Kirstjen Nielsen Ousted As Secretary Of Human Cruelty

Ken AshfordImmigration and Xenophobia, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

So Kirstjen Nielsen, whose legacy will be the most heartless and lawbreaking immigration policy this nation has known in at least 70 years, wasn’t heartless and lawbreaky enough for Donald Trump, who accepted her resignation Sunday evening so he can move immigration policy in “a tougher direction.”

Trump essentially fired Nielsen because he wants a “tougher” approach to the migrant crisis than Nielsen has implemented.

In fact, he has been frustrated with Nielsen for her refusal to break the law:

President Donald Trump has for months urged his administration to reinstate large-scale separation of migrant families crossing the border, according to three U.S. officials with knowledge of meetings at the White House.

Trump’s outgoing Homeland Security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, resisted — setting her at odds with the president.

According to two of the sources, Nielsen told Trump that federal court orders prohibited the Department of Homeland Security from reinstating the policy, and that he would be reversing his own executive order from June that ended family separations.

Three U.S. officials said that Kevin McAleenan, the head of Customs and Border Patrol who is expected to take over as acting DHS secretary, has not ruled out family separation as an option.

The policy McAleenan would consider, according to the officials, is known as “binary choice” and would migrant parents the option between being separated from their children or bringing their children with them into long term detention.

It has become a ritual of the Trump years: Each time President Trump parts ways with one of his top advisers or associates, that person then embarks on an effort to expunge the deep moral stain left behind by his or her service to Trump’s depravedcorruptincompetent, and even sometimes criminal designs.

In the case of Kirstjen Nielsen, who has just been pushed out as homeland security secretary by Trump amid his rage over the spike in asylum-seeking families at the border, this process is proving more revealing — and unsettling — than usual.

This act of expungement typically requires one of several types of self-cleansing. The now-banished party reveals that the acts he or she did carry out were done with great, anguished reluctance, or that he or she stuck around to prevent worse from happening, or that Trump demanded numerous acts that he or she just could not bring herself to commit.

Politico reports that Nielsen’s ouster reflects Trump immigration adviser Stephen Miller’s consolidation of power inside the administration. Miller is trying to bring in more immigration “hard-liners,” because he is “frustrated by the lack of headway” that the administration has made on immigration.

That “lack of headway” is that migrants keep coming to the border — the number could reach 1 million this year. Most of them are asylum-seeking families, and Trump is in a rage about them, leading him to lurch erratically from one posture to another.

Trump declared a national emergency to build his wall and has threatened to close the southern border (neither of which would actually solve the problem), a threat he has withdrawn and then reiterated in the space of days. He is cutting off aid to Northern Triangle countries (which would make the problem worse), and is demanding that Democrats give him changes to the law he wants (which they won’t do).

Now, as Politico reports, Miller is privately telling allies that the administration is at wits’ end:

Last week, as Trump threatened once again to shut down the border … Miller held a conference call with immigration activists to explain the administration’s position and answer questions.

He has told allies that the administration is out of ideas about how to stem the migrant tide at the border, according to a source familiar with the conversations.

Okay, so what now? New details emerging about the ouster of Nielsen provide a clue as to what Miller’s increasing control might mean in practice.

Among the most indelible moral stains that Nielsen will take into private life, of course, is her role in implementing Trump’s horrific 2018 policy of family separations. We are now learning, via leaks to the New York Times, that Nielsen “hesitated for weeks” before signing the memo authorizing the policy. But Trump castigated her mercilessly in private, leading her to capitulate.

Such leaks will not have the desired cleansing effect, however, because as the Times also reports, Nielsen became a “defender” of such policies. That said, there do appear to be things Trump demanded that she would not do:

The president called Ms. Nielsen at home early in the mornings to demand that she take action to stop migrants from entering the country, including doing things that were clearly illegal, such as blocking all migrants from seeking asylum. She repeatedly noted the limitations imposed on her department by federal laws, court settlements and international obligations.

Those responses only infuriated Mr. Trump further.

Trump repeatedly demanded that Nielsen break the law, by closing the border to asylum-seeking entirely.

It’s important to appreciate that this demand of Nielsen flows from what appears to be an actual aspiration on Trump’s part. In recent days, Trump has repeatedlysaid our country is “full,” which is another way of saying the same thing: If he had his way, we would not take in a single additional asylum seeker.

Many other things he and Miller have done are all about progressing towards that goal in some way. In multiple ways, they’ve tried to restrict the ways people can apply or qualify for asylum. They’ve lowered the cap on refugees and used bureaucratic tactics to slash those numbers further.

Now they are pushing for changes to the law that would make it possible to detain asylum seeking families — including children — for far longer, and to more easily deport Central American migrant children.

One thing we can be reasonably certain of is that if Trump could get away with it, he’d do far worse things. As The Post reports, Nielsen actually held on to her job for this perverse reason:

Trump told aides last fall that he wanted to fire Nielsen, and he grew increasingly agitated as a large caravan of Central American migrants reached the U.S.-Mexico border near San Diego. She appeared to regain her footing after U.S. Border Patrol agents used tear gas to repel a large crowd attempting to break through a border fence — the kind of “tough” action Trump said he wanted in a DHS secretary.

Add to this the fact that Trump repeatedly instructed Nielsen to break the law, and you get an idea of what Trump might be capable of doing. What those things will look like we don’t know, but we may soon find out.

According to multiple sources, the President wanted families separated even if they came in at a legal port of entry and were legal asylum seekers. The President wanted families separated even if they were apprehended within the US. He thinks the separations work to deter migrants from coming.Sources told CNN that Nielsen tried to explain they could not bring the policy back because of court challenges, and White House staffers tried to explain it would be an unmitigated PR disaster.”He just wants to separate families,” said a senior administration official.

Trump moved swiftly to announce Neilsen’s temporary replacement. But, characteristically for Trump, he ignored what the law says about that.

“I am pleased to announce that Kevin McAleenan, the current U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner, will become Acting Secretary,” Trump tweeted. The law, though, says that the deputy secretary would become acting secretary, and, because there’s currently no deputy secretary, the agency’s third-ranking position, the undersecretary for management, would take over. That would be Claire Grady. 

UPDATE: It’s the beginning of a “purge”:

President Trump moved to sweep out the top ranks of the Department of Homeland Security on Monday, a day after pushing out its secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, accelerating a purge of the nation’s immigration and security leadership.

Government officials said three more top department leaders were expected to leave soon: L. Francis Cissna, the head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; Randolph D. Alles, the Secret Service director; and John Mitnik, the agency’s general counsel.

***

The departures appeared to be part of a housecleaning of officials involved in the Trump administration’s immigration agenda as the president demands a harder line on border security. Mr. Trump on Friday said Mr. Vitiello would be replaced with someone who would move ICE in a “tougher” direction. All of the departing officials were appointed by Mr. Trump.

Mr. Alles received instructions 10 days ago to come up with an exit plan and was expected to leave on his own timeline, according to officials familiar with the internal discussions.

Mr. Trump sought Mr. Alles’s resignation, in part because of the recent arrest of a Chinese woman who was carrying a malware-laced device on the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort property in Florida, exposing holes in the security of the private club. The Secret Service provides protection for the president and the president’s family, which is why most past presidents have restrained from criticizing the agency.

President Trump is going to have a hard time replacing people who will do his bidding. Yes, he has selected career Secret Service official James Murray to replace Alles, but the guy most likely is not an improvement.

Cissna, as head of ICE, is an immigration hawk. You won’t find anyone as pro-Trump in policy as him. Hardliners are complaining about his pending ouster.

Weekly List 125

Ken AshfordWeekly ListLeave a Comment

This week, two weeks after Mueller had sent his final report to Attorney General William Barr, members of the special counsel anonymously broke their silence, indicating to the Times and the Post that their findings were more troubling than Barr’s letter had indicated. Meanwhile Trump changed his position on public release of the report, as he and his surrogates went into attack mode against the Democrats and Mueller’s team.

Republicans rebuked Trump this week, failing to stand with him on his threat to close the U.S.-Mexico border and to come up with an alternative to Obamacare ahead of the 2020 election. The House joined the Senate, voting to end U.S. involvement in Yemen, marking the first time both chambers of Congress have voted to invoke the war-powers resolution to end U.S. military engagement in a foreign conflict.

House Democrats took aggressive action this week, including demanding six years of Trump’s tax returns, preparing a lawsuit over Trump’s national emergency, and making public testimony from whistleblower Tricia Newbold on security clearance. Secret Service arrested a Chinese woman at Mar-a-Lago, raising concerns that Trump’s “Winter White House” is vulnerable to spying, while FBI director Christopher Wray told Congress white supremacy is a “persistent, pervasive threat.” Trump seemed off his game this week, stumbling on the birthplace of his father, mispronouncing words and making odd statements — raising concerns again about his mental health.

