WTF Community

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


(David Bythewood) #142

Trump-backed business wins $7.5 million contract to build just 800 feet of border wall: report

The company pushed by President Trump is currently under investigation by the Defense Department inspector general


(David Bythewood) #143

Elizabeth Warren Demands Investigations Into Trump’s Shambolic Coronavirus Response

For instance, why has Jared Kushner been allowed anywhere near this thing?

How Jared Kushner Is Tackling the White House’s Coronavirus Response — Without Any Evident Experience

The president’s son-in-law and adviser has added the emergency-response supply chain to his extensive list of duties. He views himself as a disrupter — but that’s not always a good thing.

States smuggle COVID-19 medical supplies to avoid federal seizures as House probes Jared Kushner

Health officials go to dramatic lengths to hide shipments of critical supplies from the federal government


#144

White House misses congressional deadline to explain intelligence watchdog’s firing

https://news.yahoo.com/white-house-misses-congressional-deadline-to-explain-intelligence-watchdogs-firing-215052651.html

The White House is still refusing to give Congress a reason for firing Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, as required by law, missing a deadline set by a bipartisan group of senators.

A group of eight senators, including Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, wrote President Trump a letteron April 8 demanding he explain in detail his decision to fire Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson to reassure Congress it was “not for reasons unrelated to [his] performance.” Otherwise, the decision could threaten the integrity of what are supposed to be independent overseers of government agencies, they wrote.

The senators had set a deadline of Monday, April 13, but as of early Tuesday morning, the White House had missed that deadline, according to a spokesperson for Senator Grassley’s office. A follow-up request from Grassley’s office to the White House on Tuesday also went unanswered.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.


(David Bythewood) #145

If there weren’t so much coming out about this, I might take it with a grain of salt…



Seth’s thread:


#146

The analysis shows three companies with ties to the Trump administration received a total of $18.3 million under the program.

Another recipient received a loan from a bank that previously employed its board’s chairwoman. Four companies received more than the $10 million maximum by applying for multiple loans through subsidiaries. Four other companies receiving more than $20 million in aggregate have wealthy investor board members in common.


(David Bythewood) #147

Hell.



#148

Who gets protected? Businesses…according to Senate Majority leader McConnell and he wants to limit any liability if someone dies from Covid-19.

WASHINGTON—Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Republican lawmakers on a private call that he wants to shield companies from liability over pandemic-related suits and doesn’t support including an infrastructure package in a coronavirus relief bill, according to people familiar with the call, despite President Trump’s push for infrastructure investment.

The Kentucky Republican is responding to a major push by American businesses, which are getting hit with lawsuits as workers in meat-processing facilities, grocery stores, retailers and other locations get sick or die from Covid-19.

We need to keep the White House in the box,” Mr. McConnell said, referring to any infrastructure package. “The Democrats and the White House need to get the message.”

Mr. McConnell hasn’t yet shared specific details of his plans for the next relief bill, but they are already shaping up as a flashpoint in negotiations with Democrats as the coronavirus pandemic continues to damage communities.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said on Tuesday that the Republican proposal highlighted a stark difference in priorities. Democrats say that additional funding for states and municipalities is the top priority for them, to protect states from laying off police officers, teachers and first responders.

That’s another example of the Republicans’ misplaced priorities,” Mr. Schumer said in a phone call with the AFSCME public service workers union. “During this global health crisis, they are worried about protecting the companies,’ Mr. Schumer said of Republicans. “Democrats are worried about protecting the workers.”


#149

:point_up_2: This is spot on Mr. Schumer, now lets get the people to see it.


#150

More dirt on Stone…you know Intel committee knows all the references…and you wonder if it is all for naught and Stone will get pardoned.

Does not pass the smell test. Ever.

In the summer of 2016, one Stone associate expressed fears Trump would lose, floated “critical intell” that could impact the campaign and mounted a frenzied effort to get a one-on-one meeting with the candidate.

