Don McGahn Is Not the Most Critical Witness on Impeachment

In the last several days, Jerry Nadler has stated more and more clearly that his committee is conducting an inquiry on whether to file articles of impeachment. Six months after gaining the majority, this feels like a slow walk perhaps intended to time any impeachment vote based on how it will impact the election.

In its press release and complaint seeking to enforce its subpoena against Don McGahn last week, the House Judiciary Committee made an alarming claim: that Don McGahn was the most important witness in its consideration of whether to file for impeachment.

McGahn is the Judiciary Committee’s most important fact witness in its consideration of whether to recommend articles of impeachment and its related investigation of misconduct by the President, including acts of obstruction of justice described in the Special Counsel’s Report.

That claim suggests that the House Judiciary Committee has a very limited conceptualization of its own inquiry and perhaps an overestimation of how good a witness McGahn will be.

McGahn’s probably not as credible as HJC Dems think

I say the latter for two reasons. First, in the early days of the Russian investigation, McGahn overstepped the role of a White House Counsel. For example, even after his office recognized they could not talk to Jeff Sessions about the Russian investigation or risk obstruction, McGahn followed Trump’s orders to pressure Dana Boente on the investigation.

At the President’s urging, McGahn contacted Boente several times on March 21, 2017, to seek Boente’s assistance in having Corney or the Department of Justice correct the misperception that the President was under investigation.326

Curiously, McGahn and Boente’s versions of what happened are among the most divergent in the entire Mueller Report, which might suggest McGahn was less than forthright in testimony that, per footnotes, came in one of his earlier interviews.

Plus, as the Mueller Report acknowledges, the NYT story that triggered one of the key events in the report — where Trump asked McGahn to publicly rebut a claim that he had asked McGahn to fire Mueller, which led him to threaten to resign — was inaccurate in its claim that McGahn had functionally threatened to resign (which was clear in real time). 

On January 26, 2018, the President’s personal counsel called McGahn ‘s attorney and said that the President wanted McGahn to put out a statement denying that he had been asked to fire the Special Counsel and that he had threatened to quit in protest.784 McGahn’s attorney spoke with McGahn about that request and then called the President’s personal counsel to relay that McGahn would not make a statement.785 McGahn ‘s attorney informed the President’s personal counsel that the Times story was accurate in reporting that the President wanted the Special Counsel removed.786 Accordingly, McGahn’s attorney said, although the article was inaccurate in some other respects, McGahn could not comply with the President’s request to dispute the story.787

Put McGahn under oath, and Republicans will ask if he was a source for that story, and if he was, why he oversold what he did. At the very least they’ll beat him up for letting the “#FakeNews NYT” spread lies.

There are far better (tactically and Constitutionally) reasons to impeach

More troubling still, asserting that McGahn is the most important witness — and stating that he’d be a witness in “criminal obstruction” — you prioritize that cause for impeachment over others, causes that might elicit some Republican support or at the very least mobilize the Democratic base.

To my mind, the best cause for impeachment — in terms of cornering Republicans and mobilizing the Democratic base — pertains to Trump’s repurposing of otherwise allocated funding for his Wall. This was an issue about which Republicans themselves had problems. It highlights Trump’s impotence to deliver on his campaign promise that Mexico would pay for his wall. It goes to issues of efficacy on national security issues. And it highlights how Trump has abused authority — authority which goes to the core of separation of powers — to facilitate his attacks on Latino immigrants. Plus, depending on when impeachment was triggered, having focused on the power of the purse would provide a tool to rein Trump in if he survived the election.

Democrats should also focus on Trump’s abuse of the Vacancy Reform Act in his appointments to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Board, DOJ, DOD, and ODNI. Violating the spirit of Consumer Financial Protection Board gave Trump a way to gut an entity meant to protect consumers, something that Elizabeth Warren will be able to magnify better than anyone (all the more so if and when the economy starts to turn south). Appointing Big Dick Toilet Salesman Matt Whitaker to fire Jeff Sessions provides a different way to get to the Russian investigation, and may (if BDTS prevented Mueller from naming Trump in the Roger Stone indictment) focus more attention on the resolution of that case (which has the potential of being both a really damaging trial or a pre-trial pardon). The appointment of Patrick Shanahan as Acting Secretary of Defense provides a way to focus on ethics complaints about his tenure, to say nothing about Trump’s tolerance for familial abuse. And Trump must be held accountable for whatever predictable problems selecting a loyalist over Sue Gordon as Acting DNI will cause — and some of the predictable problems, which might involve North Korea, Iran, or cybersecurity, could be quite damning.

Another impeachment cause that would invoke some of the same issues as the Russian investigation, but in a way that would be more awkward for the President, is Trump’s abuse of security clearances, starting with, but not limited to, Kushner’s (this is an issue where the Oversight Committee has done great work). An inquiry into why Trump gave Kushner clearance would provide a way to get to Kushner’s awkward role in foreign policy, particularly the possibility that he shared US classified information with Gulf oligarchs. If Kushner is found to have shared intelligence allowing Mohammed bin Salman to target Al-Waleed bin Talal or Jamal Khashoggi, it will invoke a slew of issues that will put Republicans in an awkward position (and have the salutary effect of focusing attention on Trump’s refusal to keep the Saudis honest).

Democrats would be idiots if they didn’t make an issue of Trump’s self-dealing, including but not limited to emoluments. It’s likely Republicans would defend the President on this point, but if they do, it can form the basis for legislation to more clearly prohibit such self-dealing going forward if Democrats do well in 2020. In addition, it goes to an issue that was absolutely key to Trump’s supporters, #DrainTheSwamp, but on which he has been (predictably) an utter failure.

