Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Last Call For Orange Meltdown Meltdown, Con't

A massive setback for the Justice Department's fraud case against the Trump Organization and Donald Trump, as the two lead prosecutors have suddenly resigned, and grand jury proceedings have effectively been halted since the start of the year as new Manhattan US District Attorney Alvin Bragg has all but dropped the case.

The two prosecutors leading the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation into former President Donald J. Trump and his business practices abruptly resigned on Wednesday amid a monthlong pause in their presentation of evidence to a grand jury, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The stunning development comes not long after the high-stakes inquiry appeared to be gaining momentum, and throws its future into serious doubt.

The prosecutors, Carey R. Dunne and Mark F. Pomerantz, submitted their resignations after the new Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, indicated to them that he had doubts about moving forward with a case against Mr. Trump, the people said.

Mr. Pomerantz confirmed in a brief interview that he had resigned, but declined to elaborate. Mr. Dunne declined to comment.

Without Mr. Bragg’s commitment to move forward, the prosecutors late last month postponed a plan to question at least one witness before the grand jury, one of the people said. They have not questioned any witnesses in front of the grand jury for more than a month, essentially pausing their investigation into whether Mr. Trump inflated the value of his assets to obtain favorable loan terms from banks.

The precise reasons for Mr. Bragg’s pullback are unknown, and he has made few public statements about the status of the inquiry since taking office. In a statement responding to the resignations of the prosecutors, a spokeswoman for Mr. Bragg said that he was “grateful for their service” and that the investigation was ongoing.

Time is running out for this grand jury, whose term is scheduled to expire in April. Prosecutors can ask jurors to vote to extend their term, but generally avoid doing so. They also are often reluctant to impanel a new grand jury after an earlier one has heard testimony, because witnesses could make conflicting statements if asked to testify again.

And without Mr. Dunne, a high-ranking veteran of the office who has been closely involved with the inquiry for years, and Mr. Pomerantz, a leading figure in New York legal circles who was enlisted to work on it, the yearslong investigation could peter out.

The resignations, following the monthlong pause, mark a reversal after the investigation had recently intensified. Cyrus R. Vance Jr., Mr. Bragg’s predecessor, convened the grand jury in the fall, and prosecutors began questioning witnesses before his term concluded at the end of the year. (Mr. Vance did not seek re-election.)

In mid-January, reporters for The Times observed significant activity related to the investigation at the Lower Manhattan courthouse where the grand jury meets, with at least two witnesses visiting the building and staying inside for hours.

The witnesses were Mr. Trump’s longtime accountant and an expert in the real estate industry, according to people familiar with the appearances, which have not been previously reported. Mr. Dunne and Mr. Pomerantz also made regular appearances at the courthouse.

The burst of activity offered a sign that Mr. Bragg was forging ahead with the grand jury phase of the investigation, a final step before seeking charges.

But in recent weeks, that activity has ceased, and Mr. Dunne and Mr. Pomerantz have been seen only rarely.

This looks like a case where Bragg said that he wasn't going forward with the case after the previous DA, Cy Vance, empaneled a grand jury.  The lead prosecutors obviously wanted to continue. Whatever the conflict was, it's gotten so bad that both lead prosecutors have resigned.

This reeks. All of it. No wonder then that the NY state case against Trump has moved into a much more aggressive phase. Tish James's office would have been working with the Manhattan DA on this. Surely they got wind that Bragg was going to all but shut the federal case down.
I don't know who got to Bragg, or to Justice, but both lead prosecutors resigning means that can't be swept away easily.  There's a lot more to this story.

How much of it we'll ever know, I have no idea.

Ukraine In The Membrane, GOP Edition

Republicans find themselves caught between how much they hate Biden and love being the righteous good guys, how much they love the idea of the American military rolling in to save the day, and how much they've been compromised by Putin over the years, and the lesson of the story is staggering around in the middle of the road only gets you hit by the semi.

While Russia’s reinvasion of Ukraine this week stress-tests the Biden administration, it’s also forcing Republicans to confront their own divisions.

The GOP is all over the map politically, as Russian President Vladimir Putin tries to redraw his own boundaries. Former President Donald Trump privately has signaled a split with more isolationist voices from the MAGA wing of the party who have excused Russia’s aggression, who themselves are at odds with more establishment Republicans over how to confront Russian aggression, if at all.

To an extent, these camps reflect a new evolution of long-standing GOP foreign policy factionalism. But as Putin moves troops into Ukraine, Republicans’ divergent approaches to the crisis are complicating their pushback on President Joe Biden’s response to the crisis.

Trump told an adviser recently that he doesn’t think Putin should be able to take Ukraine — even just from a real estate standpoint — and that he sees the Russian leader’s current actions as an attempt to steamroll Biden, according to a person familiar with the conversation.

