Notes and Comment Blog


Bedoy told Sysy

Jun 8th, 2017 1:07 pm | By

Can an “I hope” statement be obstruction of justice? Why yes, yes it can.

Also



A sample

Jun 8th, 2017 11:46 am | By

Politico has done a transcript already; thanks, Politico.

Comey’s introductory remarks, starting after he went home as a private citizen after being fired:

But then the explanations, the shifting explanations, confused me and increasingly concerned me. They confused me because the president and I had had multiple conversations about my job, both before and after he took office, and he had repeatedly told me I was doing a great job, and he hoped I would stay. And I had repeatedly assured him that I did intend to stay and serve out the years of my term. He told me repeatedly that he had talked to lots of people about me, including our current Attorney General, and had learned that I was doing a great job, and that I was extremely well-liked by the FBI workforce.

So it confused me when I saw on television the president saying that he actually fired me because of the Russia investigation, and learned again from the media that he was telling privately other parties that my firing had relieved great pressure on the Russian investigation.

Oh  yes. Those other parties were Kislyak and Lavrov in the Oval Office with American press banned but Russian photographers welcomed. Remember that? Time flies so fast with this prez.

I was also confused by the initial explanation that was offered publicly that I was fired because of the decisions I had made during the election year. That didn’t make sense to me for a whole bunch of reasons, including the time and all the water that had gone under the bridge since those hard decisions that had to be made. That didn’t make any sense to me. And although the law required no reason at all to fire an FBI director, the administration then chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader. Those were lies, plain and simple. And I am so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them, and I’m so sorry that the American people were told them.

I’m sorry too. I don’t like having a chronic shameless liar as president.

Warner asked why he felt the need to write a memo on his first chat with Don.

WARNER: Now you’ve had extensive experience at the department of justice and at the FBI. You’ve worked under presidents of both parties. What was about that meeting that led you to determine that you needed to start putting down a written record?

COMEY: A combination of things. I think the circumstances, the subject matter, and the person I was interacting with. Circumstances, first, I was alone with the president of the United States, or the president-elect, soon to be president. The subject matter I was talking about matters that touch on the FBI’s core responsibility, and that relate to the president, president-elect personally, and then the nature of the person. I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting so I thought it important to document. That combination of things I had never experienced before, but had led me to believe I got to write it down and write it down in a very detailed way.

“And then the nature of the person.” Quite so. He’s a flagrant, public, active liar.

WARNER: And so in all your experience, this was the only president that you felt like in every meeting you needed to document because at some point, using your words, he might put out a non-truthful representation of that meeting.

COMEY: That’s right, senator. As I said, as FBI director I interacted with President Obama, I spoke only twice in three years, and didn’t document it. When I was Deputy Attorney General I had a one one-on-one with President Bush been I sent an email to my staff but I didn’t feel with president bush the need to document it in that I way. Again, because of the combination of those factors, just wasn’t present with either President Bush or President Obama.

Trump is special in that way.

WARNER: Again, we ail understand, I was a governor, I had people work for me but this constant requests and again quoting you, him saying that he, despite you explaining your independence, he said “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” Have you ever had any of those kind of requests before from anyone else you’ve worked for in the government?

COMEY: No, and what made me uneasy at that point I’m the director of the FBI. The reason that Congress created a 10-year term is so that the director is not feeling as if they’re serving at, with political loyalty owed to any particular person. The statue of justice has a blindfold on. You’re not supposed to peek out to see whether your patron was pleased with what you’re doing. That’s why I became FBI director to be in that position. That’s why I was uneasy.

You’re not supposed to have a patron at all. Elegantly put.



A very open and candid discussion

Jun 8th, 2017 10:08 am | By

The hearing.

I missed the first hour, and turned it off while Cornyn was questioning because I was getting restless. The hour+ I did see was interesting.

Comey sat grim-faced at a witness table before the Senate Intelligence Committee shortly after 10 a.m. as the committee chairman, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), began the hearing by calling for a “very open and candid discussion’’ about the “strained relationship’’ between the president and Comey. Comey’s written account of those discussions, made public on Wednesday, have fueled the debate over whether the president may have attempted to obstruct justice by pressuring the FBI director about a sensitive investigation.

Comey began his testimony by saying he became “confused and increasingly concerned’’ about the public explanations by White House officials for his firing on May 9, particularly after the president said he was thinking about the Russia investigation when he decided to fire him.

He wasted little time repudiating White House statements that he was fired in part because of low morale among FBI employees, and those employees’ supposedly soured attitude toward his leadership.

“The administration then chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led,’’ Comey said. “Those were lies, plain and simple. And I’m so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them, and I’m so sorry the American people were told them.’’

It’s interesting that Trump and his people feel justified in doing that. Usually Republicans are pretty loyal to the FBI.

In connection with that, it’s interesting how Comey explained his thinking when he briefed Trump about the “salacious” dossier: he was thinking of the Hoover FBI and he wanted to assure Trump that he wasn’t doing a Hoover: telling him about this scuzzy material as a not very subtle kind of blackmail. He wanted to make it very clear that he wasn’t doing that, hence volunteering the information that they weren’t investigating him personally.

After his January dinner when the two discussed loyalty, Comey and the president had another discussion in February at the White House. A number of senior officials met in the Oval Office on Feb. 14 to discuss terrorism. At the end of the meeting, according to Comey, the president asked everyone to leave but Comey.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions lingered behind until the president told him, too, to leave, Comey said.

