The Department of Justice (DOJ) yesterday announced that it is siding with a district court ruling that found the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.
The move is an escalation of the Trump administration’s legal battle against the health care law.
The DOJ previously argued in court that the law’s pre-existing condition protections should be struck down. Now, the administration argues the entire law should be invalidated.
U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor ruled in December that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate is unconstitutional and that the rest of law is therefore invalid.
The DOJ said Monday that it agrees the decision should stand as the case works its way through the appeals process in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.
“The Department of Justice has determined that the district court’s judgment should be affirmed,” the department said in a short letter to the appeals court.
The move is certain to prompt new denunciations from Democrats, who had already seized on the Trump administration’s earlier call for the pre-existing condition protections to be struck down.
That stance was a major issue in last year’s midterm elections, and many Republican candidates in tough races struggled with whether to say they agreed with the Trump administration’s position.
Many legal experts in both parties think the lawsuit, which was brought by 20 GOP-led states, will not ultimately succeed. The district judge who ruled against the law in December is known as a staunch conservative.
The case centers on the argument that since Congress repealed the tax penalty in the law’s mandate for everyone to have insurance in 2017, the mandate can no longer be ruled constitutional under Congress’s power to tax. The challengers then argue that all of ObamaCare should be invalidated because the mandate is unconstitutional.
Most legal experts say legal precedent shows that even if the mandate is ruled unconstitutional, the rest of ObamaCare should remain unharmed, as that is what Congress voted to do in the 2017 tax law that repealed the mandate’s penalty.
Here are a few of the things that would disappear if the 5th Circuit agrees with the DOJ:
-staying on your parents’ plan until age 26 -assistance for seniors’ with high drug costs -free preventative care -no discrimination for preexisting conditions
I’m seeing an awful lot of hot takes about the Mueller report — winners and losers, who got it most wrong, etc., — and it’s sort of flabbergasting to me that we’re already rolling with these since NO ONE HAS READ THE FUCKING REPORT AND KNOWS WHAT IS IN IT. I’m assuming that is the Republican plan: gaslight us for a couple weeks until the conventional wisdom has sunk in, and then when public opinion is firmed up the way they want, release the report.
No, I am certain the full report won’t contain a smoking gun showing collusion or whatever you want to call it. But it is likely to give context on what Mueller investigated, and what he found, and what influence Russia had or has on Trump even NOW.
This backgrounder by Chuck Rosenberg and Joyce Vance is useful to read at this juncture:
The authority of the FBI to conduct criminal investigations and, with United States attorneys, to prosecute lawbreakers in our nation’s federal courts, is well known. Those cases, often reported in the press and dramatized by Hollywood, cover an enormous range of criminal behavior, from public corruption, to fraud, to crimes against children, to cyber intrusions, to the actions of violent gangs wielding guns and dealing drugs.
But the Russian investigation that has monopolized the news cycle for the past year has focused attention on another — lesser known — aspect of the FBI’s role: as the leading “counterintelligence” agency on U.S. soil. Of vital importance, that work often occurs outside the public eye, and is less well understood by citizens. This fact was reinforced over the weekend by shocking but not surprising reporting in The New York Times revealing that following President Donald Trump’s controversial firing of former FBI director James Comey in May of 2017, “law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests.”
But what does counterintelligence entail — and what do we even mean when we say counterintelligence?
The Russian investigation that has monopolized the news cycle for the past year has focused attention on another aspect of the FBI’s role: as the leading “counterintelligence” agency on U.S. soil.
First, the basics. Intelligence is really just a fancy word for information. Agents and prosecutors collect information for use in court; when we use information that way, we refer to it as “evidence.” But when the U.S. government collects information for other purposes, such as to inform and guide the decision-making of U.S. national security officials, we call it intelligence. Evidence and intelligence are essentially the same thing: information, just put to different purposes.
Foreign governments, like our own government, have intelligence services. Those foreign intelligence services (think the CIA in our country or MI-6 in the United Kingdom) gather information about other countries, their leaders, their abilities, their industries and their intentions. Much of that work is classified — as you would expect.
We don’t worry about the U.K. (or other close allies) spying on us, but we do worry about hostile foreign governments (think Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and others) that attempt to, according to the FBI, “gather information about the U.S. that adversely affects our national interests.” Those hostile foreign governments collect intelligence about us — our industries, our research and development, our technology, and our leaders — so they can use it to their advantage and to our detriment.
The FBI is charged with countering the efforts of those hostile foreign intelligence services — thus, we say that the FBI conducts counterintelligence. The FBI explains the scope of that mission on its website, noting its work in this realm “include[s] foreign and economic espionage, or ‘spying’ activities, that may involve the acquisition of classified, sensitive, or proprietary information from the U.S. government or U.S. companies. The FBI investigates whenever a foreign entity conducts clandestine intelligence activities in the United States. [The FBI’s] counterintelligence investigations also help combat international terrorist threats, including those involving weapons of mass destruction and attacks on critical infrastructures.”
Indeed, the FBI has an entire division within its National Security Branch — the aptly named Counterintelligence Division — dedicated to this mission. The men and women of this division — special agents, analysts and professional staff — work on matters that may never see the inside of a courtroom. That requires some explanation, too.
Often, the intelligence-related activities of hostile foreign governments also violate domestic U.S. law. For example, Robert Mueller’s team recently indicted 12 Russian GRU (military intelligence) officers for hacking into U.S. computers. The conduct of the Russians constituted both an intelligence gathering operation directed against our country — and our 2016 presidential election — and a federal crime. In this instance, the Mueller team and the Department of Justice chose to charge those Russian officers with a crime.
