The Real News in Bill Barr’s Announcement: He’s Vetoing Campaign Finance Investigations, Too

Yesterday, NYT broke the news that Attorney General Barr had issued a memo, as promised, requiring his approval before opening an investigation into a presidential candidate. (Update: here’s the memo.)

The memo, which said the Justice Department had a duty to ensure that elections are “free from improper activity or influences,” was issued on the same day that President Trump was acquitted on charges that he had abused his office to push a foreign power to publicly announce investigations into his political rivals. The memo said that the F.B.I. and all other divisions under the department’s purview must get Mr. Barr’s approval before investigating any of the 2020 presidential candidates.

The NBC version of this — written by Barr mouthpiece Pete Williams — falsely suggests this decision was justified by the entirety of the IG Report.

His directive follows a report by the Justice Department’s inspector general that harshly criticized the FBI’s investigation of the 2016 Trump campaign. It recommended an evaluation of the kind of sensitive matters that should require high-level approval, particularly those involving politics.

While the IG Report recommended different practices for sensitive investigations going forward, the report actually showed that a lot of conspiracy theories that Barr had embraced about the opening of the investigation and the use of informants were false. The criticisms — as distinct from recommendations — were largely limited to the Carter Page FISA.

The distinction is important because the other excuse Barr offers is that, if an investigation became known — like both the Hillary email investigation and the Breitbart-dirt predicated Clinton Foundations ones — it might affect the election.

“In certain cases, the existence of a federal criminal or counterintelligence investigation, if it becomes known to the public, may have unintended effects on our elections,” Mr. Barr wrote.

Those concerns, combined with the inspector general’s findings, seemed to underpin Mr. Barr’s memo to top Justice Department officials.

All the evidence in the world suggests that the known problems in Crossfire Hurricane stemmed from the opposite problem, working too hard to keep the investigation secret. Had the FBI not worked so hard to keep it secret, it wouldn’t have been run out of FBI HQ, and so would have had more resources available. Had the FBI not avoided overt steps, it would have obtained call records to indicate that George Papadopoulos (and Paul Manafort and Roger Stone), and not Carter Page, should have been the priority targets. Had the FBI not worked so hard to keep this secret, it might have caught several of Trump’s flunkies in the act of selling out the country. (And all three of those men hid information to prevent their actions from becoming known.) And now Bill Barr wants to make it harder, not easier, to find people selling out our country before they do real damage.

Indeed, this extends even to the larger investigation into Russian interference. SSCI released its report on what the Obama Administration should have done better in 2016 yesterday, and many of the criticisms stem from how closely it held the intelligence about the attack, from Congress, election professionals, and agencies that might respond. (The report also undermined Barr’s justification for the Durham investigation, in that it suggested the IC should have warned policy makers far earlier than happened about Russian intentions, and points to John Brennan’s sensitive intelligence about the operation as the first alarm.)

So the stated purpose doesn’t hold up, as most of Barr’s stated purposes don’t. That’s all the more true when you look at how Barr’s rule has dramatically expanded since he first floated it.

As both NYT and NBC noted, Barr announced the policy in January. The policy, as laid out back then, was far more limited — extending just to counterintelligence investigations.

Attorney General William Barr on Monday announced the Justice Department’s first policy change in response to the FBI’s mucking around in the 2016 election. Henceforth, both an AG and the FBI director must sign off on any proposed counterintelligence investigation into a presidential campaign.

Neither the NYT nor NBC describe any such limitation. Indeed, the make it clear that criminal investigations, including into donors!!!, must be approved.

While the department must respond “swiftly and decisively” to credible threats to the electoral process, “we also must be sensitive to safeguarding the department’s reputation for fairness, neutrality and nonpartisanship,” he wrote.

He previewed the new policy at a news conference in January, when he said his approval would be required in future investigations involving presidential candidates or campaigns.
In the memo, Mr. Barr established a series of requirements governing whether investigators could open preliminary or full “politically sensitive” criminal and counterintelligence investigations into candidates or their donors.

No investigation into a presidential or vice-presidential candidate — or their senior campaign staff or advisers — can begin without written notification to the Justice Department and the written approval of Mr. Barr.

The F.B.I. must also notify and consult with the relevant leaders at the department — like the heads of the criminal division, the national security division or a United States attorney’s office — before investigating Senate or House candidates or their campaigns, or opening an inquiry related to “illegal contributions, donations or expenditures by foreign nationals to a presidential or congressional campaign.”

