Dear Lindsey: Not Even Trump Gives a Shit What You Think about the Whitaker Appointment

About the most competent thing Trump managed with his ham-handed roll out of a hatchet man to oversee the Mueller investigation was to pick someone with close ties to Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley. Matt Whitaker has driven all around Iowa with Grassley.

And somehow, Whitaker managed to have Gary Barnett, whose Linked In profile says he still works as Jeff Flake’s Chief Counsel, installed as his new Chief of Staff in time to attend Whitaker’s takeover strategy huddle, while Sessions huddled with Senate confirmed officials.

So whatever else he is or is not, Whitaker is certainly well wired with one of the committees that would have oversight on his actions.

Perhaps that’s why Lindsey Graham and CBS Face the Nation thought he’d be a good guest to opine that everything pertaining to Whitaker’s appointment is hunky dory.

Graham told “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan on Sunday he believes the acting attorney general was “appointed appropriately” and “legally,” and he’s “confident” Whitaker won’t interfere in Mueller’s ongoing investigation.

“I talked with Matt yesterday,” Graham said. “I’m going to meet with him next week when we get our schedules aligned here. I think he was appropriately appointed legally. I don’t think he has to recuse himself. I am confident the Mueller investigation will be allowed to come to a good solid conclusion, that there’ll be no political influence put on Mr. Mueller by Mr. Whitaker to do anything other than Mr. Mueller’s job. I’m confident that Mr. Mueller will be allowed to do his job without interference.”

To be clear: I’m not minimizing the degree to which Trump has eliminated one possible source of resistance to his hatchet man plan, by picking someone wired into SJC (and backed vocally by Leonard Leo, since Republican SJC members appear to answer to him).

But by picking Whitaker, Trump has affirmatively told the Senate they — and the professionals for whom they have spent the time to advise and consent — are expendable. After all, the sole reason to appoint Whitaker rather than rely on normal succession is to prevent Rosenstein from having oversight of investigations into Trump.

More importantly, while SJC could have a hearing and Lindsey promises he’ll meet with Whitaker, none of that will have an immediate effect. SJC has absolutely no way to prevent Whitaker from burning up all the norms critical to a functioning DOJ, including recusal where it clearly is called for. There’s not even a way to prevent Whitaker from trumping up some charge and firing Mueller before any such meeting happens.

And it’s not SJC’s place to judge if Whitaker’s appointment is illegal. That role belongs to OLC (whose head, Steven Engel, has already been in at least one discussion about whether it is constitutional) and the Courts. If the question gets to the latter, SJC is not among the leading entities that might have standing to challenge it.

Having Lindsey’s seal of approval might make it easier for Whitaker to last out the two months or so until Democrats take the House. But that will have zero role in whether Whitaker blows up the Constitution.

Lindsey (and CBS) think he matters here. That’s quaint.

In Defending His Whitaker Pick, Trump Attempts to Placate Both Republicans and Lawyers

President Trump flew all the way to Paris to (as far as we know) sit in the US Ambassador’s residence rather than attend the World War I remembrance he had flown all that way for. The stated reason was weather — basically some light drizzle in 50 degree temperatures.

I’m reminded that the other most prominent time Trump inexplicably blew off a high profile international event — when he had Ivanka sit in for him at the G-20 in July 2017 — he used the time instead scrambling with aides about how to craft a story about the June 9 meeting.

Given the way the Matt Whitaker appointment is blowing up — on top of persistent questions about the legality of the appointment, stories about the criminal investigation into his firm, (sketchy) claims that the White House knew nothing about his comments or past when they picked him, and additional reports of Whitaker’s radical legal belief, including that states can nullify federal law — I suspect he may similarly be huddled somewhere trying to prevent the Whitaker move from making his plight worse than it already was. (Though he’s demonstrably also working the phones in hopes of squeezing an extra Senate seat out of the process.)

Which is why I’m interested in the two tweets Trump made on the topic last night.

First, while also affirming his qualifications, Trump claimed (falsely) that he didn’t know Whitaker.

Yes, his claims here are narrower than the ones already debunked by his statements on Fox News the last time he tried to install Whitaker. He now admits to knowing Whitaker. But he falsely pretends that Sessions, not the White House, picked Whitaker. And he suggests, incorrectly, that he and others at the White House (including, per the NYT, Don McGahn when he was looking for an attack dog to work Trump’s defense) didn’t have direct contact with Whitaker.

President Trump first noticed Matthew G. Whitaker on CNN in the summer of 2017 and liked what he saw — a partisan defender who insisted there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. So that July, the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, interviewed Mr. Whitaker about joining the president’s team as a legal attack dog against the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

[snip]

The decision to fire Mr. Sessions and replace him with Mr. Whitaker had been in the works since September, when the president began asking friends and associates if they thought it would be a good idea, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The goal was not unlike the first time the White House considered hiring Mr. Whitaker. As attorney general, he could wind down Mr. Mueller’s inquiry like the president wanted.

Mr. McGahn, for one, was a big proponent of the idea. So was Leonard A. Leo, the executive vice president of the Federalist Society who regularly advises Mr. Trump on judges and other legal matters. Mr. Whitaker had also developed a strong rapport with John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff. Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, was a fan, too.

A team that has spent over a year claiming intermittently that Robert Mueller has a conflict because he interviewed to be FBI Director the day before he got named Special Counsel has made a guy who interviewed to be part of his defense team Attorney General.

All this creates an overwhelming appearance of a conflict, one DOJ’s ethical advisors — if they get the opportunity — would surely say disqualifies Whitaker from overseeing the Russian investigation.

So Trump, with his first tweet, is making false claims to try to deny these conflicts. It’s an appeal to lawyers — ethics lawyers at DOJ, constitutional lawyers questioning the legality of the appointment, and probably Mueller’s lawyers, who’ve been Hoovering up evidence relating to this latest obstruction of justice. This is the kind of performance tweeting Trump does all the time. It has no legal value — the lawyers he’s trying to influence will instead work with actual evidence — but it might lead his supporters to overlook egregious conflicts.

I’m more interested in his second tweet, posted 12 minutes later, touting that Republicans — most who worked or fought campaigns with him in IA — think highly of him.

Along with selling lawyers a lie, it seems, Trump feels the need to assure fellow Republicans (in the wake of losing many suburban women voters in part because of the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process) that it will be worth fighting for Whitaker. Sure, Iowa politicians matter for anyone thinking of running for office. It definitely helps that the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee has driven to all Iowa’s counties with Whitaker.