“My sense was the attorney general knew he shouldn’t be leaving which is why he was lingering,’’ said Comey. “I knew something was about to happen which I should pay very close attention to.’’

Later someone asked him – I think it was Kamala Harris, another former prosecutor and AG – a question I’d wanted to ask: what happened when he implored Sessions not to leave him alone with Trump ever again and Sessions didn’t reply. Comey said he wasn’t sure he remembered accurately but he thought there was some kind of body language or expression conveying “what can I do?” Harris said “A shrug?” and Comey acted out a little eyeroll head twitch version of a shrug, while still underlining how uncertain he was about the memory. He mentioned that uncertainty repeatedly throughout the questioning. It’s reassuring when people are aware of the fallibility of their own memories, especially people in law enforcement.



This failure infects or undermines just about everything he does

Jun 8th, 2017 5:59 am | By

Jack Goldsmith at Lawfare Blog:

consider one of French’s* best points about what the Comey statement reveals:

Overall, one gets the impression that the president views himself less as the president of a constitutional republic and more as the dictatorial CEO of a private company. This is understandable, given his long experience in the private sector, but it’s unsustainable. President Trump has to better understand not just the separation of powers but also the constitutional and legal obligations of governance, or the turmoil surrounding Comey’s termination will be but the first of a series of controversies that could well shake his presidency to its foundation.

This analysis echoes points that Bob Bauer has made on this site.  And it is right.  Trump does not remotely understand his role, status, and duties as President and Chief Executive, and this failure infects or undermines just about everything he does.   It is an amazing state of affairs: A President of the United States who does not at all grasp the Office he occupies, and who thus entirely lacks the proper situation sense, or contextual knowledge, in which a President should exercise judgment or act.

This is what I keep saying. He has no idea, and he has never bothered to find out. It’s horrifying. David French is right in a way that it’s “understandable,” in the sense that we can see how stupid and obstinate and intellectually lazy Trump is, but it’s not understandable in the colloquial sense of “and thus forgivable.” It’s outrageous and appalling and not forgivable at all. As I also keep saying, this is not a game, it’s not A Fun Project for Donnie, it’s the god damn country and to a large extent the world.

*David French at National Review



Shan’t

Jun 8th, 2017 4:38 am | By

Michelle Goldberg suggests why the four intel officials refused to answer Senators’ questions about Trump’s attempts to mess with the Russia inquiry yesterday.

Officially, the hearing was about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. But all the Democratic senators, and some of the Republican ones, used the opportunity to question the men under oath about whether Donald Trump had tried to quash the investigation into his administration’s Russia ties, as the Washington Post and others have reported.

To the senators’ mounting frustration, the intelligence officials repeatedly refused to answer their questions. Those refusals, however, tell us a lot. It appears they couldn’t defend Trump without committing perjury. Nor could they tell the truth without dramatically undermining Trump’s administration. So, in a series of increasingly contentious exchanges, they simply defied the lawmakers tasked with overseeing their agencies.

Yes but it’s my understanding that the fact that the truth would undermine Trump’s administration is in no way a valid reason for their refusing to answer Senators’ questions. Those refusals look to me like what people call a Constitutional Crisis – a situation in which one branch of the government defies another branch. I don’t think Trump’s people get to just say “No, don’t want to.”

Tuesday night, the Post reported that Coats told associates that Trump had asked him to intervene with then–FBI Director James Comey to get the bureau to back off its investigation of fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. (The Post had previously reported that Trump asked both Coats and Rogers to publicly deny that there was any evidence of collusion between the president’s campaign and Russia.) Grilled about these conversations with Trump, both men simply refused to answer, over and over again.

Instead they talked about their fee-fees.

In his opening statement, Coats said that he had “never felt pressure to intervene or interfere in any way with shaping intelligence in a political way.” But the senators weren’t interested in how Coats felt—they wanted to know what, if anything, Trump had asked him to do.

What they “felt” is subjective. What Trump actually said is factual. Dodging the factual question by talking about subjective feelings is not what they’re supposed to be doing.

The legal basis for these demurrals was unclear. The White House has not invoked executive privilege, and the information at issue doesn’t appear to be classified—these officials initially described them as “confidential” conversations with the president, then seemed to switch to characterizing them as “classified” midway through the hearing. Several senators seemed infuriated at their stonewalling. “Why are you not answering these questions?” asked Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine.

“Because I feel it is inappropriate,” replied Rogers.

“What you feel isn’t relevant, admiral,” King shot back, reminding Rogers that when he was confirmed, he’d taken an oath before the Armed Services Committee to give the committee the full truth. Rogers still wouldn’t budge.

Then King turned to Coats, who started to echo Rogers’ answer about appropriateness. King cut him off. “I’m not satisfied with, ‘I do not believe it is appropriate’ or ‘I do not feel I should answer,’ ” he said. “I want to understand the legal basis. You swore that oath, to tell us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And today you’re refusing to do so. What is the legal basis for your refusal to testify to this committee?”

In an extraordinary moment, a stumbling Coats replied, “I’m not sure I have a legal basis.”

So that happened.



Training

Jun 7th, 2017 4:34 pm | By

Helen Lewis notes how regularly it turns out that the latest mass murderer got his training by beating up the nearest women.

But if we don’t care to talk about the role that maleness and masculinity has in such cases, then we definitely don’t want to talk about them in relation to Islamic terrorism. But yesterday – Day Three – here it was, a story about one of the London Bridge killers’ history of wife-beating and manipulation.

