Robert Hur Complained about Biden Notes that Trump Almost Certainly Already Declassified

If you ignore the overreading Robert Hur confessed to in order to justify writing a 388-page report that should have been 75, if you ignore the way Hur improperly used prejudicial language to attack a Presidential candidate and set up impeachment frenzy among Republicans, there are some interesting historic details about Robert Hur’s report, such as the details of what classified documents investigators found.

Thirty-four pages of the report consist of appendices, describing what investigators found where. And because Hur spent 156 pages explaining why he didn’t indict Biden based on the actions of Senate staffers shipping 2,000 boxes of Speech and Debate protected documents first to the Archives and then the University of Delaware decades ago, there are descriptions of how virtually all of the documents got where they ended up (except, of course, the two folders of Afghanistan documents around which he builds the excuse to write a 388-page report).

One of the most interesting descriptions, for example, explains how some of the most sensitive documents the FBI found — an envelope of documents about Obama’s Iran deal, including several with a bunch of compartment markings — probably ended up at Penn Biden Center.

The report describes that the documents were compiled in anticipation of a January 29, 2015 breakfast meeting at the Naval Observatory at which Biden attempted to persuade six Senators who had traveled to Israel together to support Obama’s Iran deal. Biden’s staffers got a bunch of compartmented documents delivered in advance; they were properly signed off in person. A picture of the breakfast meeting shows Biden with an envelope that may contain the documents in question.

Another picture shows Biden with some of the handwritten notes that would end up at Penn Biden Center.

Unlike he did with the Afghan documents, Hur did not invent a narrative to explain why Biden might have wanted to retain these. He noted that Promise Me, Dad, barely mention the Iran deal (it similarly barely mentioned the Afghanistan memo, but that didn’t deter Hur).

Hur surmises that Biden simply kept these really sensitive documents on hand, and they got moved, by someone else, when he left office.

Given his practice of having his front office staff store files he wanted to keep close at hand, Mr. Biden likely gave the EYES ONLY envelope to his executive assistant to keep within reach for future engagement with members of Congress. He and his staff appear to have eventually forgotten about it-along with other older files in the front-office collection-and staff members unwittingly moved it out of the West Wing at the end of the administration.

That’s how Hur declined to prosecute some of the most sensitive documents discovered (documents that, it should be said, would require Senators to testify if they were ever charged).

Less interesting and far more tedious are Biden’s Senate documents. Under Hur’s supervision, the FBI spent what must have been days and days going through the boxes sent in several passes to University of Delaware, discovering decades-old documents, many labeled Confidential which, he conceded, could be either a classification mark or Senate discretion.

Some of the documents are marked “CONFIDENTIAL.” While that is a valid marking for classified information, the term “CONFIDENTIAL” is also used in other contexts not involving classified information. Senate staffers could have understood these to be internal committee documents or simply sensitive documents created by authors who wanted to limit the number of people who viewed them.

It should trouble Members of Congress that Hur never took Speech and Debate under consideration in his analysis, particularly given that these were documents that Biden specifically didn’t want to retain.

Hur spent almost four pages discussing two binders (and one corresponding document found at Penn Biden Center) titled, “Weekend with Charlie Rose,” which were not marked as classified on the front.

It was, quite obviously, a briefing book that got brought back from Aspen to the Wilmington house and never moved from there.

In searching the contents of the box in the garage where they found one of the “Weekend With Charlie Rose” binders, agents found binders from other trips Mr. Biden took as vice president in the same box. 1340 A naval enlisted aide recalled that Mr. Biden kept such binders after returning from his trips. 1311

There must be hundreds of similar briefing books top officials brought back from one or another Aspen conference. That’s a problem. It’s not a crime.

You can see how tedious — and unnecessary — parts of this exercise were.

It’s Hur’s analysis of Biden’s diaries that I find most interesting, and troubling. Hur’s approach to these diaries is one of the most obvious flags of political bias in a report full of them.

Take his use of language. The word “diaries” appears 103 times in the report [note: someone with interns should replicate this work, as it is inexact]. In about five of those instances, Hur quotes the people around Biden referring to these notebooks as diaries. Two instances discuss the Presidential Record Act’s language treating diaries as personal records, exempt from PRA. Maybe ten or so appear in a section where Hur envisions that Biden would describe these as diaries as a defense, but the word is always put in Biden’s mouth. Hur adheres to using “notebooks” here.

Mr. Biden will likely say, he never believed his notebooks, which he thought of as his personal diaries, fell within that arrangement. He treated the notebooks markedly differently from the rest of his notes and other presidential records throughout his vice presidency, for example, allowing staff to store and review his notecards, but not his notebooks. 914 This treatment, he will argue, and the extremely personal content of some of the notebooks, shows that he considered them to be his personal property. Mr. Biden’s notebooks included gut-wrenching passages about his son’s death and other highly personal material. 915 His claim that he believed he did not need to send what he considered to be his personal diary to be stored at a government facility will likely appeal to some jurors. 916

We expect Mr. Biden also to contend that the presence of classified information in what he viewed as his diary did not change his thinking. As a member of the exclusive club of former presidents and vice presidents, Mr. Biden will claim that he knew such officials kept diaries, and he knew or expected that those diaries-like Mr. Reagan’s-contained classified information. 917 He also understood that former presidents and vice presidents took their diaries home upon leaving office, without being investigated or prosecuted for it. [all emphasis mine]

But the overwhelming bulk of those remaining 85 or so uses of the word “diaries” describe Reagan’s (or in two cases, other Presidents’) diaries.

By contrast, there are 461 uses of the word “notebook” in Hur’s report. That’s the word Hur uses to refer to what he quotes people around Biden calling the President’s diaries.

Reagan had diaries. And as a result, when DOJ discovered them, they remained untouched.

Biden has notebooks. By calling these notebooks, Hur permitted himself to do with Biden’s most private thoughts what DOJ did not do with Reagan’s: review them all.

Mr. Biden’s notebooks, which contained, among other things, his handwritten notes taken during classified meetings as vice president, presented a challenge. None of the pages contained classification markings but investigators assessed some of the content was potentially classified. Classification review by intelligence agencies of unmarked information is more challenging and time-consuming than for marked documents. We therefore reviewed all of Mr. Biden’s handwritten notes and selected thirty-seven excerpts totaling 109 notebook pages to submit for classification review. Investigators selected entries they believed were most likely highly classified and that a jury of laypeople would find was national defense information under the Espionage Act. [my emphasis]

All the gut-wrenching passages about Beau and whatever else (likely including a great many gut-wrenching passages about Hunter)? They’re identified with footnotes to make it easier for Jim Jordan to find them. Not dick pic-sniffing, honest. Just an attempt to find 37 excerpts that a jury of laypeople might believe were National Defense Information, even though the Presidential Records Act has a clear exception for diaries, and so this was never going to be charged anyway.

I was interested in what Hur selected anyway, but this background — the linguistic games Hur played to be able to snoop in Biden’s diaries — made the inquiry more important. Some of the 37 excerpts he chose were predictable.

