Barr

Pounding and Flip-Flopping


Reading time – 4:51; Viewing time – 7:30  .  .  .

It’s a fundamental courtroom practice:

If the facts are on your side, pound on the facts.

If they aren’t on your side, pound on the law.

If the law isn’t on your side, pound on the table.

The House Judiciary Committee met last week to debate issuing a citation of contempt of Congress to Attorney General William Barr for his failure to produce an unredacted version of the Mueller Report and the underlying evidentiary materials, as well as for his failure to appear before the committee. Of course, the debate was bifurcated along party lines and what I found most interesting is what the Republicans did to make their case against contempt citations.

They brought up all manner of what they decried are unfair or unethical issues, including Hillary Clinton’s emails, FBI leadership, FBI spying and investigating (isn’t that what they’re supposed to do?), Barr’s courage to obey a law that actually doesn’t apply to the contempt of Congress issue, the Steele Dossier (none of which has been disproven), Christopher Steele’s having talked with Russians, various officials lying under oath, James Comey’s perfidy and other real or fantasy offenses.

NONE OF THAT HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH WILLIAM BARR FAILING TO RESPOND TO CONGRESSIONAL SUBPOENAS. IT’S ALL WHATABOUTISM.

That’s what people do when they don’t have a leg to stand on.

Don’t let their passion or the intensity of their fatuous bloviating or the panoply of unrelated issues distract you. This is solely about obeying the law. That sounds very conservative, don’t you think? How come the Republicans don’t like it? Try this.

The Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee likely feel duty bound to protect the Republican administration, regardless of what some individuals in that administration have done. That’s one of the more odious parts of party politics and it’s one of the things that causes voters’ blood to boil or drives them to simply tune out, believing, “They’re all crooks.”

Here’s what’s at stake in this subpoena/contempt citation case:

The important thing: The oversight function of Congress is impossible to conduct without the necessary information. The purpose of a subpoena is to elicit that information from reluctant witnesses. Which is to say, it doesn’t matter whether the president or his lapdog attorney general like it; Barr has to obey the subpoena and the law in order for our system to work.

The critical thing: What is at stake is the rule of law itself! If Barr and Trump get away with refusing subpoenas, then our rule of law is finished. So is justice in America, because it will be clear that obeying the law no longer matters. Say hello to tyranny.

Here’s the current reality:

Those Republican committee members don’t have the facts on their side. Barr has plainly and obviously stonewalled his subpoenas. That’s a punishable no-no. So they can’t pound on the facts.

Those committee members also don’t have the law on their side. The law is clear that citizens must obey a subpoena. So, those representatives can’t pound on the law.

All they have left is pounding on the table. And that’s what they did during the House Judiciary Committee contempt citation hearings and what they’re doing still.

You can expect the same behavior from Republican senators if a resolution of impeachment arrives in their chamber. That’s pretty much what we saw during the blizzard of filibusters the Republicans mounted to fight anything Obama promoted. They didn’t have the facts and they didn’t have the law, so they pounded on the table.

Critical note to Democrats: if positions were reversed, we’d see the same behavior from Congressional Democrats, although they’d probably smile more and be ever-so empathetic. Nevertheless, forget about feeling smug and disdainful about the other guys. This is party politics S.O.P.

Impeachment update  .  .  .

In 2017 I had the simple clarity that Trump should be impeached because he is a criminal, that he’s obviously guilty of violating the Emoluments Clause, obstruction of justice and possibly of treason for conspiracy with the Russians and for his refusal to take any action to prevent ongoing attacks by Russia. Then I considered what a President Pence might do and I wasn’t so sure that impeachment was best.

The first thing Pence would do is pull a Gerald Ford and pardon Trump and his entire crime family for felonies they have or may have committed. It’s unthinkable that they might get away with their self-aggrandizing criminality, so I changed my mind on impeachment. Now, though, there’s another worry.

Trump has started a march to war with Iran. Separating out his wag-the-dog gambit, starting that war will result in a lot of people dying and suffering and it likely will be a war that will last for many years, just like those in Iraq and Afghanistan, because there’s no way out. It appears that the only way to prevent that is to remove Trump from office before he can fire the first shot. That calls for impeachment, so back we go.

One price of doing that, though, is the probability of angering a lot of Americans who will see Trump as a victim and will vote in a Congress that might continue to dismantle the things we care about, a Congress which will deny climate warming. They will continue the assault on Roe v. Wade, on voting rights and will enact yet more wealth inequality measures. All of that and more are existential threats to liberal democracy and to our entire planet. That price is so large that it augers for leaving Trump in office until the end of his term in order to prevent a backlash Congress, even knowing that he will issue anticipatory pardons to all his co-conspirators.