Rachid Redouane kicked and slapped his wife, tried to make her wear the hijab, prevented her from drinking and smoking. He got her pregnant even though it appears that, for him, the marriage was more about getting residency in the UK than love. His control took the form of trying to make her more devout – whereas someone like Lance Hart, with a different set of cultural values behind him, controlled his wife by withholding money and refusing to let her see her friends.

It’s the bullying and control of women that’s the real point, and the reward; the ideology behind it is just superstructure.

Redouane is far from the only Islamist terrorist to have a background like this. Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who drove a truck into crowds in Nice, had a criminal record for domestic violence. After Omar Mateen killed 49 people in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, his ex-wife said: “He beat me. He would just come home and start beating me up because the laundry wasn’t finished or something like that.”

Like Mateen, the Westminster Bridge attacker Khalid Masood does not seem to have any formal contact with Islamic State or other terror groups. His attack was “inspired” rather than “directed” by jihadi groups such as IS. Masood was also a convert to Islam (as many Islamic terrorists are), appears to have been radicalised in prison, and – surprise, surprise – he also had a history of domestic violence and coercive control. “He was very violent towards her, controlling in every aspect of her life – what she wore, where she went, everything,” a friend told the Mirror.

The connection is not even a little bit surprising. Religious hatred of women is ferocious and entrenched. It’s not a side issue, not a coincidence, not an accident: it’s central.

Despite this, talking about male violence in the context of terrorism is treated like derailing – like you’ve mounted your feminist hobby horse when the grown-ups were talking. The people who control the discussion of Islamist terrorism don’t want to talk about this stuff. They see discussion of foreign policy, religion and “our values” like old-fashioned teachers saw Maths and English: proper, respectable subjects. Talking about male violence is a bit . . . film studies. Sociology. You know. Softer, girly, less rational, all the ways we dismiss anything associated with women. And of course elevating it in our discourse would mean ceding some ground in the conversation to the experts in the field – who are largely women.

Good, let’s do that then.



We have received tweets and emails

Jun 7th, 2017 4:09 pm | By

Drawn & Quarterly posts an apology:

This past spring, our editorial department accepted a submission from the cartoonist Berliac. The graphic novel was Sadbøi, which was seen as a statement on the treatment of immigrants—the challenge of being expected to conform to a society’s ideals in a world that prematurely condemns outsiders.

We neglected to research the author beyond the submitted book, which we now realize to be a disservice to both the public and the author. We were not familiar with Berliac’s body of work, both written and drawn, including a previously published essay comparing cultural appropriation and transgender people and the consequent public discussion about it in 2015. We do not agree with the essay, its defense, nor the tone and aggression he displayed in this and subsequent debates.

In the past 48 hours, we have received tweets and emails, and read posts telling us we are wrong to publish this book. Not everyone discussing Berliac and his work had the same opinions, but each of them made us reflect, and conduct the research we should have conducted when considering the submission. We asked ourselves if we would have acquired this book knowing what we know now, and we would not have. An author deserves the full support of their publisher. We can no longer provide that full support. Therefore, we have decided that D+Q will not be publishing Sadbøi.

We do not expect everyone to like or agree with everything we publish—this is an important part of a vibrant publishing landscape—but we are revising our acquisition practices so that we can ensure we better support our public, our authors, and our staff going forward.

We apologize for not doing our due diligence and for our mistakes. We are sorry. Thank you to everyone who has reached out to us: we value your input.

Peggy Burns on Friday, June 2, 2017 – 3:55pm.

They received all those tweets and emails, you see.



Guest post: So abhorrent to any halfway decent person

Jun 7th, 2017 3:20 pm | By

Originally a comment by Bjarte Foshaug on Thou art more deranged, and intemperate.

He hasn’t failed yet, so I’m not assuming he ever will.

Nope, me neither. Whenever I hear people talk about how quickly he is going to get impeached or forced to resign, it sounds to me like more of the same kind of thinking that led people to predict that he would never make it past the primaries, and later that he would never actually get elected. As I have previously stated, I won’t be the least bit surprised if he is able to serve for 8 years only to be replaced by some of his deplorable offspring (or someone equally bad).

First of all, the same traits that make Trump so abhorrent to any halfway decent person – his authoritarianism, his bigotry, his corruption, his dishonesty, his egotism, his fascism, his greed, his hatred, his ignorance, his journalist-bashing, his knowledge-bashing, his lability, his misogyny, his narcissism, his obnoxiousness, his pettiness, his queerphobia, his racism, his sadism, his temper-tantrums, his ugliness, his vulgarity, his word-salads, his xenophobia, his yeti-behavior, and the zombie-like manner in which he acts out every baser impulse without the involvement of any higher brain functions – are precisely the things that those who voted for him find so appealing about him in the first place. Even if he fails to deliver on most of his promises (and so far he has in fact delivered to an alarming degree) they’re not going to hold it against him as long as he hates the same people that they hate.

Second, even if his approval ratings are record low compared to other presidents (but still a lot higher than they ought to be), as we have seen, he doesn’t need a majority to win. In fact, he doesn’t even need the largest minority. Thanks to the ridiculous and undemocratic winner-takes-all principle, theoretically all he needs to do is to get one more vote than the candidate who got the second most votes in a the red states as well as a few “swing states”, and It doesn’t matter if the other candidate got 100% of the votes in the blue states. Of course it doesn’t help things that the whole electoral college system is inherently rigged in favor of white people in rural areas to begin with, and with widespread gerrymandering and voter-suppression going on (selectively closing down polling stations in areas dominated by democrats, passing ID requirements specifically targeting black and latino voters etc.), need I say more?