Trump said Putin has sized up Biden and decided that he isn’t strong enough to stop Russia from rolling into Kyiv, this person recalled, adding that the former president has also blamed Biden for poking the bear by tying his legacy too closely to expanding NATO and to Russia’s Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline. Publicly and privately, he has described the current standoff as a problem for which he is the lone solution.

“This never would have happened with us had I been in office — not even thinkable,” Trump said in a Tuesday radio interview, describing Putin’s recognition of Ukrainian separatist regions as “savvy.”

Putin “sees this opportunity. I knew that he always wanted Ukraine. I used to talk to him about it. I said, ‘You can’t do it, you’re not going to do it,’” Trump added. “But I could see that he wanted it. … They say, ‘Oh, Trump was nice to Russia.’ I wasn’t nice to Russia.”

Even as Trump portrays himself as better-equipped to counter Putin, the majority of congressional Republicans are backing Biden’s vow to impose crushing sanctions on Russia after its troops entered eastern Ukraine on Tuesday. Some have even praised Biden’s moves, like the deployment of additional U.S. troops to Eastern Europe to boost NATO’s defenses.

But a vocal GOP minority on and off Capitol Hill — represented by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Fox News host Tucker Carlson and Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance, among others — has taken a third path, actively arguing against any U.S. involvement in the region while still dinging Biden. They argue that expanding the U.S. commitment to NATO is a mistake, and that the president should instead focus on countering China and securing America’s southern border.

That discordant chorus is making it harder for Republicans to craft a unified message on Russia the way it did during last year’s chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan or during Putin’s invasion of Crimea when Barack Obama was president in 2014.
Now this confusion won't last much longer. Now that Daddy Trump has weighed in, Republicans are going to follow his lead and attack Biden mercilessly while praising Putin, or they'll meet the same fate as Liz Cheney and they know it.

No, by this Sunday and the talking head shows, you'll see a dozen Very Serious Republicans all telling us that Putin invading Ukraine is not our problem, and that the real issue is Them Illegals™.

President Joe Biden's administration has informed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of intelligence assessing that Russia is preparing to conduct a full-scale invasion of the neighboring country within the next 48 hours, U.S. intelligence officials have revealed to Newsweek.

"The President of Ukraine has been warned Russia will highly likely begin an invasion within 48 hours based on U.S. intelligence," a U.S. official with direct knowledge told Newsweek.

"Additionally," the U.S. official added, "reporting from aircraft observers indicates Russia violated Ukrainian airspace earlier today, flying possible reconnaissance aircraft for a short period over Ukraine."

A source close to Zelenskyy's government also confirmed to Newsweek that such a warning was received, but noted that this was the third time in a month Kyiv was told to prepare for imminent large-scale military action order by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
We'll see.

School Of Hard-Right Knocks, Con't

It turns out that at least when pollsters ask, Americans are very much against banning books in schools and libraries for political reasons because it's screamingly un-American and all that, but it doesn't mean things are coming up roses.

Americans overwhelmingly reject the idea of banning books about history or race. One reason for that: a big majority also say teaching about the history of race in America makes students understand what others went through.

Large majorities — more than eight in 10 — don't think books should be banned from schools for discussing race and criticizing U.S. history, for depicting slavery in the past or more broadly for political ideas they disagree with.

We see wide agreement across party lines, and between White and Black Americans on this. Parents feel the same as the wider public.

Four in 10 believe teaching about race in America makes people more racially tolerant today, too, well outpacing the few who think it does the opposite. But not everyone sees a direct link between understanding and racial tolerance today, as less than half of those who think it promotes understanding feel it also translates into tolerance now.

And Americans are okay with the broader notion of public schools teaching about ideas and historical events that might make some students uncomfortable. By contrast, the idea that teaching about race makes students feel guilty about past generations or makes them less racially tolerant today gets little traction with most Americans.

Another reason, perhaps, behind these large majorities is that Americans do overwhelmingly believe racism has been a problem in U.S. history.

Big majorities also believe racism continues to be a problem today.

To the extent that this view is voiced by a smaller majority than the one that says racism was a problem in history, we find some who see it having moved from a major problem in the past to a lesser one now. They also believe the U.S. has made progress in dealing with racism. And they also believe teaching about it promotes understanding.

We do, however, start to see differences by race and party over how much history about Black Americans should be taught in schools now. Black Americans overwhelmingly think too little is taught. Political party divides White Americans, with most White Democrats agreeing that it's too little and White Republicans more likely to say it's the right amount.

And when specifically asked about Critical Race Theory, here's where we see very partisan splits, particularly among those who've heard about it, and those who have not.

Only one-third of Americans have heard a lot about it. These numbers are much higher among self-described conservatives, and among Republicans, likely reflecting the emphasis on it from their party members and candidates.


More than 80% of Black folk believe that both racism was a problem in the American past, and that the problem still exists today.  Only half of white Americans do as far as today.

Dems have a 81% favorable view of Critical Race Theory as a whole, while just 13% of Republicans do.

Still a long way to go.

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