But the key validator here, of course, is Leonard Leo, who has been pushing Whitaker as part of a defense strategy. That is, Leo is not (yet) pushing Whitaker to be a judge, though I think it likely that’s how he expects to be paid off, which makes Leo’s involvement even more suspect. For now, though, Leo is instead pushing Whitaker to help wind down the Mueller probe.

And Trump wants fellow Republicans, who just got shellacked in the House and may not even extend their advantage in the Senate, to risk political capital to defend Whitaker, all the while blowing up a half century of conservative beliefs about appointments.

Yet, even with these two bids to placate two different audiences about the Whitaker move (and all the related bullshit about not knowing what a hack Whitaker is), Trump simply doesn’t address all the glaring problems with Whitaker, starting with the question about whether the appointment is even legal.

It’s always a mistake to underestimate Trump’s survival ability, and it may be that he’ll find a way to persuade the two audiences he’s trying to reassure that Whitaker is worth the risk.

But these tweets suggest a heavy-handed move he probably imagined would bring him salvation has just added to his headaches.

Mid-Terms: We’re All Out of Bubblegum

Finally. The day for which we’ve been waiting nearly two long years has arrived. We’re put to the test: who among us can see the threat and face it head on instead of hiding from reality?
Thanks much to those of you who’ve already voted, whether in early voting, absentee ballots, or at the polls this morning. You’ve passed the basic test of democracy.

Thanks in advance to those of you who will vote later today. Make sure you leave ample time to get to the polls. Be prepared to wait unless you’re one of the fortunate people who live in white GOP neighborhoods where there never seem to be too few booths or difficulty with polling locations. Do your homework about your ballot before you arrive at the polls.

Be prepared for bullshit, too, like Trumpsters’ barking dogs or ominous Border Patrol hovering around the neighborhood in El Paso conducting an oddly-timed crowd control exercise. Just ignore them and carry on. Stay in line until you’ve voted — the polls don’t stop until the last voter already in line at the time the polls close.

Check ACLU Voter website and enter your address for when to vote, where to vote, how incumbents rank on civil rights issues, and what key races are on your local ballot.

Speaking of which, there have been reports of polling locations “moved” without adequate advance notice — like California House district CA-22, where Devin Nunes defends his seat against candidate Andrew Janz. In this particular case the problem was the CA secretary of state’s website and appears to be fixed. Do allow extra time for hiccups like this. Contact your state’s secretary of state’s office to confirm your poll location if you have any doubts.

Know in advance what to do if poll workers say your name does not appear on the voter rolls, your voter registration is incomplete or not updated, or you’d asked for an absentee ballot but appeared at the polls instead — ask for a provisional or affidavit ballot to cast a vote. Visit the Brennan Center at this link for more information about what to do if you have problems at the polls.

If you experience any difficulty at the polls, contact Election Protection at 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683) and ask for assistance. Take these numbers with you and help others who may experience problems but need help with language:

Spanish speakers: 888-VE-Y-VOTA
Asian languages: 888-API-VOTE
Arabic speakers: 844-YALLA-US
American Sign Language video call number: 301-818-8683

Or text OUR VOTE to 97779 for assistance.

If you’ve already voted but still feel up to helping GOTV, visit BuildTheWave.org and volunteer to text voters today. See Nate Lerner’s tweet for an overview.

If you want to help voters who are having problems at the polls, you can donate to the Lawyers’ Committee — they are the legal folks volunteering to answer phones, record complaints,  and assist voters today.

Thanks for kicking ass and voting today. Treat this as an open thread with emphasis on election day news.

Mid-Terms: Planning is Everything

“I tell this story to illustrate the truth of the statement I heard long ago in the Army: Plans are worthless, but planning is everything. There is a very great distinction because when you are planning for an emergency you must start with this one thing: the very definition of “emergency” is that it is unexpected, therefore it is not going to happen the way you are planning.”

— Dwight D. Eisenhower

With Eisenhower’s sage words in mind, what are you planning for tomorrow’s mid-term elections? If you haven’t voted yet, what will you do to ensure you cast your vote? Don’t have just one plan — the car breaks down, the babysitter gets sick, the weather turns crappy, the dog runs away, pick whatever minor emergency you can imagine because shit happens. Have a Plan A and then a Plan B and a Plan C in place in order to vote.

I’m lucky because I can very nearly crawl to my polling place. I might have to dodge cars on a busy state highway but it’s so close I have no excuse not to vote even if there was a sudden and unexpected blizzard tomorrow.

Do you have kids? Can they manage if you take them to the polling place with you, or do you need a sitter or voting tag team? Can someone wait in the car and play games with the kids while you take turns voting? Do you have a “busy box” at the ready filled with smallish toys or crafts or books to keep youngsters occupied during a wait? I always had one of these in my car, used to put McDonald’s Happy Meal toys in it along with a small box of crayons and tiny boxes of LEGOs — they were perfect for waiting in restaurants let alone waiting in long lines.

What about school-age kids — will someone else pick them up or watch them after school, or can they go to the polls with you? I always took mine until they were old enough to stay at home; I wanted them to see that voting was a regular, ordinary thing people should do and that it was easy. It might be a different story for folks who live where lines are long and tedious, though.

Will your pets keep another hour or more if you need to wait in line that long? Can a neighbor walk/feed/water them for you? Can you offer to watch your neighbors’ kids or pets? That’s what I’ll be doing for a poll worker tomorrow, caring for an elderly pet which can’t be left alone. It’s a small price to ensure democracy works here in my backyard.

How about family in eldercare and any special needs folks? Will they be okay while you take the time to vote?

Yeah, yeah, you’ve got it all covered, you say. Great. Some people will have difficulty tomorrow; we’ve all heard and read myriad stories about voter suppression. If you’re all set, can you fight back against suppression and help someone else who needs a ride to the polls? Call your local political party office and ask if they need help providing rides. You could make a critical difference in places like Calvert County, Maryland, where GOP commissioners attempted to shut down public transportation for the day. Who knows what other “emergencies” might cause transportation problems for voters?

Can you offer water to people who have to stand in line in the heat to vote? What about calling in a pizza at Pizza to the Polls if you learn of a long line near you?

