Nobody Pays Attention To Trump’s Rape Victim

Ken AshfordCrime, Political Scandals, Sex Scandals, Trump & Administration, Women's IssuesLeave a Comment

This is how low we’ve sunk. A very credible claim of rape, and it doesn’t register on the news:

Acclaimed author E. Jean Carroll publicly alleged for the first time Friday that President Donald Trump raped her in a dressing room in the mid-1990s.

Two days later, the hosts of the most popular Sunday morning talk shows in the U.S. had the opportunity to ask their guests ― often a mix of high-profile Republicans and Democrats ― about Carroll’s horrifying claim and whether to hold the president accountable.

But the allegation went largely undiscussed by major TV networks on Sunday morning, clearing the path for yet another sexual assault allegation against the president to slip into the void.

ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox and NBC ― the networks that make up the “big five” of Sunday morning talk shows ― boasted major political players in their lineups that included Vice President Mike Pence and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

And yet not a single one of them was asked about Carroll’s allegation that, just days earlier, had prompted front-page stories and news alerts from almost all of the major media outlets.

Carroll, 75, on Friday became the latest of more than a dozen women to have publicly accused Trump of sexually assaulting, groping or forcibly kissing them since the early 1980s.

In an excerpt from her upcoming book, “What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal,” published in New York magazine on Friday, Carroll described Trump shoving her against the wall of a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room and forcing his penis inside her.

She was a 52-year-old former Miss Cheerleader USA and a famous advice columnist by that time. He was a 50-something real estate mogul.

Trump has denied sexually assaulting anyone, including Carroll. And despite a photograph of Carroll with Trump embedded in the magazine’s story itself, Trump claimed Friday that he had never met her.

The inconsistencies in Trump’s response, the sheer number of women accusing him of sexual misconduct, the hypocrisy of Republicans believing Juanita Broaddrick’s rape accusation against President Bill Clinton in 1999 while ignoring Carroll’s now ― all were topics that would seem to warrant significant airtime on the Sunday morning talk shows but simply didn’t receive it.

Both CNN and CBS hosted Pence. Several 2020 Democratic presidential contenders appeared on some of the shows, including Sanders, Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro. A few other congressional Republicans and Democrats were interviewed across the networks as well.

Several pressing topics were addressed, including escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran, climate change and inhumane conditions at detention centers housing migrant children at the country’s southern border, but Carroll’s allegation was noticeably absent from the conversations.

NBC’s “Meet the Press” aired an interview with Trump that taped Friday. Given the timing, host Chuck Todd was likely unaware of Carroll’s allegation before his interview with the president. Still, Todd seemingly did not reference the accusation during other portions of Sunday’s show.

Carroll appeared Sunday on NBC-owned network MSNBC during the 11 a.m. hour of “AM Joy” with Joy Reid, who lamented that the author’s allegation had been “relatively buried in this week’s news cycle.”

“In any other universe, in any other presidency, in any other news cycle, E. Jean Carroll’s bombshell revelations against the sitting president of the United States would have been the lead story all week long,” Reid said

CNN’s Brian Stelter, during an episode of “Reliable Sources” that aired Sunday at 11 a.m., discussed the apparent “media fatigue” over sexual misconduct allegations against Trump with his panel.

“The day that [Carroll’s allegation] dropped it felt like it was very much a part of the conversation on Twitter,” Shani Hilton, deputy managing editor for news at The Los Angeles Times, told Stelter. “It was really blowing up ― I mean all day long.”

She continued: “Two days later, it kind of feels like it’s faded away. And I think by the end of the day Friday, it really felt like here’s one more allegation in the long line.”

Hey, I didn’t mention on this blog either. But I’m not a 24/7 news network.

10 Mueller Report Myths Debunked

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Myth: Mueller found “no collusion.”

Response: Mueller spent almost 200 pages describing “numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign.” He found that “a Russian entity carried out a social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.” He also found that “a Russian intelligence service conducted computer-intrusion operations” against the Clinton campaign and then released stolen documents.

While Mueller was unable to establish a conspiracy between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians involved in this activity, he made it clear that “[a] statement that the investigation did not establish particular facts does not mean there was no evidence of those facts.” In fact, Mueller also wrote that the “investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.”

To find conspiracy, a prosecutor must establish beyond a reasonable doubt the elements of the crime: an agreement between at least two people, to commit a criminal offense and an overt act in furtherance of that agreement. One of the underlying criminal offenses that Mueller reviewed for conspiracy was campaign-finance violations. Mueller found that Trump campaign members Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner met with Russian nationals in Trump Tower in New York June 2016 for the purpose of receiving disparaging information about Clinton as part of “Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” according to an email message arranging the meeting. This meeting did not amount to a criminal offense, in part, because Mueller was unable to establish “willfulness,” that is, that the participants knew that their conduct was illegal. Mueller was also unable to conclude that the information was a “thing of value” that exceeded $25,000, the requirement for campaign finance to be a felony, as opposed to a civil violation of law. But the fact that the conduct did not technically amount to conspiracy does not mean that it was acceptable. Trump campaign members welcomed foreign influence into our election and then compromised themselves with the Russian government by covering it up.

Mueller found other contacts with Russia, such as the sharing of polling data about Midwestern states where Trump later won upset victories, conversations with the Russian ambassador to influence Russia’s response to sanctions imposed by the U.S. government in response to election interference, and communications with Wikileaks after it had received emails stolen by Russia. While none of these acts amounted to the crime of conspiracy, all could be described as “collusion.”

Myth: Mueller found no obstruction.

Response: Mueller found at least four acts by Trump in which all elements of the obstruction statute were satisfied – attempting to fire Mueller, directing White House counsel Don McGahn to lie and create a false document about efforts to fire Mueller, attempting to limit the investigation to future elections and attempting to prevent Manafort from cooperating with the government. As Mueller stated, “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” Mueller declined to make a “traditional prosecution decision” about obstruction of justice. Because he was bound by the Department of Justice policy that a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime, he did not even attempt to reach a legal conclusion about the facts. Instead, he undertook to “preserve the evidence when memories were fresh and documentary materials were available,” because a president can be charged after he leaves office. In fact, out of an abundance of fairness, Mueller thought that it would be improper to even accuse Trump of committing a crime so as not to “preempt constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct,” meaning impeachment.

Myth: Case closed. No do-overs.

Response: Mueller investigated the case under criminal statutes, which is a narrow and specific window of inquiry. Congress has a different and broader responsibility to determine whether the president committed high crimes and misdemeanors for which impeachment is appropriate. Congress is not bound by the high standard of proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt that Mueller used for his criminal inquiry. Our system reserves that burden of proof for cases where someone’s liberty is at stake and they may be incarcerated as a result of proceedings. That is not the case with impeachment.

Myth: Focus on obstruction detracts from focus on Russia.

