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Brett Kavanaugh Thinks Using Stolen Emails Is Acceptable Behavior

There’s something that is missing from the debates back and forth about whether Brett Kavanaugh lied during any or all of the three Senate confirmation processes he has undergone. I’m of the opinion Kavanaugh lied skillfully, but because he’s a lawyer he managed to do so without committing perjury.

But on one issue — Kavanaugh’s use of emails stolen from Democrats — we don’t need to determine whether he lied or not, because he irrefutably did something that should make him unacceptable to be confirmed.

Even those that argue Kavanaugh didn’t lie and those that argue that, because Manny Miranda wasn’t prosecuted (during a GOP Administration and benefitting from speech and debate protection) or because it wasn’t a technical hack but rather a permissions violation, these emails weren’t “stolen,” do agree that using them was wrong. Here’s David Lat, for example, who wrote most of a book’s worth of Twitter threads defending Kavanaugh this week, admitting that using the emails was “unethical and wrong.”

And whatever you believe about whether Kavanaugh lied in any of these confirmation processes, what is irrefutable is that last week he was told, from the people involved, that he had, in fact, received and used stolen emails. For example, Patrick Leahy told him, repeatedly, that a document of his that got forwarded in draft form, that the document was not public at the time Kavanaugh received it.

Given such a circumstance, there is one natural, decent response. You apologize. Upon learning, allegedly for the first time, that you had indeed used stolen emails, you apologize to the people they were stolen from. “Gosh, I’m sorry. I had no idea. I’m sorry.” That’s what you say when you discover you used emails stolen from someone.

Brett Kavanaugh didn’t do that. He sat in front of his entire Catholic school girl’s basketball team, and instead of apologizing, he defended himself.

So no matter whether he was lying, one thing is crystal clear: he doesn’t think it was wrong to use stolen emails. He had no moral or ethical regret upon learning, definitively, that he had used stolen emails.

There may be several reasons that explain his lack of remorse for using stolen emails.

Obviously, he’s trying very hard not to offend the guy who appointed him before he’s confirmed, and pointing out that it is unethical to use stolen emails might be a sore subject for Donald Trump, who got elected by exploiting stolen emails.

Perhaps, too, he’s just an unethical person, the kind of guy whose Catholicism serves as a sanctimonious self-justification to engage in really unholy behavior.

But the biggest reason why Brett Kavanaugh might be reluctant to apologize for a clear ethical injury, even if he claims it was unwitting, is that it would taint his actions confirming judges. That is, it would make it clear he cheated — even if unwittingly — to push lifetime appointments through Congress. Those judges were confirmed illegitimately. And Kavanaugh, bidding for the third of three lifetime appointments, doesn’t want to do anything to highlight that illegitimately confirmed judges are, themselves, tainted.

Graphic: Quino Al via Unsplash (mod by Rayne)

Whip It, Whip It Good: Krunchtime on Kavanaugh

[NB: AS ALWAYS, check the byline. This post is by moi, Rayne.]

On this last day of Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings, witnesses spoke regarding Brett Kavanaugh’s fitness (or lack thereof) to serve a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.

The last three days have been both grueling and enlightening. It looks more than ever like a concerted effort between interested parties selected and nominated Kavanaugh — not in a manner typically of previous nominees, but in the interest of those whose personal fortunes and legal status hinge directly on the existence of a conservative on the court who will decide in their favor.

Parties like Trump’s administration, his campaign donors, his personal business circle; parties like war criminals who served in previous administrations; and parties like Trump supporters, who expect their quid pro quo delivered in the form of religious freedom to deny others’ civil rights.

One could argue this is business as usual but it’s not, when the president himself is already implicated as an unindicted co-conspirator who may directly benefit from a swing justice who believes in unrestrained executive power.

How could a reasonable person not come to the conclusion that the collaborative, collective, concerted effort behind Kavanaugh is a conspiracy to obstruct justice?

Let’s fight fire with fire, get in ‘good trouble‘ as Rep. John Lewis calls it; let’s collaborate and collectively lay out before the public who is willing to support this obstruction and who is not before Kavanaugh’s nomination goes to the entire Senate for a vote. Are you ready to whip the people’s Senate? Are you willing to make phone calls and ask your senators where they stand on Kavanaugh?

I’ll go first; I’ll fill in your responses from your senators in the table below as you collect them and share them in comments below.

Congressional switchboard number: (202) 224-3121

Whip List

State

Party

Name

Seat up

Vote Y/N

Alabama

R

Richard Shelby

2022

Yes [1]
Alabama

D

Doug Jones

2020

WAFFLING
Alaska

R

Lisa Murkowski

2022

WAFFLING
Alaska

R

Dan Sullivan

2020

Yes [1]
Arizona

R

Jeff Flake

2018

LEAN YES [1]

