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Friday, May 31, 2019

Friday Night Soother

by digby

An endangered Matchie’s Tree Kangaroo joey from New Guinea has begun to peek out of its mother’s pouch at Zoo Miami. It is still basically confined to the pouch, where it will continue to develop for the next several months before venturing away from its mother. It will not be totally weaned until it is around a year old.

Though it is just now revealing itself on a regular basis, this joey was actually born October 14, 2018. As with most marsupials, Tree Kangaroos are born in an almost embryonic state after a pregnancy of about 44 days. The newborn is only the size of a jellybean and slowly crawls into the mother’s pouch where it locks onto a nipple and then the majority of development takes place. It takes several months before the joey actually sticks its head out of the pouch and is visible.

The mother, named Zayna, is 9 ½ years old and was born at the Sedgwick County Zoo in Kansas and the almost 11 year old father, named Banyon, was born at the Bronx Zoo in New York. The sex of their new offspring has not been determined, but it will eventually become part of an international captive breeding program. Zoo Miami has been a long time contributor to Matchie’s Tree Kangaroo conservation efforts in the wilds of New Guinea. Though this is Zayna’s third baby, it is the ninth of its kind to be born at Zoo Miami.

Matchie’s Tree Kangaroos (Dendrolagus matschiei) live at high elevations in the Huon Peninsula of Papua New Guinea where they spend most of their time up in trees feeding on a variety of leaves, ferns, moss, and bark. They are believed to be solitary animals, and the only strong social bond formed is between a mother and her offspring.

Can the Supreme Court really overturn an impeachment?

by digby

Quinta Jurecic at Lawfare addresses
this daft notiong that the Supreme Court could "rule against"impeachment. I think I assumed that Trump's comment the other day to that effect was just him being a moron. But it turns out that this is a real thing on the right. I should have known:

The suggestion was met with derision, including widespread suggestions that President Trump simply does not understand the Constitution. Laurence Tribe called the argument “idiocy.” “The Constitution? How Does It Work?” tweeted Dan Drezner. It’s tempting to write this off as just another ill-tempered presidential tweet. And it’s true that, without a dramatic change in the underlying case law, Trump’s suggestion of appealing an impeachment conviction to the Supreme Court is genuinely absurd. The Constitution establishes that “[t]he House ... shall have the sole Power of Impeachment” and that “[t]he Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments.”

But Trump’s suggestion of resorting to the Supreme Court to appeal an impeachment did not come out of nowhere. Prominent Trump defender Alan Dershowitz recently made an argument along the same lines, writing in an essay on “The Case Against Impeaching Trump” that “[w]ere a president to announce that he refused to accept the actions of the Senate in voting for his removal … and that he would not leave office unless the Supreme Court affirmed his removal, the people might well agree with him.” In the past, Trump has managed to make fringe legal arguments into commonplace talking points on Fox News. 
And so, while it’s easy to write off Trump’s tweet, it’s worth considering Cornell law professor Josh Chafetz’s suggestion that the statement should be read as “part of an ongoing effort to shift the constitutional debate around president-checking mechanisms.”

In that vein, below is an effort to examine why the Supreme Court has no power to review an impeachment and conviction.

The Supreme Court has already barred the possibility that it could serve as a court of appeals for impeachment in Nixon v. U.S. In that case, Judge Walter Nixon sought judicial review after he was removed from office following impeachment and conviction, arguing that the Senate had unconstitutionally used a special committee to conduct hearings rather than conducting the proceedings before the entire body. The court found Nixon’s claim to raise a political question and therefore to be nonjusticiable: Impeachment is characterized both by “a textually demonstrable constitutional commitment of the issue to a coordinate political department” and “a lack of judicially discoverable and manageable standards for resolving it,” two of the criteria for political questions as defined in Baker v. Carr.

In arguing that the Constitution commits “the issue to a coordinate political department”—that is, Congress—the court delves into the history of the impeachment provisions. Most notably, James Madison and the Committee of Detail originally proposed that impeachment should be the responsibility of the Supreme Court before the matter was moved to the Senate. It’s true that the Supreme Court has some link to impeachment insofar as the Constitution provides for the chief justice of the Supreme Court to preside over the Senate trial in an impeachment case. But Justice Joseph Story argued in “Commentaries on the Constitution” that the chief justice’s role is mainly due to “the necessity of excluding the vice president from the chair, when he might have a manifest interest, which would destroy his impartiality.”

Nixon concerned a procedural objection to impeachment, rather than a substantive one. But there is good reason to think that the precedent would also bar an appeal on, for example, disagreement over what constitutes a “high crime and misdemeanor.” Michael Gerhardt notes that “it is difficult to settle on judicially manageable standards, because the existence of an impeachable offense depends inexorably on Congress’s political judgment and on the particular circumstances of the alleged impeachable offense involved.” And the “demonstrable constitutional commitment of the issue to a coordinate political department” likewise remains.

Perhaps the most convincing argument against judicial review of impeachment comes, as ever, from Charles Black. Imagine, Black writes, that a president, after being impeached and convicted, appeals to the court, which then “puts the impeached and convicted president back in for the rest of his term. And we all live happily ever after. … I don’t think I possess the resources of rhetoric adequate to characterizing the absurdity of that position.”

Black’s point is less that the constitutional history and text show that the courts have no role to play here—though he does also argue this—and more that confusion on the matter could itself be fatal in the most extreme situation. What if military commanders are placed in the position of deciding which president is rightfully the chief executive?

But this confusion itself may be a strategy for a president on the brink of losing office, Black warns. A president removed from office by impeachment might appeal to the Supreme Court, have his case dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, and then “though quite wrongly ... persuade a part of the people that he had been denied his rightful day in court.”

In light of President Trump’s habit of insisting that he has been treated unfairly by every entity that resolves a dispute not in his favor, Black’s words are uncomfortably prescient.

I would have thought this was impossible. But after the court intervened in 2000 to install George W Bush, the clear loser of the popular vote, I no longer beieve the court would refuse to take such a blatantly partisan position.

So, we'll have to wait and see.

Oh look. Susan Collins has a little problem.

by digby

Joan McCarter brings the good news:
Happy Friday! Sen. Susan Collins' approval rating in Maine has dropped 17 points since last spring in the biannual tracking poll Critical Insights conducts in Maine. S.E.V.E.N.T.E.E.N. And 10 points since last fall. 
In what is "the longest-running consistently-administered tracking survey in the Northeast," Collins dropped from a 58% approval a year ago, to 51% last fall, to 41% this spring. She also only get a 46% approval rating among Republicans, and 31% from Democrats. In the words of the polling memo, "Approval of Senator Collins's job performance has declined dramatically since last fall, reaching a new low." She has't been underwater in this poll ever before (her disapproval is 42%). 
Bob Domine, President of Critical Insights, says "If I had to speculate on a single factor underlying this slip in Collin's approval rating, it would be her pivotal vote in Brett Kavanaugh's appointment to the Supreme Court. Her approval was both strong and steady prior to her vote last fall, and it has continued to slip since then." The president* she took that vote for, Donald Trump, has a 58% disapproval in the state, with just 34% approving.

