Notes and Comment Blog

Buy more guns

May 4th, 2018 4:37 pm | By

Yesterday it was hooray god, today it was hooray guns.

President Trump on Friday addressed the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting here in a speech that served as a rallying cry to his base, an attack on his detractors and a signal of his strong support for the gun rights group after suggesting months earlier he was open to some firearm restrictions.

For a few hours after Parkland he pretended to care, then it was back to normal.

But any streak of independence from the NRA was gone Friday, as Trump allied himself with some of the gun group’s biggest priorities in a rambling, 45-minute speech that focused as much on his foreign policy agenda, approval ratings and the latest in the Russia investigation as it did on gun policy.

His speeches are all rambling, because he’s that insufferable guy who thinks every word he utters is fascinating no matter how trivial and self-involved.

“Your Second Amendment rights are under siege,” Trump told the NRA members, whom he referred to as patriots. “But they will never ever be under siege as long as I’m your president.”

That’s “rambling” all right – i.e. a flat contradiction.  Your rights are under siege, but they will never ever be under siege as long as I’m your president, and I’m your president now, but your rights are under siege. QED.

To bolster his case for arming teachers and adding guards, Trump argued “there is no stronger deterrent for a sick individual than the knowledge that their attack will end their life and end in total failure.”

Wrong. Lots of shooters intend the attack to end their lives.

While Trump used the speech to firmly embrace the NRA’s agenda, he also treated it like a campaign rally — urging members to vote in the midterm elections, boasting about the improving unemployment numbers, touting the recent tax cuts, criticizing the media and lambasting the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the election.

The campaign part is secondary really; the reason he loves doing this is because it’s a chance to brag about himself and get cheers and applause in response. It’s his happy place.

So important

May 4th, 2018 4:11 pm | By

A moment from Trump’s performance at the “National Day of Prayer” [why do we even have such a thing, and especially why is it something the president makes a fuss about?] yesterday:

Today, during his remarks to commemorate the National Day of Prayer, President Trump departed from the prepared text to insert a boast that had presumably not been cleared by fact-checkers. Prayer “unites us all as one nation under God. So important,” he said. (“So important” being a common Trump tic to indicate he is encountering his own words for the first time and finds them important.) Then came the riff about “one nation under God”:

And we say it here, ya know? Lot of people, they don’t say it. But, you know what, they’re starting to say it more, just like we’re starting to say ‘Merry Christmas’ when that day comes around. You notice the big difference between now and two or three years ago, it was, all, it was going in the other direction rapidly, right? Now it’s [thrusting his hand vertically in the air] straight up.

No, I don’t notice that, and neither does he; he just thinks he does, because he’s too dumb to distinguish between “this idea that popped into my brain” and “a statistic I know.”

The Oslo police are investigating

May 4th, 2018 12:24 pm | By

I’ve seen one or two headlines lately saying Trump had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, but I didn’t follow them up. (There’s only so much disgust I can take in one day.) But it may have been a false alarm.

[A] wrinkle in this time-honored process — the peace prize was first awarded in 1901 — emerged on Tuesday, when the committee announced that it had uncovered what appeared to be a forged nomination of President Trump for the prize. The matter has been referred to the Oslo police for investigation.

Moreover, the forgery appears to have occurred twice: Olav Njolstad, the secretary of the five-member committee, said it appeared that a forged nomination of Mr. Trump for the prize was also submitted last year — and was also referred to the police. (The earlier forgery was not disclosed to the public at the time.)

Inspector Rune Skjold, the head of the economic crimes section of the Oslo police, said that investigators had been in touch with the F.B.I. since last fall, which suggests that the forged nominations originated in the United States. He said the police believed that the same perpetrator was behind both forgeries.

Forged in what sense?

In a phone interview on Wednesday, Mr. Njolstad of the Nobel committee, said, “We verify all nominations, at least the ones with a shadow of doubt.”

Mr. Njolstad declined to provide details or copies of the forged nominations, but he said it was fair to assume that the documents purported to have been from a nominator who — when contacted — said the nominations were not valid.

So someone in a red MAGA cap pretending to be a person or organization of the kind that gets to nominate people for the prize.

Now if there were a prize for shameless lying…

An obvious and demonstrable lie

May 4th, 2018 11:34 am | By

Speaking of Trump versus truth –

Trump: As everybody is aware, the past Administration has long been asking for three hostages to be released from a North Korean Labor camp, but to no avail. Stay tuned!

Jake Tapper: 2 out of 3 of these hostages were detained in Trump presidency:

Tony Kim (aka Kim Sang-duk) detained 22 April 2017.

Kim Hak-song detained 6 May 2017.

