Graphic: Quino Al via Unsplash (mod by Rayne)

Day 34+12H: Ermahgerd, an Ermahgency

[NB: As you can see from the byline, you can blame me and not Marcy./~Rayne]

Brace yourselves, kiddies, there’s still more roller coaster ahead. On the agenda besides Roger Stone’s indictment:

— Another day into the shutdown, and a second pay period without a paycheck for furloughed federal workers, contractors, and those employees forced back to work without pay. FAA has already closed LaGuardia (LGA) airport to inbound flights due to a staff shortage and Reagan National (DCA), Newark Liberty International (EWR), Philadelphia Intl (PHL) and Tampa Intl (TPA) are now getting backed up heavily.

— One lone asshole, GOP state house delegate Mark Cole, is going to attempt to stop the state of Virginia from ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment, though his party has already passed the ERA in the state senate. Not clear what status is at this moment, only that the bill is not yet dead. Virginians can take action to boost this bill.

— An anticipated declaration of a state of emergency at the border by Trump in which he is expected to tell the public how he scraped up $7 billion dollars Congress didn’t allocate for a “fucken wall.” May depend on how the cascading effect of the airport shutdown(s) plays out.

Yesterday’s vote in the Senate on both Trump’s POS proposal (voted down ) and the Democrats’ alternate bill (voted down 52-44) showed that more Republican senators preferred the Democratic version over Trumps.

The GOP senators who broke with Trump were:

Lamar Alexander (R-TN) — Class II, retiring at the end of 2020
Susan Collins (R-ME) — Class II, has at least two Democratic opponents waiting
Cory Gardner (R-CO) — Class II
Johnny Isakson (R-GA) — Class III
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) — Class III
Mitt Romney (R-UT) — Class I (least threatened, 2024 re-election)

Recall that Class II senators are up for re-election in 2020. Class III in 2022 and Class I in 2024.

Clearly the GOP caucus is feeling the heat.

McConnell and Schumer are talking — the airport shutdown(s) will also affect their discussion.

Keep the heat on your senators because it’s working if they’re yelling at McConnell. If you’re a Wisconsinite, thank your senator Ron Johnson for pushing McConnell.

We also need to take note of this guy who has plenty of time to develop a track record before re-election in 2024 and yet voted with the GOP now to fund the wall and reopen government.

Joe Manchin (D-WV) — Class I

Party line is No Wall, buddy. Trump wants it badly enough he can negotiate instead of having a tantrum and shutting down government.

West Virginians, I hope you are working hard on grooming a Democratic candidate for a senate primary race. You have about four years.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

This is an open thread. Bring non-Trump-Russia/Special Counsel’s Office comments here.

Photo: Pavan Trikutam via Unsplash

Day 33+11H: Flood the Zone

[NB: Check it ^^^ / ~Rayne]

I don’t have a full post written yet — I will update this post when I have more to say.

What I want to say is this: CALL YOUR SENATORS RIGHT NOW.

Congressional Switchboard: (202) 224-3121

There are only two simple things to tell them:

— Government must be reopened as soon as possible;

— No on the “fucken wall.”

Our nation’s health and security is diminished every moment this unnecessary lockout continues.

Why do you need to call now? Because Mitch McConnell has scheduled a vote for 2:30 p.m. today on Trump’s ‘phony compromise‘ bill.

Right-wing wall proponents (a.k.a. anti-immigrant bigots and faux budget conservatives) have been encouraged to call their senators with a pro-wall message. We must counter this; calls are counted and weighed into consideration.

More later. Just make the call. Share in comments your experience.

Day 32+11H: Trump’s Other Wall

[NB: Byline — check it. /~Rayne]

This post is about a wall. Nope, not about Trump’s narcissistic pipe dream made of steel slats and Fox News-borne ego fluffing.

It’s a wall of GOP senators, so corrupt and craven they will line up against reopening their country’s government while voting to help a country which U.S. intelligence agencies say interfered with the 2016 elections.

They’ll roll over while Americans begin to die from their gross neglect. Federal employees who are diabetics are already having difficulty paying for insulin, a double whammy since the GOP-led Congress has done nothing to deal with extortive insulin pricing. Children affected by the shutdown will begin to go hungry soon if they haven’t already, whether from cuts to school lunches or at home.

There are several groups varying by their corruption and cravenness; I’ve already written about the Class II senators who don’t appear to feel concern about their re-election prospects — yet.

But the second group in need of a swift kick are those who visited Russia on July 4th this past year:

Richard Shelby (AL) — Senate Class III

John Thune (SD) — Senate Class III

John Hoeven (ND) — Senate Class III

Ron Johnson (WI) – Senate Class Class III

John Kennedy (LA) — Senate Class III

John Thune (SD) — Senate Class III

Jerry Moran (KS) — Senate Class III

Steve Daines (MT) — Senate class II

Kay Granger (TX) — Representative

At the top is the senior “spokesperson” for the group; he’s the one quoted most often by the media when asked about this congressional delegation.

At the bottom are two exceptions: Daines is running for re-election for the first time in 2020, and Granger isn’t a senator at all but a House rep from a solidly red congressional district.

Notice the trait most have in common? They’re Class III, which means they will be up for re-election in 2022.

Why the hell did nearly 30% of the Class III GOP senators go to Russia on our most American holiday, one celebrating our independence from an authoritarian monarchy?

Not sending Class I senators who were working on their 2018 mid-term campaigns makes sense, but why not more Class II? These classes are assigned by state according to Constitution’s Article I, Section III; there should have been broader, more random representation on this trip (and certainly not on July 4th).

Here’s my theory: first, this congressional delegation trip was an interview for aid. Not development aid for the U.S. but for their campaigns. I can’t think of a reason why so many Class III senators would have gone together. Thankfully none of them are on the Armed Services or Select Intelligence Committees though Johnson and Young are on the Foreign Policy Committee and Shelby, Hoeven, Moran, and Kennedy are on the Appropriations Committee.

Or is the percentage of links between these senators and these committees relevant in some way?

Daines is an exception — his need is more immediate, and his state is in play based on the data produced by Democratic Senator Jon Tester’s re-election in 2018. Daines may be a proof of concept.

Second, I believe Granger went because Senator John Cornyn hadn’t yet decided whether to run for re-election in 2020. He didn’t announce until September that he would do so. Granger may have been groomed as a candidate for this seat because her congressional district encompassing Fort Worth is solidly red and the GOP probably has a House candidate waiting in the wings. If Beto O’Rourke runs for the Senate again in 2020 as a Democrat, the GOP may have wanted to run a woman against him if Cornyn retired. But now Granger will have to wait for another slot to open. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her run for governor after Greg Abbott finishes his term(s).

There are seven more senators and one representative who are likely to continue to stand pat behind Trump and his Putinist agenda, including his “fucken wall.” They will only change their loyalties if they are called out on their bullshit.

There should be no conditions placed on reopening government. Period. The shutdown has weakened all security including the health and economic welfare of citizens whether federal employees or not.

Trump’s proposal made this weekend is a joke — his personal businesses will benefit from the continued protection of immigrants who work at his resorts while failing to provide any real additional security — and will be shoved in our faces tomorrow as McConnell has scheduled it for a vote.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

If you can help at all, check with local food banks to make donations. There are federal employees who live and/or work in nearly every county. You can also try to pay off outstanding school lunch fees for kids who don’t qualify for the federal school program but have run up their hot lunch charges for lack of funds — just call your local public school system and ask if you can help.

Now is a good time to make small purchases, too, if there’s a previously owned item you’ve put off buying. Federal employees and contractors have been selling all manner of items to raise cash, from clothing to books.

And some have been reduced to selling plasma.

I don’t know how we can come away from this horrible episode in our nation’s history without thinking the GOP has deliberately chosen to harm this country and quite possibly to appease and benefit a hostile country.

Americans’ deaths arising from this shutdown will be on their hands.

The SCO Statement and Why Cohen Should Not Testify Feb. 7

Marcy wrote a great post this morning titled “Peter Carr Speaks“. I agree with almost all of it, if not all of it, but feel compelled to add a couple of things.

As to what the motivation of Carr and Mueller was, it is, at this date, unclear, despite the high handed and dismissive sudden reactive reportage of Devlin Barrett, Zapotsky and Demerjian at WaPo and Ken Dilanian of NBC/MSNBC. They have shown even less sources and credibility than Buzzfeed that they now conveniently and eagerly dismiss. Maybe the Mueller statement is a tad more nuanced and unknown than that.

As to what the target of the Mueller/Carr statement was, when Marcy says:

But I suspect Carr took this step, even more, as a message to SDNY and any other Agents working tangents of this case. Because of the way Mueller is spinning off parts of this case, he has less control over some aspects of it, like Cohen’s plea. And in this specific case (again, presuming I’m right about the SDNY sourcing), Buzzfeed’s sources just jeopardized Mueller’s hard-earned reputation, built over 20 months, for not leaking. By emphasizing in his statement what happened in “the special counsel’s office,” “testimony obtained by this office,” Carr strongly suggests that the people who served as sources had nothing to do with the office.

Yes, this looks almost certain from where I stand. Wasn’t the only aim of Carr’s arrow on behalf of Mueller, but was a rather large one.

Secondly, and since many media outlets and commenters are clacking about how the proof of Trump directly telling Cohen to lie is the end all and be all as to necessity for discussion, that is just wrong.

The record before the Buzzfeed article already established, through signed and accepted court filings, that Cohen indeed lied to Congress with the express intent of supporting the lies Trump was fostering.

That is not in dispute at this point. As to whether Trump personally ordered Cohen to do so, face to face, (and there is still a decent shot of that being true, but we do not know), that is not the end of the discussion legally.

First off, if those around Trump, (think lawyers and family, if not Trump himself), discussed and encouraged Cohen to lie to Congress, that is a huge problem for Trump. Let me remind people of one of the most basic definitional provisions in the criminal code, 18 USC §2:

(a) Whoever commits an offense against the United States or aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures its commission, is punishable as a principal.

(b) Whoever willfully causes an act to be done which if directly performed by him or another would be an offense against the United States, is punishable as a principal.

So,  all of the nonsense by Rudy Guliliani is simply nonsense. That is without even considering conspiracy law and implications thereof.

So, sure, the SCO hit on Buzzfeed hurt the narrative in the press. Did it really hurt the narrative legally? No, not so much.

Lastly, I would like to address the upcoming House Oversight Committee hearing Cohen is scheduled for on February 7. He was voluntarily appearing after restrictions Cummings and the Committee agreed to, purportedly, with Mueller. The ground has changed. Frankly,  I think the hearing this quickly was ill considered and premature grandstanding to start with, but now strikes me as nuts given the changed circumstances after the Buzzfeed piece, SCO brushback and Trump’s direct threats to Cohen’s extended family.

Given the aggressive nature of Trump’s followers, there is a credible threat to Cohen and his family. But, more than that, there is a threat to his credibility and usability as a witness in the future. The ranking member on the House Oversight Committee is the odious Jim Jordan. His other GOP minority members will undoubtedly fall in line to attack Cohen, especially after the vague pushback comment of Carr/Mueller last night. It is set up now as a clown show.

The hearing should either be affirmatively postponed by Cummings or withdrawn from by Cohen personally. There is nowhere near enough good that can come from Cohen’s appearance, and a lot to lose for both him and Mueller given the shitshow that the GOP members will bring to the affair. Cancel that February 7 hearing and testimony. Just do not do it.

[For the record, I originally lodged this as a comment on Marcy’s post, but for unrelated reasons, thought the points about criminal liability and conspiracy needed to be included in a separate post, and did not wish to step on hers at the time.]

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?

Graphic: Quino Al via Unsplash (mod by Rayne)

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.

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