173 thoughts on “Journal During the Trump Regime (7)

  1. I mentioned before that I don’t trust Parnas, especially without a plausible, benign explanation as to why he’s releasing this information. To me, harming Trump and others may be harmful to him–unless it somehow helps the shady characters he’s associated with. Two possibilities comes to mind, although this is speculative and will make me seem paranoid:

    1. Parnas releases the tapes, and over time we learn their inauthentic. This can create impression Trump not guilty or make the public exasperated, leading to them giving up on knowing what’s true or not.

    2. It may distract from some bigger scandal or occurrence.

  2. It’s worth reiterating a point about Trump’s claim that he was concerned about corruption in Ukraine involving Hunter Biden. If one behaves in really corrupt ways, one can’t claim to care about corruption–not in any credible way–especially when one only cares about corruption when it hurts one’s enemies. The idea of calling the Bidens to testify is a farce, a transparent attempt at a political hit job, not a genuine interest in rooting out corruption.

    March 6, 2020

    Republicans Now Poised For Biden-Burisma Subpoena With Romney On Board

    Really disappointed to hear Romney give his support for this.

    1. When you read this think about how Trump and his followers want you to believe that his going after the Bidens was because he cared about curbing corruption.

    2. (I believe Fried is a well-respected, recently retired, long-time diplomat in the U.S. State Department.)

  3. Summary of important happenings in the past week:

  4. WaPo (2/14/2020)summary of what’s been going on.

  5. Mitch McConnell refuses to allow a bill that would strengthen the security of elections. It’s hard not to see this as wanting the Russians, or any other country, to interfere in the elections. It’s on par with McConnell rejecting Obama’s request that congressional Republicans and Democrats stand together to repudiate Russian interference. McConnell threatened that he would accuse Obama of trying to tip the scales, if Obama made a big deal of this. McConnell is one of the most reprehensible Americans.

    Also, I believe Trump has removed current acting DNI, Joseph Macguire and replaced him with Richard Grennell, who is will also be acting DNI–i.e., not vetted by Congress.

    Edit

    Can’t help but feel Trump cares about staying in power and protecting himself than protecting the elections from foreign interference. I also can’t help but feel Trump would engage in electoral shenanigans himself to win the election.

    1. Russia is “using a range of measures” to interfere in the 2020 election and has enlisted a pro-Russian lawmaker from Ukraine — who has met with President Trump’s personal lawyer — “to undermine former vice president [Joe] Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party,” a top U.S. intelligence official said in a statement Friday. “…remarks by William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center… in a WaPo report.

      Later,

      He noted that a Ukrainian lawmaker who has been in contact with Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, is part of a Russian disinformation effort.

      “Pro-Russia Ukrainian parliamentarian Andriy Derkach is spreading claims about corruption — including through publicizing leaked phone calls — to undermine” Biden and Democrats, Evanina said.

      The article says that Evanina reports that China and Iran favor Biden, but one officials says,

      “Between China and Russia, only one of those two is trying to actively influence the outcome of the 2020 election, full stop,” said a senior U.S. official, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information.

      The distinction is important.

      But even if China isn’t actively interfering, Biden should absolutely not seek their help. Would Trump supporters be OK if he did? Welcoming and getting help from foreign powers, especially ones actively trying to divide the country, like Russia.

      Jonathan Chait, from New York Magazine has a good piece on this today.

      Giuliani told the Washington Post earlier this summer that Derkach “doesn’t seem pro-Russian to me.” In case that ruse was fooling anybody, U.S. intelligence has now officially described Derkach as an organ of Russian political interference.

      Meanwhile, Senate Republicans on the Homeland Security Committee are holding hearings in an attempt to substantiate this charge — or, more realistically, to insinuate it. They have produced no evidence to advance their charge. The Russians have given Republicans stolen tapes of secret conversations Biden held with Ukrainians during his tenure as vice-president, and pro-Trump media outlets have hyped up the material, but nothing they have is inconsistent with the narrative that mainstream news organizations found. Biden was working to clean up Ukraine….

      …In reality, it is not a scandal about Biden at all. It’s a scandal about Republican cooperation with a Russian propaganda campaign.

      Sen. Richard Blumenthal says the details about electoral foreign influence is worse than we know and should be de-classified.

      The warning lights are flashing red. America’s elections are under attack.

      This week, I reviewed classified materials in the Senate’s Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility and received a similarly classified briefing on malign foreign threats to U.S. elections. I was shocked by what I learned — and appalled that, by swearing Congress to secrecy, the Trump administration is keeping the truth about a grave, looming threat to democracy hidden from the American people. On Friday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a statement that only hints at the threats.

      Later,

      …classified reports frequently include declassified summaries in recognition of the fundamental role transparency plays in a functioning democracy.

      My Republican colleagues clearly know this, since they have recently requested the declassification of numerous documents related to the FBI investigation of possible links between Russia and the Trump campaign in 2016. The Trump administration has happily accommodated those requests. The White House has no problem with declassification when it protects the president’s interests. Why not support declassification to help protect America’s democracy?

      Answer: Because protecting American democracy will hurt the president’s interests.

      8/8/2020

      Epic NYT report has some relevant information about the above:

      I spoke with Schiff on Friday, July 24. Earlier that day, the O.D.N.I. released an official statement about election security threats by William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center and a Trump appointee. “At this time,” Evanina’s statement said, “we’re primarily concerned with China, Russia and Iran — although other nation states and nonstate actors could also do harm to our electoral process.”

      Once again, the compromise was small but hardly meaningless: As several retired intelligence officials pointed out to me, it conflated the aboveboard “influence” campaign conducted by China — pressuring politicians, countering criticism — with the clandestine “interference” efforts by Russia to subvert the voting process. A week later during a classified briefing, Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, upbraided Evanina for his misleading statement.

      Just as this article was going to press — and shortly after I submitted a list of questions to the O.D.N.I. relating to its struggle to avoid becoming politically compromised — Evanina put out a new statement. In it, the O.D.N.I. at last acknowledged publicly that Russia “is using a range of measures to primarily denigrate former Vice President Biden and what it sees as an anti-Russia ‘establishment.’” In the same statement, however, Evanina also asserted for the first time that both China and Iran were hoping to defeat Trump. As with the preceding statement, the O.D.N.I. made no distinction between Russia’s sophisticated election-disrupting capabilities and the less insidious influence campaigns of the two supposedly anti-Trump countries. Like its predecessor, the statement seemed to be tortured with political calculation — an implicit declaration of anguish rather than of independence.

      (emphasis added)

      Important takeaway: Russian interference cladenstine, more extensive, while China’s is more of an “above board” attempt at influence.

    2. Unwanted Truths: Inside Trump’s Battles With U.S. Intelligence Agencies from the NYT

      This is a long, thorough report, which I recommend reading. The details are important, but here’s a passage that is a decent summary:

      The options faced by the intelligence community during Trump’s presidency have been stark: avoid infuriating the president but compromise the agencies’ ostensible independence, or assert that independence and find yourself replaced with a more sycophantic alternative.

      Also, Trump’s autocratic approach–that federal agencies should serve him and his interests–are greatly undermining (destroying?) the Intelligence Community. It simultaneously breaks my hear and infuriates me.

      Some notes and exerpts:

      N.I.E. = U.S. Intelligence Community’s (IC) “…most authoritative class of top-secret document, reflecting its consensus judgment on national-security matters…”

      The reporter spoke to “… all of the 40 current and former intelligence officials, lawmakers and congressional staff…among them more than 15 people who worked in, or closely with, the intelligence community throughout Trump’s presidency.”

      As one intelligence veteran who occasionally briefed Trump told me: “On a visceral level, his view was, ‘You all are supposed to be helping me.’ But when you’d bring in evidence that Russia interfered, that’s what he’d refer to as not helpful. Or when he’s wanting to turn the screws on NATO, we’d come in with a warning of the consequences of NATO falling apart. And he’d say, ‘You never do things for me.’”

      Being the POTUS is all about him–not the interests of the U.S. This is the mindset of a dictator. It also reminds of his public complaints against AG Sessions, his praise for Holder, claiming Holder “protected” Obama.

      The article mentions Trump’s business background created a culture clash because economics wasn’t a strong suit of the US IC, and then the article goes on:

      But the culture clash posed more serious problems too. Trump was accustomed to cutting deals and sharing gossip on his private cellphone, often loudly. He enjoyed being around billionaires, to whom he would “show off about some of the stuff he thought was cool — the capabilities of different weapons systems,” one former senior administration official recalled. “These were superrich guys who wouldn’t give him the time of day before he became president. He’d use that stuff as currency he had that they didn’t, not understanding the implications.”

      This reminds me of when Trump gave highly classified intel to the Russians. Was he giving away classified information in these talks with business men? And was the phone he was using secure?

      On Kushner.

      Early in the administration, Kushner and an aide showed up to Langley headquarters — conspicuous in their fitted suits — for a meeting to learn how the C.I.A. functions. The agency accommodated them, but afterward, according to one participant in the meeting, concern developed within the agency about Kushner’s potential conflicts. His complicated international business interests, as well as his evolving friendship with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, had raised serious concerns among officials responsible for awarding security credentials. A further concern, another former senior intelligence official said, “was just his cavalier and arrogant attitude that ‘I know what I’m doing,’ without any cultural understanding of why things are classified, that would put our intelligence at risk.”

      Trump publicly claimed to know little about Kushner’s security-clearance problem. But in fact, the president “made a huge deal of it and tried to pull all sorts of strings and go around the system,” one former official recalled. Another former official said, “I’d hear the president say, ‘Just do it, just give it to him.’ I’m not sure he understood what it actually meant. He made it sound like Jared was just trying to join a club.”

      Where are all the people who were concerned about Hillary’s emails?!

      Yet more evidence of Trump’s lack of interesting in his written Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB):

      Trump’s indiscretion wasn’t the only issue. Officials came to realize that his lack of interest and tendency toward distraction posed their own concerns. His briefers, a former senior administration official said, “were stunned and miffed that he had no real interest in the P.D.B. And it wasn’t just the P.D.B.; it was almost anything generated by his N.S.C.” — Trump’s National Security Council. “He kind of likes the military details but just doesn’t read briefing materials. They’d put all this time and effort into these briefing papers, and he’d literally throw it aside.”

      From the 2016 campaign to early 2019, Trump’s principal briefer was Ted Gistaro, a much-respected C.I.A. veteran whom the president called “my Ted.” Sometime in the spring of 2019, Gistaro accepted a posting overseas, though not before unburdening himself to a former colleague. “I knew you’ve heard how bad it is,” the colleague recalled him saying. “Believe me, it’s worse than that.” (The O.D.N.I. declined requests for an interview with Gistaro.)

      (Emphasis added.)

      Where is the GOP? They’re letting all this go on their watch. It’s sickening.

      In 2018, the U.S. government initiated a cyberattack against the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm singled out by Mueller for its efforts to influence the 2016 election. Although the Trump administration would later point to this as proof of the president’s toughness on Russia, three individuals who had real-time knowledge of the attack told me that Trump did not specifically order it.

      (emphasis added)

      Worth noting.

      Haspel, who replaced Pompeo after he was tapped to run the State Department, had previously overseen one of the C.I.A.’s notorious overseas interrogation facilities known as “black sites” — a fact that endeared her to Trump, according to one former intelligence official. “He loved that Gina is a badass,” the official said. “He loved her involvement in the prisons.”

      This makes me think of Trump’s praise of Duterte’s extrajudicial murders, Chinese government’s handling of Tiananmen Square, and the Uighur concentration camps.

      On July 19, 2019, nine days before Trump announced Coats’s departure, Coats created a new post within the intelligence community: election-threats executive. He awarded the job to an analyst named Shelby Pierson, who had worked in the community for over two decades, most recently as a Russia issues manager, before Coats asked her in 2018 to serve as the O.D.N.I.’s crisis manager for election security….

      …Pierson and other senior intelligence officials continued to meet and review Russia’s influence campaign, past and present. They learned that in the 2016 election, Russian cyberattacks compromised voter-registration databases in Illinois and Florida and hacked a Florida-based election-software vendor. They learned as well that Russia would be focusing its 2020 efforts on the battleground states.

      (emphasis added)

      Purging:

      With Coats and Maguire both gone, Patel set about fulfilling a White House request to cut the O.D.N.I.’s staff, according to someone familiar with the events. The concern within the intelligence community was that downsizing could offer a pretext for purging individuals like the anonymous C.I.A. analyst who filed the Ukraine whistle-blower complaint. As Sean Patrick Maloney of the House Intelligence Committee told me, “It seems pretty clear to me that in the wake of the whistle-blower complaint, he’d put a bunch of political hacks in charge, so that he’d never have to worry about the truth getting out from the intelligence community.”

      The last paragraph, a quote from Mike Morell, who as an acting CIA director, about 2016 Russian interference, was a kicker:

      “This is the only time in American history when we’ve been attacked by a foreign country and not come together as a nation,” Morell said. “In fact, it split us further apart. It was an inexpensive, relatively easy to carry out covert mission. It deepened our divisions. I’m absolutely convinced that those Russian intelligence officers who put together and managed the attack on our democracy in 2016 all received medals personally from Vladimir Putin.”

      (emphasis added)

      Translation: We got our asses kicked. And we’re still getting it kicked.

      Also: Trump and GOP enablers are basically allowing and even participating in Russian efforts to divide our nation. They’re betraying our country.

      Finally, a big reason this is tolerated–by Americans and even by GOP enablers–is that people don’t think information operations/active measures/hyper-warfare–don’t really think this is much of a threat to our democracy. I really think these people are wrong. In any event, the giant remains asleep.

    3. Trump retweets Russian propaganda about Biden that US intel agencies say is intended to influence 2020 election fromCNN

      Late Sunday, Trump amplified a tweet that contained audiotapes of a 2016 conversation between Biden and then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko — material that was released earlier this year by Andriy Derkach, a Ukrainian lawmaker named by the US intelligence community in its August 7 statement about Russia’s disinformation campaign against Biden. US authorities labeled Derkach’s efforts as disinformation because they are intentionally designed to spread false or misleading information about Biden.

      This behavior, especially a pattern of it, warrants the end of any presidency–now and in the future. We need Republicans and Fox News pundits to denounce these actions by Trump.

    4. Clearly, a political move. The letter admits possibility of “exaggeration and fabrication,” and we know Trump and his campaign will omit this and claim it as fact. Even without this qualifier, why would the US IC take seriously a claim like this by th Russian intelligence?

      From Senator Mark Warner’s spokesperson:

      I forgot to mention a key point: This is another example of Republicans working in concert (collusion?) in concert with Russia disinformation. If it damages Biden and Democrats, they will work with Russia (or anyone?). This is a betrayal or even treasonous act.

  6. From WaPo: Romney May Vote Against Trump Again–This Time with Some Bite

    Apparently the Senate Homeland Security Committee is planning to vote issuing a subpoena related to Hunter Biden’s work for Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian energy company. If the Senate begins an investigation on this, it will be another of many examples of the way the GOP have become a party primarily about maintaining power–placing this far above principles, including the rule of law. I don’t get the sense the news media is hammering this point hard enough. Should they, or am I off my rocker?

    Let’s consider this. The GOP ostensibly wants to begin this investigation because they believe corruption is really bad thing. But if they were genuine, why wouldn’t they investigate Trump and his children. For example, WaPo also published the following article today–Newly obtained documents show $157,000 in additional payments by the Secret Service to Trump properties. Surely this is far worse than the son of the VPOTUS gaining employment from his father’s position. And if something like this warrants an investigation, this means that a) Republican congresspeople are not guilty of something similar or worse, and b) if there was a distinct possibility of this, the GOP would begin investigations on these members. Right?

    It’s hard not to conclude the GOP only cares about corruption when it serves their goal of gaining and keeping power–which is to say they don’t really care about corruption. Senator McConnell would rather win the presidency than uniting with Democrats to publicly speak out against Russia (during the 2016 campaign) and he apparently wants to leave our election vulnerable to electoral interference (He’s not allowing a vote on bi-partisan bill to give states more money to secure elections); he and other GOP-ers find it acceptable that the POTUS uses his office to pressure foreign leader to help his campaign. Is it crazy to think the GOP have now become an authoritarian party? I don’t think it’s crazy to think that, nor do I think it’s crazy to think that they pose the greatest danger, along with Trump, to the United States of a America.

  7. With COVID-19 hurting the economy, I’m wondering if this would be a decent time to start spending on infrastructure. If a lot of people are staying at home, it would seem like an ideal time to work on improving infrastructure.

    If unemployment increases, I wonder if the government could create programs like they did in FDR’s time. Then again, this might go against mitigating the spread of the virus.

  8. A stark contrast in leadership from retired Admiral William McRaven–The coronavirus has thrown us all in the mud

    The short op-ed is a message of encouragement and hope to the country as we battle the COVID-19. It’s not very substantive perhaps, but I found the message encouraging. It’s one I would have wanted from a POTUS in this type of situation.

  9. ‘There is no greater moral crime’: Tucker Carlson calls for Sen. Richard Burr’s resignation over stock sell-off

    I don’t know if this warrants resignation, but I agree with Rep. Ocasio-Cortez that it is “stomach-churning.”

    I also think Burr’s explanation and dispute with this claim–namely, that his warnings at a luncheon constituted a “public statement.” However, according to NPR,

    The luncheon had been organized by the Tar Heel Circle, a nonpartisan group whose membership consists of businesses and organizations in North Carolina, the state Burr represents. Membership to join the Tar Heel Circle costs between $500 and $10,000 and promises that members “enjoy interaction with top leaders and staff from Congress, the administration, and the private sector,” according to the group’s website.

    This sounds more like a private, rather than public, meeting to me. Additionally, if Sen. Burr gave the similar dire warnings on a bigger public platform (e.g., CNN) he’d have a more compelling argument.

  10. Former intelligence chiefs: Trump’s removal of experts is deeply destructive to our nation’s safety

    Nine former intelligence chiefs:

    We do not suggest that post-9/11 reforms should be etched in stone. All healthy institutions should evolve with changing circumstances, and the NCTC as well as the rest of government must adapt as circumstances change. But the gutting of the intelligence community’s experienced professionals is not reform. It is politicization, pure and simple. It is destructive of our nation’s ideals, and it puts us all at risk.

    If congressional Republicans, Fox News, and other conservative pundits remain silent or continue to claim a “Deep State” and mainstream media just hates Trump, they’re putting the nation in harm’s way.

  11. Trump says he will fire intelligence watchdog at center of Ukraine allegations that led to impeachment from WaPo.

    If Trump is allowed to get away with this, without really showing a compelling reason for doing this, then this is another step in placing Trump above the law. He’s taking down the system of checks-and-balances, bit by bit. So many warning signals about Trump’s authoritarianism–specifically indications that he believes he is above the law. Some others that come to mind off the top of my head: criticizing AG Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, even though this was appropriate; publicly intimidating witnesses in the investigation, and other forms of obstructing justice in the Russia investigation. No one can say they didn’t know; that there was no evidence.

    1. Trump rejects HHS watchdog’s report on severe hospital shortages from WaPo.

      At Monday’s coronavirus task force briefing, Trump rejected a report by the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services outlining the severe equipment shortages facing the country’s hospitals, claiming without evidence that the results were politically biased.

      Another reinforcement of my perception that Trump conceives of information that is politically harmful or unflattering to him as untrue. How long will Americans put up with this?

    2. Rep. Adam Schiff, chairperson of House Permanment Select Committee on Intelligence will begin an investigation on the firing of Inspector General, Michael Atkinson. He sent a letter to Acting DNI, Richard Grennell. Greg Sargent, columnist at WaPo, makes some good points involving what to anticipate. Sargent points to a specific part of Schiff’s letter:

      Notably, in the section announcing the investigation of Atkinson’s dismissal, Schiff calls on Grenell to confirm in writing whether he ever exercised his “authority” to “prohibit” any other “investigation, inspection, audit, or review” that Atkinson might have undertaken.

      Schiff’s letter also calls on Grenell to stipulate in writing that he “will not permit retaliation or reprisals against anyone who has made, or in the future makes, protected disclosures of misconduct.”

      Grennell’s response to these two requests are important. If Grenell doesn’t answer and/or refuses to stipulate that he will not permit retaliation or reprisals against people who make protected disclosures” that will be a signal that Trump will act with be even freer to go punish anyone who attempts to hold him accountable.

      I don’t think there is much suspense, as Trump is already going after people who said and done things that have politically damaged him–even if what they said is the truth and followed proper channels. He’s dismantling the safeguards against a tyrannical president out in the open and the GOP Congress either aids these efforts or stands aside.

      Edit

      David Ignatius of WaPo does a good job of summarizing Trump’s recent moves to neuter individuals and mechanisms that would hold him (or any POTUS) accountable.

      Some sections that stood out:

      With Atkinson’s dismissal, Trump has replaced every experienced, Senate-confirmed official at the ODNI. Intelligence is now overseen by acting director Richard Grenell, a Trump loyalist and former State Department spokesman.

      Also, this bit about the Steve Engel from DOJ’s Office of Legal Council (OLC), as well as AG Barr, have aided in this process:

      One little-noted facilitator of this demolition process is the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). Once a respected source of legal guidance, the OLC has become a reliably pro-Trump advocate under Attorney General William P. Barr and the OLC chief, Assistant Attorney General Steven A. Engel.