Being a Donald Trump toadie doesn't always pay off does it? In fact,  it's just possible that a president with a 40% national approval rating is the kiss of death for anyone who lives in a state that isn't totally dominated by cultists.

Certainly, any Democrat who lives in a swing district should take a good look at those numbers. Donald Trump is not popular. There's no need to go easy on him.

A random sampling of Trump's numbers. Sure there are those states in which he's got a double digit positive approval rating. But you might be surprised at how weak he is in some states you might assume love him:

Alaska approval +1
Texas +3
Arizona -7
Nevada -7
Iowa -8
Indiana +3
Kansas +2
Wisconsin -13
Michigan -13
Wisconsin -13
Ohio -4
Pennsylvania -7
North Carolina -2
Florida -2

There is no reason for Democrats to be so scared of this man. They need to take a stand.


QOTD: Bill Barr

by digby

I think one of the ironies today is that people are saying that it's President Trump that's shredding our institutions. I really see no evidence of that, it is hard, and I really haven't seen bill of particulars as to how that's being done.

From my perspective the idea of resisting a democratically elected president and basically throwing everything at him and you know, really changing the norms on the grounds that we have to stop this president, that is where the shredding of our norms and our institutions is occurring.

The fact that this "democratically elected president" was "democratically elected" in an election in which that president welcomed a foreign government interfering to sabotage his rival's campaign in order to help him win and then did everything he could to obstruct an investigation into what happened doesn't seem to enter into his calculation.

There are a number of ways in which Barr made it clear that he is living in a Fox News bubble.


If you want to see how truly disingenuous Barr has been, read this one at Emptywheel.


Kim Jong Un on the rampage and Trump says nothing

by digby

Trump's BFF is executing people who have been working with the Trump administration. No word from Trump. He's undoubtedly fine with this and wishes he could do the same:

North Korea executed Kim Hyok Chol, its special envoy to the United States, and foreign ministry officials who carried out working-level negotiations for the second U.S.-North Korea summit in February, holding them responsible for its collapse, a South Korean newspaper reported on Friday.

Kim Yong Chol, a senior official who had been U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s counterpart in the run-up to the summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, is also said to have been subjected to forced labor and ideological education, the Chosun Ilbo reported.

The North Korean leader is believed to be carrying out a massive purge to divert attention away from internal turmoil and discontent, the newspaper said.

“Kim Hyok Chol was investigated and executed at Mirim Airport with four foreign ministry officials in March,” an unnamed North Korea source said, according to the Chosun Ilbo, adding that they were charged with spying for the United States.

Kim Hyok Chol had been negotiations counterpart to U.S. special representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun before the summit.

Kim Yong Chol was forced to work in Jagang Province after his dismissal, the source said, adding that Kim Song Hye, who carried out working-level negotiations with Kim Hyok Chol, was sent to a political prison camp, Chosun reported.

Shin Hye Yong, the interpreter for Kim Jong Un at the Hanoi meeting, is also said to have been detained in a political prison camp, for undermining the authority of Kim Jong Un by making a critical interpretation mistake, Chosun reported.

Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un’s sister who aided him in Hanoi, is also said to be lying low, the paper reported, citing an unnamed South Korean government official who said “We are not aware of Kim Yo Jong’s track record since the Hanoi meeting ... We understand that Kim Jong Un has made her lie low.”

North Korean state newspaper Rodong Sinmun said in a commentary on Thursday that “Acting like one is revering the Leader in front (of others) but dreaming of something else when one turns around, is an anti-Party, anti-revolutionary act that has thrown away the moral fidelity toward the Leader, and such people will not avoid the stern judgment of the revolution.”

“There are traitors and turncoats who only memorize words of loyalty toward the Leader and even change according to the trend of the time,” the commentary said.

It is the first time since the December 2013 execution of Jang Song Thaek, Kim Jong Un’s uncle, that expressions hinting at purging such as “anti-party, anti-revolutionary” and “stern judgment” appeared in Rodong Sinmun, Chosun Ilbo said.

An official at South Korea’s Unification Ministry declined comment.

Trump admires this sort of control:


Barr vs Mueller makes Mueller a witness

by digby

My Salon column this morning:

It's too soon to tell for sure, but a couple of events this week may turn out to have been turning points in the Trump era. First, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, a conservative Republican held a town hall meeting in his district to explain to his constituents why he has decided the president should be impeached. He was surprisingly well received. We learned that even some conservatives appreciate someone who has the courage to buck the party leadership on an issue of principle. Perhaps there's a lesson in that for Democrats.

The other event was the first comment anyone has heard from the sphinx-like special counsel Robert Mueller. More than few reporters and pundits called it a "game-changer," if only because Mueller's appearance proved that personal testimony is much more effective at telling a story than expecting people to read a 400-page report. If Mueller didn't say anything on Wednesday that he hadn't already said in the report, what he said was received very differently.

Some of that was understandable, since Attorney General William Barr's interpretation of the report was highly misleading and he has repeatedly put himself in front of the cameras to muddy the waters ever since the report was turned over. Barr even raced to a TV studio while on vacation in Alaska to respond to Mueller's comments, clearly intending to get in the final word.

As Salon's Amanda Marcotte observed, the right-wing punditocracy (and Donald Trump) are very well aware of what Mueller said, and what he meant. They reacted with the vitriolic hysteria one would expect. The reason is obvious. They know that in his restrained way, Mueller made one thing very clear on Wednesday: His report was intended to be taken up by the Congress as an impeachment referral.

But Mueller's statement on Wednesday, summing up his investigation with a focus on his reasons for not charging Trump with a crime — despite all the evidence of criminal behavior documented in Volume II of his report — showed once again that Mueller and Barr have very different points of view about the obligations of a special counsel and the responsibilities of the Department of Justice. We now know for sure that Mueller does not agree with Barr's decision to declare that Trump did not obstruct justice.

Even Fox News understood what they had just seen. Lead news anchor Bret Baier said this right after the statement:

This was not, as the president says time and time again, "no collusion, no obstruction. It was much more nuanced than that. ... [Mueller] said specifically if they had found that the president did not commit a crime on obstruction, they would have said that, and then went into specific details about the DOJ policy and why they couldn’t move forward with anything else than their decision.
Mueller had certainly made his point clearly enough in his appearance at the Justice Department:

First, the [Office of Legal Counsel] opinion explicitly permits the investigation of a sitting president, because it is important to preserve evidence while memories are fresh and documents available. Among other things, that evidence could be used if there were co-conspirators who could be charged now. 
And second, the opinion says that the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing. And beyond department policy, we were guided by principles of fairness. It would be unfair to potentially — it would be unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no court resolution of the actual charge.
That other process the Constitution requires is, of course, impeachment.