However, in some situations where a foreign country is conducting an intelligence operation against our country, our national interests can sometimes best be served by not charging these bad actors with a crime. For instance, we might prefer a diplomatic solution to a criminal one. Or the intelligence we gather can be used to inform our judgments about the foreign country’s capabilities and inclinations, guiding longer term policy. Often, counterintelligence investigations do not end up in court because we exercise these other options or because the way in which we learn stuff about our adversaries is extraordinarily sensitive and we do not want to risk having them know about our capabilities.
As the FBI notes, “[f]oreign influence operations — which include covert actions by foreign governments to influence U.S. political sentiment or public discourse — are not a new problem. But the interconnectedness of the modern world, combined with the anonymity of the Internet, have changed the nature of the threat and how the FBI and its partners must address it. The goal of these foreign influence operations directed against the United States is to spread disinformation, sow discord, and, ultimately, undermine confidence in our democratic institutions and values.” …
The big questions about Trump’s bizarre behavior remain unanswered. It’s possible they don’t know any more than we do. Trump is, after all, a pathological narcissist and reflexive liar. But there is good evidence we’ve already seen that he was compromised by the Russians with those lies about Trump Tower Moscow and the unreported Trump Tower Meeting. Needless to say, his suspicious behavior toward Vladimir Putin and unwillingness to admit the election interference, are still live issues.
Maybe the counterintelligence people can shed light on this but maybe not. What we may have on our hands is someone who is so dishonest, unethical, disloyal and stupid that he’s done all of this simply because that’s how he’s always operated. If that’s the case, we are going to have to grapple with the fact that this is what almost half of our citizens admire about him.
I had a busy weekend so I only read the Barr summary of the Mueller investigation which came down yesterday at 5 pm.
Let’s start with one truism: When prosecutors say that an investigation “did not establish” something, that doesn’t mean that they concluded it didn’t happen, or even that they don’t believe it happened. It means that the investigation didn’t produce enough information to prove that it happened. Without seeing Mueller’s full report, we don’t know whether this is a firm conclusion about lack of coordination or a frank admission of insufficient evidence. The difference is meaningful, both as a matter of history and because it might determine how much further Democrats in Congress are willing to push committee investigations of the matter.
With that kept in mind, I don’t think this development moves the ball at all from what we already knew. No “collusion” by Trump? I think we suspected that, but it doesn’t negate a willingness to collude with Russia by Don Jr and others in the campaign (i.e., the Trump Tower meeting), which Trump himself may have known about. That may not have legal implications, but it still has political ones. And Mueller clearly found *evidence* of obstruction by President Trump, which may not — in Barr’s opinion — rise to a prosecution level, but it doesn’t it doesn’t erase the cloud over the Administration either.
From a legal/criminal standpoint, my money has always been on non-Mueller issues anyway — that is, the SDNY and NY Attorney General investigations, which include campaign fraud (the unreported Stormy Daniels payoff), bank fraud (overstating his assets to get bank loans) insurance fraud (understating his assets to get favorable policies and possible bogus claims), tax fraud (does his income match what he tells the banks?), and even the emoluments clause violations. Trump has already (quietly) admitted to civil violations involving personal use of funds from his bogus Trump charity. That alone would bring down any other presidency.
With all that, we should remember that Russia DID try to influence the election, using social media infiltration and computer hacking, and this President’s absence of a response, while not illegal, is certainly negligent to the point of near complicity.
I think we need to consider that the Trump Tower Moscow wasn’t considered part of Mueller’s remit. In other words, if it didn’t have something to do with the “election interference” it wasn’t considered. And yet that is likely the real reason for Trump’s obsequious behavior toward Putin during the campaign and as president.
That’s a matter of kompromat counterintelligence question and may not even be prosecutable without strong proof of the quid pro quo. But you can imagine that Trump certainly knew that Putin knew he was lying throughout the campaign and beyond about his business dealings in Russia.
And we may have to consider that Trump was a total dupe, manipulated at every stage by nefarious foreign actors which may just mean that he should be impeached for the high crime of being a corrupt authoritarian and a cretinous moron rather than a Russian agent.
Yes — Trump, his cohorts and his supporters are going to have a few days overplaying their we’ve-been-vindicated hand. That’s fine. But with the 2020 elections heating up, Trump is facing a slew of very serious legal problems — legal problems he never thought would see the light of day because he never expected to win — and those legal problems are destined for the front burner in the weeks and months to come.
Sometimes momentous government action leaves everyone uncertain about the next move. This is not one of those times. Congress now has a clear path of action. It must first demand the release of the Mueller report, so that Americans can see the evidence for themselves. Then, it must call Mr. Barr and Mr. Mueller to testify. Mr. Barr in particular must explain his rationale for reaching the obstruction judgment he made. No one wants a president to be guilty of obstruction of justice. The only thing worse than that is a guilty president who goes without punishment. The Barr letter raises the specter that we are living in such times.
I’m pretty agnostic about the full Mueller report. While I would like to see what it says, I don’t think it will move the ball any more than the Barr summary letter. Nobody can say that Mueller’s decisions not to interview the president, or to recommend an obstruction charge, were out-and-out wrong. These are close judgment calls, and it seems to me that any non-election takedown of a President cannot be premised on a close call of any kind.
But the other legal problems of Trump do not fall in that category. If he committed bank fraud, that’s easily provable by the documentary evidence, or at least, certainly more provable than obstruction, which involves an inquiry into intent and motive. So my focus is on the New York investigations, and I am staying buckled up for those.