Arizona

R

Jon Kyl

2020

Yes [1]
Arkansas

R

John Boozman

2022

Yes [1]
Arkansas

R

Tom Cotton

2020

Yes [1]
California

D

Dianne Feinstein

2018

No*
California

D

Kamala Harris

2022

No
Colorado

D

Michael Bennet

2022

No [1]
Colorado

R

Cory Gardner

2020

LEAN YES [1]
Connecticut

D

Richard Blumenthal

2022

No [1]
Connecticut

D

Chris Murphy

2018

No [1]
Delaware

D

Tom Carper

2018

No [1]
Delaware

D

Chris Coons

2020

LEAN NO [1]
Florida

D

Bill Nelson

2018

LEAN NO [1]
Florida

R

Marco Rubio

2022

Yes [1]
Georgia

R

Johnny Isakson

2022

Yes [1]
Georgia

R

David Perdue

2020

Yes [1]
Hawaii

D

Brian Schatz

2022

No [1]
Hawaii

D

Mazie Hirono

2018

No
Idaho

R

Mike Crapo

2022

Yes [1]
Idaho

R

Jim Risch

2020

Yes [1]
Illinois

D

Dick Durbin

2020

LEAN NO [1]
Illinois

D

Tammy Duckworth

2022

No
Indiana

D

Joe Donnelly

2018

WAFFLING
Indiana

R

Todd Young

2022

Yes [1]
Iowa

R

Chuck Grassley

2022

LEAN YES [1]
Iowa

R

Joni Ernst

2020

Yes [1]
Kansas

R

Pat Roberts

2020

Yes [1]
Kansas

R

Jerry Moran

2022

Yes [1]
Kentucky

R

Mitch McConnell

2020

Yes [1]
Kentucky

R

Rand Paul

2022

Yes [1]
Louisiana

R

Bill Cassidy

2020

Yes [1]
Louisiana

R

John Kennedy

2022

Yes [1]
Maine

R

Susan Collins

2020

WAFFLING
Maine

I

Angus King

2018

No
Maryland

D

Ben Cardin

2018

No
Maryland

D

Chris Van Hollen

2022

No
Massachusetts

D

Elizabeth Warren

2018

No
Massachusetts

D

Ed Markey

2020

No
Michigan

D

Debbie Stabenow

2018

No
Michigan

D

Gary Peters

2020

No
Minnesota

D

Amy Klobuchar

2018

No [1]
Minnesota

D

Tina Smith

2018

No [1]
Mississippi

R

Roger Wicker

2018

Yes
Mississippi

R

Cindy Hyde-Smith

2018

Yes
Missouri

D

Claire McCaskill

2018

WAFFLING
Missouri

R

Roy Blunt

2022

Yes
Montana

D

Jon Tester

2018

LEAN NO [1]
Montana

R

Steve Daines

2020

Yes [1]
Nebraska

R

Deb Fischer

2018

LEAN YES [1]
Nebraska

R

Ben Sasse

2020

LEAN YES [1]
Nevada

R

Dean Heller

2018

Yes [1]
Nevada

D

Catherine Cortez Masto

2022

LEAN NO [1]
New Hampshire

D

Jeanne Shaheen

2020

No
New Hampshire

D

Maggie Hassan

2022

No
New Jersey

D

Bob Menendez

2018

No [1]
New Jersey

D

Cory Booker

2020

No
New Mexico

D

Tom Udall

2020

No [1]
New Mexico

D

Martin Heinrich

2018

No
New York

D

Chuck Schumer

2022

No
New York

D

Kirsten Gillibrand

2018

No
North Carolina

R

Richard Burr

2022

Yes [1]
North Carolina

R

Thom Tillis

2020

Yes
North Dakota

R

John Hoeven

2022

Yes
North Dakota

D

Heidi Heitkamp

2018

WAFFLING
Ohio

D

Sherrod Brown

2018

No [1]
Ohio

R

Rob Portman

2022

Yes [1]
Oklahoma

R

Jim Inhofe

2020

Yes [1]
Oklahoma

R

James Lankford

2022

LEAN YES [1]
Oregon

D

Ron Wyden

2022

No
Oregon

D

Jeff Merkley

2020

No
Pennsylvania

D

Bob Casey Jr.

2018

No [1]
Pennsylvania

R

Pat Toomey

2022

Yes [1]
Rhode Island

D

Jack Reed

2020

No [1]
Rhode Island

D

Sheldon Whitehouse

2018

No [1]
South Carolina

R

Lindsey Graham

2020

Yes [1]
South Carolina

R

Tim Scott

2022

Yes [1]
South Dakota

R

John Thune

2022

Yes [1]
South Dakota

R

Mike Rounds

2020

Yes [1]
Tennessee

R

Lamar Alexander

2020

Yes [1]
Tennessee

R

Bob Corker

2018

Yes*
Texas

R

John Cornyn

2020

Yes [1]
Texas

R

Ted Cruz

2018

Yes [1]
Utah

R

Orrin Hatch

2018

Yes [1]
Utah

R

Mike Lee

2022

Yes [1]
Vermont

D

Patrick Leahy

2022

LEAN NO [1]
Vermont

I

Bernie Sanders

2018

No
Virginia

D

Mark Warner

2020

No [1]
Virginia

D

Tim Kaine

2018

No
Washington

D

Patty Murray

2022

No
Washington

D

Maria Cantwell

2018

No
West Virginia

D

Joe Manchin

2018

WAFFLING
West Virginia

R

Shelley Moore Capito

2020

Yes [1]
Wisconsin

R

Ron Johnson

2022

Yes [1]
Wisconsin

D

Tammy Baldwin

2018

No [1]
Wyoming

R

Mike Enzi

2020

LEAN YES [1]
Wyoming

R

John Barrasso

2018

Yes [1]

*  Qualified response, subject to final confirmation.

[1]  Firm Yes votes based on WhipTheVote.org‘s tally.

Latest  update: 12 September 2018 7:30 pm EDT

This is NOT an open thread. Please stay on on topic — the Kavanaugh confirmation — to make tracking votes easier. Thanks!

Brett Kavanaugh Called John Yoo His “Magic Bullet”

And Bill Burck thinks American citizens should not know that fact before Kavanaugh gets a lifetime appointment.

Brett Kavanaugh Was In the Loop on (Broader) Precursor to John Yoo’s Stellar Wind Memos

Patrick Leahy just had two key interactions with Brett Kavanaugh. In the first, he made it clear that Kavanaugh had received emails that Orrin Hatch staffer Manny Miranda stole from Democrats, including Leahy himself, in 2001 to 2003 during the period Kavanaugh worked at the White House, including on judicial nominations.

In the second, he asked Kavanaugh whether he still stood by his claim not to have been involved in the authorization for Stellar Wind, Bush’s illegal wiretap program. Kavanaugh almost immediately reverted to the dodge that George Bush used when denying he had ignored FISA — referring to just a subset of the program, for which the Bush White House invented the term “Terrorist Surveillance Program.

But Leahy persisted, asking specifically about this document (see page 13; significantly, Steven Bradbury left the document off a FOIA Vaughn Index about documents pertaining to the “TSP”).

From the context of Leahy’s questions, it’s clear that Kavanaugh was in the loop on this document, even if he wasn’t on the later documents. Leahy further made it clear that he couldn’t release the underlying documents making this clear because Chuck Grassley had deemed them Committee Confidential.