  1. On Monday, WAPO reported Trump has made 9,451 false or misleading claims in his first 801 days in office. In the last 200 days, Trump made 22 false or misleading claims per day, up from 5.9 per day in his first year in office.
  2. Ratings by E-Poll Market Research showed Trump is most often described as “aggressive” (48%),“mean” (38%), and “overexposed” (29%). His strong positive appeal is at 14%, while strong negative is 39%.
  3. Within the regime, press secretary Sarah Sanders scored 15% for “trustworthy,” and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway 8% for the same. Jared Kushner was most described as “insincere” (29%) and “creepy” (27%).
  4. NBC News reported that at least 14 major contributors to Trump’s inaugural committee have been nominated to ambassador positions, although experts say they are less qualified than nominees in the past.
  5. There are 52 still vacant ambassadorships out of 250, including in key countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar. After two years, Obama had 11 unfilled, and George W. Bush had 15.
  6. On Saturday, returning from her two week suspension, Fox News host Jeanine Pirro said Trump’s accusers had a “blueprint for a future effort to overthrow the government,” adding they should face time behind bars.
  7. On Sunday, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told “This Week” that Robert Mueller intended to have Attorney General William Barr determine whether Trump obstructed justice.
  8. On Sunday, a NBC News/WSJ poll found 40% of American do not believe Trump has been cleared of wrongdoing in the Mueller probe, while 29% believe he has.
  9. On Sunday, Fox News host Chris Wallace pressed Kellyanne Conway on her repeated claims that Trump has been totally exonerated in the Mueller investigation in a heated exchanged. Wallace said it “just isn’t true.”
  10. Actor Jim Carrey tweeted: “If you’re wondering what fascism leads to, just ask Benito Mussolini and his mistress Claretta,” along with a cartoon of the two being hanged upside down after they were executed in 1945.
  11. On Sunday, Alessandra Mussolini, Benito’s granddaughter, a far right politician, tweeted in response to Carrey: “You are a bastard.”
  12. On Sunday, hundreds of Polish nationalists protested in New York City over U.S. legislation which compensates Holocaust survivors whose property was seized during World War II.
  13. Some protestors chanted “Stop slandering Poland in the media,” and “Treat anti-Polonism like anti-Semitism,” while others perpetuated anti-Semitic stereotypes and denied the Holocaust, calling it a “hoax.”
  14. On Monday, Israeli researchers said they found a network of hundreds of fake Twitter accounts that reached more than 2.5 million Israelis boosting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of next week’s election.
  15. On Sunday, Fox News apologized after a chyron on a “Fox & Friends” segment that read: “Trump Cuts Aid to 3 Mexican Countries.”
  16. On Monday, AP reported as Trump threatened to shut the U.S. border with Mexico, Trump is considering bringing on an “immigration czar” to coordinate policy between federal agencies.
  17. Trump is considering former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli for the position. Kobach was also a leader of Trump’s short-lived election-fraud commission.
  18. On Sunday, Axios reported Trump has told confidants that he is “saving” Judge Amy Barrett — young and viewed as an extremist — to replace Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
  19. On Monday, after Senate democrats voted down a disaster relief-package for Puerto Rico saying there was not enough money, Trump blamed Puerto Rican politicians in a tweet, calling them “incompetent or corrupt.”
  20. Trump again cited an incorrect number, tweeting: “91 Billion Dollars to Puerto Rico,” falsely claiming it was more than “than Texas & Florida combined,” and “taking dollars away from our Farmers.”
  21. On Tuesday, Trump again lashed out, falsely claiming in a tweet “Puerto Rico got 91 Billion Dollars,” adding, “all their local politicians do is complain & ask for more money. The pols are grossly incompetent.”
  22. Trump also tweeted that Puerto Ricans “only take from USA.” Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló responded to Trump, tweeting “this “place” you refer to, #PuertoRico, is home to over three million proud Americans.”
  23. On Tuesday, deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley referred to Puerto Rico as “that country” in an interview on MSNBC. When the host clarified Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, Gidley said it was a “slip of the tongue.”
  24. On Friday, Trump attacked California politicians for wildfire funding, saying “California’s always the first one to complain. And I don’t mean the people of California. They’re fantastic. I’m talking about the politicians.”
  25. On Monday, Fox News host Tucker Carlson mocked MSNBC host Chris Hayes’ masculinity on his show, saying Hayes “is what every man would be if feminists ever achieved absolute power in this country.”
  26. On Tuesday, a gas station clerk in San Jose, California was fired after ranting at a woman speaking Spanish, demanding she prove she was a U.S. citizen, and saying, “Trump needs to hurry up and build the wall.”
  27. On Wednesday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested 280 workers at CVE Technology Group in Allen, Texas in what authorities say is one of the largest enforcement actions of its kind in a decade.
  28. On Tuesday, Daily Beast reported the Department of Homeland Security disbanded a group of intelligence analysts who were part of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) that focused on domestic terrorism.
  29. Numerous current and former DHS officials expressed concern with the move, citing the growing threat from homegrown violent extremists and domestic terrorists. I&A has been quietly cutting staff since last year.
  30. On Thursday, FBI director Christopher Wray testified before the House Appropriations Committee, and broke from Trump saying white supremacy presents a “persistent” and “pervasive” threat to the U.S.
  31. Wray also said: “The danger, I think, of white supremacists, violent extremism, or any other kind of violent extremism is, of course, significant.” Trump has downplayed the danger of white nationalism.
  32. On Thursday, BuzzFeed reported Barr said in a letter he was “troubled by the concerns” raised by a group of LGBTQ employees who complained about discrimination at the DOJ, and ordered an investigation.
  33. The group claimed employees have faced increasing discrimination under the Trump regime – including gay FBI agents at the academy being pushed out — leading to a decline in morale and an exodus of staff.
  34. On Thursday, 157 House Republicans voted against passing reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, which passed, and also booed Rep. Debbie Dingell during a debate on the House floor.
  35. The National Rifle Association pressured Republican lawmakers to oppose the bill because it adds a provision that people convicted of abusing their dating partners could not own or buy firearms.
  36. On Tuesday, the Alabama House and Senate introduced a bill that would make performing an abortion a Class A felony, and attempting to perform an abortion a Class C felony.
  37. On Friday, Kansas Republicans passed an ‘abortion reversal bill,’ requiring notice to patients that abortions can be reversed, despite the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists discrediting this view.
  38. On Friday, the Acadiana Advocate reported three historically black churches have burned down in 10 days in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana in what officials called “very suspicious” fires.
  39. On Saturday, Patrick Carlineo Jr. of Addison, New York was arrested after making a threatening call to Rep. Ilhan Omar’s office, telling a staffer “she’s a [expletive] terrorist. I’ll put a bullet in her [expletive] skull.”
  40. Alaska U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason ruled that Trump’s 2017 executive order lifting an Obama-era ban on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean and parts of the North Atlantic coast was unlawful.
  41. Judge Gleason ruled the ban will remain in effect “unless and until revoked by Congress.” The ruling may have broader implications for the regime’s efforts to open drilling on coastline and public lands.
  42. On Tuesday, McClatchy reported the Trump 2020 campaign is seeking a list of “climate change victories” that can be attributed to Trump as polls show growing concern over global warming.
  43. White House officials have liaised with the E.P.A. on behalf of the campaign. For one, the regime plans to argue greenhouse gas emissions decreased in Trump’s first year in office due to private sector innovation.
  44. The regime is still divided on creating a presidential committee on climate security, since results would be made public. Trump continues to question the science behind climate change, while other in the regime disagree.
  45. On Wednesday, WAPO reported the Trump regime will cut federal inspectors for food safety inspections at hog plants by about 40%, and shift much of the power and responsibility to the pork industry.
  46. The proposed new system, scheduled to start in May, would allow plant owners to use plant employees for inspections, with training at owners’ discretion. Also, there will be no limits on slaughter-line speeds.
  47. On Wednesday, a coalition of Democratic attorneys general filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the rollback of school nutrition policies championed by former first lady Michelle Obama for “illegally weakening” standards.
  48. On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell failed to adopt a resolution to change the rules so that non-Cabinet level and district court judicial nominees would face just two hours of floor debate instead of 30.
  49. McConnell needed 60 votes, but got 51 from Republicans. On Wednesday, Leader McConnell used the “nuclear option” for the afternoon and evening only, with the Senate voting 51-48 to push through confirmations for some positions.
  50. On Thursday, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a controversial bill, in private, replacing the state’s voting machines with touchscreens, which Democrats warned may make the system more vulnerable to hacking.
  51. On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell rejected a request by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to unseal records relating to the mystery foreign state-owned company in the Mueller case.
  52. On Monday, BuzzFeed reported Judge T.S. Ellis III, the judge who presided over Paul Manafort’s case in Alexandria, will not face disciplinary action over four ethics complaints related to his treatment of Mueller’s team.
  53. On Tuesday, CNN reported that George Sorial, who since 2017 has served as the Trump Organization’s top compliance official and has been with the company since 2007, is stepping down to write a book.
  54. On Monday, House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler said he plans to bring subpoenaing the full Mueller report to committee vote on Wednesday if Barr does not release it by the April 2 deadline.
  55. On Monday, Rep. Nadler also wrote an op-ed criticizing Barr’s decisions to unilaterally withhold parts of the Mueller report from Congress, and to render judgment on whether Trump obstructed justice.
  56. On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee voted 24-17 along party lines to authorize subpoenas for the full Mueller report and underlying documents.
  57. The committee also voted to subpoena five former White House officials they believe may have received documents relevant to Mueller’s probe including Donald McGahn, Steve Bannon, Hope Hicks, and Reince Priebus.
  58. The five, also including McGahn’s former deputy Ann Donaldson, were among the 81 individuals and entities sent document requests by Nadler last month.
  59. On Tuesday, Trump reversed course on calling for the public release of the Mueller report, tweeting about a segment on Fox News saying for that for Democrats “NOTHING WILL EVER SATISFY THEM!”
  60. Trump also tweeted, “Robert Mueller was a God-like figure to the Democrats, until he ruled No Collusion,” adding, Democrats “have become totally unhinged, and would like to go through the whole process again.”
  61. Trump also tweeted there is no amount of information that will satisfy “Jerry Nadler or Shifty Adam Schiff,” adding, “It is now time to focus exclusively on properly running our great Country!”
  62. On Tuesday, in an interview on CNN, former FBI director James Comey condemned Trump calling for a counter-investigation after the Mueller report on how the probe started, saying it creates a troubling precedent.
  63. When asked by host Christiane Amanpour whether he is kept awake at night by the possibility he helped Trump win, Comey replied, “Sure,” and, “I hope someday somebody proves that what we did was irrelevant.”
  64. On Monday, in a series of tweets, Trump said, “the cost of ObamaCare is far too high,” adding “good things are going to happen!” He tagged four Senators — Leader Mitch McConnell, Rick Scott, John Barrasso and Bill Cassidy.
  65. Trump also tweeted that the Republicans “are developing a really great HealthCare Plan with far lower premiums (cost) & deductibles than ObamaCare,” adding the replacement will come after the 2020 election.
  66. On Tuesday, Leader McConnell told reporters that he and Trump spoke Monday, and he “made it clear to him” that Senate Republicans had no intention of trying to overhaul Obamacare ahead of the 2020 election.
  67. McConnell cited the political peril of the issue for Republicans in the midterms. The Trump regime is continuing to push for the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act through the courts.
  68. On Tuesday, Trump told reporters he was “100 percent” prepared to shut the U.S.-Mexico border, saying, “If we don’t make a deal with Congress, the border’s going to be closed.”
  69. Trump also said Democrats in Congress need to address immigration: “Congress has to meet quickly and make a deal,” and adding, “Security is more important to me than trade.”
  70. Trump said of his decision to cut off aid to Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras: “They don’t do anything for us,” adding they have been “taking advantage” of the U.S. for many years, and “they arrange these caravans.”
  71. Around the same time, Leader McConnell told reporters, “Closing down the border would have potentially catastrophic economic impact on our country, and I would hope we would not be doing that sort of thing.”
  72. On Tuesday, at a White House event with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Trump falsely claimed his father was born in Germany — the third time Trump has made this claim. Fred Trump was born in New York.
  73. Trump also ranted, threatening to “get rid of” immigration judges, chain migration, catch and release and visa lottery, and added, “we have to do something about asylum and to be honest with you.”
  74. Trump also on three separate occasions substituted the word “oranges” for “origins,” demanding to know the “oranges of the investigation.” Trump also stated out of the blue, “I’m very normal.”
  75. On Tuesday, Trump told House Republicans in a speech during the National Republican Congressional Committee’s spring dinner to be a “bit more paranoid than you are” about vote counting.
  76. Trump also said, “There were a lot of close elections … they seemed to, every single one of them went Democrat,” adding, “You don’t like it either, you just don’t want to say it because you’re afraid of the press.”
  77. Trump also falsely claimed that the noise from wind turbines causes cancer, as well as lowering property values: “If you have a windmill anywhere near your house, congratulations, your house just went down.”
  78. On Wednesday, during an exchange with reporters on whether wind turbine noise causes cancer, White House Director of Strategic Communications Mercedes Schlapp responded, “I don’t have an answer to that.
  79. The confusion on where his father was born, strange language, and the statement that he is “normal” caused some mental health professionals to question whether Trump is undergoing some kind of cognitive decline.
  80. On Thursday, Trump said he would delay closing the border with Mexico for a year, adding “that will be a very powerful incentive,” and that he is not bluffing: “I will do it. I don’t play games.”
  81. On Tuesday, according to a memo summarizing her testimony, White House Personnel Security Office whistleblower Tricia Newbold claimed the White House reversed 25 security clearances that were denied.
  82. Newbold called Congress her “last hope” for addressing what she considers improper conduct that has left the nation’s secrets exposed. She privately testified before the House Oversight Committee in March.
  83. Newbold said the 25 were granted access to national security information since 2018 despite allegations offoreign influence, conflicts of interests, questionable or criminal conduct, financial problems, or drug abuse.
  84. The 25 include Jared Kushner, Ivanka, and national security adviser John Bolton. Chair Elijah Cummings said his committee would vote to subpoena Carl Kline, Newbold’s direct manager, who overruled her clearance denials.
  85. Newbold had previously filed concerns with numerous White House officials, including Kline; his immediate supervisor, Samuel Price; the White House Counsel’s Office; assistant to the president Marcia Kelly; and Chief Security Officer Crede Bailey. None acted.
  86. Newbold, who has a rare form of dwarfism, also accused Kline of retaliation, alleging he moved her files to a shelf several feet above her, out of her reach, beginning in December 2017 when she hired a lawyer.
  87. On Wednesday, WAPO reported that Jared Kushner is “Senior White House Official 1” described in documents detailing Tricia Newbold’s testimony to the House Oversight Committee.
  88. In her testimony, Newbold said she and another career employee denied Kushner security clearance last yearbecause he had too many “significant disqualifying factors.” They were overruled by Kline.
  89. On Tuesday, the House Oversight Committee voted 22-15, along party lines, to subpoena Kline, who was White House personnel security chief for the first two years of Trump’s time in office.
  90. On Thursday, the Atlantic reported the number of whistleblowers in the era of Trump has spiked, with dozens inside the federal government cooperating with the House Oversight Committee.
  91. Whistleblowers started to come forward shortly after Trump took office, in relation to Michael Flynn. Among the whistleblowers, Democrats confirmed a handful work at the White House.
  92. On Monday, Trump tweeted, “Can you believe that the Radical Left Democrats” want to do the Census Report without a citizenship question, calling it “meaningless and a waste of the $Billions (ridiculous).”
