who never won any of his three elections by breaking 50% is done, and two:

Texas is now in play, ladies and gentlemen.


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