Mueller Day Preview

Ken AshfordCongress, L'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Tomorrow is “Mueller Day” – the day before Robert Mueller testifies before Congress. Mueller is scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary and Intelligence panels Wednesday morning beginning at 8:30 a.m. ET. The former special counsel has been a reluctant witness, and is appearing before subpoena. Democrats plan to push Mueller on several aspects of his investigation as well as the question if he would recommend charges against President Donald Trump were he not the President.

By all accounts, the Democrats are PREPARING, which is a good thing. Typically, they don’t which means time and energy are wasted on questions and long speeches. Mueller has already said he will not go outside the four corners of his report, which means any question outside that zone will likely not result in an answer. So Democrats are planning their questions so as not to repeat, and get the most out of Mueller as possible.

Hanging over this is a DOJ letter sent out yesterday, explicitly saying that any testimony by Mueller that extends beyond the report is barred by “executive privilege”.

This whole exercise has the Department of Justice acting like the White House Counsel’s Office. Indeed, in some respects it seems to have the DOJ operating more like the President’s own personal attorneys.

The letter begins by noting that Mueller has already said he doesn’t want to testify beyond what is contained in his report and then says it expects him to keep to that. Obviously, what he said was his preference has no binding power. There’s various stuff of that nature. But the letter really gets down to brass tacks in the penultimate paragraph where it says Mueller cannot testify to anything beyond what is stated in the report because the entire investigation is covered by executive privilege.

This claim of executive privilege is preposterous on its face. Executive privilege is a penumbra of confidentiality the President is accorded to allow him or her to solicit advice and have decision making processes free from open-ended scrutiny from Congress. The idea that an investigation of the President is itself covered by executive privilege is simply an absurdity. I’ve seen the arguments they’ve used to try to paste this argument together; none of them hold water.

What’s more interesting to me is just what the angle is here. According to the letter, Mueller solicited the DOJ’s input on what privileges applied back on July 10th. So one might see this not as trying to box Mueller in but simply responding to a request for guidance from Mueller himself. But coming less than 48 hours before the testimony and going public like this, it sounds a lot more like an effort to box him in. If Mueller’s on board far more effective to have these discussions privately.

If Barr really thought this was a credible argument, it seems obvious that he would have made this a focus of the negotiations with the committees. Tossing it in at the end like this sounds like something different, like something they knew wouldn’t fly in any legal context and which they weren’t confident Mueller would accept.

It is unclear if Mueller will follow this guidance. Mueller will have a prepared opening statement for his hearing that has not been seen by the Justice Department, according to Jim Popkin, a spokesman for the former special counsel.The statement, which will likely not be released until Mueller starts his testimony, did not have to be cleared through the Department of Justice and no officials from the department, including Attorney General William Barr, have seen the document, Popkin said.

But he seemed reluctant to go outside his report anyway. If he stays within his report, the media are likely to say this is a loss for Democrats, but that should not be the case. The report is damaging to Trump. It just needs to be explained that way.

So…. with those warning in mind, what should be asked? What CAN be asked?

Well, for one thing, Mueller can very easily expose Trump’s lie that the report found “no collusion, no obstruction” by being asked three simple questions:

Mr. Mueller, the president said your report found, in his words, “no collusion, no obstruction, complete and total exoneration.”

First, did your report find there was no collusion?

Second, did your report find there was no obstruction?

Third, did your report give the president complete and total exoneration?

But other questions can also be asked (and SHOULD be) – questions about the process, about the conspiracy, about the obstruction, and questions about the next steps to be taken:

1. Before you submitted your report on March 22, 2019, did Attorney General William Barr or Rod Rosenstein inform you that they believed you had the authority or the responsibility to bring an indictment against the President if you concluded there was sufficient evidence to establish the President committed a crime? Did Mr. Barr or Mr. Rosenstein inform you that they believed you should indicate in your final report whether you would have brought an indictment of the President were it not for the Justice Department’s preexisting view that a sitting President cannot be indicted?

2. If you knew before you submitted your report on March 22, 2019 that, according to the Attorney General of the United States, you could and should indicate that a sitting President had acted criminally if you concluded that the President had indeed engaged in a crime, would you have included that determination in your report if you considered the evidence supported it?

3. Upon concluding your work and submitting your final report, did you anticipate the Attorney General reaching and publicly announcing a conclusion on whether the President had obstructed justice? Would you have recommended that the Attorney General do so?

4. Were you ever concerned that William Barr, Rod Rosenstein, or Matthew Whitaker were improperly sharing information about your ongoing investigation with the White House?

5. Your report states:

“On March 9, 2017, Comey briefed the ‘Gang of Eight’ congressional leaders about the FBI’s investigation of Russian interference, including an identification of the principal U.S. subjects of the investigation. … The week after Comey’s briefing, the White House Counsel’s Office was in contact with SSCI Chairman Senator Richard Burr about the Russia investigations and appears to have received information about the status of the FBI investigation.”

Were you concerned that Sen. Burr improperly provided information to the White House about the status of the investigation? Did you raise these concerns with Sen. Burr or his staff?

6. On April 9, 2019, Rep. Charlie Crist asked Attorney General Barr the following question:

“Reports have emerged recently, General, that members of the special counsel’s team are frustrated at some level with the limited information included in your March 24th letter, that it does not adequately or accurately, necessarily, portray the report’s findings. Do you know what they’re referencing with that?”

Did Attorney General Barr have knowledge what those reports were referencing? In your view, did your letter of March 27, 2019, to the Attorney General provide him with knowledge of what those reports were referencing?

7. Your March 27, 2019, letter to Attorney General Barr referenced an earlier letter you had already sent to Mr. Barr on March 25, 2019. How many letters or communications in writing did you send to Attorney General Barr raising concerns about either his 4-page letter dated March 24, 2019 or his decision not to release the summaries your Office apparently prepared for public release? Why send those letters?

8. Attorney General Barr’s letter to Congress on March 22, 2019, stated that there were no instances in which the Attorney General or Acting Attorney General rejected any proposed action by you. Is that statement accurate? Were there instances in which you did not propose an action primarily or in part because you believed the Attorney General or Acting Attorney General would not approve it? Does that include instances in which you believed they would not have approved it for reasons other than the preexisting Justice Department view that a sitting president cannot be indicted?

9. Attorney General Barr said that he offered you the opportunity to review his March 24, 2019 letter to Congress and you declined. Is that accurate? If so, why did you decline?

10. What role, if any, did Matthew Whitaker or Rod Rosenstein play in the decision of your office to make a public statement about the Buzzfeed report that claimed the President directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress? Why did your office respond to this news report and not do so for many others? What are the material differences between what Cohen told Congress on February 27, 2019 about the President’s telling him to lie and what Buzzfeed reported?

11. Many commentators, including highly experienced former federal prosecutors, were surprised by the timing of your end of the investigation while relevant litigation was ongoing and significant actors such as Julian Assange and Roger Stone could still, at least conceivably, flip and cooperate with your investigation, thus potentially yielding new investigations and even prosecutions. Please explain fully your reasoning for bringing the investigation to a close when you did.

12. Upon your appointment, did you review the case opening documentation for the counterintelligence investigation into Russian election interference, codenamed Crossfire Hurricane? Can you explain the basis for the opening of that investigation? Do you believe it was a properly predicated investigation?

13. Do you believe that Congress, including the Gang of Eight, has been adequately informed by your team and other parts of the intelligence community with respect to any counterintelligence assessments of Americans who may have been acting wittingly or unwittingly on behalf of the Russian government? Do you believe Congress, including the Gang of Eight, has been adequately informed by your team and other parts of the intelligence community with respect to other counterintelligence information that has come out of your and related investigations into Russian interference in the American political process and public and private institutions? If not, what have been the obstacles to Congress being adequately informed?

