Sunday, October 18, 2020

Last Call For Orange Meltdown, Con't

As I have been saying for the better part of a year now, it's now very clear that if Donald Trump loses this election, he will be indicted when he leaves office. I guarantee you this. He knows it. And he will do everything in his power, legal or otherwise, to prevent this scenario. A helpful primer on CNN:
Without some of the protections afforded him by the presidency, Trump will become vulnerable to multiple investigations looking into possible fraud in his financial business dealings as a private citizen -- both as an individual and through his company. He faces defamation lawsuits sparked by his denials of accusations made by women who have alleged he assaulted them, including E. Jean Carroll, the former magazine columnist who has accused him of rape. And then there are claims he corrupted the presidency for his personal profits. 
As President, Trump has been able to block and delay several of these investigations and lawsuits -- including a yearlong fight over a subpoena for his tax returns -- in part because of his official position. Many of those matters have wound through the courts and will come to a head whether he is reelected or not. 
But with the polls showing that Democratic rival Joe Biden is leading in the race, the stakes become much higher for Trump if he loses the election. A raft of legal issues, including a criminal investigation by New York prosecutors, will come into focus in the weeks after Election Day. 
"In every regard, his leaving office makes it easier for prosecutors and plaintiffs in civil cases to pursue their cases against him," said Harry Sandick, a former federal prosecutor in the Manhattan US attorney's office. "For example, he is claiming a higher protection from subpoenas in the criminal cases and also in the congressional subpoena cases, [and that] is based largely on the fact that he is President." 
Some have suggested a formal apparatus for investigating Trump after he leaves office. Rep. Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat, has floated the creation of a "Presidential Crimes Commission," made up of independent prosecutors who can examine "those who enabled a corrupt president," as he put it in an August tweet. "Example 1: Sabotaging the mail to win an election." 
The most serious legal threat facing Trump is the Manhattan district attorney's broad criminal investigation into the financial workings of the Trump Organization. Prosecutors have suggested in court filings that the investigation could examine whether the President and his company engaged in bank fraud, insurance fraud, criminal tax fraud and falsification of business records. 
In the course of that probe, Trump has challenged a subpoena to his accounting firm for eight years of tax returns and financial records. Five courts have ruled the subpoena is valid, and last week Trump faced the latest setback when a federal appellate court denied his appeal, ruling that the grand jury subpoena was not overly broad or issued in bad faith. On Tuesday, Trump's lawyers asked the Supreme Court to block the enforcement of the subpoena to allow it time to appeal to the court. Trump already lost an appeal to the highest court in July, when it ruled that the president is not immune from a state grand jury subpoena. 
New York prosecutors have said the tax records, working papers and documentation around business transactions are crucial to their investigation, which has been underway for more than a year. 
There are legal questions as to whether a state prosecutor could file charges against a sitting president. 
"He's so powerful right now. They know that they can't indict him right now so there is an incentive to build their case and get ready. I think what happens if he loses and leaves office that things will move very quickly," said Jennifer Rodgers, a CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor.
Now I don't buy for a second that Eric Swalwell would be allowed to go after Trump on federal stuff. If that was really possible, Pence would pardon him on the last day (and who knows, Pence may do just that on January 19th.) But the state crimes, particularly the NY state investigation into the Trump Organization, that's enough to put Trump away for good and he knows it.

Don't be surprised if Trump is conveniently out of the country on January 20th. He may not be coming back anytime soon, either.

Jacinda The Winner

Not that her reelection was in doubt, but New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern's handling of COVID-19 in her country went so well that voters this weekend gave her Labour Party not just a win, but an outright parliamentary majority, something that hasn't happened in modern New Zealand history.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern won a second term in office Saturday in an election landslide of historic proportions.

With most votes counted, Ardern’s liberal Labour Party was winning 49% of the vote compared to 27% for its main challenger, the conservative National Party.

Labour was on target to win an outright majority of the seats in Parliament, something that hasn’t happened since New Zealand implemented a proportional voting system 24 years ago. Typically, parties must form alliances to govern, but this time Ardern and Labour can go it alone.

In a victory speech in front of hundreds of cheering supporters in Auckland, Ardern said her party had gotten more support from New Zealanders that at any time in at least 50 years.

