July 13, 2020 / by 

 

Happy ‘PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT’ Day! [UPDATE-5]

[NB: Updates at bottom of post. /~Rayne]

We’ve been waiting too long for this day.

Not this day:

But this day:

UPDATE-1 — 11:05 a.m. ET —

A reminder not to get too excited about tax documents being produced before November:

And Rep. Ted Lieu continues to press for expanded inherent contempt powers:

UPDATE-2 — 11:43 a.m. ET —

Could Trump be indicted by Vance’s office before November?

Fingers crossed.

UPDATE-3 — 11:58 a.m. ET —

Yup…and a specific reason why we can’t expect a speedy resolution.

This will have to work its way through the system.

UPDATE-4 — 2:08 p.m. ET —

Rep. Adam Schiff’s take on SCOTUS’ decision:

Another important SCOTUS decision today, which should not be lost to the hubbub over Trump v. Vance:

In a 5-4 decision, the Muscogee tribe of eastern Oklahoma has won in McGirt v. Oklahoma. Justice Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion.

JUSTICE GORSUCH delivered the opinion of the Court.
On the far end of the Trail of Tears was a promise. Forced to leave their ancestral lands in Georgia and Alabama, the Creek Nation received assurances that their new lands in the West would be secure forever. In exchange for ceding “all their land, East of the Mississippi river,” the U. S. government agreed by treaty that “[t]he Creek country west of the Mississippi shall be solemnly guarantied to the Creek Indians.” Treaty With the Creeks, Arts. I, XIV, Mar. 24, 1832, 7 Stat. 366, 368 (1832 Treaty). Both parties settled on boundary lines for a new and “permanent home to the whole Creek nation,” located in what is now Oklahoma. Treaty With the Creeks, preamble, Feb. 14, 1833, 7 Stat.418 (1833 Treaty). The government further promised that “[no] State or Territory [shall] ever have a right to pass laws for the government of such Indians, but they shall be allowed to govern themselves.” 1832 Treaty, Art. XIV, 7 Stat. 368.
Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of federal criminal law. Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word.

The opinion is filled with remarkable little bites which have pointed teeth, like the first sentence in Sect. II:

Start with what should be obvious: Congress established a reservation for the Creeks. In a series of treaties, Congress not only “solemnly guarantied” the land but also “establish[ed] boundary lines which will secure a country and permanent home to the whole Creek Nation of Indians.” 1832 Treaty, Art. XIV, 7 Stat. 368; 1833 Treaty, preamble, 7 Stat. 418. …

Right there, in the text of the law, even.

And then this closing in the last graf of the majority opinion — whew, this seems like a message to another audience altogether:

…If Congress wishes to withdraw its promises, it must say so. Unlawful acts, performed long enough and with sufficient vigor, are never enough to amend the law. To hold otherwise would be to elevate the most brazen and longstanding injustices over the law, both rewarding wrong and failing those in the right.

This decision will likely result in a few death sentences being overturned, according to Sister Helen Prejean.

One might wonder at the impact on the ongoing threat to the Mashpee Reservation.

 
UPDATE-5 —  by Ed Walker, a very long comment

SCOTUS handed down two decisions in cases involving Trump’s tax returns: Trump v. Mazars USA, LLP, the House subpoena case, an Trump v. Vance, the New York State subpoena case. Here are some preliminary thoughts.

1. In both cases SCOTUS is forced to pretend that Trump is a normal President. This is from Vance, discussing Clinton v. Jones, the case about Clinton’s sex life.

The Court recognized that Presidents constantly face myriad demands on their attention, “some private, some political, and some as a result of official duty.” Id., at 705, n. 40. But, the Court concluded, “[w]hile such distractions may be vexing to those subjected to them, they do not ordinarily implicate constitutional . . . concerns.” Ibid.

No one thinks Trump is normal. His only time constraint is his TV schedule, and his need to spend quality time with his friends at Fox News. So, when reading these cases we have to remember that they apply to normal presidents of both parties, mostly, at least we hope so.

2. In Mazars, Roberts says that Congress can only issue subpoenas in pursuit of information needed for legislative purposes. Therefore, the only issue is whether this subpoena exceeds the authority of the House, considering that it makes demands on a different branch of government. SCOTUS makes up some considerations for balancing the need for information with the demands on the President. This makes sense in the normal run of things. As the Courts says, prior demands have been resolved without the courts. However a normal President doesn’t hide his tax returns, and doesn’t have significant business dealings with traditional enemies of the US.

This case exposes the Democrats as failures. They had information suggesting that Trump or his businesses or both had extensive business dealings with Russians, including some connected to Putin, and had reason to suspect that those relationships affected his official actions towards Russia. Two obvious points: Trump ignored and denied Russian meddling in US elections; and Mike Flynn explicit kowtowed to Putin over sanctions. Why wasn’t this the explicit rationale for the subpoena for his transactions with Deutsche Bank, which is thought to be the vehicle for those transactions. The grounds would be impeachment, which is a power solely reserved for Congress, and one in which the role of SCOTUS would be severely reduced.

This was a specific decision by Speaker Pelosi and the rest of the House Leadership Gerontocracy. Pelosi resisted demands for an investigation of the lies of the Bush/Cheney administration that led to the sickening attack on Iraq. She resisted any effort at serious investigation of Trump, and had to be forced into investigating the extortion of Ukraine.

3. The underlying problem in Mazars is the weakness of Congress. Trump and his contemptible lackeys refuse to cooperate with Congress. Bill Barr thinks the President has absolute authority, and can ignore Congress.

The Constitution provides that each house sets its own rules. Each house could easily set up its own rules about subpoenas and enforcement of subpoenas. One possibility would be that an administrative official who refused to comply with a subpoena could be held in contempt, and then that person and all underlings would lose all authority to act under any law or regulation.

4. The delay issue in Vance is similar. We’ve wasted a year on arguments that had no possibility of success except in the minds of Presidential absolutists. Now we can expect Trump to move to quash the Vance subpoena in New York state courts, starting the whole thing over. Neal Katyal disagrees; he thinks the matter can be settled quickly in New York courts. We’ll see.

5. Trump has damaged America and Americans while this case stumbled along. One obvious remedy is a law that Congressional subpoenas are deemed enforceable by Congress unless there is a final court decision within a short period, say two months. Current court rules ignore the speed with which legal matters can be handled with the internet. Legal research is easier and quicker, filing is trivial, and video-conferencing solves all travel and scheduling problems. The rest of us have had to speed up. So should Courts.


The Fourth Ahead and The Forgotten

Yeah, I know, you just want to get your holiday on. We’re all suffering from pandemic fatigue which makes everything we do more challenging.

We can’t just hop in the car and go to the store without planning ahead — not merely shopping lists but whether you have a mask, a backup mask, hand sanitizer, a container of sanitizing wipes, something in which to corral potentially contaminated items, so on. Our lives have become complicated if we’re taking the risk of COVID-19 seriously.

And we want a break from it. We want a slice of normalcy — a cold beverage in hand, burgers on the grill, fireworks overhead, fireflies after dark, family and friends all around us. And we want it now.

Some of us, though, won’t get these things. Some of us have been forgotten.

Some Americans will have to spend the coming Fourth of July holiday in a place we thought we’d have left by now, watching out for deadly attacks we thought were going to diminish.

Some Americans will have to “celebrate” knowing the commander-in-chief simply doesn’t give a rat’s butt about them. Certainly not enough to deal with pushing back at threats against them. They will have to spend the holiday doubling down on security because the president is going to do nothing except his usual nonsensical bullshit talking about himself.

Which is why some of the rest of us Americans can’t let them be forgotten. We need to continue to hold our elected officials’ feet to the fire no matter whether a holiday lies ahead. We need to insist the GOP senators who have majority control whether they are going to simply roll over and do nothing like Trump, or if they are going to uphold their oaths, do their damned jobs, and remember our service members in Afghanistan and elsewhere who have likewise sworn an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution and protect our nation.

~ ~ ~

Here’s your action item, same as posted a couple days ago:

— If you have a GOP senator(s), call their office and ask for a statement from the senator about the Russian bounties on our troops in Afghanistan. Where do they stand? What action will the senator take?

— Share the results of your call here in the comments.

Congressional switchboard number is (202) 224-3121. Or you can look up their local office number at https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact. You can also use Resistbot and ask them to respond but this will much slower than a phone call.