And what about your own voter information — your polling place, what time it opens and closes, what’s on the ballot? Have you confirmed those with your Secretary of State’s or county clerk’s office? Do NOT trust random phone calls or text messages to tell you where to vote. I’ve already gotten a bad phone call today claiming political party affiliation telling me my polling location is in another town and giving me the wrong candidates’ names. There will be a lot of these kind of monkeyshines and hoaxes over the next 24 hours. Be skeptical and make sure your family and friends are likewise savvy about their polling place and ballot.

AND TELL YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS NOT TO BLINDLY TRUST FACEBOOK, TWITTER, OR OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA ABOUT THE POLLS. Just like that bad phone call I got, there will be bad posts online, many with disinformation and misinformation about poll opening and closing times, many with information intended to suppress voter turnout.

Media reports about busy polling places and long lines worked to suppress Remain voters during the Brexit referendum. Ignore the horse race type election news and simply commit to voting and supporting other voters.

Still want election news but don’t want to feed personal information to suspect advertisers? Try Firefox’s Election Bundle if you haven’t already.

DailyKos Elections has a handy colored map showing poll closing times (all noted in Eastern time zone). Check their site for election news and resources, too.

Ballotpedia also has links to poll closing times — you can look yours up if you haven’t already checked with your Secretary of State’s or county clerk’s office.

Whatever you do, do NOT do this. We’ll regret it if you do.

No manicure will fix that planning failure.

Treat this as an open thread with emphasis on election-related content.

Judicial Watch’s Eighteen Month Soros Conspiracy Theory

Over the weekend, Judicial Watch’s head of investigations Chris Farrell went on Lou Dobbs and referred to the group of migrants Trump has dubbed a “caravan” as a,

highly organized, very sophisticated organization — I have that from the highest levels of the Guatemalan government — they’re investigating those groups criminally, and I strongly urge President Trump and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions to do the same here, a lot of these folks also have affiliates who are getting money from the Soros-occupied State Department, and that is a very grave concern.

When people noted that Farrell had been spewing the same kind of Protocols of the Elders of Zion conspiracy that Robert Bowers had embraced before shooting up the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and that such conspiracy theorizing had led Cesar Sayoc to send a bomb to Soros, Fox took down the segment (but not before showing it twice) and claimed it would no longer welcome Farrell.

Today, Radio Televisión Martí also pulled a Judicial Watch sourced segment attacking Soros in Cuba that Mother Jones pointed to in the wake of last week’s assassination attempt.

Radio Televisión Martí, a network overseen by the U.S. government that broadcasts to Cuba, pulled a video segment it produced months ago that relied on material from the conservative group Judicial Watch and referred to Democratic donor George Soros as a “multimillionaire Jew,” Mother Jones reported last week.

“George Soros has his eye on Latin America. But Judicial Watch, an American investigative legal group, also has its eye on Soros and what it sees as his lethal influence to destroy democracies,” the narrator of the segment says in the video, according to an English translation published by Mother Jones. “It describes him as a millionaire investor and stock market speculator who exploits capitalism and Wall Street to finance anti-system movements that fill his pockets.”

The video also refers to Soros as “the multimillionaire Jew of Hungarian origin whose fortune is estimated at $8 billion” and “a non-believing Jew of flexible morals,” according to Mother Jones.

While the assassination attempt has generated focus on Judicial Watch’s actions, what has not been explained, is how Judicial Watch came to include Soros on its beat, which otherwise for the last several years has remained focused on the themes of the 2016 election (and for basically the history of the organization has been focused unrelentingly on Hillary Clinton). They’re still looking for Hillary emails, and other than a break to push the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation, currently spend most of their time trying to discredit the Mueller investigation. They’re even still trying to use Tony Podesta’s involvement in Paul Manafort’s corruption to suggest John Podesta had a role in such things.

The organization is awful, but they’re not primarily awful in an unreconstructed racist sense.

There are some thematic sympathies, to be sure. JW has supported Trump’s Muslim ban. They’ve done some lawsuits on where refugees were resettled under the Obama Administration. JW sued for information on unaccompanied minors in custody under the Obama Administration, claiming they had ties to gangs and other crimes. Even before Farrell’s “caravan” comments, he and JW President Tom Fitton were calling to militarize the border.

Just as notably, the premise behind Farrell’s coverage of this issue and presence on Lou Dobbs’ show over the weekend (though he has been a very regular guest on Dobbs’ show) — that he recently took a fact-finding trip to investigate the “caravan” — is also a departure from Judicial Watch’s normal investigative approach, which involves endless FOIAs rather than reporting trips.

JW is pitching its coverage of the “caravan” as part of its “corruption chronicles” which are normally focused on the US government, perhaps based on its claim that there is financial support for migrants in Central America.

Here’s one of the reports from his trip — which seems more like an effort to air right wing governments’ propaganda about migrants than any evidence of corruption.

The migrant caravan marching northbound through Central America is an “elaborately planned” movement that’s benefiting human smugglers and bringing disturbing numbers of violent gang members and other criminal elements through Guatemala, according to government sources in the capital city. “MS-13 gang members have been detained and coyotes (human smugglers) are joining the march with clients who pay to get smuggled into the United States,” a Guatemalan official told Judicial Watch. People from Asian countries waiting to get smuggled into the U.S. through Central America are also integrating with poor Hondurans in the caravan, a high-level Guatemalan government source confirmed. Among them are nationals of Bangladesh, a south Asian Islamic country that’s well known as a recruiting ground for terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). “There are lots of dirty businesses associated with this,” Guatemalan authorities told Judicial Watch. “There’s lots of human trafficking.”

Sandwiched between Honduras and Mexico, Guatemala has been overrun with the onslaught of migrants that began their journey last week in the northern Honduran city of San Pedro Sula. At last count around 7,000 have participated in the trek, a great deal of them rowdy, angry men ages 17 to 40. President Jimmy Morales has ordered the military and police to detain all of the migrants and facilitate their safe return back to Honduras, though thousands have already reached the Mexican border. In a morning interview with Judicial Watch at the Guatemalan Ministry of Defense, Secretary of Defense General Luis Miguel Ralda Moreno said more than 2,000 Hondurans have been sent back home on buses. “We’re doing everything possible to stop the caravan while still respecting human rights,” General Moreno said.