Response: We agree that it is critical to defend our elections against future instances of the Russian attack Mueller details in his report. But focusing on obstruction is focusing on Russia. Mueller concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 election in “sweeping and systematic fashion.” The report documents Trump’s efforts to end or curtail the investigation, his refusal to be interviewed and written answers that Mueller found “inadequate.” The report also notes that members of the campaign lied, refused to answer questions, deleted communications and used encrypted applications. Obstruction is a crime precisely because those who engage in it seek to keep investigators from arriving at the truth. As Mueller wrote in Volume I, pertaining to conspiracy with Russia, “given these identified gaps, the Office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast in a new light) the events described in the report.” Efforts to obstruct the investigation may have shielded not only the conduct of members of Trump’s campaign, but also active measures by Russia to interfere with our election.

Myth: If there was no underlying crime, then there can be no obstruction of justice.

Response: Obstruction of justice includes not just completed acts but also attempts. That rule makes sense because otherwise even the most blatant obstructers could avoid accountability by successfully concealing their crimes from investigators. Furthermore, attempts are illegal because the wrong that the law seeks to prevent is the effort to prevent investigators from learning the truth. Here, of course, crimes were charged against 37 individuals and entities, including two dozen Russian nationals.

Although Mueller was unable to establish each and every element of conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt, he found contacts with Russia that may have created concern for Trump that they would amount to a crime or create embarrassment for himself, his family and his campaign. He also may have been motivated by a desire to conceal his payments to silence Stormy Daniels regarding allegations of marital infidelity on the eve of the election after his disparaging remarks about women on the Access Hollywood tape had become public, activity for which he is described as “Individual-1,” an unindicted co-conspirator, in a federal criminal case filed in the Southern District of New York. In addition, Trump may have been motivated by a desire to avoid the appearance that his election was illegitimate because it was achieved with assistance from a foreign adversary. He could have been concerned that the investigation would reveal personal financial matters, which he has always considered sensitive. Regardless of his motive, Trump’s efforts to interfere with Mueller’s investigation legally amount to obstruction of justice, even under the narrow definition and high standard of proof Mueller used.

Myth: Because Trump was unsuccessful in ending the investigation, there can be no obstruction of justice.

Response: The report finds substantial evidence that Trump asked McGahn to fire Mueller. McGahn said he was prepared to resign rather than comply. Because the law punishes attempts, Trump’s effort to end the investigation constitutes obstruction of justice, even though McGahn did not follow through on the order. In addition, Mueller found that all elements of obstruction were satisfied with regard to Trump’s efforts to limit the investigation to future elections: Trump directed then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “unrecuse” himself from the investigation and to publicly announce that the investigation would focus on only future elections — that is, even if Mueller were fired and then replaced, the new special counsel would be required to ignore facts relating to the 2016 election. If successful, this effort would have prevented us from learning the truth about Russia’s efforts to attack the 2016 election. By looking out for his own interests, Trump ignored the interests of our country.

Myth: A president cannot obstruct justice as a matter of law when he is exercising executive power.

Response: Mueller found that this theory, advanced by Barr in an unsolicited 19-page memo before he became attorney general, was inconsistent with the law, the Constitution and the foundational notion of separation of powers. The Constitution requires not just that the president execute the law, but that he do so “faithfully.” Under Barr’s theory, a president would be above the law and could engage in behavior such as ordering a U.S. Attorney to investigate a political rival even if no criminal behavior had occurred or to stop investigating a friend or family member. Mueller was able to draw upon the expertise of team member Michael Dreeban, DOJ’s top career criminal appellate lawyer who has served in Republican and Democratic administrations over his three decades at the Department, and has argued more than 100 cases before the Supreme Court. Barr has never been a courtroom prosecutor. As Mueller and his team stated, subjecting the president to obstruction law is consistent with the fundamental principle of our government that “no person in this country is so high that he is above the law.” Even under Barr’s theory, a president commits illegal obstruction when he engages in conduct that is outside his executive power, such as directing a witness to create a false document, as Mueller found that Trump did with McGahn.

Myth: Mueller wanted Barr to make the call on whether Trump committed obstruction.

Response: Mueller didn’t invite Barr to make a decision about prosecuting obstruction. He left it to prosecutors who could decide whether to pursue charges after Trump left office and to Congress which has impeachment power. And Mueller’s treatment of conspiracy shows that he knew how to conclude that a crime has not been established. By declining to reach the same conclusion with regard to obstruction, he indicated that he clearly found the evidence of that crime more troubling. Barr’s peremptory dismissal of obstruction happened with no explanation of how he was able to resolve the evidence of obstruction when Mueller could not. More than 1,000 former federal prosecutors, including us, have signed a letter stating that the evidence establishes multiple counts of obstruction of justice. And Mueller expressed concern to Barr that the attorney general’s intervention threatened to undermine “the central purpose” for appointing a special counsel: “to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations.”

Myth: The investigation began with the Steele dossier.

Response: According the Mueller report, the investigation began in July 2016 after Wikileaks had released materials stolen from the computers of the Democratic National Committee. The FBI received information from a foreign government that Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos had told one of its representatives that “the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.” Mueller’s report states, “That information prompted the FBI on July 31, 2016, to open an investigation into whether individuals associated with the Trump Campaign were coordinating with the Russian government in its interference activities.” Mueller makes no statement to indicate that the investigation was predicated on the Steele dossier, a series of reports that were compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who was hired by a research company that was working for a law firm paid first by a conservative website and later by the Clinton campaign.

Myth: Spying occurred against the Trump campaign.

Response: In October 2016, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved electronic surveillance of Carter Page, a Trump adviser. Authorization for surveillance under FISA requires a judge to find probable cause to believe that Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power. The Steele dossier was part of a 66-page application submitted by DOJ and the FBI describing other facts in support of probable cause. The fact that the Steele dossier was funded by the Clinton campaign was disclosed in the application to the court in a footnote, which is consistent with the way potential bias is typically disclosed to a judge so that he may assess the credibility of the source. Renewals of the FISA application were approved by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who was appointed by President Trump. While court-authorized surveillance was used in this counterintelligence investigation into Russia, there is nothing to indicate that this technique was improper.

Weekly List 136

Ken AshfordWeekly ListLeave a Comment

This week Trump manufactured two major story lines: an almost war with Iran, and mass roundups and deportations of “millions” of immigrants. The two stories occupied much of the national attention, while Trump continued to stonewall Congressional attempts at oversight.

Authoritarian expert Masha Gessen wrote about “The Unimaginable Reality of American Concentration Camps,” as a national discussion over conditions at border facilities played out. Journalists, who have been given no access to facilities, reported through interviews on the alarming treatment of migrant children, including overcrowding, illness, and lack of basic necessities.

