Saturday, September 16, 2023

Last Call For Paxton, Repaxtonated

As widely expected after Donald Trump made it clear earlier this week that any Texas state Republican senator who votes for AG Ken Paxton's removal would face political extermination, Paxton easily survived his Texas Senate impeachment trial and has been fully reinstated to office with the Texas House charges dismissed.
Impeached Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was acquitted on 16 impeachment articles on Saturday, thwarting an effort to remove him from office over allegations of corruption.

"Attorney General Warren Kenneth Paxton Jr. is hereby, at this moment, reinstated to office," said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the Republican president of the Senate who also presided over the trial.

While two Republican senators broke with their party to vote for conviction on some articles of impeachment, the vast majority of Paxton's party voted to acquit him following a two-week trial and a day of deliberations behind closed doors. Four impeachment articles that had been put on hold during the trial were dismissed immediately after the acquittal vote.

Paxton had been suspended without pay from his post after he was impeached in the Republican-controlled Texas House of Representatives in May by an overwhelming vote.

"The attorney general is excited and ready to get back to work, and that's what he's gonna do," said Paxton attorney Tony Buzbee.
Only two Republicans voted to remove Paxton on any of the 16 charges he faced, meaning he never got closer than 14 of the 21 votes needed to convict him on any of the charges. Nobody wanted to tangle with Trump, Tucker Carlson, and the armed Texas MAGA mob.

Paxton, who attended just two days of the trial and was not present to witness his exoneration, was characteristically defiant.

“The sham impeachment coordinated by the Biden Administration with liberal House Speaker Dade Phelan and his kangaroo court has cost taxpayers millions of dollars, disrupted the work of the Office of Attorney General and left a dark and permanent stain on the Texas House,” Paxton said in a statement. “The weaponization of the impeachment process to settle political differences is not only wrong, it is immoral and corrupt.”

The dramatic votes capped a two-week trial where a parade of witnesses, including former senior officials under Paxton, testified that the attorney general had repeatedly abused his office by helping his friend, struggling Austin real estate investor Nate Paul, investigate and harass his enemies, delay foreclosure sales of his properties and obtain confidential records on the police investigating him. In return, House impeachment managers said Paul paid to renovate Paxton’s Austin home and helped him carry out ­and cover up an extramarital affair with a former Senate aide.

In the end, senators were unpersuaded.

"This should have never happened," Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, told reporters outside the chamber. He criticized what he called a rushed and flawed investigation by the House.

But acquittal was not a foregone conclusion during the eight hours of deliberation, Sen. Royce West said. The Democrat from Dallas said some Republicans supported conviction but switched their votes when it became clear it did not have the required two-thirds support.
Retribution, I expect, will be swift for Texas House Republicans and the two Republican state senators who broke ranks. The real battle will be between Ken Paxton and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in the coming years over Gov. Greg Abbott's job...if Abbott doesn't run for a record fourth term himself in 2026.

Ultimately though, Paxton's impeachment was meaningless. We'll see if the federal case against him goes anywhere, although it hasn't in years.

Orange Meltdown, Con't

Justice Department Special Counsel Jack Smith has filed for a gag order on Donald Trump involving his January 6th case before federal Judge Tanya Chutkan, arguing Trump's repeated social media and campaign rally tirades amount to witness intimidation and threats against officers of the court.

Citing threats against individuals former President Donald Trump has targeted, special counsel Jack Smith has asked a federal judge for a narrowly tailored gag order that restricts the 2024 presidential candidate from making certain extrajudicial statements about the election interference case brought against him.

A redacted copy of a government filing — released Friday, after an order from U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan — comes in connection with the election interference case, one of four criminal cases the former president is facing, two of which are federal.

“The defendant has an established practice of issuing inflammatory public statements targeted at individuals or institutions that present an obstacle or challenge to him,” the special counsel's office wrote.

The government said Trump "made clear his intent to issue public attacks related to this case when, the day after his arraignment, he posted a threatening message on Truth Social."

Trump's Aug. 4 post read: "IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I'M COMING AFTER YOU!"

Trump, the office wrote, "has made good on his threat," spreading "disparaging and inflammatory public posts on Truth Social on a near-daily basis regarding the citizens of the District of Columbia, the Court, prosecutors, and prospective witnesses.

"Like his previous public disinformation campaign regarding the 2020 presidential election, the defendant’s recent extrajudicial statements are intended to undermine public confidence in an institution—the judicial system—and to undermine confidence in and intimidate individuals—the Court, the jury pool, witnesses, and prosecutors," the prosecutors wrote.

At an event in Washington, Trump made his first public remarks on the filing by attacking Smith, arguing that the special counsel "wants to take away my rights under the First Amendment, wants to take away my right of speaking freely and openly."

Steven Cheung, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign, responded earlier Friday by calling the filing "nothing more than blatant election interference because President Trump is by far the leading candidate in this race."