“I have to meet Trump alone,” the associate wrote to Stone in July 2016. Stone arranged for such a meeting, but he said in a later email that a “fiasco” ensued after the associate unexpectedly brought a foreign military officer along.

The associate’s name was deleted from the warrant application released Tuesday, but the FBI laid out the repeated efforts to meet Trump as part of a series of events involving conservative author Jerome Corsi and UK-based financial consultant Ted Malloch, including a previously reported directive by Stone telling Corsi that Malloch “should see Assange” and prod him to release information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Ultimately, prosecutors did not charge Stone for his dealings with Assange or various intermediaries, but rather for misleading House investigators about them. Earlier this year, a federal judge sentenced Stone to almost three-and-a-half years in prison for lying to House investigators and impeding their probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Trump has repeatedly accused prosecutors of unfairly singling out Stone, who remains free as he awaits a date to begin serving his sentence. Stone faces a deadline this week to appeal his prison term and seven felony convictions. The president has indicated he’s considering a pardon for Stone but has been cryptic about his plans and possible timing.

Stone became a central figure in the narrative about Trump campaign contacts with Russia in 2016. He repeatedly claimed he had contact with Assange in the summer of 2016, shortly before Assange began releasing tens of thousands of emails stolen from the account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. Many of the newly released search warrants centered on efforts to determine the true nature of Stone’s contacts with Assange and whether he had advance knowledge of Assange’s intentions.

Prosecutors also acknowledged that their picture of Stone’s communications was incomplete: He relied on a slew of encrypted apps during some of the most sensitive months of the campaign, from Signal to Wickr to WhatsApp, and messages he exchanged on those services were not obtained.

Despite the reams of new information contained in the search warrants, Stone remained defiant Tuesday, insisting his entire prosecution was a farce.

“Although there are private communications contained in the warrants, they prove no crimes,” Stone said in a statement. “I have no trepidation about their release as they confirm there was no illegal activity and certainly no Russian collusion by me during the 2016 election. There is, to this day, no evidence that I had or knew about the source or content of the WikiLeaks disclosures prior to their public release.”

The documents contain a litany of other peculiarities and details about Stone’s methods of contact. For example, they note that he often used an account on CraigsList to communicate with people, and that he registered the account under the name “Swash Buckler.


(David Bythewood) #151

Had not seen this video about Bill Barr’s daughter before. Wow.


#152

The Supreme Court’s highly partisan decision making laid out here by Sen Whitehouse (D-RI) - 80 decisions all for the powerful R donors.

Video - watch


#153

The storming of the State Capitol protesting Governor WItmer’s stance on keeping everyone sheltered-in-place by these wild and militant, gun toting white men is appalling - ok to protest buddy, but bring your menancing guns… Some commenters on Twitter also mention, how would this land if it was a bunch of Black Panthers…?

T’s position - provocateur in charge

See photo - :sunflower:


#154

Rep John Ratcliffe will be up against the Senate on Tuesday 5/5 to determine if he is ready or good to be the DNI director. He’s been questionable from the beginning and still is.

For a nominee to helm the U.S. government’s intelligence apparatus, Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) draws on some unusual sources of information.

Ratcliffe’s official, verified campaign Twitter account follows several accounts on the political fringe, including a 9/11 Truther account with just one follower besides himself and four promoting the outlandish QAnon conspiracy theory, which posits that the world is run by a cabal of Democratic pedophile-cannibals — and has been ruled a potential source of domestic terrorism by the FBI.

The conspiracy theorists followed by Ratcliffe, whose nomination for director of national intelligence goes before the Senate intelligence committee Tuesday morning, cover a bizarre range of beliefs. They posit that John F. Kennedy Jr. faked his death to help Trump to take down the Deep State. Others claim a Democratic sex dungeon exists in in a Washington pizzeria. But Ratcliffe and the QAnon promoters he follows have one thing in common: utter loyalty to Trump.

Even before Ratcliffe’s QAnon interest was known, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), a committee member, told The Daily Beast, “Congressman Ratcliffe is a partisan politician who has spent the last two years promoting conspiracy theories in defense of Donald Trump.”

It’s not clear whether Ratcliffe followed conspiracy theorists himself, or whether it was done by someone else with access to his Twitter account. The QAnon accounts Ratcliffe follows were first noted by CQ Roll Call editor Ryan Kelly on Twitter.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence referred questions about Ratcliffe’s Twitter account to his congressional office, which didn’t respond to a request for comment.


(David Bythewood) #155

Appeals Court Vacancy Is Under Scrutiny Ahead of Contested Confirmation Hearing

The chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit publicly advanced a call by a progressive group for an ethics investigation into the circumstances of a plum vacancy.


(David Bythewood) #156

White House to Bar Fauci, Task Force From Testifying in May


#157

Comments from T and others on his ‘mask’ trip to Arizona - no doubt T is unhinged, but he’s really like a bull in a china shop…but more maniacal.

Thread from prez :exploding_head:

The ad apparently infuriated the president.

“A group of RINO Republicans who failed badly 12 years ago, then again 8 years ago, and then got BADLY beaten by me, a political first timer, 4 years ago, have copied (no imagination) the concept of an ad from Ronald Reagan, ‘Morning in America’, doing everything possible to get even for all of their many failures,” Trump wrote Monday, just before midnight.

“You see, these loser types don’t care about 252 new Federal Judges, 2 great Supreme Court Justices, a rebuilt military, a protected 2nd Amendment, biggest EVER Tax & Regulation cuts, and much more,” the president continued.

Trump went on to assert that he “didn’t use any” of the group’s founders or affiliated advisers in his own presidential campaigns “because they don’t know how to win,” and argued that “their so-called Lincoln Project is a disgrace to Honest Abe.”

“I don’t know what Kellyanne did to her deranged loser of a husband, Moonface, but it must have been really bad,” Trump wrote of George Conway.

Trump similarly targeted political strategists John Weaver, who the president said “lost big” advising former Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s 2016 White House bid; “Crazed” Rick Wilson, who “lost for Evan ‘McMuffin’ McMullin,” a 2016 independent presidential candidate; and Steve Schmidt and Reed Galen, who both advised former Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

The president also homed in on Jennifer Horn, a former GOP congressional candidate in New Hampshire, whom Trump wrote was “thrown out” of the state’s Republican Party.

“They’re all LOSERS, but Abe Lincoln, Republican, is all smiles!” Trump concluded.


#158

Here comes the Director of National Intelligence confirmation on CSPAN - for Rep John Ratcliffe - someone who is the least qualified for DNI - T loyalist

Trump nominates Rep. Ratcliffe to be intel director 02:06

(CNN)President Donald Trump’s pick to be director of national intelligence, Rep. John Ratcliffe, was grilled Tuesday by senators over his views about the intelligence community’s investigation into the origins of coronavirus in China, Russian election interference and the Trump administration’s treatment of whistleblowers.

Ratcliffe walked a fine line before the Senate Intelligence Committee, at the chamber’s first hearing under new social distancing guidelines, between pledging to be transparent and unbiased with intelligence delivered both to the President and Congress and not wading too deeply into the controversies surrounding Trump and the intelligence community.

He faced questions from both Democrats and Republicans on whether he would provide unbiased intelligence to a President who might not want to hear it – and whether Trump requested loyalty when he agreed to be selected for the role a second time earlier this year, following his initial withdrawal from consideration last year amid questions about exaggerations to his resume. Ratcliffe said Trump had not asked him for loyalty.

“Whether you are talking about the President, whether you are talking about Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell – anyone’s views on what they want the intelligence to be will never impact the intelligence that I deliver. Never,” Ratcliffe said in response to a question from Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a key Republican on the panel.

If confirmed as director of national intelligence, Ratcliffe would lead the 17 agencies that make up the intelligence community as head of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which was created in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Ratcliffe has been prepping for Tuesday’s confirmation hearing at ODNI and has met with agency heads to get their perspectives.

‘All roads lead to China’

Ratcliffe said if he was confirmed, his primary focus for the intelligence community would be on the impact of coronavirus as well as questions about its origins in Wuhan, China.

“If confirmed the intelligence community will be laser focused on getting all of the answers that we can regarding how this happened, when this happened, and I commit to providing with as much transparency to you as the law will allow and with due regard for sources and methods,” Ratcliffe said.

Ratcliffe said that he views China as the “greatest threat actor” to the United States right now, citing China’s role in the coronavirus outbreak along with cybersecurity issues. “All roads lead to China,” he said.

Ratcliffe faced questions from senators in both parties about the virus’ origins, which has become a politically charged issue after Trump said he had seen evidence giving him a “high degree of confidence” the virus originated in a lab. Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats, asked him if he’d seen evidence it originated in a lab. Ratcliffe said he had not. Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, then asked Ratcliffe if he’d seen evidence the virus originated in a Wuhan market. He also said he had not.


(David Bythewood) #159

“Leave no vacancy behind”: Mitch McConnell remains laser-focused on judges amid coronavirus

Democrats, meanwhile, are wondering why a judicial nominee is even on the docket when lawmakers haven’t approved more stimulus.


(David Bythewood) #160

Trump’s Quiet Power Grab

The president’s administration is attempting to bring thousands of federal employees under his control, and the public is largely unaware.

Throughout the federal government are thousands of officials who do not direct courtrooms, but who are, in a sense, judges. They are federal employees who preside over trial-like disputes, hear evidence and testimony, and make decisions that can deeply shape people’s lives, such as the granting of asylum and veterans benefits. These executive-branch employees are administrative adjudicators.

The Trump administration has launched an obscure but dangerous effort to undermine this system, and to dictate both the appropriate circumstances for commencing adjudication and the rules that govern how disputes with agencies are resolved. If the Trump administration’s strategy works, it will have steered the federal bureaucracy further toward an authoritarian future in which all executive-branch policy making must bend to the whims of a single individual, the president.

Although precise data are hard to find, recent work by two leading administrative-law scholars suggests there are roughly 12,000 of these agency adjudicators of various types across the federal bureaucracy, as compared with about 870 permanently authorized federal-court judges. Though the number of matters these adjudicators handle is very hard to come by, a 2016 estimate suggests that they decide more than 750,000 cases annually, which would be about double the number of civil and criminal felony case filings in federal district court.

A plurality of administrative adjudications involve Social Security disability claims. But there is extensive variety among the several hundred agencies and programs involved in administrative adjudication. Some agencies, such as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Federal Communications Commission, engage in licensing. Others, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Trade Commission, impose penalties for legal noncompliance. Numerous adjudication schemes across multiple agencies involve disputes about government payments, the awarding and administration of government contracts and benefits, and the imposition of employee discipline. A database created by Stanford Law School and the Administrative Conference of the United States numbers these programs and the agencies involved in the hundreds.

The public is, for the most part, quite oblivious to much of this activity’s scope and importance, much less the Trump administration’s attacks on its integrity. What is at stake is not the specific resolution of individual disputes—at least not thus far—but rather the authority to dictate the general rules by which agencies decide individual cases, cases in which accuracy and impartiality are key values.

Administrative adjudication is essential to the effective implementation of federal law. For some agencies, adjudication is a necessary component of policy making, because the statutes they enforce are extremely general and sweeping; specificity gets fleshed out on a case-by-case basis. Indeed, prior to the 1960s, administrative adjudication was more prevalent than issuing general regulations as a policy-making vehicle. For example, the National Labor Relations Board is charged with combatting “unfair labor practices.” It gives that standard meaning by bringing cases against individual employers who engage in activity the NLRB suspects is unlawful. These matters are tried before officials called administrative-law judges, or ALJs, whose decisions are reviewable first by the five members of the NLRB and then, if appealed, by a federal court. Lawyers working on subsequent labor disputes can consult the administrative orders that emanate from these adjudicative proceedings, just as they would read court decisions, to find out how the NLRB interprets the law. This is, likewise, how the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) pursues “unfair or deceptive trade practices,” and how the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) prosecutes a variety of offenses under the federal Securities Act.

Congress also empowers a wide variety of administrative judges to be the first-line decision makers regarding individual applicants for all sorts of government benefits. The largest group comprises the ALJs who work for the Social Security Administration. Other agencies use different categories of administrative judges to approve applications under programs as diverse as veterans benefits, patents, and refugee asylum. ALJs enjoy a number of statutory protections intended to depoliticize their service and to protect, within bounds, the independence of their judgment. Other agency adjudicators with different titles almost always enjoy less protection for their decision-making independence, based on their agencies’ governing statutes.

The Trump administration is now waging a two-pronged attack on the independence of all administrative adjudicators, including ALJs, and the agencies that employ them. The first prong involves telling agencies, via executive orders, how to exercise the discretion that Congress has given them to conduct adjudication. One such order, from October 2019, boasts the lofty title “Promoting the Rule of Law Through Transparency and Fairness in Civil Administrative Enforcement and Adjudication.” Among its provisions is a limit on when agencies may judge a private party’s past conduct to be unlawful based on a general legal standard. The executive order says that no such agency determination may be issued unless the agency has first warned the public—through a specific rule—that the general legal standard prohibits the conduct the agency would now challenge.

This may not sound like much, but in practice it would make the work of a number of federal agencies far more difficult. Consider this scenario: The FTC finds that a company has been using artificial intelligence in a novel way to ascertain which of its online customers can most effectively be tempted by a misleading, if not outright duplicitous, sales pitch. The FTC has never encountered the practice before. The FTC’s statute currently gives the agency discretion to launch an administrative proceeding against the company to determine whether the technique should be deemed a forbidden “unfair or deceptive trade practice.” If, based on the agency’s policy deliberations and a carefully assembled factual record, the FTC determines that the practice is “unfair” or “deceptive,” it could prohibit the company’s future use of that practice. What the FTC could not do would be to penalize the company for its pre-adjudication conduct—for example, by levying a fine—if no prior FTC proceeding had warned the company that it was violating federal law. The relief—as lawyers call a remedy to a legal problem—would have to be entirely forward-looking. The Supreme Court has approved this manner of administrative adjudication since 1947.

Under the Trump order, the FTC would not be allowed to proceed as I have described. It would first have to conduct a rule-making on the fairness of AI-guided online sales practices before it could go after any firm. This might be grossly inefficient and would disable the FTC from developing a nuanced factual understanding of regulated practices through individual cases. The Trump order does insist: “Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect … the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof.” The problem with this promise not to “impair” is that the order’s so-called fair-warning requirement, if applied to delay or prevent adjudication, would do just that. On this issue, Trump’s order either alters the discretion of administrative agencies or it is meaningless.

The second and even more aggressive prong is the Trump administration’s campaign to undermine independent agencies, which conduct a lot of the highest-profile administrative adjudications. The aim is to put an end altogether to the idea of independent officers in the executive branch. An agency is considered an “independent agency” if its head or heads may be dismissed by the president only with good cause—typically, “inefficiency, malfeasance, or neglect of office.” Conventional understanding is that presidents may fire at will any administrator who lacks such statutory protection. The Department of Justice under Trump, however, has been working hard to nudge the Supreme Court into determining either that any statutory limits on presidential at-will removal authority are categorically unconstitutional or that “inefficiency, malfeasance, or neglect of office” must be interpreted broadly enough that failure to follow any presidential directive would become “good cause” for dismissal. This would effectively end, for example, the independence of the Federal Reserve System.

