The Wires

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New York Times (September 22): In March the Department of Justice described criminal cases involving nearly $700 million lost [to fraud] in the previous year by about two million people. The ones hit hardest by this kind of fraud are over 70, and they experience an average loss of $41,800, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reports.... Some of the newer tactics for defrauding older people focus on Social Security, grandparenting and employment searches." ~~~

~~~ Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I have received a number of calls recently warning me I was about to lose my Social Security card, an eventuality that is highly unlikely. I have always just hung up on these automated calls, but yesterday, I decided to bite. When the "real person" came on the phone, he identified himself as a Social Security officer, certainly breaking the law right there. "Really?" I said. "How are you going to prove you're a federal government official and not a scammer?" He immediately hung up. Maybe this gang of crooks will stop calling me (tho probably not).

New York Times: "Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo have both won this year’s Booker Prize, it was announced at a ceremony on Monday, after the judges for the literary award rebelled against its rules. 'We were told quite firmly that the rules state you can only have one winner,' Peter Florence, the chairman of the Booker judges, said at a news conference. But the 'consensus was to flout the rules and divide this year’s prize to celebrate two winners.' Evaristo, who won for her novel 'Girl, Woman, Other,' is the first black woman to win the Booker Prize. 'I hope that honor doesn’t last too long,' she said in her acceptance speech. Atwood, who won in 2000 for 'The Blind Assassin,' was considered a front-runner this year for 'The Testaments,' the sequel to her 1985 dystopian classic, 'The Handmaid’s Tale.'”

We are amused:

The Hollywood Reporter has a list of this year's Emmy Award winners.

The End of the Amtrak Dining Car. Washington Post: "Amtrak says it is reinventing its dining service on long-distance trains, killing the traditional dining car to create more 'flexible' and 'contemporary' dining options. The carrier says the change, starting this fall on the one-night routes east of the Mississippi River, is driven by the desire to save money and lure a younger generation of new riders — chiefly, millennials known to be always on the run, glued to their phones and not particularly keen on breaking bread with strangers at a communal table. With the transition, Amtrak is doing away with the traditional onboard kitchen, switching to serving prepackaged meals and easing restrictions on the traditional serving times. The change allows the railroad to cut costs associated with cooking aboard and keeping up with the white-tablecloth service that was once known to rival high-end restaurants and clubs." ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I realize many of you are too young to have experienced this, but once upon a time, traveling by train & plane was glamorous. People dressed up to travel, and those who had train roomettes dressed for dinner. My then-husband & I once had a roomette when we traveled from Juarez to Mexico City, & the experience was absolutely fabulous; so was the cuisine in the dining car. Now, it's sensible to dress in the most comfy clothes in anticipation of getting squished into a teeny "economy class" airline seat. The photos accompanying the WashPo story show people wearing casual dress in the white-tablecloth dining room, & the men are too gauche to remove their billed caps. P.S. to American tourists: nobody more messes up a photo of an historic site than a bunch of yahoo sightseers ambling around in their sloppy travel outfits. Then:

CNN: "The US Navy has finally acknowledged footage purported to show UFOs hurtling through the air. And while officials said they don't know what the objects are, they're not indulging any hints either. The objects seen in three clips of declassified military footage are "unidentified aerial phenomena," Navy spokesperson Joe Gradisher confirmed to CNN.The clips, released between December 2017 and March 2018 by To The Stars Academy of Arts & Sciences, appear to show fast-moving, oblong objects captured by advanced infrared sensors.In footage from 2004, sensors lock on a target as it flies before it accelerates out of the left side of the frame, too quickly for the sensors to relocate it. Two of the videos, both from 2015, contain audio from US fighter pilots attempting to make sense of what they're seeing."

New York Times: "A solid 18-karat gold toilet, titled 'America' by its creator, Maurizio Cattelan, was stolen early Saturday [September 14] from an exhibit at Blenheim Palace, the Oxfordshire birthplace and family home of Winston Churchill.... The artwork is based on a common Kohler toilet and was created by a foundry in Florence. The work’s value was not disclosed, but [Guggenheim artistic director Nancy] Spector described it as 'millions of dollars’ worth of gold.'... The police said in a statement that they were investigating the burglary and that a 66-year-old man had been arrested but not charged. The toilet has not been recovered. Jess Milne, a detective inspector, noted that the toilet had been plumbed to the building, so the theft 'caused significant damage and flooding.' He said the police believed a 'group of offenders' using at least two vehicles was behind the theft." the Hill's story is here.

Modern Art. CNN: "Hillary Clinton's emails ... have become art -- and the former secretary of state herself went to take a look.The 2016 Democratic presidential nominee looked through printed copies of her emails and sat at a replica of the Oval Office's Resolute Desk during a visit Tuesday to an art exhibit in Venice, Italy, titled 'HILLARY: The Hillary Clinton Emails,' according to the exhibit's creator and curators. 'Hillary Clinton spent an hour yesterday reading her emails at my exhibition of all 62,000 pages of them in Venice,' American poet and artist Kenneth Goldsmith tweeted Wednesday. 'She is pictured here at a replica of the Oval Office Resolute Desk, stacked with her emails.' Francesco Urbano Ragazzi -- the collective name for two men who are working as the exhibit's curatorial team -- told CNN that Clinton came in for a private tour of the exhibit Tuesday morning."

... Related Washington Post story here.

     ... Thanks to NJC for the lead.

Tuesday
Oct082019

The Commentariat -- October 9, 2019

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Ben Hubbard of the New York Times: "Turkey launched a planned military incursion into northeastern Syria on Wednesday aimed at flushing out a Syrian militia backed by the United States, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrote on Twitter.... [Erdogan] provided no other information about where Turkish forces had entered Syria or how far in they would go. Earlier Wednesday, a Syrian militia backed by the United States had mobilized its forces and warned of a 'humanitarian catastrophe' as Turkey massed troops near the countries' border for an incursion it said would begin 'shortly.'" The NBC News report is here. ~~~