That’s important for several reasons. First, I’ve been told that the NSA started implementing Stellar Wind in response to a Finding (note, this document has the same date as the Gloves Come Off Memorandum of Notification that, according to Jane Meyer, included surveillance) before the October 4 OLC memo.

I’ve also been told that NSA conducted activities that are broader than what got covered by Yoo’s later memos under that Finding. That would make this Finding parallel to the July 13, 2002 John Yoo Fax under which CIA’s torture operated (which is how CIA claimed stuff that went beyond what was approved in the August 1, 2002 Bybee Memos still had DOJ authorization).

If that’s right, then Kavanaugh may not have been involved in authorizing illegal surveillance targeted at terrorists (and also potential culprits of the anthrax attack). But he would have been involved in authorizing even broader surveillance.

Leahy already asked to have the documents showing Kavanaugh’s involvement in this memo released publicly. He renewed that request today.

This underlying September 17 document has never been released, so we don’t know how extreme John Yoo got. But we may soon have the proof that Kavanaugh was involved in authorizing surveillance that goes beyond the scope of what we know got authorized as the Stellar Wind program.

Update: This story from Charlie Savage makes it clear that Kavanaugh was emailing John Yoo about the precursor to the memos authorizing Stellar Wind.

[I]n September 2001, after the terrorist attacks, Judge Kavanaugh engaged with a Justice Department lawyer about questions of warrantless surveillance at the time that lawyer wrote a memo an inspector general report later portrayed as the precursor to the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance program.

Update: The email reads:

Any results yet on the 4A implications of random/constant surveillance of phone and e-mail conversations of non-citizens who are in the United States when the purpose of the surveillance is to prevent terrorist/criminal violence?

Bill Clinton Did Not Win an Election By Getting a Blowjob: The Danger of Lindsey Graham’s Willful Ignorance about Russian Interference

In his statement in Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing yesterday, Lindsey Graham embodied the problem with Republicans’ deliberate ignorance about Russian interference in the 2016 election.

As part of his statement, he raised the time Joe Biden pointed out what a hypocrite Brett Kavanaugh was for believing presidents should not be investigated during their term but nevertheless thought it necessary to ask Bill Clinton the following questions:

If Monica Lewinsky says that you inserted a cigar into her vagina while you were in the Oval Office area, would she be lying?

[snip]

If Monica Lewinsky says that she gave you oral sex in the Oval Office area, would she be lying?

If Monica Lewinsky says that you ejaculated in her mouth on two occasions in the Oval Office, would she be lying?

Lindsey did so to suggest Biden’s comments about the Clinton investigation refute the claim that Trump picked Kavanaugh to protect himself from investigation, as if the investigation of Clinton for a blowjob was as legitimate as Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump cheated to win the election.

To justify such an absurd claim, Lindsey suggests that the Mueller investigation is only about whether Trump acted improperly when he fired Comey.

When it comes to the pillar of political virtue, Comey. Harry Reid: “That he’s been a supporter of Comey, and led the fight to get him confirmed, as he believed Comey was a principled public servant. With the deepest regret, I now see that I was wrong.” Mr. Nadler, from NY. “The President can fire him for cause and ought to. He violated the guidelines and put his thumb on the scale of an election.” Mr. Cohen, from Tennessee, a Democrat. “Call on Comey to resign his position, effective immediately, I’m sureupon reflection of this action he will submit his letter of resignation for the nation’s good.” To my Democratic friends,  you were all for getting rid of this guy. Now all of a sudden the country is turning upside down cause Trump did it.

The same guy who recently endorsed the idea of Trump firing Jeff Sessions once Kavanaugh gets confirmed then claimed he would do everything to protect the Mueller investigation. He says that even while suggesting he agrees with Kavanaugh that the president shouldn’t be investigated.

There’s a process to find out what happened in the 2016 election. It’s called Mr. Mueller. And I will do everything I can to make sure he finishes his job without political interference. And I’m here to tell anybody in the country that listens, that this is so hypocritical of my friends on the other side. When it was their President, Kavanaugh was right. When you’re talking about Roe v. Wade, it’s okay to promise the nation it will never be overturned. It’s okay to pick a Democratic staff member of this committee, but it’s not okay to pick somebody who’s been a lifelong Republican.

Which brings us to the stunning bit. Having just misrepresented the scope of the Mueller investigation — completely ignoring that the primary investigation is about whether Trump conspired with a hostile foreign power to win the election — Lindsey then suggests that Democrats should have no influence over judges because they lost the election the legitimacy of which Mueller continues to investigate (and about which Mueller has already provided evidence that the scope of Russia’s help for Trump went further than initially known).

People see through this. You had a chance, and you lost. If you want to pick judges from your way of thinking, then you better win an election.

After discussing his support for Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, Lindsey then suggests that stripping the last limits on presidential power is just a game (even while admitting he likes Trump best of all for getting two SCOTUS picks).

I hope people in the country understand this game. It’s a game that I’m sad to be part of. It’s gotten really bad. The antidote to our problems in this country when it comes to judges and politics is not to deny you a place on the Supreme Court. This is exactly where you need to be, this is exactly the time you need to be there, and I’m telling President Trump, “You do some things that drive me crazy, you do some great things. You have never done anything better, in my view, than to pick Gorsuch and Kavanaugh.  Cause you had an opportunity to put well-qualified conservatives on the court — men steeped in the rule of law — who will apply analysis not politics to their decision-making, and you knocked it out of the park, and I say to my friends on the other side: you can’t lose the election and pick judges.

Lindsey ends, again, by taunting Democrats that they can’t have any input on Supreme Court justices if they lose an election.

An election the investigation of which Lindsey claims to, but is not, protecting. An election the investigation of which may be stymied by the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh.

Of course, this is only possible because of the way four different efforts in Congress — including Lindsey’s own — have served to obscure the matters under investigation. You’ve got Lindsey’s investigation and Bob Goodlatte’s — both more worried about a single FISA order that even a conservative Republican has told me was based on overwhelming evidence — than whether the guy making lifetime appointments cheated to get that authority. You’ve got Devin Nunes’ investigation, better described as an information gathering effort to help Trump get away with any cheating he engaged in than an investigation of whether he did cheat. Finally, there is Richard Burr’s investigation which, while on its face is more credible, nevertheless is not pursuing leads that support a case that Trump conspired with Russia to win the election.