  93. On Monday, the newly installed U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham refused to comment on the question — Is this person a citizen of the United States? — saying the bureau must remain “totally objective.”
  94. On Tuesday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross rejected a second invitation to testify before a House committee, the Appropriations subcommittee, claiming it would be a distraction from the agency’s budget discussion.
  95. On Tuesday, the House Oversight Committee voted 23-14 to subpoena Ross’s records related to the regime’s decision to add the census question. Rep. Cummings said the regime’s “stonewalling” had left them no choice.
  96. On Friday, a third federal judge halted the Trump regime from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. In a 119-page opinion, U.S. District Judge George Hazel of Maryland called the question unlawful.
  97. The judge wrote of “the lack of any genuine need for the citizenship question,” and noted “the mysterious and potentially improper political considerations that motivated” the regime to add it.
  98. On Tuesday, court documents revealed Secret Service agents arrested Yujing Zhang after she bypassed a security checkpoint and gained access to the reception area of Mar-a-Lago on Saturday.
  99. Zhang was carrying two passports, four cell phones, a laptop, and a thumb drive containing malicious software. She told security officials she was going to the swimming pool, although she was not carrying a swimsuit.
  100. Zhang was approached by a receptionist and asked why she was there. She claimed she was going to a United Nations Chinese American Association event later that evening. The receptionist knew the event did not exist.
  101. Zhang was charged with two federal crimes: making false statements to a federal officer and entering restricted property. The court filing did not provide additional information about the malware.
  102. On Tuesday, the Miami Herald reported the event Zhang was allegedly heading to was advertised on Chinese-language social media by Li “Cindy” Yang, whose business advertises access to Trump and his family.
  103. Although the event Zhang said she was attending did not exist, it was one of two advertised and promoted for that day by Yang’s business. Yang is not mentioned in the court filing.
  104. NBC News reported that Trump was golfing, and not at Mar-a-Lago when Zhang entered; however, first lady Melania Trump and other members of the Trump family were there.
  105. On Wednesday, WAPO reported that each weekend at Mar-a-Lago— a money-making operation for Trump — hundreds of members, overnight guests, and party-going strangers attend, and need to be screened.
  106. To protect Trump, the Secret Service is required to screen every visitor against pre-approved lists. For his business, Trump requires Secret Service to defer to Mar-a-Lago staffers about allowing in visitors not on the list.
  107. Even when Trump is at the property, visitors described times when names were not on the list, but Mar-a-Lago security personnel made exceptions if they knew the guest or found another staffer to vouch for them.
  108. On Wednesday, Senate leaders Chuck Schumer, Dianne Feinstein, and Mark Warner asked FBI director Wray to investigate whether foreign spies could exploit weaknesses at Mar-a-Lago to steal classified information.
  109. On Wednesday, House Oversight Committee Chair Cummings told reporters that Mazars USA, Trump’s tax and accounting firm, has asked for a so-called “friendly” subpoena so it can comply with the panel’s request.
  110. On Wednesday, House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal formerly requested in a letter to the IRS commissioner that the IRS hand over six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns.
  111. Rep. Neal invoked a little-known provision in the federal tax code granted during Warren Harding’s administration to only tax-writing committees, which say that the Treasury secretary “shall” furnish the information.
  112. On Wednesday, at an event at the White House, Trump repeated the excuse for not releasing his returns that he used during the campaign, telling reporters, “We are under audit…I’m always under audit.”
  113. On Thursday, NYT reported on February 5, Trump pushed Leader McConnell to confirm Michael Desmond, his nominee to be the chief counsel of the IRS, before putting forward the confirmation of Barr.
  114. McConnell proceeded with Barr first, but Desmond was confirmed on February 27. In private practice,Desmond worked alongside William Nelson and Sheri Dillon, tax counsels to the Trump Organization.
  115. When asked Thursday by reporters if he would direct the IRS not to disclose his tax returns, Trump demurred, “They’ll speak to my lawyers,” adding, “They’ll speak to the attorney general.”
  116. On Thursday, the top federal ethics watchdog declined to certify Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s 2018 financial disclosure report, citing the sale of his stake in a film production business to his wife not complying with ethics rules.
  117. On Friday, Politico reported Mnuchin is losing two of his most trusted aides: Eli Miller, chief of staff, and Tony Sayegh, the top communications official — both as the agency faces pressure over Trump’s tax returns.
  118. On Friday, Trump’s personal lawyer, William Consovoy, asserted Trump’s right as a private citizen, and told the Treasury Department in a letter not to turn over his tax returns to House Democrats.
  119. Consovoy said Rep. Neal’s request did not have a “legitimate committee purpose” and “is a transparent effort by one political party to harass an official from the other party because they dislike his politics and speech.”
  120. The IRS and Treasury Department have given no indication of how they will respond to the the House request. Rep. Neal gave the IRS until next week to comply.
  121. On Wednesday, NYT reported the House Intelligence Committee has asked Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a close friend of first lady Melania Trump and a top contractor to Trump’s inaugural, for documents related to the event.
  122. Winston Wolkoff’s lawyers said she has been cooperating with prosecutors in the Southern District of New York since last fall. She had also received a subpoena from the federal prosecutors.
  123. On Wednesday, NYT reported some members of Mueller’s team say the Mueller report was more damaging to Trump than Barr revealed in his letter. The team included 19 lawyers, 40 FBI agents, and other personnel.
  124. Some are also concerned that because of Barr’s portrayal of the report and how it shaped the narrative, Americans’ view will have hardened before the investigation’s conclusions become public.
  125. The special counsel’s investigators had already written multiple summaries as part of the report — which some felt Barr should have released along with his letter.
  126. Officials speaking for Barr told the Times that he was trying to keep with Justice Department practice not to disclose derogatory details in closing an investigation, pointing to Comey’s treatment of Hillary Clinton.
  127. On Wednesday, WAPO reported members of Mueller’s team have complained to close associates that the evidence they gathered on obstruction was alarming and significant.
  128. Some members were upset Barr did not release summary information the special counsel team had prepared. The members said summaries of different sections of the report were prepared for public view.
  129. One official said they assumed their summaries would be made public “and so they prepared their summaries to be shared in their own words — and not in the attorney general’s summary of their work.”
  130. On Wednesday, Rudy Giuliani told Fox News host Laura Ingraham that Mueller’s team was biased, saying “they are a bunch of sneaky, unethical leakers,” and adding, “And they are rabid Democrats who hate” Trump.
  131. On Thursday, when asked about the NYT report, press secretary Sanders told “Fox & Friends” that theDemocrats are a “sad excuse for a political party” and “nothing but sore losers” who are getting “beat” by Trump.
  132. On Thursday, in response to the NYT and WAPO stories, the Justice Department issues a statement saying it was concerned about illegally releasing grand jury information, which is confidential.
  133. The statement also said Barr “decided to release the report’s bottom-line findings and his conclusions immediately — without attempting to summarize the report” and then release the redacted version.
  134. Shortly after, Trump tweeted, “The New York Times had no legitimate sources” adding, “In fact, they probably had no sources at all! They are a Fake News paper.”
  135. Trump also falsely claimed in a tweet that the NYT has “already been forced to apologize for their incorrect and very bad reporting on me!”
  136. Trump also tweeted Democrats are subjecting him to the “highest level of Presidential Harassment” in the nation’s history, adding, “there is nothing we can ever give to the Democrats that will make them happy.”
  137. Trump also tweeted: “few people seem to care about the Russian Collusion Hoax,” but that “some Democrats are fighting hard to keep the Witch Hunt alive,” and calling it “ridiculous Collusion Delusion” and “so illegal!”
  138. On Thursday, NBC News reported according to an official who has spoken to Mueller’s team, the evidence on obstruction of justice is compelling and the report includes more information than has been made public.
  139. Mueller team members also said the report included detailed accounts of the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia, revealing campaign members were manipulated by a sophisticated Russian intelligence operation.
  140. On Thursday, Speaker Pelosi told reporters, “people on the Mueller team think there’s a mischaracterization by the attorney general,” adding, “I don’t know, there is an easy answer to this: Release the Mueller report.”
  141. On Thursday, Rep. Nadler sent a letter to Barr requesting the public release of the summaries prepared by Mueller’s team, and all communications between the DOJ and Mueller’s office about the Mueller report.
  142. On Thursday, Sen. Rand Paul blocked a resolution calling for the public release of the Mueller probe from coming to the Senate floor. This marks the fourth time Republicans have blocked the vote.
  143. On Friday, Trump quoted an op-ed by Fox Business host Lou Dobbs saying Democrats have invented a cover-up, tweeting, “Trolling the Mueller Report. Democrats Lost On Collusion. Now They’re Inventing A Coverup.”
  144. On Friday, the DOJ responded to the Electronic Privacy Information Center lawsuit filed to make the Mueller report public, saying the DOJ shouldn’t “circumvent this orderly process” of Barr’s planned release.
  145. On Thursday, Axios reported Trump is expected to name Herman Cain on the Federal Reserve board. Cain, the CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, ran for president in 2012 but withdrew over sexual harassment allegations.
  146. Trump has told confidants he views his selection of Jerome Powell as Fed Chairman as one of his worst mistakes, reportedly saying Powell has no “feel” for the markets, and comparing him to a golfer who cannot putt.
  147. Guardian reported that Trump’s other pick, Stephen Moore, was held in contempt of court in November 2012 for failing to pay his ex-wife over $300,000 in money owed under their divorce settlement.
  148. Gavin de Becker, an investigator for Jeff Bezos, said in an op-ed Saudi Arabia had gained access to Bezos’ private information before the National Enquirer made information on his extramarital relationship public.
  149. On Thursday, the House joined the Senate, voting 247-175 to pass a measure to end U.S. involvement in Yemen, denouncing a Saudi-led bombing campaign that has been blamed for a humanitarian crisis.
  150. The measure marks the first time both chambers of Congress have voted to invoke the war-powers resolution to end U.S. military engagement in a foreign conflict. Trump is expected to veto the measure.
  151. On Friday, Saudi Arabia arrested two more U.S. citizens who were activists. The move puts additional pressure on Trump as he decides whether to side with Congress or veto their measure.
  152. On Thursday, Speaker Pelosi announced the House will file a lawsuit challenging Trump’s declaring a national emergency at the Southern border, saying we will “defend our democracy and our Constitution.”
  153. Speaker Pelosi said in a statement, “The president’s action clearly violates the Appropriations Clause by stealing from appropriated funds, an action that was not authorized by constitutional or statutory authority.”
  154. On Thursday, CBS News reported the Homestead facility in Miami, the largest shelter for unaccompanied minors, is rapidly adding more than 850 beds to a massive facility that currently houses more than 2,300 teens.
  155. Under the Flores settlement, unaccompanied minors are required to be housed in “non-secure” facilities, but Homestead has tall fencing. Sen. Jeff Merkley described Homestead as “a massive prison for migrant children.”
  156. On Thursday, the Miami Herald reported former White House chief of staff John Kelly was spotted at the Homestead shelter.
  157. Homestead, run by Caliburn International, is the only for-profit detention center in the country. Caliburn was formed after a company purchase by DC Capital Partners, where Kelly was employed as a lobbyist.
  158. On Friday, Trump withdrew his nominee for the director of ICE, Ronald Vitiello, a 30-year veteran of the U.S. Border Patrol who serves as a top official at ICE, saying he wants someone “tougher” to lead the agency.
  159. WAPO reported Trump’s decision to suddenly dump Vitiello caught DHS and lawmakers by surprise, with some mistaking it for a clerical error. He would have been Trump’s first senate-confirmed director of ICE.
  160. Vitiello was supposed to join Trump on his trip to the Mexican border, but was left off the list last minute. Reportedly, Trump had heard complaints about Vitiello by Stephen Miller, ICE union boss Chris Crane, and others.
  161. Six officials said Trump’s decision was a sign of Miller’s increasing power. Reportedly Trump told Miller he would be in charge of all immigration and border affairs, and would have a say in Trump’s third ICE nominee.
  162. On Friday, speaking to reporters before boarding his plane, Trump called on Congress to “get rid of the whole asylum system” because “it doesn’t work.” For the second time, Trump also said we should “get rid of judges.”
  163. On Friday, Trump again attacked the media, tweeting, “They can’t stand the fact” that his regime has done more that “virtually any other Administration,” adding, “They are truly the ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!
  164. On Friday, Trump traveled to the border of Mexico in Calexico, California to participate in a roundtable on immigration and border security. Trump claimed migrants are straining the system and added, “Our country is full.
  165. Trump also defended his national emergency saying, “There is indeed an emergency on our southern border,” adding, “It’s a colossal surge, and it’s overwhelming our immigration system. We can’t take you anymore.”
  166. In a ceremonial gesture, Trump was presented with a piece of the future border wall. In his time in office, Trump has yet to add any new fencing or other barriers anywhere on the Southern border.
  167. Trump also complained about the build-up of migrants at the border, saying, “Judge Flores, whoever you may be, that decision is a disaster for our country.” Flores was a teenage migrant from El Salvador.
  168. Ahead of Trump’s visit, protestors flew a “baby blimp” Trump, the 20-foot-tall inflatable balloon of Trumpwearing a diaper and holding a cell phone, which has appeared across the U.S. and other places around the world.
  169. On Friday, in a letter, 41 immigration and civil rights groups urged Fortune 500 CEOs to blacklist Trump aides who were involved in planning, carrying out, or defending the regime’s family separation policies.
  170. On Friday, the State Department revoked the entry visa for Fatou Bensouda, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court who was investigating possible war crimes by American forces in Afghanistan.
  171. On Saturday, WAPO reported, despite Trump’s claim that our country is full, DHS and the Labor Department plan to grant an additional 30,000 H-2B visas this summer, doubling the number they had planned to give out.
  172. H-2B visas allow foreigners to come to the U.S. for several months to work at companies such as landscaping, amusement parks, or hotels. Last year, about 80% these visas went to people from Mexico and Central America.
  173. On Thursday, Michael Cohen’s attorney said in a letter to Democrats in Congress that Cohen has discovered substantial files on a hard drive that he is working through and will provide in exchange for staying out of jail.
  174. On Friday, when asked to respond on Cohen, Trump replied, “he’s old news. He lied numerous times during his last testimony. They’ve had that for many months.”
  175. On Friday, Cohen’s attorneys publicly released the memo provided to House democrats Thursday, citing “Trump’s involvement in a conspiracy to collude with Russian government intervention” in the 2016 campaign.
  176. On Thursday, Trump told the Washington Times when asked for a reaction to former first lady Barbara Bush’s quote, he replied, “I have heard that she was nasty to me, but she should be. Look what I did to her sons.”
  177. On Friday, Roger Stone defended Trump in an Instagram post, calling Barbara Bush “nasty, rude, vindictive, entitled, self-important,” and adding, “that’s the woman I had several unpleasant encounters with.”
  178. On Friday, police were stationed outside the Ecuador embassy in London, following tweets from the WikiLeaks account said Julian Assange could be kicked out of the building within “hours to days.”
  179. British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Assange is a “free man” and can leave the embassy whenever he chooses. Police said there is an active warrant for Assange’s arrest that they are obliged to execute if he leaves.
  180. On Friday, Trump said for the third time in three years, he will not attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, calling it “boring” and “negative.” Instead, Trump will hold a rally that night.
  181. On Friday, Commercial Bank of Ivanovo, a Russian bank in North Carolina which was 80% owned by former Congressman Charles Taylor, lost its license over repeatedly breaking anti-money laundering regulations.
  182. On Saturday, Trump tweeted, “I have not read the Mueller Report yet, even though I have every right to do so,” adding, “Only know the conclusions, and on the big one, No Collusion.”
  183. Trump also tweeted, “our great A.G. who found No Obstruction,” adding, “13 Angry Trump hating Dems (later brought to 18)” spent two years and $30 million and “found No Collusion, No Obstruction.”