14. Did your office ever provide any assessment of the extent to which President Trump is acting—wittingly or unwittingly—to advance the interests of the Russian Government; if so, has that assessment been provided in some form to Congress (and, if so, to which Members)? If your office did not make that assessment, are you aware of the FBI or others in the government having produced such an assessment at any point, and do you know if that has been provided in some form to Congress? Are you aware of any consideration, in your office or elsewhere in the administration, of mitigation measures to address concerns of Russian influence (witting or unwitting) in the Trump White House? If so, what came of that consideration?

15. On March 20, 2017, then-FBI Director James Comey stated in a public congressional hearing:

“I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government.”

The May 17, 2017 Order establishing your mandate stated:

“The Special Counsel is authorized to conduct the investigation confirmed by then-FBI Director James B. Comey in testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on March 20, 2017.”

Your report, however, suggests that the counterintelligence investigation may have been conducted by other parts of the Justice Department. Given the public statements made by the FBI Director and given the Justice Department’s order, please explain publicly whether you maintained control over the counterintelligence investigation and your role and relationship to it since you assumed the position of Special Counsel.

16. In your report, you note that your office considered whether to charge Carter Page under the Foreign Agents Registration Act for being an unregistered agent of Russia, but did not believe you had sufficient evidence to prove these charges beyond a reasonable doubt. You also indicate that Page was the subject of a FISA order, and that the FBI did meet the lower probable cause threshold for that order on four instances. Did you ever review the underlying materials for the FISA order? Would any of those materials have included the evidence you considered in deciding whether to charge Page criminally?

17. Are significant parts of the counterintelligence investigation, confirmed by then-FBI Director James Comey on March 20, 2017, still ongoing?

18. Over the entire course of your investigation, did you have unrestricted access to the FBI to direct the Bureau to pursue leads and other investigatory matters of interest? Did you have unrestricted access to the CIA to encourage similar efforts?

19. Volume 2 of your final report strongly indicates that, if President Trump engaged in criminal obstruction of justice, some of his personal lawyers were directly involved in those activities and could be criminally liable as well. What was your decision for not pursuing indictments of those lawyers for involvement in obstruction and witness tampering? Was your decision affected by the prospect of the President being included explicitly or implicitly as an unindicted co-conspirator?

20. Please describe your reasoning for including in your final report a comprehensive response to statutory and constitutional defenses to obstruction. It appears this reasoning would be relevant only in anticipation of an institution (such as Congress or future prosecutors) potentially pursuing criminal charges or other institutional actions (such as impeachment) against Mr. Trump during or after his presidency. Is that what you had in mind when including that response?

21. Your final report states:

“Although the events we investigated involved discrete acts …. it is important to view the President’s pattern of conduct as a whole. That pattern sheds light on the nature of the President’s acts and the inferences that can be drawn about his intent.”

Does that mean that a proper way to read the report is to consider not only whether each of the instances of potential interference independently constitutes a potential crime of obstruction but also whether the overall set of multiple instances (including, perhaps, instances that on their own would not suffice) would help to establish a case of criminal obstruction?

22. Your final report divides the actions and motives of the President in the potential case of obstruction into “two phases”:

“[T]he actions we investigated can be divided into two phases, reflecting a possible shift in the President’s motives. The first phase covered the period from the President’s first interactions with Comey through the President’s firing of Comey. During that time, the President had been repeatedly told he was not personally under investigation. Soon after the firing of Comey and the appointment of the Special Counsel, however, the President became aware that his own conduct was being investigated in an obstruction-of-justice inquiry. At that point, the President engaged in a second phase of conduct, involving public attacks on the investigation, non-public efforts to control it, and efforts in both public and private to encourage witnesses not to cooperate with the investigation” (Vol. II, p. 7).

Is it accurate to say that, in your view, the President’s actions in phase two—after he was aware that his own conduct was being investigated in an obstruction-of-justice inquiry—were motivated by a desire to interfere with investigation of his potential underlying crime of obstruction?

23. You indicate in your legal analysis for obstruction that even in the absence of an underlying crime, an erroneous belief that the underlying conduct was criminal, or even a desire to conceal embarrassing information from becoming public, could nevertheless constitute “corrupt” intent. Did any of the evidence you uncovered suggest that these kinds of motives may have been driving the President’s actions?

24. What is Congress’ constitutional basis for investigating obstruction of justice by the President, and how would such an investigation be consistent with the separation of powers?

25. Leading election law experts (including Bob BauerRick Hasen, and Paul S. Ryan) have criticized how your final report describes existing campaign finance law and believe it improperly provides an opening for mischief in the future—for example, (a) by suggesting that the law is unclear on whether a foreign government’s providing essentially opposition research is “a thing of value” and (b) by suggesting “coordination” required an agreement between the Trump Campaign and the Russians to be criminal, despite the absence of such a requirement in federal campaign finance law. How do you respond to these criticisms?

26. Was the legal analysis for campaign finance law in your report a product solely of personnel in your Office or other parts of the Justice Department as well? If other parts of the Justice Department, what role did they play in informing the analysis or working on drafts of it?

27. Would it have been a crime for candidate Trump to promote Russian interests in shaping the Republican primaries and public discourse in the general election or in offering Putin relief from U.S. sanctions in exchange for a highly lucrative real estate deal in Moscow? Did you consider exploring those activities as a potential crime? If these are concerning but perhaps not criminal activities, would you recommend other forms of scrutiny so the public can better understand any such quid pro quo?

28. What is the burden of proof that the Justice Department must meet to prove criminal conspiracy, and how does the Justice Department approach this standard in terms of deciding whether to bring charges? Based on the evidence you uncovered in the course of investigating conspiracy, do you believe your evidence would be sufficient to meet a lower burden of proof, for example, the civil standard of “preponderance of the evidence”?

29. What are the most plausible explanations for Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort’s repeatedly sharing internal polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik, a person the FBI assesses to have ties to Russian intelligence?

30. Your investigation was not able to establish, according to criminal law standards, whether George Papadopoulos informed the Trump campaign about the Russian government having derogatory information on Clinton in the form of emails and indications from the Russian government that it could assist the campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to Clinton. Do you believe that it’s more likely than not that Papadopoulos did inform the campaign?

31. Overall, what did you anticipate happening next when you submitted your final report? In particular, what did you think Congress would do with your findings regarding obstruction of justice, given the detailed nature of your findings and your view that it would be improper to opine on whether those findings constituted the commission of criminal activity by a sitting president?

32. Based on your investigation, what legislative reforms do you think may be needed to stop ongoing or future foreign government interference in U.S. elections? Would you recommend a federal requirement for campaigns to report any offer of assistance from a foreign government agent, with failure punishable as a crime? Would you recommend codifying a federal offense for knowingly trafficking in stolen property (perhaps specifically in the campaign context, or perhaps not), to include hacked emails and other electronic documents and communications? Would you recommend expansion of federal offenses for aiding and abetting violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act? Would you recommend changes or official clarifications of campaign finance law rules on foreign national contributions to political campaigns? Do you think Congress should look into the rules and enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act and Lobbying Disclosure Act?

33. A provision of the Special Counsel regulations (28 CFR 600.4) provide for non-criminal remedies for wrongdoing discovered by the investigation. What, if any, such remedies did you consider might be appropriate? Did you make any recommendations to the Attorney General or Acting Attorney General under this provision?

34. If Congress wanted to determine for itself the strength of the case of obstruction or abuse of power, not necessarily according to criminal law standards of proof, who would be the most important potential witnesses for the public to hear from and for Congress to call on to testify?

35. What major investigative questions remain, and how would you recommend Congress playing a role in answering them?

36. Did acting Attorney General Whitaker, Attorney General Barr or Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein ever suggest that you wrap up your investigation? Did you in anyway file the report of your investigation earlier than you felt was appropriate?

