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.

RELATED:

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.

Barr’s Parsing Has Not Gone Unnoticed

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Emptywheel:

I’ve made this point implicitly a few times, but it bears making explicitly. We have proof that Bill Barr’s memo spins the known contents of the Mueller Report to minimize the complicity of Trump’s flunkies. That’s because we can compare what we know about Roger Stone’s efforts to optimize the release of the emails Russia stole with the language used in the memo.

As alleged in sworn statements and his indictment, Stone’s actions include at least the following:

Around July 19, 2016: Fresh off dining with some Brexiteers, Stone calls Trump and tells him, “within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign,” to which Trump responds, “wouldn’t that be great.”

After July 22: A senior Trump campaign official “was directed” (the indictment doesn’t say by whom) to figure out from Stone what else would be coming

July 25: Stone emails Jerome Corsi and asks him to “get the pending WikiLeaks emails”

August 2: Corsi writes back and reflects knowledge that the emails would include Podesta ones and there would be two email drops, one shortly after he returned and one in October

October 4: After Assange has a press conference but doesn’t release any emails, Steve Bannon emails Stone and asks what happened, and Stone replies that WikiLeaks will release “a load every week going forward”

October 7: As the Podesta emails start to come out right after the Access Hollywood video — timing that Jerome Corsi has claimed Stone helped ensure — a Bannon associate texts Stone and says, “well done”

Now, none of that was itself charged as a crime. Stone was not charged with conspiring with WikiLeaks. But then, short of making an argument that WikiLeaks is a known agent of Russia — which the US government has never done — optimizing the WikiLeaks release is not a crime. But assuming that Corsi is correct that Stone got WikiLeaks to hold the Podesta release to dampen the impact of the Access Hollywood video, it is absolutely coordination. And even according to Stone — who believed Trump needed to avoid alienating women to win — dampening the release of the video influenced the election.

Now consider how this behavior falls into Barr’s supposed exoneration of Trump campaign involvement in the hack-and-leak.

First, there’s Barr’s truncated citation of a Mueller Report sentence. [my emphasis throughout]:

As the report states: “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

Then a footnote defining what the word “coordinated” means in that sentence.

In assessing potential conspiracy charges, the Special Counsel also considered whether members of the Trump campaign“coordinated” with Russian election interference activities. The Special Counsel defined “coordinated” as an “agreement–tacit or express–between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government on election interference.”

Finally, there’s Barr’s own version.

The second element involved the Russian government’s efforts to conduct computer hacking operations designed to gather and disseminate information to influence the election. The Special Counsel found that Russian government actors successfully hacked into computers and obtained emails from persons affiliated with the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations, and publicly disseminated those materials through various intermediaries, including WikiLeaks. Based on these activities, the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian military officers for conspiring to hack into computers in the United States for purposes of influencing the election. But as noted above, the Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.

The exoneration for coordination in Mueller’s language, at least, extends only to the Trump campaign, not to rat-fuckers working on the side (one of the things Mueller reportedly asked a lot of witnesses was precisely when and why Stone left the campaign). And at least according to this language, Mueller’s assessment of coordination extended only to coordination with the Russian government. So even if Mueller and the US government are getting close to labeling WikiLeaks a Russian entity, it still wouldn’t count for this assessment. Unsurprisingly, Barr relies on that language to give the Trump campaign a clean bill of health on the hack-and-leak side.

Most cynically, though, even after Barr acknowledges that the Russians used WikiLeaks to disseminate the stolen emails, the very next sentence doesn’t mention the charges Mueller brought against Stone for hiding his own (and through him, the campaign’s, including Donald Trump’s) coordination of the releases “for purposes of influencing the election.”

But we know Stone’s indictment has to be in the report. That’s because the report, by regulation, must list all Mueller’s prosecutorial decisions.

So not only would Mueller describe that he indicted Stone, but he probably also explains why he didn’t include a conspiracy charge in Stone’s indictment (which probably relates primarily to First Amendment concerns, and not any illusions about WikiLeaks’ willing service for Russia on this operation). So it must be in the report. But Barr doesn’t mention that, indeed, the Trump campaign, through their associated rat-fucker, did actually coordinate on the hack-and-leak and did actually influence the election by doing so, they just didn’t coordinate directly with the Russian government.

On this matter, it’s crystal clear that Barr cynically limited his discussion of the report to obscure that Mueller had, indeed, found that the campaign “coordinated” on the hack-and-leak for purposes of influencing the election.

Barr has already demonstrated bad faith in his representation of Mueller’s findings. Which is why it is so alarming that — according to an uncharacteristically alarmed Peter Baker — DOJ plans to write a summary of Mueller’s report for Congress, not send over a redacted version of it.

Mueller’s full report has yet to be released, and it remained unclear if it ever would be. House Democrats have demanded that it be sent to them by next Tuesday, but the Justice Department outlined a longer schedule, saying that it will have its own summary ready to send to lawmakers within weeks, though not months.

Barr has already failed the test of whether he can summarize Mueller’s results in good faith.

All the more reason why the full report needs to be released

Trump Makes Policy Shift To Kill ALL Of The Affordable Care Act

Ken AshfordHealth Care, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

The Department of Justice (DOJ) yesterday announced that it is siding with a district court ruling that found the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.

The move is an escalation of the Trump administration’s legal battle against the health care law.

The DOJ previously argued in court that the law’s pre-existing condition protections should be struck down. Now, the administration argues the entire law should be invalidated.

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor ruled in December that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate is unconstitutional and that the rest of law is therefore invalid.

The DOJ said Monday that it agrees the decision should stand as the case works its way through the appeals process in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

“The Department of Justice has determined that the district court’s judgment should be affirmed,” the department said in a short letter to the appeals court.

The move is certain to prompt new denunciations from Democrats, who had already seized on the Trump administration’s earlier call for the pre-existing condition protections to be struck down.

That stance was a major issue in last year’s midterm elections, and many Republican candidates in tough races struggled with whether to say they agreed with the Trump administration’s position.

Many legal experts in both parties think the lawsuit, which was brought by 20 GOP-led states, will not ultimately succeed. The district judge who ruled against the law in December is known as a staunch conservative.

The case centers on the argument that since Congress repealed the tax penalty in the law’s mandate for everyone to have insurance in 2017, the mandate can no longer be ruled constitutional under Congress’s power to tax. The challengers then argue that all of ObamaCare should be invalidated because the mandate is unconstitutional.

Most legal experts say legal precedent shows that even if the mandate is ruled unconstitutional, the rest of ObamaCare should remain unharmed, as that is what Congress voted to do in the 2017 tax law that repealed the mandate’s penalty.

Here are a few of the things that would disappear if the 5th Circuit agrees with the DOJ:

-staying on your parents’ plan until age 26
-assistance for seniors’ with high drug costs
-free preventative care
-no discrimination for preexisting conditions

Yeah, But Is Trump Still A Russian Dupe?

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment


I’m seeing an awful lot of hot takes about the Mueller report — winners and losers, who got it most wrong, etc., — and it’s sort of flabbergasting to me that we’re already rolling with these since NO ONE HAS READ THE FUCKING REPORT AND KNOWS WHAT IS IN IT. I’m assuming that is the Republican plan: gaslight us for a couple weeks until the conventional wisdom has sunk in, and then when public opinion is firmed up the way they want, release the report.