Barr’s summary of Mueller’s report is ominous for the president. While Mueller did not find that Trump obstructed his investigation, he also made a point of not reaching the opposite conclusion: that Trump didn’t obstruct the investigation. Indeed, he appears to have created a substantial record of the president’s troubling interactions with law enforcement for adjudication in noncriminal proceedings—which is to say in congressional hearings that are surely the next step.
What makes the document more complicated still is the fact that it offers only a skeletal description of Mueller’s report. It only purports to convey Mueller’s top-line findings and does not include any of the evidence or legal analysis that underlies those findings. It doesn’t tell any of the stories that the Mueller report will tell. It only distills and announces two high-altitude legal conclusions from those stories. Assuming that Barr is characterizing Mueller’s findings reasonably, that leaves a whole raft of questions unanswered about what those stories will be—and what their impact will be.
In laying out this summary, Barr’s letter reveals several new facts about Mueller’s obstruction probe. First, it notes that Mueller’s report covers several actions by Trump that could raise obstruction concerns, “most of which have been the subject of public reporting.” This confirms what has long been suspected: that Mueller believed that at least some of the president’s publicly reported actions—likely including some of his public actions—could raise obstruction problems. It also suggests that there are potentially obstructive acts that have not yet been reported. Barr’s letter thus leaves the distinct sense that Mueller’s detailed accounting of the president’s potential acts of obstruction is significant, regardless of Barr’s own judgment as to the criminality of any of those acts.
It also makes clear that the Mueller report creates an extensive record on the obstruction question. And that may well be the point. After all, what is the point of a prosecutor’s amassing a factual record and then refusing, as Mueller apparently has refused, to evaluate it in a traditional prosecutorial framework? The answer the letter suggests but does not state is that the Mueller report has teed up the question of presidential obstruction for evaluation by a different actor—to wit, by Congress—on a decidedly noncriminal basis. Mueller, being barred from indicting the president, has done the investigation, has apparently declined even to evaluate the matter as a prosecutor, and has laid out all of the facts and the arguments for and against treating the president’s behavior as criminal. It is now for other actors to decide whether the conduct Mueller describes is acceptable in a president.
While Mueller left the question of criminality unaddressed, Barr himself did not. Barr opines that Mueller’s “decision to describe the facts of his obstruction inquiry without reaching any legal conclusions leaves it to the Attorney General to determine whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime”—though it is not clear why Barr felt this to be the case. Barr includes his own determination, along with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s, that Mueller’s evidence “is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”
In justifying this view, Barr notes Mueller’s determination that “the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian electoral interference” and argues that the lack of evidence of an underlying crime, though not dispositive, “bears upon the President’s intent with respect to obstruction.” The report does not identify any actions that, in Barr’s and Rosenstein’s view, “constitute obstructive conduct, had a nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding, and were done with corrupt intent,” each of which must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in order to establish the crime of obstruction of justice under Justice Department guidelines.
Notably, Barr says that his and Rosenstein’s assessment was made independently of constitutional questions about the indictment and criminal prosecution of a sitting president. Though Barr does not make reference to any concerns over the interaction between presidential authority and possible obstruction offenses, it is worth keeping in mind his memorandum on the subject from June 2018, in which he argued that conduct authorized by Article II definitionally cannot constitute obstruction.
Finally, Barr indicates that more material from Mueller’s report is forthcoming, writing that his office is at work identifying information protected by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e)—which protects material obtained before a grand jury from public disclosure—and “information that could impact other ongoing matters.” After that, Barr writes, he “will be in a position to move forward expeditiously in determining what can be released.”
So the good news is that there is more information on the way—though it is unclear how much more or when it will appear. Democratic members of Congress, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, are already calling for the report to be released in its entirety. Pelosi and Schumer released a joint statement indicating skepticism of what they call “Mr. Barr’s public record of bias against the Special Counsel’s inquiry,” and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler indicated that his committee will call on Barr to testify. Chairman of the Senate intelligence committee Richard Burr, for his part, thanked the attorney general for his letter and called for the release of “as much of the report as possible.”
Whether this proves the beginning of the end of L’Affaire Russe or the prelude to a series of additional disclosures about activity on the part of the Trump campaign and the president himself that are disturbing but happen to fall just short of criminal activity, it is important not to lose sight of the significance of the investigation having been completed. That Mueller was able to complete his probe into a sitting president without having his investigation blocked—despite ongoing presidential braying against the probe and menacing of the Justice Department’s leadership—is no small thing.
That Mueller was able to write his report, to document his findings in a fashion that can allow for transparency and, if necessary, accountability, is of immense value. The question of what to do with the record Mueller has compiled will ultimately fall to Congress.
This week started with maniacal tweeting by Trump: more than 50 tweets over the weekend on a variety of unrelated topics, including multiple retweets of conspiracy theorists. The week’s news was overshadowed by Trump’s daily attacks against deceased Senator John McCain and George Conway, husband of senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway. The off-kilter — even by his standards — behavior by Trump seemed foreboding, and sure enough, on Friday, Mueller’s final report was delivered to Attorney General William Barr.
Among the subjects of his ire on Twitter this week, Trump continued to focus on alleged and unsubstantiated bias of social media companies, as his ally Rep. Devin Nunes filed a $250 million defamation lawsuit against Twitter and three Twitter accounts. Congressional probes moved ahead, including new revelations that Jared Kushner used WhatsApp to communicate on official White House business, including with foreign officials, and in possible violations of the Presidential Records Act — as did Ivanka Trump for White House business with her use of a personal email account. Meanwhile the White House refused to cooperate with Congressional document requests, as Rep. Elijah Cummings accused them of “stonewalling.”
As the week came to a close, the country waited on edge for the findings from the Mueller report, and Democrats agitated for the full report to be made public. Unlike the prior weekend’s flurry, Trump did not send a single tweet or provide any comment to reporters after the report was delivered to the AG.