      In an OLC opinion in September that astonished many Justice Department veterans, Engel argued that the DNI’s office couldn’t transmit to Congress the Ukraine whistleblower’s compliant. Engel opined that the complaint wasn’t an “urgent concern” as defined by law. Atkinson responded with a blistering letter, and the administration eventually relented.

      Engel’s other controversial OLC opinions include a ruling in June that Trump didn’t need to release his tax returns and an opinion in May that White House advisers had “absolute immunity” from testifying in the impeachment inquiry.

      And finally:

      Fourteen IG positions are vacant, including those at the CIA, Defense, Treasury and the Department of Health and Human Services.

      On Friday, Trump nominated officials to fill five of these open positions, but many of his nominees have administration political ties.

  12. I’m not sure how many of you are following the story about the firing naval captain, Brett Crozier. Here’s the latest:

    Acting Navy secretary says ousted captain leaked concerns to media, or was ‘too naive or too stupid to command a ship’ from WaPo.

    This is not the biggest story out there, but I’m curious to know more details about the way Capt. Crozier handled this situation–specifically, did he go through the proper chain of command and exhaust all avenues before sending out an email to a wider audience–which eventually the press got a hold of. If he did not, I have less sympathy for him, but I would be a little surprised by this since, from what I read, he he’s a good commander. Or I’m wondering if there are good reasons he didn’t really go through the chain of command. Acting Secretary Modly’s side of the story do not paint a good picture of Crozier in my opinion. I would think there is another side of this story, and I’m guessing it’s going to be quite different. We’ll see.

    4/7/2020

    From WaPo: Acting Navy secretary resigns after insulting aircraft carrier’s ousted captain

    4/16/2020

    From WaPo: How an outbreak on the USS Theodore Roosevelt became a defining moment for the U.S. military

    Crozier transmitted his email in a manner that some Navy officials found inappropriate, and nearly all considered unconventional.

    He addressed it to Rear Adm. Stuart Baker, his immediate commanding officer; Adm. John Aquilino, the top commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet; and Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller, the officer overseeing all naval forces in the Pacific.

    Crozier copied the message to seven Navy captains but left off Vice Adm. William Merz, who oversaw the Roosevelt as commander of the Navy’s 7th Fleet. It arrived in the continental United States late March 29 due to the international dateline, a point that has been confused in some accounts.

    I’d like to know why Crozier didn’t include Merz.

    Friends of Crozier’s have described him as calm and unlikely to have sent the message unless he thought it was necessary. Medical staff on his ship had warned that if they didn’t get the virus under control quickly, dozens of sailor could die, a detail first reported by the New York Times.

    Crozier’s friends have said that the captain pushed “send” after several days of the Navy struggling to settle on a plan that would remove sailors quickly. A senior defense official acknowledged that Crozier wanted to remove sailors more quickly but said his effort wasn’t immediately realistic.

    “The problem was there was no place to put them at that time,” the senior defense official said. “The governor of Guam had started working with the hotel industry to get the hotels reopened. But that doesn’t happen overnight.”

    The official added that if Crozier wanted to make an urgent point as a commander, the Navy has a way to do so. He could have sent a “personal for” message, known colloquially as a “P4,” to senior service leaders. That would have flagged the discussion as sensitive and important without opening it up to a relatively large group of people, the official said.

    Why didn’t Crozier do this?

    The article raises more questions than answers.

  13. For Mark Meadows, Transition From Trump Confidant to Chief of Staff Is a Hard One from the NYTimes:

    In the case of Mr. Meadows, it has not helped him with his White House colleagues that the former North Carolina congressman, who has a reputation for showing his emotions, cried while meeting with members of the White House staff on at least two occasions. One instance was in the presence of a young West Wing aide; another time was with the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

    The context for these crying incidents are really important. Suppose he teared up because his favorite aunt died of COVID-19? I’d be more sympathetic with that. Still, this is not a good look, although I wouldn’t put a lot of stock in this. On some level it feels like someone wants to undermine Meadows. (The article is based on seven sources and a few other people.)

    At the same time, his grip on the White House is hardly tight. Mr. Meadows was caught off guard when the press office on Tuesday night blasted out a lengthy list of people who had been selected to be part of one of the groups advising Mr. Trump on reopening the country, according to two people briefed on the matter. That had happened at the direction of Mr. Kushner, who has played a leading role in the White House’s response to the virus, according to the people with knowledge of what took place.

    The list turned into something of a debacle on Wednesday, with one corporate executive after another telling reporters they had learned they were on it when their names were announced. Some said they had never agreed to be a part of the effort.

    Even Mr. Meadows’s allies have described him as reeling from the reality that working for the president is different from being Mr. Trump’s phone confidant.

    What stands out for me is that someone surprised Meadows with groups advising Trump, and that some of the advisers were surprised they were on the list! Take-away: The WH is a mess–they’re flying on the seat of their pants. Finally, by the admission of Meadows’s allies, Meadows is taken aback–to the point of “reeling”–by what it’s like to actually work with Trump.

    This incompetence that results in chaos has been reported on Trump’s management prior and during the WH. This is not new and only reaffirms these older reporting.

  14. I find this WaPo column, by Henry Olsen noteworthy and remarkable: Trump’s covid-19 performance is an encapsulation of his entire presidency–noteworthy and remarkable because Olsen is a Trump supporter and he’s essentially arguing that Trump’s presidency is characterized by Trump saying all sorts of things, and the people under him doing something else. With regard to this state of affairs, here’s what Olsen says:

    This pattern is not surprising in hindsight. It’s a truism that one cannot direct what one does not understand. Trump has never shown an interest in the details of policy or governance, and thus has no basis upon which to guide his staff or even set consistent directions for them. He’s like a rotisserie baseball player who suddenly becomes the Yankees’ general manager, incapable of providing regular direction to the scouts and other personnel who actually do the work.

    The argument seems to be that Trump’s words–and even his ability to run government–doesn’t matter because the people under and around him with ignore his words and do what they need to do. Seems crazy to me, and it’s even crazier if Trump’s purging people with competence and installing those who lack competence, but are loyal to him.

  15. For some needed levity during the pandemic, I turn to these two brothers, which, in a slightly odd way, I find a morale booster as well. Check them out.

  16. If I had to choose another person, besides Donald Trump, that has done the most damage to our country, particularly our system of government, it would be a close call between Mitch McConnell or Bill Barr.

    Barr previous actions suggest that he doesn’t care if he creates the impression that he is partisan and not independent–so much so that one could conclude, with reasonable confidence, that he is partisan, serving as Trump’s lawyer and protector. Had he not done these things, we would have a better chance of viewing DOJ’s decision above as a legitimate one. But I think it’s almost impossible to do so now.

    Indeed, at this point, I predict we’re going to have revelations from DOJ–specifically a report from the second investigation on the Russia investigation (lead by John Durham)–that attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the Russia investigation. I would be shocked if this–or other similar efforts–don’t happen from now until November.

    I’m not sure about the details and decisions the FBI regarding the Russia investigation. But I’m sure it’s sketchy to the point of being disqualifing if a presidential candidate does the following:

    –Publicly encourage a US adversary to find material that may damage his political opponent;
    –Try to do a business deal with the same adversary before and continuing in the presidential campaign, and lying about it;
    –Refusing to divest their business and release their tax forms;
    –Casting doubt on the adversary’s election interference, publicly siding with the leader of the adversarial nation, going against the US intelligence community (See Helsinki press conference.);
    –meeting with representatives of the adversarial nation to get dirt on hsi political opponent, coordinating campaign strategy with these contacts–and failing to tell the FBI and lying about these contacts.

    President Trump did these things (and I could I have mentioned more–like Paul Manafort and his role in this). The Russian investigation is not a hoax, unless one thinks the actions above are acceptable–that the actions don’t warrant an investigation. I think they do for any candidate.

    One last thing about Barr. What he’s doing at the DOJ is one of the most worrisome things that I see. The impression I get is that Barr has allowed Trump to capture the DOJ–to use it to protect himself and possibly go after his enemies. Few things that’s happening in politics now worry me more than this.

    1. I don’t really want to get into it much, because I’ll just end up clawing my own eyeballs out, but McConnell has body of work and length of career on his side. Emmitt Smith vs. Shaun Alexander. Or something like that. There’s a better sports analogy that’s beyond my tired brain, and THIS is a topic that doesn’t deserve the brainwaves.

    2. Just clarify one thing–You’re saying McConnell is the Emmitt Smith of causing damage, while Barr is the Sean Alexander version. If so, I get it, and I guess I would agree.

    3. With regard to the DOJ dropping its case (for lying to the FBI) against Michael Flynn, it’s important to remember what Flynn lied about. (I forgot the details, but David Frum goes over them in this article.

      On December 29, 2016, the Obama administration finally punished Russia with sanctions for their interference. On this day, Flynn spoke with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergei Kislyak several times.

      On December 30, Putin announced he wouldn’t retaliate. In response to this, Trump tweeted: “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!”

      Flynn and Kislyak spoke several times again.

      Flynn lied about these calls (and Pence claimed that he was lied to as well about them).

      According to Frum, here’s why this matters:

      Flynn’s lies mattered not because of some technicality about the Logan Act, the ancient and much-disregarded law forbidding private diplomacy. Flynn’s lies mattered because they may have concealed a deal between Trump and Russia over sanctions.

      The Flynn-Kislyak call was recorded by U.S. intelligence agencies. The judge in Flynn’s case ordered that the call be released. The Department of Justice successfully resisted the order by arguing that the recording was irrelevant to Flynn’s conviction and sentencing.

      And so Congress and the public remain unaware of what exactly was said to dissuade the Russians from retaliating in December 2016, and what—if anything—the Russians asked for in return. Congress and the public remain ignorant about whether Flynn acted on his own or was directed by President-elect Trump. Congress and the public remain uncertain whether Pence had himself been deceived when he delivered a false reassurance on CBS in January 2017—or whether he was part of the deceit.

      And later,

      Many of those same Republicans are now acclaiming the decision to drop charges against Flynn as vindication. But vindication is precisely what this is not. Flynn’s release by Barr does not prove that Flynn was innocent of wrongdoing. Being released by Barr does not convert Flynn’s lies into truth. Flynn’s release by Barr only strengthens the suspicion that back in December 2016, Flynn acted with Trump’s approval. Flynn’s release by Barr only strengthens the suspicion that Flynn and Kislyak were furthering a corrupt arrangement between Trump and Putin. Flynn’s release by Barr only strengthens the suspicion that the corrupt arrangement continues to this day.

      Flynn beat the rap. But the rap itself resounds louder than ever.

      It’s worth thinking about what “corrupt arrangement” really means–or could mean here. It could mean that Trump and his administration is aiding Putin or giving him something he wants in exchange for helping Trump. This would definitely explain Trump’s odd public defense and refusal to openly criticize Putin.

      So were Flynn’s lies a big deal? They seem that way–or at least the very least they do not seem immaterial to the investigation about Russian interference. Flynn’s lies–as well as lies by Stone, Trump Jr. regarding contacts with Russians and those closely associated with them–and the failure to report these to the FBI–remain huge red flags. They are they type of actions that warrant the end of a candidacy or presidency in my view.

      One other thing I didn’t realize: Flynn admitted, under oath, to lying to the FBI three times to two different federal judges. He’s claiming he didn’t lie to the FBI.

      What’s even crazier about all this–Trump might do this again in 2020, and Republicans don’t seem to mind. To wit,

      On the day that the Flynn case was dropped, Trump spoke by telephone to Putin. He told reporters that he and Putin had agreed that the investigation of Russian interference was a“hoax”—and that he and Putin had undertaken to work together more closely from here on. “I wouldn’t be surprised,” Trump said to the reporters, “if you see a lot of things happen over the next number of weeks.” The way is now open for Russia and Putin to act again to help reelect Trump, as they acted to elect him in the first place.

      Edit

      Something else I forgot:

      If Flynn lied about his phone conversations to Pence, Trump, and others in the administration–and at the time, the administration claimed it did not have any conversations with Russian representatives–then this would pose a national security threat, as Russia could use this lie to blackmail Flynn (i.e., if you don’t cooperate, we’ll reveal you lied). This is what concerned the Sally Yates, who I think was acting Attorney General at the time.

      If Flynn actually told Trump, Pence, and others, then the administration was lying about these calls, and it raises questions about what was said, whether a deal was made between Putin and Trump–and whether this deal is actually in the interests of Trump or the nation.

    4. Asha Rangappa makes a list of bad things Bill Barr has done:

      Bully Barr, how do you obstruct justice? Let us count the ways:

      1. LIED about the contents of the Mueller Report, claiming that it found “no evidence” of colllusion or obstruction of justice

      2. Attempted the redact material in Mueller Report which reveals that Trump DID collude

      3. Tried to interfere in sentencing of Roger Stone, who we now know was communicating with Trump about said collusion

      4. Is trying to get the case against Flynn dropped, against the interests of justice as a former federal judge serving as amicus has stated
      5. Is dropping the case against RUSSIA, which attacked the U.S., by classifying info necessary to prosecute Russian defendants

      6. Has testified that he doesn’t believe that foreign assistance to a campaign is even a crime if it is not directly by a “foreign intelligence service”
      7. Had his OLC justify blocking a whistleblower complaint required by law to reach Congress from ever reaching Congress (an opinion which was soundly rebuked in a letter from collective Inspectors General)

      8. Oversaw his Criminal Division deciding — before even investigating — that secretly extorting a foreign country to investigate a political opponent would not constitute a violation of campaign finance laws

      9. Has appointed, without any legal basis that I am aware of, political appointees to (repeatedly) “investigate the investigators” of Russian interference even after the DOJ IG has investigated it

      *taking a break to refill wine glass*

      10. Where was I? Oh yes: Got “activated” by POTUS to tear gas peaceful protesters and clergy members in violation of the Constitution of the United States

      AND THEN LIED ABOUT IT

      11. Has YET to mention that right-wing extremists are the most dangerous domestic terror threat AS TESTIFIED TO BY THE DIRECTOR OF THE FBI

      12. But meanwhile has put the Joint Terrorism Task Force on investigating Auntie Tifa who is his imaginary foe

      13. Has been pimping hydroxychloroquone in his free time for no apparent reason even though by the way we know it kills people

      (Not sure this is obstruction but it’s super cray cray so including it)

      14. Now is trying to fire the U.S. Attorney for SDNY which, among other things, has evidence that:

      a) Trump is an unindicted co-conspirator in criminal campaign finance violations in conjunction with the indictment against his former lawyer, Michael Cohen

      b) was investigating to co-conspirators of Jeffrey Epstein who died under mysterious and as yet unexplained circumstances and who by the way used to work for his DAD who wrote a bizarre novel about space sex trafficking (someone else please take over this piece because I can’t)

      c) was reportedly investigating Fruity G & Co. playing Scooby Doo in Ukraine digging up sketchy dirt on his political opponents (see #2 and 3, reprise)

      d) is obviously investigating other things which will continue “without interference” as per SDNY U. S. Attorney who

      i) never was told he was “resigning” and

      ii) isn’t resigning
      APPENDIX A: (To tweets #11 and 12) Took it upon himself to bring in unidentified, armed federal agents to DC to intimidate the population and usurp the authority of the DC mayor*

      *reserve the right to add appendices and additional vidence that I forgot or which may arise

      15. I am SO EFFING DONE with this dude and if Ted Cruz wants I will wrestle Barr and settle this once and for all if Congress isn’t willing to impeach him because this %#*$! has Got. To. Stop.

      END (but to be continued)

      That Republicans tolerate or even support Barr is about as damning as their tacit or active support of Trump.

      6/20/2020

      This thread has links to NYT stories that deal with the points Rangappa makes above:

    5. STATEMENT REGARDING ATTORNEY GENERAL WILLIAM H. BARR FROM
      MEMBERS OF THE GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL FACULTY
      –Bill Barr went to GW and sits on their law school’s Board of Advisors.

      William Barr’s actions as Attorney General since 2019 have undermined the rule of law,
      breached constitutional norms, and damaged the integrity and traditional independence of his
      office and of the Department of Justice. He obfuscated and misled the American public about
      the results of the Mueller investigation. He wrongfully interfered in the day-to-day activities of career prosecutors, injecting partisan politics into the criminal justice system by bending its
      administration to benefit the President’s friends and target those perceived to be his enemies. He participated in the forcible removal from public space of peaceful protesters, exercising their First Amendment rights to speech and assembly in order to protest racial injustice,so that he and the President could have a photo opportunity in front of a church that did not request or consent to their presence. His actions have posed, and continue to create, a clear and present danger to
      civil liberties and the constitutional order.

      and

      We express the most severe opprobrium for Barr’s actions as Attorney General. We are not motivated by political partisanship. We include members of both major political parties, and of none. We have different legal specialties and represent a broad spectrum of approaches to the law. Our diversity is a strength as we pull together to respond to a time of national crisis, exacerbated by an Attorney General who has fallen well below the minimal threshold his office requires.

      My understanding is that 80% of the GW law school faculty signed this.

      By the way, the lists and expounds on several of Barr’s actions that the signees condemn. One thought that came to mind and has been on my mind: I wonder if Barr knows what he’s doing is not wrong, but he believes his actions are justified because he’s convinced that the Democrats are worse–that they pose a serious threat to our country. But this argument is weakened severely if you deceive and undermine norms that are critical to our democracy–when you defend an executive that thinks and behaves like a dictator.

    6. Letter to Congress from the New York Bar Association

      As we noted at the time, each of these actions raised serious concerns about Mr. Barr’s stewardship of DOJ. Cumulatively, they form an overwhelming public impression of an Attorney General whose primary loyalty is to the President who appointed him, not to the American public or the rule of law. We believe this public impression is reasonable based on the pattern of conduct outlined above and described in detail in our previous reports, and we are of the view that the latest events have now rendered Mr. Barr unfit for the high position he occupies in our federal government.[12] He has repeatedly flouted the very standard that he embraced when he sought confirmation as Attorney General and should now step aside and permit his successor to begin the process of rebuilding the DOJ’s role and reputation as a defender of the rule of law for the American people.

    7. Prosecutor to tell Congress that Barr, top aides sought to cut Roger Stone ‘a break’

      Aaron Zelinsky, an assistant U.S. attorney in Maryland formerly detailed to Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, was one of the prosecutors in the Roger Stone trial. I read his entire opening statement, which he’ll read tomorrow in Congress. The statement isn’t exactly short, but, for some reason, I found it riveting. Zelinsky does a really good job of summarizing Stone’s behavior and what happened at the sentencing. I had forgot, or didn’t know some of the specifics–but if Zelinksy’s account is accurate, if the POTUS pardons him, something will be really wrong.

      The lies he tells Congress, to protect Trump, are egregious and bad on its own, but Stone does other brazen things that deserve punishment:

      . Following his congressional testimony, Stone embarked on an extended month-long campaign of witness intimidation and obstruction of justice targeted at Randy Credico. Stone tried to get Credico to go along with his lie that Credico had been his backchannel to Wikileaks in August 2016. Stone repeatedly told Credico to do a “Frank Pentangeli” –a character in the Godfather Part II, who lies to a congressional committee to save Don Corleone from getting prosecuted for perjury.
      When Credico refused Stone’s pressure, Stone threatened Credico, tellingCredico to “prepare to die.” And Stone promised that if Credico didn’t keep quiet, Stone wouldn’t just ruin Credico’s life, he would ruin the life of Credico’s friend, an attorney, by filing a bar complaint against her. In response to such threats, Credico told HPSCI he would invoke his Fifth Amendment rights if called to testify. Then, fearful of what Stone’s associates might do to him, Credico moved out of his house and wore a disguise when going outside.

      and

      Stone was indicted by a grand jury in January 2019. In the months that followed, Stone repeatedly violated orders of the court, culminating in him publishing a picture of the presiding judge, Amy Berman Jackson, with a crosshairs next to her head and attacking her as corrupt. At a hearing on the matter, Stone took the stand and claimed –under oath –that the crosshairs next to the judge’s head was an “occult Celtic symbol” and that he couldn’t remember who had access to his phone the week before when the images was posted. Judge Jackson found his testimony not credible.

      (emphasis added)

      But the most alarming section involves Zelinsky’s claim that he was told to lower the recommended sentencing. (Zelinsky describes the way they arrived at the sentencing.) When he and the other prosecutors pushed back, this is what he was told:

      In response, we were told by a supervisor that the U.S. Attorney had political reasons for his instructions, which our supervisor agreed was unethical and wrong. However, we were instructed that we should go along with the U.S. Attorney’s instructions, because this case was “not the hill worth dying on” and that we could “lose our jobs” if we did not toe the line.

      (emphasis added)

      Later Zelinsky says,

      Ultimately, we refused to modify our memorandum to ask for a substantially lower sentence. Again, I was told that the U.S. Attorney’s instructions had nothing to do with Mr. Stone, the facts of the case, the law, or Department policy. Instead, I was explicitly told that the motivation for changing the sentencing memo was political, and because the U.S. Attorney was “afraid of the President.”

      (emphasis added)

      The DOJ Supervisor, who told this to Zelinsky must testify before Congress. So must Bill Barr. If any of this is true, I feel like Barr should be impeached and removed.

