WTF Community

More Questionable Behavior from Trump, T Admin, DOJ, and R's vs Dems, Press, Justice


#122

Looks like Sen Grassley (Sen Finance Chair) is having a moment of conscious and asking T for an explanation on why T fired Atkinson…and checking on what his motives were…Sen Warner (D-VA) Intelligence and Sen Collins (R-ME) are also supporting this inquiry as well.

Sen. Chuck Grassley is working on a bipartisan letter addressed to President Donald Trump demanding an explanation for the firing of Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, according to aides in both parties.

The Senate Finance Committee chairman is still working to secure cosponsors for the letter, a Republican aide said. The letter will focus on Atkinson’s Friday firing amid a broader purge by the president of inspectors general.

The letter is supported by Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

Trump said recently that he fired Atkinson for doing a “terrible job” with a whistleblower report that kicked off the president’s impeachment. Atkinson said he was likely fired for “having faithfully discharged my legal obligations as an independent and impartial inspector general.”

The letter was first reported by Bloomberg.

Grassley’s office did not comment other than to point to a Tuesday statement reiterating his support for inspectors general and urging the president to use them. Grassley also said he would seek more explanation from Trump in the immediate aftermath of Atkinson’s firing. He’s also been a longtime advocate for inspectors general and whistleblowers.

Inspectors general provide a critical check on an otherwise unaccountable bureaucracy. In other words, they help drain the swamp. Their duty is to provide nonpartisan recommendations and remove politics from the inner workings of our federal government. The White House should empower inspectors general so they’re able to do their job," Grassley said, citing recent IG work on surveillance of the Trump campaign in the 2016 election.

He also hinted that Trump owes the public more information.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-07/senators-to-seek-explanation-from-trump-of-watchdog-s-firing


(David Bythewood) #123

A pretty accurate assessment of all of this:

Oversight erased, Supreme Court hijacked: Trump turns the presidency into a dictatorship

Trump has stripped away the levers of independent oversight until there’s nothing left. Our democracy is in the midst of a three-alarm fire.


#124

The issue is T and his constant going after Governors, press during this pandemic where a leader with more gravitas would be pulling the country together. Interesting that the R’s are pulling back from full support by publicly stating his ‘messaging’ is off.

Whether this translates to T losing their loyalty and creating real disenfranchisement is the question.

Representative Paul Mitchell, a Michigan Republican, said he had contacted a senior White House official, as well as Ms. Whitmer herself, to express his unhappiness about their mutual sniping.

It is not helpful to hurl names and talk about badly about people,” Mr. Mitchell said. “We need to focus on the problem.”

At Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign, staff members have closely monitored internal polling data showing an erosion of the gains Mr. Trump made immediately after he put social distancing guidelines in place. Advisers are torn between knowing that a less abrasive approach would help Mr. Trump and their awareness that he can’t tolerate criticism, regardless of the setting.

Mr. Trump’s limited gains in the polls are all the more striking when compared with those made by governors in both parties; many are enjoying double-digit gains in their approval ratings. And Mr. Trump’s penchant for ad hominem attacks, Republicans say, illustrates why he has little room for growth among the electorate.

He can’t escape his instincts, his desire to put people down, like Mitt Romney, or to talk about his ratings,” said former Representative Carlos Curbelo, a Florida Republican. “That’s why he’s not getting the George W. Bush post-9/11 treatment. A leader in this sort of crisis should have a 75-to-80-percent approval rating.”


(David Bythewood) #125

Bill Barr is at it again. I think the tweet at the bottom summarizes it nicely.




#126

:eyes:


#127

No kidding…T n’ Co travel alot…and to their properties. It costs a lot.

In the past two years, Trump’s family has gone on more than 3,200 protected trips, almost 50 percent more than the number of protected trips taken by former White House officials. The number of trips taken by Trump’s family in the past two years is more than three times the number taken by Obama’s family from 2010 to 2016. Trump, Melania Trump and his family took about 4,200 trips in fiscal 2018 and 2019 — about as many as Obama, Michelle Obama and Obama’s family took from 2010 through 2015.

Many of Trump’s own trips have been to properties he owns. In recent weeks, though, he hasn’t visited any Trump Organization properties. The coronavirus pandemic has led to the second-longest stretch of Trump’s presidency in which he hasn’t visited a golf course. (The longest stretch was during the government shutdown in 2018–2019.)


#128

WTF…


#129

The teflonated President…hiding behind getting ‘stays.’

EXCLUSIVE: In the middle of playing wartime President against the coronavirus pandemic and facing a rocky re-election, Donald Trump took to the courts again today to make sure no one ever sees what really went on behind the scenes on The Apprentice .

The Court should stay all proceedings before it pending Defendants’ appeal from the Court’s denial of their Motion to Compel Arbitration, because fundamental fairness requires it,” says a letter (READ IT HERE) sent from Trump family lawyer Joanna Hendon today to U.S. District Court Judge Lorna Schofield seeking to wrap a legal shield around unseen footage from the NBC competition series.

“Plaintiffs are now eight months into a third-party discovery campaign forbidden by the arbitration provisions to which they agreed – and to which Defendants have continually objected since August. The resulting prejudice to Defendants is obvious and incalculable” the Spears & Imas attorney adds, less than a week after the federal judge ordered long sought Apprentice video made public and rejected the desire of the Trumps and MGM to move the whole class action behind closed doors.

The public interest also favors a stay,” Hendon argues for the former Apprentice host and his fellow defendants and offspring Ivanka, Don Jr and Eric. “This litigation concerns a private dispute that does not directly implicate any public entity or public interest that might counsel against a stay.”

The Trumps and the Trump Corporation were sued in October 2018 by four anonymous individuals on claims that they allegedly falsely encouraging people to invest in ACN’s video phone service over the 2005 to 2015 run of The Apprentice . As well as being dubious unto itself, ACN turned out to be lining the pockets of the Trumps to endorse their product – something that all parties concerned left unsaid all those years.

The main lawyer for Jane Doe, Mary Moe, Richard Roe and Luke Loe, as they are known, was quickly to wave off this new effort to stop and halt the lawsuit.

“Today’s appeal and stay request is at least the fifth attempt by the Defendants to stop this case in its tracks,” said plaintiffs’ lead lawyer Roberta Kaplan to Deadline today after Team Trump made their latest moves. “But as the Court has already explained in its well-reasoned decision last week, there is no basis to compel arbitration in this case,” the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund co-founder added. “As a result, like the others from the past, we believe that this effort too will fail. Following the Court’s important rulings next week, we look forward to continuing with document discovery and depositions, as we gather the evidence to deliver justice for our clients and thousands of others like them who were defrauded by the Trumps.”


#130

No words…but I’ll use @matt’s “Trump threatens to adjourn Congress to get his nominees but likely would be impeded by Senate rules”


(David Bythewood) #131

If we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic, this would be Ukraine all over again.

Barr Pressed Australia for Help on Mueller Review as DOJ Worked to Free Its Hostages

While his deputies finalized a plan with Australian officials to free two bloggers from a Tehran prison, Bill Barr had another request: help on his look back at the Russia probe.

I n a series of conversations last September, senior Department of Justice officials worked with representatives of the Australian government to hammer out an arrangement to win the release of a pair of Australian bloggers imprisoned in Tehran.

At the same time those talks were taking place, Attorney General Bill Barr and his lieutenants were speaking to the Australians about another matter: getting their help as the Department of Justice looked into the origins of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Barr, like his boss, President Donald Trump, had long had a view of the Russia probe that bordered on hostile, and his review has been widely seen as an attempt to discredit the Mueller investigation, which led to the indictment of multiple Trumpworld associates. Just days before the culmination of talks in September—which coincided with an official Australian state visit—Trump himself pushed Prime Minister Scott Morrison to help Barr with this inquiry.

Barr followed up about the Mueller re-investigation, two U.S. officials and a third individual familiar with the matter told The Daily Beast, even as American and Australian officials finalized their arrangement to try to free the pair jailed in Iran. According to four sources—including those two U.S. officials and one former U.S. official—the American government agreed to help facilitate the release of the Australian bloggers, in part by agreeing to pull back from pursuing the extradition of an Iranian scientist held in Australia.

News of the arrangement didn’t reach the senior ranks of the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs—the team in charge of coordinating the government’s diplomatic engagements on overseas hostage-related matters—until days after the deal was finalized, according to two officials with knowledge of the situation. Another individual familiar with the conversations said officials in the hostage affairs office were frustrated by the lack of communication from the Department of Justice, claiming they had been cut out of a process they would have normally helped lead. At the time, the team was in conversation with Americans whose family members were held hostage in Iran. The cohort was actively lobbying the Trump administration to raise public awareness of the hostages’ cases in the hopes that it may put pressure on Tehran.

The discussions between Washington and Canberra raise questions about why the Department of Justice engaged in a behind-the-scenes effort to help win the release of Australian hostages from Iran and whether the president’s request to have the country assist in Barr’s Russia inquiry influenced the department’s decision-making.

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment. The White House did not provide an on the record comment for this story. In an email to The Daily Beast, DOJ spokesperson Kerri Kupec said Barr himself did not have “any conversations with the Australians about Australian bloggers or an Iranian scientist.”

Hours after publication, Kupec sent The Daily Beast another statement saying Barr “and his office knew nothing about these matters until after the fact.”

“As the Australians themselves have stated, to suggest a link between those issues and the ongoing Durham investigation is false and unsupported by the facts,” she said.

To Claire Finkelstein, a professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania and the director of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law, “this story suggests that the president is continuing to use the authority of his office to pressure foreign leaders into assisting him in covering up Russia’s assistance with his 2016 victory. This is the same conduct for which Trump was impeached, and the reporting suggests that he is undeterred.”

She added, “If the administration engaged in this swap as part of a deal with the Australian government in which it would support Trump’s counter-narrative to the Mueller Report, then department officials are actively using U.S. diplomacy to undermine our U.S. national security interests.”

Since the first year of his administration, former and current aides say that they’ve seen Trump “light up,” in one former senior White House official’s words, when internally discussing his impending announcements of rescued hostages, and would press aides on unusually specific details of the operations or negotiations, including on how his count of released hostages compared to that of his predecessor, President Barack Obama.

And when it comes to enlisting foreign powers to help the Trump administration probe the feds, the president views it as a top priority. A senior administration official said that they’ve heard Trump on multiple occasions mention that any ally of the United States should help, if they can—and that chasing leads on suspected origins of the Mueller investigation is a matter of “national security.”

Trump’s phone call and Barr’s subsequent conversations with the Australians came at a time when the White House was in the midst of fending off allegations that the president had engaged in a quid pro quo with Ukraine. Top Democrats had obtained a whistleblower complaint alleging in part that President Trump had withheld vital military aid from Kyiv to force the Ukrainians to announce a probe into his 2020 political rival, Joe Biden.

As an impeachment probe gathered steam on Capitol Hill, the Trump administration appears to have ramped up its efforts to find willing foreign partners such as Australia to help investigate Mueller’s probe while also offering to help Morrison get his citizens out of Iranian prison.

In May of last year, about a month after the release of the Mueller report, Barr tapped Connecticut’s top federal prosecutor John Durham to lead the department’s inquiry into the origins of the Russia investigation. On May 24, President Trump lauded the department’s efforts, calling the Mueller investigation “the greatest hoax, probably, in the history of our country,” adding that he hoped the attorney general would “look at Australia.”

Mueller’s report on his Russia investigation laid out how Australia played a role in the origins of the FBI probe. Former Trump adviser George Papadopoulos has repeatedly claimed that he told Australia’s former foreign affairs minister, Alexander Downer, who was then high commissioner to the United Kingdom, that Russia had obtained negative information about presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and that Downer informed U.S. law enforcement.

Australia’s ambassador to the United States, Joe Hockey, wrote to Barr on May 28 to say Canberra “stand[s] ready to provide you with all relevant information to support your inquiries,” according to a copy of the letter published by Australian media outlets.

And in September, President Trump officially asked the Morrison government for help in his phone call with the prime minister. It’s unclear if Trump spoke with Morrison about the hostage situation during the conversation. (Although Trump later discussed the hostage arrangement with Barr and other senior officials in his administration, according to a U.S. official familiar with the matter.) But even before Australia’s state visit to Washington that month, members of the Morrison government and senior officials at the Department of Justice were in conversation about what the U.S. could do to help with the release of the two Australian bloggers.

In July of 2019, the Iran government arrested Jolie King and Mark Firkin, who were traveling through Iran, for flying a drone near an Iranian military installment. The two were transferred to Evin Prison, one of the most notorious detention facilities in the country.

During Morrison’s visit in September, senior officials at the Department of Justice and top representatives of Morrison’s government worked on the plan to bring the bloggers home. The U.S. would step back from pursuing an extradition order for an Iranian scientist held in Brisbane. That would allow for the scientist’s release back to Iran. In exchange, the Australians could get King and Firkin out of Evin Prison.

Reza Dehbashi Kivi—a 38-year-old Iranian scientist studying in Queensland, Australia—was accused of exporting military radar equipment to help the Iranian regime detect stealth planes. The U.S. sought his extradition on six counts, including conspiring to export special amplifiers classified as “defense articles” under the U.S. munitions list, according to one of Kivi’s former attorneys.

“The U.S. government alleged he had exported these devices and required some sort of export permit to do that,” said another individual with knowledge of Kivi’s case.

Kivi remained in prison while Australia’s Attorney General’s office decided whether or not to extradite him to the United States.

It wasn’t until the Australian team left the U.S. that senior State Department officials in the hostage affairs office learned from representatives of the Australian embassy in Washington of the discussions between the Department of Justice and the Morrison government. Officials at State were told that the attorney general’s office in Australia would work directly with Barr’s office on the timing of the releases.

“Political capital should be used, first and foremost, for American citizens and U.S. lawful permanent residents,” said one individual familiar with Iranian hostage affairs issues.

Although there isn’t always a clear blueprint for handling hostage negotiations, the State Department — specifically, the presidential envoy for hostage affairs — ordinarily helps run point. And while the Department of Justice does play a leading role in the extradition process, its bypassing of the State Department on the conversations with the Australians is alarming, former officials say.

“The hostage unit in the [State] department acts as a coordinator. They’re supposed to be in on this process,” one former U.S. official who worked on hostage affairs told The Daily Beast.

Kivi was released from prison and returned back to Iran on Sept. 29, 2019—nine days after the Australian state visit to Washington. On Oct. 5, the Australian government announced that Iran had released King and Firkin. (The two did not respond to requests to comment for this article.)

At the time, there was speculation that the two events might be linked. A person directly familiar with Kivi’s case said there’s no question about it. “I have no doubt that that communication had taken place between the U.S. and Australia which affected the release of Mr. Dehbhashi,” the person told The Daily Beast.

The Australian Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to a request for comment. But a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade acknowledged to The Daily Beast that Australia “made clear it was willing to assist with any U.S. inquiry into the origins of the Russia probe” but said that occurred well before King and Firkin were detained.

The spokesperson said former Australian ambassador Hockey “confirmed this willingness in a letter to Attorney-General Barr.” The spokesperson repeatedly dodged questions from The Daily Beast about the conversations that took place between U.S. and Australian officials during Morrison’s State visit in September.

The office of Australian Attorney General Christian Porter directed The Daily Beast to a statement when King and Firkin were released from prison.

“I considered that, in all the circumstances of this particular case, Mr Dehbashi Kivi should not ultimately be extradited to the United States,” Porter said at the time. “Ultimately the Attorney General can and should take into account a considerably broader set of considerations.”

As the discussions were underway in Washington in September 2019, State Department officials working on hostage affairs were in New York, meeting with the families of Americans detained in Iran.

Since Kivi, King and Firkin were freed, Americans with family members detained in Iran have continued to put pressure on both the U.S. and Iranian governments to facilitate their release.

For more than 13 years the Iranian government has consistently maintained that it is unaware of the whereabouts of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared in the country in 2007. In the fall of 2019, a United Nations working group concluded that there was “an on-going case in the Public Prosecution and Revolutionary Court of Tehran for Levinson”—a possible sign that the former agent was alive and that the Iranians were working toward a solution to the situation.

But last month, Levinson’s family announced that they believed he had died in Iranian custody.


(David Bythewood) #132




(David Bythewood) #133



#134

https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2020-sba-paycheck-protection-program/

Whatever the reason, it’s inevitable that the results will be politicized, since coastal states tend to favor Democrats, and Republicans dominate the country’s center. When Jackie Speier, a Democratic congresswoman from California, asked on April 15 why Texas got more money than California, her tweet was retweeted more than 3,000 times. “California has been shortchanged,” California Governor Gavin Newsom, also a Democrat, said at a press briefing. “We’re trying to understand exactly why.”


(David Bythewood) #135

Trump Has Emergency Powers We Aren’t Allowed to Know About

Given that they could make their first appearance in the coronavirus crisis, Congress should insist on having full access to

The past few weeks have given Americans a crash course in the powers that federal, state and local governments wield during emergencies. We’ve seen businesses closed down, citizens quarantined and travel restricted. When President Trump declared emergencies on March 13 under both the Stafford Act and the National Emergencies Act, he boasted, “I have the right to do a lot of things that people don’t even know about.”

The president is right. Some of the most potent emergency powers at his disposal are likely ones we can’t know about, because they are not contained in any publicly available laws. Instead, they are set forth in classified documents known as “presidential emergency action documents.”

These documents consist of draft proclamations, executive orders and proposals for legislation that can be quickly deployed to assert broad presidential authority in a range of worst-case scenarios. They are one of the government’s best-kept secrets. No presidential emergency action document has ever been released or even leaked. And it appears that none has ever been invoked.

Given the real possibility that these documents could make their first appearance in the coronavirus crisis, Congress should insist on having full access to them to ensure that they are consistent with the Constitution and basic principles of democracy.

Presidential emergency action documents emerged during the Eisenhower administration as a set of plans to provide for continuity of government after a Soviet nuclear attack. Over time, they were expanded to include proposed responses to other types of emergencies. As described in one declassified government memorandum, they are designed “to implement extraordinary presidential authority in response to extraordinary situations.”

Other government documents have revealed some of the actions that older presidential emergency action documents — those issued up through the 1970s — purported to authorize. These include suspension of habeas corpus by the president (not by Congress, as assigned in the Constitution), detention of United States citizens who are suspected of being “subversives,” warrantless searches and seizures and the imposition of martial law.

Some of these actions would seem unconstitutional, at least in the absence of authorization by Congress. Past presidential emergency action documents, however, have tested the line of how far presidents’ constitutional authority may stretch in an emergency.

For example, a Department of Justice memorandum from the Lyndon B. Johnson administration discusses a presidential emergency action document that would impose censorship on news sent abroad. The memo notes that while no “express statutory authority” exists for such a measure, “it can be argued that these actions would be legal in the aftermath of a devastating nuclear attack based on the president’s constitutional powers to preserve the national security.” It then recommends that the president seek ratifying legislation from Congress after issuing the orders.

Much less is known about the contents of more recent presidential emergency action documents — but we do know they exist. They undergo periodic revision to take into account new laws, conditions and concerns. The Department of Justice reviews the proposed changes for legal soundness, the Federal Emergency Management Agency plays a coordinating role and the National Security Council provides policy direction and final approval.

Based on budgetary requests from the Department of Justice to Congress and other documents, it appears that presidential emergency action documents were revised in the late 1980s, in the 2000s and again starting in 2012 and continuing into the Trump administration. The latest numbers available suggest there are between 50 and 60 such documents in existence.

There is no question that presidential emergency action documents could be used in a pandemic like that caused by the coronavirus. A 2006 Nuclear Regulatory Commission memorandum addressed that agency’s plan under President Bush’s 2005 “National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza.” The concern was how to maintain operations in response to a pandemic that proved to be “persistent, widespread, and prolonged.” The memo’s authors offered the Nuclear Regulatory Commission 14 bullet points of actions, including to “review presidential emergency action documents” and “select those most likely to be needed” by the commission.

The most notable aspect of presidential emergency action documents might be their extreme secrecy. It’s not uncommon for the government to classify its plans or activities in the area of national security. However, even the most sensitive military operations or intelligence activities must be reported to at least some members of Congress. By contrast, we know of no evidence that the executive branch has ever consulted with Congress — or even informed any of its members — regarding the contents of presidential emergency action documents.

That is a dangerous state of affairs. The coronavirus pandemic is fast becoming the most serious crisis to face this country since World War II. And it is happening under the watch of a president who has claimed that Article II of the Constitution gives him “the right to do whatever I want.” It is not far-fetched to think that we might see the deployment of these documents for the first time and that they will assert presidential powers beyond those granted by Congress or recognized by the courts as flowing from the Constitution.

Even in the most dire of emergencies, the president of the United States should not be able to operate free from constitutional checks and balances. The coronavirus crisis should serve as a wake-up call. Presidential emergency action documents have managed to escape democratic oversight for nearly 70 years. Congress should move quickly to remedy that omission and assert its authority to review these documents, before we all learn just how far this administration believes the president’s powers reach.

Elizabeth Goitein is a co-director and Andrew Boyle is a lawyer at the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.


#136

Excerpts from Heather Cox Richardson’s newsletter…as an explainer of who’s behind the protests - R’s, T campaign officials, and moneyed interests in keeping T in office. Sometimes I need to see it spelled out, outrageous as it is to see individuals protesting their ‘individual’ freedoms vs. a national/global pandemic.

Diverting attention away from T’s fumbling of the Federal response to the pandemic is a reason, and ramping up passions about 2nd Amendment freedoms, ie gun control is another clear signal that this is sheer politics.

Yes, it is a huge hardship to not have your business afloat right now…and having little to live on…and a lot of tail wagging the dog messaging.

The big news for two days has been the “protests” of state governors’ stay-at-home orders and mandatory business closings to try to contain the novel coronavirus which, as of today, has taken more than 40,000 American lives. The protests started last week in Lansing, Michigan, on Wednesday, April 15, when demonstrators descended on the state Capitol to protest the “statists” they said were destroying the economy and taking away their liberties. On Friday morning, Trump tweeted that people needed to “LIBERATE” Michigan, Minnesota, and Virginia, all states with Democratic governors. Then, Saturday, the Fox News Channel advertised “emerging rallies/protests to reopen economy” and, lo and behold, there they were on television tonight: protests in Colorado, Illinois, Florida, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Washington.

These protests are a classic example of trying to control politics by controlling the national narrative.

The protests are backed by the same conservative groups that are working for Trump’s reelection. The Michigan Conservative Council, one of the organizers of the Michigan protest, was founded by a pro-Trump couple active in state Republican politics. Another organizer was the Michigan Freedom Fund, whose leader, Greg McNeilly is a Republican political operative who worked for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s family.

Protests in Wisconsin were organized by the Committee to Unleash Prosperity, founded by Republican pro-Trump economists Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore, and by FreedomWorks, a training group for conservative activists that grew out of a political organization founded by David and Charles Koch. FreedomWorks is most famous for its organization of the Tea Party movement in 2009. Its president, Adam Brandon, told Vox reporter Jane Coaston that “this has the same DNA [as] the Tea Party movement.” It “just so happened a lot of our activists were organizers.”

The Fox News Channel personalities cheered on the events, with Jeanine Pirro saying of the Michigan protesters: “God bless them, it’s going to happen all over the country;” Laura Ingraham tweeting a video of it, saying: “Time to get your freedom back;” and Tucker Carlson interviewing a representative of the Michigan Conservative Council on his show before the person did another interview on “Fox & Friends” the next day. On Saturday, FNC ran graphics showing where protests were planned across the country from April 18 to May 2.

These are not spontaneous, grassroots protests. They are political operations designed to divert attention from the Trump administration’s poor response to the pandemic. Even more, though, they are designed to keep the American public divided so that we do not protest the extraordinary economic inequality the pandemic has highlighted.

These protests have diverted the national conversation by turning a national crisis into partisan division along the lines the Republican Party has developed since the 1980s. But in reality there are few actual protesters: two-thirds of Americans are worried that lockdowns will end too early, not too late. People began to separate physically even before governors required it, and say they will not stop distancing until they are certain they are safe, no matter the official government stance.

Still, the focus on partisan division is slowing down talk of the administration’s failure to provide the testing we need before it is safe to reopen businesses and stop the stay-at-home orders. Testing enables public health officials to identify and shut down hot spots; we need hundreds of thousands more tests a day. Trump says the states have enough tests to reopen. “They don’t want to use all of the capacity that we’ve created. We have tremendous capacity,” Trump said during a White House briefing. “They know that. The governors know that. The Democrat governors know that. They’re the ones that are complaining.” But Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, the chair of the National Governors Association and a Republican, says this is “absolutely false.” Hogan told CNN today “It’s not accurate to say there’s plenty of testing out there and the governors should just get it done. That’s just not being straightforward.”

The change of subject protects not just Trump but also the ideology at the heart of his Republican Party. Since 1981, Republicans have argued that the economy depends on wealthy businessmen who know best how to arrange the economy—the makers-- and that it is vital to protect their interests. Under their policies, wealth in America has moved upward. The pandemic has highlighted how these policies have removed economic security for ordinary people. They cannot pay their bills, and they might well turn against an ideology that uses our tax dollars to bail out corporations while they must risk their lives to pay their rent.

Michigan rally: https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/lock-her-anti-whitmer-coronavirus-lockdown-protestors-swarm-michigan-capitol-n1184426

https://abcnews.go.com/US/residents-protest-coronavirus-stay-home-orders-states/story

McNeilly: https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2018/11/01/devos-family-big-bucks-republican-campaigns/1831731002/

polls on reopening: https://www.people-press.org/2020/04/16/covid-19-and-the-countrys-trajectory/

Deaths: https://www.cbsnews.com/live-updates/coronavirus-pandemic-covid-19-latest-news-2020-04-19/

heathercoxrichardson.substack.com


(David Bythewood) #137

Tim Mak has a good thread about how this has happened before to an extent:

And this is my thread on this bit of astroturfing:


#138

So much for states rights :woman_shrugging:t2: Welcome to the upsidedown

Barr Threatens Legal Action Against Governors Over Lockdowns

https://www.bloomberg.com/amp/news/articles/2020-04-21/barr-says-doj-may-act-against-governors-with-strict-virus-limits


(David Bythewood) #139

WTF


Republican-Led Review Backs Intelligence Findings on Russian Interference

A new Senate report undercuts claims by President Trump and his allies that Obama-era officials sought to undermine his candidacy by investigating Russia’s 2016 election meddling.


(David Bythewood) #140

Trump (the Company) Asks Trump (the Administration) for Hotel Relief

The president’s family business pays at least $3 million a year to the federal government for the lease on its D.C. hotel, which is all but empty because of the virus. The next monthly payment is coming due.


#141

Worth a read tonight…

Heather Cox Richardson highlights

  • What the Senate Intel Committee has come up with - yes, there was Russian interference, no it was not Ukraine, and was T 'n Co compliant with some or any of it.

  • Disturbing rationale for opening up Georgia’s small businesses as a means to deflect from unemployment insurance that the State can not afford after 28 weeks.

  • And historical perspective on what it is to support the disenfranchised, and having safety net measures in place…

  • How Corporations will be given a free pass on whether they are liable for people catching Covid-19. No they won’t. T dodged that question today in his news conference.

Today, once again, the Senate Intelligence Committee reaffirmed that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help elect Donald Trump president. The Senate Intelligence committee is chaired by North Carolina Republican Richard Burr, and the report released today was approved by the committee unanimously. It was the fourth volume in the intelligence committee’s review of Russian attacks on the 2016 election, and it was a “Review of the Intelligence Community Assessment with Additional Views.”

The report supports the conclusion of the intelligence community that Russia worked to help Trump, and that partisan politics was not part of the driving force behind the FBI’s investigation of the Russian interference. The heavily-redacted report contradicts Trump’s frequent assertions that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that attacked America in 2016, and throws the weight of the Senate Intelligence Committee behind the intelligence community even as Trump calls FBI agents “human scum.”

This is a developing story. According to committee member Angus King (I-ME), the fifth volume from the committee will focus on “whether or not there was in fact some relationship between the Trump campaign and the Russians.” Also, Judge Reggie Walton, who is personally reviewing the unredacted Mueller Report to judge the good faith of Attorney General William Barr, whose redactions seem self-serving, got access to that report on Monday. We’ll see what he has to say about it. I have wondered if Trump’s angry rehashing of the probe lately has something to do with that review.

Overshadowing this news today, though, was a razor sharp observation made yesterday by George Chidi, a Georgia journalist and former staff writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Chidi examined Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s decision to reopen gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, tattoo parlors, barbers, nail salons, restaurants, theaters, and massage therapists, among other businesses, next week.

Kemp said the businesses would be required to screen workers for illness, increase sanitation rules, separate workspaces by at least six feet, telework where at all possible, and have staggered shifts. He also said that more restrictive local rules could not override his order.

Kemp told reporters that his concern was to protect small businesses, hurt by the economic shutdown, but Chidi had a different interpretation. “It’s about making sure people can’t file unemployment,” he wrote.

The state’s unemployment fund has about $2.6 billion. The shutdown has made claims skyrocket—Chidi says the fund will empty in about 28 weeks. There is no easy way to replenish the account because Georgia has recently set a limit on income taxes that cannot be overridden without a constitutional amendment. It cannot borrow enough to cover the fund either, because by law Georgia can’t borrow more than 5% of its previous year’s revenue in any year, and any borrowing must be repaid in full before the state can borrow any more.

By ending the business closures, Kemp guarantees that workers can no longer claim they are involuntarily unemployed, and so cannot claim unemployment benefits. Chidi notes that the order did not include banks, software firms, factories, or schools. It covered businesses usually staffed by poorer people that Kemp wants to keep off the unemployment rolls.

Kemp threw onto businesses responsibility for reassuring customers that reopening was the right thing to do. He warned that the “The private sector is going to have to convince the public that it’s safe to come back into these businesses,” Kemp said. “That’s what a barber is going to have to do. It’s what a tattoo parlor is going to have to do.” He also acknowledged that cases of Covid-19 would rise, but noted that the state had expanded its hospital bed capacity.

Chidi’s observations are shocking, and believable. The modern Republican program calls for the end to business regulation, social welfare programs, and infrastructure development, with the idea that freedom from restraint will allow businesses to thrive and the country will prosper in turn.

To bring their ideology to life, Republicans have slashed regulation, taxation, and social programs. Under such a regime, a few individuals have done very well indeed, while the majority of Americans has fallen behind. Georgia has been aggressive in putting the Republican program into action. Now, the lack of a social safety net in Georgia has stripped the veneer off this system. Far from spreading prosperity as “makers” stimulate the economy, it appears that the determination to keep taxes low and social welfare systems small is now forcing workers to risk their lives in a deadly pandemic.

This is the logical outcome of an ideology of radical individualism: as one Tennessee protester’s sign put it “Sacrifice the weak/Reopen T[ennessee].” In 1883, during a time of similar discussions over the responsibility of government to provide a social safety net, Yale sociologist William Graham Sumner wrote a famous book: What Social Classes Owe to Each Other. Sumner’s answer was… nothing. Sumner argued that protecting the weak was actually bad for society because it wasted resources and would permit weaker people to dilute the population. Far from helping poorer Americans, the government should let them die out for the good of society.

Sumner wanted the government to stay out of social welfare programs, but thought it should continue to protect businesses, which men like Sumner believed helped everyone.

Today, corporations are asking Congress to protect them from lawsuits from employees and customers who might get infected with the novel coronavirus when they begin to reopen. According to Republican Representative Mike Johnson of Louisiana, a member of Trump’s congressional task force on the economy, “There’s been a lot of discussion among conservative Republicans…. On the Republican side, I think there would be broad support, probably near-unanimous support.”

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Notes:

Report: https://www.intelligence.senate.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Report_Volume4.pdf

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/06/senate-intel-report-russia-169194

human scum: https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/19/politics/trump-manafort-stone-pardons/index.html

Jackson: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/mueller-report-attorney-general-william-barr/2020/03/05/3fa7afce-5f2c-11ea-b29b-9db42f7803a7_story.html

Reopening Georgia: https://decaturish.com/2020/04/georgia-will-reopen-many-businsesses-including-restaurants-bowling-alleys-and-barbershops/

Chidi: https://decaturish.com/2020/04/dear-decaturish-governors-decision-to-reopen-businesses-is-political-murder/


George Chidi @neonflag
I was on a teleconference this morning with Mark Butler, commissioner of the Department of Labor. He was asked about the solvency of the unemployment trust fund. “We’re good,” he said, laughing. “We’ve got this.” I am not so sure.
April 21st 2020
12 Retweets29 Likes

sacrifice sign: https://newschannel9.com/news/coronavirus/dozens-rally-at-tn-capitol-call-for-gov-lee-to-re-open-state-immediately

Liability protection: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa-liability-idUSKCN223179