Third, even if most Americans agree that Trump needs to go, it doesn’t necessarily mean they agree on much else, let alone enough to unite behind a common candidate in sufficient numbers to challenge the walking orange sewage-pipe. American liberals, lefists and progressives are nothing if not divided, and the fact that they all hate Trump doesn’t automatically lead to political change as long as they hate each other even more.



Morality’s flown out the window

Jun 7th, 2017 2:52 pm | By

Honestly he really does have one hell of a fucking nerve.

I mean to me they’re not even people, it’s so so sad, I mean morality’s just gone, um, morality’s flown out the window, we deserve so much better than this as a country…

Morals. Morality. Morals.

Trump cheats contractors and workers out of money he owes them.

Trump attacks people on Twitter, thus inspiring some o-f his millions of followers to pile on Trump’s targets.

Trump has been accused of various forms and degrees of sexual assault many times.

Trump settled fraud claims against his “university” – really just a seminar to teach real estate tricks – for $25 million before he took office.

Trump charged his son hugely inflated prices for charity events at his golf club.

From what one can tell by combing the news sources, Trump has never done a moral thing in his life. He demands loyalty from others but provides none himself. He bullies, he abuses, he exploits, he takes revenge; he cheats, he lies, he insults. He’s morally beneath contempt.

Eric Trump has a fucking nerve.

Image result for trump shoves



It turned out to be just the two of them

Jun 7th, 2017 12:09 pm | By

Comey’s statement is out.

He first met Trump on January 6 “to brief him and his new national security team on the findings of an IC assessment concerning Russian efforts to interfere in the election.” He calls the details salacious so I guess that’s the stuff about the water games in the hotel bed purportedly once slept in by the Obamas.

The Director of National Intelligence asked that I personally do this portion of the briefing because I was staying in my position and because the material implicated the FBI’s counter-intelligence responsibilities. We also agreed I would do it alone to minimize potential embarrassment to the President-Elect. Although we agreed it made sense for me to do the briefing, the FBI’s leadership and I were concerned that the briefing might create a situation where a new President came into office uncertain about whether the FBI was conducting a counter-intelligence investigation of his personal conduct.

He then explains that it’s important to understand that intelligence investigations aren’t primarily about prosecution, they’re about discovering methods and personnel and about disrupting efforts by hostile foreign powers to fuck us up. [not his exact wording]

Comey and the gang discussed whether he should assure Trump they weren’t investigating him, and decided he should if circumstances warranted. Comey decided they did so he did.

I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the President-Elect in a memo. To ensure accuracy, I began to type it on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower the moment I walked out of the meeting. Creating written records immediately after one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump was my practice from that point forward. This had not been my practice in the past. I spoke alone with President Obama twice in person (and never on the phone) – once in 2015 to discuss law enforcement policy issues and a second time, briefly, for him to say goodbye in late 2016. In neither of those circumstances did I memorialize the discussions. I can recall nine one-on-one conversations with President Trump in four months – three in person and six on the phone.

Quiet, but pointed.

Then there was that dinner. Trump called him at lunchtime one day and said come to dinner tonight, just you, I’ll invite you and the whole family next time.

It was unclear from the conversation who else would be at the dinner, although I assumed there would be others.

It turned out to be just the two of us, seated at a small oval table in the center of the Green Room. Two Navy stewards waited on us, only entering the room to serve food and drinks.

Does that sound awkward enough? Especially when you remember that it’s not normal or appropriate for presidents to be all buddy-buddy with FBI directors? Not to mention when you remember that it’s Trump.

The President began by asking me whether I wanted to stay on as FBI Director, which I found strange because he had already told me twice in earlier conversations that he hoped I would stay, and I had assured him that I intended to. He said that lots of people wanted my job and, given the abuse I had taken during the previous year, he would understand if I wanted to walk away.

My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, and the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position, meant the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship. That concerned me greatly, given the FBI’s traditionally independent status in the executive branch.

That’s a nice way of putting it – an effort to create some sort of patronage relationship. It’s so Trump.

I replied that I loved my work and intended to stay and serve out my tenyear term as Director. And then, because the set-up made me uneasy, I added that I was not “reliable” in the way politicians use that word, but he could always count on me to tell him the truth. I added that I was not on anybody’s side politically and could not be counted on in the traditional political sense, a stance I said was in his best interest as the President.

A few moments later, the President said, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence.

Boom.

He then explained to Trump “why it was so important that the FBI and the Department of Justice be independent of the White House.” Naturally (though Comey doesn’t say so) this had no effect whatever.

Near the end of our dinner, the President returned to the subject of my job, saying he was very glad I wanted to stay, adding that he had heard great things about me from Jim Mattis, Jeff Sessions, and many others. He then said, “I need loyalty.” I replied, “You will always get honesty from me.” He paused and then said, “That’s what I want, honest loyalty.” I paused, and then said, “You will get that from me.” As I wrote in the memo I created immediately after the dinner, it is possible we understood the phrase “honest loyalty” differently, but I decided it wouldn’t be productive to push it further. The term – honest loyalty – had helped end a very awkward conversation and my explanations had made clear what he should expect.

It’s old news, but it’s still gobsmacking that Trump thinks he gets to demand loyalty from people who work for all of us. It’s still staggering that Trump apparently thinks of everyone in the executive branch as basically his employee, who has to do whatever Trump commands. It’s still nauseating that he always always always thinks it’s all about him.

There’s more, but that’s enough to digest for now.