An obvious and demonstrable lie in a tweet that remains up, a monument to how much President Trump doesn’t care about truth.

The Times on April 19th:

One was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor in 2016 for an espionage conviction. Two others are scholars — one studies accounting, the other agriculture — who taught at a prestigious science and technology university before they were arrested in 2017 on suspicion of “hostile acts.”

All three are Korean-American men who have been held in North Korea. They share a common surname, Kim, but they are not related.

So “the past Administration” was not asking for the release of the two arrested in 2017 before they were arrested; the two arrested in 2017 were arrested during Trump’s administration, not “the past” one.

Another smoking lie.

Everything incorrectly

May 4th, 2018 9:15 am | By

What’s that thumping sound? The bus wheels rolling over Rudy Giuliani.

President Trump undercut his attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, on Friday, and said the former New York mayor will eventually get the facts right regarding a payment to a pornographic actress who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump.

Everything “has been said incorrectly,” Mr. Trump said, blaming the media coverage and Mr. Giuliani’s short time on the job.

Oh yes, he was an intern until just the other day, he’s a total novice, he can’t possibly be expected to know all the facts yet, and that’s why it was a great idea for him to talk to Sean Hannity.

Mr. Giuliani, who joined Mr. Trump’s legal team last month, “started a day ago,” Mr. Trump said, speaking to reporters on Friday as he left Washington to attend a National Rifle Association convention in Dallas.

“He’s a great guy,” Mr. Trump said. “He’ll get his facts straight.”

So Trump told a ridiculous boob lie – what, in order to illustrate how unimportant it is to get the facts straight?

And then, note the trip to hang out with the extremely right-wing National Rifle Association, in callous disregard or outright contempt for Parkland and all the other mass shootings since the last NRA convention.

Mr. Giuliani kicked off the confusion with an interview on Fox News on Wednesday, surprising even some of Mr. Trump’s other attorneys.

In a series of Twitter posts the following morning, the president backed up what Mr. Giuliani said. But, on Friday, Mr. Trump said that everything said about the transaction “has been said incorrectly.”

“It’s actually very simple,” the president said, without elaboration.

Presidents don’t elaborate. You’re supposed to listen, and believe. That’s it.

Guest post: How to tell who is objective

May 3rd, 2018 4:45 pm | By

Originally a comment by Screechy Monkey on Are they objective?

He’s implying that that’s not “objective”…But an objective observer (who hadn’t just popped out of an eggshell fully mature yesterday) has a million reasons to think Comey is more likely to be telling the truth than Trump is. An objective observer can remember that clip on Air Force One when Trump lied about who paid Stormy Daniels and whether he knew about it, to name just one item. Trump lies constantly; Comey not so much.

No, no, that’s not how it works. You can’t go using evidence to reach an uncomfortable conclusion. “Objective” means that you either (1) are “keeping an open mind” and refusing to decide whether you believe the allegations; or (2) have decided, like Giuliani, that the allegations are false. Disagreeing with Rudy is, ipso facto, proof of a lack of objectivity.

Have you learned nothing from sexual assault and harassment cases?

“I can’t possibly come to any sort of opinion on the allegations against Famous Dude. All I have to go on is detailed eyewitness accounts from the victims and other witnesses, corroborating accounts from people they complained to, documentary evidence, and Famous Dude’s generally skeevy attitude towards women. As a true skeptic, I couldn’t possibly form an opinion until all of these witnesses are brought before me in a courtroom, which I know will never happen.” = OBJECTIVE

“Although I remain open to further evidence, and any actual criminal punishment would have to await a prosecution and conviction, it appears from the detailed eyewitness accounts from the victims and other witnesses, corroborating accounts from people they complained to, documentary evidence, and Famous Dude’s generally skeevy attitude towards women, that Famous Dude has harassed women. And so perhaps that should have some social consequences.” = NOT OBJECTIVE

“I’ve had beers with Famous Dude, and I believe him when he says these women are all lying bitches.” = OBJECTIVE

Are they objective?

May 3rd, 2018 12:13 pm | By

The Post annotates Giuliani’s chat with Hannity.

GIULIANI: Here’s what it’s all about. It’s real simple. The American people can follow this along with me. Are they objective?

HANNITY: Are they?

GIULIANI: Well, right now, a lot of things point in the direction of, they made up their mind that Comey is telling the truth and not the president.

Ok wait. He’s implying that that’s not “objective”…But an objective observer (who hadn’t just popped out of an eggshell fully mature yesterday) has a million reasons to think Comey is more likely to be telling the truth than Trump is. An objective observer can remember that clip on Air Force One when Trump lied about who paid Stormy Daniels and whether he knew about it, to name just one item. Trump lies constantly; Comey not so much.