Yes, I realize that I’m flip-flopping on the issue of impeachment and I don’t like it any more than you do.

This impeachment business is more complicated and has more consequences than I want it to have. I believe in the rule of law and apologize not one bit for being a Boy Scout about my horror over the assault on our moral character that we continue to endure.  But frustrating as it would be to refrain from stopping the subversive criminal in the Oval Office, preempting Trump with impeachment might do more harm than good. Clearly, this is a hold your nose moment in American history.

Click the pic for the report in The Onion

                                                     ————————————

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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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Danger From All Directions


Reading time – 3:47  .  .  .

Here are some news chunks that at first may seem to be unrelated, yet they really are connected.


“The FDA won’t ban a type of breast implant that has been linked to cancer, the agency announced Thursday. Textured breast implants have been tied to a form of cancer known as anaplastic large-cell lymphoma and have been banned in many other countries.”


“A Kaiser Family Foundation poll of 1,200 adults finds that a majority do not favor the Trump administration’s proposed changes [drastic cuts] to Title X, the program that provides funding for family planning and other services to low-income people.”


“He lied to Congress. He lied to Congress… If anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime. Nobody is above the law — not the president of the United States, not the attorney general.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi blasted Attorney General William Barr at a press conference Thursday, saying that part of previous testimony Barr gave Congress on April 9th was a lie. The attorney general then denied knowledge of concerns raised by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team over Barr’s four-page summary of the Mueller report. By March 28, Barr had already received a formal letter from Mueller that conveyed the special counsel’s concerns and spoken with him about it over the phone.”

It’s the “emBARRassment” of Barr. Thanks AS for that.


“Trump at war with Democrats: ‘We’re fighting all the subpoenas’

“Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump vowed on Wednesday to fight “all the subpoenas” issued by House Democrats investigating his administration, reinforcing his administration’s increasingly combative posture toward congressional oversight.”


Trump-Putin (Again): President Donald Trump said he discussed Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report with Russian President Vladimir Putin in an hour-long phone call today. However, Trump says he didn’t warn Putin not to meddle in the upcoming 2020 elections: “We didn’t discuss that,” he told reporters.


On a small stage these can be seen as disconnected actions of the incompetent. With a wider focus, these can be seen as manifestations of a continuing Trump-led national march to authoritarianism and the formal abandonment of We the People. These are actions both small and large that undermine our rights, our safety, our security, our freedom and democracy itself, while at the same time aggregating power to Trump, he who cannot be indicted for his crimes.

Further, that inevitably leads to our loss of leadership in the world – it’s already happening – which will further undermine our security. Read the piece in The Atlantic by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) to get a perspective on the extensive and self-destructive reach of authoritarianism that is upending the hard-won battles, both in war and in debate, the work to build democracy.

The task before us right now is the same task that President Lincoln set before the nation in closing his remarks at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863:

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Were the 51,112 casualties at Gettysburg for nothing?

We are faced with that same question about the hundreds of thousands who have died and the millions who suffered in all of our conflicts in order to protect our democracy. Because if we now allow authoritarianism to undermine what we declare we hold dear, then we will have betrayed them and they will have suffered and died in vain. And government of the people, by the people and for the people will perish from the earth.

It’s time to see what is happening right in front of our eyes. That it is not masked doesn’t make it any less dangerous and it is just as disloyal to our country. Metaphorically, it doesn’t matter if you saw the poisonous snake before it bit you. You’re dying just the same.

It falls to us to keep faith with those who have protected our democracy. This is our time to rally to Lincoln’s call. Read his words again and let them seep into your bones.

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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Your Lyin’ Eyes and Impeachment


Reading time – 3.47; Viewing time – 5:20  .  .  .

The Mueller Report is out and I haven’t had time to go through all 448 pages, although you can do that yourself by getting the PDF from the DOJ website here. Click on the 4th line beginning “Report on the Investigation” for the download. Or if you prefer you can get an indexed and searchable version here.

There is big stuff in that report, including that the lack of indictments of the president is due to the Justice Department guideline that a sitting president can’t be indicted. Also, because so many documents were destroyed by various perps.

Nevertheless, Mueller let us know that he was unable to declare that the President of the United States isn’t a criminal. Stunning! My more chilling takeaway, though, is about Attorney General William Barr.

