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Friday, May 24, 2019

What's illegal for Assange should be illegal for Trump too, no?

by digby

Emptywheel makes a good point about Trump and Assange:

[I]t’s ... worth looking at the abundant evidence that Trump wasn’t joking about his request that Russians find Hillary’s emails, particularly now that, with the superseding Julian Assange indictment, Trump’s DOJ considers the theft of documents in response to someone wishing they’ll be stolen tantamount to complicity in that theft.

Immediately after Trump asked Russia to find Hillary’s emails, the Mueller Report describes, he started asking Mike Flynn to go find them.
After candidate Trump stated on July 27, 2016, that he hoped Russia would “find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump asked individuals affiliated with his Campaign to find the deleted Clinton emails.264 Michael Flynn-who would later serve as National Security Advisor in the Trump Administration- recalled that Trump made this request repeatedly, and Flynn subsequently contacted multiple people in an effort to obtain the emails.265

Heavily redacted passages also tie the request to Roger Stone to find out what WikiLeaks started around the same time.

Earlier the report quotes Gates describing how “frustrated” Trump was that the emails had not been found.

Gates recalled candidate Trump being generally frustrated that the Clinton emails had not been found. 196

A passage describing Trump’s motive for obstructing justice from Volume II refers back to these passages, describing Trump’s awareness of something about the hack-and-leak even while public reports tied the hacks to Russia, and in turn tying that to Roger Stone’s efforts to reach out to WikiLeaks.

Stone’s indictment describes how, days before that press conference, “a senior Trump Campaign official was directed” (probably a reference to Manafort’s request to Gates) to ask him to find out about upcoming releases, which is what led Stone to start pushing Jerome Corsi to find out what was coming.
Mike Flynn, Rick Gates, and Paul Manafort all testified how serious Trump was about finding these emails. And while Stone would probably lie about the content of his calls with the candidate, there are two witnesses (Michael Cohen and Gates) to Stone’s calls with him on the topic.

This was Trump’s wish list, just the same as WikiLeaks had a wish list that DOJ is now using to charge Julian Assange with Espionage.

If a wish list is enough to get Assange charged with conspiring to steal the documents on the wish list, then DOJ should treat Trump’s wish list for stolen documents with equal gravity.

I'm going to guess that's not going to happen. But it's a good point.

He knows he's calling for the death penalty

by digby

If he didn't know before, he knew after the reporter asked him this question. And he didn't miss a beat:

No president before him would have even thrown that word around about former FBI officials. Obviously, even if they did commit a crime, they'd have to have been working on behalf of Al Qaeda (and because there has been no formal declaration of war, even that wouldn't apply) for it to be treason. But Trump is saying that anyone who investigated him attempted "a coup" which in Trump's America would be treason.

That's certainly how kings and dictators see such things which is what Trump thinks he is:
President Donald Trump on Sunday night retweeted conservative religious leader Jerry Falwell Jr., who said the president should have two years added to his first term “as pay back for time stolen by this corrupt failed coup,” referencing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s lengthy investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

While the move would be an unconstitutional power grab, Falwell referred to the extension of the president’s term as a form of “reparations,” a troublesome nod to current ongoing discussions within the Democratic Party about whether the U.S. government should pay reparations to the descendants of formerly enslaved people.

Trump then went on a tweet storm of his own, arguing that “they have stolen two years of my (our) Presidency.” In a follow up tweet, the president added, “The Witch Hunt is over but we will never forget.”

This is not the first time Trump has referenced extending his presidential term, leaving some concerned that he would not voluntarily give up the White House if he lost the 2020 election.

Since 2016, Trump has repeatedly claimed that the election was rigged against him, and that there was widespread voter fraud.

Trump joked last month about extending his presidency, after he received an award at an event for the Wounded Warrior Project. The event was held the same day Mueller’s report was released to the public.

“Well, this is really beautiful,” Trump said. “This will find a permanent place, at least for six years, in the Oval Office. Is that okay?”

He continued: “I was going to joke, General, and say at least for 10 or 14 years, but we would cause bedlam if I said that, so we’ll say six.”

The president made similar comments last year in a speech to Republican donors at Mar-A-Lago, where he praised Chinese President Xi Jinping for consolidating his power and doing away with term limits.

“He’s now president for life. President for life. And he’s great,” Trump said. “I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll give that a shot someday.”

In a recent interview with The New York Times, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she didn’t trust Trump to respect the results of the upcoming election if he lost, unless a Democratic candidate won by an overwhelming majority. Pelosi argued, for this reason, the party should embrace centrist politics going into 2020, as some Democrats are leaning further left.

But Pelosi isn’t the only one who has expressed this concern.

Michael Cohen, the president’s former personal lawyer of 10 years, told the House oversight committee earlier this year that he worries “there will never be a peaceful transition of power” if Trump loses in 2020.

Just last week he said this:

American presidents don't "joke" about that sort of thing over and over and over again.

Trump repeats things for a reason... so it sounds normal after a while.


Your tax dollars at work

by digby

I guess we know what Sarah Huckabee Sanders is doing with her time these days:

That is the official White House twitter feed.

Speaking of tax dollars:
In August of 2016, Donald Trump stood before an audience in northern Virginia and made a casual, but firm promise. As president, he said, “I’m going to be working for you. I’m not going to have time to play golf.”

It’s not the most significant broken promise of Trump’s presidency, but it might be the most brazen. Trump incessantly bashed Barack Obama for golfing and repeatedly pledged that he’d be too busy cutting deals on behalf of the American people to find his way onto a course.

But Trump’s a pathological liar, so it’s little surprise that he broke this promise less than two weeks into his presidency. And now, more than two years later, he’s played golf many dozens of times and racked up a taxpayer tab of more than $100 million, according to a new analysis from HuffPost.

U.S. taxpayers have spent $81 million for the president’s two dozen trips to Florida, according to a HuffPost analysis. They spent $17 million for his 15 trips to New Jersey, another $1 million so he could visit his resort in Los Angeles and at least $3 million for his two days in Scotland last summer ― $1.3 million of which went just for rental cars for the massive entourage that accompanies a president abroad.

The $102 million total is an insignificant part of the federal budget, but it’s much more than some other budget items that Trump has complained about:

The $102 million total to date spent on Trump’s presidential golfing represents 255 times the annual presidential salary he volunteered not to take. It is more than three times the cost of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation that Trump continually complains about. It would fund for six years the Special Olympics program that Trump’s proposed budget had originally cut to save money.

The number is only growing. Trump is traveling to Ireland next month to play golf at his course in Doonbeg, a trip that HuffPost says will cost “several million dollars” all by itself.

It's also important to note that much of that money goes directly into his own pockets. Nice little scam he has going.