GIULIANI: He fired Comey because Comey would not, among other things, say that he wasn’t a target of the investigation. He’s entitled to that. Hillary Clinton got that. And, he couldn’t get that. So, he fired him and he said, I’m free of the guy, and he went on Lester Holt. Lester Holt’s interview was as good as anybody could do, better than I think any of the people around Mueller could have done, and Lester Holt asked him, why did you do it? He said, I did it because I felt that I had to explain to the American people the president was not the target of the investigation.

No he didn’t. That’s not what he said at all. So there’s Giuliani either lying about or failing to remember accurately an important fact. So much for objectively deciding who is telling the truth.

GIULIANI: And even Jake Tapper pushed him, like, really hard, I’m talking about Comey. Comey had no answer for why he didn’t say this, even though he had done the same thing for Hillary.

So, you can’t blame the president for feeling, I am not being treated the same way they were.

But, again, it’s the difference between a closed investigation and an open one. I can grasp that as a random citizen with no legal training, so I’m well convinced former prosecutor Giuliani can…so he’s bullshitting.

GIULIANI: I know James Comey. I know the president.

Sorry, Jim, you’re a liar. A disgraceful liar. Every FBI agent in America has his head down because of you. It would have been good for God if God had kept you out of being head of the FBI.

HANNITY: Explain where he lied.

GIULIANI: Well, he lied about his conversation with McCabe. He knew all of McCabe’s conflicts. McCabe should testify against him. He lied about his conversations with the president. He only told the truth when the president said, I made — we know Donald — I’m sorry, Mr. President, he was Donald before.

He lied about the fact that they talked about whether the president was a subject or target, then he immediately changed it. It’s one lie after another.

How does Giuliani know Comey lied about his conversations with the president? Was he in the room? Did he have a wiretap on Comey? Where does he get his certainty?

HANNITY: Rod Rosenstein — everyone forgets when he wrote that recommendation to fire Comey. He said the FBI cannot be reestablished if he stayed at the helm.

GIULIANI: Yeah, why? Because he’s a liar. His conduct of the Hillary Clinton investigation was a total disgrace. If Hillary Clinton had been elected president, he wouldn’t have lasted past day one. We know she would have fired him.

I don’t think she’d deny that today. She was right. We should have fired him. When I say we, I mean the collective we here, day one.

That’s seven times so far he’s called Comey a liar.

HANNITY: Well, wait a minute. And you have a guy who hates Hillary and loves Donald Trump during the interview. That would be the Hillary standard. That’s not going to happen with Robert Mueller.

GIULIANI: We’re not going to get that. Could we accept something less than that? Yes. Could we accept a situation in which they are telling us basically we believe Comey, who is now a pathological liar, as opposed to Donald Trump? Then the answer to that is no.

Eight times.

GIULIANI: Also Comey and McCabe contradicting each other. One of them has to be lying. I mean, I actually think Comey is lying. I think Comey is a big liar than McCabe. McCabe isn’t a situational liar. He’s a much big liar.

So, if this were equal system of justice, they’d all be prosecuted.

Nine ten.

We’ll always have planets

May 3rd, 2018 11:13 am | By

Meanwhile, Jupiter.

If it’s worth saying once

May 3rd, 2018 10:58 am | By

Apparently Trump and Giuliani are so pleased with the way Giuliani’s conversation with Hannity went that they decided to do even more like that.

Rudy Giuliani, who joined President Trump’s personal legal team last week, told Fox News on Thursday that the Trump attorney Michael Cohen had arranged a payment to the adult-film actress Stormy Daniels in order to prevent allegations of an affair from coming out in the closing days of the 2016 election.

The former New York City mayor’s explanation for the $130,000 payment to Daniels suggests the deal likely ran afoul of campaign-finance laws.

On Thursday morning, Trump tweeted that Cohen “received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign … used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair despite already having signed a detailed letter admitting that there was no affair.”

“Money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no roll [sic] in this transaction,” the president insisted.

But Giuliani quickly contradicted that explanation in an interview with Fox and Friends Thursday morning, indicating that the payment to Daniels was meant to prevent damaging information from emerging in the latter days of the 2016 campaign. “Imagine if that came out on October 15, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton,” Giuliani said. “Cohen didn’t even ask. He made it go away. He did his job.”

That statement, legal experts said, appears to confirm that the payment was a campaign expenditure. “This is good circumstantial evidence this was campaign-related,” said Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine. “Giuliani did Trump no favors.”

No, it’s all part of their cunning plan.

He’s entitled to that

May 3rd, 2018 10:08 am | By

Along with the hush money part there’s the obstruction of justice part.