~~~ ** Heidi Przybyla & Anna Schecter of NBC News: "... the fact that Trump made his decision to pull the U.S. troops out of Syria shortly after the phone call with Erdogan has raised alarm bells from policymakers, as well as government ethics watchdog groups who have long seen Trump's extensive business interests as a potential area for conflicts of interest.... Trump and his family have long had business ties in and with Turkey, the most visible example being the Trump Towers Istanbul, which licenses the Trump name.... The Washington Post has reported that the organization was paid up to $10 million to put the Trump name on the two buildings. Erdogan attended the opening ceremony of the office and residential towers in 2012.... In 2015, Trump acknowledged having a potential 'conflict' when it came to issues involving Turkey. 'I have a little conflict of interest because I have a major, major building in Istanbul,' Trump said.... Businesses linked to the Turkish government are also major patrons of the Trump Organization. Turkish officials have made 14 visits to Trump properties, more than any other country, according to an analysis performed for NBC News by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW."

Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post: "A new book-length study on the tax burden of the ultrarich begins with a startling finding: In 2018, for the first time in history, America's richest billionaires paid a lower effective tax rate than the working class. 'The Triumph of Injustice,' by economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman of the University of California at Berkeley, presents a first-of-its kind analysis of Americans' effective tax rates since the 1960s. It finds that in 2018 the average effective tax rate paid by the richest 400 families in the country was 23 percent, a full percentage point lower than the 24.2 percent rate paid by the bottom half of American households. In 1980, by contrast, the 400 richest had an effective tax rate of 47 percent. In 1960, that rate was as high as 56 percent. The effective tax rate paid by the bottom 50 percent, by contrast, has changed little over time."

Adrienne Westenfeld of Esquire: "In All the President's Women: Donald Trump and the Making of a Predator, journalists Barry Levine and Monique El-Faizy draw on over 100 interviews ... to craft a detailed history of Trump's relationships with women.... What emerges from the authors' reporting is a portrait of a predator who hides behind wealth and institutional power to frequently harass and abuse women.... In this exclusive excerpt from All the President's Women, Levine and El-Faizy investigate an alleged wave of unwanted touching that preceded his proposal to Melania Knauss, including a disturbing instance of groping at Mar-a-Lago."

Ed Dickson of Rollng Stone: "Back in 2017, former Today Show anchor Matt Lauer was fired following sexual misconduct allegations from a show staffer. At the time, however, both the identity of his accuser and the nature of the allegations against him were not publicly revealed. Excerpts from the upcoming book Catch and Kill by journalist Ronan Farrow, however, reveals the identity of the staffer and sheds light on the allegations, claiming that Lauer was let go from NBC after she accused him of anally raping her in a hotel room. In excerpts published by Variety on Tuesday, Farrow quotes the employee, whom he identifies as NBC producer Brooke Nevils, at length. Nevils alleges that Lauer anally raped her in his hotel room while he was covering the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia." Mrs. McC: I think this is the Variety story Dickson mentions.

~~~~~~~~~~~

** Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "A White House official who listened to President Trump’s July phone call with Ukraine's leader described it as 'crazy,' 'frightening' and 'completely lacking in substance related to national security,' according to a memo written by the whistle-blower at the center of the Ukraine scandal, a C.I.A. officer who spoke to the White House official. The official was 'visibly shaken by what had transpired,' the C.I.A. officer wrote in his memo, one day after Mr. Trump pressured President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine in a July 25 phone call to open investigations that would benefit him politically. A palpable sense of concern had already taken hold among at least some in the White House that the call had veered well outside the bounds of traditional diplomacy, the officer wrote. 'The official stated that there was already a conversation underway with White House lawyers about how to handle the discussion because, in the official's view, the president had clearly committed a criminal act by urging a foreign power to investigate a U.S. person for the purposes of advancing his own re-election bid in 2020,' the C.I.A. officer wrote.'... The inspector general, Michael Atkinson, handed the two-page memo over to Congress last week along with other documents that shed light on the whistle-blower and his actions." The ABC News story is here. ~~~

The Oblivious Idiot.~~~ Pamela Brown, et al., of CNN: "In the hours and days after the Ukrainian President signed-off [his phone call with President Trump]... nervous word spread among national security aides about the contents of the ... call, an early show of worry that Trump's request for an investigation into Joe Biden was far from the 'perfect' conversation he now insists transpired. The scramble and fallout from the call, described by six people familiar with it, parallels and expands upon details described in the whistleblower complaint. The anxiety and internal concern ... shows an ultimately unsuccessful effort to contain the tumult by the administration's lawyers. At least one National Security Council official alerted the White House's national security lawyers about the concerns, three sources familiar with the matter said.... Those same lawyers would later order the transcript of the call moved to a highly classified server typically reserved for code-word classified material. Those concerns were raised independently of the complaint brought forward by an intelligence community whistleblower.... There is little sign, at least in the call's immediate aftermath, that the President himself was aware of the scramble ensuing among his underlings to contain the fallout of his conversation." ~~~