Trump came close to starting a war with Iran on Thursday, and reportedly was prepared and close to launch a missile attack. Of concern, Trump continued to act unilaterally and not seek Congressional approval — notably Speaker Pelosi said Friday she was not informed of Trump’s planned attack, despite being second in line for the White House. Meanwhile, pressure to start an impeachment inquiry grew as 76 House members called for impeachment as public opinion, largely among Democrats, is shifting in favor of it.

  1. On Saturday, NYT reported the U.S. is stepping up cyberwarfare against Russia, using digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid and other targets as a warning to Russia to stay out of U.S. cyber infrastructure.
  2. The previously unreported deployment of computer code into Russia’s grid has taken place over the past three months in tandem with public actions announced after hacking and disinformation during the 2018 midterms.
  3. These steps mark a shift to going on offense, and being positioned against aggressions. The Department of Homeland Security and FBI have said Russia has inserted malware in U.S. power plants, pipelines, and water supplies.
  4. The actions were taken using new legal authorities quietly slipped into the military authorization bill passed by Congress last summer, allowing the defense secretary to take action without requiring presidential approval.
  5. Two officials told the Times that Trump had not been briefed on the moves, which could spark a digital Cold War between the countries, out of concern he might countermand or discuss it with foreign officials.
  6. On Saturday, Trump tweeted, “Do you believe that the Failing New York Times” did a story on increasing cyber attacks on Russia, calling it a “virtual act of Treason by a once great paper so desperate for a story.”
  7. Trump also tweeted the reporting was “bad for our Country” and “ALSO, NOT TRUE!” saying, “Anything goes with our Corrupt News Media today,” calling them “cowards” and “THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!”
  8. On Saturday, the NYT responded to Trump, saying, “accusing the press of treason is dangerous,” adding, “We described the article to the government before publication” and “there were no concerns.”
  9. On Sunday, Trump tweeted a poll should be done on “which is the more dishonest and deceitful newspaper,” the NYT or WAPO, adding “they are both a disgrace to our Country” and “the Enemy of the People.”
  10. Trump also again mused about serving beyond the two term limit, tweeting “at the end of 6 years” after America is “GREAT” again, “do you think the people would demand that I stay longer?”
  11. On Sunday, in celebration of Father’s Day, Trump tweeted, “Happy Father’s Day to all, including my worst and most vicious critics, of which there are fewer and fewer,” adding, “KEEP AMERICA GREAT!”
  12. On Sunday, in a newly released part of his ABC News interview Trump chastised acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney for coughing, saying, “If you’re going to cough, please leave the room,” and asking for a retake.
  13. On Sunday, ABC aired the hour long interview with Trump. The interview was a rating bust, coming in third in its evening time slot.
  14. On Sunday, NBC News reported the Trump re-election campaign cut ties with some of its own pollsters, after leaked polling data which surfaced in Week 135 showed him trailing Democratic rivals in many states.
  15. On Monday, Trump dismissed polling by Fox News which showed him losing to multiple Democratic presidential candidates, tweeting, “Something weird going on at Fox,” adding, “More Fake News.”
  16. On Monday, Trump vowed mass immigration arrests, tweeting in the late evening: “Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States.”
  17. Trump also tweeted, “They will be removed as fast as they come in.” Trump praised Mexico and Guatemala, but added, “The only ones who won’t do anything are the Democrats in Congress.”
  18. On Monday, the State Department announced the regime is ending foreign aid for Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador until they take “concrete actions to reduce the number of illegal migrants” coming to the U.S.
  19. Experts warned that cutting off aid will only exacerbate the conditions in the countries which are causing people to migrate. The regime’s plan is likely to face opposition in the Congress.
  20. On Tuesday, WAPO reported Trump and Stephen Miller have recently pushed to remove thousands of immigrants whose deportation orders were expedited. Publicizing a large-scale ICE operation is unheard of.
  21. ICE officials told the Post they were not aware that Trump planned to make the plan public. Trump’s tweet of deporting millions was also at odds with available ICE budget and staffing.
  22. On Tuesday, government attorney Sarah Fabian argued before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that migrant children sleeping on concrete floors is “safe and sanitary” and they did not need soap and toothbrushes.
  23. Attorneys for the detained children argued the Trump regime is not following the requirements of the 1997 Flores Agreement for humane treatment, even though sanitary items are not specifically mentioned.
  24. The judges appeared stunned by the regime’s arguments, with one saying, “I find it inconceivable that the government would say that that is safe and sanitary.” It is not clear when the panel will issue its decision.
  25. On Wednesday, data obtained by the AP showed an El Paso border facility is neglecting 250 migrant infants, children, and teens, with kids taking care of kids and an inadequate supply of food, water, and sanitation.
  26. Three girls told lawyers they alternated taking care of a 2 year-old boy who wet his pants and had no diapers. Lawyers could not discern where the boy was from or about his family from because he was not speaking.
  27. Many of the children arrived alone, but some were separated from their families. A law advocate said in her 22 years of visiting children in detention, she had “never heard of this level of inhumanity.”
  28. The acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner said CBP is holding 15,000 people while 4,000 is capacity. A psychoanalyst who evaluated 50 parents and children noted trauma causing lasting damage.
  29. On Thursday, Dallas Morning News reported allegations made by acting Department of Homeland Security secretary Kevin McAleenan to Congress that 90% of those seeking asylum were skipping court dates is false.
  30. McAleenan used the data to justify round-ups. Data showed that close to 100% of 47,000 asylum-seeking families with legal aid showed up to court. McAleenan’s data was from 7,000 cases decided in abstenia.
  31. On Thursday, in an interview with Telemundo, Trump lied, saying he inherited an Obama-era policy of separating migrant families, saying, “Obama had a separation policy…I’m the one that put ’em together.”
  32. On Friday, NYT reported on an overcrowded border station in Clinton, Texas, where hundreds of migrant children are being held. Children are wearing clothes caked with snot and tears, and toddlers have no diapers.
  33. Most detainees have not been able to bathe or wash their clothes since they crossed the border. They have not been given toothbrushes, toothpaste, or soap. An advocate visiting described the scene, saying “there is a stench.”
  34. The facility is one impacted by Trump regime not providing basics like soap or toothbrushes to the children. An advocate visiting said the conditions are the worse she has ever seen, with no care for sick children.
  35. In the facility, guards wore wearing full uniforms, including weapons and face masks, to protect themselves from the unsanitary conditions. Children are locked up in cells nearly all day long, and are not getting enough food.
  36. Border crossings have slowed in recent weeks, but remain high compared to recent years. Journalists and lawyers have been offered little access, so the overcrowded conditions are occurring without visibility to the public.
  37. On Friday, HuffPost reported four toddlers under the age of 3 years-old at the Border Patrol facility in McAllen, Texas were so severely ill, that immigration lawyers forced the government to have them hospitalized.
  38. The four were in the care of teenage mothers or guardians, and were feverish, coughing, vomiting, and had diarrhea. One toddler was “completely unresponsive” and limp, with her eyes rolled back in her head.
  39. On Friday, WAPO reported Trump has directed ICE to conduct mass roundups of family members who have received deportation orders. Raids are expected to begin in the early hours of Sunday.
