Digby's Hullabaloo
2801 Ocean Park Blvd.
Box 157
Santa Monica, Ca 90405

Facebook: Digby Parton

@BloggersRUs (Tom Sullivan)

thedigbyblog at gmail
satniteflix at gmail
publius.gaius at gmail
tpostsully at gmail
Spockosbrain at gmail
Richardein at me.com


Mother Jones
Raw Story
Huffington Post
Crooks and Liars
American Prospect
New Republic

Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 December 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013 December 2013 January 2014 February 2014 March 2014 April 2014 May 2014 June 2014 July 2014 August 2014 September 2014 October 2014 November 2014 December 2014 January 2015 February 2015 March 2015 April 2015 May 2015 June 2015 July 2015 August 2015 September 2015 October 2015 November 2015 December 2015 January 2016 February 2016 March 2016 April 2016 May 2016 June 2016 July 2016 August 2016 September 2016 October 2016 November 2016 December 2016 January 2017 February 2017 March 2017 April 2017 May 2017 June 2017 July 2017 August 2017 September 2017 October 2017 November 2017 December 2017 January 2018 February 2018 March 2018 April 2018 May 2018 June 2018 July 2018 August 2018 September 2018 October 2018 November 2018 December 2018 January 2019 February 2019 March 2019 April 2019


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?


Thursday, April 18, 2019

Junior got off easy

by digby

If you were wondering how it's possible that Donald Trump Jr was let off the hook by Robert Mueller I think the most logical conclusion is that Mueller knew Trump would lose his mind, the right wing would go crazy and Trump would probably fire him and pardon Junior anyway.

If you would like to know why Junior actually did commit a crime and how that's going to affect campaign finance law going forward, election law expert Rick Hasen explains:

Federal law makes it a potential crime for any person to “solicit” (that is, expressly or impliedly ask for) the contribution of “anything of value” from a foreign citizen. The offer of such opposition research qualifies as something of value for these purposes, a point the special counsel acknowledged based on prior cases and Federal Election Commission rulings.

We now know the special counsel considered whether Trump Jr. and Manafort committed such a crime before ultimately declining to prosecute. We also now know that Mueller made some key errors during that decision-making process.

To begin with, the special counsel’s report says that Trump Jr. “declined to be voluntarily interviewed” about the meeting. The special counsel should have called Trump Jr. before the grand jury, as he did with other witnesses. It seems likely that he declined to do so as not to incur the wrath of the president.

Trump Jr.’s grand jury testimony would have been especially important given one of the key reasons Mueller declined to prosecute the president’s son for this crime: lack of willfulness. In order for a campaign finance violation to constitute a criminal offense (rather than a civil problem handled with fines by the Federal Election Commission), one must act willfully. Willfulness is a question of mental state. Getting Trump Jr. before a grand jury would have been a great way to get at his mental state, because he would have been testifying under the risk of perjury. This was a huge missed opportunity for Mueller.

Mueller made some other questionable choices. While Trump Jr. could have been charged with illegally coordinating with the Russians to make an illegal foreign expenditure, Mueller describes the law defining coordination as too uncertain. In fact, as Common Cause’s Paul S. Ryan explains in this thread, there is both a federal statute and case law defining the term, and Trump Jr.’s conduct seems to fall within it.

Mueller also made the ridiculous argument that it is possible Russian “dirt” on Clinton could have been worth less than $25,000, the threshold to punish Trump Jr.’s cooperation as a felony. Really?

Further, Mueller said that a Trump Jr. prosecution would have raised “First Amendment questions” and “could have implications beyond the foreign-source ban.” To begin with, a First Amendment defense of Trump Jr. is bogus. As I explained in Slate, the main First Amendment argument is that a ban on soliciting foreign political contributions is overly broad and could apply any time a foreign individual gives any information to a political campaign.

But Trump Jr. was a major campaign official meeting with representatives from a foreign government that were offering “dirt” on the campaign’s opponent. As I wrote, “To let someone off the hook who solicited ‘very high level and sensitive information’ from a hostile government because there may be cases in which information from a foreign source does not raise the same danger to our national security and right of self-government is to turn the First Amendment into a tool to kill American democracy.”

Further, even if Mueller believed there were First Amendment questions in play, he should have left that for the courts to decide given the strong national security interests at stake here. Mueller offered no First Amendment argument in his report. He merely flagged the issue and never provided any analysis to back up the First Amendment claim.

I’m afraid that this flagging of the issue does more harm than good. Mueller has now given campaigns credible reason to believe they can accept help from foreign governments because they may have a constitutional right to do so. That’s even more troubling for what it says about 2020 than what it says about 2016.

I get why a prosecutor would not want to hit the hornets nest by going after the Trump spawn unless the crime was clearly something so fraudulent and obvious that to not do it would be totally corrupt. They clearly saw campaign finance issues as less serious than other potential crimes and that's the framework in which they felt they had to analyze that Trump Tower meeting.

I'm not defending it. I think they should have thrown the book at Junior and let Trump have his meltdown. But I can understand why they were reluctant. Junior is very, very dumb and it would be very easy for a defense attorney to illustrate that in a trial. He could have gotten off on that basis alone. And Trump would pardon him anyway.


QOTD: An innocent man

by digby

President Trump on hearing that a Special Prosecutor had been named to investigate his campaign and Russia:

"Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked."

The witness who told Mueller that? Jeff Sessions.

Revenge is best served cold, Trumpie.

They all should have quit and gone public with what they knew

by digby

Josh Marshall helpfully condenses the 10 obstruction events that Mueller detailed in the report:

1) Trump’s conduct concerning Michael Flynn and James Comey

In this section, Mueller delves into Trump’s famous “loyalty” conversation with former FBI Director James Comey, followed shortly by his comment about hoping Comey would “see your way clear” to letting former National Security Adviser Flynn go. It also hits Trump’s request of Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland to draft a memo stating that Trump did not tell Flynn to discuss sanctions with the Russians.

2) Trump’s reaction to the Russia investigation

Mueller scrutinizes Trump’s anger over then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal, Trump’s reaching out to intelligence agencies to push them to dispel the notion that the Russia meddling and his campaign were linked and his multiple attempts to contact Comey about the investigation.

3) Trump’s firing of Comey and the events leading up to it

This episode centers on Trump’s decision to fire Comey even before the Department of Justice made its recommendation that he should be removed on the basis of his handling of the Clinton email probe. It also contains details of Trump’s subsequent public statements confirming that he got rid of Comey due to the pressure from the Russia investigation.

4) Trump’s reaction to the appointment of the special counsel and subsequent efforts to have him removed

Mueller investigates Trump’s response to the initial news of the special counsel’s appointment, specifically his immediate reaction that it was “the end of his presidency,” as well as his attempt to direct former White House council Don McGahn to terminate Mueller.5) Trump’s efforts to curtail the special counsel’s investigation

This section contains details about Trump’s souring on Sessions and his push to first, get Sessions to publicly characterize the investigation as unfair, and later, to try to curtail the special counsel’s sc

6) Trump’s efforts to prevent the public disclosure of emails about the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Russians and senior campaign officials

This episode involves Trump trying to suppress emails about the infamous Trump Tower meeting and editing a press statement for Donald Trump Jr. to remove a potentially damaging line about the 2016 campaign.

7) Trump’s efforts to get Sessions to reverse his recusal and take over the special counsel’s investigation

This point focuses on Trump’s multiple attempts to get Sessions to reverse his recusal and take charge of the special counsel’s investigation, including the detail that Trump told him he’d be a “hero” if he did. Sessions, of course, refused.

8) Trump unsuccessfully pressures McGahn to deny that he tried to fire Mueller

Mueller delves into Trump’s many attempts to push McGahn to lie in response to media reports that he had directed McGahn to fire Mueller. McGahn also refused.

9) Trump’s behavior toward Flynn, Paul Manafort and a redacted person

The section centers on Trump’s personal attorneys making clear to Flynn’s team after he started working with the government that Trump felt very fondly towards Flynn and would appreciate a “heads up” on any information that would prove damaging to the President. It also contains details about Trump’s public fawning over his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort when it became clear he did not flip on him. The third person in this section is redacted.