37. Please generally describe the criteria for assessing whether a US citizen is acting to advance the interest of a foreign government. Was Candidate Trump evaluated with these criteria before the election? What was that assessment? Were any assessments documented? If so, where are those documents? Were any other members of the Trump campaign, Trump Organization, or Trump family so evaluated? Please indicate whether there was any pre-election assessment of Paul Manafort as a foreign agent for the Russian Government.

38. It has been reported that as a component of Moscow Tower, Trump organization was to offer Putin a very expensive penthouse. Was this investigated? Is there any documentation except for what is in Vol. 1? Would such an arrangement be legal?

39. Mueller was specifically asked to investigate any links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, however, he was also asked to investigate Russian election interference more generally. It seems plausible that other campaigns besides Trumps might have been targets of Russian outreach. We’ve all seen the photo of Jill Stein, Putin and Mike Flynn at the RT gala. Did Mueller’s team investigate Stein or any of the other presidential campaigns for possible Russian connections?

40. Why didn’t you resign as Special Counsel very soon after submitting your report to free you to testify as you wished without restraints from Attorney General Barr, the Justice Department, or the President?

41. Were violations of the Logan Act considered in any other regard outside of the Flynn investigation? Do you consider the Logan Act an enforceable law?

42. Did the office ever evaluate the polling data [that Manafort shared with Kilimnik, see #12 above] for Trump campaign strategy, whether the data assessed candidate Clinton’s potential weakness to Russian email releases? Did the office interview Tony Fabrizio about the polling data? What was the summary of such interviews?

43. What criteria did you use when determining whether to pursue a certain line of investigation or refer it to another office?

44. I’d like to ask why Mueller did not investigate Trump’s finances or ask for his taxes to see if he is deriving income from any foreign government either through shell companies or via campaign contributions, etc.

45. In your opinion, what are some of the most helpful and productive things the average citizen can do to help right now?

46. If we as Congress were to take your report – and the underlying evidence – and to use it as the basis for impeachment of the President of the United States, would that be an unexpected result of the report for yourself and your team? Would using the report in this way in any way be a partisan attack on the President or a misrepresentation of the activity described in the Special Consul’s report?

No doubt Mueller is also preparing for the onslaught from the Freedom Caucus jackasses, which is going to be a real circus. Mueller can run rings around the conspiracy theorists. If they are smart, they will ask few questions and merely pontificate from the podium. I expect that to happen.

Weekly List 140

Ken AshfordWeekly ListLeave a Comment

This week, in a shocking display of racism, Trump tweeted that four congresswomen of color should “go back” to the countries they came from. Amid Republican silence, rather than backing off, Trump ramped up his attacks, leading to a mid-week rally where his supporters chanted “send them back.” At first Trump seemed to distance himself from his supporters’ chants, but the next day doubled-down, calling the supporters “incredible patriots,” while escalating his attacks on the congresswomen further. Still, by week’s end, no Republicans publicly criticized Trump, rather backing him or seeking to redirect his racist comments to a discussion of political ideology.

This week as the House voted to condemn Trump’s racist tweet, and to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt on the citizenship question — yet both votes were symbolic gestures, having no real impact. Questions were raised by members of Congress about Barr’s involvement with dismissing charges against the police officer who allegedly strangled Eric Garner to death, and in ending the Southern District of New York’s investigation into campaign finance violations over hush-money payments to silence two women. The House also entertained an impeachment resolution from Rep. Al Green, which 95 House Democrats voted to advance — the highest level of support so far — as Robert Mueller prepares to testify next week.

