Friday, March 6, 2020

Last Call For Our Little Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't

With Bernie Sanders taking on Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination, the forces of Trumpy darkness (orangeness maybe?) are descending on events held for both candidates, and don't expect the White House to agree to extending badly needed Secret Service protection to either one, particularly Sanders, who would be the nation's first Jewish president.

Moments after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) took the stage at his campaign rally in Phoenix on Thursday night, the crowd was on its feet cheering madly for the Democratic presidential candidate.

But those cheers were swiftly replaced by deafening boos when Sanders’s supporters noticed that one man standing behind the senator in an upper section of the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum wasn’t waving a “Bernie” sign like many of those around him.

Instead, the man was holding a red flag above his head — and it was emblazoned with a swastika.

“It was absolutely wild,” Brianna Westbrook, a national surrogate for the Sanders campaign, told The Washington Post. “I never thought I would have seen a swastika at a political event. It’s gross.”
While people near the protester quickly ripped the offending item out of his hands and he was removed from the arena, the mere appearance of a Nazi flag at an event dedicated to a democratic socialist who could become the country’s first Jewish president sparked outcry. The moment, captured in videos and photos that circulated on social media Thursday night, was denounced as an act of anti-Semitism and prompted increased concerns about Sanders’s safety on the campaign trail.

“We can argue about which candidate should get the Dem nomination, but anti-Semitic acts have no place in this world,” tweeted Steven Slugocki, chairman of the Maricopa County Democratic Party. “This is absolutely abhorrent.”

It's abhorrent, completely.  It's also Trump's America.  This is only a taste of what I expect from Trump's twisted followers, all while Republicans are screaming that they are the victims.

We don't punch Nazis anymore.

We elect them.

Lowering The Barr, Con't

In an unprecedented situation, a federal judge has ordered a review of Attorney General Bill Barr's redactions of the Mueller Report, because he doesn't trust Barr to be impartial at all.

A federal judge in Washington sharply criticized Attorney General William P. Barr on Thursday for a “lack of candor,” questioning the truthfulness of the nation’s top law enforcement official in his handling of last year’s report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, overseeing a lawsuit brought by EPIC, a watchdog group, and BuzzFeed News, said he saw serious discrepancies between Barr’s public statements about Mueller’s findings and the public, partially redacted version of that report detailing the special counsel’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Because of those discrepancies, Walton ruled, the judge would conduct an independent review of Mueller’s full report to see whether the Justice Department’s redactions were appropriate.

“In the Court’s view, Attorney General Barr’s representation that the Mueller Report would be ‘subject only to those redactions required by law or by compelling law enforcement, national security, or personal privacy interests’ cannot be credited without the Court’s independent verification in light of Attorney General Barr’s conduct and misleading public statements about the findings in the Mueller Report,” Walton wrote.

A spokeswoman for Barr declined to comment on the ruling.

Walton rips into Barr in his opinion, all but saying that Barr's redactions are covering for Donald Trump's misdeeds.  Marcy Wheeler explains that Walton has long since tired of Trump's antics:

Before the Trump Administration started really politicizing justice, Reggie Walton had already proven himself willing to stand up to the Executive Branch
. During the George W Bush Administration, he presided over the Scooter Libby trial, never shirking from attacks from the defendant. And in the first year of the Obama Administration, as presiding FISA Judge, he shut down parts of the phone dragnet and the entire Internet dragnet because they were so far out of compliance with court orders.

And Walton had already showed his impatience with Trump’s stunts, most notably when presiding over a FOIA for materials related to the firing of Andrew McCabe. He finally forced DOJ to give the former Deputy FBI Director a prosecution declination so he could proceed with the FOIA lawsuit.

So it’s unsurprising he’s unpersuaded by DOJ’s request to dismiss the EPIC/BuzzFeed lawsuits over their FOIAs to liberate the Mueller Report, and has ordered DOJ to provide him a copy of the Report before the end of the month to do an in camera review of redactions in it.

What does this mean going forward in Wheeler's view?

Walton doesn’t say it explicitly, but he seems to believe what the unredacted portions of the report show amount to “collusion,” the kind of collusion Trump would want to and did (and still is) covering up.

Be warned, however, that this review is not going to lead to big revelations in the short term.

There are several reasons for that. Many of the most substantive redactions pertain to the Internet Research Agency and Roger Stone cases. Gags remain on both. While Walton is not an Article II pushover, he does take national security claims very seriously, and so should be expected to defer to DOJ’s judgments about those redactions.