Finally, Democrats should include Trump’s refusal to respond to violations of the Presidential Records Act in any impeachment inquiry. It is true that most Administrations have had problems adhering to PRA going back to Poppy Bush (Obama is to a large extent an exception, but Hillary’s avoidance of the Federal Records Act undermines that good record). But when pressed, most prior Administrations have been forced to admit the details of their failures to fulfill the law. Here, Trump has simply refused to respond to all questions about PRA violations. Some of these violations involve key players in the Russian investigation: Jared, KT McFarland, and Bannon. But these same people were involved in other scandals, such as the willingness to sacrifice US standards on nuclear security so that a bunch of Republicans can make $1 million per reactor (again, this would incorporate great work done by OGR).

This is a non-exclusive list. The point is, however, that HJC should frame their impeachment inquiry broadly, partly because some of Trump’s high crimes and misdemeanors have pissed off Republicans in the past, and partly because a failed impeachment trial can still frame Republican obstruction in a way that voters will care about.

Obviously, I think Trump’s conduct during the Russian investigation is important, and it’s all packaged up with a bow. But it’s not even just obstruction. Trump lied under oath in his written responses to Mueller. And Trump cheated to win an election. So even while pursuing impeachment on Russia, it needs to be more broadly conceived than the issues that Don McGahn can address. 

Other witnesses have more to offer than Don McGahn

So even in the emphasis on the Russia investigation, I think there is at least one better witness: Jay Sekulow. Sekulow has done a number of things that don’t qualify for attorney client privilege, such as his conversations directly with Michael Cohen to write a false statement hiding the President’s ties to Russia. That goes directly to Trump’s sworn lies.

Then there’s John Kelly. He was at DHS for the beginning of Trump’s abusive immigration policies. He knows details of Trump’s security clearance abuses (and might actually give a damn about them). He should know details of the PRA violations (and if not, should be accountable for why not). And he knows details of Kushner’s privatized foreign policy (and probably tried to control it). Kelly was a minor witness for Robert Mueller, but should be a key witness to any impeachment inquiry.

Finally, there’s the role of the Office of Legal Counsel and its head Steve Engel in all this. Some of OLC’s opinions enabling Trump’s abusive acts have been every bit as dodgy as John Yoo’s ones. It is the place of DOJ’s oversight committee to review the circumstances of those shitty opinions. While the government would likely fight this testimony particularly aggressively based on deliberative and attorney-client privileges, both John Yoo and Steven Bradbury have testified before, Yoo on an issue (torture) pertaining to abuse. Engel would still be able to testify about patterns of communication and the degree to which Trump dictated outcomes.

I’ll grant you, there are good reasons why McGahn may be a good tactical witness. I suspect that, by the time he testified, McGahn might be prepared to Bigfoot his testimony, not least in an attempt to cleanse himself of the Trump taint. So at that level, he may be a willing, damning witness.

So calling McGahn the most important witness might just be a legal tactic, a means to tie HJC’s obstruction inquiry with witnesses who have been blocked from testifying. And the White House Counsel position (to say nothing of the former White House Counsel position) is one for which there is precedent (under Clinton and Bush) for coerced testimony.

But I hope to hell HJC doesn’t really believe he’s the most important witness.

Ted Stevens, The “Toobz”, And The Idiocy Of The Internet

Alright, this will be a fairly short post, but I would like to remind people of some things. Namely, regarding Ted Stevens. As background, Marcy wrote a serious, and important, post on the Trumps Organization’s curious, and semi-hilarious, use of Microsoft. And, yes, Marcy is right, it was amazingly stupid. From clackers whining that Hillary Clinton had insecure internet. If it was not so stupid, it would be extra laughable.

But I want to cut back to something different. In comments, Rayne Loled at Ted Stevens and, then, a relatively new commenter (like just today as far as I can tell), “CJ” chimed in with:

Bizarrely, it’s not an entirely bad metaphor, though that’s probably accidental on his part. See, e.g., Andrew Blum’s “Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet”.

This is bunk. Blum, and his book, tried to make hay off of Stevens, and at his expense, but without giving him much of his due, nor acknowledging how the “tubes” of the internet falsely allowed the demonization of Stevens and cheerleader his prosecution. A prosecution that turned out to be false and craven. In a review in the New York Times in 2012, Dwight Garner noted:

Reading this, you wish Mr. Stevens, who died in an airplane crash in 2010, were here to savor it. “Inside those tubes (by and large) are glass fibers,” the author continues. “Inside those fibers is light. Encoded in that light is, increasingly, us.”

That is exactly right, although Blum never really went deeper into the fraud by the Department of Justice that took Ted Stevens down before his untimely demise by plane crash.

So, as a bit of retrospective:

Say what you will about Ted Stevens, and much of that may be fair. But what was done to him at the end was wrong and a travesty. And the DOJ could not even deal with that then. Much less the pervasive and consuming wrong that is at hand today with Bill Barr and the DOJ he now administers.

For anybody that does not remember just how egregious and blatant the government/DOJ action against Ted Stevens was, here is one of my takes from 2008, and yet another in followup, from 2012.

You can joke about Toobz Stevens, and we have here before, but what happened to him was a complete travesty of justice. And there are serious lessons from that to keep in mind today. Without the “toobz” of the internet, I am not sure the reckless and false case against Stevens could have ever made it as far as it did. There is great irony in that, and it is a lesson that ought remain remembered, not just joked about.

That was a different, and in popular lore, more benevolent and honest era. So, what do you think are the odds for far worse from Trump and Barr? Somewhere, Ted Stevens has an idea.

Here for Misogyny’s Ratio

[NB: Not Marcy, check the byline, thanks! /~Rayne]

This tweet is a flaming POS and the ratio of Comments to Likes reflects a similar collective sentiment (currently running 7-to-1 Comments to Likes:

Wipe the shocked look off your face, Andrew. Believe it or not, secondary education instructors often have day jobs, and professionals often have instruction gigs.

Those day jobs ensure they are more qualified to speak about their field than instructors who teach on the subject directly out of school.

Best classes I ever took were taught by adjunct professors because they had real life experience to use as examples. (My favorite was my business ethics class taught by a local judge.)

This isn’t restricted to the law, either; pick a field from humanities to STEM and you’ll find instructors who are working in their profession while teaching.