      1. Trump commutes sentence of confidant Roger Stone who was convicted of lying to Congress and witness tampering from WaPo

        This makes me a little queasy–what Stone did–acting as a intermediary between Russian intelligence (Guccifer 2.0)/cutouts (wikileaks) and Trump during the 2016 election; lying to Congress, threatening another witness and judge (See in the post right above)–as well as what Barr did to reduce Stone’s sentence, and now Trump’s commutation–this is all incredibly corrupt, sordid affair. Any other president would be impeached for all this.

        On another note, something I wholeheartedly agree with:

        This is sickening: Senator Susan Collins explaining her vote to acquit Trump:

        I believe that the president has learned from this case. The president has been impeached. That’s a pretty big lesson.”

        “I’m voting to acquit. Because I do not believe that the behavior alleged reaches the high bar in the Constitution for overturning an election, and removing a duly elected president.”

        “He was impeached. And there has been criticism by both Republican and Democratic senators of his call,” Collins explained, referring to his July 25 call with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Mr. Trump asked for an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden. “I believe that he will be much more cautious in the future.”

        The president’s call was wrong. He should not have mentioned Joe Biden in it, despite his overall concern about corruption in Ukraine,” Collins said. “The president of the United States should not be asking a foreign country to investigate a political rival. That is just improper. It was far from a perfect call.

        I’m sure there are going to be people unhappy with me in Maine. All I can do is apply the constitutional standard. And that’s my job. My job is not to weigh the political consequences, but to do impartial justice to live up to the oath that I took.”

        This:

        1. Trump’s Aberrant Pardons and Commutations from Lawfare blog, written by Jack Goldsmith and Matt Gluck. (Goldsmith is a lawyer who worked in the Bush 43 administration, and strikes me as someone who rarely praises Trump, but also seems reluctant to criticize him as well.) They put their analysis into a chart/spreadsheet if you like that sort of thing.

          I learned about the pardon attorney, which I never knew about:

          The pardon attorney receives and examines requests for a pardon or commutation, and prepares a recommendation (through the Deputy Attorney General) for the president about each individual request. The office of the Pardon Attorney is 125 years old and the current process is governed by Department regulations. The idea is to place a rigorous process between the president and requests for pardons in order to guard against the reality and perception of politicized pardons.

          The President’s pardon power flows from the Constitution, however. A president need not use the pardon attorney process, and applicants for a pardon need not go through that process.

          Conclusion:

          Trump is unprecedented in the modern era for (i) the number and high percentage of self-serving pardons, and (ii) his stinginess in issuing pardons, at least thus far.

          (Trump has issued the third fewest pardons of any president who served a full term.)

          Is Pardon Power Unlimited? from Just Security, written by Harold Hongju Koh, Rosa Hayes, Dana Khabbaz, Michael Loughlin, Nicole Ng, Ayoub Ouederni and Brandon Willmore. (published 2/28/2020)

          This article explains that abuse of pardoning power is grounds for impeachment, and it makes a case that Trump could be impeached for such an abuse.

          In Biddle v. Perovich, the Supreme Court clarified that a “pardon in our days is not a private act of grace from an individual happening to possess power. It is a part of the Constitutional scheme. When granted it is the determination of the ultimate authority that the public welfare will be better served by inflicting less than what the judgment fixed.” Ex Parte Grossman further specified that “[o]ur Constitution confers this discretion [of the pardon power] on the highest officer in the nation in confidence that he will not abuse it. … To exercise [the pardon power] to the extent of destroying the deterrent effect of judicial punishment would be to pervert it ….” (emphasis added).

          What stands out to me: Presidential pardons/commutations should be based on better serving the public welfare, and it should not destroy deterrent effect of judicial punishment.

          If Goldsmith’s and Gluck’s analysis is correct, Trump has a pattern of using this power for his interests, not the public’s, and I think you could argue that it undermines the deterrent effect of judicial punishment, at least in some cases.

          Responding to George Mason’s concerns that the president’s pardon powers could allow him to “frequently pardon crimes that were advised by himself,” James Madison explained when impeachment should check such abuses: “If the president be connected in any suspicious manner with any persons, and there be grounds to believe he will shelter himself; the house of representatives can impeach him.” (emphasis added)

          Later,

          If Trump were to pardon Stone, Manafort, or Flynn, the criminal case for obstruction of justice would be strengthened by the fact that the president’s legal team previously floated pardons to such potential witnesses as Manafort and Flynn, referenced in both volumes I and II of the Mueller report. As the report notes, “many of the President’s acts directed at witnesses, including discouragement of cooperation with the government and suggestions of possible future pardons, took place in public view.”

          (The authors go on to list other incriminating incidences, including Barr’s attempt to reduce Stone’s sentence.)

          Closing thoughts:

          I understand the reluctance of Democrats to impeach Trump again, right now. (I share some of that reluctance, although I think it is justified.), but consider Senator Collins’s rationale for not impeaching Trump–namely, that he has “learned his lesson.” Some Republicans would also argue that we should let voters decide, especially since we’re so close to the election (an argument that I can sympathize with, but ultimately find unpersuasive).
          This creates two options Democrats can present to Republicans:

          1. Impeach and remove Trump now–since he clearly hasn’t learned his lesson (The Just Security also mentions Trump retaliating against people who testified against him, including Lt. Col. Vindman.), and has committed an impeachable offense–something that future presidents should be dissuaded from doing.

          2. If Republicans believe we’re too close to an election and we should let voters decide, let them commit to uniting with Democrats to secure the elections and warn Russia, China or any other country or individual, to stay out of our election; let them also warn Trump–and Barr (with possibility of impeaching the latter)–that they should also not undermine elections, via baseless claims or actively seeking dirt from foreign powers. Force McConnell to hear the bill to secure elections and publicly warn foreign countries and Trump and Barr.

          This may be far-fetched–and how can we trust Republicans to commit to this? Democrats would need only a handful of Republicans to do this, though. I would like to think there are a handful that they could trust to keep this commitment. (Romney should be one. Murkowski, another?)

        2. Really seems like that’s the situation with Trump’s commutation of Stone. But I expect Barr will find some excuse to dismiss this notion, and congressional Republicans won’t investigate, which they surely would if this were a Democratic president.

          Note: This doesn’t specific point doesn’t make the act illegal. The POTUS doesn’t need to follow these rules, but it looks bad if they don’t.

          July 13, 2020

          From Aaron Blake of WaPo today:

          …Barr’s comments in the past week undermine Trump’s stated reason for the commutation. While Trump said he commuted Stone’s sentence because the prosecution was unjust, Barr repeatedly affirmed in his ABC News interview that the prosecution was indeed appropriate and that Stone deserved his jail time. Those comments are supremely unhelpful to Trump now — not even Barr agrees with him! — and it seems they were lodged either because Barr thought Stone was truly guilty or because he worried about what came next.

        3. From David Frum yesterday.

          It is not illegal for a U.S. citizen to act or attempt to act as a go-between between a presidential campaign and a foreign intelligence agency, and Stone was not charged with any crime in conjunction with his Trump-WikiLeaks communications. But it’s a different story for the campaign itself. At a minimum, the Trump campaign was vulnerable to charges of violating election laws against receiving things of value from non-U.S. persons. Conceivably, the campaign could have found itself at risk as some kind of accessory to the Russian hacks—hacking being a very serious crime indeed. So it was crucial to the Trump campaign that Stone keep silent and not implicate Trump in any way.

          Which is what Stone did. Stone was accused of—and convicted of—lying to Congress about his role in the WikiLeaks matter. Since Stone himself would have been in no legal jeopardy had he told the truth, the strong inference is that he lied to protect somebody else. Just today, this very day, Stone told the journalist Howard Fineman why he lied and whom he was protecting. “He knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him. It would have eased my situation considerably. But I didn’t.”

          In summary,

          An American private citizen worked with foreign spies to damage one presidential candidate and help the other. That president accepted the help. When caught, the private citizen lied. When the private citizen was punished, the president commuted his sentence.

        4. Trump’s commutation raises an important question to me–namely, where is the red line for congressional Republicans that Trump must not cross? To me, politicians, even good ones, can put their party ahead of what’s best for the country, at least some of the time. It is not surprising, and to some degree even understandable that congressional Republicans have made compromises and accommodations to support Trump.

          But there are limits to this. There are lines that Trump should not cross–and when he does, the good Republican congresspeople would end their support for Trump–even if this means hurting their party and/or their careers. Are there any uncrossable lines for congressional Republicans?
          What are they? I would suggest that if congressional Republicans cannot articulate what these lines are, they are totally lost and unfit.

      2. One lone Republican criticizes Trump’s commutation of Stone.

        I have mixed feelings about this tweet. On one hand, I applaud Romney for saying this, and I want to show my appreciation, and encourage other Republicans to speak out.

        On the other hand, speaking out is not enough (and why aren’t you speaking out about other things–like Bill Barr or the Trump being friendly to Putin in spite of the possibility that he’s putting bounties out on U.S troops?). Actions need to be taken. To me, the commutation seems like an impeachable offense. But the Senate Republicans are not likely to remove Trump. OK. What about using whatever power they have to ensure that the elections are secure and push back against Barr and Trump’s attempt to cast doubt on mail-in ballots. They can also refuse to support spurious investigations into Biden. I saw Pete Buttigieg tweet that Americans will be the jury in November. Yeah, that’s true, but we have to make secure the elections from foreign and domestic shenanigans. At this point, I would be happy if a group of Republicans worked hard to do this.

        Edit

        Two modest proposals that Republicans (and Democrats) could do to help improve the electoral process:

        1. “Elected officials and candidates — as well as journalists, commentators, scholars and others — should talk frankly about the challenges of running an election during a public health crisis, prepare the public for the possibility that we will not have results on election night, and that this does not mean that the results will be tainted when we do get them. Election officials must be given the time they need to count every vote.”

        2. Extend the time between election day and inauguration day, to complete the election process. This process involves several periods, which set by federal law, not by the Constitution. Examples: safe harbor period where state votes cannot be challenged in Congress; electoral college members vote in their state capitols, etc. Because of potential delays, due to the pandemic and greater mail-in ballots, Congress can change those laws, extending time for these periods; and they should do this now, rather than after the November 3, as it will be less political/partisan now.

    8. “The man cannot be trusted.” That’s what Charles Fried, Professor of law at Harvard and solicitor general in the Reagan administration, and Professor of law at Harvard and solicitor general in the Reagan administration
      Edward J. Larson, Professor of law and history at Pepperdine University, write in theAtlantic.

      The two writers explain why trust, both of the AG and in general, is so important. (They briefly explain why Barr can’t be trusted, as well. I like the last paragraph, particularly the writing:

      Proximity to such a person as Trump is toxic. Rex Tillerson, James Mattis, John Kelly, and H. R. McMaster all tried to practice moral social distancing from this morally diseased president, but broke with him because their integrity came before their loyalty to the person. Barr has committed to Trump warts and all, but the warts are in fact suppurating sores, and he is now fatally infected.

      I especially like the use of “moral social distancing” and “suppurating.”

    9. Ousted U.S. attorney who investigated Trump associates says Barr pushed him to resign and take another job from WaPo.

      Berman responded that he “loved” his job and asked the attorney general if he were “in any way dissatisfied” with his performance. Barr said he was not and the move was “solely prompted by Jay Clayton’s desire to move back to New York” and the “administration’s desire to keep him on the team.”

      Berman told Barr he knew and liked Clayton but “he was an unqualified choice.”

      Barr repeatedly urged Berman to take the civil division position. Berman declined and said he would leave when a nominee was confirmed. He told Barr there were important investigations he wanted to see through to completion.

      Later,

      Later that evening he had a brief call with Barr in which Barr raised the possibility of the SEC chairman position. Berman demurred. He asked to delay a final conversation until Monday so he could discuss the situation with his senior aides. Barr said he did not understand why Berman needed to confer with aides.

      “This is about you,” Barr said. Replied Berman, “It’s about the office.”

      That was the last time the two men spoke.

      At 9:15 that night, in a surprise move, Barr announced that Berman was stepping down, that Trump planned to nominate Clayton to take his place and that the president would appoint the U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey, Craig Carpenito, to oversee the New York office in an acting capacity in the interim.

      Appointing Carpenito as acting U.S. attorney “would have been unprecedented, unnecessary and unexplained,” Berman wrote.

      Lots of suspicious details to me: The urgency of wanting to move Berman out of the position–to the point of announcing it even after Berman asked to talk about it later.

      Barr’s ostensible reason is that they wanted to keep Jay Clayton on the team. Was he threatening to leave? In any event, I believe Clayton’s background is corporate law, not criminal law.

      The appointment of Carpenito–if it is indeed “unprecedented, unnecessary and unexplained,….”

      The SDNY office was also in the process of investigating Giuliani and a bank that had ties with Erdogan.

    10. Barr may try to spin his ‘investigation’ before the election. Don’t believe him. perspective piece from Jason Geltzer and Ryan Goodman (of Just Security) in WaPo

      Based on Barr’s track record, it’s important for the public to realize now that they can’t take Barr’s word on what Durham actually has found. The urgency of bracing people to disbelieve the attorney general increased dramatically on Tuesday, as Barr was asked whether he’d apply long-standing Justice Department policy not to announce politically sensitive new cases before an election by holding Durham’s findings until after Nov. 3. Barr’s answer was, for him, a rarity in its clarity: He said < no.

      Regardless of Barr’s answer,based on his actions so far, I would be really surprised if Durham, specifically, and Barr, more generally, wouldn’t release information that would help Trump and/or damage Biden from now until the election.

      Another WaPo piece, along similar lines by Daniel S. Goldman, “a senior adviser and director of investigations for the House Intelligence Committee, and lead majority counsel for the House impeachment inquiry of President Trump. From 2007 to 2017, he was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York.”

      The basic thrust of the piece: Barr would fire a DOJ lawyer if that lawyer behaved like Barr. Some speculation: I feel like Barr, and others like him, have convinced themselves that Democrats policies and overall vision for the U.S. are so dangerous, that tolerating and even compromising the critical democratic principles, norms and institutions is justified and acceptable. If true, this makes Barr, and others like him, a true threat to the republic.

      Barr’s lack of credibility leads to the inevitable conclusion that he is acting in bad faith and puts a sharp microscope on his efforts to bolster the president’s false and vengeful theories

    11. William Barr told Murdoch to ‘muzzle’ Fox News Trump critic, new book says from The Guardian

      The book is by CNN’s Brian Stetler. The Trump critic in question was Judge Andrew Napolitano who appears on Fox News. Napolitano claimed Trump’s behavior was impeachable. This lead to the following:

      Citing an unnamed source, Stelter writes that Trump “was so incensed by the judge’s TV broadcasts that he had implored Barr to send Rupert a message in person … about ‘muzzling the judge’. [Trump] wanted the nation’s top law enforcement official to convey just how atrocious Napolitano’s legal analysis had been….”

      Though Barr’s words to Murdoch “carried a lot of weight”, Stelter writes, “no one was explicitly told to take Napolitano off the air”. Instead, Stelter reports, Napolitano found digital resources allocated elsewhere, saw a slot on a daytime show disappear, and was not included in coverage of the impeachment process.

      (emphasis added)

      Trump sent Barr to “muzzle” Napolitano.
      Barr did it.

      Now, this is based on one source, so I would keep that in mind.

      An aside:

      Fox News’ audience remains loyal to Trump as his campaign for re-election continues. Some Fox employees, Stelter writes, “justified the benching of the judge by claiming that viewers hated him: ‘Why are we going to book someone who kills our ratings?’”

      This suggests money and power, not conservative principles, drives Fox News

    12. Wolf Blitzer interview of Bill Barr

      (Note: I’m not sure if these two clips are the entire interview, but these are the two I watched.)

      There are too many things to go over. But I want to mention one for now. Barr gives a specific example to back his claim of voter fraud, but this seems to be wrong, even by the DOJ’s view (expressed by the spokesperson).

      Here’s Barr’s example:

      Elections that have been held with mail have found substantial fraud and coercion,” Barr told CNN on Wednesday. “For example, we indicted someone in Texas, 1,700 ballots collected, he — from people who could vote, he made them out and voted for the person he wanted to. Okay?”

      However,

      Federal prosecutors brought no such indictment. And while a Justice Department spokeswoman said Barr was referring to a local prosecution involving suspected mail-in voting fraud in a city council election, the assistant district attorney on that case said Barr’s description doesn’t match the facts.

      That’s not what happened at all,” said Andy Chatham, who is now in private practice.

      “Unfortunately, it speaks volumes to the credibility of Attorney General Barr when he submits half-truths and alternative facts as clear evidence of voter fraud without having so much as even contacted me or the district attorney’s office for an understanding of the events that actually occurred,” he added later.

      After being asked about Chatham’s account, Kerri Kupec, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said in a statement: “Prior to his interview, the Attorney General was provided a memo prepared within the Department that contained an inaccurate summary about the case which he relied upon when using the case as an example.

      (emphasis added)

    13. Reminder: Senator McConnell is not out of this contest.

    14. Note: Dannehy has not commented on this. These are claims from colleagues.

      Colleagues said Dannehy is not a supporter of President Trump and has been concerned in recent weeks by what she believed was pressure from Barr, who appointed Durham, to produce results before the election. They said she has been considering resigning for weeks, conflicted by loyalty to Durham and concern about politics.

      But Barr has already blatantly politicized the process, so this is something completely believable. My impression is that he is a rogue AG, totally out of control.

      Thread:

      9/12/2020

    15. Justice Dept. statement on mail-in ballot investigation appalls election law experts from WaPo

      I heard about this on twitter. What I first heard was that DOJ announced ballots in Pennsylvania–all for Trump–were discarded. Then I found out it was 9 ballots. Then I heard the DOJ corrected this to 7 out of 9.

      “It’s wildly improper, and it’s truly unconscionable,” said Justin Levitt, a former Justice Department official who is now a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

      Levitt said that the investigation itself is worthwhile but that it was a baldly political move to announce the probe with partial facts — which officials then had to scramble to correct — while describing which candidate was selected on the ballots.

      “That is the tell, and it says this was not an act of law enforcement, this was a campaign act, and it should mean the end of the career of whoever approved the statement,” said Levitt.

      Another example of the way Barr use the DOJ to help Trump win. I’d be surprised if we don’t see more things like this in the coming weeks.

      9/25/2020

      Here’s the original tweet I saw, posted by spokesperson for the Trump campaign:

      9/26/2020

      Thread from Eli Honig, CNN legal analyst and former federal and state prosecutor:

      DOJ’s announcement about the Pennsylvania ballot investigation is so deeply wrong, and telling, that I’m gonna do a rare thread:
      1) DOJ never publicly confirms a criminal investigation, other than in extremely rare, emergency situations. It’s a written rule (in the Justice Manual) and an unwritten norm that anybody who has ever worked a day on the line knows (that would *not* include Barr, I suppose)
      2) And you sure as hell never publicly announce the *details* of an investigation. Here, the “fact” that nine ballots were for Trump is entirely irrelevant to any criminal charge. (Spoiler: they got this wrong). There’s only one reason to include that (non-)fact: politics.
      3) The reasons for this policy are as basic as they are sound. By going public, you undermine your own work – subjects can flee, tamper w/ evidence or witnesses. There’s a reason we investigate in secret. You also unfairly damage the reputation of people who haven’t been charged.
      4) And it’s not as if there was some great public clamor asking about this case. Nobody had heard of it until DOJ just popped off on its own. Wonder why?
      5) If you are going to breach policy and make an announcement, get your sh*t straight. But DOJ muffed the facts here, including the number of ballots and number that were for Trump. They later had to issue a “Revised Statement” walking it back.
      6) Funny how all the mistakes always go one direction. Barr yaps about some federal case involving 1,700 ballots in Texas that actually was a “little tiny case” involving isolated ballots, per the actual Texas prosecutor. Now this trumped-up number in PA.
      7) PA officials have now confirmed this was an administrative error, not any kind of Matthew Broderick-in-Election type tampering. (Voters sent in ballots using the wrong envelope, meant for ballot *requests*, which led officials to open them).
      8) Mark it down. DOJ will never bring criminal charges here, or even a civil case. (And if they do force it, they’ll never prevail). That press release (and the “Revised Statement”) is all we’ll ever see, barring further potential releases.
      9) But guess what? It did the trick. Because before (and after) DOJ could fix this and get its act together, Trump, McEnaney, and Meadows all waved the false and misleading announcement around as proof of their bogus mass-fraud theories. Hard to un-ring that bell.
      10) If you can’t see that Trump will contest this election if he loses, I don’t know what to tell you. And if you can’t tell Barr will weaponize DOJ to enable that, then I also don’t know what to tell you. They’ve both shown us who they are and what they will do.

      The end.

    16. Barr’s Approach Closes Gap Between Justice Dept. and White House from the NYT.

      There’s a lot in here that’s hard to summarize, and quote, but I’ll comment on one passage:

      “The norm has been that attorneys general try to keep the reputation of the department bright and shiny as a nonpartisan legitimate arm of the government that needs to be trusted by everyone,” said Andrew Rudalevige, a history professor at Bowdoin College who studies the power of the presidency.

      A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment. Mr. Barr’s defenders said he was simply applying his own judgment and any benefit to Mr. Trump’s campaign was incidental.

      (emphasis added)

      This is hard to believe, and there seems to be too many examples where Barr’s actions coincide with Trump’s political wishes. Additionally, Barr public statements and actions have created the impression that he is partisan.

  17. It is now normal for U.S. Presidents to make baseless accusations, including of serious crimes.

    Also, see this recent tweet about Joe Scarborough, MSNBC pundit:

    (Here’s WaPo’s debunking of the claim.

    These claims are part of a long pattern. Off the top of my head, he accused President Obama of ordering a wire tap of Trump tower. He suggested that Senator Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination. Of course, he claimed Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. and at one point claimed that any day now investigators he hired would reveal damning evidence.

    It’s all an outrageous ruse: Make a crazy accusation, trump up how bad with no evidence, trumping up how bad it is for his opponent. And claim that there will be evidence soon. When no evidence appears, move on to something else.

    How long will Americans put up with this? Republicans? the press? As bad as these baseless accusations are, what might be the bigger take away is that the POTUS is totally untrustworthy, his claims have almost no credibility. The normal assumptions the press has towards presidents–that they have a capacity and respect for truth and facts; that they have a sense of shame that prevents them from outrageous lies; that they don’t generally operate in bad faith–all of this can’t be assumed. It is now more reasonable to assume the opposite in my view. There are other assumptions that should no longer be assumed as well–namely, that the president respects, values and understands the U.S. Constitution, the free press, rule of law; that the president has sufficient understanding and cognitive functioning to perform his job.

    Coverage based on these assumptions will likely lead to journalism that will mislead the public.

    1. Trump, without evidence, accuses Obama of ‘treason’ from WaPo.

      “On Obama and the spying situation, this idea that they were spying on your campaign — you’ve been asked before about what crime would have been potentially been committed,” Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody said.

      Treason,” Trump responded. He added: “It’s treason. Look, when I came out a long time ago, I said they’ve been spying on our campaign. … It turns out I was right. Let’s see what happens to them now.”

      (emphasis added)

      Later,

      Despite Trump’s assertions that the FBI under Obama wiretapped the phones at Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said last year he found no evidence of that. But that has not stopped Trump from continuing to make the baseless claim.

      Before the IG report even finished, I believe Barr chose John Durham to start his own investigation on the start of the Russia investigation.

      How long will Americans–congressional Republicans, Fox News–put up with this, part 9,000

    2. It’s also now OK for presidents to threaten American citizens.

      The most recent example below, which involves calling a reporter to be fired.

      There are many others (which I’ll try to put here in this sub-thread). If Griffin–and reporters from AP, WaPo, and theAtlantic fabricated these stories, the criticisms and consequences to them should be harsh–but if their reporting is accurate the consequences for the POTUS should be equally harsh.

      Last week, WH spokesperson publicly called out David Farenthold of WaPo to stop investigating Trump’s businesses, saying their compiling a huge dossier on him.

      In a statement, White House spokesperson Judd Deere accused The Washington Post of “blatantly interfering with the business relationships of the Trump Organization” and demanded “it must stop.”

      “Please be advised that we are building up a very large ‘dossier’ on the many false David Fahrenthold and others stories as they are a disgrace to journalism and the American people,” Deere said.

      When asked by CNN Business for further information about the dossier, Deere declined to comment. Neither White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany nor White House director of communications Alyssa Farah responded to additional emails seeking comment.

  18. Trump fired another Inspector General late Friday night

    My understanding is that Inspector Generals are basically the watch-dogs of an agency. They work in an agency, holding the agency accountable when they act improperly. This WaPo article has a list of all the IGs Trump has fired.

    Trump fired four of them. Three provided information that Trump didn’t like to hear. One was going to oversee the $2 trillion oversight package.

    All Americans should be worried about this. He’s removing the people that can hold him accountable. Congress has the means to stop this–they had an opportunity to remove him). The Republicans are turning a blind eye.

    By the way, Americans should be wary that the election is the proper way to remedy this. We know the Russians are trying to interfere. We know Trump has no qualms accepting help with winning an election. If he loses the election, who believes he won’t claim the process was rigged? It would not be surprising if he pulls other shenanigans to win as well. Remember: the chances of that Trump will be arrested is quite high. Trump has likely broken the law multiple times, but the primary reason he hasn’t be charged is the current policy for not indicting a sitting president. There’s close to zero chance that Trump won’t do everything he can to avoid going to jail–and the primary way he can do that is by winning another term.

    If anyone has compelling evidence that can show me I’m overreacting and being hyperbolic, please let me know. I am actually sinking to another level of worry and stress. (It’s driving me to prayer, and forcing me to avoid the news, at times.)

    1. Trump Is Attacking the Final Safeguard Against Executive Abuses from theAtlantic–and he’s doing it blatantly, right out in the open.

      Trump publicly said he fired the IG because Sec. of State Pompeo asked him to. My understanding is that the IG was investigating Pompeo or actions related to the State Department.

      This line from the article stands out:

      …if the president does fire an inspector general, he’s required to inform Congress 30 days ahead of the scheduled removal. According to NBC News, Trump wrote to Congress on Friday, “It is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as Inspectors General … That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General.” But the GOP senators Susan Collins, who authored the need-to-inform requirement, and Chuck Grassley, who leads the Whistleblower Protection Caucus, both said that Trump’s explanation was insufficient.

      This demands an investigation at the very least, and if it proves true, this once again seem impeachable and worthy of removal. It seems like Pompeo should be removed if he requested this as well.

      The country needs Congress–Republicans–to stop Trump from doing this. That they won’t doesn’t mean make the statement untrue.

      There’s a clip below of Trump saying he fired the IG because Pompeo asked him to.

  19. The authoritarian mindset on full display yesterday.

    I want to mention one line from a resignation letter from James Miller’s, a member of Defense Science Board, and “served as under secretary of defense for policy from 2012 to 2014:”

    As a concerned citizen, and as a former senior defense official who cares deeply about the military, I urge you to consider closely both your future actions and your future words. For example, some could interpret literally your suggestion to the nation’s governors Monday that they need to “dominate the battlespace.” I cannot believe that you see the United States as a “battlespace,” or that you believe our citizens must be “dominated.” Such language sends an extremely dangerous signal.

    That phrase “dominate the battlespace,” referring to U.S. soil is very worrisome.

    From WaPo, Trump’s naked use of religion as a political tool draws rebukes from some faith leaders

    The White House defended Trump’s decision to appear at religious institutions this week and pose for photos, invoking the name of George Floyd, the African American man whose killing last week in police custody set off the nationwide protests that continued Tuesday night.

    “At a time when President Trump has called on all Americans to join him in prayer for the Floyd family and for our Nation, it’s cowardly and disgusting to question the President’s deeply-held faith or motives for paying his respects to one of our oldest and historic churches,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement. “President Trump believes in God, he believes in this country, and he believes in her people, and under his leadership we will come together and emerge stronger than before.”

    This statement is a joke and offends my intelligence. Who believes Trump has a deeply-held faith? The guy who can’t remember if he asked God for forgiveness. The article mentions that during the 2016 campaign, when asked about his favorite verse, Trump mentioned scripture referencing “an eye for an eye.” (Can you imagine any Christian citing this as their favorite verse? It’s hilarious in an over-the-top way.)

    Edit

    From Mike Mullen

    I Cannot Remain Silent from former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    Where is General Mattis, Kelly, McMaster, and Dunford? Or Secretaries Tillerson, Gary Cohn, DNI Dan Coats. Mullen says he’s speaking out because he feels we’re at an inflection point. It sure seems that way to me.

    6/3/2020

    (I haven’t read this, yet.)

    6/4/2020

    6/6/2020

    I forgot to mention that right about the beginning of his presidency, Trump strangely hinted at sending troops to Chicago. He mentioned how awful it was there, but Chicago would have to ask for his help. My impression was that he was itching to send troops. He also sent troops down near the Mexican border–for fear of a huge caravan of immigrants–before the 2018 election.

    6/10/2020

    Trump chomping at the bit to use military to gain control:

    Like the Chicago tweets I mentioned.

    (Forgot if I mentioned this: I want to know the contents of Trump and Putin’s conversations, especially the one he had recently.)

    1. There are a few lines from this this Atlantic piece that I wanted to quote.

      On Trump holding up the Bible two days ago:

      The church and the Bible were part of the message too. Trump did not even pretend that he was going to St. John’s to pray. He did not ask permission of the church or the diocese or even pay lip service to God; on the contrary, Episcopal clergy were cleared out of the area by the same tear gas that dispersed the protesters. Instead, he held up a Bible for the cameras, not as a religious gesture, but as a signal. Trump was sending a message to his Americans with an authoritarian predisposition: I share your identity. I am part of your tribe.

      The article also mentions how great Americans in the past, during times of national discord, have tried to pull the country together, appealing to what we share in common. Trump is not only doing this, but he’s doing the opposite. I feel strongly that Trump’s primary way to stay in power is if the country is highly polarized. If the country unifies, especially around American ideals, his chances of staying in power are far less likely.

      I continue to think that what we need is a reminder about the principles that make the country great–e.g., “all men are created equal,” a system of checks and balances, etc.–and that American heroes that championed them. I would like to see former presidents, politicians, historians, celebrities speak publicly about these things and help us feel proud about them.

    2. Mattis finally speaks out against Trump. Highly recommended. (It’s not long.)

      Excerpt:

      Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort.

      Also,

      When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.

      I also recommend the WaPo article below:

      Trump is taking U.S. democracy to the breaking point. I saw what happens next in Venezuela

      This helped me get a better understanding of the stakes, with regard to Trump drawing in the military to deal with protests. According to the article, the Venezuelan military faced a huge dilemma when Hugo Chavez called on the military to confront demonstrators.

      They knew full well that their troops had neither the equipment nor the training to face thousands of angry demonstrators on the street. They knew the president’s order would most likely result in a massacre, one that would forever taint the army’s image and fundamentally change its relationship with the people. They also knew that following the orders issued by duly elected leaders was the most basic of a general’s duties in a democratic country.

      Perhaps, drawing the U.S. military into the protests will not result in massacres, but it would likely create the impression that the military is now a political tool for the POTUS to use in his interests. I think this is why people at the Pentagon are nervous and uncomfortable about what’s going on.

      6/5/2020

      From WaPo today, on why Mattis spoke out:

      His former colleagues still serving in the military had warned him in recent months about Trump’s sway over its leadership. Some told him that Esper had been dubbed “Yesper” by some in the Pentagon because he seemed unable to say no to the president. And they said they believed Milley was effectively running the department by talking to Trump directly and bypassing the secretary, a dynamic that potentially threatened civilian control of the military.

      More:

      But at least two incidents on Monday drew Mattis’s ire.

      First, on a call with Trump, administration officials and governors, Esper said that the sooner that authorities could “dominate the battlespace” in their cities, the sooner things could return to normal. A recording of that call leaked to the media within hours.

      Then Esper and Milley walked with Trump from the White House to nearby St. John’s Episcopal Church, which had been damaged in a fire started during protests, minutes after federal authorities rushed at demonstrators with shields and batons.The White House quickly packaged the scene into a video set to triumphant music.

      The following day, the Pentagon announced that it was deploying 1,600 active-duty troops to the D.C. region, including infantrymen. That decision was reversed by Esper this week, halted for a day amid the tension and then continued Thursday night.

      Mattis was especially irked by Milley’s presence at Lafayette Square.

      1. 89 former Defense officials: The military must never be used to violate constitutional rights

        As former leaders in the Defense Department — civilian and military, Republican, Democrat and independent — we all took an oath upon assuming office “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” as did the president and all members of the military, a fact that Gen. Milley pointed out in a recent memorandum to members of the armed forces. We are alarmed at how the president is betraying this oath by threatening to order members of the U.S. military to violate the rights of their fellow Americans.

        (emphasis added)

        As the headline says, 89 defense officials signed this. Here are the first four:

        Leon E. Panetta, former defense secretary

        Chuck Hagel, former defense secretary

        Ashton B. Carter, former defense secretary

        William S. Cohen, former defense secretary

      2. About 200 400 former American ambassadors, generals and admirals, and senior federal officials condemn Trump’s use of the military

        As former American ambassadors, generals and admirals, and senior federal officials, we are alarmed by calls from the President and some political leaders for the use of U.S. military personnel to end legitimate protests in cities and towns across America.

        And later,

        We are concerned about the use of U.S. military assets to intimidate and break up peaceful protestors in Washington, D.C. Using the rotor wash of helicopters flying at low altitude to disperse protestors is reckless and unnecessary. The stationing of D.C. Air National Guard troops in full battle armor on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial is inflammatory and risks sullying the reputation of our men and women in uniform in the eyes of their fellow Americans and of the world.

        Declaring peaceful protestors “thugs” and “terrorists” and falsely seeking to divide Americans into those who support “law and order” and those who do not will not end the demonstrations. The deployment of military forces against American citizens exercising their constitutional rights will not heal the divides in our society.

      3. Former Chief of Staff and Secretary of Dept. of Homeland Security, General John Kelly, publicly agrees with General Mattis:

      4. Former President George W. Bush and Senator Mitt Romney won’t support Mr. Trump’s re-election, and other G.O.P. officials are mulling a vote for Joe Biden. from NYT.

        Also,

        “This fall, it’s time for new leadership in this country — Republican, Democrat or independent,” said William H. McRaven, the retired Navy admiral who directed the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. “President Trump has shown he doesn’t have the qualities necessary to be a good commander in chief.”

        Admiral McRaven, in an interview on the 76th anniversary of D-Day, noted that those wartime leaders inspired Americans with “their words, their actions and their humanity.”

        In contrast, he said, Mr. Trump has failed his leadership test. “As we have struggled with the Covid pandemic and horrible acts of racism and injustice, this president has shown none of those qualities,” Admiral McRaven said. “The country needs to move forward without him at the helm.”

        and

        Joseph Maguire, a retired three-star admiral who served as Mr. Trump’s acting intelligence chief, invoked the comments of Mr. Mattis and two former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who also criticized the president this week.

        “Jim Mattis, Mike Mullen and Marty Dempsey are all good friends, and I respect them tremendously,” Admiral Maguire said in an interview. “I am in alignment with their views.”

        (emphasis added)

        The impression I get from this piece: former Trump and Bush administration officials, and possibly congressional Republicans have the potential to speak out against Trump and even vote against him. Something could happen to really push them to be more vocal. There’s a bit of momentum going in that direction, and I hope it keeps growing.

        1. Colin Powell will vote for Biden, and affirms comment made by Mattis, and other generals and diplomats on CNN

          Former Supreme NATO Commander, Adirmal James Stavridas

        2. An excerpt from a new book by Trump’s former National Security Adviser, John Bolton:

          In short: Trump is as bad as we thought, perhaps worse. According to the publisher, Bolton will describe Trump as “a president for whom getting reelected was the only thing that mattered, even if it meant endangering or weakening the nation.” Bolton even “argues that the House committed impeachment malpractice by keeping their prosecution focused narrowly on Ukraine when Trump’s Ukraine-like transgressions existed across the full range of his foreign policy.”

          (emphasis added)

          This is bonkers. At what point is it reasonable to say Trump is betraying the country? That he’s failed to keep his oath of office?

          Give that congressional Republicans largely support him or remain silent, at what point is it reasonable to treat them as a proto-authoritarian party?

        3. Mahalo to Mrs. McCain. I miss her husband.

        4. The letter can be read here

          Selva was re-nominated to the Joint Chiefs by Trump in 2017 after being first appointed by President Barack Obama in 2015. As vice chairman, he was deeply involved in the nation’s nuclear weapons program, and his endorsement is especially notable because recently retired officers generally stay out of politics.

          “Thanks to his disdainful attitude and his failures, our allies no longer trust or respect us, and our enemies no longer fear us. Climate change continues unabated, as does North Korea’s nuclear program. The president has ceded influence to a Russian adversary who puts bounties on the heads of American military personnel, and his trade war against China has only harmed America’s farmers and manufacturers,” the letter reads.

        5. I served under six presidents — four Republicans, two Democrats — only one has failed to serve U.S. national security interests
          As a Commander in Chief, President Trump comes up tragically short
          op-ed by Robert Cardillo in The Denver Post

          I never heard of Cardillo, but here’s the bio below the op-ed: “…retired as the director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency after 36 years of public service that also included serving as deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Acting J2 — a first for a civilian — in support of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen.”

    3. Secretary of Defense, Esper, distanced himself from Trump this morning, which was a good thing.

      But he mentioned that the media was wrong about tear-gas being used. That surprised me–I saw clips of what looked like small explosions and gas. Was the media wrong? CNN addressed this in the video below:

      This was a blow to Esper’s credibility for me.

      1. Officials familiar with Lafayette Square confrontation challenge Trump administration claim of what drove aggressive expulsion of protesters from WaPo.

        “This was not an operation to respond to that particular crowd. It was an operation to move the perimeter one block,” Attorney General William P. Barr told CBS News last week.

        However, the accounts of more than a half-dozen officials from federal law enforcement, D.C. public safety agencies and the National Guard who were familiar with planning for protests outside the White House that day challenge that explanation. The officials told The Washington Post they had no warning that U.S. Park Police, the agency that commanded the operation, planned to move the perimeter — and protesters — before a 7 p.m. citywide curfew, or that force would be used.

    4. Regarding: “…it’s cowardly and disgusting to question the President’s deeply-held faith or motives for paying his respects to one of our oldest and historic churches,…”

      1. I heard her say this, and while I utterly agree with almost every skeptical, cynical, reasonable thing I’ve heard about it, I have to admit Conway is right. It is disgusting, and that man has dragged us into this disgusting conversation.

    5. Republican Senator Publicly Supports Mattis

      Senator Lisa Murkowski:

      “When I saw General Mattis’s comments yesterday, I felt like perhaps we’re getting to the point where we can be more honest with the concerns that we might hold internally and have the courage of our own convictions to speak up,…Murkowski, the 10th-longest-serving active GOP senator, told reporters that she agreed with Mattis’s broadside that Trump tries to deliberately divide Americans and the nation was “witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership….I thought General Mattis’s words were true and honest and necessary and overdue,” Murkowski told reporters at the Capitol.

      Romney also chimed in:

      “Romney initially avoided addressing the matter, but after Murkowski spoke out, he joined in criticizing Trump’s recent behavior by calling Mattis’s statement “stunning and powerful.”

      “I think the world of him. If I ever had to choose somebody to be in a foxhole with — it would be with a General Mattis,” the 2012 Republican presidential nominee told reporters.

      I really hope this can be the start of more Congressional Republicans publicly coming out. (To me, if there are any principled and patriotic Republicans, there already is a gaping wide schism–between them and the die-hard Trump Republicans. They should break off like Rep. Justin Amash. They can help save the country, and build the foundation for a new conservative party.)

      Also another former Joint Chiefs Chairman speaks out. General Martin Dempsey, in an NPR interview:

      On why he’s speaking out now

      There were a couple of things that came on rather quickly. One of them was the description of the challenge with these protests of dominating the battle space. That’s a characteristic that we use for conflict in external wars. And I thought, that’s not something the American people should think about in terms of when they see members of the military on their streets.

      And secondly, the idea that the military would be called in to dominate and to suppress what, for the most part, were peaceful protests — admittedly, where some had opportunistically turned them violent — and that the military would somehow come in and calm that situation was very dangerous to me.

      Edit

      Former Defense Secretary under Bill Clinton:

    6. Recommended. Listen to this reporter describe the way the Trump spoke about and handled the protests feels so much like what happens in authoritarian regimes in other places.

    7. From Fareed Zakaria’s WaPo op-ed today:

      When asked to comment on this dangerous abuse of governmental authority, which flashed across every news channel and website in the world, the president’s allies had this to say. Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) wouldn’t comment because he “wasn’t there.” One wonders whether he will from now on comment only on world events at which he is physically present. Several senators — Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) — demurred because they “didn’t watch it closely enough,” in Romney’s words. Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) said they were late for lunch. A few Republican senators did break with the president, but others went out of their way to defend him. Ted Cruz (Tex.) — who used to describe Trump as “utterly amoral” and a “pathological liar” — said the only abuse of power was “by the protesters” themselves.

      I didn’t Romney avoided answering the question. I would like him to speak out forcefully soon. It would be an act of leadership. I feel like congressional Republicans need another push. If the damn breaks for congressional Republicans, that could really be decisive.

    8. What John Bolton, Trump’s former National Security Adviser says about Trump would and should end any presidency

      Bolton provides an overabundance of reasons to end the presidency in his new book (covered in this WaPo review). Assuming they’re true. At the very least, a responsible, and well-functioning Congress would investigate the claims. But Senate Republicans voted not to hear evidence and acquitted Trump. This is what I thought about while reading the article. To be more specific: How can they do this? I’m appalled the most by them. They have become a political party that has become anti-democratic, proto-authoritarian.

      Here is a list of things that would justify the end of a presidency–and any party that turned a blind eye or actively supported would be unfit in a liberal democracy:

      Trump asked China to help him win the election:

      “He then, stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming U.S. presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability to affect the ongoing campaigns, pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win,” Bolton writes. “He stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome.”