Contrary to Barr's implication in his various statements, Mueller didn't come to the end of the investigation, throw up his hands and declare that he just couldn't figure out what to do. He stated that he had been operating under those interpretations of the mandate from the moment he began the investigation and that he had kept Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in the loop throughout. Barr knew what was coming and understood exactly why Mueller wrote the report the way he did.

Despite all that courtly desire to be fair to the president (who called Mueller and his team "some of the worst people on earth" on Thursday) Mueller famously observed, "If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so." They did not have that confidence and that's because the report shows that the president obstructed justice numerous times, based on testimony by his closest associates. Yet a mere 48 hours after Mueller submitted his report to Barr, the attorney general stated categorically that Trump had not committed a crime, obviating the entire purpose of naming a special counsel to make an independent judgment in the first place.

As I mentioned, Barr gave a rushed interview with CBS News in Alaska to respond to Mueller's comments. He said he believed Mueller should have made a conclusion as to whether Trump committed crimes, even if he couldn't be indicted. This is obviously disingenuous. Barr knows very well what conclusion Mueller reached. He is cynically relying on Mueller's anachronistic sense of honor to keep this disagreement from exploding into a public brawl.

Even more disturbing, Barr made a claim he's made before that sounds very ominous for the future if other attorneys general adopt his view. He disagrees with Mueller that evidence gathered by the Department of Justice on a sitting president can be used by Congress for an impeachment proceeding, once again suggesting that the DOJ is not an independent institution. Specifically he said that "the Department of Justice doesn't use our powers of investigating crimes as an adjunct to Congress."

It sounds as though the attorney general does not believe the Department of Justice should ever investigate a president. If it cannot indict him, and cannot collect evidence against him that might be used by Congress, then there is really no point. Essentially, Barr believes that a sitting president is above the law or, as Richard Nixon famously put it, "If the president does it, it's not illegal."

We don't know what's been happening behind the scenes at the Justice Department, but Barr and the Mueller team are not on the same page. Apparently, people needed to hear from Mueller directly in order to understand that. As much as Mueller may not want to go up on Capitol Hill and testify, he's probably going to have to do it. Witness testimony is the only way to make anyone listen to the evidence. And whether Mueller likes it or not — and he clearly doesn't — this dispute with Barr over whether or not the president of the United States committed a crime has turned the former special counsel into a witness as well.


Incurious and Lied To 

by tristero

Last night, Maddow mentioned this little telling anecdote:

Cathy Garnaat, a Republican who supported Amash and the president said she was upset about Amash’s position but wanted to hear his reasoning. She said that she will definitely support Trump in 2020 but that Tuesday night was the first time she had heard that the Mueller report didn’t completely exonerate the president. 
“I was surprised to hear there was anything negative in the Mueller report at all about President Trump. I hadn’t heard that before," she said. "I’ve mainly listened to conservative news and I hadn’t heard anything negative about that report and President Trump has been exonerated."
Think about what Cathy's saying for a moment: Cathy supported Trump. Cathy never heard before that there was anything negative in the Mueller report. But she will definitely support Trump in the future.

Okay... That's the equivalent of saying, "I really like to smoke 2 packs a day. I never heard that smoking 2 packs a day will kill me. But because I never heard it before, I'll definitely continue to smoke 2 packs a day."


They cheat like Trump lies

by Tom Sullivan

Thomas Hofeller (C-Span image).

"If you gerrymander the census, you can gerrymander everything," Ari Berman of Mother Jones told Chris Hayes Thursday night on MSNBC's "All In." Berman spoke to Hayes about the New York Times blockbuster report on new evidence in pending litigation over the 2020 census.

The Department of Commerce v. New York case before the Supreme Court will determine whether the government may add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. Just weeks before a ruling is expected, a court filing Thursday morning alleges Trump administration officials concealed the origins and true purpose of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross's memo requesting the addition of a citizenship question. Commerce claims the data would enhance enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. Plaintiffs (and quite a few minority advocates) alleged that was a pretext for rigging the census to deliberately undercount minority populations. Documents turned up in North Carolina support the plaintiffs.

Thomas B. Hofeller, the godfather of Republican gerrymandering efforts, died last August at 75. He left a cache of external hard drives and flash drives his estranged daughter, Stephanie Hofeller Lizon, turned over to Common Cause in March. The drives contained 75,000 documents, many relating to Hofeller's redistricting efforts. Lawyers for the plaintiffs in Common Cause v. Lewis are challenging North Carolina's state legislative districts as unconstitutional gerrymanders. Hofeller, a cartographer, drew those state districts. The case goes before a three-judge Superior Court panel on July 15. (The federal case challenging the state's congressional maps is awaiting a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June.)

The same law firm handles both the North Carolina and New York cases. Attorneys turned up evidence Hofeller was the originator of the census scheme detailed in the Times report:

The court filing on Thursday describes two instances in which Mr. Hofeller’s digital fingerprints are clearly visible on Justice Department actions.

The first involves a document from the Hofeller hard drives created on Aug. 30, 2017, as Mr. Ross’s wooing of the Justice Department was nearing a crescendo. The document’s single paragraph cited two court decisions supporting the premise that more detailed citizenship data would assist enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.

That paragraph later appeared word for word in a draft letter from the Justice Department to the Census Bureau that sought a citizenship question on the 2020 census. In closed congressional testimony in March, John M. Gore, the assistant attorney general for civil rights and the Justice Department’s chief overseer of voting rights issues, said Mr. Neuman gave him the draft in an October 2017 meeting.

The second instance involves the official version of the Justice Department’s request for a citizenship question, a longer and more detailed letter sent to the Census Bureau in December 2017. That letter presents nuanced and technical arguments that current citizenship data falls short of Voting Rights Act requirements — arguments that the plaintiffs say are presented in exactly the same order, and sometimes with identical descriptions like “building blocks” — as in Mr. Hofeller’s 2015 study.
The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website, hired Hofeller in August 2015 "to study the 'practicality' and 'political and demographic effects' of using citizen voting age population ('CVAP') in lieu of total population ('TPOP') to achieve equal population in redistricting," plaintiffs allege. Hofeller ultimately concluded this scheme was unworkable “[w]ithout a question on citizenship being included on the 2020 Decennial Census questionnaire.”

Attorneys Arnold & Porter allege Ross’s expert advisor A. Mark Neuman and senior Department of Justice official John Gore lied in testimony about the origins of the request. The Times describes Newman as a decades-long friend of Mr. Hofeller’s. The court filing further alleges Hofeller crafted the Voting Rights rationale behind the citizenship question to conceal its actual purpose (emphasis mine):
Dr. Hofeller concluded in a 2015 study that adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census “would clearly be a disadvantage to the Democrats” and “advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites” in redistricting...
Karen Flynn, president of Common Cause, issued a statement on the discovery:
“The evidence reveals that the plan to add the citizenship question was hatched by the Republicans’ chief redistricting mastermind to create an electoral advantage for Republicans and non-Hispanic whites. This contradicts testimony by Administration officials that they wanted to add the question to benefit Latino voters, when in fact the opposite was true.”
The citizenship question was already going to drive down minority representation, Berman observes. But there's more [timestamp 29:25]:
"But Hofeller and others want to go beyond that. They want to say, okay, we're going to have an undercount and then on top of that we're going to draw districts based only on citizenship, which is going to further reduce the clout of Hispanics and other minority and immigrant groups, so that we can draw as many districts as possible for white Republicans. It will make the gerrymandering we saw in 2010 look tame by comparison."
The GOP electoral stratagem resembles a set of Russian nesting dolls. Gerrymandering, photo ID laws, a myriad of voting rights restrictions passed nationwide, plus a stolen Supreme Court seat confirm Republican leaders' desperation to retain power by any and all means necessary. Add manipulating the census to that list. Republicans believe they cannot win without rigging elections in their favor. They exhibit no compunction about doing so.

