When Kanye Met Trump

Ken AshfordTrump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

So…. this happened.

Kanye went on an insane rant, and about five minutes in, you can actually see that it was too much… even for Trump. 

Fox News Stops Showing Trump Campaign Rallies

Ken AshfordRight Wing and Inept Media, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Politico reports:

President Donald Trump loves to brag about ratings, but he’s not getting them anymore.

As he’s ramped up his rally schedule ahead of the midterms, viewership numbers for the raucous prime-time events have been roughly similar to — sometimes dipping below — Fox News’ regular programming, and the network has recently stopped airing most evening events in full.

During three Trump rallies last week, Fox News showed clips and highlights from his speeches but stuck largely with its normal weekday prime-time programming. On Saturday, when “Fox Report Weekend” and “Justice with Judge Jeanine” would ordinarily air, the network showed Trump’s speech from Topeka, Kan., in full. But on Tuesday, a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, was particularly hard to find — it was not aired live on any major network, and even C-SPAN cut away for other news. And on Wednesday night, as Trump took the stage in Erie, Pa., at 7 p.m., Fox News stuck with its coverage of Hurricane Michael.

Since Trump took office, CNN and MSNBC have mostly declined to air his campaign rallies, though, like Fox News, they’ll typically carry any presidential speeches or comments to reporters.

Fox still provides livestreams of the campaign events online, but during a crucial period, with the midterms less than a month away, some in the White House are worried that the president is losing a prime-time megaphone to his base.

One senior White House official was unsure why the network would decide to cut away from presidential rallies, saying officials planned “to look into that” and wouldn’t be surprised if White House communications director Bill Shine, a former Fox News executive, was in touch with former colleagues about the trend.

The loss of national coverage is equally, if not more, concerning to the candidates on whose behalf Trump is traveling the country.

“It exposes us to a national audience that we normally don’t get to,” a Senate Republican campaign staffer said of the coverage of Trump rallies. “We tend to see lots of new sign-ups and small-dollar donations. There’s obviously folks streaming [rallies] online, but being able to be onstage with the president in front of a prime-time audience is huge for a campaign trying to reach conservatives across the country who will open up their wallets.”

A source close to Trump described the declining coverage as a “huge loss on the state and local level for Republicans because they’re certainly not going to get any of that on other cable networks.”

“If they stop taking them completely, that might create a problem,” this person said. “Trump is a massive consumer of the media, so he may be disappointed.”

Neither Fox News nor the White House responded to requests for comment.

But from Fox’s perspective, Trump is no longer a sure bet to beat Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity or Laura Ingraham. For instance, on Aug. 30, Fox News’ 8 p.m. hour was mostly consumed by Trump’s rally in Evansville, Ind., earning 2.536 million viewers, according to Nielsen, compared to the 2.8 million viewers Carlson averaged at that time during 2018’s third quarter.

Right.  It’s all about the green.  No ratings, no advertising revenue.

And let’s face it.  Even if you are a member of Trump’s base, his shtick is getting OLD. It’s the same broken record over and over again. How many times can you chant “Build A Wall!” and isn’t it embarrassing that he’s halfway through his four years and there’s no inkling of a wall except some prototypes?

Hurricane Michael Devastation

Ken AshfordDisasters, Trump & Administration, WeatherLeave a Comment

Where I am, we are being hit by what’s left of Michael, but the wind and the rain is nothing to what hit the panhandle in Florida yesterday.  Mexico Beach appears to be the hardest hit.  Here’s what it was like yesterday:

And now…. people are just getting in there, to find this:

The death toll stands at two right now, but is likely to rise. One man was killed when a tree fell on a residence in Greensboro, Florida, Sgt. Anglie Hightower, a spokeswoman for the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office, told NBC News.

An 11-year-old girl was killed near Lake Seminole, Georgia, when a metal carport used for boats was picked up by wind, crashed through the roof of the house she was in and struck her in the head, said Travis Brooks, director of emergency management for Seminole County.

And as this was happening in the South, Trump was in Pennsylvania doing this:


BIG UPDATE:  Yikes, one of the outer bands is hitting here!  I’m on the 16th floor of the Winston Tower and a window from a higher floor just sailed down and crashed on the plaza below.  Here’s what it looks like from an office window:

FINAL UPDATE: As the storm moved the Georgia and the Carolinas, the total death toll was 11.  Five were in Virginia.

Crash, Boom

Ken AshfordEconomy & Jobs & DeficitLeave a Comment

As a hurricane hits, this happens:

Why?  It’s the same story that has plagued markets for days now. Once-highflying tech has led markets lower as yields rise, with the 10-year Treasury note’s yield reaching its highest point in more than a decade yesterday.

and it closes more than 831 points down (about 3.15%).

Michael, the Hurricane

Ken AshfordDisasters, Local Interest, WeatherLeave a Comment

Unlike Florence, which seemed to take her sweet time coming to the mainlaind, Michael just kind of sprang up in the past few days. It was a tropical depression in the Gulf Of Mexico, and very quickly moved to a Category 3.  Today, as it makes landfall, it is a Category 4.

Here’s the latest:

• The hurricane is expected to be the strongest recorded storm to make landfall on the Panhandle. “This will be a catastrophic event the likes of which this region has never seen,” the National Weather Service office in Tallahassee, Fla., warned.

• The storm was about 65 miles south-southwest of Panama City, Fla., as of 10 a.m., moving toward the coast at 13 m.p.h., according to the National Hurricane Center

• The eye of Michael is expected to make landfall in the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday afternoon, tracking northeast across Georgia and the Carolinas on Thursday before moving off the Mid-Atlantic coast on Friday.

• Weather forecasters and government officials are particularly worried about a storm surge, which they said could reach 13 feet in some areas, in a relatively flat region that is particularly vulnerable to it.

• Flash flooding is also a concern. The Florida Panhandle and Big Bend region, southeast Alabama and parts of Georgia could receive four to eight inches of rain, with some spots getting as much as a foot.

• Governors in three states — Florida, Alabama and Georgia — have declared states of emergency, with mandatory evacuations in effect in coastal areas across the Florida Panhandle.

It will hit North Carolina tomorrow evening.

I have Hamilton tickets.

Updates throughout today below:

Fuck. And they are saying that it is still strengthening

Crap, the live images!

3rd Strongest Storm ever.  The strongest storm in 50 years (since Camille)

UPDATE:  Make that the 2nd strongest storm ever.  It was 1 mph shy of a Category 5

The GOP Post-Kavanaugh Strategy

Ken AshfordTrump & Administration, Voter SuppressionLeave a Comment

Kavanaugh’s elevation to the Supreme Court is a triumph of the minority.  Trump was elected by a minority.  A minority of Americans wanted Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court.  And yet, there he sits.  For decades.

Greg Sargeant has some great thoughts:

On Tuesday, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh will hear his first Supreme Court case, a day after President Trump swore in his nominee. In so doing, Trump apologized to Kavanaugh “on behalf of our nation,” for the “terrible pain and suffering” he has been “forced to endure” at the hands of the opposition’s alleged campaign of “personal destruction based on lies and deception.”

As Trump uttered those words, CNN released a poll finding that slight majorities of Americans opposed Kavanaugh’s confirmation and tended to believe Kavanaugh’s female accusers. Public opinion does not, of course, indicate whether a candidate is qualified for the high court. But in the context of that broad public opposition, Trump’s gesture should be seen as one more big, unfurled middle finger in the faces of millions of Americans who found this whole affair deeply wrenching, and thought the claims against Kavanaugh merited good-faith consideration as part of a broader societal shift towards taking sexual assault seriously.

When Trump purports to apologize to Kavanaugh on behalf of the “nation” while sneeringly dismissing those claims, even as a majority opposes Kavanaugh and believes those charges, Trump is — unwittingly or not — highlighting the degree to which this episode represents the further entrenchment of minority rule. With Kavanaugh now on the court, this could very well get worse.