~~~ Philip Bump of the Washington Post: "On Tuesday, an interview conducted with [U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon] Sondland on July 26 by an English-language Ukrainian television network resurfaced.... 'I actually spoke with President Trump just a few minutes before he placed the call [to Zelensky on July 25],' Sondland said. 'And not only did the president call to congratulate President Zelensky but also to begin the collaboration of charting the pathway forward with the U.S.'s support of Ukraine and a White House visit that's upcoming for President Zelensky.'... The timing is important.... At 8:36 a.m., [special envoy to Ukraine Kurt] Volker texted a Zelensky aide named Andrey Yermak. 'Heard from White House,' Volker wrote. 'Assuming President [Zelensky] convinces trump he will investigate / "get to the bottom of what happened" in 2016, we will nail down date for visit to Washington. Good luck!' That 'get to the bottom' likely refers to the theory underpinning Trump's interest in investigating Biden *.... The Volker text message offered an explicit quid pro quo -- Zelensky says he'll investigate 2016 and he'll get a White House visit. Sondland's reference to speaking to Trump around the same time hints at the possibility of a more direct line from Volker's offer through Sondland to Trump." ~~~

     ~~~ * Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I think that "2016" reference refers not to Biden but to Trump's conspiracy theory that Ukraine had possession of a server holding a trove of evidence proving Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the DNC in 2016. It is based partly on this bizarre right-wing theory that Bill Barr is running around the world annoying out allies trying to prove the FBI & U.S. intelligence agencies had set up Russia, which surely had nothing to do with interfering with the 2016 presidential election. (Right. See Vox report on release of Senate Intel report below.) However, it doesn't much matter which conspiracy theory Trump wants Zelensky to "investigate"; as Bump demonstrates, "the Volker text message offered an explicit quid pro quo." ~~~

~~~ Josh Lederman, et al., of NBC News: "Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland consulted directly with ... Donald Trump before telling the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine that there had been 'no quid pro quo' regarding the administration's pressure campaign on the country and urging the diplomat to stop texting about his concerns.... Sondland spoke to Trump by phone on Sept. 9 before responding to acting Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor's remark that it would be 'crazy' to link Ukraine assistance to help with a political campaign.... Sondland, Taylor and former U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker also used the encrypted messaging app WhatsApp, in addition to regular text messages, to communicate about the administration's Ukraine efforts. The use of WhatsApp has raised questions about the potential problems it could pose for complying with federal record-keeping requirements.... Sondland is part of a small cadre of ambassadors who enjoy direct and frequent access to Trump, U.S. officials and others with knowledge of their relationship also say." ~~~

~~~ Katelyn Polantz, et al., of CNN: "... Donald Trump directed Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and two top State Department officials to deal with his private attorney Rudy Giuliani when the Ukrainian President sought to meet Trump, in a clear circumvention of official channels, according to two sources familiar with the conversation. Trump believed Ukraine was still rampantly corrupt and said that if President Volodymyr Zelensky wanted to meet with him, Giuliani would have to be convinced first, one source said.... Trump's push to have Giuliani as gatekeeper is more direct than what was previously disclosed by one of the meeting's participants [Kurt Volker] in his statement to the House last week. It also further demonstrates how significant Giuliani was in brokering access to the President regarding Ukraine policy and in passing messages to other administration officials.... 'The President was very skeptical [of Zelensky],' Volker said [in testimony] to the House committees, describing what had happened when he, [Gordon] Sondland and Perry [told] Trump [that Zelensky was a trustworthy reformer]. 'In the course of that conversation, [Trump] referenced conversations with Mayor Giuliani.... He was clearly receiving other information from other sources, including Mayor Giuliani, that was more negative, causing him to retain this negative view' of a corrupt Ukraine, Volker added." ~~~

     ~~~ Ken Vogel & others at the New York Times get around to looking at Rick Perry's role in the Ukraine scandal: "Mr. Perry's role in the diplomacy between the countries highlights the degree to which Mr. Trump entrusted his Ukraine policy to an ad hoc coalition of loyalists inside and outside the government, especially after the recall of the ambassador to Ukraine amid questions among Mr. Trump's supporters about her loyalty to the president. It also reveals the extent to which Ukrainian politics and national security revolve around energy supplies. Mr. Perry's efforts, while broadly consistent with American national security and energy objectives, intersected with those of the figures involved in the pressure campaign." Mrs. McC: The AP & Politico stories I linked last week seemed more useful. The only news here seems to be that when Perry suggested names to add to Naftogaz's board, he was encouraging Naftogaz to consider "removing from the supervisory board a former Obama administration official named Amos J. Hochstein. Mr. Hochstein had worked with Mr. Biden on his Ukraine efforts as vice president." But the NYT reporters also let Perry off the hook by asserting that "the Ukrainian government had requested recommendations from Mr. Perry for Americans who could advise Naftogaz and the government...." (Also linked yesterday.)