Several weeks after the killing of Osama bin Laden, for example, then-Vice President Joe Biden wrote down his recollections about it, just like every other person involved.

On June 19, 2013, not quite two weeks after the first Snowden leaks, Biden attended a briefing by the National Security Agency.

Because it’s Joe Biden, there has to be an Amtrak connection.

But the selection that fries my ass about this exercise — the selection that makes me confident this shit is intended to blow up later in the year — is this one.

I have no doubt in my mind that these two pages of Biden’s diary are his version of these notes, Peter Strzok’s memorialization of Jim Comey’s description of what happened in the January 5, 2017 White House meeting where Comey, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Susan Rice, and Sally Yates discussed what the fuck they were going to do about the fact that Trump’s incoming National Security Advisor had been picked up on FISA intercepts undermining Obama’s policy on Russia.

The red outline, as most will remember, is where someone who participated in Jeffrey Jensen’s review added an inaccurate note to package this up for a campaign attack on Biden.

The reason this fries my ass is that this meeting is something that Donald Trump and his allies have spent years politicizing and — as proven by that added misleading date — lying about.

The other reason this fries my ass is that Trump has declassified details of this, over, and over, and over. Hell, he even declassified the intercepts that might explain the HCS-O classification. It’s not entirely clear who did the declassification review of this (Hur had State stand in for the National Security Council to avoid conflict, but not in this case).

But particularly given the politicized background of this investigation, Hur should have left this well enough alone. It should not be the case that by licensing himself to snoop in Biden’s diaries, Hur can dig out the things Donald Trump would most like to read.

Robert Hur licensed himself to rifle through Joe Biden’s most personal thoughts by calling Biden’s stacks of paper “notebooks” rather than “diaries.” He then provided specific details about not just where to find the painful memories of his family struggles. But also one event that Trump has spent years trying to misrepresent.

Three Questions at the Start of an Intelligence Review

Why? Why? Why not?

There’s been a lot of focus on the narrow legal battles over the documents seized at Mar-a-Lago, but sometimes stepping back to look at the big picture helps bring the conflict into focus. As a legal matter and a political matter, Trump, his lawyers, and his apologists are trying to make the claim that this is just a dispute about documents, like overdue library books. The passion with which the DOJ went after them since receiving the referral from NARA last February, especially the ferocity of the legal arguments and filings over the last two weeks, demonstrates how wrong the DOJ believes that framing to be.

I agree with the DOJ.

The documents are not really what is being fought over — the battle is over the damage  (hypothetical or actual) done to our intelligence services, our national defense, and our broader foreign policy by Trump’s possession of these documents at Mar-a-Lago. The documents are the first puzzle pieces the intelligence community [IC] has to put together, to fill in the whole picture and plan a way forward.

To understand why, let’s parse out what an intelligence review might look like. What follows is not based on any insider sources at the DOJ, ODNI, or any other federal agencies, but on my own experience (long ago) with classified materials and the general experiences of others I know with deeper and more recent work in classified matters, as well as analyzing other cases where classified materials were stolen from the government and passed along to foreign governments.

An intelligence review is designed to look at three things: what got exposed, to whom, and what dangers does that pose to intelligence sources, methods, and broader foreign policy objectives? These are all backwards-looking questions, to understand how this could have happened in the first place. They also serve as the starting point for forward-looking actions, as we and our allies pivot our overt and covert foreign policy approaches in a new context. Think of Klaus Fuchs, a German-born British scientist who passed US and British nuclear secrets to the USSR in the 1940s. A backwards looking intelligence review ultimately identified him as the spy and spotted the flaws in our security procedures, and a forward looking review pivoted the US and British policy toward a world with nuclear powers who opposed each other.

In the current case, the IC review begins with three interrelated questions:

  1. Why did Trump take government documents to Mar-a-Lago in the first place?
  2. Why these documents?
  3. Why not those other documents?

The second and third questions begin to move toward an answer to the first question, so let’s start there. Broadly speaking, I see five possible answers, each of which poses different dangers.

1: Vanity

If this is the answer to that first question, we would expect to find that Trump took documents that made him look good, that pointed to actions that he believed he could claim credit for, or that simply let him feel powerful because he knows stuff very few others know. Think of these as Extreme Presidential Souvenirs. These would be documents that shout to the world, “Look at how great Trump is . . .”

Danger: Simply having documents like this in his possession would likely not be enough for Trump’s ego. Trump’s ego would demand that he show them to others, so that they would know how great Trump is. The level and kind of danger depends on who the “others” are, and who they might have spoken to about what Trump showed them.

2: Fear

In this scenario, the IC review would see that Trump took documents that would help cover up his failures and/or possible crimes, such as a full transcript of the “Perfect Phone Call” with Zelenskyy. These would be documents that whisper in Trump’s ear, “This could get you into trouble. You better hide this . . .”

Danger: These are the documents least likely to be shared by Trump, so in that respect they are safe. On the other hand, they become prime material for blackmail if unfriendly parties realize he has them. Trump’s nightmare is getting a phone call about these documents, threatening to expose the documents to the “wrong” people. “I’d like you to do me a favor, though . . .”

3: Greed

Given Trump’s proclivity to monetize anything he can for his own personal gain, it is hard to imagine that Trump would not be looking at anything that crossed his desk to see how he might make money on it. (“Hmmm . . . I’m doing some traveling? OK, which of my properties are closest, and how much can I charge the Secret Service for staying there?”) Documents that showed him something that would let him make money would be particularly tempting to Trump. Think of this as corporate espionage, or a twisted form of insider trading. Perhaps he received knowledge of foreign government’s as yet unannounced plans to develop certain properties overseas, and figured he could jump in, buy the property first, and then get bought out for a profit. Or maybe he would buy the property next to the future development and cash in when the government project became public and went forward, driving up the value of what he purchased. Perhaps these were not projects led by foreign governments, but by US corporations acting abroad whose plans were picked up as part of a signals intelligence surveillance program aimed at less-than-friendly nations. Documents like this would be calling out to his wallet, telling him “Hey, you can really use this . . .”

Danger: Suppose Trump acts on this information in some way, and the foreign government in question starts wondering “Did Trump merely get lucky in choosing to invest right where our project was going in, or did US spies give him the information?” Questions like that might lead to the exposure of human assets (sources) and signals intelligence capabilities (methods), which in turn could lead to those sources being shut down/arrested/killed, those signals intelligence methods being countered, or either the sources or methods being turned and used to feed false information to the US.

4: Corruption

As bad as #3 is, this scenario is the IC nightmare: Trump took documents that he knows other foreign governments, perhaps some of our greatest enemies, would love to have, and then deliberately passed them along to those governments. It might be to get revenge on Biden and the Dems for beating him in 2020. It might be to sabotage the work of the current administration and cause great public political problems for the Dems, to enable his return to the White House in 2024. It might be that some foreign adversary has compromising information about Trump or holds a private loan to Trump, his family, or his Trump Organization, and that country demanded classified information from Trump in exchange for not revealing the compromising information they hold or for not calling in the loan he could not immediately repay.