They're all barbarians now

by digby

The GOP has always had a very high tolerance for snotty assholes. (c.f. Newt) But since Trump it's become a positive embrace.  Here's proof:

Just hours after having multiple senior aides vouch for his calm state of mind after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused him of a temper tantrum, President Trump took to Twitter late Thursday to push an edited video of the top Democrat supposedly “stammering” through a news conference, jumping on a conspiracy-theory bandwagon that had been raging on social media throughout the day.

The video, which was first aired by the Fox Business Network and appeared to have been cleverly edited to make Pelosi's speech seem impaired, came after several doctored videos purporting to show a “drunk” Pelosi slurring her words spread like wildfire on social media, all while Trump tried to convince the public that Pelosi was not to be taken seriously because she is “crazy” and “a mess.”

Even Fox News reported that the videos were doctored, but that didn't stop Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani from tweeting out a link to one of the already debunked videos late Thursday.

“What is wrong with Nancy Pelosi?” Giuliani wrote. “Her speech pattern is bizarre.” He later deleted the tweet, but the flames of the “Pelosi-can-barely-string-a-sentence-together, she-must-be-senile-or-drunk” hoax that apparently originated among Trump supporters had already been fanned, and Fox, predictably, was to thank for keeping the whole thing going.

Frequent Fox Business guest Ed Rollins on Thursday backed up the president’s earlier assertion that Pelosi is a “mess,” citing the edited video as evidence that the speaker is inarticulate and therefore unwell. Prior to Rollins’ remarks, guest host Gregg Jarrett had played a highly edited and manipulated clip of Pelosi speaking earlier in the day that made it appear that she stammered and struggled through a press conference.

Notably, the clip repeatedly replays Pelosi saying the number three while holding up two fingers, something Jarrett mocked immediately afterward.

Fox issued a statement after the segment defending the video.

“The FOX Business segment featuring clips from Speaker Pelosi’s speech today did not slow down any aspect of her address,” the network said.

Meanwhile, Rollins and Jarrett weren’t the only ones implying that Pelosi didn’t have all her mental faculties during Thursday’s Lou Dobbs Tonight broadcast. Pugnacious former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski seemingly referenced the doctored videos while criticizing Pelosi’s remarks about Trump’s current mental fitness.

“Can you imagine, for one second if that was a Republican question Nancy Pelosi is mental fitness?” Lewandowski exclaimed. “The way she slurs and repeats herself. They would be called racist, misogynist, xenophobic and every other word possible.”

Trump quickly fed Fox's claims back out to the Twitterverse, seizing on the network's coverage to lend some legitimacy to the whole thing. “Nancy Pelosi should not be out there doing the kinds of things she is doing,” the president tweeted, quoting Rollins. “She will diminish herself and her membership. She cannot put a subject with a predicate in the same sentence. What’s going on?”

Trump captioned the tweeted video: “PELOSI STAMMERS THROUGH NEWS CONFERENCE.”

During the 2016 presidential election, then-candidate Trump and his allies relentlessly courted in unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's mental and physical health. Those theories only gained more steam after she nearly passed out at a 9/11 memorial from what was later diagnosed as walking pneumonia.

Giuliani later told a Washington Post reporter that he'd deleted the tweet but that he noticed a mental decline. Then today he posted this:

I won't say it, but you are thinking it I'm sure ...

This whole thing is a strategy. It's not just off-the-cuff nastiness. It's exactly what they did in 2016. And, by the way, that particular smear was amplified by  the Russian bots --- and when Clinton got pneumonia, the mainstream press went to town on it too. "She doesn't have the strength and stamina to be president" was something they bought into as well, if only subliminally.

That's what "sleepy Joe Biden" is all about too. Trump is an idiot but he's got an instinct for this sort of juvenile insult that appeals to wingnuts --- and, sadly, the media.


I've written before about Trump's obvious sensitivity on this issue. His father had Alzheimer's Disease and I think he's probably terrified that he's got it too. If he doesn't have symptoms then he should probably stop acting like a fool and making everyone think he does. If he does have symptoms then he shouldn't run again.

Barr takes the wheel. The entire IC is now on notice: Trump is untouchable.

by digby

The Attorney General hobnobbing with political operatives at Trump's slush fund hotel.  Sure. Fine.

As you know, William Barr has been fighting with the congress, even courting a contempt citation, over his unwillingness to give them an unredacted version of the Mueller Report. He says there is sensitive Grand Jury testimony and classified information that he just cannot release, even to the people clearly entitled to receive it.  And yesterday, his DOJ issued a superseding indictment against Julian Assange on charges including the Espionage Act, one of which is for publishing classified information, a charge that has national security journalists freaking out since this is unprecedented and will likely put them and their publications at risk. 

So, one would assume from these two acts that the Barr DOJ is going to be extremely hardcore when it comes to classified information.

And they will.

Except when it comes to protecting Donald Trump. Last night the president tweeted out that he had given Barr the blanket authority to access and declassify all classified information the government has, across all agencies, in his apparently massive "investigation of the investigators."

The man who issued a misleading political press release of the Mueller Report in order to spin it more positively for the president has been given carte blanche to access and selectively release classified documents. Knowing what he is --- a political hack on a crusade to turn the presidency into a monarchy, punish Trump's enemies and save his presidency --- this is a very, very dangerous development. This man has zero integrity. None.

Barr has been given maximum authority to override the heads of all the Intelligence services and other agencies in this process. Does anyone think he won't? Does anyone believe that he will not selectively choose to declassify documents and refuse to declassify any that would be exculpatory or add necessary context? Of course not. He showed what he was capable of with the infamous "Barr Letter." And if the other agency chiefs object, there's nothing they can do about it. Barr has the sole power to do this.

It's pretty clear that Trump wants to find out everything the intelligence agencies know about his relationship with Putin. The New York Times had this chilling nugget:
One official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified matters, said previously that Mr. Barr wanted to know more about what foreign assets the C.I.A. had in Russia in 2016 and what those informants were telling the agency about how President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia sought to meddle in the 2016 election.
Barr has the power to declassify all of that which is deeply concerning, but even if he doesn't, he will no doubt tell Trump everything he learns putting the entire intelligence apparatus in Russia at risk. Trump is completely untrustworthy, as we know.

Finally, it's important to keep in mind that much of this is designed to take the heat off of Trump going into 2020. The word has gone forth that if anyone in the Intelligence agencies and the FBI see something untoward about Trump's dealings, regardless of the seriousness, they are to look the other way if they care about their careers. I'm sure most of them understand that by now, but going after Comey, McCabe, Strzok and Page by name, in public, as the president and his henchmen are doing --- along with giving Barr this tremendous power to persecute people in the government ---- sends a very strong message that no one is safe.  Trump has free rein. Or should I say, "free reign."