“This has not been an ordinary election, and it’s not an ordinary time,” she said. “It’s been full of uncertainty and anxiety, and we set out to be an antidote to that.”

Ardern promised not to take her new supporters for granted and to govern for all New Zealanders.

“We are living in an increasingly polarized world, a place where, more and more, people have lost the ability to see one another’s point of view,” she said. “I think in this election, New Zealanders have shown that this is not who we are.”

A record number of voters cast early ballots in the two weeks leading up to the election.

On the campaign trail, Ardern was greeted like a rock star by people who crammed into malls and spilled onto streets to cheer her on and get selfies with her.

Her popularity soared earlier this year after she led a successful effort to stamp out the coronavirus. There is currently no community spread of the virus in the nation of 5 million and people are no longer required to wear masks or social distance.

Ardern, 40, won the top job after the 2017 election when Labour formed an alliance with two other parties. The following year, she became only the second world leader to give birth while in office.

She became a role model for working mothers around the world, many of whom saw her as a counterpoint to President Donald Trump. And she was praised for her handling of last year’s attack on two Christchurch mosques, when a white supremacist gunned down 51 Muslim worshippers.

She moved quickly to pass new laws banning the deadliest types of semi-automatic weapons.

And voters greatly rewarded her party for her decisions to do the right thing on COVID-19 and on white supremacist gun rampages.
Sadly, America went the opposite direct, but we have an opportunity to correct the problem. Early voting starts this week all over the country.
It's time to get your vote in for Biden-Harris and the Democrats down-ticket.

Sunday Long Read: The Government Went Viral

Our continuing COVID-19 crisis is also a legitimacy of government crisis, and no government agency has been rendered more pathetic in the last year more quickly than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a now utterly toothless, useless, and worthless shell of its former self, an agency that let Donald Trump destroy it, and an agency that allowed 215,000 Americans to die and counting as a direct result, as an in-depth ProPublica investigation into the agency's myriad failures reveals in this week's Sunday Long Read.

When the next history of the CDC is written, 2020 will emerge as perhaps the darkest chapter in its 74 years, rivaled only by its involvement in the infamous Tuskegee experiment, in which federal doctors withheld medicine from poor Black men with syphilis, then tracked their descent into blindness, insanity and death.

With more than 216,000 people dead this year, most Americans know the low points of the current chapter already. A vaunted agency that was once the global gold standard of public health has, with breathtaking speed, become a target of anger, scorn and even pity.

How could an agency that eradicated smallpox globally and wiped out polio in the United States have fallen so far?

ProPublica obtained hundreds of emails and other internal government documents and interviewed more than 30 CDC employees, contractors and Trump administration officials who witnessed or were involved in key moments of the crisis. Although news organizations around the world have chronicled the CDC’s stumbles in real time, ProPublica’s reporting affords the most comprehensive inside look at the escalating tensions, paranoia and pained discussions that unfolded behind the walls of CDC’s Atlanta headquarters. And it sheds new light on the botched COVID-19 tests, the unprecedented political interference in public health policy, and the capitulations of some of the world’s top public health leaders.

Senior CDC staff describe waging battles that are as much about protecting science from the White House as protecting the public from COVID-19. It is a war that they have, more often than not, lost.

Employees spoke openly about their “hill to die on” — the political interference that would prompt them to leave. Yet again and again, they surrendered and did as they were told. It wasn’t just worries over paying mortgages or forfeiting the prestige of the job. Many feared that if they left and spoke out, the White House would stop consulting the CDC at all, and would push through even more dangerous policies.

To some veteran scientists, this acquiescence was the real sign that the CDC had lost its way. One scientist swore repeatedly in an interview and said, “The cowardice and the caving are disgusting to me.”

Collectively, the interviews and documents show an insular, rigorous agency colliding head-on with an administration desperate to preserve the impression that it had the pandemic under control.

Some of the key wounds were self-inflicted. Records obtained by ProPublica detail for the first time the cataclysmic chain of mistakes and disputes inside the CDC labs making the first U.S. test for COVID-19. A respected lab scientist made a fateful decision to use a process that risked contamination, saw signs of trouble, but sent the tests to public health labs anyway. Many of those tests didn’t work, and the scramble to fix them had serious consequences.