Danger: Beyond the damage done to sources, methods, and US foreign policy objectives created by disclosing the classified information in these documents, this scenario is worse. It weakens our relationships with our allies and harms our position in the world, simply by indicating we can’t keep secrets and by making us weaker through whatever is revealed. Should Trump have provided classified intelligence deliberately, it only gives those folks more leverage over Trump, which they would use to push for more information and more favors. Once you’ve turned over classified information to a hostile power, those folks own you forever. “Nice resort you’ve got here. It’d be a shame if anything were to happen to it.”

And it is not beyond the realm of possibility that foreign governments might lean on Trump to use his family to further their goals. “You need to have Jared talk to his friends in the Middle East, and convince them to . . . “

5: Some/all of the above

Trump might have taken some documents to feed his ego, others to hide them, and still others to try to monetize their contents. He might have taken some for his own reasons, and others because he was pressured to do so by hostile powers. The permutations are . . . troubling.

Danger: some/all of the above.

HOW BAD IS ALL THIS? DON’T ANSWER YET . . .

On top of these five possible explanations of Trump’s motives, one other thing is absolutely certain. Documents like those that were seized by the DOJ would have been catnip for the intelligence agencies of other nations. Once word got out that Trump had taken highly classified documents out of the WH (or once folks even suspected he had done so), all manner of foreign spies no doubt became very interested in Mar-a-Lago – much more than they had been during the Trump administration itself. It’s hard as hell to get into the WH and take classified materials, or to plant electronic surveillance devices inside the WH. Mar-a-Lago, on the other hand, is a relative sieve, especially after Trump left office and the security around Trump was much more directed to protecting his person rather than protecting all the stuff around a sitting president. At Mar-a-Lago these days, you pay your membership fee, and walk right in for a grand tour. Whatever the reason Trump chose to take these documents, even if he simply wanted to hold onto them as presidential souvenirs and he does nothing with them otherwise, should foreign agents copy them or steal them from Mar-a-Lago, that’s almost as bad it as it gets for the US.

Danger: Exposing whatever classified information to the prying eyes of our adversaries not only exposes sources and methods of our intelligence services, but provides our adversaries with insight into our strengths and weaknesses, depending on what the intelligence said. It also opens Trump to blackmail, as noted above in scenarios #2 and 4. “Well look what we found at your home. It sure would be terrible if the FBI were to discover that you were so sloppy with security that we were able to waltz right in and take them.”

To sort out the likelihood of each of these scenarios and the specific dangers posed, those conducting the IC review will do a couple of things. First, the leaders of the intelligence agencies are likely going back to the original creators of these documents, to tell them they were found in unsecured locations at Mar-a-Lago, and therefore (a) the creators need to assess what the specific danger would be if this particular document were to be exposed, and (b) the creators should look around to see if they have any signs that these documents had been shared already. The former is to measure the hypothetical damage, while the latter is to assess the likelihood that this is not hypothetical. Did spies suddenly go quiet, or did the quality of their information suddenly become different? Did satellites that used to provide good, regular photos of intelligence targets begin to provide much less good intelligence? All the while, the IC reviewers know that this is likely even worse.

EVEN WORSE? HOW CAN THIS BE EVEN WORSE?

If any of this information came to the US IC through our partnerships with other friendly nations (like Five Eyes or NATO), that means going to the intelligence folks in those countries who trusted us with their secrets and telling them that their trust was misplaced, at least while Trump was in office. They are the folks who need to assess the danger that exposure of this information would create, and who would have to see if there were signs that this information had already been shared. Of course we would promise to do whatever we could to assist them in that analysis, but that’s like telling a shopkeeper that you will help sweep up the shards of all the broken crystal after your kid threw a bowling ball into the display case.

Danger: It’s bad enough if our secrets get exposed, but if we let their secrets get exposed, that’s going to make them less likely to trust us in the future. As I said before, this is why having career diplomat William Burns as head of the CIA was a stroke of genius by Biden, and why Burns and the rest of the IC is no doubt bending over backwards to help Garland get this right, and bending farther over backwards to help our allies get this fixed.

SO HOW MIGHT THIS REVIEW WORK?

This is why the analysis of what was taken and trying to determine Trump’s motive(s) is the starting place. It leads to other critical questions like these:

  • What does Trump’s selection of documents — classified and unclassified — tell us about what is going on?
  • Were the documents tucked away by Trump over a long period of time, or did they all get tucked away in a specific, relatively short time period?
  • And what else was tucked in the drawers, file folders, and boxes next to these classified documents? Are there notes or letters that appear to have been written based on the content of the classified materials?

Depending on what this initial analysis reveals, the reviewers will begin to talk to the counterintelligence people in their agencies, especially if there is some concentration of subject matters or particular time frames involved.

  • Have you noticed any unusual behavior in known foreign agents around those time frames?
  • Was there any unusual signals traffic between foreign agents here and their bosses back home?
  • Were there any new agents who arrived here, who have a particular focus to their work that meshes with the subject matters of the documents Trump took? What actions have they taken?

To dig into all this, the analysts will be looking at other information and also be in contact with the folks in the field who are managing the human sources or electronic surveillance methods, to see what insights they might have. They know that decisions will need to be made about protecting or extracting sources who might be in danger, shutting down electronic surveillance already in place (pull out/relocate bugs and cameras if possible, re-direct satellite orbits, change communications frequencies, reprogramming software, etc.), and otherwise working to replace these sources and methods in some way to avoid further exposure. They hope to restore secrecy to the people and programs, and restore quality to the intelligence that might have been harmed through exposure.

While all this covert review work is going on, the FBI will no doubt be doing an ordinary shoe-leather investigation into the folks who have been going in and out of Mar-a-Lago over the last 18 months after the security of the resort was scaled back to simply protect the former president. They will be looking at guests and staff alike, trying to see what can be learned from videos, logs of visits, work schedules, and in some cases interviews. They will be looking at the White House document handling, especially after December 18, 2020 when the head of the White House Office of the Staff Secretary resigned and no one was named to take his place — even in an acting capacity — until January 20, 2021. They will be doing deeper domestic investigations of any new foreign agents that were identifies by the IC analysts.

And then there’s the investigation that NARA is probably already trying to complete: what other documents from the Trump White House were not turned over?

This is all very time consuming and expensive. You don’t want to do this if it isn’t necessary, but you absolutely have to do it if these sources and methods are likely to have been (or actually were) blown. Only when the Why?, Why?, and Why not? questions have been answered can the forward looking work really begin in earnest.

There’s a lot more that can be inferred about what an intelligence review would contain, but one thing is certain. The panel of judges from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and Special Master Raymond Dearie are focused on what Judge Cannon does not want to recognize: this is not a case about misfiled documents, but a national security case in which documents hold the key to assessing the dangers posed and actual damage done to our nation, so that the current government can begin to address it.

The Redacted Mar-a-Lago Affidavit DOJ Should Submit

As you may know, DOJ is ordered by Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart to submit a “suggested” redacted version of the warrant affidavit for the Mar-a-Lago search executed on August 8, 2022.

The federal magistrate judge who authorized the warrant to search Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate emphasized Monday that he “carefully reviewed” the FBI’s sworn evidence before signing off and considers the facts contained in an accompanying affidavit to be “reliable.”

Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart offered his assessment in a 13-page order memorializing his decision to consider whether to unseal portions of the affidavit, which describe the evidence the bureau relied on to justify the search of the former president’s home.

“I was — and am — satisfied that the facts sworn by the affiant are reliable,” Reinhart said in the order.

Reinhart ruled last week that he would consider unsealing portions of the affidavit after conferring with the Justice Department and determining whether proposed redactions would be sufficient to protect the ongoing criminal investigation connected to the search. But in his order, Reinhart emphasized that he may ultimately agree with prosecutors that any redactions would be so extensive that they would render the document useless.

The last sentence of that quote is the key. Unless DOJ is going to capitulate to the clicks and reads voyeurism of the overly exuberant political press, nothing whatsoever should be released unless and until charges are filed against some defendant, whether it be Trump or otherwise. Why? Because that it how it is done, and properly so.

Reinhart has received abuse and threats. Is his willingness to even entertain a “redacted version” sound under such threat? His decision will yield the answer to that question.

In the meantime, I have a proposed example of what DOJ should submit to Reinhart. Yes, this example is from CAND, not SDFL, but it is exactly what ought be handed over to Reinhart. And if Reinhart grants any “redacted version”, DOJ should appeal immediately and fully. Leave the affidavit sealed. The voyeuristic public, and press, thinks they have an interest because Trump. But they really do not. Do it the right and normal way.

Merrick Garland Preaches to an Overseas Audience

Alexander Vindman thanks Attorney General Garland

When Merrick Garland gave his brief press statement yesterday about the search of Mar-a-Lago, he had various audiences in mind. One was Donald Trump and his defenders, calling their bluff by announcing that the DOJ was moving to unseal the search warrant and list of items seized. Another was his own DOJ employees, to let them know that he had their backs and would support them when the rightwing attacked them. But as I listened to him, I thought that perhaps the most critical audience were the leaders of nations all around the globe — and especially the heads of their intelligence services. When hours later the story broke that some of the documents the DOJ were seeking were nuclear related, I dropped the mental “perhaps”. To build on one of Marcy’s previous posts, let me add that this is a huge foreign policy story, which is largely missing from the current discussion in the media.

Think back to the beginning of the Trump administration. On May 15, 2017, a disturbing story hit the news:

President Donald Trump disclosed highly classified information to Russia’s foreign minister about a planned Islamic State operation, two U.S. officials said on Monday, plunging the White House into another controversy just months into Trump’s short tenure in office.

The intelligence . . . was supplied by a U.S. ally in the fight against the militant group, both officials with knowledge of the situation said.

H.R. McMaster categorically denied it, and as the story unfolded over time, McMaster was lying through his teeth. The unnamed ally was later revealed to be Israel, who had a mole inside an ISIS cell. And Trump blithely blew the cover of that Israeli asset by bragging to Lavrov.

Shortly after this meeting (at which Trump also bragged about just having fired James Comey), US intelligence officials made a bold move. From CNN:

In a previously undisclosed secret mission in 2017, the United States successfully extracted from Russia one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government, multiple Trump administration officials with direct knowledge told CNN.

A person directly involved in the discussions said that the removal of the Russian was driven, in part, by concerns that President Donald Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy.

The decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. The intelligence, concerning ISIS in Syria, had been provided by Israel.

This was the opening act of the Trump presidency. From the very beginning, intelligence officers worried about how Trump handled classified information. Our intelligence officers worried, and so did the intelligence officers of our allies, as they asked themselves some version of the question “Will Trump say something or do something that will get us killed?” In a completely different way, so did the intelligence officers of our adversaries. If Trump were to rashly reveal something he learned about the capabilities of our adversaries, it could have disastrous consequences for those countries and their leaders, as the reaction to the revelation could easily spiral out of control in unforeseeable ways.

And the damage was done.

A lot of the work of intelligence services is, if not cooperative, then transactional. “I have some information you would like,” says an ally to us, “and we’ll pass it along to you in exchange for something we need.” That favor might be us passing information back to them on another subject, or supporting some foreign policy objective. That favor might be immediate, or something later. Among the Five Eyes nations (US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada) and the major NATO allies, that relationship was formalized into regular practice.

But now, with Trump’s first foray into intelligence matters, all these countries worried about passing things along that under previous administration they never would have hesitated to share. With good reason.

Fast forward four years, past all the bizarre meetings with Russia where notes were not taken, past the stunning press conference in Helsinki where Trump declared he trusted Putin’s word over the word of his own intelligence services, past all the coddling of authoritarians, past all the threats to withdraw from NATO, past all the insults to our allies around the world . . . Fast forward past all of that, and there came November 2020. On the Sunday after the election, when Biden was declared the president-elect and foreign leaders began to offer their congratulations, the New York Times discussed the deeper reactions of European leaders to Biden’s election:

David O’Sullivan, former European Union ambassador to the United States, said he looked forward to a renewal of American leadership — if not the hegemony of the past, then at least “America’s role as the convening nation” for multilateral initiatives and institutions.

But the world has changed, and so has the United States, where the Biden victory was relatively narrow and not an obvious repudiation of Mr. Trump’s policies. A fundamental trust has been broken, and many European diplomats and experts believe that U.S. foreign policy is no longer bipartisan, so is no longer reliable.

Biden, with his decades of experience with foreign policy, knew this was true, which meant that two of his most critical appointments would be his Secretary of State and his CIA Director. For State, he chose Anthony Blinken, who had served in the State Department under President Clinton and on the White House national security staff in both the Clinton and Obama administrations, and for CIA he chose William Burns.

Burns was not a product of the intelligence community. He was a career State Department diplomat, but not just any diplomat. From 2001 to 2005, as the US reacted to the attacks on 9/11, Burns was the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs — that is, the Middle East. From 2005 until 2008, as Vladimir Putin tightened his hold of the office of President of Russia following the chaos of the Yeltsin era, Burns was the US Ambassador to Russia. From 2008 to 2011, Burns held the position of Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs – the #4 position at State and the highest office reserved for a career foreign service officer. By the end of his 32 year tenure, he held the rank of Career Ambassador – the State Department’s equivalent to a four-star general.

Beyond running the CIA, the new director had to rebuild all those broken international relationships and restore that “fundamental trust” between the US and the world. That’s what made Burns such a great choice.

When the National Archives discovered classified information had not been turned over when Trump left office, they brought the news to the DOJ. I have this vision of Garland swallowing hard, and then arranging a meeting with Burns, DNI Victoria Nuland Avril Haines [corrected], and the other US intelligence agency heads to let them know what Trump had done. I can see the shock on their faces, followed by the “of course he did” sighs of resignation. Then the wheels start turning as each tries to figure out how this affects their agency.