This is a very bad development.


He's slipping in more ways than one

by Tom Sullivan

Morning Consult has an interactive graphic that tracks the sitting president's approval ratings by state over time. Even Wyoming has dropped by double digits since January 2017. Pennsylvania: -17; Michigan: -17; Wisconsin: -19.

Dave Weigel snarks, "This map, however, focuses on states, and not on blue collar diners -- a common mistake."

Donald Trump's control over voters has slipped, as has his grip on his cover-up and on reality, Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested Thursday.

“Now this time, another temper tantrum,” Pelosi said. “I wish that his family or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country.”

To use a boxing analogy, Pelosi thinks she has opened a cut over Trump's eye. She's "working" the eye.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Lord Helps Those Who Help Themselves 

by tristero

Dear Speaker Pelosi,

You said,
Again, I pray for the president of the United States. I wish that his family, or his administration, or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country.
Praying is not enough. You are saying that the president of the United States is of an unsound mind. There could not be a more dangerous situation than a United States led by a president who is behaving like a lunatic.

You, Speaker Pelosi, have the power to do something about this and avert unimaginable catastrophe.

This is not a question of politics or principle. You are saying that Trump poses an existential threat to the country and the world. Therefore, you must do everything in your power to get him out of office. Now.

With your prayers and concerns about his mental health, you yourself have made a powerful case for getting Trump out of office. For the good of the country, you must stage an intervention by starting impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump immediately.



by digby

Well, this was something:

President Donald Trump on Thursday called on his top aides to publicly state he was “calm” during the disastrous meeting with Democratic leaders the day before, as he hijacked an event with farmers to air his grievances over Speaker Nancy Pelosi and insist upon his mental fitness.

“I've been watching her. I have been watching her for a long period of time. She's not the same person. She's lost it,” Trump said of Pelosi during an event at the White House with agriculture industry leaders. Just moments before he announced $16 billion in federal aid to growers hammered by the U.S.-China trade conflict.

In a remarkable scene, the president proceeded to name-check senior White House staff and advisers in the Roosevelt Room who he said had attended Wednesday’s scuttled session on infrastructure initiatives with Democratic congressional leaders — which Trump abandoned after declaring that the lawmakers could not simultaneously negotiate legislation while investigating and threatening to impeach him.

“Kellyanne, what was my temperament yesterday?” Trump asked White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.

“Very calm. No tamper tantrum,” she replied before criticizing journalists’ coverage of the meeting, which Trump has complained portrayed him as rageful and lacking composure.

“The whole Democrat Party is very messed up. They have never recovered from the great election of 2016 — an election that I think you folks liked very much, right?” Trump said, addressing the farmers flanking his lectern. “Well, Nancy Pelosi was not happy about it, and she is a mess.”

Trump then turned to Mercedes Schlapp, a White House communications aide, and pressed her for an account of the meeting.

“You were very calm and you were very direct, and you sent a very firm message to the speaker and to the Democrats,” Schlapp said.

Next up was Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, who said the president’s conversation with Democrats was “much calmer than some of our trade meetings,” followed by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who described the president’s demeanor as “very calm and straightforward and clear.”

But the greatest praise of the president came from Trump himself, who told reporters: “I'm an extremely stable genius. OK?”

He wasn't joking:

I love how he says he wants to call Pelosi "Crazy Nancy" but can't because he's already given that nickname to "Crazy Bernie."

His vocabulary is very, very small. Just like his hands.


They knew too

by digby

Every once in a while I think of this story from 2017 when I see these Republicans a lining up behind Trump. They knew and they did nothing.

KIEV, Ukraine — A month before Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination, one of his closest allies in Congress — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — made a politically explosive assertion in a private conversation on Capitol Hill with his fellow GOP leaders: that Trump could be the beneficiary of payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, according to a recording of the June 15, 2016, exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is a Californian Republican known in Congress as a fervent defender of Putin and Russia.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) immediately interjected, stopping the conversation from further exploring McCarthy’s assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy.

Before the conversation, McCarthy and Ryan had emerged from separate talks at the Capitol with Ukrainian Prime Minister Vladi­mir Groysman, who had described a Kremlin tactic of financing populist politicians to undercut Eastern European democratic institutions.

News had just broken the day before in The Washington Post that Russian government hackers had penetrated the computer network of the Democratic National Committee, prompting McCarthy to shift the conversation from Russian meddling in Europe to events closer to home.

Some of the lawmakers laughed at McCarthy’s comment. Then McCarthy quickly added: “Swear to God.”

Ryan instructed his Republican lieutenants to keep the conversation private, saying: “No leaks. . . . This is how we know we’re a real family here.”

The remarks remained secret for nearly a year.

The conversation provides a glimpse at the internal views of GOP leaders who now find themselves under mounting pressure over the conduct of President Trump. The exchange shows that the Republican leadership in the House privately discussed Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election and Trump’s relationship to Putin, but wanted to keep their concerns secret. It is difficult to tell from the recording the extent to which the remarks were meant to be taken literally.

The House leadership has so far stood by the White House as it has lurched from one crisis to another, much of the turmoil fueled by contacts between Trump or his associates with Russia.

They are accomplices.

Tillerson says Putin outplayed Trump. Did anyone doubt it?

by digby

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson snuck in the back door of the Congress this week to testify behind closed doors with the Foreign Affairs Committee. The Washington Post reports:

Former secretary of state Rex Tillerson told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Russian President Vladimir Putin out-prepared President Trump during a key meeting in Germany, putting the U.S. leader at a disadvantage during their first series of tête-à-têtes.

The U.S. side anticipated a shorter meeting for exchanging courtesies, but it ballooned into a globe-spanning two-hour-plus session involving deliberations on a variety of geopolitical issues, said committee aides, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss Tillerson’s seven-hour closed meeting with the committee.

“We spent a lot of time in the conversation talking about how Putin seized every opportunity to push what he wanted,” a committee aide said. “There was a discrepancy in preparation, and it created an unequal footing.”

Tillerson, whose public remarks about the president have been sparse since his dramatic firing in March 2018, spoke to a bipartisan group of lawmakers and staffers Tuesday at the request of the chairman of the committee, Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.).

Committee aides peppered the former oilman with questions about the 2017 session in Hamburg. Unlike in Helsinki last summer, when Trump met with Putin without advisers present, Tillerson attended the Hamburg meeting, giving him rare insight into the two leaders’ interactions. Experts said the disparity in preparation was unsurprising but risky given Putin’s depth of experience and savvy.

“Putin is a very nimble adversary who’s been at this for 20 years now,” said Andrew Weiss, a Russia scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “The Hamburg meeting sounds like it was one of Putin’s wildest dreams: a freewheeling backroom-style conversation with a U.S. president.”