This rule would have protected the following people from any investigation in 2016:

  • Trump, for paying off former sex partners
  • Paul Manafort, for taking $2.4M after discussing carving up Ukraine to Russia’s liking in 2016
  • Roger Stone, for dark money activity and coordination still unresolved as well as optimizing materials stolen from the Democrats
  • Mike Flynn, for being on Turkey’s payroll while attending Top Secret candidate briefings
  • George Papadopoulos, for trying to monetize his access to Trump with foreign countries including Israel
  • Illegal donations from Russians, Malaysians, Emiratis, and Ukrainians in 2016
  • Illegal coordination between the campaign and its SuperPAC

The only criminal investigations into Trump flunkies that wouldn’t have been covered in 2016 would be the money laundering investigation into Manafort (which started two months before he joined the campaign) and, possibly, the counterintelligence investigation into Page (because his tie to the campaign was not known at the time).

As stated, the rule would require pre-approval for the Ukrainian grifter investigation and any investigation into known coordination problems Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale has engaged in. It would protect not just Trump, but also (because they work on his campaign) his failson and son-in-law.

Plus, Barr believes that because the President can’t be indicted, he should not be investigated. So this is, quite literally, a guarantee that no crime Trump commits between now and election day will be investigated — not even shooting someone on Fifth Avenue  (at the federal level, at least, but DOJ has maintained that NYS cannot investigate the sitting president either). Barr has just announced, using fancy language to avoid headlines describing what this is, that from now until November, he will hold President Trump above the law.

Citizens United has opened up a floodgate of barely hidden cash from foreign donors into our elections. This is not a partisan thing; as noted, Mohammed bin Zayed was dumping huge money into both Hillary and Trump’s campaign. And the Attorney General of the United States has just made it easier for foreigners to tamper in our elections.

Barr has snookered reporters into believing this is the same announcement as he made in January.

It’s not. This is not about spying on a campaign, much as Pete Williams wants to pretend it is. This is about telling Trump and his associates they will not be prosecuted by DOJ, going forward, for the same crimes they’ve committed in the past.

Update: Two more details. The memo requires signed approval by the Deputy Attorney General to open a preliminary investigation of any presidential candidate. But it also requires prompt notice to the Assistant Attorney General for any assessment. That means the AG is demanding that his top deputies learn when someone does a database search.

150 replies
  1. klynn says:

    First, this post needs to go viral. Viral to the point that citizens protest Barr to “a fill the Mall” sized protest. Thank you for catching Barr’s intent.

    How is he able to set this policy and make it stick if actual laws are being violated? Could Dems point out what you are pointing out in a very public manner to see how Barr defends his intent? Then no matter how he replies, test him?

    Are there any investigative pathways that could gather evidence that Barr could not touch? I assume CIA? I would add Congress but that seems hopeless.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Bill Barr might be the most skilled cover-up artist since Joe Breen hit Hollywood.

    He won an Oscar covering up for Reagan and Bush, helping both avoid censure and Bush indictment over Iran-Contra. The GOP Senate just gave him approval to do as much covering up of Trump-era crimes as he wants. Given the nature of both, it’ll be enough to plastic wrap the planet.

    Hope the Dems are taking notes Undoing his work will be like winding a baseball to get at that little nugget inside.

  3. Rapier says:

    I’ve asked in other threads pertaining to Barr and the DOJ, how is this all going down at the DOJ? Certainly at this point the DOJ is not full of loyalists. I guess it should go without saying that talking out of school by DOJ personnel never carried as much professional risk.

    I’m still waiting for the first story about rumblings about Barr within the DOJ.

    • drouse says:

      I wouldn’t bet the rent money on that. Trump has had three years to conduct his purges. Just paying passing attention to the news lets you know that anyone with principals has quit or been forced out.

      Anyone want to bet just which investigations get green lit?

    • Pablo in the Gazebo says:

      As to your wondering “about rumblings about Barr within the DOJ” I found this buried in a comment thread at TPM from the twitter feed of Don Winslow, “I have multiple sources inside the Justice Department that tell me when Barr became Attorney General he shut down *six* separate investigations into Trump and Trump related companies and surrogates. I’m told Barr has also prevented *two new* investigations from moving forward.”
      I guess all it is is rumblings without specifics, maybe it isn’t true at all, it’s the first I’ve heard on the subject. But it’s a start.

  4. Greg Hunter says:

    I have to say I love Wyoming as it plays an outsized role in electing and keeping absolutely disgusting individuals in power. However, Wyoming is still blessed with more newspapers and paid journalists than Dayton Ohio where I was born even though Wyoming has less people. I had just read a “local” columnists story that mentioned in passing about Pete Williams being from Wyoming and filed it in my brain as interesting. I had not made the connection between the mouthpiece of Barr and the Cheney’s until this morning, so I know I am behind and now I am down the rabbit hole.

    Life is less of mystery, but infinitely more frightening, when you know all the participants and can watch the pieces move on the chess board.

  5. John Forde says:

    What constrains Barr?