Where this ruling may matter, though, is in four areas:
  • DOJ hid the circumstances of how both Trump and Don Jr managed to avoid testifying under a grand jury redaction. Walton may judge that these discussions were not truly grand jury materials.
  • DOJ is currently hiding details of people — like KT McFarland — who lied, but then cleaned up their story (Sam Clovis is another person this may be true of). There’s no reason someone as senior as McFarland should have her lies protected. All the more so, because DOJ is withholding some of the 302s that show her lies. So Walton may release some of this information.
  • Because Walton will have already read the Stone material — that part that most implicates Trump — by the time Judge Amy Berman Jackson releases the gag in that case, he will have a view on what would still need to be redacted. That may mean more of it will be released quickly than otherwise might happen.
  • In very short order, the two sides in this case will start arguing over DOJ’s withholding of 302s under very aggressive b5 claims. These claims, unlike most of the redactions in the Mueller Report, are substantively bogus and in many ways serve to cover up the details of Trump’s activities. While this won’t happen in the near term, I expect this ruling will serve as the basis for a similar in camera review on 302s down the road.

In other words, the judicial is doing its job.  Those wheels keep turning, slowly, towards November.

Rand Paul Goes Viral

As usual, Republican glibertarian asshole Rand Paul has decided that being the lone vote against anything that would actually prove the federal government should help people in a time of national crisis by voting against a coronavirus emergency funding package in the Senate yesterday will somehow endear him to the people here in Kentucky.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul voted against an emergency response coronavirus bill Thursday afternoon after his proposed amendment to the bill was turned down.

The bill had already received more than 60 affirmative votes, which was more than it needed to pass, when Paul voted against it. The bill passed 96-1.

"Earlier today on the Senate floor, I said that while I support an all-hands-on-deck response to the coronavirus, we should cut out waste and take money from less urgent spending, such as what we are wasting overseas, to put into that response effort," Paul said in a statement after his vote. "We don’t have to borrow more money. We just have to start setting our own priorities."

We can't afford coronavirus testing because GOP tax cuts, which Rand Paul voted for, knowing they would cost the federal government trillions in revenue.  I'm sure that will help.

The U.S. Senate voted earlier Thursday to table an amendment from Paul after the junior senator from Kentucky threatened to hold up the legislation if his amendment did not receive a vote.

The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to approve $8.3 billion in emergency aid Wednesday to combat the novel coronavirus, which has caused 11 deaths in the United States so far.

Before a scheduled Thursday afternoon vote on the bill, Paul put forth the amendment, which proposed cuts to State Department Cultural Exchange programs and reduces funding for the United States Agency for International Development, among other things.

The amendment died screaming, but Paul continues to remain in office. If Amy McGrath can't beat Mitch in November, I sincerely hope she goes for Paul's seat in 2022.

Meanwhile in DC, the Trump regime's response continues to be bafflingly inadequate and incompetent to the point of venality.

There will be a notable omission when Vice President Mike Pence visits Washington state Thursday as part of the Trump administration's coronavirus response: health Secretary Alex Azar.

The White House on Wednesday also benched Azar from a coronavirus task force press briefing, the latest sign of diminished standing for an official who was the face of the U.S. response to the disease just a week ago.

Four of Azar’s deputies — including Medicare chief Seema Verma and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Steve Hahn, who were both added to the task force after Pence took over the federal response — joined the vice president and other officials at the White House on Wednesday.

Azar's absence didn't go unnoticed by allies worried about his standing in the administration and the way he's catching more flak for missteps. Azar was front and center Thursday at a Capitol Hill briefing with House members, during which he took heat from some lawmakers over transparency and whether his department is adequately prepared for the stealthy disease.

Asked why Azar didn’t attend Wednesday's televised briefing, a Pence spokesperson said that Azar left for his office after the task force meeting, and officials wanted to make room on stage for Ben Carson, the Housing and Urban Development secretary and also a task force member. A spokesperson for Azar said that members of the task force will be “rotating through as necessary” now that the group is doing daily briefings.

Azar is being kept on until he can take the maximum amount of blame for the failed response, and everyone knows it.  It won't be long until the epidemic phase kicks in, end of the month at best.  April is going to be a nightmare.

And again, Trump is in charge.


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