      Also, keep in mind: “The China allegation also comes amid ongoing warnings from U.S. intelligence agencies about foreign interference in the November presidential election, as Russia did to favor Trump in 2016.”

      Bolton was also alarmed by Trump’s willingness to do favors for authoritarian rulers, generally that he told Bill Barr.

      On the concentration camps China was constructing to hold the Uighurs, a Muslim Chinese group:

      At the same meeting, Xi also defended China’s construction of camps housing as many as 1 million Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang — and Trump signaled his approval. “According to our interpreter,” Bolton writes, “Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do.”

      (Note: What’s important is that this, and many of Bolton’s claims, fits a pattern. This is not one or two incidents.)

      On the Ukraine scandal:

      …Bolton cites personal conversations with Trump confirming a “quid pro quo” that Trump had long denied, including an August meeting in which Trump allegedly made the bargain explicit. “He said he wasn’t in favor of sending them anything until all Russia-investigation material related to [Hillary] Clinton and Biden had been turned over,” Bolton writes.

      General statements that, if true, show that Trump is totally unfit to be president

      Bolton attributes a litany of shocking statements to the president. Trump said invading Venezuela would be “cool” and that the South American nation was “really part of the United States.”

      He (Bolton) also describes a summer 2019 meeting in New Jersey where Trump says journalists should be jailed so they have to divulge their sources: “These people should be executed. They are scumbags,” Trump said, according to Bolton’s account.

      On defending MBS, over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi:

      …according to Bolton’s book, the main goal of the missive was to take away attention from a story about Ivanka Trump using her personal email for government business.

      “This will divert from Ivanka,” Trump said, according to Bolton’s book. “If I read the statement in person, that will take over the Ivanka thing.”

      On Russia

      In describing his White House experience on Russia-related issues, Bolton presents a picture of a president who is impulsive, churlish and consistently opposed to U.S. policy designed to discourage Russian aggression and to sanction Putin’s malign behavior.

      Bolton spends little effort trying to explain Trump’s sympathetic approach to Putin. But the book makes the case that there is a disturbing and undeniable pattern of presidential reluctance to embrace policies designed to inhibit Russian aggression. He describes in detail the events leading up to the widely panned Helsinki summit in July 2018, when Trump sided with Putin against U.S. intelligence agencies over Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

      “This was hardly the way to do relations with Russia, and Putin had to be laughing uproariously at what he had gotten away with in Helsinki,” Bolton writes.

      On Trump-Kim summit

      When Bolton recounts the Trump-Kim meeting in Singapore, the first summit of U.S. and North Korean leaders in history, Bolton castigates Trump’s diplomatic efforts, saying the president cared little for the details of the denuclearization effort and saw it merely as a “an exercise in publicity….

      …“Trump told . . . me he was prepared to sign a substance-free communique, have his press conference to declare victory and then get out of town,” Bolton wrote.”

      Congressional Republicans have no interest in these claims? Or they know, and continue to protect Trump anyway. Is it not fair to call them protoauthoritarian or at least illiberal. They’re putting power–for themselves and their party–above the interests of the country–and the well-being of our Constitutional system.

      (Note: There are other bad things that I didn’t mention.)

  20. Trump’s dispersing protestors with gas and flash bangs, so that he could walk to a church and hold up the Bible–with his AG, Secretary of Defense, and Joint Chiefs Chairman–is almost a perfect symbol of his authoritarian mindset. My sense is that almost every other previous POTUS would never have done something like this. If for no other reason, the optics would not be congruent with a dictator, not a liberal-democratic leader.

    The same applies for images of the White House now, with fencing being put up.

    Apparently Trump was angry that he appeared weak by the Secret Service ordering him to go down to the bunker, for his safety. If he thinks making the WH look like a fortress makes him appear strong, that is another indication of his authoritarian mindset. To me, it does the opposite. In this case, it suggests the POTUS is afraid of his own people, and it goes against the idea of the WH being the People’s House.

    FDR’s reaction is more typical of a POTUS:

    Past presidents have resisted security suggestions at and around the White House that could stoke fears that the government was under threat.

    Following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt balked at efforts to fortify the White House, which at the time had been open to casual visitors strolling the grounds during the day, according to historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.

    Fearful about a bombing attack, the Secret Service wanted Roosevelt to cover skylights with sand, to camouflage the White House, to paint the windows black, to stand up machine-gun emplacements and to build a bomb shelter, Goodwin said.

    “FDR rejected most of these recommendations, though he finally agreed, ‘with not a little annoyance,’ to the construction of a shelter in the Treasury Department,” Goodwin said in an email.

    Maybe he wasn’t entirely wise, but the idea that the White House was open and for all–even in the time of war–projected American ideals and American strength. That was important to him, and I think most presidents. Not Trump.

  21. Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?

    from a Trump tweet today.

    In case you don’t know, he’s referring to this incident:

    Trump’s tweet reminds me of Alex Jones’s claim that Sandy Hook was a “false flag” operation, with child actors. (I guess a staged incident to help gun control?) Both claims/insinuations are despicable, and raises questions about the mental condition of both.

    More on the man who was pushed:

    The other thing I thought of was an NPR article I saw yesterday:

    Trump Says He’s Considering Ideas For Policing ‘In A Much More Gentle Fashion’ from NPR.

    The White House has said Trump is considering proposals to respond to Floyd’s death, but it has not provided details on the substance or timing of those ideas.

    At the very least, the tweet would undermine a speech advocating for gentler policing. So would some of Trump’s previous comments about policing (from the article):

    In 2017, he told an audience of law enforcement officers, “Please don’t be too nice” when arresting people. Last week, in response to the protests, he encouraged governors to deploy National Guard units, he said, “in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets.”

    “I am your president of law and order,” he said.

    Edit

    Another twist:

    Sputnik? So Trump is once again pushing a Kremlin talking point. (And Trump, Barr and their minions are going to push the narrative that Russian investigation was bogus–or at least that’s my prediction.)

    Edit

    With regard to the upcoming speech that Trump might advocate for gentler policing, every POTUS would attempt to heal wounds and unify the country. There’s little chance Trump will succeed, but if the tweet below is true, this is on another level of bad faith:

    What comes to mind is General Mattis’s words–“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us.” If Steven Miller is the author, that will likely be further proof for Mattis’s claim.

  22. More Evidence That Trump defines “Truth” as That Which Favors Himself and “Lies” as That Which Does Not

    This is also something I associate with a dictator. Yeah, believing this about a POTUS seems unreasonable, but there is substantive evidence for this position.

    Trump campaign demands CNN apologize for poll that shows Biden leading from CNN

    “To my knowledge, this is the first time in its 40-year history that CNN had been threatened with legal action because an American politician or campaign did not like CNN’s polling results,” Vigilante (CNN’s executive vice president and general counsel) wrote in his response. “To the extent we have received legal threats from political leaders in the past, they have typically come from countries like Venezuela or other regimes where there is little or no respect for a free and independent media.”

    After CNN released the poll earlier this week, Trump tweeted that he had hired Republican pollster McLaughlin & Associates to “analyze” the survey and others “which I felt were FAKE based on the incredible enthusiasm we are receiving.” McLaughlin ranks as one of the least accurate pollsters in the industry, as measured by FiveThirtyEight.

    (emphasis added)

    Trump even attacks Fox News when they don’t give favorable news for Trump:

    Trump has regularly chafed at polls that do not reflect favorably on him while promoting ones that do. Last month, Trump bashed Fox News, a network he often touts and gives interviews to, for a telephone-conducted poll that showed him behind Biden by 8 points, and instead pointed to a CNN poll released earlier in the month where he was leading Biden in battleground states. That CNN poll, however, showed Biden had a 5-point lead over Trump among registered voters nationwide.

    “Why doesn’t @FoxNews put up the CNBC POLL or the (believe it or not!) @CNN Poll? Hope Roger A is looking down and watching what has happened to this once beautiful creation!” Trump tweeted at the time, referring to the late Fox News founder Roger Ailes.

    And notice how CNN is fine when it has a favorable poll, but when the poll is unfavorable, he demands an apology and threatens legal action. Ridiculous.

    Other incidents that come to mind:

    Firing an Inspector General after reading her report of shortages of testing and personal protective equipment.

    Trump’s erroneous claim that Alabama would be hit by Hurricane Dorian, and the scramble to appease Trump afterward.

    There’s the infamous claim of larger crowds at Trump’s inauguration, versus Obama’s–in spite of photos that proved otherwise. Trump pressured the National Park Services Director to provide photos that supported his claim.

    And we could find many evidence of Trump praising people who have praised him. He gets nice letter from Kim Jong Un, and Trump claims they’ve “fallen in love.”

  23. Amazing how much Senator Lindsay Graham has changed:

    In a way, everything he said above almost doesn’t matter. It suggests Graham has almost no principles–that he’ll say almost anything to help if it benefits himself and his party.

  24. In this time, I’ve never felt lower about our country. But I must say, these videos of regular Republicans make me feel hopeful. It’s really good to know there are Republicans like this.

    1. More.

  25. George W. Bush October 19, 2017 speech at West Point.

    President Bush makes two important points I’d like to highlight. First,

    Our identity as a nation – unlike many other nations – is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood. Being an American involves the embrace of high ideals and civic responsibility. We become the heirs of Thomas Jefferson by accepting the ideal of human dignity found in the Declaration of Independence. We become the heirs of James Madison by understanding the genius and values of the U.S. Constitution. We become the heirs of Martin Luther King, Jr., by recognizing one another not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

    This means that people of every race, religion, and ethnicity can be fully and equally American. It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed.

    This is an important ideal to reaffirm and re-emphasize. I suspect there are some (many) who believe that white Christians, especially those who have lived here for generations, are more American than non-white Christians. This belief, even it’s most benign form, seems incompatible with the creed espoused by Bush and most of the great Americans in our history. I think Americans have to make a choice.

    The second point:

    America is experiencing the sustained attempt by a hostile power to feed and exploit our country’s divisions. According to our intelligence services, the Russian government has made a project of turning Americans against each other. This effort is broad, systematic and stealthy, it’s conducted across a range of social media platforms. Ultimately, this assault won’t succeed. But foreign aggressions – including cyber-attacks, disinformation and financial influence – should not be downplayed or tolerated. This is a clear case where the strength of our democracy begins at home. We must secure our electoral infrastructure and protect our electoral system from subversion.

    I think about General Mattis’s recent words about Trump–“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.” (emphasis added). Whatever the reason–this deliberate effort helps the Kremlin achieve it’s objectives. And sometimes Trump will use Kremlin propaganda.

    The GOP does nothing, and they’ve protected Trump, acquitting him in the impeachment trial. They are not taking sufficient steps to secure “our electoral infrastructure and protect our electoral system from subversion.” And they seem to be gearing up to help discredit the Russian investigation–and by doing so aids the Russia.

  26. Comparison of Mike Flynn’s op-ed to Sterling Hayden’s Gen. Jack D. Ripper character, from Dr. Strangelove is apt. That a National Security Adviser would write such an op-ed is unnerving.

  27. Armed white residents lined Idaho streets amid ‘antifa’ protest fears. The leftist incursion was an online myth. from WaPo.

    How The Antifa Fantasy Spread In Small Towns Across The US from Buzzfeed News

    Several thoughts on these reports.

    1. The articles don’t really make clear the origins of this antifa threats at protests, but the narrative that leftist, outsider groups pose a threat to a community benefits at least two groups: a) Republicans–because they want their voters (and independents)–to view the left as a threat. Fear of the left is what enabled some Republican voters to vote for Trump over Clinton; b) Hostile foreign powers that seek to exacerbate divisions.

    If the country is united, I think Trump and the Republicans would lose, Same with foreign adversaries like Russia. As General Mattis said, ” In union there is strength.”

    2. So far armed groups coming to protect their towns has not lead in violence, but the idea that these groups are generally fearful–based on baseless claims–is a little unnerving. Again, unfounded fear of people from a different political party is not good for our country and ultimately aids our enemies, foreign and domestic.

    1. Russian disinformation operation relied on forgeries, fake posts on 300 platforms, new report says from WaPo.

      The group, Graphika did the report on an operation they call, Second Infektion–“a reference to the Soviet era “Operation Infektion,” which spread the false claim that the United States created the virus that causes AIDS.”

      What was the main objective for Secondary Infektion?

      — to malign and divide people and organizations disliked by Putin and seen as threats to his power, particularly in Ukraine.

      One of the authors of the report, Ben Nimmo, says, that if the operation had a motto,

      …it would be ‘divide and conquer. It looks like the overall goal of the operation was to divide and discredit the countries and institutions it targeted, setting allies against one another and driving wedges between Kremlin critics.

      Senator Rubio has a quote in this that I find rich:

      “Hostile foreign actors — including Russia, China and Iran — will continue to attempt to sow division,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who praised Graphika’s effort to uncover malign activity.

      “It is critical that government officials, lawmakers, the media and the American public remain vigilant as foreign adversaries continue to seek to divide us, and the U.S. government needs to continue working with social media platforms and others to identify misinformation connected to foreign powers.”

      But Trump can push Kremlin propaganda–can cooperate with Russia in 2016 to use information to politically damage Hillary Clinton and the Democrats, and pressure Ukrainian president to politically damage Joe Biden, while pushing a Kremlin supported conspiracy theory (i.e., Ukraine hacked the DNC in 2016).

  28. Trump’s Rally in Tulsa May be Emblematic of His Presidency from Paul Waldman of WaPo

    So to sum up: Trump is holding his first mid-pandemic rally in a place and at a time guaranteed to make people angry and upset. He’s coming to a state fast becoming a coronavirus hotspot, putting on a rally almost certain to spread covid-19. In advance of the event, he’s ratcheting up tensions and threatening violence against peaceful protesters.

    Thoughts:

    Sanjay Gupta, of CNN describes the situation as an anatomy of an outbreak. Trump and Pence are downplaying the danger of the virus and the specific rally. It seems like they and many of the attendees won’t wear masks. Insane.

    Trump originally chose his rally on June 19–Juneteenth. Seems like instigation, pining for racial conflict, especially after tweeting opposition to changing names of military bases named after Confederate generals. And then he posts a doctored video–in my view, attempting to raising animosity towards the press and inciting racial tensions–i.e., CNN tried to portray white Trump supporters as racist.

    Would a leader trying to heal the nation over race relations do these things? Would a leader who actually cared about the citizens hold a rally?

    I’m worried that there will be violence between protestors and Trump supporters, and I can’t help but feel this is what Trump wants.

    6/20/2020

    I forgot to mention some other actions that Trump has taken that suggest bad faith, on his part, with regard to handling race relations.

    He tweeted

    Any protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes who are going to Oklahoma please understand, you will not be treated like you have been in New York, Seattle, or Minneapolis. It will be a much different scene!

    He includes protestors in this. I can’t imagine any POTUS in my lifetime saying this.

    Facebook took down some posts from the Trump campaign because they used a symbol associated with Nazis. The Trump campaign is defending the use, saying it’s associate with antifa, the group they’re targeting. (Read more about the entire story here. Some might reasonable argue that this is not a big deal. But this is not the first time he’s been accused of this. (There was a controversy in 2016 campaign, involving anti-semitism.

    Here’s the thing: People have criticized Trump for racist or anti-semitic statements. If he wasn’t racist and cared about healing racial divisions, I would expect him to be extra careful with his words and images he uses. He has not done this, and it’s hard not to conclude one of the following: a) he is a racist or b) he’s not a racist but he doesn’t care if he says things that can be construed as being racist.

    It’s really hard to believe that he’s trying to unite the nation and heal racial divisions.

    1. Update on the Rally

      In a speech lasting nearly two hours — filled with grievances, falsehoods and misleading claims — Trump said that because more testing means higher numbers of known coronavirus cases, his direction was to curtail it. “So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down,’” he said. A White House official said later the president was “obviously kidding,” but he has previously expressed skepticism about testing, which public health experts say is required to contain the outbreak.

      Not only skepticism about testing, but Trump also preferred infected Americans stay on a cruise ship rather than come off because the latter would raise the U.S.’s COVID-19 count at the time:

      It seems like Trump would go through great lengths to suppress COVID-19 numbers, just to put himself and his administration in a more favorable light. Reprehensible and crazy.

      Here’s more on what Trump said about slowing down testing:

      “Here’s the bad part: When you do testing to that extent you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find more cases,” he said. “So I said to my people, slow the testing down, please. They test and they test.

      Trump called the novel coronavirus “kung flu” during his speech in Tulsa, using a racist term to allude to the origin of the outbreak in Wuhan, China, as he took aim at some of his favorite targets on the left and the media. “It’s a disease that without question has more names than any disease,” he said. “I can name kung flu. I can name 19 different versions of them.”

      Also calling the disease “Chinese virus,” he boasted about stopping travel from China earlier in the pandemic and said the United States has tested 25 million people, which he said was more than other countries.

      In March, senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said it was “highly offensive” to refer to coronavirus as “kung flu.”

      The opposite of trying to lessen racial tensions and unite the country.

      1. Some WH officials claimed Trump was “joking” about slowing down COVID-19 testing.

        A reporter asked Trump about that today.

        Just now I asked the President if he was kidding when he said he told his people to slow down testing, which is how White House officials explained the comment.

        He said, “I don’t kid.”

        He also said again testing is a double-edged sword, and praised the job the U.S. has done.

        To underscore this point, here’s something Trump tweeted today:

        Cases are going up in the U.S. because we are testing far more than any other country, and ever expanding. With smaller testing we would show fewer cases!

        His team of experts are sending the opposite message today:

      2. Trump seems dug in on the idea that testing is bad because it leads to higher numbers of positive cases

        Here’s what Trump tweeted to a video clip of Dr. Fauci saying Europe has less cases of COVID-19 because they shut down more of their economy, while we only shut down 50%:

        Wrong! We have more cases because we have tested far more than any other country, 60,000,000. If we tested less, there would be less cases. How did Italy, France & Spain do? Now Europe sadly has flare ups. Most of our governors worked hard & smart. We will come back STRONG!

        Trump has repeated this so often–and it’s such a mystifying point to hammer on…Actually, his repeating this point raises questions about his mental state. If we tested less, less positive tests may result, but that doesn’t mean less people actually have the virus. If someone has the virus, they’ll have it whether they’re tested or not. I feel silly saying all this, but he keeps saying the above–as if it’s a good thing, and it’s clearly not. What he’s saying further destroys his credibility.

    2. Trump re-tweeting and commenting on a black man beating a white man.

      The opposite of attempting to calm racial tensions and heal racial divisions.

      6/23/2020

      He also retweeted and commented on a tweet showing a video of a black man shoving a white woman in the subway.

    3. Workers removed thousands of social distancing stickers before Trump’s Tulsa rally, according to video and a person familiar with the set-up from WaPo.

      Just read part of this, but if it’s true, this is so over-the-top. Did they do this because Trump so badly wanted to have as much people as possible? That he didn’t want to alienate his supporters who are pooh-poohing the dangers of the virus and/or the ways to prevent its spread? A little of both?

    4. There are times I try to be cautious when talking about whether Trump is a racist. This WaPo story–Trump promotes video of a supporter saying ‘white power’ below makes me feel a bit like a fool.

      This kind of thing happens too often. I’m sure he’s been warned. He either is fine with supporters shouting “white power” or he doesn’t care if he alienates Americans who are offended by racist remarks. It doesn’t seem reasonable to continue giving him the benefit of the doubt.

      1. Most of the time, trying to understand what’s inside a person is the higher road when judging his actions. Among friends, I’m usually the benefit-of-the-doubt-giver, probably to a fault.

        But when the actions pile up in such a way that the damage is irrefutable, what’s going on inside the person is irrelevant. He said this about these people, he did this to these other people, and he clearly created an environment where racists feel free to act out in ways societal pressure wouldn’t have tolerated a few years ago.

        Whether he is or isn’t a racist doesn’t matter anymore. What matters is that his actions are irretrievably racist.

        1. I totally agree with you. I usually don’t focus on whether someone is a racist–which would involve knowing what they think and feel. And all that matters in this case is if there’s a pattern of racist rhetoric and actions–or at least rhetoric and actions that have a strong tinge of racism.

          At the same time, when does it become appropriate to label someone a racist? Almost never? To be so resistant to using that label can appear weirdly or even suspiciously cautious and deferential. And the alternate ways of describing someone can be cumbersome and may not have the same impact–e.g., “Trump has a pattern of racist behavior and rhetoric.”

          1. I’ll tell you and any of my friends to their faces that he’s a racist. In general polite company or in, say, my role as a communicator for a private non-profit, I would never label a person a certain thing — the correct move is to go with your cumbersome tack: the person exhibits the behaviors of a racist. Or something like that.

            I thought this quote was funny, from a CNN piece:

            “President Trump is a big fan of the Villages. He did not hear the one statement made on the video. What he did see was tremendous enthusiasm from his many supporters,” White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said in a statement.

            Funny because (a) obviously, the resident of the White House is supposed to be super cautious about these things, such that “not hearing” a statement in a retweet is absolutely no excuse, but this person doesn’t take that responsibility seriously enough so it’s ENTIRELY possible he didn’t hear it, and (b) rather than distancing the White House from the racist, the deputy press secretary embraces the enthusiasm — of a crowd which includes a guy chanting “white power,” instead of saying the White House would rather not have the support of such people. Ha. Ha.

          2. I’ll tell you and any of my friends to their faces that he’s a racist.

            I think I would, too, but I would be hesitant, at least some of the time, too. I think it’s because a) people use that label too easily; b) it can seem unreasonable or a function of partisanship; c) we can’t see inside people (as you mentioned), so I prefer to be circumspect.

            Re: the CNN quote.

            “He did not hear” is as laughable and damning as “I didn’t know about the Russian bounty.”

            b) rather than distancing the White House from the racist, the deputy press secretary embraces the enthusiasm — of a crowd which includes a guy chanting “white power,” instead of saying the White House would rather not have the support of such people.

            It’s crazy–similar to “many fine people on both sides.” Another response that falls in the ballpark of racist–or, at best, a fear of alienating white supremacists/nationalist, which seems just as bad.

          3. Reminder to myself: Calling Trump a racist is justified:

      2. Another tweet today that reinforces my impression that he’s desperate to start a race war:

        Has @BubbaWallace
        apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX? That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!

        1. More evidence that Trump is trying to start a race war:

          Trump re-tweeted another video clip of a black man pushing down a white woman:

          According to David Frum the video was from 2019. Frum points out that Trump is trying to pin this on Black Lives Matter movement.

          To me, for many, if not most Americans, this should undermine Trump’s case to be re-elected. How can anyone think this person who re-tweets videos like this actually help resolve the social unrest? Re-tweeting this is an incitement of violence.

          A good pairing for this tweet above is this anti-fascism promo from the 40s:

          Edit

        2. Donald Trump’s Incitements to Violence Have Crossed an Alarming Threshold from the New Yorker

          On Trump’s recent statements about the protests; Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager that shot three protestors, Professor Steven Levitsky, author of How Democracies Die said this,

          “We now have the potential in towns and cities across the country for pretty significant violence, with a large number of deaths,” he said. “Trump is either unaware of this or he doesn’t care. I don’t normally like to make these comparisons, but this sort of encouragement of violence for political purposes is worryingly similar to what the Fascist movement did in Europe during the nineteen-twenties and nineteen-thirties.”

          From Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a historian at New York University, “author of a forthcoming book on authoritarian leaders, Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present:

          …she reminded me that the Fascist Italian dictator, before he ascended to power, in October, 1922, exploited violent clashes between groups of his armed supporters, known as the Blackshirts, and their left-wing opponents. “He used the violence to destabilize Italian society, so he could position himself as the person to stop this violence,” Ben-Ghiat said. That’s what Trump is doing now, she added.

          9/19/2020

          Another example today:

    5. Above, I mentioned Facebook taking down a post because it had symbols associated with Nazis. I mentioned the way the Trump campaign used the Star of David in controversial way in the 2016 campaign.)

      I just saw this today:

      What are we to make of this? Just a minor thing? A big step towards Neo-Nazism, white power? All I know is that if they really objected to these things, and cared about the perceptions of Americans, there’s no way there would be all these “mistakes.”

  29. This tweet by Trump is irresponsible, and something wannabe despot would say:

    RIGGED 2020 ELECTION: MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES, AND OTHERS. IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!

    I can’t imagine any POTUS in my lifetime (or even before–save Nixon) that would say something like this. Congressional GOP should be denouncing this

    The mail-in ballots are coming from . . . inside the White House! by WaPo:

    The list of top Trump figures who have voted by mail (that we know about) now includes President and Melania Trump, Mike and Karen Pence, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Kellyanne Conway, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel, and Attorney General William P. Barr.

    (The article also mentions that Bill Barr undermining the trust in mail-in ballots.)

    1. Trump and Barr make baseless and harmful claims about mail-in ballot fraud a Fox News op-ed from Trevor Potter, who “served as general counsel to GOP presidential and U.S. Senate campaigns in the past.”

      Attorney General William Barr has been busy following President Trump’s lead in spreading unfounded theories about potential widespread fraud in absentee voting. As an election lawyer for Republican presidential candidates, I know these claims are baseless and harmful to our democracy.

      Later,

      Evidence of voter fraud in general is extremely rare, and that is true of absentee balloting too. In both 2016 and 2018, approximately 25 percent of U.S. voters cast mail ballots. Justin Levitt, an election law expert at Loyola Law School, reviewed U.S. elections between 2000-2014 and found just 31 instances of voter fraud over a period when over 1 billion votes were cast.

    2. Senate Republicans do their part to allow Trump to work with foreign countries to win the election

      Hyperbolic? Senate strips provision from intelligence bill requiring campaigns to report foreign election help from CNN

      Here’s what the Senate Republicans removed:

      It would require all presidential campaign officials report to the FBI any contacts with foreign nationals trying either to make campaign donations or coordinate with a campaign.

      I can’t think of a good reason to block this.

      Warner tried to bring up his bill on the Senate floor several times over the past year, but Republicans objected each time. When Sen. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, blocked the bill in June 2019, calling it a “blatant political stunt.”

      Political stunt? This sounds like she thinks the only reason for the provision is to hurt Trump–that it wouldn’t be appropriate for any candidate. Man, that’s sad, if true.

    3. How Trump Could Lose the Election—And Still Remain President, opinion piece in Newsweek

      1. Biden wins the popular vote, and carries the key swing states of Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania by decent but not overwhelming margins.

      2. Trump immediately declares that the voting was rigged, that there was mail-in ballot fraud and that the Chinese were behind a plan to provide fraudulent mail-in ballots and other “election hacking” throughout the four key swing states that gave Biden his victory.

      3. Having railed against the Chinese throughout the campaign, calling Biden “soft on China,” Trump delivers his narrative claiming the Chinese have interfered in the U.S. election.

      4. Trump indicates this is a major national security issue, and he invokes emergency powers, directing the Justice Department to investigate the alleged activity in the swing states. The legal justification for the presidential powers he invokes has already been developed and issued by Barr.

      5. The investigation is intended to tick down the clock toward December 14, the deadline when each state’s Electoral College electors must be appointed. This is the very issue that the Supreme Court harped on in Bush v. Gore in ruling that the election process had to be brought to a close, thus forbidding the further counting of Florida ballots.

      6. All four swing states have Republican control of both their upper and lower houses of their state legislatures. Those state legislatures refuse to allow any Electoral College slate to be certified until the “national security” investigation is complete.

      7. The Democrats will have begun a legal action to certify the results in those four states, and the appointment of the Biden slate of electors, arguing that Trump has manufactured a national security emergency in order to create the ensuing chaos.

      8. The issue goes up to the Supreme Court, which unlike the 2000 election does not decide the election in favor of the Republicans. However, it indicates again that the December 14 Electoral College deadline must be met; that the president’s national security powers legally authorize him to investigate potential foreign country intrusion into the national election; and if no Electoral College slate can be certified by any state by December 14, the Electoral College must meet anyway and cast its votes.

      9. The Electoral College meets, and without the electors from those four states being represented, neither Biden nor Trump has sufficient votes to get an Electoral College majority.

      10. The election is thrown into the House of Representatives, pursuant to the Constitution. Under the relevant constitutional process, the vote in the House is by state delegation, where each delegation casts one vote, which is determined by the majority of the representatives in that state.

      11. Currently, there are 26 states that have a majority Republican House delegation. 23 states have a majority Democratic delegation. There is one state, Pennsylvania, that has an evenly split delegation. Even if the Democrats were to pick up seats in Pennsylvania and hold all their 2018 House gains, the Republicans would have a 26 to 24 delegation majority.

      12. This vote would enable Trump to retain the presidency.

      It’s hard not to see McConnell’s refusal to allow a vote on election security, or the Republicans wanting to take out requirements that campaigns report any donations or coordination attempts from foreign countries, as a way to lay groundwork for the scenario above. If the elections are not robust and secure, making it easier for foreign countries, or domestic operatives, to mess with election machinery or processes, then this gives a basis for Trump to start a national security investigation. Of course, it also allows foreign countries to help Trump, too.

    4. Trump suggesting to delay the election

      With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???

      He’s really working hard to undermine the election, and now recommending a delay is another dangerous move. It creates the impression he’ll do whatever he can to stay in power.

      The Republicans in congress could take a big step in redeeming themselves if they forcefully pushed back on this and took significant steps to protect the integrity of the election.

      On a side note, I forgot to write that publicly worrying about the integrity of the electoral process and results is very problematic–as this casts doubt on the legitimacy of the election results. Biden has publicly worried about this, and that is, again, problematic.

      But the thing is, Trump has said many outlandish things–the tweet above is just another one of many, albeit with a new dangerous twist, and I would include Trump public statements and actions with regard to getting foreign assistance to win an election. I would also add congressional Republicans not voting on a bill that will secure elections and require candidates to disclose to the FBI if they’re approached by a foreign government during the campaign. It’s clear Trump is open to interference and it’s reasonable to conclude congressional Republicans are OK with this. Trump is actively casting doubt on the elections, with little or no evidence.

      Memory: After CIA Director John Brennan briefed Gang of 8 that Russia was inteferring and he and Obama wanted them all to stand up and denounce this, McConnell threatened to accuse Obama of trying to tip the scales of the election. So there was no bi-partisan pushback against Russian interference.

      McConnell also didn’t allow for a vote of a bill that would have sent funds to secure the elections. My understanding is that this had bi-partisan support.

      University of Texas law professor:

      From a pro-trump guy:

      I’d wish he’d consider that “paranoia” might be concerns a reasonable person could have, given Trump’s and congressional Republicans’ actions.

      Some responses from Republicans:

      This is a step in the right direction:

      Warning:

      Edit

      There are several congressional Republicans pushing back against the idea of not having elections on November 3, and I’m glad they’re doing it. If the same number of Republicans did this more often, Trump might have been more contained. And anti-Trump conservatives would have a more compelling argument to not voting them out.

    5. Another way Trump is laying the groundwork to question the election results if he loses:

      Must know Election results on the night of the Election, not days, months, or even years later!

      If there are a lot of mail-in ballots, which will likely be the case, then we likely won’t know the results on Election night–unless it’s a huge landslide win. (And if it is, he’ll probably question that.) So he’s saying this now so that he can question the results. Hope people don’t fall for it.

    6. President Trump wants to undermine the election. Here’s one way to stop him.

      The idea is to create electoral commission, a bi-partisan group that would observe activities on election night. Norm Ornstein suggests President Bush and President Obama could start the commission. Here’s the type of ways they could help ensure confidence about the election results:

      It would help lower the temperature if a highly visible, authoritative commission were ready to observe and evaluate alleged irregularities — to clarify that voting officials in Georgia are counting votes, not stuffing ballot boxes, or that postal workers in Iowa took a little longer to deliver ballots, so it is not surprising that a surge of votes was recorded a couple days after Election Day. Alternatively, a commission could highlight authentic problems, such as long lines deterring voters from polling sites or mail-in ballots being thrown out for small technical issues beyond voters’ control.

      It sounds like a good idea.

      Edit

      (Note: I moved the post below from another place.)

      George Will also had a suggestion–specifically–a lot of Americans should vote, even if they are in non-swing states. Trump has to lose by a big number. Additionally, Will advocates for voting early so that the tallying votes can be done on election night or soon after. Several commentators, including Will, have pointed out that a) a lot of mail-in ballots will likely lead to a delay in the results, possibly weeks; b) Trump can cause chaos in that period, and c) there’s an option where the vote would be determined by the House of Representatives. (That’s not exactly right, but I can’t remember the specifics right now.)

    7. The Jig is Up (If It’s Not Already)

      Yesterday Trump tweeted mail-in ballots are safe and secure–in Florida…

      Whether you call it Vote by Mail or Absentee Voting, in Florida the election system is Safe and Secure, Tried and True. Florida’s Voting system has been cleaned up (we defeated Democrats attempts at change), so in Florida I encourage all to request a Ballot & Vote by Mail! #MAGA

      …but today he’s saying Nevada is not safe.

      Nevada has ZERO infrastructure for Mail-In Voting. It will be a corrupt disaster if not ended by the Courts. It will take months, or years, to figure out. Florida has built a great infrastructure, over years, with two great Republican Governors. Florida, send in your Ballots!

      Takeaway: Trump and down ballot Republicans would likely lose in Florida if voters (lots of senior citizens) don’t vote by mail, but they’ll likely lose in Nevada if voters do vote by mail.

      Greg Sargent has a good op-ed on what Trump is up to.

      Amber Phillips also analysizes Trump’s claims about advocating Florida’s system over Nevada’s.

      Also, a twitter thread on voter fraud, using data from a conservative think-tank (The Heritage Foundation):

      9/24/2020

    8. Trump continues to cast doubt on the elections:

      Here’s a question: If Trump thinks the elections are going to be a fraudulent mess, why isn’t he taking steps to ensure that voting by mail can be secure and legitimate–particularly during a pandemic? I’m pretty sure almost any other president would be doing this, and would see not doing so as a failure of their administration.

      He’s talking like a person who believes he’ll probably lose, and wants to muddy the results to find a way to win it. This pattern of behavior is why he no longer deserves to given the benefit of the doubt.

      On another note, President Obama weighs in on the elections yesterday:

      1. President Clinton speaks out:

        I hope President Bush speaks out. I feel like his voice, more than the other two, are needed now–as are the congressional Republicans and conservative pundits on Fox News.

    9. Hannity: Are you going to have poll watchers? Are you going to have an ability to monitor to avoid fraud and crosscheck whether or not these are registered voters, whether or not there’s been identification to know that it’s a real vote from a real American?

      Trump: We’re going to have everything. We’re going to have sheriffs and we’re going to have law enforcement and we’re going to have hopefully U.S. attorneys. And we’re going to have everybody and attorney generals. But it’s very hard.

      Edit: Note:

      (I didn’t read the article, so take the comment with a grain of salt.)

      8/24/2020

      1. Response:

    10. There’s No Evidence Supporting Trump’s Mail Ballot Warnings, FBI Says

      Trump and Barr have said they think foreign countries could attempt to counterfeit ballots and send them in to interfere with counting and that mail voting expansions will be “ripe with fraud” and a way for Democrats to “steal the election from the Republicans.”

      But national security officials rejected those theories in the Wednesday briefing, saying they have not seen a coordinated fraud effort and noting how difficult such an effort would be, considering the decentralized nature of U.S. elections.

      (emphasis added)

      and

      State and local elections officials also have affirmed the level of difficulty required with such a scheme, saying often that bad information around the use of mailed ballots is more of an issue than fraud.

      1. Republicans have insufficient evidence to call elections ‘rigged’ and ‘fraudulent’ from WaPo; written by Benjamin Ginsberg, a practioner of “election law for 38 years. He co-chaired the bipartisan 2013 Presidential Commission on Election Administration.” He also, “served as counsel to all three Republican national party committees and represented four of the past six Republican presidential nominees (including, through my law firm, Trump 2020).”

        The truth is that after decades of looking for illegal voting, there’s no proof of widespread fraud. At most, there are isolated incidents — by both Democrats and Republicans. Elections are not rigged. Absentee ballots use the same process as mail-in ballots — different states use different labels for the same process.

        (emphasis added. Ginsberg says he’s been watching since 1984.)

        A study of results in three states where all voters are mailed actual ballots, a practice at the apex of the president’s outrage, found just 372 possible cases of illegal voting of 14.6 million cast in the 2016 and 2018 general elections — 0.0025 percent.

        (emphasis added)

    11. Trump encourages North Carolina residents to vote twice to test mail-in system from NBC News

      “So let them send it in and let them go vote, and if their system’s as good as they say it is, then obviously they won’t be able to vote. If it isn’t tabulated, they’ll be able to vote,” Trump said when asked whether he has confidence in the mail-in system in North Carolina, a battleground state.

      “If it’s as good as they say it is, then obviously they won’t be able to vote. If it isn’t tabulated, they’ll be able to vote. So that’s the way it is. And that’s what they should do,” he said.

      So outrageous. Where is the line? When is the last straw?

      9/3/2020

      I believe the WH tried to explain this away–arguing that he wanted people to vote by mail and go check in person if it was accepted, or something to that effect. In a speech today, it sounds like he’s telling people to vote twice:

      9/12/2020

      I think this at least the third time Trump has urged this. North Carolina AG responding:

    12. Whether the origin of this talking point is from Russia or Trump both are supporting a largely baseless claim.

      Now, I think there is some legitimate concern of problems with high numbers of mail in ballots–primarily with counting them on time, which ones will be accepted or disqualified, etc. If that’s their concern, they could ensure the USPS has more funding to handle this (e.g., to pay for overtime, etc.). Give states and municipalities funding for more drop boxes. But they’re doing the opposite.

      Now, let’s suppose there were legitimate concerns about voter fraud, but Russia was trying to push this narrative. This would be a tough position for a responsible leader. Off the top of my head, here’s what I’d expect:

      • Publicly, they would be reassuring the public that the process is trustworthy, but behind the scenes they would be working hard to protect against fraud;
      • They would support measures to protect the election integrity;
      • They would publicly refuse help from foreign countries and warn them not to interfere.

      Trump and Barr are doing closer to the opposite. They’re publicly complaining, weakening the faith in the elections, showing no regard that Russia is doing the same thing, which can be interpreted as aiding Russia’s efforts. Trump as publicly said he doesn’t want to give money to the USPS because Democrats want that in order to effectively count all the mail-in ballots.

      Someone on twitter said there’s a difference between trying to stay in power and trying to win an election. It’s hard to conclude that Trump has given up on the latter and is doing the former.

      Edit

      From ABC News

      Analysts with the Department of Homeland Security’s intelligence branch issued the warning on Thursday to federal and state law enforcement partners after finding with “high confidence” that “Russian malign influence actors” have targeted the absentee voting process “by spreading disinformation” since at least March.

      “Russian state media and proxy websites in mid-August 2020 criticized the integrity of expanded and universal vote-by-mail, claiming ineligible voters could receive ballots due to out-of-date voter rolls, leaving a vast amount of ballots unaccounted for and vulnerable to tampering,” the bulletin notes.

    13. Dept. of Homeland Security delayed memo to law enforcement agencies that Russia was promoting the narrative that Joe Biden was mentally unfit

      Again, the Trump campaign was/is pushing the same narrative.

    14. “What we want election night to look like is a system that’s fair, a situation where we know who the President of the United States is on election night. That’s how the system is supposed to work. And that’s ultimately what we’re looking for and what we’re hoping for,” McEnany said in a Fox News interview, where she criticized Democrats for expanding access to mail-in voting.

      Facts First: McEnany is completely wrong when she says “the system is supposed to” produce a clear winner on election night. That’s a modern tradition in US politics, and it’s what many expect when watching the results. But it’s not required by law and it’s not what the system is designed to do.

      They’re actively undermining the trust in the election–in this case, not to trust the results if the race is not determine on election night. This is clearly irresponsible. Any president would work hard not to shake the confidence in the election–not undermine it. President Clinton didn’t say any of this regarding the election night in 2000.

    15. Trump continues to undermine the legitimacy of the elections

      “which is what some want”–classic projection. What’s clear is that Trump wants the American voters to doubt the results of the election.

    16. One reaction to Trump’s rhetoric is to dismiss it. He’s a blowhard; he just says outrageous things–like the election is rigged–but he doesn’t mean it; or nothing will come of it. That’s a reasonable reaction, especially since it’s hard to believe a person would genuinely believe the things Trump says–and say it publicly.

      Of course, whether he means this or not, many people who trust Trump may not believe the results of the election. This is totally irresponsible of Trump, regardless of his true feelings an intentions.

      But the other possibility is that Trump actually means most of what he says–that it is a true reflection of his feelings–and that he’s revealing his true intentions.

      People have to decide which one is more accurate. I will say that there is a pervasive pattern with regard to the latter. Here are more comments to add.

    17. Trump won’t commit to a ‘peaceful transfer of power’ if he loses. from WaPo

      Well, we’re going to have to see what happens. You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots and the ballots are a disaster —” Trump began when asked during a White House press briefing if he would ensure a peaceful transition.

      “I understand that, but people are rioting; do you commit to making sure that there’s a peaceful transferral of power?” the reporter pressed, appearing to refer to incidents of violence that have broken out during some protests.

      “Get rid of the ballots, and you’ll have a very — we’ll have a very peaceful, there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation,” Trump said. “The ballots are out of control. You know it. And you know who knows it better than anybody else? The Democrats know it better than anybody else.”

      (emphasis added)

      Trump is vague, but he seems to be suggesting that a) we may not have a peaceful transfer of power if mail-in ballots are used, and b) use of mail-in ballots will make the election illegitimate.

      The red lights continue to flash, and I’m not sure what’s to be done about this.

      Here’s the clip:

      9/24/2020

      Other instances where Trump says he might not accept the results of the election–or he’ll accept the results of the elections if he wins.

    18. When Trump and Bill Barr keep making unsubstantiated claims attacking mail in ballots, or just attacking the legitimacy of the election more generally–according to Miles Taylor, former Chief of Staff for the DHS, they’re aiding and abetting foreign adversaries. He explains in this short clip:

  30. I’m not one who would necessarily make a big deal if a president didn’t retaliate immediately and harshly (although given what Kremlin has been doing in the last 3 years, maybe longer–it might be warranted). But not responding seems like the wrong move. Or worse–doing things that the Russians favor. For example, see below, from a NYT’s national security reporter:

    Here’s a question: Is it reasonable to wonder if Trump doesn’t want to retaliate because he fears losing help from Russia–or they will actively turn against him, releasing political damaging information about him–in this election? It’s insane if this is reasonable to wonder. It would essentially mean that the Trump is willing to sacrifice American lives in order to win an election.

