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  1. #21
    Of Course Republicans Will Keep Letting Trump Slide

    They'll line up and salute when the time comes.


    FEB 7, 2018

    The president* certainly has a gift for staying in character. You have to give the man that. I expect his re-elect to produce an ad with him standing in a white uniform on a balcony, tossing pennies to the peasants. But as easily mockable as this proposal for a grand parade and military review is, it shouldn’t blind us to the very real damage this administration* is doing elsewhere. For example, as if John Kelly's remarks on DACA beneficiaries weren't proof enough, the administration* has made it pretty clear what its attitude is toward poor people who are too lazy - or, as it turns out, sick - to get off their asses and do something.

    First, there is the concerted effort to turn Medicaid into a welfare program - first, by enacting work requirements for Medicaid recipients, and then to enact a lifetime limit on coverage. The folks at McClatchy have a good rundown of how these two things will work together to do to Medicaid what the 1996 welfare "reform" act did to Aid to Families With Dependent Children - essentially, to "welfare-ize" Medicaid as a prelude to changing the program utterly, or to eliminate it entirely.

    Capping health care benefits - like federal welfare benefits - would be a first for Medicaid, the joint state-and-federal health plan for low-income and disabled Americans. If approved, the dramatic policy change would recast government-subsidized health coverage as temporary assistance by placing a limit on the number of months adults have access to Medicaid benefits. The move would continue the Trump administration's push to inject conservative policies into the Medicaid program through the use of federal waivers, which allow states more flexibility to create policies designed to promote personal and financial responsibility among enrollees.

    First of all, who says that "enrollees" need their personal and financial responsibility "promoted"? The representatives of the most obviously self-indulgent wastrel ever to waddle through the White House? Please. And, as Ed Kilgore points out in New York, this plan will come with the added bonus of basically killing off the Medicaid expansion that came with the Affordable Care Act.

    Not to be outdone, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, under the nepotistic, if barely distinguishable, leadership of Dr. Ben Carson, apparently wants in on this red-hot work-requirement action, too. From The Intercept:

    This change would significantly impact those who rely on public housing and housing choice vouchers, often referred to as Section 8 in reference to Section 8 of the Housing Act. The news comes just weeks after the Trump administration announced that states could start imposing work requirements as a condition of Medicaid eligibility…if the draft's proposals are enacted, those families would have to pay the higher of two figures: Either 35 percent of their household's gross income, or 35 percent of what they earn from working 15 hours a week for four weeks at the federal minimum wage. A comment in the margins of the document notes that the latter would equal $152.25, something housing advocates say is effectively a new minimum rent floor.

    Additionally, the draft legislation would allow public housing authorities to impose work requirements of up to 32 hours a week "per adult in the household who is not elderly or a person with disabilities." According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, more than half of all recipients who lived in subsidized housing in 2015 were elderly or disabled, and more than a quarter of all households had a working adult.

    Suddenly, and again, the reasons why congressional Republicans are willing to let the president* run amuck in so many ways are very clear. While he's putting on his freak show that so entertains the rubes, and while everyone is amused by the contortions that the investigations of Russian ratfcking are putting him and his people through, in so many other ways, his administration* is modern conservative nirvana: dismantling the social safety net, knuckling the poor and infirm, destroying the administrative state, and making the lives of millions of voiceless people immeasurably worse while they still have the power to do so.

    Of course they're letting him slide. They're getting everything they've wanted since the enactment of the New Deal. He's a dream come true. They'll line up and salute. I guarantee that.

  2. #22
    Mueller Has the Goods Now, and Trump Knows It

    And any decision to fire Mueller or Rosenstein will (finally) have grave political consequences.


    FEB 17, 2018


    "A man's or a woman's?"

    Dr. Mortimer looked strangely at us for an instant, and his voice sank almost to a whisper as he answered: "Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!”

    —Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles

    Closer and closer and closer, still. From The New York Times:

    The indictment represents the first charges by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, for meddling in the 2016 presidential election - the fundamental crime that he was assigned to investigate. In a 37-page indictment filed in United States District Court, Mr. Mueller said that the 13 individuals have conspired since 2014 to violate laws that prohibit foreigners from spending money to The indictment charges that the foreigners falsely posed as American citizens, stole identities and otherwise engaged in fraud and deceit in an effort to influence the U.S. political process, including the 2016 presidential race. "The nature of the scheme was the defendants took extraordinary steps to make it appear that they were ordinary American political activists," Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general overseeing Mr. Mueller's inquiry, said in a brief news conference on Friday afternoon at the Justice Department.

    Oh, they're smart fellers, they are. The indictments were rolled out perfectly. It is now absolutely impossible for the president* to fire either Rosenstein or Mueller without the worst possible political consequences. By basing the indictments on federal election law, Mueller has framed the case so as also to include anyone who accepted this criminal help.