On Thursday, Trump defended his attacks on McCain, telling Fox Business Network host Maria Bartiromo, “I don’t talk about it. People ask me the question, I didn’t bring this up.” Bartiromo said, but “he’s dead.”
On Tuesday, minutes later, George Conway tweeted: “Congratulations! You just guaranteed that millions of more people are going to learn about narcissistic personality disorder and malignant narcissism! Great job!”
On Friday, Conway attacked Trump again, tweeting: “THINK about the fact that we don’t just have a mentally unstable president — but a president who thinks he needs to be re-elected to avoid being indicted.”
The warrant cited investigations of conspiracy, money laundering, and lobbying on behalf of foreign officials, and also lists names “Joel Rouseau” and “Intelligent Resources,” which has an address in Miami Beach.
Starting in 2010, Vrablic helped Trump get a loan to repay his Chicago loan, and even though Trump overstated his net worth dramatically and repeatedly, financed his bid for an NFL team and other transactions.
Mueller has concluded his investigation and turned in his report to AG Bill Barr. Nothing is known about except this: there are no more indictments to hand down.
Conservatives are ecstatic and progressives not, except . . . well, the smarter ones on both sides know that the end of the Mueller investigation is not the end of the scandal. We don’t know, for example, if there was evidence of collusion — just not enough to prosecute — or what. Mueller, unlike Comey when looking into Hillary, is not going before the press to explain what he knows.
The Justice Department has notified Congress and Barr told the press that he may notify Congress of the inquiry’s “principal conclusions as soon as this weekend.” The only problem: Barr has full discretion about how much of the report to reveal publicly.
By the Washington Post’s tally, the special counsel’s investigation has resulted in criminal charges against 34 individuals. That number includes four campaign officials and advisers: former Chairman Paul Manafort, Deputy Campaign Manager Rick Gates, adviser George Papadopoulos, and self-described “dirty trickster” Roger Stone. It also includes the president’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former personal attorney Michael Cohen. The vast majority of the rest of the indictees are Russian nationals, many of them directly tied to the DNC computer hackings and distribution of propaganda during the 2016 election.
The central mission of the special counsel investigation was to discover if any members of the Trump campaign – including, most importantly, Trump himself – conspired with Russia to meddle in the election. None of the Americans charged by Mueller are accused of that. Still, while Mueller appears to be done with his probe, Congress will likely continue its own investigations based off his findings—whether or not Barr provides enough details to Congress.
Barr should release the full report. Both parties appear to support this. Last week, the House voted unanimously on a nonbinding resolution to make the entire document—and supporting materials—public. The real test will be whether reflexively pliant GOP lawmakers have to defy any presidential grumblings. We’ll find out soon enough.
One thing to remember: the Mueller report is not a legal document. It is an investigative document with some legal, and some political, ramifications.
And there is no realm of public life in which we insist on using absolute legal standards in order to make non-legal judgments. And we couldn’t even if we wanted to, because legal standards vary widely. To wit: Different legal proceedings impose different burdens of proof. There’s a reason that in courts sometimes the law requires “substantial evidence,” sometimes “reasonable belief,” and sometimes belief “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
As the public surveys the Mueller report, we are not bound to use legal procedures to come to our conclusions about Donald Trump. If the origins of the investigation were, in fact, improper—and yet the investigation reveals substantial wrongdoing, the public is not required to overlook this wrongdoing just because a court of law might be required to do so.
Spoiler: The court of public opinion isn’t a real court.
Important actions today from @USTreasury; the maritime industry must do more to stop North Korea’s illicit shipping practices. Everyone should take notice and review their own activities to ensure they are not involved in North Korea’s sanctions evasion. https://t.co/AVnOPrWbH6
It was announced today by the U.S. Treasury that additional large scale Sanctions would be added to those already existing Sanctions on North Korea. I have today ordered the withdrawal of those additional Sanctions!
Initial sense I'm getting is this tweet caught some administration officials off guard. Bolton and administration officials made it clear that the Treasury sanctions announced yesterday should be viewed as a continuation of the ongoing pressure campaign, not as an escalation. https://t.co/bVQvddWbBf
America’s approach to North Korea under the Trump administration is as schizophrenic and confusing as Trump’s tweet. One minute there are sanctions and the next minute they are gone and nobody knows what the hell is going on.
I guess if you can con the President into thinking you like him (not hard to do), he will let you get away with anything.
Two observations: 1) This is why past presidents established process in the White House, so that actions lined up with goals. When no policy process you get chaos and reversals. 2) China and Russia just got green light to undercut existing sanctions, since there are no penalties. https://t.co/aOXM15bHsW
Trump claims he has nothing to hide — so why is he going to such great lengths to make sure no one ever finds out what he discussed with Putin?
The White House on Thursday rejected a request from House Democrats to turn over documents pertaining to Trump’s conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, arguing that such communication is off-limits to Congress, and therefore to the public as well.
In a letter sent to Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Eliot Engel (D-NY), and Adam Schiff (D-CA), White House counsel Pat Cipollone cited executive authority as his rationale for refusing to divulge any information about Trump’s talks with foreign leaders, including Putin.
But the White House didn’t just reject this specific document request — it also laid out an argument claiming that any presidential communication related to the “conduct of foreign affairs” is not subject to congressional oversight, and that no one can compel the White House to release any information pertaining to such communication.
“The President must be free to engage in discussions with foreign leaders without fear that those communications will be disclosed and used as fodder for partisan political purposes,” Cipollone writes. “And foreign leaders must be assured of this as well.”