Catch 22. Senior administration official, in call orchestrated by White House, declined to specify what would need to change for White House to cooperate with impeachment inquiry. A 'full halt,' official says on the call, of interviews or document requests. -- Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post, in a tweet

Translation: We'll cooperate with the impeachment inquiry when there is no impeachment inquiry. -- Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

Nicholas Fandos, et al., of the New York Times: "The White House declared war on the House impeachment inquiry on Tuesday, announcing that it would not cooperate with what it called an illegitimate and partisan effort 'to overturn the results of the 2016 election' of Donald J. Trump. In a letter to House Democratic leaders, the White House said the inquiry violated precedent and President Trump's due process rights in such an egregious way that neither he nor the executive branch would willingly provide testimony or documents, a daring move that sets the stage for a constitutional clash." Politico has stories here and here.

~~~ Here's a copy of the 8-page letter (via Politico), addressed to Speaker Nancy Pelosi & the chairs of three House committees & signed by White House counsel Pat Cippolone. Mrs. McC: Although the letter has a buncha footnotes, many refer to newspaper clippings & press releases; several teevee pundits have described it as akin to a "press release" rather than as a document making a legal argument. The letter reportedly went through several drafts, and one pundit suggested that though drafts probably had a lot of Sharpie notations. On the upside, seldom has a fuck-you letter been so neatly typed. ~~~

For a while, the President has tried to normalize lawlessness. Now, he is trying to make lawlessness a virtue. The American people have already heard the President's own words -- 'do us a favor, though.' The President's actions threaten our national security, violate our Constitution and undermine the integrity of our elections. The White House letter is only the latest attempt to cover up his betrayal of our democracy, and to insist that the President is above the law. -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Tuesday (full statement here)

Wow. This letter is bananas. A barely-lawyered temper tantrum. A middle finger to Congress and its oversight responsibilities. No Member of Congress should accept it, no matter his or her view on the behavior of Pelosi, Schiff, or Trump. Things are bad. Things will get worse. -- Greg Nunziata, former aide to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), in a tweet ~~~>

~~~ Jonathan Chait: "At the level of tone, [Cippolone's letter to the House committees] reads like an extended Trumpian rally diatribe lightly edited by an attorney. At the level of substance, it is almost pure, uncut Trump. It repeats a series of immaterial, laughably false claims, surrounding the audacious thesis that impeaching Trump is literally illegal. The letter's most persistent argument revolves around attacks on House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff.... The presence of ... vapid talking points in a putative legal document is tribute to the dearth of support for its shocking central claim: that the House has no right to impeach Trump. It calls the proceedings illegal,' and one of Congress' 'unconstitutional efforts to overturn the democratic process.' There is no remotely plausible constitutional theory to support this claim." ~~~

~~~ Ditto Charles Pierce: "Gaze in awe, now, at The Constitution According to Camp Runamuck.... The letter goes on -- for eight pages, so you know that El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago didn't write the damn thing -- to throw up every bit of Fox News-approved, wingnut-certified, nutball, quasi-legalistic hoodoo into the clear air.... This letter ... [is] a MAGA rally draped in a toga."

Jeremy Herb, et al., of CNN: "House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff on Tuesday called the State Department's blocking testimony of a key witness 'strong evidence of obstruction' of Democrats' impeachment investigation, and the move is prompting House Democrats to issue a subpoena for the testimony in response." (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

Trump Owns Obstruction: I would love to send Ambassador Sondland, a really good man and great American, to testify, but unfortunately he would be testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo court, where Republican's rights have been taken away. -- Donald Trump, in a tweet Tuesday morning ~~~

~~~ Cristina Marcos of the Hill: "The chairmen of the three House committees leading Democrats' impeachment inquiry said Tuesday that they will issue a subpoena to ... Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union..., a key official that the State Department blocked from testifying.... House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said they would subsequently move to subpoena Sondland later Tuesday for testimony and documents." (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

~~~ Trump Blindsides Guy without a Jacket, Other Allies. Cristina Cabrera of TPM: "Five of ... Donald Trump's loyalists in the House immediately sided with the President when he abruptly blocked Ambassador Gordon Sondland from testifying in the impeachment inquiry on Tuesday -- but they were reportedly frustrated that the White House hadn't told them about it first. According to a Bloomberg report, Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Mark Meadows (R-NC), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Lee Zeldin (R-NY), and Scott Perry (R-PA) went straight to the White House after defending Trump's honor at a press conference (during which Gaetz accused House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) of being a 'malicious Captain Kangaroo'). Unnamed sources told Bloomberg that the five blindsided Republicans asked the White House for clearer communication on its anti-impeachment strategy during the meeting." ~~~

     ~~~ Charles Pierce: "The Republicans have no leg to stand on and they know it. There's no privilege they can invoke. Sondland is obviously a key witness directly involved with the events that the House is tasked with investigating. The way you know that is that the president*'s account on the electric Twitter machine admits that's the case."