The New York Times reports that Trump’s unusual public apology to Kavanaugh is actually part of a broader strategy of using the battle over his confirmation to enrage and galvanize conservative voters in the midterm elections. Trump injected partisan politics into the swearing in of a justice who is supposed to remain neutral, for the explicit purpose of polarizing the country in ways he thinks will benefit his party.

Many observers have noted that Kavanaugh’s confirmation itself represent a triumph of minority rule, in two senses. Trump, who was elected with a minority of the national popular vote, has appointed two justices, Neil M. Gorsuch and now Kavanaugh, both of whom were confirmed by senators who represent a minority of the national population. Because of the Senate’s grossly unequal representation, its Republican majority reflects such a national minority.

But surely, that cannot last, right?  I mean, there is the vote, yes?

In the midterms, it is possible Democrats could win the national popular vote in the House by up to five or six percentage points, but still fall short of winning control of the lower chamber. That is, in part, because of the geographically inefficient sorting of Democratic voters, but it is also very much because of Republican gerrymandering of House districts.

The political theorist Jacob Levy points out that if all this were to happen, then the political aspirations and values of a minority of Americans will dominate or have gone a long way towards shaping the White House, the Supreme Court, and both houses of Congress. Levy posits that one can still fundamentally accept many countermajoritarian aspects of our system while also finding such an across-the-board outcome deeply troubling. As Levy notes: “It’s a problem for democratic government if a majority can’t gain entry anywhere.”

I’d like to suggest it could get even worse than this. The Supreme Court recently punted on stepping in to check partisan gerrymandering. But then-Justice Anthony M. Kennedy — who has now been replaced by Kavanaugh — appeared at least open to eventually adopting a standard that could limit that pernicious tactic, and most observers expect another gerrymandering case to make it to the high court soon.

But now, as election law scholar Rick Hasen has noted, the new conservative majority makes it even less likely that that the court will ever limit partisan map-rigging. As Hasen also suggests, that majority could be more likely to strike down nonpartisan map-drawing commissions, a tool for countering gerrymandering of congressional districts that Kennedy had voted to uphold (and which Kavanaugh might not).

All that could mean more gerrymandering into the next decade — and, possibly, more minority rule in the House. And this could go beyond gerrymandering. “If Kavanaugh votes like the other conservatives on the court,” Hasen told me on Tuesday, “I would expect him to uphold strict voter ID laws and other laws that make it harder to register to vote.”

To be clear, I think it is unlikely that Democrats will gain a sizable House popular vote win without ending up in control. Democrats may also win numerous governorships, which could help check future Congressional gerrymandering by GOP-controlled state legislatures. But the much worse longer-term outcome — coming after the Kavanaugh minority-rule debacle — is at least possible.

Well, that’s not good.  That means an end to democracy.

Sargeant goes on to explain that Trump furthers this goal by painting the majority (his opposition) as a minority — and worse, a minority that exists because it is on the take:

Trump’s claim of “paid protesters” has been echoed by top Republican senators, and the GOP has adopted a partywide message of depicting opposition to Kavanaugh as an “angry mob.” Trump has apologized to Kavanuagh for the behavior of those people “on behalf of the nation.”

But when Trump uses the term “nation,” it should be understood in the way that exclusionary populist demagogues (of which Trump is one) generally employ such formulations: Trump is, in effect, defining the nation to exclude the Americans who are deeply troubled by Kavanaugh, the charges against him, and the larger debate it encompasses. (This is also the subtext of Trump’s blithe dismissal of the charges against Kavanaugh as a “hoax.”) As Will Wilkinson has argued, such populism is fundamentally anti-democratic because it implicitly or explicitly limits who counts as “the people” who are said to possess legitimate political sovereignty.

Trump’s populism is ethno-nationalist, but put that aside for now: When Trump derides opposition to Kavanaugh as having been “paid,” he is saying the opposition to him is not politically legitimate, that it sits outside the “nation” in whose name Trump apologized to him. It is no accident that Trump, conservative commentators and other Republicans are claiming the protesters were paid by the same George Soros who had a starring role in Trump’s 2016 closing ad, which was the perfect expression of this type of exclusionary populist demagoguery.

The ultimate irony to all this is that the public backlash to Kavanaugh is, no doubt, partly rooted in anger over this ongoing display of minority rule — a minority-supported president picks justices confirmed by senators representing a minority of Americans — and in widespread feelings of deep helplessness over it. In choosing to continue feeding this polarization, Trump is rubbing the faces of millions of those angry Americans in that helplessness — he’s rubbing their faces in his and the GOP’s minority-rule triumphs. And he may only be getting started.

Fuck.  We’re screwed.

Breaking: Haley Resigns

Ken AshfordTrump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

A surprise announcement today.  Nikki Haley just resigned as the US Ambassador to the UN.

Apparently,  Haley discussed her resignation with Trump last week when she visited him at the White House, two sources said. Her news shocked a number of senior foreign policy officials in the Trump administration. 

It is worth noting that Haley wrote a public op-ed in September challenging the N.Y. Times’ anonymous op-ed, which was written by a “senior administration official” and claimed that Trump aides saw him as a threat to U.S. democracy.

Haley wrote in her response:

  • “I don’t agree with the president on everything. When there is disagreement, there is a right way and a wrong way to address it. I pick up the phone and call him or meet with him in person.”
  • “Like my colleagues in the Cabinet and on the National Security Council, I have very open access to the president. He does not shut out his advisers, and he does not demand that everyone agree with him. I can talk to him most any time, and I frequently do.”
  • “If I disagree with something and believe it is important enough to raise with the president, I do it. And he listens.”

So is that why Haley is leaving?  Because she cannot deal with the President anymore?

Maybe, but Haley has also come under some scrutiny for her use of government planes, though the level of accusations there is well below that of many in the Trump cabinet — and certainly nothing so serious that it would seem to call for dislodging someone as popular on the right as Haley.

The timing of the event suggests that Haley’s resignation could be related to events surrounding the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, but Haley has been involved with the Federalist Society which played a key role in elevating Kavanaugh to the court.

Some are saying the reason is much more simple. The Haleys have never made a lot of money, and they want to.

But why else?  This:

UPDATE:  Nope —

A Scary Time For Men

Ken AshfordElection 2018, Sex Scandals, Sex/Morality/Family Values, Supreme Court, Trump & Administration, Women's IssuesLeave a Comment

Trump apologized “on behalf of America” to Brett Kavanaugh last night at his induction ceremony. It marked the end of one of the ugliest chapters in Supreme Court history — ugly in the sense that this asshole got on the court despite his obvious lying and political manipulation, made worse by Trump’s victory lap.

Trump framed this as a victory for men who are up against an unruly mob of women who are paid protesters.

This came after a quote that he gave last Friday, commenting that it was a “scary time for me” who could become victim to an allegation of sexual assault.

It’s depressing to think that the President of the United States can say a thing like that.  But it sure has mobilized women.

Weekly List 99

Ken AshfordWeekly ListLeave a Comment

This was all predictable. The descent to authoritarianism follows a predictable path in history. Masha Gessen, one of the “experts in authoritarianism” I read before starting the project of making the weekly list, wrote this in a New York Review of Books article on November 10, 2016, “There is little doubt that Trump will appoint someone who will cause the Court to veer to the right; there is also the risk that it might be someone who will wreak havoc with the very culture of the high court.” Prescient indeed.

This week, veering off norm after norm, and stoking a culture war between #MeToo and his newly coined #HeToo movement, Trump, with the help of Sen. Mitch McConnell plowed through to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s second Supreme Court nominee. Kavanaugh’s 50–48 confirmation vote margin was the lowest since Stanley Matthews’ 24–23 vote in 1881. Bookending Gessen’s piece, this week in the New York Review of Books Christopher Browning, in a piece titled “The Suffocation of Democracy,” compares McConnell to Hitler-era German President Paul von Hindenburg — both of whom he refers to as “gravediggers” of democracy.