No, I am certain the full report won’t contain a smoking gun showing collusion or whatever you want to call it. But it is likely to give context on what Mueller investigated, and what he found, and what influence Russia had or has on Trump even NOW.

This backgrounder by Chuck Rosenberg and Joyce Vance is useful to read at this juncture:

The authority of the FBI to conduct criminal investigations and, with United States attorneys, to prosecute lawbreakers in our nation’s federal courts, is well known. Those cases, often reported in the press and dramatized by Hollywood, cover an enormous range of criminal behavior, from public corruption, to fraud, to crimes against children, to cyber intrusions, to the actions of violent gangs wielding guns and dealing drugs.

But the Russian investigation that has monopolized the news cycle for the past year has focused attention on another — lesser known — aspect of the FBI’s role: as the leading “counterintelligence” agency on U.S. soil. Of vital importance, that work often occurs outside the public eye, and is less well understood by citizens. This fact was reinforced over the weekend by shocking but not surprising reporting in The New York Times revealing that following President Donald Trump’s controversial firing of former FBI director James Comey in May of 2017, “law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests.”

But what does counterintelligence entail — and what do we even mean when we say counterintelligence?

The Russian investigation that has monopolized the news cycle for the past year has focused attention on another aspect of the FBI’s role: as the leading “counterintelligence” agency on U.S. soil.

First, the basics. Intelligence is really just a fancy word for information. Agents and prosecutors collect information for use in court; when we use information that way, we refer to it as “evidence.” But when the U.S. government collects information for other purposes, such as to inform and guide the decision-making of U.S. national security officials, we call it intelligence. Evidence and intelligence are essentially the same thing: information, just put to different purposes.

Foreign governments, like our own government, have intelligence services. Those foreign intelligence services (think the CIA in our country or MI-6 in the United Kingdom) gather information about other countries, their leaders, their abilities, their industries and their intentions. Much of that work is classified — as you would expect.

We don’t worry about the U.K. (or other close allies) spying on us, but we do worry about hostile foreign governments (think Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and others) that attempt to, according to the FBI, “gather information about the U.S. that adversely affects our national interests.” Those hostile foreign governments collect intelligence about us — our industries, our research and development, our technology, and our leaders — so they can use it to their advantage and to our detriment.

The FBI is charged with countering the efforts of those hostile foreign intelligence services — thus, we say that the FBI conducts counterintelligence. The FBI explains the scope of that mission on its website, noting its work in this realm “include[s] foreign and economic espionage, or ‘spying’ activities, that may involve the acquisition of classified, sensitive, or proprietary information from the U.S. government or U.S. companies. The FBI investigates whenever a foreign entity conducts clandestine intelligence activities in the United States. [The FBI’s] counterintelligence investigations also help combat international terrorist threats, including those involving weapons of mass destruction and attacks on critical infrastructures.”

Indeed, the FBI has an entire division within its National Security Branch — the aptly named Counterintelligence Division — dedicated to this mission. The men and women of this division — special agents, analysts and professional staff — work on matters that may never see the inside of a courtroom. That requires some explanation, too.

Often, the intelligence-related activities of hostile foreign governments also violate domestic U.S. law. For example, Robert Mueller’s team recently indicted 12 Russian GRU (military intelligence) officers for hacking into U.S. computers. The conduct of the Russians constituted both an intelligence gathering operation directed against our country — and our 2016 presidential election — and a federal crime. In this instance, the Mueller team and the Department of Justice chose to charge those Russian officers with a crime.

However, in some situations where a foreign country is conducting an intelligence operation against our country, our national interests can sometimes best be served by not charging these bad actors with a crime. For instance, we might prefer a diplomatic solution to a criminal one. Or the intelligence we gather can be used to inform our judgments about the foreign country’s capabilities and inclinations, guiding longer term policy. Often, counterintelligence investigations do not end up in court because we exercise these other options or because the way in which we learn stuff about our adversaries is extraordinarily sensitive and we do not want to risk having them know about our capabilities.

As the FBI notes, “[f]oreign influence operations — which include covert actions by foreign governments to influence U.S. political sentiment or public discourse — are not a new problem. But the interconnectedness of the modern world, combined with the anonymity of the Internet, have changed the nature of the threat and how the FBI and its partners must address it. The goal of these foreign influence operations directed against the United States is to spread disinformation, sow discord, and, ultimately, undermine confidence in our democratic institutions and values.” …

The big questions about Trump’s bizarre behavior remain unanswered. It’s possible they don’t know any more than we do. Trump is, after all, a pathological narcissist and reflexive liar. But there is good evidence we’ve already seen that he was compromised by the Russians with those lies about Trump Tower Moscow and the unreported Trump Tower Meeting.  Needless to say, his suspicious behavior toward Vladimir Putin and unwillingness to admit the election interference, are still live issues.

Maybe the counterintelligence people can shed light on this but maybe not. What we may have on our hands is someone who is so dishonest, unethical, disloyal and stupid that he’s done all of this simply because that’s how he’s always operated.  If that’s the case, we are going to have to grapple with the fact that this is what almost half of our citizens admire about him.

Barr Summary of Mueller Reports: No Collusion, No Obstruction Prosecution

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

I had a busy weekend so I only read the Barr summary of the Mueller investigation which came down yesterday at 5 pm.

Let’s start with one truism: When prosecutors say that an investigation “did not establish” something, that doesn’t mean that they concluded it didn’t happen, or even that they don’t believe it happened. It means that the investigation didn’t produce enough information to prove that it happened. Without seeing Mueller’s full report, we don’t know whether this is a firm conclusion about lack of coordination or a frank admission of insufficient evidence. The difference is meaningful, both as a matter of history and because it might determine how much further Democrats in Congress are willing to push committee investigations of the matter.

With that kept in mind, I don’t think this development moves the ball at all from what we already knew. No “collusion” by Trump? I think we suspected that, but it doesn’t negate a willingness to collude with Russia by Don Jr and others in the campaign (i.e., the Trump Tower meeting), which Trump himself may have known about. That may not have legal implications, but it still has political ones. And Mueller clearly found *evidence* of obstruction by President Trump, which may not — in Barr’s opinion — rise to a prosecution level, but it doesn’t it doesn’t erase the cloud over the Administration either.

From a legal/criminal standpoint, my money has always been on non-Mueller issues anyway — that is, the SDNY and NY Attorney General investigations, which include campaign fraud (the unreported Stormy Daniels payoff), bank fraud (overstating his assets to get bank loans) insurance fraud (understating his assets to get favorable policies and possible bogus claims), tax fraud (does his income match what he tells the banks?), and even the emoluments clause violations. Trump has already (quietly) admitted to civil violations involving personal use of funds from his bogus Trump charity. That alone would bring down any other presidency.

With all that, we should remember that Russia DID try to influence the election, using social media infiltration and computer hacking, and this President’s absence of a response, while not illegal, is certainly negligent to the point of near complicity.

I think we need to consider that the Trump Tower Moscow wasn’t considered part of Mueller’s remit. In other words, if it didn’t have something to do with the “election interference” it wasn’t considered. And yet that is likely the real reason for Trump’s obsequious behavior toward Putin during the campaign and as president.