One reason there are far too few women in politics

Jun 7th, 2017 11:18 am | By

And in London, Catherine Mayer tells us this is happening:

Angry, horrified, but not surprised. At the Women’s Equality Party offices waiting for police after threats against staff & against Nimko Ali.

Abusive phone calls to WE have been so bad & prolific that police advise upgrading phone security. Two female staff alone here last night got call from a man who threatened them, said he was minutes away and they should be scared.

Today a letter arrived for Nimco full of racist abuse and threats and signed “Jo Cox”.

The contemptible attempts to frighten us into silence *do* frighten us but won’t silence us. They strengthen our resolve. This is what happens to women who dare to take a little space for themselves. This is one reason there are far too few women in politics. Two of our core goals are to increase female representation and end violence against women and girls. This illustrates how vital they are.

Nimko Ali:



Contempt of Congress

Jun 7th, 2017 11:06 am | By

So the hearings have begun, and Coats, Rogers and McCabe all refused to answer some of the questions, without being able to offer any legal justification for doing so.

Senators flashed anger on Wednesday as the Trump administration officials repeatedly refused to answer questions about whether the president had tried to interfere with the Russia investigation.

Senator Angus King, an independent of Maine, pressed Mr. McCabe on why he would not comment on conversations he may have had with Mr. Comey about his interactions with Mr. Trump. Mr. McCabe said he could not discuss anything “within the purview” of the Justice Department investigation being run by Robert S. Mueller III, who was appointed special counsel last month.

“Why does the special counsel get preference and not this committee?” Mr. King said, revealing senators’ intensifying concerns over the conflicting needs of the separate congressional and federal investigations into Russian interference.

Mr. King then turned his attention to Mr. Coats and Mr. Rogers, who refused answer in detail questions about reports that Mr. Trump had asked them to publicly or privately undermine the F.B.I. investigation.

Mr. Rogers said he had asked the White House whether it was invoking executive privilege to keep him from discussing possible related conversations with Mr. Trump, but had not gotten a response. Presidents have in the past cited the privilege to try to prevent Congress from seeking information about internal conversations in the executive branch.

Mr. Coats struggled to respond when Mr. King turned to him, the senator’s frustrations with the witnesses apparent.

“You swore that oath to tell us the truth,” Mr. King said, demanding the “legal basis” for Mr. Coats’ decision not to comment.

“I’m not sure I have a legal basis,” Mr. Coats said, adding that he would be happy to discuss it further in a closed-door session.

Oh well as long as there’s no legal basis, that’s fine then. Just go with your gut.



Not even people

Jun 7th, 2017 5:53 am | By

Eric Trump thinks people who aren’t Republicans are not human.

On Tuesday evening, Eric Trump, one of the Trump children supposedly managing the family business while their father manages the nation, went on Fox News to complain about the Democratic Party in an astonishingly vitriolic attack.

“To me, they’re not even people,” the Trump scion told Sean Hannity about Democrats. “It’s so, so sad. Morality’s just gone, morals have flown out the window and we deserve so much better than this as a country.”

Morality, is it. Morality. Like the morality of bragging about grabbing women by the pussy? Of refusing to pay workers and contractors? Of flouting federal ethics rules? Of repealing protections for clean water? Of running a fake “university”? Of bullying anyone who dares to dissent? What “morality” is he even talking about?

Striking a self-righteous tone, Trump said of the Democrats, “They try and obstruct a great man; they try and obstruct his family.”

He’s the least great man most of us have ever seen. He’s tiny. He’s miniature. He’s the opposite of great – he’s pusillanimous, which literally means “tiny soul.”

Perhaps the young mogul was reeling from a report, published earlier that day by Forbes, that alleged that the Trump Organization demanded payment from the Eric Trump Foundation for a cancer fundraiser the charity held on Trump-owned golf courses.

Or perhaps it was the widespread disgust, at least on social media, over the Trump sons seemingly attempting to profit from their father’s presidency by opening a new chain of hotels, American Idea, in Republican-leaning states.

Making a corrupt buck isn’t “great” and it isn’t “moral.”



Pleeease, Jeff?

Jun 6th, 2017 5:18 pm | By

Oh man. Comey actually asked (or told) Sessions not to leave him alone with Trump…and Sessions said “I caaaaaaan’t, I don’t know howwwwww.”

The day after President Trump asked James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, to end an investigation into his former national security adviser, Mr. Comey confronted Attorney General Jeff Sessions and said he did not want to be left alone again with the president, according to current and former law enforcement officials.

Mr. Comey believed Mr. Sessions should protect the F.B.I. from White House influence, the officials said, and pulled him aside after a meeting in February to tell him that private interactions between the F.B.I. director and the president were inappropriate. But Mr. Sessions could not guarantee that the president would not try to talk to Mr. Comey alone again, the officials said.

“He’s big, and he yells, and Steve Bannon might throw a desk at me.”

Comey didn’t tell Sessions about the “let the guy off, willya?” though. Gee I wonder why.

Mr. Comey’s unwillingness to be alone with the president reflected how deeply Mr. Comey distrusted Mr. Trump, who Mr. Comey believed was trying to undermine the F.B.I.’s independence as it conducted a highly sensitive investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia, the officials said. By comparison, Mr. Comey met alone at least twice with President Obama.

Remember when we had a president who wasn’t a flagrant crook and self-dealer? That was nice.

The Justice Department typically walls off the White House from criminal investigations to avoid even the appearance of political meddling in law enforcement. But Mr. Trump has repeatedly interjected himself in law enforcement matters, and never more dramatically than in his private meetings with Mr. Comey.