But Andrew Kaczynski isn’t the only problem. The article he retweeted has a problem smack in the middle of it which gives me pause — it’s so bad I have to wonder how much of the rest of this report by Washington Post journalists Elise Viebeck and Annie Linskey may need vetting.

This bit:

One of her most controversial clients was Dow Chemical, which she advised in the mid-1990s. A subsidiary that manufactured silicone gel breast implants faced hundreds of thousands of claims from women who said their implants caused health problems. Dow Chemical denied that it played a role in designing or making the implants and sought to avoid liability as its subsidiary, Dow Corning, declared bankruptcy.

“In this case, Elizabeth served as a consultant to ensure adequate compensation for women who claimed injury from silicone breast implants who otherwise might not have received anything when Dow Corning filed for bankruptcy,” Warren’s list of cases read. “Thanks in part to Elizabeth’s efforts, Dow Corning created a $2.35 billion fund to compensate women claiming injury from Dow Corning’s silicone breast implants.”

The Post could not immediately verify this figure.

Emphasis mine. It took me less than 30 seconds to Google “dow corning $2.35 billion fund” and come up with In re Dow Corning Corp., 280 F.3d 648 (6th Cir. 2002):

And I didn’t have access to resources like the Washington Post’s team — cripes, WaPo probably reported on this case. It’s probably in their archives. What else in this article picking through Elizabeth Warren’s work history is just as thinly researched?

We have a malignant narcissistic lifelong scofflaw in office because the media was unwilling to do adequate research into his background before 2016. They focused to excess on the leading female candidate who had already been heavily researched during her tenure as First Lady, junior senator from New York, and Secretary of State.

Now we see slapdash research pushed misogynistically, to the detriment of a candidate who has also served in public office and proven her work history has informed her work as a senator and her policy proposals.

Imagine it: a corporate lawyer who, after working as a lawyer for corporate clients, decides they need more oversight like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and corporations’ owners need to pay more taxes.

But the media wants you to take away from their coverage that she’s been paid by corporations you may not like while teaching at the same time.

Wait until they figure out she’s a mother, too. OMFG!!1! What kind of being can possibly do all that — parent two kids, teach, and bill out at $675 an hour?

Give me a fucking break.

Reporters: Stop this goddamned double standard immediately. Do a better job of reporting, stay focused on what’s relevant and quit making sensation out of nothing.

Readers: Be more skeptical of everything you read, and when you read, do so carefully. Don’t rely on stupid white men’s tweets to tell you the truth. Demand better quality reporting.

This is an open thread.

The Facts: There Is No Crisis and No Emergency, Just Trump’s Campaign

[NB: Check the byline. /~Rayne]

After mixing it up with a old conservative over spring break — someone who doesn’t watch Fox News but spends too much time with people who do — it’s clear Trump’s and Fox’s lies have deeply infected right-wing minds.

They believe Trump’s falsehoods about a crisis at the border, that there was reason for Trump to declare an emergency.

They’re also incapable of fact checking. They’re authoritarians and believe whatever current authority figure tells them; the motivation to validate authority doesn’t exist.

They appear unable to analyze what they do see to make an independent assessment of their own. It doesn’t occur to them to ask, What would be so bad a family with toddlers and infants would flee their home, walking over a thousand miles for more than a month and through a desert to escape?

They’re sheep — our country is regressing under the leadership of fascist sheep.

I wanted to cram a bunch of facts in this conservative’s head but I honestly don’t know if they’d bother to read anything I gave them because I’m not a Fox talking head.

~ ~ ~
Fact: Trend data from DHS’ Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) about so-called illegal immigrants border crossings indicates it has trended lower over the last 15 years:

(source: U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Nationwide Illegal Alien Apprehensions Fiscal Years 1925-2018 pdf)

From another perspective there is no migrant crisis, shows Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) in this graph using CBP’s own data:

Fact: Trend data graphed by Pew Research drawn from DHS’ Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) about the so-called wave of asylum seekers Trump has called animals in his eliminationist rants reveals a wave of family units migrating from Central America, not Mexico:

Fact: Instead of performing a root cause analysis to determine why families and unaccompanied minors are so desperate to enter the U.S. to seek asylum, Trump wants to cut funding to Central American countries, which will exacerbate the underlying problems internal to the affected countries.

Fact: The largest number of families and children reaching the border came from Guatemala, fleeing crime and drought.

Fact: Guatemala’s volatility may have been exacerbated by multiple volcanic eruptions in 2018, affecting at least two million Guatemalans. The plume from a June eruption was visible from space:

Fact: Many Hondurans fleeing to the U.S. are also fleeing crime and violence; women in particular are fleeing because femicide has been a growing epidemic during the last six years, 95% of which has gone unpunished.

Fact: The U.S. ratified the U.N. protocol to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees in 1968. This expressed the country’s intent to acknowledge and recognize the rights of asylum seekers. The U.S. has not retracted its ratification.

Fact: Asylum seekers can request asylum under Title 8 U.S. Code § 1158, on either side of the border:

(a) Authority to apply for asylum
(1) In general
Any alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States (whether or not at a designated port of arrival and including an alien who is brought to the United States after having been interdicted in international or United States waters), irrespective of such alien’s status, may apply for asylum in accordance with this section or, where applicable, section 1225(b) of this title.

Fact: Trump said “the system is full, can’t take you any more,” which is in opposition to U.S. law on asylum.

Fact: Until it became legal problem for the Trump organization, Trump’s golf courses hired undocumented workers from Central America, some of them for years. This illegal hiring practice, out of compliance with decades-long rules about screening hirees, didn’t become an issue until Trump wanted to use DACA and Temporary Protected Status as a bargaining chit to obtain funding for his “fucken wall” during the government shutdown.

Fact: El Paso, Texas, isn’t in a state of crisis; its mayor attests to this, and asked Trump to stop lying about it. But Trump wanted to shut down the border at El Paso altogether because of his lie that the border is in crisis.

Fact: When told that closing the border as he requested would cause serious damage to the U.S. economy by throttling free trade, Trump said, “I don’t care.