    And the material in the indictment - which you can read for yourself here - outlines a thoroughly complete campaign of ratfcking aimed exclusively at electing Donald Trump to be president of the United States. This was Donald Segretti on steroids, with the power of a huge apparatus behind them. A few excerpts:

    On or about October 16, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the Instagram account "Woke Blacks" to post the following message: "[A] particular hype and hatred for Trump is misleading the people and forcing Blacks to vote Killary. We cannot resort to the lesser of two devils. Then we'd surely be better off without voting AT ALL."

    b. On or about November 3, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators purchased an advertisement to promote a post on the Instagram account "Blacktivist" that read in part: "Choose peace and vote for Jill Stein. Trust me, it's not a wasted vote."

    c. By in or around early November 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the "United Muslims of America" social media accounts to post anti-vote messages such as: "American Muslims [are] boycotting elections today, most of the American Muslim voters refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton because she wants to continue the war on Muslims in the middle east and voted yes for invading Iraq."

    They pushed the "voter fraud" fantasy as well. Kris Kobach must be so proud.

    b. On or about August 11, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators posted that allegations of voter fraud were being investigated in North Carolina on the Twitter account @TEN_GOP.

    c. On or about November 2, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the same account to post allegations of "#VoterFraud by counting tens of thousands of ineligible mail in Hillary votes being reported in Broward County, Florida."

    And, as we saw above, they did what they could to suppress the minority vote.

    46. In or around the latter half of 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators, through their personas, began to encourage U.S. minority groups not to vote in the 2016 US. presidential election or to vote for a third-party US. presidential candidate.

    It's important to remember that every one of the tactics mentioned above - especially the voter-fraud canard - have been electioneering tactics used by the former Republican Party for at least two decades. All these Russians are alleged to have done is to weaponized further what already was in place and direct it toward the benefit of the Trump campaign.

    The Trumpites (and now the president*, himself) already have mustered a response - namely, that there is no evidence presented here that directly proves any "collusion," which remains their magic conjuring word that makes all the monsters go away. That may get them through the night, but they have to know that Mueller has the goods now, and that none of us know what other goods Mueller may have.

    Donald J. Trump

    Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President. The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong - no collusion!

    I can recall a scene from the late Jimmy Breslin's Watergate book, How The Good Guys Finally Won, in which a lawyer working in the office of House Judiciary Council John Doar put together a series of index cards that created a timeline of Richard Nixon's first day in the White House after the Watergate break-in. From the cards, you could see how Nixon and his men were concocting a strategy to bury the story and insulate the president from how they were doing it. At this point, Nixon was still saying he didn't learn anything about the break-in until months later. Breslin talked about what the cards were saying.

    "Oh, come on."

    We are still supposed to believe that the Russians concocted this amazing scheme to influence the election and the person on whose behalf they were operating the scheme didn't know what they were doing?

    Nor did the people running his campaign?

    Oh, come on.

    Really, come the fck on.

    I really don't have anything more to say about what happened in Florida because, frankly, I've been doing this for almost seven years now and I’m goddamn sick and tired of arguing with people over the nuances of mass murder.

  3. #23

    Trump Tells Shooting Survivors: Solution to 'Your Problem' Is More Guns in School

    During a listening session Wednesday with student survivors and their families, the president proposed arming teachers and making it easier to institutionalize people.


    02.21.18 6:39 PM ET

    While meeting with survivors of last week's school shooting, President Donald Trump on Wednesday endorsed the idea of preventing school shootings by having more guns on campus.

    One week after 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the president sat for a roundtable discussion with some survivors and their families, teachers, and parents of Sandy Hook and Columbine victims, and listened to their harrowing stories, impassioned pleas, and thoughts on how to prevent future massacres.

    When Trump spoke about proposed solutions, he suggested that arming teachers in their classrooms could act as a deterrent when a gunman enters a school.

    "If you had a teacher with, who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly," the president said. "And the good thing about a suggestion like that, and we're going to be looking at it very strongly, I think a lot of people are going to be opposed to it, I think a lot of people are going to like it. But the good thing is you'll have a lot of people with that."

    CNN Politics

    Replying to @CNNPolitics
    Trump responds to the emotional stories of students and parents: "We don't want others to go through the kind of pain that you've gone through"

    CNN Politics

    Trump says he will be looking closely at the idea of arming teachers in schools

    Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said that there actually was an armed guard on the high school campus, but that the guard never encountered alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz.

    The president, appearing to reference how football coach Aaron Feis died shielding students, suggested: "If the coach had a firearm in his locker… he wouldn't have had to run, he would have shot [Cruz], and that would have been the end of it."

    He continued: "This would only obviously be for people who are very adept at handling a gun. It's called concealed carry, where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them. They’d go for special training and they would be there and you would no longer have a gun-free zone."

    The president also mentioned a hypothetical scenario in which there would be armed military veterans in every school protecting students.

    "You'd have a lot of people that would be armed, that would be ready," Trump said. "They're professionals, they may be Marines that left the Marines, that left the Army, left the Air Force... They'd be spread evenly throughout the school."

    If would-be school shooters knew that trained vets and armed teachers populated campuses, "they wouldn't go into the school to start off with," the president said.

    "I think it could very well solve your problem."

