Trump Should Get No FBI Director Pick

Yesterday, Mike Lee trolled Democrats by suggesting that Merrick Garland, who has a lifetime seat on the DC Circuit, should vacate that and lead the FBI. In a piece explaining how utterly moronic the many Democrats who took his bait are, Dave Weigel explains this is “Why Liberals Lose” — not just because they never press for advantage effectively, but because they so often fall prey when Republicans do.

We live in a golden age of political stupidity, but I’m not being hyperbolic when I say this: The idea of pulling Judge Merrick Garland off the D.C. Circuit federal appeals court and into the FBI is one of the silliest ideas I’ve seen anyone in Washington fall for. It’s like Wile E. Coyote putting down a nest made of dynamite and writing “NOT A TRAP” on a whiteboard next to it. It’s also an incredibly telling chapter in the book that’s been written since the Republican National Convention — the story of how Republicans who are uncomfortable with the Trump presidency gritting their teeth as they use it to lock in control of the courts.

You should definitely read all of Weigel’s piece, which is spot on.

But there are other aspects that the success of Lee’s ploy explain about Why Liberals Lose. First and foremost, it shows how mindlessly Democrats adopt the playing field that Republicans deal them.

I mean, even as Democrats have been pushing for months to use the Russian scandal to impeach Trump, and even at the moment where that actually seems feasible (down the road), most Democrats simply accepted the necessity of replacing Jim Comey and have shifted instead to fighting the worst names being floated, people like Trey Gowdy (an initial trial balloon) and Alice Fisher and Michael Garcia, who’re reportedly being formally considered.

Why are Democrats even accepting that Trump should get to replace Comey?

According to CNBC’s count from mid-April, Trump had filled just 24 of the 554 Senate confirmed positions in government.

Sure, Trump has filled a handful more in the interim month, but Trump is otherwise not in a rush to staff the government. Yet he has immediately turned to replacing Comey.

There is nothing more illegitimate than for Trump to be able to give someone a ten year term as FBI Director because he fired Jim Comey.

Trump is no longer hiding the fact that he fired Comey to try to undercut the Russian investigation. And the timeline is clear: the dinner to which Trump called Comey to twice demand his loyalty took place on January 27.

As they ate, the president and Mr. Comey made small talk about the election and the crowd sizes at Mr. Trump’s rallies. The president then turned the conversation to whether Mr. Comey would pledge his loyalty to him.

Mr. Comey declined to make that pledge. Instead, Mr. Comey has recounted to others, he told Mr. Trump that he would always be honest with him, but that he was not “reliable” in the conventional political sense.

[snip]

By Mr. Comey’s account, his answer to Mr. Trump’s initial question apparently did not satisfy the president, the associates said. Later in the dinner, Mr. Trump again said to Mr. Comey that he needed his loyalty.

Mr. Comey again replied that he would give him “honesty” and did not pledge his loyalty, according to the account of the conversation.

That means it took place the same day of Sally Yates’ second conversation with Don McGahn about FBI’s investigation into Mike Flynn (and by association, I always point out, Jared Kushner).

It was always a pipe dream for Democrats to think they could stave off Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation, in part because you really do need a full panel at SCOTUS.

But for the moment, the FBI will continue to run the same way the rest of government is running: with the acting officials who’re filling in until Trump gets around to filling the spot. Moreover, Andrew McCabe, the Acting FBI Director, is a Comey loyalist who will ensure his initiatives will continue for whatever portion of Comey’s remaining 6 years he gets to serve.

This is important not just for the Russian investigation — it’s important to the future of our democracy. Alice Fisher, for example, would be an even more insanely pro-corporate FBI Director than Comey (former Board Member of HSBC, remember) or Mueller.

Democrats should be out there, loudly and in unison, decrying how inappropriate it would be for Trump to get to replace Comey when everyone watching knows the firing was one of the most corrupt things a President has done in a century.