    1. SDNY ongoing investigations
    2. DOJ Inspector General
    3. Fear of post Trump prosecution
    4. House committee investigations
    5 State Attorney’s General

    He has visibility into #1. Does he have partial or total visibility into #2?

    • Raven Eye says:

      Interesting point. The Velcro-nosed Trumpistas assume that our military leadership is, as a group, a bunch of strong Trump supporters.

      While there are a fair number of those, my experience working for and around flag and general officers is that many of them don’t fit the cheap novel, Hollywood, and Trump stereotypes. (I separate Trump from Hollywood because I don’t think he has the attention span to sit and watch a 1 1/2 to 2 hour movie.) Many of them are well-read and thoughtful individuals who cover a wide range of interests and expertise.

  6. klynn says:


    Does anyone know much about Victor Pinchuk and his current standing? I know Mueller investigated him.

    I occasionally visit a certain Ohio county’s GOP page and there was a post of Newt G linked. He was pictured at a Pinchuk Foundation event.

    • klynn says:

      Bummer. Rayne, could you clean up that second link and remove the FB tracking? Sorry, thought I had removed it and missed it during the edit clock!

  7. Mooser says:

    “Indeed, the(y) make it clear that criminal investigations, including into donors!!!, must be approved.”

    Gee, so political contributions can be used outright to purchase immunity.

      • P J Evans says:

        Not just there.
        I saw some graffitti in an underpass once, back in the 80s, and took a picture of it. It read:
        (I got a kick out of it. Gave one print of it to my medieval history professor.)

  8. PeeJ says:

    Well, if I took something to Barr to investigate, and he said no, that there isn’t anything there, I guess it would be OK to tell the press that I thought I saw something illegal going on, but Barr said there is nothing there. Then the press could investigate. Congress must act to make sure all requests to investigate are logged and available for review.

  9. gmoke says:

    Gee, does the Federal Election Commission have a quorum of at least 4 commissioners yet? I wonder how the remaining commissioners feel about Bill Barr’s encroachment upon their territory.

  10. Sandy says:

    What do you think of the idea of the House starting an impeachment investigation of Barr? I realize it’s never been done, but it’s constitutional. His use of AG powers to stymie investigations/prosecutions and silence perceived enemies certainly justifies it. He’s also neck deep in the cover up to bury Trump’s phone call summaries with Putin, Erdogan, MBS, etc. on the secret server, as well as the Ukraine abuse of power and so much more.

    It would give the House the tool to do a deep investigation and aggressively litigate the administration’s roadblocks because, since he’s not on the ballot, there’s no time constraint. If anything, he’s a greater threat than Trump, because he’s a lot smarter. At minimum being under active investigation would make him think twice about what he does going forward to dismantle the rule of law. The House wouldn’t have to make a spectacle of it; it would be a strong basis to get witnesses and documents and truly dig into the facts.

    • bmaz says:

      Heh. Pelosi, who could not even muster an intelligent effort against the most corrupt and damaging man in history, is going to take on the now even more empowered Attorney General? That’s your plan?

      I would love to know what you are smoking, and would like to sample it.

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Lt. Col. Vindman is escorted from the White House. A familiar scene in Trump’s Washington. Trump has always worked hard to impose the maximum public humiliation on employees who displease him. In part, he wants to immediately discredit them and anything they might say about him. Mostly, owing to his deep pathology, he gets off on it.

    His pettiness and cruelty know no bounds. But the Pelosis and Comeys of the world have the status and resources to endure it without missing a beat. That’s why Trump prefers to act out against mid-level employees. His pettiness can reach deep into their lives and cause enduring pain.

    In Vindman’s case, the Army had better have his back – and his brother’s. The knock-on effects of not doing so would be profound, especially after Trump has preferred and pardoned alleged criminals in their ranks.

    A correction to MSNBC’s commentary – a daily necessity. Others, like Marie Yovanovitch, Do Not choose to take themselves out by resigning. They are forced out, regardless of the formality of their leaving.

    The suggestion, mentioned earlier today, that Yovanovitch could have stayed and been awarded another ambassadorship, is as laughable and fact-free as a Mike Pompeo press interview. Neither Trump nor Pompeo would have sanctioned that. The only job they would have offered her would have been to open a one-person hut in Antarctica. The framing is another example of minimizing and normalizing this grossly abnormal president.

    • BobCon says:

      NY Times website is all about coronavirus, Buttigieg, Trump benefitting from the economy…

      They are signalling full strength what they will be ignoring this year. They think they are immune from what Thiel did to Gawker.

    • P J Evans says:

      They might have given her another post in Africa. In one of the countries they hate so much. And then cut back on security as far as they could.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The treatment of the Vindmans should eviscerate the happy ignorance and false optimism shared by the lame Lamar Alexander and duplicitous Susan Collins.