Barr was promoted as a legal institutionalist, even after his unsolicited, 19-page job application that made it clear that he believed that, metaphorically speaking, a president really could get away with shooting someone on 5th Avenue. That view works for Trump and Barr got the attorney general post.

In each of his public appearances and writings as attorney general, Barr has gone out of his way to exonerate the president. His rhetoric vacillates between cherry-picked, out of context phrases to outright lies all in favor of President Trump. Did he think we wouldn’t notice? In listening to Barr I’m reminded of comedian Richard Pryor’s line, “Who you gonna believe: me or your lyin’ eyes?”

The scary part is that Barr sounds like the president’s defense counsel, instead of the attorney for the Constitution of the United States of America.

In his piece in New York Magazine entitled, “Congress Should Impeach William Barr,” Jonathan Chait wrote,

“The Justice Department is an awesome force that holds the power to enable the ruling party to commit crimes with impunity .  .  .”

We should have seen this coming.

From The Onion, of course. Click the pic

Barr is the former attorney general for President George H.W. Bush. Barr recommended to Bush that he pardon the convicted Iran-Contra felons. Click through the link and scroll down to the Indictments section and you’ll see that these guys did a lot of really bad things, including thwarting the explicit will of Congress. You need to appreciate how significant that is.

Doing that is an attack on Congress itself, and it encourages an imperial presidency. William Barr cemented that by recommending those pardons. And now he’s defending this power grabbing, dictator wanna-be president.

If Barr is an institutionalist, exactly what institution does he serve?

Read more about this here.

And another thing .  .  .

Now that most of the Mueller Report is released, the talk of impeachment is spiraling upward. I’ve long called for the removal of this cheating, lying, fraudulent, self-aggrandizing, democracy damaging president, but now I have significant doubt about that notion.

President Gerald Ford set a woeful precedent by granting, “.  .  .   a full, free and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in .  .  .” Nixon got a free pass for his criminal wrongdoing and wasn’t held accountable in any way.

That is the precedent that Mike Pence will inherit should he become President. That means that our criminal president will likely be pardoned for any and all crimes which he may have committed (think: conspiring with the Russians to disrupt our 2016 election, obstruction of justice; money laundering; and fraud).

Further, if Trump were to be impeached, whether convicted in the Senate or not, he and the Republicans will wail about him being a poor victim, suffering unfair discrimination by the evil Democrats and the Washington swamp. That could lead to another Republican in the White House in 2021 and a Congress controlled by the same spineless legislators who are enabling Trump right now.

The solution that makes the most sense to me is to Benghazi Trump: just keep his wrongdoing in the public eye through November 3, 2020 with ongoing Congressional hearings.

I often have difficulty rationalizing the impact of the bypassing of punishment for wrongdoing in favor of some greater good, but this one looks obvious enough even for me.

No impeachment.

————————————

Ed. Note: I don’t want money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Venezuela and Existential Threats


Reading time – 5:07; Viewing time – 7:30  .  .  .

First, my only comment on the topic of the cherry picked, sentence fragmented Mueller report is that I want the full report – all of it including the appendices – both for the complete, un-predigested information so that I can draw my own conclusions and so that we won’t imagine a Justice Department cover up engineered by Trump’s hand-picked protector.

As of this writing Attorney General Barr has indicated he will release the complete Mueller report by mid-April. There will be redactions, perhaps lots of them. Some will be to protect ongoing investigations. Some redactions will be for national security reasons. Some will be to avoid causing embarrassment to “peripheral innocent people.” I have no clue why that’s more important than instilling confidence in the report for a skeptical public. Absent such confidence, we’re facing an existential threat to our democracy.

If you need insightful commentary on the entire Russia issue, including Mueller’s report, read pal Dan Wallace’s comments. Now to the issue of Venezuela.

The Wall Street Journal ran a story about Russia’s power play in Venezuela. Putin sent 100 troops there to prop up dictator Nicolás Maduro. In reaction to that, reader JC asked if there was anyone left in Washington who understands the Monroe Doctrine or remembers the Cuban Missile Crisis. My answers: no and no.

As you’ll recall from high school American history class, the Monroe Doctrine prohibits further European colonialism in the Western Hemisphere.

At the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Soviet Chairman Nikita Khrushchev was cultivating Cuba as a client state, effectively making it a colony of the Soviet Union, the very thing prohibited by the Monroe Doctrine. Soviet missiles armed with nuclear warheads on that island made it an existential threat to the United States.