That’s a  matter of kompromat counterintelligence question and may not even be prosecutable without strong proof of the quid pro quo. But you can imagine that Trump certainly knew that Putin knew he was lying throughout the campaign and beyond about his business dealings in Russia.

And we may have to consider that Trump was a total dupe, manipulated at every stage by nefarious foreign actors which may just mean that he should be impeached for the high crime of being a corrupt authoritarian and a cretinous moron rather than a Russian agent.

Yes — Trump, his cohorts and his supporters are going to have a few days overplaying their we’ve-been-vindicated hand. That’s fine. But with the 2020 elections heating up, Trump is facing a slew of very serious legal problems — legal problems he never thought would see the light of day because he never expected to win — and those legal problems are destined for the front burner in the weeks and months to come.

This is what law professor Neal Katyasl writes in the New York Times:

Sometimes momentous government action leaves everyone uncertain about the next move. This is not one of those times. Congress now has a clear path of action. It must first demand the release of the Mueller report, so that Americans can see the evidence for themselves. Then, it must call Mr. Barr and Mr. Mueller to testify. Mr. Barr in particular must explain his rationale for reaching the obstruction judgment he made.
No one wants a president to be guilty of obstruction of justice. The only thing worse than that is a guilty president who goes without punishment. The Barr letter raises the specter that we are living in such times.

I’m pretty agnostic about the full Mueller report. While I would like to see what it says, I don’t think it will move the ball any more than the Barr summary letter. Nobody can say that Mueller’s decisions not to interview the president, or to recommend an obstruction charge, were out-and-out wrong. These are close judgment calls, and it seems to me that any non-election takedown of a President cannot be premised on a close call of any kind.

But the other legal problems of Trump do not fall in that category. If he committed bank fraud, that’s easily provable by the documentary evidence, or at least, certainly more provable than obstruction, which involves an inquiry into intent and motive. So my focus is on the New York investigations, and I am staying buckled up for those.

Lawfare:

Barr’s summary of Mueller’s report is ominous for the president. While Mueller did not find that Trump obstructed his investigation, he also made a point of not reaching the opposite conclusion: that Trump didn’t obstruct the investigation. Indeed, he appears to have created a substantial record of the president’s troubling interactions with law enforcement for adjudication in noncriminal proceedings—which is to say in congressional hearings that are surely the next step.

What makes the document more complicated still is the fact that it offers only a skeletal description of Mueller’s report. It only purports to convey Mueller’s top-line findings and does not include any of the evidence or legal analysis that underlies those findings. It doesn’t tell any of the stories that the Mueller report will tell. It only distills and announces two high-altitude legal conclusions from those stories. Assuming that Barr is characterizing Mueller’s findings reasonably, that leaves a whole raft of questions unanswered about what those stories will be—and what their impact will be.

***

In laying out this summary, Barr’s letter reveals several new facts about Mueller’s obstruction probe. First, it notes that Mueller’s report covers several actions by Trump that could raise obstruction concerns, “most of which have been the subject of public reporting.” This confirms what has long been suspected: that Mueller believed that at least some of the president’s publicly reported actions—likely including some of his public actions—could raise obstruction problems. It also suggests that there are potentially obstructive acts that have not yet been reported. Barr’s letter thus leaves the distinct sense that Mueller’s detailed accounting of the president’s potential acts of obstruction is significant, regardless of Barr’s own judgment as to the criminality of any of those acts.

It also makes clear that the Mueller report creates an extensive record on the obstruction question. And that may well be the point. After all, what is the point of a prosecutor’s amassing a factual record and then refusing, as Mueller apparently has refused, to evaluate it in a traditional prosecutorial framework? The answer the letter suggests but does not state is that the Mueller report has teed up the question of presidential obstruction for evaluation by a different actor—to wit, by Congress—on a decidedly noncriminal basis. Mueller, being barred from indicting the president, has done the investigation, has apparently declined even to evaluate the matter as a prosecutor, and has laid out all of the facts and the arguments for and against treating the president’s behavior as criminal. It is now for other actors to decide whether the conduct Mueller describes is acceptable in a president. 

While Mueller left the question of criminality unaddressed, Barr himself did not. Barr opines that Mueller’s “decision to describe the facts of his obstruction inquiry without reaching any legal conclusions leaves it to the Attorney General to determine whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime”—though it is not clear why Barr felt this to be the case. Barr includes his own determination, along with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s, that Mueller’s evidence “is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”

In justifying this view, Barr notes Mueller’s determination that “the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian electoral interference” and argues that the lack of evidence of an underlying crime, though not dispositive, “bears upon the President’s intent with respect to obstruction.” The report does not identify any actions that, in Barr’s and Rosenstein’s view, “constitute obstructive conduct, had a nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding, and were done with corrupt intent,” each of which must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in order to establish the crime of obstruction of justice under Justice Department guidelines.

Notably, Barr says that his and Rosenstein’s assessment was made independently of constitutional questions about the indictment and criminal prosecution of a sitting president. Though Barr does not make reference to any concerns over the interaction between presidential authority and possible obstruction offenses, it is worth keeping in mind his memorandum on the subject from June 2018, in which he argued that conduct authorized by Article II definitionally cannot constitute obstruction.

Finally, Barr indicates that more material from Mueller’s report is forthcoming, writing that his office is at work identifying information protected by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e)—which protects material obtained before a grand jury from public disclosure—and “information that could impact other ongoing matters.” After that, Barr writes, he “will be in a position to move forward expeditiously in determining what can be released.”

So the good news is that there is more information on the way—though it is unclear how much more or when it will appear. Democratic members of Congress, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, are already calling for the report to be released in its entirety. Pelosi and Schumer released a joint statement indicating skepticism of what they call “Mr. Barr’s public record of bias against the Special Counsel’s inquiry,” and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler indicated that his committee will call on Barr to testify. Chairman of the Senate intelligence committee Richard Burr, for his part, thanked the attorney general for his letter and called for the release of “as much of the report as possible.”

The White House has, predictably, taken the opportunity to gloat: Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, echoing the president, declared Barr’s letter to be a “total and complete exoneration of the President.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blandly announced his hope that “the Special Counsel’s report will help inform and improve our efforts to protect our democracy.” Donald Trump Jr. chose to blast what he called “Collusion Truthers.”

Whether this proves the beginning of the end of L’Affaire Russe or the prelude to a series of additional disclosures about activity on the part of the Trump campaign and the president himself that are disturbing but happen to fall just short of criminal activity, it is important not to lose sight of the significance of the investigation having been completed. That Mueller was able to complete his probe into a sitting president without having his investigation blocked—despite ongoing presidential braying against the probe and menacing of the Justice Department’s leadership—is no small thing.

That Mueller was able to write his report, to document his findings in a fashion that can allow for transparency and, if necessary, accountability, is of immense value. The question of what to do with the record Mueller has compiled will ultimately fall to Congress.

Weekly List 123

Ken AshfordWeekly ListLeave a Comment

This week started with maniacal tweeting by Trump: more than 50 tweets over the weekend on a variety of unrelated topics, including multiple retweets of conspiracy theorists. The week’s news was overshadowed by Trump’s daily attacks against deceased Senator John McCain and George Conway, husband of senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway. The off-kilter — even by his standards — behavior by Trump seemed foreboding, and sure enough, on Friday, Mueller’s final report was delivered to Attorney General William Barr.