Giuliani conceded in an offhand way that Trump fired FBI Director James B. Comey because Comey failed to do Trump’s bidding and publicly declare that Trump was not under investigation. Here’s what Giuliani said:

“He fired Comey because Comey would not, among other things, say that he wasn’t a target of the investigation,” Giuliani said. “He’s entitled to that. Hillary Clinton got that, and he couldn’t get that. So he fired him, and he said, ‘I’m free of this guy.’”

In saying this, Giuliani appears to have thought that he was exonerating Trump. Giuliani was saying Trump didn’t fire Comey to obstruct the investigation into Trump campaign collusion with Russian sabotage of our election, but rather because Comey didn’t publicly clear him, which Giuliani believes Trump was “entitled to.”

I stared in astonishment at that clip last night, because it’s so ridiculous. Giuliani was a prosecutor once upon a time, and here he is announcing that powerful people are “entitled” to order investigators to clear them during an investigation. What entitlement is that? Who has ever heard of such an entitlement before? Trump’s ordering Comey to publicly clear him is obstructing the investigation. Hillary Clinton did not “get that” until Comey and the FBI had closed the investigation.

“It seems that Giuliani is trying to suggest that Trump did not obstruct justice when he fired Comey,” Barbara McQuade, a former prosecutor and current law professor at the University of Michigan, told me. “But in fact he may just be building the case against him. Even demanding that Comey make a public statement that Trump is not under investigation would itself potentially be obstruction of justice.” McQuade added that insisting on such a public statement constitutes “interfering in the investigation.”

It seems to me blindingly obvious that it does; how could it not?

We also know that Mueller is looking at all of this conduct. To establish obstruction, Mueller needs to show that in trying to hamstring or derail the probe, Trump acted with “corrupt intent,” say, to protect himself and his top officials from scrutiny. The leaked questions from Mueller show that he wants to ask Trump about that very same March 30 call with Comey in which he seems to have demanded that Comey publicly exonerate him. Mueller wants to probe Trump’s state of mind about all of this, including whether Comey’s public confirmation of the investigation — which angered Trump — helped precipitate Comey’s firing.

Giuliani has now publicly confirmed that all that did indeed figure into Trump’s rationale. And Mueller’s team may take an interest in this, McQuade told me: “This will cause them to review what they’ve done already and will inform their questions going forward.”

To be clear, it still remains very unlikely that Mueller will try to indict Trump for obstruction of justice. But Mueller is expected to produce a report on the obstruction question, and his findings on it may be made public in some form. Whether or not Trump can be held criminally liable for obstruction, Mueller may end up documenting a pattern of very serious misconduct, which could shed new light on just how far Trump went to shield himself and his cronies from accountability, something that could have serious implications for our politics and for our efforts to restore the integrity of the rule of law amid Trump’s nonstop degradation of it.

Maybe that’s our future – clear public knowledge that Trump obstructed justice to serve his own interests, and we remain stuck with him.

He knew nothing about it, but he reimbursed it

May 3rd, 2018 8:36 am | By

So that was a big oops – Rudy Giuliani telling Sean Hannity that Trump had reimbursed Michael Cohen for that $130k Cohen paid Stormy Daniels – and that he did it by “funneling” it through a law firm. Lawyers were all but cackling as they explained that “funneling” amounts to “structuring” and the latter is a felony.

President Trump reimbursed Michael D. Cohen, his longtime personal lawyer, for a $130,000 payment that Mr. Cohen has said he made to keep a pornographic film actress from going public before the 2016 election with her story about an affair with Mr. Trump, according to Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of the president’s lawyers.

Those four words before the 2016 election are crucial, because they’re what makes it a campaign contribution and thus subject to laws that appear to have been broken if not smashed and trampled underfoot.

That statement, which Mr. Giuliani made Wednesday night on Fox News, contradicted the president, who has said he had no knowledge about any payment to the actress, Stephanie Clifford, to keep quiet before the election.

Asked specifically last month by reporters aboard Air Force One whether he knew about the payment, Mr. Trump said, “No,” and referred questions to Mr. Cohen. He was then asked, “Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?”

“No,” Mr. Trump responded. “I don’t know.”

Michael Avenatti was doing headstands.

Giuliani says his goal was to establish that Trump himself paid off Stephanie Clifford, so there was no campaign finance violation…but then there is a lot of other stuff, like for instance that bald lie told on camera on Air Force One.

The president has repeatedly denied that he had an affair with Ms. Clifford, who has described having intimate contact with Mr. Trump before he became president.

Mr. Giuliani’s comments are also in direct contrast to what Mr. Cohen has been saying for months — that he used his own money to pay Ms. Clifford, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels. Mr. Cohen is under investigation by the F.B.I., which raided his home and office last month and seized documents that included information about the payment to Ms. Clifford.