~~~ The Midnight Hide of Mike Pompeo. Michael Isikoff of Yahoo! News: "The State Department waited until 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday to tell U.S. Ambassador Gordon Sondland not to show up for his scheduled deposition with three House committees later that morning, the ambassador's lawyer told Yahoo News. Robert Luskin, Sondland's attorney, said he got the extraordinary middle-of-the-night directive in a phone call from a State Department official he declined to identify. The official offered no explanation of the grounds on which the State Department was blocking Sondland's appearance at the last minute." (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

~~~ Allan Smith & Geoff Bennett of NBC News: Ambassador Gordon Sondland's attorney Robert Luskin said "that Sondland 'is profoundly disappointed that he will not be able to testify today.' Luskin noted that Sondland traveled to Washington from Brussels 'in order to prepare for his testimony and to be available to answer the Committee's questions. Arrangements had already been made with Joint Committee staff regarding the logistics of his testimony,' Lusin said.... Luskin said the ambassador 'hopes' the State Department's qualms that 'precludes his testimony will be resolved promptly.'... Speaking with reporters Tuesday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., lamented that 'not only is the Congress being deprived of' Sondland's testimony, 'but we are also aware the ambassador has text messages or emails on a personal device which have been provided to the State Department.'... He called the messages 'deeply relevant to this investigation and the impeachment inquiry' and said Democrats would consider the failure to obtain Sondland's documents and testimony as evidence of obstruction." (Also linked yesterday.)

Jordain Carney of the Hill: "Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Tuesday that he will invite ... Rudy Giuliani to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about Ukraine.... Graham said that his decision came after hearing from Giuliani on 'numerous occasions disturbing allegations ... about corruption in Ukraine and the many improprieties surrounding the firing of former Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin.... Given the House of Representatives' behavior, it is time for the Senate to inquire about corruption and other improprieties involving Ukraine,' he added.... The hearing would likely give Giuliani a forum to air his claims that the former vice president pushed a former top prosecutor in Ukraine to be fired to help his son. There's been no evidence of wrongdoing by the former vice president. It would also give three 2020 Democratic presidential candidates -- Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.), Kamala Harris (Calif.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) -- a high-profile stage to question Giuliani, and knock Trump. Harris quickly pounced on Graham's announcement, adding in a tweet: 'Good. I have questions.' The decision to invite Giuliani marks a reversal for Graham, who had previously indicated that he wanted 'all things Ukraine' investigated but didn't think the Senate should be the body leading the probe." (Also linked yesterday.)

"Wow, Okay." Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post: "Justice Department lawyers urged a federal judge Tuesday to deny a House Judiciary Committee request for grand-jury materials from ... Robert S. Mueller III's investigation, arguing that despite legal rulings during the impeachment inquiry into President Richard M. Nixon, in hindsight courts in 1974 should not have given Congress materials from the Watergate grand jury. 'Wow, okay,' Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell of Washington responded.... 'As I said, the department is taking extraordinary positions in this case.' Howell called the stance one of several 'extreme' arguments presented by Trump administration lawyers in opposing the House request for Mueller grand-jury materials, part of a widening impeachment investigation of President Trump.... Howell did not say how or when she would rule but ordered Justice Department attorneys to explain by Friday why prosecutors are not sharing the information under another exception that allows prosecutors to give federal or foreign officials information about 'grave hostile acts of a foreign power' or 'clandestine intelligence gathering.' Howell also ordered the department to disclose how many -- and which -- FBI witness interview reports that it pledged to give the committee.... In an evening filing, the Justice Department said it had provided the committee access to FBI reports for 17 of 33 individuals it requested, although those of senior Trump advisers Uttam Dhillon and Rob Porter were mostly redacted to protect conversations with the president." The Politico story is here.

Benghaaazi! Redux. Alayna Treene, et al., of Axios: "President Trump has asked former South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy to assist him with legal advice from outside the White House and Gowdy has agreed, though details are yet to be finalized, according to people familiar with the situation."

Jonathan Chait: "Impeachment is growing steadily more popular ... [for] several reasons.... This isn't Russia.... The political impact of the Russia probe was smothered both by its dependence on Robert Mueller, who was held back by an almost monk-like desire to escape politics by giving Trump every benefit of the doubt, and the sheer complexity of the affair.... Even Republicans have trouble defending it.... The story can get worse.... There are going to be more witnesses and more records of communication. Trump is going to keep lying and saying crazy things.... The politics can get worse, too.... When Democrats all say Trump has done something wrong, and Republicans are divided, people will get the message that he's probably in the wrong."

Samantha Grasso of Splinter: "Amid ... Donald Trump's insistence that this should all go away, most Americans support the impeachment inquiry into Trump, and almost half of supporters say they also support removing the president from office, according to a new Washington Post-Schar School poll. More specifically, 58 percent of Americans thinks that Congress should have launched an impeachment inquiry into Trump's behavior. Meanwhile, 49 percent of Americans go the extra mile, saying they support the impeachment inquiry and removing Trump from office.... This is a marked uptick from the last time the poll was taken, when 59 percent said they didn't support impeachment while just 37 percent were in favor. The latest poll also found 60 percent of Americans say Trump doesn't uphold adequate standards for ethics in government." The Washington Post's report is here. (Also linked yesterday.)

Washington Post Editors: "PRESIDENT TRUMP is attempting to rewrite the norms of presidential behavior in two fundamental ways in the Ukraine affair. He is claiming the right to directly seek the assistance of foreign governments in pursuing compromising information about his political opponents, even in the absence of any legitimate U.S. investigation. He is also asserting the power to block congressional oversight by prohibiting administration officials from testifying about their official activities, even in private. These are gross abuses of Mr. Trump's oath of office. If they are allowed to stand, they will open the way for more offenses in the coming year -- including more appeals for foreign intervention in the 2020 election -- and they will establish new baselines for future presidents. So congressional Republicans, as well as Democrats, have reason to act forcefully to check Mr. Trump. So far, they are not stepping up to their responsibility." ~~~

~~~ Onion: "Opting to take more of a wait-and-see approach instead of rushing to pass judgment, Republican lawmakers reportedly looked on in silence Tuesday as President Trump worked his way through each of their families and, one by one, strangled all their loved ones to death."

