Friday, May 31, 2019

The Clock Slowly Winds Down

Thursday night on Jimmy Kimmel Live, 24-36 hours after Special Counsel Mueller's statement, Pelosi had shifted only slightly. She said

Let me just- because you mentioned several things, why I think the President wants us to impeach him. .......He knows it's not a good idea to impeach but the silver lining for him is that then he believes that he will be exonerated by the United States Senate....And there is a school of thought that says if the Senate acquits you, why bring charges against him the private sector when he's no longer President. So when we go through with our case, it's got to be ironclad.

There is a school of thought also that the perfect is the enemy of the good. The case is never going to be ironclad.

It is also highly unlikely that impeachment and renewal from office- which Pelosi, like most of the country, believes is an action the Senate would not take- inoculates the (ex-) President from being charged and indicted thereafter. As explained here

Only the criminal justice system can impose fines, imprisonment, or a death sentence as punishment for misdeeds committed while in office." In other words, assuming the Fifth Amendment applies to impeachments, the Double Jeopardy Clause cannot be violated when Congress impeaches someone because Congress cannot put the defendant in “jeopardy of life or limb.”

Kimmel asked why Pelosi believes that a Republican Senate, "even if they know that he committed a crime, will side with Donald Trump." Pelosi noted that GOP senators have pledged undying loyalty to the President and "not one of them has spoken up."

It's clear that the GOP has placed country over party. Still, there is solid tactical advantage to the Republican Party not to question the President, just as Pelosi and many other Democrats yet refuse to advocate the impeachment process because they believe it would backfire on the Democratic Party. It may be a little much to expect Republicans to denounce a President of their own Party when the opposing Party, which loathes him as almost any thinking person would, refuses to impose the constitutional remedy.

Until recently, the Speaker would not even concede that the President understands "it's not a good idea to impeach." Still, she maintains "the silver lining for him is that then he believes that he will be exonerated by the United States Senate."

Can we put to bed the notion that President Trump wants the House of Representatives to impeach him?  Donald Trump does not want to run for re-election as an official who has been impeached. Moreover, he fears the testimony that would be taken in the House, testimony that would be televised across the nation, shown on countless newscasts, receive millions of hits on YouTube, and become a Facebook favorite. And no one wants "impeachment" in the first line of his obituary.

It may have been debatable a few days ago. On Thursday, however, Trump gave it all up, labeling "impeachment" a "dirty, filthy, disgusting word." ("Dirty and filthy?" How is your stash of pornography, Donald?)  Donald does not want to be associated with dirty, filthy, and disgusting.

The process of impeachment should not commence merely because the President doesn't want it.  And it is probable (though not as certain as assumed) that following impeachment, the Senate would not convict him. But the President, who can be thrown out of office and still be charged in a criminal court, rationally fears impeachment. Republicans will not speak out until and unless confronted by the  evidence which would be revealed only in the course of the House seeking an indictment.

President Trump, smart enough to have been elected President, and Speaker Pelosi both seem to be stalling for time and trying to run the clock out. However, time can be on the side of only one Party, and it's not the one Nancy Pelosi represents.

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Thursday, May 30, 2019


Following Robert Mueller's statement Wednesday, a few additional Democratic candidates for President have come to the wise policy and political decision.

Senator Cory Booker tweeted "This Administration has continued to stonewall Congress’s oversight. Beginning impeachment proceedings is the only path forward." Former Representative Beto O'Rourke seventeen minutes later chimed in "There must be consequences, accountability, and justice. The only way to ensure that is to begin impeachment proceedings." Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Seth Moulton also came out definitively to start the process.

They have joined three other Democratic aspirants, including Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Julian "don't call me Fidel" Castro,  in advocating initiation of impeachment hearings.

If you noticed two notable names absent, you're paying attention.  Senator Sanders tweeted "Given the reality that we have a president who believes he is above the law, Congress must continue its investigations. If the House Judiciary Committee deems it necessary, I will support their decision to open an impeachment inquiry."

No Democrat, and few Independents, are arguing that Congress drop its investigations. Neither would anyone expect any Democrat, let alone one of its candidates, to oppose the House Judiciary Committee if it decides to open an impeachment inquiry.  More could have been expected of a candidate thought of as bold and candid when he challenged Hillary Clinton in 2016.

More, though, should not have been expected of Joe "fever will have broken" Biden, and he responded in character, with his National Press Secretary remarking
"Elect me and everything will be fine." Biden recognizes the impeachment process as viable if the Administration continues on its path, whatever he considers the path to be, and however long it would have to continue on the "path." Moreover, he does not believe it would be unavoidable, only that it may be unavoidable.

More telling, however, is Biden's fear that no one would "relish" an impeachment process- and that it would "divide" a country which everyone but Joe Biden realizes already is divided.  This is the Judiciary Committee chairperson who backed off in his responsibility to conduct a fair and impartial hearing on the Clarence Thomas nomination, instead smoothing the way for the guy who intimidated Biden by claiming "a high tech lynching of an uppity Negro."

Good ol' Joe feared being divisive. Margaret Carlson nailed it when last year she wrote

The hearings revealed a weakness in Biden that leads him astray periodically: a cloying need to be liked, more by his enemies than his own tribe. His pals Sens. Alan Simpson and Arlen Specter wanted to be done with the spectacle, by which they meant Hill and the other women with their inconvenient accusations. Biden told New York magazine that he’d given his word to then Sen. John Danforth in the gym that he’d use his gavel to make it a very quick hearing. 

In one of the upcoming Democratic presidential debates, the candidates probably will be asked whether they would agree as President not to issue a pardon to Donald Trump.  Suspense should rise as we await Joe Biden answering as most- or all- of them do, or whether he chooses to answer honestly.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

A Punter, Not A Quarterback

A former candidate for the US House of Representatives from Wisconsin, David Yankovich:

But he did not spell it out- and Mueller has chosen not to translate for the American people the Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election. In his statement Wednesday, delivered live from the Department of Justice, on Wednesday, he stated

The indictment (i.e., of Russian intelligence officers) alleges that they used sophisticated cyber-techniques to hack into computers and networks used by the Clinton campaign. They stole private information and then released that information through fake online identities and through the organization WikiLeaks. The releases were designed and timed to interfere with our election and to damage a presidential candidate.

Sorry, no. Mueller could, and should, have made it clear, as in: "the releases were designed and timed to interfere with our election and to damage one presidential candidate, Mrs. Clinton, and to aid the other major candidate, Mr. Trump."

The Special Counsel remarked

And as set forth in the report, after that investigation, if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.

That certainly implies that the President committed a crime. However, if that were Mueller's intent, the Special Counsel could have (accurately) added "instead, we laid out the instances which suggest obstruction of evidence may have occurred."

Disingenuously, Mueller stated that Volume 2 of his report

explains that under long-standing department policy, a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that, too, is prohibited.

It is, presumably, the opinion of Mueller and Attorney General Barr that charging a President with a federal crime is unconstitutional. But notwithstanding Mueller's assertion, it is by no means clear, and no court has ruled on the matter. The memoranda were prepared, first in 1973 during the Nixon impeachment battle, then in 2000 on the heels of the Clinton impeachment, by the Office of Legal Counsel, all of whose deputies are politically appointed. Moreover, according to one former OLC deputy and current Circuit Court Judge, the DOJ is not "presumptively bound"by OLC opinions

And Robert Mueller made it clear Wednesday that he does not intend, even if he appears before a Congressional committee, to put any meat on the bones of a statement which does little more than summarize his report. He is the quarterback who has said "I called the play but if you want me to help you execute it, you're out of your mind."

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Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Roe v. Wade A Catch-22 For Republicans

In 2016, Indiana governor Mike Pence signed a law which in part

banned abortions if the doctor “knows that the pregnant woman is seeking” an abortion “solely” because of the fetus’ sex, race, disability or a handful of other protected traits. As a federal appeals court explained, this law violates “well-established Supreme Court precedent holding that a woman may terminate her pregnancy prior to viability, and that the State may not prohibit a woman from exercising that right for any reason.” Nevertheless, it’s easy to see how a Supreme Court fight over this law could have launched a thousand bad faith attacks accusing abortion supporters of racial genocide.

That fight will not come. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court handed down a brief, unsigned opinion in Box v. Planned Parenthood, which announced that the court will not hear the challenge to Indiana’s ban on selective abortions. The practical effect of this decision is that the lower court’s decision striking down that ban will remain untouched.

Forced-birth advocates were buoyed by the elevation of Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court have passed punitive laws in recent months which they hope will land before the High Court. They

range from Mississippi, Ohio, and Georgia implementing bans on abortion after about 6 weeks, before many women even know they are pregnant, to Alabama passing a bill that would ban nearly all abortions in the state, with no exceptions for pregnancy in case of rape or incest, and make the procedure a felony that could land doctors (but not women) with jail time.

Once upon a time, forced-birthers could legitimately argue that overthrowing Roe v. Wade merely would return the issue of abortion to the states. However, that jig is up, now that, as abortion-rights activist Robin Marty explains

If Roe is overturned, abortion will be a criminal offense in at least 15 states where there is either already a trigger law waiting to put a total abortion ban in place automatically or where the state has signaled a desire to do so once Roe is gone.

Since that controversial court decision in 1973, most Americans generally have thought of abortion as being legal throughout the USA, notwithstanding restrictive laws in some states.  However, if the landmark ruling is overturned, there will be a sharp reaction, energizing some pro-choice advocates and disabusing complacent women of the notion that their bodily autonomy is fairly secure from the state.  Americans generally believe there are too many abortions and support restrictions- but do not want Roe v. Wade overturned.

Alternatively, the Court may choose not to upend Roe. Evangelicals gave their wholehearted support to a candidate who embodies from 0-1 Christ-like virtue(s) but who promised to appoint anti-abortion rights judges to the Supreme Court. Mission accomplished. But if the addition of Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch proves insufficient to overturn abortion rights (particularly if Kavanaugh goes rogue), voter enthusiasm among Republicans will take a big hit. President Trump will ultimately have failed to deliver.

This wouldn't be the first time in recent years that the Supreme Court will have played a major, even determining, role in a presidential election. In 2012, amid broad and deep GOP charges that Barack Obama exercised dictatorial powers by enacting the ACA, the Court ruled (5-4, in a decision written by Chief Justice Roberts) that "Obamacare" was not unconstitutional, hence deflating a prime Republican argument against the President.

Pro-choice activist Robin Marty here explains why rescinding Roe v. Wade might end up benefiting abortion rights activists, albeit with a  significant short-term cost to women.  Moreover, the next round of elections arrives in barely 17 months and a political landscape without Roe protections is one in which Donald J. Trump and more than a few other Republicans would find very inconvenient. It is a car they do not want to catch up with.

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Monday, May 27, 2019

The Peter Strzok Irony

Elizabeth "Liz" Cheney, daughter of the man whotwisted and distorted intelligence to persuade President Bush to invade Iraq, on Sunday told Martha Raddatz of ABC News

I think what is really crucially important to remember here is that you had Strzok and Paige who were in charge of launching this investigation and they were saying things like we must stop this president, we need an insurance policy against this president. That in my view when you have people that are in the highest echelons of the law enforcement of this nation saying things like that, that sounds an awful lot like a coup and it could well be treason.

I know what you're saying: the investigation was launched because in May, 2016 George Papadopoulos popped off in a London bar to an Australian diplomat about dirt which Russians had on Hillary Clinton (which turned out to be accurate); Strzok was removed early from the Mueller investigation; there is no indication Strzok ever allowed his political beliefs to interfere with his work; treason is providing "aid and comfort" to an "enemy" and Russia is not an official enemy; the investigation was conducted of a political candidate and not the President; and

The outcry expressed by Cheney (and other Republicans) over Strzok's involvement is the most disingenuous outrage since (choose wisely) a) then-NJ governor Christine Todd Whitman compared NJTV to "Pravda;" or b) President Trump two years ago claimed he fired the FBI director because James Comey had mistreated Hillary Clinton.

New Jersey public television was fairly subservient to Whitman; and Donald Trump probably would not have been elected had James Comey not broken tradition by labeling Hillary Clinton "extremely careless" and announcing nine days before the election an examination of suspect emails which already had been examined. And if FBI agent Peter Strzok had not been overly generous to candidate Trump, it is unlikely Trump would have been elected, even with Comey's effort to bend over backwards for the Republican. The Washington Post's Philip Bump wrote twenty-twp months ago

In a written statement offered before he testified before the House Oversight Committee on Thursday, Strzok pointedly noted that there was no effort on his part to keep Trump from winning the White House — and, further, that he was one of only a few people who could have potentially leaked details from the investigation in an effort to block Trump’s victory.

“In the summer of 2016,” Strzok wrote, “I was one of a handful of people who knew the details of Russian election interference and its possible connections with members of the Trump campaign. This information had the potential to derail, and quite possibly, defeat Mr. Trump. But the thought of exposing that information never crossed my mind.”

Of course it didn't, because Peter Strzok was a professional. Republican criticism of Strzok neatly fits the classic example of "chutzpah"- a man on trial for killing his parents pleads demands lenience because he's an orphan.

Liz Cheney, who knows the investigation into the Trump campaign was not a coup and was 180 degrees from treason, is the apple that did not fall far from the venomous tree.

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Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Leading "Democrat"

Vox's Eric Kleefeld reports that pollsters for GOP firm Echelon Insights

asked 1,005 Democrats — and independents who favor Democrats’ policies — about their preferred 2020 candidates. The poll found 38 percent of respondents would vote for Biden if the primary were to be held right now. This is well in line with other polls; as Vox’s Dylan Scott reported, most polls show around 40 percent of voters saying they are backing the former vice president.

The Echelon poll found support for Bernie Sanders to be at 16 percent, and that four candidates: Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, and Kamala Harris were each supported by 5 percent of respondents. No other candidate was at more than 2 percent, with 16 percent undecided.

This poll went a step further, by testing Biden in head-to-head matchups against four other Democratic candidates — and showed him coming out ahead in each trial, although in each of the hypothetical contests, the majority of respondents weren’t “definitely” for either candidate.

Kleefeld believes "With numbers like these, it appears that Biden would remain the candidate to beat even if the race gets narrowed down to just one or two opponents."

For all those who hope to be aged 65 and older someday, we need to hope that Kleefeld's observation is off-target. Last month, Branko Marcetic of In These Times noted  that Senator Biden in the 1980s "called then for a spending freeze on Social Security and a higher Social Security retirement age" And when President Obama

in 2011 put forward what he called the “big deal”—$4 trillion in deficit reduction, namely through “bend[ing] the cost curve” of Medicare, Medicaid, and possibly even Social Security—Biden insisted to Republicans this approach was the best way forward on cutting spending. According to Woodward’s account, Biden later appeared to offer Boehner a deal of one dollar cut from Medicare and Medicaid for every dollar of revenue.

Months into the negotiations with recalcitrant Republicans, Biden admitted that he and the administration had given away everything in their attempt to strike the “grand bargain.”

“We've given up on revenues, we've given on dollar for dollar,” Woodward quotes Biden telling McConnell. “All the major things we're interested in we've given up. So basically you've pushed us to the limit.”

Ironically, the fact that the “grand bargain” never happened—and that the Obama administration failed to team up with Republicans to cut Social Security and Medicare—was a result of a stubborn GOP's refusal to give ground on just about any issue.

Earlier that year, debt negotiations with then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Senator John Kyl, and other Republicans were "ultimately scuttled" by Cantor. Prior to that, however, the Vice President had led the talks and his

“opening bid” was cutting $4 trillion in spending over ten years, with a 3 to 1 proportion of cuts to revenue. Biden later proposed $2 trillion in cuts to general spending, federal retirement funds, Medicare and Medicaid, and, at Cantor's urging, food stamps.

At one point, Biden suddenly called for $200 billion more in cuts that had never been discussed, which, according to Woodward, led then-Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen—also involved in the negotiations—to believe Biden had gone over to the Cantor-Kyl side. Biden again crossed Van Hollen when he offered to take revenue-raising out of the “trigger”—a combination of revenue raising and spending cuts meant to be equally unpalatable to both parties, which would automatically kick in if a deal failed to be reached.

Later in the negotiations, Biden dangled the possibility of Medicare cuts in return for more revenue—meaning higher taxes. Soon after, he suggested Democrats might be comfortable raising the eligibility age for entitlements, imposing means testing and changing the consumer price index calculation, known as CPI.

So "Middle Class Joe" has not been a reliablesupporter of earned benefits, as recently as December supporting means-testing for Medicare and Social Security. Additionally, working both sides of the street may be one of Biden's bag of tricks, for we are reminded that in October 2018 Obama's veep

took the stage at Lake Michigan College as Representative Fred Upton, a long-serving Republican from the area, faced the toughest race of his career.

But Mr. Biden was not there to denounce Mr. Upton. Instead, he was collecting $200,000 from the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan to address a Republican-leaning audience, according to a speaking contract obtained by The New York Times and interviews with organizers. The group, a business-minded civic organization, is supported in part by an Upton family foundation.

Mr. Biden stunned Democrats and elated Republicans by praising Mr. Upton while the lawmaker looked on from the audience. Alluding to Mr. Upton’s support for a landmark medical-research law, Mr. Biden called him a champion in the fight against cancer — and “one of the finest guys I’ve ever worked with.”

Mr. Biden’s remarks, coming amid a wide-ranging discourse on American politics, quickly appeared in Republican advertising. The local Democratic Party pleaded with Mr. Biden to repair what it saw as a damaging error, to no avail. On Nov. 6, Mr. Upton defeated his Democratic challenger by four and a half percentage points.

Ironically, four months later a veteran House Democrat argued Bernie Sanders "should run as an independent. He's not a Democrat. So to me, I would not allow a Republican to run as a Democrat or for the Democratic nomination."

That was a swipe at Bernie Sanders, not at Biden, who is somehow considered a loyal Democrat and the choice of voters whose top priority is to nominate a Democrat who would beat Donald Trump.  Nor is it Bernie Sanders- or Elizabeth Warren, for that matter- who has advocated cutting Social Security and Medicare.  If Joe Biden is nominated, there is something weird happening in the Democratic Party, where "weird" is not spelled "good."

Saturday, May 25, 2019

First, Pierce Inevitability

At his recent town hall meeting on Fox News, Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg remarked

When you’ve got Tucker Carlson saying that immigrants make America dirty. When you’ve got Laura Ingraham comparing detention centers with children in cages to summer camps. There is a reason why anybody has to swallow hard and think twice before participating in this media ecosystem.

Though- or maybe because- it was accurate, Buttigieg was slammed the morning after by a Fox News host complaining "Don’t hop on our channel and continue to put down the other hosts on the channel, or the channel. If you feel that negative about it, don’t come." Elizabeth Warren "felt" so negatively that she made the courageous, controversial decision not to do a town hall on the network, thus denying Trump TV further credibility.

Yet, Elizabeth Warren, on (considerable) merit, always has been considered a viable candidate for the nomination, whereas Buttigieg has not. One foreign policy expert, though touting the military experience of the South Bend mayor, as well as that of Seth Moulton and Tulsi Gabbard, lumps Buttigieg in with Moulton and Gabbard as having no "more than a very outside chance of winning the nomination."

Yet, Buttiegieg's messaging has been extraordinary, propelling his rise from someone known only to members of the Democratic National Committee to a candidate with support eclipsed only by the well-known Warren, Harris, Sanders, and Biden.

Interviewed Thursday by the Washington Post's Bob Costa, the South Bend mayor characterized Donald Trump as "somebody who... took advantage of the fact that he was a child of a multimillionaire in order to pretend to be disabled, so that somebody could go to war in his place." When Buttigieg was ridiculed by Trump, the mayor previously had responded "You can't get too worried about the name calling and the games he play. I was thinking of a Chinese proverb that goes, 'When the wind changes, some people build walls and some people build windmills.'"

Of the Vice-President, Buttigieg rhetorically asks "How could he allow himself to be the cheerleader of the porn star presidency?" That is a good line. Deftly employing humblebrag, Buttigieg claims "I am not skilled enough or energetic enough to craft a persona. I just have to be who I am and hope people like it."

Fox News' Brit Hume has recognized that Buttigieg is "as fluid as he can be, [and] he seems to have something to say about nearly every issue."And so Pete Buttigieg, emerging as the master of the put-down to the deserving, is just the right person to throw a hard right at Joe Biden's jaw.  

It will have to be done by someone, probably at a debate, and soon, before Biden expands his lead and puts his competitors to bed.  One political science professor maintains that "to pierce the Biden veil of inevitability," a successful candidate will have to convince older Democrats that Biden is not the candidate most likely to defeat Donald Trump and to "peel off" black voters "by prodding Biden without hitting Obama or his cherished liberal legacy."

The first condition will be met if and when the second condition is met.

A Democratic candidate can claim that Biden's candidacy is about nothing more than "a noun, a verb, and Barack Obama," a charge all the more important because it a) would be used against the former vice-president in a general election; and b) is accurate. Presumably, Biden would react by wrapping himself ever more securely in the warm, fuzzy blanket of Obamism.

At that point, the candidate could effectively respond "o.k. but the American people are looking to the future, not the past, even the recent past."  And there is no candidate better positioned to do that than one adept in political framing who has drawn comparisons to Barack Obama himself. For extra points, that candidate is a military veteran, young, and gay, a powerful combination for rebutting Biden on the issue of the past vs. the future. Additionally, Buttigieg, still (barely) a dark horse, may have nothing to lose, especially because he already is seen as something of a political outsider.

Admittedly, this is an unlikely scenario. It not only would require serious political courage, and the mayor has Obama veterans working with him. Nor would Buttigieg be the best President among the Democratic candidates- and he has much to answer for.  However, it's a necessary, and someone has to do it, not only to block Biden's quest for the nomination, but to break the Obama fever which has infected Democratic voters far too long. 

Questioning President Obama's legacy in a Democratic debate would be more difficult than standing up to President Trump. Nonetheless, it would most easily be done by someone asserting "I don't have a problem standing up to somebody who was working on season 7 (of) Celebrity Apprentice when I was packing my bags for Afghanistan."

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Friday, May 24, 2019

The Circus Cannot Be Wished Away

Former Massachusetts governor William Weld, who ran in 2016 for vice-president as Gary Johnson's running mate, is challenging Donald Trump for the GOP presidential nomination. And as he stated to Lawrence O'Donnell (video, below), if he were the Special Counsel- for which by dint of experience he would be qualified- he would testify in public.

So he has a lot of courage, risking arrest and prosecution as a political enemy of the President if Trump is re-elected. But he is wrong about a couple of things, including his belief that Trump is trying to bait Speaker Pelosi (which is possible) while the latter is not trying to bait the President, which she is emphatically is.

He's also off-target when he maintains (at 2:45 of the video below)

I think what's going on here is Bob is so straight that he doesn't necessarily want to say how the process has been perverted and my reading of what happened behind closed doors- Bob Mueller's report says we decided not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgement because we really couldn't. 

The process is perverted, which is glaringly obvious to the vast majority of Americans. However, among those are Trump supporters unaware of the manner in which it is obvious.  It's similar to the immigration system, which virtually everyone believes is in need of an overhaul- but in what manner is extremely contentious.

If the Special Counsel's office determined it could not make a traditional judgment on prosecution, someone intimately involved in the process must explain why- and for obvious reasons, it cannot be Bill Barr. That leaves Robert Mueller.

Weld continued

Translation: Bill Barr told me that he was going to squash any indictment I tried to bring against the President for obstruction. That's a dirty story. Bob Mueller doesn't wan to have to tell that on TV and I think that's exactly what's going on here. He's such a gentleman. 

Translation: It's not what the decision I would have made but it's hard to criticize such an upstanding man. Also: if something has to be translated, it's dollars to doughnuts that there are plenty of individuals who haven't made that translation.  Unlike Weld and many members of Congress, most people are not lawyers and do not know the language.

Further, whatever is a "dirty story" must be told on television.  It's really unnecessary to explain what's going on behind the curtain that makes something a clean story. It's as if because proceedigns are so corrupt, their details must be withheld from the public. That might make Mueller a "gentleman," but sometimes an individual is placed, by God or Rod Rosenstein, in a particular place at a particular time in history that he is called to be something more, or different, than a gentleman. This is one of those times.

Continuing to speak honestly and thoughtfully, Weld continued

I suspect, however, that he wants to avoid a circus but as I say, he's testified many times in high pressure situations with a lot of members of both parties from time-to-time being angry at the performance of the FBI and he always stood there and took it. And uh, he can do it again. 

This is not a mere "high-pressure" situation, but something far more.  When a likely victim of sexual assault, Christine Blasey Ford, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee, she was meant with fierce attacks. They were directed, moreover, against an individual GOP members claimed had merely recalled events inaccurately. At issue was the appointment to the Supreme Court of a conservative Republican who, had he gone down, would have replaced by a conservative Republican.

If, however, Robert Mueller would testify completely and in public, the fate of a GOP president would hang in the balance. This would not be a wild card matchup in the NFL playoffs. This would be the final minute of close Super Bowl, Russell Wilson throwing into the teeth of a Bill Belichick defense.

The former governor added

Believe me, he's a tough guy. I was shoulder-to-shoulder with him . He can more than hold his own there. I think it's just the picture of the politicization of the Justice Department around him and putting him down is so tawdry that he doesn't like the idea of that being in a circus atmosphere.

Robert Mueller has been (at least until recently) a tough guy. He did not create the circus atmosphere.

Nonetheless, and without Mr. Mueller's encouragement, the circus has come to town. And the circus will remain, for two, maybe six, possibly well beyond that if people who have demonstrated courage and integrity take a pass when circumstances have placed them in a position of influence, when it most matters. When the abuses of government and burden of history are at their apex, the responsibilities of of the most credible among us are at their greatest.

For Robert Mueller, those responsibilities include allowing himself to be depicted visually, live, while testifying to (or denying) high crimes and misdemeanors committed against the American people. This is not 1959, before John Kennedy was elected President over Richard Nixon's 5 o'clock shadow, before television was in every home, before posing oneself for selfies became a required ritual.

A face must be placed to the name. It may be unfair that the onus has been placed (primarily) on one man. But he took the job- and it is not finished.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

"And Then He Had The Meeting After"

In a "conversation" published by Salon on May 22, Malcolm Nance suggested "it turned out that (Special Counsel Robert) Mueller was an institutionalist. He literally tuck to every guideline that was given to him in the face of all the evidence. Then Mueller pulled every punch that was thrown." (He then speculated whether Rosenstein or Barr instead was to blame.)

On that very day, President Trump held a news conference in the Rose Garden in which he famously claimed "I don't do cover-ups"- and in which he appeared to verify that he does participate in cover-ups, and confirming Nance's suspicion about Mueller.

This is not about the payoff Trump ordered shortly before the presidential election, made to Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about their brief affair. It goes to the very heart of the collaboration between Russia and the Trump campaign, even Donald Trump himself. It involves the June 9, 2016 get-together at Trump Tower, about which Philip Bump recently recalled

In his written testimony for Mueller, Trump said he didn’t remember whether he knew about the meeting in advance. In attendance at the meeting were several key members of his campaign team: Trump Jr., campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

“I have no recollection of learning at the time that Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort, or Jared Kushner was considering participating in a meeting in June 2016 concerning potentially negative information about Hillary Clinton,” Trump’s response to Mueller reads. “Nor do I recall learning during the campaign that the June 9, 2016 meeting had taken place, that the referenced emails existed. or that Donald J. Trump, Jr., had other communications with Emin Agalarov or Robert Goldstone between June 3, 2016 and June 9, 2016.”

The suspicion that Trump knew beforehand of the meeting had been "stoked," The New York Times snarked four months ago, by Democrats "pointing to phone calls that Donald Trump Jr. received from a blocked number around the time of the meeting." However

investigators have phone records showing that Donald Trump Jr. spoke with two family friends who used blocked numbers — Brian France, the chief executive of NASCAR, and the investor Howard Lorber — as the meeting was being set up, according to the people.

Mr. Lorber had significant investments in Russia and traveled to Moscow in 1996 with President Trump as they considered building a Trump Tower there.

For the younger Mr. Trump, the revelation that he had not called his father was seen among Trump allies as a victory over Democrats at a crucial moment in the investigation, according to people close to the White House.

In the same vein, Mueller wrote in the Special Counsel's report

According to written answers submitted by President Trump, he has no recollection of learning of the meeting at this time, and the Office found no documentary evidence showing that he was made aware of the meeting or of its Russian connection- before it occurred.

However, we now should be grateful to the President for demonstrating the worthlessness of a written interview, for on May 22 his memory appeared to clear up in the Rose Garden. Trump admitted

The bottom line is they say there's no collusion- no collusion with Russia. You heard so much talk about phone calls that my son made to me from this meeting that was set up by GPS Fusion, it looks like, which was the other side, for those who don't know.

And for a year I heard about phone calls went to a special number, unauthorized, and it would have been my son Don, who is a good young man, who's gone through hell. And they were calls that must have been made by him before and after the meetings- three calls. After massive study and work, they finally found who made the calls. One was a friend of ours, a real estate developer, great guy, most of you know him, a nice guy, loves our country. And the other one was the had of NASCAR, two of them.

So of the three calls that were so horrible, he had a meeting and he called me and then he had the meeting after and he made three calls and they were written about like this little little line, a couple of lines, no one wanted to admit it....

In this Twitter thread, MSNBC legal analyst Katie Phang argues "It appears to be obstruction of justice, a lie, it’s perjury and [Trump] obstructed the Mueller investigation by lying to the Special Counsel." Others disagree, believing that Trump was stating that one call involved the real estate developer and two, the head of NASCAR.

That's interesting, but not nearly dispositive. The conventional and prevailing wisdom has been that only two calls were made. Moreover, he had a meeting and he called me and then he had the meeting after suggests that candidate Trump himself was called by his son- both before and after the infamous meeting.

Give Donald Trump credit, however, for pointing out during the news conference that the Special Counsel's investigation was expensive, though it cost only $15 million gross, not the $25 million he claimed, and with the dough ordered recouped from Paul Manafort, should be a net plus for taxpayers. It nonetheless cost millions of dollars (gross) and Robert Mueller, maintaining he found "no documentary evidence" that Trump knew about the meeting beforehand, could not find what the President now has admitted to, in full view of the nation.

Trump was surprisingly candid on another matter. "So here's the bottom line," the President began at 5:47 , "there was no collusion, no obstruction. We've been doing this since I've been President." Yes, that's right- he has been obstructing and colluding since he has been President.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Fully And In Plain View

CNN's Chris Cuomo on Tuesday evening

said Democrats need to look at the political reality of launching impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.

“It’s an unknown, alright,” said the host of “Cuomo Prime Time” on Tuesday. “And there is a real risk of making the bully in this so far, this president, look like a victim if you overreach in the name of oversight, like he keeps saying.”

Cuomo also suggested special counsel Robert Mueller should testify before Congress about his report into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible Trump campaign collusion.

“If you get Mr. Mueller on the stand and he says what he found, how he found it, and why he explained it the way he did, the path forward from there will be clear,” Cuomo said.

That would be great, as would the 2020 Lexus with a red bow awaiting you in your driveway on Christmas morning. And about as likely. On Tuesday morning The Washington Post had reported

Robert S. Mueller III and House Democrats have been unable to reach an agreement on how much of the special counsel’s expected congressional testimony would be public, and how much would take place in private, according to people familiar with the matter.

The special counsel’s office, along with senior Justice Department officials, has been quietly negotiating with the House Judiciary Committee, whose chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), has been eager to have Mueller testify as soon as possible.

Later that day, Glen Kirschner, who served under Robert Mueller in the US Attorney's office, told (at 3:02 of video below) MSNBC's Ari Melber

Bob Mueller could take the principled position "look, folks, it's all there, 448 pages of it. And look at the way he concluded, Ari, Volume 2. Could it be any more transparent or any more powerful and frankly if I could just read it briefly.

This is how Bob ended Volume 2, which was chock full of obstruction of justice by the President. He said "the protection of the criminal justice system from corrupt acts by any person, including the President, accords with the fundamental principle of our government that no person in this country is so high that he is above the law. Period.

I could see Mueller taking the principled position that folks, it's all there and to have regurgitate what I've put in writing or testify to hearsay about what the witnesses said that led me to this conclusion is not what you need. What you need is the witnesses.

Please regurgitate. Representative Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) has stated that he believes most members of Congress have not read the SpecialCounsel's report, and it's unlikely more than two or three percent of the American people have done so.

The Special Counsel's office wrote “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. We are unable to reach such a judgment.” But the President's false claim of "a complete and total exoneration" has been read by far more Americans than Mueller's strong inference(s) that Trump committed obstruction of justice.

And not only read, but more importantly, seen. The President is seen- transparently, powerfully, and completely dishonestly- maintaining that he has been cleared by the investigation. He put his face to the argument.

That is what is missing as long as Mueller does not testify completely, with the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  He could do so without  repercussion. He is 74 years old and sufficiently economically secure to retire and if choosing not to do so, could write his ticket at any one of hundreds (thousands?) of law firms across the country.

This invulnerability to retaliation is not as clear in the case of Hope Hicks, Annie Donaldson, Felix Sater, or any of the other witnesses whom Glenn Kirschner presumably would like to testify.  Nor does any of them have the credibility or stature of the former US Attorney, FBI director, and decorated Marine from the Vietnam War.

Robert Mueller has one more responsibility to his country. Having put his foot into the water, he needs to put a face to the report and tell under oath, in public, all he knows. Although it now appears very unlikely, he must say, as Cuomo states, "what he found, how he found it, and why he explained it the way he did." If he does anything else, he damages the constitutional principle of checks and balance between the executive and legislative branches of government, the rule of law, and the integrity of the criminal justice system Glen Kirschner believes Mueller is dedicated to.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

About That Epiphany, Joe

It failed to capture my attention when on April 22 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

vowed to be the "Grim Reaper" for progressive policies if Republicans hold on to the Senate in 2020.

"If I'm still the majority leader in the Senate think of me as the Grim Reaper. None of that stuff is going to pass," McConnell said while speaking to community leaders in Owensboro, Ky.

McConnell noted that if Republicans win back the House or President Trump wins reelection "that takes care of it." But he pledged that even if Republicans lose the White House, he would use his position as majority leader to block progressive proposals like the Green New Deal.

"I guarantee you that if I'm the last man standing and I'm still the majority leader, it ain't happening. I can promise you," McConnell added.

That probably did not escape the attention of the the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for President, who 3-4 weeks later remarkably predicted

that Republicans will have an "epiphany" and start working with Democrats once President Donald Trump is out of office.

"The thing that will fundamentally change things is with Donald Trump out of the White House. Not a joke," Biden told reporters at a diner in Concord, New Hampshire. "You will see an epiphany occur among many of my Republican friends."

Biden's echoed his dreams of epiphany when four days later he would approvingly tell a campaign rally

Some say Democrats don't want to hear about unity, That what they are saying you to have to do to win the Democratic nomination. Well, I don't believe it. I believe Democrats want to unify this nation.

Mitch McConnell had enough influence and power to tell President Barack Obama: no, not on my watch, there will be no Justice Merrick Garland. He now is telling Democrats that if Republicans win back the House, progressive legislation will fail because "if I'm the last man standing and I'm still the majority leader, it ain't happening. I can promise you."

This is the unity that presidential candidate Joe Biden aspires to, and which President Joe Biden would embrace.

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Monday, May 20, 2019

Not An Idiot, Part Infinity

Merriam-Webster defines "idiot" as "a foolish or stupid person."  Donald Trump is no idiot, although the former mayor and cabinet secretary from Texas evidently believes he is, given that


Democratic presidential hopeful Juli├ín Castro heard about President Trump’s rally in Panama City Beach, Florida, on Wednesday night—and he’s not having it. 

“The president,” he said in an interview with Mother Jones on Thursday, “is being a grade-A idiot.”

Trump was speaking about the tens of thousands of migrants at the US-Mexico border when he started talking about Border Patrol agents using deadly force. “And don’t forget—we don’t let them and we can’t let them use weapons,” Trump said. “We can’t. Other countries do. We can’t. I would never do that. But how do you stop these people? You can’t. There’s—”
From the crowd, a woman reportedly yelled out, “Shoot them!”

The president paused before deadpanning, “That’s only in the Panhandle you can get away with that stuff. Only in the Panhandle!

People love being name-checked, even if it's in apparent ridicule. Evangelical Christians adore Donald Trump not only because he supports forced-birth and puts right-wing judges onto the US Supreme Court, but also because he mentions them, directly or indirectly.   It's why the Christian right loved him his flippant remark "That's my second favorite book of all time. You know what my favorite is?" The Bible! Nothing beats the Bible, not even The Art of the Deal. Not even close." (Of course, Trump wrote about as much of "The Art of the Deal" as he did of the Bible.)  

It's why he came out unscathed- arguably even more popular- when he demeaned, by misrepresenting, the sacrament of communion by stating "When I drink my little wine — which is about the only wine I drink — and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed. I think in terms of ‘let’s go on and let’s make it right.'”

And it's one of the reasons the crowd roared it's approval when Trump,with  a "boy are these people off the wall" look,  said "it's only in the Panhandle you can get away with that stuff."

Mother Jones added

In an exclusive interview in San Antonio, Castro slammed Trump, calling his behavior “unbecoming of a president.”

“I mean, the president is being a grade-A idiot,” he said. “Entertaining the idea that you would shoot a human being just because they’re looking for a better life. You know, somebody can think that that’s all fun and games, but we’ve already seen during this administration the level of hate crimes increase. We’ve seen so many white supremacists go out there and say that they’re inspired by President Trump and shoot people. And so he’s being a grade-A idiot.

The President is no grade-A idiot, or any kind of idiot. Journalist Greg Sargent and another tweeter recognize:

Trump is skillfully trying to have it both ways, yet either approach satisfies the longing of Trump's base supporters for the red meat it wants served up to them. It is an effective strategy which belies the argument that the President is an idiot or his remarks idiotic.  And each time Julian Castro or another political opponent mistakes evil for idiocy, it reinforces the impression that Donald J. Trump as merely another flawed politician, but one devoted to the interests of his supporters and of the country

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Sunday, May 19, 2019

Bolstering Trump

In a truly insightful piece, Politico editor-in-chief Peter Canellos argues that the depiction by Saturday Night Live's Alec Baldwin of Donald Trump has inadvertently reinforced a favorable impression of the President.  Baldwin very much dislikes Trump, but the attacks on his "intelligence and competence," Canellos understands, have had the perverse effect of humanizing the President and

What appears to be authenticity is one of Trump’s greatest electoral calling cards, and Republicans tend to take it at face value. He’s an amateur in a professional game, and that explains why he sometimes breaks the rules. There’s a kind of everyman logic behind his actions, and his supporters want him to shake up the system. Despite their antipathy toward him, there are many Democrats who assess him on similar terms.

Typically, Democrats believe Trump is "dangerously unqualified for the presidency but that he’s not fundamentally ill-intentioned." It's a misconception which runs counter to

other, much harsher assessments of Trump. One, suggested by the Mueller report, is of a man who willfully used the tools of his office for his personal benefit, who demanded illegal and unethical acts from his subordinates, threatened them and tried to replace them when they refused to go along and shredded legal and political norms in the process. In trying to save himself, that version of Trump isn’t some rogue elephant acting on instinct, but a narcissist who puts his own interests ahead of the country’s. There is, presumably, no twinkle in Trump’s eye when he orders his Treasury secretary to refuse a congressional subpoena of his tax records, no sharp intake of breath when he invokes executive privilege to shield an investigation into his own campaign. His mouth doesn’t twist into a petrified O when he maligns Robert Mueller or calls on Republican appointees of the Supreme Court to protect him.

And so Canellos concludes

This Trump isn’t the stuff of caricature, or the hapless figure of fun portrayed on “SNL.” He’s the one who shows up on TV nearly every day, president of the United States despite the disdain of all those knowing elites, bending Washington to his will.

That has been the fundamental character of the Trump Administration, one in which the elites excoriated by the President bend to his will. That includes not only Trump TV (formerly GOP TV, sometimes known as "Fox News"), GOP members of the House and the Senate, and House Democrats, terrified of the I (impeachment) word. It extends even to Democratic presidential candidates, only four of whom (Warren, Moulton, Massam, and Harris) have called for impeachment.

And then there is William Barr, whose obsequiousness to the President is brazenly unprofessional, unpatriotic, and dangerous. 

Midway through is article, Canellos asks "Is Trump calculating, or is he improvising?" From tweet to tweet, the President may be impulsive. However, the rhetoric and actions are less accidental than cunning, undertaken by a canny President empowered by an unparalleled ability to fake authenticity.

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Friday, May 17, 2019

Slightly Trumpesque

It was the day before the Super Bowl in February, 2017, when dedication to self over country  was a little less clear that

President Donald Trump appeared to equate US actions with the authoritarian regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin in an interview released Saturday, saying, "There are a lot of killers. You think our country's so innocent?"

Trump made the remark during an interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, saying he respected his Russian counterpart.

"But he's a killer," O'Reilly said to Trump.

"There are a lot of killers. You think our country's so innocent?" Trump replied.

A clip of the exchange was released Saturday and the full interview aired Sunday before the Super Bowl.

It was an unusual assertion coming from the President of the United States. Trump himself, however, has made similar points before.

"He's running his country and at least he's a leader, unlike what we have in this country," Trump told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" in December 2015.

He continued, "I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe, so you know. There's a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, a lot of killing, a lot of stupidity," Trump said.

Moral equivalence can be result from being compromised by a foreign power, as likely in the case of Trump, or instead merely ignorant, naive, or wrong-headed. Campaigning in the first primary state

You say that anything has to be owned 50 percent by Chinese to invest in China, guess what? bears an eerie similarity to "our country does plenty of killing also, Joe." Biden probably is referring to regulations which went into effect last October which require foreign investors to notify the Treasury Department that they are trying to obtain a stake in an American company. The Department then could review the deal if it determined the investment a national security threat.

Be wary of a presidential candidate who compares American concern over national security with appropriation by the Chinese government of intellectual property by forcedtechnology transfers, espionage and theft. The source of Trump's benevolence toward the Russian government may be family business ventures in Russia, while Biden may be simply wrong. However

Hunter Biden’s investment company in China, known as Bohai Harvest RST, has pooled money, largely from state-owned venture capital, to buy or invest in a range of industries in the U.S. and China. Bohai Harvest has put money into an automotive firm, mining companies, and technology ventures, such as Didi Chuxing Technology, one of the largest ride-hailing companies in the world after Uber....

Bohai Harvest operates and works with a number of funds to make its various investments, a tangled business structure that has brought Hunter Biden into close proximity to influential Chinese government and business figures, according to a review of Chinese business filings by The Intercept.

This is not enough to conclude that the former vice-president is compromised with Xi's mainland China to nearly the extent that President Trump is with Putin's Russia.   But Donald J. Trump has set the bar very low, and raising it a little with Joseph R. Biden is insufficient.

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The husband-wife (or, rather, wife-husband) duo of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and Martha-Ann Alito nee Bomgardner flew an upside do...