  40. ICE and DHS refer to the roundup as “family op,” and will target 2,000 families in 10 cities, including Houston, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York, Baltimore, Denver, San Francisco, and New Orleans.
  41. McAleenan has urged Trump to narrow the roundup to 150 families, so as to avoid separating children from parents, and has voiced that ICE resources are better used for the crisis at the southern border.
  42. The Los Angeles Police Department said it will not participate or assist in the roundup. New York AG Letitia James called it a “despicable act of racism and xenophobia that is antithetical to our basic human values.”
  43. On Friday, acting ICE Director Mark Morgan defended the roundups, telling NPR, “my duty is not to look at the political optics, or the will the American people,” but to enforce the law and integrity of the system.
  44. Morgan also repeated the false claim that the “majority of them don’t even show up. And then when they didn’t show up, they received ordered removal in absentia,” adding, “We have no choice.”
  45. On Friday, authoritarianism expert Masha Gessen wrote at the New Yorker “The Unimaginable Reality of American Concentration Camps,” citing “the argument is really about how we history, ourselves, and ourselves in history.”
  46. Gessen wrote: “Anything that happens here and now is normalized, not solely through the moral failure of contemporaries but simply by virtue of actually existing.”
  47. On Saturday, a video posted on social media showed Phoenix police threatening to shoot a black family after their 4 year-old took a doll from a store. The incident led to an investigation and lawsuit against police.
  48. On Tuesday, on the eve of House hearings on reparations for slavery, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters he was not in favor of reparations, calling it “for something that happened 150 years ago.”
  49. McConnell also said slavery is something “none of us currently living are responsible” for, and added we paid for the “sin of slavery” by passing civil rights legislation and by electing “an African American president.”
  50. On Wednesday, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee sponsored a bill before a House hearing of a 13 member commission which would allocate $12 million to study the effects of slavery and make recommendations to Congress.
  51. Hundreds of spectators filled three overflowing rooms. Republican lawmakers and witnesses said black people should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, saying reparations might damage their psyches.
  52. Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose 2014 article helped rekindle the conversation, responded to McConnell: “While emancipation dead-bolted the door against the bandits of America, Jim Crow wedged the windows wide open.”
  53. Coates also said McConnell was “alive for the redlining of Chicago and the looting of black homeowners of some $4 billion,” adding, “Victims of their plunder are very much alive today.”
  54. On Thursday, Fox News host Laura Ingraham backed Leader McConnell on her podcast, dismissing the idea of reparations, saying there are no “do-overs,” adding, “we won, you lost, that’s that. That’s just the way it is.”
  55. On Wednesday, a federal judge in Maryland ruled that new information from hard drives of a deceased Republican redistricting strategist on the 2020 census question in Week 133 merits more consideration.
  56. The case is now with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, but could be returned to the federal judge who said the new evidence “raises a substantial issue,” and could reach the Supreme Court again.
  57. On Wednesday, the Senate confirmed Matthew Kacsmaryk to a lifelong federal judgeship, despite his recordof hostility towards the LGBTQ community and having criticized Roe v. Wade.
  58. On Thursday, in a major set-back for women’s health, a panel of federal judges ruled that the Trump regime’s abortion “gag rule” can go into effect, making clinics that provide abortion ineligible for Title IX funds.
  59. Planned Parenthood could lose $60 million in funding from the ruling. Attorneys general from 21 states argued the rule undermines the patient-provider relationship and endangers the health of millions of women.
  60. On Friday, Missouri’s health department notified Planned Parenthood, the state’s only abortion clinic, that it declined to renew their license. The judge said his preliminary injunction to remain open is in place for now.
  61. On Friday, Wisconsin’s Democratic Gov. Tony Evers vetoed four bills that would have restricted access to abortion, implicated doctors who perform abortions, and cut funding to Planned Parenthood.
  62. On Friday, writer E. Jean Carroll came forward in a New York Magazine article to say that Trump raped her 23 years ago in a dressing room of the Bergdorf Goodman department store in midtown Manhattan.
  63. Carroll, now 75, told two friends about the incident at the timeWAPO interviewed one friend who encouraged Carroll to go to the police at the time. The episode in the article is an excerpt from her new book.
  64. Trump responded Friday in a statement, calling the allegations “fake news” and repeating his common refrain, “I’ve never met this person in my life.” The article is accompanied by a photo of the two together in 1987.
  65. Trump accused Carroll of trying to sell books, “It should be sold in the fiction section,” and questioned if she was working with the Democratic Party. Carroll is the 16th woman to accuse Trump of sexual misconduct.
  66. On Tuesday, AP reported U.S. air quality is worsening, after decades of improving. There were 15% more days with unhealthy air in 2017 and 2018 than the average of 2013 through 2016, the cleanest four years.
  67. On Wednesday, Trump’s EPA issued the Affordable Clean Energy rule, the regime’s most significant step towards unwinding federal regulations aimed at addressing climate change.
  68. The new rule cuts carbon emissions from power plants by less than half of what experts said was need to avoid catastrophic climate change. Trump aides and GOP lawmakers celebrated it as a victory for coal companies.
  69. Also, unlike Obama’s 2015 Clean Power Plan, Trump’s rule does not set specific greenhouse gas emissions cuts, relieving pressure to improve efficiency by switching from coal to lower-carbon energy sources.
  70. On Friday, Oregon’s Democratic Gov. Kate Brown sent Oregon State Police to fetch 11 GOP state senators who had fled to Idaho to avoid giving the Democrats a needed quorum to vote on bills to combat climate change.
  71. On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his cabinet to inaugurate a new community located on the occupied Golan Heights, which will be named “Trump Heights” to recognize his ally.
  72. On Monday, after threats from Trump, Iran warned it would breach limits on stockpiled enriched uranium under the 2015 deal which Trump exited. The White House National Security Council called it “nuclear blackmail.”
  73. The U.S. sent 1,000 more troops to the region on Monday. On Tuesday, Iran President Hassan Rouhani said on state-TV, “Iran will not wage war against any nation,” and Russia called on the U.S. to stop stoking tension.
  74. On Tuesday, Politico reported the Trump regime is laying the groundwork for a possible conflict with Iran, while preparing to do so without needing Congressional approval.
  75. On Monday, Politico reported House Democrats investigating obstruction of justice are considering bypassing Trump’s use of executive privilege by calling for testimony from people outside the government.
  76. Names cited in the Mueller report who may be called include former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and Chris Christie, as well as former top campaign officials Paul Manafort and Rick Gates.
  77. On Monday, Politico reported Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee are quietly racking up oversight wins against Trump in areas like retaliation at the State Department and Trump’s relation with Putin.
  78. Chair Eliot Engel has eschewed cable-TV and other flashy rhetoric, allowing bipartisan cooperation on his committee, with Republicans exasperated with Trump on foreign policy and national security issues.
  79. On Monday, the Supreme Court voted 7-2 to uphold the ‘double jeopardy’ standard. The ruling could blunt the impact of potential Trump pardons for individuals like Manafort, who also faces charges in New York.