Alex Ward of Vox: "The Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee just released a report that states the obvious, but in these times is quite damning for ... Donald Trump: Russia directed a disinformation campaign during the 2016 election to hurt Hillary Clinton and favor Trump. The committee has spent three years conducting a bipartisan investigation into the extent of the Kremlin's interference during the last presidential cycle. It released the first of its findings in July, showing that Moscow-linked hackers likely tried to access election systems in all 50 states. On Tuesday, the Senate panel released its second set of conclusions focused on Russia's use of social media during the last campaign season.... 'The Committee found that the IRA sought to influence the 2016 US presidential election by harming Hillary Clinton's chances of success and supporting Donald Trump at the direction of the Kremlin,' the report reads using an acronym for the Internet Research Agency, the name for the group of the Russian hackers.... 'By far, race and related issues were the preferred target of the information warfare campaign designed to divide the country in 2016,' the committee wrote.... 'Russia is waging an information warfare campaign against the US that didn't start and didn't end with the 2016 election,' Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), the committee chair, said in a statement concurrent with the report's release. 'Their goal is broader: to sow societal discord and erode public confidence in the machinery of government.'" The report is here.

Kevin Hall of McClatchy News: "A talking point used by some leading Republicans to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe has been labeled a conspiracy theory by Justice Department prosecutors. Amid Mueller’s lengthy and controversial probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections, vocal GOP leaders such as Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and Rep. Mark Meadows, R-NC, [and Donald Trump] pushed an alternative narrative. The Obama administration, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation might have conspired with Russia, they argued, giving the foreign nation a stake in U.S. uranium production and the Clintons a financial windfall. It became known as the Uranium One conspiracy...." DOJ's opinion that Uranium One is a conspiracy theory appeared in jury instructions in a Maryland case being prosecuted by Robert Hur, a former deputy to Rod Rosenstein. ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: Hur won't win any points with his boss AG Bill Barr. Matt Zapotosky, et al., of the Washington Post (Oct. 6): "Barr had opined to a New York Times reporter in 2017 that the basis for investigating alleged wrongdoing by the Clinton Foundation, as well as the controversial sale of a uranium company to Russia while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, was stronger than the basis for launching the Russia investigation. 'I have long believed that the predicate for investigating the uranium deal, as well as the [Clinton] Foundation, is far stronger than any basis for investigating so-called "collusion,"' Barr wrote. Matthew Miller, a Justice Department spokesman when Eric H. Holder Jr. was attorney general, said that when he first saw Barr’s comment, 'I thought, this is someone who's had his brain warped by a couple decades of Fox News, and that's not the type of person that should be leading the Justice Department.'"

Here's Something that Is "Perfect." AP: "Donald Trump on Tuesday awarded one of the nation's highest civilian honors to Edwin Meese, best known for serving as President Ronald Reagan's attorney general. Meese, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, had a longstanding connection to Reagan that included serving as his chief of staff when Reagan was California's governor. After Reagan became president, Meese served as his chief policy adviser before going on to serve as the nation's 75th attorney general.... Meese resigned as attorney general in August 1988 after becoming ensnared in a probe of Wedtech Corp., a New York defense contractor. An independent prosecutor began looking at Meese's record of assistance to Wedtech. A 14-month corruption investigation ended in a decision not to prosecute Meese, but a report by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility said Meese had violated ethical standards." ~~~

~~~ Steve Benen of MSNBC: "During his Senate confirmation process, Meese was investigated by a court appointed independent counsel, which examined a variety of corruption allegations. The investigation culminated in a report that did not include criminal charges, but which nevertheless rebuked Meese for ethical lapses. He was confirmed anyway. During his tenure as Reagan's attorney general, Meese was caught up in the Iran-Contra scandal, during which he told Reagan that presidential powers are inherently broad enough to circumvent legal limits: so long as the president was acting with national security interests in mind, Meese argued, laws passed by Congress could be overlooked. In fact, as far as Meese was concerned, the White House didn&'t even have to tell Congress when the president was ignoring federal laws. (What's more, this was not only the scandal of his tenure as A.G.)" Mrs. McC: As the AP reports (linked above) Meese resigned over yet another scandal in which another independent counsel criticized his ethics. "Prior to his resignation, several top Justice Department officials resigned in protest of what they and others viewed as improper acts by the Attorney General."


Helen Regan
of CNN: "Turkey's military is set to cross into northern Syria 'shortly,' the Turkish communications director said, as part of an impending offensive to move US-backed Kurdish forces away from its border. 'Turkish military, together with the Free Syrian Army, will cross the Turkish-Syrian border shortly,' Fahrettin Altun, the Turkish government communications director tweeted from a verified account in the early hours of Wednesday morning from Istanbul. Altun added that the Kurdish People's Protection Units, also known as the YPG, had two options: 'They can defect or we will have stop them from disrupting our counter-ISIS efforts.'" ~~~