Here are all the GOP senators; note the ones especially who are Class II running for re-election this year. Contact only your own senator — they represent you, after all — and share what you hear from their office.

Special note to Floridians and Kentuckyians: Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and other leaders in the U.S. intelligence community are supposed to brief the “Gang of Eight” today about the Russian bounties. Feedback from Sens. Rubio and McConnell will be of particular interest for this reason.

Senator First Name Party State Class Position
Class I – 2024
Scott Rick R FL I
Braun Mike R IN I
Hawley Josh R MO I
Wicker Roger R MS I
Cramer Kevin R ND I
Fischer Deb R NE I
Blackburn Marsha R TN I
Cruz Ted R TX I
Romney Mitt R UT I
Barrasso John R WY I
Class II – 2020
Sullivan Dan R AK II
Cotton Tom R AR II
Gardner Cory R CO II
Perdue David R GA II Called, but no comment to date.
Ernst Joni R IA II
Risch Jim R ID II
Roberts Pat R KS II [1]
McConnell Mitch R KY II Gang of Eight member
Cassidy Bill R LA II
Collins Susan R ME II
Hyde-Smith Cindy R MS II
Daines Steve R MT II
Tillis Thom R NC II https://twitter.com/SenThomTillis/status/1277629794167984132
Sasse Ben R NE II
Inhofe James R OK II
Graham Lindsey R SC II
Rounds Mike R SD II
Alexander Lamar R TN II [2]
Cornyn John R TX II
Capito Shelley Moore R WV II
Enzi Mike R WY II [3]
McSally Martha R AZ III [4]
Class III – 2022
Murkowski Lisa R AK III
Shelby Richard R AL III
Boozman John R AR III
Rubio Marco R FL III Gang of Eight member
Loeffler Kelly R GA III Called, but no comment to date.
Grassley Chuck R IA III
Crapo Michael R ID III
Young Todd R IN III
Moran Jerry R KS III
Paul Rand R KY III
Kennedy John R LA III
Blunt Roy R MO III
Burr Richard R NC III
Hoeven John R ND III
Portman Rob R OH III
Lankford James R OK III
Toomey Pat R PA III
Scott Tim R SC III
Thune John R SD III
Lee Mike R UT III
Johnson Ron R WI III

[1] Retiring in 2020. Seat open.
[2] Retiring in 2020. Seat open.
[3] Retiring in 2020. Seat open.
[4] Appointed to fill John McCain’s seat, running in 2020.

~ ~ ~

These are the forgotten Americans. There are families including children who won’t see them or hear from them this coming holiday, let alone ever again. At least two young Americans will never, ever have seen them for any holiday.

22. Jan. 2019 Army Sgt. 1st Class Joshua “Zach” Beale, 32, killed by small-arms fire in southern Uruzgan province. https://www.stripes.com/news/fort-bragg-green-beret-killed-in-action-was-on-third-tour-in-afghanistan-1.565656
22. Mar. 2019 Army Sgt. 1st Class Will D. Lindsay, 33, Cortez, Colo., died after being wounded during combat in northern Kunduz province. https://www.stripes.com/news/us/defense-department-identifies-two-soldiers-killed-in-afghanistan-1.574044
22. Mar. 2019 Army Sgt. Joseph P. Collette, 29, Lancaster, Ohio, died of wounds sustained in combat operations in northern Kunduz province. https://www.stripes.com/news/us/defense-department-identifies-two-soldiers-killed-in-afghanistan-1.574044
8. Apr. 2019 Marine Sgt. Robert A. Hendriks, 25, was one of three Marines killed by a car bomb outside Bagram Airfield. https://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/marines-killed-in-afghanistan-blast-died-only-days-before-they-were-to-come-home-1.576402/cpl-robert-hendriks-1.576470
8. Apr. 2019 Marine Staff Sgt. Benjamin S. Hines, 31, of York, Pa., died in a car bomb explosion outside Bagram Airfield. https://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/marines-killed-in-afghanistan-blast-died-only-days-before-they-were-to-come-home-1.576402/cpl-robert-hendriks-1.576470
8. Apr. 2019 Marine Staff Sgt. Christopher K.A. Slutman, 43, was killed by a car bomb outside Bagram Airfield. https://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/marines-killed-in-afghanistan-blast-died-only-days-before-they-were-to-come-home-1.576402/cpl-robert-hendriks-1.576470
6. May. 2019 Army Spc. Miguel L. Holmes, 22, died in eastern Nangarhar province from wounds sustained in a noncombat incident. https://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/pentagon-identifies-soldier-who-died-monday-in-afghanistan-1.580080
25. May. 2019 Army Sgt. James G. Johnston, 24, was killed by small-arms fire in southern Uruzgan province. https://www.stripes.com/news/us/fort-carson-green-beret-fort-hood-eod-soldier-killed-in-afghanistan-firefight-1.587825
25. Jun. 2019 Army Master Sgt. Micheal B. Riley, 32, was killed by small-arms fire in southern Uruzgan province. https://www.stripes.com/news/us/fort-carson-green-beret-fort-hood-eod-soldier-killed-in-afghanistan-firefight-1.587825
30. Jun. 2019 Army Sgt. 1st Class Elliott J. Robbins, 31, a Green Beret medical sergeant from Utah, died from noncombat injuries in southern Helmand province. https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2019/07/01/10th-group-green-beret-dies-from-non-combat-incident-in-helmand/
23. Jul. 2019 Army Sgt. Maj. James “Ryan” Sartor, 40, died from injuries sustained by enemy fire in northern Faryab province. https://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/pentagon-identifies-green-beret-killed-in-afghanistan-1.590174
29. Jul. 2019 Army Spc. Michael Isaiah Nance, 24, of Chicago, died after being shot by an Afghan soldier at a military camp in southern Uruzgan province. https://www.stripes.com/news/us/the-worst-day-in-our-family-s-history-grieving-uncle-says-of-chicago-soldier-killed-in-combat-in-afghanistan-1.592728
29. Jul. 2019 Army Pfc. Brandon Jay Kreischer, 20, died after an Afghan solider opened fire at a base in southern Uruzgan province. [Never saw his son.] https://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/pentagon-names-two-paratroopers-killed-during-insider-attack-in-afghanistan-1.592589
21. Aug. 2019 Army Master Sgt. Luis F. DeLeon-Figueroa, 31, was one of two Green Berets killed in northern Faryab province by small-arms fire. https://www.stripes.com/news/one-of-the-toughest-kids-i-ve-ever-met-families-mourn-green-berets-killed-in-afghanistan-1.595504
21. Aug. 2019 Army Master Sgt. Jose J. Gonzalez, 35, of La Puente, Calif., was killed during a raid alongside Afghan special forces in southern Faryab province. https://www.stripes.com/news/us/green-beret-killed-in-afghanistan-last-week-was-veteran-of-seven-deployments-1.596136
29. Aug. 2019 Army Sgt. 1st Class Dustin Ard, 31, died of wounds received in combat in southern Zabul province. [Never saw his second child.] https://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/green-beret-killed-in-combat-in-afghanistan-leaves-behind-daughter-pregnant-wife-1.596656
5. Sep. 2019 Army Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, 34, from Morovis, Puerto Rico, died in a suicide blast in Kabul. https://www.stripes.com/news/army/soldier-killed-in-afghanistan-was-compassionate-leader-say-those-who-knew-him-1.597820
16. Sep. 2019 Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy W. Griffin, 40, was killed by small-arms fire in central Wardak province. https://www.stripes.com/news/us/army-identifies-green-beret-killed-by-small-arms-fire-in-afghanistan-1.599290
20. Nov. 2019 Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kirk Fuchigami Jr., 25, was killed in a helicopter crash. The incident happened in eastern Logar province. https://www.stripes.com/news/army/fallen-army-pilot-laid-to-rest-with-full-military-honors-1.610573
20. Nov. 2019 Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 David C. Knadle, 33, was killed in a helicopter crash while providing security to ground troops in eastern Logar province. https://www.stripes.com/news/apache-pilot-killed-in-afghanistan-gladly-and-willingly-accepted-risks-of-deploying-family-and-friends-say-1.609718
23. Dec. 2019 Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Goble, 33, was killed in a roadside bombing in northern Kunduz province. https://www.stripes.com/news/army/special-forces-soldier-killed-in-afghanistan-remembered-as-the-definition-of-a-patriot-1.612394
11. Jan. 2020 Staff Sgt. Ian P. McLaughlin, 29, Newport News, Virginia, killed by an improvised explosive device. https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2020/01/12/soldiers-killed-by-bomb-blast-in-kandahar-identified/
11. Jan. 2020 Pfc. Miguel A. Villalon, 21, Joliet, Illinois, killed by an improvised explosive device. https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2020/01/12/soldiers-killed-by-bomb-blast-in-kandahar-identified/
27. Jan. 2020 Lt. Col. Paul K. Voss, 46, Yigo, Guam, killed in crash of an E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft in eastern Afghanistan. https://www.airforcemag.com/dod-identifies-airmen-killed-in-e-11-crash/
27. Jan. 2020 Capt. Ryan S. Phaneuf, 30, Hudson, N.H., killed in crash of an E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft in eastern Afghanistan. https://www.airforcemag.com/dod-identifies-airmen-killed-in-e-11-crash/
8. Feb. 2020 Sgt. Javier Jaguar Gutierrez, 28, killed in an insider attack in Nangarhar province. https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2020/02/08/report-says-multiple-us-troops-killed-in-afghanistan-firefight/
8. Feb. 2020 Sgt. Antonio Rey Rodriguez, 28, killedin an insider attack in Nangarhar province. https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2020/02/08/report-says-multiple-us-troops-killed-in-afghanistan-firefight/