While President James Monroe couldn’t have imagined nuclear weapons, he and his contemporaries were clear that the presence of European military might this close to home was an existential threat to our nascent country. The Monroe Doctrine was and is about our national security.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis there were thoughtful, careful men in charge who insisted upon best intelligence and carefully considered approaches to the challenges we faced. They had the strength of character to resist knee-jerk military actions and they prevented a catastrophic war.

This time there’s a reality TV personality in charge who doesn’t read, who is incapable of assembling complex thoughts, who doesn’t review the President’s Daily Brief, so he doesn’t know what’s going on, who doesn’t have sufficient self-control to resist temper tantrums and who needs to be seen as the biggest, baddest tough guy. He is supported by Secretary of State John Bolton, who never saw a conflict he didn’t want to escalate into war. As bad, we have a horrendous record of starting conflicts without any plan to end them.

For example, George W. Bush dim-brain/lied us into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with phantom promises of quick success and happily-ever-after flowers tossed at our troops by Iraqis. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declared Iraqi oil would pay for the whole thing. None of that happened.

What was foreseeable but which they refused to foresee was the global refugee problem they triggered and which the world lives with quite unsteadily now. It is a key outfall of Bush’s lies and we still don’t have a plan to end those wars.

Now that Russia has sent its troops into Venezuela we are in a situation not unlike the Cuban Missile threat from the Soviet Union. President Trump backs Maduro’s challenger Juan Guaidó. How will Trump stop Russia from both keeping Maduro in power and from having that military foothold in the Western Hemisphere that is specifically forbidden by the Monroe Doctrine?

In point of fact, Trump has been a disaster of a negotiator for the U.S. He’s been a patsy with nothing to show for his capitulations to Russia and North Korea. Worse, he’s been a lapdog for Putin, who is now threatening Trump’s tough guy posturing.

Trump has told Putin to back off. If Trump tries to negotiate with Putin to get him to do that, Trump’s past negotiating prowess suggests that it probably will look like hollow posturing that leaves Russian troops in place in Venezuela with an escalating military presence in the Western Hemisphere. If instead Trump sends troops in support of Guaidó, we’ll be faced off against the Russians and troops on both sides are likely to be killed. And there won’t be an exit plan from the conflict.

What could possibly go wrong?

And another thing  .  .  .

The Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee called for Adam Schiff (D-CA) to resign his chairmanship of the committee, based on the same kind of Republican partisan brainlessness that we’ve seen for years. Schiff replied with a kind of muscular statement rarely heard from Democrats. Watch the whole thing here.

Last thing .  .  .

Chris Hayes interviewed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (“AOC”) on Friday. Here’s a link to a string of videos from that interview. I urge you to watch all of them for one reason. It’s not so that you’ll agree with or find ways to pick apart the Green New Deal or find ways to cheer or criticize her. I want you to think on a higher level.

Specifically, watch and listen in order to understand why she has so completely captured the public imagination. Our Gen X, Y and Z citizens see our politics in the way that Emma Gonzalez sees our embedded intransigence over gun safety: “We call B.S.”

AOC speaks for an overwhelming majority of Americans, regardless of how much you may fundamentally disagree with her policy ideas or fear your own loss of power.

To Our Legislators:

Get on board with working with people who see the future far differently than you do. If you don’t want to do that, I suggest that you polish your résumé in preparation for entry into an exciting new career. That’s because these folks know that they’ll be the ones who will live with the consequences of what we’re creating right now, so they have a far more powerful interest in a sustainable future. We have created an existential threat to them and they won’t let us mess it up any more.

                   ————————————

Ed. Note: I don’t want money or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. So,

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

What’s Next


Click me for a larger view

Reading time – 4:45; Viewing time – 6:48  .  .  .

I’ve been wondering about the important actions we should expect from the 116th Congress.

Adam Schiff (D-CA), the incoming chair of the House Intelligence Committee, has promised a real investigation into Russian meddling in our 2016 election. That will be in stark contrast to the investigation led by committee chair Devin Nunes (R-CA and Chief Trump Weenie). Under Nunes’ chairmanship, all efforts to actually investigate were thwarted by Nunes. Perhaps this time we’ll get some truth about what happened and who’s responsible. The committee might even investigate Russia’s meddling in our 2018 election. They could generate some ideas about how to protect our nation. That would be refreshing.