Surprise, Surprise: Barr’s “Summary” Of The Mueller Report Is Watered Down

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

The headline says it all:

Yup. And we learn that the report was prepared “so that the front matter from each section could have been released immediately — or very quickly,” according to one DOJ official. “It was done in a way that minimum redactions, if any, would have been necessary, and the work would have spoken for itself.”

Mueller’s team assumed the information was going to be made available to the public, the official said, “and so they prepared their summaries to be shared in their own words — and not in the attorney general’s summary of their work, as turned out to be the case.”

On Wednesday night, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, questioned why Barr did not release the special counsel’s summary material.

“It’s been my assumption that a 400-page report has an executive summary already, and so of course it begged the question, ‘Why did Barr feel the need to release his own summary?’ ” he said on MSNBC. “Why didn’t he release a summary produced by Bob Mueller itself instead of trying to shape it through his own words?”

It is not yet clear if Mueller’s full investigative findings will be released publicly but I am sure most of it will be (except for legally required redactions), but the White House — playing the “straddle the fence” game — will try to stonewall that, while also saying that the report exonerates them.

NBC has a bit of a scoop here:

UPDATE: Uh-oh. Republicans in Congress are not falling in line…

UPDATE: Trump responds…

ANOTHER UPDATE:

Well, AG Barr IS the Justice Department. So this is like the Barr issuing a statement defending Barr.

It’s already easy to take for granted, but I feel like had Democrats not taken the House, the Barr cover-up letter might have been the only thing we saw from the Mueller report for years.

And so…

Yes, it is becoming increasingly clear that Barr’s initial letter was not only a political miscalculation but places him directly in the oversight/investigatory crosshairs.

More from Marcy Wheeler:

It’s pretty clear that the reason Trump was uncharacteristically quiet on twitter the weekend the report was sent to Barr was that they were trying to figure out how they were going to do damage control. Apparently they settled on throwing Barr to the wolves, letting him issue the bullshit 4 page memo, and the use that to blow up and out the puke funnel to try to firm up the opinion that there is no there, there. They had some help from the typically idiotic press who, as usual, took the Republican’s word on things and uncritically blasted it out for a few days before doing what they always, which is make the story about themselves and spend the next few days deciding who the winners and losers in the media are. Another assist came from various useful idiots (see Michael Tracey, Matt Taibbi, and others), who have decided without seeing the report that there was nothing inappropriate going on with Russia and because of that, none of the other criminal shit matters, either. 

***

Despite all of that, it ain’t working. Polls show that only around the crazification factor thing that Trump is innocent, with around 70% saying either no or dunno. So, for those of you who are cynical as fuck, like me, and sick of going high, it is my personal opinion that the longer Barr drags this out, the worse it is for Barr, the worse it is for Trump, and the worse it is for Republicans. Additionally, while there may be a number of redactions done for legitimate national security reasons, it’s excellent fodder for “WHAT ARE THEY HIDING?” I spent a lot of time listening hearing Republicans say “If you haven’t done anything to hide” while they stomped all over our civil rights and privacy, and I watched them launch ridiculous investigations over Benghazi and stoke birther bullshit and spew nonsense about Hillary’s emails, so you know what, fuck it. Let’s beat them up and use what they are giving us.

So yes, I am dying to read the Mueller, but the cynic and political opportunist in me is to hope the Republicans keep self-owning themselves and drip it out in pieces and redact a ton of shit. Anything that hurts these guys is a win for the country. Period.

OMG, yes.

Tough Start For The 2018 Champs

Ken AshfordRed Sox & Other SportsLeave a Comment

This 11 game, no break, West Coast opening for the Red Sox is grueling.

The Boston Red Sox were outscored 34-24 in their four-game series against the Mariners, dropping three of four in the process. The starting rotation currently has an MLB-worst 13.20 ERA, while the bullpen that everyone pointed to as a glaring weakness has a 2.50 ERA and is 1-for-1 in save chances.

They lost last night against the A’s, but thankfully Chris Sale found his arm. And they close to tying it in the 9th.

But still, they are 1 win to 5 losses and at the bottom of the AL East. Yankees and Blue Jays are down there too, and the Orioles and Rays are at the top. It’s like everything is upside down.

And another consideration: three of the Red Sox’s five losses have been by two runs or less, so it’s not like they’ve been getting their doors blown off every night to start the season. And with 156 games left to go, Boston has more than enough time to turn things around.

NCGOP Corruption Exposed

Ken AshfordLocal Interest, Political Scandals, RepublicansLeave a Comment

The Republican Party here in North Carolina has a list of horribles that only Trump could admire. Their antics have been covered in depth regarding their blatant racist gerrymandering, their attempts to neuter the Democratic governor, the current election scandal, or and overt racist voter suppression.

But now they are getting caught — and not politically, but by the law:

Federal prosecutors have unsealed an indictment charging North Carolina State Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes and three associates in an alleged bribery scheme involving campaign contributions to the state insurance commissioner.

Hayes, along with political and business figures Greg Lindberg, John Gray and John Palermo, made initial appearances in US District Court in Charlotte Tuesday.

“The indictment unsealed today outlines a brazen bribery scheme in which Greg Lindberg and his co-conspirators allegedly offered hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions in exchange for official action that would benefit Lindberg’s business interests,” Brian Benczkowski, the assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s criminal division, said in a news release.

The March 18 indictment charges Hayes, Lindberg, Gray and Palermo with wire fraud as well as bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds and aiding and abetting. Hayes also has been charged with making false statements. CNN has reached out to their attorneys.

Hayes “steadfastly denies the allegations made against him in this case,”said Kearns Davis, his attorney.

“After a long and distinguished career in public service at the local, state, and federal levels, Robin volunteered his time helping to support the party and candidates for office in North Carolina. We look forward to a swift conclusion to this matter, and to clearing his name,” Davis said in a statement Tuesday.

Anne Tompkins, an attorney for Lindberg, said he maintains his innocence.

“Greg Lindberg is innocent of the charges in the indictment and we look forward to demonstrating this when we get our day in court,” Tompkins said.

The alleged scheme was to pay the commissioner of the North Carolina Department of Insurance at least $1.5 million in exchange for making staff changes, among other things, the court documents say.

Republican Rep. Mark Walker has been caught up in the federal corruption probe.

A Walker-controlled political committee received $150,000 from business owner Greg Lindberg at the same time Lindberg allegedly asked him to pressure North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey to replace his deputy, according to the criminal indictment.

Walker, a member of GOP leadership, is not named in the indictment. However, POLITICO identified him as “Public Official A” using the indictment and Federal Election Commission records.

Texts and emails released by the DOJ said Walker was part of Lindberg’s scheme to pressure Causey over the personnel move. Causey alerted law enforcement officials to what was happening in January 2018, according to the indictment.

The indictment mentions several contacts Walker reportedly had with Causey in support of Lindberg’s secret campaign.

“Just between the 3 of us … [Public Official A] has already made two calls on our behalf and is trying to help us move the ball forward,” one of Lindberg’s associates wrote in a Feb. 12, 2018, email to Lindberg, according to the indictment. “I was also told that the $150,000 will be going to [Public Official A].”

I’m calling it. The swamp is the GOP.

Aaron Walker: Still The Virginia Bar’s Biggest Embarrassment

Ken AshfordCourts/LawLeave a Comment

From a court opinion handed down denying several right wingnuts their motion to dismiss (in a lawsuit brought by a Charlottesville victim) – scroll to the bottom of the page:

[Red markup are mine]

Here’s what the judge was referring to (among other examples):

Seriously . . . what attorney wastes a judge’s time with pop culture references to Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2 and The Rock? Aaron Walker, that’s who. (Pro tip, Aaron: if you have to explain the reference, maybe leave it out altogether)

What is particularly amusing is that Walker, and his co-counsel (who represents the increasingly unhinged Alex Jones), filed an absurd Rule 11 motion for sanctions (to sanction the plaintiff for bringing the case in the first place), which not only failed, but resulted in the two getting slapped by the judge. An auspicious beginning to their representation.

What a goob. Yeah, I know they all crave the spotlight and I’m giving it to them, but when future generations wonder how we got Trump — well, Walker, his co-counsel and their clients will be Exhibit A in explaining the dumbing of America.

UPDATE: Oh my God I just saw this. He veers from Rodney King to Batman to Abraham Lincoln to 9/11 all in the span of two pages. And why? To condescendingly illustrate to the judge that people interpret things differently, which we can reasonably assume that the judge already knows.

These are not only bad legal arguments, they are not legal arguments at all. In a motion to dismiss, all a plaintiff has to do is show they he has stated a cause of action upon which the parties disagree. By saying that people see things differently actually affirms there is a justiciable controversy; it doesn’t deny it.

Do you ever run across a person who is, to be blunt, really dumb but thinks they are smart, and who then proceeds to talk condescendingly to people more learned than themselves?

DHS Disbands Its Domestic Terrorism Unit

Ken AshfordRightwing Extremism/Violence, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

This is very bad: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has disbanded an Intelligence and Analysis unit whose members had focused on domestic terrorism, including white supremacist violence.

Betsy Woodruff at the Daily Beast reports:

Numerous current and former DHS officials say they find the development concerning, as the threat of homegrown terrorism — including white supremacist terrorism — is growing.

In the wake of this move, officials said the number of analytic reports produced by DHS about domestic terrorism, including the threat from white supremacists, has dropped significantly. People in and close to the department said this has generated significant concern at headquarters.

“It’s especially problematic given the growth in right-wing extremism and domestic terrorism we are seeing in the U.S. and abroad,” one former intelligence official told The Daily Beast. 

The group in question was a branch of analysts in DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A). They focused on the threat from homegrown violent extremists and domestic terrorists. The analysts there shared information with state and local law enforcement to help them protect their communities from these threats.