But I also imagine Burns, either in the meeting or in a private conversation, telling Garland one thing: “I have no doubts about your department and your passion for justice. If there is anything I can do to assist, just let me know. I won’t press you to share things with me that you shouldn’t share — you do your job and I’ll do mine. But there’s one thing you need to know. You may already know it, but let me reinforce it. The. Whole. World. Is. Watching. Our allies are just beginning to trust us again, and how you handle this will determine whether that continues or is blown to bits. From a foreign policy perspective, especially on the intelligence side, we *have* to get this right.” That’s total fantasy on my part, but I’m reasonably confident that something like that was communicated, one way or another.

Two days ago, when the search was first revealed, Garry Kasparov tweeted, “For those who live where the law exists only to serve the powerful and oppress the rest–as I did in the USSR and Putin’s Russia–the dictum that no one is above the law is nearly awe-inspiring.”

The American legal community is watching this all unfold very carefully, with an eye toward all the minutia of the various legal questions at issue. The US political folks on every side are watching this carefully, with an eye toward the midterms and 2024. US media organizations are watching this carefully, trying to figure out how to cover the story. Ordinary Americans are watching this carefully, for all kinds of reasons.

And beyond our borders, the whole world is watching, as that Kasparov tweet indicates. It shows that Garland is reaching that worldwide audience, even before the word “nuclear” became part of the story.

In his long-ago testimony before Congress about that “perfect phone call,” Alexander Vindman captured in three words the essence of US foreign policy, and he repeated them as a hashtag in that tweet above. In the actions of the DOJ this past week, Garland is giving Vindman a big “Amen.”

Russia, if you’re listening, listen to Vindman. #HereRightMatters indeed.

I know we’ve got a fair chunk of readers outside the US, and I’d love to hear in the comments what you all are seeing in the coverage your countries.

 

Something Stinks about Kentucky but It’s a Complex Stink

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

There are a bunch of people running around hair on fire right now bitching loudly and often about Biden fail.

Unfortunately much of this is a bunch of reflexive self sabotage by people who aren’t slowing down to take a fucking breath and think things through.

Take a moment and inhale deeply, then exhale. Take a second to relax before the questions after this jump.

~ ~ ~

What would you trade for 30-40 federal judgeships nominated by Biden and approved by the Senate before the end of this congressional term?

Would you trade one judgeship?

Now imagine if all of the 30-40 vacancies are filled with judges who have solid cred with Democratic Party values (read: pro-choice, pro-voters rights, pro-human rights).

Would you trade one future judgeship nominating an anti-abortion judge in a state which leans GOP for these vacancies?

That’s the deal Biden is reported to have made with Mitch McConnell over a single federal judgeship picked by the Federalist Society earmarked for the next (not currently open) seat in Kentucky.

~ ~ ~

Here’s where it gets all fucked up:

There’s no obvious open pre-emptive communications from the White House about this deal and what’s on the table. I imagine Biden didn’t want to piss off McConnell or the rest of the GOP in order to pull off this deal so the White House went mum. There’s no open seat so why get people rattled about this one seat while everyone is still extremely anxious over SCOTUS’ bullshit Dobbs decision overturning Roe.

The media is doing is usual bullshit; Gannett-owned Courier-Journal in Kentucky is the originating source for this story, and it’s solidly locked behind a paywall as most local Gannett papers tend to do. I can’t tell exactly what the sourcing was for this reporting because I can’t read it. For all I know the source was The Federalist Society itself, intent on fucking with Biden’s approval rating. Or McConnell who so far has done plenty to trash Biden’s approval with wall-to-wall obstruction holding all 50 GOP senators by the short hairs. Or perhaps even Rand Paul being his usual prickish self. Nobody running around yelling right now can offer any more details about sourcing.

Now G/O Media outlet Jezebel is running around trashing Biden based on Courier-Journal’s reporting:

Biden’s latest, deeply hypocritical move comes after he claimed to be fiercely defending women’s right to abortion now that states have been given the green light to ban it outright.

It’s as if they didn’t read the sourcing of their own fucking reporting, like this bit right here:

The federal courts are extremely important right now. The Republican Party’s (read: Mitch McConnell’s) entire strategy for the past few years has been to pack them with conservatives who will shut down any lawsuit attempting to defend abortion rights. Biden is under a lot of pressure to fill the current court vacancies he has with judges who are friendly to reproductive rights. And instead, he is making deals with McConnell to allow more anti-abortion judges into the fray.

The link is to a piece in Bloomberg Law, which reports,

Progressives want the White House and Senate Democrats to move faster. The usual summer congressional slowdown and November midterm campaigning leaves limited time for committee and floor action before a lame-duck session to end the year.

Senate Democrats, who have confirmed 16 circuit nominees in the first year and a half of Joe Biden’s presidency, are aiming to nearly double the tally in the next six months.

But filling all available vacancies is unlikely without changes to how the majority manages vetting, said John Collins, a George Washington University professor who tracks judicial nominations. “I just don’t think there’s enough time,” Collins said.

The hazard for Biden is that a Republican-controlled Senate would confirm few, if any, of his appellate nominees during the final two years of his first term. The 13 circuit courts are the last word on virtually all federal appeals.

Progressives wanted more federal judgeships faster.

Senate Dems want to confirm 32 before the end of the year.

If the Democrats can streamline vetting, there are at least 40 vacancies to be filled — not a one of them in Kentucky.

McConnell wants one future judgeship vacancy in his state in order to facilitate rapid approval.

But that’s not what Jezebel wanted to tell you. Oh no — it’s easier to fall back on the tried-and-true the “Biden’s Busted” variant of “Dems in Disarray” crap because the media in general has conditioned its audience not to question this. You the reader are meant to be braindead and go with it because you’ll have to pay to validate the reporting of one story to get to the bottom of this and you the audience may not know where and how to look for the number of federal judgeship vacancies.

Like here.

Just look at all the pretty red state vacancies!

~ ~ ~

Now the caveat: because the White House hasn’t issued formal communications about this alleged deal, it’s just that, an allegation — pure vaporware. We do not know with a degree of certainty who agreed to what in order to accomplish their aims.

Until we see something formal directly from a party to the agreement, this should be treated as speculation.

And it’s speculation Jezebel fell for, hook, line, and sinker.

(Side note: Probably doesn’t hurt to recall G/O Media is the successor to Gawker. Gawker’s Gizmodo outlet  fell for bullshit about Facebook being biased against conservatives just in time to get played before the 2016 election really heated up and Gawker went bankrupt thanks to Peter Thiel.)

~ ~ ~

There are a LOT of “Biden/Dem Fail” stories out there right now kicking around social media. Do NOT take them at face value. Dig in, looking for sourcing and attribution, business model if any involved; always ask, “Cui bono?

For crying out loud we all know the right-wing continues to follow Bannon’s playbook, “flooding the zone with shit”; they’re desperate to push both the House January 6 Committee hearings and the anger of childbearing people off the front page and out of social media.

That’s not to say the Democrats at various levels of the party ecosphere aren’t screwing up. Communications are a massive problem; they’re not bringing their A-game even though they know the right-wing ecosphere is well organized, well funded, and willing to be extremely nasty. Yet Dems top to bottom, elected to grassroots are still bringing butter knives to AR-15 gunfights instead of embracing the Chicago Way.