    He went on to say that "a lot of people don't understand that airline pilots, a lot of them, carry guns. I have to say that things have changed a lot."

    Trump then proceeded to poll the room of students and their families on whether they liked his idea.

    Later Wednesday, the Broward County superintendent, Robert Runcie, pushed back against Trump's suggestions, saying before a CNN town hall: "We don't need to put guns in the hands of teachers. You know what we need? We need to arm our teachers with more money in their pocket."

    The president also spoke about mental health issues, suggesting that it should be made easier to confine an individual who hasn't yet committed a crime. "Years ago, we had mental hospitals, institutions, we had a lot of them and a lot of them have closed. Some people thought it was a stigma," Trump said. "Today, if you catch somebody, they don't know what to do with him. He hasn't committed the crime, but he may very well and there’s no mental institution."

    He also assured his audience that he supports strong background checks for gun purchases, an idea that has gained some traction in the White House.

    "We're going to be very strong on background checks," Trump declared. "We'll be doing very strong background checks. Very strong emphasis on the mental health of somebody. And we are going to do plenty of other things."

  4. #24
    Trump son-in-law Kushner loses top security clearance

    Agence France-Presse / 09:06 AM February 28, 2018

    United States President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior aide Jared Kushner has lost his top-level security clearance, sources familiar with the matter said on Tuesday, a decision with potentially profound implications for the administration.

    Two sources, who could not speak on record because the status of security clearances is classified, confirmed US media reports that the 37-year-old White House aide will no longer be able to access America's most closely protected secrets.

    The White House - up to and including the president himself - refused to comment on the record, but officials insisted that the decision would not have any impact on Kushner's role.

    Still, Kushner’s loss of access to "Top Secret/SCI (Sensitive Compartmented Information)" casts serious doubt on his status as a powerbroker inside the White House and his ability to negotiate Middle East peace.

    Kushner had been an integral part of Trump’s election campaign and, among White House advisors, is seen as something like a first among equals.

    The soft-spoken aide is married to the president's daughter Ivanka Trump and has been a leading figure in efforts to reach a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.

    He has also been a strong proponent of Washington's intensified support for the government of embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

    Politico and CNN first reported that his clearance might have been rescinded late last week.

    The decision comes just days before Netanyahu visits the White House.

    Former US negotiator Aaron David Miller said Kushner now risks losing "credibility" with interlocutors in the Middle East.

    "They know you can't be reading about them," he said, and "you can't possibly know what you don't know."

    Kushner’s lawyer had earlier admitted that he has not yet completed the formal clearance procedure, despite reportedly getting access to the most secret material contained in the president’s daily briefing – the crown jewels of US intelligence.

    White House Chief of Staff John Kelly ordered changes to the clearance system after a top aide Rob Porter worked for months without full clearance because of allegations he abused both his former wives.

    "I will not comment on anybody's specific security clearance," Kelly said in a statement.

    Kelly has told Kushner he had "full confidence in his ability to continue performing his duties in his foreign policy portfolio including overseeing our Israeli-Palestinian peace effort and serving as an integral part of our relationship with Mexico."

    "Everyone in the White House is grateful for these valuable contributions to furthering the President's agenda. There is no truth to any suggestion otherwise," Kelly added.

    Ivanka Trump’s level of security clearance has also been in question.

    She recently visited South Korea and briefed that country's president Moon Jae-in on new North Korea sanctions.

    For almost any staffer other than Kushner, his future in the White House would now be under serious doubt.

    He had already been forced to repeatedly revise statements to US intelligence and law enforcement about his contacts with foreign officials and his business interests.

    He put himself firmly in the sights of special prosecutor Robert Mueller after secretly meeting Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Sergei Gorkov, a banker with ties to Vladimir Putin as well as attending the notorious "Trump Tower meeting" with a Kremlin-connected lawyer.

    On Tuesday, even before the stunning news broke, close Kushner advisor Josh Raffel announced he was leaving the White House and Kushner was accused of breaking the "Hatch Act" which forbids, among other things, White House aides using their official titles in campaign statements.

    And later on Tuesday the Washington Post reported that at least four foreign governments - the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel, and Mexico - had wondered how to leverage Kushner's business and political vulnerabilities.

    That sparked several calls from lawmakers, including Congressman Ruben Gallego, who took to Twitter to ask "what DOES Jared have to do to get fired?"

    Boy wonder

    The answer to that question remains unclear. Since the first days of this administration, Trump has seemed to believe there was no challenge too confounding, no conflict too intractable for his son-in-law to tackle.

    Beyond resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Kushner was handed a to-do list that included solving America’s opioid epidemic, prison reform, and injecting the nation’s bureaucracy with entrepreneurial spirit.

    In person, Kushner is polite and self-deprecating; offering little of the hubris the president has shown about his abilities.

    "Jared's done an outstanding job. I think he's been treated very unfairly," Trump said just last Friday. "He's a high-quality person. He works for nothing, just so - you know, nobody ever reports that, but he gets zero. He doesn't get a salary, nor does Ivanka."

    But Trump also indicated the decision on Kushner's security clearance would be up to chief of staff Kelly.