  80. On Monday, NYT reported that as Manafort was scheduled to head to Rikers Island, last week Manhattan prosecutors received an unusual letter from Jeffrey Rosen, a top deputy of Attorney General William Barr.
  81. Rosen indicated he was monitoring where Manafort would be held. Then on Monday, federal prison officials weighed in saying Manafort would not be go to Rikers, where most federal inmates facing state charges are held.
  82. Former DOJ officials and state prosecutors said it was highly unusual for the second highest official at the DOJ to take an interest in such a case. The decision is typically made by the warden where the inmate is being held.
  83. On Monday, Daily News reported five undocumented immigrants fired from Trump’s golf courses in New York and New Jersey planned to hold a press conference in Florida on Tuesday, ahead of Trump’s 2020 launch.
  84. On Tuesday, ahead of Trump’s official 2020 re-election campaign launch in Orlando, Florida, the Orlando Sentinel took the unusual step of endorsing “Not Donald Trump.”
  85. The Sentinel cited, “after 2½ years we’ve seen enough” of “the chaos, the division, the schoolyard insults, the self-aggrandizement, the corruption, and especially the lies,” adding he “diminished our standing in the world.”
  86. On Tuesday, while speaking to reporters before heading to Orlando, Trump refused to apologize for his prior call for the Central Park 5 to get the death penalty. Trump said, “You have people on both sides of that.”
  87. Trump said “they admitted their guilt,” and “some of the prosecutors, they think that the city should never have settled that case,” adding, “You better believe that I hate the people who took this girl and raped her brutally.”
  88. On Tuesday, Trump launched his re-election bid, picking up on many familiar themes from his 2016 campaign, promising greatness and invoking many of the same grievances from that campaign.
  89. Trump relished in his victory over Hillary Clinton while the crowd shouted, “Lock her up!” Trump said he was still looking for her missing emails, and teased about having the DOJ prosecute her.
  90. Trump attacked the media, calling reporters in the arena “fake news” while the crowd cheered the familiar refrain, “CNN sucks.”
  91. Trump attacked Democrats, calling them “radical” and saying they are “driven by hatred, prejudice and rage,” and warning, “They want to destroy you, and they want to destroy our country as we know it.”
  92. Trump said immigrants should come on the basis of merit, saying the Democrat agenda of open borders is “morally reprehensible,” and “the greatest betrayal of the American middle class, and frankly American life.”
  93. CNN calculated that Trump made 15 false statement during his 76-minutes speech, many of which he has repeated frequently in the past, including the topics of trade, the environment, Russia, his wall, and Hillary’s emails.
  94. WAPO reported after the rally, Trump flew on Air Force One in the opposite direction of the White House to visit his Doral golf course, his 126th visit to a Trump property since taking office.
  95. Trump also recently suggested his Doral golf course to host the Group of Seven meeting of world leaders. Trump has gotten pushback from the White House Counsel’s Office on the topic but has ignored it.
  96. Trump has reshaped the GOP fundraising schedule, with 23 of 63 fundraisers he attended taking place at one of his properties. Trump properties have also become a vendor for the federal government.
  97. On Thursday, Media Matters reported Sinclair broadcasting is forcing its local stations to run a commentary segment which is akin to an unofficial Trump 2020 campaign ad within a short window after its release.
  98. In one clip, former Trump aide Boris Epshteyn said, “The energy behind President Trump and his “America First” movement is palpable,” praising “crowds that fill up massive stadiums” and social media engagement.
  99. On Monday, Jarrod Agen, Vice President Mike Pence’s communications director and one of his most trusted advisers who held multiple roles, announced he was leaving to take a job at Lockheed Martin.
  100. On Tuesday, Trump announced on Twitter that Patrick Shanahan, his nominee for defense secretary, was withdrawingWAPO and USA Today reported on incidents of domestic violence involving his family.
  101. Trump told reporters he did not ask Shanahan to withdraw. Trump nominated Secretary of the Army Mark Esper to replace Shanahan, who prior was the head lobbyist for defense company Raytheon.
  102. On Tuesday, CNN reported Katharine Gorka is expected to be named press secretary for CBP. Gorka, the wife of far-right extremist Sebastian Gorka, has been a political appointee at DHS since shortly after Trump took office.
  103. Gorka has stirred controversy over her views on terrorism and has ties to far-right national groups. In Week 40, she helped pull DHS funding for Life After Hate, a group set up to counter neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
  104. On Thursday, Trump appointee Eric Blankenstein, who left the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in May over racially charged online posts from years ago, was hired by the Department of Housing and Urban Development as a senior legal counsel.
  105. On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters Senate Democrats will prioritize defense amendments to boost election security and keep Russia from meddling in 2020.
  106. On Tuesday, Reuters reported Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blocked the inclusion of Saudi Arabia from a U.S. list of countries that recruit child soldiers, despite experts’ findings of their use in the Yemen’s civil war.
  107. On Wednesday, a months-long United Nations investigation by Agnes Callamard, a human rights expert, into the killing of Jamal Khashoggi found “credible evidence” Saudi Crown Prince MBS was likely involved.
  108. She faulted the U.S. and other countries for not exerting enough pressure on Saudis, and called for sanctioning and freezing the prince’s assets until a final determination is made. Saudi Arabia would not allow her in.
  109. Pompeo said Trump deplored the killing of Khashoggi, but that the U.S. relationship is too important to be sidetracked by one incident. Callamard called the U.S. response ambiguous and conflicted.
  110. On Thursday, the Senate rebuked Trump, voting to block billions of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Trump had tried to circumvent Congress by declaring an emergency over Iran.
  111. Seven Republicans, including Trump ally Lindsey Graham voted with Democrats in the Senate, not enough to override an expected veto by Trump. Britain announced a similar measure on Thursday.
  112. On Thursday, Reuters reported ex-U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who is being held in Russia over accusations of spying, told reporters he was asking Trump and the leaders of Britain, Canada, and Ireland for help.
  113. Whelan said he has been threatened and harassed by a Russian investigator. He said, “we cannot keep America great unless we aggressively protect and defend American citizens wherever they are.”
  114. On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that Trump believes he has the authority to oust Jerome Powell as Federal Reserve Chair and demote him to board governor, saying the Fed had gone crazy” under Powell.
  115. On Wednesday, the Fed left rates unchanged, with a rate cut possible soon. Asked by reporters about Trump’s comments, Chair Powell said, “I think the law is clear that I have a four-year term and I fully intend to serve it.”
  116. On Wednesday, Trump awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to conservative economist Arthur Laffer. In his remarks, Trump said the Laffer Curve is “still, a very, very highly respected economic curve.”
  117. Laffer, along with his disciple Stephen Moore, wrote a fawning book about Trump’s economic policies called “Trumponomics.” Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cuts did not generate more tax revenue as Laffer’s theory posits.
  118. On Wednesday, NYT reported federal prosecutors are investigating if Deutsche Bank complied with laws meant to stop money laundering and other crimes, including handling of suspicious activity reports.
  119. The FBI has contacted former employee Tammy McFadden, who spoke to the Times in Week 131. The investigation marks the largest government examination of potential misconduct at one of the world’s largest banks.
  120. FBI agents are also speaking to Val Broeksmit, the son of Deutsche Bank executive William Broeksmit, who committed suicide in 2014, about the bank’s role with Russian money laundering. Val has provided documents.
