April 23, 2019 / by 

 

Shutdown Day 28+15H: When Negotiations Fail, Add More Hostages

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

About 3:00 p.m. EDT — any time now — in a special address we’re supposed to hear from Trump what he is willing to offer in exchange for funding the wall based on negotiations led by Mike Pence and Jared Kushner (yes, he of the middle east peace negotiations, that fine negotiator). Mitch McConnell is supposed to be in the mix somewhere; it’s funny how little has been said about his presence.

Current speculation: the White House will offer concessions on the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program which had ordered terminated in September 2017, and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program in exchange for the $5.7B funding Trump has demanded along with funding and reopening government.

In other words, Trump is going to add more hostages to make the Democratic Party looks bad.

And in other words, the Trump organization may benefit directly if it seeks more immigrants laborers for its businesses.

At least one Trump-owned resort has had undocumented workers in housekeeping staff, like those working construction on the Trump Hotel-DC who qualified for TPS. There are likely others who have not come forward as two did who worked at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Are there any DACA participants working in one of the Trump org facilities, too?

Trump and his team waited until after the Women’s March today to make this announcement, and until evidence of government workers’ desperation spread across the internet. We’ve seen copies of letters warning that rent was due in full — today in one case — regardless of the government shutdown, or eviction would begin. We’ve seen posts about food banks for federal law enforcement employees.

And now they want to add DACA and TPS hostages to this equation.

This doesn’t look like good faith negotiation to me. It looks more like an attempt to heighten tensions against immigrants, particularly undocumented immigrants.

No matter what terms Team Trump offers, George Lakoff is right:

Is it really too much to ask for a president and Senate Majority Leader to simply do the right thing by the country and reopen the government without fueling more  political conflict?


Into Shutdown Day 28: Is the GOP Senate Obstructing Justice?

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

As we roll through the afternoon into the 28th day of the longest-ever government shutdown, let’s revisit Senator Amy Klobuchar’s questions to Attorney General nominee Bill Barr before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.

She asked him about his opinion on obstruction of justice. Barr discussed in his June 2018 memo addressed to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Assistant Attorney General Steve Engel, focusing on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s “‘Obstruction’ Theory.”

Four key points give pause:

  • Deliberately impaired integrity or availability of evidence;
  • Knowing destruction or alteration of evidence;
  • Ordering witness/es not to cooperate with investigation;
  • Misleading statements to conceal purposes.

Klobuchar asked Barr about each of these during the hearing:

(3:17) KLOBUCHAR: You wrote on page one that a president persuading a person to commit perjury would be obstruction. Is that right?

BARR: Yes.

KLOBUCHAR: Okay.

BARR: Or any, any, well, you know, or any person who persuades another, yeah.

(3:31) KLOBUCHAR: Okay. You also said that a president or any person convincing a witness to change testimony would be obstruction. Is that right?

BARR: Yes.

KLOBUCHAR: Okay.

(3:42) KLOBUCHAR: And on page 2 you said that a president deliberately impairing the integrity or availability of evidence would be an instruction*. Is that correct?

BARR: Yes.

KLOBUCHAR: Okay, and um, so what if the president told the witness not to cooperate with an investigation, or hinted at a pardon?

BARR: You know, I, I’d have to know the specific, I’d have to know the specific facts.

(4:03) KLOBUCHAR: And you wrote on page one that if a president knowingly destroys or alters evidence, that would be obstruction.

BARR: Yes.

(4:13) KLOBUCHAR: Okay. Um, so what if a president drafted a misleading statement to conceal the purpose of a meeting. Would that be obstruction?

BARR: Again, you know the, I’d have to know the, I’d have to know the specifics.

KLOBUCHAR: All right.

(* Not clear if she said “instruction” or “obstruction”; she was referring to the discussion obstruction in Barr’s memo.)

So what does this have to do with the shutdown? Regardless of the genesis and distribution of Barr’s memo or his opinion, these forms of obstruction are exactly what the government shutdown accomplishes.

Evidence to be gathered by and from some government resources may be limited by the furlough. IRS staff, for example, may have been called back to handle refunds but are there IRS staff on duty who may respond to subpoenas for tax returns? What of so-called “non-essential” personnel who might handle document requests in other departments? Have furloughed federal employees who are not yet called back indirectly ordered not to cooperate with investigations by virtue of their locked out status?

We already know that Trump avoided creating and processing records of his discussions with Putin, a likely violation of the Presidential Records Act. Has he further destroyed or altered evidence subject to the PRA but prevented staff responsible for handling and recovering destroyed/altered evidence from doing so with the shutdown? (Recall the archivist-records managers who had been taping together Trump’s documents but were fired by second quarter 2018.)

Has the demand for the wall itself, in any statements or writings demanding this wall, been an attempt to conceal the true intent of the shutdown as an act of obstruction? Recall how upset Trump was with Mick Mulvaney when Mulvaney tried to offer a number lower than Trump’s demanded $5.7B and higher than House Democrat’s offered $1.3B; Trump yelled at him in front of members of Congress and told him, “You just fucked it up!