10) Trump’s abruptly changing behavior toward Michael Cohen

Here, Mueller investigates Trump’s shift in opinion of his former fixer Michael Cohen from praise, while he was lying on Trump’s behalf about the Trump Tower Moscow project, to fury when Cohen started cooperating with the government.

As a bonus, Mueller also mentions a few episodes that involve Trump’s campaign aides as well as the President himself, like when they sought information on any potential future WikiLeaks dumps. He also touches on Trump’s muddying of the timeline for Trump Tower Moscow and the President’s voiced concerns that the Russia meddling would make his election appear illegitimate.

You have to wonder what would have happened if instead of ignoring the President's batshit orders, they had quit and told the public why.

They are not heroes. They enabled an unfit president to maintain power and put the country and the welfare of the people at risk.

To me, Michael Cohen comes out looking better than any of the professional Republicans who stayed silent and kept helping this miscreant do what he did. But hey, they got their judges ...


No collusion? Uhm, yes there was.

by digby

Before the election:

I would draw your attention to the fact that Manafort shared detailed data about Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Minnesota --- the battleground states that delivered the 77,000 voted that put Trump over the top in the electoral college.

Coincidence? Oh sure. Nothing to be suspicious about in any of that.

After the election: the deliverables:

Honestly, this is just so bad. They all knew by this point that the Russians had interfered on Trump's behalf. And Manafort had helped them.

Again, maybe not beyond a reasonable doubt but certainly high crimes and misdemeanors. Whether Trump knew or not makes no difference. If he didn't he should have. And the cover-up shows he probably did.


This report is an impeachment roadmap

by digby

I'm busy reading the report so I don't have any kind of full analysis yet. But so far, it's obvious to me that Mueller meant this report as a roadmap to impeachment. It's a narrative of an incompetent, unethical president willingly colluding with anyone they could find to sabotage the Clinton campaign who only escaped a finding of conspiracy because they didn't make personal contact with Russian agents in the act of hacking and the law doesn't provide for a president being totally corrupt and ignorant about selling out the country to a foreign adversary.

First, here's the rest of that sentence Barr hung the "no collusion" conclusion on in his four page letter:

The investigation also identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through the Russian efforts,the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinate with the Russian government in its election interference activities.

The obstruction is outrageous and overwhelming. What we knew he did publicly was nothing to what he was doing privately. It's obvious that Mueller declined to exonerate because he knew the congress needed to see it all and make a judgment.

This behavior is clearly impeachable. Remember, they voted to impeach Clinton and even Nixon on much less.

We need to hear from all of these people in public hearings. They already waived executive privilege by speaking to the Special Counsel so they cannot claim it. And it has to happen right away.

Impeachment has to be on the table now. If it isn't, our democracy is gone. It means that there are no impediments to a lawless president. We might as well remove the impeachment clause from the constitution.


Barr's big reveal

by digby

Quick first take:

Don't tell me that Barr didn't write his statement in coordination with the president. The press conference was simply a flack spinning for his employer, trying to make the best of a bad situation. Barr clearly missed his calling. He said the Trump campaign didn't assist the Russians and didn't participate in the hack. We knew that. He didn't address whether they knew about it, benefited from it, welcomed it, reported it or were just dumb as a box of rocks. And he used the non-legal term "no collusion" repeatedly.

The fact that we didn't have the Special Counsel present much less delivering the report and explaining it says it all. He
is the only one left with any credibility.

This was the most unbelievable thing I heard. Poor li'l Trumpie was upset. He couldn't help it:


The M****** Report 

by tristero

Golly, we're gonna get an M today! Whoop de doo.

Even if it's interesting, even if it's damning (likely to be neither, see below), all it does is highlight how essential it is to see the U and the E and the L and the other L and another E and R.

Rachel had a great segment on Tuesday about how Barr's pulled this stunt before, during Bush 1. He even used the same language — summarizing "principal conclusions"— and he got away with it for two years before the document he summarized was finally pried loose.

Of course, his summary then was a blatant pack of lies and misrepresentations.

This situation is a little different. He felt, for some reason, compelled to release a censored report. But you can rest assured the basic modus operandi is in effect: lie, obfuscate, cover up, stonewall, and delay, all in the service of a dictatorial level of executive power for American presidents.

All presidents, you ask? Yes, all legitimate American presidents. And, of course, the only legitimate ones are Republican, by definition.

Forgive my cynicism and pessimism, please. But it looks like the press is about to enthusiastically help this despicable scoundrel discredit and then bury one of the most important investigations into the most compromised, most corrupt, and most dangerously powerful man in the country.

We should refuse, even for a second, to accept the whitewash. We must see the entire uncensored Mueller report. Now.

It's Barr-thirty somewhere

by Tom Sullivan

Word of caution up front: It would be just like this administration to use the redacted Mueller report roll out today as cover for something else nefarious. Staged hours ahead of the public release, Attorney General William Barr's announced 9:30 a.m. EDT press conference on the Mueller report (sans Mueller or anyone else from the special prosecutor's team) would make excellent camouflage.

With that in mind, it is also reasonable to expect that the very same ship of fools will dupe the national press into amplifying its morning falsehoods and, for a time, get ahead of the narrative on what the report says and does not. Barr did this already with his March 24 summary letter, and has a history of obfuscation. "People familiar with the matter" already induced the Washington Post to report that the redactions no one has seen in the report no one has seen are light.

There is yet no public mention of whether the report's exhibits (of unknown quantity and length) will be included in Thursday's public release. "Light" may by in the eye of the beholder.

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, was not pleased with the attorney general's acting as Trump's sherpa for the report. The committee may yet issue a subpoena for the complete report by Friday.

Immediately after the Barr press conference, we can expect reaction from Donald Trump, the U.S. president named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the campaign finance case against his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen. But he's not waiting for 9:30 EST:

Marcy Wheeler reminds readers anything the sitting president says about the report "is something he refused to say under oath." Given Trump's business history and M.O., there may be no end to what he believes most important to conceal, although the narrow scope of the special investigation delimits some of it.

Wheeler suggests an unflattering, family not-so-secret the report might highlight:
I want to prepare for the possibility that tomorrow we’ll be debating whether a President can obstruct justice to prevent voters from learning how badly he and his dumb son compromised themselves in an foreign intelligence operation in the course of running a presidential election to get rich.
Given that Barr appears to be actively running interference for the White House, Josh Marshall wonders "at what point can the exercise of the statutory powers of the Attorney General become obstruction of justice if exercised with corrupt intent?"

The greater question is, is there enough left of the American justice system to do anything about it if it is obstruction of justice?

What Barr conceals will reveal what Trump fears

By Spocko

The Barr event today is not a news conference, it's a product launch. The event is designed to conceal, not reveal. It isn't about releasing the news, it's about controlling the message. The product is a narrow, specific message.
"Trump didn't PERSONALLY talk to Putin DIRECTLY about what the Russian GOVERNMENT did BEFORE the 2016 election. Therefore, no collusion."

Other people who did bad things don't count. They are bad people that Trump barely knows, and even if he did know them, he didn't personally do the specific thing that Mueller was supposed to look at.

People like Flynn, Manafort, Cohen, Stone, Poppawhatchadopulous and the rest all acted on that Russian election stuff, but Trump didn't.

Message Repeats:
Trump didn't personally talk to Putin. Directly. About The ELECTION. BACK before the election. 

Message repeats: "Look at the one law that WASN'T broken!" they will cry.

Remember how the Bush White House wanted people to believe in WMDs so
Colin Powell brought out photos and fake anthrax to push the WMD lie?

They wanted people to have something to look at and fear instead of the real reason for the war. And it worked. Because lots of people wanted to believe.

 Barr is using redaction to hide Trump crimes. However, if you look at what is redacted and ask WHY it was redacted we can learn what Trump fears the most.