Meanwhile, the acts of hatred against “the others” continued this week. Trump again beat the familiar drum of white men as victims, this time at the hands of women who dare to find their voices. A bombshell article by the NYTrevealed the lie behind Trump’s campaign image of a self-made billionaire; reporters found his fortune was largely handed down by his father, much of it in a fraudulent manner.

  1. A Pew Research poll found America’s global image has plummeted under Trump, amid widespread opposition to his regime’s policies and a widely shared lack of confidence in his leadership abilities.
  2. The poll finds the world has significant concerns about America’s role in world affairs, citing isolationism and the U.S. doing less to help solve major global challenges. American soft power is waning as well.
  3. Trump polled the lowest among leaders of major powers, with 70% of those surveyed in 25 countries saying they have no confidence in him to do the right thing regarding world affairs. Just 27% have confidence.
  4. On Saturday, Trump visited West Virginia for a campaign rally where he bragged about his economic accomplishments. Under Trump, poverty in the state climbed to 19.1% in 2017 from 17.9% in 2016.
  5. Speaking on North Korea, Trump said he started off being tough with Kim Jong Un, but “then we fell in love, OK. No, really. He wrote me beautiful letters, and they’re great letters. And then we fell in love.”
  6. On Saturday, the Intercept reported that despite Kavanaugh’s claim at the Senate hearing that “I have no connections there. I got there by busting my tail,” his grandfather Everett Edward Kavanaugh also attended Yale.
  7. On Saturday, NBC News reported the White House counsel’s office has imposed severe limitations to the FBI investigation. The probe will not include interviewing Kavanaugh’s third accuser, Julie Swetnick.
  8. The FBI will not interview Kavanaugh’s Yale classmates about alleged excessive drinking or high school classmates about sexual references in his yearbook to see if witnesses would contradict his Senate testimony.
  9. Just four people will be interviewed: Mark Judge; Leland Keyser, a high school friend of Ford who she said attended the party but was not told of the assault; P.J. Smyth, another party guest; and Deborah Ramirez.
  10. WSJ reported the investigation is being “tightly controlled” by the White House, and the FBI will not have free rein to pursue all potential leads.
  11. On Saturday evening, Trump tweeted, “NBC News incorrectly reported (as usual) that I was limiting the FBI investigation,” adding, “I want them to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion.”
  12. On Sunday, NBC News reported that despite Trump’s tweet, the FBI has received no new instructions from the White House about changing the limitations on the investigation.
  13. On Sunday, Sen. Diane Feinstein sent a letter to White House counsel Don McGahn and FBI Director Christopher Wray requesting a copy of the written directive the White House sent to the FBI.
  14. On Sunday, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton told “Face the Nation” that Feinstein and her staff will be investigated over the leaked Ford letterFeinstein repeated Monday that she and her staff did not leak the letter.
  15. On Sunday, Kellyanne Conway said on “State of the Union” that she was a victim of sexual assault, then seemed to use her admission to support Kavanaugh saying, “You have to be responsible for your own conduct.”
  16. On Monday, Trump told reporters he had instructed McGahn to have the FBI carry out an open investigation, with the caveat that the inquiry should accommodate the desires of Senate Republicans.
  17. Trump said he wanted a “comprehensive” FBI investigation and had no problem if the FBI questioned Kavanaugh or even Swetnick. Trump said he accepted Kavanaugh’s denials, calling confirmation process deeply unfair.
  18. On Monday, the Portland Press Herald reported Sen. Susan Collins wants the FBI to investigate the allegations brought by Julie Swetnick and not limit the scope of its investigation to those raised at the Senate hearings.
  19. The editorial boards of two Maine newspapers spoke out against Kavanaugh: the Portland Herald Press wrote “he doesn’t belong on the Supreme Court,” and the Bangor Daily News called him “unfit.”
  20. On Sunday, CNN reported the FBI spoke to Deborah Ramirez and she provided them with names of witnesses. On Tuesday, her attorney John Clune said none of the 20 witnesses had been contacted.
  21. On Sunday, the New Yorker reported the attorney for Elizabeth Rasor, a college girlfriend of Judge, repeatedly made clear to the Senate Judiciary Committee and FBI she would like to speak but has not heard back.
  22. On Monday, NBC News reported in the days leading up to Ramirez’s allegations becoming public, Kavanaugh and his team surreptitiously communicated with his Yale classmates about refuting the story.
  23. Kerry Berchem, a Yale classmate of Kavanaugh and Ramirez, said she has tried to get those messages to the FBI but has not heard back. Berchem emailed FBI agent J.C. McDonough a memo, along with screenshots of texts.
  24. In a text message between Berchem and Karen Yarasavage, both friends of Kavanaugh, Yarasavage said Kavanaugh asked her to go on the record in his defense.
  25. Texts show Kavanaugh tried to get a copy of a photo from a 1997 wedding of Yale classmates both he and Ramirez attended to discredit her. Berchem said Ramirez tried to avoid Kavanaugh that day, and she “clung to me.”
  26. Kavanaugh told the Senate Judiciary Committee under oath that the first time he heard of Ramirez’s allegation was in the New Yorker article published on September 23.
  27. A spokesman for judiciary committee chair Sen. Chuck Grassley said that the texts “do not appear relevant or contradictory” to Kavanaugh’s testimony, calling it “another last-ditch effort to derail the nomination” by Democrats.
  28. On Monday, NYT reported in recent weeks hundreds of migrant children at shelters from Kansas to New York have been roused in the middle of the night and clandestinely transported a tent city in West Texas.
  29. The population of migrant children has grown fivefold since last year. Private foster homes and shelters that sleep two to three to a room, and provide formal schooling and legal representation, are overburdened.
  30. The children are in groups of 20, split by gender, and have no formal schooling and limited legal representation. The tent cities are unregulated, except for guidelines created by the Department of Health and Human Services.
  31. The children wore belts etched in pen with phone numbers for their emergency contacts. Some shelter staff members cried for fear of what was in store for migrant children being moved to tents.
  32. On Tuesday, NBC News reported a report by the DHS inspector general found “DHS was not fully prepared to implement the administration’s zero-tolerance policy or to deal with some of its after-effects.”
  33. Immigration law allows Customs and Border Protection to hold unaccompanied children for up to 72 hours. The report found one-fifth of the children were held at least five days and one longer.
  34. The report also found that while the Trump regime urged asylum seekers to come through ports of entry, overwhelmed facilities “likely resulted in additional illegal border crossings.”
  35. On Wednesday, a federal judge in California temporarily blocked the Trump regime from terminating temporary protected status for hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Sudan, El Salvador, Haiti, and Nicaragua.
  36. On Wednesday, CNN reported a surprise DHS inspection general visit to a privately run California ICE detention facility found nooses hanging in cells, misuse of solitary confinement, and delayed medical care.
  37. The facility is run by GEO Group, a private prison contractor that runs a number of large immigrant detention centers. GEO donated $250,000 to a pro-Trump super PAC and hired two former aides of attorney general Jeff Sessions in Week 50.
  38. Beverly Goldstein, a Republican candidate for Congress in Ohio, in a tweet blamed passage of an ordinance banning LGBTQ discrimination on the “illiteracy” of Black voters.
  39. Republicans in New York are referring to Antonio Delgado, an African American congressional candidate who is a Rhodes Scholar and Harvard Law graduate, as a “big-city rapper” in political attack ads.
  40. Linda Dwire was arrested in a Colorado grocery store, after another patron, Kamira Trent, called the police to report that Dwire was harassing two Mexican women for speaking Spanish.
  41. On Saturday, for the second time in the last 18 months, the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia was vandalized. Vandals painted 19 swastikas on the center.
  42. The president of the center said, “This is getting to be a regular thing — it’s in the air around us, in the country around us,” and said that “expressions of support…are tinged with fatigue.”
  43. On Sunday, WAPO reported the Trump regime announced it will sue California in an effort to block that state’s new net neutrality law, which has been described by experts as the toughest ever enacted in the U.S.
  44. Just hours after California’s proposal became law, senior Justice Department officials told WAPO they will sue on grounds that the federal government has the exclusive power to regulate net neutrality.
  45. On Wednesday, FEMA sent a presidential alert via a text message. According to FEMA, unlike emergency alerts and Amber alerts, these presidential alerts cannot be turned off.
  46. The system was originally put in place under George W. Bush for radio and TV, and later updated by Obama to include cellphones. This is the first time the system has been used.
  47. AP reported Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency is pursuing rule changes that would weaken the way radiation exposure is regulated, breaking with decades of policy that there is no threshold of radiation exposure that is risk-free.
  48. The EPA cited a toxicologist at the University of Massachusetts who has said weakening limits on radiation exposure would save billions of dollars and that a bit of radiation damage is good, like a little bit of sunlight.
  49. On Thursday, Foreign Policy reported Trump is considering firing Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson over her pushback on his directive to stand up a separate Space Force in the U.S. military.
  50. Sources say Wilson has not figured out a way to disagree with Trump, and he therefore permanently sees her as “troublesome and ineffective.” Trump will make his final decision on firing her after the midterms.
  51. On Thursday, an article in the conservative Federalist called on WAPO to stop labeling op-ed columnist Jennifer Rubin a “conservative,” citing her non-support of Trump.
  52. On Thursday, NYT reported as Afghanistan frays, mercenary executive Erik Prince has been the talk of Kabul and is frequently introduced as an adviser to Trump.
  53. Prince is pushing a vision that his contractors could offer an official military withdrawal from Afghanistan against the wishes of the country’s president, who does not want foreign mercenaries.