(As much as I respect Michelle Obama and her ethic, “We go high,” it doesn’t work with Nazis and Nazi enablers. Punch Nazis literally and figuratively. Concede no ground.)

Most — not all, thank you Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, for example — are making huge mistakes with fundraising right now off the back of the Dobbs decision. Stop it. Just stop.

Make instead an ask for action, tell Democratic voters what they can do first in order to beat back the fascist GOP’s attacks. Make money an ask at the end, not first.

And for dogs’ sake, get the fundamentals right, like copy editing and proofreading. Nothing makes any ask look more like a phishing attempt than half-assed communications.

But elected and appointed Dems, and Democratic Party officials with the DNC or state parties aren’t the only ones fucking up.

We are when we swallow bullshit without questioning it first, without pushing back whether there’s any merit to the bullshit or not, when we share the bullshit like stenographers without making a truth sandwich first a la George Lakoff, and when we don’t do our bit to be the left-wing media ecosphere we don’t otherwise have because we don’t buy big corporate media machines like the right-wing does. Share good, accurate news, rinse, repeat. Focus on driving constructive action.

Stop letting the right-wing kick our asses. Pull up your big people panties and fight back like you mean it. Make sure you’re aiming at your opposition not your own team.

This Is Not How You Wield Power: Toxic Punditry’s Lack of Self Awareness

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

This is complete and utter bullshit:

We all know asking Justice Clarence Thomas to recuse himself is merely pissing into the wind. Congressional Democrats are obligated to ask this of him but they know Thomas is corrupt and won’t give the demand a second thought.

What’s bullshit, though, is MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan and Ayman Mohyeldin ripping into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about a request by Democrats to Thomas for his recusal on cases related to the January 6 insurrection.

We all know as well the real problem is that Thomas should be removed from the Supreme Court. Pelosi was absolutely correct saying that Thomas should never have been approved as a SCOTUS jurist to begin with. His failure to report his spouse’s income appropriately — particularly Ginni Thomas’s income from her nonprofit — during the lead up to the 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision was unacceptable, as was his meeting with the Koch brothers.

But the House had absolutely nothing to do with Thomas being approved in the first place. The Senate is responsible for review of nominees to the Supreme Court and their approval.

We all know, too, that the House may impeach jurists, but they cannot be removed without a two-thirds vote for conviction by the Senate.

And in this case, a Senate which is only nominally held by Democrats. They couldn’t convict and remove Trump twice after impeachment for the same reason — an inadequate number of Democrats in the Senate.

Where is this power that Hasan and Mohyeldin think Pelosi has as House Speaker when she cannot remove Thomas? Why are they insisting she launch a war she can’t win? (We can see how that works out for Putin in Ukraine.)

All these two boneheaded pundits (and others making the same argument like them) are doing is misogynist pontificating when they know it’s the Senate which can force the issue and only if there were two-thirds of the Senate willing to vote to convict Thomas for his continued corrupt practices.

Yet you don’t see pundits like Hasan and Mohyeldin going after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Nope.

Why is that?

~ ~ ~

They’re literally filling empty air time with useless crap which only serves to damage the public’s opinion of House Democrats — the portion of government which has most reliably served the needs of the people during the Biden administration while the Senate obstructs its efforts.

They’re directly contributing to and amplifying the same poisoning of public opinion already performed by right-wing media outlets Fox News, Newsmax, and OAN, grossly distorting the public’s perception of US government.

It’s right there in front of their noses and they don’t see it:

Hello, Sam Stein, who’s with both MSNBC and Politico? You’re not doing a very good job breaking through to the public if they believe the complete opposite of the truth.

Dan Froomkin elaborated on media’s failures with help from Dean Baker; public opinion about employment is particularly telling.

An additional 21 percent didn’t know one way or the other. Only 28 percent said, correctly, that jobs were created. Less than half of those — only 12 percent — knew that it was more jobs created than in any other year in history.

Similarly, only 19 percent said they thought the U.S. economy experienced more job growth than normal in the past year. The plurality – 35 percent – said they thought more jobs were lost than usual, which is of course spectacularly wrong.

Media figures go out of their way to make sure something looks like it’s on fire or bleeding, so much so that it’s a joke.

But sure, keep beating on House Speaker Pelosi because that will effect the change needed as will pissing into the wind.

~ ~ ~

A pre-print study found that it’s not solely the public at fault when it comes to misperception — it’s not purely partisanship which mis- or disinforms their opinions.

A key problem is the business model: audience members’ understanding and opinions could be shaped by exposure to media, if media bought their time.

Unfortunately, cable and broadcast news don’t pay their viewers. They rely on advertising and subscription volume; their programming becomes little more than reductive clickbait fighting for audience attention. They’ll run the inflammatory material which skews public opinion the wrong way because good news is boring.

It makes sense, and yet the answer to running content which is both more attention-grabbing and -retaining to viewers and the ethically responsible content to run is right there under their noses.

Assuming, of course, the media outlets aren’t forcing their pundit-anchor class to promote corporatism über alles.

Why aren’t programs like Hasan’s and Mohyeldin’s contacting every goddamned Senator and putting them on the record one at a time on camera about their position on Thomas’s failure to recuse himself and whether they would vote to convict him if impeached for abuse of his office as jurist?

I’d pay to watch them squirm. I’d pay to watch Senators’ chiefs of staff run away from mics to avoid answering.

I’d pay to watch them ask Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, and Tommy Tuberville if Thomas should recuse himself on any lawsuit in which they may be named as co-conspirators because Thomas’s wife Ginni sided with Hawley and Cruz on overturning or obstructing the election…and was it obstruction of Congress or overturning an election in which they had been encouraged to participate?

That’d be Must-See TV.

~ ~ ~

The other person who gets off lightly all the damn time to the point every media outlet forgets he exists: Chief Justice John Roberts.

He’s the administrative leader of SCOTUS. Every decision made during his tenure will be attributed to the Roberts’ court.

Clarence Thomas’s unmitigated corruption including the damage to democracy Thomas’s role in Citizen United played is the product of Roberts’ court.

The lack of a self-imposed binding code of conduct is Roberts’ failure. Thomas’s refusal to recuse himself from January 6 cases which may be decided by SCOTUS is also his failure.

The lack of legislation requiring a SCOTUS code of conduct with adequate teeth to ensure enforcement is Congress’s fault, but primary responsibility is that of the Senate. In its absence Roberts could administer his court in a way which enforces judicial ethics.

Why wasn’t Roberts a subject of Hasan’s and Mohyeldin’s critique when Roberts clearly has the power to rein in corruption among his jurists?

~ ~ ~

But the real power to which Hasan and Mohyeldin deliberately turned a blind eye wasn’t Nancy Pelosi’s as House Speaker.

It wasn’t even Chuck Schumer’s, or John Roberts’ power.

That pre-print study says it’s their own. How convenient these media figures with a bully pulpit have a handy favorite punching bag to use as clickbait, redirecting attention away from their own failures as media figures with sizable audiences whose perception they shape.

By the way, you have power, too. You should be exercising it by calling your representative and senators and demanding legislation to implement a code of ethical judicial conduct for the Supreme Court (since Roberts appears unable or unwilling to produce one), and impeachment and conviction of Clarence Thomas for his lack of ethics as a jurist.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

Day Four — The Well-Qualified K. B. J.