Fact: Trump has insisted that families be separated at the border because he believes it will discourage them from seeking asylum in the U.S.

Fact: Trump, “ranting and raving” at White House and DHS staff, stressed the “border is my issue” while issuing unlawful orders to separate families at the border. He isn’t following through on carefully considered policy but on a campaign issue — one from 2016, and now one for the 2020 race.

~ ~ ~
The bottom line: Trump both as president and as a business owner has violated federal law.

He has done so, deliberately employing cruelty and at cost of human lives, in order to fulfill a campaign promise in 2016, as a campaign theme in 2018 to assist the GOP in mid-terms, and as a campaign stunt for re-election in 2020. As he said, the “border is my issue.”

He has issued unlawful orders as part of his ongoing campaigning under influence of former adviser anarchist Steve Bannon and white nationalist Stephen Miller, a current White House adviser.

The Republican Party aids and abets this — endorses this — as political practice as long as it fails to check the de facto leader of their party. Cruelty and indifference to non-white, non-English-speaking people including infants and families is now their brand along with disregard for treaties and laws.

In doing so, the Republican Party destroys any pretensions to legitimacy if it supports systematic unlawful behavior.

We need to ask if it is now fact that there is no Republican Party.

Plus-Delta Analysis: CNN’s New Political Hire Isgur Flores

[NB: Check the byline. /~Rayne]

Let’s make like a cable news management team and assess CNN’s hiring of former GOP operative Sarah Isgur Flores as a Political Editor ahead of the 2020 election using a plus-delta analysis.

Plus:

Education background includes history, political science, and law; she has a JD from Harvard. History and law degree may be very important should the current administration face mounting investigations and the possibility of impeachment.

With a decade of experience in political campaigns, Flores should understand well how media works campaign cycle from a campaign’s perspective.

Her hiring provides assurance to conservatives that CNN will not exercise a liberal bias covering 2020 campaigns.

Flores’ presence as an openly pro-GOP editor may discourage further attacks on CNN after this past year’s bomb threats.

A woman editor may offer some diversity in perspective as 2020’s field of candidates already includes more women than ever.

Delta:

Flores has zero journalism experience yet bypasses political analyst position for political editor.

Worked exclusively for Republican Party candidates, revealing a partiality toward a particular political ideology.

She has been extremely open about her conservative ideology which may be off-putting to a moderate audience, ex. her strident anti-choice beliefs, evident in her Twitter feed, may offend women.

Worked for the Trump administration as Jeff Sessions’ spokesperson, revealing a willingness to work for problematic Republicans.

Made a show of loyalty before accepting roll with DOJ by visiting Trump to assure him she was “on board with his agenda and would be honored to serve him.” Not clear when this loyalty and service ends.

It’s not clear whether a non-disclosure agreement was signed by Flores muzzling her from speaking about the Trump administration.

It’s not clear if her loyalties and ideology pose a threat to confidential and anonymous sources CNN’s reporters have relied upon while covering the Trump administration.

MSNBC had also been approached by Flores; she tried to sell them on her inside knowledge of the Special Counsel’s investigation. CNN says she won’t use this knowledge in her role but it’s difficult to see how she can be firewalled off from matters related to the investigation if they affect Republicans in Congress or running in 2020.

Her ambitions may both outstrip her current role before 2020, stepping on her immediate boss’s toes (David Chalian) and they may interfere with CNN’s intentions:

…“She had a detailed idea of what she wanted to do,” someone with knowledge of the discussions told me. “She wanted to do something on-air combined with some sort of quasi-management, behind-the-scenes planning kind of work. I think she looked at Dave Chalian and said, I wanna do that.”…(source)

CNN staff are not happy with this move (though Brian Stelter puts an awfully good face on it).

While Flores’ hiring could be likened to CNN’s hiring of Corey Lewandowski and Jeffrey Lord in terms of balance, the leap to an editorial position combined with strong ideology makes CNN look partisan — lacking neutrality in the public’s perception.

One more critically important factor gives pause about Flores’ new gig: CNN is owned by Warner Media LLC, which in turn is owned by AT&T. Is hiring Flores an attempt to shape policy to benefit ultimate parent AT&T, heading off pressure from the public for Net Neutrality and any changes in regulations affecting telecommunications and internet service providers?

This just doesn’t look good to me, especially after so many good, seasoned news media people without baggage like Flores’ were cut by outlets over the last two weeks.

This is an open thread.

KonMari-ing the Confederacy’s Son

[NB: Check the byline — this is a different kind of ‘trash talk’. /~Rayne]

You may already have heard the buzz about Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo and her branded decluttering technique, KonMari. Perhaps you’ve even seen her on Netflix which now features a series called Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.

She set off a furor across the internet among book lovers when she suggested getting rid of all of one’s books except for those few that spark joy — which is her guiding philosophy to thinning everything one possesses. When one considers a particular personal belonging, what feelings does it inspire? If joy, keep it and store it carefully; if not, release it.

This doesn’t work for books. Some of the most horror-inspiring books may be essential favorites whether fiction or non-fiction. And many book lovers whether readers, authors, or editors thrive in an environment of tsundoku, the weight of unread books providing a wealth of promise rather than oppressive dread.

The hullabaloo about her approach to books forced a reconsideration of the KonMari technique. It doesn’t work uniformly for everyone; what sparks joy for one rouses sadness in others.

But people do share universal values; if we focused on happiness and peace arising from observing these values, there might be a way to reconcile the disparity between ditching books and keeping them whether they spark joy or not.

Looking at our universal values — those we share as humans regardless of our gender identity, race and ethnicity, religious heritage, or country of origin — we have to ask ourselves about much more than whether to keep the tatty high school-issued copy of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or well-thumbed Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine.

What is it we should jettison if we are truly keeping that which is honest and trustworthy, responsible, respectful, caring, and fair?

Why worry about an excess of books and holey stray socks when our lives are thrown into chaos every day by people who are not living these shared values?