Among the subjects of his ire on Twitter this week, Trump continued to focus on alleged and unsubstantiated bias of social media companies, as his ally Rep. Devin Nunes filed a $250 million defamation lawsuit against Twitter and three Twitter accounts. Congressional probes moved ahead, including new revelations that Jared Kushner used WhatsApp to communicate on official White House business, including with foreign officials, and in possible violations of the Presidential Records Act — as did Ivanka Trump for White House business with her use of a personal email account. Meanwhile the White House refused to cooperate with Congressional document requests, as Rep. Elijah Cummings accused them of “stonewalling.”

As the week came to a close, the country waited on edge for the findings from the Mueller report, and Democrats agitated for the full report to be made public. Unlike the prior weekend’s flurry, Trump did not send a single tweet or provide any comment to reporters after the report was delivered to the AG.

  1. The State Department barred the press corps from listening in on a call hosted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for “faith-based media” about international religious freedom ahead of his trip to the Middle East.
  2. Despite repeated inquiries and complaints from members of the press corps, the State Department refused to provide a transcript of the call, a list of which faith-based media outlets were included, or criteria to be on the call.
  3. In an interview later in the week with Christian Broadcasting Network, citing the holiday of Purim, Pompeo said God may have sent Trump to save Israel from Iran, saying, “I am confident that the Lord is at work here.”
  4. On Saturday, a week after Fox News host Jeanine Pirro’s remarks about Rep. Ilhan Omar’s hijab and patriotism, the network pulled her show claiming it was because of “scheduling matters.”
  5. On Sunday, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told “Fox News Sunday” that the New Zealand mosque massacre had nothing to do with Trump, and that Trump “is not a white supremacist.”
  6. On Monday, on “Fox & Friends, Kellyanne Conway said the mosque shooter was “not a conservative” and “not a Nazi,” and encouraged people to “read the entire” manifesto.
  7. By contrast, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern rejected hate, said the shooter should be “nameless,” expressed sympathy and love for Muslim communities, and said she would push to enact new gun reform.
  8. Over the weekend Trump sent a manic barrage of over 50 tweets and retweets from Friday morning through Sunday evening. NYT reported since the election, Trump has averaged 16 tweets per weekend.
  9. Trump did not play golf, or participate in any meetings. He only left the White House to attend a church service Sunday. He spent the weekend tweeting, venting on current tensions and stoking old grievances.
  10. Trump tweeted: “Bring back @JudgeJeanine Pirro,” adding, “the Radical Left Democrats” and the “Fake News Media” are “using every trick in the book to SILENCE a majority of our Country.”
  11. Trump also tweeted, “They have all out campaigns against @FoxNews hosts who are doing too well,” adding, “stop working soooo hard on being politically correct,” and “Be strong & prosper, be weak & die!”
  12. Trump also tweeted: “Keep fighting for Tucker, and fight hard for @JudgeJeanine,” adding, “your competitors are jealous” and “they can’t beat you, you can only beat yourselves!”
  13. Trump also attacked SNL, calling it “not funny/no talent,” adding the show “can spend all of their time knocking the same person (me).” The show was a rerun of a show that Trump had previously attacked on Twitter too.
  14. Trump also tweeted SNL was “like an advertisement without consequences. Same with Late Night Shows…” and threatened “Should Federal Election Commission and/or FCC look into this?
  15. Trump retweeted a report on right-wing sites that Minnesota Democrats are unhappy with Rep. Omar, and retweeted Jack Posobiec, a Trump supporter known for advancing conspiracies, including “Pizzagate.”
  16. Trump also retweeted conspiracies that Christopher Steele used posts by “random individuals” in the dossier, on “Russiagate,” and that Andrew Weissman was the “Kingpin of Prosecutorial Misconduct.”
  17. Trump sent four tweets attacking General Motors for closing a plant in Lordstown, Ohio, blaming a union leader who is a Democrat and saying, “Get that big, beautiful plant in Ohio open now” and “Bring jobs home!”
  18. Trump also tweeted he spoke to GM CEO Mary Barra, saying, “I am not happy that it is closed when everything else in our Country is BOOMING,” adding, “She blamed the UAW Union — I don’t care, I just want it open!”
  19. On Friday, in an effort to appease Trump, GM staged a ceremony for a $1.4 billion new investment at a Michigan factory. Barra, wearing safety glasses, made the announcement alongside UAW leaders and workers.
  20. Trump also attacked Google, saying the company “is helping China and their military, but not the U.S.” adding, “Terrible!” A Google spokesperson promptly responded: “We are not working with the Chinese military.”
  21. Trump also accused the Democrats of “trying to steal a Presidential Election,” at the ballot box, “then, after that failed, with the ‘Insurance Policy,’” calling it “the biggest Scandal in the history of our Country!”
  22. Trump also tweeted quoted a Suffolk/USA Today Poll, tweeting “50% of Americans AGREE that Robert Mueller’s investigation is a Witch Hunt.” Some pollsters objected to the way the poll question was worded.
  23. According to the database Factba.se, this was the 261st time Trump used the term “witch hunt” in a tweet.
  24. Trump did not mention the New Zealand massacre over the weekend. On Monday however he ranted in a tweet that the “The Fake News Media is working overtime to blame me,” adding, “ So Ridiculous!”
  25. Trump also attacked deceased Sen. John McCain, saying, “spreading the fake and totally discredited Dossier ‘is unfortunately a very dark stain against John McCain,’” quoting a Fox News interview of Ken Starr.
  26. Trump also tweeted of McCain, “‘last in his class’” (he was fifth to last), and that he “sent the Fake Dossier to the FBI and Media hoping to have it printed BEFORE the Election.” McCain sent it to the FBI after the election.
  27. Trump also falsely claimed of McCain: “He & the Dems, working together, failed.” Several Republicans and Democrats in the Senate condemned Trump’s comments, but Sen. Lindsey Graham gave a neutral statement.
  28. On Tuesday, during an appearance with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Trump said “I was never a fan of John McCain and I never will be,” calling it a “disgrace” that McCain voted against repealing Obamacare.
  29. Trump also said at this joint news conference with Bolsonaro that he would make Brazil “a major non-NATO ally or even possibly, if you start thinking about it, maybe a NATO ally.”
  30. He later acknowledged he would have to talk to “a lot of people” about admitting Brazil to NATO. Trump also said he backs Brazil’s effort’s to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
  31. Trump also said at his joint news conference that he was “very proud to hear the president use the term ‘fake news.’” Attacks on the Brazilian media have spiked in the past year.
  32. Earlier Tuesday, Trump tweeted: “the Fake News Media has NEVER been more Dishonest or Corrupt than it is right now,” adding, “Fake News is the absolute Enemy of the People and our Country itself!
  33. On Tuesday, just before midnight, Trump retweeted a QAnon conspiracy theorist, adding, “Not a good situation!” about a video of a young man going through a very thorough pat-down by a TSA agent.
  34. On Tuesday, McCain’s widow, Cindy McCain, posted a message she received in which the sender said she was “glad” McCain, a “traitorous…warmongering shit,” was dead, and hoped daughter Meghan “chokes to death.”
  35. On Wednesday, Trump continued his attacks on McCain at an event in Ohio, saying, “I have to be honest, I’ve never liked him much. Hasn’t been for me. I really probably never will.”
  36. Trump also claimed he gave McCain “the kind of funeral that he wanted,” but “I didn’t get a thank you.” Trump was not invited to McCain’s funeral. Sen. Johnny Isakson was the only GOP senator to strongly speak out against Trump’s statements.
  37. On Wednesday, Meghan McCain called Trump’s attacks “a “bizarre new low,” and said her dad “would think it’s hilarious” that Trump “was so jealous of him that he was dominating the news cycle in death as well.”
  38. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tweeted a muted response: “Today and every day I miss my good friend John McCain. It was a blessing to serve alongside a rare patriot and genuine American hero in the Senate.”
  39. On Thursday, a spokesperson for the National Cathedral said of McCain’s funeral, “No funeral at the Cathedral requires the approval of the president or any other government official.”
  40. On Thursday, Trump defended his attacks on McCain, telling Fox Business Network host Maria Bartiromo, “I don’t talk about it. People ask me the question, I didn’t bring this up.” Bartiromo said, but “he’s dead.”
  41. Trump said he spends “a very small portion” of his time attacking McCain, adding, “I’m not a fan. He was horrible what he did with repeal and replace,” adding, “you people bring it up, I don’t bring it up.”
  42. On Monday, George Conway, the husband of Kellyanne Conway, sent a series of tweets included images from the American Psychiatric Association’s “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.”
  43. Conway included pages on “narcissistic personality disorder” and “antisocial personality disorder,” sayingTrump’s “condition is getting worse” and that “there are now fewer people” to check his worst impulses.