    "He's going to do what's right for the country. And I have no doubt he'll make the right decision," Trump said. /kga

  5. #25
    Top Trump economic aide Cohn resigns

    Andrew Beatty, Agence France-Presse

    Posted at Mar 07 2018 07:49 AM

    WASHINGTON - Donald Trump's White House was rocked by another high-profile resignation Tuesday, as top economic adviser Gary Cohn quit in protest at the president's decision to levy global steel tariffs.

    "It has been an honor to serve my country and enact pro-growth economic policies to benefit the American people," Cohn said in a statement.

    Cohn is just the latest in a long string of senior Trump advisers to resign or be fired, a virtually unprecedented turnover of administration staff.

    The 57-year-old had strongly opposed Trump's decision to levy tariffs on steel and aluminum, which has sparked fears of a trade war.

    "For several weeks Gary had been discussing with the president that it was nearing time for him to transition out. His departure date is to be determined but will be a few weeks from now," a White House official said.

    A former Goldman Sachs executive, his departure prompted concerned murmurs on Wall Street and could portend a rocky trading session on Wednesday.

    The aide, who is Jewish, had threatened to resign after Trump refused to condemn neo-Nazi groups who protested in Charlottesville, Virginia.

    Then, like now, allies had tried to keep Cohn on board with the prospect of a future cabinet-level position or passing tax reform - which he helped usher through Congress.

    A long-time Democrat, he was seen as a moderating influence that curbed Trump's nationalist economic instincts and those of advisors like Peter Navarro.

    In a statement, Trump praised Cohn's as a "rare talent."

    "Gary has been my chief economic advisor and did a superb job in driving our agenda, helping to deliver historic tax cuts and reforms and unleashing the American economy once again," Trump said.

    "He is a rare talent, and I thank him for his dedicated service to the American people."

    'NO CHAOS'

    Cohn's departure presents a political problem for Trump, as he wrestles Congressional Republicans who share the aide's concern about tariffs and a looming trade war.

    It also blows a hole in Trump's claim, made just hours earlier, that his White House is running smoothly, despite a wave of resignations and FBI investigators circling his top aides.

    In an early morning tweet, Trump said there was no "CHAOS in the White House" describing it as a "Fake News narrative" as he tried to reassure supporters that his administration has not careened off the rails.

    "Wrong! People will always come & go," he said after his closest aide Hope Hicks and staff secretary Rob Porter stepped down amid interwoven scandals.

    Trump's first year in office has been a frenzy of departures and infighting, which insiders put down to clashing interests, inexperience and the president's unique management style.

    "I want strong dialogue before making a final decision," Trump said, defending his method of promoting staff argument.

    But the former real estate developer also hinted that things were not perfect.

    "I still have some people that I want to change (always seeking perfection). There is no Chaos, only great Energy!" he said.

  6. #26
    Trump claims EU has made it 'almost impossible' for US firms

    Agence France-Presse

    Posted at Mar 07 2018 06:59 AM

    WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out at European Union trade rules Tuesday, saying the bloc has made life near "impossible" for US firms, and threatening to ramp up tariffs on imports into the US.

    "The European Union has been particularly tough on the United States," Trump said as he hosted Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven at the White House.

    "They make it almost impossible for us to do business with them, and yet they send their cars and everything else back into the United States."

    Meanwhile, the US is "subsidizing" Europe militarily, he said.

    "The European Union has not treated us well. And it's been a very, very unfair trade situation."

    Trump, who has threatened to institute 25 percent import duties on steel from all foreign producers and 10 percent on aluminum, said he was not afraid of sparking a conflict over trade.

    "When we're behind on every single country, trade wars aren't so bad," he said.

    "The trade war hurts them. It doesn't hurt us. So we'll see what happens."

    He warned that he was ready to ramp up import duties on European cars in the US, most of which come from Germany.

    "They can do whatever they'd like. But if they do that, then we put a big tax of 25 percent on their cars and believe me, they won't be doing it very long."

    Speaking after bilateral meetings in the White House, Lofven cautioned that open and free trade is "crucially important" for Sweden and the EU.

    He noted that it is "very, very complicated to see" how global supply chains meld materials and inputs from many countries into a final product like a car or airplane.

    "I know for example, when we start our aircraft, a very good aircraft, the content is American," Lofven said.

    He also pointed out that tariffs would come down hard on European factories even though they produce only about 10 percent of the steel in the world, while China produces about 50 percent, he said.

    "I am convinced that increased tariffs will hurt us all in the long run," he said.

    "I of course support the efforts of the European Union to achieve trade with fewer obstacles and as few as possible."

  7. #27
    House panel finds ‘no evidence’ of Trump-Russia election collusion

    Agence France-Presse / 07:41 AM March 13, 2018

    WASHINGTON, United States — A Republican-dominated House panel announced Monday that its investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election found no collusion by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

    “We have found no evidence of collusion, coordination or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians,” the majority Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee said in a summary of their report.

    The panel also said it accepted US intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russians had sought to interfere in the election, but rejected the idea that Moscow had specifically attempted to boost Trump’s White House effort.

