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Thursday, April 25, 2019

Former New York Times book critic "reviews" the Mueller Report

by digby

She basically says, read the book. It's a gripping yarn:
Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, and his team have laid out a minutely detailed narrative that authoritatively exposes the lies and false storylines that we have been living with since the 2016 campaign. His narrative validates reporting by The New York Times, The Washington Post, NBC, CNN, and other news outlets. It’s a riveting account that has the visceral drama of a detective novel, spy thriller, or legal procedural—with the added and alarming dimension that it is fact, not fiction, and concerns the very governance of the United States of America.

From the start, Donald Trump has been determined to maintain narrative control—that is, control of storylines about matters including his career as a businessman, his promises to middle-class America, and the investigation into Russia’s interference in the election.

Trump’s accelerating stream of lies (as of March 17, TheWashington Post tabulated that he had made 9,179 false or misleading claims during his first 787 days in office) has been part of an Orwellian effort to convince people to deny the reality in front of their eyes, just as his assaults on the press (“enemies of the people”) and the judiciary, F.B.I. and intelligence agencies (parts of “the Deep State”) represent efforts to undermine the institutions that might hold him to account.

For nearly two years, Trump has attempted to inoculate himself against the findings of the Mueller Report by assailing it as a “witch hunt.” He has cynically used the right-wing echo chamber to amplify his false assertions (“no collusion”) and last week he received a big assist from William Barr, his servile attorney general, who first released a highly misleading summary of the report and then held a news conference in which he again distorted its content in an effort to pre-emptively seize control of public perception.

The best antidote to this is the report itself which, in methodically putting the jigsaw puzzle pieces together, gives us a potent, clear-eyed and factual account of what happened.
Trump emerges from this volume as a shameless, narcissistic, and impetuous megalomaniac—someone who puts himself before the country, before any principles, before policies or people. His default settings seem to be anger and self-pity. He berates and bullies his staff, and rages against perceived enemies. He is willfully ignorant about governance and national security concerns, scornful of experts, the policy-making process, and the checks and balances written into our Constitution.

Learning that Mueller had been appointed as special counsel, authorized to conduct the Russia investigation, Trump’s first reaction is not alarm over a foreign adversary’s attacks on American democracy, or thoughts about what might be done to thwart future attacks, but panic (and an apparent guilty conscience) about what this means for him personally: “Oh my God,” he is quoted saying. “This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked.”

Donald McGahn, former White House counsel, complains that Trump had asked him to “do crazy shit”—like order him to have Mueller removed—and recounts conversations in which Trump says off-the-wall things like “lawyers don’t take notes.” Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, recalls that, as a candidate, Trump remarked that his campaign would be a significant “infomercial” for Trump-branded properties. You can practically hear the eye rolling going on in the Trump Tower and West Wing corridors.

As Comey observed in his book, Trump’s behavior often resembles that of a mob boss: all that matters to him is loyalty. But the “boss man,” as Hope Hicks, former White House Communications Director, referred to him, often seems to inspire more fear and loathing on the part of his staff than respect. Though some aides, like Sarah Sanders, Trump’s press secretary, lie as reflexively as the president does, others draw the line when they realize Trump’s orders could land them in legal jeopardy.

They hope that he will forget what he told them to do, or change his mind. They secretly write memos to document their exchanges with him, and stash the notes in safes. The Mueller Report reveals that the President’s efforts to shut down or derail the investigation “were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.”

Trump’s White House often sounds like it belongs in a Joseph Heller satire, a Three Stooges comedy, or an absurdist play like Alfred Jarry’s “Ubu Roi” about a dishonest, infantile clown of a king. It’s a place that reflects Trump’s nihilistic view of the world, as he’s spelled out in interviews and books: “I always get even”; “For the most part, you can’t respect people because most people aren’t worthy of respect”; and “The world is a horrible place. Lions kill for food, but people kill for sport.”
Trump thrives on chaos and distraction (like the Joker in “The Dark Knight,” he seems to instinctively know that if you “introduce a little anarchy” and “upset the established order… everything becomes chaos”). The report is a painstakingly judicious work embodying all the opposite qualities: logic, reason, fair-mindedness, Apollonian order.

Part of the appeal of traditional mysteries and thrillers (including TV series like “Law & Order,” “CSI,” and “Columbo”) is the process of watching a detective like Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, John LeCarré’s George Smiley, or Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot use reason and their investigative skills to connect the dots. As Holmes says in one story, “detection is, or ought to be, an exact science, and should be treated in the same cold and unemotional manner.” At the end of detective stories, order is usually restored with the solving of a crime, and with the identification and prosecution of the perpetrators.

Over the past several years, the sheer volume and velocity of Trump scandals and lies (analogous to what Russian analysts have called the Kremlin’s “firehose of falsehood”) have numbed many of us—causing us to turn away out of disgust or weariness, or to normalize the abnormal with the cynical shrug that authoritarian leaders like Vladimir Putin count on to reduce public engagement in politics.

But in its clarity and coherence, the Mueller Report slices through outrage fatigue. It provides a compelling roadmap for further inquiries and investigations, and reminds us of what is at stake.

It's a bestseller on Amazon.

It's long past Miller time

by digby

But he has such a high Q rating:

The White House rejected Democrats request to bring senior adviser Stephen Miller before the House Oversight Committee to testify, according to a letter obtained by the Washington Post late Wednesday.

“We are pleased that the Committee is interested in obtaining information regarding border security and much needed improvements to our immigration system,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote to Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) in the letter, but only offered to make “cabinet secretaries and other agency leaders” available to discuss policy. In his initial request Cummings asked that Miller specifically come to testify on May 1.

“It appears that you are one of the primary moving forces behind some of the most significant — and in my view, troubling — immigration policies coming out of the Trump White House,” Cummings wrote in the initial request.

Miller is believed to be the shadow figure behind President Trump’s most hardline immigration moves, especially his recent interest in making cuts to legal immigration and visa programs.

Stephen Miller can go on TV to talk about immigration policy but not the congress?

I can't imagine why they don't want that incubus testifying. But there's no reason that he shouldn't...

The Christan Right has no problem with immorality

by digby

The latest on Trump's most fervent followers:

From 2011 to 2016, white evangelicals dramatically changed their minds about the importance of politicians’ private behavior

Back in 2016, many journalists and commentators pointed out a stunning change in how white evangelicals perceived the connection between private and public morality. In 2011, a poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and the Religion News Service found that 60 percent of white evangelicals believed that a public official who “commits an immoral act in their personal life” cannot still “behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life.” But in an October 2016 poll by PRRI and the Brookings Institution — after the release of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape — only 20 percent of evangelicals, answering the same question, said that private immorality meant someone could not behave ethically in public.

Other religious groups didn’t see such a dramatic shift. Between 2011 and 2016, Catholics only had a 14-point drop — substantial, but nothing like the white evangelicals. We also looked at changes over time among black evangelicals and white mainline (i.e., nonevangelical) Protestants; the trend for those groups was very similar to that for Catholics. However, people without a religious affiliation shifted in the other direction, with a nearly five-point increase — that is, they became more likely to say that private immorality translates to unethical public behavior.

