Yes, good one…
Here’s another on PBS Newshour
Yes, good one…
Here’s another on PBS Newshour
In an otherwise blameless life, Paul Manafort lobbied on behalf of the tobacco industry and wangled millions in tax breaks for corporations.
In a new profile in The Washington Post, Speaker Pelosi explains why she against the impeachment of Trump.
There have been increasing calls, including from some of your members, for impeachment of the president.
I’m not for impeachment. This is news. I’m going to give you some news right now because I haven’t said this to any press person before. But since you asked, and I’ve been thinking about this: Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country. And he’s just not worth it.
A conversation with Ta-Nehisi Coates
In recent days, as Democrats debated the definition of “reparations,” Joe Biden rationalized his opposition to integration, and socialist congresswomen started demanding the rebirth of a nation, inquiring minds wanted to know: What would Ta-Nehisi say?
Throughout the Obama years, Ta-Nehisi Coates provided politics-watchers with a regular source of historically grounded, bracingly well-written punditry and reporting. But since 2016, the writer’s ambitions have led him off of Twitter and out out of the news cycle, leaving us to navigate the Trump era’s dark waters without the aid of his insight.
Until now, anyway. Earlier this week, New York caught up with the author of Between the World and Me and “The Case for Reparations” to discuss the latest developments in the Democratic Party’s 2020 primary race, the case for — and against — reparations, and the role of pop culture in fostering progressive change.
Read more below
An upbeat editorial combined with an inspiring profile…
In a homeless shelter in Manhattan, an 8-year-old boy is walking to his room, carrying an awkward load in his arms, unfazed by screams from a troubled resident. The boy is a Nigerian refugee with an uncertain future, but he is beaming.
He can’t stop grinning because the awkward load is a huge trophy, almost as big as he is. This homeless third grader has just won his category at the New York State chess championship.
Much of the news of the last week has focused on wealthy families buying access to great universities, either illegally through bribes or legally through donations. There is no question that America is a tilted playing field that gives wealthy children huge advantages.
So we should all grin along with Tanitoluwa Adewumi, the newly crowned chess champion for kindergarten through third grade. He went undefeated at the state tournament last weekend, outwitting children from elite private schools with private chess tutors. …
Tani’s family fled northern Nigeria in 2017, fearing attacks by Boko Haram terrorists on Christians such as themselves. “I don’t want to lose any loved ones,” his father, Kayode Adewumi, told me.
So Tani, his parents and his older brother arrived in New York City a bit more than a year ago, and a pastor helped steer them to a homeless shelter. Tani began attending the local elementary school, P.S. 116, which has a part-time chess teacher who taught Tani’s class how to play.
Tani’s mom can’t play chess but takes him every Saturday to a three-hour free practice session in Harlem, and she attends his tournaments. His dad lets Tani use his laptop each evening to practice. And although religion is extremely important to the family, the parents let Tani miss church when necessary to attend a tournament.
“Tani is rich beyond measure,” in the strength, love and support of his family, Makofsky told me.
Tani’s dad has two jobs: He rents a car that he uses to drive for Uber, and he has also become a licensed real estate salesman. Tani’s mom has passed a course to become a home health aide. Meeting them, it’s easy to see where Tani’s scrappy diligence came from. …
“I feel American,” he explained. In fact, the family’s asylum request is dragging on, with the next hearing scheduled for August.
Tani tries to put that out of his mind. He lies on the floor of the shelter and practices chess for hours each evening — now preparing for the elementary national championship in May. …
Tani is a reminder that refugees enrich this nation — and that talent is universal, even if opportunity is not. Back in Nigeria, his parents say, his brilliance at chess would never have had an outlet.
“The U.S. is a dream country,” his dad told me. “Thank God I live in the greatest city in the world, which is New York, New York.”