During an afternoon interview at the National Palace, President Morales said that Guatemala has absorbed the huge cost of mobilizing police and military to return thousands of people to Honduras. He would like the United States to help him find the organizers of the caravan so they can face legal consequences. “Mass immigration like this endangers lives,” Morales said. “This is unprecedented. We are in the process of investigating who is behind the caravan.” Morales assures that Guatemala is doing everything possible to curb illegal immigration and asked for cooperation from the United States.

But as it turns out, and as the Radio Televisión Martí piece makes clear,  JW’s attacks on Soros go back further, at least 18 months.

The effort publicly started in February 2017, as tensions between the right wing government and the opposition in Macedonia started heating up. At that point, JW accused Soros of engaging in a “clandestine” effort to overthrow the government, one based on a Viktor Orbán accusation (remember that Orbán is about to shut down Soros’ Central European University, an effort launched around the same time as this JW effort).

Here’s how the clandestine operation functions, according to high-level sources in Macedonia and the U.S. that have provided Judicial Watch with records as part of an ongoing investigation. The Open Society Foundation has established and funded dozens of leftwing, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Macedonia to overthrow the conservative government. One Macedonian government official interviewed by Judicial Watch in Washington D.C. recently, calls it the “Soros infantry.” The groups organize youth movements, create influential media outlets and organize violent protests to undermine the institutions and policies implemented by the government. One of the Soros’ groups funded the translation and publication of Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” into Macedonian. The book is a tactical manual of subversion, provides direct advice for radical street protests and proclaims Lucifer to be the first radical. Thanks to Obama’s ambassador, who has not been replaced by President Trump, Uncle Sam keeps the money flowing so the groups can continue operating and recruiting, sources in Macedonia and the U.S. confirm.

With a population of about 2 million, Macedonia has one of the more conservative governments in Europe. This includes the lowest flat tax in Europe, close ties with Israel and pro-life policies. The country recently built a border fence to crackdown on an illegal immigration crisis that overwhelmed law enforcement agencies. Between 10,000 and 12,000 illegal aliens were crossing the Greek-Macedonian border daily at the peak of the European migration crisis, a Macedonian official told Judicial Watch, and the impact was devastating. This is likely of big interest to Soros, a renowned open borders advocate who pushes international governance, diminished U.S. global power and an increase in Muslim immigration. Soros spent tens of millions of dollars to support Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Just this month Hungary’s prime minister lashed out against Soros for funding groups to secretly influence the country’s politics. “Large-bodied predators are swimming here in the waters,” said Viktor Orban in his annual state of the nation speech. “This is the trans-border empire of George Soros, with tons of money and international heavy artillery.”

JW started suing for State documents on Soros’ involvement in Macedonia in April 2017. In May of that year, Mike Lee and five other GOP Senators started probing why State fosters democracy. This year, JW has sued for information on State-funded Soros programs in Romania, Colombia and Albania. The Radio Televisión Martí piece makes it clear they’re focusing on Cuba, too.

Perhaps most interesting, however, is a May 21 piece Farrell did on Lou Dobbs, (this came in the wake of the Concord Management filing complaining about the same, but I’m still working on pulling up the full episode to see if that’s what it was a reference to) in which he claimed that President Obama pursued a policy of regime change overseas, at times funded by Soros, which Dobbs suggested may have prompted Putin’s own tampering.

That is, not only are JW and Dobbs complaining that Soros is undermining right wing governments, but at least once, they made the argument that Soros’ open society work justified Putin’s own tampering in 2016.

Update: This InfoWars piece pointing to JW’s Albanian documents to sustain a claim that JW has proven the caravan is funded by Soros relies on both JW’s FOIAed documents and documents leaked by dcleaks in 2016. While I’m definitely not suggesting a link, by using both JW FOIAed documents and GRU stolen ones, InfoWars ties Putin’s 2016 effort to JW’s current ones.

Update: This post says the conspiracy theory linking Soros to the caravan dates to March.

The claims of a direct link between intentional SºRºS funding and the Latin/Central America ⊂⟑r⟑v⟑n appeared on March 30th. Of course, this was a different caravan. But it is the origin of the larger theme and keywords. It was amplified in April and May by TheBl⟑ze, WND, along with the usual actors, rage blogs, and sketchy K.⟑.G. cyborg accounts. And by MSN headlines, fact checks, and aggressive left-wing “retort” sites.

Let’s begin from the start. To be clear, I don’t mean all the SºRºS-funding rumors, but specifically the damaging Latin America-related ⊂⟑r⟑v⟑n-funding, midterm election impacting one.

Update: The employees behind the Radio Televisión Martí ads have been suspended and may get fired.

The federal government’s state-funded broadcasting arm is placing a number of employees on administrative leave and opening an investigation into how it ended up airing a story this year attacking liberal financier George Soros as a malignant “multimillionaire Jew.”

The story aired in May on Radio Televisión Martí, a Spanish-language broadcaster housed in the Office of Cuba Broadcasting in Miami. OCB is a division of the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM), formerly known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors, an independent federal agency that oversees government-funded news organizations around the world.

[snip]

“Those deemed responsible for this production will be immediately placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into their apparent misconduct,” Lansing added. “Disciplinary action appropriate under federal law may then be proposed, including the potential removal of those responsible, depending on the outcome of that investigation.”

 

Trump Refuses to Keep This Country Safe from Terrorism

I thought a lot about two things over the weekend.

I thought about the line that disqualifies an otherwise excellent book on left wing terrorism in the 1970s, Days of Rage: “With the possible exception of the Ku Klux Klan,” author Bryan Burrough claimed close to the beginning of the book, “the United States until 1970 had never spawned any kind of true underground movement committed to terrorist acts.” The book, which spends a lot of time talking about left wing political violence in significant part stemmed out of a concern for the rights of African Americans, utterly dismissed (perhaps because it was so widely accepted it could barely be called “underground”?) America’s most persistent terrorist movement as such. The line has haunted me ever since as an example of the kind of blindness even experts have about the centrality of right wing terrorism in American history.

I thought, too, about Charlie Savage’s description in Power Wars of how Scott Brown’s team claimed that his polling showed he won the 2010 special election to replace Ted Kennedy chiefly because of perceptions of how Obama responded to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s failed Christmas Eve bombing, because Brown attacked Obama for wanting to give terrorists due process. Once Republicans learned that, they doubled down, encouraging voters to become more afraid.

In a question-and-answer period following his prepared remarks, [Mitch] McConnell candidly acknowledged the political advantage of hammering away at the issue, citing Brown’s victory.