  1. On Saturday, AP reported the vast majority of 10,000 election jurisdictions nationwide will be using Windows 7 or an older operating system, no longer supported by Microsoft, for voting in the 2020 election.
  2. Windows 7 reaches its “end of life” on January 14, leaving the systems vulnerable to hacking. States impacted include Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Iowa, Indiana, Arizona, North Carolina, Michigan, and Georgia.
  3. On Wednesday, the Democratic National Committee sent out an alert to presidential campaigns warning the popular face-transforming app called FaceApp was created by developers in St. Petersburg, Russia.
  4. The DNC told staffers “delete the app immediately.” The app was launched in 2017 by the St. Petersburg-based company Wireless Lab, and has been used more than 80 million times.
  5. On Wednesday, Microsoft announced it has detected more than 740 infiltration attempts by nation-state actors of U.S.-based political parties, campaigns, and other democracy-focused organizations in the past year.
  6. Microsoft did not publicly reveal how many infiltration attempts were successful, but noted similar targeting occurred in the early stages of the 2016 and 2018 elections.
  7. Politico reported Jonathan Karl, the new president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, asked press secretary Stephanie Grisham to resume daily White House briefings. The last briefing was on March 11.
  8. On Saturday, Trump’s ICE launched raids targeting migrant parents and their children. Although reporting and Trump claimed last week 2,000 would be targeted, NYT reported there were only a handful of arrests.
  9. Authorities told the Times more arrests would instead take place during the week, saying the operation was changed last minute because news reports had tipped off immigrant communities.
  10. On Sunday, CNBC reported fear of ICE raids has caused some American citizens, largely Latinos, to carry their passports to avoid being mistakenly detained by ICE.
  11. On Sunday, Trump tweeted at four congresswomen, Reps. Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley to “go back” to the countries they came from. Only Rep. Omar was not born in the U.S.
  12. Trump tweeted the four “originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt,” adding, “if they even have a functioning government at all.”
  13. Trump also tweeted the four are “viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth,” how to run our government.
  14. Trump also tweeted the four should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” adding, “then come back and show us how it is done,” and “you can’t leave fast enough.”
  15. Trump also tweeted, “I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!” citing Democratic party infighting. His tweets stopped infighting, and unified Democrats.
  16. Trump’s attacks mirrored rhetoric on Fox News, including host Tucker Carlson telling Somali-born Rep. Omar to return to her birth country, citing her “undisguised contempt for the United States and for its people.”
  17. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted that Trump “reaffirms his plan to “Make America Great Again” has always been about making America white again,” adding, “diversity is our strength,” and “Stop the raids.”
  18. On Monday, Trump continued attacks, tweeting, “When will the Radical Left Congresswomen apologize to our Country, the people of Israel and even to the Office of the President, for the foul language they have used.”
  19. Trump also tweeted, “So many people are angry at them & their horrible & disgusting actions!,” adding the four are “very unpopular & unrepresentative Congresswomen.”
  20. Trump also sent a series of tweets quoting Sen. Lindsey Graham, calling the four a “bunch of Communists,” adding “they are Anti-Semitic, they are Anti-America,” and “their policies will destroy our Country!”
  21. On Monday, at a “Made in America” event at the White House, Trump told reporters “these are people who in my opinion hate our country,” adding, “All I’m saying is, if they’re not happy here, they can leave.”
  22. Trump said Rep. Omar “hates Israel” and “hates Jews, hates Jews,” adding, “I mean, I look at the one, I look at Omar. I mean, I don’t know, I never met her, I hear the way she talks about al Qaeda.”
  23. Reporters at the event shared photos of Trump’s handwritten notes, where he spelled al Qaeda as “Alcaida,” and people as “peopel.” Last week, Trump blamed Twitter misspellings on “fingers aren’t as good as the brain.”
  24. On Monday, Pulitzer Prize-winning presidential historian John Meacham told MSNBC that Trump “has joined Andrew Johnson as the most racist president in American history.”
  25. On Monday, WAPO reported a full day after Trump’s “go back” tweets, no prominent Republicans had publicly disagreed, indicating they agree with him or Trump has consolidated power and they are disinclined to dissent.
  26. On Monday, the four congresswomen held a press conference to respond to Trump’s attacks, saying his “blatantly racist” assault on them was an attempt to distract from his corruption and inhumane policies.
  27. Just before they took to the podium, Trump tweeted, “IF YOU ARE NOT HAPPY HERE, YOU CAN LEAVE!” adding, “This is about love for America. Certain people HATE our Country.”
  28. Trump tweeted, “They are anti-Israel, pro Al-Qaeda, and comment on the 9/11 attack, “some people did something,”” adding, “Detention facilities are not Concentration Camps!” and “America has never been stronger.”
  29. The four told reporters the agenda of white nationalists had gone from chat rooms to the White House garden, and condemned Trump’s treatment of migrants at the border and his calls for deportations.
  30. They also said Trump could not defend his policies, so he attacked them personally, and called on their colleagues to begin impeachment proceedings. They added, “we love all people in this country.”
  31. On Sunday and Monday, world leaders and senior politicians condemned Trump’s tweets. Outgoing conservative British PM Theresa May said “the language used to refer to these women was completely unacceptable.”
  32. On Monday, a WAPO media columnist wrote that similar to the media’s reluctance to use the word “lies” while reporting on Trump, not referring to him as racist “is a betrayal of journalistic truth-telling.”
  33. Later Monday, Post Executive Editor Martin Baron said, “The ‘go back’ trope is deeply rooted” in the history of U.S. racism, adding, “we have concluded that ‘racist’ is the proper term to apply to the language he used Sunday.”
  34. On Tuesday, Trump continued his attacks, tweeting, “the Democrat Congresswomen have been spewing some of the most vile, hateful, and disgusting things ever said,” adding, but “they get a free pass.”
  35. Trump also tweeted, “Our Country is Free, Beautiful and Very Successful,” adding, “If you hate our Country, or if you are not happy here, you can leave!”
  36. On Tuesday, the Republican National Committee parroted Trump’s attacks, saying in an email to reporters, “the squad…regularly use vile, hateful, anti-Israel, and anti-American rhetoric.”
  37. Later Tuesday, at a meeting with his cabinet, when asked by reporters if the four should leave, Trump responded, “It’s up to them,” adding, “Go wherever they want, or they can stay. But they should love our country.”
  38. Trump also said, “They shouldn’t hate our country,” adding, “You look at what they’ve said, I have clips right here — the most vile, horrible statements about our country, about Israel, about others.”
  39. After Trump spoke, HUD Secretary Ben Carson, the only black person in Trump’s cabinet, praised Trump, thanking him for his “incredible courage,” saying Trump is “not a racist,” and “I think God is using you.”
  40. On Tuesday, ahead of House Democrats voting on a resolution to condemn Trump’s tweets, he tweeted, “Those Tweets were NOT Racist. I don’t have a Racist bone in my body!
  41. Trump also called the vote a “con game,” adding, “Republicans should not show “weakness” and fall into their trap” and the vote should be on “the filthy language, statements and lies” by the Democratic Congresswomen.
  42. Trump also misrepresented a poll, tweeting that the congresswomen, “based on their actions, hate our Country. Get a list of the HORRIBLE things they have said. Omar is polling at 8%, Cortez at 21%,” adding “See you in 2020!”
  43. Later Tuesday, when White House counselor Kellyanne Conway was asked by a Jewish White House reporter about Trump’s racist tweets, she asked, “What’s your ethnicity?
  44. The reporter, Andrew Feinberg responded, “Uh… why is that relevant?” Conway responded, “My ancestors are from Ireland and Italy.” Conway later tried to distance herself from her own remarks.
  45. On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to quell fallout from Trump’s tweets, saying Trump is “not a racist,” and “political rhetoric has really gotten way, way overheated all across the political spectrum.”
  46. On Tuesday, CNN drew criticism for hosting Richard Spencer, a white nationalist who was a featured speaker at the deadly 2017 Unite the Right neo-Nazi rally, on their network to discuss Trump’s racist tweets.
  47. On Tuesday, the Editorial Board of the Charlotte Observer asked, “Are you OK with a racist president, Republicans?” saying every Republican lawmaker should speak out on Trump’s “dangerous, destructive behavior.”
  48. On Tuesday, a Reuters/Ipsos public opinion poll showed Republican support for Trump was up 5 points to 72% after his racist attacks. His support with Democrats dropped 2 points, and dropped 10 points with independents.
  49. On Tuesday, the House floor was thrown into chaos during a move by Democrats to vote on a resolution to condemn Trump’s racist tweets due to Speaker Pelosi’s use of the term “racist” in her remarks.
  50. Pelosi said, “Every single member of this institution.. should join us in condemning the president’s racist tweets.” Republicans sought to strike her use of “racist” from the record as it went against House rules.