Lindsey Graham is concerned about lies Christopher Steele may have told under oath in the UK, but not lies Don Jr clearly told his own committee. His big rush to stack SCOTUS suggests the reason for that has everything to do with a need to sustain a fiction that those SCOTUS choices are the result of a legitimate election win rather than willfully conspiring with a foreign adversary to get those choices.

Would Rod Rosenstein Object to a Mueller Action before Brett Kavanaugh Is Confirmed?

There’s a lot of discussion about whether or not DOJ’s traditional prohibition on major prosecutorial actions limits Robert Mueller. As I have explained, I personally think the terms of it don’t apply, with the possible exception of Dana Rohrabacher, because no other conceivable subject of Mueller’s investigation is conceivably on the ballot. Quinta Jurecic has a good piece explaining that it is a general practice, not a rule.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz spelled out exactly why it’s wrong in three short pages of his recent report on the FBI’s conduct in the Clinton email investigation.

Two years ago, Jane Chong dove deep into the supposed 60-day rule in a Lawfare post on FBI Director James Comey’s October 2016 letter on new developments in the Clinton investigation. As she wrote then, there is no formal rule barring Justice Department action in the days immediately before an election. Rather, the “rule” is more of a soft norm based on what former Attorney General Eric Holder himself described as “long-standing Justice Department policies and tradition.” In a guidanceHolder issued in 2012, the attorney general wrote that, “Law enforcement officers and prosecutors may never select the timing of investigative steps or criminal charges for the purpose of affecting any election, or for the purpose of giving an advantage or disadvantage to any candidate or political party”—which, Chong noted, leaves a wide loophole for actions taken near an election without the purpose of affecting that election. In 2016, Attorney General Loretta Lynch issued a similar memorandum with the same language, as the inspector general report lays out.

Chong’s post was, in fact, cited by the inspector general report in the office’s own analysis of whether Comey had violated the supposed 60-day rule. “The 60-Day Rule is not written or described in any Department policy or regulation,” the report says. Investigators canvassed a range of “high-ranking [Justice] Department and FBI officials” on their own understandings of the guideline, which the report describes as “a general practice that informs Department decisions.”

This short section of the 500-plus-page report shows broad agreement among the current and former Justice Department officials interviewed that there is some kind of principle against taking action in such a way as to potentially influence an election, though the interviewees do not precisely agree on the contours of that principle. Former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara stated, investigators write, that “there is generalized, unwritten guidance that prosecutors do not indict political candidates or use overt investigative methods in the weeks before an election.” Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates located the cutoff more precisely at the 90-day instead of the 60-day mark.

The inspector general’s office also interviewed Ray Hulser, the former deputy assistant attorney general for the Public Integrity Section of the Justice Department, who was involved in the drafting of Lynch’s 2016 election integrity. Interestingly, Hulser told investigators that the Public Integrity Section had actually considered codifying the 60-day rule in the Lynch memo, but had decided not to because such a policy would be “unworkable.”

Yet, even though I don’t believe the 60-day “rule” does apply, my expectation is that Rod Rosenstein — who after is the one who will make any decisions about major Mueller actions — would nevertheless abide by it.

Still, that leaves three more days of this week, before the actual 60-day cut-off.

Which leaves me with another question: Would Rosenstein balk at a major action this week, before Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed to the Supreme Court?

After all, Rosenstein is close to Kavanaugh from when both served on a real witch hunt, the Ken Starr investigation into Bill Clinton’s blowjob (indeed, Kavanaugh seemed to have gotten off on the most scandalous details about that blowjob). Rosenstein has gone to great lengths to make DOJ resources available in support of his confirmation. Rosenstein showed up for the start of today’s hearing.

For Rosenstein, Kavanaugh’s confirmation is personal.

Would he do anything this week to stave off new Mueller revelations, to ensure the Kavanaugh bullet train races forward?

Contra Kavanaugh

[As always, check the byline — this is by me, Rayne, and I am not the lawyer on this crew.]

Call your senators RIGHT NOW and insist they do whatever they can to halt Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. He should not be confirmed.

Congressional switchboard number: (202) 224-3121

Leave a voicemail, don’t put it off; there’s less than 24 hours before the hearing begins. Do you need a script to help make your call? Check with @Celeste_pewter at this link; she has you covered. Send a fax if you’d rather. Look up your senators’ contact details at GovTrack.us. But do it, RIGHT NOW. Come back to this when you’re done.

~ | ~ |~

Now that’s the important part of this post, the must-do call to action right up front. Drop everything and make the call before proceeding. Persuade friends and family to do the same right now.

The rest of this post is a formality over which I have fretted for more than a week. There are myriad articles out there, new ones published every day, explaining Kavanaugh’s judicial history and why he is unacceptable as a justice with a life-time appointment.

The most important reason, though, is evident in the actions of the White House and the GOP combined.

Bad, Bad Faith

They have acted and continue to act in bad faith about everything while in office. Kavanaugn’s nomination and their handling of the vetting process is but one more cluster of bad faith acts.

If this administration had nominated Kavanaugh in good faith, his works would have been openly available to the Senate Judiciary Democrats with few exceptions — but this is not the case.

If Kavanaugh himself was a good faith nominee, he would be pushing for his work to be open for evaluation — but he is silent.

If the GOP Congress was acting in good faith, they, too, would demand all Kavanaugh’s documents — but they aren’t. Senator Susan Collins in particular deserves a drubbing here, having signaled an intent to approve Kavanaugh based on the documents she’s seen so far and they are a piddling amount of the documents Kavanaugh created or was involved with during his career. She is willfully buying a pig in a poke in spite of her position on women’s reproductive health.

The hurry to seat Kavanaugh is also unnecessary; Mitch McConnell wants him to begin on October 1 with the SCOTUS’ next session. To meet this wholly arbitrary deadline McConnell has broken with past practice — and shorted the production of documents related to Kavanaugh’s work history.