“If this approach of putting these people in U.S. courts doesn’t play in Massachusetts, I don’t know where it sells,” McConnell said, adding: “You can campaign on these issues anywhere in America.”

As Savage describes, that was when Obama started caving on his efforts to adopt a more reasonable approach to terrorism, first reversing Eric Holder’s decision to try the 9/11 defendants in NYC, then launching an 18-month campaign to drone kill Anwar al-Awlaki, and ultimately failing to close Gitmo or hold torturers to account.

Now, as Savage tells it, all that arose solely out of the Abdulmutallab case. He barely covered an event that preceded it, one where Republicans very much set up the Brown lines: when Pete Hoekstra leaked information obtained via FISA collection showing that Nidal Hasan had had communications with Awlaki before his attack on Fort Hood, using it to suggest the Obama Administration should have prevented the Fort Hood attack by adequately analyzing collected communications. Republican efforts to exact a cost from Obama for a more reasonable approach to terrorism (which included demanding that Obama call Hasan’s attack on a military target, terrorism) actually preceded the Abdulmutallab attack, and it was far more deliberate than made out.

The point is, though, that it had the short term desired effect of breaking the Democratic super majority in the Senate and the longer term effect of making Obama reactive on terrorism, rather than proactive (even through the time, in 2013, when Massachusetts was successfully attacked at the Boston Marathon and polls showed people actually didn’t want any more limits on civil liberties). Republicans deliberately and successfully forced a president who wanted to be something other than a War on Terror President to instead be just that.

And now, 8 years after Mitch McConnell gleefully said Republicans should run on hard nose accountability for terrorist attacks everywhere, Republicans are whining that Democrats are treating Trump’s actions in advance of and in the wake of serial right wing terrorist attacks last week as a political issue.

In the wake of last week’s terrorist attacks, we have returned to a discussion we always have after such things, why we call Islamic terrorism terror, but call the targeting of black churches and Jewish synagogues hate crimes and the attempted assassination of Democratic figures bomb attacks. Popehat wrote a worthy lawsplainer, from the viewpoint of a former prosecutor, why domestic terrorists don’t get (immediately) labeled as terrorist attacks. 9/11 Commission staffer Daniel Byman acknowledged that while we don’t have the same legal structure for pursuing domestic terrorist as we do terrorism with a foreign nexus, for the Pittsburgh case, at least, we should probably use the T-word.

I’ve talked about why it is important to call domestic terrorism terrorism here: First, because not doing so results in an equal protection problem, where Muslims are more likely to be targeted in a sting because the FBI has greater access to the communications of still-innocent people with suspect people overseas. And, because calling something terrorism conceives of the possibility of a supporting network, and investigating that network might prevent deaths, such as those perpetrated by the networks of Eric Rudolph or Kevin Harpham.

But the government may not call these acts terrorism. That’s true, in part, because DOJ has invented a separate category to criminalize (impose the death penalty on) hateful motives with hate crimes designation. In addition, Jeff Sessions’ DOJ has adopted a deliberate policy of record-keeping to try to claim that the greatest threats come from outside the country, which is paralleled by their thus far unsuccessful attempt to brand the (US-born) MS-13 gang both as a threat sourced from Central American and as a threat to rival ISIS.

Trump’s effort to brand a group of refugees 1,000 miles from the border as a more urgent threat to the country than corruption or climate change or domestic gun violence — an effort which likely had a tie to both Cesar Sayoc’s terrorist attempt and Robert Bowers’ mass killing — is more of the same, an effort to claim that the most critical threats are foreign and anything he deems a threat is therefore un-American, also foreign.

Ultimately, the reason why the government won’t call last week’s attacks terrorism, however, is precisely the reason they should. Call them terror attacks, and the networks of support and enablers get investigated rather than just isolated men treated as lone wolves. Call them terror attacks, and we start to ask what responsibility Lou Dobbs or Steve King or Chris Farrell (or the people who vote for and fund them) — or Donald Trump — have for the attacks, in the same way we held Anwar al-Awlaki responsible for his role in the terrorist attacks that Scott Brown exploited to get elected.

Byman describes correctly how contentious this can be, because those espousing the same policies as terrorists don’t want to be associated with those terrorist acts.

[D]omestic terrorism often has a bigger political impact than jihadi violence. A foreign-based attack brings America together in the face of tragedy. But right-wing (and left-wing) violence is more likely to divide the country. Just this week, for example, 56-year-old Cesar Sayoc reportedly sent explosive packages to CNN, Democratic politicians, and others seen as “enemies” of Trump. Some right-wing voices immediately embraced conspiracy theories rather than recognizing his activities for what it was. Domestic terrorists poke at bigger political wounds than do jihadis, with at least some Americans sympathizing with their cause even as they reject their violent means.

In turn, observers often avoid the word “terrorism” because peaceful proponents of right-wing and left-wing causes don’t want to be lumped together, even by weak association, with terrorists. We can and should recognize that most political groups of all stripes abhor violence. Doing so—while also acknowledging that the groups and individuals who don’t belong in a separate category—will better enable the United States to isolate extremists and cut them off before the next tragedy.

Which is why this post bears the headline, “Trump refuses to keep this country safe from terrorism” rather than Trump fosters terrorism, even if I believe the latter to be the case.

Because until the time those willing to coddle Trump’s racism in the name of tribal loyalty are defeated politically, they will want to pitch questions about what to label Cesar Sayoc and Robert Bowers’ actions as an attack on themselves.

Instead, let’s make it an attack on Donald Trump’s basic competence as President, one the Republicans themselves, from top to bottom, have embraced.

It is the Republican party of Karl Rove and Mitch McConnell and Scott Brown and (Trump Ambassador to the Netherlands) Pete Hoekstra that says a President who won’t keep the country safe from terrorism must be defeated politically. Me, I’d rather deal with all this domestic terrorism by first closely tracking those accused of domestic violence (which would have the effect of preventing non-ideological mass killings along with the ideological mass killings and attempts) and by noting that under George W Bush and Obama, the FBI was actually pretty good at discovering right wing terrorism without the tools they have against Islamic terrorism. I’d rather Democrats run on the fear of losing health insurance or the impact of climate change or gun violence generally.

But not Republicans. Republicans believe that a President who refuses to take a very aggressive approach to terrorism should not be President. So for those Republicans, let’s make this an issue not of the ways Trump’s network fostered actions like we saw last week, but how Trump’s Administration has chosen not to combat terrorism.