The Good News
It's quite possible what was redacted will already exist in court or public records. The trick will be to not be BORED by what it reveals.

"Oh, well, we knew That! That's just the usual Trump lying, violating campaign finance laws and conspiring with the Pecker at the National Enquire, about affairs and hush money. Stormy Daniels and pay offs are such old news."

That was a conspiracy, not collusion with Putin, so Barr will refocus on what didn't happen to Trump.

I listened to Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow Wednesday night analyse what Barr is doing.

It's good to hear that they and their experts aren't fooled by the shenanigans of Barr and the White House, but frankly I'm sick of congress and journalists waiting around for Trump to break norms, stall, delay and set the narrative.

Could someone please get ahead of their heavy handed mob tactics and schemes and back them into some legal corners? If you know what the will do, lay a trap for them!

I asked my friend Lisa Graves from Documented a few questions about executive privilege to answer the next time she is on the Lawrence O'Donnell show. Sadly these will probably be forgotten after the crush of news, but I'll put them here just as a reminders.

Who has authority to review and CANCEL Redaction Actions?
Which House and/or Senate committee? Which courts?

What laws do the reactions come under, and who interprets what they involve?

Can we get experts lined up to talk now? AND give us a strategy to bust them?
Are the reasons for redaction set in stone or open to interpretation?

Who opposes Barr in HIS REDACTION? Who asked for what when?

We know National Security is one redaction category, but who opposes his National Security redaction?  Can they UNDO reactions? How quickly?

Has Barr broken any laws with his redactions?

We know the White House overextends executive privlidge all the time. WHO rules it isn't executive privilege?

How quickly can bogus executive privilege sections be UNREDACTED? By whom?

What laws are broken if the unredacted version is released?

Who could release the unredacted version and not break laws?
Could those people release it to someone in Congress and not break laws?

Who will prosecute the person who leaked it? Under what laws? Who will defend them and pay for their defense?

Legal Leaks
Is there a "mechanical" method to release something that can be used? I'm thinking about procedural tricks and legal jujitsu methods that get the report out to CONGRESS and then the public.

Are there procedures that force people to release the report?

(Are there other tricks like someone reading it out loud in the congressional record? .)

Can we find public versions of the redacted info that the public already has seen? Especially in the court documents.

It's not breaking the law to show an unredacted source document that is already public based on earlier findings.
That would be a legal, SMART and a fast way to show how the redaction was bogus.

Right now I'm flashing the Vulcan hand sign but three of my fingers are bent by Earth Gravity.

My message to Barr and The White House is, Redact This!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

They just can't quit her

by digby

If Donald Trump is unimpeachable then we might as well just remove it from the constitution

by digby

This op-ed by an expert on impeachment says impeaching Trump is a "no-brainer."

The Constitution’s authors wouldn’t have needed any summary of the special counsel’s report to know it was time to impeach the president. Neither would they have waited to see whether its full text provided evidence of criminal wrongdoing. The group that created our nation’s founding document would already have judged Donald Trump unfit for office — and removed him — because he’s repeatedly shown a dearth of the quality they considered paramount in a president: a willingness to put national interest above his own.

They called it virtue. George Washington had it. It’s why they designed the office with him in mind. He wasn’t his era’s brightest politician. Neither did he wield its best military mind, having lost more battles over his career than he won. He had a violent temper, a formal stiffness and an ego as large as the new nation’s. (Abundance of ego has never been a disqualifying factor for the presidency.)

Washington wasn’t perfect, and we find his willingness to own and sell other human beings difficult to reconcile with our 21st-century sensibilities. Yet his virtue continues to shine today, reminding us of how thoroughly Trump misunderstands the office Washington forged. Regardless of further congressional or criminal investigation, Trump has been no George Washington.

Our first president risked everything for American independence, including business opportunities, cherished time with his family and a certain date with a hangman’s noose if ever captured once duty called him to command in 1775. He would not see home again for six years, nor return for another two years after that. When he did arrive home, he hoped this time it would be for good.

Duty called yet again only a few short years later, however, when the initial postwar government crumbled. “The pressure of the public voice was so loud, I could not resist the call to a convention of the states which is to determine whether we are to have a government of respectability,” Washington said in 1787.

That convention of states produced the Constitution we still abide today. Washington wished it could have been composed without him and feared the responsibility would fall upon his shoulders if he ever returned to public service. More frightening was what he feared might befall the country if he did not, and if, in his absence, “some aspiring demagogue who will not consult the interest of the country so much as his own ambitious views” took charge instead.

This willingness to put country before self is why Washington’s presence lent legitimacy to the controversial convention, why delegates immediately voted him the presiding chair and why they ultimately designed the presidency with him in mind. Put simply, they trusted him and knew he would put America first.

Not every president would. “The first man put at the helm will be a good one,” Pennsylvania’s Benjamin Franklin assured the convention, probably nodding in Washington’s direction as he spoke. “Nobody knows what sort may come afterwards.”

So delegates designed a mechanism for removing a dangerous president, one who did what Washington never would: impeachment for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

That pesky phrase, “high crimes and misdemeanors” has befuddled Americans ever since. It shouldn’t. The Constitution’s authors understood that impeachable treachery need not, in fact, be a literal crime at all, but rather a demonstration that a president’s presence harmed the body politic, the people, either through maliciousness or selfishness.

For example, any president “who has practiced corruption” to win election, a Pennsylvania delegate argued, should be impeached. So, too, in the eyes of Virginia’s James Madison, should any president who “might pervert his administration into a scheme of peculation or oppression,” or any who “betray[ed] his trust to foreign powers.”

And what of a president who used his immense pardon power to conceal his guilt, perhaps by promising a pardon to subordinates he ordered to break the law? They thought of that, too. “If the President be connected, in any suspicious manner, with any person,” who schemed against the republic, Madison argued during ratification debates, “and there be grounds to believe he [the president] will shelter him,” impeachment should follow. No one debated the point.

Trump has been accused of each of the aforementioned misdeeds. After nearly three years of investigation, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report “does not conclude that the President committed a crime,” but “it also does not exonerate him,” according to the summary by Attorney General William P. Barr. Trump’s allies claimed victory. He claimed “complete and total exoneration” and later declared, “I won.”

Pronouns reveal much, and this is where the founders would recoil. Collusion or no, Mueller’s team reinforced the presence of foreign interference in the 2016 election, a conclusion previously endorsed by the nation’s security chiefs — though not Trump. “I won,” in other words, would have revealed to Washington’s generation a man who valued his own fate over the union’s. But for Trump, Barr’s summary was a “beautiful conclusion” because it did not single him out for indictment.

He had already displayed an unwillingness to sacrifice for his country. “Why should I lose lots of opportunities” for business deals just because I ran for president, he asked when he could no longer (falsely) deny pursuit of Russian real estate in the run-up to the 2016 election. There was “nothing wrong” with seeking both personal gain and public office, he explained, and everything he did was “very cool and legal.”

And with that, he misses the presidency’s entire point, at least as the founders conceived of it. Sacrifice lay at the heart of virtue, and a leader incapable of understanding the difference could in no way be trusted with high office. One who would not sacrifice even for the chance to serve was one who could never be truly virtuous. Virtue was the “necessary spring of popular government,” Washington wrote, which is critical, in particular, for a president who must, no matter the temptations, remain “a firm guardian and protector of the public interest.”

Perhaps the ideas that drove a band of revolutionaries and nation-builders writing with quills two-plus centuries ago appear quaint in our tweet-filled age, but we study history in hopes of gleaning insight for solving modern-day problems. Such study rarely offers as clear cut an answer as this. Even before further revelations from the Mueller report, Trump has demonstrated no sense of virtue.

He lied about his business dealings when running for office. His personal trips (to Trump properties), more numerous than those of his predecessors, Democrat and Republican, cost taxpayers exorbitant sums and have placed him in insecure environments. Those properties, meanwhile, have profited from business his visits generate, or by business clearly steered to curry Trump’s favor.