  121. In addition to the FBI, the DOJ’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section and the U.S. attorney’s offices in Manhattan and Brooklyn are also investigating the bank, as are two House committees.
  122. On Tuesday, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said in a letter to House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler that Hope Hick “is absolutely immune” from answering questions about her time on the transition team and White House staff.
  123. Cipollone said a White House lawyer will be present for Hicks’ testimony “in order to preserve” Trump’s ability “to assert executive privilege.” The testimony will be private, but a transcript will be released within 48 hours.
  124. On Wednesday, in a series of morning tweets, Trump attacked Democrats, saying they are “unhappy with the Mueller Report, so after almost 3 years, they want a Redo,” calling it “extreme Presidential Harassment.”
  125. Trump tweeted Democrats gave “Crooked Hillary’s people complete Immunity, yet now they bring back Hope Hicks,” asking why aren’t they looking at “33,000 Emails that Hillary and her lawyer deleted.”
  126. Trump also tweeted, “That is real Obstruction that the Dems want no part of because their hearings are RIGGED and a disgrace to our Country!” adding, “DEMOCRAT CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS ARE #RIGGED!”
  127. Trump also tweeted if he did not have the “Phony Witch Hunt” and if the “Fake News Media and their partner in Crime, the Democrats” played it straight, he would be “ way up in the Polls right now.”
  128. On Wednesday, Mark Thompson, CEO of the NYT said Trump “isolating journalists, as a group…is a really frankly hostile, stupid but also dangerous thing to do” at a CNBC forum.
  129. On Wednesday, in an op-ed at the JournalNYT Publisher A.G. Sulzberger said Trump accusing the newspaper of “treason” crossed “a dangerous line” of “accusing the Times of a crime so grave it is punishable by death.”
  130. Sulzberger wrote, “He’s gone from misrepresenting our business, to assaulting our integrity, to demonizing our journalists with a phrase that’s been used by generations of demagogues,” to treason accusations.
  131. On Wednesday, the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker reported Trump had tweeted negatively about the press in every day of June so far, marking “the longest stretch since he declared his candidacy.”
  132. The group also found that in the first 18 days of June, Trump had tweeted 44 times, some days up to five times per day, and that since Trump launched his 2016 campaign, he has sent over 1,500 negative tweets.
  133. Later Wednesday, Trump tweeted, “So sad that the Democrats are putting wonderful Hope Hicks through hell,” saying Democrats want a “Do Over,” adding, “Very unfair & costly to her. Will it ever end?”
  134. Trump also asked why Democrats are not “asking Hillary Clinton why she deleted and acid washed her Emails,” adding, “anybody else would be in jail for that,” and “Rigged House Committee.”
  135. On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee interviewed Hope Hicks. NYT reported she refused to answer nearly every question about her time working in the regime, citing Trump said she was “absolutely immune.”
  136. Democrats said Hicks even refused to answer about the location of her West Wing office at the closed door hearings. Hicks did discuss her time on the campaign, but with reportedly no meaningful revelations.
  137. Democrats on the committee threatened to take Hicks to court to enforce the subpoena for her full testimony. Hicks was referred to more than 180 times in the Mueller report.
  138. Legal experts said the legal process of compelling former White House officials like Hicks and Don McGahn could take several months or years to wind through the court system. Impeachment would hasten the process.
  139. On Thursday, Politico reported according to a transcript of Hick’s interview released late Wednesday, she refused to answer 155 questions during her House testimony.
  140. The transcript revealed dozens of objections from White House lawyers to prevent her from answering, including questions on Trump’s attempts to restrain the Mueller probe through directives to McGahn to fire Mueller.
  141. At one point, Chair Nadler challenged a White House lawyer’s claims of “absolute immunity,” telling him, “that is absolute nonsense as a matter of law.” Hicks at times became snarky, and remained loyal to Trump.
  142. On Thursday, Chair Nadler told Politico that House Democrats would file a lawsuit within days to compel Hicks and McGahn to testify, adding Hicks’ blanket refusal is a huge gift in the legal battle with Trump.
  143. Nadler said, “We knew this was going to happen. The point of it was to dramatize for the court what the implications of this are.” The committee plans to show courts the Trump regime’s extremist view on stonewalling.
  144. On Thursday, WAPO reported Felix Sater, a Russian-born real estate developer and Trump business partner who worked on Trump Tower Moscow, will testify Friday before the House Intelligence Committee.
  145. Sater said, “I will answer every question without exception” in the closed door session. Sater also detailed what he described as a two-decade-long history of assisting the FBI, the CIA, and Defense Intelligence Agency.
  146. On Friday, Sater was an unexplained no-show for the House hearings. Chair Adam Schiff said, “He agreed to appear this morning. He did not show up. We will have to subpoena him.”
  147. On Friday, Politico reported that Sater’s excuse for missing his scheduled appearance was that he was feeling ill and slept through his alarm on Friday morning.
  148. On Wednesday, the Trump regime reversed its decision to end the Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centersannounced in Week 133, after a backlash from a bipartisan lawmakers, including Leader McConnell.
  149. On Wednesday, Trump called in to Fox News host Sean Hannity for what ended up being a 45-minute long interview. Trump accused two members of Congress of taking photos of Hicks and leaking them to the media.
  150. Trump’s claim was false, but Hannity validated it by saying, “Oh good grief.” Trump continued on a variety of familiar topics, including Russia and his Wall. Trump continued as Ingraham’s show started at 10 p.m.
  151. Trump pushed back on Hannity saying many people would like for Trump to “turn off the switch” and use Twitter less, telling Hannity “you’re not really patriots as much as you want ratings.”
  152. Trump also told Hannity he might live tweet the Democratic debates next week despite his aides not wanting him to, saying “maybe I will now,” adding, “Instead of fake news, I’ll make them correct news. And that’s OK.”
  153. On Thursday, Time released a transcript of its interview with Trump. When asked about the Mueller report, Trump changed topics to threaten a photographer for attempting to photograph his letter from Kim Jong Un.
  154. Trump said, “Well, you can go to prison, instead, because if you use, if you use the photograph you took of the letter that I gave you . . . ” The Time reporter then tried to continue the interview.
  155. Trump added, “confidentially, I didn’t give it to you to take photographs of it — so don’t play that game with me.” Asked if he was threatening jail time, Trump changed the subject to Time’s unfavorable coverage of him.
  156. On Sunday, a WSJ-NBC News poll found 48% of Democrats want to begin impeachment hearings, up from 30% last month. Overall 27% support for starting impeachment up from 17% last month.
  157. The poll also found that overall, 51% of Americans believe impeachment should start now or Congress should continue to investigate, up slightly from 49% last month. Opposition to impeachment remained at 48%.
  158. On Wednesday, 71 House members were for impeachment, including 70 Democrats and Republican Rep. Justin Amash. Notably, only one of the 12 key committee chairs, Chair Maxine Waters, is for impeachment.
  159. On Thursday, Rep. Jan Schakowsky became the 72nd to call for impeachment, but hours later, she qualifiedher call to say Speaker Pelosi was “ultimately right” in her push to get rid of Trump in the 2020 election.
  160. On Wednesday, tensions grew between the Trump regime and lawmakers of both parties over whether Trump could use the 2001 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) for a military strike against Iran.