Who Is Paying Kevin Downing’s Bills to Serve as Trump’s Mole?

I want to return to the report from Monday describing Rudy Giuliani claiming that Kevin Downing continues to keep him abreast of what Paul Manafort has told prosecutors, and that Manafort has not yet said anything incriminating about Trump.

Rudy Giuliani, who represents Trump in the Russia probe, told Reuters that he had spoken with Manafort’s lawyer, Kevin Downing, as recently as last week. Manafort pleaded guilty on Sept. 14 to violating foreign lobbying laws and trying to obstruct justice. He was convicted at trial in another case in August.

Giuliani said the conversations were occurring under a so-called joint defense agreement, which allows lawyers who represent different clients to exchange information without violating attorney-client privilege.

[snip]

Manafort is talking to Special Counsel Robert Mueller “about a lot of things, none of which are incriminating with regard to the president,” Giuliani said in one of several conversations with Reuters this month.

Giuliani said he was told by Downing that Manafort had met with Mueller’s team roughly a half dozen times.

[snip]

Giuliani said Downing had not shared specific facts with him regarding Manafort’s discussions with prosecutors.

“He’s just telling me the conclusion that he’s not in a conflicted position with us,” said Giuliani, who has been very public in his defense of Trump, appearing regularly on TV disputing aspects of the investigation and calling it a political witch hunt just as the president has.

The report is sourced entirely to Rudy. (Given that it shows up in a story relying on Rudy as a source, the claim that Mueller is working on a report probably comes from Rudy too). Downing declined to comment.

It also differs in one key respect from a CNN report from last Wednesday, which describes Manafort and his lawyers meeting with Mueller’s team at least nine times, three more than Rudy claims to know about.

At least nine times since he pleaded guilty on September 14, a black Ford SUV has brought Manafort to Mueller’s office in southwest DC around 10 am. Manafort’s lawyers arrive around the same time, waiting in the lobby for the car to arrive. There they remain inside the offices, typically for six hours.

It’s not entirely clear yet what Manafort has shared with prosecutors, and if his interviews check facts that haven’t yet come to light outside of the prosecutors’ own notes. Among the questions, investigators have asked Manafort about his dealings with Russians, according to one source familiar with the matter.

Mind you, these two reports aren’t necessarily incompatible. It could be that Rudy spoke with Downing on October 14 (so, the beginning of last week), and Manafort paid three more visits to Mueller’s team on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of last week. Or it could be that, as on all other matters, Rudy’s command of actual details is not great.

Still, both reports make it clear Manafort has spent a lot of quality time with Mueller’s team of late, and Rudy claims to know that none of that quality time has incriminated the president.

Before we consider why that might be, consider that Manafort’s plea was built to allow this. Manafort’s plea lacks this clause that appears in Rick Gates’ cooperation agreement, forbidding Gates to share any information learned while cooperating with others.

Mueller surely could have included that clause in Manafort’s plea, but did not.

And while both plea deals include a paragraph waiving the right to have counsel present for cooperation sessions, that waiver can be rescinded on written notice to Mueller’s office.

SCO’s spokesperson Peter Carr declined to provide any information on the circumstances surrounding Manafort’s cooperation.

One way or another, though, Manafort’s plea does permit his lawyers to sit in on meetings, and without that gag, they can pass on what they learn to Trump’s lawyers so long as the ethical obligations surrounding a Joint Defense Agreement permit it.

I can even think of a good reason Mueller might not mind that Trump is getting updates about Manafort’s testimony. It’s a good way to stave off whatever rash action Trump will take if and when Mueller starts to focus more explicitly on him. That’s particularly important as Mueller’s team waits for Trump to turn in his open book test and provide whatever kind of follow-up Special Counsel might require. Trump thinks he has full visibility into the risk Mueller poses to him, and so will be less likely to panic about it.

Perhaps (as indicated by the CNN report) Mueller is using this period to glean all that Manafort knows about the Russian side of the conspiracy. Once Manafort has shared stuff that exposes him to the risk of retaliation from a bunch of Russian oligarchs, then Mueller can start walking him through what he knows about a different kind of vindictive oligarch.

Thus far, then, I can at least come to grips with the report of a continued JDA, even if it violates everything people think they know about JDAs.

What I don’t understand, however, is who is paying for Kevin Downing’s legal bills?

Using CNN’s report (based off their really valuable stake-out), Manafort has lawyers, plural, at these sessions and they had already had — through last Wednesday — around 54 hours of meetings with Mueller’s team. Assuming just two attorneys present and a very conservative $500 hourly fee, Manafort’s attorneys would have billed $54,000 just for in-person time; the real amount might be twice that.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson has already approved the order permitting DOJ to move towards seizing some $46 million in money and property tied to Manafort’s ill-gotten gains (they had to wait until October 20 to start moving on Manafort’s Trump Tower apartment), so the process of stripping these assets before any Trump pardon could forestall that process is already in the works. One explanation for Manafort accepting a plea deal was to save the cost of a trial, but his lawyers have already spent over a week’s worth of time sitting in on his cooperation sessions. Paul Manafort has been going slowly but spectacularly bankrupt since March 2016 (though he remarkably still employs a spokesperson), and forfeiture only speeds that process.

So who just paid upwards of $50K to make sure Rudy G would continue to get reassuring reports that Manafort has yet to flip on the President?

As I disclosed in July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s Paid Trolls Prove His Legal Challenge to His Indictment To Be False

I have long argued that the most visible error that Robert Mueller’s team has made thus far in their investigation of Russian involvement in the 2016 election was in charging Concord Management as part of the Internet Research Agency indictment. Doing so effectively charged Vladimir Putin’s crony, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, in both his natural and corporate form, giving him a way to defend against the charges without having to show up in person in the US to do so. On April 11, almost two months after first being indicted (and after Prigozhin assumed an official role in management of Concord so he could claim he needed to be personally involved in any defense of the company), some American lawyers from Reed Smith showed up to start defending Concord against the charges.