  51. After review, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced Pelosi’s comments were “out of order.” The House then voted along party lines to allow Pelosi’s remarks to remain in the Congressional Record.
  52. The House voted 240-187 on the resolution, with four Republicans and Rep. Justin Amash joining Democrats. Many Democrats pushed House leadership for a harsher punishment for Trump.
  53. Ahead of the vote, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had mirrored Leader McConnell’s statement, saying Trump “is not a racist.” McCarthy also said, “This is all about politics and beliefs of ideologies.”
  54. After the vote, Trump tweeted, “so great to see how unified the Republican Party was on today’s vote,” saying they should look at the “horrible things” the four congresswomen said about “our Country, Israel, and much more.”
  55. On Tuesday, speaking with Fox News host Tucker Carlson, GOP Sen. John Kennedy called the four congresswomen the “four horsewomen of the Apocalypse,” and “whack jobs” who are “destroying the Democratic Party.”
  56. On Wednesday, a Pew Research poll found 62% of Americans say openness to people from around the worldis “essential to who we are as a nation,” down from 68% in September because of a shift in Republicans.
  57. The poll found 57% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say if the U.S. is too open to foreigners, “we risk losing our identity as a nation,” and increase from 44% in September. Democrats stayed constant.
  58. On Wednesday, the House voted 332-95 to table the impeachment resolution drafted by Rep. Al Green over Trump’s racist attacks. Among Democrats, the split was 137 to table, 95 to advance.
  59. Politico reported that 27 Democrats who have not publicly come out for impeachment yet voted to advancethe measure to impeach Trump. Before the vote, 85 Democrats were for impeachment.
  60. Committee chairs including Reps. Maxine Waters, Jerrold Nadler, Eliot Engel, Raúl Grijalva, Bennie Thompson, Frank Pallone Jr, Nita Lowey, Jim McGovern, and Nydia Velázquez also voted to advance Green’s resolution.
  61. On Wednesday, before heading to his campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina, Trump repeated a far-right conspiracy theory, telling reporters there’s “a lot of talk” about Rep. Omar being married to her brother.
  62. Trump claimed, “I know nothing about it,” but added, “You’re asking me a question about it. I don’t know, but I’m sure that somebody would be looking at that.”
  63. On Wednesday, warming up the crowd in Greenville before Trump spoke, Lara Trump said, “If you don’t love our country, the president said it, ‘You can leave.’”
  64. At the rally, Trump told the crowd, of the four congresswomen, “They don’t love our country,” adding, “I think, in some cases, they hate our country. You know what? If they don’t love it, tell them to leave it.”
  65. Trump reeled off several controversial comments made by Rep. Omar, including repeating a false claim that she is sympathetic to Al Qaeda. The crowd started chanting “Send her back.”
  66. Trump spent a little time on the economy, but most of the evening was devoted to attacking “the squad,” and Democratic 2020 candidates who he said want “radical socialism and the destruction of the American Dream.”
  67. Trump also bragged that Rep. Green’s articles of impeachment had been voted down, calling it “an overwhelming vote against impeachment, and that is the end of it,” and telling Democrats to “go back to work.”
  68. On Thursday, NYT reported Trump allies, including House Republican leaders, flooded his team with expressions of concerns about the nativist chants of “send her back,” warning Trump was on dangerous ground.
  69. While Republicans denounced the chant — with Minority Leader McCarthy saying “Those chants have no place in our party or our country” — Republicans continued to refuse to publicly criticize Trump.
  70. On Thursday, CBS News reported Trump also took heat from First Lady Melania and Ivanka over the chants at the rally, as well as from Vice President Mike Pence.
  71. On Thursday, House Democrats expressed outrage that Trump’s comments have put Rep. Omar and her family in “imminent danger,” with senior Democrats calling for authorities to evaluate her security.
  72. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez also said she has concerns for her safety, and is discussing with Democrats whether to add additional security. Speaker Pelosi said she spoke to the Sergeant-at-Arms office Wednesday night.
  73. Later Thursday, Trump tried to distance himself from the chants, telling reporters he was “not happy” with the chants, and falsely claiming he tried to stop them saying, “I think I did — I started speaking very quickly.”
  74. WAPO fact checkers gave Trump’s claim that he tried to stop the chants Four Pinocchios, noting his comments led to the crowd’s chant, and he stood silent for 13 seconds waiting for the chant to die down.
  75. Once it did, Trump started up again, saying of the congresswomen, “They never have anything good to say. That’s why I say, ‘Hey, if they don’t like it, let them leave,’…They’re always telling us how to run and how to do this.”
  76. Later Thursday, Trump retweeted a video of conservative Mark Levin on Fox News slamming the four congresswoman, calling them “anti-Semite bigots,” adding, “their families really have done nothing for this country.”
  77. Shortly after, the official Twitter account for the White House, a tax-payer funded feed, also tweeted the five-minute video, as did Trump’s official @POTUS account.
  78. On Thursday, Majority Leader McConnell told Fox Business that Trump is “on to something” with his attacks, adding, “we’re in a big debate now and next year about what we want America to be like,” citing socialism.
  79. On Thursday, the Palm Beach County GOP disinvited Anthony Scaramucci from addressing its annual fundraiser, after he told the BBC on Tuesday, on Trump, “maybe you weren’t a racist, but now you’re turning into one.”
  80. Scaramucci repeated his criticism on cable news interviews, and theorized attacking the four congresswomen could help Trump win 2020. An adviser told Politico Scaramucci’s criticism on cable TV has left Trump “furious.”
  81. On Thursday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Board wrote, “Congressional Republicans shame themselves with their silence on Trump’s racism,” saying their response “continues to be … nothing.”
  82. On Thursday, ESPN host Dan Le Batard broke from company policy of avoiding politics, saying Trump was instigating “racial division,” and calling the network “cowardly.” Le Batard is the son of Cuban immigrants.
  83. On Friday, in a series of morning tweets, Trump returned to attacking the congresswomen, including “ Foul Mouthed Omar.” Notably, Trump frequently uses profanity, and drew criticism for saying “goddamn” twice at his rally.
  84. Trump also attacked the media, tweeting, “it is amazing how the Fake News Media became “crazed” over the chant “send her back”” but is “calm & accepting” of “vile and disgusting” statements by the congresswomen.
  85. Trump tweeted the media “has lost all credibility” and “become a part of the Radical Left Democrat Party,” and said he would win Rep. Omar’s state in 2020, saying “they can’t stand her and her hatred of our Country.”
  86. Trump also referred to the “three Radical Left Congresswomen.” WAPO reported a White House spokesman did not respond to their query about the change from four to three.
  87. Trump attacked NYT columnist Thomas Friedman, who called him a “racist, divisive, climate-change-denying, woman-abusing jerk,” saying he is not a racist and calling Friedman “a weak and pathetic sort of guy.”
  88. On Friday, speaking to reporters from the Oval Office, Trump backtracked from disavowing chants of “send her back” at his rally, saying of his supporters, “Those are incredible people. Those are incredible patriots.”
  89. Trump continued his obsession with crowd size, saying the rally was a “record crowd” and he could have filled the arena ten times over, after tweeting in the morning it was “a packed Arena (a record) crowd.”
  90. Trump also attacked the congresswomen, saying, “I’m unhappy with the fact that a congresswoman can say anti-Semitic things,” adding, and “a different congresswoman, can call our country and our people garbage.”
  91. Trump also said, “I’m unhappy when a congresswoman goes and says, I’m going to be the president’s nightmare,” adding, “She’s lucky to be where she is” and “the things that she has said are a disgrace to our country.”
  92. Before leaving the White House, Trump told reporters, “I don’t know if it’s good or bad politically — I don’t care,” adding, “I can tell you this: You can’t talk that way about our country, not when I’m the president.”
  93. Trump also responded to CBS News reporting that his family spoke to him about the “send her back” chants, saying “We — I talked about it, but they didn’t advise me,” and called the story “fake news.”
  94. On Friday, WAPO reported Trump has been publicly criticizing the U.S. for year, often praising foreign dictators and himself while doing this. Trump has also repeatedly questioned the notion of American exceptionalism.
  95. On Friday, the NYT said it had asked its readers if they had been told to “go back to where you came from” as Trump told the four congresswomen, and received 16,000 responses, some of which they published.
  96. On Friday, Erica Thomas, a black lawmaker in Georgia, said a middle-aged white man called her vulgar names and told her to “go back where you came from” at a supermarket, while her 9 year-old daughter looked on.
  97. On Monday, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer assumed the role of acting defense secretary, becoming Trump’s third acting so far this year. Mark Esper stepped down for the Senate confirmation process.
  98. On Tuesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren grilled Esper on his past position as a top lobbyist for defense contractor Raytheon. Warren asked if he would recuse himself from all matters involving Raytheon, and Esper said no.
  99. On Wednesday, Acting Defense Secretary Spencer sent 2,100 additional troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, bringing the total force at the border to 6,600 active duty and Texas National Guard soldiers.