      Trump will have worse in store for them and for many more before his public employment ends. Fortunately, Alexander and Collins can look forward to being in the same unemployment line.

      • BobCon says:

        They knew it was coming and they voted that way and said what they did anyway.

        They could have extracted a heavy price from McConnell and Trump for their complicity — jobs for their states, health care for their constituents. Instead, they got nothing.

        And once they are out of office, they will still be snubbed by the true believers of the GOP, getting no favors for their own people, no phone calls returned, no grants or jobs. Just more humiliation for the rest of their lives.

    • Old Antarctic Explorer says:

      LOL! It would probably cost them more to support her in that one person hut than sending her to Paris!

    • Frank says:

      I thought the Vindman and Sondland got off easy. Many Trump supporters would have preferred to see them sent to serve in Wuhan. Or perhaps Iraq, where they could be targeted by Iranian-backed militia seeking to appease outraged Iranians at home without risk of offending Trump.

      • e.a.f says:

        of course she had no choice but to resign. If she had not, she would have been given an office with no work, no phone, nothing. that is how its done when you want to get rid of some one and you “can’t” fire them. Its called constructed dismissal. For the former Ambassador, it would have been too much. The odd person has suck it out, but they are few and far between.

        • Savage Librarian says:

          Unless the targeted person is able to somehow get the message out: “Please don’t throw me in the briar patch.” Sometimes reverse psychology works. But, I understand it’s rare.

        • Frank says:

          Actually, when Trump discussed dismissing Yovanovitch with Zelensky, Zelensky commented that he believed Yovanovitch had been supporting Poroshenko in the last election and that he would have found it hard to work with her. I don’t have any independent knowledge about who Yovanovitch favored in that election (she might have preferred the experienced politician) or what she did (if anything) to cause Zelensky to make this statement. Perhaps Zelensky was merely humoring Trump by supporting his decision or perhaps she was a victim of unjustified rumors that reached Zelensky. Yovanovitch didn’t deserve the mistreatment she got at the hands of the White House, Giuliani and his cronies, but Zelensky’s attitude towards Yovanovitch MIGHT have been a reason the DoS didn’t fight harder to keep her in Ukraine. And her boss at DoS might not have been candid about why DoS didn’t fight harder to keep her in Ukraine.

      • Yohei72 says:

        I saw multiple Trumpists in comment sections last night calling for Sondland and/or Vindman to be tried for “sedition.”

        This is where we are: Americans proposing seriously that giving testimony before Congress that makes the president look bad is sedition against the nation and merits a prison term.

    • Raven Eye says:

      The “escorted out” thing is more in *how* you do it, not that it is done.

      My last job was in a secure location in a large DoD building. When I left, I turned in my badge and was technically a visitor. I was escorted out and passed through the visitors’ exit. In my case, the escort was provided by colleagues and was a thoroughly pleasant experience. However, there was nobody involved who was trying to make points by “banishing” me.

      • P J Evans says:

        Where I worked, at a utility company, you handed your badge to your boss and got escorted to the building lobby. (That was after they watched you log off your computer and take whatever personal stuff you wanted to keep.)

  12. Nehoa says:

    As related to this policy by Barr, and a whole host of other things, the House needs to be much more aggressive in getting documents, witnesses and testimony. Full court press in the courts, (big) fines for non-compliance, and use of state election laws to enable non-GOP attorney generals to fill in some of the gaps.

      • Scott says:

        The US is now a de facto oligarchy. Perhaps that will change in November 2020 but I sure as hell wouldn’t bet on it. It’s likely you’re stuck wit Trump for at least another 4 years as well as. GOP Senate and SCOTUS. That is a corrupt regime indebted to a foreign power(s) that will only get worse with age. It’s the kind of disgusting regime the US (Dem and GOP) has spent many years inflicting on innocent people all over the world. I for one think it’s hilarious (and just) that the tables are turned for once. You ALL deserve it.

        • Molly Pitcher says:

          Do tell us what remarkable just and benevolent government you thrive under currently ? You sound agreeved so it can’t be all that hot. Be forewarned, you have decided to gloat on a day when I am particularly ready to cross swords with the unarmed.

          • BobCon says:

            He’s a troll. The plan is to flood the discourse with this kind of nihilism to discourage opposition to the GOP, and we’ll be seeing a lot more all over the place. Just push past it.

            • Molly Pitcher says:

              I presumed as much, but it was actually feeling pretty good to gear up for a fight. The story about the Vindman brothers really tipped me over the edge from a week’s end depression to fury.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            It’s all-volunteer, of course. Trump never pays for anything. Vlad doesn’t pay when he has other means of persuasion at his disposal, or is already paying them via the army or intel budget.

      • P J Evans says:

        everyone that testified, whether they were truthful or not. And Eugene Vindman, just because he’s a Vindman.