White evangelicals still hold Bill Clinton to the old standard — while giving Trump a pass

What about now? To find out, we posed the same question in the post-election wave of the nationally representative 2018 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES). The numbers generally held steady with those in 2016. In fact, white evangelicals are now slightly less likely to say that privately immoral behavior means a public official will be unethical in public life, with only 16.5 percent saying yes. The views of Catholics and secular Americans are essentially unchanged (as are black evangelicals and white mainline Protestants).

Have white evangelicals made an allowance only for Trump, or have they reconsidered their opinions on private and public morality more broadly? We tested this with two other versions of the same question. One starts with, “Many supporters of Donald Trump have argued,” followed by the identical statement about an elected official who commits a privately immoral act. The other harks back to the Monica Lewsinky scandal that led to Bill Clinton’s impeachment. “When he was president, many supporters of Bill Clinton argued . . .” To avoid the possibility of one question affecting responses to the others, respondents were randomly assigned to receive only one of the three variations: the “generic,” Trump, or Clinton version.

White evangelicals had a substantially different reaction when asked about Trump or Clinton. When primed to think about Trump, only 6 percent of them say that an elected official who acts immorally in private is incapable of being ethical in public life. But when Bill Clinton is mentioned, that rises to 27 percent — a 21-point increase.

By comparison, Catholics differed by only five points when asked about Trump or Clinton. And, as we might expect, mentioning Clinton makes secular Americans less likely to worry about the public ethics of a privately immoral official.

In short, white evangelicals are far more likely to shift their view of a politician’s private behavior when asked about Trump than when asked about Clinton.

To see whether this varies by the respondents’ party identification, we compared Republicans to non-Republicans (which combines independents and Democrats because of the very small number of evangelical Democrats) within the evangelical and Catholic traditions. Among both white evangelical and Catholic Republicans, the view that private immorality precludes ethical behavior in public life is far greater when we prompt our respondents to think about Clinton rather than Trump. For evangelicals who identify as Republicans, the level of concern about private morality declines by 34 points moving from Clinton to Trump. Unease about private immorality leading to unethical public behavior declines even more among Catholic Republicans — a 40-point drop from 54 to 14 percent.

In contrast, non-Republican, white evangelicals are slightly more concerned about politicians’ private morality when Trump is mentioned than when Clinton is mentioned. Catholic Democrats and independents are much more likely to be worried about private immorality when prompted to think about Trump.

In short, party loyalty is the driving force here. White evangelicals as a group are less concerned about private immorality when Trump is involved than when Clinton is involved because they are overwhelmingly Republican.
There is, however, more to the story. It appears that white evangelicals’ support for Trump has led to a more general change in their attitudes on private morality, even when evangelical Republicans are thinking about Clinton. Recall that, in 2011, six out of 10 evangelicals did not believe that a privately immoral official could still perform their duties ethically. In 2019, less than half that many evangelicals as a group and only 36 percent of evangelical Republicans say the same about Clinton — a president who was anathema to those on the religious right.

In contrast, during the Clinton impeachment, many white evangelicals argued that presidents’ private behavior determined the performance of their public responsibilities. As one evangelical put it recently, in those days the mantra was “character matters.” Today, it appears to matter a lot less — at least to evangelical Christians on the right. Now, criticism of the president’s character comes from progressive Christians on the left, like Buttigieg.

Thus, one legacy of Trump may be reduced attention to a president’s private behavior among those who used to care about it most.

Progressive Christians criticized Clinton too, btw.

These people are the worst hypocrites in the country. And they will turn on a dime against the next president who has a personal morality scandal.

The good news, as I have said many times, is that we never have to cater to their alleged morality again. When they pull their usual sanctimonious handwringing, just laugh, lean in and say "you voted for Trump" and walk away.

The moneybags are getting worried

by digby

This made me chuckle. If there has been a more malevolent big money group than the Chamber of Commerce in recent yeears, I don't know who it might be. Maybe the Kohs. But what's the difference, really?

Anyway, they seem to be getting a little bit nervous:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, navigating dramatic cultural change that’s transforming the worlds of politics and business, plans to become less aligned with the Republican Party than it has been for decades.

The largest and most powerful corporate lobbying group in Washington is changing the way it evaluates lawmakers for the first time in 40 years, launching a $250 million capital campaign to remodel its headquarters and even rethinking its approach to regulation.

Several dues-paying companies have balked as the Chamber endorsed fewer and fewer Democrats over the past several election cycles. The GOP’s drift toward protectionism, nativism and isolationism since Donald Trump took over the party in 2016 is also at odds with the Chamber’s longtime support for expanding free trade, growing legal immigration and investing in infrastructure.

The Chamber’s major strategic shift, outlined here for the first time based on a series of exclusive interviews with its leaders, grew out of more than two years of intensive conversations. The deliberations began in earnest shortly after Trump became president but long before the Democratic takeover of the House in the midterms ushered in divided government.

Tom Donohue, the Chamber’s longtime president and chief executive, compares it to making substitutions during a basketball game. “It's very unfortunate that the far right has gone very far right, and the far left has gone very far left. If you think about this, there is a hole in the middle,” he said. “So what we’re doing – and this is critical – is adjusting and responding to the new politics. We're adjusting and responding to the new Congress and the way the administration operates. The people that win in sports and in politics and in business are the people that are not so focused on one approach but are ready to adjust.”

The Democratic establishment soured on the Chamber as the group came to more reliably support GOP candidates. Democrat Evan Bayh even worked for the Chamber for five years after leaving the Senate, for example, but the group spent $1.4 million on television ads against him when he ran unsuccessfully to get his old seat back in 2016.

“It's not just about telling a different story. We have to fundamentally act differently, too,” said Tom Wilson, the chairman of the Chamber’s board of directors and the CEO of Allstate Corp. “We cannot just single-source our politics through one party. We need to be more accessible and more bipartisan than we were. You can decide how much we were, and everyone’s got their own views on that, but we just need to reach across the aisle to more Democrats.”

The story is the story and their behavior has been odious for decades. I'm sure there will be Democrats who want to buy into their very pro-business agenda, but there are way fewer than there once were.

It shows just how short-sighted many of these wealthy business lobbies have been. They overlooked the increasingly nihilistic and irrational behavior of the GOP because they believed the party elites could keep them in line. They were stupid, as rich elites often are, in thinking that, and now they're worried they have participated in destroying their golden egg. If they had been even slightly practical (much less moral and ethical) and tried to ensure that all the wealth didn't flow to the very top, they wouldn't be in this position today. They were greedy and wanted to control everything and own everything and people will eventually catch on and they will seek to reverse that.

Now they have a simple-minded criminal in charge and he's scaring them a little bit, not because he's against their policies, but because he's so corrupt and stupid that he may just take down the whole thing. They should have thought of that before.

Trump pays the hostage takers if he needs to

by digby

There is nobody on this earth who cares more about America being "screwed" financially by other countries than Donald Trump. Indeed, it is the entire basis of his "foreign policy" to the extent one exists at all. He hectors American allies constantly and the only complaints about adversaries hinge on how much it costs to oppose them. He basically sees America's role in the world as a paid enforcer.

It is, therefore, unsurprising that he would keep this a secret. It hurts "the brand."