  100. On Monday AP reported the Trump regime plans to end all asylum protections for most migrants fleeing violence and poverty in Central America, reversing decades of U.S. policy.
  101. According to the regime’s plan, migrants who pass through another country, in this case Mexico, on their way to the U.S. would be ineligible for asylum. Some migrants from Africa, Cuba, and Haiti also pass through Mexico.
  102. Mexico voiced disagreement with the plan. Attorney General William Barr said the U.S. is a “generous country” but “overwhelmed” and the rules are aimed at “those who seek to exploit our asylum system to obtain entry.”
  103. On Tuesday, a coalition of immigration advocacy groups challenged the new rule in court, seeking an injunction to block it. The Trump regime has claimed the spike in migrants crossing the border is a crisis.
  104. On Friday, Politico reported at a meeting of security officials on refugee admissions, officials discussed cutting back the number of refugees admitted to zero for fiscal year 2020.
  105. The regime had already cut the level from 110,000 under Obama to 50,000 in 2017, then down to 45,000 in 2018 and then 30,000 for 2019. Advisers aligned with Stephen Miller are pushing for the zero cap.
  106. On Monday, NPR reported Border Patrol agents in El Paso, Texas told a 3 year-old Honduran girl to pick a parent to stay with her in the U.S. and the other would be deported in an attempted family separation.
  107. The move is part of Trump’s Migrant Protection Protocols, or “remain in Mexico.” In court, advocates asked that the family be removed from MPP, citing the girl’s having a heart condition, and had suffered a heart attack.
  108. On Tuesday, dozens of Jewish protestors from the group “Never Again is Now” staged a sit-in in the lobby of ICE’s headquarter building in Southwest Washington. Ten were arrested.
  109. On Thursday, in a day dubbed “Catholic Day of Action,” 70 Catholic sisters, clergy, and parishioners were led away in handcuffs from the Senate office building, protesting ICE and overcrowded migrant detention camps.
  110. Hundreds of protestors gathered, carrying photos of migrant children who died in federal custody. Five protestors laid on the floor in the shape of a cross, while the group recited the children’s names.
  111. On Thursday, at a House Oversight hearing on family separation, Chair Elijah Cummings erupted at Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, after demanding improvement, and McAleenan saying we are “doing our level best.”
  112. Cummings responded, “What does that mean when a child is sitting in their own feces, can’t take a shower? Come on, man…They are human beings.” Cummings also accused McAleenan of having an “empathy deficit.”
  113. On Tuesday, a new NAACP report charged Trump is filling the courts with judges to undermine voting rights, saying, “This administration is weaponizing the federal judiciary to restrict the vote.”
  114. On Monday, a second GOP candidate governor candidate in Mississippi, former MS Supreme Court Justice Bill Waller Jr., said he follows the “Billy Graham rule” and will not be alone with a woman who is not his wife.
  115. On Monday, CNN reported according to a survey conducted by the union representing them, the vast majority of the 540 USDA research employees whose jobs are being moved D.C. to Kansas City are likely to resign.
  116. On Monday, anti-Semitic flyers saying the Holocaust was “fake news” were found at Temple Emanu-El in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Rabbi David Meyer called it “distressing,” adding “the political climate is one of divisiveness.”
  117. On Monday, a Charlottesville circuit judge sentenced James Fields Jr. to a second sentence of life in prisonfor killing Heather Heyer and injuring dozens of others when he rammed his car into a group of protestors.
  118. On Friday, three members of the non-defunct white supremacist group “Rise Above Movement” were sentenced to prison for kicking, choking, and punching people during the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville.
  119. On Tuesday, the DOJ said it would not to move forward in prosecuting NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo for fatally choking Eric Garner. A video showed Garner had said “I can’t breathe” 11 times while in a strangle hold.
  120. Attorney General Barr made the final decision not to prosecute Pantaleo, siding with the DOJ team from New York over the Civil Rights division which recommended prosecution.
  121. On Tuesday, in a letter, Sen. Cory Booker, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, demanded answers from Barr on the DOJ’s decision not to press charges.
  122. On Monday, WAPO reported nearly a quarter of a million households will receive 2020 Census forms which include a citizenship question. The test questionnaire was sent two weeks before Supreme Court ruling.
  123. The questionnaire was meant to provide the Census Bureau data on how the public would react to the question “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” A total of 480,000 were sent, half with and half without the question.
  124. On Tuesday, the ACLU and other plaintiffs filed a complaint asking Judge Jesse Furman to impose penalties on the Trump regime for allegedly providing “false or misleading” statements about the citizenship question.
  125. The complaint noted “the misconduct appears to have been perpetrated by senior Commerce and [Justice Department] officials — not the career DOJ attorneys who litigated this case.”
  126. On Wednesday, the House voted 230-198 along party lines to hold Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt for failing to provide documents related to the citizenship question.
  127. The vote was largely symbolic since those found guilty are referred to the DOJ for prosecution, and the DOJ would not prosecute itself. The White House said Democrat’s “shameful and cynical politics know no bounds.”
  128. On late Monday, Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services issued a notice, saying it was immediately enforcing a new rule as part of Title X which would cut funding for health clinics that give abortion referrals.
  129. The rule is the first of its kind since Title X was established in 1970, and impacted $260 million of funding to 90 recipients. Maine Family Planning and Planned Parenthood of Illinois dropped out of the program Tuesday.
  130. On Tuesday, the board of Planned Parenthood voted to oust president Leana Wen, saying the organization needed a more aggressive political leader to combat the current efforts to roll back access to abortion.
  131. On Friday, the Trump regime said it may delay its ban on funding for clinics that provide abortion referrals, amid widespread confusion about the new restrictions.
  132. On Wednesday, a November 1992 tape released from the NBC archives showed Trump and Jeffrey Epstein discussing women at a party at Mar-a-Lago. Trump also grabbed a woman towards him, and patted her behind.
  133. On Wednesday, James Troiano, the New Jersey judge who recommended leniency for a 16 year-old boy accused of rape in Week 138 because he was from a “good family,” resigned.
  134. The state’s Supreme Court announced new mandatory training for judges on Wednesday, following a nationwide outcry. Elected officials and protestors had called on Troiano to resign, and he received death threats.
  135. LGBTQ Nation reported every member of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s Commission on Unalienable Rights, announced in Week 139, has a history as an academic or activist against the LGBTQ community.
  136. On Thursday, the LA Times reported Homeland Security has quietly gutted multiple programs in the past two years created after September 11, 2001 established to prevent terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction.
  137. DHS has also canceled dozens of training exercises, and lost scores of scientists and policy experts. Thirty current and former DHS officials voiced concern that the changes have put Americans at greater risk.
  138. On Thursday, Trump nominated Eugene Scalia, son of late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, for Labor Secretary. Scalia has represented corporations in pushing back at unions and for tougher labor laws.
  139. On Thursday, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Andrew Wheeler rolled back an Obama-era ban on chlorpyrifos, a widely used pesticide which experts say is tied to serious health problems in children.
  140. The EPA said data supporting objections to use were “not sufficiently valid, complete or reliable” — a victory for the chemical industry. This marks the second move by the regime this year to roll back chemical safety rules.
  141. NYT reported the EPA is also preparing to weaken rules in place for the last quarter century, which allow advocates in communities near power plants and factories to appeal against EPA-issued pollution permits.
  142. On Friday, new data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed June 2019 was the hottest June on record around the globe in the 140 years the group has kept records.
  143. Economist Art Laffer, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in Week 136 by Trump, told CNBC the Federal Reserve should not be independent, but should be controlled by the president and Congress.
  144. On Monday, the White House Office of Management and Budget, in its midyear review, projected the federal deficit will exceed $1 trillion this year, the first time it has exceeded $1 trillion since the Great Recession.
  145. On Tuesday, Trump tweeted, “Billionaire Tech Investor Peter Thiel believes Google should be investigated for treason,” adding that on “Fox & Friends” Thiel accused “Google of working with the Chinese Government.”
  146. Thiel said on the show, “Google employees that are ideologically super left wing,” are “working with communist China but not with the U.S. military.” Trump tweeted: “The Trump Administration will take a look!”