  161. Secretary of State Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the basis would be Iran’s connections to al Qaeda, which he called “very real.” GOP Sen. Rand Paul said “there are no credible links” between al Qaeda and Iran.
  162. The State Department’s special envoy for Iran said adding troops was for protection, not a strike. A bipartisan group of Senators said in a letter “Congress has not authorized war” and there was no statutory authority.
  163. On Thursday, the U.S. military confirmed Iran’s Revolutionary Guard shot down a U.S. surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz, considered international waters, the first direct attack by Iran on U.S. military.
  164. Trump tweeted shortly after, “Iran made a very big mistake,” and when asked about a U.S. response said, “You’ll soon find out.” Iran denied the U.S. version of events, saying the drone strayed into Iranian airspace.
  165. As he met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Trump said, “We have it all documented. It’s documented scientifically, not just words.” When asked what came next, Trump said, “Let’s see what happens.”
  166. Later, Trump seemed to soften, telling reporters, “I find it hard to believe it was intentional, if you want to know the truth,” adding, “I think that it could have been somebody who was loose and stupid that did it.”
  167. At mid-day, Russian President Vladimir Putin said during a televised direct line with the Russian public that a war between the U.S. and Iran “would be a catastrophe” and “could have possibly sad consequences.”
  168. On Thursday, NYT reported Trump had approved retaliatory strikes against Iran, and as of 7 p.m. military and diplomatic officials were expecting strikes on a handful of targets.
  169. Trump’s decision came after a discussion at the White House including his top national security officials and Congressional leaders. The strike was set to take place just before dawn on Friday in order to minimize risk.
  170. Secretary of State Pompeo, national security adviser John Bolton, and CIA director Gina Haspel had favored a strike. Top Pentagon officials warned it could escalate. Congressional leaders were briefed in the Situation Room.
  171. After the briefing, Democratic leaders called on Trump to de-escalate and to seek congressional authorization before taking any military action.
  172. Later in the evening, Trump abruptly called off the strike, which would have been his third, including two strikes in Syria. It was unclear if Trump changed his mind or the regime altered course for some reason.
  173. On Friday, Trump again attacked the Times, referring to a Washington Examiner story about a 2017 email from a NYT reporter to an FBI official. Trump tweeted about “the Failing and Desperate New York Times.”
  174. Trump falsely claimed the Times “was feeding false stories about me, & those associated with me, to the FBI,” calling them a “Crooked newspaper” and asking, “Is what they have done legal?
  175. On Friday, the Washington Examiner issued a correction, removing the characterization that a NYT reporter ‘fed information’ to the FBI, adding “we regret” the story did not meet our “normal standards and procedures.”
  176. On Friday, in a series of tweets on Iran, Trump said Obama “made a desperate and terrible deal with Iran” falsely claiming Obama bailed Iran out by giving them “150 Billion Dollars plus 1.8 Billion Dollars in CASH!”
  177. Trump blamed Obama for giving Iran “a free path to Nuclear Weapons, and SOON,” adding, “I terminated deal, which was not even ratified by Congress, and imposed strong sanctions” claiming he has weakened Iran.
  178. Trump added after Iran shot down the drone, “We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General.”
  179. Trump added, “10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone,” adding, “I am in no hurry,” and saying, “Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons.”
  180. Trump also tweeted, “Sanctions are biting & more added last night.” CNBC reported the Treasury Department has not issued new sanctions, and a spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
  181. On Friday, Speaker Pelosi told reporters that she was not informed by Trump about his planned Iran strike. Traditionally, House and Senate leadership, and chair and ranking members key committees are informed.
  182. On Friday, Reuters reported Iranian sources said Trump had warned Tehran that a U.S. attack was imminent, saying he was against war and wanted talks. The U.S. State Department denied Reuters’ report.
  183. Trump spoke to Crown Prince MBS on the situation Friday. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she and fellow EU leaders “are concerned about the situation and support diplomatic negotiations.”
  184. On Friday, WAPO reported key Trump allies had expected him to impose economic sanctions or other nonmilitary punishment on Iran. The chaos of the response reinforced concerns about the Trump regime’s credibility.
  185. Officials disputed Trump’s tweets, saying he was told the number of possible casualties early in the day, but gave the green light to prepare for a retaliatory strikes.
  186. Later in the day, in an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd, Trump changed his story, saying at no time did he he give final approval for any strikes and that no planes were in the air.
  187. On Friday, NYT reported that one of the reasons Trump chose not to strike was warnings from his favorite Fox News host Tucker Carlson not to do so, highlighting the unusual decision-making process of Trump.
  188. On Friday, Rep. William Lacy Clay and two co-sponsors filed articles of impeachment for obstruction of justice, and three co-sponsored a resolution for the House Judiciary to begin an impeachment inquiry.
  189. On Friday, Politico reported Trump’s continual reference to serving more than two terms and comments by Michael Cohen that Trump will not leave if 2020 is close have people in Congress and the beltway chattering.
  190. Concern is Trump would not accept a 2020 defeat, and tie the matter up in court for a long time. Republicans claim at that point they would intervene, and most at the juncture view the possibility as far-fetched.
  191. On Friday, Trump tweeted a video depicting him on the cover of Time as running for president indefinitely. The video was a play on this week’s Time cover titled, “How Trumpism Outlasts Trump.”
  192. On Friday, the number of Democrats calling for impeachment grew to 75 out of 235, bringing the total including Rep. Amash to 76.
  193. On Friday, a newly unsealed filing from the Alexandria court revealed Sean Hannity and Paul Manafort exchanged hundreds of text messages about the Mueller probe in the time preceding Manafort’s criminal trial.
  194. The two regularly communicated, sharing opinions and information about the Mueller investigation. Manafort put Hannity in touch with his attorney Kevin Downing, and Hannity relayed information from Trump’s orbit.
  195. Manafort texted, “I won’t sell out. I cannot allow them to win..it would empower them to go after” Trump and others, adding he planned to work to re-elect Trump. Mueller brought the texts to the judge’s attention.
  196. A gag order prevented Manafort from appearing on Hannity’s show, but he texted him, “Building a plan B.” He also told Hannity he was using information on Fox News for his legal arguments.
  197. Manafort requested to put Downing in contact with Gregg Jarrett, another Fox News host, and set up Hannity with Downing on a phone call in a January 2018 to which Hannity said, “I asked him to feed me every day.”
  198. Manafort said that unlike Gates, he would never cooperate. He also praised the hire of Rudy Giuliani, but repeatedly expressed frustration with then AG Jeff Sessions, whom he called “totally worthless.”
  199. On Saturday, Trump defended the roundups, tweeting, “These are people that are supposed to go back to their home country,” adding, “They broke the law by coming into the country, & now by staying.”
  200. On Saturday, Trump praised Bolton, despite reports of friction on Iran. Trump told reporters Bolton is a “hawk” and he disagrees with him at times, adding, “the only one that matters is me.”
  201. On Saturday, Trump delayed planned deportation roundups scheduled for Sunday, facing a massive backlashfrom Democrats, activists, and elected officials and law enforcement in the 10 states he planned to target.
  202. Pelosi called the roundups “heartless” and urged Trump to “stop this brutal action.” Trump tweeted, “at the request of Democrats, I have delayed the Illegal Immigration Removal Process (Deportation) for two weeks.”