Ms. Lizon, a self-described political progressive, "despises Republican partisanship, but also has scant respect for Democrats," the Times reports. Her father schooled her in conservative principles but proved by his actions he had abandoned them in pursuit of permanent Republican Party control.

In that, she can be confident her father was not alone.


While the Roberts Court will never explicitly endorse a white man’s government in the way the Redemption Court did, in pursuit of other cherished ideological goals it will be asked to pave the road for a white man’s government by another name. – Adam Serwer, The Atlantic, September 4, 2018

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Shameless quote of the day

by digby

Did I tell you they were shameless? That they had retired the concept of hypocricy? That they will say anything?


That's right. Rush Limbaugh is taking shots at Jerry Nadler's weight.



I'm sure his audience laughed maniacally.

Mueller Time has expired

by digby

Dahlia Lithwick at Slate says Mueller has passed the norm-respecting-adult baton toe House Democrats. Oh God:

Robert Mueller is a man who wants nothing to do with the incipient decline of norms, civility, and the rule of law. That’s why we never should have been surprised when he originally tried to put out his meticulous report and then, essentially, ghost us. That is also why we shouldn’t be surprised that he spent this morning essentially repeating exactly what he put in his report two months ago, a report he would really like us to read. Mueller wrote his special counsel report for a world in which it is assumed that facts and truth will inform actions. As his speech this morning made clear, he still believes that we live in this world. We do not.

We live in the world where, for the next few hours, Fox News will continue its witch-hunt narrative while offering up the view that there should be show trials for former FBI Director James Comey and former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. And MSNBC will insist that Robert Mueller all but said that the president obstructed justice and could not constitutionally be charged.

For anyone who’s been hoping that Mueller is going to lead us out of this morass, well, no, he’s not.

Perhaps the only thing that will break through the Yanny-v.-Laurel divide is the sound of Congress stiffening its collective spine after weeks of incoherent claims that the nation is in the grip of a constitutional crisis of unprecedented proportions about which it does not intend to act. With Republican Rep. Justin Amash already there, the question is whether this moves congressional Democrats, who hold the majority, or if they will instead settle for strong feelings about infrastructure.

For anyone who’s been hoping that Mueller is going to lead us out of this morass, well, no, he’s not. What he seems to have reinforced is that he doesn’t want to testify and that he didn’t want to talk publicly and that if Congress cannot show leadership on this question, that’s on Congress, not him. So, congressional Democrats waiting for a clear sign on what to do from their constituents will probably be waiting for a while—Mueller hardly delivered the resounding closing argument the voting public might have required. In his view, that argument rests in the penumbras and emanations of Volume 2 of his original report.

Too bad Americans aren't going to read it. But I guess he figures he's done his part and it's now up to the political system to deal with the criminal in the White House. Unfortunately, they don't seem to have read it either. If they did, and had any intellectual integrity at all, they would be embarrassed to assert that the case is closed:

But mostly, what Mueller proved definitively with his summary of the summary of the report is this: that if Congress opts to do nothing about foreign interference, it is Congress’ failure, not his. One clear message of Mueller’s brief statement, and indeed, the message of the entire first volume of his report, is that “Russian intelligence officers who are part of the Russian military launched a concerted attack on our political system” and that this attack occurred to the detriment of Hillary Clinton. This used to be a fact that would have united the American government behind some course of action. This no longer seems to be the case, and that is to our detriment. Again, Mueller told us all this two months ago.

Mueller also made clear that he was tasked with nothing more or less than doing a sweeping investigation. He said, in so many words, that obstruction of that investigation impaired the knowing of truth and that the president could not be cleared of such obstruction. If Congress opts to do nothing about those who obstructed or lied, they aid and abet that which “strikes at the core of the government’s effort to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable,” the special counsel said today. He is, in a way, linking his own ability to finish the job to Congress’ unwillingness to do its own.

Regardless, Mueller’s tenure as America’s Facts Adult is thus over. The role of America’s Facts Adult will now be played by the House of Representatives. Whether anyone heard and understood that the handing over of the baton just happened, it happened. What happens next is solely within the control of Congress, which means we should all buckle in for a continuation of the Yanny-or-Laurel debate, with no particular end in sight

Here's the Fresh Prince of Bizarroworld just today:


A view from the right

by digby

If there were any doubts about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s political intentions, his unprecedented press conference on Wednesday should put them all to rest. As he made abundantly clear during his doddering reading of a prepared statement that repeatedly contradicted itself, Mueller had no interest in the equal application of the rule of law. He gave the game, and his nakedly political intentions, away repeatedly throughout his statement.

“It is important that the office’s written work speak for itself,” Mueller said, referring to his office’s 448-page report. Mueller’s report was released to the public by Attorney General William Barr nearly six weeks ago. The entire report, minus limited redactions required by law, has been publicly available, pored through, and dissected. Its contents have been discussed ad nauseum in print and on television. The report has been speaking for itself since April 18, when it was released.

If it’s important for the work to speak for itself, then why did Mueller schedule a press conference in which he would speak for it weeks after it was released? The statement, given the venue in which it was provided, is self-refuting.

Let’s start with the Mueller team’s unique take on the nature of a prosecutor’s job. The standard American view of justice, affirmed and enforced by the U.S. Constitution, is that all are presumed innocent absent conviction by a jury of a specific charge of criminal wrongdoing. That is, the natural legal state of an individual in this country is innocence. It is not a state or a nature bestowed by cops or attorneys. Innocence is not granted by unelected bureaucrats or federal prosecutors.

At one point in his remarks, Mueller seemed to agree. Referring to indictments against various Russian individuals and institutions for allegedly hacking American servers during the 2016 election, Mueller said that the indictments “contain allegations and we are not commenting on the guilt or innocence of any specific defendant.”

“Every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”

Had he stopped there, he would have been correct. But then he crafted a brand new standard.

“The order appointing the special counsel authorized us to investigate actions that could obstruct the investigation. We conducted that investigation and kept the office of the acting attorney general apprised of our work,” Mueller said. “After that investigation, if we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”

According to Mueller and his team, charged Russians are presumed innocent. An American president, however, is presumed guilty unless and until Mueller’s team determines he is innocent. Such a standard is an obscene abomination against the rule of law, one that would never be committed by independent attorneys who place a fidelity to their oaths and impartial enforcement of the law ahead of their political motivations.