~~~ Missy Ryan & Liz Sly of the Washington Post: "The U.S. military has no plans to intervene if Syrian Kurdish forces abandon a constellation of Islamic State prisons in Syria to confront a possible Turkish invasion, officials said Tuesday. Kurdish officials said that guards were still in place at the more than 20 prisons and camps under their control but were prepared to move, raising the possibility that about 11,000 militants and their families could escape. U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity..., said the Pentagon did not have enough forces to oversee the prisons if those facilities were left unguarded, nor a mandate to do so. The Trump administration has said the responsibility for the militants detained by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the main U.S. partner against the Islamic State in Syria, would fall to the Turkish government if it goes ahead with the incursion." Mrs. McC: Gee, I wonder if the ISIS prisoners will escape & return to their old jobs. ~~~

~~~ Joseph Hincks of Time: "... Donald Trump's ... handing Turkey responsibility for thousands of ISIS prisoners has also rung alarm bells among former top officials in Ankara. Shortly after Trump spoke on the phone with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday, the White House issued a statement saying Turkey would soon be moving ahead with its 'long-planned operation in Northern Syria' and that U.S. forces would 'no longer be in the immediate area.' The statement added that Turkey would now 'be responsible for all ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years.'... Former U.S. special envoy to the global coalition to defeat ISIS Brett McGurk..., who resigned shortly after Trump announced U.S. troops would pull out of Syria late December, said that Turkey does not have the intent, desire, nor the capacity to manage detainees the SDF holds at al Hol camp, which Pentagon officials warn is the 'nucleus for a resurgent ISIS.'" ~~~

~~~ Quint Forgey of Politico: "... Donald Trump on Tuesday promoted Turkey's diplomatic and economic ties to the U.S. amid withering bipartisan criticism for his decision to allow the Middle Eastern nation to invade northern Syria -- endangering the Kurdish fighters who helped the American military quash ISIS forces in the region. 'So many people conveniently forget that Turkey is a big trading partner of the United States, in fact they make the structural steel frame for our F-35 Fighter Jet,' the president wrote on Twitter.... Trump also noted that Turkey 'is an important member in good standing' of the international NATO military alliance, and revealed that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would be 'coming to the U.S. as my guest' on Nov. 13.... The presiden insisted Tuesday that America's support for its Kurdish allies would continue as U.S. troops withdraw from Syria, and again cautioned Turkey against instigating conflict in the region. 'We may be in the process of leaving Syria, but in no way have we Abandoned the Kurds, who are special people and wonderful fighters. Likewise our relationship with Turkey, a NATO and Trading partner, has been very good,' Trump tweeted." (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

~~~ ** William Saletan of Slate: "The troop withdrawal looks like a distraction, but it isn't. Trump is colluding with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, just as he has colluded with other authoritarians against the United States. The timeline of their relationship tells a story of disloyalty to America and its allies." ~~~

~~~ Jordain Carney of the Hill: "Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) warned on Tuesday that Turkey would face 'sanctions from hell' if it moves its military into northern Syria, in the wake of President Trump's decision to draw back U.S. troops. 'If Turkey moves into northern Syria, sanctions from hell -- by Congress -- will follow. Wide, deep, and devastating sanctions,' Graham tweeted. Turkish officials told Reuters on Tuesday that their military on Monday night bombed the Syria-Iraq border to prevent the Kurds from using the transit route to fortify their positions in the area. A security official said the intention was to cut off the road 'before the operation in Syria.'... Graham said ... Monday that he is working on sanctions legislation with Sen. >Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). "

Presidential Race 2020

Ian Millhiser of Vox: "Sen. Elizabeth Warren now holds a slight lead in national polls of the 2020 Democratic primary, according to the polling aggregation site RealClearPolitics* -- the first time that she, not former Vice President Joe Biden, has led the race." *Mrs. McC: See link to story on RealClearPolitics below. Hey, I deleted the link to the RealClearPolitics average in Millhiser's post.

Sydney Ember & Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "Senator Bernie Sanders, in a striking concession for a leading presidential candidate, said on Tuesday that he planned to slow down his pace on the campaign trail after suffering a heart attack a week ago, and acknowledged that voters would likely consider his health when deciding whether to support him. 'I think we're going to change the nature of the campaign a bit,' Mr. Sanders told reporters after a visit with a local cardiologist. 'Make sure that I have the strength to do what I have to do.' Mr. Sanders's remarks stood in sharp contrast with comments in recent days from his campaign advisers, who have insisted that the Vermont senator was neither changing course nor easing his trademark intensity as a result of the heart attack."

Deadbeat Donald. Anita Kumar & Quint Forgey of Politico: "Donald Trump has raised record amounts of money as a presidential candidate. But he's still left a slew of unpaid bills in his wake. In city after city, across the nation, Trump has failed to pay local officials who provide thousands of dollars' worth of security assistance to the president's campaign during his Make America Great Again rallies. In total, at least 10 cities have complained that the campaign has not reimbursed them for services provided by local police and fire departments, totaling more than $840,000, according to a study by the Center for Public Integrity in June. Minneapolis may find itself next on the list after the president picked a fight with the city's mayor on Tuesday. Trump accused Mayor Jacob Frey of overcharging the arena in downtown Minneapolis for services during Trump’s rally, scheduled for Thursday night, alleging that the mayor doesn't want the president to speak in the overwhelmingly Democratic city."

Senate Race 2020. John Frank of the Colorado Sun: "John Hickenlooper raised more than $2.1 million for his U.S. Senate campaign in less than six weeks, a record haul in Colorado that affirms his Democratic front-runner status in a top-tier race. The cash total positions the former two-term governor as the top fundraiser in his party primary but it falls short of Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, who will report raising $2.45 million for his reelection bid in the three-month period that ended in June." (Also linked yesterday.)