While this unseating of T’s Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh is a long shot, it is worth noting that there may be an angle to do so. Impeachment is a difficult climb in terms of getting all the votes in House and Senate necessary. Already 20 ethics violations against Kavanaugh have been dropped, and it maybe up to Justice Roberts to impose a 'code of conduct’ clause into the Supreme Court.
Donald Trump is up for reelection in about 18 months. Even if he wins, he is term-limited out of office after 2024. Even if he declares a national emergency and appoints himself dictator for life, Trump is a 72-year-old man with the diet of the Hamburglar. Most people reading this will outlive Donald Trump.
Many of us will not outlive Brett Kavanaugh. And the Constitution vests him with power for the rest of his natural life. If Democrats are going to make a move against any federal official, it should be against the Supreme Court justice who is under the cloud of 83 ethics violations.
State and federal prosecutors might someday hold Trump and his associates accountable in court for their apparent wrongdoing. Not so with Kavanaugh. Those 83 ethics complaints, all inspired by his conduct at his nomination hearings, were dismissed in December by 10th Circuit Judge Timothy Tymkovich. Last week, the US Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit rejected 20 appeals to reinstate the complaints. No ruling has been made about the validity of any of the allegations. The court dismissed the claims because it believes it has no authority to hold a sitting Supreme Court Justice accountable.
But there is a constitutional mechanism to do something about Kavanaugh and the many, many lies he is accused of telling. That process is called “impeachment.”
The process to impeach a Supreme Court justice is exactly the same as the process to impeach a president: a majority vote in the House of Representatives brings the charges (those charges are what we call “impeachment”), then there is a trial in the Senate. A two-thirds supermajority vote in the Senate is required to convict and remove a judge, or president, or any other federal official from office.
Because removal requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate, I know some Democrats will say that bringing charges against Brett Kavanaugh—impeaching him—is pointless. Some Democrats insist on living in a country where nothing is “worth it” unless Republicans are likely to agree.
Yes! 83 ethics violation complaints swept under the rug. Shame, shame, shame on the Republicans. Impeach Kavanaugh!
And, IMHO, even more importantly, he flagrantly lied under oath before Congress and the nation. A judge who is proven to have lied under oath cannot continue serving as a judge in any court, let alone the Supreme Court. The reasons: First, he has lost all credibility. Second, and most importantly, how can a judge who has committed perjury hold a perjurer accountable?
Must read Profile
Lachlan Murdoch takes control of Fox Corp. But how will he deal with President Trump?
President Trump has never called Lachlan Murdoch.
The 47-year-old media scion, best known for being Rupert Murdoch’s son, is finally inheriting the mantle of chief executive of the family business. But while Trump and Rupert speak regularly, the president has not picked up the phone and dialed Lachlan.
Lachlan’s emergence as leader of Fox Corp. following the close of the Murdochs’ $71.3 billion sale of 21st Century Fox to Disney, puts him on new, inherently political terrain that will test his talents as an executive and invite inevitable comparisons with his father.
Decades ago he was promised the mantle at Fox, but the company he will run is not what anyone expected, and disappointments have lined his path to this moment. Not only is Lachlan more distant from the White House than his hard-charging father, he will oversee a much smaller company — parent to Fox News, Fox Sports, Fox Entertainment and Fox TV Stations.
Whether or not T demonstrated obstruction of justice in firing Comey, this opinion piece does not address it. Comey wants to see that Mueller’s work is not impeded and that the process has been clear.
James Comey: What I Want From the Mueller Report
I am rooting for a demonstration to the world that the United States justice system works
I do have one hope that I should confess. I hope that Mr. Trump is not impeached and removed from office before the end of his term. I don’t mean that Congress shouldn’t move ahead with the process of impeachment governed by our Constitution, if Congress thinks the provable facts are there. I just hope it doesn’t. Because if Mr. Trump were removed from office by Congress, a significant portion of this country would see this as a coup, and it would drive those people farther from the common center of American life, more deeply fracturing our country.