There are other committees which will have to start their work anew because of Republican obstruction for the past two years. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) will be the chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Do you suppose he’ll be able to find anything worthy of investigation?

Rep Elijah Cummings (D-MD)* will chair the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  Looking at the mess he’s facing, Cummings said, “The oversight job after two years of Donald Trump is like coming upon a 73-car pileup on the highway.” Read this for context. The chief issue soon to be before us, though, is impeachment.

Trump has laid his obstruction of justice and his violations of the emoluments clause in plain sight. That’s plenty of reason to start an impeachment action. It seems likely, though, that there won’t be enough courage in the Republican controlled Senate to convict our presidential perp. Finding enough starch in Republican spines may have to await the Robert Mueller report, recently predicted to arrive in February. That’s when things will become even more weird.

Trump has made Matthew Whittaker the acting attorney general, which may compromise justice. For a long time Whittaker has gone out of his way to criticize and attack the Mueller investigation. There’s no question about his prejudice. Whittaker is anything but an honest broker. Further, he has refused the direction of the Justice Department Ethics Committee to recuse himself from the Mueller inquiry. Democrats have promised to call for Whittaker’s removal from office in January, but that won’t fix this problem.

That’s because Trump has nominated William Barr to be attorney general and Barr is similarly negative toward the Mueller investigation. He is another less than honest broker. Clearly, Trump is stacking the deck to avoid justice. He’s making it questionable whether Mueller’s report will ever see the light of day or whether our government will take action. If you believe in a nation of laws and not of men, this situation should send shivers up your spine.

Democratic leadership has determined that keeping Trump’s malfeasance in the news, death by a thousand cuts over the next two years, will help Democrats in the 2020 elections. The problem with that is that it means that no impeachment efforts will be made and Trump will remain in office for another two years. Decide for yourself what two more years of Trump’s self-serving, ignorance-based chaos will do to our country and to the world.

Decide, too, what it would mean for our country if Trump is removed from office and Mike Pence becomes President. This is the same guy who Indianans were turning out of office in 2016 because of his radical beliefs and complete disregard for the truth. Picture him as president, recommending “pray away the gay” treatment for our LGBTQ citizens. He did that when he was governor of Indiana. That ought to send shivers up your spine, too.

That leaves us with no good option for our next two years, so we have to choose the least bad solution. Here’s how to do that.

There is room for debate about the proper role of the federal government, but everybody believes that ensuring the safety and security of our nation is its primary job. For guidance on this, read Gen. Jim Mattis’ resignation letter. Note his clarity about standing with our allies and opposing those who would do harm to us or our allies and how important that is for our national security.

Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice wrote:

“.  .  .  Mr. Trump himself — has dealt the death blow to effective policy making. The president couldn’t care less about facts, intelligence, military analysis or the national interest. He refuses to take seriously the views of his advisers, announces decisions on impulse and disregards the consequences of his actions. In abandoning the role of a responsible commander in chief, Mr. Trump today does more to undermine American national security than any foreign adversary.”

We are substantively less secure now than we were two years ago. So, too, are our allies, the nations Trump has effectively told we will not stand with in case of trouble. These are the same nations who stood with us following 9/11, the only time in the history of NATO that Article 5 has been invoked. That’s the “collective defense” section of the NATO charter.

Which leads back to the question of impeachment and whether we can tolerate two more years of Trump’s hands on the reins. He’s a suck up to Putin, who is nuclear sabre rattling and rapidly expanding Russia’s military capabilities right now. He’s invading neighboring countries with impunity. Trump refuses to speak against that or take any action. At the same time, Trump is abandoning our friends like it’s just another of his divorces. He makes decisions based solely on what’s good for himself, not what’s best for our country.

I’m much less interested in what’s good for Democrats in 2020 than I am for what is best for our country. As bad as Pence may be, we need to get rid of Trump before he can do yet more damage. Besides, Pence may get caught up in the Mueller sting along with Trump and his family. That would bring about the very worst nightmare for members of the Republican Freedom Caucus: President Pelosi.

I’m thinking of running for president and will make the highlighted text my campaign slogan. Think it’ll work? Click the pic for a larger version.

For more on this read Sheila Markin’s report, How Trump Ends.

  • *Rep. Elijah Cummings was erroneously listed as representing South Carolina in the video post. He represents the 7th District of Maryland and I extend my apology for the error. JA

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Ed. Note: I don’t want money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish that goal requires reaching many people, so:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!). No subscriber information is ever shared with anyone, anywhere, any time.
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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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