History’s Rhyme, Part 2a: ‘Abuse of Power’ Sounds So Familiar

[NB: Check the byline, thanks! /~Rayne]

In a previous post I looked at the first of three Articles of Impeachment passed by Congress in 1974 against then-president Richard Nixon and suggested a parallel between Trump’s presidential acts and Nixon’s.

There had been five articles drafted; only the first three were approved by the 93rd Congress. Of them one article focused on Abuse of Power — acts which may be malfeasance and/or unlawful, as well as acts which may not have been strictly unlawful/illegal but were unethical and a breach of the trust the public places in the executive and a violation of the executive’s oath of office to take care the laws are faithfully executed.

You can read the second article at this link; now compare it to a theoretical article of impeachment which could be drafted against Trump today.

Article 2: Abuse of Power

Using the powers of the office of President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in disregard of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has repeatedly engaged in conduct violating the constitutional rights of citizens, impeding the due and proper administration of justice and the conduct of lawful inquiries, or contravening the laws governing agencies of the executive branch and the purposes of these agencies.

This conduct has included one or more of the following:

1. He has violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution which provides that “no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” Donald J. Trump, has a financial interest in vast business holdings around the world that engage in dealings with foreign governments and receive benefits from those governments. He has refused to divest himself of those interests and inherent conflicts of interest. He has accepted “Emolument[s]” from “foreign State[s]” while holding the office of President of the United States. He has accepted numerous benefits from foreign states without first seeking or obtaining congressional approval as specified by the Emoluments Clause, and further maintains that no Congressional approval is required. He has rejected Congress’s Article I authority by refusing to seek its consent.

2. He misused the Secret Service by interfering in their ability to perform their duties with regard to protecting the presidency, refusing them necessary access to public and private facilities where foreign nationals visit frequently. He has interfered with the Secret Service’s ability to operate, draining their budget by deploying them excessively at his private business facilities when not executing his presidential duties.

3. He has, acting personally and or through his subordinates and agents, in violation or disregard of the Presidential Records Act of 1978 (PRA), concealed or destroyed presidential records, or prevented presidential records from being made appropriate to the execution of his office. He has terminated the practice of publishing public summaries of presidential phone calls with world leaders thereby evading creation of presidential records. He has ignored warnings of the National Archives to comply with the PRA.

4. He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, in violation or disregard of the constitutional rights of citizens and the human rights of visiting foreign nationals, unilaterally drafted, issued without adequate prior legal review, and permitted to be maintained Executive Orders 13769 and 13780, violating the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, the Fifth Amendment’s Equal Protection, Substantive Due Process, and Procedural Due Process clauses, the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and violating in both substance and procedure the Administrative Procedure Act in the process of discriminating against persons both citizens and foreign nationals on the basis of religion and national origin by illegal detention and refusal of their admittance to this country.

5. In disregard of the rule of law: he knowingly misused the executive power by interfering with agencies of the executive branch, including the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, in violation of his duty to take care that the laws by faithfully executed. He rejected the expert advice of then Deputy Attorney General as to the unlawfulness of his Executive Order 13769. He has authorized Department of Homeland Security personnel to commit illegal acts against asylum seekers and refugees. He interfered with the Department of Justice in its investigation into interference with the 2016 election by repeated disparagement.

6. He has retaliated against federal employees, including but not limited to the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Director of Secret Service, and National Archives personnel, disparaging, harassing, and or firing them without adequate legal cause for conducting their lawful duties. He has ordered other federal personnel to disparage and fire federal personnel without adequate legal cause for conducting their lawful duties. He has maliciously attempted to interfere with federal employees’ ability to draw their rightful benefits.

7. He misused the Department of Justice, in violation or disregard of the constitutional rights of citizens, by tacitly directing or implicitly authorizing the Attorney General to conduct or continue investigations for purposes unrelated to national security, the enforcement of laws, or any other lawful function of his office. He has expressed repeatedly his intent to use the Department of Justice and U.S. intelligence agencies for the purposes of punishing political opponents. He has failed to take care that the laws were faithfully executed by failing to act when he knew or had reason to know that his close subordinates endeavored to investigate political opponents.

8. He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, in violation or disregard of the constitutional rights of press under the First Amendment and of citizens under the Fifth Amendment, authorized and permitted the indefinite revocation of White House press credentials for arbitrary and non-compelling reasons, including punishment for and suppression of perceived criticism. He has frequently undermined the First Amendment rights of the press by calling them “the enemy of the people.

9. He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, in violation or disregard of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), allowed the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (PACEI) to meet without public notice; without making PACEI meetings open to the public; and without timely notice in the Federal Register. He has failed to ensure PACEI operated so that any of its “records, reports, transcripts, minutes, appendixes, working papers, drafts, studies, agenda, or other documents which were made available to or prepared for or by” the PACEI were “available for public inspection.” He has further failed to ensure that the PACEI was fairly balanced and free of inappropriate influence as required under the FACA to ensure public accountability.  Based on spurious claims of voter fraud and without adequate data security in place, he has ordered the PACEI to obtain private voter data from the fifty states for the purposes of a voter roll purge using questionable and opaque methods.

[ — TO BE CONTINUED — ]

In all of this, Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

Article 2 against Nixon only contained five subjects. How quaint; it’s like Tricky Dick wasn’t even trying.

In contrast Trump might have racked up a new subject every other month in office to add to this list. I have at least six more subjects to add in a followup post.