  44. On Monday, when asked by reporters, Kellyanne said, “No, I don’t share those concerns,” and “I have four kids, and I was getting them out of the house this morning to talk to the president about substance.”
  45. On Monday, Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale tweeted: “We all know that Trump turned downMr. Kellyanne Conway for a job he desperately wanted.” This statement is false—Conway turned Trump down.
  46. Parscale added, “Now he hurts his wife because he is jealous of her success. POTUS doesn’t even know him!”On Tuesday, Trump quoted the tweet, adding of George Conway, “A total loser!
  47. On Tuesday, minutes later, George Conway tweeted: “Congratulations! You just guaranteed that millions of more people are going to learn about narcissistic personality disorder and malignant narcissism! Great job!”
  48. On Tuesday, WAPO reported Trump has wanted to attack Conway before on Twitter, but aides were able to talk him out of it, saying it would cause unnecessary drama. They had been successful until this week.
  49. On Wednesday, Trump tweeted that Conway who is “often referred to as Mr. Kellyanne Conway” is “VERY jealous of his wife’s success & angry that I, with her help, didn’t give him the job he so desperately wanted.”
  50. Trump also called Conway “a stone cold LOSER” and “husband from hell!
  51. Later, when asked by a reporter if his attacks fit Melania’s anti-bullying campaign, Trump said Conway is “a whack job,” and he is “doing a disservice to a wonderful wife,” and “I call him Mr. Kellyanne Conway.”
  52. On Wednesday, Kellyanne Conway defended Trump, tell Politico he is a “counterpuncher” and “don’t play psychiatrist any more than George should be” and that Trump “is obviously defending me.”
  53. On Thursday, Conway sent a series of tweets attacking Trump and his mental state, saying Trump was no longer articulate and coherent, and “couldn’t be allowed” to talk to Mueller because “he’d lie his ass off.”
  54. On Friday, Conway attacked Trump again, tweeting: “THINK about the fact that we don’t just have a mentally unstable president — but a president who thinks he needs to be re-elected to avoid being indicted.”
  55. On Sunday, AP reported police arrested Noel Thomas Becht on suspicion of trespassing, disorderly conduct, and threatening and intimidating at United Islamic Center of Arizona, a Phoenix mosque.
  56. On Monday, Corinne Terrone, a public school clerk in Connecticut resigned after a viral video showed her repeatedly calling a Black man the N-word at a Shop Rite. Her children were present during the incident.
  57. Elecia Dexter, the black editor who took over The Democrat-Reporter after her predecessor Goodloe Sutton called for the KKK to ride again, stepped down citing Sutton’s continued interference.
  58. NBC News reported in addition to the Customs and Border Protection database in Week 122, one journalist and four immigration attorneys have also been stopped and questioned at border stations in Arizona and Texas.
  59. On Monday, Rep. Steve King posted a meme on Facebook of a pair of blue and red figures, with the words “civil war” and “one side has about 8 trillion bullets, while the other side doesn’t know which bathroom to use.”
  60. At a town hall Tuesday, King claimed he “wasn’t aware” the image had been posted his page. Also, when asked whether “a white society is superior to a nonwhite society,” he said, “I don’t have an answer for that.”
  61. Daily Beast reported Virginia police officer Daniel Morley was suspended after leaked chat logs revealed he was onboarding new members for white nationalist group Identity Evropa at a local high school.
  62. On Tuesday, federal judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly rebutted the Trump regime’s claim that no legal blocks remain to enforcing its transgender military ban, saying the injunction she issued in 2017 remains in place.
  63. On Wednesday, NBC San Diego reported Customs and Border Protection defended the decision to detain 9 year-old Julia Isabel Amparo Medina for 32 hours after she got out of a car to walk to school across the border.
  64. CBP officials accused Julia Medina, a passport-holding U.S. citizen, of lying about her identify, saying she did not look like her photo, and took her into custody “to perform due diligence” of her identity and citizenship.
  65. WAPO reported Selene Saavedra Roman, a flight attendant for Mesa Airlines who has DACA status, was detained by ICE for six weeks in what advocates say is an example of how the Trump regime seeks to end DACA.
  66. In Fall River, Massachusetts, 59 gravestones were defaced with anti-Semitic language and swastikas. The police chief said he could not remember seeing “something on this scale” before, and will treat the vandalism as a hate crime.
  67. The Charlottesville, Virgina school board closed the schools for two days citing a race-based threat of “ethnic cleansing” made on Wednesday. On Friday, police arrested a 17 year-old from another school for making the threat.
  68. On Friday, William Sullivan was arrested in an upstate New York supermarket, after telling a Jewish co-worker “You’re in the gas chamber now,” and then insulting her Jewish faith with an expletive.
  69. WAPO reported an analysis done by University of North Texas professors using data from the Anti-Defamation League’s HEAT map found counties that hosted a 2016 Trump rally saw a 226% increase in hate crimes.
  70. On Friday, Mississippi’s governor signed a law that bans abortions after a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat during an ultrasound. The state has only one clinic that provides abortion services.
  71. On Friday, Georgia’s senate approved House Bill 481, which would also outlaw abortions once a doctor detects a heartbeat in the womb, usually around six weeks.
  72. On Friday, Michigan’s attorney general said the state will no longer fund adoption agencies that deny LGBTQ parents. The agency cited, Catholic Charities, was mentioned by Trump at the National Prayer Breakfast.
  73. The Washington state senate passed a bill 28-21 to require presidential candidates to release five years of tax returns in order to appear on the primary or general election ballot. It will now head to the assembly.
  74. Colorado became 12th state and first swing state and to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, an agreement under which states pledge their presidential electors to whoever wins the popular vote.
  75. On Thursday, a circuit court judge ruled Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled legislature acted illegally when it convened a lame duck session and stripped power away from incoming Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.
  76. On Sunday, NYT reported that in the past year, Saudi Crown Prince MBS authorized a secret campaign to silence dissent, which included surveillance, kidnapping, detention, and torture of Saudi citizens.
  77. On Sunday, Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska told CNBC in Moscow that he sued the U.S. Treasury Department for “weaponizing the financial system” against him, and denied the Kremlin encouraged his legal action.
  78. Sanctions have been lifted against his companies, but not against him personally. Deripaska claimed he is “a victim of this country’s political infighting,” adding sanctions have forced him to adapt to a “new reality.”
  79. The Atlantic reported Alexander Ionov, the founder of an NGO called the Anti-Globalization Movement,raised money to fund Maria Butina’s legal defense, reaching about 2 million rubles (approximately $30,000).
  80. On Monday, Reuters reported that Norway claims it has provided proof that Russian forces disrupted global positioning system signals during recent NATO war games, and demanded an explanation from Russia.
  81. On Monday, ProPublica reported a sealed search warrant they obtained showed federal prosecutors raided Elliott Broidy last summer, seeking records related to his dealings with foreign officials and the Trump regime.
  82. The warrant showed agents were able to compel Broidy, a major Trump campaign fundraiser and deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee, to use his hand and face to unlock any phones.
  83. The warrant sought records in Broidy’s office related to the United Arab Emirates, UAE adviser George Nader, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and any travel to the Middle East.
  84. The warrant cited investigations of conspiracy, money laundering, and lobbying on behalf of foreign officials, and also lists names “Joel Rouseau” and “Intelligent Resources,” which has an address in Miami Beach.
  85. On Thursday, NYT reported Jared Kushner’s brother Josh was in Saudi Arabia in October 2017 just days before Jared was there to talk policy. Josh is the founder of eight-year-old venture capital firm Thrive Capital.
  86. Josh attended a three day exclusive investor conference where Crown Prince MBS promised to spend billionsof dollars. Kushner was granted private conversations with high ranking Saudi officials.
  87. Jared sat on the board and investment committee of Thrive until January 2017. His May 2018 financial disclosure form shows he received $8.2 million in capital gains from Thrive while working at the White House.
  88. On Monday, NYT reported on Trump’s nearly two decade relationship with Deutsche Bank, which lent him well over $2 billion, when other banks refused to lend due to his uncreditworthiness.
  89. When Trump was elected, the bank switched into damage-control mode over their intertwined relationship. Rosemary Vrablic, a managing director at Deutsche Bank in private banking, attended his inauguration address.