He has refused to accept the conclusions of intelligence and security professionals, many of whom serve and sacrifice at great personal cost, declining even to forsake his personal cellphone or heed their red flags over his son-in-law’s evaluation for a security clearance. Trump’s presidency is a string of decisions that place him, his family and his brand above the well-being of the nation.

Because the Republican party has turned into a Trump cult, they know they won't be able to convict him so they aren't going to try. I don't think that makes sense. Impeachment hearings focus the investigations on "high crimes and misdemeanors" which is a different bill of indictment than a criminal case. People pay attention and follow it in a more coherent fashion. I really hope they haven't actually ruled it out but I fear they have.

They are fighting the last war, thinking that somewho it will redound to Trumps benefit as it did to Clinton's in the 90s. I really doubt that's the case. Clinton was alreay in the high 50s when they launched their impeachment and the "crime" was petty and personal and far too common in the real lives of average Americans. Trump's deeds are smething only a very powerful official could get away with. We are in a differet world.

There is also some thought that they are saving it in case the horror of a second Trump term becomes a reality. But I have a feeling if that is the case, we'll have much bigger problems.

Trump's lapdog AG

by digby

I don't know why a man of his age and experience would feel the need to be such a supplicant to a fool like Trump, but his history of lying and secrecy along with the fact that his brain has clearly been rotted by Fox News indicates that's he's just another older, white Trump voter.

Here's his latest Trumpy decision:

President Trump said he wants to get “tougher” on immigration as he purged the senior ranks of the Department of Homeland Security. Bill Barr is following through.

The attorney general announced late last night that migrants who come to this country seeking asylum may wind up jailed indefinitely while they wait months or even years for their claims to be considered. Barr’s 11-page decision applies to migrants who have already established “a credible fear of persecution or torture” in their home country.

This is the first time that Barr has used his position as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer to overrule precedent-setting decisions made in immigration court. His ruling reverses a decision made in 2005 after an Indian man entered the United States from Mexico and sought asylum. The clear intent is to deter people from trying to seek asylum, no matter how credible their claims.

-- The latest hard-line move comes on the eve of the release of Barr’s redacted version of special counsel Bob Mueller’s 400-page report, which details Russian interference in the 2016 election and purportedly lays out evidence on both sides of the question about whether Trump sought to obstruct justice during the federal investigation that followed. Members of Mueller’s team have privately expressed frustration about the way Barr characterized their findings in his initial four-page summary letter.

They don't have the facilities to hold these people. So they are going to build internment camps. For real.

I never thought I'd say that Jeff Sessions was more acceptable than anyone in this country but he seems to have had a tiny bit more integrity than Bill Barr who is making Marr Whitaker look like an ok guy.

He's delivering.


Once again we're the Villagers are saying "get over it"

by digby

All over my TV I'm being told that once the report drops tomorrow, "everyone" wants the politicians to move on and start talking about things "Americans really care about." After the first flurry of reporting, unless there's a bombshell of epic proportions, get ready for the media to follow Trump's messaging that this is an old story. They seem to believe that's what the people believe.

Except it's not true. The new AP poll:

Many Americans aren’t ready to clear President Donald Trump in the Russia investigation, with a new poll showing slightly more want Congress to keep investigating than to set aside its probes after a special counsel’s report left open the question of whether he broke the law.

About 6 in 10 continue to believe the president obstructed justice.

The poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research also finds greater GOP confidence in the investigation after Attorney General William Barr in late March released his letter saying special counsel Robert Mueller found no criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia but didn’t make a judgment on the obstruction question.

At the same time, the poll indicates that Americans are mostly unhappy with the amount of information that has been released so far. They’ll get more Thursday, when Barr is expected to release a redacted version of the nearly 400-page report .

Trump has repeatedly claimed “total exoneration,” after Barr asserted in his memo that there was insufficient evidence for an obstruction prosecution.

“It’s a total phony,” Trump said of all allegations to Minneapolis TV station KSTP this week. “Any aspect of that report, I hope it does come out because there was no collusion, whatsoever, no collusion. There was no obstruction, because that was ruled by the attorney general.”

Overall, 39% of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, roughly unchanged from mid-March, before Mueller completed his two-year investigation.

But many Americans still have questions.

“It’s kind of hard to believe what the president says as far as exoneration,” said James Brown, 77, of Philadelphia, who doesn’t affiliate with either party but says his political views lean conservative. “And in my mind the attorney general is a Trump person, so he’s not going to do anything against Trump.”

The poll shows 35% of Americans think that Trump did something illegal related to Russia — largely unchanged since the earlier poll. An additional 34% think he’s done something unethical.

Brown says he remains extremely concerned about possible inappropriate contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, citing Trump’s past interest in building a Trump Tower in Moscow, and believes the president committed crimes of obstruction to cover up financial interests. “He’s not going to jeopardize his pocketbook for anything,” he said.

Still, the poll suggests Barr’s summary helped allay some lingering doubts within the GOP. Among Republicans, more now say Trump did nothing wrong at all (65% vs. 55% a month ago) and fewer say he did something unethical (27%, down from 37.
Even as Trump blasts the Mueller probe as a Democratic witch hunt, poll respondents expressed more confidence that the investigation was impartial. The growing confidence since March was driven by Republicans: Three-quarters now say they are at least moderately confident in the probe, and 38% are very or extremely confident, up from 46% and 18%, respectively, in March. Among Democrats, about 70% are at least moderately confident, down slightly from a month ago, and 45% are very or extremely confident.

Still, majorities of Americans say they believe the Justice Department has shared too few details so far with both the public (61 and Congress (55%). About a third think the department has shared too little with the White House, which has argued that portions of the report should be kept confidential if they involve private conversations of the president subject to executive privilege.

Democrats have been calling for Mueller himself to testify before Congress and have expressed concern that Barr will order unnecessary censoring of the report to protect Trump. The House Judiciary Committee, led by Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, is poised to try to compel Barr to turn over an unredacted copy as well as the report’s underlying investigative files.

The poll shows that even with the Mueller probe complete, 53% say Congress should continue to investigate Trump’s ties with Russia, while 45% say Congress should not. A similar percentage, 53%, say Congress should take steps to impeach Trump if he is found to have obstructed justice, even if he did not have inappropriate contacts with Russia.

“We don’t even know what we found yet in the probe. Until we do, Congress should definitely continue to push this issue,” said Tina Perales, a 35-year old small business owner in Norton, Ohio, who describes herself as Republican. “That little letter Barr sent out summarizing the report I think was completely BS. This Mueller thing is hundreds of pages, and he just sums it up like this? These things just don’t add up.”

Democrats can read the polls:

Democrats were much more likely than Republicans to believe Trump had done something improper and to support continued investigations that could lead to his removal from office. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has downplayed the likelihood of impeachment proceedings but isn’t closing the door entirely if there are significant findings of Trump misconduct.

On investigations, 84% of Democrats believe lawmakers shouldn’t let up in scrutinizing Trump’s ties to Russia, but the same share of Republicans disagrees. Similarly, 83% of Democrats say Congress should take steps to impeach Trump if he is found to have obstructed justice, even if he did not have inappropriate contacts with Russia, while 82% of Republicans say Congress should not.


Trump has "sympathy for the Russian government’s going after someone viewed as a traitor"

by digby

I don't think I could ever have imagined a Repubican president ever saying something like this in the past. Imagine any one of them thinking that Russian assasinations of double agents or dissdents is understandable, much less on foreign soil:

Donald Trump was reluctant to expel suspected Russian spies after the novichok chemical weapons attack in Salisbury, viewing the poisoning of a defector as “part of legitimate spy games”, according to a new report.

According to the New York Times, Trump reacted sceptically to a British request in March 2018 for a strong punitive response to the use of the nerve agent against the former spy, Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. A local resident, Dawn Sturgess, was killed three months later when she came in contact with the chemical.

It marked the first chemical weapon attack on European soil since the first world war.

Trump is reported to have written off the attack as business as usual among spies – “distasteful but within the bounds of espionage”.