After I finish the Abuses of Power I plan to look at Article 3: Contempt of Congress — which is very nearly writing itself — and an Article 4: Violation of Treaties including those covering refugees and international human rights. There could be an Article 5 covering action in Yemen and other foreign policy and military failures.

I still don’t know if this shouldn’t include his ridiculously expensive golf. Assuming he’s not removed by the time his term is up in early January 2021, and assuming he continues his current rate of play, Trump will have burned through nearly $200,000,000 taxpayer dollars, a considerable chunk of which will go into his pocket for golf cart fees alone. What a parasite; imagine how many teachers could have received pay increases with that, or how many Pell Grant scholarships that could have funded.

Or how much of his ‘fucken wall‘ that could have bought.

This is an open thread. Be sure to let me know what other topics you think should be added under this Article 2: Abuse of Power.

NC Election Investigations and the Yard Sale at the 18th Hole

[NB: Not Marcy if you check the byline. /~Rayne]

Earlier this week a friend pointed me to an article in a local Raleigh, North Carolina news site. I knew there had been an investigation into the 9th Congressional district because of election fraud; absentee ballots had been picked up, altered, and changed for the benefit of a Republican candidate.

But I didn’t realize there was federal investigation in the same state looking into fraud related to the 2016 election and earlier. The shared article noted the State Board of Elections had instructed 32 county elections boards to voting histories, signed poll books and redacted ballots. The scope of the investigation covers multiple election cycles. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina (EDNC) subpoenaed elections records in August 2018.

Apparently the EDNC initially requested a much broader range of voting records for the same period from these counties. Since August the state attorney general has pushed back against the EDNC on behalf of the State Board of Elections. The May 3 request represented a substantially pared down number of records — under 900 records across 32 counties.

The counties involved in this request include Wake County in which capital city Raleigh is located.

U.S. Attorney Robert Higdon, a Trump appointee, appears to be focused on votes by non-citizens.

Of course — let’s indulge white nationalist dark urges and chase rare voter fraud while real fraud at much larger scale nearly seated a Republican in the House.

~ ~ ~
The EDNC’s investigation isn’t related to one in the 9th Congressional District along North Carolina’s southern border. A Republican political operative, hired in 2016 by then-candidate Mark Harris, committed election fraud by collecting, altering, or destroying absentee ballots. After investigation by the State Board of Elections, operative Leslie McCrae Dowless was indicted by the state for obstruction of justice, conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice, and possession of absentee ballots.

The State Board of Elections refused to certify the election’s outcome and has now rescheduled a primary election for next Tuesday, May 14. Depending on the outcome of the primary race, the final election may be September 5.

Mark Harris said he will not be a candidate.

Rather amusing now because Harris thought there was voter fraud on the Democrats’ part, according to emails produced during the investigation.

~ ~ ~
When I went poking around to compare the two investigations, another interesting investigation popped up in my search results for “wral federal investigation raleigh.”

Not a lot was published about the case of Leonid Teyf, arrested last year in a murder-for-hire case. This is odd given the fact Teyf is Russian and a business crony of Yevgeny Prigozhin. You’ll recall Prigozhin, often referred to as ‘Putin’s chef’, was indicted along with the Internet Research Agency for their role in interfering with the 2016 general election.

North Carolina’s local news, The Daily Beast, and Maddow, and the Wall Street Journal covered this case in December last year and January this year after the feds conducted a raid on one of the most expensive residential addresses in North Carolina.

Do read the Daily Beast piece — it’s the most detailed. Maddow outlines how Teyf’s case was used as a means to collect information on the federal investigative process and the Special Counsel’s Office. Based on a protective order issued this week, it looks like the court is concerned that information is still being passed on.

You can find the court filings at Courtlistener under United States v. Teyf (5:18-cr-00452).

What interested me — besides the fact Teyf bought a MASSIVE home on the 18th hole of the North Ridge Country Club in Raleigh — is the timing of events here in the U.S.

2010 — Teyf came to the U.S., moving his family to North Carolina. He continued to work in Russia and traveled back and forth between the two countries through 2013.

2011 — Teyf and associates began activities chargeable under 18 USC 1957 – Engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity

2012 — 16,865 square foot 8-bedroom French Country mansion built for Dean and Wendy Painter in 2000 was listed in April at $4,850,000; it sold for $4.2 million in September. The Painter family said the buyers were Russian though the paperwork showed the buyer was New Market LLC.

2014 — Residence was listed for sale at $7.8 million, a price well above original purchase price. The owner was still listed as New Market LLC; the realty firm representing the seller posted a listing on a website in Russian and Arabic.

201X — A quit claim deed was executed transferring ownership of the residence to Leonid and Tatyana Teyf.

2018 — Seal indictment was filed November 8 against Leonid and Tatyana Teyf and Aleksander Timofeev.

2018 — Residence was raided by FBI on December 5.

2018 — Indictment was unsealed on December 12.

If you read The Daily Beast’s article, you’ll note that the kickbacks skimmed off Russian Federation contracts to military vendors didn’t result in prosecution by Russia.

One can only infer that Teyf came here with the implicit blessing of Russian leadership.

And he came here the same year that the Illegals Program spies were booted out of the country.

Teyf’s been here with Prigozhin’s implicit blessing, too.

He bought a huge house with a bullet- and fireproof safe room, bought several millions in art, cars, furnishings — all of this from $150 million obtained through kickbacks.

Mind you, the feds must have been watching him since it was federal personnel he tried to pay to kill the Russian housekeeper’s son who he believed was having an affair with his wife Tatyana.

But how closely were the feds watching what Teyf was doing if he was able to open 70 banking accounts with millions of dollars over the course of a couple years’ time?

What might Teyf have been doing for Prigozhin in the U.S.? And why was he located in North Carolina?

And on a golf course of all places — in the biggest house on the 18th hole. Might even be visible from space.

~ ~ ~
It was kind of a long trip to get to this question: how many other Russians are there like Leonid Teyf in the U.S., going about their business in plain view of the American public?

One other thing bothers me about this situation. If you come across local TV news video or one of the local news outlet’s articles about the raid, you’ll see someone quoted who looks like the average Joe who lives in a nice neighborhood. This person makes remarks to the effect that the folks at 6510 New Market Way were down to earth, they were good folks, even went to their yard sale.

Leonid Teyf maintains he doesn’t speak English. It’s been a point of contention during the court case. How does average Joe know Teyf is down to earth and good folk?

Why does average Joe, in December 2018, not feel at all suspicious about a Russian who can’t speak any English living just down the street in one of the state’s most expensive houses?

 

This is an open thread.

The Orange Injector and the Troubling Tariffs

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

He did it again. I am so fed up with this nonsense. This:

is yet another perfect opportunity for someone to game the market and do so in a big way.

Just look at this drop:

One needed only to short the market before it opened on Monday make huge amounts of money with no effort. And this time even the entire American market could have jumped on this; no more advance notice required apart from Trump’s Sunday and Monday tweets.

Believe me, the opportunity tempted me. I could see it coming. I only needed to short the NYSE:DIA using my pre-open trading access and I’d have raked in cash.

But it’s unethical; I can’t make money off people on the wrong side of Trump’s ridiculous foreign policy. It’s more like gambling on a steroid-doped horse and not true investment.

Nothing about Trump’s trade policy makes any sense (not that anything he does makes sense to a rational, ethical, sentient human being). What is the fundamental problem he wants to solve?

…Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership without ever proposing a replacement, and he appeared ready to do the same with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). He imposed stiff levies on imported steel and aluminum, leading Canada, China, Mexico, and the European Union to slap the United States with retaliatory tariffs. At the same time, however, his administration ultimately agreed to a renegotiated NAFTA without major changes to the original agreement. It did the same for the U.S. free trade agreement with South Korea. So what signs could reveal his true intentions in 2019?

(source: Understanding Trump’s Trade War by Doug Irwin via Foreign Policy Winter 2019)

This entire paragraph operates on the assumption Trump acted in good faith on NAFTA.

This is the biggest mistake anyone can make about Trump, however. He has never done anything altruistic in his life. Every he’s done has been transactional. His lack of empathy for others combined with his selfish transactional nature precludes any good faith.

One need only look at his marriages to see his true self. He didn’t make any concerted effort to keep his vows, and when he’d obtained all he wanted from those relationships, he ditched his wives.

Even his Access Hollywood “grab them by the pussy” video revealed this: he believes that if one is a celebrity, one can do anything to a woman. In other words, the woman is receiving the attention of a celebrity in exchange for access to her body.

A transaction. Presence and access is consent as far as he’s concerned.

He is incapable of seeing anything he does as president as action on behalf of the country. In his mind the country already got what it wanted — his attention of a celebrity and his commitment to live in our house.

Rather like a second or third wife, we’re supposed to have gone into this relationship with our eyes open and have already received the best that we’ll get out of this deal. Meanwhile, he’s using our house for his personal aims.

And he’s using our relationship with major trading partners to shake them down for something to his benefit.

Re-read that paragraph from Foreign Policy again, only this time recognize the shakedown, the grift in between the lines. He received something from rattling NAFTA partners even if in the end it looks like nothing changed.

The New York Times published another expose on Trump’s finances based on transcripts of his IRS filings from 1985 to 1994. In the wake of the article there’s been a lot of chatter about how deeply in debt he was during the period these filings covered. But debt is just a number; it’s all in the accounting. The average American under the age of 40 is also deeply in debt if they’re buying a home, a car or two, and/or paying off the last of their tuition debt. Some of these debtors may tell you they made money and put it in the bank last year, though.

Trump was doing the same thing but at a much larger scale, only without the same consequences upon failure the average American would face:

Mr. Trump was able to lose all that money without facing the usual consequences — such as a steep drop in his standard of living — in part because most of it belonged to others, to the banks and bond investors who had supplied the cash to fuel his acquisitions. And as The Times’s earlier investigation showed, Mr. Trump secretly leaned on his father’s wealth to continue living like a winner and to stage a comeback.

Here’s the bit that jumped out at me from the NYT’s piece:

As losses from his core enterprises mounted, Mr. Trump took on a new public role, trading on his business-titan brand to present himself as a corporate raider. He would acquire shares in a company with borrowed money, suggest publicly that he was contemplating buying enough to become a majority owner, then quietly sell on the resulting rise in the stock price.

The tactic worked for a brief period — earning Mr. Trump millions of dollars in gains — until investors realized that he would not follow through. That much has been known for years. But the tax information obtained by The Times shows that he ultimately lost the bulk of the gains from his four-year trading spree.

Now Trump — or any of his partners/associates/financiers — no longer has to buy stock in a specific company to make money. He can use our house to act like a corporate raider. He can threaten to make or break a deal using the good faith and credit of the United States (instead of his own bad faith) and mess with the entire market.

In addition to Trump’s Sunday tweets. I suspect participants in the US and overseas markets in Asia and Russia could also have traded on Trump’s early Monday morning tweet:

This tweet is pure bullshit. There is nothing factual about it; it displays a gross ignorance about the trade deficit.

Putting aside the rational explanations about the trade deficit, the U.S. must keep in mind that China has been carefully negotiating its recovery after Mao Tse-tung’s Great Leap Forward and a realignment of mixed capitalist-communist system. It would be all too easy for the balance to shift reactively toward a more militarized communist system if it had an insufficient demand for its capitalist output.

But understanding this requires a degree of nuance beyond the grasp of the malignant narcissist-in-chief. He can only manage to ponder what’s in it for him.

Trump’s early Monday morning tweet would have been seen at these local times:

4:06 am Washington DC
6:06 pm Sydney Australia
5:06 pm Tokyo Japan
5:06 pm Seoul South Korea
4:06 pm Beijing PRC
11:06 am Moscow Russia

Ample time to jump in between the Sunday tweets and this Monday tweet if one was already holding index shares.

Those of use who didn’t trade on this information, though, went for a roller coaster ride on our hard-earned retirement savings and college funds as they plummeted Monday morning.

And because Trump is using our good faith and credit for his own aims, we can’t be absolutely certain he isn’t running some opaque con for a personal gain we know nothing about. We’re trapped in this vehicle for as long as he wants to run this scam.

And like some of the investors who loaned him money or contractors who worked for him in good faith in the past, we’ll end up holding the bag.

Just stop this crazy thing.

~ ~ ~

Oh, two more things:

First, Steve Bannon needs to be de-platformed. He is deliberately sowing anarchy across the globe by promoting white nationalism. Populism, he calls it, but it’s racist appeals encouraging insurrection and sedition against liberal democracy.

When he encourages Trump’s stupidity toward China it’s not because it’s helpful to the common good. He may say that Trump’s tariff threats are a benefit to the working class but Bannon has no fucking clue how manufacturing actually works. It’s all an abstraction to him that capital might reshore from investment in China to investment here.

Reality looks more like Lordstown, Ohio where General Motors just shut down a plant. The economic changes that led to the closure have been years in the making. It takes years and hundreds of millions in capital investment to plan a new product line to respond to trends in consumers’ tastes including the manufacturing processes required. We’re also in the midst of a massive sea change in transportation, with competing countries shifting entirely to electric cars within the next two decades.

But Trump can tweet damaging nonsense in seconds, smashing those carefully laid-out product manufacturing plans to smithereens.

Which may be the point considering Trump and his minions and financial backers are no fans of organized labor in the U.S.

I’m sure Bannon will assure the workers of Lordstown jobs will be there for them at any moment once the impending trade war with China has settled.

[Note: While I was drafting this post Trump tweeted that GM was selling the Lordstown plant to electric truck manufacturer Workhorse. Now Trump will look like a winner for badgering GM’s CEO Mary Barra when this deal was likely in the offing for some time. Really stupid move on Barra’s part because now he’ll use this as leverage — her call gave him presence and access.]

 

Second, it may be valuable to note that key problem children who have supported anarchic white nationalism through Trumpism in the US and Brexit in the UK have something in common:

Steve Bannon = former investment banker

Robert Mercer = former co-CEO of hedge fund

Rebekah Mercer = former trader at daddy’s hedge fund

Nigel Farage = former commodities trader

Arron Banks = owner, insurance company

Wilbur Ross = investment banker

Steve Mnuchin = former mortgage securities and hedge fund executive

Imagine them realizing they could make a shit ton of money by injecting planned volatility into the market using Trump (or Brexit) as their injector.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the entire Trump administration was in on this scam. Here’s U.S. Trade Reprepresentative Robert Lighthizer about Trump’s latest tariffs on Chinese goods:

“This was Trump acting out on a rainy Sunday in Washington with nothing on the public schedule,” he added. “To paraphrase Lenin: there are decades where nothing happens and there are weeks when decades happen…and then there is a single week in the Trump Presidency. What a time to be alive.”

Head, meet desk.

This is an open thread.

Undead Testify: Welcome to the Zombie Apocalypse

[NB: Come on, look at the head, byline, and blurb. Of course it’s me. /~Rayne]

The zombie apocalypse wasn’t supposed to look like this; it should have been more cinematic. And yet here we are, surrounded by the undead.

You think I’m joking, right?

That bloated grey mass seated in the witness chair before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week is a revenant.

Yes, a revenant — from the French word, revenir, meaning one returned, revived from the dead. Revenant describes more than one type of undead reanimated being, including zombies and vampires.

We’ve seen revenants in culture more frequently over the past two decades. Some argue they represent the same biases we’ve seen before; for example, the popularity of Bram Stoker’s Dracula was attributed to xenophobia, aimed at eastern Europeans migrating west. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla may have been an expression of fears of lesbianism. And we’ve seen fears of immigrants and LGBTQ people used by the right-wing to rally and control their conservative, authoritarian base since the Reagan administration.

More recently the re-emergence of revenants in culture has been attributed to anti-capitalist sentiment, in addition to traditional xenophobia — the unthinking drive of consumerism underpinning toxic capitalism mirrored by zombies’ ravening hunger for living brains or vampires’ unending thirst for fresh blood in the form of human labor.

But the undead animus we all watched and heard this week was both simpler and more serious — it was the dark remnants of corruption in Reagan’s administration.

If you think about it, Reagan should not have held office as long as he did; his son Ron said he was already suffering from early symptoms of Alzheimer’s while in office. Illegitimate activities went on under his nose which may have relied heavily on his slowly-fading mental competency.

And Barr was the fixer who swept up after Iran Contra.

Now we have a president — who may have been illegitmately seated with help by hostile foreign entities — with a tenuous grasp on mental competence.

(How many raving tweets has he published this week? How many lies has he uttered or written in his 28 months in office?)

Once again, a fixer is needed. The GOP, a walking dead vamipiric party which is killing itself with its toxic xenophobia and its dogmatic insistence on ending government’s oversight power for the benefit of unfettered capitalism, summoned the undead spirit of the Reagan administration to deal with the threat to its deathgrip on power.

Lo, the bloated grey mass bubbled forth from entombment last summer with a letter persuading the vampires it would address the ongoing obstruction of the Special Counsel’s investigation with more obstruction.

And obstruct the zombie did.

He wasn’t alone in his obstruction. He had the help of other undead, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who both obstructed the public’s view of the Russian interference in the 2016 election and who ensured the judiciary would be infected with unqualified appointees, who further ensured the approval of Barr as attorney general.

And Senator Lindsey Graham, who was clearly bitten by the Zombie-in-Chief while playing golf one day. Graham exemplifies best how insidious they are, how rapidly revenants can infect those who are too close to their reach — one minute victims are anti-zombie and the next they are happily chomping on brains, distorting reality.

Given the presence of so many revenants covering Barr’s back, expect a return of the same acts we saw after the Iran Contra hearings: Barr will encourage pardons if he doesn’t ask for commutations. The shades behind him will do their best to obscure other criminality and unethical behavior in a fog of decaying right-wing rhetoric. Favors will be paid back somewhere along the way; did Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly do anything for George Bush’s dad or Bill Clinton which might yet need repayment?

The only way to deal with the undead is wrest them out fearlessly and stake them out in the sun — there is no better disinfectant. Examine the corpses for weaknesses, cut off reviving animus in full view of the public, and purge their glorification from history. Impeachment will label them as anathema for future generations.

Then seek out and dispatch all the other lingering revenants before they sneak up on us.

Don’t be surprised if some of them arrive wearing candidate’s clothing, either; you’re already seeing the ghost of Clarence Thomas’s wretched nomination walking among the living.

This is an open thread.

Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing: AG William Barr

Catch Marcy’s live tweeting of today’s Senate Judiciary Committee featuring star witness Attorney General William Barr:

I set up a list of folks covering Trump-Russia, most of whom are covering the hearing today:

Rayne’s Trump-Russia Twitter list

CourthouseNews’ Brandi Buchmann is also covering the hearing today via Twitter:

Background on Barr leading up to today’s hearing:

08-JUN-2018 — William Barr sent a (unsolicited-?) 20-page letter(pdf) to the Department of Justice outlining his opinion on the Office of Special Counsel’s Trump-Russia investigation and the SCO’s questions about obstruction of justice by Trump.

27-JUN-2018 — Barr has a brown bag lunch with DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (see today’s hearing, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s second round of questions, approx. 3:03 p.m. EDT).

07-NOV-2018 — Jeff Sessions’ apparent exit from role at Department of Justice as Attorney General.

07-DEC-2018 — Trump announced he would nominate Barr to succeed Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.

03-JAN-2019 — Trump formalized Barr’s nomination.

15-JAN-2019 — Barr appeared for two days before the Senate Judiciary Committee in nomination hearings.

04-FEB-2019 — Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve Barr as Attorney General, 12-10 along party lines.

07-FEB-2019 — Senate voted to approve Barr as Attorney General, 54-45 nearly along party lines.

14-FEB-2019 — Barr was sworn in as AG.

05-MAR-2019 — Meeting between Barr and Special Counsel Robert Mueller regarding the SCO investigation.

22-MAR-2019 — Barr decided outcome of the SCO this day (see today’s hearing, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s second round of questions approx. 3:00 p.m. EDT).

24-MAR-2019 — Barr released a 4-page letter summarizing the impending Special Counsel’s Office’s Trump-Russia investigation report.

27-MAR-2019 — Mueller sent a letter to Barr in which he said Barr’s summary “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the SCO’s report.

18-APR-2019 — Trump-Russia investigation report by SCO released to public with redactions by Barr.

30-APR-2019 — March 27 letter from Mueller to Barr reported by Washingon Post.

This thread is dedicated to the Barr hearing — please stay on topic.

ADDER: Former FBI director James Comey’s op-ed in NYT published today, How Trump Co-opts Leaders like Bill Barr.

History’s Rhyme: Nixon’s Articles of Impeachment

[NB: Byline check, please. /~Rayne]

History, as they say, doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.

By now many of us have heard or read discussions comparing the actions of Trump and his administration with those of Richard Nixon — actions for which Nixon was nearly impeached.

(Bill Clinton’s impeachment surfaces only as an example of what a joke impeachment can be when a partisan hack investigator is intent on creating a mountain out of a consensual blowjob molehill.)

Though he resigned before the House could vote on them, Articles of Impeachment were drafted against Nixon. The first three of five had been passed by the House Judiciary Committee:

Article I: Obstruction of Justice

Article II: Abuse of Power

Article III: Contempt of Congress

Article IV: Cambodia bombing

Article V: Failure to pay taxes

Article I outlined a list of obstructive behaviors Nixon engaged in the lead up to and during the Watergate scandal. They read like a list of indictable offenses with the exception of an abuse of power in seeking the CIA’s efforts to interfere with the FBI.

Article II outlined Nixon’s abuses of power; the behaviors were unethical.

Article III charged Nixon with contempt after he refused to cooperate with Congress’s investigation into Watergate.

The third article has drawn the most reconsideration in the last 24-48 hours after Trump announced “We’re fighting all the subpoenas,” saying the administration would not comply with House committees’ requests for witnesses and documents.

While Trump hasn’t an unauthorized bombing of Cambodia under his belt addressed by the fourth article in 1974, he does have ongoing violations of international treaties for which he should answer, and for which the Republicans in Congress should be held accountable by a vote on an article about crimes against humanity.

We don’t yet know if a fifth article related to taxes may yet be needed but we shouldn’t be surprised if the tax returns Trump is so desperate to hide do not provide grounds for one.

What a lot of familiar rhyming. One might wonder what Articles of impeachment would look like against Trump. Let’s take a look at a possible Article I.

~ ~ ~

Article 1

RESOLVED, That Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanours, and that the following articles of impeachment to be exhibited to the Senate:

ARTICLE 1

In his conduct of the office of President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice, in that:

Beginning March 2016, and prior thereto, agents of Russia knowingly accessed computers without authorization belonging to or used by U.S. presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton and volunteers (“Clinton Campaign”), of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (“DCCC”), and the Democratic National Committee (“DNC”) in Washington, District of Columbia, for the purpose of securing political intelligence.

In April 2016, Conspirators including agents of Russia and persons know and unknown to a Grand Jury began to plan the release of materials stolen from the Clinton Campaign, DCCC, and DNC.

Beginning in or around June 2016, the Conspirators staged and released stolen materials. The Conspirators continued their U.S. election-interference operations through in or around November 2016 with the intent to support the campaign of Donald J. Trump and deter the Clinton Campaign.

Subsequent thereto, Donald J. Trump, using the powers of his high office, engaged personally and through his close subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or plan designed to delay, impede, and obstruct the investigation of such unauthorized access and use of stolen materials; to cover up, conceal and protect those responsible; and to conceal the existence and scope of other unlawful covert activities.

The means used to implement this course of conduct or plan included one or more of the following:

1. making false or misleading statements to lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States;
2. withholding relevant and material evidence or information from lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States;
3. approving, condoning, acquiescing in, and counseling witnesses with respect to the giving of false or misleading statements to lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States and false or misleading testimony in duly instituted judicial and congressional proceedings;
4. interfering or endeavoring to interfere with the conduct of investigations by the Department of Justice of the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Office of Special Counsel, and Congressional Committees;
5. approving, condoning, and acquiescing in, the surreptitious payment of substantial sums of money for the purpose of obtaining the silence or influencing the testimony of witnesses, potential witnesses or individuals;
6. endeavoring to misuse the Department of Justice, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Office of White House Counsel of the United States;
7. disseminating information received from officers of the Department of Justice of the United States to subjects of investigations conducted by lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States, for the purpose of aiding and assisting such subjects in their attempts to avoid criminal liability;**
8. making or causing to be made false or misleading public statements for the purpose of deceiving the people of the United States into believing that a thorough and complete investigation had been conducted with respect to allegations of misconduct on the part of personnel of the Presidential Campaign and on the part of the personnel of the executive branch of the United States, and that there was no involvement of such personnel in such misconduct: or
9. endeavoring to cause prospective defendants, and individuals duly tried and convicted, to expect favored treatment and consideration in return for their silence or false testimony, or rewarding individuals for their silence or false testimony.

In all of this, Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

_________

** Did Trump share/receive material through the Joint Defense Agreement not for the purposes of defense but to obstruct the Special Counsel’s investigation?

~ ~ ~

Well now…the potential parallels are quite striking. Because there’s so much to ponder in this one possible Article, I’ll leave evaluation of other possible Articles to another post to follow.

What do you think? Is there more which an Article focused on obstruction might include? Is there wording which needs revision based on what we now know?

This is an open thread.

Do the Right Thing: Break Some Eggs and Impeach

[NB: Check the byline. This piece may not reflect the opinions of other emptywheel contributors. /~Rayne]

There’ve been a lot of eggs cracked today. Not all of the eggs in need of cracking came in pretty dyed shells.

Like the oeuvre floating around out there claiming impeachment is bad for the country. (I’m looking at you, Tumulty.)

There’s really no question about what must be done. There’s only a fight against spin protecting an un-indicted co-conspirator, or worse. Sadly, some of the spin comes from the left and it needs to be smashed right now.

But why impeach? they ask.

Because it’s the right thing to do when a law enforcement investigation reveals a pattern of unlawful behavior.

Because it’s the right thing to do when the president systematically engages in abuse of power and unethical behavior, causing states and non-governmental groups alike to sue to protect human rights.

Because it’s the right thing to do when the president breaks his oath of office to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Because it’s the right thing to do when the president fails to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.

Because it’s the necessary thing to do when the president’s incompetence or bigotry results in the deaths of thousands of American citizens without so much as an apology.

Because it’s the right thing to do when the president permits and/or encourages dangerous deviations — some in secret — from national security policy without debate, advice, and consent by Congress.

Because it’s the right thing to do when the executive usurps co-equal branches’ power to check the executive.

Because failure to do so yields the co-equal power of Congress to the executive for the worst of reasons — because it’s too much trouble, timed inconveniently, unpopular.

Because failure to do assures future unethical presidents, they, too, need not worry they will be held to account by the branch of government charged with doing so; they’ll feel protected, insulated from rebuke and punishment.

Because failure to do so assures a certain class of person they are above the law while telling the average citizen they belong to a second and lower class.

Because failing to do so sends a message to foreign powers that tampering with our elections will go unchecked; a mere censure will only enrage a malignant narcissistic executive while doing nothing to deter hostile foreign actors.

Because we are a nation of laws, and the law provides for the rebuke and removal of an executive guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors, including unlawful orders, bad faith execution, unethical behavior, and abuse of office.

Because we must lead the future by example, demonstrating the exercise of oversight powers which include impeachment of a failed executive even when a country is divided by popular opinion.

There are far too many constructive reasons why we should impeach the executive; the risk from failing to attempt impeachment is far greater, considering the hollowing out of government and undermining of long-term policy continuing apace. The common good demands it.

Do we proceed directly to impeachment? This is a matter of conjecture — I believe we need to investigate the gaps in the Special Counsel’s report, including counterintelligence, so that we address each item in full view of the public with the exception of classified matters. The executive must be fully accountable to the people; he governs only with their consent which is already thin based on his loss of the popular vote.

Will investigative and impeachment hearings get in the way of legislative business? No. Congress has investigative hearings all the time in addition to legislative business. The legislative work to date has been piling up at the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk because he is obstructing House Democrats by gatekeeping. Will any less legislation be passed by the Senate if the House dedicates any more time to investigative hearings? No, thanks to McConnell.

Read the Special Counsel’s report for yourself. Ask yourself if what you read represents the combined work of a candidate and president and his campaign and administration who are truly intent on serving the best interests of this entire country. Were these individuals willing to set their personal interests aside and work toward a more perfect union, establishing Justice, insuring domestic tranquility, providing for the common defense, promoting the general welfare, and securing the blessings of liberty for all?

Or were they working for themselves and personal or familial enrichment, for their personal glory and entitlement, and for the benefit of some other non-U.S. entities to our likely detriment?

Begin the impeachment process. Let’s break some eggs.

~ ~ ~
A happy Easter to those of you who observe the holiday. Hope that those of you who observed Passover were able to do so with friends and loved ones.

This is an open thread.

Three Things: Big Day, Big Top

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

It’s going to be a big day under the big top. Attorney General Bill Barr has planned quite the circus, beginning right now with his so-called press conference. But first, three things, one of which includes hygiene for the day ahead.

~ 3 ~

Let’s face it: it’s Maundy Thursday, the weather in West Palm Beach is supposed to be partly sunny tomorrow and Saturday, and sunny on Easter Sunday. Which means Trump will likely be on Air Force One this afternoon, winging his way to Mar-a-Lago and the promise of golf at one of his courses because that’s about all he can focus on for more than the time it takes to send a tweet.

This is likely why he wants to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to golfer Tiger Woods after winning his latest green jacket at The Masters this past weekend. Trump said,

So shallow and self-centered, recognizing a fellow marital cheat and a golfing buddy, one who designed a Trump-branded golf course in Dubai.

And yet par for this pathetic hole.

~ 2 ~

I don’t write often about Trump-Russia because it’s Marcy’s beat — there’s little she hasn’t scrutinized and picked apart during the course of the Special Counsel’s investigation. But this one thing has stuck in my craw, especially after all the hubbub this past week about Julian Assange’s removal from the Ecuadoran embassy and arrest by Metropolitan Police-UK.

It’s in this email exchange from October 2016, about WikiLeaks’ 10th anniversary when Assange was supposed to have made a big announcement and didn’t. The following

Tuesday, October 4, 2016
FROM: Steve Bannon
TO: Roger Stone
EMAIL:

What was that this morning???

Tuesday, October 4, 2016
FROM: Roger Stone
TO: Steve Bannon
EMAIL:
Fear. Serious security concern. He thinks they are going to kill him and the London police are standing done.

However —a load every week going forward.

Roger stone

Tuesday, October 4, 2016
FROM: Steve Bannon
TO: Roger Stone
EMAIL:

He didn’t cut deal w/ clintons???

Why did former Trump campaign chief executive and former White House adviser Steve Bannon express surprise that Assange hadn’t cut a deal with the Clintons?

Was it a given that Assange would have attempted to extort money from one or both of the Clintons to halt the release of hacked emails?

Why would Bannon in particular have thought this? Was it common knowledge in certain circles that Assange would use blackmail? Or has blackmail been one of the other unaddressed methods by which targets have been compromised and evidence simply hasn’t been shared because it’s classified?

Did Special Counsel’s Office ask any member of the Clinton campaign or Bill Clinton or any Clinton family support staff whether they had been contacted about hacked materials in an attempt to extort money or performance from them?

It seemed like odd hyperbole at the time in early August 2016 that Assange would accuse Hillary Clinton of electoral extortion, claiming she tried to scare the electorate into voting for her. But was it really a form of projection to muddle possible leaks about other extortion attempts? (Yes, the source at that link above is a right-wing outlet, but that’s the point: they carried water for this effort.)

Ecuadoran official said they are investigating whether Assange attempted to blackmail President Moreno. It looks more like a pattern of behavior based on WikiLeaks’ handling of Vault 7 and if Bannon’s email assumed an earlier attempt on the Clintons

~ 1 ~

Okay, I’ll skip a third non-Barr report item because we’re all a little short on patience. If you need something to preoccupy your time you can focus on taking action.

See Celeste_pewter’s Twitter thread for calls you can make, or check her TinyLetter site; once again she’s done the heavy lifting and prepared scripts for you.

She’s also laid out the anticipated schedule today for AG Barr’s three-ring circus:

9:30 AM: Barr and Rosenstein will hold a press conference on Mueller report

(Mueller not in attendance)

10:30 AM (approx): Trump will issue a rebuttal

11:00 – 12:00 PM: DOJ will provide hard copies of the report to Congress

TBD: Trump MAY give a press conference at this point

2:00 PM (approximate): Report posted on special counsel website (https://www.justice.gov/sco)

I’m setting up a list in my Twitter account to follow folks for analysis and feedback on the Trump-Russia investigation including today’s Barr report.

(And yes, I’m calling it the ‘Barr report’ because the method of its reception will have been substantially shaped by Barr.)

~ 0 ~

Lastly, the matter of hygiene: this site will be busy. Trolling may be heavy depending on what’s visible in the report and what is pointed out by Marcy in particular. If the site bogs down, please be patient.

If necessary, reach one of us via Twitter though you may not get an immediate response because we’re going to be busy.

Moderation will be firm and aggressive. We don’t have time for temper tantrums, trolling, or for internecine squabbles.

Keep all off topic discussion to this thread; if it gets too deep, like more than 200 comments, I will open a new thread for off topic material. Posts Marcy opens related to the report should remain on topic.

This is going to be a long day. Pace yourselves. Drink water regularly. Take a break from social media when you’re getting worked up. Digest this pile of elephant one bite at a time.

We have plenty of time after the circus’s acts have finished to sweep up and dig through the animal poo they leave behind.

This is an open thread.

[Photo: Emily Morter via Unsplash]

You’re Fired (Undocumented Trump Worker): What Odd Timing

[NB: Byline — check it!/~Rayne]

I’ve had this squirreled away in the cupboard; I was working on it just as the government shutdown ended. But now there’s good reason to dust it off and air it out.

~ ~ ~

The issue of Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) remains critically important even though government has been reopened and Trump received a pittance toward a wall.

The Washington Post reported on January 26 that undocumented workers were fired from their long-time jobs with Trump organization businesses.

What odd timing. Take a look at the sequence of events:

06DEC2018 — NYT, CNN other outlets reported the Trump organization employed undocumented workers.

22DEC2018 — Shutdown began at midnight

10JAN2018 — Citizenship applicant Matthew Helmsley was called a year earlier than expected by U.S. immigration for a pre-naturalization interview; he was asked after the interview if he was available on Saturday, January 19.

11JAN2019 — First government employee paycheck missed.

17JAN2019 — Trump announcement scheduled for Saturday, January 19, after a swearing-in ceremony for newly naturalized immigrants; the announcement regarded the ongoing government shutdown.

18JAN2019 — Media speculated about Trump’s proposal. After exchanging emails for a week with immigration personnel, citizenship candidate Helmsley received an email in that morning advising the swearing in would be at the White House the next day.

18JAN2019 — Undocumented immigrants terminated at Trump org facilities.

19JAN2019 — Trump’s proposal including tweaks to TPS and DACA floated some time between late Friday and early Saturday. House Democrats rejected the proposal ahead of Trump’s television speech — they insisted on funding and reopening government without conditions, and no money wall.

19JAN2019 — Just before his speech, Trump swore in Helmsley and a cohort of carefully selected naturalize immigrants, handpicked for political optics, in the Oval Office.

19JAN2019 — Trump gave a televised speech after 3:00 p.m., added limited TPS extension and modified DACA to his demand for wall funding.

25JAN2019 — Trump ‘caved’.

26JAN2019 — WaPo reports on firing of undocumented employees.

29JAN2019 — Original date scheduled for State of the Union address from House chambers

See that right in the middle? Undocumented personnel were fired roughly 24 hours before Trump made his special address making a counter offer.

The White House as well as the Trump organization knew more than a month before Trump’s counter proposal that undocumented workers were employed at multiple Trump business locations.

They waited until after the holidays to terminate them so as to avoid a stink.

They waited until they could use TPS and DACA as proposal items to demand wall funding, hoping the workers’ terminations would be lost in the noise about the shutdown.

And news media missed the timing.

Now here’s the other point the media missed within the last week: if Trump’s government funding proposal including limited TPS and modified DACA were offered immediately following termination of undocumented workers at Trump organization businesses — the two events coordinated and synced as if by one entity — is there any separation at all between Trump as president and Trump as head of the Trump organization?

If there isn’t, wouldn’t that make the DOJ’s so-called “narrow interpretation of a law ” this week, allowing federal officials to attempt to influence Trump by doing business with the Trump organization, really a permission slip for outright corruption via emoluments?

Meanwhile, DACA’s repeal remains up in the air, leaving roughly 800,000 residents up in the air. And TPS for Hondurans has been terminated effected November this year, forcing 86,000 to uproot from the U.S.

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

[NB: Check the byline. /~Rayne]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

image_print