  54. Prince has also tied his proposal to a favorite topic of Trump’s: exploiting Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, including rare earth deposits. Some officials in the Afghan government have tried to block Prince from getting a visa.
  55. On Monday, at a press conference in the Rose Garden, Trump insulted ABC News reporter Cecilia Vega. After calling on her and her thanking him, Trump said, “I know you’re not thinking. You never do.”
  56. On Tuesday, bowing to public scrutiny, the White House corrected the press conference transcript. The Monday version had read, “I know you’re not thanking. You never do.”
  57. Trump also derided CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins, wagging his finger and saying, “Don’t do that,” when she asked about Kavanaugh, then saying, “You know what, you’ve really had enough. Hey. You’ve had enough”
  58. On Tuesday, at a rally in Mississippi, Trump attacked Democrats as “holier than thou,” and, offering no proof, claimed one Senate Democrat drinks too much and encouraged the crowd to Google the senator’s name.
  59. Trump also mocked Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, imitating her Senate testimony, saying, “‘I don’t know. I don’t know.’ ‘Upstairs? Downstairs? Where was it?’ ‘I don’t know. But I had one beer. That’s the only thing I remember.”
  60. Trump also claimed because of the #MeToo movement men were going to be fired from their jobs after being unfairly accused of sexual harassment, saying, “Think of your husbands. Think of your sons.”
  61. On Wednesday, the three swing Republicans — Sens. Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski — criticized Trump for mocking Ford, with his remarks called “kind of appalling” by Flake “wholly inappropriate” by Murkowski.
  62. On Tuesday, a bombshell yearlong NYT investigative report found despite Trump’s campaign claims that his father gave him a $1 million loan that he turned into an empire, Fred Trump gave him $60.7 million in loans.
  63. In total, Trump received the equivalent of at least $413 million in today’s dollars from Fred Trump’s real estate empire, much of it through dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud.
  64. According to a deposition by Robert Trump, the Trumps used padded receipts to justify rent increases in rent-stabilized buildings. “The higher the markup would be, the higher the rent that might be charged.”
  65. In 1990 Donald Trump had one of his lawyers draft a codicil that would have changed his dad’s will. Fred Trump dispatched Trump’s sister to find a new real estate lawyer, rewrote the will, and signed it immediately.
  66. On Tuesday, CNBC reported, the New York state tax department is reviewing the allegations in the NYT article and, according to an official, “is vigorously pursuing all appropriate avenues of investigation.”
  67. On Wednesday, Trump tweeted about “the Failing New York Times,” saying, “Added up, this means that 97% of their stories on me are bad. Never recovered from bad election call!”
  68. On Wednesday, WSJ reported that if Democrats take control of the Senate in the midterms, Sen. Ron Wyden, who would chair the Senate Finance Committee, plans to ask for Trump’s tax returns.
  69. On Thursday, AP reported experts say although the statute of limitations has passed for criminal charges, Trump could be on the hook for tens of millions of dollars in civil fines from state and from federal authorities.
  70. Trump dropped 11 more spots on the Forbes’ 400 list of the richest Americans. In the last two years, Trump’s net worth has dropped from $4.5 billion to $3.1 billion, dropping him from 121 to number 259.
  71. Forbes noted that Trump is actively trying, but failing, to get rich off his presidency. The Trump brand has suffered, and deeper reporting has revealed that Trump had been lying about valuations.
  72. On Tuesday, WSJ reported Trump personally directed his then-attorney Michael Cohen in February 2018 to stop Stephanie Clifford from publicly discussing an alleged sexual encounter on “60 Minutes.”
  73. Trump told Cohen to seek a restraining order against Stephanie Clifford and to coordinate the legal response with Eric Trump and Jill Martin, an outside lawyer who represented Trump and the Trump Organization.
  74. Five days later, as instructed, Martin filed paperwork for a confidential arbitration proceeding. An arbitrator privately issued a restraining order against Clifford, who ignored it and went on television on March 25.
  75. On Thursday, New York attorney general Barbara Underwood said in a court filing that Trump caused his charitable foundation to break state and federal laws governing non-profit groups.
  76. Underwood wrote Trump’s use of the Trump Foundation “for his own personal benefit” justifies her request to ban him for 10 years from being involved in any non-profit group.
  77. On Monday, former FBI director James Comey rejected a request by House Judiciary Committee Republicans to appear at a closed hearing on alleged political bias at the Department of Justice and FBI, saying he would appear in a public hearing.
  78. Politico reported on Monday that Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort met with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. Manafort’s attorneys, Richard Westling and Tom Zehnle, were also seen speaking with one of Muller’s lead prosecutors, Andrew Weissmann.
  79. On Tuesday, Politico reported Roger Stone associate Randi Credico told the Senate Intelligence Committee through his lawyer that he would plead the Fifth Amendment rather than testify in the panel’s Russia probe.
  80. On Tuesday, Politico reported Federal law enforcement officials referred a 2-year-old email hacking investigation related to Cheri Jacobus, an anti-Trump Republican, to Mueller’s team.
  81. On Tuesday, Politico reported Mueller is further downsizing his team of prosecutors, with Brandon Van Grack and Kyle Freeny returning to their prior posts at the Justice Department.
  82. Van Grack played a role in the Virginia bank and tax-fraud case, as well as Michael Flynn’s guilty plea. Freeny has “concluded her work here” per Mueller’s spokesperson. The number of prosecutors is down from 17 to 13.
  83. On Thursday, the DOJ unveiled indictments against seven officers of Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency who were targeting top Olympic athletes, anti-doping organizations, and chemical weaponsmonitors.
  84. The DOJ announced that in the summer of 2016, GRU hacked drug-test results from the World Anti-Doping Agency and leaked confidential information about U.S. Olympic athletes on the internet.
  85. Three of the seven were previously indicted for conspiring to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election as part of the Mueller probe.
  86. The Dutch and British governments earlier on Thursday also described GRU attacks. The Dutch described a hack at a chemical-weapons agency in Week 92, while the British government called the cyberattacks “reckless and indiscriminate.”
  87. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters in Brussels that the U.S. stands “shoulder-to-shoulder” with our NATO allies and pledged U.S. cyberoffense capabilities to other allies if asked.
  88. Daily Beast reported Russian deputy attorney general Saak Albertovich Karapetyan died in a helicopter crash. Media reports claimed the crash happened during an unauthorized flight in the Kostroma region.
  89. Karapetyan’s ties to directing the foreign operations of Natalia Veselnitskaya were exposed in a Swiss court this year as part of a plot to enlist a Swiss law-enforcement official as a double-agent for the Kremlin.
  90. He and Veselnitskaya together tried to recruit a high-level law-enforcement official who was supposed to be investigating the Swiss bank accounts of Russian oligarchs and mobsters.
  91. Veselnitskaya had helped to draft a document on behalf of the Russian government related to the fraud case against Prevezon. Karapetyan wrote the cover letter.
  92. On Tuesday, WAPO reported Republican Senators emailed an explicit statement about Julie Swetnick’s sex life to reporters. Swetnick’s attorney Michael Avenatti says the FBI still refuses to interview her.
  93. On Tuesday, Majority Leader McConnell vowed to vote in the Senate on Kavanaugh’s nomination this week, even as attorneys for Ford, and others who have reached out to the FBI, have not yet been interviewed.
  94. On Tuesday, WAPO reported the FBI has completed the first four interviews and is now interviewing Tim Gaudette and Chris Garrett, high school classmates of Kavanaugh.
  95. The investigation is being led by the FBI’s Security Division, a branch that handles background checks. FBI director Christopher Wray, who was two years behind Kavanaugh at Yale, is also directly involved.
  96. On Tuesday, NYT obtained a 1983 letter written by Kavanaugh that contradicts his testimony before the Senate. In it he writes, “warn the neighbors that we’re loud, obnoxious drunks with prolific pukers among us.”
  97. Interviews with a dozen classmates and friends depict Kavanaugh as a member of a small clique of football players who celebrated a culture of heavy drinking, even by standards of that era, contradicting his testimony.
  98. On Wednesday, Rachel Maddow read a sworn affidavit from Elizabeth Rasor, which the FBI neglected to take, saying Mark Judge had conveyed “a degree of shame” about taking turns having sex with a drunk woman.
  99. BuzzFeed reported ethics complaints have been filed against Kavanaugh in the DC Circuit, including at least one related to his alleged lying about sexual assault allegations against him.
  100. Ethics experts say there is no precedent for what happens to the complaints if he is elevated to the Supreme Court. For now, the complaints are under the purview of DC Circuit chief judge Merrick Garland.
  101. On Wednesday, NBC News reported that, according to multiple sources, more than 40 people with potential information into the sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh have not been contacted by the FBI.
  102. On Wednesday, James Roche, Kavanaugh’s freshman year roommate at Yale, said in an op-ed that Kavanaugh “lied under oath about his drinking and terms in his yearbook.” The FBI has not contacted Roche at any time.
  103. On Wednesday, an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that 45% of Americans believe Ford is telling the truth, up from 32% before her testimony. Just 33% believe Kavanaugh is telling the truth.
  104. On Wednesday, the National Council of Churches, the nation’s largest coalition of Christian churches, said in a statement “Kavanaugh has ‘disqualified himself’” and “must step aside immediately.”
  105. On Wednesday, Ford’s attorneys wrote a letter to chairman Grassley, again saying the FBI has not contacted them despite Ford’s desire to be interviewed in the probe.
  106. When asked about the limited scope of FBI interviews, press secretary Sarah Sanders blamed it on senators, telling reporters, “We’re going to allow the Senate to make the determination of the scope.”
  107. On Wednesday, Bloomberg reported the FBI lacks White House approval to interview Ford and Kavanaugh. Late Wednesday, McConnell started the clock for a Friday test vote on the nomination.