  90. In the late 1990s, the bank tried to make a name for itself in the U.S., its investment banking division went on a hiring spree, including hiring Justin Kennedy, the son of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.
  91. In 2003, the bank’s bond desk helped Trump sell debt to finance his casino. Trump promised them a trip to Mar-a-Lago if the tough deal got done. After, he flew 15 salesmen on his Boeing 727 for a weekend of golfing.
  92. In 2005, when Trump wanted to finance a skyscraper in Chicago, he told the bank his net worth was about $3 billion, while bank employees concluded $788 million. Nonetheless the bank lent him $500 million.
  93. In 2008, with the project mostly built, Trump used a “force majeure” clause citing then Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan calling the financial crisis a tsunami, to try to get out of repaying the loan.
  94. Starting in 2010, Vrablic helped Trump get a loan to repay his Chicago loan, and even though Trump overstated his net worth dramatically and repeatedly, financed his bid for an NFL team and other transactions.
  95. On Monday, a CNN poll found Trump’s disapproval rating down to 51% — the lowest disapproval found in the poll since Trump took office. The poll found 42% approve of Trump’s performance.
  96. On Monday, CNN reported Trump’s White House expects to be able to review Mueller’s findings before they are sent on to lawmakers, and to have the opportunity to claim executive privilege over information.
  97. On Tuesday, a senior Justice Department official said deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein had decided to remain at the DOJ “a little longer,” after meeting with AG William Barr. The reason why was not disclosed.
  98. Later Tuesday, a CNN reporter said according to her source, Rosenstein wanted to stay on so he can be the “heat shield,” or absorb the punches, if there is fallout from the Mueller report.
  99. On Tuesday, in court filing, Mueller’s team asked for more time to hand over Manafort’s records requested by WAPO, citing they are too busy with “other work” right now, and asking for an extension until April 1.
  100. On Wednesday, when asked by reporters when the Mueller report would be released, Trump responded: “I have no idea. No collusion, no collusion,” adding, “a man gets appointed by a deputy. He writes a report.”
  101. Trump also said, “Let’s see whether or not it’s legit,” calling Mueller “conflicted” and criticizing the lawyers who worked on the case. Trump also said the report should be made public, saying, “let people see it.”
  102. On Monday, top Democrats on the House and Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees asked FBI director Christopher Wray in a letter to conduct criminal and counterintelligence probes of Cindy Yang.
  103. The letter cites allegations of human trafficking, foreign lobbying, and potential campaign finance violations. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement they joined in urging an investigation.
  104. On Monday, Daily Beast reported the House Judiciary Committee is planning to hold hearings on the rise of white nationalism, and will hear from federal agencies on what they are doing to confront the threat.
  105. On Monday, the House Judiciary Committee said it had “tens of thousands” of documents by the deadline from a “large number” of the 81 people, agencies, and organizations from whom it sought documents.
  106. However Trump’s lawyers denied the request, informing Chairman Jerrold Nadler they would not be turning over documents. It was unclear if the committee would move to subpoena the documents.
  107. The Hill reported Thursday, according to a letter it obtained, Roger Stone invoked the Fifth Amendment and said he would not produce the requested documents “on the advice of counsel.”
  108. Reuters reported Friday that Kushner will cooperate with the House committee’s probe. Kushner reportedly submitted documents to Nadler’s panel on Thursday.
  109. On Tuesday, in an op-ed, House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings wrote “the White House hasn’t turned over a single piece of paper to my committee.”
  110. Rep. Cummings said he has sent 12 letters to the White House on a half-dozen topics, and accused the White House of engaging “in an unprecedented level of stonewalling, delay and obstruction.”
  111. On Tuesday, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff told NBC News that it is an open question if Trump is under the influence of a foreign power, and whether that would present a national security threat.
  112. Rep. Schiff cited concern that U.S. foreign policy was dictated by Trump’s “desire to make hundreds of millions of dollars off a tower in Moscow,” adding it was unclear if Mueller’s team had fully investigated this angle.
  113. On Tuesday, at a town hall Rep. Nadler compared Trump’s rise to that of Hitler, saying of Trump’s rhetoric around immigrants, “This is the same type of propaganda that we heard in the 1920s.”
  114. On Wednesday, House Majority Whip James Clyburn told NBC News that Trump and his family are “the greatest threats to democracy of my lifetime.”
  115. Clyburn said when Hitler was elected he “went about the business of discrediting institutions to the point that people bought into it,” adding, “Nobody would have believed it now…We had better be very careful.”
  116. On Thursday, in a letter, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone rejected House Oversight, Foreign Affairs, and Intelligence Committees’ Democrats’ request for documents related to Trump’s communications with Putin.
  117. Cipollone cited “unbroken recognition that the Constitution assigns the conduct of foreign affairs exclusively to the Executive Branch,” and said Democrats did not provide any law or regulation that would justify access.
  118. On Thursday, WSJ reported the House Judiciary Committee is considering a second wave of document requests from Rudy Giuliani and Michael Cohen’s former lawyer related to pardon discussions, as well as Rex Tillerson and Gary Cohn.
  119. On Thursday, House Oversight Chair Cummings revealed in a letter that Ivanka and Jared Kushner used private messaging accounts for official White House business in a way that may have violated federal records laws.
  120. Ivanka and Jared’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, told his committee last year that in addition to private email accounts, Kushner used the encrypted messaging service WhatsApp for official business, including with foreign contacts.
  121. Lowell told lawmakers Ivanka did not preserve some emails from her private account that she did not reply to. He now claims after September 2017, she forwarded all official business to her White House account.
  122. Lowell said he was unsure if Kushner communicated classified information on WhatsApp, but said he took screenshots of communication and sent them to his official White House account or the National Security Council.
  123. Rep. Cummings said in a letter to Cipollone the new findings raise possible violations of the Presidential Records Act by members of the Trump regime, including Ivanka and Kushner, and gave an April 4 deadline to reply.
  124. On Friday, Trump told reporters when asked about Kushner’s WhatsApp messaging, “I know nothing about it. I’ve never heard that.”
  125. On Tuesday, prosecutors released publicly redacted copies of the Michael Cohen search warrants that launched the FBI raid of his home, hotel, and office in April 2018.
  126. The documents showed the court-approved warrants were first obtained by Mueller’s team in July 2017 to search Cohen’s emails from all of 2016 up to July 2017 to assess if he illegally worked for foreign entities.
  127. Mueller’s team also got a second warrant a month later for the cloud backup files to Cohen’s phones, and a third warrant for emails dating to June 2015 related to his taxi business and false statements to banks.
  128. Mueller’s team turned over documents to the Southern District of New York in February 2018. The SDNY got an additional search warrant for emails from November 2017 to February 2018.
  129. The documents revealed Cohen was paid $583,332 from Columbus Nova, a company linked to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, from January to August 2017. Vekselberg was sanctioned in 2018 for election interference.
  130. The documents had significant redactions, including 18 1/2 pages in the section about hush-money payments to women titled “The Illegal Campaign Contribution Scheme.”
  131. The court stated that redactions were necessary because “disclosure would jeopardize an ongoing investigation” of the SDNY.
  132. On Monday, Rep. Devin Nunes sued Twitter, two anonymous accounts, and political consultant Liz Mair for $250 million in damages, alleging “negligence, defamation per se, insulting words, and civil conspiracy.”
  133. Nunes told Fox News host Sean Hannity “this was an orchestrated effort,” adding “people were targeting me.” The Twitter accounts included one named “Devin Nunes’ Mom” and the other, “Devin Nunes’ Cow.”
  134. On Monday, Trump shared the news of Nunes’ lawsuit, tweeting an article in the Daily Beast, titled, “Rep. Devin Nunes Files $250M Defamation Lawsuit Against Twitter, Two Anonymous Twitter Accounts.”
  135. The account for Devin Nunes’ Mom was suspended this year, but the same user created “Devin Nunes’ Alt-Mom” and was active, as was “Devin Nunes’ Cow” — both spent Tuesday and beyond mocking Rep. Nunes.
  136. By Wednesday, the “Devin Nunes’ Cow” account had surpassed Rep. Nunes’ Twitter following of 395,000, with 467,000 followers and growing. Prior to the lawsuit, the cow account had roughly 1,200 followers.
  137. On Friday, dictionary company Merriam-Webster said in their weekly round-up: “There are a surprising amount of cow-related words this week.”
  138. On Tuesday, Trump renewed his attacks on technology companies tweeting, “Facebook, Google and Twitter, not to mention the Corrupt Media, are sooo on the side of the Radical Left Democrats.”
  139. NBC News reported that HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s 2017 schedule was extremely light. Carson held one senior staff meeting a week, and for 5 of 31 Fridays he was off or had no appointments, and on another 5 he left before 2 p.m.
  140. On Tuesday, Politico reported the White House plans to drop the “acting” from Mulvaney’s title, upgrading him to Trump’s chief of staff. One senior official said of Mulvaney that he “has stayed out of a lot of people’s way.”
  141. On Tuesday, Capt. “Sully” Sullenberger, a safety expert, said in an op-ed, “Our credibility as leaders in aviation is being damaged,” saying the Boeing 737 Max controversy is “unprecedented” and an “ugly saga.”
  142. On Tuesday, Trump named Stephen Dickson, a former executive of Delta Air Lines, as the permanent headof the Federal Aviation Administration. The position had been filled by an acting director for 14 months.
  143. Bloomberg reported Trump offered former campaign adviser Stephen Moore a position on the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors. Moore would still need to complete a clearance process before the nomination.
  144. Bloomberg also noted the appointment appeared to be political meddling in the Central Bank. Moore has publicly criticized Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, and cheered the effects of Trump’s tax cuts.
  145. In his interview with Maria Bartiromo, Trump had blamed the Fed for 3.1% growth, saying, “If we didn’t have somebody that would raise interest rates and do quantitative tightening, we would have been at over 4.”
  146. On Friday, the Treasury Department said in its monthly budget report that the U.S. budget deficit for February was $234 billion, the largest ever in U.S. history. Corporate revenue was down 20% due to Trump’s tax cut.
  147. On Friday, Federal Emergency Management Agency announced it had failed to protect sensitive personal data of 2.3 million survivors of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and the 2017 California wildfires.
  148. An analysis by WAPO found money being taken away from the Pentagon to pay for Trump’s wall would particularly hit construction projects in Puerto Rico and a program helping European allies deter Russia.
  149. On Tuesday, a federal judge ruled the Interior Department violated federal law, saying it “did not sufficiently consider climate change” when it auctioned off federal land in Wyoming for oil and gas drilling.
  150. The judge temporarily blocked drilling on about 300,000 acres of land in Wyoming. The ruling could signal trouble for the regime’s efforts to boost fossil fuel production by auctioning off federal land for drilling.
  151. On Saturday, Politico reported on a leaked recording of oil executives at a private meeting at a beachside RitzCarlton in Southern California laughing about their access to the Trump regime.
  152. The influential industry group, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, celebrated that their lawyer David Bernhardt, was appointed by Trump to the powerful number two spot at the Interior Department.
  153. On Thursday, in a tweet, Trump said “after 52 years” the U.S. will “recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” a huge policy shift thought to help Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in the upcoming election.
  154. Countries around the world, including France, Germany, Russia, and Egypt criticized Trump’s announcement on the Golan Heights, saying it was a violation of international law and could further destabilize the region.
  155. On Thursday, the Treasury Department imposed new sanctions on two Chinese shipping companies, saying they have helped North Korea evade international sanctions — the first sanctions imposed since late last year.
  156. On Friday, Trump reversed the Treasury Department in a tweet, citing the “additional large scale Sanctions” imposed yesterday, and saying, “I have today ordered the withdrawal of those additional Sanctions!”
  157. The shift caught the regime by surprise. In explaining Trump’s rationale, press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters, “President Trump likes Chairman Kim, and he doesn’t think these sanctions will be necessary.”
  158. On Friday, all of Washington awaited the Mueller report as rumors swirled that it would be released. Giuliani told a reporter that morning, “They said it was going to be at noon or 12:30.”
  159. NYT reported starting in the morning, reporters and photographers congregated at the office building where the special counsel has its offices, including cameras waiting in the garage for Mueller and others’ cars.
  160. The Trump campaign sent out a text, saying, “President Trump has put up with the WITCH HUNT for two years.” Trump also brought Emmet Flood, his lawyer in the special counsel investigation, along to Mar-a-Lago.
  161. On Friday late afternoon, Mueller submitted a confidential report to AG Barr, ending his 22-month investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by Trump.
  162. Around 4:35 pm, Emmet Flood was notified that the DOJ had received the report. Roughly half an hour later, Barr sent a letter to the relevant House and Senate committees, as well as senior congressional leaders.
  163. Barr wrote in the letter to the Chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, “I may be in a position to advise you of the Special Counsel’s principal conclusions as soon as this weekend.”
  164. Barr said he would consult with Mueller and Rosenstein, “to determine what other information from the report can be released to Congress and the public.”
  165. Barr also said he remained “committed to as much transparency as possible,” and that neither he nor any of his predecessors had challenged any actions Mueller took during his probe.
  166. The DOJ said Mueller has not recommended any further indictments. It was unclear if Mueller found Trumpcommitted a crime, but did not charge him due to DOJ policy that a sitting president cannot be indicted.
  167. On Friday, Democrats signaled they were ready to fight for the public release of Mueller’s complete findingson social media, on air and in statements, concerned that Barr may hold parts back to protect Trump.
  168. Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Schumer said in a statement the Mueller “investigation focused on questions that go to the integrity of our democracy itself,” adding, “the American people have a right to the truth.”
  169. The Democratic chairs of the six House committees said a joint statement: “Anything less than full transparency would raise serious questions” of whether DOJ policy “is being used as a pretext for a coverup of misconduct.”
  170. Leader McConnell said in a statement he welcomes the report, saying “Many Republicans have long believed that Russia poses a significant threat to American interests,” and hoped for “openness and transparency.”
  171. Watchdog group Electronic Privacy Information Center sued for the full release of the Mueller report, saying, “The public has a right to know the full scope of Russian interference “ and whether Trump played any role.
  172. Late Friday, former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos tweeted: “Time to hit back!” and Trump ally Rep. Jim Jordan tweeted he was looking forward to the report and, “This distraction is finally over.”
  173. Jerome Corsi told CNN that he and Stone “feel vindicated.” Corsi also said “I went in there to cooperate with them. They treated me as a criminal,” adding ,“I consider this entire investigation to be fraudulent.”
  174. On Friday, at Mar-a-Lago, Sen. Lindsey Graham and Trey Gowdy, who chaired the House Oversight Committee during the Benghazi hearings, joined Trump at Mar-a-Lago.
  175. Hours after the Mueller report was released, Graham spoke at a Mar-a-Lago dinner, joking about Trump opening a hotel in Jerusalem and asked the crowd whether they would like to see Gowdy on the Supreme Court.
  176. Graham called for an investigation into Hillary Clinton and the Steele dossier, to which the crowd began chanting, “Lock her up!” Graham responded, “Don’t lock her up! We want her to run again.”
  177. Graham was the keynote for the annual fundraiser for the Palm Beach Republicans. Asked why Graham did not defend his best friend McCain to the audience, a spokesperson said he spoke about it earlier in the week.
  178. Trump spoke briefly, saying “If Lindsey’s speaking, I want to come down here for two reasons. No. 1: he’s a great speaker. And No. 2, I know if I’m here, he’s not going to say anything bad about me.”
  179. WAPO reported public perception of Mueller’s job performance was 58% approve, 28% disapprove (+30) six months in at November 1, 2018, but dropped on February 10, 2019 to 51% approve, 34% disapprove (+17).
  180. The drop was driven by largely by Republicans whose approval fell from 38% to 21% over that period. Independents dropped slightly from 56% to 52% and Democrats from 78% to 77%.
  181. On Saturday, Trump went to Trump International Golf Club West Palm Beach for his 175th round of golf in his 653 days in office. Trump has not tweeted since the Mueller report was released.
  182. On Saturday, DOJ official announced AG Barr is not sending the “principal conclusions” of Mueller’s report to lawmakers today, but is still expected to do so this weekend.
  183. Beyond the Mueller probe, Trump faces numerous other legal woes, including investigations of hush money payments, his inaugural committee, Congressional inquiries, New York state investigations, a defamation lawsuit by Summer Zervos, and the emoluments clause lawsuit.

Breaking: Mueller Finishes Investigation

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

Mueller has concluded his investigation and turned in his report to AG Bill Barr. Nothing is known about except this: there are no more indictments to hand down.

Conservatives are ecstatic and progressives not, except . . . well, the smarter ones on both sides know that the end of the Mueller investigation is not the end of the scandal. We don’t know, for example, if there was evidence of collusion — just not enough to prosecute — or what. Mueller, unlike Comey when looking into Hillary, is not going before the press to explain what he knows.

The Justice Department has notified Congress and Barr told the press that he may notify Congress of the inquiry’s “principal conclusions as soon as this weekend.” The only problem: Barr has full discretion about how much of the report to reveal publicly.

By the Washington Post’s tally, the special counsel’s investigation has resulted in criminal charges against 34 individuals. That number includes four campaign officials and advisers: former Chairman Paul Manafort, Deputy Campaign Manager Rick Gates, adviser George Papadopoulos, and self-described “dirty trickster” Roger Stone. It also includes the president’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former personal attorney Michael Cohen. The vast majority of the rest of the indictees are Russian nationals, many of them directly tied to the DNC computer hackings and distribution of propaganda during the 2016 election.

The central mission of the special counsel investigation was to discover if any members of the Trump campaign – including, most importantly, Trump himself – conspired with Russia to meddle in the election. None of the Americans charged by Mueller are accused of that. Still, while Mueller appears to be done with his probe, Congress will likely continue its own investigations based off his findings—whether or not Barr provides enough details to Congress.

Barr should release the full report. Both parties appear to support this. Last week, the House voted unanimously on a nonbinding resolution to make the entire document—and supporting materials—public. The real test will be whether reflexively pliant GOP lawmakers have to defy any presidential grumblings. We’ll find out soon enough.

One thing to remember: the Mueller report is not a legal document. It is an investigative document with some legal, and some political, ramifications.

And there is no realm of public life in which we insist on using absolute legal standards in order to make non-legal judgments. And we couldn’t even if we wanted to, because legal standards vary widely. To wit: Different legal proceedings impose different burdens of proof. There’s a reason that in courts sometimes the law requires “substantial evidence,” sometimes “reasonable belief,” and sometimes belief “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

As the public surveys the Mueller report, we are not bound to use legal procedures to come to our conclusions about Donald Trump. If the origins of the investigation were, in fact, improper—and yet the investigation reveals substantial wrongdoing, the public is not required to overlook this wrongdoing just because a court of law might be required to do so.

Spoiler: The court of public opinion isn’t a real court.

Trump Reverses His Advisors On NK Sanctions

Ken AshfordNorth Korea, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Yesterday:

Today:

He reversed…. by tweet. What?? Why??

I guess if you can con the President into thinking you like him (not hard to do), he will let you get away with anything.