Instead, they’re falling prey to Mike Lee’s obvious ploys.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

37 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The Democrats are repeating Obama’s approach to staffing the judiciary, and to policy and negotiations generally: cave in to whatever the most powerful figure in the room wants, before he tells you what he wants, then claim the choice was exactly what you wanted to achieve and that the process glorifies your pragmatism.

    The approach achieves nothing but to enable the other side, even while it’s out of power.  It’s a twofer for authoritarianism.  That assumes, of course, that the Democrats want something different than does this authoritarian, brutish, ignorant, born with platinum spoon in mouth real estate developer who thinks the government is another failed institution ripe for plucking.

    Astute liberals have long observed about the elite’s economic priorities that it’s hard to win a battle in a class war if only one side is fighting it.

  2. William Beyer says:

    Read Garrett Epps’  piece on Garland as FBI Director in the Atlantic. It is priceless.

     

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Good article.

      Wow, it would make #UnfitForOffice go into a tizzy to have an acting Judge also be Director of FBI, and then fire him like Comey. Note there is absolutely no reason to suspect that #UnfitForOffice has any comprehension of this scenario. None.

      https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.theatlantic.com/amp/article/526578/

      Here’s where the sick jest turns on its maker. Lee poses as an authority on the Constitution; he must, then, know that the document doesn’t forbid a judge from accepting executive office—while continuing to serve on the bench. Look at Article I § 6 cl. 2—the only explicit “separation of powers” provision in the Constitution: “no person holding any office under the United States, shall be a member of either house [of Congress] during his [or her] continuance in office.”

      The words say that no executive or judicial official can serve in Congress without giving up his former job. They do not say that no judge can serve in executive office while remaining a judge.

  3. trevanion says:

    Reason #1017 why between the coasts Democrats are perceived as being without substance, obsessed with transactional cleverness. Larry Summers endorsing the Garland idea says it all.

     

  4. John Casper says:

    I don’t trust the wing nut author of this NYT’s op-ed, Charlie Sykes, but he’s making the same point.

    “The right’s reaction to the firing of Mr. Comey hardly bodes well. Even conservatives who are still smarting from his handling of Hillary Clinton’s emails should recognize that the timing of Mr. Comey’s abrupt dismissal in the midst of a growing investigation into Russian meddling raises fundamental questions about the rule of the law and the possibility that justice is being obstructed.

    As the right doubles down on anti-anti-Trumpism, it will find itself goaded into defending and rationalizing ever more outrageous conduct just as long as it annoys CNN and the left.”

    https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/05/12/opinion/sunday/if-liberals-hate-him-then-trump-must-be-doing-something-right.html?_r=0&referer=https://t.co/iGTsVaZh6N?amp=1

    Charlie was a talk-radio guy in Milwaukee for decades. Funded by the Bradley Foundation and broadcasting on a 50,000 watt blow-torch, he made Scott Walker and Sheriff David Clarke. He hasn’t recanted on Walker, but he has on Clarke. Sykes’ was the George Will of the Joe-Sixpack crowd–MSNBC has discovered him–he’s trying to tack back towards the middle. His forthcoming book is “How the Right Lost its Mind.”

    • Teddy says:

      I’ll tell you how the right lost its mind: they tuned in to Charlie Sykes every day.

       

      How this fraudulent mini-Limbaugh gets a platform at the NYTimes and MSNBC is completely beyond me.  He is unworthy of attention anywhere in America.

      • Peterr says:

        Mr. Pierce is similarly unimpressed with Sykes:

        Glorioski, gang, the memory hole here could swallow galaxies.
        Sykes was a right-wing conservative shock-jock in Wisconsin before his profile got shot into the stratosphere in 2016, when he became one of the president*’s loudest critics among conservative media figures. Back in Milwaukee, of course, where he prospered as a mini-Limbaugh, Sykes boomed the prospects of both Speaker Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny starver from the state of Wisconsin, and Scott Walker, the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage that particular Midwest subsidiary. Neither of these two would have managed to get beyond the state line if they weren’t able to identify a mooching, parasitical Them for the rest of Us to resist. . . .

  5. SpaceLifeForm says:

    OT: Wow, wow, wow. Microsoft feeling heat on their reputation?