        • Eureka says:

          He’s so predictably vindictive, I just wonder if we have any surprises in store or if this is it for tonight.

          (At this point I’ve forgotten who has already left — or had announced their leaving prior, like Vindman.)

          • Tom says:

            For Trump, firing the Vindman brothers and having them escorted out of the White House in the middle of the afternoon is the equivalent of pulling the wings off flies.

          • Tom says:

            Trump isn’t going to be around forever, (I wonder if he’ll have himself stuffed and put on display the way Lenin was?), and it’s comforting to think that one day it will be viewed as a badge of honour to have been fired by this particular President, in the way that people took pride in finding they were on Nixon’s enemies list.

        • BobCon says:

          Am I wrong, or is that unusually blunt for Gerstein?

          Not that he’s wrong. Others in the press are kidding themselves if they don’t see where this headed.

          • Eureka says:

            Eh, it didn’t trip my meters as being outside his voice, though perhaps my accounting of same includes potential or latency (he does do allusory shade, and this is an acute occasion — it matches the week’s events). Others may disagree.

        • Eureka says:

          Sondland’s statement, noting for posterity the shiv to Yovanovitch (et al.) in noting Pompeo’s “consistent support”:

          “I was advised today that the President intends to recall me effective immediately as United States Ambassador to the European Union.

          I am grateful to President Trump for having given me the
          opportunity to serve, to Secretary Pompeo for his consistent
          support, and to the exceptional and dedicated professionals at
          the U.S. Mission to the European Union. I am proud of our
          accomplishments. Our work here has been the highlight of my

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I guess Trump didn’t like Gordon admitting to Congress that he knew there was a quid pro quo because he demanded it from Ukraine – on orders from his boss.

      To Trump, these people spilled to the Feds about their Don. They deserve a long walk on a short pier over the East River for it. He’s feeling like Michael Corleone at the end of the Godfather Part I. Fortunately, he’s not that lucky or that smart, and Bill Barr will not be Attorney General forever.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The quality of US government officials and external advisers will continue to decline until Trump is replaced. It will take a decade or more to recover the talent and networks Trump has intentionally abandoned, in the manner of Al Capone being put in charge of the FBI.

      Abroad, imagine what’s going through the minds of Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, and others, as they wait for their time to act.

  13. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Ambassador Bill Taylor blew it during his interview with CNN. He appropriately criticized Trump’s treatment of Yovanovitch and the Vindmans. But when asked whether he thought Mike Pompeo had done enough to support his people, Taylor replied that, “he thought Pompeo was doing the best he could under the circumstances.”

    In fact, Pompeo has done nothing to defend Yovanovitch or his people. The State Department is bleeding good talent, like the rest of the USG. Their few replacements are Trump bots and multi-millionaire wannabe ambassadors who fire their No. 2 – the career professional who keeps things running – faster than Trump can inhale a Big Mac, to put in place their favorite sycophant.

    And if it were up to Pompeo, you couldn’t slide tooth floss between him and Trump. Which makes Bill Taylor’s fence sitting comment proof positive that Burger King is not the only place to buy a Whopper.

  14. Eureka says:

    Meanwhile, ABC apparently has the likes of Chris Christie and Rahm Emmanuel doing dem debate commentary. What a country!

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The Hardy Boys.

      Hard to tell which of those two is more rightwing or willing to do anything. Lying would be the least of their sins.

      • Eureka says:

        Well, their friend-in-deed is a friend-in-need. Biden has apparently found himself with an “electability” problem of his own.

    • Eureka says:

      Best I can tell, these panel choices have united the proverbial horseshoe, with Q folks complaining along with progressives or other lefties. ABC serving up Putin’s chef!

  15. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The ABC “debate” format seems to give a helluva lot of discretion to the anchor to determine who gets to speak. Lately, it’s centered on Buttigieg, now an establishment darling.

    I’m not sure why Tom Steyer is there. He has a few good points, but is not a credible candidate. Gentleman Joe Biden is louder and more argumentative tonight. Somebody woke him up, but can he stay that way? Riffing on his comment about his judgment, I’d say it hasn’t improved since the days of BushCheney, iraq, and his deeply flawed bankruptcy bill.

    No one seems interested in hearing from Elizabeth Warren. Wonder why that is.

    • P J Evans says:

      The one guy seems to have a thing about war and the military, and doesn’t want to hear from either Warren or Klobuchar.

    • Eureka says:

      NYT sets up its dem debate feature this way:

      The New York Times: “Despite messy results, the Iowa caucuses scrambled the 2020 campaign, with Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders pulling ahead and Joe Biden trailing in fourth place. How will this outcome affect the dynamics on today’s debate stage? [NYT link] [link to tweet via reply below]

      What about the third-place finisher, why are we skipping her?!?