Of course, what he didn’t say is that the rationale for the document requests is not to obtain information for “partisan political purposes,” but to ensure that Trump did not make any promises or give away any state secrets that could affect foreign relations or imperil national security.
Engel, Cummings, and Schiff — the chairs of the Foreign Affairs, Oversight and Reform, and Intelligence committees, respectively — sent the requests to both the White House and State Department in early March seeking documents and transcripts from interviews with senior aides and advisers related to an inquiry into Trump’s communications with Putin.
The request came after a January report in the Washington Post revealed that Trump had withheld details of his talks with Putin from top officials in his administration, including confiscating notes from an interpreter who was present during one of the meetings.
According to the Post, there is a lack of detailed records for at least five of Trump’s face-to-face meetings with Putin.
A short time later it was revealed that Trump had also quietly met with Putin at last year’s G-20 summit in Buenos Aires, without a translator or anyone from his administration present during the exchange. Beforehand, the White House had denied that any such meeting would take place.
In a statement responding to Thursday’s White House letter, Reps. Cummings, Engel, and Schiff said the refusal to comply with the document request “continues a troubling pattern by the Trump Administration of rejecting legitimate and necessary congressional oversight with no regard for precedent or the constitution.”
Despite the White House’s claim that there is no precedent for turning over such documents, the lawmakers cited examples of previous presidential administration’s complying with similar records requests, adding, “President Trump’s decision to break with this precedent raises the question of what he has to hide.”
“We will be consulting on appropriate next steps. Congress has a constitutional duty to conduct oversight and investigate these matters, and we will fulfill that responsibility,” the lawmakers wrote.
For someone who claims that he has nothing to hide, Trump sure is going to great lengths to make sure no one ever finds out what he discussed with Putin — now or in the future.
“In short, every semi-automatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned in this country,” said Ardern.
The ban on the sale of the weapons came into effect at 3pm on Thursday – the time of the press conference announcing the ban – with the prime minister warning that “all sales should now cease” of the weapons.
Ardern also directed officials to develop a gun buyback scheme for those who already own such weapons. She said “fair and reasonable compensation” would be paid.
The reason that the ban had immediate effect was to avoid stockpiling.
So it was indeed (just proven in court papers) “last in his class” (Annapolis) John McCain that sent the Fake Dossier to the FBI and Media hoping to have it printed BEFORE the Election. He & the Dems, working together, failed (as usual). Even the Fake News refused this garbage!
As the lurid disputes dominated cable news for several more hours, it was unclear whether Trump had any strategy in mind. Some people close to Trump speculated that he might be consciously trying to remake the news environment — creating a bizarre spectacle to displace criticism of his tepid response to the massacre of dozens of Muslims in New Zealand, the timing of the administration’s decision to ground Boeing’s 737 Max jets, and frenzied anticipation around the expected release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report.
But the saga has left even White House aides accustomed to a president who bucks convention feeling uncomfortable. While the controversies may have pushed aside some bad news, they also trampled on Trump’s Wednesday visit to an army tank manufacturing plant in swing state Ohio.
“For the most part, most people internally don’t want to touch this with a 10-foot pole,” said one former senior White House official. A current senior White House official said White House aides are making an effort “not to discuss it in polite company.” Another current White House official bemoaned the tawdry distraction. “It does not appear to be a great use of our time to talk about George Conway or dead John McCain. … Why are we doing this?”
The Conway stuff may be more explainable, since Conway is alive (unlike McCain) and clearly baiting Trump. And Trump takes the bait, making it news.
The Conway and McCain feuds nonetheless revealed a handful of truths about the president and his White House, starting with the president’s hair-trigger sensitivity over accusations of mental instability. After the author Michael Wolff raised questions about Trump’s mental health in a 2018 book, the president lashed out — despite warnings that he was only inflating Wolff’s book sales — and insisted that he was a “stable genius.” Those who know him say these barbs are a point of particular sensitivity, and his dispute with Conway appears to have originated from the attorney’s recent suggestions that Trump is mentally ill.
After tweeting images from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — the text medical professionals use to diagnose mental illness — listing the characteristic of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Conway charged that Trump is “unfit and incompetent for the esteemed office you temporarily hold.”
“I don’t think that Trump is laughing at that,” said Jack O’Donnell, a former Trump casino executive who has become a critic of the president. “He takes that stuff pretty personally.”
1. John McCain was a war hero.
2. John McCain is no longer around to answer smears and attacks.
3. It is therefore repugnant for Donald Trump to smear him, continuously and maliciously.
By the way, Trump saying he had to approve McCain’s funeral arrangements?
According to the Washington National Cathedral, this is false: "Only a state funeral for a former president involves consultation with government officials. No funeral at the Cathedral requires the approval of the president or any other government official.” https://t.co/x4llFGpwWQ
For Boeing and other aircraft manufacturers, the practice of charging to upgrade a standard plane can be lucrative. Top airlines around the world must pay handsomely to have the jets they order fitted with customized add-ons.
Sometimes these optional features involve aesthetics or comfort, like premium seating, fancy lighting or extra bathrooms. But other features involve communication, navigation or safety systems, and are more fundamental to the plane’s operations.
This is insanity. How come no government regulator ever stepped in and said, “This is crazy???”
But at least someone is looking into the crashes besides the NTSB.
The FBI has joined the criminal investigation into the certification of the Boeing 737 MAX, lending its considerable resources to an inquiry already being conducted by U.S. Department of Transportation agents, according to people familiar with the matter.
The federal grand jury investigation, based in Washington, D.C., is looking into the certification process that approved the safety of the new Boeing plane, two of which have crashed since October.