“You have the president of the United States talking to the director of the F.B.I., not just about any criminal investigation, but one involving his presidential campaign,” said Matthew S. Axelrod, who served in senior Justice Department roles during the Obama administration and is now a partner at the law firm Linklaters. “That is such a sharp departure from all the past traditions and rules of the road.”

Well, you know, that’s what Trump said – he was going to be all mavericky up in there.



Thou art more deranged, and intemperate

Jun 6th, 2017 4:18 pm | By

David Leonhardt on Trump’s contempt for the rule of law.

Even amid bitter fights over what the law should say, both Democrats and Republicans have generally accepted the rule of law.

President Trump does not. His rejection of it distinguishes him from any other modern American leader. He has instead flirted with Louis XIV’s notion of “L’état, c’est moi”: The state is me — and I’ll decide which laws to follow.

How does Trump scorn the law? Let Leonhardt count the ways.

LAW ENFORCEMENT, POLITICIZED. People in federal law enforcement take pride in trying to remain apart from politics. I’ve been talking lately with past Justice Department appointees, from both parties, and they speak in almost identical terms.

They view the Justice Department as more independent than, say, the State or Treasury Departments. The Justice Department works with the rest of the administration on policy matters, but keeps its distance on law enforcement. That’s why White House officials aren’t supposed to pick up the phone and call whomever they want at the department. There is a careful process.

That’s what I and no doubt others have been learning over the past few weeks (which makes it all the more dubious that Kennedy made his brother Attorney General). Trump’s behavior with Comey was way over the line.

The attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is part of the problem. He is supposed to be the nation’s head law-enforcement official, but acts as a Trump loyalist. He recently held a briefing in the White House press room — “a jaw-dropping violation of norms,” as Slate’s Leon Neyfakh wrote. Sessions has proclaimed, “This is the Trump era.”

Like Trump, he sees little distinction between the enforcement of the law and the interests of the president.

Then there’s Trump’s habit of attacking the courts.

Trump has tried to delegitimize almost any judge who disagrees with him.

His latest Twitter tantrum, on Monday, took a swipe at “the courts” over his stymied travel ban.

“We need the courts to give us back our rights,” he said, as if the courts had taken them away. It’s all very coup-y.

It joined a long list of his judge insults: “this so-called judge”; “a single, unelected district judge”; “ridiculous”; “so political”; “terrible”; “a hater of Donald Trump”; “essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country”; “THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!”

“What’s unusual is he’s essentially challenging the legitimacy of the court’s role,” the legal scholar Charles Geyh told The Washington Post. Trump’s message, Geyh said, was: “I should be able to do what I choose.”

Wouldn’t you think he would have educated himself on all this between the election and the inauguration? If he were anyone other than himself, I mean?

TEAM TRUMP, ABOVE THE LAW. Foreign governments speed up trademark applications from Trump businesses. Foreign officials curry favor by staying at his hotel. A senior administration official urges people to buy Ivanka Trump’s clothing. The president violates bipartisan tradition by refusing to release his tax returns, thus shrouding his conflicts.

He doesn’t accept the idea of equality.

The larger message is that people who support him are fully American, and people who don’t are something less. He tells elaborate lies about voter fraud by those who oppose him, especially African-Americans and Latinos. Then he uses those lies to justify measures that restrict their voting. (Alas, much of the Republican Party is guilty on this score.)

And there’s the kingdom of lies problem.

TRUTH, MONOPOLIZED. The consistent application of laws requires a consistent set of facts on which a society can agree. The Trump administration is trying to undermine the very idea of facts.

It has harshly criticized one independent source of information after another. The Congressional Budget Office. The Bureau of Labor Statistics. The C.I.A. Scientists. And, of course, the news media.

Fake news, enemies of the people, yadda yadda.

The one encouraging part of the rule-of-law emergency is the response from many other parts of society. Although congressional Republicans have largely lain down for Trump, judges — both Republican and Democratic appointees — have not. Neither have Comey, the F.B.I., the C.B.O., the media or others. As a result, the United States remains a long way from authoritarianism.

Unfortunately, Trump shows no signs of letting up. Don’t assume he will fail just because his actions are so far outside the American mainstream.

He hasn’t failed yet, so I’m not assuming he ever will.



He had a pretty good idea

Jun 6th, 2017 12:28 pm | By

More on that New Mexico Walgreens:

Two advocacy organizations filed discrimination complaints against an Albuquerque Walgreens pharmacy for allegedly refusing to fill a birth control prescription.

The complaint, sent to the New Mexico Human Rights Bureau, was written by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and the Southwest Women’s Law Center. The organizations allege a pharmacy employee at a store on Coors Boulevard refused to fill a misoprostol prescription to a teenage woman who was at the store with her mother last August, citing personal reasons.

This refusal, according to two complaints, violates the New Mexico Human Rights Act, which bars discrimination based on sex.

“Refusing to fill prescriptions that are directly tied to the attributes that make women different from men—i.e. the ability to become pregnant—constitutes sex discrimination,” the complaints read.

You mean we shouldn’t all get together as a society to micromanage everything women and girls do? You mean it’s none of our business? What a radical notion.

According to the complaints, the teenage woman and her mother, whose names are only referred to with initials, were also picking up an IUD and anti-anxiety medicine at the pharmacy. The pharmacist, Jesse Garrett, filled two of the prescriptions but made the mother and daughter fill the misoprostol prescription at another Walgreens location.