Was it not the wall’s funding but obstruction by shutdown Mulvaney interfered with by trying to offer a means to reopen the government?

If there is any doubt at all about these points, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is obligated to permit bills through which would end the shutdown or at least extend temporary funding, so that obstruction by shutdown is at an end.

The GOP Senate caucus is likewise obligated to take measures to end the shutdown, including replacement of their Senate Majority Leader if he continues to obstruct government’s operation.

Neither McConnell nor the GOP Senate caucus appear to be acting in good faith about this shutdown. At least Mulvaney made a reasonable, good faith effort before being sworn at and shot down by Trump.

If we thought the GOP Senate was compromised before by Russian-furnished NRA money, they deepen their compromise by refusing to address the obstructive shutdown. Is their “lack of alarm” about the lengthening shutdown due not to their ideology but their resignation to this obstruction?

Why is Mitch McConnell still Senate Majority Leader at this point? Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott was asked to step down for supporting a noted racist, and McConnell know this because he was instrumental to Lott’s removal.

Why is the GOP Senate aiding and abetting this obstruction of justice at scale?

#WhyMitch

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121


On the Matter of Mitch: Perhaps Not Where but Why

Yesterday morning frosh congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted about the government shutdown :

(Red arrow mine.)

This tweet may have prefaced the viral search that followed for the current Senate Majority Leader, earmarked with the hashtagged question, #WheresMitch.

If you search that hashtag in Twitter you will see the House freshmen and quite a few more senior representatives made the best of McConnell’s continued obstructionism by avoidance, with tweeted photos of them looking for him beginning in early afternoon.

Meanwhile, federal employees struggle to make ends meet, possibly facing eviction in two weeks if they don’t receive a paycheck by then. Senate bill S.24 passed yesterday, ensuring back pay for federal employees once the government is reopened. Though it won’t fix the damage to fed employees entirely, it’s the right thing to do.

It does nothing for federal contractors and subcontractors, many of whom are the lowest paid personnel performing work like sanitation.

And some of these folks are surely Mitch McConnell’s constituents, along with the rest of nearly 60,000 Kentuckyians who are federal employees and active military relying on federal services.

As I shared last week, a friend who owns a small construction business is affected by the shutdown even though they aren’t directly employed by the government. So too every one of those more than 60,000 Kentuckyians directly affected has several shadow counterparts affected indirectly by the shutdown. Like daycare providers, local grocery and retail stores, automotive mechanics, so on, all losing a percentage of their income from the shutdown.

In the case of those serving federal contract employees, they won’t make that income back. And they will be hurting for some time to come, making it difficult to forget this willfully inflicted damage before 2020’s general election. All these federal employees, active military, and contractors as well as their local businesspersons aren’t uniformly Democrats; this is Kentucky we’re talking about, a state which would elect a Republican like McConnell to the Senate in the first place.

It seems odd that McConnell, who polled last week with an improved (ha!) 38% approval rating, would cling so desperately to the shutdown when it looks like he’ll run for re-election. But his polling numbers ticked upward last year when he clung to Trump, providing a likely explanation for his entrenchment.

McConnell hasn’t yet come to grips with Trumpism’s limits. If the Special Counsel’s Office shows Trump and his closest advisers in his campaign and administration have violated multiple laws, will McConnell cling to the appearance of criminality, too?

Because we all know it’s not really if but when the Special Counsel’s Office indicts persons close to the president, the question becomes not Where’s Mitch? but Why, Mitch?

Why would anyone with half a brain screw over enough of their own constituents to populate a city the size of Lexington, Kentucky, and go on believing they just have to stand by their man Trump to win re-election?

And perhaps the question isn’t Why, Mitch? but Why Mitch? This shutdown will have the same impact on all 50 states, affecting the constituents of every senator including the 21 Class II states. Why are the GOP senators allowing McConnell to continue as Senate Majority Leader?

Especially when McConnell seems just a little too smug and too invested in the role over doing his primary job by his Kentucky constituents and the nation.

Why Mitch? Why not another GOP senator for Majority Leader?

#WhyMitch

 

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

(Treat this as an open thread.)


The Lady (Trump’s Tantrum) or the Tiger (GOP Senators Get Spines) [UPDATE-2]

[NB: Hey. Byline above — check it. Updates at bottom of post. /~Rayne]

It’s Day 25 into the longest ever government shutdown.

Those idiot right-wing anarchists — there’s nothing liber in this libertarian extreme —want to shrink government to fit a Norquistian bathtub. They don’t want to give up their hold on this sodden pipe dream nor relinquish their addiction to anti-government propaganda.

Which means Americans are going to die. It’s just a matter of time.

Did you know the U.S. suffers 48,000,000 cases of foodborne sicknesses a year, resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths in an average year WHEN WE HAVE A WORKING USDA FOOD INSPECTION SYSTEM?

Gee, I wonder what that experience rate does to the cost of health care?

And I wonder what happens when food inspections stop? We’re finding out right now.

Hey, remember that annoying little problem with a mosquito-borne disease that causes anacephalic birth defects and is responsible for cases of Guillain-Barre in adults?

What happens when the CDC stops tracking it because the CDC is closed? Better remember to pack bug spray if you’ve booked a vacation someplace warm.

Oh, you’re going to fly, though. What happens if the TSA and air traffic controllers quit because they’ve had to get other jobs to pay the bills?

Will you get on a plane anyhow and take your chances the planes will dodge each other and simply cross your fingers that you’re not a casualty?

Even your trip across town could be fraught with peril if you rely on your smartphone to assist your navigation. A remotely-performed adjustment to phone magnetometers used by mapping apps didn’t take place Tuesday because NASA was shutdown. (Hope the Defense Department doesn’t need any highly accurate location services.)

That’s where we’re at right now. We don’t have food inspections. We don’t have disease monitoring. We are perilously close to having no border security at each airport and no air traffic controllers. We can’t be sure automated navigation systems work.

And now the Coast Guard is now going without pay. How will that effect border security on the water? What are the chances deaths on the water will increase because search and rescue will soon be affected?

This is just the tip of the iceberg. We are on the edge of a nationwide meltdown.

This is the result of Trump’s tantrum, demanding an unpopular border wall while irrationally weakening other points of entry to get it.

This is the result of his enabler, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who as Trump’s favorite troll refuses to let any bill pass to reopen the government, who also refuses to consider a veto override to get past Trump’s tantrum.

This is Door Number One, the Lady of increasing chaos.

Now let’s look at the Tiger.

A “couple Republican lawmakers” implied if federal employees working without pay at airports walked out that the Senate would be forced to resolve this mounting self-inflicted crisis by re-opening government.

But that’s not a new option — that’s exactly what’s already slowly happening at the airports. People can’t afford the government’s illegal demand that they work without a paycheck. They are slowly leaking away to new jobs when they aren’t filing for unemployment. It’s only a matter of time before Americans are infuriated about the collapse of air travel.

This is still the Lady scenario.

The Tiger is Door Number Two, a new and different solution.

The bottleneck to reopening government is really only one man since the president cannot tell Congress what to do. The one man refusing to move any bills to fund and reopen the government is Mitch McConnell, who doesn’t seem to care much that he’s helping Trump hurt his own Kentucky constituents.

The option is to remove him as Senate Majority Leader, replacing him with another GOP senator willing to reopen the government and return to negotiations with the House on bills that are in stasis. Why a new Majority Leader who organized this and pulled it off would look like a hero to the public — handy if they were running for re-election in 2020 or for the presidency in 2024.

This option will take a majority of the 53 GOP senators to do so — at least 28 senators who can open their eyes and see the enormity of the threat caused by the shutdown, recognize their compromised status is already visible to the public and accept they must do the right thing in spite of being compromised.

19 Class II senators up for reelection, two who’ve announced their impending retirements, another senator who’s up for a special election, and six more GOP senators could collaborate and get this done. Perhaps some of the brave ones who aren’t caving in to Putin’s demands to end sanctions. Maybe a single brave one starts by taking on John McCain’s maverick-y mantle to ask for the leadership role.

They might even salvage their own impending races with a little distance from Trump instead of tying their cred to a less-than-happy 37% presidential approval rating.

There’s the Tiger, ready to be freed from its cage to resolve this mess.

So what’s your pick, GOP senators? Which door?

The one with the Lady or the one with the Tiger?

UPDATE — 3:30 PM EDT —

David Frum tweeted:

As if this was a binary situation, only these highly polarized options available. Clearly the GOP Senate could provide a third option by throwing McConnell under the bus, voting in a new Majority Leader, and allowing a vote on extended funding at a minimum. GOP still looks like it’s in control, workers can go back to their jobs, Democrats will accept this, and Trump doesn’t have to double down.

Let’s see if the GOP Senate is smart enough to come to this conclusion, though. They are awfully busy indulging in a lot of stupid, though.

Right now they are lamely engaged in virtue signaling about abortion. Seems McConnell can manage to allow a redundant, unnecessary bill to go to the floor — S.109, a bill to prohibit taxpayer funded abortions.

Yes, we’ve already had the Hyde Amendment on the books since 1976.

But I guess McConnell needs to look like he’s doing something useful for the paycheck he’s still hauling down while TSA workers are going to food pantries.

The 2019 Women’s March this Saturday has also rattled some of these soft-handed slack-assed functionaries; making idle fapping gestures about abortion must be their method of exorcising teh wimmen before they take to the streets.

You may want to call your senators about this bill and express your displeasure that they’re ignoring the threat to American lives the ongoing shutdown poses.

Oh, and maybe suggest they need a new Majority Leader if your senator(s) are Republicans.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

UPDATE — 7:00 PM EDT —

Tweet by Matt McDermott:

Yeah, about that…why is it the one guy who has continuously said “Nyet!” to every bill which would reopen government is still getting a pass by the media?

Have the media bought into McConnell as some omniscient political genius instead of a co-conspirator obstructing government including the operations of DOJ/FBI and the courts?


The Shutdown, Day 23: An Apology, A Prod, and a Call

[NB: You know the drill. Check the byline. /~Rayne]

First, an apology.