Though not all of these service members may have been killed by Taliban for bounty money, they all deserve to be remembered. Their families, friends, and fellow service members deserve answers. All Americans deserve answers, accountability, and action.

When did Trump get a Presidential Daily Briefing on these bounties and what was his response that day? Why didn’t the Commander-in-Chief take action after the intelligence community learned Russia had offered bounties on U.S. service members? Why have we heard multiple different excuses — didn’t hear about, wasn’t credible, didn’t rise to level of action, it’s a hoax — rather than the truth about what happened in the executive office when this intelligence was brought to Trump’s attention?

What action will the Senate take, because the Senate under a GOP majority possesses the deciding votes for any action to be taken?

We need to do our part now to ensure a democracy. We shouldn’t need to take an oath the way every service member and member of Congress and the president do to achieve this aim. We only need to take a few minutes before the Fourth of July holiday to do it. Let’s roll.


Three Things: There Is Really Only One Thing

My schedule is a mess today, as messy as my sleep last night. I don’t think I’ve lost as much sleep about COVID-19 in the last handful of months as I have since Friday about these Russian bounties on troops.

Because I’m out of sorts from lack of sleep I don’t have a lot organized to share here in three discrete subjects. It’s ultimately all one thing: Donald J. Trump needs to be removed from office for abuse of power and dereliction of duty.

The Washington Post’s article published Sunday evening made it very clear numerous people knew about the bounties and that nothing had been done about them:

Russian bounties offered to Taliban-linked militants to kill coalition forces in Afghanistan are believed to have resulted in the deaths of several U.S. service members, according to intelligence gleaned from U.S. military interrogations of captured militants in recent months.

Several people familiar with the matter said it was unclear exactly how many Americans or coalition troops from other countries may have been killed or targeted under the program. U.S. forces in Afghanistan suffered a total of 10 deaths from hostile gunfire or improvised bombs in 2018, and 16 in 2019. Two have been killed this year. In each of those years, several service members were also killed by what are known as “green on blue” hostile incidents by Afghan security forces who are sometimes believed to have been infiltrated by the Taliban.

Multiple interrogations. Multiple people familiar.

Zero action taken.

And along with multiple U.S. service members dead, an unknown number of allies’ troops, contractors, and civilians killed.

If Trump genuinely believed in getting out of Afghanistan through an effective peace agreement, this is its opposite even with a partial American force draw down. It’s how a country becomes even more destabilized and how its violence will spill over and follow U.S. and coalition partners home.

Trump had no problem with Putin stabbing him in the back because it was Putin, and he never has anything negative to say about Putin.

A little after midnight The New York Times published another article, this time expanding the period of time Trump should have known about Russia’s bounties to February 2019, along with the period of time in which Trump took zero action.

Three U.S. service members were killed in a blast last April, attributed to Taliban motivated by the Russian bounties.

Trump was notified at least once in a Presidential Daily Briefing in ample time to do something.

The excuses offered by the White House have been little more than variants of “The dog ate my homework.”

All bullshit.

The response has been just as stupid and ugly — offering Congressional Republicans a briefing first, allowing them to coordinate a response to cover the White House’s wretchedness.

But here’s the rub: nothing Trump, his evil minions in the White House, his useless family, his political party can do will explain away the lack of interest in protecting national security.

Because while the intelligence about the Russian bounties lay around collecting dust, at the very same goddamned time, Trump and his minions were busy working on developing a quid pro quo aimed at Ukraine.

Trump spent more time focused on using the power of the executive office to shake down Ukraine, harassing faithful federal employees like former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, in order to get himself re-elected to the job he refuses to do.

He put more effort into a couple of phone calls to Ukraine’s president.

More effort into halting shipments of arms to Ukraine.

More effort bitching about a whistleblower.

And zero effort into addressing his buddy Putin’s bounties on U.S. troops.

Donald J. Trump is a threat to this nation because he cannot and will not do anything to protect this country unless it’s about him.

More than 130,000 Americans have now died because of this immutable truth: 3000 Puerto Rican Americans, an untold number of American troops, and at least 128,000 COVID-19 victims are dead because Trump is absolutely useless for anything but golf and grifting from taxpayers.

He is unfit for the office of the presidency.

He must be removed from office.

~ ~ ~

But Trump is not the only failure. Every GOP senator who voted not to convict him this January is responsible for this debacle. American blood is on their hands having enabled Trump’s continuing incompetence and malignance because they were worried about him tweeting mean things at them.

They should be worried about their asses meeting the wrath of the American public.

We can start by demanding better of the GOP senators who we will be forced to live with for another two to four years. Find out where they stand on Trump’s failure to protect the troops.

And if one of the following senators up for re-election is your senator, vote them out of office. Vote for a Democrat to replace the two open seats because no matter who wins the White House, we need a veto-proof majority in the Senate to fix this mess.

Senator First Name Party State
Ernst Joni R IA
Perdue David R GA
Sasse Ben R NE
Cotton Tom R AR
Daines Steve R MT
Rounds Mike R SD
Cornyn John R TX
Enzi Mike R WY
Inhofe James R OK
Cassidy Bill R LA
McConnell Mitch R KY
Risch Jim R ID
Sullivan Dan R AK
Tillis Thom R NC
Gardner Cory R CO
Graham Lindsey R SC
Capito Shelley Moore R WV
Collins Susan R ME
Hyde-Smith (1) Cindy R MS
McSally (2) Martha R AZ
Loeffler (3) Kelly Lynn R GA
Roberts (4) Pat R KS
Alexander (5) Lamar R TN

(1) Appointed to fill Thad Cochran’s seat, expected to run in 2020
(2) Appointed to fill John McCain’s seat, running in 2020
(3) Appointed to fill Johnny Isakson’s seat, running in 2020
(4) Retiring in 2020. Seat open.
(5) Retiring in 2020. Seat open.


Three Things: Bounties, Bounties, Bounce [UPDATE-1]

[NB: Update at bottom of post. /~Rayne]

There won’t be a quiz but there’s an action item at the end.

It’ll be more effort than Trump put into protecting our troops in Afghanistan.

You’ll want to brush up on the NYT report from Friday, Russia Secretly Offered Afghan Militants Bounties to Kill U.S. Troops, Intelligence Says.

Washington Post confirmed the story: Russian operation targeted coalition troops in Afghanistan, intelligence finds

As did the Wall Street Journal: Russian Spy Unit Paid Taliban to Attack Americans, U.S. Intelligence Says

~ 3 ~

Remember last year when Rep. Adam Schiff said he believed acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire was withholding from Congress an urgent whistleblower complaint in order to protect Trump?

We build a crowdsourced timeline to guess what the whistleblower’s subject matter might be. We didn’t see the Ukraine quid pro quo but we still compiled a bodacious chronology of foreign policy events.

I’m betting the bit about John Bolton’s exit in that timeline may be revisited in the near future.

But there was one topic we didn’t give a lot of attention which might be worth looking at again, like right now — the peace agreement negotiations in Afghanistan.