  108. Officials inside the FBI are concerned constraints placed on the investigation by Trump’s White House could damage the bureau’s reputation for finding the truth.
  109. On Wednesday, the NYT published an open letter by 650 law school professors in opposition to Kavanaugh’s nomination. By Thursday, there were more than 2,400 signatures.
  110. On Wednesday, more than 1,000 Maine academics signed a letter urging Sen. Collins not to support Kavanaugh, citing credible allegations of sexual misconduct and an “angry demeanor” at the Senate hearing.
  111. On Thursday, the White House issued a statement at around 2:30 a.m. saying the FBI had completed its work and the materials were conveyed to Capitol Hill in the middle of the night.
  112. Deputy press secretary Raj Shah falsely said, “This is the last addition to the most comprehensive review of a Supreme Court nominee in history, which includes extensive hearings, multiple committee interviews.”
  113. The public was not allowed to see the FBI report. Only senators were permitted to review the materials.
  114. Although the FBI was given a week to complete their investigation, they stopped after just five days.
  115. Senators’ review took place in a secured room at the Capitol starting Thursday morning. Republican senators were permitted to see the information first. Time was limited to allow a vote on Friday.
  116. On Thursday, WSJ reported the White House believes the FBI report has no corroboration of sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh.
  117. NYT reported that as part of the inquiry, the FBI contacted ten people and interviewed nine of themWAPO reported that it could confirm interviews with only six people.
  118. The FBI has not publicly explained why it stopped after talking with just five more people, nor did the bureaus explain why they did not interview Ford or Kavanaugh.
  119. The Senate Judiciary Committee tweeted, “Nowhere in any of these six FBI reports…reviewed on a bipartisan basis…[is anything] related in any way to inappropriate sexual behavior or alcohol abuse.”
  120. Sen. Dick Durbin responded in a tweet, “This tweet is not accurate” and in a letter insinuated previous background checks of Kavanaugh had turned up evidence of either inappropriate sexual behavior or alcohol abuse.
  121. Late Thursday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren said on the Senate floor that the FBI reports show there was not a full and fair investigation. Instead, she said, it was sharply limited in scope and did not explore the relevant confirming facts.
  122. Sen. Warren also said the available documents do not exonerate Kavanaugh and that the documents contradict statements Kavanaugh made under oath at the Senate hearing.
  123. On Thursday, thousands protested Kavanaugh’s nomination outside the courthouse where Kavanaugh works, at the Supreme Court, and at two Senate office buildings. Protestors chanted, “We believe survivors.”
  124. The U.S. Capitol Police said 302 people were arrested in two Senate office buildings, including actress Amy Schumer who said, “A vote for Kavanaugh is a vote saying women don’t matter.”
  125. On Thursday, Jen Klaus, the former roommate of Ramirez, told NBC NewsSenate committee staff members called her at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, put her on speakerphone, and asked about Ramirez’s drinking habits at Yale.
  126. Klaus said the staffers also suggested it was a case of mistaken identity, saying “It just gave me the impression they were suggesting perhaps it was (another classmate) who threw his penis in her face instead of Brett.”
  127. A Yale classmate, Kathy Charlton, told NBC News she tried to contact the FBI about text messages she received from a mutual friend of Kavanaugh ahead of the Ramirez story breaking.
  128. Charlton said three days prior to the New Yorker story, in a phone conversation, the former classmate told her Kavanaugh had called him and advised him not to say anything “bad” if the press were to call.
  129. After she spoke to a reporter, the friend texted Charlton, saying, “Hellllllooooo. Don’t F****** TELL PEOPLE BRETT GOT IN TOUCH WITH ME!!! I TOLD YOU AT THE TIME THAT WAS IN CONFIDENCE!!!”
  130. Both Charlton and Kerry Berchem made numerous attempts to get in touch with the FBI but did not hear back.
  131. Berchem told NBC News on Thursday she sent her third email to Mike Davis, the chief counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee. She briefly spoke to a staffer on October 3 and heard nothing further.
  132. On Thursday, speaking to a crowd of retirees in Florida, Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, a Republican, said Kavanaugh does not belong on the Supreme Court, saying he lacked the temperament.
  133. Late Thursday, Kavanaugh wrote an op-ed for the WSJ defending himself as an “independent, impartial judge,” explaining his behavior at last week’s Senate hearing as being “emotional” as a “son, husband and dad.”
  134. Late Thursday, the WAPO Editorial Board urged senators to vote “no” on Kavanaugh, citing “his partisan instincts.” This is the first time the Post has called for a no vote since 1987.
  135. On Thursday, at a rally in Minnesota, Trump mocked Al Franken’s resignation over sexual assault allegations, saying he folded “like a wet rag,” and mocked Franken, “‘oh, he did something,’ ‘oh I resign. I quit.’”
  136. On Friday, the American Bar Association said in a letter that its Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary has reopened its evaluation of Kavanaugh in light of his testimony before the Senate last week.
  137. Hundreds of female attorneys in Alaska said in a letter to Sen. Murkowski to vote no, and other Alaskans who are survivors flew to Washington D.C. to meet with her Thursday. On Friday, she voted no on cloture.
  138. On Friday, when Sen. Grassley was asked by Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo if George Soros was behind the protestors who confronted Sen. Flake in the elevator, Grassley said, “I tend to believe it.”
  139. On Friday, in a morning tweet, Trump attacked survivors who had protested, saying “the very rude elevator screamers are paid professionals only looking to make Senators look bad.”
  140. Trump also tweeted a conspiracy theory, saying “look at all of the professionally made identical signs. Paid for by Soros and others. These are not signs made in the basement from love! #Troublemakers
  141. An ABA spokesperson said the committee did not expect to complete its evaluation ahead of voting Friday, so the association’s assessment of Kavanaugh as “well qualified” rating stands, but it “must be read in conjunction with the foregoing.”
  142. On Friday, at a 3 p.m. speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Collins declared her support for Kavanaugh in a fierce 44 minutes-long speech. Her deciding vote ensured his confirmation.
  143. Seated behind her during the speech were the three other Republican women senators who were voting to support Kavanaugh. The GOP has only five women in the Senate.
  144. Before Collins’ speech started, protesters stood up in the gallery above her, yelling, “Vote no! Show up for Maine women!” After she finished her speech, McConnell led a standing ovation.
  145. Collins went on to blast Democrats and progressive organizations and to cite the oft-used GOP trope that she believes Ford was sexually assaulted but does not believe her recollection that it was Kavanaugh.
  146. Minutes after her speech, a crowdfunding site where activists have been raising money to defeat Collins in 2020 was inundated with pledges and crashed. The site raised more than $3 million dollars.
  147. On Friday, when asked by reporters why there are no Republican women on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Grassley cited the workload as a deterrent: “It’s a lot of work — maybe they don’t want to do it.
  148. Grassley added, “My chief of staff of 33 years tells me we’ve tried to recruit women and we couldn’t get the job done.” Grassley later returned to clarify that the workload made it less appealing to both genders.
  149. On Friday, NYT reported that in the beginning of the week, Trump had called McGahn to tell him the FBI should be able to investigate anythingbecause they needed the critics to stop.
  150. McGahn reportedly responded that a wide-ranging inquiry like some Democrats were demanding would be potentially disastrous for Kavanaugh’s chances of being confirmed.
  151. McGahn noted since this was not a criminal investigation, FBI agents could not use search warrants and subpoenas. He said the White House could not order the FBI to rummage indiscriminately through someone’s life.
  152. Late Friday, Ford’s attorney criticized the investigation in a statement: “an F.B.I. investigation that did not include interviews of Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh is not a meaningful investigation in any sense of the word.”
  153. Experts said it was highly unusual for the FBI not to conduct those interviews, with one expert adding it was “indefensible” not to interview Ford, review her polygraph results, or get her therapist’s notes.
  154. On Saturday, anti-Kavanaugh protests continued, with hundreds protesting and more arrests.
  155. On Saturday, WAPO reported Chief Justice John Roberts received more than a dozen judicial misconduct complaints in recent weeks on Kavanaugh but chose not to refer them to a judicial panel.
  156. Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the court on which Kavanaugh serves, passed complaints the court received starting three weeks ago on to Roberts.
  157. Henderson dismissed other claims as frivolous. In a statement Saturday, she said the complaints centered on statements Kavanaugh made during his Senate hearings, questioning his honesty and temperament.
  158. This is the first time in history that a Supreme Court nominee has been poised to join the court while a fellow judge recommends that misconduct claims against that nominee warrant review by the Chief Justice.
  159. According to experts, once Kavanaugh is confirmed, the details of the complaints could be dismissed. Supreme Court justices are not subject to misconduct rules governing these claims.
  160. On Saturday, Kavanaugh was confirmed by a 50–48 vote, along party lines with the exception of Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who voted yes, and Sen. Murkowski, who voted present.
  161. Kavanaugh’s two-vote margin was the lowest in modern history. The only lower margin of support for a Supreme Court justice was in 1881 when Stanley Matthews was confirmed 24 to 23.
  162. The state of Texas set a new voter registration record, with 15.6 million new registered voters ahead of the hotly contest midterm race between incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke.
  163. Election records show the state has added 400,000 voters since March alone. The state on average added just over 100,000 voters a year between 2002 and 2014.
  164. On National Voter Registration Day, a record 800,000 voters registered ahead of midterms. The campaign’s initial aim was to add 300,000 voters.