The government shutdown is personal; I have a lifelong friend who works for a federal agency and I have another friend who isn’t employed by the government. They are both hurting.

The first is a single woman ten years away from retirement; she’s raised a son, providing most of his support over the years at the expense of saving for retirement.

The other woman co-owns a small construction company with her spouse, specializing in home repairs and remodeling. She has several kids in school right now who are nickel-and-diming her to death with fairly typical needs — like AP tests and sports fees, uniforms, and equipment, essential if a kid has been working toward a sport scholarship. (Yes, children are yet again being punished for Trump’s and GOP Senate’s willful intransigence.)

Friend 1 doesn’t have a paycheck now. I think she’ll manage through the end of the month but then what? Tap into her IRA and draw down only to face a penalty later while losing the benefit of gains on her investment? How does she juggle trying to save for retirement, paying for her medications, keeping a roof over her head and her car in good order, while not getting too stressed out and making her blood pressure worse?

Friend 2 has now lost two construction contracts this month because they were small jobs for government employees who have been forced to cancel them. Her family counted on those contracts to get them through the slowest portion of the construction year. They don’t have a lot of reserves to draw on because they have a small business they need to finance and well, kids. Children are expensive, from diapers to college application fees and textbooks. God help them if any family member gets sick.

I am so very sorry, friends and friends I haven’t yet met. I can hear your stress; I know you want to work and you don’t want to be forced to take desperate measures to stay afloat. I wish you didn’t have to go through this wholly unnecessary and utterly unfair bullshit. I hope that writing this and other posts asking fellow voters to call their senators will help. Again, I am so very sorry.

Next, a prod.

I know many of the furloughed government employees are dealing with stressful first time experiences, like calling landlords and creditors to work out payment. Many of them feel great shame about this.

It’s not you. It’s not your fault. It’s about us, the rest of us. It’s about the Senate and Trump. Please don’t take the shame on your shoulders — you have enough to bear already.

Tell your landlord and creditors openly you’re a government employee or reliant on government employees. You’re not alone in this and they are surely hearing it from others.

My prod to members of Congress and to their constituents: government employees need some sort of tax credit or waiver of penalty if they have to draw down from their 401K or IRAs to pay the bills. Can we get something like this submitted promptly, please? Can we get behind it?

My prod to our community: if you can afford it, make a donation to a local food pantry. Many government employees have been forced to get help for themselves and their families. Ask around for other local opportunities to help since federal employees can’t take tips or other forms of remuneration. Local union offices may be able to help direct your contributions.

Finally, a call.

Make one. Make several. Call your senators regardless of their party affiliation and tell them 1) we need the government reopened, and 2) we still don’t need the “fucken wall.” This shutdown is not only hurting our government employees but it is wasting our tax dollars. We have pissed away on this shutdown any money which could have been spent on increased border security.

A constituent in Illinois said Senators Duckworth and Durbin have been getting more phone calls from the build-the-wall faction than the reopen-government-no-wall faction. This is probably due to the assumption that the Democrats are going to do the right thing and vote against the wall but for reopening government; we should no longer make that assumption given how desperate things are for many furloughed workers. Call your senators first, then call your rep (House has already voted along party lines for reopening government and against the requested wall funding). Recruit friends and family members to make calls as well.

If you have a GOP senator, ask them to work with other GOP senators to remove Mitch McConnell as Senate Majority Leader because his failure to bring both bills to reopen government and wall funding aids and abets President Trump’s obstruction of justice by interfering with Department of Justice and federal court operations.

It’s been done before; Trent Lott was forced to resign as Senate Majority Leader. (It’d be karmic payback considering how helpful McConnell was with Lott’s departure.)

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

Treat this as an open thread.


A Less Obvious Question about NYT’s Reporting on Trump-Russia

[NB: As always, check the byline. /~R.]

Over the last several years, one thing has bothered me about The New York Times, something not immediately obvious in these related pieces of what may be the most important work the paper published since the early 2000s and the Iraq War. By “important” I don’t mean effective, nor do I mean constructive.

October 31, 2016

Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia
POLITICS By Eric Lichtblau and Steven Lee Myers

WASHINGTON — For much of the summer, the F.B.I. pursued a widening investigation into a Russian role in the American presidential campaign. Agents scrutinized advisers close to Donald J. Trump, looked for financial connections with Russian financial figures, searched for those involved in hacking the computers of Democrats, and even chased a lead — which they ultimately came to doubt — about a possible secret channel of email communication from the Trump Organization to a Russian bank.

Law enforcement officials say that none of the investigations so far have found any conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government. And even the hacking into Democratic emails, F.B.I. and intelligence officials now believe, was aimed at disrupting the presidential election rather than electing Mr. Trump. …

January 20, 2017

Trump, Russia, and the News Story That Wasn’t
PUBLIC EDITOR By Liz Spayd

LATE September was a frantic period for New York Times reporters covering the country’s secretive national security apparatus. Working sources at the F.B.I., the C.I.A., Capitol Hill and various intelligence agencies, the team chased several bizarre but provocative leads that, if true, could upend the presidential race. The most serious question raised by the material was this: Did a covert connection exist between Donald Trump and Russian officials trying to influence an American election?

One vein of reporting centered on a possible channel of communication between a Trump organization computer server and a Russian bank with ties to Vladimir Putin. Another source was offering The Times salacious material describing an odd cross-continental dance between Trump and Moscow. The most damning claim was that Trump was aware of Russia’s efforts to hack Democratic computers, an allegation with implications of treason. Reporters Eric Lichtblau and Steven Lee Myers led the effort, aided by others. …

May 16, 2018

Code Name Crossfire Hurricane: The Secret Origins of the Trump Investigation
POLITICS By Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman and Nicholas Fandos

WASHINGTON — Within hours of opening an investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia in the summer of 2016, the F.B.I. dispatched a pair of agents to London on a mission so secretive that all but a handful of officials were kept in the dark.

Their assignment, which has not been previously reported, was to meet the Australian ambassador, who had evidence that one of Donald J. Trump’s advisers knew in advance about Russian election meddling. After tense deliberations between Washington and Canberra, top Australian officials broke with diplomatic protocol and allowed the ambassador, Alexander Downer, to sit for an F.B.I. interview to describe his meeting with the campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos.

The agents summarized their highly unusual interview and sent word to Washington on Aug. 2, 2016, two days after the investigation was opened. Their report helped provide the foundation for a case that, a year ago Thursday, became the special counsel investigation. But at the time, a small group of F.B.I. officials knew it by its code name: Crossfire Hurricane. …

January 11, 2019

F.B.I. Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia
POLITICS By Adam Goldman, Michael S. Schmidt and Nicholas Fandos

WASHINGTON — In the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests, according to former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation.

The inquiry carried explosive implications. Counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether the president’s own actions constituted a possible threat to national security. Agents also sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.

The investigation the F.B.I. opened into Mr. Trump also had a criminal aspect, which has long been publicly known: whether his firing of Mr. Comey constituted obstruction of justice. …

I can’t help wondering what NYT’s former former executive editor Jill Abramson would have done in 2016 when presented with a draft of what would become the October 31st article.

I can’t help wondering yet again, a handful of years later, what the real reasons were that Abramson was fired in May 2014 — during a mid-term election year — after a mere 32 months in that role. Her predecessor Bill Keller had been in that same role for eight years.

Admittedly, I don’t think much of current executive editor Dean Baquet‘s decisions, and not just about this particular story arc. But it’s this arc which really gives me pause about NYT’s editorial management, as does the irrational amount of coverage the NYT focused during the 2016 campaign season on Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Did we end up with this mess because a traditional media company had difficulty with a woman’s editorial management style? Or because she might be sympathetic to women running for public office?

You’ve got a lot to say about the NYT’s reporting on this topic. Go for it.


Stays: Another Reason for the Shutdown?

[NB: check the byline.]

This is a very short post; I needed to put something up here after this popped up in my Twitter feed:

Link to the stay.

This is the suit filed by three senators (Blumenthal, Whitehouse, Hirono) against Trump and Matthew Whitaker with regard to Whitaker acting as attorney general (Blumenthal et al. v. Trump 1:18-cv-02664).

Excerpt:

1. Plaintiffs are three Senators who brought this suit alleging that the President’s appointment of Mr. Whitaker as Acting Attorney General violates the Appointments Clause of the Constitution, U.S. Const. art. II, § 2, cl. 2. The U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia was served on November 26, 2018, and Defendants’ answer or other response to the Complaint is currently due on January 25, 2018. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(a)(2).

The plaintiffs have already filed a memorandum in opposition.

Given Whitaker’s purported current role in the Department of Justice, acting as attorney general after Jeff Session’s departure, how is this requested stay attributed to the government shutdown not an attempt to obstruct justice in any investigation in which Trump is a defendant, target, or subject?

We’re looking at you, GOP Senate, especially Mitch McConnell. Are you part of the obstruction, too?

Treat this as an open thread.


21 People with the Power to Stop the Madness [UPDATE-2]

[NB: I should write a script to auto-embed a reminder to check the byline. Update is at the bottom. / ~Rayne]

Over the past couple of weeks a number of uninformed but angry people have gone off on social media about the Democrats not impeaching Trump already — the 116th Congress only took their oaths last week, one House race in North Carolina remains undecided, and yet impeachment is supposed to have been launched and Trump marched into the sunset surf at Mar-a-Lago.

The stream of problems emanating from the White House will not be resolved by impeachment. It is NOT the end-all-be-all solution.

Impeachment AND removal from office stems the biggest problem, and it’s not on the House Democrats alone.

Read the Constitution: the House impeaches, the Senate convicts and removes.

Article 1, Section 2
…The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

Article 1, Section 3
The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

Impeachment alone is merely a political slap on the hands, just an upgraded form of censure to be borne out in public through House debate and vote. After hearings beginning in the lame duck session of 1998, former president Bill Clinton was impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate in early 1999, remaining in office to serve out his term. By itself, impeachment will not stop a lifelong scofflaw like Trump and may fuel negative sentiment whipping the Trumpian base into a frenzy by the 2020 general election.

Which brings us to the key challenge know-nothings have ignored while they pule about the Democrats ‘failing’ to impeach Trump already: the Senate remains under GOP control. Try complaining about the GOP Senate caucus’ moral and ethical intransigence for a change; of the current 53 GOP senators there are 21 who are most vulnerable to this charge yet have the power to make constructive change happen.

This map tells you which senators are the linchpins to removal:

These are the 21 states Class II GOP senators represent; these are GOP seats that are up re-election in 2020 or will be open, as in the case of Kansas’ Pat Roberts who will retire at the end of his term. These senators are the ones who should be held accountable at the polls if they do not restrain an out-of-control White House. They represent the votes necessary to convict and remove Trump, let alone votes to approve bills reopening government and override a veto (assuming two-thirds of the House would likewise support a veto override). Here are their names to make it easier to identify your GOP Class II senator if you have one:

Dan Sullivan (AK)

Tom Cotton (AR)

Cory Gardner (CO)

David Perdue (GA)

Jim Risch (ID)

Joni Ernst (IA)

Pat Roberts (KS) retiring

Mitch McConnell (KY)

Bill Cassidy (LA)

Susan Collins (ME)

Cindy Hyde-Smith (MS)

Steve Daines (MT)

Ben Sasse (NE)

Thom Tillis (NC)

Jim Inhofe (OK)

Lindsay Graham (SC)

Mike Rounds (SD)

Lamar Alexander (TN) retiring

John Cornyn (TX)

Shelley Moore Capito (WV)

Mike Enzi (WY)

These folks should be squirming already — at least those who must fly home should be. Imagine them needing to fly to their respective states having failed to reopen and fund government services like TSA security staffers and air traffic controllers.

This may explain in part why three of the senators who are among those who must fly the farthest from Washington DC are leaning toward reopening the government — that’s Lisa Murkowski (AK), Cory Gardner (CO), and Susan Collins (ME). They’re vulnerable in an entirely different way because the government shutdown is a bigger threat personally and professionally than Trump’s possible impeachment and removal.

With 66 total senators required to make up the two-thirds necessary for conviction and removal, the 18 remaining Class II GOP senators combined with Democrats and Independents provide the number needed with a little extra in case of a late flip-flop.

You know what to do: Congressional switchboard (202) 224-3121

Need a script? Celeste P. has you covered.

Yes, press them first on the government shutdown; addressing the shutdown’s damage to Americans’ livelihoods, safety, and security is a far more immediate need. A senator who doesn’t think Trump’s self-created crisis and corresponding shutdown must be stopped should be identified as vulnerable in 2020.

If these senators are persuadable on the shutdown, they may be persuadable on the question of conviction and removal of the president. (If they aren’t they’re probably co-conspirators and in need of investigation.)

If you call your GOP senator, feel free to share feedback from the call here. Let’s keep track of the Class II folks who really need a primary or a strong opponent in 2020.

UPDATE — 4:45 PM —

There may be 21 Class II senators who need to be nudged but one of them is in particular need of a political boot in his slackness.

McConnell walked into his office after leaving the Senate floor, where he objected to the Democratic request to re-open the government.

 

“I think the way out has been apparent for several weeks,” he told reporters. “It requires an agreement between a Democratic House, the Democrats in the Senate and the President.”

 

After the meeting broke up, members were fairly tight-lipped about any details. Some described what they were working on as a “framework” or “skeleton” they were trying to fill in.

 

“We’ve got a skeleton we’re trying to flesh out. It’s going to take work,” Tillis told reporters. (source: CNN)

Mitch McConnell is the primary gatekeeper enforcing the president’s unnecessary and unpopular wall; he’s the key hurdle between a continuing government shutdown and a return to order.

Sadly, McConnell’s refusal hurts his constituents directly — he’s literally telling them to fuck off and in some cases, die already.

— As of June 2017, there were 36,719 Kentuckyians who were employed by the federal government (source: Governing.com [from cached copy]);

— As of June 2017, there were 33,219 Kentuckyians who were active duty military relying on government services;

— As of 2017, there were 4.4 million Kentuckyians who relied in some way on food inspections because safe food nourished them, their family, friends, co-workers, or people in their communities on whom they depended in some way;

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. As an example, every federal employee who also relies on childcare but can’t pay for childcare because they are now unpaid may also lose their childcare provider. Providers require their services to be paid in cash even if the child isn’t there or their slot is freed up. Providers are also small business owners; they can’t afford massive cuts to their income and must find other revenue sources if they aren’t paid. It’s a major nuisance to find alternative, affordable, safe childcare, not to mention the expense to families.

With nearly 50% of Americans unable to scrape up $400 cash for an emergency, you can bet many of Kentucky’s federal employees have already blown through their reserves. Their inability to pay for goods and services will have a ripple effect throughout their communities — just like childcare providers, other business owners can’t afford cuts to their income stream.

The “fucken wall” only protects those who need the public to be distracted from investigations. One much needed investigation is the possible effect of foreign influence on members of Congress and their campaigns — including Mitch McConnell. His refusal to reopen and fund government including DOJ and FBI functions could be a means to prevent any investigation which might look into his own campaign donations.