    The report had yet to be presented to Democrats on the deeply divided committee, who can be expected to object loudly, ensuring that it would not put the issue of alleged collusion to rest.

    The summary made no mention of the alleged theft and leaks by Russians of embarrassing documents and communications from the campaign of Trump rival Hillary Clinton in mid-2016, which top US intelligence officials have stated as a fact.

    Instead, it flipped that allegation on its head by claiming that anti-Trump research “made its way from Russian sources to the Clinton campaign.”

    And it criticized Barack Obama’s government for “a lackluster pre-election response to Russian active measures.”

    “After more than a year, the committee has finished its Russia investigation and will now work on completing our report,” said panel chair Devin Nunes.

    “We hope our findings and recommendations will be useful for improving security and integrity for the 2018 midterm elections.”

  8. #28
    The 'Voter Fraud' Myth Is Just Embarrassing at This Point

    And Kris Kobach, its patron saint, is getting embarrassed in court.


    MAR 15, 2018

    Here at the shebeen, we’ve been tracking the ongoing festivities in a federal courtroom in Kansas City, where Kansas Secretary of State and patron saint of all vote-suppressors, Kris Kobach, is mounting his own defense of one of his pet laws against the onslaught of the local ACLU. Remember that old saw about a lawyer who defends himself having a fool for a client? Well, the reverse is true, too. A client who becomes his own lawyer has a fool for a lawyer.

    The court has been merciless toward Kobach and toward his prime witnesses, including the notorious Hans von Spakovsky, who has been a vital member of the posse in pursuit of the franchise ever since the Republicans dreamed it up. For his part, Kobach has evinced all the legal skills of a marmoset. His feet haven’t touched the bottom of the pool since he entered the court. The federal district judge, a patient woman named Julie Robinson, is completely fed up with having to preside over a trial while filling in the gaps in Kobach’s legal education, as this story from The Kansas City Star explains.

    U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson has repeatedly warned Kobach’s team about trying to introduce evidence that has not been shared with the plaintiffs during the first three days of the high stakes trial, which will determine whether thousands can vote in Kansas this November. Kobach complained that the parties in the case “are relying on numbers that are stale” after the judge blocked a line of questioning to Bryan Caskey, the state director of elections, on data that had not been provided to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the plaintiffs in the case before the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan.

    This triggered a rebuke from Robinson after three days of polite warnings on the rules of legal procedure in the face of multiple hiccups from Kobach’s team. “We're not going to have a trial by ambush here... You're stuck with what you provided to them by the deadline,” Robinson said. "No, no. That's not how trials are conducted," she told Kobach during the exchange. Sue Becker, an attorney on Kobach’s team, tried to interject. “Let me finish,” the judge said as she continued on with her admonishment.

    Jesus H. Christ on torts, I learned that just by watching every Law & Order episode 20 times.

    Kobach’s witnesses have been no better. First, there was Jo French, a merry septuagenarian called by Kobach and his team in order to show that the voter-suppression law did not unduly burden the elderly. She did not do Kobach or his cause any favors. From Talking Points Memo:

    A feisty woman who was eager to crack a joke or wander off topic, French described a lengthy process, and at times made comments suggesting it was tougher on her than she was letting on. She also raised questions about her contacts with Kobach’s office leading up to her appearance Monday. “I wanted [Kobach] to look good,” she said at one point, when asked about when the Secretary of State’s office reached out to her about testifying.

    Kobach’s experts were no better than Ms. French. Drawn from the dingier precincts of the wingnut ideas industry, they included Stephen Camerota, of the extremist Center for Immigration Studies. Camerota’s research was shredded by the ACLU lawyers, whom Camerota repeatedly interrupted until Judge Robinson had enough and told him, according to The Kansas City Star:

    “She can only take down one voice at a time or we’re going to kill her,” Judge Julie Robinson said of the court reporter at one point. “And then I’m going to kill everyone else.”

    If Judge Robinson, who was appointed by President George H.W. Bush, isn’t on the short-list for the Supreme Court the next time we have a Democratic president, I’m going to be considerably frosted.

    Then there was Jesse Richman, a researcher from Old Dominion. It was Richman’s testimony that got Kobach accused of a “trial by ambush” by Judge Robinson. Richman also made the mistake of talking over Judge Robinson.

    “Wait, wait, wait!” the judge called out as the situation heated up and more people in the courtroom began speaking simultaneously. “Especially you,” she added to Richman, instructing him not to talk except when answering questions. “You’re not here to trash the plaintiff. You’re not here to argue with me.”

    (Also vital to keeping up with the latest from this flea circus is to get on the electric Twitter machine and follow Jessica Huseman—@JessicaHuseman—of the invaluable ProPublica. Huseman even became part of the trial when one of Kobach’s lawyers accused her of having secretly recorded an interview with von Spakovsky. This was blatantly—and hilariously—untrue.)