Kavanaugh Pens Op-Ed; Tensions Fly [UPDATE: It’s done]

Ken AshfordSex Scandals, Sex/Morality/Family Values, Supreme Court, Trump & Administration, Women's IssuesLeave a Comment

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who last week accused Democrats of plotting a political hit job against him on behalf of Bill and Hillary Clinton to smear his good name as he faces sexual assault allegations, wants America to know he is an impartial judge.

Kavanaugh wrote a column in the Wall Street Journal published last night with the self-serving headline: “I Am an Independent, Impartial Judge.”

Because nothing says “impartial” like a judicial candidate who writes on op-ed in the Wall Street Journal after giving an interview on Fox a week earlier.

He allowed that “my tone was sharp, and I said a few things I should not have said.” But he had his reasons. He thinks he might not ever have been that emotional before in his life.

“I hope everyone can understand that I was there as a son, husband and dad,” he wrote. “I testified with five people foremost in my mind: my mom, my dad, my wife, and most of all my daughters.”

This is what Kavanaugh said in his outraged opening statement at last week’s hearing:

This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election. Fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record. Revenge on behalf of the Clintons. and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.

The thing is… his comments were in a PREPARED speech.  He wrote it.  Someone reviewed it.  This was not off the cuff anger.  And that makes it far far worse.

Kavanaugh knows that was a problem. Democrats, law professors, and retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens questioned his judicial temperament after the judge so fiercely and explicitly attacked the Democratic Party in response to the sexual assault allegations brought by Christine Blasey Ford and at least two other women.

“The Supreme Court must never be viewed as a partisan institution,” he wrote, as an apology of sorts.

For any American who was worrying — or any Republican senator who might be wavering in their support of his confirmation — Kavanaugh had one message: Whatever you saw at that hearing, when I’m on the bench, I will be an impartial judge with blinders to partisanship.

“Going forward, you can count on me to be the same kind of judge and person I have been for my entire 28-year legal career: hardworking, even-keeled, open-minded, independent and dedicated to the Constitution and the public good,” the judge wrote to conclude his WSJ column. “As a judge, I have always treated colleagues and litigants with the utmost respect. I have been known for my courtesy on and off the bench. I have not changed.”

Senate Republicans have set a critical this morning procedural vote for Kavanaugh’s nomination. Even hours before the vote, it was not yet known whether he has the support of the 51 senators he needs. At least four key senators — Republicans Jeff Flake, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, plus Democrat Joe Manchin — are still undecided on their vote.

Civility is out the window. Watch how Senator Orrin Hatch responds to people who pay his salary:

The woman was visibly irritated by Hatch’s wave, yelling, “Don’t you wave your hand at me! I wave my hand at you.” Hatch replied, “When you grow up, I’ll be glad to.” Protesters sought to hold open the doors to Hatch’s elevator, but the senator’s aides managed to stop them from doing so as Hatched waved goodbye.