North Korea issued a $2 million bill for the hospital care of comatose American Otto Warmbier, insisting that a U.S. official sign a pledge to pay it before being allowed to fly the University of Virginia student from Pyongyang in 2017.

The presentation of the invoice — not previously disclosed by U.S. or North Korean officials — was extraordinarily brazen even for a regime known for its aggressive tactics.

But the main U.S. envoy sent to retrieve Warmbier signed an agreement to pay the medical bill on instructions passed down from President Trump, according to two people familiar with the situation. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

The bill went to the Treasury Department, where it remained — unpaid — throughout 2017, the people said. However, it is unclear whether the Trump administration later paid the bill, or whether it came up during preparations for Trump’s two summits with Kim Jong Un.

The White House declined to comment. “We do not comment on hostage negotiations, which is why they have been so successful during this administration,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders wrote in an email.

I have no problem paying to return hostages. This amount of money is a drop in the bucket. But I think you can easily imagine what Trump would say if another American president had done such a thing, can't you?

Speaking of the bromance, this has to have Trump green with jealousy. Vlad got Kim in for a state visit and Trump had to cancel his invitation:

Trump didn't just abuse his power to protect himself

by digby

He behaved like a petty banana republic dictator in the most odious way.

This is an underreported aspect of the Mueller report. Trump wasn't just blowing smok on twitter to feed his cult some red meat. He was angling behind the scenes:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions had a tenuous hold on his job when President Trump called him at home in the middle of 2017. The president had already blamed him for recusing himself from investigations related to the 2016 election, sought his resignation and belittled him in private and on Twitter.

Now, Mr. Trump had another demand: He wanted Mr. Sessions to reverse his recusal and order the prosecution of Hillary Clinton.

“The ‘gist’ of the conversation,” according to the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, quoting Mr. Sessions, “was that the president wanted Sessions to unrecuse from ‘all of it.’”

Mr. Mueller’s report released last week brimmed with examples of Mr. Trump seeking to protect himself from the investigation. But his request of Mr. Sessions — and two similar ones detailed in the report — stands apart because it shows Mr. Trump trying to wield the power of law enforcement to target a political rival, a step that no president since Richard M. Nixon is known to have taken.

And at the time Mr. Trump pressured Mr. Sessions, the president was already under investigation for potentially obstructing justice and knew that his top aides and cabinet members were being interviewed in that inquiry.

Mr. Trump wanted Mrs. Clinton investigated for her use of a private email server to conduct government business while secretary of state, the report said, even though investigators had examined her conduct and declined to bring charges in a case closed in 2016.

No evidence has emerged that Mr. Sessions ever ordered the case reopened. Like many of Mr. Trump’s aides, as laid out in the report and other accounts, Mr. Sessions instead declined to act, preventing Mr. Trump from crossing a line that might have imperiled his presidency.

Instead, Mr. Sessions asked a Justice Department official in November 2017 to review claims by the president and his allies about Mrs. Clinton and the F.B.I.’s handling of the investigation into ties between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia. The department’s inspector general had already been scrutinizing the issues and painted a harsh portrait of the bureau in a report last year but found no evidence that politics had influenced the decision not to prosecute Mrs. Clinton.
The report gave a detailed account of Mr. Trump’s bids to wield power. Nine months into office in October 2017, he reminded Mr. Sessions in a private meeting that he believed the Justice Department was failing to investigate people who truly deserved scrutiny and mentioned Mrs. Clinton’s emails.

Two days later, Mr. Trump repeated his desires publicly, accusing law enforcement officials in a pair of tweets of “a fix” in the Clinton inquiry and asking, “Where is Justice Dept?”

A month later, Mr. Sessions found a way to satisfy Mr. Trump’s demands without opening a new investigation into Mrs. Clinton. He told Congress that he had asked the United States attorney in Utah, John W. Huber, to examine the allegations Mr. Trump and his allies made about Mrs. Clinton and the F.B.I. No charges have arisen from that examination, which is continuing.

But Mr. Trump wanted more. He pulled Mr. Sessions aside after a cabinet meeting in December 2017 and “again suggested that Sessions could ‘unrecuse,’” according to the report. A White House aide who witnessed the encounter believed Mr. Trump was talking about the since-closed Clinton investigation and the open Russia inquiry.

“I don’t know if you could unrecuse yourself,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Sessions, according to notes taken by the aide, Rob Porter. “You’d be a hero. Not telling you to do anything.”

Noting that Alan Dershowitz, a prominent lawyer and informal adviser to Mr. Trump, said Mr. Trump had the power to order an investigation, the president took pains to suggest he was not trying to influence the attorney general.

“I don’t want to get involved. I’m not going to get involved,” the president said, according to Mr. Porter’s notes. “I’m not going to do anything or direct you to do anything. I just want to be treated fairly.”

Mr. Sessions replied that he was “taking steps” and had a new leadership team in place at the F.B.I. “Professionals; will operate according to the law,” Mr. Porter wrote in his notes, according to the special counsel’s office.

“Porter understood Sessions to be reassuring the president that he was on the president’s team,” the report said.

By trying to have Mrs. Clinton prosecuted, Mr. Trump was following through on a campaign promise. At rallies, he often stood on stage denouncing her as crowds chanted, “Lock her up!”

“This reeks of a typical practice in authoritarian regimes where whoever attains power, they don’t just take over power peacefully, but they punish and jail their opponents,” said Matthew Dallek, a political historian and professor at George Washington University.

The report chronicled how Mr. Sessions fell further out of favor with Mr. Trump after he declined to commit to prosecuting Mrs. Clinton or to resume control of the Russia inquiry. Mr. Trump mixed private arm twisting with the bully pulpit of his Twitter account until he forced out Mr. Sessions in November.

“I put in an attorney general that never took control of the Justice Department, Jeff Sessions,” Mr. Trump said on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends” in August 2018, according to the report.

Beyond Mr. Mueller’s report, there is evidence that Mr. Trump has continued to try to push the Justice Department to bend to his wishes. He told the White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II in April 2018 that he wanted the Justice Department to prosecute Mrs. Clinton and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey, two people familiar with the conversation have said.

Mr. Mueller’s report made no mention of the encounter with Mr. McGahn. He never conveyed the request to the Justice Department but had aides write Mr. Trump a memo that laid out the risks of impeachment or losing re-election if he took such a step.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, faulted the Obama administration for declining to prosecute Mrs. Clinton.

“It was crying out for prosecution,” said Mr. Giuliani, the former United States attorney in Manhattan. “I could have prosecuted that case with my eyes closed.”

It was unclear from the report whether Mr. Trump appreciated the difference between using his power to target Mrs. Clinton and trying to insulate himself from law enforcement scrutiny, Mr. Buell noted. It is more likely, he said, that Mr. Trump simply viewed the Justice Department and the F.B.I. as institutions that worked for him.

“All of his demands fit into a picture that he believes the apparatus is mine,” Mr. Buell said.

Mr. Trump has kept up the public lashings of law enforcement officials and Mrs. Clinton. “There are no Crimes by me at all,” he wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. “All of the Crimes were committed by Crooked Hillary, the Dems, the DNC and Dirty Cops — and we caught them in the act!”