By paying money to have lawyers defend his corporate self against trolling accusations, Prigozhin got the opportunity to do several things:

  • Obtain discovery about what the government knew of his companies’ efforts and communications with (among others) Vladimir Putin
  • Challenge Robert Mueller’s authority as Special Counsel
  • Dispute Mueller’s theory that online trolls operated by foreigners should be subject to regulation under campaign finance law and DOJ’s Foreign Agents Registration Act (as well as laws prohibiting visa fraud)

Thus far, Prigozhin’s efforts have done no real damage. Mueller found a way to limit what Prigozhin could look at by requiring his lawyers keep most discovery here in the US. And he beat back Prigozhin’s first challenge to his authority in Judge Dabney Friedrich’s District Court; Concord has submitted an amicus brief in Roger Stone aide Andrew Miller’s challenge to Mueller’s authority under the same theory, but it won’t get a chance to appeal Friedrich’s decision itself unless the case actually goes to trial.

Prigozhin’s third challenge, to Mueller’s theory of the case, poses more of a problem. While Special Counsel has lots of case law to argue that when charging ConFraudUS you don’t need to prove the underlying crimes (here, that Prigozhin’s trolls committed campaign finance, FARA, and visa fraud violations), Prigozhin’s lawyers nevertheless have argued — starting formally in a brief filed on July 15 — that those poor Russian trolls sowing division in the US had no way of knowing they were supposed to register with the FEC and DOJ before doing so, and so could not be accused of fraudulently hiding their Russian nationality, location, and funding. Effectively, the brief argued over and over and over — some form of the word “willful” shows up 99 times in the filing, “mens rea” shows up 33 times, “knowingly” shows up 58 times — that these poor Russian trolls just can’t be shown to have willfully violated America’s laws against unregistered foreign influence peddling because they had no way to know about those laws.

No case has specifically addressed whether a willfulness mens rea is required in a § 371 defraud conspiracy case like this one. But that is only because of the novelty of this Indictment. In circumstances where, as here, complex regulations are implicated against a foreign national with no presence in the United States, and the threat of punishing innocent conduct is extant, courts frequently have expressed the need for a heightened mens rea requirement. And even in those cases favored by the Special Counsel in his prior briefing, which he erroneously believes serve to relax the standard for criminal intent—requiring only some vague proof that Concord knew “on some level” the existence of some unspecified “regulatory apparatus” governing foreign nationals who participate in some fashion in United States elections (Hr’g Tr. 9:17–22)— the concerns over the proof of mens rea are evident, just as they should be in any conspiracy case. It is simply impossible for any person, whether a foreign national or a U.S. citizen, to have any knowledge of, let alone understand, the Special Counsel’s imaginary “on some level” mens rea standard. Further, none of the cases relied upon by the Special Counsel provide any reason not to impose a willfulness requirement in this case.

As Mueller’s August 15 response emphasized, the trolls focused their challenge to this indictment on Brett Kavanaugh well before he was confirmed.

Concord repeatedly invokes (at 1, 7, 17, 19, 20, 23-24, 27, 31, 32) Judge Kavanaugh’s majority opinion in Bluman v. Federal Election Comm’n, 800 F. Supp. 2d 281 (D.D.C. 2011), sum aff’d, 565 U.S. 1104 (2012), and his concurring opinion in United States v. Moore, 612 F.3d 698 (D.C. Cir. 2010), but neither addresses Section 371. Bluman—a civil case—assessed the constitutionality of the ban on non-citizens’ political expenditures and cautioned that, when the government “seek[s] criminal penalties for violations of th[at] provision” (which requires a defendant “act ‘willfully’”), the government must prove the defendant’s “knowledge of the law.” 800 F. Supp. 2d at 292 (citation omitted; emphasis added). Similarly, Moore concerned a violation of Section 1001, which “proscribes only those false statements that are ‘knowingly and willfully’ made.’” 612 F.3d at 702 (Kavanaugh, J., concurring) (emphasis added). Accordingly, Judge Kavanaugh opined, the government must prove that “the defendant knew his conduct was a crime.” Id. at 704. Because Count One need not allege a violation of a substantive offense other than Section 371 and that statute does not contain an express “willful” element, Bluman and Moore contribute nothing to Concord’s mens rea argument.

Kavanaugh, Kavanaugh, Kavanaugh, Kavanaugh, Kavanaugh, Kavanaugh, Kavanaugh, Kavanaugh, Kavanaugh, the troll lawyers have been chanting since 6 days after he was nominated. And while Mueller’s team argued that those past Kavanaugh opinions did not address ConFraudUS, the newest Supreme Court Justice clearly believes any legal limits on foreign influence peddling must be clearly conveyed to those foreigners doing their influence peddling. Kavanaugh’s elevation, then, presented the real possibility that by charging Concord, Mueller might make it easier for foreigners to tamper in our election than for Americans.

Moreover, it looked like Trump appointee Dabney Friedrich (who gave the challenge to Mueller’s authority far more consideration than she should have) was sympathetic to the troll challenge to the indictment.  Not only did Friedrich seem sympathetic to the Concord challenge in a hearing on Monday, on Thursday she ordered Mueller’s team to be more specific about whether the trolls had to — and knew they had to — register with the FEC and DOJ.

Specifically, should the Court assume for purposes of this motion that neither Concord nor its co-conspirators knowingly or unknowingly violated any provision, civil or criminal, of FECA or FARA by failing to report expenditures or by failing to register as a foreign agent?

That is the genius (and I suspect, the entire point) of the complaint against Prigozhin’s accountant, Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, who oversees the funding of all these trolls, which was unsealed yesterday.

It provides proof that Prigozhin and Concord continued to engage in ConFraudUS long after receiving notice, in the form of that February 16 indictment, that the US considered engaging in such trolling without registration a crime.

Among the overt acts of the conspiracy, for example, the complaint describes Khusyaynova:

  • Requesting payment from Concord for trolling expenses on February 21, February 28, March 6, April 6, May 8, May 10, June 1, June 4, June 9, and July 10, 2018
  • Submitting a 107 million ruble budget in March to cover April’s expenditures, a 111 million ruble budget in April to cover May’s expenditures, and a 114 million budget for June in June (the complaint calculates these budgets to amount to over $5.25 million, though not all of that got spent in the US)
  • Following up with a Concord employee on April 11 and 12 to make sure one of Concord’s laundering vehicles, Almira LLC, paid its part of the budget for March expenditures
  • Spending $60,000 in Facebook ads and $6,000 in Instagram ads between January and June of this year
  • Spending $18,000 for “bloggers” and “developing accounts” on Twitter between January and June

In other words, the complaint shows that even after Concord got indicted for spending all this money to influence American politics, even after it hired lawyers to claim it didn’t know spending all that money was illegal, it continued to spend the money without registering with FEC or DOJ. The very same day Prigozhin’s lawyers filed their attorney appearances in court in DC, his accountant in St. Petersburg was laundering more money to pay for trolling.