    The basic problem with Kobach’s case, of course, is that it’s built atop a fake talking point that has been turned into an outright fantasy by years of repetition in the conservative terrarium. He’s asking the wrong judge to rule in favor of something that doesn’t exist. This trial is just the farce that Kobach’s entire career deserves.

  9. #29
    From the New York Times online ...

    At a Crucial Juncture, Trump’s Legal Defense Is Largely a One-Man Operation


    As President Trump heads into one of the most critical phases of the special counsel’s investigation, his personal legal team has shrunk to essentially just one member, and he is struggling to find any top lawyers willing to represent him.

    Working for a president is usually seen as a dream job. But leading white-collar lawyers in Washington and New York have repeatedly spurned overtures to take over the defense of Mr. Trump, a mercurial client who often ignores his advisers’ guidance. In some cases, lawyers’ firms have blocked any talks, fearing a backlash that would hurt business.

    The president lost two lawyers in just the past four days, including one who had been on board for less than a week.

    Joseph diGenova, a longtime Washington lawyer who has pushed theories on Fox News that the F.B.I. made up evidence against Mr. Trump, left the team on Sunday. He had been hired last Monday, three days before the head of the president’s personal legal team, John Dowd, quit after determining that the president was not listening to his advice. Mr. Trump had also considered hiring Mr. diGenova’s wife, Victoria Toensing, but she will also not join the team.

    That leaves the president with just one personal lawyer who is working full time on the special counsel’s investigation as Mr. Trump is facing one of the most significant decisions related to it: whether to sit for an interview.

    That lawyer, Jay Sekulow, is a conservative commentator who made his name on religious freedom cases. Mr. Sekulow is in talks with other lawyers about joining the team, although it is not clear how far those discussions have progressed.

    Hours before the announcement of Mr. diGenova’s departure, which Mr. Sekulow said was related to a conflict of interest, the president took to Twitter to reject any suggestion that lawyers do not want to work for him.

    “Many lawyers and top law firms want to represent me in the Russia case … don’t believe the Fake News narrative that it is hard to find a lawyer who wants to take this on,” he wrote. “Fame & fortune will NEVER be turned down by a lawyer, though some are conflicted.”

    Adding new lawyers, he said, would be costly because they would take months “to get up to speed (if for no other reason than they can bill more).”

    “I am very happy with my existing team,” he added.

    This month, the president met with the veteran lawyer Emmet Flood about the possibility of joining the legal team. But Mr. Trump was put off by the fact that Mr. Flood, a Republican, had represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment process, and Mr. Flood has made clear that he will not represent the president if Marc E. Kasowitz, his brash longtime personal lawyer, has any role in the effort.

    Mr. Trump also tried to recruit Theodore B. Olson, a well-known Republican lawyer, but Mr. Olson has said he would not be representing the president.

    The first phase of legal work for Mr. Trump in the inquiry by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, was led by a White House lawyer, Ty Cobb. That work, which in part involved the production of documents and the arrangement of interviews with White House officials, has been largely completed.

    The second phase, which is now focused on the question of a presidential interview with Mr. Mueller, had been led by Mr. Dowd. One reason Mr. Dowd quit was that, against his advice, Mr. Trump was insistent that he wanted to answer questions under oath from Mr. Mueller, believing that it would help clear him.

    Mr. Dowd had concluded that there was no upside and that the president, who often does not tell the truth, could increase his legal exposure if his answers were not accurate.

    Roger Cossack, a seasoned legal analyst, said the key to successfully defending a high-profile client under immense scrutiny was to have a cohesive legal team with a consistent strategy.

    “In these types of cases, you need highly competent lawyers and a client who will listen and follow their advice,” Mr. Cossack said. “If you don’t have both, you have what we’re seeing here: chaos and disaster.”

    “You have a client who clearly thinks he has a better idea of how things should work than the lawyers who, from time to time, have told him things he doesn’t want to hear,” he added. “He is looking for the guy who can say, ‘I know how to handle Mueller, I know you think he is bad, and we’ll take care of it.’ Problem is you can’t find that lawyer because no one will be able to do that.”

    People close to the president say the upheaval in the legal team was inevitable. When Mr. Kasowitz took the lead after Mr. Mueller was appointed in May, he wanted to follow a model used by Mr. Clinton, with a separate team of lawyers and communications professionals handling issues related to the inquiry, so that the White House staff could keep its distance.

    But Mr. Trump, who trusts few people and considers himself his best lawyer, spokesman and strategist, never wanted that type of system. As a result, his legal and public relations strategies have been out of sync, with the president at times publicly contradicting his lawyers, and the White House often finding itself flat-footed in the face of new disclosures about the Russia investigation.

    The president’s decision has also exposed many of his aides, leaving them deeply enmeshed in an inquiry that is likely to cost them tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

    But while Mr. Trump has struggled to find lawyers, his family and his close associates are being represented by some of the country’s top legal talent.

    His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has hired Abbe Lowell, a longtime Washington lawyer who recently got the Justice Department to drop corruption charges against Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, after a lengthy court fight.