      Max Kennerly with a receipt-laden rejoinder:

      “@nytimes Funny thing, I searched NYTimes for “three tickets out of Iowa” and it seems you’ve been saying it since at least 1996. It’s one of your favorite lines! A woman gets third place, and now you’re talking about just first, second, and fourth place? [screenshots]

      In addition, Will Bunch has (re)tweeted lot of particulars, especially over the last week, on the ghosting of Elizabeth Warren — including a new piece by Joan Walsh, “The Erasure of Elizabeth Warren Continues”:

      Adding: Lots of commentary on their ignoring of Klobuchar can be found in the same places, though with Warren it is so egregious because of her “ranking” in the polls and other placements (besides that they are scared of her policies, potential to win, and accomplish any of them, one might assume).

      • Eureka says:

        …And it must be added that absent this obvious bias, both Warren and Klobuchar (and others before them, like Harris) might have been “polling” and “resulting” better at this time (all along).

  16. Eureka says:

    Sad but true; more important for the shoddy-attempt-at-a-facade parallels than mere snark:

    Jess Dweck: “Republicans tore up the constitution for a guy who looks like your pillow after you fall asleep with makeup on [quoting tweet below]”

    White House Photos: “⁦@realDonaldTrump⁩ returns to the White House from Charlotte, North Carolina. Photo by William Moon at the South Lawn of the White House on February 7, 2020 [photo to see before it’s begoned]”

    • P J Evans says:

      I’m wondering if Trmp puts his body paint on after he gets his hair put up for the day, and does it without his glasses on so he can’t see anything around the edges.

      • Eureka says:

        There has to be some kind of shower cap or equivalent involved, the edges are so round. [Perish the thought, maybe they’re angling for one of those youtubers who does all of the layers and effects to chime in/ cross-promote.]

        Granted most people I know wear little if any makeup, and even a special occasion wouldn’t produce that kind of pillow-murder as in the original tweet — a hyperbole which only heightens his isolation. Sad… for us.

    • Tom says:

      Trump looks like he’s auditioning for the part of the Cowardly Lion in a west wing production of “The Wizard of Oz”.

  17. harpie says:

    PopeHat Retweeted
    7:05 PM · Feb 7, 2020

    And now, Democratic debate talking points as original trilogy Star Wars quotes:
    @BernieSanders: If you strike me down, I’ll become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.

    @PeteButtigieg: It’s not impossible. I used to bullseye womp rats in my T-16 back home…

    @ewarren: Judge me by my size do you? And well you should not. For my ally, is the Force. And a powerful ally it is.

    @JoeBiden: I’m endangering the mission, I shouldn’t have come.

    @amyklobuchar: Then I’ll see you in hell.

    @AndrewYang: Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1.

    @TomSteyer: I’ll take good care of her. She won’t get a scratch.

    @MikeBloomberg: If you only knew the power of the dark side.
    @realDonaldTrump: RRWWGGNN
    I’m liveblogging the debate for @thenationat 8:00 pm

  18. e.a.f says:

    Must say Barr’s new game rules are pretty slick or sick. just another nail into the American democracy coffin. No investigation with out his permission. gee that’s nice work/ now Barr or whomever follows him can just ignore what ever is wrong, criminal, immoral, unethical, etc. I’m sure Putin and a few others are going to be very happy with Barr’s new rules, including his good friend Trump. Makes me sick.

    we have the Republican Senate giving Trump a pass on anything he wants to do, We have Trump on a firing rampage, now we have Barr with his new act. Wonder what could possibility go wrong with all of this.

    • OldTulsaDude says:

      The victims of the Trump post-acquittal enemies purge best be thankful that he as yet does not have access to Novichok.

  19. Eureka says:

    Post-debate, Chris Matthews had a genuinely-terrified red scare meltdown over Bernie. Public intellectual Chris Hayes did the best he could with this segment — and some calming factual references to Denmark. But Matthews wasn’t catching the hygge.

    Good audio on the clip linked below: this will surely be covered by the media-watch-type and other orgs (and the right wing) by morning if not already:

    “Chris Matthews started out saying he has views of socialism that he’s willing he’s happy to talk about in private with people and then IMMEDIATELY starts talking about how if there’s socialism he’s going to be executed in the middle of central park by Fidel Castro personally.”

    • bmaz says:

      The clip is all over Twitter. Matthews was truly and insanely apeshit. He pretty much equated Sanders with Fidel Castro. It was just nuts.

        • bmaz says:

          What do you mean “who asked him to do that”? You think it was a performance on demand from some higher authority?? Do you have one scintilla of information to support that outlandish thought?

          • klynn says:

            He was over-the-top. I’m not a Mathews fan but that was the most “out there” crazy I have every seen from him. It came off as the sound bite it was meat to be.