  147. On Friday, in a series of tweets, Trump attacked the Federal Reserve, noting its “faulty thought process,” adding, “our interest costs are much higher than other countries, when they should be lower. Correct!”
  148. Trump also praised New York Fed President John Williams for saying “the Fed “raised” far too fast & too early,” and said we are “winning big but it is no thanks to the Federal Reserve,” adding, “Don’t blow it!”
  149. On Friday, WAPO reported Trump told aides to expect big spending cuts if he wins a second term, a dramatic shift from the big-spending approach of Trump’s first 30 months, sowing confusion about the regime’s direction.
  150. On Monday, CNN reported on new surveillance reports which reveal Julian Assange received in-person deliveries during the 2016 U.S. election during a series of suspicious meetings at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
  151. The deliveries build on the Mueller report which said couriers brought hacked files to Assange at the embassy. The surveillance report showed he used the embassy as a command post for meddling in the U.S. election.
  152. On Monday, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway defied a Congressional subpoena, refusing to show up for a House Oversight Committee hearing on her violations of the Hatch Act.
  153. In a letter to Chair Cummings, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone  asserted again that Trump’s advisers are “absolutely immune” from congressional testimony.
  154. Chair Cummings said, “We are requiring her to testify…about her multiple violations of federal law, her waste of taxpayer funds,” and threatened to hold Conway in contempt if she does not testify before July 25.
  155. On Monday, Chair Cummings demanded in a letter to Education Department Secretary Betsy DeVos that she turn over all emails from her personal account related to official government business.
  156. Cummings cited a May report by the Office of the Inspector General which found 78% of department officials used personal emails, but did not preserve them. Cummings has sent multiple letters without a response.
  157. On Tuesday, Trump appointed former Fox News contributor Monica Crowley to be the Treasury Department spokesperson. Crowley currently serves as Treasury’s senior adviser for public affairs.
  158. On Tuesday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson barred Roger Stone from posting on social media platforms, saying, “Once again I am wrestling with behavior that has more to do with middle school than a court of law.”
  159. Prosecutors accused Stone of violating the court’s gag order. Judge Berman also prohibited public statements made by “surrogates, family members, spokespersons, representatives, or volunteers” of Stone.
  160. On Wednesday, Politico reported House Democrats’ strategy is to slowly and meticulously building a record of the Trump regime’s stonewalling their investigations to persuade a court to break the blockade.
  161. The team of House lawyers is overstretched, and Democrats fear an adverse ruling. The slow pace and lack of results from House Democrats has fueled criticism from progressive lawmakers and activists.
  162. On Thursday, a federal judge said he is considering throwing out the case against Michael Flynn’s former business partner, Bijan Kian, saying evidence presented at trial this week has been “very, very circumstantial.”
  163. The biggest hole in the prosecutors’ case was testimony from Flynn. With his new attorney, Flynn told prosecutors he could no longer say under oath he intentionally made a false filing, and was therefore cut as a witness.
  164. On Wednesday, the DOJ said it was ending its inquiry into hush money payments Trump made to keepStormy Daniels and Karen McDougal quiet in the months before the election.
  165. Lanny Davis, a lawyer for Michael Cohen, asked why he was the only one “to be prosecuted and imprisoned” when “virtually all” of the admitted crimes “were done at the direction of and for the benefit” of Trump.
  166. On Thursday, a federal judge in New York ordered court records related to the case be unsealed. Federal prosecutors did not reveal why they had ended their investigation.
  167. The newly unredacted 2018 Cohen search warrants revealed then-candidate Trump communicated repeatedly with his then-lawyer Cohen about keeping Trump’s affairs quiet ahead of the election.
  168. The documents revealed, starting the day after the “Access Hollywood” recording became public, Hope Hicks, Trump, and Cohen spoke to formulate a plan to pay $130,000 to Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet.
  169. Hicks told the House Judiciary Committee last month said she was “never present” when Cohen and Trump discussed Daniels, and said she “had no knowledge” of Daniels other than her shopping around her story.
  170. The committee is investigating whether Hicks lied in her testimony. Chair Nadler demanded Hicks appear before the panel to explain discrepancies in her testimony and the unsealed documents.
  171. The documents also showed Cohen paid Daniels on November 1, 2016 and called Trump and Kellyanne Conway that day but did not get through. Records show Conway called him back and they spoke for six minutes.
  172. Documents show before WSJ’s story Nov. 4 on Karen McDougal, Cohen spoke to Hicks and Dylan Howard, a National Enquirer executive, and texted AMI’s David Pecker, “The boss just tried calling you. Are you free?”
  173. On Friday, USA Today reported a person familiar with the case said the DOJ’s opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted factored in to prosecutors’ decision to end the investigation.
  174. On Friday, in a letter to the deputy U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, House Oversight Chair Cummings asked whether prosecutors had identified evidence of criminal conduct by Trump.
  175. Cummings also sought information on whether the DOJ opinion had played a role, noting this would be the second time (Mueller), and, “The Office of the President should not be used as a shield for criminal conduct.”
  176. On Friday. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also said Congress must hold a public hearing on “whether the White House or AG Barr has interfered in any way in this investigation.”
  177. On Friday, the Daily Beast reported George Nader, a key witness in the Mueller probe, faced new federal charges of sex trafficking, child pornography, and obscenity in Virginia.
  178. On Friday, federal justice Emmet Sullivan temporarily halted congressional subpoenas of Trump’s financial records in the emoluments case, after an appeals court said to re-examine separation-of-powers.
  179. On Sunday, about 1,000 protested in an unsanctioned rally in Moscow over the city election commission’s decision to keep several opposition candidates off the ballot. More than 25 were detained by police.
  180. On Tuesday, in a statement, a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson warned North Korea may resume nuclear missile tests, citing the U.S. and South Korea moving forward with planned military exercises.
  181. On Wednesday, the House voted to block Trump from bypassing Congress and selling arms to Saudi Arabia. Only four Republicans and Rep. Amash joined Democrats, setting up a likely veto of the resolutions by Trump.
  182. On Thursday, senior defense officials said U.S. Marines jammed an Iranian drone in the Straight of Hormuz, bringing it down and destroying it. The incident is part of a series of tense interactions between the countries.
  183. Trump told reporters, “This is the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters,” saying the drone was threatening a U.S. ship and was “immediately destroyed.”
  184. On Friday, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi denied Iran lost a drone, mockingly tweeting, “I am worried that USS Boxer has shot down their own UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) by mistake!”
  185. On Friday, Trump reiterated, “We shot it down.” National security adviser John Bolton added there is “no question” it was an Iranian drone and that it presented a threat.
  186. On Friday, as the governor of Puerto Rico faced protests over a scandal facing his administration, Trump tweeted, “The Governor is under siege, the Mayor of San Juan is a despicable and incompetent person.”
  187. Trump claimed Congress gave Puerto Rico $92 billion, adding, “much of which was squandered away or wasted, never to be seen again.” Congress allocated $42 billion to Puerto Rico, but just $14 billion has been received.
  188. On Friday, WAPO reported when Trump met with Nobel Peace Prize winner and Yazidi activist Nadia Murad in the Oval Office, he avoided eye contact with her, and was unaware of her story or the plight of the Yazidis.
  189. When Murad told Trump she wanted to go home, but ISIS had murdered her mother and six brothers, Trump responded, “Where are they now?” Murad repeated, “They killed them. They are in the mass grave in Sinjar.”
  190. On Thursday, Gallup polling said Trump’s 10th quarter approval was 42.7%, his highest approval since taking office. His approval has remained in a band of 36.8% to 42.7% since he took office.
  191. Trump’s approval had dipped to 40% in May when details of the Mueller report emerged, and during his trade war with China, then rebounded to 44% in early July. Polling did not include his racist tweets this week.
  192. On Friday, the number of Democrats for impeaching Trump rose to 92–39% of the caucus — including 15 of the 24 Democrats of the House Judiciary Committee. Independent Rep. Amash is also for it.
  193. On Friday, Trump told reporters he does not plan to watch Mueller’s testimony on July 24, saying, “At some point they have to stop playing games. They’re just playing games.”
  194. Trump said of Green’s impeachment vote, “It’s a disgrace. No other president should have to go through it,” and, “they already took their impeachment vote, adding, it was “lopsided” and “a massive victory.”
  195. House Democrats hope to use Mueller’s five-hour appearance next week as an opportunity to educate the American people by using his testimony to tell a compelling narrative about his report, which few have read.