“Some officials said they thought that Mr. Trump, who has frequently criticized ‘rats’ and other turncoats, had some sympathy for the Russian government’s going after someone viewed as a traitor,” the New York Times report said.

The incident is cited as an example of the persuasive skills of the then deputy CIA director (now director), Gina Haspel.

She is said to have presented the expulsion of 60 accredited Russian diplomats – the course eventually taken – as the “strong option”.

She also showed the president pictures of young children who had been hospitalised as a result of the Salisbury attack, as well as photographs of ducks that had been killed because of the carelessness in handling the deadly nerve agent on the part of the two Russian intelligence operatives alleged to have carried out the attack.

“Mr Trump fixated on the pictures of the sickened children and the dead ducks. At the end of the briefing, he embraced the strong option,” the report said.

Of the 60 Russians expelled by the US, 48 were from the Russian embassy in Washington and 12 were based at the United Nations in New York. The US also ordered the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle.

Trump has separately been reported as having been furious when he found out that the US had expelled far more Russians than Germany or France, who each ordered four Russian officials to leave.

According to a report last April in the Washington post, Trump had told his officials that the US would match the European response, but his aides interpreted that to total European expulsions, not individual countries.

“I don’t care about the total!” an administration official cited in the Washington Post report recalled Trump screaming.

“Growing angrier, Trump insisted that his aides had misled him about the magnitude of the expulsions. “There were curse words,” the official said, “a lot of curse words”. 
And the Russia skeptics wonder why people think Trump's behavior has been so suspicious as to warrant an investigation about his relationship with the Kremlin.


Fox News Bizarroworld

by digby

This is awesome:

Too funny.

"I'm so loyal that if somebody is slightly disloyal to me I look upon it as a great act of horror"

by digby

My Salon column this morning:

Immediately after Attorney General William Barr's now-infamous four-page letter was released, I noted that Donald Trump's victory dance was tempered by his sour declaration of vengeance against his political enemies and those who had conducted the alleged "witch hunt." I quoted his odd advice to the students at Liberty University back in 2012:

"I always say don't let people take advantage — this goes for a country, too, by the way — don't let people take advantage,” Trump said. “Get even. And you know, if nothing else, others will see that and they're going to say, 'You know, I'm going to let Jim Smith or Sarah Malone, I'm going to let them alone because they're tough customers.'"

In the last week we've seen Barr tell the Congress that he intended to look into alleged "spying" on the Trump campaign and the Republican chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, promising to follow up on the Clinton email case again. Since those things have already been investigated and reported, it's obvious that they are following the Trump edict to send a message to his political opponents and any law enforcement agencies that attempt to scrutinize the president.

Now we are on the cusp of receiving Barr's redacted version of the Mueller report. From what we know, he will have removed classified information, grand jury testimony, and information that might compromise an ongoing investigation or anything that impacts a "peripheral" third party. We have no idea how much of the 400 pages will even be readable at this point. But since Barr has promised to color-code the redactions by those four categories, it may not be difficult to figure out who has given the special counsel embarrassing information about the president and his family. And according to NBC News, this has former and current White House staffers scared to death:

Of particular concern is how Trump — and his allies — will react if it appears to be clear precisely who shared information with Mueller, these people said. “They got asked questions and told the truth, and now they’re worried the wrath will follow,” one former White House official said.

They should be. You see, Trump doesn't just threaten revenge against his enemies. He is even more adamant about exacting revenge against allies and friends he thinks have been disloyal. Back in 1992, he appeared on Charlie Rose's show and explained his philosophy:

Trump: Some of the people who have been the most loyal to me are the people I didn't think would be. The people are the most disloyal to me are the people, I think I would have treated them differently. I would have wiped the floor with the guys that weren't loyal, which I will now do, which is great. I love getting even with people.

Charlie Rose: Hold up. You love getting even with people?

Trump: Oh absolutely. You don't believe in the eye for an eye? Yeah you do, I know you well enough, I think you do.

Rose: No. ... So tell me. You're going to get even with some people because of ...

Trump: If given the opportunity, I will get even with some people who were disloyal to me. I mean, I had a group of people that were disloyal ...

Rose: How do you define disloyal?

Trump: They didn't come to my aid and do small things ...

Rose: Did they turn their back on you?

Trump: No, but they didn't do small things that would have helped ... you see, I'm so loyal to people, maybe I'm loyal to a fault. But I'm so loyal that if somebody is slightly disloyal to me I look upon it as a great act of horror.

Trump would have expected his staff to lie for him -- "a small thing that would have helped." If it is possible for him to decipher who may have given the Mueller team unpleasant information, you can imagine how he will react."

This is the leakiest White House in history, so we probably already know most of what's in the report about obstruction of justice. But we have little idea about who specifically was leaking. There have been many rumors that Kellyanne Conway is the "number one leaker" in the White House. And there have been too many stories about a "heroic" Don McGahn, the former White House counsel, saving the country from yet another of Trump's harebrained schemes not to conclude that he was another major leaker. Having been on the scene for most of Trump's possible obstructive behavior, McGahn is in the most danger of being outed in the Mueller report.

McGahn seems to know that as well. He went up to Capitol Hill last week to give 40 or so GOP Senate staffers a heads up. Axios reported he told them they would likely be reading about some of the "spirited debates" he had with the president. Trump loyalists may have been surprised, but McGahn went on to describe his true mission within the White House: to dismantle the "administrative state" and pack the courts with far-right judges who would revisit any laws giving deference to the executive branch agencies. He said that "Trump's judges will spend 30–40 years unwinding the power of executive agencies."

"Mission accomplished," apparently.

It's doubtful that McGahn will care if Trump rants about him. He has carefully cultivated an image of the devoted Republican operative who went about his assignment with ruthless efficiency. He's betting that he'll be left standing when Trump is finally defeated. Kellyanne Conway and her husband George, a prominent Trump antagonist, are probably doing something similar. The pros have played both sides effectively and they will land on their feet, secure in the bosom of the Republican establishment,

Other nervous staffers should probably reflect on the fact that Trump getting angry or firing them is a whole lot better than going to jail and having a record for the rest of your life. Not invoking executive privilege and instructing them to tell the truth was the biggest favor Trump's former lawyers, John Dowd and Ty Cobb, did for all of them.

Taking a job in this White House was likely a very bad decision. But failing to "come to the aid" of Donald Trump may be the best one those people ever made.


These Democrat vs. those Democrats

by Tom Sullivan

Now branded the progressive wing vs. the establishment wing, the reboot of the Democrats' 2016 Hillary vs. Bernie squabbles is already irritating and tiresome. But it won't go away because the underlying issues won't go away.

Barbara Boxer, the former California senator, told MSNBC's Chris Hayes Tuesday night Democrats need to avoid self-inflicted wounds. "If you don't like Bernie, pick a candidate and go," Boxer said [timestamp 37:15]:

And also this attack on the so-called establishment? I don't get that either. Who's the establishment, Nancy Pelosi? She's as progressive as they come. The head of the DNC, Tom Perez? He's as progressive. And the leadership in Congress. So, all of this is ridiculous. It's a self-inflicted wound if it continues. People should knock it off.
Boxer, a self-described 40-year veteran, doesn't really understand the "establishment" issue. She just wants people to stop. Fine. Let me explain it.

The issue is and has been with Democrats who fear democracy breaking out inside the Democratic Party. Talent takes a back seat to tenure. Established leaders feel entitled to decide for voters who the party's candidates will be. (Some of that comes down to candidate recruitment, but locking out opponents should be off limits.) There is also a legacy issue, similar to college admission, in which insiders get to preposition their successors. No input from voters wanted.

Sarah Jones details a case-in-point. Illinois Rep. Dan Lipinski is a pro-life Democrat who, by Planned Parenthood's analysis, has sponsored 54 pieces of anti-abortion legislation. "He voted against the Affordable Care Act, and the DREAM Act, which would have created a path to permanent citizenship for undocumented youth brought to the United States as children," Jones writes.