The contradictions and double standards didn’t stop there, though.

“It would be unfair to potentially accuse somebody of a crime when there can be no court resolution of the actual charge,” Mueller said, after all but stating that Trump committed a crime for which Mueller never charged him. Just as Mueller’s own words and actions at the Wednesday press conference prove that he didn’t want his team’s report to speak for itself, the report itself proves that Mueller and his team don’t believe it’s unfair to accuse somebody of something a court cannot resolve.

If they actually believed that, then the 240-page volume II of their report on their obstruction investigation of the president would never have been authored. After all, according to Mueller’s own statement, such an operation would be patently unfair. And if it’s unfair to air dirty laundry against a target who was never charged, surely it’s doubly unfair to do so in writing and on camera during a press conference whose mere existence refutes the very claims of its host.

Apparently, he missed the part about how unlike every other citizen in this country it's been determined that a sitting president can't be indicted, putting him in a completely different category than any of the rest of us, creating a totally different legal framework.

Mueller rightly determined that because Trump couldn't be indicted, any evidence they found against him could only be gathered and preserved for prosecution after the president is out of office or used by the congress as part of their constitutional obligation. It's a unique situation in American law and comparing it to standard legal procedures is fatuous.

Personally, I think the OLC opinion is flawed and a president should be indictable and it should be put on hold until he's out of office. The congress can then impeach (or not) and after the president is out of office one way or the other, he would then be treated like any private citizen would be treated. But as it stands, we have a very weird situation in which Donald Trump can't be indicted despite committing obvious crimes and Republicans are now saying that means he shouldn't have been investigated either. (I say Donald Trump because we know they would not have this view of any Democratic president.)

To top that off, this White House is defying congressional subpoenas, dangling pardons, refusing to provide documents and otherwise behaving as if executive power is absolute and the president is completely above the law. So far, he is.

"To me, it's a dirty word — the word impeach. It's a dirty, filthy, disgusting word.”

by digby

“I don't see how they can because they're possibly allowed, although I can't imagine the courts allowing it. I’ve never gone into it. I never thought that would even be possible to be using that word. To me, it's a dirty word — the word impeach. It's a dirty, filthy, disgusting word.” 
Circling back to whether he thought he would be impeached, he told reporters, “I don’t think so, because there was no crime.” 
He returned to a flawed argument he and his backers have long put forth to dismiss the threat of Trump’s impeachment. 
“You know, it's high crimes and, not with — or — it’s high crimes and misdemeanors,” he said. “There was no high crime and there was no misdemeanor. So how do you impeach based on that?”

That wasn't the only demonstration of his very stable genius understanding of the Constitution:

He was very upset about Robert Mueller this morning. Contrary to conventional wisdom, it almost seems like he doesn't really want to be impeached after all.


The gravedigger of democracy is now throwing dirt on the coffin

by digby

You cannot get any more malevolently partisan than this:

The Senate will not vote on any legislation to protect US elections from foreign interference, a Republican committee chair said, despite the consensus of the intelligence community that Russia will once again seek to hack election systems and manipulate American voters in 2020.

The reason, said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) on Wednesday, is that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has decided not to bring any election security bills to the floor for a vote. Blunt’s remark occurred during a hearing of the Rules and Administration Committee, which has oversight of election administration. When Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) asked Blunt, the chairman, whether he was planning mark-ups of any of the several election security bills pending before the committee, Blunt responded that it would be fruitless to advance legislation that McConnell would not allow to come up for a vote.

“I don’t see any likelihood that those bills would get to the floor if we marked them up,” Blunt said. After prodding from Durbin, Blunt explained, “I think the majority leader just is of the view that this debate reaches no conclusion.”

Actually, he can top that:

Mitch McConnell, who blocked Barack Obama's Supreme Court pick in 2016, during that year's presidential campaign, said he'd be fine helping to confirm Donald Trump's choice if an opening were to occur on the nation's high court in the 2020 election cycle.

"Uh, we'd fill it," the Senate majority leader from Kentucky responded with a wry smile Tuesday when asked about such a scenario during city chamber lunch in Paducah.


Phishing for Gynecology

by tristero

From The Guardian:

A popular women’s health and fertility app sows doubt about birth control, features claims from medical advisers who are not licensed to practice in the US, and is funded and led by anti-abortion, anti-gay Catholic campaigners, a Guardian investigation has found. 
The Femm app, which collects personal information about sex and menstruation from users, has been downloaded more than 400,000 times since its launch in 2015, according to developers. It has users in the US, the EU, Africa and Latin America, its operating company claims. 
Two of the app’s medical advisers are not licensed to practice in the US and are also closely tied to a Catholic university in Santiago, Chile, where access to abortion remains severely restricted. 
Femm receives much of its income from private donors including the Chiaroscuro Foundation, a charity backed almost exclusively by Sean Fieler, a wealthy Catholic hedge-funder based in New York. 
Fieler’s foundation has long supported organizations – and politicians such as the vice-president, Mike Pence – that oppose birth control and abortion. Fieler has criticized Republicans for failing to outlaw abortion, calling their reticence “the tyranny of moderation” in a recent editorial. 
The Chiaroscuro Foundation, with Fieler as its chairman and main backer, provided $1.79m to the developers of the Femm app over the last three years, according to IRS statements. Fieler also sits on the board of directors for the Femm Foundation, a not-for-profit which operates the app. 
The Femm app does not readily disclose the philosophy of its funders or leaders, and markets itself as a way to “avoid or achieve pregnancy”. 
Other fertility apps have been criticized for monetizing intimate data, sharing data with third parties and lack of privacy protections. Femm has not been accused of such behaviour, but appears to be the first ideologically aligned fertility app. 
The Femm app’s literature sows doubt about the safety and efficacy of hormonal birth control, asserting that it may be deleterious to a woman’s health and that a safer, “natural” way for women to avoid pregnancy is to learn their cycles.
The nausea this cynical tactic induces is mixed with serious alarm.

Femm merely got exposed. There surely are many, many more apps and online initiatives out there collecting information purely for ideological purposes. And it is only a matter of time before shaming, blackmail, extortion, or worse becomes a major problem. And not just about reproductive tactics, but about anything that thoroughly decent people would want to keep private and only share with trusted others.

What should people do about on-line death threats?
by Spocko

In this piece about the threats that AOC gets, she tweets about the "anonymous" threats that they get.

So, the Capitol Police are building files. Great. What happens next? We often hear about how the Secret Service goes and has a "talk" with people who make threats to the President or other high-ranking politicians. Are AOC and IIhar Omar getting help from the Secret Service or FBI? If so, I'd like to read about people who have been arrested, tried and convicted. People need to read about those stories. These people can easily be caught they not criminal cyber masterminds. The issue is the will, the resources and the education of the public about what is threatening speech and appropriate responses.