Document Dump: Cohen Warrants

Ken AshfordStormy Daniels & Karen McDougal Affairs, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

The unredacted Michael Cohen search warrants describe a series of calls on October 8, 2016 between Trump, Cohen, and Hope Hicks – the purpose of which the FBI says was to keep Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels) from going public with her story.

UPDATE — Uh oh

Epstein Denied Bail

Ken AshfordCrime, Sex ScandalsLeave a Comment

Jeffrey Epstein has been denied bail. U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman announced the decision at a hearing just now, siding with prosecutors after they and defense attorneys traded arguments for more than a week about whether Epstein could be released to some sort of home confinement.

Epstein, 66, was arrested on July 6 after landing at New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport and charged with sex trafficking dozens of girls from 2002 to 2005. 

Apparently the judge gave credit to two accusers, Annie Farmer and Courtney Wild very courageously testified about Epstein’s tendency to tamper with, and threaten, witnesses and victims.

Epstein has pleaded not guilty to the new charges, which his attorneys have asserted are effectively an improper do-over of the old case. If Epstein had been granted bail, defense attorneys said, he would have been willing to put up his $77 million Manhattan mansion as collateral and agree to home confinement with 24/7 security that he would have funded.

“Send Her Back” Is The New “Lock Her Up”

Ken AshfordElection 2020, Immigration and Xenophobia, Race, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

It is clear from the Trump rally in Greenville, NC, that Trump is hoping to make Rep. Ilhan Omar the face of the Democrats in 2020, and run against her. The strategy itself is grounded in racism and xenophobism.

During President Trump’s Wednesday night rally in Greenville, North Carolina, he took aim at Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), one of the Democratic congresswomen of color he told to “go back” to where “they came” from.

“Omar has a history of launching vicious anti-Semitic screeds,” the president said.

The MAGA crowd knew just what to do next.

“Send her back! Send her back! Send her back,” the audience chanted as Trump soaked it in for a few moments.

Omar is a United States citizen. She moved from Somalia as a child and gained her citizenship as a teenager.

Omar responded to the attack on Twitter by quoting Maya Angelou.

While this fight is what Trump wants, it is hard to see how this helps him in 2020, and maybe even his campaign worries about it:

“Republicans want this election to be about the economy and judges. If it’s about Trump’s tweets and temperament, it’s likely that Democrats will have an enthusiasm advantage,” said Alex Conant, a GOP operative who has advised presidential candidates.

Multiple Republicans interviewed for this story declined to speak on the record for fear of angering Trump or causing a problem for their clients.

Granted the protection of anonymity, however, some said the president had committed an egregious, self-inflicted error that could haunt him all the way into next year. A veteran Republican consultant said this latest episode was a bigger political problem for Trump than his controversial response to a violent gathering of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, two summers ago.

“It’s the worst thing he has done,” this GOP insider said. “It’s a blunder and the telling fact that not a single person in the White House has the ability to course correct … and keep it from being a week-long story sets up a terrible narrative.”

Still, the Republicans seem to be willing to go along with it publicly:

“Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, ‘regretted,’ that unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these ‘little measures’… must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing – each act is worse than the last, but only a little worse. 

You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join you in resisting somehow.

You don’t want to act, or even talk, alone; you don’t want to ‘go out of your way to make trouble.’ But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. 

That’s the difficulty. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed.

Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves, when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. You have accepted things you would not have accepted five years ago, a year ago, things your father could never have imagined.”

From Milton Mayer, They Thought They Were Free, The Germans, 1938-45 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955)

UPDATE: Trump disavows the “send her back” chant… At least he seems to have a dim view that he went too far.

and he again lies about something WHICH IS ON VIDEO…

Also…

No Charges Brought Against Trump Org For Stormy Daniels Payment

Ken AshfordElection 2016, Stormy Daniels & Karen McDougal Affairs, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Federal prosecutors in New York have ended their investigation into the Trump Organization’s role in hush money payments made to women who alleged affairs with President Donald Trump and have been ordered by a judge to release additional information connected to their related probe of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, according to court documents filed today.

On Friday the Manhattan US Attorney’s office had approached the end of its investigation of the Trump Organization and wasn’t poised to charge any executives involved in the company’s effort to reimburse Cohen for money he paid to silence one of the women. That payment constituted an illegal campaign contribution, according to prosecutors. Trump has denied the affair allegations.

“The campaign finance violations discussed in the Materials are a matter of national importance,” US District Court Judge William Pauley wrote in his decision. “Now that the Government’s investigation into those violations has concluded, it is time that every American has an opportunity to scrutinize the Materials.

“Pauley ordered a copy of the government’s July status report and copies of search warrant materials from the Cohen case to be filed publicly with very limited redactions by Thursday at 11 a.m. ET.

The conclusion of federal prosecutors’ investigation of the Trump company’s role in the Cohen matter marks a significant victory for the President’s family business, although it likely doesn’t come as a complete surprise. There had been no contact between the Manhattan US Attorney’s office and officials at the Trump Organization in more than five months, CNN reported Friday.

An attorney for the company declined to comment.

In April 2018, the FBI executed searches of Cohen’s home, hotel room, safe deposit box, cell phones and email accounts. Portions of the search warrant material were made public earlier this year after the judge ordered them revealed in response to a request by media companies. But the judge allowed prosecutors to redact significant parts of the material because they related to the government’s “ongoing investigation.”

The Trump Organization investigation was launched out of the Cohen case, in which he pleaded guilty to eight counts, including two counts of campaign-finance violations for orchestrating or making payments during the 2016 election to two women — adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal — who alleged affairs with Trump. Cohen is now serving a three-year prison sentence.

After Cohen made the $130,000 payment to Daniels, he was reimbursed, prosecutors said in court filings, by the Trump Organization. The company’s executives authorized payments to him totaling $420,000, in an effort to cover his original payment, tax liabilities and reward him with a bonus, according to prosecutors, and they falsely recorded those payments as legal expenses in their books.

The criminal inquiry centered on whether those payments, like the hush money Cohen gave to Daniels, violated campaign-finance law.

The judge today said he would allow the government to keep the redaction of an uncharged third party (“Individual-1” – aka Donald Trump) when it files its status report and would permit the search warrant materials to be filed with redactions of the names of law-enforcement investigators and people who did business with Cohen in connection to taxi medallions he owned.

Was Trump’s attorney general, Bill Barr, behind this? I suspect not. This is the SDNY — known for its independence. If Barr had a hand in closing the case, it’ll leak out before the day is over.

( The DOJ has been quite forthcoming about the fact that it was Barr who decided against charges in the Eric Garner case. It should be equally transparent about who made the decision to end SDNY’s campaign finance case with no further charges. )

Or maybe it means the DOJ Guidelines that it cannot indict a sitting President apply here, too.

In any event, because there will be few redactions, we might see some stuff:

RIP John Paul Stevens

Ken AshfordIn PassingLeave a Comment

John Paul Stevens, who died in Florida yesterday at 99 of complications from a stroke, watched Babe Ruth’s “called shot” home run at Wrigley Field in 1932 and lived long enough to see his beloved Chicago Cubs win the World Series in 2016, breaking the Curse of the Billy Goat and ending a 108-year drought. The retired justice liked to joke that throwing the opening pitch before a game in 2005 was one of his proudest achievements.

History is more likely to remember the bow-tied Stevens as a bulwark against presidential power during his 35 years on the Supreme Court, a legacy that’s particularly salient against the backdrop of President Trump’s escalating efforts to thwart congressional oversight and resist subpoenas with expansive claims of executive privilege.

Stevens wrote for a unanimous court in 1997 that Bill Clinton must face Paula Jones’s sexual harassment lawsuit because a sitting president does not have immunity from all civil lawsuits for actions when he was not in office. In 2004, he authored the court’s 6-to-3 decision that rejected the George W. Bush administration’s view that prisoners at Guantanamo Bay should have no opportunity to dispute their detentions in federal court. In 2006, he wrote the 5-to-3 decision that blocked Bush from using military commissions to try those prisoners without congressional consent.

“The Executive is bound to comply with the Rule of Law that prevails in this jurisdiction,” Stevens concluded in that case, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.

These are just three of the roughly 400 majority opinions that Stevens authored while on the high court from 1975 until his retirement, at 90, in 2010. Many included reminders that, in America, no one – including the president – is supposed to be above the law.

Stevens was confirmed unanimously by the Senate only a year after Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace and just 19 days after Gerald Ford nominated him. He was the last justice to be confirmed without a televised hearing or without a senator trying to ascertain his views on abortion rights. Nixon had appointed Stevens to the Chicago-based circuit court in 1970. Known as a moderate Republican and an expert in antitrust law, he had earned plaudits for investigating two corrupt justices on the Illinois Supreme Court.