    Three prominent current and former White House officials — the former chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon; the former chief of staff, Reince Priebus; and the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn — are being represented by William A. Burck, who turned down the chance to represent the president. Mr. Burck, a former federal prosecutor, represented FIFA in its legal problems in the United States and has worked for high-profile witnesses in federal investigations, including Maureen McDonnell, the wife of a former Virginia governor.

    The turmoil in Mr. Trump’s legal team started within weeks of the appointment of Mr. Mueller. Mr. Kasowitz pushed for an adversarial approach to the special counsel, which the president was poised to follow. But Mr. Kasowitz clashed with Mr. Kushner, and he was soon pushed aside after a series of missteps and embarrassing incidents.

    The president then hired Mr. Cobb, a veteran Washington lawyer, to lead efforts within the White House, as well as Mr. Dowd, who was put in charge of his personal legal team. They advocated a strategy of cooperation, telling the president that the sooner he gave Mr. Mueller’s office what it wanted, the sooner his name would be cleared.

    While Mr. Cobb had told the president that the investigation would be over by now, it seems to be accelerating. Mr. Mueller is still looking into a wide range of matters related to Mr. Trump’s corporate activities, his 2016 campaign, his associates and his time in office.

    Mr. Trump, hoping to bolster his team, met with Mr. diGenova and Ms. Toensing in recent days but, according to two people told of details about the meeting, did not believe he had personal chemistry with them.

    There were also significant conflict-of-interest issues, but Mr. Trump could have waived them if he wanted. Ms. Toensing is representing Mark Corallo, who was the spokesman for Mr. Trump’s legal team in 2017 before they parted ways. Mr. Corallo has told investigators that he was concerned that a close aide to Mr. Trump, Hope Hicks, may have been planning to obstruct justice during the drafting of a statement about a meeting between a Russian lawyer and Donald Trump Jr. during the campaign.

    Ms. Hicks’s lawyer has strongly denied that suggestion, and White House aides said Mr. Corallo’s assertion had come up in discussions with the president as he weighed whether to go ahead with Mr. diGenova and Ms. Toensing.

    Mr. diGenova had been expected to serve as an outspoken voice for the president as Mr. Trump has increased his attacks on Mr. Mueller. Mr. diGenova has endorsed the notion that a secretive group of F.B.I. agents concocted the Russia investigation as a way to keep Mr. Trump from becoming president, a theory with little supporting evidence.

    “There was a brazen plot to illegally exonerate Hillary Clinton and, if she didn’t win the election, to then frame Donald Trump with a falsely created crime,” he had told Fox News in January.

  10. #30
    From the New York Times online ...

    Gun Marches Keep Republicans on Defense in Midterm Races


    The passionate gun control rallies Saturday that brought out large crowds around the country sent a vivid signal that the issue is likely to play a major role in the 2018 midterm elections, and that Republicans could find themselves largely on the defensive on gun issues for the first time in decades.

    The gun debate could play out very differently in House and Senate races, as Republicans strain to save suburban congressional districts where gun control is popular, and Democrats defend Senate seats in red states where the Second Amendment is sacrosanct.

    But, in a year of extraordinary political intensity, and in the first national election of the Trump presidency, Republican and Democratic leaders say the gun issue appears to have become a potent rallying point for voters opposed to Mr. Trump and fed up with what they see as Washington’s indifference to mass shootings. The scale of demonstrations over the weekend was reminiscent of the Women’s March, earlier in Mr. Trump’s presidency, and underscored the intense energy of activists on the left ahead of the fall campaign.

    The commitment of the young march organizers to keep the issue front and center makes it unlikely to fade before November. But they are certain to face considerable resistance from pro-gun forces, particularly the National Rifle Association, which has formidable financial resources at its disposal and a long record of successfully mobilizing conservatives and helping win elections.

    Still, Republicans have already been struggling to keep their footing in densely populated suburbs where Mr. Trump is unpopular and the N.R.A. is an object of widespread scorn. The gun issue appears likely to deepen Republicans’ problems in these areas, further cleaving moderate, pocketbook-minded suburban voters from the party’s more hard-line rural base and raising the risks for Republicans in swing House districts around the country.

    Gun control may be a complicated issue for Democrats, too, because of the makeup of the Senate races on the ballot in November. If Democrats have a path to capturing the House through mainly moderate, well-educated districts, they are also defending Senate seats in strongly conservative states, like West Virginia and North Dakota, and in Republican-leaning states like Missouri and Indiana, where pro-gun positions have long been safe political terrain.

    But several prominent Republicans warned on Sunday that the party could end up alienating groups that tend to vote for candidates to the right of center if they are seen as unresponsive to the rising outcry around guns. In an atmosphere of frustration with Washington, inaction on guns could add to voters’ anger at entrenched lawmakers there.

    Gov. John Kasich, Republican of Ohio, warned in a CNN interview on Sunday that voters “do want changes” on gun policy and Republicans were ignoring them at their peril.

    “People should absolutely be held accountable at the ballot box,” said Mr. Kasich, a critic of Mr. Trump who is contemplating a run for president in 2020.