But the true genius of the complaint comes in the evidence of trolling it cites. As noted, the complaint cites two trolls tweeting about the February 16 indictment of their own trolling.

@JemiSHaaaZzz (this was an RT): Dear @realDonaldTrump: The DOJ indicted 13 Russian nationals at the Internet Research Agency for violating federal criminal law to help your campaign and hurt other campaigns. Still think this Russia thing is a hoax and a witch hunt? Because a lot of witches just got indicted.

[snip]

@JohnCopper16: Russians indicted today: 13 Illegal immigrants crossing Mexican border indicted today: 0 Anyway, I hope that all those Internet Research Agency f*ckers will be sent to gitmo.

@JohnCopper16: We didn’t vote for Trump because of a couple of hashtags shilled by the Russians. We voted for Trump because he convinced us to vote for Trump. And we are ready to vote for Trump again in 2020!

Prigozhin has paid 7 months of legal fees arguing that he had no idea that this was a crime, even while paying $5 million, part of which paid his own trolls to describe being indicted for “violating federal criminal law” and asking to be sent to Gitmo for that crime.

And his trolls continued to claim they had knowledge of American campaign law, as when on March 14, almost a month after the indictment, @TheTrainGuy13 reposted a pro-Trump tweet noting that voter fraud is a felony.

The complaint even cites @KaniJJackson tweeting about a Net Neutrality vote on May 17, well after Reed Smith had told the court they were representing Concord to make claims that Prigozhin had no idea unregistered political trolling was illegal.

Ted Cruz voted to repeal #NetNeutrality. Let’s save it and repeal him instead.

Here’s the list of GOP senators who broke party lines and voted to save #NetNeutrality: Susan Collins John N Kennedy Lisa Murkowski Thank you!

Since July, Prigozhin’s Reed Smith lawyers have spent 326 pages briefing their claim that their poor foreign client and his trolls had no way of knowing that the United States expected him and his trolls to register before tampering in US politics. Even while they were doing that, in a complaint filed in sealed form three weeks ago, on September 28, DOJ had compiled proof that even after receiving official notice of the fact that the US considered that a crime on February 16, even after Prigozhin showed on April 11 his knowledge that the US considered that a crime by hiring attorneys to argue he couldn’t have known, he and his accountant and his trolls continued trolling.

As persuasive as Reed Smith lawyers have been in arguing Prigozhin couldn’t have known this was illegal, his trolls have laid out far better proof that he knew he was breaking the law.

As I disclosed July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

Three Things: Can’t Keep Quiet


This was the unofficial anthem of January 2017’s Women’s March. I needed the reminder this Monday after the insult of Kavanaugh’s nomination.

Speaking of insults…

~ 3 ~

It must be the current propaganda theme common to both Republicans and the Kremlin to mock women who stand up for themselves.

Senator McConnell thinks he and his white gerontocracy were attacked by mean old feminists, telling the audience at a press conference in Kentucky, “I couldn’t be prouder of the Senate Republican Conference. We were standing up for the presumption of innocence in this country . . . And secondly, we were literally under assault . . . There was a full-scale effort to intimidate.”

Oh Turtlehead. You are so feeble and an insult to the state of Kentucky.

Meanwhile Russian media has been pushing a fake video showing women attacking men for ‘manspreading’. The video spread rapidly but goodness knows how much of that is bot traffic. The intent is incitement of anger and violence against feminists specifically and women at large though the truth is the overwhelming majority of women would never attempt anything like that in the fake video for fear of immediate physical reprisal by men.

There’s really no need for incitement. Women are far more likely to be attacked as one woman was this weekend outside Detroit, shot after she refused a man’s advances. Three women die each day in the U.S. of domestic violence.

But McConnell and GOP senators were under assault. Right.

~ 2 ~

After songwriter, musician, and singer Taylor Swift posted on Instagram against GOP senate candidate Marsha Blackburn, another clueless old white dude came out to taunt and insult her and her fans.

Swift’s 28 years old; she’s been a number one hit performer for the last dozen years. The majority of her fans range in age from tweens to retirees, in no small part because she began her career in country music rather than pop rock. She has nearly 84 million followers on Twitter alone and I’m sure there are far fewer bots as a percentage than there are following Trump. Swift’s got one hell of a microphone.

But do go ahead, Huckster Huckabee, and mock them. I’m sure this will persuade them to vote for Blackburn.

~ 1 ~

The only nit I have with Swift’s social media plea to vote for Democratic candidate Phil Bredesen (and not Blackburn) is that she should have done this a week or more ago. There are many states with deadlines for registration TODAY and TUESDAY this week. Celeste_pewter has the details in this Twitter thread.

If you haven’t registered, drop everything and do so now. If you know of someone who hasn’t, drop everything and help them right now.

Pay particular heed to college students living on campus and those who are stuck at home due to disability and illness. Help them with registration and obtaining an absentee ballot.

What are you waiting for? Another insult?

~ 0 ~

This is an open thread.

Kennedy

Anthony Kennedy just announced his retirement, giving Trump a second SCOTUS appointment.

Things just got serious. That, after SCOTUS just gutted public sector unions and upheld Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry.

Trump has said he’ll pick someone from his existing list, which includes lots of horrible people, as well as Mike Lee, who at least is good on civil liberties albeit horrible on cultural issues. Both bmaz and I think it’ll be Brett Kavanaugh, who’s very smart and has been groomed for this for a long time.

While this likely will end up absolutely horribly, here are several reasons it might end up less than horribly:

  • At the very least, this will focus this fall’s election, and SCOTUS just did a lot of things that will be horrible for Democratic voters, which should clarify issues
  • Any two GOP Senators (one, depending on what happens with McCain) can make demands. That means that a Corker-Flake-McCain (if he’s voting) axis could heavily influence the pick, if they chose to use that as their legacy in the Senate.

bmaz, on the other hand, is a realist. He figures this will put a third Alito-type on SCOTUS, which will doom us for as long as those young men remain around (even assuming RBG lives forever).

Finally, one more point. While Kennedy has been the swing vote for a decade, in fact this year John Roberts was often in that role. So as awful as he is, he may be more willing to work with Democrats to retain credibility at SCOTUS.

I can think of more possibilities, but for now, I’ll just post this as a thread.

 

image_print