And then Trump piled on with insanity:

My Soros check is lost in the mail

But 1700 law professors have signed a letter saying he should not be on the bench.  Former SCOTUS Justice John Paul Stevens said he was not qualified.  And… 


The procedural vote has happened.  The final tally: 51-49.

Next up is the final vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, expected on Saturday.  Murkowski (R-AK) was a NO; Collins (R-Conn), Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Manchin (DE-WV) were all YES on the procedural vote.

As for the actual confirmation vote, Murkowski is a NO.  Collins, Flake, and Manchin are all on the fence.  Two of them need to say NO to reject Kavanaugh.  The vote is tomorrow.

Collins to announce her final decision at 3pm today, reportedly.  Frankly, if she is a YES, Manchin and Flake will go YES as well.


UPDATE #3 – Collins capitulates


Now that the water is warm, Joe Manchin (D-WV) says he will vote YES too.  He’s saying so on CNN, but you can barely hear him because of the chants of “Shame, Shame” behind him!

RIP Juan Romero

Ken AshfordHistory, In PassingLeave a Comment

The 17 year old busboy who tried to help a wounded Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 died. He was shaking Kennedy’s hand when the shots were fired.  He had rosary beads in his pocket and he gave them to RFK.  Afterwards, his life was haunted by the violence he saw that day, even to the point of being unable to mark his own birthday because it was in the same month as RFK’s assassination.  He was 68.

Kavanaugh Supplemental Investigation Is Over: Report Being Read

Ken AshfordElection 2016, Sex Scandals, Sex/Morality/Family Values, Supreme Court, Trump & Administration, Women's IssuesLeave a Comment

Guess what?  The White House has found no corroboration of the allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh after examining interview reports from the FBI’s latest probe into the judge’s background.  Neither has the GOP majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

This leaves senators in much the same position as last week—faced with two witnesses providing mutually exclusive accounts and forced to decide between them. The investigation, which concluded two days before its Friday deadline, has faced mounting criticism in recent days from Democrats who have said the probe wasn’t appropriately comprehensive.

Here’s a list of the people who we know have not been interviewed:

  • A suitemate of Kavanaugh’s has now told the New Yorker he remembers hearing at the time about the incident Deborah Ramirez has recounted. Ramirez, who has been interviewed, had claimed that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during a dorm party at Yale. The suitemate, Kenneth G. Appold, now says he is “one-hundred-per-cent certain” that he was told the culprit was Kavanaugh. He does say he never discussed this with Ramirez, but he claims an eyewitness described the episode to him at the time. Appold has tried to share this story with the FBI, but there’s no indication the FBI is willing to hear from him.
  • A classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Georgetown Prep now strongly challenges one of Kavanaugh’s assertions under oath. The person told the New Yorker that he heard Kavanaugh talk repeatedly about Renate Dolphin as someone “that everyone passed around for sex,” and even heard Kavanaugh singing a rhyme that included the words “you wanna get laid, you can make it with REE-NATE.” Kavanaugh (and many others) described themselves in their yearbook as a “Renate Alumnius,” but Kavanaugh has denied under oath that this was a sexual reference, claiming, ludicrously, that it was intended to show “affection.”
  • This classmate is not named by the New Yorker. But he put his name on a statement to the FBI and Judiciary Committee that makes this claim, and he is prepared to talk to the FBI. There is no indication this happened.
  • James Roche, one of Kavanaugh’s roommates at Yale, has written a piece for Slate that claims Kavanaugh lied under oath about his use of slang and his drinking. Roche claims that Kavanaugh “regularly” blacked out. Roche has offered to talk to the FBI, but there’s no indication this happened.
  • Roche also pointedly added of Kavanaugh: “He said that ‘boofing’ was farting and the ‘Devil’s Triangle’ was a drinking game. ‘Boofing’ and ‘Devil’s Triangle’ are sexual references. I know this because I heard Brett and his friends using these terms on multiple occasions.” Roche concluded that Kavanaugh “has demonstrated a willingness to be untruthful under oath about easily verified information.”
  • NBC News reports that the FBI has not contacted dozens of people who could potentially corroborate the allegations against Kavanaugh or testify to his behavior at the time. This includes many people who knew either Ford or Ramirez at the time, and people who actually approached the FBI offering information.
  • The Post reports that Ramirez’s lawyers provided the FBI with a list of more than 20 people who might have relevant information, but “as of Wednesday, Ramirez’s team had no indication that the bureau had interviewed any of them.”
  • Neither Ford nor Kavanaugh have been interviewed by the FBI. As the Brookings Institution’s Susan Hennessey points out: “It is inconceivable they could close a real investigation without re-interviewing Kavanaugh.”

The Senate tweeted yesterday: “Under the provisions of Rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate, tomorrow is the intervening day on the Kavanaugh nomination. The cloture vote on the nomination will occur one hour after the Senate convenes on Friday.”

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tweeted “I just filed cloture on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. There will be plenty of time for Members to review and be briefed on this supplemental material before a Friday cloture vote.”

The clock has been started, and Friday is the day when Senators can read the FBI’s enhanced background investigation results, and when the key vote to end debate (cloture) will happen.

The loop seems complete.  Flake and Collins seem to believe this was a complete investigation. 

November 9, 2016 — elections have consequences.  And the GOP is complicit in all of this.

Christine Ford’s attorneys write a letter:

FBI Report On Kavanaugh Will Be Kept Secret (For A While)

Ken AshfordCongress, Sex Scandals, Sex/Morality/Family Values, Supreme Court, Trump & Administration, Women's IssuesLeave a Comment

Greg Sargeant:

As early as today, the FBI may conclude its renewed background investigation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh — and predictably enough, Senate Republicans are already insisting that the report will never see the light of day.

The FBI’s report will be given to all Senators, but it will not be released publicly, because, as Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has put it, “That’s the way these reports are always handled.”
However, there is likely to be intense pressure brought to bear for some form of public release, given the enormously high stakes involved, not to mention the searing public tensions that have erupted around Christine Blasey Ford’s charges against Kavanaugh, and the need for some kind of resolution of them, if that’s even possible at this point.

On these grounds, Democrats are calling for the release of the FBI’s findings in some form. But what happens if Republicans continue to refuse, something that probably would have the support of President Trump? Is there any recourse?

Yes, there may in fact be recourse. If Democrats were to take control of the Senate, they’d be in a position to aggressively push for the report’s release in some form, and they might be able to succeed. If they take control of the House, they’d be able to conduct a measure of oversight into the White House’s handling of this whole affair that could also prove revelatory.

“It’s certainly in the public’s interest, and in the interests of many members on both sides of the aisle, to have transparency about the nature of these very public allegations,” Congressional scholar Sarah Binder told me. “It seems reasonable that the public should know the outcome of charges against the nominee.”

Republicans have pointed to a 1990s memorandum of understanding between the Judiciary Committee and the White House counsel concerning FBI background checks into nominees, which says such investigations are to remain confidential. So in this sense, McConnell has a point.

But Binder points out that if Democrats won the Senate — which is certainly difficult but not impossible — they’d control the Judiciary Committee, which could push to renegotiate this agreement with the White House. She noted that keeping this particular report under wraps seems particularly questionable, given that we’ve already seen such “public attention to it” and that the findings will have such immense “public consequences.”

“The way in which this whole thing has been handled should be an issue that Democrats talk about before the election,” Congressional analyst Norman Ornstein added in an interview with me. “There’s no reason why Democrats in the Senate can’t say, ‘If we take the majority, we’re going to be very transparent about what went on,’” which could include a vow to push for the release of “an appropriate version of this report.”


The reason this matters is that, without any kind of public release of the FBI’s findings on Kavanaugh, a spin war will erupt that threatens to leave the public as uncertain as ever. Such background checks are less about reaching conclusions than about compiling information, and in this case the additional information will be designed to assist lawmakers to better weigh the accounts from Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh and others — as well as their credibility.