          • Savage Librarian says:

            Just asking your opinion. Do you think there might be a move toward building a “Team of Rivals” since Mitt chose not to acquit? BTW, Hillary was on Ellen. She doesn’t endorse anyone. But we already know she doesn’t want Bernie. HRC claims the potential nominee should 1) be able to win and 2) should, basically, know the ropes and have experience (paraphrasing.) It should be someone who could bring people together, she said. Not sure how to interpret this. But, for some reason, Abe Lincoln came to mind for me, whether or not that was the intent.

            • earlofhuntingdon says:

              A supposed team of rivals would be another own goal.

              First, the Dems have an enormous job ahead of them to rebuild Democratic national leadership from the bottom up. The Dems need to use every slot available to them to do that. Their alternative is to pull inexperienced kids off the street and in the private sector to fill senior positions – or hire ready-made lobbyists instead. What would that achieve in promoting a progressive society?

              Second, the Dems need to remove or isolate the left behinds from this and earlier GOP administrations. That is both to lower their ability to obstruct and to avoid rewarding them and inadvertently empowering their own network, which is adverse to the Dem’s and the country’s.

              Third, after the GOP obstruction in the House and Senate over Trump’s impeachment, it has amply demonstrated its inability and unwillingness to govern. Rewarding them with senior government jobs would be what Susan Collins would do.

            • bmaz says:

              I don’t know. For the life of me, I cannot figure how this election will play out. And all of us, having been through 2008 and 2016, made a conscious decision to keep the blog out of the primary politics.

    • Yohei72 says:

      I salute your use of “hygge,” one of my favorite foreign words for emotions we haven’t named in English. (Up there with “schadenfreude” and “mono no aware.”)

  20. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Another obvious bribe by Putin – and emoluments clause violation by Trump.

    The leader of a far-right, pro-Putin party in Russia (as if there were any other kind), and good friend of Vlad, has invited himself to America. He wants to throw a clambake to celebrate Trump’s impeachment victory. At Mar-a-Lago. At whatever exorbitant rates Trump sets. The Dom and Beluga will flow like vodka in a Russian winter.

    Knowing that the only dealing he engages in is self-dealing, Mr. Trump has often labeled the Constitution’s anti-emoluments clause as the “phoney [sic] emoluments clause.” It’s what he calls every law that constrains his profit-taking at government expense.

    I suppose this Mar-a-Lago party would be cheaper for Putin than taking out a snarky ad in every major newspaper, announcing that the collar he has fastened around Donald Trump reads, “Property of the Russian Empire.”

  21. harpie says:

    Did you know there was a fascist march in Washington DC yesterday?

    Here’s a thread about it:
    4:18 PM · Feb 8, 2020

    White nationalists shouting “RECLAIM AMERICA” through my neighborhood.
    This isn’t Charlottesville.
    This is Washington, DC. […]

    Members of the Patriot Front
    marched from the National Mall,
    past the Capitol,
    ending near Union Station […]

    The cowards covered their faces.

    • P J Evans says:

      “The cowards covered their faces.”
      As usual – they’re afraid of their neighbors, co-workers, and bosses finding out what they really think of them.

      • harpie says:

        Can you get a look at the flags in those photos…some/most? of them are not regular US flags.
        added: the shoulder patches and hats have the same flags.

      • harpie says:

        I just looked them up at SPLC:

        Patriot Front is a white nationalist hate group that broke off from Vanguard America in the aftermath of the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, of August 12, 2017. […]

        Patriot Front is an image-obsessed organization that rehabilitated the explicitly fascist agenda of Vanguard America with garish patriotism. Patriot Front focuses on theatrical rhetoric and activism that can be easily distributed as propaganda for its chapters across the country.

        There’s a picture of the flag there.

        • harpie says:

          So, it “Patriot” Front marches under flag that is NOT the Flag of the United States of America.

          UNpatriot front”

    • harpie says:

      Yes, this question:
      Kamala Harris: “Attorney General Barr, has the president or anyone at the WH ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone?”

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Asked, suggested, requested…? I’m not sure what you mean, Ms. Harris.

        Bill Barr is acting like someone who should spend five to ten in a federal pen.

    • harpie says:

      What everyone is referring to is:
      11:09 AM · Feb 9, 2020

      Here’s Lindsey Graham telling CBS that Attorney General Barr has “created a process” where Rudy Giuliani can feed Biden dirt from Ukrainian sources directly to the DOJ, and the DOJ will then check it out [VIDEO]

      BRENNAN: Who’s paying Rudy Giuliani?
      LINDSEY GRAHAM: “Uh, I don’t know.”
      *Graham changes topic immediately* [VIDEO]

      BRENNAN: “You spoke with AG BARR [this morning].
      Has the Department of Justice been ordered to investigate the Bidens?”