[NB: check the byline, thanks. Update(s) if any will appear at the bottom of this post. /~Rayne]

It’s the fourth and final day of U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearings on the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. Today’s hearing is in progress.

Today’s hearing consists of three remaining panels (Judge Jackson was Panel I):

Panel II

The Honorable Ann Claire Williams
American Bar Association
Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary

Ms. D. Jean Veta
American Bar Association
Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary

Mr. Joseph M. Drayton
American Bar Association
Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary

Panel III Majority

The Honorable Joyce Beatty
United States House of Representatives
State of Ohio – 3rd District

Ms. Risa Goluboff
Dean, Arnold H. Leon Professor of Law, and Professor of History
University of Virginia

Mr. Wade Henderson
President & CEO
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Mr. Richard B. Rosenthal
Captain Frederick Thomas
National President
National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE)

Panel III Minority

The Honorable Steve Marshall
Attorney General
State of Alabama

Ms. Jennifer Mascott
Assistant Professor of Law & Co-Executive Director
The C. Boyden Gray Center for the Study of the Administrative State, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University

Ms. Eleanor McCullen
Anti-abortion activist

Ms. Keisha Russell
First Liberty

Ms. Alessandra Serano
Operation Underground Railroad

From the looks of the last three panelists, the GOP senators are continuing to play to the base by hammering Judge Jackson on abortion, religious freedom in public schools, and human trafficking. The last will likely fit with the crap Sen. Josh Hawley et al already tattooed about child pornography.

The GOP will want to leave that shitty taste of zealotry and bigotry in the audience’s mouths as the hearings end. In other words, on brand for the GOP.

You can watch live feed at these sites (not the same links as yesterday’s as the previous links may lead to recordings previous days’ hearings):

Senate Judiciary Committee hearing feed

PBS Senate Judiciary Committee hearing feed on YouTube

C-SPAN feed via YouTube

You can also catch the hearings through these live Twitter threads:

Rewire News Group

Chris Geidner at Grid News

If you know of anyone else covering today’s hearing in Twitter, please leave a comment below. Thanks!

~ ~ ~

Apparently these hearings weren’t really to determine a nominee’s qualifications for a lifetime appointment to SCOTUS or to ensure the public was informed. No, apparently the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings have been little more than social media opportunities, which Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) called out.


Sasse also expressed his concern about cameras in the court room, that “cameras change human behavior,” and yet the difference between the video above by C-SPAN versus this by CBS News below tells us cameras tell us things audio and written reporting don’t offer.


Or this photo by Los Angeles Times’ Kent Nishimura:

If you have a Twitter account, every once in a while for grins and giggles you should drop Sen. Ted Cruz (Senate account: @sentedcruz, personal account: @tedcruz) a tweet and let him know what you thought of his performance as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wholly visible on all sorts of cameras.

~ ~ ~

There may be more to come, watch this space for updates.

And Three More Things: Day Three — The Well-Qualified K. B. J. [UPDATE-1]

[NB: check the byline, thanks. Update(s) at the bottom of this post. /~Rayne]

It’s Day Three of U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s four days of confirmation hearings on the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. Today’s hearing is already in progress.

Four. Long. Days.

Hearings which are half right-wing bloviating, achieving nothing to further the public’s interests. This is the fourth time this nominee has been through this tedious crap in her lifetime which should surely qualify as inhumane treatment and torture under UNCAT; it should also earn her a sainthood.

You can watch live feed at these sites (not the same links as yesterday’s as the previous links may lead to recordings previous days’ hearings):

Senate Judiciary Committee hearing feed

PBS Senate Judiciary Committee hearing feed on YouTube

C-SPAN feed via YouTube

Yahoo News (includes reporting)

You can also catch the hearings through these live Twitter threads:

Jennifer Taub

Imani Gandy at Rewire News Group 

BuzzFeed’s Zoe Tillman

Heaven help Judge Jackson get through the day without breaking a molar gritting her teeth.

~ 3 ~

Gallup took a poll ahead of these SCOTUS confirmation hearings as it has for past nominees. Judge Jackson has the highest approval rating apart from Chief Justice Roberts.


But do go on and attack her, GOP twits. Make asininely racist remarks about the nominee who has a higher approval rating than your party’s leader ever had as president. Let’s see how that pans out for you over the long run.

~ 2 ~

Meanwhile, outside the GOP’s shit show in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, another GOP senator was doing is share to push the nation back to the 1950s.

I don’t have words strong enough for this crap. He just called into question the legitimacy of a seated SCOTUS jurist’s marriage (Clarence and Ginni Thomas) as well as that of the nominee now being grilled.

This is so intensely personal for me; my parents’ marriage wouldn’t have been legal in some states back in the 1950s and I’d be illegitimate having been born before the unanimous SCOTUS decision in Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967).

Braun’s states’ rights crap doesn’t target interracial marriage (which has broad support across the U.S.); it targets same-sex marriage and any other personal decisions which may require government-regulated services — like reproductive health. He was literally questioned about Griswold v. Connecticut immediately following the question of interracial marriage and he gave an equally unsatisfactory answer about that.

It’s not just Sen. Hairspray-Abuser-from-Tennessee Blackburn attacking the right to privacy necessary for birth control.

Braun has since tried to backpedal on this which means he’s merely taken off the hood he donned.


Except he really didn’t fully unwind what he said; he backed up over the body, and then rolled forward over it again by clarifying what he meant about states’ rights, and then claiming he didn’t understand the questions.

… The Times of Northwest Indiana reported that Braun “initially limited” his claim that the Supreme Court had usurped states’ rights over abortion in 1973’s Roe v. Wade decision. But when a reporter questioned him on other cases, including Loving v. Virginia, he reiterated his stance.

Braun later clarified his comments, saying in a statement that he “misunderstood” the questions. …

Sadly, he’s a senator until 2025. Indiana, you had better not forget this racist authoritarian crap come general election 2024. In the mean time Hoosiers should be lighting up his phone and telling Braun where he can stuff his racist states’ rights nonsense. Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121 or use Resist.bot.

~ 1 ~

I wish I could convey how deeply triggering and traumatic these confirmation hearings have been for BIPOC especially women.


What these hearings tell us is that the white cis-het minority in Congress which retains an illegitimate stranglehold on power demands that any and all competent BIPOC particularly women must submit to belligerence and abuse before they will be allowed to participate in this flawed democracy.

What we are witnessing is the re-normalization of overt racism and misogyny. Yet media has failed to punch up, instead punching down, reinforcing the normalization.


We’re constantly deluged by the left about the lack of accountability for the January 6 insurrectionists and seditionists, and yet the left fails to hold accountable the wholly integrated abusive racist and misogynist behavior the media augments in these same insurrectionists and seditionists.

The Venn diagram is a single circle and the media continues to treat the persons outside it as the objects to be despised and subjugated and oppressed.

The problem isn’t just the GOP senators or the media when constituents fail to do anything at all to express displeasure let alone organize effectively for change.