They need to hear stories about people like Patrick W. Carlineo, 55, of Addison New York who called Omar’s D.C. office on March 21 and threatened to shoot and kill the congresswoman.

According to a criminal complaint and affidavit, Carlineo, of Addison, New York, was arrested after he made a call on March 21 to the representative’s office in Washington, D.C. During the call, he said, “Do you work for the Muslim Brotherhood? Why are you working for her, she’s a fucking terrorist. I’ll put a bullet in her fucking skull,” CNN reported. 
Upon being interviewed by the FBI, Carlineo denied he threatened Omar’s life, claiming that he actually said, “If our forefathers were still alive, they’d put a bullet in her head.” However, after FBI agents reminded Carlineo that they had tapes of the phone call and that lying to the FBI is itself a federal crime, he backtracked and said he didn’t remember what he said in the heat of the moment.

He faces a sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000. He was released from prison on May 3. The conditions of his release include home detention with electronic monitoring and a mental health assessment, treatment.

Law enforcement had executed a search warrant on April 5 and confiscated six weapons including a loaded shotgun. He set to be due back in court on June 7.

For a long time I've been thinking about how poorly we deal with on-line threats. Especially to women and especially from men with guns.

I think an organization needs to step in to help people (especially women) who get threatened online. There are groups that defend speech, but as I have pointed out again and again, threatening speech is not protected speech.

I know there are groups that take on this task. Like American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence, Battered Women’s Justice Project (BWJP), The Center for Survivor Agency and Justice  I'm sure some groups already help their members. But perhaps there needs to be a coalition of groups to work on this from multiple angles.
Does there need to be a new group? If I were to put this together I would include
  • Women who have gone through this entire process. I've learned from my friends in the Gun Violence Prevention movement, "Listen to Survivors!"
  • Experts in computer tracking, surveillance and security.
  • Experts on free speech
  • Experts in domestic violence cases.
  • Private investigators
  • Law enforcement from multiple states
  • Former prosecutors. 
  • Personal injury lawyers for civil suits.
    Corporate HR lawyers
    who understand how a corporate brand can be damaged when employees are caught making death threats.
    First Amendment lawyers they know what is protected and what isn't, and can prepare for the typical excuses
  • Social media and media experts
  • Rich backers for seed money (I'm thinking George Soros, since he is already accused of funding everything, and he already prepared to deal with people who hate him.)
Groups that I think could be involved include:
Planned Parenthood,
since they deal with threats every day and have a smart social media team
Everytown For Gun Safety, because threats often come from men with guns, they can address the use of Extreme Risk Protection Laws in states where they exists and then the need for them where they don't.
Southern Poverty Law Center, for their understanding of where the hate comes from. And importantly, they have a history of legal cases that defund the people and groups who have spread hate speech.

One of the reasons that I focus on civil cases is that I want cases that would be MONEY MAKERS for lawyers. Yes, that's right. I think that if the threat comes from someone who has the assets, there should be financial consequence to that person. Then, if the case is won, the individual can donate some of the money to the organization that provided the help. This can fund cases of threats from people who don't have assets.

PART II Goals of the Threat Group:

Identify the people who are making the threats (if they are anonymous)

Determine the threat level to see what lines it does or does not cross.

Develop methods and strategies to address the case and deal with the people making the threats in an effective way that stop the threats and changes the behavior to reduce future threats.  

The Steps For Threat Team:

 As I wrote in my piece: What to do when a Trump supporter threatens you, I'm a big believer in giving the perpetrator a chance to apologize, make amends and then walk away.

 This is good for a couple of reasons. First, it gives them a second chance and an opportunity to clarify.  If they don't, and state their intent to cause harm, this provides additional leverage if the case comes to court as a criminal case. Establishing intent is an important because of Elonis V. Facebook)

Second, if you DON'T want to go to court, but you have established intent enough for a criminal case, it strengthens a civil case and other actions.

Third, I know how the right wing loves to use processes designed to protect people from threats as a club against people. We already see this when the right wing using Facebook's Terms and Conditions and Community standards to block comments and get people kicked off of Facebook.

Show men the stupidity of doubling down on threatening speech: Right wing men today seem to love threatening and "doubling down" on stupid comments. Maybe because they think it makes them look like tough guys. If that happens, then it's time to pursue actions against the perpetrator.

When people without Trumps wealth, power and team of mob lawyers double down, they don't win. They get busted. They also are like rump after they get busted so they will want to go after the person they threatened for getting them in trouble, so there needs to be protection for the people who were threatened. This is also another reason to have a third party involved in representing the person who was threatened.
Not everyone wants to pursue criminal actions, sometimes alerting the perpetrator that you know who they are and will reveal more if they don't stop is enough. This step, showing the perpetrator that you have the resources and a plan to stand up to them might be enough.

However much I want to go into prosecutor mode,  I have to remember to put the survivor and their needs first.  It is important to listen to the the person threatened when deciding next steps. Because as I know, bullies don't always back down so....

Prepare to take evidence of their threatening actions to their employers if necessary. (This is where the HR corporate lawyers advice comes in. Most corporations have codes of conduct that, while not rising to the level of a criminal offense, would be a violation of a corporate policy)
Patrick W. Carlineo Jr.'s home. Probably not a lot of  assets to seize there.

Look to ways to condemn these actions from a group and in a manner that they care about.
Who are the sources of societal respect they crave? Do they consider themselves a Christian? Can the head of the Church be alerted?

Are there women in their lives, mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters etc. that would be appalled by their threats?

Are they a proud member of a school, university, professional society, sports team, community group?
In the research on bullies it shows that when people who are connected to the bully, but aren't bullies themselves, band together to tell the bully to knock it off, it often has a bigger impact that outsiders coming in. This group of associates who the bully craves approval from is not the same as fellow bullies. They are the ones who can send a message about unacceptable behavior that can influence others who might not speak up.

If there are no moderating entities (or entities that encourage and condone this) go for the wallet on those who have money:

In the era of Trump, it is necessary to send a message to nasty rich people who threaten others. (see Gretchen Carlson vs. Roger Ailes for $20 million. Bill O'Reilly vs 6 women for $45 million)

On one hand winning sexual harassment cases puts the fear of financial ruin into people who do it, but also, it puts the dollar signs in the eyes of the people who wouldn't take on the case if there wasn't a financial reward at the end of the case. Some people only get serious and take action if there is a financial penalty or reward. This is something even market based libertarians can understand.

Death threats are deplorable and when they rise to the level of a criminal act that needs to be addressed as such. The people who push threats in a broader way are skirting the law with their vague speech. What they are saying is obvious to most reasonable people, but because of a lack of resources and a method to address it, the threateners keep getting away with it.

Some people have been given a chance over and over again to stop with threatening speech yet they continue. Threatening speech is not protected speech and when people cross the line, there needs to be consequences.


The birds are not Hitchcock's

by Tom Sullivan

The alarm sounded weeks ago when a U.N. report warned 1 million of the estimated 8 million plant and animal species on Earth risk extinction from human activities. Researchers see declines "at rates unprecedented in human history."