In the past, Trump has downplayed the importance of preparation, saying his gut instinct and ability to read a room are paramount for a successful summit.

“I don’t think I have to prepare very much,” Trump said ahead of his historic first meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last year. “It’s about attitude, it’s about willingness to get things done. So this isn’t a question of preparation, it’s a question of whether or not people want it to happen, and we’ll know that very quickly.”

He's clueless and would have no idea what Vladimir Putin wants. It's clear, however, that he is very susceptible to suggestion from people he wants to impress and he obviously wanted to impress Putin.

That he would be unprepared is no surprise.Remember this from before the election:

He said in a series of interviews that he does not need to read extensively because he reaches the right decisions “with very little knowledge other than the knowledge I [already] had, plus the words ‘common sense,’ because I have a lot of common sense and I have a lot of business ability.”

Trump said he is skeptical of experts because “they can’t see the forest for the trees.” He believes that when he makes decisions, people see that he instinctively knows the right thing to do: “A lot of people said, ‘Man, he was more accurate than guys who have studied it all the time.’ ”

One day last month, Trump had a visit from a delegation of prominent executives in the oil, steel and retail industries, and one of the executives told Trump that the Chinese were taking advantage of the United States. “He said, ‘I’d like to send you a report,’ ” Trump recalled. “He said, ‘I’d love to be able to send you’ — oh boy, he’s got a lengthy report, hundreds of pages. . . . I said, ‘Do me a favor: Don’t send me a report. Send me, like, three pages.’ ”

Trump said reading long documents is a waste of time because he absorbs the gist of an issue very quickly. “I’m a very efficient guy,” he said. “Now, I could also do it verbally, which is fine. I’d always rather have — I want it short. There’s no reason to do hundreds of pages because I know exactly what it is.”

Apparently, voters like this about him. I will never understand it.

The Daily Beast had this little nugget from the interview:

In a more than six-hour meeting, he told members and staffers that the Trump administration actively avoided confronting Russia about allegations of interference in the election in an effort to develop a solid relationship with the Kremlin, a committee aide told The Daily Beast.

Of course he did. He wants them to help him win re-election.

The Post also reported that Tillerson reiterated his earlier criticism of Trump's "values.":

Committee aides said that Tillerson refrained from openly disparaging the president but that his inability to answer certain questions was revealing.

In one exchange, Tillerson said he and the president “shared a common goal: to secure and advance America’s place in the world and to promote and protect American values.”

“Those American values — freedom, democracy, individual liberty and human dignity — are the North Star that guided every action I took at the State Department,” Tillerson said, according to a person in the room.

Upon questioning, Tillerson clarified that although he and the president shared the same goal, they did not share the same “value system.”

When asked to describe Trump’s values, Tillerson said, “I cannot,” the person said.

“Just as matter of fact, he stated that he couldn’t or wouldn’t unpack the president’s values for us,” a committee aide said.

It was not the first time Tillerson declined to defend the president’s values. In 2017, Fox News host Chris Wallace spoke to Tillerson about the deadly violence in Charlottesville, after Trump said “both sides” — white supremacists and the people protesting them — were responsible.

“I don’t believe anyone doubts the American people’s values,” Tillerson said.

“And the president’s values?” Wallace asked.

“The president speaks for himself,” Tillerson said, a response that reportedlyinfuriated Trump.
Trump values Trump, period. And he believes that what's good for Trump is good for America.
Trump and Tillerson sparred behind the scenes for months before Trump fired him in a tweet. But their public rapport took a dramatic turn in December when Tillerson told CBS that Trump did not read much and had issued directives that were against the law.

Trump responded in a tweet that Tillerson was “dumb as a rock” and “lazy as hell.”

He's not going to like this interview either.

Update: He didn't

Yes, just ask Putin how out-prepared I was! He'll tell you I did great!


QOTD: Dana Milbank

By Spocko

"People often describe [Trump] as 'unraveling,' but that implies he was once fully knitted."

-Dana Milbank, May 22, 2019 Washington Post Trump seems to be transparently mad

How to knit a Trump doll instructions by @Jensalittleloopy
The most transparent administration in history

by digby

Actually, no.

Acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan has mandated new restrictions on the way the Pentagon shares information with Congress about military operations around the world, a move that is straining ties with key Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

In a May 8 internal memo, which was obtained by The Washington Post, Shanahan lays out the criteria for when Pentagon officials may provide congressional offices or committees information they request about operational plans and orders.

The memo comes as lawmakers from both parties complain that the Trump administration has withheld information that prevents them from executing their constitutionally mandated oversight role. Some lawmakers are also concerned about whether Shanahan has allowed the military to be drawn too deeply into President Trump’s immigration agenda.

“Congress oversees the Department of Defense; but with this new policy, the department is overstepping its authority by presuming to determine what warrants legislative oversight,” Reps. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.), the chair and ranking Republican of the House Armed Services Committee.

The memo was shared widely inside the Pentagon but was sent to key lawmakers only after inquiries by The Post. It outlines a half-dozen guidelines, including requirements that military officials and political appointees evaluate whether the request “contains sufficient information to demonstrate a relationship to the legislative function.” The memo urges Defense Department officials to provide a summary briefing rather than a requested plan or order itself.

The memo appears to have been inspired by concerns that lawmakers, who have security clearances, will not safeguard military plans. It calls on officials to assess “whether the degree of protection from unauthorized disclosure that Congress will afford to the plan is equivalent to that afforded” by the Pentagon.

Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.), the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the memo “seems to be another way in which they can claim that they don’t need to respond to legitimate inquiry of Congress.” Reed received the memo Saturday, shortly after The Post asked the Pentagon about it.

“From what I can glean from the memorandum basically they can use any factor they want to say no and they can make a determination what they think we need to do our job,” Reed said in an interview. “I think we’re better positioned to determine what we need to do our job.”

The administration is stonewalling absolutely everything. You'd think at some point the Republicans would grow a little bit concerned but apparently they just trust Trump and his unfit D-list cabinet to do the right thing. They really shouldn't be paid. They are completely AWOL.

And, of course, this is the official line:

Lt. Col. Joe Buccino, a spokesman for Shanahan, said the new policy aims to increase “transparency and information sharing with Congress.”


Rose Garden reality show

by digby

Those notes from his little Rose Garden stunt say "The Dems have no accomplishments" and "I'm going to keep working for the American people."

He didn't say that. Instead he whined, bragged, lied and threatened --- as usual.

Usually, when President Trump is really steamed, he vents his spleen over a morning of disjointed tweets — a slow-mo meltdown. On Wednesday, it was the live-action movie version — on fast forward.