(Commenters added more material in comments not added to the original timeline — I think we were learning it was Ukraine and not Afghanistan or Iran which was the subject of the whistleblower’s complaint.)

Now that NYT’s report that Russia offered secret bounties on U.S. service members has been validated by the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, we need to look at the Afghanistan timeline — this time with more content from 2019 and up-to-date 2020 material.

28-AUG-2019 — Russia offered to oversee an agreement between the U.S. and Afghanistan; negotiations were in their ninth round when the Russian Foreign Ministry suggested it could be “a guarantor in the agreement” if the two sides wished.

01/02-SEP-2019 — US Special Rep. for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalizad met with Afghan president Ashraf Ghani in Kabul where the Taliban, Afghan government and the U.S. had “reached an agreement in principle” toward an eventual “total and permanent cease-fire.”

03-SEP-2019 — Russian media outlet Tass reported that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister said the U.S. and Taliban “insist that Russia must be present in one capacity or another at the possible signing of the agreements that the parties are working on now.”

05-SEP-2019 — Suicide blast in Kabul killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, 34, from Morovis, Puerto Rico.

06-SEP-2019 — Afghan President Ashraf Ghani postponed a trip to the U.S.

07-SEP-2019 — Over several tweets Saturday evening, Trump canceled the meeting with Ghani at Camp David.

Unclear whether Trump realized he might have been meeting over the anniversary of 9/11 on a peace agreement with both Afghanistan’s government and the Taliban.

07-SEP-2019 — Via Julia Davis (commenter Eureka):

Prof. Michael McFaul tweeted, “What? TASS has these details but USG has not released them? This is very strange. And why does Russia need to be present at signing? We’re they fighting Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and I just missed that?”

09-SEP-2019 — CNN broke story of a CIA asset extracted from Russia in 2017; followed by NYT on the 9th (and then NBC’s Ken Dilanian appears at the asset’s house…)

09-SEP-2019 — Trump asked for Bolton’s resignation and tweeted about it the next morning.

10-SEP-2019 — “They’re dead. They’re dead. As far as I’m concerned, they’re dead,” Trump told the media about the peace talks with Afghanistan.

13-SEP-2019 — Taliban showed up in Moscow almost immediately after the Camp David meeting fell apart (commenter OldTulsaDude).

15-SEP-2019 — Small arms fire in central Warduk province killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy W. Griffin, 40.

20-NOV-2019 — Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kirk Fuchigami Jr., 25, and Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 David C. Knadle, 33, died in a helicopter crash in eastern Logar province. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the crash; Trump visited Dover AFB on Nov. 21 when the soldiers’ bodies were returned.

11-DEC-2019 — Unknown number of U.S. personnel were injured during a large bombing of Bagram Airfield.

23-DEC-2019 — Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Goble, 33, was killed in a roadside bombing in northern Kunduz province.

31-DEC-2019 — A total of 22 service members were killed in Afghanistan in 2019. It’s not clear how many U.S. contractors may have been killed because the military doesn’t track them.

11-JAN-2020 — Two U.S. service members were killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province. Taliban claimed responsibility.

17-JAN-2020 — The Taliban offered a proposal to reduce violence and restart peace negotiations.

27-JAN-2020 — Two U.S. Air Force crew members were killed when an E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft crashed. Taliban claimed responsibility for shooting the plane down.

08-FEB-2020 — Sgt. Javier Jaguar Gutierrez, 28; and Sgt. Antonio Rey Rodriguez, 28 were killed and six other service members were injured in an insider attack in Nangarhar province.

09-FEB-2020 — WaPo reported:

On Sunday, Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban spokesman in Qatar, where talks have been held, said Khalilzad met with Taliban representatives and Qatar’s foreign minister to discuss “some important issues on the results of the negotiations and the next moves,” according to a statement posted to Twitter.

20-FEB-2020 — Trump replaced Joseph Maguire as Acting Director of National Intelligence; Richard Grenell was named Maguire’s replacment.

21-FEB-2020 — U.S.-led coalition, Afghan forces, and the Taliban militia began a seven-day “reduction in violence” ahead of anticipated agreement.

28-FEB-2020 — Trump nominated John Ratcliffe as Director of National Intelligence.

29-FEB-2020 — U.S. and Taliban sign agreement addressing counterterrorism and the withdrawal of U.S. and international troops from Afghanistan.

03-MAR-2020 — Trump spoke by phone with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a Taliban leader and co-founder stationed in the Taliban’s Qatar offices.

23-MAR-2020 — After meeting Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah in Afghanistan, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. would cut $1 billion in aid in 2020 and threatened to cut another $1 billion in 2021 because Ghani and Abdullah had not formed a unity government. Pompeo then met with the Taliban’s chief negotiator at Al Udeid Air Base, Doha, Qatar where he asked the Taliban to continue to adhere with the February agreement.

??-MAR-2020 — Administration learned that Russia offered secret bounties on U.S. troops.

The officials said administration leaders learned of reported bounties in recent months from U.S. intelligence agencies, prompting a series of internal discussions, including a large interagency meeting in late March. According to one person familiar with the matter, the responses discussed at that meeting included sending a diplomatic communication to relay disapproval and authorizing new sanctions.

30-MAR-2020 — Trump phone call with Putin.

03-APR-2020 — Trump fired Inspector General of the Intelligence Community Michael Atkinson, claiming he “no longer” had confidence in Atkinson. Atkinson was then on leave until the effective date of his termination 03-MAY-2020. As IG he notified Congress of the whistleblower’s report regarding the Ukraine quid pro quo, going around Joseph Maguire to do so.

07-APR-2020 — The Taliban pulled out of talks with the Afghan government after discussions over the unrealized prisoner exchange cratered. Under the February agreement, prisoners were to be exchanged at the end of March; the exchange was called off on March 30.

07-APR-2020 — Trump fired Acting Inspector General of the Department of Defense Glenn Fine; Fine had also been named Chair of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee on 30-MAR. Fine’s termination made him ineligible to continue as chair of that committee.

09-APR-2020 — Trump phone call with Putin.

10-APR-2020 — Trump phone call with Putin (unclear if call was before/after Gen. Miller’s meeting).

10-APR-2020 — Gen. Austin Miller met with Taliban leaders in Qatar:

… The meeting between Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller and Taliban leaders came as both sides accuse each other of ramping up violence since signing a peace deal on Feb. 29, which could see all international troops withdraw from Afghanistan in 14 months.

The meeting, which focused on curbing violence, was part of a military channel established in the U.S.-Taliban deal, the U.S. military’s press office in Kabul told Stars and Stripes.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said night raids and other operations in noncombat areas were discussed at the meeting, and Taliban officials “called for a halt to such attacks.” …

12-APR-2020 — Trump phone call with Putin.

25-APR-2020 — Trump made a joint statement with Putin observing the 75th anniversary of Elbe Day.

07-MAY-2020 — US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad met members of the Taliban in Qatar along with the Special Envoy of Qatari Foreign Ministry for Counterterrorism and Mediation in Conflict Resolution, Mutlaq Al-Qahtani. They discussed the prisoner exchange and intra-Afghan talks.

07-MAY-2020 — Trump phone call with Putin; topics were COVID-19, arms control including Russia and China,  and the oil market.

26-MAY-2020 — John Ratcliffe approved by the Senate and sworn in as DNI.

30-MAY-2020 — Trump delays G7 meeting and invites Russia:

01-JUN-2020 — Trump phone call with Putin; delayed G7 meeting and oil market stabilization discussed.

08-JUN-2020 — Trump orders permanent draw down of 25% of U.S. troops stationed in Germany; he did not consult with NATO before this order.

Is there a pattern here (or more)? Was the violence juiced up to pressure the U.S. — specifically public opinion? What the heck did Russia’s Foreign Minister mean by a “guarantor” based on what we know today? How did Qatar become a player in the negotiations?

Did Trump really do nothing at all to protect our troops except talk with Putin and do some butt-kissing with a joint statement and an invitation to the G7 while undercutting Germany and NATO?