The FBI’s Seattle field office lies in proximity to Boeing’s 737 manufacturing plant in Renton, as well as nearby offices of Boeing and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials involved in the certification of the plane.
The investigation, which is being overseen by the U.S. Justice Department’s criminal division and carried out by the Transportation Department’s Inspector General, began in response to information obtained after a Lion Air 737 MAX 8 crashed shortly after takeoff from Jakarta on Oct. 29, killing 189 people, Bloomberg reported earlier this week, citing an unnamed source.
It has widened since then, The Associated Press reported this week, with the grand jury issuing a subpoena on March 11 for information from someone involved in the plane’s development, one day after the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX 8 near Addis Ababa that killed 157 people.
The FBI’s support role was described by people on condition of anonymity because of the confidential nature of the investigation.
The investigation has revealed a range of events related to Russian interference and the 2016 election.
After more than two years of criminal indictments and steady revelations about contacts between associates of Donald J. Trump and Russia, we already know a lot about the work done by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Here are the main findings and lines of inquiry and the people involved in each.
Russian Hacking and WikiLeaks. As part of a complex effort to sabotage the campaign of Hillary Clinton, Donald J. Trump’s 2016 rival, Russia’s top military intelligence service hacked the computer networks of Democratic organizations and the private email account of the chairman of the Clinton campaign and released tens of thousands of stolen emails through WikiLeaks to the public, according to an indictment filed by Mr. Mueller. Only the Russians have been charged.
Trump Tower Moscow. Mr. Trump and other Trump Organization executives were involved in discussions throughout the 2016 campaign to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. During the campaign, Mr. Trump repeatedly denied having any business interests in Russia, but has since admitted that discussions took place.
Several people close to Mr. Trump engaged in discussions about deals to give Russia relief from economic sanctions. Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s onetime campaign chairman, had repeated conversations with a Russian business associate about a plan to end a guerilla war between Russia and Ukraine that might have led to sanctions relief. Michael D. Cohen, the president’s longtime personal lawyer, delivered a sealed proposal to Mr. Flynn’s White House office for the same purpose. And Michael T. Flynn, the president’s first national security adviser, spoke with the Russian ambassador about sanctions (court documents show that Mr. Trump’s presidential transition team knew about these callsand coached Mr. Flynn on how to respond).
Mr. Trump’s public and private attacks on investigations have exposed him to accusations of obstruction of justice. These include efforts to pressure the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, to end the bureau’s investigation into Mr. Flynn, firing Mr. Comey and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and attempting to fire Mr. Mueller.
Other Charges: Mr. Manafort and his longtime business associate, Rick Gates, were convicted of fraud and other crimes related to their work for pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians before joining the Trump campaign. Mr. Manafort and a Russian associate were also charged with witness tampering. Several others, not shown here, have been charged in spin-off investigations.
Michael D. Cohen: Mr. Trump’s former lawyer pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about negotiations to develop a Trump Tower in Moscow during the campaign. He has also been sentenced to prison in a different investigation related to hush-money payments he made on behalf of Mr. Trump.
Paul Manafort: A longtime Republican consultant and lobbyist, Mr. Manafort served on the Trump campaign from March until August 2016, including three months as chairman. He was convicted of financial fraud and conspiracy stemming from consulting work he did in earlier years in Ukraine on behalf of pro-Russian political figures. He also had multiple contacts during the campaign with a Russian associate believed to have ties to Russian intelligence and shared private Trump campaign polling data with him. Mr. Manafort lied to the special counsel’s office after pledging to cooperate with its inquiry, a judge found.
Rick Gates: Mr. Gates, a deputy campaign chairman, was Paul Manafort’s longtime right-hand man in Ukraine. He agreed to cooperate with the special counsel inquiry after pleading guilty to financial fraud and lying to investigators.
George Papadopoulos:A former Trump campaign adviser who had multiple contacts with Russians and repeatedly told campaign officials about them. He pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. about his contacts.
Twenty-eight others — including 26 Russians — have also been charged.
Alex van der Zwaan: A lawyer who worked with Mr. Manafort and Mr. Gates and who pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about conversations he had with Mr. Gates over work they did together for a pro-Russin Ukrainian political party.
Konstantin V. Kilimnik: A longtime Russian business associate of Paul Manafort who had multiple contacts with Mr. Manafort while he was the Trump campaign chairman and who received private Trump campaign polling data. He was charged with conspiring with Mr. Manafort to obstruct justice by trying to shape the accounts of prospective witnesses in Mr. Manafort’s case.
Twelve Russian intelligence officers: Charged with hacking the computer networks of Democratic organizations and the private email account of the chairman of the Clinton campaign and then releasing tens of thousands of stolen emails through WikiLeaks to the public.
Ivanka Trump: Michael D. Cohen said he briefed Ms. Trump and Donald Trump Jr. on the Moscow Trump Tower project during the campaign. She was also contacted by a Russian woman whose husband offered to help her father develop a separate real estate project in Moscow.
Jared Kushner: As a senior campaign official, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law attended the Trump Tower Russia meeting. He was also told that a campaign aide had been approached about setting up a back-channel meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin, and that Donald Trump Jr. received a private message from WikiLeaks. As a senior transition adviser, Mr. Kushner met at Trump Tower with the Russian ambassador and discussed setting up a way to communicate with Moscow during the transition. He also met with a Russian banker close to Mr. Putin in an attempt to establish a direct line of communication to the Russian president.
Hope Hicks: A fixture of Mr. Trump’s inner circle throughout the campaign and in the White House, Ms. Hicks was involved in the drafting of a false statement in response to questions about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting arranged by Donald Trump Jr.
