97 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.

  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.

  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.

    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.”

  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

  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. 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 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:

    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.

  30. I’m not one who would necessarily be made if a POTUS 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.

  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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *