The Wires

Mrs. McCrabbie: This actually seems crazy to me:

New York Times: "A shiny stainless steel sculpture created by Jeff Koons in 1986, inspired by a child’s inflatable toy, sold at Christie’s on Wednesday night for $91.1 million with fees, breaking the record at auction for a work by a living artist, set just last November by David Hockney. Robert E. Mnuchin, an art dealer and the father of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, made the winning bid for Mr. Koons’s 1986 'Rabbit' from an aisle seat near the front of the salesroom."

Might as well just get this -- it's vintage! it's "authentic"! -- and give it pride-of-place in the front hall. Sure, visitors will think you're tasteless & nuts, but in such a vintage, authentic way.

UPDATE: (May 19): New York Times: Mnuchin would not reveal the identity of his client; i.e., the purchaser of Stainless Bunny is. During an NYT interview, "He was near tears when asked about his son Steve and refused to comment about their relationship. But friends said that he is in an impossible predicament, conflicted over his sense of duty about being a loyal father and his concern as a citizen that President Trump is bad for America."

David McCullough Is a Crap Historian. Rebecca Onion of Slate reviews his book on the history -- okay, make that "hagiographic platitudes" -- about the settlement of the Northwest Territory. "Its success (it is No. 10 on Amazon’s best-seller list for books, as of Friday) shows how big the gap between critical history and the “popular history” that makes it to best-seller lists, Costco, and Target remains.” Mrs. McC: Onion doesn't mention it, but I get the impression all the "settling" was done by men; apparently the women's tasks were of no account. Somehow I don't think most of the "ladies" sat around drinking tea & doing needlepoint in their pretty parlors.

Guardian: "The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have introduced their newborn son to the world and revealed he is to be called Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. The name was announced shortly after the Queen met her eighth great-grandchild for the first time at Windsor Castle, where earlier the couple showed him off to the cameras."

Guardian: “The Duchess of Sussex has given birth to a baby son, weighing 7lbs 3oz. Mother and child were both doing well, Buckingham Palace announced. The Duke of Sussex was present for the birth, which happened at 5.26am on Monday. The child is seventh in line to the throne, and an eighth great-grandchild for the 93-year-old Queen.”

Washington Post: "Cheap Chinese caviar is flooding the U.S. market, causing prices to plummet, and with it, the product’s cachet. Wholesale prices have fallen more than 50 percent since 2012, down 13 percent just in the past year. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the import price has gone from $850,000 per ton in January 2012 to $350,000 per ton in November 2018." Mrs. McC: This makes me very happy. I love caviar (I've only had the cheaper kind), but I seldom buy it because of the expense. I have some in the pantry now, but I'm going to check the price at the grocery store now in hopes it's something I can enjoy more often. Status symbol? I couldn't care less.

New York Times: "Pulitzer Prizes were awarded on Monday [April 15] to news organizations that uncovered instances of malfeasance and outright fraud in President Trump’s financial past, a nod to journalists’ perseverance in the face of the president’s ever-sharper attacks on a free press. The New York Times received the explanatory reporting prize for an 18-month investigation that revealed how the future president and his relatives avoided paying roughly half a billion dollars’ worth of taxes. The Wall Street Journal won the national reporting prize for disclosing clandestine payoffs by the president’s associates to two women who were said to have had affairs with Mr. Trump in the weeks before the 2016 election. The South Florida Sun Sentinel won the prize for public service, considered the most prestigious of the Pulitzers, for documenting the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The paper’s in-depth articles revealed a series of failures by local officials and law enforcement that, the paper wrote, cost children their lives."

Medlar's Sports Report. New York Times: "Tiger Woods’s comeback from personal and professional adversity is complete: He captured his fifth Masters title and his 15th major tournament on Sunday, snapping a championship drought of nearly 11 years. It was a monumental triumph for Woods, a magical, come-from-behind win for a player who had not won a major championship since his personal life began to unravel on Thanksgiving night in 2009, when a marital dispute led to a car accident and a succession of lurid tabloid headlines. On the golf course, he had a series of back and leg injuries that led to an addiction to painkillers and culminated in pain so searing that, before surgery in 2017, he had questioned whether he could play professionally again." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Oh yeah? Trump can beat Tiger any day.

Tom Jones of Poynter picks the top 25 movies ever about journalism.

New York Times: "For 340 days, Scott Kelly circled the Earth aboard the International Space Station, gathering data about himself." His twin brother Mark Kelly, planted on Earth, did the same. "On Thursday..., NASA researchers reported that [Scott Kelly's] body experienced a vast number of changes while in orbit. DNA mutated in some of his cells. His immune system produced a host of new signals. His microbiome gained new species of bacteria. Many of these biological changes seemed harmless, disappearing after he returned to Earth. But others — including genetic mutations and, after his return, declines in cognitive test scores — did not correct themselves, provoking concern among scientists."

Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times: now does his first drafts of columns as well as other traditional writing tasks by speaking into his phone. "I open RecUp, a cloud-connected voice-recording app on my phone.... Every few days, I load the recordings into Descript, an app that bills itself as a “word processor for audio.” Some of my voice memos are more than an hour long, but Descript quickly (and cheaply) transcribes the text, truncates the silences and renders my speech editable and searchable.... New advances — like smarter and more ubiquitous voice assistants; better text-to-speech synthesis; easy-to-use audio and video production apps like Descript and Anchor; and gadgets that burrow the internet into your ears, like Apple’s AirPods and Amazon’s reported forthcoming AirPod clones — point to a profound shift in computing. Soon it might be possible to conduct a large slice of digital life, including work, without being glued to a screen."

New York Times: "In a cave in the Philippines, scientists have discovered a new branch of the human family tree. At least 50,000 years ago, an extinct human species lived on what is now the island of Luzon, researchers reported on Wednesday. It’s possible that Homo luzonensis, as they’re calling the species, stood less than three feet tall. The discovery adds growing complexity to the story of human evolution. It was not a simple march forward, as it once seemed. Instead, our lineage assumed an exuberant burst of strange forms along the way.Our species, Homo sapiens, now inhabits a comparatively lonely world. 'The more fossils that people pull out of the ground, the more we realize that the variation that was present in the past far exceeds what we see in us today,' said Matthew Tocheri, a paleoanthropologist at Lakehead University in Canada, who was not involved in the new discovery."

Constant Comments

 

Editor-in-Chief:
Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. -- H. L. Mencken (probably)

Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. -- A. J. Liebling

Monday
May202019

The Commentariat -- May 21, 2019

The Trump Scandals, Ctd.
Slowly, Slowly, the Cover-up Tarp Slips from the Cesspool Presidency

Rachel Bade & Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post: "Members of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s leadership team confronted her in a contentious Monday night meeting and argued that it was time to begin an impeachment inquiry into President Trump, according to multiple officials in the room. At least five members of Pelosi’s leadership team — four of whom also sit on the House Judiciary Committee, with jurisdiction over impeachment — pressed Pelosi (D-Calif.) to allow the panel to start an inquiry, which they argued would help investigators attain documents and testimony that Trump has blocked. Pelosi, according to the officials, pushed back on the idea alongside House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), arguing that it would undercut other House investigations. Pelosi has long been an impeachment skeptic and tried to tamp down impeachment talk in her caucus as recently as last week by encouraging members to focus on their legislative agenda." ...

... New York Times Editors: "... what is remarkable about [Rep. Justin] Amash’s [R-Mich.] stand is how much tougher it is than that of the House’s Democratic leaders to date. Wary of a move that has little public support, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and prominent committee leaders have avoided talk of impeachment and have focused on learning what Attorney General William Barr redacted from the report, as well as subpoenaing testimony and documents.... Democratic leaders also need to be stronger and clearer about what we know." Amash's tweet-splanations of his conclusions are here and here....  

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: As Akhilleus & others have been hammering for weeks, the Democrats' response to the Mueller report have been weak and, to put it mildly, uncoordinated. Now they're bickering. They need to write up a compelling rationale for impeachment, find a good orator (surely in a House-full of hundreds of kids who grew up thinking they could become president, there are a few good orators), stick her in a well-publicized prime-time slot & bring the argument home. Then they need to follow up, follow up & follow up. Right now, House leaders are doing nothing but arguing about process, and the devastating findings of the Mueller report are a distant memory to all but the few of us who are plodding out way through the report. Of course the "process" in this case -- the stonewalling of Congress -- is in itself another Article of Impeachment, but Democrats seldom even mention that.