The Congressional Research Service policy brief on Afghanistan is worth a read to fill in some gaps. This paragraph is particularly important:

Afghan government representatives were not participants in U.S.-Taliban talks, leading some observers to conclude that the United States would prioritize a military withdrawal over a complex political settlement that preserves some of the social, political, and humanitarian gains made since 2001. The U.S.-Taliban agreement envisioned intra-Afghan talks beginning on March 10, 2020, but talks were held up for months by a number of complications. The most significant obstacles were an extended political crisis among Afghan political leaders over the contested 2019 Afghan presidential election and a disputed prisoner exchange between the Taliban and Afghan government. President Ghani and his 2019 election opponent Abdullah Abdullah signed an agreement ending their dispute in May 2020, and as of June 2020, the number of prisoners released by both sides appears to be reaching the level at which talks might begin, though the Afghan government may resist releasing high-profile prisoners that the Taliban demand as a condition of beginning negotiations.

~ 2 ~

It wasn’t just U.S. intelligence that learned U.S. troops who were the target of Russia’s secret bounties.

EU intelligence confirmed it had learned that Russia targeted both U.S. and UK troops, offering cash on British targets, too.

UK security officials also validate the report, attributing the work in Afghanistan to Russia’s GRU.

Why hasn’t Britain’s PM Boris Johnson or the Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said anything publicly about this?

Has the Johnson government done anything at all to communicate its displeasure with Russia? Has it taken any punitive action like sanctions?

Because there’s nothing obvious in UK or other international media to this effect as of 3:00 a.m. ET.

~ 1 ~

You’re going to read and hear a lot of folks talking about treason. We don’t encourage that word’s use because it has a specific legal meaning related to traditional warfare; a formal declaration of war establishing a defined enemy is necessary to accuse someone of providing aid and comfort to that enemy.

18 U.S. Code § 2381.Treason

Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

(June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 807; Pub. L. 103–322, title XXXIII, § 330016(2)(J), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2148.)

We’re not in a formally declared state of war with Russia; they are not a defined enemy.

But this Russian secret bounties business may fall under another umbrella. U.S. troops are deployed to Afghanistan under Authorization for Use of Military Force of 2001:

Section 2 – Authorization For Use of United States Armed Forces

(a) IN GENERAL- That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.
(b) War Powers Resolution Requirements-
(1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.
(2) APPLICABILITY OF OTHER REQUIREMENTS- Nothing in this resolution supersedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.

The brushstroke with regard to future acts of international terrorism against the United States is and has been interpreted broadly.

Bounce this around a bit: does the definition of terrorism include repeated attacks on U.S. service members and contractors deployed under the AUMF 2001?

Does failing to take reasonable affirmative effort to protect these targets constitute aiding those who attack U.S. service members and contractors deployed under the AUMF 2001?

Is there, if not 18 USC 2381 – Treason, another section of 18 U.S. Code Chapter 115 — Treason, Sedition, and Subversive Activities which may more accurately describe the dereliction of duty by members of this administration by failing to protect U.S. troops?

~ 0 ~

And now for the action item…

Guess who else hasn’t uttered a peep about the Russian secret bounties on our troops?

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

House Ranking Member Kevin McCarthy.

None of the +20 GOP senators up for re-election  have uttered a peep, nor have the couple who are retiring.

Here’s your action item:

— If you have a GOP senator(s), call their office and ask for a statement from the senator about the Russian bounties. Where do they stand? What action will the senator take?

— Share the results of your call here in the comments.

Congressional switchboard number is (202) 224-3121. Or you can look up their local office number at https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact.

For everybody else, calling your representative and senators to demand hearings with testimony from the former acting Director of National Intelligence Rick Grenell and the current Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe about the presidential briefing that did/did not happen with regard to these Russian bounties.

 

Let’s stay on topic in this thread — this is plenty to chew on.

UPDATE — 29-JUN-2020 10:00 A.M. ET —

Several new line items have been added to this timeline. If you pulled a copy since publication you’ll want to get a new one.

The Washington Post published an article last evening, Russian bounties to Taliban-linked militants resulted in deaths of U.S. troops, according to intelligence assessments.

It’s clear from reading it that many people knew about this intelligence, that there was a concerted effort to address it though the action ultimately taken was none.

Rather like the pandemic response, about which Trump had been warned in adequate time and then did nothing for six or more weeks, followed by a lot of bullshit and bluster.

Congress had better get to the bottom of this because this is a gross dereliction of duty on the part of the executive branch.


Three Things: Numbers, Hearings and Racist Code

There’s always more than three things to address but here’s three we should look at more closely.

~ 3 ~
This is what we’re up against.

823 Americans have died of COVID-19 since yesterday. In contrast, South Korea, which learned of its first case of COVID-19 the same day the U.S. learned of its own, has only lost 281 of its citizens.

We lost not one American to an attempted shoe bombing in 2001 and yet an immediate program was developed and implemented to detect future shoe bombing attempts, requiring air travelers to take off their damned shoes and go through multiple screenings.

But Trump can’t be arsed to shut up and let the professionals handle stopping an ongoing daily stream of deaths from COVID-19.

This administration is killing Americans. Trump’s not even hiding the fact he’s willing to ignore deaths to manipulate numbers by insisting testing for the virus should be suppressed. He has the temerity to brag about his performance which has resulted in the unnecessary deaths of more than 120,000 Americans.

Yesterday the House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing on oversight of the Trump Administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Called to testify before the committee:

Robert R. Redfield, M.D., Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (statement at 27:39)

Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., Director, National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes o Health (at 33:40)

Admiral Brett P. Giroir, M.D., Assistant Secretary for Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (at 38:25)

Stephen M. Hahn, M.D., Commissioner, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (at 43:54)

 

Some of the GOP’s efforts are useless, wasteful filibustering — like Rep. Bob Latta’s (OH-5) question about how the human body makes antibodies. This is something he should have been briefed on let alone read on his own long before this hearing. He should have read this basic biology question MONTHS AGO when the pandemic began. So was his question about how the vaccine would be distributed WHEN WE’RE 6-18 MONTHS OUT AT BEST from having a viable, effective, safe vaccine through Phase III trials.

Rep. Diana DeGette asked Fauci about vaccine development (at about 1:28:00); I think he was extremely optimistic saying he thought there would be one by early 2021. But the question wasn’t as specific as it should have been; there are clinical trials in progress for a couple of candidates, but it’s not clear what phase they are in.

Reported last week by StatNews:

There are more than 100 projects around the world centered on the development of a vaccine for the coronavirus. As of May 11, eight candidate vaccines were being tested in clinical trials in people.

An official at the National Institutes of Health said in mid-May that large-scale testing could begin in July with a vaccine potentially available by January.

Other experts say the more likely timeline is summer or fall of 2021.

The other factor beyond the capabilities of the vaccines and developers which will predict the time to public distribution is Congress and the White House.

If we still have that malicious narcissist in the Oval Office without a veto-proof Democratic majority in the Senate, nationwide roll-out of a vaccine by the U.S. government may not happen even if an efficacious vaccine is found.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 don’t care…

Just like Trump.

~ 2 ~
The Mary Sue presented a nice overview of what happened in Tulsa this past weekend.

In short, Team Trump fucked themselves hard.

What happened this weekend was supposed to be a point where Trump turned the narrative back in his favor and moved the attention away from the activists and change that have controlled the news cycle for months. But what really happened was instead of taking the attention away from the K-Pop teens for his failures, those things all combined to add one more line to an endless line of failures that we can only hope will keep going until November.

It wasn’t just a loss of narrative and momentum but the complete trashing of campaign data harvesting.

We don’t know exactly what the data accumulated by Trump’s re-election campaign looks like after receiving ~800,000 registrations for the Tulsa rally. Some were valid, some were valid but no-shows, some were legitimate addresses of people who had zero intention of attending — likely sent by TikTok accounts.

And a mess of them must have been K-pop fans who are still feeling their oats after they DDoS’d police video monitoring during anti-racism protests as well as spamming right-wing hashtags.

Parscale’s operation better have had a good backup before the Tulsa registrations began, though I have suspicions somebody’s ass wasn’t well covered.

I mean, who is foolish enough to brag about more than 1,000,000 registrations like that, without a hint of skepticism about the data’s integrity?

Somebody prone to hubris, that’s who.

And somebody else isn’t going to pay Team Trump for data gleaned through Tulsa.

~ 1 ~
The ACLU filed suit this morning against the Detroit Police Department for its wrongful arrest of Robert Williams based on racist facial recognition technology.

The Washington Post published an op-ed by Williams explaining what happened to him and why facial recognition software should be banned.