    Yesterday, the Wcry extortion malware had hit in 74 countries (100 last count), impacting Hospitals and even FedEx. This attack was based on the ShadowBrokers dump of NSA exploit tools.

    Then, a ‘hole’ was discovered, and there was some temporary relief. But only temporary. At least two versions out there now.

    https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/13/accidental-hero-finds-kill-switch-to-stop-spread-of-ransomware-cyber-attack

    ‘Accidental hero’ halts ransomware attack and warns: this is not over

    Expert who stopped spread of attack by activating software’s ‘kill switch’ says criminals will ‘change the code and start again’

    So today….

    WCry is so mean Microsoft issues patch for 3 unsupported Windows versions

    Decommissioned for years, Windows XP, 8, and Server 2003 get emergency update.

    https://arstechnica.com/security/2017/05/wcry-is-so-mean-microsoft-issues-patch-for-3-unsupported-windows-versions/

    [But – ‘in custom support only’]

    In a blog post published late Friday night, Microsoft officials wrote:

    We also know that some of our customers are running versions of Windows that no longer receive mainstream support. That means those customers will not have received the above mentioned Security Update released in March. Given the potential impact to customers and their businesses, we made the decision to make the Security Update for platforms in custom support only, Windows XP, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2003, broadly available for download here.

    [So, there are two cases going on. Those that pay for custom support can help themselves if they get off their arse and patch. Otherwise, if you are a home user or a business not paying the extortion fee (custom support), you better be planning on being attacked]

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      It is a WIP. Marcy is on top of it. It’s the little hidden obscure tidbits that may seemingly not relate that can be important. They will most likely not be mainstream media. If you see something, say something.

  6. Peterr says:

    The Republicans in the Senate have to be nervous as hell about who Trump will nominate, especially those up for reelection. Here in MO, I get the sense that Roy Blunt is very very happy that he squeaked through last November in his reelection battle, rather than having to face the voters in 2018.

    Given the John Cornyn is one of the folks mentioned, that sounds to me as if TrumpCo is worried about getting 50 votes for anyone. As I read this, Cornyn would be offered up by Trump in hopes that nominating one of the Senate GOP members will encourage the others to remain faithful to the cause.

     

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      50? I’d guess 48 and falling at this point.

      Funny how Gorsuch got in *while* #UnfitForOffice was already planning on firing Comey (so he says).

      I am starting to wonder if #UnfitForOffice was already being blackmailed. That his entire role so far was to get Gorsuch in, and at this point #UnfitForOffice is no longer important to DS.

  7. klynn says:

    Some timeline from this week courtesy of comments from Robert Reich followers:

    -On Tuesday the senate Intel committee requested info from the treasury financial crimes unit on DJT and his associates financial records

    -Comey was fired Tuesday evening

    -Wed AM Sen Burr and Warner were abruptly pulled out of the intel committee mtg on global threats to have an unplanned meeting with the dep AG.

    Considering this committee meeting had directors of all intel agencies including the new acting director of the FBI, it seems odd to pull the senators out abruptly for something more important than “global threats.” I was watching it live and it surprised the other members of the committee when they had to go.

    An hour or so later on Thursday FBI out of DC (not local VA field office) raided Strategic Campaign Group. The firm has ties to Manafort, Stone and others and has represented GOP campaigns at all levels including presidents senators and congress based on their website. The website has since been adjusted but you can use archive.org to see it earlier in the week before the raid

    -at the same time as the raid took place the FBI tweeted out a picture re: asset forfeiture. I can only hope they were trolling the orange bastard

    -Friday the request from the committee to examine trump and associates financials was approved by the treasury crime unit

    There’s been a lot of discussion re: the financial side, RICO etc this week and there is a good chance it will affect many high ranking members of the GOP.

    There has even been talk about Sen. Hatch receiving security briefings to prepare him to assume the role of president when the others go down.

    Lots on Twitter connecting the dots if you want to go deeper. I’m thinking it’s only a matter of time although it may be longer than we want to wait.