Stephen K. Bannon: Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman and chief White House strategist emailed Roger J. Stone Jr. in October 2016 for insight into WikiLeaks’s plans to publish documents that could damage the Clinton campaign.
Jeff Sessions: Weeks after he was confirmed as attorney general, the former senator recused himself from any investigation into charges that Russia meddled in the election after revelations that he had failed to report encounters with the Russian ambassador during the campaign.
Stephen Miller: As a top adviser to the president, Mr. Miller helped draft a letter, which was never sent, that explained why the president wanted to fire James B. Comey. During the campaign, Mr. Miller was among top campaign officials whom George Papadopoulos told about his Russian contacts.
Sam Clovis: Mr. Clovis was among the Trump campaign officials whom George Papadopoulos told about his contacts with Russians.
J. D. Gordon: Mr. Gordon met briefly with the Russian ambassadorduring the Republican National Convention. He also had contacts with Maria Butina and was among the Trump campaign officials who knew that Carter Page would be traveling to Russia in July 2016.
Kellyanne Conway: Ms. Conway was among the high-level campaign officials who were told by Donald Trump Jr. that WikiLeaks had contacted him.
Thomas P. Bossert: A senior transition official and former deputy national security adviser who was aware of conversations about sanctions that occurred during the transition between Michael T. Flynn and the Russian ambassador.
K.T. McFarland: A senior transition official and former deputy national security adviser who was aware of conversations about sanctions that occurred during the transition between Michael T. Flynn and the Russian ambassador.
Reince Priebus: A senior transition official and former White House chief of staff, Mr. Priebus was forwarded an email exchangeduring the transition that said Michael T. Flynn was discussing sanctions with the Russian ambassador. In a December 2017 meeting in the West Wing, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Priebus how his interview had gone with the special counsel’s investigators and whether they had been “nice.”
Mark Corallo: A former spokesman for Mr. Trump’s legal team who told Mr. Mueller about a conference call with Mr. Trump and Hope Hicks in which, he said, Ms. Hicks said that emails written by Donald Trump Jr. before the Trump Tower meeting “will never get out.”
Sarah Huckabee Sanders: Ms. Sanders, the White House press secretary, initially said the president “certainly didn’t dictate” the false statement issued by Donald Trump Jr. about the Trump Tower Russia meeting.
Jay Sekulow: Mr. Trump’s private lawyer initially said the president was not involved in a false statement about the Trump Tower Russia meeting. Separately, Mr. Cohen has alleged that Mr. Trump’s lawyers, including Mr. Sekulow, helped with Mr. Cohen’s false testimony to Congress about a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow.
These Russians or Russian intermediaries are also of interest.
Aras Agalarov: A Russian real estate developer who co-hosted the 2013 Miss Universe pageant with Mr. Trump in Moscow. He set the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting in motion after being told by a Russian government official that Russia wanted to share damaging information about Mrs. Clinton with the Trump campaign.
Maria Butina: A Russian who admitted to being involved in an organized effort to open up unofficial lines of communication between Russians and Americans in the N.R.A. and the Republican Party. She posed for a photo with Donald Trump Jr. at a 2016 dinner hosted by the N.R.A. in Louisville, Ky.
Andrii V. Artemenko: A pro-Russian Ukrainian lawmaker who pushed a plan to end a guerilla war between Russia and Ukraine that might have led to sanctions relief. Mr. Cohen and Mr. Sater were also involved.
Alexander Torshin: A former Russian government official close to Mr. Putin who made contact with the Trump campaign and appears to have been behind efforts to use an N.R.A. meeting to arrange back-channel communications between Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin.
Ivan Timofeev: A Russian who said he had connections to Russia’s foreign ministry and who had repeated contacts with George Papadopoulos about setting up a meeting between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan: The crown prince of Abu Dhabi and de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates who convened a January 2017 meeting in the Seychelles that brought together a Russian investor close to Mr. Putin and Erik D. Prince.
Erik D. Prince: The founder of Blackwater and an informal Trump adviser who arranged a meeting in August 2016 between Donald Trump Jr., George Nader and Joel Zamel. He also attended a meeting in the Seychelles that was convened by the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates. He is the brother of Betsy DeVos, Mr. Trump’s education secretary.
George Nader: A Lebanese-American businessman who told Donald Trump Jr. that the leaders of Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. wanted to help his father win the election. He is cooperating with the special counsel.
Federal judges have ruled against the Trump administration at least 63 times over the past two years, an extraordinary record of legal defeat that has stymied large parts of the president’s agenda on the environment, immigration and other matters.
In case after case, judges have rebuked Trump officials for failing to follow the most basic rules of governance for shifting policy, including providing legitimate explanations supported by facts and, where required, public input.
Many of the cases are in early stages and subject to reversal. For example, the Supreme Court permitted a version of President Trump’s ban on travelers from certain predominantly Muslim nations to take effect after lower-court judges blocked the travel ban as discriminatory.
But regardless of whether the administration ultimately prevails, the rulings so far paint a remarkable portrait of a government rushing to implement far-reaching changes in policy without regard for long-standing rules against arbitrary and capricious behavior.
“What they have consistently been doing is short-circuiting the process,” said Georgetown Law School’s William W. Buzbee, an expert on administrative law who has studied Trump’s record. In the regulatory cases, Buzbee said, “they don’t even come close” to explaining their actions, “making it very easy for the courts to reject them because they’re not doing their homework.”
Trump has blamed his losses on “Obama judges” in the West Coast states that make up the 9th Circuit. While 29 setbacks have come from 9th Circuit judges, the trend is national, with 34 originating elsewhere, particularly in the District of Columbia Circuit, according to a count by The Washington Post.