It’s not just the Trump administration, either, since many of the withheld documents were generated during the Bush administration. An unprecedented and partisan review process by George W. Bush administration lawyers is running in tandem with the National Archives and Records Administration’s document production, which the NARA calls “something that has never happened before.” NARA can’t produce the Kavanaugh documents before the end of October; the Bush lawyers are cherry-picking their selection to meet the 9:30 a.m. Tuesday hearing.

Given what we know of the Bush administration’s efforts on torture and surveillance alone, Senate Democrats are right to be worried about the insufficiency of documents. Pat Leahy indicated what few documents they’ve received include many duplicates, further frustrating analysis.

Why are the administration and the GOP trying so hard to prevent access to documentation of Kavanaugh’s work history? Why the sudden reversal on transparency after a Republicans-only meeting on July 24th? What of the concerns Leahy expressed in an August 17th letter to White House Counsel Don McGahn?

…do you have reason to believe any of the records relate to:
1. The legal justifications or policies relating to the treatment of detainees?
2. The rules governing the detention of combatants?
3. The warrantless wiretapping of Americans?
4. A proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman?

These topics are far too weighty to be given deliberate short shrift — the specificity of exclusion is troubling, especially when combined with questions about Kavanaugh’s questionable finances and the likelihood Kavanaugh lied under oath before the Senate in 2006. It gives the appearance of a cover-up, which is more than bad faith; it’s malignancy.

Before Justice Kennedy retired we had already quite enough of GOP bad faith. Obama’s SCOTUS nominee Merrick Garland should have had a hearing; his work product had not been suppressed. Obama’s previous nominees had likewise been fully vetted, their documents made available. But Mitch McConnell suppressed Obama’s last appointment in bad faith; there is nothing at all in the Constitution to support the Senate’s denial of Obama’s appointment by refusing to evaluate his nominee.

Article 2, Section 2: He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

(emphasis mine)

Refusing to hold a hearing meant a rejection of the Senate’s role to advise and consent. By the simplest interpretation of the Constitution, McConnell violated his oath of office by failing to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and to well and faithfully discharge the duties of his office.

Unfortunately there is no remedy save for impeachment of McConnell or removal by voters and neither will happen before Tuesday.

Unindicted Co-Conspirator-in-Chief

The next critical reason why Kavanaugh should neither receive a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing nor be confirmed is Trump’s current status as an unindicted co-conspirator.  Although the current conspiracy for which Trump has not yet been indicted is not now in Special Counsel’s folio, we cannot know until after Special Counsel’s Office has completed their work whether Kavanaugh’s appointment was part of a larger conspiracy to defraud the U.S. The Senate should exercise its role to advise and consent by refraining from evaluation of Kavanaugh until Trump’s status is resolved — and the Senate Judiciary Dems should uniformly reject a hearing and confirmation.

What is already known about Kavanaugh suggests he will not act neutrally should the prosecution of any case involving Trump as a co-conspirator come before the SCOTUS. In 2009 Kavanaugh wrote for the Minnesota Law Review on deferrals of civil suits, criminal investigations and prosecutions of the president,

… The indictment and trial of a sitting President, moreover, would cripple the federal government, rendering it unable to function with credibility in either the international or domestic arenas. Such an outcome would ill serve the public interest, especially in times of financial or national security crisis.

Even the lesser burdens of a criminal investigation—including preparing for questioning by criminal investigators—are time-consuming and distracting. Like civil suits, criminal investigations take the President’s focus away from his or her responsibilities to the people. And a President who is concerned about an ongoing criminal investigation is almost inevitably going to do a worse job as President.

In the same article, Kavanaugh encouraged Congress to write legislation “exempting a President—while in office—from criminal prosecution and investigation, including from questioning by criminal prosecutors or defense counsel.”

This opinion is flawed and based on what he saw of Clinton, Bush, and Obama presidencies. We no longer have a president who is absorbed by the duties of the office, taking roughly 25% of his time in office to commit violations of the Emoluments Clause by playing golf at his own resorts. The Special Counsel’s Office investigation hasn’t disrupted his golf game; it hasn’t disrupted the remaining 75% of his time in office save for Trump’s entirely elective and unnecessary kvetching via Twitter about a witch hunt.

No feedback from senators so far indicates Kavanaugh would recuse himself on cases coming before SCOTUS related to civil suits or criminal charges against Trump.

Health Care, Women’s Reproductive Rights, Settled Law Unsettled

These issues are all of a piece since they are interrelated by a narrow number of cases and will likely come down to swing senators who claim to care most about these issues — senators Collins and Lisa Murkowski. Kavanaugh has been interviewed by Collins who says she believes he is in agreement with her that Roe v. Wade is settled law and not likely to change. Collins, however, has been screwed over repeatedly by her party in no small part because she trusts uterus-deficient counterparts to see women’s reproductive rights as she does (this is an awful wordy way to say she’s easily played).

Lindsey Graham, however, left off sucking up to Trump to suggest Roe could be overturned by Kavanaugh because “a precedent is important but it’s not inviolate.” Having said this on at least two different Sunday talk shows one might wonder if he is leading Kavanaugh or Collins and Murkowski.

No Senate Democrat should give Graham or Kavanaugh the benefit of the doubt, though. His dissent in Garza v. Hargan, the D.C. Circuit case in which a 17-year-old asylum seeker sought an abortion while in U.S. custody, is disturbing. He wrote,

The Government has permissible interests in favoring fetal life, protecting the best interests of a minor, and refraining from facilitating abortion. …

No. The government has no interests in favoring fetal life as if fetuses had rights co-equal to the mother, teen or adult, whether free or in detention. Forcing a minor to carry another child to term is not in the government’s interests; it’s child abuse.

Kavanaugh’s opinion in Priests for Life v. HHS, wrestling with the issue of religious freedom versus access to contraception, is also disturbing. He concluded,

First, under Hobby Lobby, the regulations substantially burden the religious organizations’ exercise of religion because the regulations require the organizations to take an action contrary to their sincere religious beliefs (submitting the form) or else pay significant monetary penalties.