    Edit

    Press secretary denying Trump or Pence knew about this.

    I wouldn’t rule this possibility out–but it’s insane if true. Trump’s advisers feel so strongly that Trump doesn’t want to hear bad news about Putin that they decided not to tell him that Russians have a bounty out on U.S. soldiers. This, among many other things, screams for an answer as to why Trump is so deferential to Putin. It demands an answer! If McConnell does nothing, he deserves the name “Moscow Mitch.” Republicans, including Romney, better do something.

    Edit

    Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul calling on Secretary Pompeo to confirm or deny Russian Embassy’s denial and accusation that NYT “invent(ing) new fake stories.” More than Pompeo’s reaction, I’m watching to see the way Trump will respond to this. His response seems more critical than his responses to Russian information warfare in our elections, which I assume is less palpable than encouraging and rewarding the Taliban to kill U.S. soldiers.

    1. Trump’s response in a tweet

      Nobody briefed or told me, @VP
      Pence, or Chief of Staff @MarkMeadows
      about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians, as reported through an “anonymous source” by the Fake News @nytimes
      . Everybody is denying it & there have not been many attacks on us…..

      …Nobody’s been tougher on Russia than the Trump Administration. With Corrupt Joe Biden & Obama, Russia had a field day, taking over important parts of Ukraine – Where’s Hunter? Probably just another phony Times hit job, just like their failed Russia Hoax. Who is their “source”?

      Comments:

      His defense seems to be incompetence of him and/or his administration.

      If this is true, he should be in rage for those who failed to tell him. I would expect firings or resignations.

      If he’s so tough, let’s hear some tough talk against Putin–at least warn him of serious consequences if the bounty continues or how about publicly withdrawing support for Russian joining the G-7 and calling off Putin’s visit to the White House. The last two are relatively easy, non-provocative responses. If he doesn’t do these things, the ongoing question of why he’s so deferential to Putin–even in these circumstances–comes to the forefront.

      All the Republicans who were in an uproar about Benghazi should be even more outraged, and congressional Republicans should, at the vest least, put in the same energy to investigate this matter. Does Trump owe money to Russians, does he have a lot of money from Russian sources? (They almost surely won’t. Aside: Mitt Romney needs to speak up and act–about this and Barr.)

      On another note,

      DNI Radcliffe denies Trump and Pence briefed on intelligence, but his office seems to have a different response.

    2. Russian bounties to Taliban-linked militants resulted in deaths of U.S. troops, according to intelligence assessments from WaPo

      Verifying such intelligence is a process that can take weeks, typically involving the CIA and the National Security Agency, which captures foreign cellphone and radio communications.

      Putting on my (spy) tinfoil hat for a moment, I’m wonder about the possibility that this is Russian disinformation–that they want the U.S. and allies to know there was a bounty or think there was one (when there actually wasn’t). But what would be the possible reason for this? To get coalition forces angry–maybe make a mistake that would keep them in Afghanistan longer? Or could this widen divisions and sow distrust between the U.S. and other NATO countries. This would be a viable approach if the Russians were confident Trump would do little or nothing–and the Republicans would continue to support Trump, either explicitly or implicitly.

      On another note, this bounty could–should–unit Democrats and Republicans, both in Congress and across the country. If we could–and did–unite on this, it would be a big mistake by Russia.

      Something else to consider:

      He said that a primary Russian goal in Afghanistan continues to be the exit of American forces, but not at any cost.

      “They may want us out, and they may be happy to see a few Americans die,” he said, “but I don’t think they want to see the Taliban take over.”

      I wonder what’s going on in the military now.

    3. But this isn’t anything new (which crazy to me).

      Congressional had a chance to do something about this. They still can.

    4. Trump tweets

      Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or @VP. Possibly another fabricated Russia Hoax, maybe by the Fake News @nytimesbooks, wanting to make Republicans look bad!!!

      (The tweet was a response to Sen. Graham’s tweet: “Imperative Congress get to the bottom of recent media reports that Russian GRU units in Afghanistan have offered to pay the Taliban to kill American soldiers with the goal of pushing America out of the region.”)

    5. Here’s an interesting comment. I’ll be watching for some verification, as this sounds like a reasonable possibility:

      One of those House Republicans, Rep. Michael McCaul, a Texan who is the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told CNN that he had learned in the briefing that dissenting views among agencies within the intelligence community is the reason why the intelligence was not briefed to Trump.
      “While there was a stream of reporting on this alleged bounty issue, intelligence from one agency, there was another agency with a very strong dissenting view on this intelligence,” McCaul said.
      “When that happens, typically, the national security adviser goes back through the NSC and tries to vet this to get to a point where it can be actionable. They don’t want to throw intelligence in front of the President when there’s basically a dissent within the community itself,” he added.
      McCaul said officials said that the top officials in the Trump White House were attempting to resolve the diverging views when news of the Russian effort broke.

      If this is accurate and not misleading, it suggests the leak was politically motivated and not really substantive.

      From the AP News:

      Top officials in the White House were aware in early 2019 of classified intelligence indicating Russia was secretly offering bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of Americans, a full year earlier than has been previously reported, according to U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the intelligence.

      The assessment was included in at least one of President Donald Trump’s written daily intelligence briefings at the time, according to the officials. Then-national security adviser John Bolton also told colleagues he briefed Trump on the intelligence assessment in March 2019.

      If this is true, Trump knew in March of 2019.

    6. The Secretary of Defense better not be lying

      I’m thinking of this, specifically, “Although the Department of Defense has no corroborating evidence at this time to validate recent allegations regarding malign activity by Russian personnel against U.S. forces in Afghanistan,…”

      He better not be playing a semantic game. If the U.S. Government has good reason to take seriously the claim that Russians have a bounty on American soldiers, then Esper should be fired for what he wrote.

    7. I would be surprised if Trump is not lying or being very misleading here:

      And if he’s lying, saying it would be bad would be an understatement.

    8. Testimony from former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul.

      (Sidenote: This is a good source for a list of belligerent actions by Putin and list of good steps taken by the Trump administration and ways Trump, himself, has undermined them.)

      On the notion that claim that Russian bounty on U.S. soldiers is disputed and lacks consensus from US IC:

      According to NSC spokesperson, John Ullyot, “The veracity of the allegations continues to be evaluated.” Trump’s Press Secretary then asserted that there was no consensus within the intelligence community about this finding, but that claim stands in tension with the detailed reporting that asserted this intelligence appeared in the Presidential Daily Briefing (PBD) on February 27, 2020. Intelligence on sensitive matters almost never is 100% verified. But in my three years of working at the National Security Council in the Obama administration, I do not recall flimsy, unconfirmed, circumstantial,or heavily disputed intelligence appearing in the PBD; debates with the intelligence community usually are resolved before a story appears in this most precious of intelligence products (Remember, it is a serious crime to leak secret intelligence to the press, suggesting that this intelligence must have been credible and frighteningenoughfor a U.S. official to risk going to prison in order to publicize it). At the moment of this hearing, however, the basic and detailed facts as reported in numerous media outlets have not been refuted.

      (emphasis added)

      On Trump’s response, or lack thereof, to these bounties:

      To date, President Trump has not responded, rhetorically or otherwise, to Putin’s bounty killings of American soldiers. President Trump could have easily said the following, “My administration takes very seriously the protection of every American soldier. We are investigating seriously these allegations and asking hard questions of our Russian counterparts.” He chose not to take even this simplest of actions.

      The statement would be easy to make even if Trump wanted to not be so belligerent or to harm diplomatic relations. Indeed, to respond in a friendly manner (e.g., advocate for Russia attending the G7 summit) would likely only encourage belligerence from Russia, in my opinion.

      Other possible actions

      Most importantly and easily, President Trump could simply state the facts that the U.S. intelligence community has reported to him, even if it needed to be caveated, and criticize Putin for aiding the Taliban. Trump could announce that he has asked his government to continue to investigate this intelligence reporting and will hold Putin accountable for any American deaths underwritten by Russian financial assistance to the Taliban. Since Trump has never criticized Putin before, the very act of such a statement would have profound, positive consequences for U.S.-Russian relations.

      Second, and again very easily, the U.S. could demarche the Russian government, calling in the Russian ambassador to the State Department to demand an explanation of Russian anti-American activities in Afghanistan. Demarches are used frequently and are very low-cost diplomatic acts.

      Third, to strengthen his case and embarrass Putin, Trump could declassify the intelligence. Previous presidents have declassified intelligence to advance foreign policy objectives.31According to reporting in The New York Times, the United States knows which bank accounts were used to transfer funds to the Taliban. Trump could publicize this information, including the names of the banks that facilitated the transactions.

      Fourth, the Trump administration could request discussions of these allegations at the United Nations, the OSCE, NATO, and other international forums to bring more attention to Russian belligerent behavior.

      Fifth, the Trump administration could sanction Russian officials involved in this bounty program policy, including banks and companies that facilitated these operations. U.S. prosecutors could seek indictments against Russian officials involved in any criminal activity, send those indictments to INTERPOL, and thereby limit the international travel of these Russians agents.

      This list could go on. But Trump will not even take the first step. So,listing subsequent possible steps is a futile exercise.

    9. This makes me angry.

    10. Still haven’t talked–never talked–to Putin about the Russian Bounties on U.S. Soldiers

      And not only can never say something bad about Putin–but making excuses for him. This is all out in the open, and it begs an explanation–one that people who claim the Russian investigation was a hoax have yet to provide. (I don’t think I’ve heard attempts at explanations, too.)

      Pulling troops out of Germany helps Putin, too. Trump doesn’t provide a good reason–i.e., how it’s in the U.S. interests to do this:

      I don’t think there are any fees. If you don’t want Russia to be more aggressive and increaese the likelihood of getting into a war, we should be supporting NATO and keeping our troops in Germany. My understanding is that it’s going to be costly to move the troops as well.

      1. General Mark Hertling explains why this is bad move.

        It’s also expensive, and Trump is ostensibly concerned about the money we’re spending overseas.

        “The plan to pull US troops from the long-time NATO ally has been met with broad bipartisan opposition amid concerns that it will weaken the US military’s position vis a vis Russia, however the Trump Administration has decided to proceed with the move.” 1/ (of 15)

        https://twitter.com/fpleitgenCNN/status/1288464373141450752

        Having just watched the SecDef, Vice CJCS and @US_EUCOM Commander, I am sickened by this decision and explanation.

        It is not tied to any strategic advantage, and in fact is counterproductive to showing strength in Europe.

        A couple things:

        2/
        First, what is obvious to me – having served 12 years in Germany and having participated in the last force structure change from 2004-2011, this is not a “strategic” move…it is specifically a directed personal insult from Trump to our great & very supportive ally Germany.
        3/
        The Headquarters in Stuttgart – both EUCOM and AFRICOM – will take billions of dollars to move, and will disrupt those HQs in their operation. AFRICOM location is “to be determined” because there is no valid answer…consolidating EUCOM w SHAPE in Belgium will be challenging. 4/
        As GEN Hyten stated, this will cost more than “a few billion” dollars. During the last force posture change in 2004-2011, billions of dollars were spent to secure and consolidate key locations in Germany…upgrades in base housing, schools, support facilities, HQs, barracks.

        5/
        Similar facilities – barracks, motor pools, logistics facilities, airfields, railheads – are now required in the areas where rotational troops will deploy. That will cost billions.

        One lesson we learned…”rotational forces are more expensive & they don’t built trust.”
        Rotational troops will now require more time away from their families…a key moral issue.

        Rotational troops do deploy in increased readiness state, because they spend time at training centers preparing for rotation. More time away from families.
        The 2d Stryker Brigade is at Vilseck, a great transport hub for that mobile unit to transit to ANY area (Baltics, Caucasus, Nordic, Poland, etc). They have been doing this for over a decade. Their families are cared for at Vilseck, and time away from families is less.
        6/
        That training location(within Grafenwoehr, Bavaria) is also a world-class training location for all of NATO and the US. Forces train there, together. This kind of “allied training” not done anywhere in the US Without US troops, it will be hard to maintain that center.
        7/
        When I commanded at Grafenwoehr as a 1-star, that based was transformed. Over a billion dollars in construction costs for barracks, motor pools, family housing. That was in 2004-6.
        8/
        Not sure of other Army forces moving out of Germany, but it seems like several large ones. Aviation in Ansbach (move to Belgium, as stated by GEN Wolters?), likely logistics, intel & US Army Europe Headquarters? Many brand new facilities, with a large/new command facility.
        9/
        BTW, many of the requirements for “new facilites” are the same facilities that were raided of funds when the “border wall efforts” needed funds. It’s interesting that those funds were for upgrades for servicability but they will now require more funds for construction.
        10/
        The move of aircraft from UK to Germany was smart. Moving other USAF units from Germany to Italy doesn’t make strategic or operational sense. Italy’s flight restrictions & civilian workforce much more challenging to work with than Germany’s, and again…more new costs.
        11/
        Having had to notify families, move units and equipment, and go through the redeployment process will – as GEN Wolters said – take months and years, not weeks.

        It is disruptive, and affects readiness…especially when this is all happening without a previous plan. 12/
        A couple final comments.

        SecDef Esper’s statement that he “knows” what it’s like because he used to serve in Germany in the 80’s is disingenuous. I served in Germany in the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and first decade of 2000. NATO and forces in Europe aren not how he remembers it.
        13/

        2d, these actions are primarily:
        1. Punishing Merkel & Germany
        2. Knee-jerk reaction to Trump vs collaborative US strategy
        3. A gift to Russian expansionism & Putin’s plan
        4. Another wedge for NATO
        5. Further disruption of US Military
        6. Something Congress should not allow
        14/

        According to GENs Hyten & Wolters, they will continue to “develop the plan.”

        It will take months to plan, years to execute.

        Congress must see this for what it is, and stop it. 15/15

        Sorry, *morale* not moral.

    11. Prominent Putin critic suspected of being poisoned

      This NPR article describes latest news regarding Nalvany, the critic in question, who was just recently allowed to go to Germany for treatment.

      I’m putting this hear because this is another thing that Trump and the WH should speak out on–and so far have not, as far as I know. It also shows what type of guy Trump seems to like so much.

      On Friday, Alexander Murakhovsky, the chief physician at the Omsk hospital, said the staff has diagnosed Navalny with a metabolic disorder, linked to a drop in blood sugar.

      “This is really contradictory information because officials have told Navalny’s colleagues that, in fact, a toxic substance had been found and that it’s so poisonous that people around him have to wear protective suits,” NPR’s Lucian Kim reports.

      And

      This is the second time Navalny has possibly been poisoned. The first instance came last summer, when he was hospitalized days after being jailed for calling for street protests.

      A number of Kremlin foes have been poisoned or killed during Putin’s 20 years in power. Recent high-profile cases include the use of a Novichok nerve agent to poison former KGB spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the U.K. But Navalny’s possible poisoning also brings to mind the targeted killing of Kremlin critic and former spy Alexander Litvinenko, who died after drinking tea that was laced with polonium-210 in a London hotel.

      8/25/2020

      President of the Slovak Republic:

      Trump should say something similar.

      1. This was response to Trump’s press conference today. Here’s a clip:

        Casting doubt on the whether Navalny was poisoned. Interestingly, he says he will be very angry if that’s the cast.

        And yet here’s the U.S. Ambassador to NATO. Her position is very different from Trump’s:

    12. I didn’t read this article, but the headline pisses me off.

  31. The impression I get from this Forbes article is that Wall Street Executives would support an grossly incompetent, corrupt, authoritarian, if it helped their bottom line–and they would oppose the opposite, if it meant higher taxes. Self-interest, in the form of wanting to make money, is understandable, but there should be limits.

    In fairness, it’s possible that the “Wall Street” reaction is more descriptive, in a matter-of-fact way. Then again, it sure sounds like executives and investors would favor Trump, because he’d be better for their bottomline, regardless if he incompetently handled the pandemic or turned a blind eye to Russian bounties on U.S. soldiers. I can’t help but feel disgusted if any of this is accurate.

  32. This CNN article is top WH officials–including Tillerson, Mattis and two National Security Advisers (McMaster and Bolton?) thought Trump was a national security threat and concluded Trump was “often delusional.”

    And this is just the beginning–of what turns out to detailed and seemingly thorough article. It’s something, and it’s worth reading. (counter-point: If you’ve been following politics for the last three years, what you hear won’t be surprising. And, yet, it’s remarkable how a tidbit of information can make me say what the heck!)

    One person familiar with almost all the conversations with the leaders of Russia, Turkey, Canada, Australia and western Europe described the calls cumulatively as ‘abominations’ so grievous to US national security interests that if members of Congress heard from witnesses to the actual conversations or read the texts and contemporaneous notes, even many senior Republican members would no longer be able to retain confidence in the President.

    The sources did cite some instances in which they said Trump acted responsibly and in the national interest during telephone discussions with some foreign leaders. CNN reached out to Kelly, McMaster and Tillerson for comment and received no response as of Monday afternoon. Mattis did not comment.

    If the article is accurate, I really wish they all would confirm this. I wished they would have spoken out during impeachment.

    According to one high-level source, there are also existing summaries and conversation-readouts of the President’s discussions with Erdogan that might reinforce Bolton’s allegations against Trump in the so-called “Halkbank case,” involving a major Turkish bank with suspected ties to Erdogan and his family. That source said the matter was raised in more than one telephone conversation between Erdogan and Trump.

    Bolton wrote in his book that in December 2018, at Erdogan’s urging, Trump offered to interfere in an investigation by then-US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman into the Turkish bank, which was accused of violating US sanctions on Iran.

    “Trump then told Erdogan he would take care of things, explaining that the Southern District prosecutors were not his people, but were Obama people, a problem that would be fixed when they were replaced by his people,” Bolton wrote. Berman’s office eventually brought an indictment against the bank in October 2019 for fraud, money laundering and other offenses related to participation in a multibillion-dollar scheme to evade the US sanctions on Iran. On June 20, Trump fired Berman — whose office is also investigating Rudy Giuliani, the President’s personal lawyer — after the prosecutor refused to resign at Attorney General William Barr’s direction.

    Dang.

    Elements of that testimony by Hill, if re-examined by Congressional investigators, might provide a detailed road-map of the President’s extensively-documented conversations, the sources said. White House and intelligence officials familiar with the voice-generated transcriptions and underlying documents agreed that their contents could be devastating to the President’s standing with members of the Congress of both parties — and the public — if revealed in great detail. (There is little doubt that Trump would invoke executive privilege to keep the conversations private. However, some former officials with detailed knowledge of many of the conversations might be willing to testify about them, sources said.)

    Sounds like someone providing the road map and sending out the signal.

    Almost never, according to CNN’s sources, would Trump read the briefing materials prepared for him by the CIA and NSC staff in advance of his calls with heads of state.

    Gross negligence. This makes me think of the Russian bounty on U.S. soldiers. Trump: “I didn’t know anything about the Russian bounty–I don’t read the briefs–so I couldn’t have known.”

    The common, overwhelming dynamic that characterizes Trump’s conversations with both authoritarian dictators and leaders of the world’s greatest democracies is his consistent assertion of himself as the defining subject and subtext of the calls — almost never the United States and its historic place and leadership in the world, according to sources intimately familiar with the calls.

    On a similar note,

    “With almost every problem, all it takes [in his phone calls] is someone asking him to do something as President on behalf of the United States and he doesn’t see it that way; he goes to being ripped off; he’s not interested in cooperative issues or working on them together; instead he’s deflecting things or pushing real issues off into a corner,” said a US official.

    “There was no sense of ‘Team America’ in the conversations,” or of the United States as an historic force with certain democratic principles and leadership of the free world, said the official. “The opposite. It was like the United States had disappeared. It was always ‘Just me’.”

    The source cited a conspicuously demonstrable instance in which Trump resisted asking Angela Merkel (at the UK’s urging) to publicly hold Russia accountable for the so-called ‘Salisbury’ radioactive poisonings of a former Russian spy and his daughter, in which Putin had denied any Russian involvement despite voluminous evidence to the contrary. “It took a lot of effort” to get Trump to bring up the subject, said one source. Instead of addressing Russia’s responsibility for the poisonings and holding it to international account, Trump made the focus of the call — in personally demeaning terms — Germany’s and Merkel’s supposedly deadbeat approach to allied burden-sharing. Eventually, said the sources, as urged by his NSC staff, Trump at last addressed the matter of the poisonings, almost grudgingly.

  33. When Is It Reasonable to Say Trump is Trying to Start a Race War?

    This tweet today made me think of this:

    As I watch the Pandemic spread its ugly face all across the world, including the tremendous damage it has done to the USA, I become more and more angry at China. People can see it, and I can feel it!