Trump, ever the director and star of his own White House movie, staged his outburst in two acts.

Act 1: Blow up a White House meeting with Democratic lawmakers that was over before the first handshake. Bye-bye, Infrastructure Day.

Act 2: Stride to a podium at a hastily arranged Rose Garden news conference to say he won’t work with Democrats on infrastructure or anything else while they pursue the “investigation track.”

What set the president off was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) saying earlier Wednesday that Trump has engaged in a “coverup” related to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation and other probes.

“I don’t do coverups,” Trump angrily told reporters who had been hustled outside with little notice and less information.

Trump — who with his allies is actively working to block more than 20 separate investigations by Democrats — called himself “the most transparent president, probably, in the history of this country,” and said he had been ready to discuss infrastructure and other priorities before Pelosi’s remark.

Trump had complained earlier Wednesday on Twitter that Democrats, dissatisfied with Mueller’s findings, are seeking a “DO OVER” through congressional investigations.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaks to reporters as she departs the White House meeting of Democrats with President Trump. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
The mounting inquiries have angered the president for weeks, but those investigations had not stopped the White House from scheduling Wednesday’s meeting. The meeting was still on, with
the original agenda, as of midmorning, White House and other officials said.

But that was before news coverage of Pelosi’s meeting with other Democrats on Wednesday morning. Pelosi said Trump had “engaged in a coverup,” harsh criticism that came moments after she had tamped down talk of impeachment in her caucus in a closed-door meeting — at least for now. Trump was “livid,” said one person familiar with his mood, although some of his own aides have argued that a dead-end impeachment effort would be politically helpful to the president, since it would further his reelection narrative that Democrats are out to get him at any cost.

“Whether or not they carry the big i-word out, I can’t imagine that, but they probably would because they do whatever they have to do,” a still-seething Trump told reporters.

Let’s rewind.

Trump had decided, with buy-in from his staff, to essentially ambush Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and others, according to accounts of the events from White House and congressional officials. The Democrats had been invited for a sit-down on what both parties say is the pressing need for a funding plan for roads, bridges and so forth. Rather than cancel the meeting, the White House let Pelosi and the others walk into the trap. Shortly before 11 a.m., press secretary Sarah Sanders suddenly alerted the staff to prepare the Rose Garden for a news conference at 11:20 a.m.

Trump stage-managed events from there.

Democrats waited at a conference table in the Cabinet Room for about 15 minutes, said a person directly familiar with the session who, like others in this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity. Trump’s name-card was on the table between those for Pelosi and Schumer.

“He walks in, goes to the head of the table, not even his assigned seat, doesn’t sit, doesn’t shake anyone’s hand. Stands there and begins a lecture,” one aide said.

It was textbook Trump, who has said that walking away from a negotiation is an effective tactic in business. In politics, it also changes the day’s headlines.

Trump, narrating the scene later, said he had walked into the meeting and told his guests, “You know what? You can’t do it under these circumstances. So get these phony investigations over with” and then we’ll talk.

God this is dumb.


He does not have a grand plan. He's dancing as fast as he can to avoid any accountability.

by digby

This analysis by Alex Shepard at TNR reflects my feelings on the absurd notion that Trump is so very, very clever that he's got a very complex strategy to get the Democrats to make him look innocent by impeaching him and then he and the Republicans will be super-popular and win in 2020:

The idea that Trump is playing “three-dimensional chess”—itself conventional wisdom before the president’s always obvious mix of idiocy and impulsiveness became undeniable for even the swampiest pundits—lives on in this narrative. Trump and Pelosi may very well have theories about what will happen politically if Democrats decide to impeach, but that doesn’t mean much. The politics of impeachment are complex, and if either Trump or Pelosi are certain that they know what will happen, they should use their superhuman powers of clairvoyance to do something more useful than whatever is happening in Washington—like betting on horses. It’s impossible to predict at this point what will happen if Democrats pull the trigger. It could look like Nixon in 1974, but it could also look like Bill Clinton in 1998.

Rather than being a well-oiled trap, Trump’s actions speak to a baser motivation: He is absolutely petrified of Democrats conducting any oversight whatsoever. This is, broadly speaking, in line with his reaction to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller. Referring to other historical independent investigations, Trump reportedly told aides “I’m fucked.” He seems to have taken a similar view of congressional investigations, going to absurd lengths to protect any information about his businesses or administration from reaching the public. This obstinance has been interpreted by some as next-level political thinking, but it more likely speaks to Trump’s long-standing contempt for the law (or any organization that attempts to hold wealthy people accountable), and his pavlovian refusal to give an inch to any opponent.

For most of this year, this strategy has worked well for the president and his allies. Led by Pelosi, the Democrats believe they hold a strong hand heading into the 2020 election, and have been hesitant to take any action that could backfire politically. While House committees have cautiously poked at Trump’s misdoings, the administration has refused to let key officials—like former White House Counsel Don McGahn—testify before Congress, and have universally ignored document requests. Aside from the Mueller report, which was released last month, Democrats have made little progress in the fight to hold the president and those around him accountable. That, rather than inducing impeachment, is the president’s ultimate goal.

But cracks are appearing in the administration’s dam. Trump officials are having an increasingly difficult time explaining their refusal to cooperate with inquiries. As the week started, the fight over McGahn’s testimony continued, with the now-private attorney following a White House dictum to ignore Congress. “Our subpoenas are not optional,” House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler said during his opening remarks Tuesday, the day McGahn was supposed to appear. “This committee will hear Mr. McGahn’s testimony even if we have to go to court.” Subpoenas issued this week to former White House officials Hope Hicks and Annie Donaldson are likely to yield similar fights.

Also Tuesday, The Washington Post reported on an IRS memo that made it clear the agency must deliver Trump’s tax returns to Congress, unless the president can find a way to invoke executive privilege. This contradicts the administration’s current position, which is that such records shouldn’t be given to Congress because they “serve no legislative purpose.” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in testimony before the House Financial Services Committee, said that he wouldn’t release themanyway—to hell with black-letter law, the IRS finding, and the Constitution. “I’ve had no conversations ever with the president or anyone in the White House about delivering the president’s tax returns to Congress,” he said.

But this across-the-board refusal to cooperate appears to have shifted Democrats’ calculus on impeachment. As recently as a couple of weeks ago, the Democratic caucus seemed to be united behind Pelosi’s cautious approach. That consensus has splintered rapidly in the past two days. Unable to meaningfully proceed with any investigation, numerous House Democrats and many presidential candidates (the two groups are not mutually exclusive) have come out in favor of impeachment, viewing it the only investigative option at their disposal.

Things might be picking up in the courts, too. On Wednesday, a federal judge rejectedTrump’s effort to block subpoenas of his financial records from Deutsche Bank—where it was recently reported that Trump’s financial activities had set off alarms about money laundering—and Capital One.