He is a twisted psycho, enabled by fellow psychos and sycophants.

You must realize, however, that just as Comey's reckless commentary during the campaign put pressure on Mueller to be very circumspect in his findings, so too will this grotesque crusade to persecute Clinton be used as a reason that any pursuit of Trump once he's out of office is out of bounds. It's a proven GOP gambit that keeps working for them: Break the rules, bust the norm for a petty partisan purpose and then use the arguments against it to defend themselves for accountability for much more serious crimes.


Out among the Normals

by Tom Sullivan

Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) at town hall meeting, Henrico High School, outside Richmond. (Image from her Twitter feed)

One of the first things campaign schools teach is attendees are not normal people. Normal people do not spend days learning campaign craft. Nor do Normals spend their days in front of computer screens consuming headlines and the daily play-by-play of inside-the-Beltway fights.

With the U.S. House on break for a "District Work Period," Politico offers one of those "from the heartland" reports — this one on what Democrats are hearing from Normals at town halls in their districts.

Democrats' town hall audiences expect an update on Mueller report fallout, it seems, but then it's on to the kitchen-table issues.

“I’ve been very surprised by how few people brought [Mueller] up since I’ve been back,” said Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) said after two weeks back in his suburban Twin Cities district:

Phillips said he sees Mueller mentioned much more on Twitter than in his district events. For him, immigration has been a far more dominant issue: “If you wake up thinking you’re being deported every day, the Mueller report doesn’t really matter to you.”
Livestreamed events by Reps. Antonio Delgado (D-N.Y.) and Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.) began with Mueller briefings, Politico reports, but quickly pivoted to "education funding and local pollution and mostly stayed there."

No one brought up the Mueller report at Rep. Abigail Spanberger's (D-Va.) town hall in her district west of Richmond:
“In the big spectrum of everything, people are still deeply concerned about prescription drug prices,” Spanberger said. “People are still deeply concerned about the opportunity to get their kids education. They’re wanting to see Washington focused on immigration reform.”
Rep. Josh Harder of California tells Politico he had “'10 times the amount of interest' on issues like health care, immigration and student debt than on impeachment or investigations into Trump." The news provides a distorted view of what the country's concerns, he believes.

It's almost a given that these sorts of reports rely heavily on reportage from centrist- to conservative-leaning Democrats. Politico's is no exception. Spanberger is a member of the Blue Dog Coalition. She and Phillips both belong to the Problem Solvers Caucus. Harder is a New Democrat.

Hayes and DelGado, members of the large Congressional Black Caucus, get a mention, along with Angie Craig of Minnesota. Craig is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the largest House caucus. But the centrists get the quotes.

So, it is also good to remember that while town hall crowds may be more representative than Twitter, people who attend them are not exactly at the center of the bell curve either. Someone should do a study.

That said, campaign instructors remind students that when knocking doors, it's best not to talk to normal people as if they too are politicos. You are the weird ones.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

"I am breaking down the swamp"

by digby

Then we went to an event about opioids. It's pretty clear his mind was elsewhere.

He was undoubtedly anxious to get back to his lifeblood -- Fox News.


Here comes Deutsche Bank

by digby

No wonder he's even more agitated than usual agitated today:

Deutsche Bank has begun the process of providing financial records to New York state's attorney general in response to a subpoena for documents related to loans made to President Donald Trump and his business, according to a person familiar with the production.

Last month, the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James issued subpoenas for records tied to funding for several Trump Organization projects.

The state's top legal officer opened a civil probe after Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen testified to Congress in a public hearing that Trump had inflated his assets. Cohen at that time presented copies of financial statements he said had been provided to Deutsche Bank.

The New York attorney general's office declined to comment.

The bank is in the process of turning over documents, including emails and loan documents, related to Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC; the Trump National Doral Miami; the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago; and the unsuccessful effort to buy the NFL's Buffalo Bills.

A spokeswoman for Deutsche Bank declined to comment.

He can sue, I guess. But he's not in the driver's seat on this one.

It cracks me up that anyone thinks there's a question that he inflated his assets. It would be so unlike him.

Barr used to think the AG should defend an independent investigation from presidential criticism

by digby

How times have changed:

William Barr said in a 1998 interview that he was "disturbed" that Attorney General Janet Reno had not defended independent counsel Ken Starr from "spin control," "hatchet jobs" and "ad hominem attacks."

Two decades later, Barr is now attorney general himself -- and defending another president who has repeatedly blasted a special counsel's investigation of his activities. Barr stayed silent as President Donald Trump railed against special counsel Robert Mueller's "witch hunt." And as Barr released a redacted version of Mueller's report last week, the attorney general offered the best possible portrayal of the unflattering findings about his boss.

Barr's 1998 comments about "spin control" came several months after he co-authored a public statement with three fellow former attorneys general expressing concern that attacks on Starr from officials in the Clinton administration appeared "to have the improper purpose of influencing and impeding an ongoing criminal investigation and intimidating possible jurors, witnesses and even investigators."

Barr, then several years removed from his time as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, co-authored the March 1998 open letter with former Attorneys General Ed Meese, Dick Thornburgh and Griffin Bell -- two fellow Republicans and a Democrat, respectively. All four men opposed the Independent Counsel Act but thought Starr was being unfairly maligned.

''What I don't understand about the modern psyche is that nobody cares about the truth,'' Barr said in the September 1998 interview with Investor's Business Daily that was dated just days after the public release of the Starr report, which detailed President Bill Clinton's sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky and outlined a case for impeachment. "The whole system should be geared to getting the truth. But it has been geared to stonewalling and spinning what people think.''

CNN's KFile found the letter and interview during a review of Barr's public comments during the Whitewater investigation, which led to Starr's report. Hillary Clinton at the time had referred to the Starr investigation as part of a "vast right-wing conspiracy" against her husband, with the White House and allies attacking Starr as a partisan prosecutor.

''We were also disturbed that the incumbent attorney general wasn't coming to (Starr's) defense. There has been only silence,'' Barr said, concluding Starr should be allowed to finish his work free from White House attacks.

''Starr should be given the chance to get the facts out. We live in a world of spin control and ad hominem attacks,'' he said. ''And we're seeing a lot of hatchet jobs.''

Twenty years later, Mueller's special counsel investigation has similarly homed in on the White House inner circle amid daily efforts by Trump and his allies to undermine its credibility.

Barr, now in his second tenure as attorney general under Trump, has come under intense scrutiny as he ushered the Mueller investigation to its conclusion and through the public release of its redacted report last week.

He seems to have "evolved" on this issue...


Backstage, it's all about revenge

by digby

You knew this would happen, right?

On the surface, Easter weekend at Mar-a-Lago was an alternate reality, one in which Donald Trump had triumphed and finally put Robert Mueller’sinvestigation in the past. “He got cheers and standing ovations when he walked into places. They made him feel like he won,” one guest said. But there were seams in the performance. “Trump knew he was being watched,” a Republican close to the White House said. Backstage, Trump realizes the damage the report has done, and has taken a much darker view of the post-Mueller landscape.