Senators on either side will of course characterize what’s in the report in ways that make one side appear more credible than the other, and in the nuances will be crucial — yet those nuances could end up getting buried under layers of he-said/she-said obfuscation, particularly if the public and journalists have little or nothing to judge the spin war against.

Beyond this, the report’s release would help us better understand just how comprehensive a background check the FBI did end up conducting.
“Democrats should be threatening that if they regain power, they will push to release the report that McConnell is trying to keep private, and to reopen the investigation into Kavanaugh to ensure that it is done in the complete way that the White House is preventing,” Brian Fallon, the executive director of Demand Justice, which is leading the charge against Kavanaugh, told me.

All this is a reminder of just how high the stakes are in this fall’s elections — as well as a reminder that if Kavanaugh is confirmed, the war over him will likely continue, with undiminshed intensity.

That’s something that nobody is considering — even if Kavanaugh gets on the court, his placement there will be challenged.  The fight will go on.

Meanwhile, two of Brett Kavanaugh’s former Yale classmates, who initially supported his confirmation to the Supreme Court, have written a letter retracting their endorsement due to his blatantly partisan statements at last week’s Senate hearing.

The letter, which was directed toward Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, opened by mentioning the initial statement of support for Kavanaugh that had been signed by twenty-three of his Yale Law School classmates. It then goes on to argue that two of the signatories for that letter, Michael J. Proctor and Mark Osler, feel compelled to “withdraw our support for that letter and Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation.” Their reasons had less to do with the question of whether Kavanaugh or his most prominent accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, is telling the truth and more to do with Kavanaugh’s partisan statements during the hearing.

Proctor and Osler are not alone in expressing concern about Kavanaugh’s decision to characterize the hearings as a Democratic witch hunt and to vow that “what goes around comes around” against the Democrats pursuing the inquiries. Over 900 law professors have signed a letter raising the same concerns about Kavanaugh.

The question at issue was of course painful for anyone. But Judge Kavanaugh exhibited a lack of commitment to judicious inquiry. Instead of being open to the necessary search for accuracy, Judge Kavanaugh was repeatedly aggressive with questioners. Even in his prepared remarks, Judge Kavanaugh located the hearing as a partisan question, referring to it as “a calculated and orchestrated political hit,” rather than acknowledging the need for the Senate, faced with new information, to try to understand what had transpired. Instead of trying to sort out with reason and care the allegations that were raised, Judge Kavanaugh responded in an intemperate, inflammatory, and partial manner, as he interrupted and, at times, was discourteous to questioners.

Again, if Kavanaugh is confirmed, these concerns will not suddenly go away.

The Myth Of Trump As A Self-Made Man Explodes

Ken AshfordGeneral corruption, Political Scandals, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

The New York Times did a thorough expose of how Trump got to be wealthy – basically through inheritance and tax fraud.  The details — sourced from over 100,000 pages of material — are fascinating but the conclusion is… meh.  I mean, didn’t we already know this pretty much?  Even Trump thinks it is old news, and his only beef is that the Times discusses it using present-day dollar figures (as well as old ones)

I guess it IS news.  We never really knew it; we just suspected it.

The Times followed up with an editorial today:

“I built what I built myself.”

This boast has long been at the core of the mythology of Donald Trump, Self-Made Billionaire. As the oft-told story goes, young Mr. Trump accepted a modest $1 million loan from his father, Fred, a moderately successful real estate developer from Queens, and — through smarts, hard work and sheer force of will — parlayed that loan into a multibillion-dollar global empire.

It’s a classic American tale of ambition and self-determination. Not Horatio Alger, exactly, but appealing, and impressive, nonetheless.
Except that, like so much of what Mr. Trump has been selling the American public in recent years, this origin story was a sham — a version of reality so elaborately embellished that it qualifies as fan fiction more than biography. Also, as we’ve come to expect from Mr. Trump, the creation of this myth involved a big dose of ethically sketchy, possibly even illegal activity.

As an in-depth investigation by The Times has revealed, Mr. Trump is only self-made if you don’t count the massive financial rewards he received from his father’s business beginning as a toddler. (By age 3, little Donald was reportedly pulling in an annual income of what today would be $200,000 a year.) These benefits included not only the usual perks of hailing from a rich, well-connected family — the connections, the access to credit, the built-in safety net. For the Trumps, it also involved direct cash gifts and tens of millions in “loans” that never charged interest or had to be repaid. Fred Trump even purchased several properties and business ventures, putting ownership either fully or partly in the names of his children, who reaped the profits.

As Donald Trump emerged as the favorite son, Fred made special deals and arrangements to increase Donald’s fortunes in particular. The Times found that, before Donald had turned 30, he had received close to $9 million from his father. Over the longer haul, he received upward of what, in today’s dollars, would be $413 million.

Along the way, it seems that certain liberties were taken with tax laws. The Times found that concocting elaborate schemes to avoid paying taxes on their father’s estate, including greatly understating the value of the family business, became an important pastime for Fred’s children, with Donald taking an active role in the effort. According to tax experts, the activities in question show a pattern of deception, a deliberate muddying of the financial waters. Asked for comment on The Times’s findings, a lawyer for the president provided a written statement denying any wrongdoing and asserting that, in fact, Mr. Trump had little to do with the dizzying transactions involving his family’s wealth.

Everyone can understand the impulse to polish one’s background in order to make a good impression. For Mr. Trump, whose entire life has been about branding and selling a certain type of gaudy glamour, this image-polishing has been all the more vital to his success. And he has pursued it with a shameless, at times giddy, abandon.

Veterans of New York news media still laugh to recall how Mr. Trump would call them up, pretending to be a publicist named John Barron, or sometimes John Miller, in order to regale them with tales of Mr. Trump’s glamorous personal life — how many models he was dating, which actresses were pursuing him, which celebrities he was hanging out with. As gross and tacky and bizarre as this all seemed, it was aimed squarely at fostering the image of Donald Trump as a master of the universe who, as the cliché goes, women wanted and men wanted to be.


In his 1987 memoir “The Art of the Deal,” Mr. Trump famously offered his take on the origins of his success: “I play to people’s fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration — and a very effective form of promotion.”

But increasingly, Mr. Trump’s willingness to bend the truth — and the rules — in the service of his myth looks less like innocent exaggeration than malicious deception, with a dollop of corruption tossed in for good measure. It’s not the golden, glittering success story he has been peddling. It’s shaping up to be something far darker.

Maybe it is because I was a New Yorker in the 1980s and 1990s.  We knew who Trump was, and who he wasn’t.

The only reason this expose MIGHT be important is if there are criminal and civil issues that are still alive.  And it looks like there might be:

New York state tax officials are investigating allegations detailed in an exhaustive New York Times investigation into Donald Trump and his family’s business dealings.

The Times reported on Tuesday that Trump and his family committed “instances of outright fraud” in order to transfer millions of dollars from the real estate empire of the president’s father, Fred Trump, to his children without paying the appropriate taxes.

“The Tax Department is reviewing the allegations in the NYT article and is vigorously pursuing all appropriate avenues of investigation,” a spokesman from the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance said in an email to CNBC.

Representatives from the White House and the Trump Organization did not return requests for comment.

In a statement to the Times, Trump lawyer Charles Harder denied any allegations of fraud and tax evasion, saying “the facts upon which The Times bases its allegations are extremely inaccurate.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in her response to the Times, backed up Trump’s claims about his wealth, repeating the story that he took a $1 million loan from his father and paid it back. Trump said numerous times as a presidential candidate that he had received the “very small” $1 million loan from his father. But the newspaper’s investigation found that Trump had actually been lent at least $60.7 million.

The article claims the Trump family committed “instances of outright fraud,” with the president himself receiving today’s equivalent of $413 million from the real estate holdings of his father, the Times reported while citing 100,000 documents and interviews with former family associates.

Another aspect to this is that Trump is actually losing money as his presidency goes on.