This growing pressure led to a day of tantrums and hissy fits. “Everything the Democrats are asking me for is based on an illegally started investigation that failed for them, especially when the Mueller Report came back with a NO COLLUSION finding,” Trump whined on Twitter in the early morning. “Now they say Impeach President Trump, even though he did nothing wrong, while they ‘fish!’” He later stormed out of a meeting with Pelosi and Schumer, telling the Democratic leaders that he would not work on an infrastructure bill with them unless they dropped their investigations. (Given the lack of progress during the roughly sixty preceding “infrastructure weeks,” this can safely be assumed to qualify as an empty threat.) That walkout was staged, with Trump appearing soon after at a Rose Garden lecternfestooned with a placard advertising the (in federal government terms, modest) cost of the special counsel’s investigation. But that, too, was only more evidence of the White House’s growing concern that the walls are closing in—their best argument against Mueller’s investigation is its cost which, according to a study released on Wednesday, is dwarfed by that of the president’s golfing excursions. Unable to actually say “impeachment”—just “the i word”—Trump drew instant comparisons to Nixon when he swore “I don’t do coverups.”

As noted, if these were normal times, it might be possible to look at all of this as part of the president’s grand plan to provoke Democrats into impeachment. But examined in a more informed context, the picture looks quite different. Far from setting a trap for the other party, the Trump administration’s strategy of blocking every single inquiry—a strategy that, it should be said, has thus far been largely successful—appears to be catching different prey. Trump’s goal was never to make Democrats move to impeach; it was to avoid any level of accountability. That, at long last, started to change this week.

Pelosi and the Democratic leadership is not going to move toward impeachment unless the pressure remains from the caucus and the people.

If you believe this notion that he will benefit from impeachment is daft, you might want to call your Democratic Representatives and let them know. Other people are.



Beltway Rock-Paper-Scissors

by Tom Sullivan

Democrats pressure Pelosi. Pelosi goads Trump. Trump throws rock.

With his preprinted placards and handful of notes, the sitting president used Wednesday comments by Speaker Nancy Pelosi that he is engaged in a cover-up to bail on his own non-plan for spending $2 trillion on infrastructure. In a caucus meeting before she met with Trump, Pelosi tried to calm calls by Democrats for an impeachment inquiry into, among other crimes, Trump publicly obstructing House investigations. Then she visited the White House to discuss infrastructure.

Slate's Jim Newell observes, "Democrats had suggested the president undo some of his signature 2017 tax legislation to pay for it, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell immediately called this a “nonstarter,” and just about all Republicans agreed with him." Not just Republicans in the Senate, but in the House too.

Thus, Donald Trump planned a Rose Garden press conference to blame Democrats. Pelosi's comments made the trap a tantrum. Trump promptly walked out.

"I walked into the room and I told Senator Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, 'I want to do infrastructure. I want to do it more than you want to do it...but you know what, you can't do it under these circumstances. So get these phony investigations over with,'" Trump told the press corps. Trump refuses to do his job until Democrats stop doing theirs.

Wednesday's events should add to the ranks of House Democrats already in the impeachment column. NBC News reports the number already stands at 31.

In a statement issued to the Baltimore Sun, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said, “We are confronting what might be the largest cover-up by any administration in history. The American people deserve to know whether their government is acting in their best interests,” Hoyer said. House committees must continue their investigations, Hoyer said, “and we’ll see where the facts lead.”

Fellow Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings complained Tuesday night the president's stonewalling has rendered the House powerless on oversight. "The question now becomes: What do we do, do we allow this to continue, and where do we end up if we do that? I’m still mulling it over," Cummings said. On impeachment, he added, "I'm getting there."

For her part, Pelosi met the press again after the president's tantrum, saying only Trump “took a pass” on an infrastructure deal and that she was praying for him. Paper covers rock.

The New Yorker's John Cassidy writes:

It was a perfectly tuned sign-off. Anger seldom works against Trump; he owns the currency and can always issue more of it. In addressing the rogue President directly, or speaking about him in the third person, Pelosi usually adopts a tone that is more sorrowful than angry, while firmly reminding everyone—Trump included—that Congress is a coequal branch of government that won’t be run roughshod over. It is a measured strategy that worked during the lengthy standoff over Trump’s border-wall proposal. (The White House eventually capitulated.) And Pelosi has reasons to believe it is still working, despite the pressure she is facing.
Pelosi wants to initiate a formal impeachment inquiry only as a last resort forced upon Democrats by Trump's criminal misbehavior rather than by pressure from her caucus. Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee told Wednesday's caucus meeting, “having an impeachment inquiry doesn’t change a darn thing.” Pelosi agreed.

That position is sustainable only so long as Democrats keep winning against the administration's stonewalling in court. Trump's mounting losses — two since Monday — build the Democrats' case for impeachment on obstruction grounds even without hearings formally labeled impeachment. But there can be none without documents and witnesses. With court rulings in Democrats favor on obtaining financial records from Trump's accounting firm and Deutsche Bank, the documents may be forthcoming. On Wednesday, the Justice Department agreed to turn over counterintelligence and foreign intelligence-related documents under subpoena to the House Intelligence Committee. Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) cancelled a planned meeting to discuss “enforcement action” against the department.

But critical to solidifying public opinion for impeachment will be hearing appearances by special counsel Robert Mueller and former White House counsel Don McGahn. Trump has already refused to allow McGahn to testify under subpoena. Mueller is reportedly reluctant to testify voluntarily and may draw a subpoena as well. But like Pelosi, he may be waiting to be forced rather than appear willing or eager.

How long Pelosi can hold off her caucus may depend on how much and how soon her six investigative committees obtain the information they require.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

How can I prevent abortion? A mansplainer video

by Spocko
As a man you've probably asked, "How can I prevent abortion?" Well, it's easy! Watch this short video!

From my friends at the Benevolent Order of Nebraskans for Erection Reversal:
Keep It Limp for Life! (B.O.N.E.R. K.I.L.L.) For more info go to their website ProLifeNebraska.com

So we at Pro-Life Nebraska think it is of utmost importance for people with sperm to learn about the hazards of irresponsible ejaculation and to understand that just because they have a boner, it is not too late to reverse it.

If you don’t want your sex partner to be able to choose to have an abortion, stop ejaculating in vaginas. Ejaculate elsewhere or nip that erection in the bud.

Save a life. Kill your boner.

The case they make is that men cause 100% of unwanted pregnancies. "In other words, every unwanted pregnancy occurred because someone decided that they wanted to irresponsibly ejaculate into a vagina."