Democratic appointees, many of them tapped by presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, are responsible for 45 decisions. Republican appointees dating back to President Ronald Reagan issued the other rulings. Magistrate judges, who are not appointed by presidents, made three of the decisions.
On major issues on which multiple judges have ruled, there has been little disagreement among them, no matter where the judges are located or who appointed them.
Four judges, for instance, have rejected the decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has protected from deportation nearly 700,000 people brought to the United States as children. All four judges said essentially the same thing: that the government’s stated reason for ending DACA — that it was unlawful — was “virtually unexplained,” as U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, an appointee of President George W. Bush in Washington, said in an April opinion. A second explanation — that DACA creates a “litigation risk” — was derided by U.S. District Judge William Alsup in California as mere “spin.”
Three judges have invalidated the attempt to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census, the latestbeing U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg in San Francisco on March 6. All rejected as unbelievable Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s explanation that the move was intended to improve enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.
This is funny, but also disturbing in the sense that some are actually taking it seriously.
Yesterday, Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA) sued a fictional cow for $250 million.
In addition to the anonymous Twitter account “Devin Nunes’ Cow,” Nunes is suingthe “Devin Nunes’ Mom” Twitter account, a political operative named Liz Mair, and Twitter itself.
Nunes, a close ally of President Trump, says in his complaint that he endured what “no human being should ever have to bear and suffer in their whole life.” He said it caused him to win reelection last November by a narrower margin than in the past and distracted him from running the House investigation into Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election.
Among other things, Nunes, from Tulare, cited a variety of tweets that used crude humor to accuse him of criminal behavior, including soliciting prostitutes.
Most politicians and celebrities today face similar parody accounts. Many just ignore them, though a few play along. A Twitter account called @Betosblog lampoons Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rouke. Parody accounts of President Trump have hundreds of thousands of followers.
The @DevinNunesMom account was suspended by Twitter after his actual mother, Toni Dian Nunes, complained.
But if Nunes hoped his lawsuit would intimidate his trollers into silence, the move may have backfired.
Devin Nunes' cow (@DevinCow) now has more followers on Twitter than @DevinNunes. The account, which Nunes sued this week, is approaching 400,000 followers. A couple days ago it had about 1,200 followers.
Why did these tweets wound Nunes so deeply? The accounts’ jibes resemble much of the political commentary on Twitter—including the president’s. Nunes’s real grievance appears to be with Twitter itself. “Twitter represents that it enforces its Terms and Rules equally and that it does not discriminate against conservatives who wish to use its ‘public square,’” he told the court. “This is not true. This is a lie. Twitter actively censors and shadow-bans conservatives, such as Plaintiff, thereby eliminating his voice while amplifying the voices of his Democratic detractors.”
Twitter has denied that it uses shadow banning—making a user’s posts visible to themselves but invisible to others—but that hasn’t stopped Republican lawmakers, including Trump, from making the claim as part of a broader narrative that Silicon Valley is censoring conservative voices.
Nunes’s claim for damages also doesn’t hold up. He says that Twitter bears legal responsibility for any defamatory posts made on its platform. In reality, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act generally shields websites from civil liability related to third-party content on their platforms. Nunes himself should be pretty familiar with this: As Reason’s Elizabeth Nolan Brown pointed out, he and his colleagues have been working to change Section 230 for this exact reason.
Nunes adopts a patriotic mien when it comes to the broader free speech issues at stake. “Access to Twitter is essential for meaningful participation in modern-day American Democracy,” he told the court. “A candidate without Twitter is a losing candidate. The ability to use Twitter is a vital part of modern citizenship. A presence on Twitter is essential for an individual to run for office or engage in any level of political organizing in modern America. This is because Twitter is not merely a website: it is the modern town square.”
This paean to civic speech might be more convincing if Nunes didn’t ask the court to force Twitter to “reveal the names and contact information” behind four of the pseudonymous accounts. What’s more, he also wants the court to “permanently enjoin and order Twitter” to suspend Mair and the other accounts. Twitter is a vital part of modern American citizenship, Nunes says, and he wants the government to strip people of access to it for being mean to him.
Speaking of twitter, Trump continues unabated with tweets goaded by his critics (George Conway, the media) and by what he sees on Fox News and his Twitter feed (TSA patdown of a kid).
It is embarrassing.
For what it is worth, Trump’s statement that George Conway “didn’t get the job he wanted” is a proven lie, and Conway leaked the letter saying he TURNED DOWN the job.
I don’t think they reveal much — except perhaps the fact that the FBI was investigating President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer for nearly a year before agents raided his home and office. Since July 2017 in fact — far longer than had previously been known.
Lanny Davis, an attorney for Cohen, said the release of the search warrant “furthers his interest in continuing to cooperate and providing information and the truth about Donald Trump and the Trump organization to law enforcement and Congress.”
The search warrants used in the raid of Michael Cohen's office, hotel room and home last year have been released, albeit redacted. There's…. a lot of pages pic.twitter.com/rnQucYaEA2
If I recall correctly, the false statement to a bank charge Cohen pleaded to involved him overstating the strength of his financial position — this alleges he was understating it, claiming he was poorer than he was pic.twitter.com/0RHaFMe6Wq
The fact of Cohen's eventual indictment by Mueller made this obvious, but this states explicitly that the special counsel office's had only handed off parts of their investigation into Cohen, not the totality pic.twitter.com/D37FbTfOaY
Curious redaction here. This section deals with money Cohen received via Essential Consultants. Elsewhere, it's fully disclosed that he received cash form Novartis, etc. But here, it references 'foreign sources' but seems to hide their identity pic.twitter.com/mdYu49Wooy