The things we’re talking about now thanks to the election of this squalid turd of a man.

The comments on Fox sent a jolt through Washington and New York, including the legal teams working on behalf of the president, Mr. Cohen and Ms. Clifford, who has sued Mr. Cohen in an attempt to be released from the nondisclosure agreement that accompanied the $130,000 payment in October 2016.

Michael Avenatti, Ms. Clifford’s lawyer, said Wednesday night on Twitter that Mr. Giuliani’s comments amounted to an admission that the president had lied to the American people about whether he was aware of the hush payment.

“Mr. Trump stood on AF1 and blatantly lied,” Mr. Avenatti wrote. “This followed the lies told by others close to him, including Mr. Cohen. This should never be acceptable in our America. We will not rest until justice is served.”

No, it should not. Trump’s constant shameless lying is totally unacceptable and always has been.

Mr. Trump’s campaign did not disclose the reimbursement to Mr. Cohen on its commission reports.

The crucial question in determining whether the reimbursement to Mr. Cohen violated campaign finance laws might be whether the payment was specifically intended to help Mr. Trump’s campaign.

Paul S. Ryan, an official at the government watchdog group Common Cause, argued that “all the facts indicate that the payment was to influence the election.”

Mr. Ryan asserted that Mr. Giuliani’s admission could allow prosecutors to make the case that Mr. Trump “knowingly caused his campaign committee to file an incomplete disclosure report with the F.E.C.”

“Until tonight, it would have been tough to prove that because Donald Trump had denied knowing about the payment,” Mr. Ryan said. “But his reimbursement amounts to knowledge.”

So Giuliani solved one legal problem but made another much worse. That’s probably inevitable with a client like Trump.

A tireless champion of the rule of law

May 2nd, 2018 5:42 pm | By

Mike Pence fancies himself the Voice of Morality in the Trump administration – which is odd since you can’t work for Trump without stepping deliberately into a moral sewer, but anyway he does fancy himself that.

So it is worth noting what Pence, the Trump administration’s righteous man, did in Arizona on Tuesday. According to the Hill’s Jacqueline Thomsen:

Vice President Pence praised former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of contempt of court, as a “tireless champion of … the rule of law” during an event in Arizona on Tuesday.

Pence said at the tax event that he was “honored” by the former sheriff’s attendance, and called Arpaio a “great friend of this president and tireless champion of strong borders and the rule of law,” to cheers from the crowd.

A tireless champion of the rule of law who was convicted of violating a federal court order to stop arresting and detaining people for no reason other than his own whim (and the fact that they looked “Mexican” of course). He was convicted of violating a federal court order. That’s not a tireless champion of the rule of law. In Arpaio’s case it’s also a mean racist shit.

Daniel Drezner quotes the National Review:

Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt last summer for willfully violating a federal court order. Specifically, he was convicted of violating an order that he cease arresting and detaining people for whom there was no plausible criminal charge — i.e., the court asked him, pretty please, to stop detaining Mexicans for publicity purposes. Arpaio says he was arresting illegal immigrants, and he may well have been, but it is not a criminal offense simply to be illegally present in the United States. (That is a civil matter.) Until such a time as Congress passes a law making such presence a crime (and delegates enforcement of that federal statute to the sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz.), arresting people under color of law for that non-crime isn’t law enforcement — it’s lawlessness.

But Sheriff Joe has a thing for arresting people who haven’t committed any crime. He arrested a Republican critic — the county supervisor — on trumped-up charges in 2008 and ended up handing over $3.5 million of taxpayers’ money in a wrongful-arrest settlement. He tried to bully the mayor of Phoenix in much the same way, demanding phone logs and other records as part of a nonsensical “investigation” designed to silence a critic. In another spectacular abuse of power, Arpaio teamed up with a friendly county attorney and filed a federal lawsuit seeking the federal prosecution of several judges and lawyers — his political enemies — under the RICO organized-crime statute. Arpaio, being Arpaio, held a press conference announcing the investigation, which the federal courts immediately threw out as “patently frivolous.” Millions more taxpayers’ dollars were paid out in settlements.

That’s not The Nation or Mother Jones or American Prospect, it’s National Review. Like Trump, Arpaio is a bad man who does bad things. It’s not political or “partisan”; it’s just the truth.

Guest post: And Mueller will smile and nod and write everything down

May 2nd, 2018 4:36 pm | By

Originally a comment by Claire on It’s not optional.

My husband and I have been talking about what an interview between Mueller and Trump would look like. If this were literally any other politician, they would answer carefully, with narrow answers, resist the urge to elaborate, and if possible, try to answer the question they want to answer rather than the one they were asked. And if needed, plead the fifth.