        • Jenny says:

          Memorable Lindsey Graham Quotes

          “I’m not going to leave the Republican Party. I’m going to grow it. We’re not going to be the party of angry white guys.” (2009 town hall in South Carolina)

          “The demographics race we’re losing badly. We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.” (2012 Republican Convention)

          “He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot,” Graham continued. “He doesn’t represent my party. He doesn’t represent the values that the men and women who wear the uniform are fighting for. … He’s the ISIL man of the year.” (2015 on CNN about Trump)

      • P J Evans says:

        have they considered treating Rudy’s “information” like that of any other informant, the way it should be done?

        • bmaz says:

          But what does that mean? DOJ will at least look at most things from an informant, just in general. Does not mean they will bite off on it, but when it comes from a former SDNY US Attorney working for the current POTUS, that is always going to get different treatment.

          I think people may be freaking out a tad too much on these new Barr protocols. They are not that ridiculous. Except Barr leads the DOJ at this moment. Such investigations should have always gone through NSD and PIN, which means the top of DOJ Main.

          Barr and his top lieutenants are the question far more that the actual protocols, but that was already the case. Hopefully any up the line chain will produce a paper trail though, and in this administration, that may not be a bad thing.

          • P J Evans says:

            I’m worried about them investigating Rudy’s stories as if they’re all true, and not disinformation and lies aimed at gettign rid of opposition.

            • bmaz says:

              More than valid concern. My point is only that the “new protocols” are not, in and of themselves, that scary. Investigation of candidates and campaigns were always supposed to go to DOJ Main, even if not quite the AG him or her self. But close enough. It “should” be known at the highest levels.

    • harpie says:

      More on this, today, via Quinta Jurecic:
      5:29 PM · Feb 10, 2020

      Jerry Nadler has many questions about Bill Barr’s “intake process” for Rudy’s Ukraine digging.

      One is why the Justice Department said on Sept. 25: “Nor has the attorney general discussed this matter, or anything relating to Ukraine, with Rudy Giuliani.” [link to pdf of letter]

      • harpie says:

        From the letter:
        […] To the extent that statement is no longer accurate, any official relationship between Mr. Giuliani and the Department raises serious questions about conflicts of interest—both for the Department, generally, and for you, specifically. […]

        Whether or not you are in league with Mr. Giuliani and his associates, DOJ guidelines and regulations exist to protect you and the Department from even the appearance of a conflict of interest or any impropriety. Given your creation of a new “intake process” for Mr. Giuliani, it is all the more important that you provide a complete explanation for your decision to sidestep standard Department practice. […]

        • OldTulsaDude says:

          All well and good, but what will Jerry Nadler, et al, do when they are told to fuck off? I’m not big on creating documents for posterity. Or are we totally impotent when face-to-face with the harlot?

    • harpie says:

      More, via Laura Rozen:
      6:40 PM · Feb 10, 2020

      NEW: For months, @RudyGiuliani complained @TheJusticeDept would not investigate his documents related to the BIDENS/Burisma & 2016. That’s changing now, thanks to BILL BARR.

      GIULIANI says he has “4 or 5 unquestionably true documents” to provide to Barr.

      Links to:
      Justice Dept. Will Accept Material From Giuliani, but Barr Voices Caution
      Noting that investigators must consider any information potentially relevant to their work, the attorney general said that evidence from Ukraine could not be taken “at face value.”
      Feb. 10, 2020 Updated 6:07 p.m. ET

      • P J Evans says:

        I want those docs to be investigated as thoroughly as Steele’s were, and if they’re false (as I expect) for Rudy to be charged with providing false evidence.

  22. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I’d like to return to that draft Executive Order that would give El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago personal control over the design of any federal building project contracted through the GSA that costs more than $50 million.

    (Summary of the NYT’s article here: )

    There are strong arguments that it would degrade art, architecture, and first amendment rights. There’s no legal basis for this presidential overreach, this degradation of routine professional and management processes, this physical and psychic intrusion into daily American social life.

    There is no evidence to suggest that Mr. Trump has the knowledge, temper, taste, patience, or judgment necessary to fulfill this role. There is much evidence to the contrary. What normal presidential work would be ignored while Trump obsesses over building facades, drapes and surfaces, the use of cheap but banned materials, and parking fees? What piece of the action would he demand?

    Even as an attempt to corral Trump’s excesses by distracting him into minutiae, it is another dangerous expansion of executive authority, another coddling to a dictator’s wrath and whim.

    My objection is simpler: it’s Hitlerian. It is fascistic, this drumbeat to return to some mythic former beauty that contemporary life – and specific named enemies – have corrupted or will corrupt, and which can only be cured by the personal intervention of El Caudillo.

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