    It is not only the Republican Party’s dwindling moderate wing that sees danger in the gun issue. Dan Eberhart, an energy executive and major conservative donor, said Republicans risked driving away suburban voters if they did not do more to defy the N.R.A.

    Mr. Eberhart pointed to Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, a Republican with an A-plus N.R.A. rating for supporting the organization’s agenda. Mr. Scott, who is contemplating a bid for the Senate seat held by the Democrat Bill Nelson, signed incremental new gun regulations after last month’s shooting in Parkland, Fla., over the N.R.A.’s objections.

    “Republicans are going to have to move a little to get 51 percent-plus in elections, and the N.R.A. will have to deal with it,” Mr. Eberhart said. “The N.R.A. is really out of step with suburban G.O.P. voters.”

    While Democrats have little hope the demonstrations will lead quickly to legislation, they predict the broad-based outpouring of protest will increase pressure on Republicans. Addressing reporters on Sunday, Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader and Democrat of New York, said even Republicans in the “stranglehold” of the N.R.A. must be “smelling the change in the air.”

    “This wasn’t Democrats only,” Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, said of the protests. “This was people just sick and tired of a ruling party that refuses to take action on something so morally urgent.”

    Public opinion polls show powerful support for a range of gun measures, with overwhelming support for stricter background checks for gun purchasers and a smaller majority favoring an outright ban on assault-style weapons. A Fox News poll conducted last week found that three in five voters supported a ban on military-style weapons, while about nine in 10 supported universal background checks.

    But the same poll found scant optimism among voters that Congress would act in accordance with their preferences: Only about a fifth of voters thought it was highly likely Congress would act.

    The doubters are probably correct: There is relatively little time left on the congressional calendar this year, and the Republicans who control the House and Senate have shown no great appetite for tackling gun control. The $1.3 trillion spending bill that Mr. Trump signed on Friday included modest school safety measures and improvements to the background-checks system, but it did not include a number of more ambitious and popular measures, like raising the age requirement for purchasers of assault weapons.

    And while the Justice Department announced last week that it would try to follow through on a promise to ban so-called bump stocks through regulation, Mr. Trump has not indicated that he intends to take any further executive action to address the issue.

    Against a backdrop of plodding debate in Washington, a number of Democratic candidates in important races have already made prominent appeals to voters on the issue of gun violence, combining support for new gun restrictions with rhetorical denunciations of the N.R.A.

    Several of the Democrats campaigning most assertively on firearm regulation are also competing in areas recently afflicted by gun massacres. In Nevada, Steve Sisolak, a leading Democratic candidate for governor, vowed in his first television commercial to “take on the N.R.A.” A member of the Clark County Commission, which includes Las Vegas, Mr. Sisolak was among the most visible officials responding to the mass shooting in October, which left 58 people dead and hundreds wounded.

    Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Democratic congressional candidate in South Florida, in a district not far from Parkland, said voters were fired up because of their horror at mass shootings and their outrage at congressional inaction.

    “This is a symbol of everything that is wrong right now, that is happening in Washington, D.C.,” said Ms. Mucarsel-Powell, who is challenging Representative Carlos Curbelo, a Miami Republican.

    Ms. Mucarsel-Powell, who marched against gun violence in Key West on Saturday, has aired commercials describing her personal experience with gun violence: When she was 24, her father was shot and killed in Ecuador.

    Other Democrats have been more timid on gun issues, particularly in more rural and heavily white, working-class districts where broad gun rights are more popular. When Democrats won an upset victory in a Pennsylvania special election this month, in a heavily conservative congressional district outside Pittsburgh, they did so by nominating a distinctly moderate candidate, Conor Lamb, who declined to back any new gun regulations after the Parkland massacre.

    Val DiGiorgio, the chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, said that while Democrats won that special election, the race had shown “the passion of Second Amendment supporters.” But Mr. DiGiorgio said voters were also seeking remedies for gun violence.

    “It’s clear that Americans on all sides of the debate are looking for solutions,” Mr. DiGiorgio said.

    But the energy in the Democratic base is with those who favor gun restrictions.

    While the colorful signs and pleading speeches of the students drew attention on Saturday, state and local Democratic parties across the country also used the marches to register voters and sign up volunteers.

    In Florida, volunteers circulated at protests in over 30 cities, passing out “commit to vote” cards that the party can later use for voter turnout purposes. And in Virginia, Democrats descended on the cities where buses were departing to the Washington march to register voters.

    The efforts were not confined to large liberal and swing states. In Columbia, S.C., the local Democratic Party used the march in the state’s capital to sign up voters for what could be a competitive governor’s race this fall. The liberal group Indivisible also used the protests to kick off a campaign pressuring members of Congress during the legislative recess.

    Jim Hobart, a Republican pollster, said the marches illustrated the enormous energy of the Democratic base and revealed generational changes in the electorate that Republicans will have to grapple with.

    “As we have seen in special elections, Democratic enthusiasm is already very high and the gun issue just adds to that,” Mr. Hobart said, noting that students in his hometown Atlanta had traveled by bus for 10 hours to join the march in Washington. “These same students are much more likely to not just vote, but volunteer.”

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