Then the Trump administration’s new I&A chief, David Glawe, began reorganizing the office, which is the DHS component that has a place in the Intelligence Community. Over the course of the reorganization, the branch of I&A focused on domestic terrorism got eighty-sixed and its analysts were reassigned to new positions. The change happened last year, and has not been previously reported.

“We’ve noticed I&A has significantly reduced their production on homegrown violent extremism and domestic terrorism while those remain among the most serious terrorism threats to the homeland,” said one DHS official.

Woodruff also quotes local law enforcement who say that the information they used to receive from the unit has now dried up.

Presumably, this unit also tracked anti-choice violence, which is one of the longest running domestic terrorist campaigns in the country.

So now we’re just flying blind(er) on rightwing extremist violence, including and especially anti-choice and white supremacist terrorism.

That, of course, is not an accident. That is a design. Because malice is the agenda.

One assumes Donald Trump and his deplorable henchmen won’t be mad if their decision to allow domestic terrorism to flourish in the darkness of inattention also results in dramatic acts of public violence that justify the expansion of authoritarian policy, under the auspices of security and “protecting” us.

If they were actually interested in protecting us, they wouldn’t have disbanded a unit charged with doing precisely that.

Trump v PR

Ken AshfordDisasters, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Where to begin?

Puerto Rico did got 91 billions dollars. Here’s the best possible estimate:

  • Federal Emergency Management Agency: $15 billion obligated ($9.9 billion in outlays)
  • Army Corps of Engineers: $2.5 billion approved ($3 million in outlays)
  • Community Development Block Grants-Disaster Recovery (Housing and Urban Development): $20 billion approved, of which $1.5 billion has been obligated
  • Small Business Administration: $1.95 billion for homes/business loans obligated ($1.1 billion in outlays)
  • Education Department: $710 million obligated ($28 million in outlays)
  • FEMA community disaster loans: $294 million obligated ($128 million in outlays)
  • Various other agencies: $266 million approved (lesser amounts in outlays)

That adds up to nearly $41 billion in announced funding. But notice words like “obligated” and “outlays”?

Here’s an explanation:

  • Outlays = money has been delivered
  • Obligated = spending has been identified but money not delivered
  • Approved = A budget allocation has been made, but money has not been obligated or disbursed.

About half of the money scheduled for Puerto Rico comes from the HUD grants. But virtually none of that funding has been spent yet. 

In reality, the island so far has only received about $11 billion.

So how does Trump come up with $91 billion?

The president was referring to an internal Office of Management and Budget estimate of the potential liabilities over the life of the disaster that would need to be committed under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1988. The estimate was described as a high-end estimate subject to change year by year.

Currently, the estimated Stafford liabilities amount to $50 billion. Adding the $41 billion in announced funding to the $50 billion in Stafford liabilities gets you to $91 billion.

Notice that we said the additional $50 billion was “over the life of a disaster.” That means it’s a long-term figure, beyond the traditional 10-year budget horizon. Indeed, one congressional aide estimated that Stafford payments will continue for 20 years in Puerto Rico. The government is still paying for the damage from Hurricane Katrina almost 14 years after it struck New Orleans.

Texas has been allocated $25 billion, but its estimated Stafford liabilities are much smaller — just $4 billion, according to the OMB estimate. Together, that adds up to $29 billion.

That’s how much had “been gotten” by those states in THOSE hurricanes. But 3,000 died in Puerto Rico — it was a much worse hurricane.

And someone needs to tell Trump that Puerto Rico is part of the United States. I don’t think they know that in the White House. White House spokesman Hogan Gidley twice referred to Puerto Rico as “that country” during a television appearance today in which he defended a series of tweets by President Trump lashing out at leaders of the U.S. territory.

Whistleblower Says White House Reversed 25 Security Clearance Denials

Ken AshfordTrump & Administration, White House SecrecyLeave a Comment

WaPo:

A White House whistleblower told lawmakers that more than two-dozen denials for security clearances have been overturned during the Trump administration, calling Congress her “last hope” for addressing what she considers improper conduct that has left the nation’s secrets exposed.
Tricia Newbold, a longtime White House security adviser, told the House Oversight and Reform Committee that she and her colleagues issued “dozens” of denials for security clearance applications that were later approved despite their concerns about blackmail, foreign influence, or other red flags, according to panel documents released Monday.

Newbold, an 18-year veteran of the security clearance process who has served under both Republican and Democratic presidents, said she warned her superiors that clearances “were not always adjudicated in the best interest of national security” — and was retaliated against for doing so.

“I would not be doing a service to myself, my country, or my children if I sat back knowing that the issues that we have could impact national security,” Newbold told the committee, according to a panel document summarizing her allegations.

Newbold added: “I feel that right now this is my last hope to really bring the integrity back into our office.”

The allegation comes during an escalating fight over the issue between House Democrats and the White House. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), the committee chairman, said in a letter to the White House Counsel’s Office that his panel would vote on Tuesday to subpoena at least one individual who overruled Newbold — the committee’s first compulsory move aimed at the White House.

Cummings vowed more subpoenas would follow if the White House didn’t cooperate with his panel’s investigation.

The White House did not immediately respond to an email and a phone call seeking comment.

White House officials whose security clearances are being scrutinized by the House Oversight Committee include the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump, her husband Jared Kushner and national security adviser John Bolton, according to the panel’s letter.

The Trump Administration typically does not respond to congressional oversight. History will show how corrupt this administration is, but the Constitution was not written in such a way for government to work with 20/20 hindsight. It is oversight that is needed.

Weekly List 124

Ken AshfordWeekly ListLeave a Comment

This week was dominated by news of the Mueller report, which was delivered to Attorney General William Barr last Friday, but has yet to be given to Congress or the American people. On Sunday, AG Barr sent a four-page letter to Congress, which he characterized as a “summary” of the Mueller report, but later in the week, in a second letter, wrote it “did not purport to be, an exhaustive recounting of the Special Counsel’s investigation or report” which was revealed to be nearly 400 pages long.

Barr’s Sunday letter said that Mueller did not find evidence Trump or his campaign knowingly colluded with Russia, but on obstruction of justice charges, Mueller did not render an opinion. Barr and deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein however concluded not to proceed with criminal charges, and Trump instantly weaponized the information to falsely claim he was fully exonerated, and pivot to attacking Democrats and the media, with the help of his allies. The media was caught on its heels, as some of the initial reporting incorrectly cited the Mueller report, including the front page of Monday’s New York Times. Trump aides who had been jailed or investigated by Mueller’s team were given media opportunities to declare themselves as victims of an overaggressive prosecutor. By Friday, bowing to public pressure, Barr in a second letter said he would release a redacted version of the Mueller report by mid-April or sooner.

As Trump took his victory lap, the Justice Department, on his orders, argued to a federal appeals court that the Affordable Care Act should be invalidated. Trump also sought to end most aid to Puerto Rico, as the Pentagon notified Congress the first $1 billion was being allocated to his wall. With the economy continuing to weaken, Trump refreshed his attacks on the Federal Reserve, as his pick Stephen Moore came under increasing criticism. At week’s end photos emerged of hundreds of migrants being held in inhumane conditions under a bridge in El Paso due to overcrowding at facilities. Trump blamed Central American countries and, by Saturday, said he would cut off U.S. aid to El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.