Second, that said, Hobby Lobby strongly suggests that the Government has a compelling interest in facilitating access to contraception for the employees of these religious organizations.

Third, this case therefore comes down to the least restrictive means question.

Nowhere in this conclusion does it ever occur to Kavanaugh there are other reasons women are prescribed birth control besides contraception which have nothing to do with employers’ religious beliefs. To be fair, most men are clueless about the benefits of birth control for minimizing cramps and managing other debilitating menstrual problems. But this conclusion combined with the dissent in Garza do not assure that Kavanaugh will see Roe as settled.

Semi-Automatic Weapons Wankery

Not good. Kavanaugh dissented in Heller v. District of Columbia, a case which upheld Washington D.C.’s ban on semi-automatic weapons, writing that the Supreme Court

“held that handguns — the vast majority of which today are semiautomatic — are constitutionally protected because they have not traditionally been banned and are in common use by law-abiding citizens.”

This blows off the 1994 Federal Assault Weapon Ban which expired in 2004 and should have been renewed since civilian deaths by assault weapons escalated after 2004.

Kavanaugh couldn’t be trusted to support a ban on assault weapons which are semi-automatic.

Net Neutrality No-Go

This issue infuriates me as much as Kavanaugh’s dissent on Garza. Last year in U.S. Telecom Association v. FCC he wrote,

… While the net neutrality rule applies to those ISPs that hold themselves out as neutral, indiscriminate conduits to internet content, the converse is also true: the rule does not apply to an ISP holding itself out as providing something other than a neutral, indiscriminate pathway—i.e., an ISP making sufficiently clear to potential customers that it provides a filtered service involving the ISP’s exercise of “editorial intervention.” …

Except ISPs are nearly inseparable from telecom — which we would not allow any editorial rights over content — and ISPs are too thin in some markets, forcing customers to accept what might be the only ISP in their area along with that ISP’s “editorial intervention.”

I’m also disturbed by the examples he used of throttled content like Netflix and Ticketmaster while ignoring the possibility an ISP could exercise “editorial intervention” over essential services like email and VoIP.

Nothing like having Verizon sitting on the Supreme Court.

Surveillance State

Good Lord, his understanding of metadata…Kavanaugh wrote in his opinion for Larry E. Klayman v. Barack Obama, et al. (2015) denying an emergency petition,

… In my view, that critical national security need outweighs the impact on privacy occasioned by this program. The Government’s program does not capture the content of communications, but rather the time and duration of calls, and the numbers called. In short, the Government’s program fits comfortably within the Supreme Court precedents applying the special needs doctrine. … In sum, the Fourth Amendment does not bar the Government’s bulk collection of telephony metadata under this program. …

There’s no chance at all to his thinking that metadata itself could be the message.

~ | ~ |~

That’s more than enough without having to really dig, and I haven’t even touched on Kavanaugh with regard to LGBT equality. White House and GOP bad faith is enough reason to insist Kavanaugh not be confirmed.

If you made it this far without having called your senators, do it RIGHT NOW and insist they do whatever they can to halt Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. He should not serve a lifetime as a justice given what we already know.

Congressional switchboard number: (202) 224-3121

Why Would Don McGahn (and His Lawyer) Cooperate in a Piece Claiming He Cooperated with Mueller (on Obstruction)?

As I laid out here, the latest NYT obstruct-a-palooza on Don McGahn “cooperating” with Robert Mueller spins what is probably a lawyer covering his own legal jeopardy with a claim of full cooperation.

But why did he (and his lawyer, William Burck) cooperate in it? Why spin a fanciful tale of being disloyal to your boss, even if it’s just to blame him for it before he blames you?

The most obvious answer is he’s trying to convince Mueller he’s not responsible for the legal shenanigans of (as the NYT continues to spin it) the obstruction of the investigation, or of the legal shenanigans of Trump generally.

There may well be an aspect of that, though I wouldn’t want to be (and hope I’m not) in a position where my legal jeopardy relied on how successfully I could spin Maggie and Mike, even if I were as expert at doing so as Don McGahn is.

A better answer may lie in this observation from my last post:

By far the most telling passage in this 2,225+ word story laying out Don McGahn’s “cooperation” with the Mueller inquiry is this passage:

Though he was a senior campaign aide, it is not clear whether Mr. Mueller’s investigators have questioned Mr. McGahn about whether Trump associates coordinated with Russia’s effort to influence the election.

Over two thousand words and over a dozen sources, and Maggie and Mike never get around to explaining whether Don McGahn has any exposure in or provided testimony for the investigation in chief, the conspiracy with Russia to win the election.

Consider: the story Maggie and Mike (and Don McGahn’s lawyer) spin is that Don McGahn let Trump bully him around on some issues in early 2017, which led to some things that might look like obstruction of justice. An unfortunate occurrence, surely. But McGahn might be forgiven for fucking things up in early January 2017. After all, he was new to the whole White House Counseling thing; he had never worked in a White House before. Beginner’s mistake(s), you might call the long list of things he fucked up at the beginning of his tenure, which Maggie and Mike nod to but don’t describe in full resplendent glory.

His relationship with the president had soured as Mr. Trump blamed him for a number of fraught moments in his first months in office, including the chaotic, failed early attempts at a ban on travelers from some majority-Muslim countries and, in particular, the existence of Mr. Mueller’s investigation.

Don McGahn’s skills, it turns out, lie elsewhere.

While he has bolloxed most of the things White House Counsels are supposed to do (like keeping the White House out of legal and ethical trouble), he has had unsurpassed success at stacking the courts. I doubt there’s an ideological Republican in the country who isn’t thrilled with McGahn’s success at stacking the courts.

Update: Case in point.

Indeed (this becomes important in just a bit), McGahn’s success at stacking the courts is one of the biggest reasons why Republicans in Congress put up with the rest of Trump’s shit. Being President, for many Republicans, isn’t about governing; it’s about stacking the courts.