Hundreds of tufted puffins washed up dead in Alaska'a Pribilof Islands in October 2016. Residents of St. Paul's Island who found some alive reported they were "emaciated, sick, and unable to fly." Researchers estimated between 3,150 and 8,800 puffins died in the last months of 2016. It was another of the mass-mortality events becoming more common.

The retreat of sea ice from the Bering Sea may be to blame, writes The Atlantic's Ed Yong:

The ice sheets create a layer of super-cold water called the “cold pool,” which sits at the bottom of the Bering Sea. Pollock, cod, and other fish like to congregate in large numbers at the edges of this pool, providing excellent hunting grounds for puffins and other sea birds. When the cold pool doesn’t form, as has been in the case in recent years, the fish spread out over larger distances, and are harder to catch.

And when they are caught, they’re worth less. In the warmer waters, the plankton have shifted toward smaller and less energy-rich species, and the fish that eat those plankton have become similarly thinner in calories. Fish-eating birds, such as puffins, “are going from Clif Bars to rice cakes,” Parrish says. “They have to work much harder to get the same energy content. And this is happening over thousands of square kilometers of ocean, so it’s not like they can say, ‘Oh, there’s no Clif Bars here, so I’ll go to the next grocery store.’”

The birds typically molt between August and October. Individuals that cannot find enough food to replace their feathers will not survive.

It’s no coincidence that most of the tufted puffins that washed up during St. Paul’s mass-mortality event were in the middle of molting. At a time when they were most in need of food, and least able to get it, the dwindling sea ice forced them to travel farther afield for sparse, energy-poor scraps. “In short, climate change causes seabird starvation,” says Melanie Smith, the conservation director for Audubon Alaska. “It’s not the only factor at play, but it is the common thread among similar events.”

Gray whales are washing up dead on the west coast. A ninth washed up about the time the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) released its report in early May. Of the eight others discovered since March, three had died from collisions with ships. The rest died of malnutrition.

Four dead whales have washed up dead this season in Alaska. Discovered on the Kenai Peninsula, the latest is “a small, super skinny whale,” says pathologist Kathy Burek Huntington of Alaska Veterinary Pathology Services:

NOAA says that over the past 18 years, Alaska typically sees up to three gray whale strandings from January 1 through the end of May, though in the year 2000, there were 18.
The Alaska whales bring the total dead gray whales from Mexico to Alaska to more than 60, a near-record number.

Dead whale found near Clam Gulch on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula (NOAA Photo).

John Calambokidis, founder of the Cascadia Research in Olympia, Washington, tells NPR's "Here and Now" most of the whale deaths are from starvation:

He gives two reasons for this lack of fat reserve in some of their bodies: an increasing gray whale population — their population is now estimated at 27,000 — and an inadequate food supply.

Before migration begins, most gray whales feed on tiny, bottom-dwelling crustaceans called amphipods in Arctic waters near Alaska — but scientists believe there might not be enough prey to get them fat enough for their long journey south.
A warming arctic is altering food supplies and availability. Shifting their feeding to coastal areas puts whales at risk from boat collisions and other human activities.

Such events add up slowly, ominously, like crows gathering unseen behind Tippi Hedren. We are so busy looking in other directions, we don't notice until the threat is in our faces.

Or we are so moronically fixated on making money, we are out rebranding sources of global warming as "molecules of U.S. freedom” and “freedom gas” as the planet slowly dies. Really, doesn't it make you want to see climate-change deniers meet a fate like that of the corporate lawyer sent to inspect Jurassic Park?

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Fox goes off message

by digby

Somehow I don't think Hannity, Tucker,Ingraham or Dobs will see it that way...

Still, it matters.


by tristero

What prevents Robert Mueller from simply saying:

"We couldn't fully prove Trump's campaign conspired with the Russians during the election, but we came very close. What we did prove, multiple times, was that Trump and others close to him did obstruct justice by, among other things, lying to investigators and shutting down investigations.

"Since the Justice Department won't allow us to indict a sitting president, we recommend, strongly, that Congress initiate impeachment immediately.

"Furthermore, we recommend that the US take immediate concrete steps to ensure that no foreign power can do what Russia did in 2016 or worse."
Barr is a big, fat liar

by digby

Mueller said today that he doesn't doubt Barr's good faith.

He was being nice ...

In a summary of Mueller’s report that Barr released weeks before the report itself became public, Barr stated that he and then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded that the evidence compiled by Mueller “is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense” and that they made this determination “without regard to…the constitutional considerations that surround the indictment and criminal prosecution of a sitting president.”

Then, at a press conference shortly before a redacted version of Mueller’s report went public, Barr said that he “specifically asked” Mueller about whether Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memos arguing that it is unconstitutional to charge a sitting president drove Mueller’s decision not to charge Trump. And Barr claimed that Mueller “was not saying that but for the OLC opinion, he would have found a crime. He made it clear that he had not made the determination that there was a crime.”

However, not long after Barr made this claim before the press, the report revealed it to be misleading. Mueller’s report repeatedly references the OLC memos, and explains that his office “accepted OLC’s legal conclusion for the purpose of exercising prosecutorial jurisdiction.”

Furthermore, while Barr may have decided that there was insufficient evidence that Trump committed a crime, Mueller himself gives a very different reason for the decision not to charge Trump.

Mueller emphasized this point during his Wednesday press conference announcing his resignation. “If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” said Mueller, before explaining the central role the OLC memos played in his approach to Trump.

Under long-standing department policy, a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he’s in office. That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that, too, is prohibited. The special counsel’s office is part of that Department of Justice. And by regulation, it was bound by that policy. Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider.

It’s an easy-to-miss swipe at Barr’s characterization of Mueller’s report, but an important one. Though it is true that Mueller, in his own words, “did not make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime,” the Justice Department policy against charging a sitting president played a major role in the decision not to make such a determination. Mueller’s public statements repeatedly emphasize this point, even as Barr tries to present Trump’s conduct as more innocent.

There are two important implications of Mueller’s statements. One is that, while the Justice Department may believe that it cannot charge a sitting president, the Constitution explicitly permits Congress to impeach Trump and remove him from office — although the latter is unlikely given that nearly all Senate Republicans are likely to protect Trump as zealously as Barr.

The other implication is that Trump will not be president forever. On the day Trump leaves office, the Justice Department may once again charge him with crimes.

I think Trump and his cronies have inoculated him from that with the "lock her up" bullshit getting every Democrat in the country to say at least once that it's UnAmerican to legally attack political rivals. Republicans may not care about hypocrisy but they know Democrats do.

That's a patented GOP tactic. Someday maybe the Democrats will see that coming.


"I don't see any reason why it would be"

by digby

In light of Mueller's reiteration of what happened in 2016 today here's a little reminder of your allegedly innocent president:

This is your president, ladies and gentlemen. Very innocent.