** Andrew Desiderio & Kyle Cheney of Politico: "A federal judge on Monday upheld a congressional subpoena seeking ... Donald Trump’s financial records from an accounting firm, arguing that Congress is well within its rights to investigate potential illegal behavior by a president — even without opening a formal impeachment inquiry. U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta’s ruling delivers a striking blow to the president’s efforts to resist Democratic investigations, and is certain to give Democrats further legal basis to investigate Trump, his finances, and his presidential campaign. In addition to upholding the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s subpoena to accounting firm Mazars USA for eight years of Trump’s financial records, Mehta took the extra step of denying the president’s request for a stay pending appeal.... The ruling represents the first time the federal judiciary has weighed in on the ongoing oversight battle between Trump and House Democrats. Mehta’s ruling is likely to provide a blueprint for other judges who are set to make their own rulings on Trump’s vow to defy all congressional subpoenas. In a 41-page opinion issued Monday, Mehta systematically dismantled the Trump legal team’s arguments against the validity of the subpoena — and he pushed back on claims from congressional Republicans that the House Judiciary Committee must formally launch an impeachment inquiry before requesting such information." ...

... Trump Slams "Obama Judge's Crazy" Ruling. Jordan Fabian of the Hill: “President Trump on Monday said he would appeal a federal judge’s decision upholding a subpoena for his financial records, blasting it as a 'crazy' ruling by 'an Obama-appointed judge.' 'We will appeal it,' Trump told reporters at the White House before leaving for a campaign rally in Pennsylvania. 'It’s totally the wrong decision by, obviously, an Obama appointed judge.'”

Andrew Desiderio & Kyle Cheney: “Senior House Republicans are breaking with Donald Trump over the president’s legal claims that Congress can’t investigate whether a commander in chief violated the law. That view, advanced by Trump’s personal attorney and the White House counsel late last week, would upend long-held understandings about Congress’ ability to scrutinize presidential conduct — especially alleged criminal activity.... Institutionalist-minded Republicans are increasingly uncomfortable with the far-reaching arguments Trump and his lawyers are using to make their case, amid fears the claims of near-immunity from congressional scrutiny would set dangerous precedents. But these lawmakers are not preparing to act in any way that constrains Trump.... '... I think we have oversight authority over the administration,' said Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee. 'And if the president has acted illegally, then I think we have oversight authority.' Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a veteran lawmaker who first came to Capitol Hill in the early 1980s as a congressional staffer, said he didn’t agree with Trump’s legal theories. 'Obviously there is such a thing as congressional oversight,' Cole said.” ...

     ... Jack Crosbie of Splinter: "It’s telling, though, that the only thing that actually has the Republicans concerned is the precedent a president would set by blowing past congressional powers. They don’t really give a shit what he’s done, just how it affects their own political power."

Rachel Bade, et al., of the Washington Post: “The White House on Monday blocked former counsel Donald McGahn from testifying to Congress, the latest act of defiance in the ongoing war between House Democrats and President Trump. McGahn, who Democrats hoped would become a star witness in their investigation into whether Trump obstructed justice, was subpoenaed to testify Tuesday morning. 'The Department of Justice has provided a legal opinion stating that, based on long-standing, bipartisan, and constitutional precedent, the former counsel to the president cannot be forced to give such testimony, and Mr. McGahn has been directed to act accordingly,' said White House press secretary Sarah Sanders in a statement.... The 15-page legal opinion written by Assistant Attorney General Steven A. Engel argues McGahn cannot be compelled to testify before the committee, based on past Justice Department legal opinions regarding the president’s close advisers. The memo says McGahn’s immunity from congressional testimony is separate and broader than a claim of executive privilege.” ...

     ... The New York Times story, by Nicholas Fandos & others, is here. "... Mr. McGahn has maintained throughout that he will follow the White House’s guidance, according to a person close to him.... If he defies the White House, Mr. McGahn could not only damage his own career in Republican politics but also put his law firm, Jones Day, at risk of having the president urge his allies to withhold their business. The firm’s Washington practice is closely affiliated with the party." ...

     ... Update. Jerry Nadler wrote to Don McGahn, explaining to McGahn why he had better show up. It's a good letter. Here's a pdf. My favorite part is Nadler's second point where he notes that the DOJ's own policy is that "executive privilege ... should not be invoked to conceal evidence of wrongdoing or criminalit on the part of executive officers.'" Tellingngly, the Department's opinion ... purporting to excuse you from testifying ... ignores that policy entirely."

** Tom Hamburger, et al., of the Washington Post: “Michael Cohen ... told a House panel during closed-door hearings earlier this year that he had been instructed by Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow to falsely claim in a 2017 statement to Congress that negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow ended in January 2016, according to people familiar with his testimony. In fact, Cohen later admitted, discussions on the Moscow tower continued into June of the presidential election year, after it was clear Trump would be the GOP nominee.... House Democrats are now scrutinizing whether Sekulow or other Trump attorneys played a role in shaping Cohen’s 2017 testimony to Congress. Cohen has said he made the false statement to help hide the fact that Trump had potentially hundreds of millions of dollars at stake in a possible Russian project while he was running for president.... Cohen’s claims about Sekulow are laid out in transcripts of his February and March appearances before the House intelligence panel that could be released as soon as Monday.... 'The [attorney-client] privilege doesn’t apply if it’s being used to conceal a crime or a fraud,' [House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff] said. 'And if the attorneys were conferring amongst themselves and Mr. Cohen about a false statement they were going to make to our committee, there’s no privilege that protects that kind of conduct.'” ...

     ... Update. Morgan Chalfont & Olivia Beavers of the Hill: "The House Intelligence Committee has released transcripts of its private interviews with Michael Cohen.... The panel voted 12-7 at a closed-door meeting Monday evening to release the transcripts, according to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)." ...

... Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: [In testimony,] Mr. Cohen said that [Trump attorney Jay] Sekulow told him that the president’s team was considering possible pardons for him and other witnesses because they could help to 'shut down the inquiries and to shut the investigation down.'” A transcript of Cohen's February 28 testimony is here, and of his March 6 testimony is here. There are some redactions.

Trump Never Stops Abusing the Power of His Office*. Maggie Haberman & Annie Karni of the New York Times: "President Trump on Sunday night called for an investigation into financial ties between China and the family of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., the current front-runner in a crowded Democratic 2020 field, and the candidate Mr. Trump’s advisers believe could pose the biggest potential threat to his re-election.... It was not the first time that Mr. Trump has threatened investigations of his political enemies, raising questions from his critics about whether he is abusing his position as president. Some of those threats have been made in private and were revealed by the special counsel’s report. Others, Mr. Trump has made in public...." ...

... Maggie Haberman, et al., of the New York Times: “President Trump’s escalating demands for investigations into his political opponents have intensified debate over whether his often-transparent calls for action by the Justice Department amount to abusing his power to bolster his re-election prospects.... [Trump's calls to investigate the Biden family were] the latest in a long series of statements by Mr. Trump suggesting he would like to see criminal investigations of opponents including Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and the Democratic National Committee, and [they] came as the president seems particularly preoccupied by Mr. Biden’s candidacy. 'It’s a terrible breach of norms for the president to publicly advocate prosecutions of his opponents,' said Jack Goldsmith, a professor at Harvard Law School who was an assistant attorney general during President George W. Bush’s first term.... 'Trump and Barr are a dangerous combination,' said Mark Rozell, a law professor at George Mason University.... 'The president doesn’t fundamentally understand the powerfully important role he plays in establishing the nature and operations of our constitutional system,' Mr. Rozell said. 'Future administrations will use what he has done to justify all kinds of behaviors and actions that were once unthinkable.'” ...

... David Smith of the Guardian: "[F]ollowing the sporting maxim that attack is the best form of defence, Trump had adopted the language of a tinpot dictator, denouncing the Russia investigation as a failed 'coup', branding his pursuers as traitors and threatening to lock them up.... But one side-effect could be a slide into an imperial presidency.... [I]t is [Bill] Barr who has emerged as the president’s most indispensable ally, his improbable Darth Vader." --s

Kara Scannell of CNN: "Federal prosecutors in New York are scrutinizing tens of thousands of documents relating to Donald Trump's inauguration in a sign that the investigation into the committee's finances is advancing. The President's Inaugural Committee handed over the cache of documents over the course of several weeks in response to a wide-ranging subpoena seeking documents, records, and communications concerning the inaugural's finances, vendors, and donors sent in February by the US attorney's office with the Southern District of New York."

Hey, let's end today's discussion of the Trump Scandals on a bizarre (ergo, totally Trumpy) note:

... Dan Friedman of Mother Jones: “On Thursday, lawyers for Roger Stone, whose travel is restricted ahead of his November trial on obstruction of justice and perjury charges, requested a judge’s permission to visit Tennessee and Illinois 'for business opportunities.' One of those opportunities is at the Pony, an adult entertainment club in Memphis, where Stone is scheduled to appear June 5-7. A longtime political adviser to President Donald Trump, Stone 'is coming out to judge the national exotic dancer competition that we’re hosting,' the club’s owner, Jerry Westlund, tells Mother Jones.... In a Facebook post, the club said Stone will judge dancers alongside Kristin Davis, who is known as the 'Manhattan Madam' for her role running a high-end prostitution ring in New York City in the early 2000s. Stone has previously employed Davis, and they are close friends.”


Aaron Rupar
of Vox: "During an interview on Steve Hilton’s Fox News show on Sunday, President Donald Trump bragged about how rapidly his administration is getting stuff done. But he revealed a profound misunderstanding of how federal lawmaking is supposed to work in the process. 'We’re changing laws as rapidly as we can get them through the courts,' Trump said. Congress, of course, is supposed to be in the business of 'changing laws.' Courts, on the other hand, interpret them.... Trump doesn’t have a legislative agenda to speak of. He’s not allowing Congress to exercise its lawful oversight functions. So while he may have already made more than 10,000 false or misleading claims since taking office, his remark to Hilton about how he’s relying on the courts to make policies wasn’t one of them." --s ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Trump really has no idea whatsoever about how the government runs. It's stunning.

Asawin Suebsaeng, et al., of the Daily Beast: “The president isn’t just watching the [Fox 'News'], he’s taking policy advice from its morning hosts.... Over the weekend, news broke that Trump is preparing to pardon several U.S. servicemen involved in high-profile cases of gunning down civilians or killing detainees, with the White House having already ordered that the necessary paperwork be drawn up ahead of the coming Memorial Day. The news came roughly two months after Trump publicly intervened in what the president called 'restrictive' confinement conditions of one of the alleged war criminals. At the heart of both these moves has been a months-long lobbying campaign by Pete Hegseth, a Fox & Friends co-host and a buddy and informal adviser of the president’s.... According to three people with knowledge of the situation, Hegseth had multiple private conversations on the topic with President Trump over the past four-and-a-half months....”

Peter Baker of the New York Times: Donald Trumpis the profanity presidency, full of four-letter denunciations of his enemies and earthy dismissals of allegations lodged against him. At rallies and in interviews, on Twitter and in formal speeches, he relishes the bad-boy language of a shock jock, just one more way of gleefully provoking the political establishment bothered by his norm-shattering ways. In a single speech on Friday alone, he managed to throw out a 'hell,' an 'ass' and a couple of 'bullshits' for good measure. In the course of just one rally in Panama City Beach, Fla., earlier this month, he tossed out 10 'hells,' three 'damns' and a 'crap.' The audiences did not seem to mind. They cheered and whooped and applauded.... An unscientific survey seems to suggest that if anything, Mr. Trump is growing more comfortable with crudeness.” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Actually, the examples Baker cites are all obscenities or vulgarities. "Profanity" refers to obscenities that show disrespect to god. Unless Trump used these vulgarities in a house of worship, Trump is the obscenity president* or the vulgarity president*.

Czar Kris. Maggie Haberman & Annie Karni: “Access to a government jet 24 hours a day. An office in the West Wing, plus guaranteed weekends off for family time. And an assurance of being made secretary of homeland security by November. Those were among a list of 10 conditions that Kris Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state, has given to the White House if he is to become the administration’s 'immigration czar,' a job President Trump has been looking to create to coordinate immigration policy across government agencies. The list was described by three people familiar with it. Mr. Kobach, who once served as an adviser to the hard-line immigration Sheriff Joe Arpaio and helped write an Arizona law requiring local officials to verify the citizenship of anyone they had 'reasonable suspicion' to believe was an unauthorized immigrant, said he would need to be the main television spokesman for the Trump administration on immigration policy. And he said he wanted a guarantee that cabinet secretaries whose portfolios relate to immigration would defer to him, with the president mediating disputes if need be. The list was submitted by Mr. Kobach in recent weeks as he discussed his interest in the job. Other conditions included having a staff of seven reporting to him, 'walk in' privileges to the Oval Office, a security detail if deemed necessary and the title of assistant to the president.” ...

    ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Unbelievable. It's hard to imagine anyone's being that arrogant, even a racist, egotistical prick like Kobach. The guy is out of a job, his disgusting voter suppression commission blew up, he lost the governor's race to a Democrat in a red state, the highest office he's ever held is secretary of state in a small state (pop. less than 3 million), & now he's demanding that Cabinet secretaries defer to him? Update: safari has a theory! See top of the Comments below. ...

... Elliot Hannon of Slate: "... Donald Trump is in the market for an immigration czar to help implement his dystopian policies at the border, and former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is in the market for, well, a job of some sort. What’s not to like here! To be fair, Kobach has immigration and voter suppression instincts similar to Trump’s, not to mention a kindred penchant for self-aggrandizing. All of that has added up to Kobach’s name being bandied about as a potential figurehead to lead Trump’s anti-immigration charge.... Kobach reportedly discussed with Trump the possibility of creating a czar role, a job that Kobach could, crucially, assume without Senate confirmation.... [since] the Senate seems to be adhering to a general trend started by voters that the more one gets to know Kobach, the less one likes him."

Spencer Woodman, et al., of the Intercept: “An investigation by The Intercept and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has found that ICE uses isolation [i.e., solitary confinement] as a go-to tool, rather than a last resort, to manage and punish even the most vulnerable detainees for weeks and months at a time. The Intercept’s and ICIJ’s reporting ... found that the immigration agency has used isolation cells to punish immigrants for offenses as minor as consensual kissing, and to segregate hunger strikers, LGBTQ detainees, and people with disabilities. In nearly a third of the cases, detainees were described as having a mental illness, which made them especially vulnerable to breakdown if locked up alone in a small cell.... The review found that immigrants held in the agency’s isolation cells had suffered hallucinations, fits of anger, and suicidal impulses. Former detainees told ICIJ that they experienced sleeplessness, flashbacks, depression, and memory loss long after release. 'People were being brutalized,' said Ellen Gallagher, who currently holds a supervisory role in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.... Gallagher, a whistleblower who is going public for the first time, told The Intercept and ICIJ that ICE, a DHS agency, has violated policies that often require a search for less restrictive measures....”

Nomaan Merchant of the AP: "A 16-year-old Guatemala migrant who died Monday in U.S. custody had been held by immigration authorities for six days — twice as long as federal law generally permits. The teenager, identified by U.S. Customs and Border Protection as Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, was the fifth minor from Guatemala to die after being apprehended by U.S. border agents since December.... CBP said Carlos reported early Sunday morning that he was not feeling well and diagnosed with the flu by a nurse practitioner.... He was not hospitalized, according to the agency official who briefed reporters.... Asked about the death, Trump blamed Democrats, saying they are refusing to approve changes that could improve the system."

Curt Prendergast of the Arizona Daily Star: "A Nogales [Arizona] Border Patrol agent called the people he apprehends 'disgusting subhuman s--- unworthy of being kindling for a fire' and asked the president to 'PLEASE let us take the gloves off trump!,' federal prosecutors said in court documents. The statements were made in a text message sent by Agent Matthew Bowen, 39, who is accused of knocking down a Guatemalan man with his Border Patrol vehicle on Dec. 3, 2017, and then lying in a report about the incident, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Tucson. Prosecutors ... are asking a judge to allow some of Bowen's text messages to be used as evidence of his 'great disdain' for the people he apprehends, which could shed light on his state of mind when he hit the man with his truck.... Among the examples the prosecutors cite is an exchange on Dec. 18, 2017, in which an unidentified person asked Bowen: 'Did you gas hiscorpse (sic) or just use regular peanut oil while tazing?? For a frying effect.' Bowen responded, 'Guats are best made crispy with an olive oil from their native pais," using a derogatory term for Guatemalan citizens and the Spanish word for country, pais."

Betsy Woodruff & Sam Brodey of The Daily Beast: "The Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity agency ... is urging staffers tasked with handling cyber threats to set their day jobs aside and go on mini-deployments to the U.S.-Mexico border after an earlier request from headquarters failed to recruit enough officials.... Earlier this spring, top officials asked employees from all DHS entities to go volunteer at the border, according to a DHS official.... Among the officials who were asked on Friday to assist the federal government at the border are those tasked with protecting the U.S. government’s cyber infrastructure—including election systems considered vulnerable in the run-up to 2020." --s

Eric Levitz of New York: "Donald Trump wants to let old coal plants remain in operation longer than existing federal rules would allow. To rationalize such a policy, the White House encouraged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to produce research showing that the economic benefits of keeping the sky sooty would outweigh the cost to public health.... EPA scientists found that keeping these uniquely dirty energy providers on the grid will cause 1,400 more Americans to perish from premature deaths every year.... So the administration decided to bite the bullet, admit its error — and order EPA scientists to engineer a lower body count." --s

Juan Cole: " Iran’s clerical Leader, Ali Khamenei threw cold water on the idea of a miitary conflict between Iran and the US. Khamenei thus proved himself more mature than US warmongers such as National Security adviser John Bolton.... Khamenei’s lead has been followed by the new head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami, who also underlined that Iran does not want military conflict with the United States. Then the US side defused some tensions by reporting that Iran had brought its little boats back to shore that the US maintained had missiles (i.e. rockets) on them. Iran does not have a navy to speak of and those little boats can’t carry a missile system." --s

Congressional Race 2020. Todd Spangler of the Detroit Free Press: "A Republican state representative plans to challenge U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township, after Amash said this weekend he believes ... Donald Trump committed impeachable offenses. State Rep. Jim Lower, R-Greenville, announced that he would run for the 3rd Congressional District seat Amash has held since 2011 and would forgo a race for a third term in the state House. Lower said he had been planning to run for some time and had expected to make an announcement closer to July 4. But he said he decided to move up that schedule after Amash said on Twitter on Saturday that after reading Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report he believes the president committed impeachable offenses. Amash became the first Republican to voice support for impeachment. Trump attacked Amash on Sunday on Twitter, calling him a 'loser' and saying Amash only made the remarks to get attention." ...

... Presidential Race 2020

... Jonathan Chait: Justin "Amash’s fellow Republicans immediately set about proving how brave it was by excommunicating him from the party. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy appeared on Fox News to unleash a wild flurry of lies.... The grain of truth in the accusations against Amash is that Amash is contemplating a presidential candidacy with the Libertarian Party.... A real right-wing third-party challenge, by a Republican (who hails from a swing state) would be a nightmare for Trump’s reelection. And the more Republicans attack Amash, the more they close the door on any chance he can return to Congress, where he mostly votes with them, and push him instead to run against Trump. The short-term goal of discrediting Trump’s critics may bring with it a much larger long-term cost." ...

     ... Steve M. disagrees with Chait: "It would be nice to believe this, but the overwhelming majority of Republican voters would not consider Amash a 'real' right-winger, especially not after Trump and the GOP noise machine began publicizing [a series of supposed] apostasies[.]... Oh, and did I mention that he's of Palestinian and Syrian descent? Amash will win the votes of a few #NeverTrumpers in the commentariat. He'll also win the usual libertarian voters, and maybe a few disaffected lefties. (He wants to end federal marijuana prohibition.) But he won't be seen as a genuine conservative alternative. It would be nice to think so, but that won't happen." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: But I think Chait could be right. Tara Golshen of Vox (Nov. 2016): "The final totals revealed that, in fact, [Jill] Stein’s total voters exceeded Clinton’s margin of victory. In other words, if every Stein voter had voted for Clinton instead, she [Clinton] could have won Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and the presidency." However, as Golshen points out, there's no reason to think all (or even enough) of Stein's voters would have come to the polls & voted for Clinton. BUT if Michigan, for instance, is close in 2020, a few tens of thousands of votes for Amash could rob Trump of a majority.

The Perceived "Most Electable" Is Not Necessarily the Most Electable. Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times: "... I suspect that Biden is surging in the polls in part because, rather than pretend that the election is about so-called kitchen table issues, he’s taking on Trump’s desecration of the presidency directly. What worries me about Biden — above and beyond policy disagreements — is that, in contemporary politics, the quest to find an electable candidate hasn’t resulted in candidates that actually win. Voters don’t do themselves any favors when they try to think like pundits.... Ultimately, the paradox of primaries is that it’s most strategic to ignore the experts and follow your emotions."

See also the NYT story by Haberman & Karni, linked above, re: Trump's call for an investigation of Joe Biden & his family.

Fox "News" Hosts Slime Buttigieg. Matt Gertz of Media Matters on why Democrats should not appear on Fox "News": "South Bend, IN, Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s performance at a Fox News town hall garnered rave reviews Sunday night from journalists and pundits, with some arguing that his successful turn proved that Democratic presidential candidates should be making on-air appeals to the network’s viewers.... Within hours ... the network began smearing Buttigieg in an effort that will likely minimize any gains he might have made with its viewers.... No matter how persuasive the candidates might be, they can’t reverse years of propaganda in a single evening.... The network has spent decades priming its audience to hate Democrats. To the extent that regular Fox viewers were tuning in to Buttigieg’s town hall, he had an opportunity to speak to them. But now that he’s no longer on their airwaves, Fox’s hosts, who have a much more extensive and durable relationship with their audience, get to rebut everything he said for hours on end.... As Fox faced [financial] disaster, Democratic presidential candidates bailed it out. And now the network will pay them back by doing whatever it can to undermine their message and ensure their defeat." ...

... Michael Grynbaum of the New York Times writes along the same vein, but is less direct than Gertz about the downside of Democrats' appearing on Fox "News." There is an upside, too, Grynbaum reports: “Mark McKinnon, a veteran political strategist, said he could understand why Mr. Trump might be alarmed at seeing potential rivals show up on his favorite network. 'Anyone who goes to a Fox town hall is going to come off better, more reasonable, more human, and not nearly as evil, ideological or stupid as they are currently being painted by the network,' Mr. McKinnon said. 'The bar is low. Viewers will be pleasantly surprised when Democrats show up to town halls and they’re not wearing Mao caps.'”


Annals of "Journalism," Ha Ha Ha. Maxwell Tani
of The Daily Beast: "In a new report shared exclusively with The Daily Beast, liberal media-monitoring group Media Matters found that on-air personalities at the right-leaning news network [Fox News] have made a total of at least $500,000 in speaking fees for appearances at Republican groups and conservative organizations while working at Fox News." --s

"Charity Is Not a Route to a Just Society." Zak Cheney-Rice of New York: “Several commenters, including Senator Bernie Sanders and writer Anand Giridharadas, have praised [the] generosity [of private equity billionaire Robert F. Smith, who pledged to eliminate the college debt of members of Morehouse College's class of 2019,] while maintaining that its necessity stems from policy failures.... As Giridharadas points out, Smith’s philanthropy comes with a caveat: That despite his investment in this tiny subset of the borrower population, his opposition to closing tax loopholes for phenomenally-wealthy people like himself indicates a lack of interest in systemic change that could generate enough money to make college free for everybody — a great way, in Smith’s words, to 'make sure that every class has the same opportunity going forward.'... Smith’s financial launchpad will ensure that 396 Morehouse men enter the job market with a stability that should be their right. But it should be others’ as well — even the less accomplished.... Charity is not a route to a just society.”

Eoin Higgins of Common Dreams: "Journalist Judd Legum, the founder and former editor-in-chief of ThinkProgress, revealed Monday at his new subscription service outlet Popular Info that corporate donations to state legislators instrumental in pushing abortion bans in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, and Missouri are in contrast to the public image of those companies. Legum took aim at six specific companies: AT&T, Walmart, pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Eli Lilly, Coca-Cola, and insurance corporation Aetna. Each corporation proudly promotes inclusion, equality, and concern for the health of women in company statements. 'In their corporate literature, these companies present themselves as champions of women and gender equality,' wrote Legum. 'But they have collectively donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to politicians seeking to roll back reproductive rights.'"

Jamelle Bouie of the New York Times: “The animating impulse of Trump’s campaign — the beating heart of 'Make America Great Again' — was a defense of traditional hierarchies. Trump promised, explicitly, to weaken America’s commitment to principles of fairness and equality to strengthen privileges of race, gender and wealth.... With his nomination of conservative judges — and Mitch McConnell’s successful drive to confirm them in the Senate — Trump has given white evangelicals and their Republican representatives the opportunity to pass the laws and measures that reflect their ultra-traditionalist ideals. So even if Trump distances himself from any particular law, that’s how one should understand the new wave of abortion restrictions — as direct attacks on the social and economic autonomy of people who can become pregnant designed to strengthen strict hierarchies of gender.... MAGA is the Muslim ban; MAGA is child separation; MAGA is a woman in handcuffs for thinking she had the right to her own body.” See also Yvonne Sanchez's Arizona Republic story, linked below.

Beyond the Beltway

Alabama. Abbey Crain of al.com: "Alabama Public Television chose not to air PBS’s Arthur episode that included a same-sex marriage.... APT has no plans to air the episode at a later date.... APT previously pulled an episode of Arthur in 2005, when Buster, a bunny character in Arthur visited a girl who had two mothers.... The episode is available online at pbs.org." Mrs. McC: The federal government funds PBS (funding which Trump, BTW, proposed cutting to zero). Besides its regular federal funding, last November APT received a special $175,000 grant "to provide science and literacy resources for the youngest learners to underserved areas." So good job on that, APT, you ignorant bigots!

Arizona. Yvonne Sanchez of the Arizona Republic: Right-wing extremists are re-inserting themselves into Arizona Republican politics, and the "mainstream" GOP is welcoming them. “With nativism rising in the U.S., Arizona’s far-right, enamored with conspiracies and comfortable among bigots and nationalists, is mobilizing after years of feeling alienated by the state GOP. They are motivated by a president and state party leader who are voicing action for a pro-Trump 'America First' agenda they support and the state’s rapidly changing demography towards a younger, more diverse population, experts say. 'It’s not necessarily just how widespread support may be for a particular leader or policy, but how deep it is within certain pockets,' said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino. 'What extremists are reveling in is not only the fact that some of their policies are becoming mainstream, but sometimes the bigotry which bleeds into these discussions is not fully repudiated. And they take that as a wink and a nod.'... Donald Trump’s affirmation of white nationalists after a 2017 neo-Nazi 'Unite the Right' rally turned deadly in Charlottesville, Virginia..., was taken by many as tacit approval of the fringe right and its tactics.”

Way Beyond

Australia. Joe Romm of ThinkProgress: "The unexpected victory of conservatives in Australia’s election Saturday is bad news for the future of global climate action, warn climate experts. Polls had suggested that the Labor Party, which supports strong climate action, held a narrow lead in recent days. But in the end, Prime Minister Scott Morrison won re-election.... 'We have lost Australia for now,' warned Penn State climatologist Michael Mann in an email.  'A coalition of a small number of bad actors now threaten the survivability of our species,' he said." --s

Austria. Philip Oltermann of the Guardian: "Austria’s far-right interior minister, Herbert Kickl, has been fired in the wake of the 'Ibiza' corruption scandal that has engulfed the Freedom party (FPÖ), leading to the complete collapse of the country’s governing coalition.... Kickl’s sacking follows the resignation of FPÖ leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, as vice-chancellor following the emergence of a video that showed him offering lucrative public contracts [to Putin-linked cronies] in exchange for campaign support." --s

Uganda. Ed Pilkington & Alon Mwesigwa of the Guardian: “An American pastor from New Jersey [Robert Baldwin] backed by a British former clairvoyant [Sam Little from Arlesey in Bedfordshire] is running a network that gives up to 50,000 Ugandans a 'miracle cure' made from industrial bleach, claiming drinking the toxic fluid eradicates cancer, HIV/Aids, malaria and most other diseases.... [C]hlorine dioxide ... has no known health benefit and can be extremely dangerous.... The American pastor has 'trained' about 1,200 clerics in Uganda on administering the 'miracle cure'.... As an inducement, Baldwin is offering smartphones to those clerics who are especially 'committed' to spreading the bleach cure.” --s

Aaron Clark & Anuchit Nguyen of Bloomberg: "While Southeast Asia remains one of the last places where coal power can attract international financing, one maverick tycoon [Sarath Ratanavadithinks the region will no longer tolerate burning the dirtiest fuel.... At least 100 major lenders in the past five years have put restrictions on financing coal mines and power plants that burn the fuel, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis said in February.... [A]mid dire warnings that the world must abandon coal power entirely by 2050 to avoid catastrophic damage from climate change..., [t]hose predictions are beginning to convince developers and investors to avoid coal as pressures are expected to mount against the fuel." --s

Sunday
May192019

The Commentariat -- May 20, 2019

Afternoon Update:

Rachel Bade, et al., of the Washington Post: “The White House on Monday blocked former counsel Donald McGahn from testifying to Congress, the latest act of defiance in the ongoing war between House Democrats and President Trump. McGahn, who Democrats hoped would become a star witness in their investigation into whether Trump obstructed justice, was subpoenaed to testify Tuesday morning. 'The Department of Justice has provided a legal opinion stating that, based on long-standing, bipartisan, and constitutional precedent, the former counsel to the president cannot be forced to give such testimony, and Mr. McGahn has been directed to act accordingly,' said White House press secretary Sarah Sanders in a statement.... The 15-page legal opinion written by Assistant Attorney General Steven A. Engel argues McGahn cannot be compelled to testify before the committee, based on past Justice Department legal opinions regarding the president’s close advisers. The memo says McGahn’s immunity from congressional testimony is separate and broader than a claim of executive privilege.”

~~~~~~~~~~

The Trump Scandals, Ctd.

Even Computers Can Tell Trump & Kushner Might Be Crooks. David Enrich of the New York Times: "Anti-money laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank recommended in 2016 and 2017 that multiple transactions involving legal entities controlled by Donald J. Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, be reported to a federal financial-crimes watchdog. The transactions, some of which involved Mr. Trump’s now-defunct foundation, set off alerts in a computer system designed to detect illicit activity, according to five current and former bank employees. Compliance staff members who then reviewed the transactions prepared so-called suspicious activity reports that they believed should be sent to a unit of the Treasury Department that polices financial crimes. But executives at Deutsche Bank, which has lent billions of dollars to the Trump and Kushner companies, rejected their employees’ advice. The reports were never filed with the government.... Former Deutsche Bank employees said the decision not to report the Trump and Kushner transactions reflected the bank’s generally lax approach to money laundering laws. The employees ... said it was part of a pattern of the bank’s executives rejecting valid reports to protect relationships with lucrative clients." ...

... digby: "If it were anyone else I'd say they couldn't have been so stupid and arrogant as to do those kinds of shenanigans in 2016 and 2017. Obviously, with Trump and Kushner that's not operative. They are that stupid and arrogant."

Trump's (Alleged) Sex Assault Club Met Again Last Week. Maggie Haberman & Annie Karni of the New York Times: "President Trump has generally bucked the #MeToo movement, siding instead with the men who deny accusations of sexual assault or misconduct. Now, the Republican National Committee appears to be following his lead. Steve Wynn, the billionaire former casino mogul who resigned as chairman of Wynn Resorts and as finance chairman of the R.N.C. last year after The Wall Street Journal revealed allegations of sexual assault and harassment spanning decades, has recently donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the committee. On Thursday, he was spotted by television cameras arriving at a high-dollar fund-raising dinner for Mr. Trump and the committee.... Politico reported last week that Mr. Wynn gave $248,500 to the Republican National Committee and an additional $150,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee in April."

New York Times Editors: “... Donald Trump has found ways to wield or dangle the pardon power in a manner that departs from any established practice and even calls into question the principles of justice that undergird it.... [His two latest full pardons demonstrate his penchant for granting] mercy for lawbreakers in the mold of disgraced politicians, media personalities and political allies who have flattered, defended or curried favor with the president. Then came news that the president may mark this Memorial Day with pardons for ... war criminals.... This month, Mr. Trump already pardoned Michael Behenna, a former Army lieutenant who was court-martialed and convicted of killing a detained Iraqi man whom he was interrogating. The American Civil Liberties Union said the pardon represented 'a presidential endorsement of murder.'... One bill before Congress, introduced by the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Adam Schiff, aims to discourage the misuse of pardons by shedding sunlight on how they are procured and processed. Pro-democracy advocates support the legislation.” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: John Gramlich & Kristen Bialik of Pew Research wrote in January 2017, "Barack Obama ended his presidency having granted clemency to more people convicted of federal crimes than any chief executive in 64 years. But he also received far more requests for clemency than any U.S. president on record, largely as a result of an initiative set up by his administration to shorten prison terms for nonviolent federal inmates convicted of drug crimes." The recipients of these grants were through a rigorous DOJ vetting process. These were not Friends of Barack, & there is no reason to think Obama hoped to gain political advantage by granting clemency; indeed, Obama used his pardon power most aggressively in his second term. Obama's pardons & grants of clemency stand in sharp contrast to those Trump has offered & dangled. ...

... ** The War Crimes President*. Chas Danner of New York: "President Trump may pardon several U.S. service members who have been accused or convicted of serious war crimes, including the mass murder of civilians, the New York Times reported Saturday.... Trump is (or has been) convinced that these men are victims of injustice, rather than perpetrators of it. And it’s not hard to imagine how war criminals could seem like war heroes to a president who fetishizes strength and power over the powerless.... It should also be emphasized that all of the victims of these war crimes lived in Muslim-majority countries.... The potential pardons must also be seen in the context of President Trump’s rarely veiled Islamophobia and how well that has played with his base.... The pardons would also go against core principles that form the foundation of the armed services, as well as military justice.... Pardoning a series of war criminals would set a precedent for what is and is not acceptable behavior on the battlefield and within the chain of command, all thanks to a draft dodger who attacked a prisoner of war and a gold-star family on his way to becoming president." ...

... As Akhilleus noted in yesterday's Comments thread, Trump thinks it's A-OK to torture & kill Muslims.

Justin Wise of the Hill: "President Trump on Sunday ripped Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) for saying that the president had reached the 'threshold for impeachment.'... 'Never a fan of @justinamash, a total lightweight who opposes me and some of our great Republican ideas and policies just for the sake of getting his name out there through controversy,' Trump said on Twitter.... 'He would see that it was nevertheless strong on NO COLLUSION and, ultimately, NO OBSTRUCTION,' Trump said. 'Anyway, how do you Obstruct when there is no crime and, in fact, the crimes were committed by the other side? Justin is a loser who sadly plays right into our opponents hands!'" ...

... Senator Mitt Mealy-Mouth. David Beavers of Politico: "Sen. Mitt Romney on Sunday called a GOP congressman's call for impeaching ... Donald Trump 'a courageous statement' while maintaining that impeachment is not warranted based on the special counsel's report. Speaking to CNN's Jake Tapper on 'State of the Union,' Romney said, 'My own view is that Justin Amash has reached a different conclusion than I have. I respect him. I think it’s a courageous statement,' the Utah Republican continued. 'But I believe that to make a case for obstruction of justice, you just don’t have the elements that are evidenced in this document.'" As the headline writer at New York mag put it, "A profile in recognizing courage rather than displaying it." (No link.)

As Marcy Wheeler reminded Chris Hayes on Friday, "NO one gets that in the summer of 2017 at the same time that Trump had just met for the first time with Vladimir Putin in this crazy meeting in the G-20, he went to [Corey] Lewandowski and dictated to him [according to the Mueller] report and made him write it down and he said, '[Trump] never dictated anything to me before.'  He makes him write it down and in that paper, he said go tell [Jeff] Sessions to shut down the investigation into the Russians who hacked us in 2016. He can investigate what's going to happen in 2018 and 2020, but not in 2016. That's crazy. No one knows that Trump tried to shut down the entire investigation, not just his side, but the Russian side as well." Emphasis added. Transcribed by Karoli Kuns of Crooks & Liars.


** Daniel Okrent
, in a Washington Post op-ed: Jared “Kushner’s new immigration plan, aimed at reducing immigration from specific nations through the virtual elimination of what he and others have disparaged as 'chain migration,' and the simultaneous valorization of the highly educated, is simply a version of a blatantly discriminatory effort [the aristocratic senator Henry Cabot] Lodge initiated more than a century ago.... The widening streams of emigres pouring out of the impoverished lands between the Baltic and the Mediterranean had broadened to flood stage, and Lodge determined that the best way to keep them out was to make them submit to a literacy test.... Lodge’s literacy test bill passed with ease. But on President Grover Cleveland’s very last day in office, he struck it down with a veto, and there were not enough votes in the Senate to override.... Only with anti-European fervor spiking on the brink of World War I, and new theories of 'racial eugenics' shaping public debate, was it finally enacted over President Woodrow Wilson’s second veto, in 1917.... Jared Kushner — and Stephen Miller and President Trump — likely know very little about Henry Cabot Lodge. But he would be proud of them.” ...

... Seung Min Kim of the Washington Post: "President Trump said in an interview airing Sunday [on Fox 'News'] that he has concerns about a verification system that checks whether someone can work in the United States legally — a tool that his namesake business began using company-wide earlier this year.... The president’s comments about E-Verify draw attention back to the hiring practices of the Trump Organization, which has employed undocumented immigrants as waiters, groundskeepers and housekeepers even as Trump made battling undocumented immigration a signature issue. Trump said during his presidential campaign that his company used E-Verify and he called for it to be made mandatory.... But the Trump Organization did not begin using the system at all of its properties until January, after The Washington Post reported that about a dozen undocumented workers from Latin America had been employed at the Trump National Golf Club in Westchester County, N.Y., but were abruptly fired that month."

Have Saber, Will Rattle. Chas Danner of New York: “President Trump, who may be the only thing standing between the Trump administration and an elective war with Iran, threatened to 'end' the country in a tweet on Sunday.... The president’s return to bluster was [likely] prompted, as most of his weekend tweets typically are, by a Fox News segment he was watching (about the escalating tensions). 'If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran,” Trump responded. “Never threaten the United States again!'” ...

... Mustafa Salim & Tamer El-Ghobashy of the Washington A rocket landed inside Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, which houses the sprawling U.S. Embassy, Iraqi security officials said Sunday, in an apparent warning shot to the United States amid escalating tensions with Iran. The rocket landed less than a mile from the U.S. Embassy near Iraq’s parliament building and caused no injuries or serious damage, a security official said. But the timing of the launch has increased worries in Iraq that it will be drawn into a conflict between two of its closest allies, the United States and Iran."

Bo Emerson of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Billionaire Robert F. Smith, who received an honorary doctorate at Morehouse College’s Sunday morning graduation exercises, had already announced a $1.5 million gift to the school. But during his remarks in front of the nearly 400 graduating seniors, the billionaire technology investor and philanthropist surprised some by announcing that his family was providing a grant to eliminate the student debt of the entire Class of 2019. 'This is my class,' he said, 'and I know my class will pay this forward.' The announcement elicited the biggest cheers of the morning.” Mrs. McC: Yeah, I guess so. ...

... MEANWHILE. Gillian Edevane of Newsweek: “As Vice President Mike Pence gave the Saturday morning commencement address at Taylor University — a Christian school in Pence's home state of Indiana — dozens of graduating seniors and faculty walked out in protest. The small demonstration came after Taylor students and members of the surrounding Upland, Indiana, community started an online petition to bar Pence from giving the address, citing concerns that it could be construed as an endorsement of ... Donald Trump’s policies. Many of those who remained at the ceremony but objected to Pence’s presence sported buttons that declared, 'I am Taylor Too,' which intended to show that the university houses a multitude of viewpoints in contrast to those held by the administration.... The demonstration marked a rare instance in which a member of the Trump administration was rebuffed in what many considered to be friendly territory.”

Presidential Race 2020

Amy Wang of the Washington Post: “In a televised Fox News Channel town hall event Sunday, Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg defended his decision to appear on the network, days after a competitor, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), spurned Fox as a 'hate-for-profit racket.' During an hour-long conversation with moderator Chris Wallace, Buttigieg ... called out Tucker Carlson, for saying that immigrants made the United States “dirtier,” as well as Laura Ingraham, who once compared detention centers for migrant children to summer camps. 'There is a reason why anybody has to swallow hard and think twice before participating in this media ecosystem,' Buttigieg said.... Buttigieg also took several opportunities to criticize President Trump, who earlier in the evening had tweeted his displeasure that his preferred news network was 'wasting airtime on Mayor Pete.'” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: As you recall, Trump also chastised Fox for hosting Bernie Sanders at a townhall in April. The messages I infer are that Trump thinks (1) that he is the program director at Trump TV; or (2) more ominously (and more likely), that democratic elections are a "waste of time" & that Fox should coronate him for at least a second term, if not more. ...

... Mayor Pete Gets a Standing O at Fox. Maureen Groppe of USA Today: "Pete Buttigieg got an enthusiastic reception at a Fox News town hall Sunday where he explained the importance of restoring moral authority to the office of president and appointing judges that back reproductive rights. He also criticized ... Donald Trump over reports that he's considering pardoning service members accused of war crimes. But the response that generated one of the biggest rounds of applause was his dismissal of Trump's signature form of communication. 'The tweets are – I don’t care,' the Democratic presidential hopeful said when asked how he would deal with Trump's tweets and insults if he wins the nomination. Calling Trump's tweets a distraction from the real issues, Buttigieg said he gets that 'It's the nature of grotesque things that you can’t look away.'... 'Wow, a standing ovation," [host Chris] Wallace said as the audience rose after the hour-long discussion with the South Bend, Indiana, mayor."

Laurie Penny in the New Republic (May 17): Anti-abortion “laws are not about whether a fetus is a person. They are about enshrining maximalist control over the sexual autonomy of women as a foundational principle of conservative rule. They are about owning women. They are about women as things.... The question of whether a fetus is a person is conveniently unanswerable. The question of whether a woman is a person, however, is not up for debate — and it is female personhood, not fetal personhood, that should decide the issue of basic bodily autonomy.... The Trump regime was given the keys to the nation’s capital by white evangelicals mostly on the basis of a promise to criminalize abortion. Now Republicans across the country are gleefully delivering on that promise, because they like power and want to keep it, and because it makes them feel big and tough to confiscate basic human rights from pregnant people.... The anti-choice Republican feeding frenzy comes from a deep conservative greed for social control. That’s why Tony Tinderholt, the Republican Texas state representative who is sponsoring a bill to make abortion an actual capital crime — again, so much for the 'pro-life' position — says that the great social virtue of his proposal is to 'force' women to be 'more personally responsible' in their sexual lives.... The eventual aim here is to put women’s bodies under strict and brutal state surveillance across the whole of America.... It’s a race thing, too, of course, and it always has been.”

Saturday
May182019

The Commentariat -- May 19, 2019

Afternoon Update:

Even Computers Can Tell Trump & Kushner Might Be Crooks. David Enrich of the New York Times: "Anti-money laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank recommended in 2016 and 2017 that multiple transactions involving legal entities controlled by Donald J. Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, be reported to a federal financial-crimes watchdog. The transactions, some of which involved Mr. Trump's now-defunct foundation, set off alerts in a computer system designed to detect illicit activity, according to five current and former bank employees. Compliance staff members who then reviewed the transactions prepared so-called suspicious activity reports that they believed should be sent to a unit of the Treasury Department that polices financial crimes. But executives at Deutsche Bank, which has lent billions of dollars to the Trump and Kushner companies, rejected their employees' advice. The reports were never filed with the government.... Former Deutsche Bank employees said the decision not to report the Trump and Kushner transactions reflected the bank's generally lax approach to money laundering laws. The employees ... said it was part of a pattern of the bank's executives rejecting valid reports to protect relationships with lucrative clients."

Justin Wise of the Hill: "President Trump on Sunday ripped Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) for saying that the president had reached the 'threshold for impeachment.'... 'Never a fan of @justinamash, a total lightweight who opposes me and some of our great Republican ideas and policies just for the sake of getting his name out there through controversy,' Trump said on Twitter.... 'He would see that it was nevertheless strong on NO COLLUSION and, ultimately, NO OBSTRUCTION,' Trump said. 'Anyway, how do you Obstruct when there is no crime and, in fact, the crimes were committed by the other side? Justin is a loser who sadly plays right into our opponents hands!'" ...

... Senator Mitt Mealy-Mouth. David Beavers of Politico: "Sen. Mitt Romney on Sunday called a GOP congressman's call for impeaching ... Donald Trump 'a courageous statement' while maintaining that impeachment is not warranted based on the special counsel's report. Speaking to CNN's Jake Tapper on 'State of the Union,' Romney said, 'My own view is that Justin Amash has reached a different conclusion than I have. I respect him. I think it's a courageous statement,' the Utah Republican continued. 'But I believe that to make a case for obstruction of justice, you just don't have the elements that are evidenced in this document.'"

** Daniel Okrent, in a Washington Post op-ed: Jared "Kushner's new immigration plan, aimed at reducing immigration from specific nations through the virtual elimination of what he and others have disparaged as 'chain migration,' and the simultaneous valorization of the highly educated, is simply a version of a blatantly discriminatory effort [the aristocratic senator Henry Cabot] Lodge initiated more than a century ago.... The widening streams of emigres pouring out of the impoverished lands between the Baltic and the Mediterranean had broadened to flood stage, and Lodge determined that the best way to keep them out was to make them submit to a literacy test.... Lodge's literacy test bill passed with ease. But on President Grover Cleveland's very last day in office, he struck it down with a veto, and there were not enough votes in the Senate to override.... Only with anti-European fervor spiking on the brink of World War I, and new theories of 'racial eugenics' shaping public debate, was it finally enacted over President Woodrow Wilson's second veto, in 1917.... Jared Kushner -- and Stephen Miller and President Trump -- likely know very little about Henry Cabot Lodge. But he would be proud of them."

Bo Emerson of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Billionaire Robert F. Smith, who received an honorary doctorate at Morehouse College's Sunday morning graduation exercises, had already announced a $1.5 million gift to the school. But during his remarks in front of the nearly 400 graduating seniors, the billionaire technology investor and philanthropist surprised some by announcing that his family was providing a grant to eliminate the student debt of the entire Class of 2019. 'This is my class,' he said, 'and I know my class will pay this forward.' The announcement elicited the biggest cheers of the morning." Mrs. McC: Yeah, I guess so. ...

~~~~~~~~~~

The Trump Scandals, Ctd.

Glenn Thrush of the New York Times: "Representative Justin Amash, an iconoclastic Republican of Michigan who has considered a run against President Trump in 2020, became the first member of his party serving in Congress to publicly suggest that the president's conduct had reached the 'threshold of impeachment.' Mr. Amash, 39, used Mr. Trump's favorite medium -- Twitter -- to join a groundswell of Democrats who have concluded that the president's behavior, including instances of potential obstruction of justice laid out in the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, meets the constitutional threshold of high crimes and misdemeanors. 'President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct,' Mr. Amash wrote in a series of messages after reading the redacted version of the 448-page report. Contrary to the public statements and summaries offered by Attorney General William P. Barr, 'Mueller's report reveals that President Trump engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meet the threshold for impeachment,' wrote Mr. Amash, who has been one of the president's most outspoken Republican critics."

By Trump Standards, A Quaint Scandal. Colby Itkowitz of the Washington Post: "Seated behind a desk on Air Force One, the presidential seal over his left shoulder, President Trump shot a short video Thursday, blasting New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's entry into the 2020 race.... Trump made the video while traveling to a fundraiser in New York.... Trump's use of taxpayer-funded transportation to post a political message raises some legal and ethics questions. But possibly the greatest crime ... is the breakdown of norms. It's entirely inappropriate, and it is against historical norms for a president to be campaigning from Air Force One,' said Paul S. Ryan ... of ... Common Cause, a nonpartisan watchdog group. 'Most presidents have had enough respect for the office to try to separate campaigning from formal duties. Donald Trump is not such a president.'" Besides being a potential campaign finance violation, "It is actually illegal under the U.S. code to use the [presidential] seal 'for the purpose of conveying, or in a manner reasonably calculated to convey, a false impression of sponsorship or approval by the Government of the United States.'" ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: We all know Trump is a fake president*, hence the asterisk. But -- as we find out nearly every day in one or more of a wide variety of ways -- he is so incompetent, he cannot even do a decent job of faking it.

Dahlia Lithwick of Slate: "This president is in a footrace against congressional Democrats currently seeking subpoenas, tax returns, and an unredacted Mueller report. He is in a footrace against state attorneys general seeking to forestall a pretend national emergency at the border. He is in a footrace against millions of Americans who stand to lose health insurance if the courts kill the Affordable Care Act.... And as [these cases] play out against the 2020 elections, this president is installing judges at lightning speed. He is doing that, and Senate Republicans are acceding to it, not just because he wants to turn the country into a theocracy, or a museum for lonely ethno-nationalists. He is doing it because his plan to evade judicial oversight requires that he control the refs. The faster Trump lards up the federal bench further with unqualified party operatives and loyalists, the more likely he is to draw judicial rulings in his favor. He's already bragged that he owns the Supreme Court, and that if Congress initiates impeachment proceedings he will turn there first to halt it.... With rare exceptions ... no judicial nominee is too extreme or unqualified for Senate Republicans."

Aid & Comfort to the Enemy. Frank Figliuzzi in an NBC News opinion piece: "On Monday, Attorney General William Barr, acting more like defense counsel for a cornered president than the nation's top law enforcement official, ordered a U.S. Attorney review the FBI's decision to open a counterintelligence investigation into alleged ties between Trump associates and Russia in 2016. This action, coupled with Barr's previous reckless conduct unwittingly promotes the interests of America's enemies as Barr perpetuates dangerous conspiracy theories about secret Washington cabals and FBI corruption.... When an adversary is aided in its cause by a fortuitous insider who required no energy or resources to cajole or coerce, the enemy views such serendipity as a gift. When that insider happens to be the attorney general of the United States, that gift is priceless.... Barr has become the kind of threat capable of doing severe harm; he has become a threat from within." Figliuzzi was a top FBI counterintelligence official.

Maybe the most important question to ask Bob Mueller when & if he testifies before Congress is what he thinks of Robert De Niro's impression of him:

Presidents use pardons to send messages. They recognize when a process wasn't just or when punishments were too extreme, like for some nonviolent drug cases. If this president is planning to pardon a bunch of people charged with war crimes, he will use the pardon power to send a far darker message. -- Margaret Love, former U.S. pardon attorney ...

... Pardon My War Crimes. Dave Philipps of the New York Times: "President Trump has indicated that he is considering pardons for several American military members accused or convicted of war crimes, including high-profile cases of murder, attempted murder and desecration of a corpse, according to two United States officials. The officials said that the Trump administration had made expedited requests this week for paperwork needed to pardon the troops on or around Memorial Day.... [An] official said while assembling pardon files typically takes months, the Justice Department stressed that all files would have to be complete before Memorial Day weekend, because the President planned to pardon the men then.... The fact that the requests were sent from the White House to the Justice Department, instead of the other way around, is a reversal of long-established practices.... Earlier this month, the president pardoned former Army First Lt. Michael Behenna, who had been convicted of killing an Iraqi during an interrogation in 2008."

Jacob Soboroff & Julia Ainsley of NBC News: "The Trump administration has identified at least 1,712 migrant children it may have separated from their parents in addition to those separated under the 'zero tolerance' policy, according to court transcripts of a Friday hearing. U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the Trump administration to identify children separated before the zero tolerance policy went into effect in May 2018, resulting in the separation of over 2,800 children. Sabraw previously ordered those migrant families to be reunited, but the additional children were identified more recently when the Inspector General for Health and Human Services estimated 'thousands more' may have been separated before the policy was officially underway. Other potentially separated migrant children could still be identified. The government has reviewed the files of 4,108 children out of 50,000 so far." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: FedEx & even the U.S. Post Office keep better track of packages in transit than the DHS does of real, live human beings. Maybe they should have slapped shipping labels on these kids. What an unconscionable disgrace.

Rachel Frazin of the Hill: "U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) does not plan to send migrant families to Florida after reports about a Trump administration proposal resulted in backlash from local and state officials this week. A CBP official told The Hill on Saturday that the administration is not looking at transporting family units to Florida 'at this time' but said officials were looking at housing migrants in other areas across the country." See related story in yesterday's Commentariat.

Annals of "Journalism," Ha Ha Ha. Kevin Poulsen of the Daily Beast: "Founded and helmed by 77-year-old circuit-board millionaire Robert Herring Sr., [One America News Network] launched in 2013 as an answer to the chatty, opinionated content of mainstream cable news channels -- and a place for viewers too conservative for Fox News. Under Herring's direction the network embraced Trumpism enthusiastically starting in 2016, and in recent months the once-obscure cable news channel has been basking in a surge of attention from Donald Trump.... The segments, the interviews, the words the anchors are speaking and even the crawl at the bottom of the screen are a slurry of fake news mixed with genuine reporting; internet conspiracy theories blended with far-right rhetoric and drizzled with undiluted Kremlin propaganda." And it's a horrible place to work.

Presidential Race 2020

Maggie Astor of the New York Times: "Responding to a series of highly restrictive abortion laws aimed at overturning Roe v. Wade, several Democratic presidential candidates have called on Congress to codify abortion rights, signaling a newly aggressive approach in a debate whose terms have long been set by conservatives. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey was first out of the gate on Wednesday, telling BuzzFeed News that if elected president, he would pursue legislation to guarantee abortion rights nationwide, superseding state restrictions, even if the Supreme Court overturned Roe. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York promised the same on Thursday, and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts came forward Friday morning with a more detailed plan. The three senators also called for repealing the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortions."

Jeff Toobin: "The human costs of these new [anti-abortion] laws can scarcely be overstated. Laws have never stopped women from getting abortions; indeed, the abortion rate in countries that ban the procedure is about the same as it is in countries that allow it. But, by driving the practice underground, the new laws will increase the danger to women's health." Toobin demonstrates that the Supremes are likely to overturn Roe. First, they can't possibly hedge of the new Alabama law: "The Alabama legislators wrote their statute in a way that will make it impossible for the Justices to uphold it while still pretending that Roe is good law." Second, "Just last week, in Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt, the Court's five conservatives gave a stark preview of how they regard precedents with which they disagree." ...

... ** Rebecca Traister of New York writes about why women are enraged & who deserve to be hoisted on the blunt points of that rage. And no, it isn't just the white GOP men who explain that women still are legally allowed tol get abortions before they find out they're pregnant. ...

... Carliss Chatman, in a Washington Post op-ed, argues that when a state grants full "personhood" to a fetus, the state also should give that fetus all the legal protections & benefits a "real person" gets: child support, for instance, citizenship (no deportation), a Social Security number (and benefits).

Beyond the Beltway

Georgia. Prosecutorial Discretion. Jennifer Bellamy of WXIA-TV Atlanta: "District attorneys across metro Atlanta have said they would not prosecute a woman for seeking out an abortion in Georgia under the new 'heartbeat' law, which would criminalize abortion after six weeks -- when a fetal pulse is detected. Questions about the legality of the bill have been swift from the medical and legal community about how the law would be enforced.... The Fulton County District Attorney's Office said it has no plans to prosecute women under the new law. That extends to doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers as well. He intends to follow the Roe v. Wade decision.... The same is true in Gwinnett[, Cobb and DeKalb] Count[ies]."

Way Beyond

Australia. Damien Cave of the New York Times: "Scott Morrison, Australia's conservative prime minister, scored a surprise victory in federal elections on Saturday, propelled by a populist wave -- the 'quiet Australians,' he termed it -- resembling the force that has upended politics in the United States, Britain and beyond. The win stunned Australian election analysts -- polls had pointed to a loss for Mr. Morrison's coalition for months. But in the end, the prime minister confounded expectations suggesting that the country was ready for a change in course after six years of tumultuous leadership under the conservative political coalition."

Austria. Katrin Bennhold & Christopher Schuetze of the New York Times: "Austria's chancellor called on Saturday for snap elections after the country's far-right vice chancellor resigned over a secretly filmed video from 2017 that renewed questions about whether Russia had a direct line into a government at the heart of Europe. The video showed Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache of the far-right Freedom Party promising government contracts to a woman claiming to be the niece of a Russian oligarch." ...

... Matthew Karnitschnig, in Politico, puts it more bluntly: "Turns out Russian collusion isn't a 'witch hunt hoax' after all. At least not in Austria. The country's government collapsed on Saturday after Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said he was pulling the plug on his ruling coalition after just 17 months in office. The move came barely 24 hours after the release of a bombshell video showing Heinz-Christian Strache, the far-right leader of his junior coalition partner, trying to trade public contracts for party donations from a woman he believed to be the wealthy niece of a Russian oligarch." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: You might think an incriminating videotape would be the coup de grâce we need here, but we already have more than one: Trump's asking Russia to find Hillary Clinton's e-mails (hackers went after them within five hours of the ask); Trump's telling Lester Holt he fired Comey because of the Rusher thing (and -- though no video, telling Russian diplomats the pressure was off once he fired Comey); Trump's, at Helsinki, telling the world he believed Putin's claim (over U.S. intelligence) that Russian government operatives didn't interfere in the 2016 election.