Indecision As Foreign Policy

Ken AshfordIran, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Things have been ratcheting up with Iran for a few weeks, starting last week with a questionable attack by Iran on a US oil tanker, accompanied by weak, grainy photographic evidence. But it went into overdrive this week when Iran shot down a U.S. drone over… well, Iran or international waters, depending on who you listen to.

Trump’s response was… well…

President Trump approved military strikes against Iran in retaliation for downing an American surveillance drone, but pulled back from launching them on Thursday night after a day of escalating tensions.

As late as 7 p.m., military and diplomatic officials were expecting a strike, after intense discussions and debate at the White House among the president’s top national security officials and congressional leaders, according to multiple senior administration officials involved in or briefed on the deliberations.

Officials said the president had initially approved attacks on a handful of Iranian targets, like radar and missile batteries.

The operation was underway in its early stages when it was called off, a senior administration official said. Planes were in the air and ships were in position, but no missiles had been fired when word came to stand down, the official said.

The abrupt reversal put a halt to what would have been the president’s third military action against targets in the Middle East. Mr. Trump had struck twice at targets in Syria, in 2017 and 2018.

It was not clear whether Mr. Trump simply changed his mind on the strikes or whether the administration altered course because of logistics or strategy. It was also not clear whether the attacks might still go forward.

I’m like 99% sure whatever reason he stopped was dumb and that he won’t learn any lesson about whose advice is good and whose advice is so bad they should be fired.

This moment of truth was probably inevitable since the day in 2018 that Mr. Trump withdrew the United States from the international nuclear agreement with Iran negotiated by President Barack Obama and decided to unilaterally reimpose crippling sanctions. With its economy crumbling, Iran was always prone to lash out, forcing Mr. Trump to choose between war and peace.

Even if no American casualties were expected in an initial set of strikes, we have thousands of Americans in the region. Pompeo and others said we had intel about Iran targeting American citizens in Iraq recently. We also know Iran targets our allies, so Iran’s response could have had fatal consequences. Any responsible NSC process would have included an intel assessment of what Iran is currently up to AND how they would respond to US strikes.

Irresponsibly engaging in that process leads us to where we are today – Iran can use this latest episode to play the victim card and they can use this recent Trump change of heart as the basis for ramping up their own “defensive” activities which could escalate the situation.

Calling off the strikes was the right thing to do from a security perspective. Striking Iranian assets because of their downing of a drone would not have been proportional and it would have put thousands of Americans (if not more) at risk. But this very public flip flop is not cost free. It makes the US look indecisive.

It also highlights the folly of Trump’s approach in foreign policy. Trump has always been a commander in chief of contradictions. He has adopted a modified version of Theodore Roosevelt’s maxim when it comes to overseas military threats — speak loudly and carry a small stick. Or carry a big stick but wave it around without actually using it much.

He talks like a bellicose warmonger but acts like an isolationist peacenik. He warns enemies that he will rain down “fire and fury”on them while striving to avoid more of the foreign wars he blames his predecessors for waging. Trump is surrounded within his own team by hawks like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, who favor a strong response to Iran, even as the president resists. The contrast in their perceived positions has created a deep confusion at home and in the region about the administration’s policy.

You have Bolton and Pompeo on one side and Trump and the Joint Chiefs on the other. And now we have a problem because we have no strategic coherence.

Even Trump’s unofficial advisers are split: last night on Fox, Tucker Carlson railed against war with Iran, while Sean Hannity beat the war drums as loud as he could, getting into a scrape with Fox’s Geraldo Rivera.

Some might suggest that the flip-flop was intentional, it was all a big performance.  — as if Trump and his team are playing 12 dimensional chess, i.e., Trump’s team is trying to have it both ways — acting restrained but talking tough. In this view, Trump loved the feeling of being at the controls of the war machine—an even more dramatic and exciting experience than sitting in the cab of a Mack truck on the White House grounds and pretending to drive it. Pulling back the strikes wasn’t a sign of shaky resolve—it was a stage-managed turn, allowing Trump to show his power by declining to exercise it, like an ancient king granting clemency only once the condemned was at the gallows. These are the gut-clenching and -unclenching tactics that Trump learned in television, and he deploys them far more instinctively than he does the military.

But at the end of the day, how is it different than the sort of wobbliness on red lines that Obama exhibited? Iran hawks in Washington will say it is. But though Trump likes to talk up his strength and toughness, he has repeatedly blinked.

In a series of tweets this morning, Trump explained his decision: he called off the strikes after being informed that 150 people would die.

This is key, if true:

In other words, Trump drew a red line, then blinked when they called his bluff.

UPDATE: Trump still explaining…

This is questionable. The military would have done an assessment of possible casualty numbers prior to being asked. That would have been part of any plan. He didn’t have to ask, and even if he did, they would have the answer at their fingertips.