  1. On Saturday, Mueller’s office said it is handing off its case before Judge Amy Berman Jackson against Rick Gates, who continued to cooperate in several investigations, to the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s office.
  2. On Saturday, in a call with roughly 120 House members, Speaker Nancy Pelosi amplified her call that the Mueller report be made public in full, and rejected the notion of classified briefings.
  3. On Sunday, Trump broke 40 hours of silence on Twitter, tweeting: “Good Morning, Have A Great Day!” and “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” Last weekend, Trump sent over 50 tweets, a record amount.
  4. On Sunday, Attorney General William Barr delivered a letter to the Chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary committees outlining what he felt were the principal conclusions of the Mueller report.
  5. Barr said in his four-page summary that the Mueller investigation found that neither Trump nor any of his aides conspired with the Russian government’s efforts to manipulate the 2016 presidential election.
  6. The letter stated “despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign,” Mueller did not find evidence of “agreement — tacit or express — between the Trump campaign and the Russian government on election interference.”
  7. Barr also said Mueller did not reach a conclusion on obstruction of justice: “The Special Counsel states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.””
  8. On obstruction of justice, Barr said Mueller’s report “catalogu[ed] the President’s actions, many of which took place in public view,” but also cited actions taken privately which are described in the report.
  9. Although Mueller did not take a stance, Barr and deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein concluded the evidence gathered “is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”
  10. Experts noted the unusual nature of Trump appointees, including his recently hand-picked AG, making a decision on obstruction of justice, rather than forwarding the full report to Congress for their judgment.
  11. Trump declared victory an hour later in his first public remarks, tweeting “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!”
  12. Press secretary Sarah Sanders said Mueller “did not find any collusion and did not find any obstruction. AG Barr and DAG Rosenstein further determined there was no obstruction…total and complete exoneration.”
  13. Trump later told reporters, “This was an illegal takedown that failed. And hopefully somebody’s going to be looking at the other side,” adding, “so many people have been so badly hurt, after not looking at the other side.”
  14. Speaker Pelosi and Leader Chuck Schumer said the letter “raises as many questions as it answers,” noting “Barr’s public record of bias against the Special Counsel’s inquiry,” and demanded release of the full report.
  15. House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler called for the release of all underlying evidence, citing “Special Counsel Mueller worked for 22 months” to determine if Trump obstructed justice,” while “Barr took 2 days.”
  16. On Sunday, CNN reported Mueller’s team deliberated at length with the Justice Department about seeking to subpoena Trump for a sit-down interview, after Mueller made the request for months.
  17. The decision was made to accept written answers instead. By Mueller not making the request, AG Barr was able to write “there were no such instances” during the investigation where Mueller was turned down.
  18. On Monday, NYT noted Trump has ended norms in place since Watergate: firing an FBI director for investigating him and his associates, forcing out an attorney general for not protecting him, and dangling pardons.
  19. Because Mueller took no position on obstruction of justice according to Barr, future occupants of the White House will feel entitled to do the same, and thwart efforts by law enforcement to scrutinize their actions.
  20. On Sunday, Donald Jr. said in a statement the “Collusion Truthers in the media and Democrat Party” should be “held accountable,” saying they “are only going to double down on their sick and twisted conspiracy theories.”
  21. On Monday, Kellyanne Conway called on House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff to resign, while House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Schiff should lose his committee leadership position.
  22. On Monday, Trump posted a tweet of a Fox News clip mocking Schiff. He later told reporters in the Oval Office, “There are a lot of people out there who have done some very, very evil things.”
  23. Trump added, “I would say treasonous things against our country,” and “those people will certainly be looked at,” and, “They lied to Congress. Many of them…They have done so many evil things.”
  24. On Monday, Schiff told reporters, “Undoubtedly there is collusion,” adding his committee will continue to investigate if Trump and the “people around him compromised in any way by a hostile foreign power.”
  25. On Monday, Trump’s re-election campaign sent a memo to television producers telling them to “employ basic journalistic standards when booking” officials who “made outlandish, false claims, without evidence.”
  26. The list included Democratic lawmakers Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Reps. Nadler, Schiff, and Eric Swalwell, as well as Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez and former CIA Director John Brennan.
  27. On Monday, Steve Bannon told Yahoo News that with the Mueller probe over, Trump “is going to go full animal,” adding that Trump will “come off the chains.”
  28. Bannon also said Trump will use the report “to bludgeon” House members requesting documents, and that he had repeatedly told Trump, “Don’t say Mueller’s bad, I don’t think he’s going to have anything.”
  29. On Monday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham said his committee may “look into the other side,” threatening to investigate FISA warrants, the Clinton campaign, and the counterintelligence investigation.
  30. On Wednesday, Sen. Rand Paul tweeted: “time for Congress to investigate” former President Obama, saying “What did [he]know and when? How did this hoax go on for so long unabated?”
  31. On Monday, after criticism that Barr and Rosenstein seemed to make a quick decision on obstruction of justice, a “leak” indicated the two knew Mueller would not make a decision on obstruction three weeks prior.
  32. On Monday, NBC’s Savannah Guthrie asked Sanders if Trump owed Mueller an apology for calling him “a national disgrace, discredited, a prosecutor gone rogue.” Sanders responded, “Are you kidding?”
  33. On Monday, in the evening, Trump tweeted, “the Fake News Media has lost tremendous credibility with its corrupt coverage,” praising Fox News for being “up BIG,” and “ratings of CNN & MSNBC tanked last night.”
  34. On Monday, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell blocked a resolution by Sen. Schumer to unanimously pass a non-binding resolution which cleared the House 420-0 in Week 121, for public release of the Mueller report.
  35. On Wednesday, McConnell again blocked a resolution, this time by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, ranking memberon the Senate Judiciary Committee, calling for the public release of the Mueller report.
  36. Both times, McConnell claimed Barr is working with Mueller to determine what in the report should or should not be released. Graham had blocked Schumer’s first attempt to bring the resolution to the floor in Week 121.
  37. On Monday, Graham told reporters at a morning press conference that Barr should testify publicly before his committee. Graham added he would leave it up to Barr if Mueller should testify.
  38. On Tuesday, Graham told reporters Barr told him he would send the Mueller report to the White House first, in case it wants to claim executive privilege over any parts, before it is made public.
  39. Graham also said Barr told him it would most likely take “weeks, not months,” to make a version of Mueller’s final report public.
  40. On Monday, six Democrats who chair House committees sent a letter to Barr requesting he submit the full Mueller report to Congress by April 2.
  41. On Tuesday, CNN reported Speaker Pelosi told House Democrats in a private meeting that Barr said it was his job to defend Trump and that Trump is “above the law” in a memo, so wait to see the full report.
  42. On Wednesday, AG Barr said he will not meet the Democrat’s April 2 deadline. Rep. Nadler said he is “disappointed” and that Democrats are exploring legal options, including possibly subpoenaing Mueller.
  43. On Tuesday, a Quinnipiac poll found 84% of Americans believe the Mueller report should be made public, 9% do not. Among Republicans, 77% say it should be made public, 17% do not.
  44. On Wednesday, a CNN poll found 56% of Americans do not believe Trump and his campaign were exonerated from collusion, while 43% believe he was: 77% of Republicans said he was, 80% of Democrats said he was not.
  45. Without seeing the full report, 7% said it makes them more likely to back Trump, and 6% less likely — while a combined 86% said they already figured out their vote or the investigation results would not sway them.
  46. On Thursday, NYT reported and the DOJ confirmed that the Mueller report exceeds 300 pages, revealing Mueller went beyond the bare-bones summary required by DOJ regulations.
  47. The length of the report also raised questions of how Barr could summarize its contents in four-pages.
  48. DOJ officials, including some in Barr’s office, may redact information that Trump could claim as privileged before sending it to Congress. Democrats would likely contest Trump claiming privilege.
  49. On Monday, the Supreme Court turned down the request of the mystery foreign state-owned company fighting the Mueller team’s subpoena to get a Supreme Court appeal.
  50. On Monday, Bloomberg reported a lawsuit by BTA Bank JSC alleged Felix Sater and the wealthy Kazakh businessman Ilyas Khrapunov explored financing a Trump Tower Moscow deal in 2012 using laundered money.
  51. The complaint filed in Manhattan federal court said Sater tried to help launder some of the $4 billion stolen a decade ago by Khrapunov’s father-in-law, ex-BTA Chairman Mukhtar Ablyazov.
  52. On Monday, the House Intelligence Committee postponed its scheduled interview with Sater this week, citing needing further answers to lingering questions arising from Barr’s summary of the Mueller report.
  53. On Wednesday, David Goodhand, an assistant U.S. attorney, told the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for D.C., Judge Beryl Howell, the court where Mueller’s grand jury was convened, that their cases are “continuing robustly.”
  54. The cases related to Russian collusion in the 2016 election, raising questions of why Mueller’s report was finalized while the cases continued to proceed in the D.C. court.
  55. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C. is now leading the subpoena fight with the mystery foreign company, the upcoming trial in November against Roger Stone, and the sentencing of Rick Gates.
  56. On Monday, Graham said he told Trump over the weekend at Mar-a-Lago that he had encouraged John McCain to turn over the Steele dossier to the FBI, saying of it, “it could be a bunch of garbage, it could be true, who knows?”
  57. On Wednesday, Graham told CNN on Trump, “I could give a damn what he thinks about me and John McCain,” adding “I’m not into this idea the only way you can help honor John McCain is to trash out Trump.”
  58. On Monday, Rep. Mo Brooks quoted a passage from Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” on the House floor, comparing Hitler’s characterization of “big lie” propaganda to Democrats and the media use of the Mueller probe.
  59. On Monday, Pennsylvania Republican State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz was criticized for “disrespectful” prayer before the state’s first Muslim lawmaker, Democrat Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell, was sworn in.
  60. NBC News reported advocates and lawyers said in a letter transgender and gay migrants held at an immigration facility in New Mexico have been subjected to “rampant sexual harassment, discrimination and abuse.”
  61. The letter relating to Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral claimed the warden placed or threatened to place migrants who complained with solitary confinement, or in barracks with heterosexual men.
  62. The facility is operated by Management & Training Corporation, a private company that has benefitted from Trump’s policies, said it follows ICE’s transgender detainee guidelines, and was not aware of the incidents.
  63. IndyStar reported Lynn Starkey, a counselor with 39 years of exemplary work at an Indiana high school, including teacher of the year recognition, was told she will lose her job over being in a same-sex marriage.
  64. Starkey will become the second guidance counselor at Roncalli High School, one of more than 60 schools run by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, to lose her job over being in a sex-same marriage.
  65. On Friday, the Tulsa World reported the buildings that house Oklahoma’s Democratic Party headquarters were vandalized with racist and anti-Semitic symbols and words.
  66. On Friday, Pat Buchanan warned against “people from different…cultures and ethnicities and races” coming to the U.S. on Laura Ingraham’s podcast, claiming Black Americans have not been “fully assimilated.”
  67. On Monday, Jeremy Richman, the father of a first-grade girl killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, was found dead in an apparent suicide. This follows the suicides of two Parkland high school students last week.
  68. National Rifle Association’s Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre warned in a fundraising letter the group could be “shut down forever,” blaming Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s pressure on banks and insurance companies.
  69. Alex Jones said in a sworn deposition that a “form of psychosis” caused him to believe certain events, like the Sandy Hook massacre, were staged. Jones blamed “trauma of the media and the corporations lying so much.”
  70. On Monday, federal prosecutors in New York charged Michael Avenatti, former attorney for Stormy Daniels, with an extortion attempt. He was also charged by federal prosecutors in California with bank and wire fraud.
  71. On Tuesday, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office dropped criminal charges against Jussie Smollett. As records were sealed, it was unclear why. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel called it a “whitewash of justice.”
  72. On Thursday, Trump suggested the FBI and DOJ will review Smollett’s case, tweeting “FBI & DOJ to review the outrageous Jussie Smollett case in Chicago. It is an embarrassment to our Nation!”
  73. Bloomberg reported lawyers for Trump will go before an appeals court seeking to overturn a ruling that he cannot block critics on Twitter, claiming the account belongs to him personally and not the government.
  74. On Tuesday, Jennifer Utrecth, an attorney for the Justice Department, argued for Trump. One Circuit Judge remarked, “It’s curious to me that the Department of Justice is here representing essentially a private entity.”
  75. On Wednesday, Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s head of legal, policy, and trust, told WAPO that the platform is considering labeling tweets that violate the company’s abuse terms, giving users who may see them context.
  76. The move would allow the company to keep tweets up because they are in the public interest. Twitter has been criticized as Trump’s tweets often violate its rules against bullying, dehumanization, and threatening harm.
  77. On Tuesday, Motherboard reported in a major policy shift, Facebook announced it would ban white nationalism and white separatism the same as white supremacy, on both its Facebook and Instagram platforms.
  78. Users who try to post that type of content will be directed to a nonprofit that helps people leave hate groups. Facebook made the shift after a backlash from civil rights activists and historians.
  79. On Thursday, Axios reported that Google is pulling a conversion therapy app, following pressure from LGBTQ groups. Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft have also banned the app in recent months.
  80. On Monday, the Pentagon notified Congress it authorized the transfer of $1 billion to begin construction of a new wall, the first such transfer since Trump’s veto of a resolution to block his national emergency.
  81. The Pentagon funds, diverted from other projects, will be used to build 57 miles of fencing and other measures on the U.S.-Mexico border. The Army Corp of Engineers will be deployed to begin planning and construction.
  82. Every Democrat on related Senate Appropriations Committee subcommittees joined in a letter to acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan to object, saying the funds and personnel were not approved.
  83. On Tuesday, the House fell short of overriding Trump’s veto of a resolution to block his national emergency. Fourteen Republicans crossed to join Democrats, but roughly 50 were needed.
  84. On Monday, the Trump regime broadened its attack on the Affordable Care Act, as the Justice Department argued to a federal appeals court that the entire law should be invalidated.
  85. In December, a federal judge ruled the ACA’s individual mandate was unconstitutional. A DOJ legal filing challenging the individual mandate at the 5th Circuit took it further saying the ACA should be struck down.
  86. The regime’s new position was harshly criticized by the insurance industry and by consumer advocates, saying it would put more than 100 million Americans’ coverage at risk.
  87. On Tuesday, Trump tweeted his support, saying, “The Republican Party will become “The Party of Healthcare!” However, Trump did not offer any information on the regime’s plans.
  88. On Tuesday, Politico reported Trump told Republicans they have to come up with “a plan that is far better than Obamacare.” Healthcare was a top issue for voters in the midterm victory by Democrats.
  89. Trump’s actions caught Republicans by surprise. Trump allies, including Rep. Mark Meadows, have acknowledged Trump has provided little to no guidance on crafting a health care plan.
  90. On Wednesday, Leader Schumer announced Democrats will try to force a vote on defunding the DOJ’s efforts on invalidate the ACA.
  91. On Wednesday, Politico reported the shift in legal tactics by Trump was opposed by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and AG Barr. Allies of acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney helped pushed the move.
  92. On Wednesday, federal judge James Boasberg blasted the Trump regime for failing to consider how many Medicaid beneficiaries would lose coverage under proposals to require recipients to work to get coverage.