~ 0 ~

I may have more to add here as today’s hearing continues.

So long as I can keep my blood pressure under control, that is.

UPDATE-1 — 6:35 PM —

Senator Cory Booker saves this horrible day.

Stay strong, Judge Jackson. Like Frederick Douglass in his Fourth of July speech, leave off this process where you began — with hope.

Three More Things: Day Two — The Well-Qualified K. B. J.

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

It’s Day Two of U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s four days of confirmation hearings on the nomination of Judge Ketanji Jackson Brown to the Supreme Court. The hearing was scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m. this morning; we are catching it here in progress.

You can watch live feed at these sites (not the same links as yesterday’s as the previous links may lead to recordings of Day 1):

Senate Judiciary Committee hearing feed

PBS Senate Judiciary Committee hearing feed on YouTube

C-SPAN feed via YouTube

Yahoo News (includes reporting)

You can also catch the hearings through these live Twitter threads:

Jennifer Taub

Imani Gandy at Rewire News Group

Amee Vanderpool

Brace yourselves for three more things.

~ 3 ~

Sadly, Senator Lindsey Graham unloaded his hypocritical faux-trage this morning. Ms. Phang expresses sentiments broadly shared about his performance.

Judge Jackson was eminently qualified three times but now suddenly unqualified based on the credentials which helped her earn her previous federal appointments?

Right-wing media outlet had assured their audience yesterday about these hearings:

Oh no, honey — these hearings won’t be a circus. They’ll be a live dramatic production.

What a pity there aren’t awards given for supporting actors in a nomination hearing production.

~ 2 ~

Senator John Cornyn can’t let Graham’s act go unanswered. Nope, he needed to go after the gays because as you have surely noticed our so-called traditional marriages have all ruptured since teh gays were legally able to marry.

Damn it all, I forgot to get a lawyer and divorce my spouse back in 2015 after Obergefell v. Hodges destroyed the institution of marriage between straight people.

SCOTUS didn’t make law though Cornyn wants the GOP base to believe it did.

But this isn’t just about individuals’ rights to marriage which Cornyn is fighting. It’s about individuals’ fundamental human rights of self-determination.

If you’re non-binary especially if you’re trans, you recognize the dog whistle Cornyn’s blowing

~ 1 ~

Meanwhile, the GOP predictably plays the racism card.

Unsurprising, really; the GOP has no real platform, no substance, no policies except thinly masked oppression of more than half the country who are not xenophobic cis-het white Christians. They’re clinging to the lessons their ratfucking forebears taught them:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “N*gger, n*gger, n*gger.” By 1968 you can’t say “n*gger”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “N*gger, n*gger.”

— GOP political consultant Lee Atwater in an interview with Alexander P. Lamis, c. 1981.

Instead of busing they now talk non-stop about critical race theory (CRT), how it’s being forced on them even though they can’t explain what it is or provide any evidence it’s part of K-12 public school curriculum (it’s not). They don’t shy away from states’ rights now, claiming states have the right to remove content from schools which makes white people feel bad.

It’s overt racism with the sheerest of veils.

The GOP is following the script laid out by Chris Rufo, the guy who created the influence operation built on the university-level coursework offered to law students in which the economics of race and its historic and contemporary affect on laws and democratic society are discussed.

Now CRT is the right-wing’s bogeyman. Rufo literally laid out the approach via Twitter last Thursday:

In short, it’s what the GOP now yells every time it wants to invoke a fear response from its white supremacist base: OMG CRT CRT CRT!!!

~ 0 ~

I can’t believe we have to wade through two more days of this racist and misogynist crap. Nor can I believe we still don’t know who owns beer-loving Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Three Things: The Well-Qualified K. B. J.

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

Confirmation hearings begin today before the Senate Judiciary Committee for Biden’s Supreme Court justice nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

You can follow live feed at:

Senate Judiciary Committee hearing feed

Senate Judiciary Committee feed on YouTube

C-SPAN feed via YouTube

Yahoo News

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 11:00 am and may have already begun at the time this post is published.

You can catch up during the course of the hearing with these Twitter live threads:

Jennifer Taub

Imani Gandy at Rewire News Group 

Amee Vanderpool

Rebecca Pilar Buckwalter-Poza

~ 3 ~

Reject any claims to the contrary: Ketanji Brown Jackson is the most qualified nominee to the Supreme Court. Period.

Justice Thomas (who was hospitalized over the weekend) and Coney Barrett are grossly underqualified by comparison.

The Washington Post’s article is worth your time. If confirmed, Judge Jackson may be the only justice with public school education, but when 90% of American children attend public schools, it’s incredibly valuable to have someone who understands their experience, their needs, and can represent them at the Supreme Court.

~ 2 ~

Predictably, Sen. Josh Hawley, supporter of GOP insurrection and sedition, has trash talked Judge Brown Jackson’s experience as a public defender — a qualification none of the rest of the current justices share. He’s claimed, “Judge Jackson has a pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook for their appalling crimes, both as a judge and as a policymaker.”

The Washington Post factchecked this and found this claim to merit Three Pinocchios as an outright false claim, finding Hawley took Judge Jackson’s remarks out of context, mischaractered the work of the U.S. Sentencing Commission on which Judge Jackson has served, and twisted Judge Jackson’s record.

The coup de grace should fall to the right-wing National Review Online which has also taken issue with Hawley’s claim.

Surprisingly, the NRO piece is worth a read even if its contributor, Andrew McCarthy, doesn’t support Jackson’s nomination (for what are rather thin and transparently partisan reasons). At least you’ll be prepared for Hawley’s bloviating about child pornography when he starts in on the topic.

Hawley creeps me out in so many ways but his weirdly obsessive attitude about child porn seems like a naked appeal not only to the racists who reject the notion of a Black woman SCOTUS justice but the crackpot Q-crowd.

~ 1 ~

There has been and will be a lot of nonsensical bullshit thrown around about Judge Jackson’s public defender experience.

Except the premise that all accused should have the assistance of counsel for their defense is fundamental to this nation’s democratic foundation, enshrined in the Sixth Amendment.

What does it say about our nation’s belief in this enumerated right when none of the current SCOTUS justices have been public defenders?

We’ve had a number of community members, especially since the January 6, 2020 insurrection, who have struggled with the application of this right. I’d like to suggest a rather basic but effective educational experience — the premium cable series John Adams featuring Paul Giamatti as Adams. It was produced by HBO and isn’t widely available to stream (check JustWatch) but it’s available to purchase if pricey at Amazon Prime and Google Play. If you want to save some cash, buy just the first episode, Part I: Join or Die (1770–1774), in which Adams defends British soldiers. A dramatization, yes, but effective at making points.

~ 0 ~

Apparently there are really four things today, because this one REALLY bugs me. Is Sen. Blackburn really advocating for birth control to be outlawed???


Tennessee, I’m looking hard at you. Why your state re-elected this cretin who believes in Big Government overreach into individuals’ family planning and women’s reproductive health is beyond me.

Reference: Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965)

~ ~ ~

Call your senators and insist they confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121 or use Resist.bot.

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