You can download the PDF brochure at their website ProLifeNebraska.com

As a half-human half-Vulcan male I refrain from comments on human's reproductive process, especially considering the Vulcan process.  However, it is more logical for men to control themselves first, when they have the opportunity to avoid the situation, than attempting to control women later.

He doesn't do cover-ups?

by digby

He pitched this one very slowly, right over the plate:

President Donald Trump responded angrily on Wednesday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's claim earlier in the day that he's 'engaged in a cover-up."

Add Donald Trump as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Donald Trump news, video, and analysis from ABC News.

"I don't do cover-ups," Trump said in remarks in the White House Rose Garden after reporters were given just a few minutes advance notice.

Oh really?


Join the Mueller Book Club

by digby

I like this:
Michigan Rep. Justin Amash last week became the first Republican member of Congress to announce that, in his view, the Mueller Report proves President Donald Trump should be impeached.

None of Amash’s GOP colleagues have signed on to his assessment. Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, for one, said Amash “has reached a different conclusion than I have. ... I don’t think impeachment is the right way to go.”

But Romney, an occasional Trump critic, did add that “every individual has to make their own judgement.”

To do that, it helps to have read Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s redacted report about Russia’s election interference and President Trump’s response to the various investigations into it.

That is what the Mueller Book Club is trying to get Americans to do.

The book club, sponsored by a collection of activist groups, offers free PDF and audio downloads of the report. It is establishing reading groups around the country and offering online forums and guides. The organizers insist that reading the report from “cover to cover ... is incredibly important” and points out, with alarm, that a recent poll found that 75 percent of Americans “have opted not to read the 448-page document, and just 3 percent report having read the entire thing.” You can sign up on the website to be part of a local reading group.

The book club at the moment is a work in progress, with parts of the website still featuring “placeholder text.” But various Mueller Report readers -- including Oregon’s senior senator, Ron Wyden -- have gotten the ball rolling by using social media to highlight pertinent excerpts and their own analysis. In this form, the report almost reads like a John Grisham thriller. Check out some examples below:

Check out the Mueller Book Club, here.

The economy isn't helping Trump

by digby

Greg Sargent takes a look a the numbers on the economy in the new Q poll. And despite the vast majority of Americans thinking the economy is good, Trump isn't getting credit for it beyond his base (as he shouldn't.)
The poll finds shockingly good numbers on the economy. A total of 71 percent of voters said the economy is either “excellent” (22 percent), or “good” (49 percent). A majority of respondents — 52 percent — said they are better off financially today than they were in 2016.

But Trump’s approval rating is only 38 percent, while 57 percent disapprove.

A chorus of pundits will point out that this reflects disapproval of Trump on things that are unrelated to the economy, such as his racism, authoritarianism, and temperamental unfitness for the presidency, and surely there’s a lot to that.

But the poll also raises the possibility that Trump’s economic record may also be part of the problem. It finds that on his signature issues of trade and China, he’s also underwater:

  1. Only 39 percent of voters approve of Trump’s handling of trade, versus 53 percent who disapprove.
  2. Only 40 percent approve of the way Trump is handling the nation’s policy towards China, versus 50 percent who disapprove.
  3. Only 40 percent say Trump’s trade policies are good for the U.S. economy, versus 48 percent who say they’re bad.
  4. This might help explain why voters are so closely divided on whether they approve of Trump’s overall handling of the economy (48 percent approve, 45 percent disapprove), even as they like the economy itself so much.

As it is, Trump might end up benefiting from the good economy to a lesser degree than he expects, even though the rule is supposed to be that good economies help incumbents. As CNN’s Harry Enten recently explained, at nopoint during his presidency has Trump clearly benefited from the economy: Though we’ve had low unemployment and solid economic growth throughout, his approval rating has generally hovered around 42 percent.

But in addition to this, it’s also worth asking whether public assessments of Trump’s economic policies may have come decoupled from public assessments of the economy’s overall health and voters’ sense of their own economic prospects.

After all, Trump’s economic agenda involves a fusion of conventional Republican policies with his “America First” trade agenda, which is supposed to represent a species of economic populism that broke with GOP orthodoxy. Under Trump, neither of these has been popular. Many recent polls have found that Trump’s tax cut, which overwhelmingly benefited corporations and the wealthy, is underwater.

But, in a bit of a surprise, the Trump economic policies that most prominently broke with GOP orthodoxy — that is, on trade — have alsoproven unpopular, as the new Quinnipiac poll demonstrates. We’ve seen Trump’s trade wars have all kinds of negative effects, hitting parts of his own base particularly hard, even as a deal with China has proven more elusive than he expected.

It also seems plausible that public impressions of Trump’s trade and China policies have become entangled with impressions of his “America First” nationalism. Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement and his disastrous immigration policies have also proved deeply unpopular.

Now, it is true that Trump mainly needs these policies to deliver him back the non-college-educated whites that powered his victory in 2016. The Quinnipiac poll does find that majorities of those voters do approve of Trump on trade and China, though they are surprisingly bare majorities, of 54 percent and 55 percent, respectively.

But it turns out these policies are unpopular among the broader electorates in the industrial Midwest. Quinnipiac sent me the numbers on these policies in just that region — Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Iowa — and the results are:
In these five states, only 41 percent of voters approve of Trump’s handling of trade, versus 56 percent who disapprove.
In these five states, only 39 percent approve of the way Trump is handling the nation’s policies towards China, versus 53 percent who disapprove.
In these five states, only 39 percent say Trump’s trade policies are good for the U.S. economy, versus 47 percent who say they’re bad.

This mirrors a Post poll from July 2018, which found that only 39 percent of voters in that same region thought the tariff wars with China would be good for U.S. jobs, versus 59 percent who did not.
Remember: this poll shows that 71% of the public thinks the economy is good or excellent. And his job approval sits at 38%.

QOTD: Adam Schiff

by digby

Talk about a backhanded compliment:

"I think Bill Barr has all the duplicity of Rudy Giuliani without all the good looks and general likability of Rudy Guliani."


He went on to say, "the most dangerous thing, I think, that Bill Barr has done is basically say that a president under investigation can make the investigation go away if he thinks its unfair which, by the way, means the other 14 investigations firmed up through other offices he can also make go away."

That's the Unitary Executive theory which Barr believes he can ram through with this miscreant in charge who is willing to test every limit and has no clue about what it all means.  Republican officials have shown that they think they can just say "I know you are but what am " in the future and will suffer no repercussions under Democratic majorities and administrations.

What is this "compartmentalization" you speak of?

by digby

When President Clinton was impeached he continued with the job of president and worked with a House and Senate majority which had been relentlessly investigating him for everything under the sun for more than six years. It was often said that he was a master at "compartmentalization."

Here he is explaining that in 1998. (C-Span embed doesn't work ... here's the link.)