Even when the CDC was not to blame, the Trump administration exploited events to take control of the agency’s messaging. As a historically lethal pandemic raged, the White House turned the CDC into a political bludgeon to advance Trump’s agenda, alternately blocking the agency’s leaders from using their quarantine powers or forcing them to assert those powers over the objections of CDC scientists.

Once seen as an apolitical bulwark, the CDC endured meddling on multiple fronts by officials with little or no public health experience, from Trump’s daughter Ivanka to Stephen Miller, the architect of the president’s immigration crackdown. A shifting and mysterious cast of political aides and private contractors — what one scientist described as young protégés of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, “wearing blue suits with red ties and beards” — crowded into important meetings about key policy decisions.

Agency insiders lost faith that CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield, a Trump appointee who’d been at the agency only two years, would, or could, hold the line on science. One division leader refused to sign what he viewed as an ill-conceived and xenophobic Trump administration order. Redfield ultimately signed it himself.

Veteran CDC specialists with global reputations were marginalized, silenced or reassigned — often for simply doing what had always been their job. Some of the agency’s most revered scientists vanished from public view after speaking candidly about the virus.

The Trump administration is “appropriating a public enterprise and making it into an agent of propaganda for a political regime,” one CDC scientist said in an interview as events unfolded. “It’s mind-boggling in the totality of ambition to so deeply undermine what’s so vitally important to the public.”

The CDC repeatedly declined to make Butler, Redfield or any other employees mentioned in this story available for questions, and a CDC spokesperson declined to comment on behalf of the agency. The White House did not respond to an email seeking comment.
It will take year, if not decades, to fix the damage done by Donald Trump to the nation's executive branch agencies, but let's not forget that part of the damage was self-inflicted by people too cowardly to do the right thing when history needed them to stand up to Trump and save American lives instead.

Set some time aside for this one. It's vital.

The Road To Gilead, Con't

The end of the availability of abortion health care services in Kentucky is almost here, as a 2-1 decision by a three-judge Sixth Circuit panel finds the state's hospital services requirement TRAP law for clinics is Constitutional. 

A federal appeals panel has upheld a controversial Kentucky abortion law that opponents argued officials had used to try to close down the commonwealth's only abortion clinic and prevent another from opening.

In a 2-1 vote, the panel for the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that Kentucky may require abortion clinics to obtain signed agreements with hospitals and ambulance services to transport and admit patients in an emergency.

In doing so, the panel struck down the 2018 decision by U.S. District Judge Greg Stivers that such rules were unnecessary and posed an undue burden on women seeking abortions. Stivers' ruling followed a legal challenge by EWM Women's Surgical Center and Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky.

The decision comes more than a year after the case was argued before the 6th Circuit panel in Cincinnati.

The two-member majority, judges Joan Larsen and Chad Readler, both appointed by President Donald Trump, declined to find the Kentucky law an undue burden or unreasonable, saying that argument "cannot be sustained."

They said clinics have options, such as seeking time extensions, should they be unable to obtain agreements with hospitals and ambulance services.

But in a forceful dissent, Judge Eric Clay, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, found otherwise, saying Friday's ruling was "deeply flawed."

"At the end of the day, no matter what standard this court is bound to apply, the majority’s decision today is terribly and tragically wrong," Clay's dissent said.

The ruling represents a victory for Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who took over the case from the administration of former Gov. Matt Bevin, an anti-abortion Republican. Cameron praised the decision in a statement Friday.

“The Sixth Circuit’s ruling keeps in place an important Kentucky law for protecting the health and safety of patients" Cameron said. "Our office was proud to intervene in this case and ensure that the law was fully defended."
So even with Matt Bevin gone, it's looking like the future of abortion services in Kentucky and several other states will soon come to a Supreme Court decision next summer, in what will almost certainly be a 6-3 conservative court that will have the votes needed to overturn Roe and deny abortion healthcare to half the country, if not more.

It's already an undue burden for a third of women.

We're maybe a couple years out at most from a forced birth regime.

Gilead is right around the corner.

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