Critics of Mr. Trump should hope for something much harder to distort, or to nurse as a grievance, than an impeachment. We need a resounding election result in 2020, where Americans of all stripes, divided as they may be about important policy issues — immigration, guns, abortion, climate change, regulation, taxes — take a moment from their busy lives to show that they are united by something even more important: the belief that the president of the United States cannot be a chronic liar who repeatedly attacks the rule of law. Then we can get back to policy disagreements.
I just hope we are up to it.
This opinion piece by Robert Reich*, may reflect a lot of our views now here at WTF. The damage has been done already, by seeing the upheaval in norms and the fracturing of institutions we hold dear, ex. Rule of Law, role of the press, belief in the Presidency.
It can not be stressed enough as Obama had put it to Ben Rhodes **
"“But,” he added, “we’re about to find out how resilient our institutions are, at home and around the world.”
The Guardian Op-Ed
The real danger is that as attention inevitably turns to the 2020 campaign, controversy over the Mueller report will obscure the far more basic issues of Trump’s competence and character.
An American president is not just the chief executive of the United States, and the office he (eventually she) holds is not just a bully pulpit to advance policy ideas. He is also a moral leader, and the office is a moral pulpit invested with meaning about the common good.
** Review of Ben Rhodes book/WaPo
After Trump’s victory, Obama tried to deconstruct what happened. “We had it all teed up,” he told Rhodes, noting that unemployment was low, gas prices had come down, millions of formerly uninsured people had health coverage. He then spoke of a New York Times column he read asserting that liberals had underestimated the importance of identity to voters. “Maybe people just want to fall back into their tribe,” Obama said. Rhodes pushed back, arguing that young people around the world are more tolerant. “They get it,” he said, adding, “Young people didn’t vote for Trump, just like young people in the UK didn’t vote for Brexit.”
Obama conceded that Rhodes might be right. “But,” he added, “we’re about to find out how resilient our institutions are, at home and around the world.” I suppose it’s good to know that in private Obama was as worried as the rest of us. It just doesn’t make me feel any safer.
It’s like he read my mind! I have tremendous respect for Reich and hope that some day soon we can bring professionals of his caliber back into the White House.
A line that really struck me with me with its sad truth:
Trump undermined core values of our democracy.
When Barr hands over to T a win, which on the face of it appears to be No Collusion only…but the kicker is the No Exoneration, which should stop him in his tracks. (#WishfulThinking) T takes this as his 2020 battle cry…
NYTimes: No Collusion, No Exoneration
According to Mr. Barr’s four-page summary, Mr. Mueller and his team were unable to establish that anyone connected to the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government when it interfered to help Mr. Trump in the 2016 presidential campaign.
This should provide some relief to all Americans who have harbored fears that a presidential candidate was conspiring with Vladimir Putin to subvert American democracy. Mr. Mueller — who never once responded to the shameless stream of insults Mr. Trump has hurled at him over the last two years — is as careful and thorough an investigator as there is. His investigation lasted almost two years, issued more than 2,800 subpoenas and roughly 500 search warrants and heard from a similar number of witnesses. If he couldn’t find any links, it’s doubtful anyone could.
What this outcome is not, however, is a “Complete and Total EXONERATION,” as Mr. Trump unsurprisingly spun it. Mr. Mueller explicitly declined to exonerate the president on the matter of obstruction of justice — a crime that constituted one of the articles of impeachment for both Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. After examining Mr. Trump’s actions and weighing “difficult issues” of law and fact, Mr. Mueller punted. “While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” the report states.
George Conway III, the husband of you-know-who comes out swinging at DT…Not fit for office.
So it should have come as no surprise that the obstruction case was difficult, and inconclusive. But Barr’s letter revealed something unexpected about the obstruction issue: that Mueller said his “report does not conclude that the President committed a crime” but that “it also does not exonerate him.” The report does not exonerate the president? That’s a stunning thing for a prosecutor to say. Mueller didn’t have to say that. Indeed, making that very point, the president’s outside counsel, Rudolph W. Giuliani, called the statement a “cheap shot.”
But Mueller isn’t prone to cheap shots; he plays by the rules, every step of the way. If his report doesn’t exonerate the president, there must be something pretty damning in it about him, even if it might not suffice to prove a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. And in saying that the report “catalogu[ed] the President’s actions, many of which took place in public view,” Barr’s letter makes clear that the report also catalogues actions taken privately that shed light on possible obstruction, actions that the American people and Congress yet know nothing about.
At the same time, and equally remarkably, Mueller, according to Barr, said he “ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment” regarding obstruction. Reading that statement together with the no-exoneration statement, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Mueller wrote his report to allow the American people and Congress to decide what to make of the facts. And that is what should — must — happen now.
But whether the Mueller report ever sees the light of day, there is one charge that can be resolved now. Americans should expect far more from a president than merely that he not be provably a criminal. They should expect a president to comport himself in accordance with the high duties of his office. As all presidents must, Trump swore an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, and to faithfully execute his office and the laws in accordance with the Constitution. That oath requires putting the national interests above his personal interests.
Yet virtually from the moment he took office, in his response to the Russia investigation, Trump has done precisely the opposite: Relentlessly attacked an attorney general, Mueller, the Justice Department — including suggesting that his own deputy attorney general should go to jail. Lied, to the point that his own lawyers wouldn’t dare let him speak to Mueller, lest he commit a crime. Been more concerned about touting his supposedly historic election victory than confronting an attack on our democracy by a hostile foreign power.
If the charge were unfitness for office, the verdict would already be in: guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Last Sunday, Attorney General William Barr sent us a letter summarizing what he says are the “principal conclusions” of the special counsel, Robert Mueller. The next day, together with five other committee chairmen, I wrote back to the attorney general, demanding that he provide us with the full Mueller report — not a summary, but the full report and all of the relevant evidence — by April 2.
For nearly two years, the country has waited to read the report. Over those many months, President Trump has raged against the institutions that make our democracy possible — among them, the free press, the courts and his own Department of Justice. When the special counsel indicted members of the president’s inner circle, his attacks got louder.
Before the formal investigation began, Mr. Trump fired his F.B.I. director. He later fired his attorney general. He reportedly attempted to fire the special counsel himself. Despite this profoundly unacceptable behavior, the special counsel persevered and wrote his report.
We — the members of the Judiciary Committee, the House of Representatives and the entire American public — are still waiting to see that report. We will not wait much longer. We have an obligation to read the full report, and the Department of Justice has an obligation to provide it, in its entirely, without delay. If the department is unwilling to produce the full report voluntarily, then we will do everything in our power to secure it for ourselves.
If Benjamin Wittes can cut William Barr some slack, I may be willing to as well. (with fingers crossed) Barr has given us a timeline…and he also gave us an unequivocal No Collusion (that represents a crime or treason). So we need to see the actual Mueller Report…and Barr is hoping to cut out a lot of intel related areas, and embarrassing stuff for someone like Jared, or T perhaps.
Wait 'n see…
Yet I am still inclined to give Barr the benefit of the doubt on the release of the Mueller report, if only in a kind of “trust but verify” sort of way. The reason, in short, is that Barr has promised numerous times to show his work. He has promised to do so in the short term. The equities he has insisted on protecting are, in my view, reasonable ones. And he has taken in his most recent letter an appropriate, even gutsy, stand on executive privilege with respect to the White House. He has, in short, described a reasonable process by which Congress and the public should shortly get access to Mueller’s findings. I am inclined to assume him serious about this until he fails to deliver on what he has promised. There will be plenty of time to criticize his failures if and when they materialize.
Interesting point from Nelson W. Cunningham
Attorney General William Barr is right: For public release of the Mueller report, he has no choice but to redact classified information, and also grand jury information pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e). It’s not optional — it’s the law, designed to protect both the secrecy of grand jury proceedings and our nation’s security.