I think Trump is constitutionally incapable of all of these things, including pleading the fifth. Because once you plead the fifth, you have to shut up. That requires considerable self-control, because social animals that we are, most people are uncomfortable to sit in silence. Sitting in silence letting suspects fill the room with noise is what good investigators do.

Trump has some of the poorest self-control I’ve ever seen in an adult, and you know he’d be “oh I plead the fifth on that question because you know this a made up story and Comey, what a liar that guy was, he was part of the Deep State… you know the Deep State is working to destroy me because they’re all Democrats and they’re mad because Crooked Hillary should have won, they said I couldn’t get to 270 and boy were they wrong and there’s no collusion because you know, this Russa thing is a hoax and I never pay for hookers I don’t need to do I look like a man who needs hookers…then Putin said I can fix this for you because it’s a rigged system, rigged system that’s what I call it, have you ever heard that term before I came up with it myself I like the sound of it, and you know, this is all a plot by Democrats and your team is full of Democrats…” etc etc ad nauseum.

And Mueller will smile and nod and write everything down.

The improper demand for documents

May 2nd, 2018 11:32 am | By

Fred Wertheimer and Norm Eisen explain very crisply why the two leaders of the House Freedom Caucus have no business trying to impeach Rosenstein.

Throughout our nation’s history, the House has recognized that impeachment power was not intended to be used for political, partisan or ideological purposes.

Yet apparently no one got the word to Republican Reps. Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Jim Jordan of Ohio. The two leaders of the House Freedom Caucus have threatened Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein with impeachment and now, led by Meadows, Freedom Caucus members have actually drafted articles of impeachment against Rosenstein.

His supposed offense? He had the temerity to refuse to throw open Justice Department files related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing criminal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

And for why? Simply because legislators aren’t supposed to interfere with current investigations. How very dare he.

Members of Congress simply have no business injecting themselves into the middle of a Justice Department criminal investigation. Such actions can seriously undermine the investigation and provide assistance to its subjects and targets.

Rosenstein flatly rejected this obvious effort to intimidate him and interfere with the Russia investigation. “The Department of Justice is not going to be extorted,” he said Tuesday in a clear reference to the demands and impeachment threats made by Freedom Caucus members.

The improper demand for documents by Meadows, Jordan and a small group of House GOP Trump enablers is part of a transparent effort to attack and discredit the special counsel investigation. Shortly after Meadows and Jordan met with Rosenstein to pressure him on obtaining documents, Meadows reportedly spoke to President Trump. Meadows refused to reveal the details of the conversation.

All this to protect that vile sleazy corrupt exploitative lying thieving bullying pussygrabber.

Ginger lemonade

May 2nd, 2018 10:45 am | By

Those two guys who got arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks for doing what white people do all the time? They settled with the city.

Two black men arrested for sitting at a Philadelphia Starbucks without ordering anything settled with the city Wednesday for a symbolic $1 each and a promise from officials to set up a $200,000 program for young entrepreneurs.

The men and their lawyer told The Associated Press the settlement was an effort to make sure something positive came out of the incident.

“We thought long and hard about it and we feel like this is the best way to see that change that we want to see,” said Donte Robinson, one of those arrested. “It’s not a right-now thing that’s good for right now, but I feel like we will see the true change over time.”

They’re young entrepreneurs themselves. I think it’s brilliant jiu-jitsu to turn the degrading treatment they got into opportunities for others. (One hopes Philly won’t focus the program exclusively on young white entrepreneurs.)

It’s not optional

May 2nd, 2018 10:13 am | By

Meanwhile, Jennifer Rubin reiterates that Trump does not get to just say no. It’s not something he can choose to do or not.

As Right Turn has discussed from time to time, the story line that President Trump has the option whether to sit down with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is simply wrong. Mueller has the option to ask the grand jury to issue a subpoena to compel Trump’s testimony under oath and without his lawyer present. (Witnesses can go outside to consult with a lawyer, but witnesses ordinarily do not get to bring their attorney into the grand jury room.) Perhaps now Trump, his lawyers and the TV talking heads will approach Trump’s testimony more realistically: It isn’t up to him to decide to cooperate — unless he wants to take the unprecedented step of thwarting an investigation into his own wrongdoing by invoking the Fifth Amendment.

If he did that his presidency would be over, according to people who know things.

Yesterday’s late in the day boom has the details on why it’s not up to him:

In a tense meeting in early March with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, President Trump’s lawyers insisted he had no obligation to talk with federal investigators probing Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

But Mueller responded that he had another option if Trump declined: He could issue a subpoena for the president to appear before a grand jury, according to four people familiar with the encounter.

Ah but the lawyers had a retort.