The mother then “had no choice but to drive to the alternate Walgreens pharmacy in rush hour traffic to pick up the medication, which was a significant inconvenience for her,” according to the complaints.

The mother went back to the first location, on Coors Boulevard, to complain. She spoke with the pharmacist, who “explained in a judgmental tone that he was refusing to fill the prescription because he had a ‘pretty good idea’ for what purpose the medication would be used,” according to the complaints.

Godalmighty. What world is this.



Personal loyalty

Jun 6th, 2017 11:33 am | By

Greg Sargent at the Post points out the Trump’s rages at people in his own branch of government have a strong whiff of authoritarianism.

Trump appears worryingly unable to contemplate his own role in bringing about the special counsel. The firing of FBI Director James B. Comey led to reports that Trump allegedly demanded Comey’s loyalty and to Trump’s admission that he fired Comey over the Russia probe. This revealed that the Justice Department’s memo providing Trump his initial rationale for the firing (Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton probe) was bogus. Which led to the special counsel.

No no, it was a Stab in the Back.

Both Comey and Sessions enraged Trump because in some manner or other, they failed to show a level of loyalty to Trump that would have trumped (as it were) legitimate processes. Comey kept publicly validating the Russia investigation (which Trump dismisses as nothing but “Fake News”) and would not make it disappear by stopping leaks about it. Sessions recused himself to display (nominal) independence, which Trump somehow interpreted as a lapse into weakness that led to the special counsel, further affirming the probe’s weightiness.

Students of authoritarianism see a pattern taking shape

Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a professor of history at New York University who writes extensively on authoritarianism and Italian fascism, told me that a discernible trait of authoritarian and autocratic rulers is ongoing “frustration” with the “inability to make others do their bidding” and with “institutional and bureaucratic procedures and checks and balances.”

That’s been visible in Trump from the very first days, when he was raging about crowd sizes and yelling at CIA agents about his…crowd sizes.

Trump expects independent officials “to behave according to personal loyalty, as opposed to following the rules,” added Timothy Snyder, a history professor at Yale University who wrote “On Tyranny,” a book of lessons from the 20th century. “For Trump, that is how the world is supposed to work. Trump doesn’t understand that in the world there might truly be laws and rules that constrain a leader.”

That’s one of the most hateful things about him – that thinking everything is about him and that he always comes first no matter what. He has no interest in or loyalty to anything that’s not about him. It’s a hideous quality. It’s also of course dangerous in a head of state, but it’s worth underlining the character problem.

Snyder noted that authoritarian tendencies often go hand in hand with impatience at such constraints. “You have to have morality and a set of institutions that escape the normal balance of administrative practice,” Snyder said. “You have to be able to lie all the time. You have to have people around you who tell you how wonderful you are all the time. You have to have institutions which don’t follow the law and instead follow some kind of law of loyalty.”

In short you have to have a hell on earth.

No one human being merits all that. We can be amazing collectively, but no one person is fit for worship. Shakespeare was an amazing guy but a big part of that is because he built on the work of other amazing people. He was part of human collective amazingness. Whoever painted the Lascaux caves? Probably inspired by predecessors.



Don and Jeff on the outs

Jun 6th, 2017 11:08 am | By

Furthermore, Trump is mad at his racist Attorney General. Aw. Not because he’s racist, of course, but because he didn’t lie down in front of the nearest approaching locomotive for Trump’s sake.

Those tweets yesterday made this visible to the public.

In private, the president’s exasperation has been even sharper. He has intermittently fumed for months over Mr. Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election, according to people close to Mr. Trump who insisted on anonymity to describe internal conversations. In Mr. Trump’s view, they said, it was that recusal that eventually led to the appointment of a special counsel who took over the investigation.

He expects people who work for him to defy the law and ethical rules.

David B. Rivkin Jr., a lawyer who served in the White House and Justice Department under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, said Mr. Trump clearly looked at the case from the lens of a businessman who did not get his money’s worth.

“He’s unhappy when the results don’t come in,” Mr. Rivkin said. “I’m sure he was convinced to try the second version, and the second iteration did not do better than the first iteration, so the lawyers in his book did not do a good job. It’s understandable for a businessman.”

And that’s why a business person with zero experience of government or public policy or law or anything relevant to being president should not run for president. What’s understandable for a (corrupt and dishonest) businessman is not understandable for a president.

The frustration over the travel ban might be a momentary episode were it not for the deeper resentment Mr. Trump feels toward Mr. Sessions, according to people close to the president. When Mr. Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation, Mr. Trump learned about it only when he was in the middle of another event, and he publicly questioned the decision.

A senior administration official said Mr. Trump has not stopped burning about the decision, in occasional spurts, toward Mr. Sessions. Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who was selected by Mr. Sessions and filled in when it came to the Russia investigation, ultimately appointed Robert S. Mueller III, a former F.B.I. director, as special counsel to lead the probe.

In fact, much of the past two months of discomfort and self-inflicted pain for Mr. Trump can be tied in some way back to that recusal. Mr. Trump felt blindsided by Mr. Sessions’s decision and unleashed his fury at aides in the Oval Office the next day, according to four people familiar with the event. The next day was his fateful tweet about President Barack Obama conducting a wiretap of Trump Tower during the campaign, an allegation that was widely debunked.

BFFs no more.



Mr. Trump, his lawyers said, was now a changed man

Jun 6th, 2017 10:36 am | By

Adam Liptak and Peter Baker at the Times spare a thought for Trump’s lawyers.