And by explicit language, Rule 6(e) specifically exempts intelligence shared with government officials from the restrictions on grand jury disclosure, thanks to language added after the 9/11 attacks. Before then, investigators were unwisely barred from sharing evidence gathered by grand jury with their intelligence counterparts. The 2002 amendments made it clear that Rule 6(e) would no longer be a bar. See Rule 6(e)(3)(D).
So just as a startingly on-point D.C. Circuit en banc precedent indicates the full report and underlying evidence may be shared with the Judiciary Committee, clear statutory language gives the same right to the intelligence committees.
Of course, any disclosure to the committees is subject to the laws governing grand jury and classified information. Chairman Rodino did not publicly release the Jaworski report and evidence (although a D.C. court finally ordered its public release last year). But like Jaworski’s report 45 years ago, Mueller’s could serve as a crucial road map for the judiciary and intelligence committees as they weigh the harm done by Russia’s meddling in our 2016 elections – building their own cases, calling witnesses and collecting the documents as Chairman Nadler has already begun to do.
Congressional Democrats should accept this imperfect result. There are good reasons why grand jury proceedings and intelligence activities are generally shielded from full public view — to promote candor, stealth and speed, and to protect both the innocent and the guilty until the time to strike. Let Barr redact the Mueller report for public review — a bowdlerized document that will doubtless leave more questions than answers, but at least will be public.
But the judiciary and intelligence committees are entitled to everything Mueller has produced, unredacted. Chairs Nadler and Schiff should immediately assert their rights and subpoena the full Mueller report and underlying evidence. And then their important work can begin.
When President Donald Trump’s pick for ambassador to the Bahamas testified before Congress to make the case for his nomination, he incorrectly stated that the island nation was part of the U.S. It is an independent country.
For ambassador to the United Arab Emirates — a job so sensitive in the tense Middle East that every previous president gave it to a career diplomat — Trump picked a wealthy real estate developer with no diplomatic experience.
The ambassador to Morocco? A well-heeled car dealer. The nominee for Iceland? While well-traveled, he had never been to that Nordic country. For Melania Trump’s native country of Slovenia? The founder of an evangelical charity who frequently reposted false far-right social media posts on her Facebook page.
None have diplomatic experience, but they share one trait: All were big donors to Trump’s presidential inaugural committee, which is now under federal investigation.
An NBC News review of those who donated to the Trump inauguration found at least 14 major contributors to its inaugural fund who were later nominees to become ambassadors, donating an average of slightly over $350,000 apiece. …
There are … 52 vacant ambassadorships out of about 250. Two years into their presidencies, Obama had 11 and Bush had 15. There are also a large number of vacancies in critical countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. …
Marquette University law professor Ryan Scoville, who is about to publish a study analyzing the qualifications of nearly 2,000 ambassador nominees from the Reagan era onward, was less equivocal. “Trump’s picks are less qualified than prior presidents’,” said Scoville, though Trump is continuing a downward trend in which “the level of qualification has eroded while the amount of contribution to candidates has risen.” …
Among the nominations that have languished is that of Doug Manchester, a San Diego real estate magnate, chosen to go to the Bahamas. He gave $1 million via a trust to the inauguration. In his nomination hearing, he told senators the Bahamas was a U.S. protectorate. The Bahamas was once a British possession but has been an independent nation since 1972. While it lies just off the Florida coast, it has never been a U.S. territory.
When asked why he said the Bahamas was a U.S. protectorate, Manchester told NBC News, “I was incorrect in that statement.” …
John Blanchard, a Montgomery, Alabama, real estate magnate, donated $553,500 to Trump’s inauguration fund under the name Joe D. Blanchard. He and his wife, Lynda “Lindy” Blanchard, have given more than $2.6 million to Republicans since 2015.
In January 2018, the Blanchards collectively donated $250,000 to the Trump Victory Political Action Committee, a joint-fundraising effort by Trump’s re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee. The couple also wrote four separate checks for $2,700 to Trump’s re-election campaign on the same day, the maximum permitted for individual contributions.
Five months later, in June 2018, Trump nominated Lynda Blanchard to become ambassador to Slovenia.
Lynda Blanchard, who founded and ran a charity called the 100X Development Foundation, dedicated to helping children and the poor, was an early Trump supporter who often shared stories on her Facebook wall that praised the future president.
"May God our Father paint this country Red with the Blood of Jesus!" she posted on Election Day 2016.
Many articles she shared on her Facebook page in 2016 were from now-defunct sites that peddled false stories about Democratic politicians. She shared a link to an article titled, “The Clinton ‘Body Count’ EXPANDS – 5 Mysterious DEATHS in the Last 6 Weeks,” pushing a baseless decades-old conspiracy theory that alleges Bill and Hillary Clinton murdered former friends and enemies. …
Another posting that stalled is ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, a sensitive job that every previous president assigned to a career diplomat since the formation of the UAE nearly 50 years ago. Trump nominated John Rakolta, who has no diplomatic experience. Rakolta is the chairman and chief executive of Walbridge Aldinger Co., a large Detroit-based engineering and construction company. He donated $250,000 to the president’s inauguration. …
Also pending is the nomination for David T. Fischer to represent the U.S. in Morocco. Fischer is the chairman and CEO of the Suburban Collection, which operates car dealerships in Michigan, Florida and California. He was nominated in December 2017. Fischer has contributed heavily to Republicans in the past, but according to public records his $250,000 to the Trump inaugural committee was his first contribution to Trump or any pro-Trump group. Fischer declined to comment about his stalled nomination.
Donald Tapia is a big Republican donor in Arizona and the former chairman of Essco Wholesale Electric Inc., a seller of electrical products. In May 2018, Tapia was nominated as the ambassador to Jamaica. He donated $100,000 to the inauguration, as well as over $100,000 to the Trump Victory PAC.
Jeffrey R. Gunter gave $100,000 to the Trump Victory PAC and $100,000 to the Trump Inaugural Committee. Gunter, a Los Angeles-based dermatologist, served on the Trump transition team’s finance committee.
Testifying before the Foreign Relations Committee on why he should represent the U.S. in Iceland, he said he had never been there but had traveled extensively in Western Europe, and said his work running a medical practice prepared him to be an ambassador.
The nominations for Blanchard, Tapia and Gunter are slated for a committee vote on Wednesday, April 3.
While six have seen their nominations stall, eight others who gave to the inaugural fund have become ambassadors. They contributed more than $3 million combined to the inaugural committee, some flowing through trusts and LLCs.
Trump appointed one of his bankruptcy lawyers to become ambassador to Israel. David Melech Friedman was a partner at the New York law firm Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman and did legal work for Trump’s troubled Atlantic City casino ventures. The law firm donated $300,000 to Trump’s inauguration.
The Trump administration’s ambassador to the United Kingdom is Robert “Woody” Johnson IV, owner of the New York Jets football team, who donated $1 million to the inaugural eight months before he was nominated to the diplomatic post. The U.S. ambassador to the U.K. is typically a political appointee with business ties. …
George Glass was an early Jeb Bush supporter, but as the 2016 Republican primary tightened, the Oregon real estate developer converted. In 2016, Glass gave $5,400 to the Trump campaign and sent another $77,500 to Trump Victory. In December 2016, Glass gave $22,500 for Trump’s inauguration. Six months later, Trump nominated Glass to the post of ambassador to Portugal.
On social media, Glass follows almost everyone who follows him. The result is that the ambassador follows dozens of accounts dedicated to pushing the QAnon conspiracy theory, which falsely maintains Trump is in a secret war against the “Deep State” and a cabal of Satan-worshipping Democrats who run a child sex cult. Glass is also a prolific “liker,” who has “liked” tweets from QAnon fan accounts and other incendiary tweets from far-right figures, including Bill Mitchell and Candace Owens. …
Oregon hotelier Gordon Sondland … donated a total of $1 million to the inauguration through four different LLCs. …
He’s now the ambassador to the European Union.
Kelly Knight Craft, Trump’s ambassador to Canada, is now the president’s pick to become U.N. ambassador. Previously she was a U.N. alternate delegate for President George W. Bush. Her husband, coal-mining executive Joe Craft, donated $1 million to the inauguration through JWC REV Trust.
As ambassador to Canada, Craft attracted controversy when, during an interview with the CBC, she was asked whether she believes in climate change, and responded, “I believe there are scientists on both sides that are accurate.”
Craft’s nomination to become U.N. ambassador is pending before the Senate.
Carla Sands, a former chiropractor and an actress on the soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful,” is ambassador to Denmark. Sands has supported Republicans, gave $100,000 to the inaugural committee, and held a high-priced fundraiser for Trump at her mansion. She also gave $5,400 to Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., and $250,000 to Trump Victory.
Jamie McCourt, ambassador to France and former owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, has supported both GOP and Democratic candidates. She gave $50,800 to Trump’s inaugural committee and $349,000 to Trump Victory.
William Robert Kohorst, a real estate developer, donated $250,000 to Trump’s inauguration and another $194,000 to Trump Victory. He was nominated to be ambassador to Croatia in September 2017 and assumed his post in January 2018. …
Rep Adam Schiff is calling out T on his authoritarian tendencies and the backsliding NATO situation. He is right to call this out…and be extremely vocal about what instability that T’s leadership (or lack thereof) has brought.
Seventy years ago next week, President Harry Truman led the United States and 11 other nations in establishing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a defensive alliance to protect Western Europe against Soviet aggression. Since 1949, NATO has grown to include 29 member countries, becoming the world’s largest peacetime military alliance — and history’s most successful, preserving peace in Europe and deterring conflict. For decades, support for NATO has been among the most bipartisan of issues, a unifying force at home and abroad.
But today the alliance faces worrisome challenges.
Earlier this year, I attended the annual Munich Security Conference as part of a bipartisan delegation from the U.S. Congress. Although I have attended many such conferences, this year’s was different. There was palpable concern among key European leaders over two issues facing NATO: the decline of liberal democracy in some European countries and our president, Donald Trump.
The first trend predates Trump’s election. Over the past five years, there has been troubling backsliding among some of the younger democracies in the NATO alliance. Hungary is now ruled by the populist autocrat Viktor Orban, who has built increasingly close ties to Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Poland, too, has taken a concerning turn toward authoritarianism. In Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed ever more expansive powers for himself, while taking the previously unimaginable step of purchasing Russian missile defense systems, which could endanger American pilots.
No real interviewing time reduced to 2 hours vs the 30 hours previously…just ram the nominees through, that’s the McConnell way.
In a bid to speed confirmation of President Trump’s nominees, Republicans voted Wednesday to cut the debate time for lower-level judicial and administration picks from 30 hours to two. Ordinarily, such a rule change requires the backing of a two-thirds supermajority. But the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, detonated the so-called nuclear option, lowering the threshold for passage to a simple majority — a move Mr. Trump had been clamoring for. Only two Republicans joined with Democrats to oppose this latest erosion of the minority party’s ability to “advise and consent.”
This may sound like parliamentary arcana, but the impact should be clear to anyone unnerved by the Senate’s newish practice of ramming through Supreme Court picks with a bare majority — another Trump-era innovation by Mr. McConnell.
The Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, charged that the move “risks turning this body into a colosseum of zero-sum infighting, a place where the brute power of the majority rules, with little or no regard to the concerns of the minority party, and where longstanding rules have little or no meaning.”
Mr. McConnell contends that he was forced into this by Democrats’ “mindless, undiscriminating obstruction for the sake of obstruction.” This claim will strike many as ludicrous. Well before the name Merrick Garland became synonymous with partisan stonewalling, Mr. McConnell was widely regarded as a master of obstruction, even by members of his own party.
I am putting this here…It is a rather long thread of a tweet that is being re-tweeted by people I respect - Joyce Alene, lawyer, MSNBC contributor.
1/Something broke in America this week. We have been spiraling downward since Trump’s election, but this week, we crossed a line. The President and his men began asserting that they were above the law–and effectively no one in our system did anything to stop them.
2:13 PM - 12 Apr 2019
2/The Attorney General sneered at the Congress and placed himself imperiously above its questions. He continued to arrogate onto himself what portions of the Mueller Report–paid for by the people, essentially in its totality to the Congress to do its duty–we would see.
3/ on the Trump campaign. (Ignoring that the reasons for the investigation in question were not only sound…but the core reason…that Russia had sought to aid the Trump campaign in the election had been proven again by Mueller.)
4./ At the same time, the Secretary of the Treasury and the head of the IRS determined to violate a law that required in no uncertain terms for them to provide the president’s tax returns to the chairman of the House Ways and Means committee.
5/ At the same time a purge at the Department of Homeland Security took place and it became quickly clear it was because the president and his team were frustrated that officials would not act in violation of the law. We learned that the White House promised pardons…
6/ to those who break the law, encouraging a crime and abetting it. We learned that they considered an egregious abuse of power that would involve releasing illegal immigrants in sanctuary cities controlled by Democrats.
7/ We saw the president complain that our military would not rough up immigrants. We saw him continue the charade of an emergency at our southern border which was an excuse for him illegally divert government resources to an unnecessary, racist, vanity project.
8/ The president repeatedly called law enforcement officers who investigated him traitors, guilty of treason–a crime that carries with it the death penalty. We discovered that the president considered appointing his grossly unqualified daughter to be head of the World Bank.
9/ It is the stuff of the world’s most dysfunctional governments. But rather than generating a response from within our system commensurate with the threat, nothing occurred. The GOP leaders in the Senate circled round the president and supported his abuses.
10/ In so doing, they sent a message that they would never challenge him much less convict him of the myriad crimes he has committed. The checks and balances our system was built upon are gone. Worse, the courts are being packed with Trump cronies–often unqualified.
11/ Agencies are being left to appointed caretakers some outside the normal chain of succession, many unconfirmed for their current posts by the Senate. Political opponents tip-toed around these crimes daring not to appear “too extreme.”
12/ This is how democracies die. The rule of law is slowly strangled. The unthinkable becomes commonplace. The illegal becomes accepted–from violations of the emoluments clause to self-dealing to Federal election law crimes to serial sexual abuse.
13/ What once was black and white blurs into grey. Right and wrong, old principles, enduring values, fade from memory. Authoritarians arrive in our midst not in tanks but in bad suits and worse haircuts.
14/ I have long thought our system was better than this–more resilient. But candidly, I’m no longer sure. I remain hopeful…hopeful that the next election cycle can redress this manifold wrongs. But it will not be easy. It will be too close. Trump may be with us for six more yrs.
15/ Why? Because we allowed ourselves to become inured to the unthinkable. We are dying the death of a thousand cuts. Right now, this week, the president and his band of thugs are winning. They have become unabashed in their attacks on the law.
16/ They are daring someone to enforce it. But what if…what if the courts rule against them but they ignore it? What if the Treasury Secretary has violated a law and no one arrests him. What if the president steals and canoodles with enemies and he goes unpunished?
17/ Their crimes will only grow more egregious and their ways will only grow more ingrained in our system. Their violations will in fact become the system itself. Corruption will be the norm-greater corruption,to be sure,since it it was corruption that got us here in the first place.
18/ Our only hope is recognizing the seriousness of our situation. This is not politics as usual. This is not an erosion of what was. This is a full blown crisis, the greatest American politics has faced in half a century…perhaps much longer.
19/ It is not a time for equivocation. It is not a time for patience. It is time for those who seek to protect the rule of law to step up to protect it or the chance may not soon again return.