Mueller’s warning — the first time he is known to have mentioned a possible subpoena to Trump’s legal team — spurred a sharp retort from John Dowd, then the president’s lead lawyer.

“This isn’t some game,” Dowd said, according to two people with knowledge of his comments. “You are screwing with the work of the president of the United States.”

The work of watching Fox News and tweeting insults and holding rallies. Important stuff.

After that Trump’s lawyers fought amongst themselves and Dowd resigned.

Now Trump’s newly reconfigured legal team is pondering how to address the special counsel’s queries, all while assessing the potential evidence of obstruction that Mueller might present and contending with a client who has grown increasingly opposed to sitting down with the special counsel. Without a resolution on the interview, the standoff could turn into a historic confrontation before the Supreme Court over a presidential subpoena.

One thing I haven’t seen discussed yet is how well Trump can stand up to the interview given how long and arduous it will be.

Paul Rosenzweig, who worked as a senior counsel on independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr’s investigation during the Clinton administration, predicted that the president would face a long interview if the special counsel hewed to the list Sekulow compiled.

“This isn’t a list of 49 questions. It’s 49 topics,” Rosenzweig said. “Each of these topics results in dozens of questions. To be honest, that list is a two-day interview. You don’t get through it in an hour or two.”

That would be hard work no matter what, and it will be all the harder for Trump because he’ll be struggling to answer in ways that won’t get him impeached and imprisoned, and for a guy with his limited abilities…dayum.

For his part, Trump fumed when he saw the breadth of the questions that emerged out of the talks with Mueller’s team, according to two White House officials.

The president and several advisers now plan to point to the list as evidence that Mueller has strayed beyond his mandate and is overreaching, they said.

Whose fault is it that the questions cover so much territory? It’s not Mueller’s fault, it’s Trump’s, for being such a crook in such various ways. Crooks don’t get to say “this is too much!!!” when they did all the crooked things.

(Morally speaking they don’t. For all I know maybe legally speaking they do.)

Trump advisers are particularly frustrated by the Mueller team’s focus on whether Trump was obstructing justice by trying to push last summer for Sessions to resign. If the attorney general had stepped down, Trump could have chosen a replacement who was not recused from running the Russia investigation.

Dowd has repeatedly argued that the president has ultimate authority under the Constitution to fire or demote any of his appointees and that his firing decisions cannot be used as evidence of obstruction.

Lawyers who don’t work for Trump have repeatedly responded that firing decisions that obstruct justice can indeed be used as evidence of obstruction.

Alan Dershowitz, a well-known lawyer and Trump advocate, said Tuesday that it would be dangerous and unwise for the president to agree to an interview.

“The strategy is to throw him softballs so that he will go on and on with his answers,” he said. “Instead of sharp questions designed to elicit yes or no, they make him feel very comfortable and let him ramble.”

Isn’t that interesting? Dershowitz obviously realizes how stupid Trump is – only a damn fool would “feel very comfortable” and ramble away to a special counsel – yet he still advocates for him. Why? Why advocate for a criminal idiot? What’s not to dislike?

Burning it down from within

May 2nd, 2018 9:33 am | By

Today Trump is basically at war with the Justice Department, so things could probably speed up a good deal now. Maddow was saying that last night, in response to these little explosions that keep coming from the Times at the end of the Times-timezone day. List of questions! Mueller threatens to subpoena! Trump threatens everything in sight!

He calls it a setup and a trap that he told Comey to protect Flynn and fired Comey to protect himself and told the Russians he fired Comey to remove the pressure on himself. It’s not a setup and it’s not a trap.

Scavino isn’t very good at excerpting, is he.

He’s trashing the legal system and the Congress because they won’t let him be a dictator. It’s an astounding spectacle.

That is just bad governance

May 2nd, 2018 8:57 am | By

Report civilian casualties in drone strikes? Nah, says the Trump administration, not gonna do that.

The Trump administration has chosen to ignore an executive order that requires the White House to issue an annual report on the number of civilians and enemy fighters killed by American counterterrorism strikes.

The mandate for the report, which was due May 1, was established by former president Barack Obama in 2016 as part of a broader effort to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding drone operations in places such as Yemen, Somalia and Libya. The White House has not formally rescinded the Obama-era executive order but has chosen not to comply with some aspects of it.

It’s part of their broader “be more shit to foreign brown people” strategy.

The decision on the civilian casualty report is part of a broader shift in U.S. counterterrorism policy to withhold more information about U.S. drone strikes and the rules governing them, reversing Obama-era policies dating to 2013.

At the time, Obama sought to impose restrictions on drone strikes that allowed the United States to kill enemy fighters almost anywhere in the world without putting U.S. personnel at risk.