    The tweet can evoke many different feelings–none of them involve anger at China. If there’s anger it’s at him, for the way he’s handled the pandemic. I also feel a sense of…I don’t know the word, but it’s whatever it is when you say, “so lame.” I’m referring to the weak attempt to increase racial tensions. There are many other examples, and many of the attempts are equally obvious and clumsy. The recent re-tweeting of the man shouting “white power” or videos of African-American men beating up a white person. (Holding up a Bible, after clearing the protestor–is more an instigation of cultural warfare, but it’s a similar.) Fear, fear, fear–keep the white Christians afraid of people of color, Muslims, the radical left. I’m not saying this won’t work, either–it could. I think if Biden and the Democrats defuse this and even create a greater sense of unity with white Christians, Trump will likely lose very badly.

  34. COVID-19 cases are rising in many states, unemployment is high–there are reports that Russia has put a bounty on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and here’s one of Trump’s tweets today:

    .@CNN
    should move Fredo back to the morning slot. He was rewarded for bad ratings with a much better time slot – and again got really bad ratings. Getting totally trounced by @FoxNews
    . Give him another shot in the morning – He would easily beat Morning Joe’s poorly rated show!

    This made me think of a line from a Bulwark article today–Trump is not interested in the actual job of the presidency. He’s interested in the attention the presidency affords him. This may sound like simply an insult, but I feel like this is literally the case. He places a lot of values on ratings. High ratings, to him, seems like the most important validation, while low ratings means the opposite. This is the kind of thing future generations will marvel at and struggle to understand. Well, a lot of people are struggling to understand it now.

  35. Good timeline/synopsis of Trump’s promise, excuses and ultimate refusal to release his tax forms

    From this WaPo analysis:

    It’s worth remembering that Trump repeatedly assured the public that he would release his tax returns if elected. Those assurances predated his actual 2016 candidacy by years. When he explored a possible 2012 run, for example, he assured CNN’s John King that he would “be doing my tax returns at the appropriate time.” Later in that same cycle, he tried to use his tax returns as leverage, offering to release them if President Barack Obama released his college transcripts.

    As his formal announcement neared in early 2015, he insisted he’d release his taxes.

    “I have no objection to certainly showing tax returns,” he told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that February.

    A year later, the same message. Asked during an interview on the “Today” show to say when he would release his returns, he estimated that it would be “probably over the next few months.”

    “It’s very complicated stuff,” Trump said, “but we’ll be releasing that.”

    It didn’t take long for that to change. Before the end of February 2016, Trump had a new excuse, offered during a presidential primary debate.

    “I want to release my tax returns but I can’t release it while I’m under an audit,” he said. “We’re under a routine audit. I’ve had it for years, I get audited. And obviously if I’m being audited, I’m not going to release a return.”

    This became his line, over and over again. Experts noted that there was no legal proscription against releasing returns that were under audit and that every presidential candidate back to Richard Nixon had released that documentation. (Nixon, in fact, released returns that were under audit.)

    “When the audit’s finished,” Trump said in March 2016, “I’ll release my tax returns.”

    Given Trump’s track record regarding honesty, questions arose about whether his returns actually were being audited. In response, he released a statement from his accounting firm saying that recent years’ returns, in fact, were. When it was noted that this admission meant that past years, no longer under audit, could be released, Trump still demurred.

    After he won the election, the excuse offered by Trump and his defenders changed: Voters had decided he should be president without seeing the records, and the insistence that he should release the information was either sour grapes, a foolish consistency or both.

    I’ve heard some Trump supporters call congressional Democrats’ attempts to get Trump’s taxes a political move. But here’s my response to that:

    1. Trump promised to release his tax forms, and he’s only make bogus excuses not to. (I believe he also said that Mitt Romney needed to release his tax forms in the 2012 election.) All Presidents since Nixon have done this. This was a long-established norm.

    2. Do Trump supporters want to abolish this norm? That is, is it now acceptable that future presidential candidates/presidents need not release their tax forms? If not, this weakens the claim that the move is political.

    3. Trump’s fawning behavior towards Putin–and even Erdogan–is hard to understand–including most recently. In my view, it is legitimate to want to know if Trump has financial ties (including loans from Russians). If his taxes help us better understand this, than that is legitimate–not merely political–move.

    4. Republicans would definitely want to see the tax forms if the POTUS was a Democrat–although this might be the weakness argument since most Republicans seem to only care about power–hurting their political opponents, while enhancing the power of their party–through whatever means possible. They don’t seem to have many principles they genuinely believe in.

  36. I feel like this is truly unprecedented.

  37. Thread from Asha Rangappa:

    THREAD. Watching the interview with @MaryLTrump on @maddow and caught a small note which has enormous significance: She mentions how, when she provided the NYT with legal documents, she discovered things about the Trump estate which her “trustees” had never revealed 1/
    2. A “trustee,” is a term with legal significance. Someone who acts as a trustee has a FIDUCIARY DUTY — in Mary Trump’s case, to act in her interest (she is the “beneficiary” of the estate being administered). In other words, they need to take steps to maximize *her* benefit 2/

    3. What Mary reveals in her memoir is that her trustees — her aunts and uncles, including Donald — did not reveal to her the value of the assets held in trust for her and, it appears, did not give her what she was owed under that trust. So, should you care? Because it’s a pattern

    4. The NY AG found that the Trump Foundation — run by Donald and his eldest three kids — violated their FIDUCIARY DUTY to the donors to that trust, using that money to benefit themselves rather than the causes they were meant for. The Foundation was shut down.

    5. The Ukraine scandal was, at its core, about a violation of Trump’s FIDUCIARY DUTY to administer the funds appropriated by Congress in the way it intended, rather than for his personal benefit. When he was impeached for “abuse of power,” it was because he violated this trust

    6. Everything that Barr is doing, at Trunp’s behest, is a violation of Trump’s FIDUCIARY DUTY, to the American people, to take care that the laws be FAITHFULLY executed. @jedshug and others have written about the fiduciary duty imposed by the word “faithfully” in Art. II

    7. In short, this is a person who has no sense of acting in any fiduciary capacity to his OWN FAMILY — and has no qualms with pilfering from her. He has shown he will do the same from his own donors, from the Treasury, and from the American people. He has no interest but himself.

    8. In case it’s not clear, as President, Trump is effectively a “trustee” for the American people, who are the “beneficiaries.” More ads/questions/talking points need to be framed in this way to fully highlight how he has violated and abused his power and the public trust.

  38. Lafayette Square, Part 2

    Yesterday, I started writing about a story I read about federal law enforcement persons, dressed in camo, without any ID, driving unmarked cars, and grabbing protestors, taking them in their vans, and driving off. (This was in Portland, Oregon, which has had ongoing protests.) It was a fairly long post, but when I stopped after reading the quotes I pasted, from someone who was taken into these vehicles. I really wondered if this person was making this up. And the story was from Oregon Public Broadcasting, which I was was like the local affiliate of PBS and local NPR affiliate. Still, I told myself I would write about it when it appeared in the national press. Well, WaPo had a
    story today.

    Here’s an account from Mark James Pettibone:

    “I am basically tossed into the van,” Pettibone said. “And I had my beanie pulled over my face so I couldn’t see and they held my hands over my head.”…Blinded by his hat, in an unmarked minivan full of armed people dressed in camouflage and body armor who hadn’t identified themselves, Pettibone said he was driven around downtown before being unloaded inside a building. He wouldn’t learn until after his release that he had been inside the federal courthouse.

    “It was basically a process of facing many walls and corners as they patted me down and took my picture and rummaged through my belongings,” Pettibone said. “One of them said, ‘This is a whole lot of nothing.’”

    Pettibone said he was put into a cell. Soon after, two officers came in to read him his Miranda rights. They didn’t tell him why he was being arrested. He said they asked him if he wanted to waive his rights and answer some questions, but Pettibone declined and said he wanted a lawyer. The interview was terminated, and about 90 minutes later he was released. He said he did not receive any paperwork, citation or record of his arrest.

    “I just happened to be wearing black on a sidewalk in downtown Portland at the time,” Pettibone said. “And that apparently is grounds for detaining me.”

    From what I gather this is not an isolated incident.

    The U.S. Marshals issued a statement that they did not arrest Pettibone.

    The Mayor of Portland and Governor of Oregon have accused the federal government of escalating tensions. They claim the tensions were subsiding.

    Here’s the acting head of Department of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, who is in Oregon to supervise:

    …Acting secretary of homeland security Chad Wolf traveled to Portland this week to supervise the federal actions there, and he sharply criticized local law enforcement for not getting tough with “violent anarchists.”

    Wolf told Fox News on Thursday night that he offered law enforcement assistance to the mayor and local leaders but was asked to “pack up and go home,” which he said is “just not going to happen on my watch.”

    There are quotes of the Portland Mayor and Governor saying they don’t want the feds there. This response by Wolf makes him seem unfit for his position–as does some of the comments he made on twitter:

    He’s calling protestors “violent anarchists.” I briefly saw a list of some of the crimes. Many were for graffiti, and I don’t recall seeing anything violent (but I could be wrong about that).

    Given what I’ve seen from Trump and his administration, most recently the authoritarian maneuver at Lafayette Square, this is another act of desperation. Specifically, I believe Trump is hoping to spark violence, which will create an opportunity for him to use federal agencies to crack down. He’s hoping for violence. This is just another attempt–and a scary one at that, based on what we know now.

    Here are tweets from Governor Kate Brown of Oregon:

    Oregon Senators:

    1. NPR interview with Ken Cuccinelli, acting Homeland Security Deputy Secretary.

      But, you know, this is a posture we intend to continue not just in Portland but in any of the facilities that we’re responsible for around the country.

      Red flag. I hope we can strong push back from this–like the way Mattis, et al. spoke out after the Lafayette Square disgrace.

      Edit

      Cuccinelli provides justification for picking up protestors in unmarked vehicles:

      I wouldn’t say this is used anywhere else, but that was done obviously to keep both the officers safe and also, when crowds gathered, to move people to a safe location for questioning.

      This sounds reasonable on some level. It sounds like: “Hey, there’s a violent mob–we’re pulling a suspect away from the mob to question them in a safe place for the federal police.” But is this a normal practice? It doesn’t sound like it, as Cuccinelli says, “I wouldn’t say this is used anywhere else.” Why not? Also, Cuccinelli says “obviously,” but this sounds like he’s trying hard to make the action sound reasonalbe.

      I’m telling you what they’re doing in terms of a process. And I fully expect that as long as people continue to be violent and to destroy property that we will attempt to identify those folks. We will pick them up in front of the courthouse. If we spot them elsewhere, we will pick them up elsewhere. And if we have a question about somebody’s identity – like the first example I noted to you – after questioning determine it isn’t someone of interest, then they get released. And that’s standard law enforcement procedure, and it’s going to continue as long as the violence continues.

      Earlier in the interview, Cuccinelli mentioned that the Federal Protective Services, which I’m guessing is an agency who protects federal property, is being helped by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CPB) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), so I assume he’s referring to these agencies protecting federal property (e.g., federal courthouse). Now, stopping and questioning a suspect in front of the courthouse seems reasonable–but going away from the courthouse, taking away that person in unmarked van, with law enforcement without ID, driving them to somewhere else to question them–seems like something entirely different–i.e., not reasonable.

      To me, all of this sounds like rationalization. Say something that sounds reasonable, and then advocate a few actions that move it into something unreasonable and inappropriate. What concerns is that I can see this type of rationalization convincing the people that work for these agencies, as well as some citizens.

      Again, I really hope prominent people push back on this. (For example, here’s something Senator Romney should speak out against.)

      Thinking ahead:

      I can’t help this is a trial balloon, not only to see how the public and other elites will respond (i.e., will there be pushback or not), but also practice for cracking down on protestors on Election Day or after that.

    2. This pissed me off.

      (Christoper) David, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and former member of the Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps, said he wanted to know what the officers involved thought of the oath they had sworn to protect and defend the Constitution.

      So, he said, on Saturday evening, he headed to downtown Portland to ask them….

      …Just as he was about to leave, David said, the federal officers emerged. They rushed a line of protesters nearby, knocking them to the ground. David walked toward a gap in the line, calling out to the officers.

      “Why are you not honoring your oath?” he bellowed. “Why are you not honoring your oath to the Constitution?”

      An officer trained his weapon on David’s chest as several agents pushed him, sending David stumbling backward. But he regained his center and tried again. Another agent raised his baton and began to beat David, who stood unwavering with his arms at his sides. Then another officer unloaded a canister of chemical irritant spray into David’s face.

      That was all he could handle, David said, he turned and walked away, flipping off the federal forces as he went.

      There’s no audio of what David is saying, and it’s just his account, but if it’s accurate this is awful and makes me angry.

      I believe the federal government is right to protect federal courthouses, and people that vandalize or attempt to burn it down should be prosecuted. But gassing and hitting protestors? Or sending federal law enforcement to grab people off the street in unmarked vehicles–that seems to really cross a line.

      A little later I read What We Know, and Don’t Know, About Portland and the DHS , an article from the Bulwark (a relatively new online conservative site). It has a measured approach, which I liked.

      I helped build a police force in Iraq. We refused to dress them in camo. WaPo op-ed by General Mark Hertling.

      General Hertling touches on the differences between police and soliders–and specifically goes into the importance of appropriate uniforms for police. In Iraq, General Hertling helped secure certain regions, working with Iraqi police, but since they were having a hard time providing police uniforms for recent graduates, they asked if they could dress them in camo, driving unmarked trucks instead of police cruisers. This was the General’s Military Police Commander’s response:

      “Tell him, ‘Hell, no,’” the MP commander told me emphatically. When I asked why, he explained the history of the blue police uniform, as well as the psychological role that a uniform plays in law enforcement. The traditional “blues” started with the London “bobbies” of the early 1800s, whose uniforms were designed to distinguish the British police force from the British military. Our nation’s first organized police, in New York, continued this tradition in the 1850s, numerous other American cities followed suit, and now most nations associate the police officer with blue uniforms.

      Myriad studies have shown interesting results: For example, some research shows citizens adjust behaviors when someone wearing a police uniform is nearby; others show that police uniforms are most likely to “induce feelings of safety” when compared to other uniforms or civilian clothes, and those wearing a blue uniform receive a high rate of cooperation when asked to perform a task. Wearing camouflage uniforms, our division MP commander said, would send the wrong message, especially in a society where neither the U.S. nor the Iraqi military was yet trusted by the population.

    3. Greg Sargent’s WaPo op-ed today relies on comments from Juliette Kayyem, a professor who worked in the Dept. of Homeland Security in the Obama administration. Sargent asked if there is any operation justification for the recent actions by DHS, ICE, et al.

      Juliette Kayyem, a former senior homeland security official, told me there’s a big tell here: In cases like this, federal officials would ordinarily be trying to coordinate with local officials, precisely because that would make it more likely such efforts would succeed at their stated objective.

      (emphasis added)

      Sargent mentions Chicago and Detroit as two other cities the Trump administration is considering sending the same forces–even though those officials are not requesting or wanting them. According to Sargent and Kayyem, this clearly underscores that the civil unrest doesn’t necessitates federal law enforcement.

      But, crucially, Kayyem pointed out that doing this without local assent will make it less likely that such operations accomplish their stated goal.

      “Even with consent, local, state and federal integration is often very complicated and is sometimes unsuccessful,” Kayyem told me. “Without consent, the federal impact is either going to be insignificant or dangerous.”

      I can’t help but think Trump wants the efforts to fail–that is, he wants more violence, not less–so that he can justify greater use of federal force.

      And here’s something that should raise eyebrows:

      The stated justification for going into Chicago is not protests. The plans are reportedly for federal law enforcement to assist against drug trafficking and gangs. But if anything, this further underscores the ad hoc justification here. Why now, particularly since this is in defiance of local officials?

      “The administration can’t even get its story straight, showing there is no federal plan,” Kayyem told me. “In Portland, it’s courts and statues. In Chicago, it’s apparently drugs. In other cities, in the words of our president, it’s ‘who knows.’”

      I don’t know what it is about Chicago, but Trump has been itching to use federal law enforcement from the very beginning of his presidency.

      By the way the larger point of the op-ed is to argue that Trump is ordering these actions as a election ploy:

      The same president who sent troops to the border as a campaign prop in 2018 has now explicitly said the cities being targeted by law enforcement are “all run by Democrats.” That edges right up to saying this is one of his own stated criteria for making this decision.

      Thread on Deputy Director of Trump’s emerging police force, from a Harvard law professor. (I originally saw it retweeted from a UC Berkeley law professor, Orrin Kerr, that I tend to trust.)

    4. Anne Applebaum, from theAtlantic, goes into the way Trump is using “performative authoritarianism”in Portland, and other cities to get re-elected:

      …the purpose of these troops is not to bring peace to Portland. The purpose is to transmit a message. Americans should find this tactic familiar, because we’ve seen it before. When the Trump administration cruelly separated children from their families at the southern border, that was, among other things, a performance designed to show the public just how much the president dislikes immigrants from Mexico and Honduras. The attack on demonstrators in Portland is like that: a performance designed to show just how much Trump dislikes “liberal” Americans, “urban” Americans, “Democrat” Americans. To put it differently (and to echo my colleague Adam Serwer): The chaos in Portland is not an accident. The chaos is the point.

      She provides reasons for believing Trump is not trying to bring peace in Portland:

      The officers do not come from institutions that specialize in political crowd control. Instead, they come from Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Transportation Security Administration, and the Coast Guard. These are people with experience patrolling the border, frisking airline passengers, and deporting undocumented immigrants—exactly the wrong sort of experience needed to carry out the delicate task of policing an angry political protest.

      Unsurprisingly, these troops are making rudimentary mistakes. Instead of working with local leaders, they have antagonized them. Instead of coaxing people to go home, their behavior has caused more people to come out onto the streets. Instead of calming the situation, they are infuriating people. They have escalated the violence. They have made the situation worse.

  39. Question of the day:

    In light of the actions in Portland, Oregon, where is the line for congressional Republicans and Fox News that Trump cannot cross?

  40. Trump keeps boasting about passing a cognitive test — but it doesn’t mean what he thinks it does from WaPo

    I’d argue that the boasting actually indicates something is wrong with him, mentally.

    But medical and public health experts stress that the cognitive exam is not what Trump seems to think it is — an indicator of IQ or a cudgel to be wielded against a political opponent like a debate challenge.

    Experts say the president’s fixation on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment — or MoCA, as it is sometimes called — is particularly puzzling because the test is normally administered only if someone is concerned that they or their loved ones may be experiencing dementia or other cognitive decline. Getting a perfect score — as Trump has repeatedly claimed he did — merely signifies that the test-taker likely does not have a cognitive impairment as measured by the exam.

    Given the above, would a normal person of sound mind brag about passing such a test? (He’s also lying about the difficulty of the test–in a way that seems ridiculous and comical, although since he has the nuclear codes, it’s not very funny.) That he doesn’t realize this makes me wonder if something is wrong. And it’s worse when you see him actually brag about this:

    I couldn’t watch this all the through, as it was uncomfortable. People will make fun of Trump, but I feel uneasy watching this. He’s completely unaware of how bad this makes him look, which is worrisome, too, and this is not the only time.

    This is going to sound like snark, but in all seriousness, these are the type of things that make the story that Rosenstein brought up invoking the 25th amendment as something that one can’t dismiss out of hand. (Same with Trump wondering if injecting bleach and light into people’s bodies would be a good way to treat those with COVID-19.)

    7/23/2020

    OK, this made me laugh out loud.

  41. Trump’s New Ad is Amazing from the Bulwark

    There’s so many more important things, but this short article was well done, so I wanted to post a link. To explain what it’s about spoils it, so I won’t.

    I do have a question, which I think could potentially be a little more serious: who told them to use the photo? Using that specific food is a bit odd. A part of me feels like it’s trolling the U.S. (It would be a massive troll if so.)

  42. Totally understandable and unsurprising:

  43. Question of the day: Trump is claiming the election will be rigged, pointing out that mail-in ballots are untrustworthy. If he’s so worried about this, why doesn’t he advocate for securing the elections, including Republicans in Congress to pass bills that will do this, and speak out against foreign interference?

    This is a more of rhetorical question for me, as I think Trump doesn’t care about the integrity of the election. He just wants to find a way to undermine the results if he loses, and he wants foreign countries like Russia to help him defeat Biden; and congressional Republicans passively and actively support this.

  44. I don’t really post too often on when Trump is childish or petty. I try to prioritize. At the same time, the pettiness may be an indication of serious problem. Consider the hypothesis that Trump will favor anyone that says nice things about him, even if this is not in the country’s interests, and he will oppose anyone that slights him, again, even if opposing is bad for the country. This can also apply to facts and information. That is, truth, to Trump, is that which puts himself in a favorable light, while lies are anything that does the opposite. If this hypothesis is correct, Trump would be unfit to be President and even a danger to the country. Consider that when see this clip, where he’s asked what he thinks about Rep. John Lewis, who recently passed away:

    What is sounds like here is that John Lewis didn’t come to the inauguration so Trump can’t say anything nice about him. Maybe my hypothesis is wrong, but this is just bad.

    Speaking of my hypothesis that, to Trump, truth = what’s favorable to him, and lies/falsehoods = what’s not favorable to him.

    Seriously, this plays like an SNL sketch. It would be funnier if he wasn’t the POTUS. And now, I’m thinking about the congressional Republicans and Fox News–they allowed, if not actively supported, this situation.

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