Dan Rather: When you talk to members of Congress about impeachment, what do you tell them?

Clinton: First of all I have received a large number of calls from House members and I have tried to return those calls. I haven't been able to return them all because we have other things to do. But I'll try to return the rest of them today.

But I think the vote should be a vote of principle. It's up to others to decide what happens to me. And ultimately it's going to be up to the American people to make a clear statement there.

What I am more concerned about today by far is that they cast some votes necessary to advance the cause of our people. The most important votes they have to cast are on the funding of the International Monetary Fund so we can continue our economic prosperity. On the budget, so we don't raid social security, on the surplus until we fix social security. They still have a chance to do something for education. This Congress has killed campaign finance reform, the minimum wage and tobacco legislation, even killed the patient's bill of rights. But they can still do something on education, they can still help save social security, they can still help keep our economy going, they can still stop the war on the environment that's hidden in so many of these bills.

That's got to be my focus in these closing days. What happens to me I think ultimately will be for the American people to decide. I owe them my best efforts to work for them, and that's what I'm going to do.

And then there's Trump:

Trump's stunt walking away from the infrastructure talks today was premeditated. He thinks he'll win by holding his breath until he turns blue. And I suppose his people will think it makes him look strong. But I'd guess at least a few swing voters will find this juvenile behavior less than appealing. At best it looks like crude blackmail. At worst, it makes the charge of cover-up all the more obvious.

Justin Amash, the One True Tea Partyer

by digby

Long ago and far away there once was a political movement called "The Tea Party." Modeling themselves on the American revolutionaries who protested the tax on tea by the English king, millions of Americans came together to protest what they saw as an assault on the United States Constitution: the election of Barack Obama. By tax day in 2009, just three months after Obama's inauguration, the Wall Street Journal reported:
The protests began with bloggers in Seattle, Wash., who organized a demonstration on Feb. 16. As word of this spread, rallies in Denver and Mesa, Ariz., were quickly organized for the next day. Then came CNBC talker Rick Santelli’s Feb. 19 “rant heard round the world” in which he called for a “Chicago tea party” on July Fourth. The tea-party moniker stuck, but angry taxpayers weren’t willing to wait until July. Soon, tea-party protests were appearing in one city after another, drawing at first hundreds, and then thousands, to marches in cities from Orlando to Kansas City to Cincinnati.
The "rant heard round the world" was an angry commentary over an announced homeowner relief program in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Santelli railed on TV that "bailing out" homeowners defrauded by banks would promote "bad behavior" — by the "loser" homeowners, not the banks. From there the Tea Party became a full-fledged movement that organized itself around low taxes, opposition to health care reform and (supposedly) protection of the Constitution.

They wore Revolutionary War costumes with white wigs and tricorner hats to their rallies. They waved both the American flag and the Gadsden flag ("Don't Tread on Me") and carried pocket Constitutions as if it was the Bible. NPR attended a Tea Party meeting in Virginia in 2010 and spoke to some of the activists:
Karen Cole says she carries a copy in her purse. "The Democrats are eviscerating our Constitution," she says. Her friend Betty Anne Olsen agrees. "This current administration is trashing our Constitution; they couldn't care less about the values. They're breaking the laws." And how does she know that? "I do not study the Constitution, no, but I'm well aware of my history," Olsen says. "I'm well aware of how this country was founded, and I'm well aware of what has happened to it in current years."
This was only 10 years ago, but it seems like a lifetime. A lot has happened since then and we are in a different political world. But for a time the Tea Party was the most active mass movement in American politics and its influence on the Republican Party cannot be overstated. In 2010 they threw the Democrats out of power in Congress in a massive midterm wave election, sending a group of hardcore right-wingers to Washington. They even took out a few Republican moderates just to show they could and basically held the threat of primaries over anyone in the GOP who didn't toe the line.

In the House these Tea Party politicians formed themselves into the Freedom Caucus, presenting themselves as purists who were deeply committed to a strict adherence to small government principles and the Constitution. Some of the founding members are still in the House, such as Mark Meadows of North Carolina (leader of the Freedom Caucus) and Jim Jordan of Ohio (ranking member of the Oversight Committee). Others have moved up, like Ron DeSantis, who was elected governor of Florida last year, and Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, who now serves as White House chief of staff.

And there is Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, one of the Freedom Caucus founders most ecstatically endorsed year after year by Tea Party groups:
Tea Party Express is endorsing Rep. Justin Amash for reelection to the U.S. House of Representatives. Justin Amash is an active leader in Congress working to create real solutions. But most of all he strives to protect our foundation in freedom and his work is not finished. “I follow a set of principles, I follow the Constitution,” Amash once explained to the NY Times. “And that’s what I base my votes on."
As it turns out, Amash is literally the only member of the Freedom Caucus who took any of that stuff seriously. The rest have become the most sycophantic of Donald Trump's toadies, acting as his most loyal henchmen. Their dedication to the Constitution and fiscal rectitude seems to have evaporated on the day Barack Obama left office. The Tea Party itself has morphed into the Donald Trump base, gleefully abandoning all the principles it claimed to hold dear and instead cheering on Trump's endless betrayal of constitutional principles.

Amash, on the other hand, seems to have believed what he said. He took to Twitter over the weekend, becoming the first major elected Republican to have the guts to state the obvious. He had read the Mueller report and recognized that President Trump has committed impeachable offenses. Anyone who has read it and acting in good faith would say the same thing but so far Amash stands alone among Republican members of Congress.

His fellow Republicans are not happy about it. Trump called Amash a "loser" and a "lightweight." Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said, “I don’t think anybody is going to follow his lead." House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy declared that Amash was "just looking for attention" and is "out of step with America." Amash's longtime buddies in the Freedom Caucus formally condemned him on Monday night.

I don't agree with most of Amash's libertarian philosophy. But he is a champion of civil liberties and a harsh critic of government surveillance overreach. I've often admired his willingness to stand up to his party on those issues in the past, and it's telling that he never signed onto their "deep state" conspiracy theory to protect Donald Trump. Given Amash's record, if there was the slightest granule of plausibility to those theories, he'd be on board. Now he's gone further and called for the president's impeachment, based on the fact that Trump committed crimes while in office, a genuine affront to the constitutional order.

In each of these cases, Amash is acting on principle and his critics in his own party are rank hypocrites, particularly the ones who came into office riding that Tea Party wave a decade ago. I wish I agreed with some observers that this is a break in the GOP logjam and more Republicans will be joining him. But that's not likely. The Tea Party unseated most of the sensible people in the Republican Party and replaced them with the exactly the kind of authoritarian followers the authors of the Constitution were trying to prevent from wielding power. It appears that Amash is the only one of them who's ever read it.