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Kevin Poulsen & Maxwell Tani of the Daily Beast: “RealClearPolitics has carefully cultivated a non-partisan image -- while in the shadows its parent company pushes images of killer Clintons and a freedom-loving Kremlin. The company behind the non-partisan news site RealClearPolitics has been secretly running a Facebook page filled with far-right memes and Islamophobic smears.... Called 'Conservative Country,' the Facebook page was founded in 2014 and now boasts nearly 800,000 followers for its mix of Donald Trump hagiography and ultra-conservative memes. One recent post showed a man training two assault rifles at a closed door with the caption 'Just sitting here waiting on Beto.' Others wink at right-wing conspiracy theories about Barack Obama's 'ties to Islam' or the Clintons having their enemies killed, or portray Muslim members of Congress as terrorist infiltrators. The page is effusive with praise for Vladimir Putin, and one post portrays Russia as the last bastion of freedom in Europe." (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: I occasionally link to RealClearPolitics stories & stats, especially around election times. I plan not to do that anymore.

Beyond the Beltway

Alabama. WSFA Alabama: "Montgomery County Probate Judge Steven Reed has defeated David Woods and will become Montgomery's next mayor. He makes history as the city's first black mayor. With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Reed had 67 percent of the votes. A total of 48,979 ballots were cast in Tuesday's election."

News Lede

CNN: "The 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham, and Akira Yoshino for their research in improving battery technology.The trio will share the prize for their work on 'the development of lithium ion batteries,' according to the Nobel committee.

Reader Comments (10)

President Trump tweeted on Tuesday that he wouldn’t allow a diplomat to testify at an impeachment inquiry because he considered it “a totally compromised kangaroo court.”

Paging Ron Ziegler! In July 1974, the White House press secretary attacked the House Judiciary Committee deliberating the impeachment of Richard Nixon, calling it a “kangaroo court.”

October 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterP.D. Pepe
October 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterP.D. Pepe

The "letter", described elsewhere on this page as "bananas", pulled together to "prove" that Fatty is untouchable and impeachment proceedings are illegal is reminiscent of that doctor's note Trump produced "proving" that he is the healthiest person in the world.

I got a laugh out of this image of Trump's "crack legal team" that likely revisited that same mindset. "President* Trump is above the law because we say so. Also, impeach Nancy Pelosi and jail Adam Schiff!"

Did these guys go to an actual law school? Maybe they went to the Trump University version of law school. Yeah, that must be it.

October 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

As a symbol of the system's resiliency and the rule of law, what a jubilee it will be the day this SOB gets perp-walked out of the Oval Office. We can't seem to demonstrate like those in Hong Kong, but that day there will be dancing in the streets.

October 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNJC

In other news, Matt Gaetz, white nationalist FROD (FRiend Of Donald), really IS as stupid as he looks. Taking off on the current vogue on the right for a sad attempt to decry legal, appropriate, and frighteningly necessary impeachment proceedings as a "kangaroo court", Gaetz decided to be really wicked clever and refer to Adam Schiff as "Captain Kangaroo".

Hang on...

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha...

And what does that make Nancy Pelosi? Mrs. Greenjeans? These idiots really should run their brilliant ideas by someone who knows something. Captain Kangaroo did not, as we all know, convene kangaroo courts.

As the saying goes, it's one thing to be thought an idiot, it's another to open your mouth and prove it.

Moron.

October 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

A commenter elsewhere suggests that the White House letter drips with the smarminess that is stephen miller. A fair conjecture.

October 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNiskyGuy

Quick observation. In the wake of Bernie Sanders’ medical condition and after taking stock of Joe Biden’s situation (it’s looking like Fatty’s illegal attempts to have Biden investigated by a foreign government may have negatively impacted his campaign after all), which looks increasingly weaker, Elizabeth Warren has taken a lead in the polls and now may be hard to catch. Of course, look for Trump, in his never-ending search for corruption (something he knows inside and out), to ask “investigators” from various Native American tribes to “find” anything he can use against her.

Looking forward to a Trump-Warren debate.

October 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

So...what now? King Fatty has declared himself above the law and the Constitution invalid except when he chooses to use it to attack his enemies and reward his cronies and fellow gangsters.

And what will Democrats do? Write another letter? Issue a subpoena that will be ignored and spat upon?

Republicans are all traitors.

so, what? What do they do now?

I say fuck it. Go straight to the Supreme Court and demand a ruling on this lawlessness. I'm pretty sure they'll refuse to rule and send it down to a court run by a Fatty appointee (now THAT's a kangaroo court). Either that or they may simply go full traitor and tell the Democrats that King Fatty is an untouchable monarch. At least we won't have to wait for the coup to be complete.

October 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Bernie Sander's daughter-in law, wife of Bernie's only son, and mother of three, was diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer about three weeks ago and has now died. The Sander household is not a happy place of late and perhaps a second look into whether it might be prudent to hang up that "get up and go hat" after the heart attack and now this. Death has a way of punching you in the gut especially when young children lose their parent. Bernie might decide there's no place like home.

October 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterP.D. Pepe

Bea McCrab wrote: "...I plan not to do that anymore. (referring to linking to RealClearPolitics). I no longer put much stock in still another frequently quoted resource, that's Glenn Kessler in the Washington Post: His Pinocchios rating system isn't what it is/was cracked up to be. I became certain of my skepticism about his so called 'neutrality' or just-the-facts-ma'am story line when he gave Adam Schiff four Pinocchios last week. His reasoning struck me as specious and this is not the first time in my view.

So when I began reading the 8-page letter addressed to Pelosi and the three congressman from the WH attorney my eye caught the footnote at the bottom of Page 2. Aha! there was the call-out to Kessler's: " flawed fairy tale logic" so useful to the Orange Menace!

October 9, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMAG
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