It turns out, though, that McGahn had another job before he became an expert court-stacker. For decades, Don McGahn has been one of the Republican party’s key campaign finance lawyers.

That’s how he grew to be close to Trump when, as Maggie and Mike describe,

McGahn joined the Trump team as an early hire said to like the candidate’s outsider position.

Don McGahn had come to prominence in the party at the NRCC and was rewarded for it with a seat on the FEC, where he made campaign finance more slushy.

But probably not slushy enough.

Here’s where Maggie and Mike’s failure to get an answer for whether longtime Republican campaign finance expert Don McGahn has been questioned about his role in the conspiracy with Russians to win the election (not to mention their failure to pin down when his third interview with Mueller’s team took place, after he happily revealed when the first two did) becomes important.

Don McGahn might be forgiven for bolloxing up the White House Counsel job. He was new at that (and he was busy, anyway, stacking the courts).

But at least three of the areas where Mueller’s team might find a conspiracy with Russia (or other foreigners) to win the election involve campaign finance issues — Don McGahn’s expertise. Those are:

  • Whether knowingly employing British Cambridge Analytica employees without getting them proper visas constitutes illegal foreign influence?
  • Whether accepting a Trump Tower meeting with Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton constitutes accepting a thing of value?
  • Whether the campaign was sufficiently firewalled from the  dodgy shit Roger Stone was doing (which has been a focus of the last six months of Mueller’s time)?

My wildarse guess is that campaign finance expert Don McGahn might find a way to finesse hiring foreign Cambridge Analytica employees. My wildarse guess is that campaign finance expert Don McGahn could claim ignorance about the illegal details of the Trump Tower and other foreign influence peddling meetings.

My wildarse guess is that campaign finance expert Don McGahn did not sufficiently firewall Stone off from the campaign. Especially given that he was involved in both incarnations of Stop the Steal — the effort to stamp down a convention rebellion, and the effort (which worked in parallel to a Russian one) to use claims of a “rigged” election to suppress Democratic voters. Especially given that he was loved in the Republican party for leaning towards slush over legal compliance.

Given how central campaign finance violations are in any question of a conspiracy with Russia, it is malpractice for Maggie and Mike to publish a story without determining whether — after being grilled by Mueller’s team for two days last fall about whether he fucked up White House Counseling — McGahn has more recently been grilled extensively about whether he fucked up campaign finance, the thing he got hired for in the first place. The thing he’s supposed to be an expert in.

But Maggie and Mike believe Trump is only being investigated for obstruction, so seeding a big puff piece with them is a sure bet you won’t get asked about your obviously central role (or not) in any conspiracy involving campaign finance.

That’s just part of a potential explanation for why Don McGahn (and his lawyer) would seed a big puff piece with Maggie and Mike, making it look like McGahn had cooperated a lot on something he was never an expert in — White House Counseling — but remaining utterly silent on whether he cooperated on something he is undoubtedly an expert in (even if he tends to prefer slush to law). Better to get in trouble for cooperating on the stuff Trump and his lawyers have been successfully distracting with for the last six months rather than cooperating with prosecutors on a case about conspiring with Russian spies to win an election, the stuff that will elicit cries of Treason and with it badly tarnish the Republican party.

Then there’s this, the last great court-stack. Numerous people have noted, but Maggie and Mike did not, even while noting that McGahn is in the middle of a SCOTUS fight:

Mr. McGahn is still the White House counsel, shepherding the president’s second Supreme Court nominee, Brett M. Kavanaugh, through the confirmation process.

William Burck, McGahn’s lawyer, is his partner-in-crime in his last great court-stack.

When Trump (presumably based on the advice of his chief court-stacker, Don McGahn) nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, people (including Mitch McConnell) warned him of the danger of nominating someone with such an extensive paper record. Nevertheless, Republicans started with an assumption that that record would be made public. Until July 24, when Republicans had a private meeting and realized they had to suppress Kavanaugh’s record as White House Staff Secretary.

It is not surprising then, that on July 19, 2018, while discussing preparations for Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, Senator Cornyn — the Majority Whip and a senior member of the Judiciary Committee — said that the production of documents Judge Kavanaugh had “generated . . . authored…or contributed to” during his tenure as White House Staff Secretary should be produced to the Committee.  He stated that it “just seems to be common sense.”

However, less than a week later, following a White House meeting with you on the records production on July 24, the Republican position abruptly and inexplicably shifted.  Since that meeting, Senate Republicans refused to request any and all documents from Judge Kavanaugh’s three years as White House Staff Secretary, regardless of authorship.  Immediately after the meeting, Senator Cornyn described requesting any Staff Secretary records as “a bridge too far.”  Days later, Chairman Chuck Grassley submitted a records request to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and omitted any of Judge Kavanaugh’s records as Staff Secretary.

Since then, William Burck has taken time away from representing Don McGahn and Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon to personally suppress lots of Kavanaugh’s records as White House Staff Secretary. And Chuck Grassley has moved up Kavanaugh’s confirmation process to make sure that some of production being slow-rolled by Don McGahn’s lawyer will not be release before Kavanaugh gets a vote on a lifetime appointment.

There’s clearly something in Kavanaugh’s record as White House Staff Secretary that might lead Susan Collins or Lisa Murkowski to vote against Kavanaugh — or make the entire nomination toxic in time for the mid-terms.

Mind you, whether Don McGahn’s failures on the topic he is supposed to be an expert on, campaign finance, contribute to getting the President’s lackeys indicted for a conspiracy may not directly relate to his last great hurrah in stacking the courts, solidifying a regressive majority on SCOTUS for a generation and with it adding someone who will suppress this investigation.

Then again it might.

Most Republicans, I suspect, will one day become willing to jettison Trump so long as they can continue stacking the courts. Trump, one day, may be expendable so long as McGahn’s expertise at stacking the court holds sway. At that level, McGahn’s political fortunes may actually conflict with Trump’s.

But not if he (and his lawyer) fuck up the last great court-stack. Not if they get blamed for failing on McGahn’s area of expertise — campaign finance — and in so doing lead to a delay in and with it the demise of the Kavanaugh confirmation.