With Democrats weighing impeachment and his approval rating dropping to its lowest levels of the year, the risks are very real. In response, Trump is lashing out at former West Wing officials whom he blames for providing the lion’s share of damaging information in Mueller’s 448-page report. The former officials Trump has vented about, sources told me, are a group known as “the notetakers” that includes former White House counsel Don McGahn, McGahn’s deputy Annie Donaldson, and staff secretary Rob Porter. “The thing that pisses him off is the note-taking,” a former West Wing official interviewed by Mueller told me. “Trump thinks they could have cooperated with Mueller without all the note-taking.”

Of all Trump’s former staff members, McGahn is receiving the brunt of Trump’s post-Mueller rage. McGahn reportedly spoke to prosecutors for 30 hours during at least three voluntary interviews. He was cited 157 times in the report—more than any witness—and provided vivid examples of Trump’s efforts to obstruct justice, while presenting himself as an ethical actor, a circumstance that’s always been galling for the president. “Trump’s furious with Don,” a source close to the White House, said. According to the source, Trump wants his lawyer Rudy Giuliani to file a personal lawsuit against McGahn for making defamatory statements in the Mueller report. (“Trump never asked me to sue anyone,” Giuliani told me).

The Washington Post reports:

Experts say the White House may have already shot itself in the foot on this one.

President Trump told The Washington Post’s Robert Costa on Tuesday that the White House plans to try to block McGahn’s testimony, and aides confirmed they may invoke executive privilege. (Trump added Wednesday: “We’re fighting all the subpoenas.”) Philip Bump has a good explainer on how this process might play out — and how the White House’s true goal may be to delay McGahn’s testimony rather than to win in court and block it.

But the battle over McGahn and executive privilege could be different from others that are likely to follow, and that’s for one significant reason: The White House may have already given up its leverage.

The White House has already effectively waived its right to executive privilege twice when it comes to McGahn. The first time came when it authorized him to speak extensively to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III — a decision that resulted in 30 hours of interviews and one that Trump has reportedly come to rue. And then it declined to assert executive privilege over redactions in the Mueller report ahead of the report’s release last week.

It didn’t have to, as Attorney General William P. Barr noted at the time.

“Because the White House voluntarily cooperated with the special counsel’s investigation, significant portions of the report contain material over which the president could have asserted privilege. And he would have been well within his rights to do so,” Barr said. But he added that Trump confirmed he wouldn’t assert executive privilege “in the interests of transparency and full disclosure to the American people.”

Trump’s interest in transparency apparently has its limits, as we’re now finding out with his decision to fight McGahn’s further testimony to the Democratic-controlled House. But experts say the dual waivers of executive privilege severely complicate any further attempt to invoke it.

We'll see. At this point he just wants to run out the clock. If McGahn's many wingnut judges are loyal to Dear Leader, they could ensure that nothing happens until after the election. That's what he's counting on.

"Russia if you're listening ... I could use a little help again"

by digby

Trump doesn't want to talk about election interference. At all. Ever:

In the months before Kirstjen Nielsen was forced to resign, she tried to focus the White House on one of her highest priorities as homeland security secretary: preparing for new and different Russian forms of interference in the 2020 election.

President Trump’s chief of staff told her not to bring it up in front of the president.

Ms. Nielsen left the Department of Homeland Security early this month after a tumultuous 16-month tenure and tensions with the White House. Officials said she had become increasingly concerned about Russia’s continued activity in the United States during and after the 2018 midterm elections — ranging from its search for new techniques to divide Americans using social media, to experiments by hackers, to rerouting internet traffic and infiltrating power grids.

But in a meeting this year, Mick Mulvaney, the White House chief of staff, made it clear that Mr. Trump still equated any public discussion of malign Russian election activity with questions about the legitimacy of his victory. According to one senior administration official, Mr. Mulvaney said it “wasn’t a great subject and should be kept below his level.”

Even though the Department of Homeland Security has primary responsibility for civilian cyberdefense, Ms. Nielsen eventually gave up on her effort to organize a White House meeting of cabinet secretaries to coordinate a strategy to protect next year’s elections.

As a result, the issue did not gain the urgency or widespread attention that a president can command. And it meant that many Americans remain unaware of the latest versions of Russian interference.

The assumption that he is only worried about the legitimacy of his 2016 election is way too generous. He knows that 70,000 votes across three states meant he needed all the help he could get. Knowing Trump, I'd say the better assumption is that he doesn't want to stop them from helping him in 2020.

It's not just his ego. He has a criminal mind. He is totally corrupt and entirely without morals or ethics. And while he's monumentally stupid, he has a strong feral survival instinct. He knows he has to win election by any means necessary or risk facing immediate legal problems.

They just can't quit her, Redux

by digby

Hillary Clinton is who tried to rig a presidential election, Martha. Hillary Clinton and her pals in the Obama Department of Justice and their pals in the FBI — they are the ones who colluded with the Russians. They are the ones that gave us this entirely bogus Steele dossier.

You want to talk about irony — for Hillary Clinton to be talking about impeaching Donald Trump. Hillary needs to be investigated, she needs to be indicted, and she needs to be in jail, and any of her co-conspirators in this whole sordid affair, which amounted to nothing more than a silent coup to overturn the election results of 2016. Hillary Clinton talking about Trump — you talk about sour grapes. This is a woman who has been rejected by the American people twice, rejected by her party in 2008, she had to rig the primaries against crazy Bernie in 2016 to get the nomination. She is the last person who ought to be listened to about what ought to happen to Donald Trump.

You'll notice he's referring to himself in the third person again.

Update: Some people seem to be taking this very seriously:

Trump supporter Dave Daubenmire this week drove hundreds of miles to stand outside Hillary Clinton’s house in Chappaqua, New York and filmed himself demanding that she be arrested.

A video posted by Right Wing Watch shows Daubenmire, who hails from Ohio, standing outside the Clintons’ residence while calling for the former secretary of state to be locked up for assorted purported criminal activities.

“This is one of the greatest crime scenes in American history right here!” Daubenmire exclaimed at the start of the video. “I’m sure we’re on cameras, I’m sure the FBI’s probably been following me all day, but here’s what I think, folks: What would it be like if we had a thousand people out here, petitioning the government to do its job and come and arrest Hillary Clinton!”

Daubenmire then explained to viewers that he drove eight hours to the Clintons’ house to inspire people to take to the streets and “demonstrate that we are against this ungodly, secret government” that is supposedly persecuting Christians in the United States.

“Let President Donald Trump know that we’re not going to put up with this!” he encouraged his followers.

Watch the video below.


Kush gives a preview

by digby

My Salon column this morning:

It appears the Trump White House has decided to stonewall every bit of congressional oversight hoping to either run out the clock until the election or have their handpicked Supreme Court majority rule in his favor. There was a time when I would have thought the second option was unthinkable even with a conservative majority, but after the court intervened in the 2000 Florida recount, I was disabused of that naive assumption. If they have to destroy the constitutional checks and balances to keep Trump in power, they may very well do it.

The president has put the Democrats on notice that they do not plan to respond to subpoenas or allow anyone to testify, even those people for whom they previously waived executive privilege. Under threat of holding witnesses in contempt of Congress, the White House has told them to take it up with the courts if they don't like it. House oversight committee chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Ma, told MSNBC on Tuesday night, "to date, the White House has refused to produce a single piece of paper or a single witness in any of the Committee’s investigations this entire year."