Lipinski held on against a 2018 primary challenge by Marie Newman, a pro-choice and pro-LGBT rights Democrat. The 2,145 vote margin (2 percent) was not exactly "rousing support" for the conservative Democrat in the suburban Chicago district. Lipinski holds the seat, Jones argues, not because he reflects voters' views, but because his father, Bill Lipinski, had held it for 12 years before him and "essentially bequeathed the seat to his son."

That establishment, Ms. Boxer.

In announcing she would run again for Lipinski's seat in 2020, Newman said his views put Lipinski out of step with his district (Chicago Sun Times):
“It’s time for a real Democrat to represent us in Washington, not the conservative son of a ward boss. Those days are over,” concluded Newman, who noted that the landslide election of Lori Lightfoot as Chicago mayor and the recent losses of longtime aldermen and political bosses show Chicagoans are hungry for progressive change.
Led by fellow Illinoisan Rep. Cheri Bustos, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is using its financial clout to suppress opposition to its members. Even to those like Lipinski. No surprise there. Collecting dues that sustain the insider organ would be that much harder if it did not use them to defend members' seats no matter the voters' wishes.

That establishment, Ms. Boxer.

Jones continues:
A second Newman campaign threatens to expose the anti-democratic implications of the party’s strategy. There is a thin sliver logic underneath the DCCC’s unwavering support for incumbents; the party needs to keep control of the House, and it believes left-wing candidates could jeopardize that goal if they run in conservative districts. But this logic doesn’t even apply to Lipinski or his district. Much like Representative Henry Cuellar of Texas, another Blue Dog Democrat who may face a primary from his left, Lipinski represents a thoroughly Democratic district. Democrats there voted for Bernie Sanders in the party’s primary, and the district itself voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by a comfortable margin. There’s no reason to think the district would suddenly turn Republican if the more left-wing Newman defeated Lipinski in the primary. In fact, the local GOP is in such disarray that it couldn’t marshal an alternative to Art Jones, an unrepentant neo-Nazi who ran unchallenged in the party’s primary before losing badly to Lipinski in the general.
The party establishment is not only electeds, but unofficial clubs like the DCCC and DSCC that prefer incumbents with a "D" behind their names to aspirants with views more in line with their own districts. Best not to risk the business model.

So long as that culture pertains, there will be conflict between upstarts and those defending turf over principle. Pick a candidate and go.

But Sanders stoking the insider-outsider conflict for fundraising isn't helping either. Nor will it endear him to Democrats already inclined to vote for Democrats in a Democratic primary over a candidate who is not a Democrat (as if that needed explaining). Self-inflicted wounds, indeed.

A loner his whole life, an old friend once said if he ever found himself on the inside of a social group, he'd have to create a new outside for himself, just to feel normal. He and Bernie should trade notes.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

When Trump tweeted out a Riefenstahl-esque video

by digby

This piece
by Todd Gitlin about that now notorious 2020 campaign video that Trump tweeted out last week is chilling:

No sooner had Attorney General William Barr scraped 101 words out of the Mueller Report and inserted them into his letter of exculpation than Steve Bannon predicted that President Trump was now “going to go full animal” against his enemies. Trump would “come off the chains,” he told Yahoo News in Rome, where he was furthering his alliance with Italy’s government and launching a Europe-wide training center for rightists in a rented monastery.

Some days later, on YouTube, a Trump fan posted a two-minute video that the president fancied so much he proceeded to tweet it out on April 9. Described as “President Trump 2020 trailer. A sneak peek of the upcoming 2020 election,” the video begins in full moan and rumble. Its menace has, as they say, “high production value.” Washington’s white marble monuments gleam. But all has not gone well in the city of Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, the Capitol and the White House. The first human face to appear belongs to Barack Obama. “FIRST THEY IGNORE YOU,” appears on the screen.


Cut to the face of Hillary Clinton. Cut to a lot of hundred-dollar bills. Cut to Bill Clinton. Cut to Trump striding authoritatively through a factory. Crowds. Air Force One on the tarmac. Flags. Fans. Brett Kavanaugh. Lindsey Graham. And so on. At the end, against a dramatic sky, Trump fills the screen and raises his fist. Crowds cheer.


Life is a rally.

But not so fast. As some YouTube commenters noticed, the nonstop soundtrack had been cribbed from Warner Brothers’ 2012 Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises. The company promptly declared that it was “working through the appropriate legal channels to have [the video] removed,” whereupon Trump’s handlers deleted his tweet. (The video has also been taken down from YouTube.) Trump’s 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale accused Warner Brothers’ owner, AT&T, of “positioning themselves as a weapon of the left” by virtue of the company’s insistence on property rights. An unnamed Trump 2020 “campaign aide” told CNN: “The video was made by a supporter. We like to share content from diehard supporters, and this is just another example of how hard Trump supporters fight for the president.”

How hard? Riefenstahl hard. “Trump 2020” suggests the mood of Trump’s base: the 36–43 percent who, according to opinion polling, approve of their fearless leader come hell, high water, or Robert Mueller. Despite the bright colors instead of black and white, “Trump 2020” is less “Morning in America” and more Triumph of the Will, Leni Riefenstahl’s documentary paean to the Nazis’ 1934 Nuremberg rally. What it lacks in Riefenstahl’s legato rhythm, her lyrical talents, mobile camera virtuosity, and unity-of-action day-long time frame, not to mention the Wagnerian soundtrack, it gains in compression.

If there were a Nobel Prize for propaganda, Riefenstahl would have won it several times over. The year Triumph of the Will hit German screens, Walter Benjamin saw clearly what it meant:

Mass reproduction is aided especially by the reproduction of masses. In big parades and monster rallies, in sports events, and in war, all of which nowadays are captured by camera and sound recording, the masses are brought face to face with themselves.

Writing about Riefenstahl in the Review some forty years later (“Fascinating Fascism”), Susan Sontag called Triumph of the Will “the most successfully, most purely propagandistic film ever made, whose very conception negates the possibility of the film maker’s having an aesthetic or visual conception independent of propaganda.” Faces in the crowd appeared stripped of individual characteristics, illustrating the idea of the individual rather than actual individuality. The aesthetic was Make Germany Great Again, aiming to achieve paralysis of the mind, a rehearsal for Götterdämmerungs to come. Following Benjamin, Sontag rightly identified the Riefenstahl aesthetic’s “characteristic pageantry,” expressed as:

… the massing of groups of people; the turning of people into things; the multiplication of things and grouping of people/things around an all-powerful, hypnotic leader figure or force. The fascist dramaturgy centers on the orgiastic transactions between mighty forces and their puppets. Its choreography alternates between ceaseless motion and a congealed, static, “virile” posing. Fascist art glorifies surrender; it exalts mindlessness: it glamorizes death.

“Trump 2020,” too, celebrates mighty forces overpowering fate; crowds hailing the almighty leader; surrender and mindless momentum; a Super Bowl style of awesomeness, though brisker and less orgiastic than Riefenstahl’s rapturous celebration of what she saw as the Nazis’ epochal grandeur. Trump’s enemies are not as feral as those of 1934 Germany’s “Aryans”; they’re personified in clips of celebrated limousine-liberal types, representatives of the “THEY” who “LAUGH AT YOU”: Rosie O’Donnell, Bryan Cranston, and Amy Schumer. (Somehow, George Soros doesn’t make the cut.)

There are other differences. Propaganda was more stately and slow-moving eighty-some years ago. Riefenstahl’s montage moved more liquidly, less staccato. She did not have to contend with today’s attention deficit-disordered culture. With Hitler’s endorsement (“Produced by Order of the Führer”), she went romantic, sweeping, and soaring, opening with an above-the-clouds panorama as Hitler descended to Nuremberg; followed by crowds, crowds, and vaster, more delirious crowds, with hordes of enraptured faces. Riefenstahl had the advantage of an event orchestrated for her camera; the anonymous auteur of “Trump 2020” has only stock footage for spectacle. It is all aura. But for a short-form workshop product, it is a good indication of what we can expect from more official channels.