Think about it: after the Citizens United decision in 2010, the NRA changed its donation pattern substantially from 2010 to 2012 to help pro-gun rights candidates.

Guess who received the 14th highest amount of gun rights contributions ($135,350) and the 6th highest amount of contributions from outside support for gun rights ($771,175)? Yup, McConnell brought in that much between 1989-2018 that we know of.

How much Congressional campaign money, including donations to McConnell, might have been laundered Russian contributions? Has the active investigation into accused Russian spy Maria Butina uncovered this figure? Has this investigation been affected by the shutdown?

Is this a personal reason why McConnell is so doggedly protecting Trump’s “fucken wall” in spite of the damage the corresponding government shutdown is doing to his own constituents and to the nation?

Sure hope Kentuckyians know to use the Congressional switchboard number (202) 224-3121 — assuming that hasn’t been defunded yet.

UPDATE — 12:40 AM 11-JAN-2019 —

Give me a “fucken” break with this bullshit:

President Donald Trump gave an Oval Office address and headed to the border. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have been holding regular press conferences to rebut him.

But when the shutdown ends, it will likely be the handiwork of the leader who’s stayed offsides: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

On Thursday, McConnell summoned a handful of fellow Republicans to his ornate offices to brainstorm a solution. The group, which included Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Rob Portman, dispatched Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby to give Vice President Mike Pence what aides described as a “skeleton” of a plan to re-open government and return to paying 800,000 federal workers.

“We aren’t there yet,” cautioned a top Senate Republican aide. They didn’t get there, either.

Handiwork my eye. Show me where McConnell did a goddamn thing except for the summoning. This entire article was a piece of fluff designed to puff up the soft-handed, wattle-necked waste of Kentuckyians’ votes.

If you live and vote in Kentucky, please, PLEASE call this wretch and tell him to get off his duff — euphemistically called the “sidelines” — and get the government reopened. He needs to find his nuts and tell Trump the wall doesn’t have support; McConnell never had a problem telling the last president to piss up a rope and that president had a helluva lot more support than this one.

McConnell also needs to get on the right side of history. He can torch the rest of his legacy cozying up to a corrupt narcissist or he can try to salvage what history remembers of him by getting a spine and upholding his oath of office instead of sucking up to an un-indicted co-conspirator.


There’s No Crisis at the Border — There’s a Crisis in the White House

[NB: Whoops — forgot to remind readers to check the byline. This is the other pottymouth broad./ ~R]

Reports say that Vice President Pence and DHS Secretary Nielsen have been laying the groundwork for Trump’s speech tonight in which he is expected to complain about House Speaker Pelosi, Democrats, and the lack of funding for the goddamn wall he claimed Mexico would pay for while he campaigned in 2016. The word “crisis” was used 36 times.

Yet there’s no crisis at the border.

The State Department hasn’t published any documents or statements over the last two years indicating there was a crisis.

While talking about Trump’s speech today, Secretary of State Pompeo laughed — not exactly an indicator of crisis.

Bad numbers have been thrown around over the last couple of weeks, claiming that 4000 terrorists have been stopped at the border. Untrue: the number is somewhere between six and 12, and the designation “terrorist” is as specific as the No-Fly List. This means persons whose names match individuals who are under suspicion for political reasons — like musician Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens — may be the entirety of the 6-12 individuals stopped at the border. Hardly a crisis.

Secretary Nielsen can’t answer questions put to her by Congress about refugees at the southern border without prevarication; she can’t even say how many people, adults or children, have died in U.S. custody. Seems like a cabinet member would have accurate numbers at their finger tips in a genuine crisis.

That a handful of questionable individuals were halted at the border suggests the current system works. Not a crisis.

If funding has been the problem and the theater of angrily shutting down the government was intended to force funding approval, why didn’t the GOP fund it while they had a majority in the House? Why didn’t they fund it when they were in lame duck? Why didn’t they make a point of knocking down the massive tax cut by enough to fund the “fucken wall“?

If aliens breaching the border is a crisis, why were government services including border security shuttered at all instead of finding an alternative method for funding the wall?

And if aliens crossing into the U.S. was such an emergency, why did Trump’s campaign fund a broadcast TV ad placed during CBS’ 60 Minutes this past Sunday night, bashing Pelosi and the Democrats about wall funding?

Because the border hasn’t been and still isn’t a crisis; it’s a distraction from other issues Trump doesn’t want his base to notice. Because it’s a campaign issue that worked in 2016 with the same base eager to lap up his brand of white nationalist hate.

But you know what is a crisis?

Tens of thousands of Americans are dying every year from opioids and Trump has done dick-doodley-squat to work with Congress to shut down opioids. Oh, he’s talked about it? Great — a lot of useless hot air and fapping gestures made as Americans’ bodies pile up.

[Graphic: StatNews – note deaths from opioid variants]

At least 42,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2016. But no speech tonight about this real crisis.

Another crisis: the cost of insulin. People who can’t afford the outrageous prices are risking permanent disability and death by rationing their use below prescribed levels. Worse yet, some government employees, contractors, and their families may be going without insulin right now because they can’t afford it while they are going unpaid. Trump is courting Americans’ deaths for the manufactured wall crisis.

Another crisis being swept under the rug: the government’s gross negligence in responding to Hurricane Maria, resulting in thousands of Americans deaths, and the continued abdication of leadership on climate change, contributing to deadly conditions like California’s wildfires resulting in at least 100 deaths. Who is being held accountable for these fatalities as they mount? How many will die during the next climate change-caused catastrophe?

Who is being held accountable for all the other real crises, like multiple corrupt cabinet members, the collapse of ethics in the White House, the mounting risks to national security posed by officials handling sensitive matters without adequate clearance, or the loss of trust in the U.S. among allies whose relationships have been devalued?

There’s no crisis at the border, but there is a crisis. This country is lead by a lying malignant narcissist who can’t see anyone or anything except for himself; he refuses to accept responsibility and accountability. He is incapable of admitting failure, particularly his failure to uphold his oath of office. He swore to faithfully execute the laws but his manufactured border crisis ignores this very simple and straightforward one:

8 U.S. Code § 1158 – Asylum
(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.

His trash talk bashing the press also violates the First Amendment of the Constitution, which he swore to uphold and defend.

There’s a crisis when broadcast media corporations — after refusing twice to allow the first black president to address the nation on immigration — have allowed themselves to be bullied in to airing pure propaganda.

The networks have in these decisions breached the contract they have as licensed broadcasters, obligated to serve the public interest; they do so with great bias for a man who is a noted racist, having shut out the only president of color on the same issue of immigration. They do so after Trump has encouraged violence against media and elected officials by calling them enemies of state, ultimately resulting in mass bomb and shooting threats.

These media outlets also ignore history — very specific history Trump knows quite well, having read Hitler’s speeches and understanding the aims of Germany’s 1933 emergency Reichstag Fire Decree and Enabling Act — by giving Trump a platform for untruths, defamatory content, and near incitement, none of which serves the public interests.

Lastly, the press also gives preference to an extortive demand for funding labeled by Trump as a crisis — neatly fulfilling Trump’s claim of fake news media — when the only genuine emergency at the border is two-fold: the ongoing violations of U.N. treaties on refugees and human rights, resulting in the deaths of children and adults alike, and the suspension of government services which include border security.


Judge Sullivan Was Prepared For Potential Flynn Perjury and Fraud On The Court

Okay, that was quite a morning at the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse in DC in regard to the Flynn plea and sentencing. In the windup this morning, well before the proceeding began, I cautioned that Flynn and his attorney Rob Kelner would have to back off the right wing Fox News Trumpian nonsense they stupidly included in their sentencing memo. See this report from Marcy on the sentencing memo, and this one as to how the FBI 302’s the Flynn team stupidly demanded be made public ate them alive. And, they really did.

There is already simply a ton of discussion on the Flynn proceeding today, I will leave that to others. But there was one little nugget I say from, I think, Glenn Kirshner, as almost a throwaway comment, on MSNBC that Judge Sullivan insisted Mike Flynn be sworn in before proceeding today. I was not really ready to write about this until confirming it from others in the courtroom this morning. I have now received that corroboration from multiple sources. In fact, Judge Sullivan directly said he was doing so because “he was doing basically an extension of the plea colloquy”. Wow!!

This is fairly notable. Defendants get sworn in for their plea allocution, but not their sentencing. Judge Emmet Sullivan was laying in the weeds for Flynn from moment one. To be specific, here is what I said in a tweet well before the sentencing began regarding Flynn and Kelner having included the right wing nonsense about Flynn being innocent and tricked by the FBI in their sentencing memo:

“Keep in mind that this argument, if pursued to success, then makes his plea allocution effectively a fraud on the court.”

Well, apparently Judge Sullivan was on to the problem that such a direct repudiation by Flynn of his underlying guilt, and the previously sworn voluntariness of his plea, would pose if he was stupid enough to continue down that path. Sullivan was ready, because continuing down that path would have directly undermined everything Flynn swore to in his plea allocution on December 1, 2017.

What Judge Sullivan effectively did was set the first real “perjury trap” to date in the greater Mueller investigation (despite the idiocy purveyed relentlessly on Fox News and by Rudy Giuliani). And it was a federal court and judge that did it, not Mueller or his deputies. Emmet Sullivan was loaded for bear today on multiple fronts, but this is one the media does not seem to have caught on to yet.

Flynn and his attorneys were ready for it after the searing followup sentencing memo filed by the government, but clearly were not ready for just how seething Judge Sullivan really was. Frankly, I think the canard, as suggested by Sullivan himself, that “further cooperation” by Flynn really will change the dynamics for sentencing at this point is absurd. That said, assuming they can keep their client from doing further stupid things in the interim, giving Emmet Sullivan 90 days to calm down is not a bad idea for the defense I guess. What a mess. I remain convinced, however, that Flynn could have walked out of court sentenced to probation today if he had not included that right wing Fox News nonsense in his sentencing memo. Oh well!

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Originally Posted @ https://www.emptywheel.net/trump-administration/page/3/