The next morning, two officers asked if I’d ever been to a Shinola watch store in Detroit. I said once, many years ago. They showed me a blurry surveillance camera photo of a black man and asked if it was me. I chuckled a bit. “No, that is not me.” He showed me another photo and said, “So I guess this isn’t you either?” I picked up the piece of paper, put it next to my face and said, “I hope you guys don’t think that all black men look alike.”

The cops looked at each other. I heard one say that “the computer must have gotten it wrong.” I asked if I was free to go now, and they said no. I was released from detention later that evening, after nearly 30 hours in holding. …

It’s not just the software at fault, though. DPD made absolutely no attempt to confirm Williams’ identity against images they had before they took him into custody, processed him, and detained him overnight in holding.

They literally can’t be bothered or they are racist as hell in a minority majority city.

The ACLU is calling for a ban on facial recognition in Detroit, Williams being a perfect example of how flawed and racist the technology is as well as an assault on innocent citizens’ privacy.

 

Boston’s city council banned facial recognition technology this morning, setting an example for Detroit.

What’s your municipality doing about facial recognition technology?

Are you blowing off this issue because you’re white and you couldn’t possibly be misidentified?

Sure.

~ 0 ~
The House Judiciary Committee hearing on politicization at the Justice Department is still under way as hit Publish. If you haven’t been following along and want to catch up, here are four Twitter threads covering the hearing.

Marcy https://twitter.com/emptywheel/status/1275821690170335237

Jennifer Taub https://twitter.com/jentaub/status/1275825424405323776

Courthouse News https://twitter.com/ByTimRyan/status/1275821746923417603

CNN https://twitter.com/jeremyherb/status/1275820657289428994

This is an open thread.


The Tussle in Tulsa: A Retrospective

I had been worried about the risk of violence in Tulsa this weekend given Trump’s tweet bordering on incitement ahead of his rally.

Fortunately my concern was for naught. Didn’t see a single Hawaiian shirt cross my Twitter feed while watching the lead up to and after the event, not a one in the approximately 6,600 attendees.

But the event itself didn’t live up to other expectations.

I have to believe Brad Parscale will be looking for new contracts. Or perhaps he’ll be retained just to keep him from mucking things up further somewhere else in the election cycle food chain.

He’d claimed 800,000 had reserved for the event, a number which seemed wholly unrealistic considering the population within a four-hour drive of Tulsa and the advertisements placed for non-white attendees. We know now a confluence of activist engagement via social media platform TikTok, K-pop fans, and mounting concerns about COVID-19 contagion as well as risk of violence may have artificially boosted reservations and kept attendance down.

Parscale’s claimed this morning that protesters blocked access to the venue, pointing to an AFP photo of a gate with a couple handfuls of protesters and what looks like an equal amount of media.

Unfortunately for Parscale, AFP took a photo of another gate with red-hatted, pale-skinned, maskless attendees streaming through the gate.

And other media outlets took photos outside the venue showing an awful lot of pavement.

The speech intended for outdoor overflow audience was cancelled. Wouldn’t even need a sound system to speak to this few people.

The big feat of the day: one-handed drinking.

Attendees were subjected to a 20-minute ramble about the “fake news” from his Westpoint speech last weekend after which he had difficulty walking down a ramp.

What a perfect example of the cobra effect — trying to defuse a problem but only making it worse. But Trump is too much of a narcissist to allow criticism of his person to go unanswered.

The lowest point in Trump’s speech yesterday was his remarks about COVID-19 testing.

He’s made comments before about the number of tests correlating to the number of cases. Comic Sarah Cooper has famously riffed on this.

But this time he’s expressed an intent to withhold health care from the public for personal aims — to keep the reported number of cases artificially low, without regard to the effect this would have on actual reduction of COVID-19 cases.

Aside from revealing again he’s so utterly toxic, this statement needs investigation. It’s impeachable if he both demanded a reduction or slow-down in tests, especially if he did so for the purposes of improving his polling numbers.

None of his efforts skewing reality have paid off as he’d like. We can see the tangerine emperor’s ass.

And nothing he’s done will make this grim number go away.


This is an open thread.


Friday Night Half-Assed Massacre: The Attempted Firing of SDNY’s Berman

I’m not Marcy — I won’t do justice to this developing story the way she would especially after midnight. But I need to put something up to capture Attorney General Bill Barr’s bizarre Friday evening attempt to fire Geoffrey Berman, U.S. Attorney for Southern District of New York.

Some background leading up to this evening’s half-assed Friday Night Massacre:

1990-1994 – Berman served as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York while Rudy Giuliani was U.S. Attorney.

TBD – Berman became a partner at Greenberg Traurig; he ran their New Jersey office.

January 2016 – Giuliani joined Greenberg Traurig as global chair of cybersecurity and crisis management practices.

November 2016 – Trump asks SDNY’s then-USA Preet Bharara to stay on.

March 2017 – Attorney General Jeff Sessions asks all 46 holdover USAs from Obama administration to resign. Bharara declined; he also refused a phone call from Trump. He was fired the next day.

May 2017 – Giuliani supported Berman for U.S. Attorney though he was originally considered for New Jersey.

Who will be New Jersey’s next U.S. attorney?

President Donald Trump is deciding between one of Gov. Chris Christie’s criminal defense attorneys and another high-powered Jersey-based lawyer at a New York firm connected to former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, according to a source with direct knowledge of the process.

Vying for the coveted job are Craig Carpenito, who defended the governor during the Bridgegate scandal and its fallout, and Geoffrey Berman, who runs the New Jersey office of the New York law firm Greenberg Traurig, where Giuliani is global chair of its cybersecurity and crisis management practices.

The candidates’ dueling mentors reveal an across-the-Hudson struggle for Trump’s ear.

Trump interviewed Berman and others for the USA-SDNY role.

January 2018 – Sessions announced Berman’s appointment to USA-SDNY.

April 2018 – Berman remained un-nominated by Trump, continuing to work as an interim acting USA; because the 120-day appointment period expired, the Chief Judge of the Southern District of New York ordered Berman appointed as USA-SDNY under 28 U.S.C Section 546(d), until Trump nominated a USA-SDNY and they were approved by the Senate.

Which bring us to Friday evening’s drama…

At 9:15 p.m. ET, the Justice Department issued an announcement of appointment via press release over Twitter.

Associated Press and other media outlets immediately began reporting that Berman had been fired.

At 11:14 p.m. ET, Berman issued a statement via Twitter:

Berman’s status rests on the interpretation of 28 USC 546(d), the law says Berman remains until fired AND replaced by a Senate-approved nominee for USA>

How convenient that the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee had already called a hearing for next Wednesday June 24 about political influence on law enforcement, with Department of Justice employees John Elias and Aaron Zelinsky scheduled to appear as whistleblowers before the committee.

HJC’s committee chair Rep. Jerry Nadler has already tweeted that Berman would be invited to appear before the same committee hearing.

It wouldn’t take much to move from this hearing to a vote for an impeachment inquiry inquiry into Bill Barr’s work as Attorney General — there was plenty of reason to pursue impeachment before Friday night’s half-assed massacre.

~ ~ ~

There’s a lot to unpack here. Have at it.

I’m publishing this now and will add some additional follow-up material here in the morning, including Berman’s recusal from the Cohen case, the investigation into Giuliani, and Berman’s effort to distance SDNY from the White House.

 

This is an open thread.


Three Things: A for “Antifa”, B for Brutality, C for Commit (Murder)

Messy title, sorry — couldn’t think of something snappy and I’m even struggling with a lead in. Let’s just get to it.

~ 3 ~

A/B switch: “Antifa”

A little article about a tiny town caught my eye this weekend. Some racist gits in a rural area of Washington state played cat-and-mouse with a multi-racial family trying to camp in the area while driving a bus-turned-camper.

Local racists harassed them, accusing them of being members of “Antifa” — the made-up bugbear conjured from anti-fascist philosophy by Trump’s brain trust, hereinafter referred to with appropriate scare quotes. Even the local paper reports “Antifa” exists as an organization when there isn’t one.

What struck me as odd is how intensely a local gun shop owner and at least a dozen local residents believe there is an effort by “Antifa” to bus in their anarchist members to make trouble.

Right…busloads into a town with an estimated population of 6,600.

How did this notion about bogeyman “Antifa” become so quickly and deeply embedded in a remote area of the U.S.? Especially where the possibility of any anarchists making a big splash let alone filling a bus is utterly ridiculous.

It’s not just this one small town, either. It’s much of the Pacific Northwest and beyond — so many people looking like doofuses, claiming victory over non-existent anarchist hordes.

https://twitter.com/BrandyZadrozny/status/1269374530256076801

This mythology has even eaten the already-compromised brains of candidates like this one:

She’s threatening people with an automatic weapon in a campaign ad and then complains because Facebook took down her advertisement. Greene is simply unfit to hold office if she can’t understand threats of violence are simple violations of Terms of Service.

Now it’s true that figureheads in the GOP have been willing to push the vaporous entity “Antifa” using their bully pulpit — like Sen. Ted Cruz droning on last summer about a non-binding Senate resolution, S.Res. 279, submitted by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) declaring “Antifa” a terrorist organization while pointing to a Pacific Northwest group which may or may not have truly existed and whose domain address has been defunct for three years.

But most right-wing voters don’t run around saying, “But Ted Cruz said…” about any topic. If they did he might have had a chance at winning the primary in 2016, but he’s just a placeholder.

Same for Bill Cassidy — he’s just another empty suit in a GOP seat.

Some organized effort has been put into building and consolidating pro-fascist sentiment among people willing to arm themselves, take to the streets, and cut down trees in the woods, and openly harass persons of color.

Here’s my theory: “Antifa” isn’t just a bogeyman. It’s a test, like an A/B switch. The folks who adopt this concept so deeply they are willing to take action outside the norm can also be persuaded to take other action.

QAnon likely serves a similar purpose, providing a centralized mythology for persons identified as too weak to reason out of a wet paper bag but willing to invest some degree of effort for their new “faith” system.

What can’t be seen apart from idiots like this gun shop owner and his compadres is how this uptake is being tested online. This small town gun shop owner didn’t pull the idea of bus-packing “Antifa” terrorists out of thin air; he must have gotten through broadcast media and social media, of which only social media would allow a two-way push-pull of content.

Who or what is at the other end of whatever pushed this “Antifa”-on-buses meme to this tiny town in northwestern Washington? Is it just Facebook content and Fox, or is something more in play?

Is it like the Russian influence operations which were able to convince people to organize Trump rallies via Facebook in 2016?

Or is it something more simple — a convenient distraction from the continuing mass death event we know as COVID-19?

~ 2 ~

B for Brutality

Greg Doucette has been collecting and curating cases of police brutality and abuse from across the country since protests began after George Floyd’s murder-by-racist-cop.

As of this afternoon Doucette has collected at least 384 independent cases, nearly all captured on camera.

This many cases over the last week’s time suggests there are not merely a few bad apples, but that the entire barrel has now gone rotten.

Brutality is normalized from top to bottom of law enforcement, deeply embedded into policing.

These persons employed by our tax dollars are not protecting anyone. It’s not clear who they are serving apart from property owners; they are not serving the greater public interest.

Most telling: in cities where curfews were not enforced or were lifted, there was no violence.

The police have been the source of violence — many of nearly 400 cases itemized so far provide ample evidence of this fact.

It’s time to look for better models to serve the public’s needs. We are paying too much for services which do not work. We need to do more than reform policing. It should be torn down, plowed into the ground, and something better built from scratch.

Look at the City of Los Angeles’ projected budget allocation:

New York City’s budget is similarly distributed with a massive skew toward policing.

What this currently pays for is abusive police who assault the public, escalate tensions, after failing to make a good faith effort to de-escalate and mediate community conflict.

The money is there; priorities need to change. Tax dollars need to be spent more effectively on the root causes which have driven the need for policing — more money for mental health resources, community housing for the homeless, therapy for drug addiction, child care, after-school programs, and crisis intervention instead of militarized policing which moves to violence far too eagerly, too often.

It’s time to abolish police as we’ve known them and build something better, healthier for our society.

If you’re balking at this idea, ask yourself why.

~ 1 ~

C for Committing Murder — mass murder by COVID-19

Given the large number of rallies across all 50 states protesting police brutality and racism, it’s reasonable to expect an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

The police bear a substantive portion of responsibility for anticipated cases arising from the protests due to poor policing practices including imposition and enforcement of curfews. Like the nearly 400 documented cases of brutality and abuse, police kettling of protesters into tight clusters breaking social distancing appeared organized and systematic.

Like repeated use of bridge closures to limit protesters’ movement even when being herded away from protest sites toward home at the end of the day.

New York City was particularly bad; it not only shut down bridges, forcing protesters into narrow streams, but it shut down subway stations for several days, sometimes at NYPD’s orders. Protesters bunched up at the subway finding themselves without transportation, hemmed in by police. Lack of alternate public transportation did not help matters.

The situation was further aggravated by police seizure of bikes for stupid (read: no) reasons.

Kettling wasn’t confined to New York City. There are many tweets documenting cases in larger cities like Seattle and Chicago.

An additional risk factor for protesters is their exposure to chemical irritants like pepper spray and tear gas. This Twitter thread explains the risks irritants pose.

Stress caused by police abuses may make protesters more vulnerable to COVID-19 exposure.

Which may have been the point: abusive police encouraged to use bad police practices may have been engaged in passive-aggressive large scale murder by exposure to biological agents.

We can only hope that the increased use of masks by protesters discouraged coronavirus transmission and reduced injuries caused by chemical irritants.

Yes, chemical irritants, Bill Barr, you lying sluggard with zero background in science. Let an expert in chemistry tell you.

Barr poses a threat to the health and welfare of the American public and needs to be impeached. Even if the GOP Senate will slack off and fail to remove him, the Dem-led House should impeach Barr for his abuse of office and his lying to the public so that Congressional records tell the future Barr’s bullshit was and is unacceptable from an attorney general.

~ 0 ~

And then the white nationalists embedded throughout police forces across the country, for which I haven’t enough energy remaining though it’s urgently in need of attention.

Like Salem, Oregon:

And Las Vegas:

There’s more of them. Trump’s Department of Justice under Jeff Sessions and Bill Barr have failed to do anything effective to root them out, though a GOP-led Congress throughout Obama’s administration and beyond has also played a role in suppressing oversight of white nationalist threats infiltrating law enforcement.

It looks less like neglect and more like deliberate abuse.

 

This is an open thread.


Tanks for the Memories

It’s June 5 in China as I type this late in the evening of June 4 in the U.S.

~ ~ ~

We’ve seen U.S. military personnel deployed to American cities which are not burning down and are not under siege; they’ve been deployed because Americans dared to exercise their First Amendment rights.

These are the same innate rights which founded this nation when colonists rebelled against the tyranny and oppression of an autocratic monarch, writing rebellious missives and tossing tea into Boston Harbor.

Troops and equipment were deployed on both coasts, to Washington D.C. and Los Angeles area.

Sen. Chris Murphy wants to know more about this aircraft also deployed:

Some of this military deployment was just plain stupid, sloppy, wasteful — flip-flopping resources from one place to another. I can’t imagine the military doing this; this is on Barr and Trump.

A federal riot team was dispatched to Miami for some reason. Perhaps it was because of Trump National Doral Miami golf course, or Mar-a-Lago, Trump National Golf Club Jupiter, and Trump International Golf Club West Palm Beach located an hour north. Perhaps it was because Miami-Dade County is only 15% non-Hispanic white and there would surely be protesting there. Maybe it was intended as an intimidation or voter suppression tactic which doesn’t appear to have occurred to Floridians.

The locals in Miami certainly didn’t know why.

With the news, a question hung in the air. Why Miami?

The answer is still shrouded in mystery, but the way the announcement was carried out has confused officials across different levels of government. Several law enforcement sources at both local and federal levels only learned about the team’s presence in Miami after reporters pointed them to statements from the Trump Administration.

Ultimately, the federal team is leaving Miami without being deployed.

Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis asked the National Guard to drop its work on COVID-19 support and take up patrol in Tampa because of protests there — but the protests have been relatively peaceful.

At least until police showed up.

There’s also the hyper-militarized police which can barely be distinguished from military. This one is particularly puzzling since Walnut Creek, California is a relatively wealthy and relatively white part of the state.

This tank-ish vehicle drew comparisons to tanks used in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

June 4, 1989, to be exact — 31 years ago.

It’s not just Americans who see a parallel; this is from a Canadian academic:

Some of my friends of Chinese heritage are disturbed by the comparison, suggesting Americans avoid it in no small part because many Chinese are still traumatized by the 1989 events. Others are concerned because China’s government still aggressively censors any mention of the 1989 protests, potentially removing users from social media. This is a serious punishment because all their identity, employment information, bill paying, credit scores are mediated through social media.