  93. The Trump regime had approved the work requirement for Arkansas and Kentucky. The judge deemed the approvals to be “arbitrary and capricious,” and said the work requirement could not go into effect.
  94. On Thursday, a federal judge in D.C. blocked the Trump regime’s association health plans (AHPs), a cheaper alternative which allows businesses and individuals to band together to create group coverage.
  95. AHPs are less expensive and also exclude protections required under ACA. The judge found the plans violate the ACA, calling it an ACA “end-run” — a victory for blue states which had sued to block the plans.
  96. On Friday, Politico reported Trump appointee Seema Verma, who oversees Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare, directed millions of taxpayer dollars to Republican communications consultants.
  97. The subcontracts, routed through a larger federal contract, break with precedent. Staffers in her department raised concerns about her use of federal funds on GOP consultants and to amplify her own work.
  98. On Tuesday, NBC News reported Vice President Mike Pence talked director of national intelligence Dan Coats out of quitting over his frustration with Trump at the end of last year.
  99. Among the tensions, Trump pushed Coats to find evidence that Obama wiretapped him, demanded Coats publicly criticize U.S. intelligence as biased, and accused Coats of being behind leaks of classified information.
  100. Trump has also taken to referring to Coats privately as “Mister Rogers,” when he is upset Coats will not implement a directive or leaves Trump feeling disrespected. Pence has pushed Trump to refer to him as Coats.
  101. On Tuesday, Trump tweeted “the Mainstream Media is under fire and being scorned all over the World as being corrupt and FAKE,” saying for two years the media pushed the “Russian Collusion Delusion.”
  102. Trump also tweeted the media “always knew there was No Collusion,” and again invoked the phrase ‘enemy of the people,’ tweeting “they truly are the Enemy of the People and the Real Opposition Party!
  103. On Tuesday, WAPO reported Puerto Rico faces a food-stamp crisis as Congress missed the deadline for reauthorization in March, resulting in a cuts in stamps for 1.3 million, or 43% of the island’s residents.
  104. In an Oval Office meeting in February, Trump told top advisers to limit the federal support going to Puerto Rico to only money going to the electric grid, saying instead funds should be going to the mainland.
  105. On Tuesday, Trump told GOP senators behind closed doors that Puerto Rico received too much money to rebuild after Hurricane Maria, and it “is way out of proportion to what Texas and Florida and others have gotten.”
  106. On Wednesday, the White House told NBC News that Trump “will not put taxpayers on the hook to correct a decades-old spending crisis” that left Puerto Rico “with deep-rooted economic problems.”
  107. On Thursday, CNN reported Trump has refused to meet with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. Aides forRosselló said at a tense encounter at the White House in Wednesday, Trump aides said they were pushing too hard.
  108. Trump later denied Rosselló’s claims, telling reporters that he has “taken better care of Puerto Rico than any man, ever.” Trump claims Puerto Rico is wasting money, an assertion that Rosselló denied.
  109. On Tuesday, in her first testimony before the Democratic-led House, Education Department Secretary Betsy DeVos defended deep cuts to education as part of Trump’s budget to cut her agency’s spending by 10%.
  110. Proposed funding cuts included $18 million for the Special Olympics, while boosting funding for charter schools by $60 million.
  111. On Wednesday, following public outcry on cutting funding for the Special Olympics, DeVos issued a statement, blaming the media and some members of Congress for “falsehoods and fully misrepresenting the facts.”
  112. On Thursday, at a press conference, Trump told reporters “I just authorized the funding of the Special Olympics,” adding, “I have overridden my people.”
  113. After Trump’s statement, DeVos said, “I am pleased and grateful the president and I see eye-to-eye on this issue,” adding, “This is funding I have fought for behind-the-scenes over the last several years.”
  114. On Tuesday, Paula Kerger, the longtime president and CEO of PBS, said in an interview “I wish I knew” whyfor a third year Trump’s proposed federal budget would zero-out funding for the network.
  115. Kerger noted PBS is “in places where local journalism has really collapsed, and our local radio and TV stations really are the local media presence” saying she will again rely on Congress to restore funding.
  116. On Tuesday, WAPO reported the Army chose Palantir Technologies to build its intelligence systems, marking the first time the government chose a Silicon Valley software company over a traditional military contractor.
  117. Palantir was co-founded by Peter Thiel, the billionaire investor who has served as a Trump adviser from time to time, including during his 2016 campaign.
  118. On Wednesday, Bloomberg reported that Trump’s current pick for Federal Reserve, Stephen Moore, owes more than $75,000 to the Internal Revenue Service according to court documents.
  119. Moore also was the president of political advocacy organization Club for Growth when the group paid a $350,000 penalty to settle Federal Election Commission violations.
  120. WAPO reported experts are also concerned about Moore’s long record of controversial statements, and about Trump having a direct line to him impacting the market’s view of the Fed’s independence.
  121. On Thursday, the Commerce Department reported economic growth slowed at the end of 2018, with GDP gaining just 2.2% in the fourth quarter, putting yearly GDP grown at 2.9%, below Trump 3% promise.
  122. On Thursday, as the numbers came out, Trump tweeted “Very important that OPEC increase the flow of Oil. World Markets are fragile, price of Oil getting too high,” adding, “Thank you!”
  123. On Friday, CNBC reported OPEC leader Saudi Arabia said it will ignore Trump’s threshold for oil prices.
  124. On Friday, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told Axios that he “would love to see” the Fed cut rates by half a point, mirroring comments made by Stephen Moore.
  125. On Friday, Trump blamed the Fed for the slowing economy, tweeting: “Had the Fed not mistakenly raised interest rates, especially since there is very little inflation” GDP would be higher.
  126. On Thursday, Politico reported Leader McConnell is moving closer to using the procedural move known as the nuclear option to speed through Trump’s nominees, claiming “unprecedented obstruction.”
  127. The Senate Rules Committee approved a resolution in February that would limit debate time for executive branch nominees and District Court judges, but not Supreme Court and cabinet nominees.
  128. McConnell’s action comes after prodding by Trump at a closed-door meeting Tuesday. Democrats strenuously objected. McConnell is still hoping for bipartisan support of what he calls “a change the institution needs.”
  129. On Thursday, Jessie Liu, Trump’s pick for the number three position at the DOJ, withdrew from consideration over serving as a top official of the National Association of Women’s Lawyers, which supported abortion rights.
  130. On Friday, Politico reported that Linda McMahon will resign as head of the Small Business Administration, a cabinet position, to return to the private sector.
  131. On Friday, NBC News reported that according to the Partnership for Public Service, 155 high-ranking positions which require senate confirmation do not yet have a nominee by Trump.
  132. Experts say that after 26-months of Trump in office, every position should have a nominee. The Partnership for Public Service data also shows 282 of 714 (40%) of key executive branch jobs are unfilled.
  133. Another reason for lag is the high turnover. Brookings Institute found, prior to the McMahon resignation,turnover of top Trump officials was at 66%, including 10 of 12 cabinet positions.
  134. On Thursday, NBC News reported Trump is expected to pick Morgan Ortagus, a Fox News contributor, to replace Heather Nauert, a former Fox News anchor, as State Department spokesperson.
  135. HuffPost reported Trump has placed images of the White House emblazoned with the words “Trump Hotels” on products for sale at the Trump Store in Trump Hotel DC.
  136. On Wednesday, the Washingtonian reported the Trump Hotel DC pulled merchandise using White House images, citing criticism.
  137. On Wednesday, USA Today published excerpts from hours of interviews with Barbara Bush conducted by Susan Page for an upcoming book. Bush blamed Trump for a heart attack she said she had in June 2016.
  138. Bush said the morning after election day, “I woke up and discovered, to my horror, that Trump had won.” She also said, “Putin endorsed him, for heaven’s sake. Putin the killer!…That’s an endorsement you don’t want.”
  139. When asked if she still considered herself a Republican, in October 2017 she said yes, but in February 2018, Bush, who had been one of the most recognizable faces of the party, said, “I’d probably say no today.”
  140. NASA was forced to scrap its first all-female spacewalk because of a lack of “spacesuit availability” in astronaut Anne McClain’s size. McClain’s spot was substituted by a man for Friday’s mission.
  141. On Tuesday, George Papadopoulos told Reuters “my lawyers have applied for a pardon” from Trump, claiming Mueller’s team threatened him that if he did not agree to the plea deal, he would be charged with a more serious crime.
  142. Other former Trump aides also came public to say they were victims of an overly aggressive Mueller probe including Michael Caputo in an op-ed and on MSNBC alongside Carter Page.
  143. On Wednesday, in an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Trump said he would not rule out pardons, saying, “Many, many people were in­cred­ibly hurt by this whole scam.”
  144. Several Trump allies, including Hannity, Fox New host Tucker Carlson, Sen. Rand Paul, Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk, and Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton also spent the week publicly pushing for pardons.
  145. On Thursday, AP reported Trump’s closest advisers and GOP allies are trying to steer him away from pardons, saying it could spark a political firestorm overshadowing what Trump sees as a moment of triumph.
  146. On Wednesday, in an interview with ABC News, former Trump legal spokesman Mark Corallo said he spoke to Mueller’s team about the crafting of the statement to cover up the Trump Tower meeting.
  147. Corallo said Hope Hicks lied about the statement, and grew angry when he disagreed, adding when he said there were documents to prove she was lying, she responded, “Nobody’s ever going to see those documents.”
  148. On Wednesday, House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings sent a letter to Trump audit firm Mazars USA, requesting 10 years of “statements of financial condition” and audits for Trump and several of his companies.
  149. On Thursday, Judge Tanya Chutkan said Maria Butina, who admitted to working as a Russian agent to infiltrate the NRA, will be sentenced on April 26. Charges against Butina were not part of the Mueller probe.
  150. On Friday, the DOJ formally asked Judge Chutkan in a court filing to send Butina back to Russia after she is sentenced, and to have her acknowledge she cannot return to the U.S. for 10 years.
  151. On Thursday, Jared Kushner testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee at a closed-door hearing. Kushner, who appeared before the committee in 2017, was re-interviewed as part of its Russia investigation.
  152. Later Thursday, Kushner said in a statement, “today I voluntarily answered follow up questions” hoping it “puts an end to these baseless accusations,” and adding “it is time for Congress to complete its work, move on.”
  153. On Friday, Roger Stone, in another possible violation of his gag order, posted an Instagram image of Rep. Schiff’s head laid over a “bullschiff” meter. Stone later deleted the image.
  154. On Thursday, Trump tweeted, “Congressman Adam Schiff, who spent two years knowingly and unlawfully lying and leaking, should be forced to resign from Congress!”
  155. On Thursday, the nine Republicans on Schiff’s committee called on him to step down as chair, citing Schiff’s statement that there is collusion is “incompatible with your duties as the chairman.”
  156. On Thursday, Schiff gave an impassioned speech to his committee, citing his evidence of collusion, and adding “the day we do think that’s OK is the day we will look back and say that is the day America lost its way.”
  157. On Thursday, Speaker Pelosi told reporters at a press conference when asked about Barr’s letter said, “We don’t need you interpreting for us. It was condescending, it was arrogant, and it wasn’t the right thing to do.”
  158. Pelosi also said, “I have said, and I’ll say again, no thank you, Mr. Attorney General, we do not need your interpretation, show us the report and we can draw our own conclusions.”
  159. When asked about attacks on Schiff, Pelosi said, “What is the president afraid of? Is he afraid of the truth?That he would go after a member, a chairman of a committee,” adding “I think they’re just scaredy cats.”
  160. Pelosi also attacked Rep. Devin Nunes, saying, “I’m so proud of the work of Chairman Adam Schiff — in stark contrast to the irresponsible, almost criminal behavior of the previous chair of the committee.”
  161. On Thursday, Trump held his first rally since Mueller finished his probe, in Grand Rapids, Michigan — his first rally in the rust-belt in nearly 2 1/2 years. Trump spoke for more than 80-minutes.
  162. Before the rally, the chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party held a warm-up rally where she led the crowd in chants of “No Collusion! No Obstruction!” and the crowd chanted, “Lock her up!”
  163. Trump declared victory in the Mueller investigation, hammering his critics and the media saying, “The Russia hoax is finally dead. The collusion delusion is over.”
  164. Trump invoked the “deep state,” saying the probe “was nothing but a sinister effort…to sabotage the will of the American people,” and an effort to “illegally regain power by framing innocent Americans.”
  165. Trump again attacked Rep. Schiff, saying, “They’re on artificial respirators right now,” and “Little pencil-neck Adam Schiff. He’s got the smallest, thinnest neck I’ve ever seen.”
  166. Contradicting his own 2020 budget proposal which slashed funding by 90%, Trump said he was going to fully fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, saying “I support the Great Lakes. Always have….They’re big. Very deep.”
  167. With no outlines for an alternative, Trump barely mentioned healthcare. He invoked Sen. John McCain’s no vote which was met with boos, and renewed his pledge to protect coverage for pre-existing conditions.
  168. On Friday, Trump’s 2020 campaign started selling “Pencil-Neck Adam Schiff” t-shirts, with a description “He spent two years knowingly and unlawfully lying and leaking. He should be forced to resign.”
  169. On Friday, Pelosi again defended Schiff and took a shot at Rep. Nunes, tweeting his “calm, professional leadership is something we should all be proud of. Unlike his predecessor…”
  170. On Friday, in a two-page letter to Congress, AG Barr said the Mueller report, which numbers close to 400 pages, will be delivered to Congress “by mid-April, if not sooner.”
  171. Barr does not plan to submit the report to White House beforehand, saying Trump “would have the right to assert privilege over certain parts of the report, he has stated publicly that he intends to defer to me.”
  172. Barr said he would redact grand jury information, information about ongoing investigations, and information that would “potentially compromise sources and methods” used for intelligence collection.
  173. Barr’s letter also contradicted his Sunday letter which he characterized as a “summary” of the Mueller report, saying it “did not purport to be, an exhaustive recounting of the Special Counsel’s investigation or report.”
  174. Asked by reporters about the letter at Mar-a-Lago, Trump said, “I have great confidence in the attorney general, if that’s what he’d like to do,” adding, “I have nothing to hide. This was a hoax. This was a witch hunt.”
  175. Rep. Nadler responded, saying, “Congress requires the full and complete Mueller report, without redactions, as well as access to the underlying evidence, by April 2. That deadline still stands.”
  176. On Friday, in an op-ed, former deputy attorney general Sally Yates called for Barr to release the full Mueller report as soon as possible, saying, “It is time for the American people to hear the whole truth.”
  177. On Friday, Trump mocked Democrats tweeting, “Mueller was a Hero to the Radical Left Democrats, until he ruled that there was No Collusion with Russia,” adding, “no matter what we give them, it will never be enough.”
  178. On Friday, photos emerged of hundreds of migrants being held in a penned-in area under the Paso Del Norte International Bridge in El Paso. The regime described the situation as a temporary measure.
  179. Reportedly, a surge in migrants coming from Central America strained facilities at the Southwest border. This week, Customs and Border Protection handled thousands of people in excess of the system’s capacity.
  180. Advocates say migrants in the outdoor holding center complained of not having enough food and water, of not receiving adequate medical attention, and of being cold.
  181. On Friday, in a series of tweets, Trump threatened “I will be CLOSING the Border, or large sections of the Border, next week,” blaming Democrats and Mexico saying, “they just take our money and ‘talk.’”
  182. Trump later told reporters at Mar-a-Lago that there is a “very good likelihood” that he will close the borderwith Mexico next week: “I will close the border if Mexico doesn’t get with it.”
  183. On Saturday, Trump said he would cut hundreds of millions in aid to El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemalaover what he said was their lack of help in stopping the flow of migrants to the U.S.
  184. On Friday, Trump demanded WAPO and NYT should be stripped of their Pulitzer Prizes for coverage of collusion with Russia, tweeting: “there was No Collusion! So, they were either duped or corrupt?”
  185. On Saturday, NYT reported on Trump’s 2020 campaign. Aides say he relies on always having a foil, and now without Mueller or a Democrat to run against, Trump will use the media as a stand-in.
  186. The campaign is also battling Trump’s preference for fights and distractions, and a tougher electoral map. Aides also say Trump, 72, is tired, and will only commit to one campaign event a day.
  187. On Saturday, Trump sent one tweet, then headed to his Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach for the 55th time.