It could be said the repudiation of Governor Ralph Northam is an example of this kind of purging by Democrats in Virginia and beyond. Has Northam changed since the mid-1980s? Sure — we all have and hopefully for the better, but Northam’s failure to be open as a candidate and now as an elected official about the context of his medical school’s yearbook is a lapse of under universal ethics even if we believed his claims.

Now the people of Virginia wait for Northam to come to grips with the sorting he’s been through.

But as a country we’re not done with our reassessment. What are we keeping that holds us back from realizing our best selves as citizens?

A substantive number of readers will surely suggest impeaching and removing Trump and they’d be right. He’s the antithesis of  honesty and trustworthiness, responsibility, respect, caring, and fairness in nearly everything he does. Decluttering processes have already been set in motion — the Special Counsel’s Office plays a role in them even if its mission isn’t removal per se.

Trump isn’t the only human obstruction to realizing our communal universal values, though.

This needs to go. This should have been KonMari’d more than a dozen years ago, pared out of government. Don’t even think about trying to recycle it, either, it’s beyond redemption. The tradition manifest here has no worth because it disrespects the innate value of fellow humans while elevating a small number of people because of that disrespect.

Kentuckians need to clean their house beginning with this Senate seat. McConnell can’t possibly inspire happiness and peace in their hearts when his actions deny so many their human dignity.

Republicans should do likewise, beginning now with removing McConnell from the majority leadership role. They need to ask themselves if doubling down on their pursuit of power, throwing values to the wind to this end, really sparks joy in their hearts and souls. Do their efforts generate genuine authority, lay claim to authentic leadership, when fellow humans must be denigrated in the process?

Failing to be honest with themselves and respectful of the public will eventually set off other kinds of sparks. Just ask Ralph Northam.

 

Treat this as an open thread.

Let Them Eat (Starbucks’ Coffee) Cake

A couple of older billionaire white dudes have been shooting off their mouths. One of them is partially clued in. The other one apparently lives on a different planet where the sky is a groovy coffee-colored plaid.

I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir when I point out these facts:

The links above include scolding by financial experts who say Americans need to do a better job of saving. But…

Don’t get me started on what college tuition and subsequent debt does to Americans’ ability to save.

We all know that health care costs have not improved and remain the leading cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. even though more Americans have health insurance under ACA.

And rich older white dudes are completely, utterly, hopelessly out of touch about the financial facts of life for nearly half of Americans let alone the next 2-3 deciles.

Like Wilbur Ross — our Commerce Secretary who lied about his assets and clearly knows nothing about Americans’ daily commerce — struggled to comprehend why federal employees might need to use a food bank after missing a paycheck.

Just get a loan, Ross thinks. Sure, sure, banks give signature loans to people without any collateral let alone a source of income all the time. Come on, Wilbur: would you invest in a bank offering those kinds of terms to the average Joe/Josephine off the street?

And then there’s Trump, who thinks we can just ask the grocer to extend some credit for an unspecified period of time. Right — a nationwide grocery chain clearing 1-3% a year in profits can afford to extend credit.

So goddamned clueless he is. I’m only surprised he didn’t tell furloughed federal workers he’d give them a 5% discount to play golf at one of his courses during their free time.

76-year-old billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who thinks he’s still young enough to run for president in 2020, trashed Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax proposal as “probably unconstitutional,” thereby revealing his brain’s atrophy. If taxing higher levels of income wasn’t unconstitutional under Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, then it probably isn’t unconstitutional.

And then Seattle coffee magnate Howard Schultz popped off at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ proposals to increase marginal tax rates on the uber-wealthy, calling her “a bit misinformed” and her proposal “un-American.”

Except the U.S. had higher tax rates on the wealthy, for most of the 20th century. The country could afford to build more infrastructure; it built a successful public school system and went to the moon. How nice for Schultz that he could grow up and become a young entrepreneur in that economic environment.

(Put a pin in here for future reference, as a reminder that Schultz not only called AOC “un-American” but Sen. Kamala Harris, too. It’s as if he has a problem with women of color…)

Schultz thinks he has become a billionaire all on his own, as if the increasingly fascist political system with its active suppression of younger, marginalized citizens played no role in his wealth accumulation.

As if the last two decades of stagnant wages due to employment monopsony, repressive Federal Reserve policies, and the real estate market haven’t helped line his pockets by assuring low-wage workers get locked in and unable to move to better paying jobs.

Schultz has been able to accumulate massive amounts of wealth on the backs of people who aren’t being paid living wages, out of the wallets of those whose limited resources allows them to buy a coffee but not a house or health care. He’s rolling in a sea of cash because minimum wage workers are living in little more than indentured servitude.

You know what’s really un-American?

An ungrateful and narrow-minded billionaire white dude who doesn’t think living wages and health care for everyone are fair, who thinks that higher taxes after his first $50 million are theft.

A purveyor of luxury beverage products unable to grasp the unselfish commitment it will take to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty for all the people.

At least Bloomberg sees the danger Schultz’s presidential candidacy poses to this country.

But Schultz isn’t in it for the country’s benefit. He’s in the race for himself. It’s clear he’s done the number crunching and determined that it’s cheaper to run for POTUS even if he were to cause Trump to win re-election. (I’ll bet he’s even figured out how to write off his exploratory trips around the country as a business expense.)

Because the campaign expenses are less than the cost to his personal wealth if he were taxed at a higher rate and if he were also forced to pay living wages to his workers.

What a pity Schultz hasn’t calculated how much more overpriced, excessively roasted coffee minimum wage workers can buy if they didn’t have to worry about health care expenses on top of their rent.

 

Treat this as an open thread.

Day 32+11H: Trump’s Other Wall

[NB: Byline — check it. /~Rayne]

This post is about a wall. Nope, not about Trump’s narcissistic pipe dream made of steel slats and Fox News-borne ego fluffing.

It’s a wall of GOP senators, so corrupt and craven they will line up against reopening their country’s government while voting to help a country which U.S. intelligence agencies say interfered with the 2016 elections.

They’ll roll over while Americans begin to die from their gross neglect. Federal employees who are diabetics are already having difficulty paying for insulin, a double whammy since the GOP-led Congress has done nothing to deal with extortive insulin pricing. Children affected by the shutdown will begin to go hungry soon if they haven’t already, whether from cuts to school lunches or at home.

There are several groups varying by their corruption and cravenness; I’ve already written about the Class II senators who don’t appear to feel concern about their re-election prospects — yet.

But the second group in need of a swift kick are those who visited Russia on July 4th this past year:

Richard Shelby (AL) — Senate Class III

John Thune (SD) — Senate Class III

John Hoeven (ND) — Senate Class III

Ron Johnson (WI) – Senate Class Class III

John Kennedy (LA) — Senate Class III

John Thune (SD) — Senate Class III

Jerry Moran (KS) — Senate Class III

Steve Daines (MT) — Senate class II

Kay Granger (TX) — Representative

At the top is the senior “spokesperson” for the group; he’s the one quoted most often by the media when asked about this congressional delegation.

At the bottom are two exceptions: Daines is running for re-election for the first time in 2020, and Granger isn’t a senator at all but a House rep from a solidly red congressional district.

Notice the trait most have in common? They’re Class III, which means they will be up for re-election in 2022.

Why the hell did nearly 30% of the Class III GOP senators go to Russia on our most American holiday, one celebrating our independence from an authoritarian monarchy?

Not sending Class I senators who were working on their 2018 mid-term campaigns makes sense, but why not more Class II? These classes are assigned by state according to Constitution’s Article I, Section III; there should have been broader, more random representation on this trip (and certainly not on July 4th).

Here’s my theory: first, this congressional delegation trip was an interview for aid. Not development aid for the U.S. but for their campaigns. I can’t think of a reason why so many Class III senators would have gone together. Thankfully none of them are on the Armed Services or Select Intelligence Committees though Johnson and Young are on the Foreign Policy Committee and Shelby, Hoeven, Moran, and Kennedy are on the Appropriations Committee.

Or is the percentage of links between these senators and these committees relevant in some way?

Daines is an exception — his need is more immediate, and his state is in play based on the data produced by Democratic Senator Jon Tester’s re-election in 2018. Daines may be a proof of concept.

Second, I believe Granger went because Senator John Cornyn hadn’t yet decided whether to run for re-election in 2020. He didn’t announce until September that he would do so. Granger may have been groomed as a candidate for this seat because her congressional district encompassing Fort Worth is solidly red and the GOP probably has a House candidate waiting in the wings. If Beto O’Rourke runs for the Senate again in 2020 as a Democrat, the GOP may have wanted to run a woman against him if Cornyn retired. But now Granger will have to wait for another slot to open. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her run for governor after Greg Abbott finishes his term(s).

There are seven more senators and one representative who are likely to continue to stand pat behind Trump and his Putinist agenda, including his “fucken wall.” They will only change their loyalties if they are called out on their bullshit.

There should be no conditions placed on reopening government. Period. The shutdown has weakened all security including the health and economic welfare of citizens whether federal employees or not.

Trump’s proposal made this weekend is a joke — his personal businesses will benefit from the continued protection of immigrants who work at his resorts while failing to provide any real additional security — and will be shoved in our faces tomorrow as McConnell has scheduled it for a vote.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

If you can help at all, check with local food banks to make donations. There are federal employees who live and/or work in nearly every county. You can also try to pay off outstanding school lunch fees for kids who don’t qualify for the federal school program but have run up their hot lunch charges for lack of funds — just call your local public school system and ask if you can help.

Now is a good time to make small purchases, too, if there’s a previously owned item you’ve put off buying. Federal employees and contractors have been selling all manner of items to raise cash, from clothing to books.

And some have been reduced to selling plasma.

I don’t know how we can come away from this horrible episode in our nation’s history without thinking the GOP has deliberately chosen to harm this country and quite possibly to appease and benefit a hostile country.

Americans’ deaths arising from this shutdown will be on their hands.

21 People with the Power to Stop the Madness [UPDATE-2]

[NB: I should write a script to auto-embed a reminder to check the byline. Update is at the bottom. / ~Rayne]

Over the past couple of weeks a number of uninformed but angry people have gone off on social media about the Democrats not impeaching Trump already — the 116th Congress only took their oaths last week, one House race in North Carolina remains undecided, and yet impeachment is supposed to have been launched and Trump marched into the sunset surf at Mar-a-Lago.

The stream of problems emanating from the White House will not be resolved by impeachment. It is NOT the end-all-be-all solution.

Impeachment AND removal from office stems the biggest problem, and it’s not on the House Democrats alone.

Read the Constitution: the House impeaches, the Senate convicts and removes.

Article 1, Section 2
…The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

Article 1, Section 3
The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

Impeachment alone is merely a political slap on the hands, just an upgraded form of censure to be borne out in public through House debate and vote. After hearings beginning in the lame duck session of 1998, former president Bill Clinton was impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate in early 1999, remaining in office to serve out his term. By itself, impeachment will not stop a lifelong scofflaw like Trump and may fuel negative sentiment whipping the Trumpian base into a frenzy by the 2020 general election.

Which brings us to the key challenge know-nothings have ignored while they pule about the Democrats ‘failing’ to impeach Trump already: the Senate remains under GOP control. Try complaining about the GOP Senate caucus’ moral and ethical intransigence for a change; of the current 53 GOP senators there are 21 who are most vulnerable to this charge yet have the power to make constructive change happen.

This map tells you which senators are the linchpins to removal:

These are the 21 states Class II GOP senators represent; these are GOP seats that are up re-election in 2020 or will be open, as in the case of Kansas’ Pat Roberts who will retire at the end of his term. These senators are the ones who should be held accountable at the polls if they do not restrain an out-of-control White House. They represent the votes necessary to convict and remove Trump, let alone votes to approve bills reopening government and override a veto (assuming two-thirds of the House would likewise support a veto override). Here are their names to make it easier to identify your GOP Class II senator if you have one:

Dan Sullivan (AK)

Tom Cotton (AR)

Cory Gardner (CO)

David Perdue (GA)

Jim Risch (ID)

Joni Ernst (IA)

Pat Roberts (KS) retiring

Mitch McConnell (KY)

Bill Cassidy (LA)

Susan Collins (ME)

Cindy Hyde-Smith (MS)

Steve Daines (MT)

Ben Sasse (NE)

Thom Tillis (NC)

Jim Inhofe (OK)

Lindsay Graham (SC)

Mike Rounds (SD)

Lamar Alexander (TN) retiring

John Cornyn (TX)

Shelley Moore Capito (WV)

Mike Enzi (WY)

These folks should be squirming already — at least those who must fly home should be. Imagine them needing to fly to their respective states having failed to reopen and fund government services like TSA security staffers and air traffic controllers.

This may explain in part why three of the senators who are among those who must fly the farthest from Washington DC are leaning toward reopening the government — that’s Lisa Murkowski (AK), Cory Gardner (CO), and Susan Collins (ME). They’re vulnerable in an entirely different way because the government shutdown is a bigger threat personally and professionally than Trump’s possible impeachment and removal.

With 66 total senators required to make up the two-thirds necessary for conviction and removal, the 18 remaining Class II GOP senators combined with Democrats and Independents provide the number needed with a little extra in case of a late flip-flop.

You know what to do: Congressional switchboard (202) 224-3121

Need a script? Celeste P. has you covered.

Yes, press them first on the government shutdown; addressing the shutdown’s damage to Americans’ livelihoods, safety, and security is a far more immediate need. A senator who doesn’t think Trump’s self-created crisis and corresponding shutdown must be stopped should be identified as vulnerable in 2020.

If these senators are persuadable on the shutdown, they may be persuadable on the question of conviction and removal of the president. (If they aren’t they’re probably co-conspirators and in need of investigation.)

If you call your GOP senator, feel free to share feedback from the call here. Let’s keep track of the Class II folks who really need a primary or a strong opponent in 2020.

UPDATE — 4:45 PM —

There may be 21 Class II senators who need to be nudged but one of them is in particular need of a political boot in his slackness.

McConnell walked into his office after leaving the Senate floor, where he objected to the Democratic request to re-open the government.

 

“I think the way out has been apparent for several weeks,” he told reporters. “It requires an agreement between a Democratic House, the Democrats in the Senate and the President.”

 

After the meeting broke up, members were fairly tight-lipped about any details. Some described what they were working on as a “framework” or “skeleton” they were trying to fill in.

 

“We’ve got a skeleton we’re trying to flesh out. It’s going to take work,” Tillis told reporters. (source: CNN)

Mitch McConnell is the primary gatekeeper enforcing the president’s unnecessary and unpopular wall; he’s the key hurdle between a continuing government shutdown and a return to order.

Sadly, McConnell’s refusal hurts his constituents directly — he’s literally telling them to fuck off and in some cases, die already.

— As of June 2017, there were 36,719 Kentuckyians who were employed by the federal government (source: Governing.com [from cached copy]);

— As of June 2017, there were 33,219 Kentuckyians who were active duty military relying on government services;

— As of 2017, there were 4.4 million Kentuckyians who relied in some way on food inspections because safe food nourished them, their family, friends, co-workers, or people in their communities on whom they depended in some way;

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. As an example, every federal employee who also relies on childcare but can’t pay for childcare because they are now unpaid may also lose their childcare provider. Providers require their services to be paid in cash even if the child isn’t there or their slot is freed up. Providers are also small business owners; they can’t afford massive cuts to their income and must find other revenue sources if they aren’t paid. It’s a major nuisance to find alternative, affordable, safe childcare, not to mention the expense to families.

With nearly 50% of Americans unable to scrape up $400 cash for an emergency, you can bet many of Kentucky’s federal employees have already blown through their reserves. Their inability to pay for goods and services will have a ripple effect throughout their communities — just like childcare providers, other business owners can’t afford cuts to their income stream.

The “fucken wall” only protects those who need the public to be distracted from investigations. One much needed investigation is the possible effect of foreign influence on members of Congress and their campaigns — including Mitch McConnell. His refusal to reopen and fund government including DOJ and FBI functions could be a means to prevent any investigation which might look into his own campaign donations.

Think about it: after the Citizens United decision in 2010, the NRA changed its donation pattern substantially from 2010 to 2012 to help pro-gun rights candidates.

Guess who received the 14th highest amount of gun rights contributions ($135,350) and the 6th highest amount of contributions from outside support for gun rights ($771,175)? Yup, McConnell brought in that much between 1989-2018 that we know of.

How much Congressional campaign money, including donations to McConnell, might have been laundered Russian contributions? Has the active investigation into accused Russian spy Maria Butina uncovered this figure? Has this investigation been affected by the shutdown?

Is this a personal reason why McConnell is so doggedly protecting Trump’s “fucken wall” in spite of the damage the corresponding government shutdown is doing to his own constituents and to the nation?

Sure hope Kentuckyians know to use the Congressional switchboard number (202) 224-3121 — assuming that hasn’t been defunded yet.

UPDATE — 12:40 AM 11-JAN-2019 —

Give me a “fucken” break with this bullshit:

President Donald Trump gave an Oval Office address and headed to the border. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have been holding regular press conferences to rebut him.

But when the shutdown ends, it will likely be the handiwork of the leader who’s stayed offsides: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

On Thursday, McConnell summoned a handful of fellow Republicans to his ornate offices to brainstorm a solution. The group, which included Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Rob Portman, dispatched Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby to give Vice President Mike Pence what aides described as a “skeleton” of a plan to re-open government and return to paying 800,000 federal workers.

“We aren’t there yet,” cautioned a top Senate Republican aide. They didn’t get there, either.