Trump may succeed in this strategy. After all, he has a plaint Attorney General and a subservient Republican Party that will back him to the hilt and the courts have been well-packed by the alleged hero of this drama, former White House Counsel Don McGahn. If they are unable to get any witnesses to testify,  Democrats may be forced to stage an interpretive dance of the Mueller Report and go directly to an impeachment vote.

As for the politics, the Trump inner circle is taking a rather novel approach. They are claiming total exoneration, of course, even as the president continues to demean and insult the investigation. But Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner have been road-testing some new lines, which are possibly the most aggressive form of gaslighting we've seen yet.

Last Sunday, Giuliani made the round of the morning talk shows and mostly kicked up a lot of dust that made little sense. But he did say one thing that took people by surprise. Responding to a comment from Utah Senator Mitt Romney, in which he said he was appalled that "fellow citizens working in a campaign for president had welcomed help from Russian including information that had been illegally obtained; that none of them acted to inform American law enforcement," Giuliani replied, "there's nothing wrong with taking information from Russians."

When Tapper went on to point out that while it's not expressly illegal it is unethical, Giuliani scoffed at the idea anyone cares about such things.

In a working democracy, the president would care because impeachment doesn't require that a president must have violated a statute, merely that he is unfit for the office, if the Congress so determines. He is clearly unfit. But this is not a working democracy at the moment so they don't fear such a consequence to their actions.

On Tuesday Jared Kushner made a rare public appearance at the TIME 100 Summit and when asked about the Russia Investigation he made a comment even more startling than Giuliani's. After brushing off the investigation as "silly," he said:
You look at what Russia did, buying some Facebook ads to try to sow dissent and do it, and it’s a terrible thing. But I think the investigations and all of the speculation that’s happened for the last two years has had a much harsher impact on our democracy than a couple of Facebook ads.
Here is the full comment:

Perhaps Kushner hasn't had time to keep up with the news or read the Mueller Report since his portfolio includes everything from office redecoration to Mideast Peace, but that is simply ridiculous. Indeed, calling the Russia interference "a couple of Facebook ads" shows that these people still refuse to admit what happened and it is not in dispute.

The House Intelligence Committee reported last year that Russia spent about a million dollars a month on Facebook ads reaching at least ten million users, all of it propaganda swill mostly on behalf of Donald Trump. But that was just one small part of their operation. TIME helpfully laid it all out:
The Mueller report described a wide-ranging Russian operation that included hacking Hillary Clinton, Sens. Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee; attempting to hack the Republican National Committee; releasing stolen emails online; probing state voter databases for weaknesses and stealing hundreds of thousands of voters’ personal information; spreading propaganda aimed to sowing division and depressing the vote through fake accounts on social media; staging a handful of rallies in Florida, Pennsylvania and New York; and setting up multiple meetings with members of the Trump campaign, although the probe did not find that members of the Trump campaign actively coordinated or cooperated with Russia.
There was nothing "silly", as Kushner said, about investigating all of that. And there was certainly nothing silly about investigating a president who seemed to be determined to cover it up. That silly investigation showed that he repeatedly broke the law in attempting to do that.  We still don't know exactly why and Mueller didn't answer the question in his report to the Attorney General. It's possible that it will be found in the classified reports around the counter-intelligence investigation which presumably looked more closely at the threat to national security by Trump's bumbling campaign and presidency.

Giuliani insists there's nothing wrong with colluding with foreign adversaries to sabotage your political rival. Kushner says they just bought some Facebook ads and the real sabotage was the investigation. Trump himself has repeatedly denied that Russians had anything to do with it at all.

None of that adds up to a clear admission of guilt for what happened in 2016, but it certainly sounds as if the Trump 2020 campaign is open for business. It's clear that if a foreign nation wants to intervene in the election they will once again welcome the help. What's unclear is why they are so sure that it will always be to their benefit.



See-no-people, hear-no-evil

by Tom Sullivan

"It is a dispute over who counts in America," writes Mark Joseph Stern for Slate. The Supreme Court case over how the U.S. conducts its next decennial census is literally, fundamentally, about who America counts.

Critics and plaintiffs contend the Trump administration's adding a citizenship question to the census will depress the count by at least 5.1 percent (with 11.9 percent a high estimate) as immigrant communities shy away from census takers. That is its underlying purpose, critics charge.

In his 277-page January ruling against the question's inclusion, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman decided the Trump administration had violated the law six different ways in adding the citizenship question, Stern writes. The justices heard arguments Tuesday in the government's appeal. The implications of the case for billions in federal funding across the land, and for tilting representation away from immigrant-heavy cities and states, will carry forward a decade or more.

In questioning attorneys, Stern alleges conservative justices "deployed credulity and hypocrisy in equal measure," appearing to favor overturning Furman's ruling in favor of Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross's contention that the question meant to help the Department of Justice enforce the Voting Rights Act (the law justices gutted in 2013's Shelby County v. Holder). Federal officials in fact have enforced the Voting Rights Act for half a century "without needing block-by-block data on the citizenship of the residents."

Furman ruled “the evidence is clear that Secretary Ross’s rationale was pretextual,” a "sham," and a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. Furman believed Ross concealed the real reason behind adding the census question. Ross had asked the DOJ to provide a rationale for inserting the question.

But on Tuesday, court conservatives seemed prepared to ignore that and the three lower courts that had ruled against the Trump administration. Chief Justice Robert appeared to follow the "see-no-evil, hear-no-evil pattern" he set in Trump v. Hawaii, and simply presume Ross followed the law, Noah Feldman writes at Bloomberg.

Stern continues:

From a legal standpoint, Ross’ behavior is puzzling: The Constitution mandates the “actual enumeration” of people, not citizens; a citizenship question only makes that goal more difficult to accomplish. From a political standpoint, though, the secretary’s behavior is perfectly rational. If Hispanics and immigrants are undercounted, blue states like California will lose billions in federal funds, seats in the House of Representatives, and votes in the Electoral College. Yes, some diverse red states, like Texas, will be affected too. But the burden will fall primarily on urban areas where minorities and noncitizens live—areas, in other words, that lean Democratic. Rural regions populated primarily by whites—that is, Republican regions—won’t suffer. These rural, Republican regions will gain seats in the state legislature, while urban, Democratic areas will lose them.

From the calculus of a pure power grab—constitutional commands be damned—Ross, then, had no reason to listen to the experts who counseled against the citizenship question, and simply overruled them. So he ran roughshod over a series of legal obligations meant to limit the addition of unnecessary questions to the census—rules laid out by Congress, which the secretary ignored. Thus, not only did Ross conceal the real reason for his action, but he also repeatedly broke the law in his mad dash around statutory roadblocks designed to keep gratuitous and counterproductive questions out of the census. (To give two of many examples, Ross missed the deadline to report a new census question in Congress, and failed to comply with a requirement that the secretary exhaust all other options for data gathering before adding “direct inquiries” to the census.)
The census case is yet another gambit by Republicans to undercut the voting strength of populations that lean Democrat. "Defund the Left" is on its way to becoming "Depopulate the Left." Just in North Carolina, if there's an election-rigging scheme state Republicans haven't tried, they haven't thought of it yet. Undercounting non-citizens in the name of protecting against minority-vote dilution is a national version of the same cynical, anti-democratic, anti-American strategy by an extremist political party for preserving white power against demographic decline.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Another defector from the cult

by digby

Sadly, I doubt there are very many of these folks out there. But there might just be enough to tip the election away from Trump even when he cheats:

Let’s start at the end of this story. This weekend, I read Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report twice, and realized that enough was enough—I needed to do something. I’ve worked on every Republican presidential transition team for the past 10 years and recently served as counsel to the Republican-led House Financial Services Committee. My permanent job is as a law professor at the George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School, which is not political, but where my colleagues have held many prime spots in Republican administrations.

If you think calling for the impeachment of a sitting Republican president would constitute career suicide for someone like me, you may end up being right. But I did exactly that this weekend, tweeting that it’s time to begin impeachment proceedings.

Let’s go back to the beginning. In August 2016, I interviewed to join the pre-transition team of Donald Trump. Since 2012, every presidential election stands up a pre-transition team for both candidates, so that the real transition will have had a six-month head start when the election is decided. I participated in a similar effort for Mitt Romney, and despite our defeat, it was a thrilling and rewarding experience. I walked into a conference room at Jones Day that Don McGahn had graciously arranged to lend to the folks interviewing for the transition team.

The question I feared inevitably opened the interview: “How do you feel about Donald Trump?” I could not honestly say I admired him. While working on Senator Marco Rubio’s primary campaign, I had watched Trump throw schoolyard nicknames at him. I gave the only honest answer I could: “I admire the advisers he’s chosen, like Larry Kudlow and David Malpass, and I admire his choice of VP.” That did the trick. I got the impression they’d heard that one before. I was one of the first 16 members of Trump’s transition team, as deputy director of economic policy.

In time, my work for the transition became awkward. I disagreed with Trump’s rhetoric on immigration and trade. I also had strong concerns about his policies in my area of financial regulation. The hostility to Russian sanctions from the policy team, particularly from those members picked by Paul Manafort, was even more unsettling.

I wasn’t very good at hiding my distaste. We parted ways in October amicably; I wasn’t the right fit. I wished many of my friends who worked on the transition well, and I respected their decision to stay on after Trump won. A few of them even arranged offers for policy jobs in the White House, which I nearly accepted but ultimately turned down, as I knew I’d be no better fit there than I had been on the transition.

I never considered joining the Never Trump Republican efforts. Their criticisms of President Trump’s lack of character and unfitness for office were spot-on, of course, but they didn’t seem very pragmatic. There was no avoiding the fact that he’d won, and like many others, I felt the focus should be on guiding his policy decisions in a constructive direction. The man whom I most admire in that regard is McGahn, Trump’s first White House counsel, who guided the president toward some amazing nominees for regulatory agencies and the judiciary.

I wanted to share my experience transitioning from Trump team member to pragmatist about Trump to advocate for his impeachment, because I think many other Republicans are starting a similar transition. Politics is a team sport, and if you actively work within a political party, there is some expectation that you will follow orders and rally behind the leader, even when you disagree. There is a point, though, at which that expectation turns from a mix of loyalty and pragmatism into something more sinister, a blind devotion that serves to enable criminal conduct.

The Mueller report was that tipping point for me, and it should be for Republican and independent voters, and for Republicans in Congress. In the face of a Department of Justice policy that prohibited him from indicting a sitting president, Mueller drafted what any reasonable reader would see as a referral to Congress to commence impeachment hearings.

Depending on how you count, roughly a dozen separate instances of obstruction of justice are contained in the Mueller report. The president dangled pardons in front of witnesses to encourage them to lie to the special counsel, and directly ordered people to lie to throw the special counsel off the scent.

This elaborate pattern of obstruction may have successfully impeded the Mueller investigation from uncovering a conspiracy to commit more serious crimes. At a minimum, there’s enough here to get the impeachment process started. In impeachment proceedings, the House serves as a sort of grand jury and the Senate conducts the trial. There is enough in the Mueller report to commence the Constitution’s version of a grand-jury investigation in the form of impeachment proceedings.

The Founders knew that impeachment would be, in part, a political exercise. They decided that the legislative branch would operate as the best check on the president by channeling the people’s will. Congress has an opportunity to shape that public sentiment with the hearings ahead. As sentiments shift, more and more Republicans in Congress will feel emboldened to stand up to the president. The nation has been through this drama before, with more than a year of hearings in the Richard Nixon scandal, which ultimately forced his resignation.

Republicans who stand up to Trump today may face some friendly fire. Today’s Republican electorate seems spellbound by the sound bites of Twitter and cable news, for which Trump is a born wizard. Yet, in time, we can help rebuild the Republican Party, enabling it to rise from the ashes of the post-Trump apocalypse into a party with renewed commitment to principles of liberty, opportunity, and the rule of law.

He's not alone among a small minority of Republicans who not only find Trump distasteful but believe that he's a serious danger to the American system and the constitution and should be removed. This group of conservative lawyers agrees with him.

BTW: I do wonder what he means when he meant when he mentioned in passing "the hostility to Russian sanctions from the policy team, particularly from those members picked by Paul Manafort, was even more unsettling."

Who was chosen by Manafort?

So scary. Don't make trouble.

by digby

I just thought I'd put this up as a reminder of what a terrifying opponent Trump is:

Trump approval rating January 2017 to present

I guess there's a possibility that as more people tune in to his crimes and corruption the more they will like him. But it seems ... counterintuitive. The man has never cracked 45% approval since the first month of his presidency. It's true that he's hovered right around 40% for his entire term but it's hard to see why Democrats find him so intimidating.

I guess those insulting tweets really hit home.

By the way, the  mid-term exit polls featured this finding last November:
Democrats' current leader, Nancy Pelosi, has said she is not interested in moving to impeach Trump, but that won't stop a lot of them from agitating for it; 77% of self-identified Democrats supported impeachment in the exit polls, compared with just 5% of Republicans and 33% of independents.

Support in the exit polls for impeaching Trump is nowhere near a majority, but as CNN has pointed out, 40% is much higher support for impeachment than most presidents face, including President Bill Clinton, who was actually impeached.

Support for impeachment is the highest in California, where 54% of 2018 voters back it, followed by New York with 52% support. The lowest is in North Dakota, Tennessee and West Virginia, where around a quarter of voters said they would support impeachment.
Well, if only 25% of West Virginia voters want Trump impeached you can see why Democrats would be reluctant to do it ...


"Just a couple of Facebook ads"

by digby

You will notice that he ignores the hacking and all the president's ecstatic and repeated praise for Wikileaks and the ongoing insistence that Russia didn't do it. Just a couple of Facebook ads. No biggie.

And then there is this:

Yet he took meetings proposed as the Russian government promising to provide dirt on Hillary Clinton. Five days after that, on June 14th, the Washington Post reported this:

It didn't occur to him then or any time later that something nefarious might be happening.

It's all fine. The Mueller report found that they hadn't entered into a conspiracy with the Russian government. So, the only conclusion that you can come to is that every last one of these people is an unethical, clueless, bumbler who shouldn't be allowed to drive cars or look after small children much less run the most powerful nation on earth.

The most amazing thing about it is that even after all this time, they truly don't seem to have even the slightest awareness of what people find so reckless and appalling about what they did. They are shameless morons, a very bad combination.


Busting the norms and breaking the law in every way possible

by digby

Josh Marshall raises the alarm about Trump's new tactic:

I’ve hinted at this in a few posts. It’s time to confront it head on. The White House isn’t doing the standard tussling with Congress about oversight: some stonewalling, some negotiation, taking some questions of privilege to court. It’s more accurately characterized as massive resistance. The Congress has a constitutionally mandated responsibility to oversee the executive branch. They are flatly refusing to comply with ordinary document production and testimonial requests across the board. It’s not a difference of degree but of kind. In itself it is an impeachment worthy refusal to follow the constitutionally mandated framework of American government. It’s up to Democrats to make this clear.

Now, what do the Democrats do? Some of it they’re already doing. Some of this will go to the Courts. They will need to request speedy resolution of open questions, while being careful not to forego the possibility of more positive decisions in the lower courts which might constrain, to some limited degree, Supreme Court adventurism.

The Congress will also need to try out some of its almost never used powers to literally compel testimony and document production.

But as much as anything else this is a political conflict: how to bring to heel a lawless President. The big error I see so far is that these joustings are being treated as legitimate legal processes which must be allowed to work their way through conventional processes and the courts. That’s not right and it gives the President free rein to try to run out the clock on any sort of oversight. Democrats need to find a language for the political debate that makes clear these are not tedious legal processes which will run their course. They are active cover-ups and law breaking, ones that confirm the President’s bad acting status and add to his and his top advisors legal vulnerability.

Sadly, it may just be that the Republicans and Democrats are on the same page. There is a school of thought in each party that says running out the clock will help them win in 2020. I can see how that helps Trump. I'm stymied as to why the Democrats would think it helps them.

But they're the professionals so ...


This is what the Trump voters are seeing.

by digby

Hannity's show last night:

They plan to hold hearings in the Senate on all this.


Make them take that vote

by digby

I don't think anyone can accuse Elizabeth Warren of avoiding those "kitchen table issues" that all the timorous Dems believe are the only thing the citizens of this country care about. But she is also able to articulate some principles about how to deal with the corrupt ignoramus in the White House and the cowardly enablers in his party:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was the first 2020 presidential candidate to call for the House to impeach President Trump after Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report was released Thursday. In a CNN town hall Monday night, she explained why impeachment is more important than politics, telling moderator Anderson Cooper, "There is no political inconvenience exception to the United States Constitution."

Warren read the entire redacted Mueller report right away, she said, and "three things just totally jump off the page. The first is that a hostile foreign government attacked our 2016 election in order to help Donald Trump. ... Part 2, Donald Trump welcomed that help," and "Part 3 is when the federal government starts to investigate Part 1 and Part 2, Donald Trump took repeated steps, aggressively, to try to halt the investigation." If any other American "had done what's documented in the Mueller report, they would be arrested and put in jail," she said.

Mueller decided he couldn't charge Trump with a crime, saying "in effect, if there's going to be any accountability, that accountability has to come from the Congress," Warren said. "And the tool that we are given for that accountability is the impeachment process. This is not about politics; this is about principle."

"I took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, and so did everybody else in the Senate and in the House," Warren said. "If there are people in the House or the Senate who want to say that's what a president can do when the president is being investigated for his own wrongdoings or when a foreign government attacks our country, then they should have to take that vote and live with it for the rest of their lives."

For some reason the Villagers and many of the Democrats are convinced that the American people as a whole have no principles and therefore really don't care about Trump's many crimes so the best thing to do is ignore them and just act as though it never happened. I appreciate Warren fighting that cynicism and saying out loud that this has to be fought head-on.


What If They Don't Impeach...And He Wins? 

by tristero

Stephen Collinson of CNN summarizes Pelosi's political dilemma:
If she chooses to avoid impeachment and Democrats put a new president in the White House, she will be vindicated. But if Trump wins reelection despite the choking cloud of scandal around his White House, Democrats may question why they didn't try to mortally wound him politically when they had the chance. 
Again, this is the political dilemma Pelosi finds herself in. But this is a dilemma of her own making because she is placing political calculation above the facts of his obstruction of justice; his campaign of active collusion with Russia by providing, among other things, polling information to them; his manifest incompetence; and his corruption.

And that is what we already know. If the Mueller report is ever completely released — it hasn't been and arguments that "we have seen enough to know what the rest says" are absurdly easy to refute — this list will be both deepened and added to.

And the facts lead to one conclusion. Trump must be impeached. Warren is right:
To ignore a President's repeated efforts to obstruct an investigation into his own disloyal behavior would inflict great and lasting damage on this country, and it would suggest that both the current and future Presidents would be free to abuse their power in similar ways.
It is that simple. Congress has to do its job:

But what if he wins despite impeachment? What if he uses the fact that the Senate did not vote to impeach as an excuse to make political hay and claim he was "acquitted of all charges?"

So what? He's already claiming that and he will do so regardless of what they say. Even if he gets impeached by both houses of Congress, he'd claim he was acquitted. That is a fact.

What is also a fact is that Trump will do literally anything — anything — to get re-elected. Cheat? Collude with Russia? Of course, and it will be terrible. That will have a far greater impact on the 2020 results than whatever the Congress does.

Politically, the Democrats have nothing to lose if they impeach and everything to gain. Impeachment will not mitigate Trump's behavior, change the Republicans' insane devotion to him, or substantially influence the presidential election's outcome. Regarding individual races, each candidate can support impeachment and craft messages of support for locally important issues. "Yes, I agree, I support a quick impeachment so we can get around to the far more important issue of protecting your healthcare from the Republicans'  obsession with eliminating pre-existing conditions. "

But if they impeach, Democrats will have done what's right, both in the eyes of the country today and in history. And it will likely lead to uncovering much worse.

PS Until fairly recently, I did not think it was a wise idea to impeach mostly because a Pence presidency was just as unthinkable as a Trump presidency. I was wrong. Congress has to do its job and we will have to take our chances.

UPDATE: Joe Lockhart makes the case that if Democrats leave Trump in office, that could wreck the modern Republican party:
Trumpism equals Republicanism as long as Donald Trump is at the top of the ticket. And a real shift to progressivism in America will be delivered by a devastating rebuke of the president and his party, a rebuke that will return control of the Senate and state houses across the nation. Politics is always a gamble — and this is the best bet we’ve had in a long time.

First, Trump (and his team) committed multiple felonies while in office and to get into office. It is both un-American and extremely dangerous to let him get away with it because he will commit more crimes - and worse.

Secondly, Lockhart assumes that the election will be reasonably fair. That is a wildly generous assumption. Letting Trump get away with this will embolden him (and give him the time) to work hard to suborn 2020.

Third, even if Trump loses but he is not impeached, this will, as Digby has pointed out, create a catastrophic precedent. It is more than likely that future (and far more competent) presidents can and will collude with foreign powers to enrich themselves and do so in a completely rigged election system. The American people will permanently lose representation.

No, Joe, we must impeach.