Barr To Give “Full” Mueller Report to Congress by mid-April

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

But first, he’s going to redact:

(1) stuff required to be redacted under federal rules of criminal procedures;
(2) stuff that reveals intelligence community sources and methods;
(3) stuff that relates to ongoing matters (like investigations that Mueller farmed out to other prosecutors); and
(4) stuff that might embarrass “peripheral third parties”

See, it’s that fourth thing… amIrite? But at least the President is not going to assert executive privilege, so that’s good.

One thing that sticks out to me: Barr asserts that his initial letter is NOT A SUMMARY of the report Seems to be trying to preempt criticism of the report diverging significantly from the tone of his letter

NPR/Marist Poll Shows People Want To See Mueller Report

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Polls, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Some graphs from today’s NPR/Marist Poll:

I think there is a problem with the question. Does this mean they are satisfied with Mueller’s thoroughness, or satisfied with the outcome? Huge difference, and I think that makes the results meaningless.

Democrats, Republicans and Independents all want to see the full report. Curious that 40% of Republicans don’t want to see the full report. Why???

Delusion low-information Fox viewing Republicans are reflected in the statement above, although, as I’ve pointed out, if 74% of Republicans think the report clears Trump of any wrongdoing, why do 40% of Republicans think the report should not be released?

Interestingly, approval of Mueller went up for everyone, although it is fairly consistent with Democrats and Independents. Republicans, it turns out, have no moral bearing or relationship to consistency.

GOP Confused And Concerned About Trump’s Attack On Obamacare

Ken AshfordHealth Care, Republicans, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Reflecting widespread concerns within his party, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has told President Trump he disagrees with the Trump administration’s attempt to get the entire Affordable Care Act thrown out in court.

McCarthy told Trump over the phone that the decision made no sense — especially after Democrats killed Republicans in the midterms in part over the issue of pre-existing conditions, according to two sources familiar with their recent conversation. As Bloomberg’s Sahil Kapur points out — health care was the top issue for 2018 midterm voters, and voters who cared most about health care favored Democrats over Republicans by more than 50 percentage points.

Only 37 percent of adults have negative opinions of the ACA, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, and 50 percent view it positively. Gallup polls found that more than 40 percent of voters in the 2018 midterms said health care was their top concern, and that it was a major factor for swing voters.

McCarthy is far from alone in his view. Multiple GOP sources are reportedly saying they can’t fathom why the president would want to re-litigate an issue that has been a clear loser for Republicans.

A senior House Republican aide texted: “Members feel like [the Mueller report announcement] was great and Trump stepped all over it that message with the Obamacare lawsuit announcement.”

They’re also exasperated about Trump’s substance-free declaration that Republicans will become “The Party of Healthcare” — Republicans aren’t united on health care, and have been unable to advance a replacement for the ACA.

All this is because the Justice Department changed its position Monday night in a lawsuit filed by Republican attorneys general.

Those state officials want the courts to strike down the ACA’s individual mandate, and throw out the rest of the law along with it. A district court judge agreed with them in December, ruling the entire law invalid.

DOJ had been arguing that the courts should toss the mandate and protections for people with pre-existing conditions, while letting the rest of the law stand. But it now says it agrees with the lower court’s ruling striking down the entire ACA.

If the DOJ gets its way, the ACA’s insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansion would vanish, stripping health care coverage from more than 20 million people. And the loss of unrelated ACA provisions would reverberate throughout the health care system.

As Politico’s Eliana Johnson first reported, “The Trump administration’s surprising move to invalidate Obamacare on Monday came despite the opposition of two key cabinet secretaries: Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Attorney General Bill Barr.”

Republican officials are privately blaming Trump’s chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, domestic policy chief, Joe Grogan, and the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, Russ Vought, for engineering the new position.

“I’m appalled,” Sen. Susan Collins told Axios. “I think the Justice Department has a duty to defend the duly enacted laws.”

“I’m going to be writing to the attorney general to express my views on this,” she said. “I was surprised and disappointed. If the president disagrees with a law, then he should should ask Congress to repeal or change that law. He should not try to get rid of it through the courts.”

Several Republican senators said they were surprised Trump spent most of the Senate GOP lunch on Tuesday on health care. Trump led with health care and went back to it several times during the meeting. “He’s clearly very passionate about it,” Sen. John Kennedy said. “It was one of few times at these things the president spoke more than the senators.”

Three Myths About The Barr Summary

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Myth No. 1: Mueller found no evidence of collusion.  (Wrong, wrong, wrong.)

Regrettably, “[a]ll three major news networks were consistent in saying that the special counsel found no evidence of collusion between President Trump’s campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.” Both CNN and MSNBC heralded that “TRUMP CLAIMS ‘COMPLETE AND TOTAL EXONERATION’” on Russia. Fox claimed “MUELLER PROBE FINDS NO PROOF OF COLLUSION.” This is wrong as a matter of law and as a matter of fact.

Barr did not say there was no evidence of collusion. Quoting Mueller himself, Barr reported that “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election” (emphasis added). What this means is that Mueller collected lots of evidence, but what his team found was not enough for a slam-dunk criminal conviction of anyone else.

I say “of anyone else” because Mueller already found sufficient evidence to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that Russians conspired to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Those conspiracies are set forth in painstaking detail in two existing indictments from the Mueller grand jury. (I encourage you to read them both.)

The first conspiracy indictment was issued in February 2018, charging a number of Russian entities and individuals with conspiring to defraud the United States by “posing as U.S. persons and creating false U.S. personas” in order to “operate social media pages and groups designed to attract U.S. audiences [and] reach significant numbers of Americans for purposes of interfering with the U.S. political system, including the presidential election of 2016.”

The second conspiracy indictment came down in July 2018, accusing Russia’s military intelligence agency (known as the GRU) and other Russians with a conspiracy to hack “into the computers of U.S. persons and entities involved in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, steal documents from those computers, and stage releases of the stolen documents to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”

That Mueller decided not to add more people to these conspiracies is not a sign that he found no evidence of collusion. That’s not how criminal investigations and prosecutions work.

Prosecutors walk away from troubling cases all the time—not because the subjects are squeaky clean, but because they don’t believe they can win a conviction at trial. In this case, a lot of the evidence bearing on the Russian conspiracies is presumably still in Russia. With the exception of one Russian entity, none of the defendants in these two indictments have appeared in an American courtroom. Mueller does not have access to their testimony. He can subpoena information from them, but he has no way of enforcing those subpoenas so long as the defendants are in Russia.

What the Barr letter reveals is that the evidence Mueller did find (such as emails and other communications between Russians and the Trump campaign, for example, including the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York to obtain “dirt” on Hillary Clinton) was simply not enough to prove a conspiracy case against any American. But that’s a far cry from a definitive finding of no evidence whatsoever of Russian “collusion.” Which is precisely why Congress and the American people need to see the full Mueller report—as well as the stockpile of underlying evidence supporting it (law permitting).

Myth No. 2: Questions surrounding Trump’s cozy relationship with Putin are now laid to rest. (Also wrong.)

The Mueller investigation began not as a probe into Trump personally, but as an FBI counterintelligence investigation into the oddly unconventional Russia-Trump relationship. The Barr letter zeroed in on two aspects: the hacking of Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee email servers, and the social media disinformation campaign—both of which were spearheaded by Russians as explained in the two existing conspiracy indictments.

Without more data, serious questions about Trump’s ties to Russia remain unanswered. Those questions are not about the 2016 election. They have to do with core issues of national security.

For example, the Barr letter does not address:

  • Why so many people lied to investigators about their communications with Russian officials (including former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, to name two prominent examples);
  • Why Trump publicly lied about his negotiations with Russia to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the campaign;
  • Why Trump confiscated his interpreter’s notes from a private meeting with Putin;
  • Why Trump is so solicitous of Putin in contrast to his antagonistic approach to American allies such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau;
  • Why Trump tried to lift sanctions on Russia in the wake of the public announcement that America’s electoral process had been attacked by the Russians; and
  • Why Trump’s campaign chair, Paul Manafort, shared internal polling data with a suspected Russian asset.

The Barr letter does not even indicate whether Mueller investigated these and other questions, let alone reveal what conclusions—if any—Mueller drew from these known facts in addition to the other information he uncovered in the course of his two-year probe.

In short, all-things-Russia is not over for Trump.

Myth No. 3: Obstruction of justice requires proof of an underlying crime. (Nope.)

Legal scholars and historians will debate for years the propriety of Barr’s decision to make a call on whether Trump obstructed justice where Mueller apparently could not. Structurally, the entire point of appointing Mueller was to avoid the inevitable conflict of interest in having someone answerable to Trump in charge of making that decision. If the historical DoJ guidance that a sitting president should not be indicted is to be respected, then any post-Mueller determination on obstruction belonged with Congress—which has the impeachment prerogative—not a political appointee of Trump himself.

Fortunately, Barr’s words resound less loudly than those of Mueller himself which, according to the letter, provide that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

Follow me here: This means that Mueller found evidence to support a conclusion that Trump obstructed justice in violation of federal criminal law. Much of that evidence is already public. But Mueller could not comfortably determine whether that evidence passed the slam-dunk test needed for a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt—setting aside the constitutional wrinkle facing Mueller over whether Trump could be indicted in the first place.

Barr goes on to state that Mueller’s conclusion regarding Russian conspiracies, “while not determinative” of obstruction, “bears upon the President’s intent with respect to obstruction.” Legally speaking, this gets confusing.

As the letter explains, obstruction requires proof of three things: obstructive conduct (e.g., lying about pertinent facts, threatening prosecutors, or intimidating witnesses), a nexus to a pending proceeding (e.g., a criminal investigation, such as the Mueller probe), and corrupt intent. What Barr is suggesting is that corrupt intent is hard to show unless prosecutors can also show that the obstructing person aimed to interfere with a proceeding in order to avoid being caught for another underlying crime.

But that’s not what the law requires. The federal obstruction of justice statutesforbid the intentional interference with a proceeding, full stop. The law doesn’t really care why a person intended to interfere—just that the intent exists. Accordingly, there are plenty of published cases in which people were convicted of obstructing justice without proof that they also committed a crime that they were trying to cover up by virtue of the obstruction.

This stands to reason—we as a society don’t want people mucking around in criminal or congressional investigations just for fun any more or less than we don’t want them doing it in order to evade liability for some other crime. Barr admits as much in his letter.

The problem for the rule of law more broadly is this: Barr’s letter is written for lawyers, not regular people. As attorney general, his job is to serve the interests of every American—including the millions who do not understand the weighty implications of this historic document. Thus, to not come forward with a full and complete explanation of what Mueller does—and does not say—in the report would be an abomination.

I, for one, expect Barr to do the right thing.

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ALSO RELATED:

Though President Donald Trump has claimed “complete and total exoneration” based on Attorney General William Barr’s summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, the American public disagrees, according to a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS.

A majority (56%) says the President and his campaign have not been exonerated of collusion, but that what they’ve heard or read about the report shows collusion could not be proven. Fewer, 43%, say Trump and his team have been exonerated of collusion.

Although Mueller could not establish Trump or his campaign “conspired or coordinated with” the Russian government, according to Barr’s letter, the poll finds the American people continue to view the issue through partisan lenses.

Republicans and Democrats are on opposite sides of this question: 77% of Republicans say the President has been exonerated, 80% of Democrats say he has not. Independents break against exoneration — 58% say the President and his campaign were not exonerated.