Handiwork my eye. Show me where McConnell did a goddamn thing except for the summoning. This entire article was a piece of fluff designed to puff up the soft-handed, wattle-necked waste of Kentuckyians’ votes.

If you live and vote in Kentucky, please, PLEASE call this wretch and tell him to get off his duff — euphemistically called the “sidelines” — and get the government reopened. He needs to find his nuts and tell Trump the wall doesn’t have support; McConnell never had a problem telling the last president to piss up a rope and that president had a helluva lot more support than this one.

McConnell also needs to get on the right side of history. He can torch the rest of his legacy cozying up to a corrupt narcissist or he can try to salvage what history remembers of him by getting a spine and upholding his oath of office instead of sucking up to an un-indicted co-conspirator.

There’s No Crisis at the Border — There’s a Crisis in the White House

[NB: Whoops — forgot to remind readers to check the byline. This is the other pottymouth broad./ ~R]

Reports say that Vice President Pence and DHS Secretary Nielsen have been laying the groundwork for Trump’s speech tonight in which he is expected to complain about House Speaker Pelosi, Democrats, and the lack of funding for the goddamn wall he claimed Mexico would pay for while he campaigned in 2016. The word “crisis” was used 36 times.

Yet there’s no crisis at the border.

The State Department hasn’t published any documents or statements over the last two years indicating there was a crisis.

While talking about Trump’s speech today, Secretary of State Pompeo laughed — not exactly an indicator of crisis.

Bad numbers have been thrown around over the last couple of weeks, claiming that 4000 terrorists have been stopped at the border. Untrue: the number is somewhere between six and 12, and the designation “terrorist” is as specific as the No-Fly List. This means persons whose names match individuals who are under suspicion for political reasons — like musician Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens — may be the entirety of the 6-12 individuals stopped at the border. Hardly a crisis.

Secretary Nielsen can’t answer questions put to her by Congress about refugees at the southern border without prevarication; she can’t even say how many people, adults or children, have died in U.S. custody. Seems like a cabinet member would have accurate numbers at their finger tips in a genuine crisis.

That a handful of questionable individuals were halted at the border suggests the current system works. Not a crisis.

If funding has been the problem and the theater of angrily shutting down the government was intended to force funding approval, why didn’t the GOP fund it while they had a majority in the House? Why didn’t they fund it when they were in lame duck? Why didn’t they make a point of knocking down the massive tax cut by enough to fund the “fucken wall“?

If aliens breaching the border is a crisis, why were government services including border security shuttered at all instead of finding an alternative method for funding the wall?

And if aliens crossing into the U.S. was such an emergency, why did Trump’s campaign fund a broadcast TV ad placed during CBS’ 60 Minutes this past Sunday night, bashing Pelosi and the Democrats about wall funding?

Because the border hasn’t been and still isn’t a crisis; it’s a distraction from other issues Trump doesn’t want his base to notice. Because it’s a campaign issue that worked in 2016 with the same base eager to lap up his brand of white nationalist hate.

But you know what is a crisis?

Tens of thousands of Americans are dying every year from opioids and Trump has done dick-doodley-squat to work with Congress to shut down opioids. Oh, he’s talked about it? Great — a lot of useless hot air and fapping gestures made as Americans’ bodies pile up.

[Graphic: StatNews – note deaths from opioid variants]

At least 42,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2016. But no speech tonight about this real crisis.

Another crisis: the cost of insulin. People who can’t afford the outrageous prices are risking permanent disability and death by rationing their use below prescribed levels. Worse yet, some government employees, contractors, and their families may be going without insulin right now because they can’t afford it while they are going unpaid. Trump is courting Americans’ deaths for the manufactured wall crisis.

Another crisis being swept under the rug: the government’s gross negligence in responding to Hurricane Maria, resulting in thousands of Americans deaths, and the continued abdication of leadership on climate change, contributing to deadly conditions like California’s wildfires resulting in at least 100 deaths. Who is being held accountable for these fatalities as they mount? How many will die during the next climate change-caused catastrophe?

Who is being held accountable for all the other real crises, like multiple corrupt cabinet members, the collapse of ethics in the White House, the mounting risks to national security posed by officials handling sensitive matters without adequate clearance, or the loss of trust in the U.S. among allies whose relationships have been devalued?

There’s no crisis at the border, but there is a crisis. This country is lead by a lying malignant narcissist who can’t see anyone or anything except for himself; he refuses to accept responsibility and accountability. He is incapable of admitting failure, particularly his failure to uphold his oath of office. He swore to faithfully execute the laws but his manufactured border crisis ignores this very simple and straightforward one:

8 U.S. Code § 1158 – Asylum
(a) Authority to apply for asylum
(1) In general
Any alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States (whether or not at a designated port of arrival and including an alien who is brought to the United States after having been interdicted in international or United States waters), irrespective of such alien’s status, may apply for asylum in accordance with this section or, where applicable, section 1225(b) of this title.

His trash talk bashing the press also violates the First Amendment of the Constitution, which he swore to uphold and defend.

There’s a crisis when broadcast media corporations — after refusing twice to allow the first black president to address the nation on immigration — have allowed themselves to be bullied in to airing pure propaganda.

The networks have in these decisions breached the contract they have as licensed broadcasters, obligated to serve the public interest; they do so with great bias for a man who is a noted racist, having shut out the only president of color on the same issue of immigration. They do so after Trump has encouraged violence against media and elected officials by calling them enemies of state, ultimately resulting in mass bomb and shooting threats.

These media outlets also ignore history — very specific history Trump knows quite well, having read Hitler’s speeches and understanding the aims of Germany’s 1933 emergency Reichstag Fire Decree and Enabling Act — by giving Trump a platform for untruths, defamatory content, and near incitement, none of which serves the public interests.

Lastly, the press also gives preference to an extortive demand for funding labeled by Trump as a crisis — neatly fulfilling Trump’s claim of fake news media — when the only genuine emergency at the border is two-fold: the ongoing violations of U.N. treaties on refugees and human rights, resulting in the deaths of children and adults alike, and the suspension of government services which include border security.

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