In a series of Twitter posts Monday that continued into the evening, Mr. Trump may have irretrievably undermined his lawyers’ efforts to persuade the Supreme Court to reinstate his executive order limiting travel from six predominantly Muslim countries, according to legal experts.

Saying he preferred “the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version” he had issued in March, Mr. Trump attacked both the Justice Department and the federal courts. He also contradicted his own aides, who have suggested he was causing a pause in travel, by calling the order “what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!” He said it would be imposed on “certain DANGEROUS countries” and suggested that anything short of a ban “won’t help us protect our people!”

He did the thing lawyers want their clients not to do: he blabbed. The first thing lawyers tell their clients is SAY NOTHING. Donnie doesn’t do Say Nothing.

Still, some administration supporters said the court should not consider the tweets. While looking beyond the letter of the order might be appropriate in domestic policy, the president has a freer hand in foreign policy, said David B. Rivkin Jr., a lawyer in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George Bush. “As a constitutional matter, as a legal matter, it should make absolutely no difference,” he said of the president’s extracurricular messaging.

Last week, lawyers in the solicitor general’s office filed polished briefs in the Supreme Court. They urged the justices to ignore incendiary statements from Mr. Trump during the presidential campaign, including a call for a “Muslim ban.” The court should focus instead on the text of the revised executive order and statements from Mr. Trump after he had taken the inaugural oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution,” the briefs said.

Mr. Trump, his lawyers said, was now a changed man, alert to the burdens and responsibilities of his office.

“Taking that oath marks a profound transition from private life to the nation’s highest public office, and manifests the singular responsibility and independent authority to protect the welfare of the nation that the Constitution reposes in the president,” they wrote.

Ah no. No no. No no no no. That’s what you’d expect but it’s absolutely not what happened. That’s why we’re all so amazed. It never stops being amazing how completely he has not changed, how entirely the huge responsibilities of the office have not forced him to grow up.

On Twitter early Monday, though, Mr. Trump appeared to say that the latest executive order was of a piece with the earlier one, issued in January, and with his longstanding positions.

In calling the revised order “politically correct,” Mr. Trump suggested that his goal throughout had been to exclude travelers based on religion. And in calling the revised order “watered down,” he made it harder for his lawyers to argue that it was a clean break from the earlier one, which had mentioned religion.

Other than that, they were very helpful.

Mr. Trump’s adversaries certainly welcomed his tweets.

“It just adds to the mountain of already existing evidence that the government has had to ask the court over and over to ignore,” said Omar Jadwat, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents people and groups challenging the law. “Blinding the courts to a reality that everyone else is aware of is never an attractive position, but is especially problematic when you have to ignore in real time what’s being said by the president of the United States.”

Neal K. Katyal, who represents Hawaii in a separate challenge to the order, said there was a yawning gap between Mr. Trump’s tweets and his lawyers’ filings.

“The president’s statements, before, during and after his inauguration, continually demonstrate what his so-called travel ban is really about,” Mr. Katyal said. “It’s not surprising his story and his tweets don’t match up with what the solicitor general has been trying to say in court.”



What is reasonable

Jun 6th, 2017 10:03 am | By

Darrel Ray wrote to Walgreens to ask them about their policy on refusing to fill prescriptions because Jesus. He told commenters to feel free to use his letter as a template.

To whom it may concern. I read today that your company allows pharmacists to deny prescriptions based on their religious beliefs – specifically a pharmacist in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I would like to know if this is a mistake and what the corporation is doing to correct this. Pharmacists did not train as theologians or religious police. What men and women do with their bodies and prescriptions, legally written by a physician, are none of any pharmacist’s business. I have a Walgreens account under the name [your name here] in [your location here]. I will not be using it until I get clarification that your corporation does not allow pharmacists to discriminate based on their religious beliefs. I would appreciate a reply. There is no reason a customer should be forced to go to another of your stores because one of your employees refuses to do their job. Would one of your pharmacy techs be allowed to refuse service in the same way? What are the limits of this pharmacist’s powers to refuse. Could he refuse service to a gay or a transexual person? Could he refuse to sell viagra to a man? Could he refuse to serve a Muslim woman in a hijab? His religious beliefs should not trump a woman or man’s right to health care. I look forward to your response.

He got a reply.

Here is Walgreen’s response to my letter. They believe it is reasonable to force a customer to go to a different store, when the pharmacist right in front of your refuses to do their job. Very interesting business model. I guess I will not be using Walgreens any longer. Wouldn’t want to offend their religious sensibilities.

Dear Darrel Ray,

Thank you for taking your time to contact our Corporate Offices. We appreciate hearing from our customers and value all comments received.

We believe it’s reasonable to respect the individual pharmacist’s beliefs by not requiring them to fill a prescription they object to on moral or religious grounds. We also believe it’s reasonable to meet our obligation to the patient by having another pharmacist at the store fill the prescription. If another pharmacist is not on duty, we will arrange to have the prescription filled at a nearby pharmacy.

Again, thank you for contacting our corporate office. We truly appreciate you taking the time to share your comments.

Sincerely,

Nicholas C.
Consumer Relations Representative

Oh sure, it’s totally “reasonable” to set up as a pharmacy and then selectively refuse to fill prescriptions because of your or your employee’s personal opinions about particular prescriptions. It’s totally reasonable to put people to major inconvenience, often amounting to impossibility (no other pharmacy nearby, patient reliant on public transportation but with small children or an ill relative to take care of, etc), because someone in the nearest pharmacy has Scruples about someone else’s prescription. By which I mean it’s not reasonable at all, it’s outrageous.