Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Last Call For Lowering The Barr, Con't

To my absolute surprise, the Justice Department agreed to the court-ordered release of the Barr memo on the Mueller Report, the document explaining the reasoning behind why former Trump AG Bill Barr refused to act on the Mueller Report's conclusions.

The Justice Department has released a long-sought legal memo arguing that then-President Donald Trump’s actions during special counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation did not warrant prosecution for obstruction of justice, even if a president was susceptible to criminal charges while in office.

In the nine-page memo disclosed Wednesday, two of the most senior officials in the Justice Department advised then-Attorney General William Barr that Trump’s threats to fire Mueller and his various public and private outbursts against witnesses he viewed as hostile or unhelpful to him didn’t amount to the sort of case prosecutors would bring under their established standards.

“Having reviewed the Report in light of the governing legal principles, and the Principles of Federal Prosecution, we conclude that none of those instances would warrant a prosecution for obstruction of justice, without regard to the constitutional constraint on bringing such an action against a sitting president,” the assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel, Steven Engel, and Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General Edward O’Callaghan wrote in the March 24, 2019, memo.

The Justice Department fought release of the memo for years, arguing that it was part of a deliberative process advising Barr on what to do in response to Mueller’s report. However, judges concluded that at the time the memo was written, Barr had already decided not to charge Trump, so the issues hashed out in the memo were theoretical and not linked to any pending decision.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a liberal watchdog group, filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act three years ago in an effort to make the memo public.

The Justice Department lost the first round in the access case in front of a District Court judge, who ruled that the agency’s claims that the memo was part of some kind of charging decision was “disingenuous” because that decision had already been made.

On appeal, department lawyers changed course and argued that the memo helped shape the public statements Barr would give to explain why he concluded the evidence was insufficient to support a criminal charge — even if Trump were not president.

However, a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled last week that argument about the memo being part of deliberations around a communications effort was surfaced too belatedly to be considered.

The Justice Department had the option to ask the full bench of the D.C. Circuit to rehear the case or to seek review at the Supreme Court, but officials indicated Wednesday that they’d decided to pass up those options.

In the memo that triggered the disclosure fight, Engel and O’Callaghan concluded that Trump’s conduct primarily reflected a frustration with the Mueller probe and what he perceived to be the politics behind it, as well as news reports they said Trump genuinely believed were flawed. They also suggested that Trump’s exhortations to some of his top allies against “flipping” were meant to prevent them from delivering false testimony — not to conceal the truth.

The officials repeatedly underscored that Mueller had not found sufficient evidence to charge any underlying crime, which they said weighed against the possibility that Trump had violated the obstruction statutes.

“In the absence of an underlying offense, the most compelling inference in evaluating the President’s conduct is that he reasonably believed that the Special Counsel’s investigation was interfering with his governing agenda,” Engel and O’Callaghan wrote.

Engel would later become a key point of resistance to Trump’s effort to use the Justice Department to help subvert the 2020 election. Engel was one of three Trump-era Justice Department witnesses to testify at a public hearing of the Jan. 6 select committee and discussed his threat to resign, along with other top department officials, if Trump had gone through with a plan to replace the department’s leadership with figures who would support his attempts to stay in power

Engel was a key witness at a pivotal meeting on Jan. 3, 2021, at the White House where Trump held a reality TV-show style contest over whether to fire acting attorney general Jeffery Rosen and install someone more amenable to run the Justice Department to support his election fraud claims. Rosen replaced former Attorney General William Barr.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, in an earlier investigation, found Engel told Trump at the meeting that he and other top officials would resign if he fired Rosen.

Some context: In a series of emails released by Democrats on the House Oversight Committee earlier this month, Richard Donoghue, the former deputy attorney general, told Engel that he wanted to meet with him "about some antics that could potentially end up on your radar," signaling there was at least some concern that the Office of Legal Counsel would have to weigh in on potential issues.

The emails also included correspondence with Jeffery Clark, a Justice Department lawyer who tried to convince Trump to remove Rosen and use the DOJ to undo Georgia's election results, which The New York Times reported in January. In the Jan. 1 email, Meadows asked Rosen to have Clark look into the alleged signature issues in Georgia, ahead of a meeting on Jan. 3 in which Trump heard directly from Clark and Rosen before ultimately choosing not to remove Rosen.


Given Engel's cooperation with the Committee, for the DoJ to continue to protect the memo Engels wrote declaring that Trump committed no criminal activity as "internal deliberation material" was both legally and morally indefensible.

We'll see.

California's Emissions Mission

California environmental regulators are expected to put into place new vehicle rules that would reduce the sales of gasoline-powered vehicles in the state over the next decade and end sales completely by 2035.

California is expected to put into effect on Thursday its sweeping plan to prohibit the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035, a groundbreaking move that could have major effects on the effort to fight climate change and accelerate a global transition toward electric vehicles.

“This is huge,” said Margo Oge, an electric vehicles expert who headed the Environmental Protection Agency’s transportation emissions program under Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. “California will now be the only government in the world that mandates zero-emission vehicles. It is unique.”

The rule, issued by the California Air Resources Board, will require that 100 percent of all new cars sold in the state by 2035 be free of the fossil fuel emissions chiefly responsible for warming the planet, up from 12 percent today. It sets interim targets requiring that 35 percent of new passenger vehicles sold in the state by 2026 produce zero emissions. That would climb to 68 percent by 2030.

The restrictions are important because not only is California the largest auto market in the United States, but more than a dozen other states typically follow California’s lead when setting their own auto emissions standards.

“The climate crisis is solvable if we focus on the big, bold steps necessary to stem the tide of carbon pollution,” Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, said in a statement.

California’s action comes on top of an expansive new climate law that President Biden signed last week. The law will invest $370 billion in spending and tax credits on clean energy programs, the largest action ever taken by the federal government to combat climate change. Enactment of that law is projected to help the United States cut its emissions 40 percent below 2005 levels by the end of this decade. Still, it will not be enough to eliminate U.S. emissions by 2050, the target that climate scientists say all major economies must reach if the world is to avert the most catastrophic and deadly impacts of climate change.

To help close the gap, White House officials have vowed to couple the bill with new regulations, including on automobile tailpipe emissions. They have also said that reducing emissions enough to stay in line with the science also will require aggressive state policies.

Experts said the new California rule, in both its stringency and reach, could stand alongside the Washington law as one of the world’s most important climate change policies, and could help take another significant bite out of the nation’s emissions of carbon dioxide. The new rule is also expected to influence new policies in Washington and around the world to promote electric vehicles and cut auto pollution.

At least 12 other states could potentially adopt the new California zero-emissions vehicle mandate relatively soon; another five states, which follow California’s broader vehicle pollution reduction program, are expected to adopt the rule in a year or so. If those states follow through, the restrictions on gasoline-vehicle sales would apply to about one-third of the United States’ auto market.

That would have a major effect on addressing climate change, since emissions from gasoline-powered vehicles are the nation’s top source of planet-warming greenhouse-gas pollution.

John Bozzella, president of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents large U.S. and foreign automakers, said California’s new electric vehicle sale mandates would be “extremely challenging” to meet. “Whether or not these requirements are realistic or achievable is directly linked to external factors like inflation, charging and fuel infrastructure, supply chains, labor, critical mineral availability and pricing, and the ongoing semiconductor shortage,” Mr. Bozzella said by email.

He said automakers wanted to see more electric vehicles on the roads, but called on the state and the federal government to do more to address issues such as the ability to mine critical minerals like lithium and cobalt in the United States, the affordability of electric vehicles and equitable access to fast charging.

The governments of Canada, Britain and at least nine other European countries — including France, Spain and Denmark — have set goals of phasing out the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles between 2030 and 2040. But none have concrete mandates or regulations like the California rule.

“This regulation will set the global high-water mark for the accelerated transition to electric vehicles,” said Drew Kodjak, executive director of the International Council on Clean Transportation, a research organization.
A reminder then that California is now the fifth largest economy on planet Earth, behind the rest of the US, China, Japan, and Germany. This is a monumental environmental move, and considering a third of America would follow suit, the effects of this would effectively be the end of gas-powered cars and trucks in one-third to one-half of the country.

Sadly, I expect Texas to ban electric vehicles of all types and actually force people to drive coal-burning monster trucks.

Vote Like Your Country Depends On It, Con't

It was a big night for primaries in New York and Florida, and Dems scored a major upset in NY-19's special election as Democrat Pat Ryan got the win, and it was because of the death of Roe.
Pat Ryan, a Democratic county executive in New York’s Hudson Valley, has won a special House election on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press, in a contest that was seen as a potential test of the impact that the recent Supreme Court decision on abortion might have on the midterm elections.

The result in the closely watched race, which was considered a tossup, will keep the swing-district seat, formerly held by Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado, under Democratic control.

Mr. Ryan was able to keep his early lead, ultimately winning 52 percent of the vote to Mr. Molinaro’s 48 percent, with nearly 95 percent of votes cast.

Mr. Ryan sought to highlight abortion as the predominant issue in his campaign and contrast his support for protecting abortion access nationwide with the position of his Republican opponent, Marc Molinaro, who believes that the decision ought to rest with states.

In speeches and campaign ads, Mr. Ryan, the Ulster County executive and a combat veteran, urged voters in the 19th District to see the election as a crucial opportunity to send a message decrying attacks on abortion access, voting rights and, more broadly, democratic principles.

“Choice was on the ballot. Freedom was on the ballot, and tonight choice and freedom won,” Mr. Ryan said on Twitter early Wednesday. “We voted like our democracy was on the line because it is.”

Though polls show that a majority of voters support some access to abortion, Democrats have been wrestling with how best to translate that into support for the party.

Mr. Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive, largely avoided the topic of abortion, focusing instead on day-to-day voter anxieties, from crime and inflation to the price of baby formula.
Molinaro, the Republican, should have won. All the polling showed that he was going to. "Voters don't care about abortion, they care about inflation!"

He lost though, because voters do care.

Vote like your country depends on it.

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