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

 

Guy Who Worked at White House When It Self-Authorized Dragnet Thinks Dragnets Are Cool

Eleven judges from the DC Circuit denied Larry Klayman’s request to overturn the stay that a panel put on Richard Leon’s injunction against the dragnet today.

Of those 11 judges, just one decided to weigh in on the legality of the dragnet Leon had ruled unconstitutional: Brett Kavanaugh. In doing so, he laid out a condensed version of the Special Needs search used by dragnet boosters.

I vote to deny plaintiffs’ emergency petition for rehearing en banc. I do so because, in my view, the Government’s metadata collection program is entirely consistent with the Fourth Amendment. Therefore, plaintiffs cannot show a likelihood of success on the merits of their claim, and this Court was right to stay the District Court’s injunction against the Government’s program.

[snip]

Even if the bulk collection of telephony metadata constitutes a search, cf. United States v. Jones, 132 S. Ct. 945, 954-57 (2012) (Sotomayor, J., concurring), the Fourth Amendment does not bar all searches and seizures. It bars only unreasonable searches and seizures. And the Government’s metadata collection program readily qualifies as reasonable under the Supreme Court’s case law. The Fourth Amendment allows governmental searches and seizures without individualized suspicion when the Government demonstrates a sufficient “special need” – that is, a need beyond the normal need for law enforcement – that outweighs the intrusion on individual liberty.

[snip]

The Government’s program for bulk collection of telephony metadata serves a critically important special need – preventing terrorist attacks on the United States. See THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT (2004). In my view, that critical national security need outweighs the impact on privacy occasioned by this program.

Kavanaugh, of course, served as a White House lawyer and as Staff Secretary during the period when George Bush kept self-authorizing such a dragnet. While there’s no reason to believe he was involved in the dubious theories used to justify Stellar Wind (which were largely a version of this Special Needs argument), he may well have been consulted — as he apparently was on detainee treatment, though he claimed not to have been during his confirmation. He may also have seen the paperwork authorizing the program.

No doubt Kavanaugh would espouse this view whether or not he had worked for a guy who might face real legal trouble if this theory didn’t hold sway. But as people cite from this language in the future, they should remember that of all the judges who reviewed this decision, only Kavanaugh had this kind of personal tie to the dragnet. And only Kavanaugh saw fit to weigh in.

DC Appeals Court Throws Out Hamdan Conviction

Back in 2009, then Assistant Attorney General David Kris predicted that appellate courts might throw out material support military commission convictions because material support is not a law of war crime.

There are two additional issues I would like to highlight today that are not addressed by the Committee bill that we believe should be considered. The first is the offense of material support for terrorism or terrorist groups. While this is a very important offense in our counterterrorism prosecutions in Federal court under title 18 of the U.S. Code, there are serious questions as to whether material support for terrorism or terrorist groups is a traditional violation of the law of war. The President has made clear that military commissions are to be used only to prosecute law of war offenses. Although identifying traditional law of war offenses can be a difficult legal and historical exercise, our experts believe that there is a significant risk that appellate courts will ultimately conclude that material support for terrorism is not a traditional law of war offense, thereby reversing hard-won convictions and leading to questions about the system’s legitimacy.

Today, the DC District Court did just that, though making a slightly narrower ruling. In a ruling overturning Salim Hamdan’s conviction on material support, conservative judge Brett Kavanaugh notes that material support still is not a law of war crime, and did not become a crime covered by military commissions in the US until the 2006 Military Commissions Act.

First, despite Hamdan’s release from custody, this case is not moot. This is a direct appeal of a conviction. The Supreme Court has long held that a defendant’s direct appeal of a conviction is not mooted by the defendant’s release from custody.

Second, consistent with Congress’s stated intent and so as to avoid a serious Ex Post Facto Clause issue, we interpret the Military Commissions Act of 2006 not to authorize retroactive prosecution of crimes that were not prohibited as war crimes triable by military commission under U.S. law at the time the conduct occurred. Therefore, Hamdan’s conviction may be affirmed only if the relevant statute that was on the books at the time of his conduct – 10 U.S.C. § 821 – encompassed material support for terrorism.

Third, when Hamdan committed the relevant conduct from 1996 to 2001, Section 821 of Title 10 provided that military commissions may try violations of the “law of war.” The “law of war” cross-referenced in that statute is the international law of war. See Quirin, 317 U.S. at 27-30, 35-36. When Hamdan committed the conduct in question, the international law of war proscribed a variety of war crimes, including forms of terrorism. At that time, however, the international law of war did not proscribe material support for terrorism as a war crime. Indeed, the Executive Branch acknowledges that the international law of war did not – and still does not – identify material support for terrorism as a war crime. Therefore, the relevant statute at the time of Hamdan’s conduct – 10 U.S.C. § 821 – did not proscribe material support for terrorism as a war crime.

Because we read the Military Commissions Act not to retroactively punish new crimes, and because material support for terrorism was not a pre-existing war crime under 10 U.S.C. § 821, Hamdan’s conviction for material support for terrorism cannot stand. We reverse the judgment of the Court of Military Commission Review and direct that Hamdan’s conviction for material support for terrorism be vacated.

Hamdan has already been released. Only one other detainee has been convicted on just material support, Ibrahim al-Qosi, who has been repatriated to Sudan and is in a reintegration program [oops–I forgot David Hicks, though he too has been released]. As Carol Rosenberg points out, three other Gitmo detainees were convicted of material support: Majid Khan, Noor Uthman Muhammed, and Ali al-Bahlul, but they were also convicted of other crimes. So assuming the Administration doesn’t appeal this, it probably doesn’t affect all that much.

Then again, the Administration could appeal this and have SCOTUS decide whether material support should be covered by military commissions more generally.

Update: I was wondering how this would affect al-Bahlul’s appeal. Steve Vladeck says it might affect it significantly.

And that’s where the next military commission case, al-Bahlul, comes in–one of the claims al-Bahlul raises in his appeal is that conspiracy was not recognized as a violation of the laws of war when the MCA was enacted, and so, as in Hamdan, the commission could not try him for that offense, either.

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