Whoever manufactured and distributed this video knew what they were doing. “Trump 2020” is the Triumphant Will jump-cut at microchip processor speed. It aims to overwhelm in the fidgety style of the twenty-first century. It proclaims adoration, it rewards the faithful. If you like the idea of an America of more rallies, more flags, more fists, you’ll love this commercial.

Before YouTube stopped taking comments, diehard Trump supporters had duly stepped up to applaud. Mystikal 36 went full apocalypse in this comment:

The Battle between the Dark Forces Vs. The Light Forces. Alliance we are with you in your stand against evil. Opponents are writing this is a weird video nothing weird about it. Wake up it’s reality… The spark has been lit the call is out to all Patriots this is our world stand together not divided… The spark that will light the flame to eternity… Trump the enabler removed the shackles that has forced their hand… WINING [sic]…

Larry Feebak had a few doubts:

think this is good for us people that already support Trump, but honestly I think it would just be a turn off for getting votes from people who are on the fence and those are the people we need to vote for Trump.

But Dustman50 Rocks went full exclamation point:

I have never ever been into politics until our last election. Thank the good Lord above, that we got what we needed!!! Trump for life here!!! Love how he does shit, and he does not care what others think!!! No special interest from other countries, and uses his own money to get elected, and do great things for our broken country!!! AMEN!!!

Of course, Trump is not Hitler. MAGA rallies are not Nuremberg rallies. There is bombast but Trump’s threats, even his shouts of “treason,” are rhetorical—incitements that can be disowned should less inhibited enthusiasts take up arms against enemies of the people. Trump cannot padlock Warner Brothers, though next time his epigones can order up pompous but uncopyrighted soundtracks composed by anonymous wannabe Hollywood musicians, or even by algorithm.

Other such spectacles are surely in the pipeline. PACs will no doubt pony up to provide higher production values. “Independent expenditures” will flourish. And who knows what the presidential TV channel Fox News has planned, all but produced at the pleasure, if not the order, of the Führer? Reality-show America has metastasized, spawning a Trumpian circus of spectacular lies and mini-Lenis.

“Gave me goose bumps,” wrote a YouTube commenter named Doxie Mom. Me, too, though for other reasons.

Me too. In fact, I tweeted out "Triumph des Willen" when Trump posted it.

Here it is without the Batman score. If you want to imagine what it was like, you can mute the sound on that and turn the Youtibe on the bottom up. It's very creepy...


Alabama Republicans still love Judge Roy Moore

by digby

Nothing gets the liberals more upset than an extremist Christian conservative hypocrite who stalks underage girls so naturally he's their man:

Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore leads the field of potential Republicans vying for the chance to challenge Sen. Doug Jones (D), a year and a half after Moore lost what was supposed to be an easy election in a deep-red state.

A new poll shows Moore leading a still-evolving field of Alabama Republicans competing for the nomination. He is the top choice of 27 percent of Alabama Republican voters, according to the Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy Inc. survey.

The state’s three Republican members of Congress finish well behind Moore: Rep. Mo Brooks would take 18 percent, Rep. Bradley Byrne clocks in at 13 percent and Rep. Gary Palmer would take 11 percent.

State Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh would take 4 percent, and businessman Tim Jones finishes with just 2 percent of the vote.

So far, Byrne is the only Republican candidate among those tested to have formally entered the race. Tommy Tuberville, the former Auburn University football coach, and state Auditor Jim Zeigler have also said they will run, though they were not tested in the survey.

Moore, who captured the Republican nomination in 2017 by appealing to the state’s most conservative evangelical voters, came undone amid multiple allegations that he harassed or pursued women who were in their teens when he was in his 30s.

Jones, a former U.S. attorney, won the December special election by 1.7 percentage points, or about 22,000 votes. He became the first Democrat in more than a generation — since Sen. Richard Shelby, who has since changed his party affiliation — to represent Alabama in the U.S. Senate.

Moore has not formally said he will run again, though he has said he is thinking about jumping in again.

“I’m seriously considering it,” Moore told a Christian radio host last month. “I think that it [the 2017 Senate race] was stolen.”

Whoever wins the Republican nomination will have a strong chance to unseat Jones in a state that favored President Trump by 28 percentage points in 2016. Just 45 percent of Alabamians say they approve of the job Jones is doing in the Senate, and only 40 percent say they would vote to reelect the freshman Democrat. Fifty percent of Alabama voters say they would vote to replace him.

They have time to find a better Republican, of course. But plenty of them still seem to love old Roy. There could be a replay of that special election that put Doug Jones into office if there's a runoff.


The gender gap is growing to the size of the grand Canyon. Are Democratic professionals paying attention?

by digby

That's a pretty startling gap in attitudes.

At the moment only 32% of women in this country approve of Trump compared to 47% of men. And yet I don't get the feeling that the campaign that's shaping up is attuned to that. The women who are running are more focused on framing issues in ways that women can relate to them but they have to be very careful not to talk too much about it or the press will start to portray them as "niche" candidates, even though the vast majority of Democrats happen to be women.

Anyway, here's the latest date from Pew. It seems important but it doesn't seem as though the people who are strategizing or reporting on the race think it is:

Gender differences about the size and scope of government have been evident for more than a decade, but they have widened in recent years.

Widening gender gap on size and scope of government
And while the gender gap in presidential job approval also is not new, it is wider for Donald Trump than for his predecessors.

In a new Pew Research Center survey, nearly six-in-ten women (58%) say they prefer a bigger government providing more services to a smaller government providing fewer services (36%). Among men, the balance of opinion is nearly the reverse: 59% of men prefer a smaller government (37% prefer bigger).

The gender differences on this measure are as wide as at any point in more than a decade. The change is largely attributable to an increase in the share of women expressing a preference for bigger government, while men’s attitudes on this question are little changed.

During most of Barack Obama’s presidency, women were roughly divided on this question: As recently as September 2016, 44% of women preferred a smaller government providing fewer services, while 48% preferred a bigger government providing more services. Today, the percentage of women who prefer bigger government has risen to 58%. In September 2016, just prior to the 2016 election, 56% of men said they would rather have a smaller government. Today, 59% say they would rather have a smaller government.

Trump’s job approval rating has been more deeply divided along partisan lines – and across generations – than for other recent presidents. This also is the case when it comes to gender: There are wider differences between men and women in views of Trump’s job performance than for any president dating to George H.W. Bush.

Currently, 47% of men say they approve of how Trump is handling his job as president, with an equal share saying they disapprove (47%). By contrast, 32% of women say they approve of how Trump is handling his job as president; 63% say they disapprove.

Looking more broadly, over his first two years in office, Trump’s average approval rating was much higher among men (44%) than among women (31%). This 13-percentage-point gender gap is wider than for any of his recent predecessors, dating back to George H.W. Bush.

I know the plight of the white working class male is a problem for everyone and Democrats have an obligation to address their needs whether they vote for Democrats or not. But the majority of the Democratic Party is women of all races and classes and they hate Donald Trump and desperately want him out of office. The party needs to remember to keep that in focus.


Bach at the Border 

by tristero

A long time ago, I had the great privilege of producing Yo-Yo Ma's first recording of the Bach Cello Suites. Musically, technically, and most of all personally, it was an unforgettably profound experience, a high point in my life. Yo-Yo was clearly a brilliant musician and a warm, humorous, and utterly charming person. Every once in a while I still run into him and marvel at his extraordinary ability to be both humble and confident, serious and informal at the same time. And of course, his performances are the stuff of legend.