This is hardball stuff on the part of Smith and the DoJ, and of course nobody should be surprised by the part where Trump violated this order almost immediately Friday evening and is risking Chutkan citing him for contempt.  In fact, I expect Trump will absolutely push this as far as he can because he wants the process to break down. He wants riots and violence and bloodshed if she does try to put him behind bars, and he's going to all but openly dare her to do so.
At the very least, as Steve M. points out, it's daily free publicity through the primaries and election where Trump gets to martyr himself and get tens of millions of voters on his side.
Maybe Trump will eventually be convicted and imprisoned. But for now, he's playing these people for fools. He engages in harassment and intimidation, and that becomes news; the system tries to rein him in, and that becomes news; he whines that he's being censored, and that's news, too -- and then, if there is a limited gag order, he'll really complain about censorship (news again) and then defy the order (also news). And the court probably won't have the courage to do the one thing that might stop the harassment and intimidation, which is to jail him for a few days, but either way he wins: either he beat the system or he's a political prisoner.

And this is just one of his cases. They're all going to be like this as the trials approach (and then there'll be the trials).

Trump shouldn't be allowed to get away with the things he's done, obviously, but I wonder if the legal system has guaranteed his nomination (and possibly smoothed his path to another general-election win) by rallying right-wingers and right-centrists to his cause. Would he have been easier to beat in the primaries if he'd never been indicted? I think he still would have won the nomination, though I'm not sure. It's obvious that he's coasting to a primary victory because he's up on charges. Let's hope he doesn't coast to a general-election victory for the same reason -- because he's rallied more voters to his side than the lackluster Biden.
This is clearly Trump's plan and it's already rallying his base: the worse of a system-destroying virus he becomes, the more likely he'll be put in a position where he can finish that system off for good. He's all but got the primaries sewn up at this point before a single vote has been cast. If Trump is able to delay any consequences (and let's remember there's an entire political party 100% dedicated to making sure those consequences never materialize) and Republicans are able to impeach Biden for months on end, there's a significant possibility that Trump's going to win and we're all fucked.

The fact that the White House is ready to play and win this game gives me hope however. We have to stand up to this bullshit.

Our Little White Supremacist Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't

The constant attacks by Donald Trump against federal law enforcement and his calls for his MAGA faithful to "fight together" has resulted in the Justice Department getting so many credible threats that the agency now has an anti-domestic terrorism task force to deal specifically with all the threats against agents and prosecutors.
Prosecutors and FBI agents involved in the Hunter Biden investigation have been the targets of threats and harassment by people who think they haven’t been tough enough on the president’s son, according to government officials and congressional testimony obtained exclusively by NBC News.

It’s part of a dramatic uptick in threats against FBI agents that has coincided with attacks on the FBI and the Justice Department by congressional Republicans and former President Donald Trump, who have accused both agencies of participating in a conspiracy to subvert justice amid two federal indictments of Trump.

The threats have prompted the FBI to create a stand-alone unit to investigate and mitigate them, according to a previously unreleased transcript of congressional testimony.

“We have stood up an entire threat unit to address threats that the FBI employees’ facilities are receiving,” Jennifer L. Moore, then an executive assistant director of human resources for the FBI, told the House Judiciary Committee in June. “It is unprecedented. It’s a number we’ve never had before.”

“It’s going to be about 10 people when it’s finished,” she said. “We are still in the process of staffing it right now. But their sole mission on a daily basis is threats to FBI employees at facilities.”

Moore told lawmakers that threats to FBI agents and facilities had more than doubled — there were more in the six months from October to March than in the previous 12 months. More recent data was not available; officials say the pace of threats increased after the FBI investigations of Trump became public last summer and has not slowed since.

The FBI declined to comment.

Natalie Bara, president of the FBI Agents Association, a nonprofit group that advocates for current and retired agents, said in a statement, “FBI Special Agents and their families should never be threatened with violence, including for doing their jobs. This is not a partisan or political issue. Calls for violence against law enforcement are unacceptable, and should be condemned by all leaders.”

Federal prosecutor Lesley Wolf, who had been part of U.S. Attorney David Weiss’ team investigating Hunter Biden, got such a barrage of credible threats that she sought security help from the U.S. Marshals Service, according to previously unreleased testimony from an FBI official to the House Judiciary Committee last week. Two IRS agents on the case have accused Wolf of making decisions that appeared favorable to Biden. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.

Special counsel Jack Smith and his team have long been protected by an armed security detail, as is Robert Hur, the special counsel appointed to investigate classified documents found at President Joe Biden’s home and office.
On Thursday, the Atlanta office of the FBI said in a statement that it is aware of threats of violence against officials in Fulton County, Georgia, and is working with the county sheriff's office. Trump and 18 other defendants face state charges in Fulton County in connection with alleged election interference.

The field office declined to provide details of any investigations, but said, "[E]ach and every potential threat brought to our attention is taken seriously. Individuals found responsible for making threats in violation of state and/or federal laws will be prosecuted."
Republicans have found agents ready to accuse FBI and Justice Department officials of wrongdoing in the Hunter Biden and Donald Trump cases, and those officials are being targeted by constant, consistent, credible threats to their lives. This includes Georgia officials prosecuting Donald Trump and his election interference case.

Nobody's been hurt, yet. But Trump and other GOP 2024 hopefuls keep turning up the heat, and eventually someone's going to get burned. Remember, we have an entire series of trials, convictions, and sentencings because Donald Trump fomented a violent insurrection against the federal government. People were hurt and killed as a result of Trump's statements leading up to January 6th, 2021.

The Justice Department is scrambling to contain the growing threats now. Remember, the FBI office here in Cincy was attacked for this reason last year. More violence leading up to the 2024 election has always been part of the GOP plan. This is being done deliberately.

Keep that in mind.
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