Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Last Call For The Journey Of Turning Attorneys

As with Dubya, Obama, and Trump before him, Joe Biden is mostly cleaning house at the various DoJ US Attorney offices with the goal of Senate appointments for new federal prosecutors. However, Biden is leaving several in place, including the one trying to railroad his own son Hunter.

The Justice Department, as soon as Tuesday, is expected to ask US attorneys appointed by former President Donald Trump to submit their resignations, a turnover expected to spare two top prosecutors in Delaware and Connecticut overseeing two sensitive Trump-era investigations, a senior Justice Department official said. 
In a call Monday night, acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson asked Delaware US Attorney David Weiss to remain in office, where he is overseeing the tax probe of Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden's son. John Durham, appointed as special counsel by former Attorney General William Barr to reinvestigate the origins of the Trump-Russia probe, will also continue his work, but he is expected to resign as US attorney in Connecticut, the Justice official said. 
The resignation request is expected to apply to 56 Senate-confirmed US attorneys appointed by Trump. 
Justice officials have scheduled a call with US attorneys around the country to discuss a transition that is expected to take weeks. The Justice official didn't say when the resignations would take effect.

The changeover of US attorneys is routine, but is often fraught with political overtones. In 2017, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked 46 Obama-appointed US attorneys to submit their resignations. A handful were allowed to stay on for a brief period, but most had to leave immediately.

Distrust of Trump-era appointees led the Biden administration to appoint a career Justice Department official as acting attorney general while it waits for the US Senate to confirm Merrick Garland, the President's nominee to lead the department. 
Garland's confirmation hearing was expected to begin on February 8, but it has been delayed by former Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham who, until this week when Democrats took formal control of the Senate, opposed moving quickly on Garland's hearing. 
Graham said he needs time to question Garland on current investigations and wrote a letter on Tuesday to Wilkinson urging him "not to interfere in or call off" the investigations. 
Of the 94 US attorneys serving in districts across the country, 25 are serving in acting positions after some Trump appointees resigned ahead of the Biden inauguration. 
Among those the Biden administration may keep for a while, according to people briefed on the matter, are Michael Sherwin, acting US attorney in Washington, DC, who is overseeing the sprawling probe of the January 6 attack on the US Capitol. Sherwin is a career prosecutor from Miami, but was installed in DC by former Attorney General William Barr, and among the options Biden administration officials have discussed is having him continue to lead the insurrection probe, perhaps from Justice headquarters, while making room for Biden's own appointee in the DC office. 
Less certain is how long acting US attorneys in New York City will remain in their posts: Seth DuCharme in Brooklyn and Audrey Strauss in Manhattan. 
Some high-profile US attorneys who had not resigned ahead of Biden's inauguration included US Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio David DeVillers, Utah US Attorney John Huber and Pittsburgh US Attorney Scott Brady
Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown had made clear to a local news outlet that DeVillers is going to be replaced and has put out a call for resumes, according to Cleveland.com. DeVillers is currently overseeing two high-profile corruption investigations involving a former Republican lawmaker and Cincinnati council members that includes a Democrat.

Biden's a lot nicer than I'd be about this, but Chuck Schumer needs to pay a visit to Lindsey Graham's office and get Merrick Garland as AG done already.

And yes, the Democrat that the article mentions at the end there here in Cincy is P.G. Sittenfeld, who is almost certainly going to prison for bribery and fraud for a few years instead of being the city's next Mayor.

Still, we'll see what becomes of all these leftover Trump regime "investigations". I doubt Garland will have much in the way of patience for the usual political nonsense.

The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

Democrats aren't wasting any time in looking ahead to 2022 US Senate races, knowing that there are several seats they have an opportunity to pick up. Arguably the big one is retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey's seat in Pennsylvania, and a popular Democrat is stepping in already: current Lieutenant Gov. John Fetterman.
“I’m running for the United States Senate for the same reason I ran for lieutenant governor in 2018 and mayor of Braddock 16 years ago—because I believe in a set of core truths,” John Fetterman said in a statement, before listing off priorities such as the “dignity of a paycheck,” unions and healthcare as a “fundamental, basic human right.

Fetterman initially earned recognition for his attempts to revitalize the small, western Pennsylvania town of Braddock, which saw a steep decline after the steel industry collapsed there in the 1970s and 1980s. A 2011 New York Times Magazine article coined Fetterman as the “Mayor of Rust,” noting his creative efforts to bring back the town of just several thousand people. “We’ve lost 90% of our population and 90% of our buildings,” Fetterman told the Times then. “Ninety percent of our town is in a landfill. So we took a two-pronged approach. We created the first art gallery in the four-town region, with artists’ studios. We did public art installations. And, I don’t know if you consider it ‘arts,’ exactly, but I consider growing organic vegetables in the shadow of a steel mill an art, and that has attracted homesteading.”

Big Number: $1.4 million. That’s how much Fetterman has raised from small-money donors in the weeks before officially launching his bid.

Fetterman is a big proponent of marijuana legalization and criminal justice reform. On Twitter Monday, the day he launched his candidacy, Fetterman wrote: “If you’re cool with Pennsylvania minting 20,000 NEW criminal records every single year for getting caught sipping some weed, I am not your dude for 2022.”

Two unions, which carry big influence in Pennsylvania, have already endorsed Fetterman: United Steelworkers District 10 and the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776. The two unions together represent more than 80,000 workers, according to Politico.

Other candidates to enter the race. Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) is seen as another potential Democrat to run for Toomey’s seat. Prospective GOP candidates include: Rep. Ryan Costello, real-estate developer Jeff Bartos, former Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite and 2018 gubernatorial candidate Paul Mango, among others.  
Also, at 6'8", Fetterman would be the tallest US Senator since Alabama Republican Luther Strange (6'9") and Alan "Simpson-Bowles" Simpson at 6'7".

Personally, I like Fetterman. He played the public foil to the PA GOP's circus efforts to overturn the election and made them look like the clowns they are, and he did it on several occasions over the last two months.

We'll see how he does in the primaries.

Trial Of The Century 2.0, Con't

 Nobody seems happy with the Trump impeachment trial, on the right (who want to trial dismissed on "constitutional grounds") and on the left, who want Democrats to call Sen. Lindsey Graham's bluff and call witnesses to testify not only against Trump, but against the Republicans who enabled him, as Greg Sargent explains.

The Democrats’ fear appears to be that if the full GOP is implicated, that makes conviction less likely. To be fair, there are genuine complexities here: Trump is the one on trial, and drawing out the GOP’s role might be challenging (though hardly undoable) in a trial context.

Calling out the GOP might also give GOP senators a (bad faith) way to scream that Democrats politicized the trial, giving them cover to acquit.

But the idea that refraining from this will make it more plausible that 17 Republican senators will vote to convict is at odds with everything we know. Republicans are publicly saying in every which way that acquitting Trump is key to their party’s future, so he’ll keep the voters he brought into politics in the GOP coalition.

So acquittal is a foregone conclusion. If anything, Democrats need to make it as politically uncomfortable for Republicans as possible to acquit — and to extract a political price for it among the suburban moderates whom the GOP continues to alienate with its ongoing QAnon-ification.

It’s hard to see how insulating the GOP from Trump’s effort to overturn U.S. democracy helps accomplish that.

Separately, Politico reports that some of the impeachment managers want witnesses at the trial, and that some Senate Democrats are leaning against it.

This is more complex than it appears: A person familiar with ongoing talks over the trial structure between Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and McConnell tells me there will be a vote on whether to have witnesses, if the managers want them.

So this is up to the managers. And it’s still unclear whether the managers do or do not want witnesses. Many of their aides declined to tell me.

The case for witnesses is strong. There’s a lot we don’t know about Trump’s behind-the-scenes conduct during the rampage: He reportedly refused entreaties to call off the mob, even from terrified lawmakers under siege, because he was enjoying watching it on TV.

People like former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who is now spinning away Trump’s culpability, should be forced to testify to what Trump was doing during that time. A trial with witnesses could also probe the role of some House Republicans in the “Stop the Steal” movement leading to the insurrection, and any of Trump’s communications with them.

A full accounting is critical. Republicans on the state level are racing forward with new voter-suppression efforts, and Democrats have proposed national reforms that expand voting rights and curb counter-majoritarian tactics. They must be prepared to nix the filibuster to make these reforms law.

A big political battle is coming over all this as well. Democrats must fully dramatize the GOP’s continuing radicalization when it comes to embracing such tactics, so the public understands the stakes of what will be nothing less than a full-scale war over the future of our democracy.

That won’t be helped by any failure to create a full record of the most sustained effort to overturn an election and our democracy in modern times, including via intimidation and violence, or any failure to implicate the GOP in it
Sargent is correct that Democrats should call witnesses and make it hurt. I also agree with him that the GOP will acquit Trump, and that the conclusion is foregone. But the fact remains that they need Trump regime people testifying under oath in front of the country as to what Donald Trump did, because the country has to have the truth. 

I don't have high hopes, however. Being honest, I believe zero Republicans will vote to convict, and the moment he is acquitted he'll announce his 2024 candidacy and use that run to shield himself from any state or federal charges against him.

We'll see.


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