  8. klynn says:

    The Burr and Warner meeting with Dep AG had been requested prior to Comey’s firing but it did catch folks off guard that they were pulled from the intel meeting on global threats.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      The ‘global threat’ may have been a early warning about Wcry. But it also may have been BS to disrupt the hearing and waste time. There are lots of distractions these days. The signal is the noise. Just pay attention to actions and reactions. That will tell you more than the noise will tell you. This is especially important for Congress. There is a lot going on now, it is important that they are not distracted by the noise.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Also note that it would have been Comey at that hearing. So his firing is an ‘action’ that should be taken into consideration.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Another ‘action’ worth investigating:

      Who was involved in the interruption of the hearing?

      It was an ‘action’. There are clues there.

      Was it a distraction effort? Or did McCabe provide some ‘reading materials’? Suspect latter.

  9. John Casper says:

    Markos just tweeted, “@CNNSotu NEWS: Sen. Schumer says he agrees with Sen. Mark Warner – Dems should refuse to vote on an FBI director until a special prosecutor is named.”

    Markos followed that up with “Now take it a step furor and shut down Senate by refusing to grant unanimous consent on everything.”

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Can not happen until September. But that is what #UnfitForOffice called for, and he may get his wish.

      But, in the meantime, the investigations go on.

  10. SpaceLifeForm says:

    The old ‘intel inside’. EFF weighs in.

    https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/05/intels-management-engine-security-hazard-and-users-need-way-disable-it

    Since 2008, most of Intel’s chipsets have contained a tiny homunculus computer called the “Management Engine” (ME). The ME is a largely undocumented master controller for your CPU: it works with system firmware during boot and has direct access to system memory, the screen, keyboard, and network. All of the code inside the ME is secret, signed, and tightly controlled by Intel. Last week, vulnerabilities in the Active Management (AMT) module in some Management Engines have caused lots of machines with Intel CPUs to be disastrously vulnerable to remote and local attackers. While AMT can be disabled, there is presently no way to disable or limit the Management Engine in general. Intel urgently needs to provide one.

    [So, how much IC money has Intel sucked in over the years under a ‘contract/business partnership’ to do this?]

    [Billions of course]

    • lefty665 says:

      SLF re: “The old ‘intel inside’.  This kind of crap is why some of us have jumped the Intel ship for AMD. Although their systems generally do not have as much horsepower or bang for the buck as Intel’s and are still vulnerable, the intrusive technology is not nearly as tightly integrated as Intel’s, as pervasive or as mature. Folks have to work harder to get inside AMD based systems. Intel OOB was a huge warning flag by itself.

      Much of the AMT, ME, etc technology seems to be coming from Intel’s Israeli division. You can bet that the engineers who designed it can access any capability Intel puts inside from Haifa and their other locations in Israel. Israeli access to more than three quarters of the computers in the US makes any hacking the Russians might have done in the election small potatoes. Curious there’s no hue and cry about Israeli subversion of our information technology. Seems sort of like a magician distracting attention, “pssst look over here RUSSIA” while the other hand does the real dirty work.

      • SpaceLifeForm says:

        “Folks have to work harder to get inside AMD based systems. Intel OOB was a huge warning flag by itself.”

        And that tells the story of why Google uses AMD.

  11. GKJames says:

    I disagree. Democrats should consider whomever the president nominates, if only to facilitate the sensible functioning of government. There is no upside to doing anything else. Whether he obstructed justice is, on the facts to date, a squishy case. Further, the issue simply distracts Democrats  from the more issue of crafting a straightforward message with which to go to voters for the mid-terms. And with a White House brilliantly and incessantly creating shit piles all on its own, it’s wiser for Democrats not to get in the way of the stink that emanates from them. Having the president’s buffoonery front-and-center should be the primary aim. To the extent Democrats show up at all, it is to present a stark counterpoint: rational, humane and, above all, coherent.

    • P J Evans says:

      Currently the Rs are floating Joe LIEberman. I’d certainly want the Ds to do everything possible to torpedo that one.

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