“The same human progress that gives us the technology to strike half a world away also demands the discipline to constrain that power or risk abusing it,” Obama said in 2013 when he announced new rules of engagement governing drone operations.

Obviously that wouldn’t sit well with Trump. He’s all about abusing power, and if there’s anything he can’t be doing with, it’s discipline, let alone the discipline to constrain what he sees as his personal power, especially the power to blow up foreign brown people.

Former U.S. counterterrorism officials expressed surprise at the Trump administration’s failure to deliver either report on time. “It is pretty remarkable that they would simply ignore an executive order that remains on the books and also a statutory requirement passed by Congress,” said Joshua Geltzer, a visiting law professor at Georgetown University and former senior counterterrorism official in the Obama administration. “That is just bad governance.”

They call it draining the swamp.

The Department of Justice is not going to be extorted

May 1st, 2018 5:28 pm | By

Rosenstein pushes back.

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein took aim Tuesday at Republican lawmakers who have drafted articles of impeachment against him, saying that he would not comment on documents “that nobody has the courage to put their name on” and asserting that he will not change his behavior in the face of threats.

“I think they should understand by now that the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted,” Rosenstein said. “We’re going to do what’s required by the rule of law, and any kind of threats that anybody makes are not going to affect the way we do our job.”

This was at an event at the Newseum in DC to celebrate Law Day (I kind of thought every day was law day). Yesterday the Post reported that Republican ratbags had drafted impeachment articles against Rosenstein.

Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus — led by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) — have been in a long-running feud with Rosenstein and the Justice Department over what they see as a failure to turn over documents on a number of controversial topics, including the surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

So that Republican ratbags could use them to sabotage the special counsel’s investigation; gee, how mean of Rosenstein.

Critics see the move as an effort to pressure the Justice Department to turn over documents it shouldn’t, or detract from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election. Rosenstein supervises that probe, because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from it. The deputy attorney general has in recent weeks become a particular focus of the president’s rage.

And Republican ratbags want to help him put his rage into action.

Asked about the articles of impeachment, Rosenstein quipped, “they can’t even resist leaking their own drafts,” and then compared the document to one the Justice Department seeks in charging someone with a crime.

“We have to affix our signature to the charging document,” he said, adding later, “I just don’t have anything to say about documents like that, that nobody has the courage to put their name on, and that they leak in that way.”

Gutless Republican ratbags.


Not so astonishingly excellent after all maybe

May 1st, 2018 4:20 pm | By

A word to the wise: don’t piss off Donnie.

In February 2017, a top White House aide who was Trump’s longtime personal bodyguard, along with the top lawyer at the Trump Organization and a third man showed up at the office of Trump’s New York doctor without notice and took all the president’s medical records.

The incident, which Dr. Harold Bornstein described as a “raid,” took place two days after Bornstein told a newspaper that he had prescribed a hair growth medicine for the president for years.

Yes that would do it. We’re supposed to pretend he has a full head of gorgeous blond hair, kind of a young Robert Redford look.

In an exclusive interview in his Park Avenue office, Bornstein told NBC News that he felt “raped, frightened and sad” when Keith Schiller and another “large man” came to his office to collect the president’s records on the morning of Feb. 3, 2017. At the time, Schiller, who had long worked as Trump’s bodyguard, was serving as director of Oval Office operations at the White House.

Well not raped, because seizing paperwork isn’t the same as rape, but scared and intimidated yes.

A framed 8-by-10 photo of Bornstein and Trump that had been hanging on the wall in the waiting room now lies flat under a stack of papers on the top shelf of Bornstein’s bookshelf. Bornstein said the men asked him to take it off the wall.

I’m pretty sure they had no right to enforce that.

Bornstein said the original and only copy of Trump’s charts, including lab reports under Trump’s name as well as under the pseudonyms his office used for Trump, were taken.

That seems like a gross violation of the public’s right to know the truth about Trump’s health.

Bornstein said that Trump cut ties with him after he told The New York Times that Trump takes Propecia, a drug for enlarged prostates that is often prescribed to stimulate hair growth in men. Bornstein told the Times that he prescribed Trump drugs for rosacea and high cholesterol as well.

Too bad there’s not a drug for meanness or stupidity or greed or dishonesty.

Bornstein, 70, had been Trump’s personal doctor for more than 35 years.

During Trump’s presidential campaign, Bornstein wrote a letter declaring “unequivocally” that Trump would be the healthiest president in history. He called Trump’s health “astonishingly excellent.” The Trump campaign released the letter in December 2015.

Bornstein told NBC News in 2016 that he wrote the note in just five minutes while a limo sent by the candidate waited outside his office.

To the surprise of absolutely no one.

Updating to add breaking news item (also surprising to no one):