Many major artists, believe their work transcends any political moment. But there are limits, and now, Yo-Yo Ma has made it quite clear where he stands:
World-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma brought his Bach Project to the sister cities of Laredo, Texas, and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, on Saturday. The "Day of Action" featured performances in both cities to celebrate the relationship between the two communities. 
Ma played the opening notes of Johann Sebastian Bach's Suite No. 1 for Unaccompanied Cello in a park next to the Juarez-Lincoln International Bridge, one of the crossings that connect the U.S. and Mexican cities. 
The Laredo performance took place on an elevated stage before an audience of officials and onlookers. Concerns over possible rain disappeared as Ma began to play in the morning sunshine.
It was part of his Bach Project, which uses the composer's 300-year-old music to explore connections between cultures. The project has taken Ma all over the world. On Friday it brought him to Laurie Auditorium at Trinity University in San Antonio, and on Saturday it brought him to Laredo, within a few feet of the Rio Grande. 
"As you all know, as you did and do and will do, in culture, we build bridges, not walls," he said. After his performance, he gestured to the bridge to his right. "I've lived my life at the borders. Between cultures. Between disciplines. Between musics. Between generations." 
Mateo Bailey, 16, lives in San Antonio. He grew up in El Paso, plays the cello and is the son of Grammy Award-winning cellist Zuill Bailey.
He felt Ma's performance had special significance "because this event is on the border. And I'm half-Mexican as well as half-American ... and for him to connect cello with what's happening in the world is like, it's a cultural bridge that was just built, and it's amazing." 
Yes, it is.

Be sure to watch the video and listen to Yo-Yo's beautiful playing and his remarks: "A country is not a hotel. And it's not full."

Thanks, my friend.
How Tea Partyer Mick Mulvaney wrecked the CFPB

by digby

The White House chief of staff made his bones in the Trump administration by knee-capping the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:

One rainy afternoon early in February 2018, a procession of consumer experts and activists made their way to the headquarters of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in Washington to meet Mick Mulvaney, then the bureau’s acting director. The building — an aging Brutalist layer cake, selected by the bureau’s founders for the aspirational symbolism of its proximity to the White House, one block away — was under renovation, and so each visitor in turn trudged around to a side entrance. Inside the building, Mulvaney had begun another kind of reconstruction, one that would shift the balance of power between the politically influential industries that lend money and the hundreds of millions of Americans who borrow it.

Three months earlier, President Trump installed Mulvaney, a former congressman from South Carolina, as the C.F.P.B.’s acting director. Elizabeth Warren, who helped create the agency in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, envisioned it as a kind of economic equalizer for American consumers, a counter to the country’s rising structural inequality. Republicans had come to view her creation as a “rogue agency” with “dictatorial powers unique in the American republic,” as the party’s 2016 platform put it. In Congress, Mulvaney had established himself as an outspoken enemy of the bureau, describing it, memorably, as a “joke” in “a sick, sad kind of way” and sponsoring legislation to abolish it.

Some of those invited to the meeting in February had picketed outside the bureau’s headquarters on Mulvaney’s first day at work. Their unease had only grown as Mulvaney ordered a hiring freeze, put new enforcement cases on hold and sent the Federal Reserve, which funds the C.F.P.B., a budget request for zero dollars, saying the bureau could make do with the money it had on hand. Within weeks, Mulvaney announced that he would reconsider one of the bureau’s major long-term initiatives: rules to restrict payday loans, products that are marketed to the working poor as an emergency lifeline but frequently leave them buried in debt. “Anybody who thinks that a Trump-administration C.F.P.B. would be the same as an Obama-administration C.F.P.B. is simply being naïve,” Mulvaney told reporters. “Elections have consequences at every agency.”

Mulvaney was also aware that appearances have consequences. For agency heads, it is important to appear open to all points of view about their regulatory decisions, especially if they end up having to defend them in court. In February, he agreed to meet with his critics in person. Thirty or so people gathered around a conference table as rain lashed the windows. Mulvaney, who is 51, has close-cropped hair and a bulldog countenance that befits his manner. A founder of the House’s hard-line Freedom Caucus, he can be sarcastic, even withering, in hearings and speeches. But Mulvaney struck a placating tone with his guests. He kept his opening remarks brief, according to six people who attended the meeting. Important things at the bureau would not change, he reassured them. “I’m not here to burn the place down,” he insisted. Mulvaney said he did not intend to discuss his plans for the payday-loan rule with them but encouraged everyone to share their views.

Many of Mulvaney’s guests came from advocacy groups, like Americans for Financial Reform and the Center for Responsible Lending, that often did battle with Washington’s powerful financial-industry lobby. But the meeting also included a dozen religious leaders, among them officials from national evangelical and Baptist organizations, whose members tend to be among Trump’s most loyal supporters. These leaders viewed payday lending as not only unfair but also sinful, and they had fought against it across Trump country — in deep-red South Dakota, on the same day Trump won the presidency, voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure effectively banning payday loans. The ministers had planned carefully for their moment with Mulvaney, and for 20 minutes they took turns detailing the harm that payday lending had inflicted on their neighborhoods and congregations. Eventually they gave the floor to the Rev. Amiri B. Hooker, who led an African-American church near Mulvaney’s old congressional district.

“I told him I was from Kershaw County,” Hooker told me recently, recalling his exchange with Mulvaney. “He smiled and asked how were the good folks from Kershaw.” When Hooker pastored in Lake City, an hour away from Kershaw, a quarter of his congregation either had taken out payday loans themselves or knew someone who had. He told Mulvaney about an 84-year-old congregant in Lake City whom, during a week that she was so sick that she missed services, he saw hobbling toward him down the street. “She said, ‘I had to go pay my bill,’ ” Hooker recalled. The woman had taken out a $250 loan almost three years earlier to cover her granddaughter’s heating bill. She was still paying it off, Hooker told Mulvaney, at a cost of $75 a month, rolling over the loan into a new one each time.

Despite his earlier reticence, Mulvaney seemed eager to offer his own view of how the bureau ought to operate. It wasn’t up to the federal government to stop people from taking the kind of credit that suited them, he suggested: “There’s no reason people should be taking these loans — but they do.” He pointed out that there wasn’t anyone in the room from North Carolina, where payday lending was illegal. They should plead their case to state officials. “You have a place to go to address payday loans, and it’s not me,” he said, according to multiple attendees. As the C.F.P.B.’s acting director, he wouldn’t stop enforcing the law as written. He only wanted a more efficient bureau, he explained, one steeped in evidence-based decision-making, one that educated consumers to make good decisions on their own. Mulvaney provided few details about how it would all look, but he promised the pastors he would follow up to let them know which way he decided to go on payday-loan regulation. “I’ve never heard from him,” Hooker says.

In the months that followed, Mulvaney’s vision for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would become clearer. This account of Mulvaney’s tenure is based on interviews with more than 60 current or former bureau employees, current and former Mulvaney aides, consumer advocates and financial-industry executives and lobbyists, as well as hundreds of pages of internal bureau documents obtained by The New York Times and others. When Mulvaney took over, the fledgling C.F.P.B. was perhaps Washington’s most feared financial regulator: It announced dozens of cases annually against abusive debt collectors, sloppy credit agencies and predatory lenders, and it was poised to force sweeping changes on the $30 billion payday-loan industry, one of the few corners of the financial world that operates free of federal regulation. What he left behind is an agency whose very mission is now a matter of bitter dispute. “The bureau was constructed really deliberately to protect ordinary people,” says Lisa Donner, the head of Americans for Financial Reform. “He’s taken it apart — dismantled it, piece by piece, brick by brick.”

Mulvaney’s careful campaign of deconstruction offers a case study in the Trump administration’s approach to transforming Washington, one in which strategic neglect and bureaucratic self-sabotage create versions of agencies that seem to run contrary to their basic premises. According to one person who speaks with Mulvaney often, his smooth subdual of the C.F.P.B. was part of his pitch to Trump for his promotion to White House chief of staff — long one of the most powerful jobs in Washington. Mulvaney’s slow-rolling attack on the bureau’s enforcement and regulatory powers wasn’t just one of the Trump era’s most emblematic assaults on the so-called administrative state. It was also, in part, an audition.

Mulvaney was put in the job to destroy the bureau and he showed the Trumpies that he could get 'er done. Consumer protection is the last thing these rightwingers want. Trump most certainly believes that there's a sucker born every minute and the smart move is to take as much advantage of them as possible. When you get down to it, that's been the GOP ideology all along.

Ask yourself what Trump and his malevolent extremists like Mulvaney will do if they get another term.