Other Chinese who don’t live in the mainland point to the comparison between 1989 and the US in 2020 and warn us not to end up like the Chinese — under an even more repressive state after hundreds of civilians’ deaths when the military put down the protests, squelching demands for a more democratic society.

It doesn’t seem possible that there could be more than a passing similarity between China in 1989 and the U.S. today, given the amount of freedoms many (straight white) Americans in this country possess.

We were reminded, though, the likely reason the military was called upon may have found inspiration in 1989.

Does Trump think this is just a noisy student uprising which can be put down with tanks? Do his bigoted, talentless minions likewise think police brutality is a nothing burger which can be squashed easily with a show of force?

It’s rather ridiculous what power has been called upon to protect the White House from the protesters who want police brutality against black Americans to end.

So much energy and resources wasted because Trump has a ridiculously shallow concept of power and how best to use it.

But even more ridiculous than all this overkill intended to suppress Americans’ First Amendment right to exercise free speech through protest is the Republican Party’s hypocrisy, from Sen. Tom Cotton’s obnoxious op-ed in The New York Times calling for military deployment against Americans, to this feckless gem from the House GOP caucus:

Utterly blind to their double standard — a president who uses the military to suppress constitutionally-protected speech in violation of his own oath of office is okay with them, but they threaten a totalitarian government which also suppressed speech with military force?

At least the Chinese show signs of breaking their suppression — in spite of attacks on Hong Kong’s freedoms — after their government’s initial handling of the COVID-19 pandemic cost the country valuable time to stop the disease from ravaging Wuhan’s population.

Free speech would have saved Chinese lives; it would have prevented President Xi Jinping’s and the Chinese Communist Party‘s loss of credibility caused by suppressing Dr. Li Wenliang’s warning about COVID-19

Somehow I doubt Trump will learn anything at all from China’s failure.


He certainly doesn’t seem able to learn from his own.

~ ~ ~

It’s now June 5 here in the U.S. as I finish typing this.

31 years ago, a lone man carrying bags in his hands as if he had just been shopping, stood in front of a line of tanks impeding their procession. The Chinese military had fired upon protesters, killing as many as 500 people in Tiananmen Square during the previous two days in an effort to put down the pro-democracy movement.

Tank Man, Tiananmen Square, 1989 - photo by Stuart Franklin
For a moment in time one man stood between the regime and an oppressive future.

I’d like to think there are more than one or two persons willing to stand up to systemic abuses and repression here, hold it in check longer than a moment in time.

The protesters in the streets over the last 10 days tell us there are.

The polls in November will tell us if there are enough.

What will our children say of this time in 31 years? What will they remember of us?

 

This is an open thread.


Three Things: Loads of Bricks, White Chicks, Made-up Schtick

[NB: I want to make sure you take note of the byline. Thanks. /~Rayne]

Especially after last night this one’s been really bugging me so I’ll lay it out here first.

~ 3 ~

Why was riot gear more important than personal protective gear for the nation’s health care system back in March? This has bothered the hell out of me since I looked at the purchase orders and dates.

31-JAN-2020 — Trump declared a public health emergency under the Public Health Service Act

13-MAR-2020 — Trump issued two national emergency declarations under both the Stafford Act and the National Emergencies Act (NEA)

17-MAR-2020 — Federal purchase order from Veterans Affairs signed for POLICE PROTECTION EQUIPMENT FOR WASHINGTON D.C. VA POLICE IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19 OUTBREAK

18-MAR-2020 — Trump invoked emergency powers via Executive Order under the Defense Production Act

19-MAR-2020 — Trump named the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as the lead agency in the COVID-19 emergency response efforts (designation previously held by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS))

19-MAR-2020 — California issued Stay Home order

21-MAR-2020 — Illinois, New Jersey issued Stay Home orders

22-MAR-2020 — New York, Ohio issued Stay Home orders

23-MAR-2020 — CT, LA, MI, OR, WA issued Stay Home orders

23-MAR-2020 — Federal purchase order from Veterans Affairs signed for POLICE GEAR, DISPOSABLE CUFFS, GAS MASKS, BALLISTIC HELMETS, RIOT GLOVES

06-APR-2020 — FEMA seized orders of N95 masks
16-APR-2020 — FEMA seized orders of N95 masks
21-APR-2020 — FEMA seized orders of N95 masks

Why did the federal government seize private orders of N95 masks in April when it could have been ordering them instead of riot gear in March?

The government clearly had COVID-19 in mind because it’s spelled out in the order for POLICE PROTECTION EQUIPMENT entered Tuesday 17-MAR-2020 after the first national emergency declaration — the order uses PRESIDENTIAL ISSUED EMERGENCY DECLARATION, OR A MAJOR DISASTER DECLARATION as its emergency acquisition justification.

But why not order personal protective equipment for health care roles instead?

Why were they planning for riots in March, which is clear from the order for RIOT GLOVES on 23-MAR-2020?

They could predict rioting but not mass deaths from contagion?

Something really smells here.

I’d hate to think the White House used its power to acquire riot gear in order to pull off last night’s double-header campaign stunt-voter suppression gig.

Because that’s what this POS was.

Still can’t wrap my head around the U.S. Park Police and National Guard using tear gas and flash bang grenades on peaceful protesters to clear a path to St. John’s Episcopal Church in D.C. last evening so Trump could have an unauthorized photo-op in front of the church.

I don’t ever want to hear that Christians support Trump because he protects their religious freedoms when he just crapped all over them, especially if it turns out the White House planned for this months ago instead of working constructively to stem COVID-19.

~ 2 ~

The press has been traumatized by police assaults on them as they covered the protests over the last several days. In my opinion this is deliberate; it keeps the media from investigating what were the triggering events moving police toward violence against peaceful if angry protesters, launching property damage which further triggered police abuse. Protesters repeatedly caught on camera white people, some times in clusters, taking active roles in beginning property damage.

There are videos of black protesters trying to stop white people — too often dressed in black, acting in teams — who were the original actors causing property damage.


They ignore the pleas of black people to stop the damage.

There are several videos in which piles of bricks are pointed out by black protesters — bricks where no construction is apparent, left on sidewalks or in the middle of the street. One video shows white persons dressed in black removing barricades around the bricks. An academic noted on Twitter that any images of brick piles documented in Fayetteville, AR were there because brick walkways are constantly under repair. But at least a couple images show bricks piled on ashphalt street surface or concrete sidewalk, with no obvious construction or repair work in progress.

Yet another video circulating shows a black-clad white man handing out what is believed to be cash to black persons and pointing them to construction materials for the purposes of a temporary barricade. Wish the person recording the video had asked questions of their subjects.

There are some other disturbing signs about the content shared about white people allegedly involved in the property damage. This one may be a fake — there’s nothing in local news about this person.


There are claims in the thread about this person I can’t validate because I don’t use Facebook. Something about this is synthetic. Claims made attributing the source of support behind some of these vandals are clearly false and have been debunked.

The police have done themselves no favors, failing to arrest many of these vandals — in some cases simply watching them. Note how black protesters make this white vandal stop and drag them to police who are watching, doing nothing until forced to do so.

Police have also de-legitimized themselves by failing their duty to protect and serve, instead attacking citizens who are exercising their First Amendment rights.

Something isn’t right here, whatsoever. It looks systemic — rather like COINTELPRO and yet potentially manufactured at another remove — and the media needs to stop licking their wounds and get digging.

The press also needs to ask itself why this was not the face of this week’s civil rights protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder-by-cop.

~ 1 ~

Meanwhile, this man on the left:

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) with Confederate flag
continues to work on Trump’s and the GOP’s agenda:

deliberately ignoring this reality.

U.S. COVID-19 DEATH TOLL, JUNE 2, 2020 - 2:00 PM ET VIA WIKIPEDIA
Nearly a thousand more Americans have died since yesterday morning.

~ 0 ~

One last thing: if you have time for a reading assignment, I recommend Anne Applebaum’s essay in The Atlantic, History Will Judge the Complicit. I’m so pissed off at Trump for making me miss John McCain right now.

This is an open thread. Bring it.

Copyright © 2018 emptywheel. All rights reserved.
Originally Posted @ https://www.emptywheel.net/trump-administration/