Rudy Giuliani hitman for the Trump mob

by digby

My Salon column today:

A few years ago I wrote here in Salon about a phrase I call "Cokie's Law," referring to a comment by journalist Cokie Roberts during the Lewinsky scandal. There was a silly kerfuffle over Hillary Clinton allegedly claiming that her husband's philandering was a result of his rough childhood. Roberts said,

"At this point it doesn't much matter whether she said it or not because it's become part of the culture. I was at the beauty parlor yesterday and this was all anyone was talking about."
This comment says a lot about how the media sees its role as the arbiter of truth, but it's also illustrative of how political operatives manipulate the press to their advantage. Take, for example, this passing comment about Rudy Giuliani's latest antics in Politico:
Earlier this month, Giuliani said he was planning to travel to Ukraine to urge the country’s president-elect to investigate Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son, over his involvement in a Ukrainian energy company. Giuliani also insinuated without offering any evidence that Joe Biden had somehow nefariously used his position as vice president to quash an investigation of his son.

Giuliani later backed out of the trip after Democrats accused him of openly encouraging a foreign country to meddle in an American election. The country’s lead prosecutor also told reporters he’d found no evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden, and media reports have further poked holes in Giuliani’s theories.

But Trump allies said Giuliani accomplished his mission, raising suspicions about Trump’s potential 2020 opponent. “The information is now out there,” Duhaime said. “He’s about getting the job done and not about what other people may think about him.”
The job the Trump campaign wants Rudy to do now, according to Politico, is to be Trump's top campaign character assassin, a task at which he excels and one he appears to enjoy a great deal. He went on television several times with this Ukraine story, never really offering up a story line that made sense, but as Cokie Roberts would say, "It doesn't much matter." It's out there.

That Ukraine project was helped along by the New York Times, which gave Giuliani the megaphone to plant this little smear, and it probably won't be the last time. Certainly the Times won't be the only news organization to do it. During the 2016 campaign, the Times and the Washington Post entered into a devil's bargain with a right-wing provocateur named Peter Schweizer, a Steve Bannon associate and current Breitbart editor, to publish a similarly distorted tale about Hillary Clinton called "Clinton Cash" that formed the basis for Donald Trump's "Crooked Hillary" meme. As it happens, Schweizer is behind the Biden Ukraine story as well. This time the Times didn't deal with him directly, but rather spread it through Giuliani, Trump's top hitman.

This isn't the first time Rudy has taken on that campaign role. During 2016 he was intimately involved with the New York FBI office that was suspected of being behind former FBI Director James Comey's decision to reopen the Clinton email investigation in the days before the election. According to the Department of Justice inspector general's report on the investigation, Comey told Attorney General Loretta Lynch that senior agents in the New York FBI office had a "deep and visceral hatred for Clinton" and were prepared to leak the story that new emails had been found on Anthony Weiner's laptop.

Giuliani was almost certainly involved. On Oct. 25, 2016, three days before Comey's fateful letter to Congress, he appeared on "Fox & Friends" and said, “We got a couple of surprises left, and I think it'll be enormously effective," grinning almost maniacally. Two days later, Giuliani appeared on Fox again and declared that there would be “pretty big surprises," adding, “We’ve got a couple of things up our sleeve that should turn this thing around.” On the day of Comey's shocking announcement, he went on the radio and said:
The other rumor that I get is that there’s a kind of revolution going on inside the F.B.I. about the original conclusion being completely unjustified, and almost a slap in the face of the F.B.I.’s integrity. I know that from former agents. I know that even from — a few active agents who obviously don’t want to identify themselves.
The main "former agent" Giuliani was talking about was James Kallstrom — super Trump fan, Clinton hater and Giuliani BFF. Wayne Barrett reported in the Daily Beast that Kallstrom had been ginning up anger among active-duty FBI agents over the Clinton emails for months. After the Republican convention in the summer of 2016, Giuliani went on CNN to complain about Comey's decision not to prosecute Clinton, saying, “The decision perplexes me. It perplexes Jim Kallstrom, who worked for him. It perplexes numerous FBI agents who talk to me all the time. And it embarrasses some FBI agents.”

Barrett wrote that Kallstrom himself "has been invoking unnamed FBI agents who contact him to complain about Comey’s exoneration of Clinton in one interview after another, positioning himself as an apolitical champion of FBI values" and openly threatening that “if it’s pushed under the rug,” the agents “won’t take that sitting down.” He said, “I think we’re going to see a lot more of the facts come out in the course of the next few months. That’s my prediction.”

While Comey was still FBI director, he asked the Inspector general to look into the New York office and Giuliani's activities during that campaign. So far there has been no word on whether that investigation ever took place. It remains astonishing that this has received almost no attention while the text messages of former FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page have been front-page news for months and months. After all, there were no leaks from Robert Mueller's investigation. But it's pretty obvious that some members of the FBI were plotting with a loyal associate of Donald Trump to sabotage Hillary Clinton's campaign.

According to Nate Silver at 538, it's entirely possible that this one act perpetrated by Giuliani and his friends in the FBI was responsible for Trump's win. The impact was measurable in the polling and because it happened so late in the campaign it was impossible to bounce back. Nobody has done Trump a favor as important as that one. Is it any wonder that the Trump 2020 campaign is eager to have Giuliani back, doing what he does best?

Update:  Here's Rudy on Mueller's statement today:

"The reality is that he gave us his opinion on collusion and obstruction," Giuliani said on Fox News. "And his opinion is you can’t bring a case. Bob, that’s the end of it. That’s what a prosecutor does. And you don’t prove negatives."  
"What they’ve done here is a perversion," Giuliani continued. "A combination of him and the media. And I’m surprised at Bob because he’s a better lawyer than that. I don’t know where this notion came that you have to exonerate." 
Mueller, in his first public comments on his two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, said that his office did notcharge Trump with a crime because it “was not an option” under Department of Justice regulations that state a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime. 
“After that investigation, if we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that,” Mueller said. 
Mueller did not clarify whether his office would have charged Trump with a crime if the DOJ guidance were not in place. 
The special counsel's comments stirred discussion among Democrats on Capitol Hill about launching impeachment proceedings, but Giuliani hammered the special counsel for weighing in on Trump's innocence. 
The president's attorney suggested Mueller had "lost his notion of American fairness" because of time spent with prosecutors on his team, including Andrew Weissmann. 
"To me as a lawyer it’s astounding that he’s expounding on can we exonerate or can’t we exonerate," Giuliani said. 
Giuliani echoed his client, who shortly after Mueller's statement declared it was "case closed," arguing that Mueller had no case on either collusion or obstruction. 
“That’s all that matters from the point of view of a prosecutor," he said. "The real question is to whether it’s ethical at all for him to be discussing it or writing about it."
Trump is the only person in the country who has been determined cannot be criminally indicted for his crimes. So, the rules are already different than they are for anyone else. Under those rules, Mueller did the only thing he could to let the Congress know that the president of the United States is a criminal and they are the only institution in the country that can hold him accountable.