The Justice Department’s first attempt at curtailing independence came in a 2018 case called Lucia v. Securities and Exchange Commission . The issue in Lucia was whether ALJs used by the SEC were “officers”—as opposed to “employees” of the United States—and thus had to be directly appointed by the SEC itself. (Under Article II of the Constitution, Congress may allow heads of agencies to appoint “inferior” officers. The president must appoint “principal officers” with Senate advice and consent. Congress has free rein for determining how “employees” may be hired.) The Court determined that the ALJs were indeed “officers” under the Constitution. It thus concluded that the SEC had acted unconstitutionally by allowing its chief administrative-law judge, working with SEC staff, to choose the commission’s ALJs. By not personally signing off on the appointments, the SEC commissioners had hoped to create the appearance of greater impartiality when their ALJs decided cases in which the SEC itself was a party. But given the Court’s holding, the SEC commissioners—the agency’s principal political appointees—would henceforth have to formally appoint the bureaucratic judges deciding the agency’s cases.

The Justice Department wanted the Court to go further, however. It argued that if the ALJs are “officers,” then the statute protecting them from at-will discharge would have to be narrowly interpreted so that they could be fired simply for failing to follow directions. The Court explicitly refused to discuss the issue. But the solicitor general proceeded to issue a memorandum to all agency general counsels, advertising the Department’s eagerness to mount this argument in a future case.

A more direct vehicle for pushing the Court to invalidate agency independence from presidential control is a case to be argued on March 3, Seila Law LLC v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau . (I helped write an amicus brief in this case defending the constitutionality of the CFPB’s structure.) The Justice Department’s position is that the Supreme Court’s unanimous 1935 decision upholding agency independence, Humphrey’s Executor v. United States , should be overruled. Should the Court agree, it would not only render independent judges unconstitutional within any agency, but Congress would no longer be able, through tenure protections, to limit direct presidential policy control over the principal officers who deliver each agency’s final judgments—members of the Federal Communications Commission, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and all the similar bodies I have already mentioned. All would become removable by the president at will.

The Trump administration, in short, is challenging agencies’ ability to go after wrongdoing through administrative adjudication, and is seeking to undermine the independence of both first-line agency adjudicators and the heads of the agencies they work for. The administration appears intent on expanding this campaign. On January 30, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) published a request for information that could be used to inform further agency-adjudication orders. Public comments are due on March 16. The questions posed by the OMB suggest the Trump administration is interested in significantly rewriting the rules by which agencies conduct their trial-type proceedings.

By making the investigation and prosecution of regulated parties more difficult, the president threatens to create a system that, through centralized control, would allow cronyism and “agency capture” to protect corporate interests ahead of the public interest. New rules shaping adjudication could also enable political officials to make it harder for individuals to get the government benefits to which they are entitled.

A group of administrative-law scholars at George Washington University wrote a friend-of-the-court brief in Lucia warning of the disaster that would follow tightening political controls over agency adjudicators. They pointed out that “Congress devoted a substantial amount of time during the 1930s and 1940s to the question of how to structure agencies that engage in adjudication of regulatory disputes.” By statute, Congress imposed procedures for ALJs that were “specifically designed to ensure that they had an appropriate degree of decisional independence from the agencies whose cases they were to hear.” Making ALJs removable at will, or simply for failing to follow directions by political superiors, would undermine the impartiality that Congress sought to guarantee.

Impartiality is anathema to Trumpism. That the Trump administration wants to upend a long-standing system for assuring both the reality and appearance of fairness in agency adjudication may be shocking. But it is not surprising. If you consider yourself on block watch for threats to democracy, take your eyes for a moment off the president’s Twitter feed and turn your attention to administrative law. Danger is lurking amid the complexity.


(David Bythewood) #161

DeVos’s Rules Bolster Rights of Students Accused of Sexual Misconduct

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos released final regulations for schools dealing with sexual misconduct, giving them the force of law for the first time and bolstering due-process rights.



Betsy DeVos releases final changes to campus sexual assault policies

Groups advocating for sexual assault victims worry that the changes will have a chilling effect on students coming forward.

This one is very personal for me. Here’s why: