There’s a new sheriff in town, Jared

Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland gave the White House counsel’s office until March 4th to comply with a request to turn over documents and comply with interviews related to how the White House handled security clearances for some of the President’s closest advisers including, of course, Jared Kushner.
I hate to break the news to Jared Kushner. There’s a new sheriff in town. If he were a contestant on the popular TV show “I’ve Got a Secret” which ran in its first run from 1952 – 1967 his secret would be “I used my top-secret clearance to benefit the family business and spent 10 years in prison for it.”
(Layed image modified by computer)
Cummings wrote to the White House counsel Pat Cipollone “I am now writing a final time to request your voluntary cooperation with this investigation. I ask that you begin producing all responsive documents immediately, and I request that you begin scheduling transcribed interviews with each witness identified by the Committee. I am now writing a final time to request your voluntary cooperation with this investigation. I ask that you begin producing all responsive documents immediately, and I request that you begin scheduling transcribed interviews with each witness identified by the Committee.” Reading between the lines, it sounds like Sheriff Cummings is playing good cop while he stands with the power of his badge and the subpoena authority that goes with it in the holster on his hip.
This comes after the New York Times revealed that President Trump ignored the concerns of White House Chief of Staff General Kelly and White House Counsel, Don McGahn that there were serious questions about whether it was appropriate for Kushner to be granted high-level security clearances. Both felt that it was imperative to document their concern in memos to themselves.
Cummings went on to write “If true, these new reports raise grave questions about what derogatory information career officials obtained about Mr. Kushner to recommend denying him access to our nation’s most sensitive secrets, why President Trump concealed his role in overruling that recommendation, why General Kelly and Mr. McGahn both felt compelled to document these actions, and why your office is continuing to withhold key documents and witnesses from this Committee.”
According to a CNN report:
In one letter from White House counsel Cipollone, the White House argues they are willing to “make available for your review” documents about the White House security clearance process, but says the White House believes Congress doesn’t have the oversight authority to review individual security clearance decisions, given the belief Article II provides the President broad discretion about who he shares information with. Cipollone writes, “the President, Not Congress, Has the Power to Control National Security Information.” In another letter, he urges Cummings to make requests about security clearance information “narrowly focused” and “limited.”
In Cipollone’s letter, he also asks Cummings not to go around the White House counsel’s office to try to obtain information directly from White House staffers. He specifically cites efforts to talk to Kelly.
This is from the Washington Post

“It’s crucial for the appropriate congressional committees to find out the truth of what happened here, and getting hold of these documents it appears would be the best way to do that,” Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said.

Bookbinder said that House Democrats should try not just to obtain the memos but also to release them, albeit with appropriate redactions. “Ultimately the public needs to know if the president is overriding national security interests based on personal relationships that he has,” Bookbinder said, adding that Democrats should aim for public release of as much information as national security permits, “in the interests of accountability.”

It looks like a major confrontation is brewing between the two houses, White House and the House Oversight Committee. The Committee on Oversight and Reform, the main investigative committee in the U.S. House of Representatives which “has authority to investigate the subjects within the Committee’s legislative jurisdiction as well as ‘any matter’ within the jurisdiction of the other standing House Committees.
I’m not a lawyer, but it seems to me that and the Oversight Committee’s jurisdiction should give pause to Jared Kushner and his father-in-law. (from committee website)

Oversight Responsibilities

The oversight responsibilities of the Committee are set forth in House Rule X, clauses 2, 3, and 4.

House Rule X, clause 2(b), provides that the Committee shall review and study on a continuing basis—

(A) the application, administration, execution, and effectiveness of laws and programs addressing subjects within its jurisdiction;
(B) the organization and operation of Federal agencies and entities having responsibilities for the administration and execution of laws and programs addressing subjects within its jurisdiction;
(C) any conditions or circumstances that may indicate the necessity or desirability of enacting new or additional legislation addressing subjects within its jurisdiction (whether or not a bill or resolution has been introduced with respect thereto); and
(D) future research and forecasting on subjects within its jurisdiction.

House Rule X, clause 3(i), provides that the Committee shall “review and study on a continuing basis the operation of Government activities at all levels with a view to determining their economy and efficiency.”

House Rule X, clause 4(c)(1), provides that the Committee shall:(A) receive and examine reports of the Comptroller General of the United States and submit to the House such recommendations as it considers necessary or desirable in connection with the subject matter of the reports;
(B) evaluate the effects of laws enacted to reorganize the legislative and executive branches of the Government; and
(C) study intergovernmental relationships between the States and municipalities and between the United States and international organizations of which the United States is a member.


It seems to me, again as a non-lawyer, that the last paragraph in the list of oversight responsibilities ought to send chills up the collective spines of Trump and associates:
And House Rule X, clause 4(c)(2), provides that the Committee “may at any time conduct investigations of any matter without regard to clause 1, 2, 3, or this clause [of House Rule X] conferring jurisdiction over the matter to another standing committee.”

UPDATE:

A PRESIDENT enjoys a fair amount of discretion when it comes to designating subordinates for access to the nation’s secrets. But reports that President Trump personally intervened to get his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a top-secret clearance raise serious concerns that Congress must investigate.

While Mr. Trump’s insular leadership style is hardly suited for the White House, nepotism is not the primary concern in this case. The main worry is that secrets may be shared inappropriately. Mr. Kushner’s clearance was reportedly granted despite the concerns of intelligence officials. The nature of their concern is not entirely clear, though The Post reported last year that the government had received indications that foreign governments were interested in taking advantage of Mr. Kushner’s complex family business arrangements, its financial needs and his lack of foreign policy experience.

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Copyright © 2019 Capitol Hill Blue

Repubs act like mob lawyers, Dems let Cohen speak truth

The following is a running commentary on Michael Cohen’s testimony before the House Oversight Committee on Feb. 27, 2019.

10:00 AM The Republicans claimed they didn’t get some relevant material early enough and thus wanted to postpone the hearing. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) demanded a vote to postpone the hearing because Cohen’s testimony was released Tuesday night without with 24 hours notice They knew this would fail. Still, they had to posture with feigned outrage.

You can read Michael Cohen’s written opening statement here.

These are the members of the House Oversight Committee.

I am viewing on MSNBC though I did check to make sure Fox News was also broadcasting the hearing. A friend watched the Fox commentary prior to the hearing and she told me they were spinning it like crazy. Here’s how the far right Washington Examiner put it in “Michael Cohen opening statement makes no sense”

Cohen will say he was in the room in 2016 when Trump took a call from his longtime adviser Roger Stone, who alerted then-candidate Trump that he had phone calls with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and that a cache of hacked emails damaging to Hillary Clinton would soon be public. This claim implies that the FBI, House, Senate and all of the news media have been searching for clues that Trump knew about the email hacks, and yet the first we’re hearing about it is from Cohen, who is just about to go to prison?

The simpler explanation is better: Cohen is desperate and bitter. The media are trying to polish the turd of his credibility by noting he has “nothing to lose” in telling the truth. That’s true, but people who shoot themselves after committing mass murder having nothing to lose, either.

 

I will update this column with my impressions, in italics, throughout the day.

10:15 AM Chairman Elijah Cumming’s announced that they will not restricts Mr. Cohen’s statements,  even those related to Russia in that Cohen made some of this in his written opening statement.

10:20 Ranking Member Jordan personally attacks Rep. Cummings. Attacks Cohen as a convicted perjurer. Desperate, he brings up Steele dossier. Manages to attack Hillary Clinton. Attacks Cummings, “this is how you’re going to operate.”

10:25 Michael Cohen is sworn in. Reads opening statement which he notes includes confirming documents. Of Trump, he says “he is a racist, he is a con man, and he is a cheat.” He says he will include a copy of hush money check from Trump, copies of 2011-13 financial statements, a copy of the article with Trump’s handwriting on it related to a contribution Trump made, a threat he made against colleges and college board not to release his SAT scores.

“Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress, that’s not how he operates.” and “in his way he was telling me to lie.” He asked “how’s it going in Russia” referring to the Moscow tower project.

This obviously exposes Trump once again as a liar about having dealings in Russia.

Talking about covering up Trump’s evasion of the draft speaks directly to the president “I find it ironic that you are in Vietnam now.” This is about as timely as it gets considering Trump is probably watching this from Hanoi.

11:10 Jordan tries to undermine Cohen’s testimony because he worked for Trump for 10 years and is getting back at him because he didn’t get a job in the White House.

11:20 Mark Green (R) Begins by attacking Cohen as a convicted felon and liar. The Republicans pretend not to understand that it is common for criminals who once lied to testify credibly in later trails. Tried a gotcha question with “who paid your expenses to be here today?” Foiled, Cohen says he paid his own expenses. I thought good trial lawyer never ask a question they don’t already know the answer to.

The Republicans only have one line of attack. Not the facts. It is trying to impugn Cohen’s credibility. This gave me time to make this image:

 

11:40 Meadow’s trots out a black former employee of Trump, has her stand up, to prove that the president isn’t a racist. Cohen counters with “ask her how many top executives who are black worked for Trump?” Says “the record attests you are not a nice guy.”

Cohen obviously angry, doesn’t back down. He is well prepared. Give yes and no answers when appropriate. Shakes head in disgust at Meadow’s questions.

Hice (R) asks who he consulted with prior to the hearing. He says his lawyers Lanny Davis and Michael Monico (about) who are sitting behind him. Asked who is paying Lanny Davis. Cohen says “no one.”

Again, after two hours all the Republicans have is that Cohen was convicted of lying to Congress.

Ranking Member Jim Jordan is taking the lead in aggressively attacking Cohen. Let’s not forget that Jordan was accused of “turning a blind eye” to sexual abuse 20 years ago by the team doctor of wrestlers he coached at Ohio State.

BREAK

12:30  N.C. Rep. Foxx (left) who only has the fact that Cohen won’t commit to not writing a book, working on a movie, or being a TV commentator in the future to impugn his testimony. Cohen answered with one-word responses: “no” to each.

Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) reminds us that no RICO case ever is brought to trial without having testimony from mob witnesses who committed crimes but who are granted immunity.

Another Republican, Rep. Cloud makes Cohen recite what he’s been convicted of and when he has to begin his sentence. When Cohen offers more damning comments about Trump Cloud cuts him off. Do they know they are losing the optics battle with anyone who isn’t a Trump sycophant? He wants Cohen to commit to donating any remuneration from books or other deals to charity.

Is it just my own prejudice but do most of the Republicans look and sound like ignoramuses?

1:55 Jamie Raskin (D) has Cohen describe in detail how payoffs to Karen MacDougal were made. Raskin was a constitutional law professor who has said that if Trump is implicated in crimes committed while he was president he should be impeached.

2:10 Amazing! Rep Justin Amash is the first Republican who actually asks questions that allow Cohen to explain his testimony. If anything he is sympathetic to Cohen. Cohen thanks him for his questions!

2:20 Rep Bob Gibbs (R) suggests that Cohen shouldn’t be saying these things about the president while he is overseas trying to do what’s right for the country. He actually sounded tearful. Again the refrain, why if you worked for the president for 10 years, if you had any sense of integrity, didn’t you leave before now? He is trying to say Cohen is motivated by promises of future benefit for his testimony. Says this is political theater. Cohen “it is not” – I have worked with him for 10 years. Gibbs finishes that with all these deals Cohen will be doing pretty good in five years.

Talking about political theater, the smirking self-satisfied looking Jim Jordan, the cover-up former Ohio State wrestling coach, is taking center stage as GOP member yield time t him whenever possible. Cover-up seems to equal having been a liar.

2:45 No Republican bombshells yet, not even any effective gotchas. They are acting just like mob lawyers trying to discredit witnesses.

2:50 Rep. Jackie Speier gets Cohen to give a number of how many times he helped Trump make problems or potential problems go away by threatening people: about 500.

Rep. Mrs. Miller (R): Another political game for the purpose of discrediting the president, and to impeach the president. Ho Hum, but she reveals name of a book Cohen was working on “Trump Revolution from the tower to the White House.” Again, more about his perusing the book deal in the future says “anything to sell books” and calls him a man who has gladly exploited the president for his own profit.

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D) gets Cohen to reveal Trump knew about and directed a company to use bots to rig a poll.

3:15 GOP Rep. W. Stuebe suggests that because he doesn’t have records of everything Cohen accuses him of means – well – something bad. He manages to effect a stern look of condemnation and disbelief. I wonder if he practiced in front of a mirror or if it merely comes naturally to him.

3:30 Republican Chip Roy condemning “this unbelievable circus” manages to give a Trump stump speech.

Democrat Stacey Plasket from the Virgin Islands has Cohen remind us that he was Vice Chair of the Republican National Committee. She gets Cohen to say a statement made by Rudy Guiliani was inaccurate, among other inaccurate statements made by Trump associates.

Rona Graff, Trump’s personal assistant, was brought up several times, probably assuring she will be called to testify.

The Big Reveal: Cohen can’t talk about open investigations in the Southern District of New York. The Big Apple may turn very rotten for Donald Trump and Company.

 

RECESS

4:30 California Democrat Ro Khanna questions about the possibility that Cohen knows about but can’t discuss matters about Donald Trump and the Trump Organization being involved in the investigation into a criminal conspiracy. Another California Democrat Jimmy Gomez asks about whether Cohen knows anything about whether or not Trump was being under audit for his taxes. He said he assumes that Trump was never under tax audit.

They are finishing up with questions about Trump financial transactions coming from Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, for example “To your knowledge, did the president ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?” Cohen, who responded immediately, said “yes.” Slate suggests she may be laying the groundwork for a subpoena for Trump’s tax returns.

Then there was the sure to make the news comment by Rep. Rashida Talib who lambasted Rep. Mark Meadows for bringing in a black woman to act as a prop. She said “Just to make a note, Mr. Chairman, just because someone has a person of color, a black person, working for them, does not mean they aren’t racist and it is insensitive that some would even say it’s — the fact that someone would actually use a prop, a black woman, in this chamber, in this committee, is alone racist in itself.”

Meadows demanded her comments be stricken from the record. Fireworks ensured. Meadows said he took the accusation especially personally because “my nieces and nephews are people of color. Elijah Cummings,  who noted he was the son of former sharecroppers and that he had slaves as ancestors tried to respond to Meadows. Talib eventually apologized for saying something that might have sounded like it could be construed to mean she was accusing  Meadows of being a racist. He eventually withdrew his request.

The Republican Jody Hice from Georgia and other Republicans then entered media articles which are highly critical of Cohen into the record.

Michael Cohen was asked for closing remarks. Looking tired and somewhat bedraggled with the start of a five o’clock shadow he read from his notes. He finished with comments made directly to the president calling him churlish. I expect these will soon be published in short order.

Jordan offered nothing new while claiming he had new matter to bring up. He read woodenly from his notes without looking up. He said he wanted to bring Rod Rosenstein in for questioning about (old news already) talking about wearing a wire to record the president.

Elijah Cummings spoke extemporaneously looking directly at Cohen. From what I could tell Cohen gazed back at him with a sad look on his face. They were classic, beautiful, and inspiring.  He finished with:

“I want to say thank you. I know that this can be hard. I know that you are facing a lot. I know that you are worried about your family but this is part of destiny and, hopefully, this portion of your destiny will lead to a better Micheal Cohen, a better Donald Trump, a better United States of America and a better world.”

“I mean that from the depths of my heart. When we’re dancing with the angels, the question will be asked: ‘In 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy in tact? Did we stand on the sidelines and say nothing?”

“We can do more than one thing,” he said. “And we have got to get back to normal.” 

You can read them all here and watch the video.


UPDATE Thursday Feb. 28, 2019 Jenifer Rubin goes with the mob comparison:

The mob analogy got a whole lot stronger

Rubin lists examples from the hearing and writes:

…you might be a fan of mob movies. In Cohen’s telling, Trump sits atop a kind of crime factory mowing down red lines daily, operating above and beyond the law to enrich its top boss and depending on the ultimate loyalty of underlings. Reporters have often commented that Trump publicly speaks in language a crime boss would use (e.g., deploring “flipping”). That may not be a coincidence. Trump’s self-image and organization are very much styled after a Hollywood movie portrayal of a gangster and his crime family.

As in the movies, the organization breaks down when someone becomes a “rat,” a cooperating witness. You have to find someone deep in the organization to provide insight into the day-to-day operation, to break the code, as Cohen said. These people are criminals, which is why they have access to even bigger criminals. Saying Cohen is a convicted perjurer is like saying Sammy “The Bull” Gravano was a felon. Well, duh. How else were the feds going to catch up to John Gotti and dozens of other mobsters?

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Copyright © 2019 Capitol Hill Blue

Hate continues to increase in America

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks and exposes the spread of hate in America, says “hate groups” increased for the fourth straight year in 2018 and now number a record 1,020 — up 30 percent since 2014.

“We’re seeing a lot of bad trends,” Heidi Beirich, director of the center’s intelligence project, told The York Times on Wednesday. “There are more hate groups, more hate crimes and more domestic terrorism in that same vein. It is a troubling set of circumstances.”

On Friday of last week, law enforcement officers arrested Coast Guard Lt. Christopher Paul Hasson for plotting to kill elected officials, prominent journalists, judges and “leftists in general. “

“I am dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person o the earth,” Hasson said in a letter to friends. “I think a plague would be the most successful but how do I acquire the needed / Spanish flu, botulism, anthrax not sure yet will find something.”

A search of Hansson’s apartment in Maryland found 15 assault-style rifles, shotguns, handguns and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition.

On his work computer, Hasson compiled a list of those he called “traitors,” including anchors and hosts of news shows on CNN, MSNBC pus Democratic elected officials like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, members of Congress like Alexandria Ocasion-Cortez and Maxine Waters along with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (who he referred to as “Sen blumen jew.”

“Much blood will have to be spilled to get whitey off the couch,” Hasson wrote.

At the Southern Poverty Law Center, those who track such actions point to the hateful rhetoric of president Donald Trump as a big part of the increase of hate groups.

“Trump has made people in th white supremacist movement move back into politics and the public domain,” says Beirich. “He is a critical aspect of this dynamic, but he is not the only reason why the ranks of hate groups are growing. The ability to propagate hates in the online space is key.”

The Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, in a report issued in January, found 2018 is the deadliest year for right-wing extremism since the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

The Anti-Defamation League and the law center say the murder of 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in October of last year came from “the increasingly combustible mix of anti-immigrant sentiment, violence and online conspiracy-mongering.”

“The white supremacist attack in Pittsburgh should serve as a wake-up call to everyone about the deadly consequences of hateful rhetoric,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, president of the Anti-Defamation League, in a statement accompanying its report. “It’s time for our nation’s leaders to appropriately recognize the severity of the threat and to devote the necessary resources to address the scourge of right-wing extremism.”

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Copyright © 2019 Capitol Hill Blue

Republicans break the law: Accessories after the fact

Donald Trump has a reflexive defense against charges of wrongdoing, “it’s fake news” and when things get too hot he accuses the accusers of being enemies of the people, biased, or corrupt.

Between the reporting in The New York Times and The Washington Post, added to the revelations in Andrew McCabe’s book and in his interviews saying “where’s there’s smoke there’s fire” is a cliché so overused about the mountain of proven and circumstantial evidence implicating Trump in crimes and misdemeanors that it is useless.

Trump went after Andrew McCabe already: “Remember this, Andrew McCabe didn’t go to the bathroom without the approval of Leakin’ James Comey!.” Today he’s attacking the media.

 

Then in the midst of these attacks, his thought process sometimes rerails and the president throws in an unrelated attack against other enemies, for example this tweet was sandwiched between the attacks against the press this morning.

Even during this morning’s tweet storm against the media, Trump demonstrated that he was abusing presidential power to exact revenge against California for leading the state lawsuits against him: “Trump Administration Says It Will Rescind $929 Million In Funds For California High-Speed Rail. The announcement comes one day after California joined a 16-state lawsuit challenging the president’s emergency declaration to fund a border wall. HUFFPOST

He connected the two in a tweet (top) and in another tweet (bottom).

Considering the evidence against him these diversionary tactics would be either laughable or pathetic if they weren’t effective with his brainwashed sycophants who demonstrate the same ability for rational thought as a colony of migrating lemmings.

We expect Trump’s White House shills to lie for him when they are forced to respond to the press. As for as those who rely on Fox to get their news this is their website’s front page as of 10:30 AM Wednesday morning:

 

You have to scroll down the sidebar to number eight to find a video about the most important news of the week: Andrew McCabe believes ‘it’s possible’ President Trump is a Russia asset and number nine a Tucker Calrson interview with Richard Painter ,who is highly critical of Trump, Former Bush ethics attorney wants President Trump removed from office using the 25th Amendment.

The fact that GOP members of Congress are still backing President Trump has moved into the realm of being accessories after the fact in crimes up to and possibly including treason.


18 U.S. Code § 3 – Accessory after the fact

Whoever, knowing that an offense against the United States has been committed, receives, relieves, comforts or assists the offender in order to hinder or prevent his apprehension, trial or punishment, is an accessory after the fact.

Except as otherwise expressly provided by any Act of Congress, an accessory after the fact shall be imprisoned not more than one-half the maximum term of imprisonment or (notwithstanding section 3571) fined not more than one-half the maximum fine prescribed for the punishment of the principal, or both; or if the principal is punishable by life imprisonment or death, the accessory shall be imprisoned not more than 15 years.


While congressional Republicans can never be literally charged with this crime, as long as they persist in protecting the president they are ethically and morally culpable. Eventually, they will be judged in the court of public opinion and many won’t be in office two and four years from now.

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Copyright © 2019 Capitol Hill Blue

Sanders may not have magic this time around

Sen. Bernie Sanders (AP)

Can Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders recapture the magic that fueled his first presidential campaign?

To win the nomination, he may not need to.

As Sanders, a 77-year-old self-described democratic socialist, formally launches his 2020 campaign, the lessons of President Donald Trump’s victory in the GOP’s packed 2016 contest loom large.

With better-established Republican contenders dividing the GOP primary vote that year, Trump began racking up primary victories with 30 to 40 percent of each state’s vote. He captured his party’s nomination even as six or seven of every 10 primary voters backed another Republican candidate.

Sanders’ team is betting that the bar for victory in the more-crowded 2020 Democratic field could be even lower. That simple math — and an extraordinary small-dollar fundraising operation — suggests that Sanders is poised to maintain his status as a political force in 2020 whether most of his party wants him to or not.

Sanders is showing no desire to change his approach to broaden his appeal, as is sometimes the case with ambitious second-time candidates. Nina Turner, president of Our Revolution, the political arm of Sanders’ expansive network, said the 2020 campaign “is really about him finishing what he started.”

In a political world in which windows of opportunity rarely stay open long, it’s possible that Sanders’ moment may have passed.

In 2016, he was the sole option for anti-establishment Democrats who didn’t support Hillary Clinton. Today, Democrats are sorting through a far more diverse field that could ultimately exceed two dozen high-profile contenders. Many of them — and there are exceptions — have adopted Sanders’ far-left policy priorities and anti-establishment rhetoric.

Signs of erosion are easy to find.

While many grassroots activists cheered Sanders’ decision, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, another self-described democratic socialist and a worker for Sanders’ first presidential campaign, remained silent.

“We’re excited to see so many progressives in the race,” Ocasio-Cortez spokesman Corbin Trent said, declining to address Sanders’ big announcement directly. “We’re not thinking at all about the next election.”

Sanders enters a field that already includes progressive favorites like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and California Sen. Kamala Harris. They have adopted much of Sanders’ agenda to provide free universal health care, free college tuition and a $15 minimum wage. Still unknown is whether former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke or former Vice President Joe Biden will join the race, two prospects who could peel away some of Sanders’ base of support beyond the ultra-liberal wing of the party.

At the same time, Sanders has little hope of winning over many establishment-minded former Clinton supporters, still bitter from their perception that he didn’t work hard enough to defeat Trump once Clinton captured the Democratic nomination.

“Amazing how Bernie and his 3,708,294 fewer supporters squandered two years. They quadrupled down on their rigging rant and now there are 10 alternatives,” longtime Clinton adviser Philippe Reines tweeted. “Get ready to Feel the Fizzle.”

But it is Sanders’ consistency that has endeared him to a passionate base of liberal activists across the country who remain deeply loyal to him and his decadeslong fight for income equality and universal health care. Some of his competitors — particularly Warren and Harris — have also developed nationwide followings, but no one starts out with the same kind of fundraising appeal or organized network of like-minded groups such as Our Revolution, Justice Democrats and the Democratic Socialists of America.

“We’re more powerful than ever in the politics. We changed the game,” said 28-year-old Moumita Ahmed, the co-founder of Millennials Want Bernie 2020. “Bernie Sanders is still the only candidate that’s not the status quo.”

Anticipating Sanders’ decision, her organization had already organized chapters in Michigan, California, Nevada, New York, South Carolina and Washington state. She also donated $27 to Sanders on Tuesday, matching the often-touted average donation that fueled his first run.

Overall, Sanders raised more than $4 million from nearly 150,000 individual donors in the first 12 hours after launching his 2020 bid, his campaign said Tuesday.

Previously, the biggest first-day fundraiser in the race had been Harris, who raised $1.5 million in the first 24 hours of her campaign.

Even before Tuesday’s fundraising haul, however, Sanders had more cash in the bank than any of his competitors. He entered the contest with roughly $15 million to devote to his 2020 campaign, a combination of his Senate campaign fund and what’s left over from his 2016 presidential bid.

“Bernie Sanders is the front-runner,” tweeted former Clinton staffer Zac Petkanas. “Let’s see how he likes it.”

Indeed, with a higher profile comes higher scrutiny.

Sanders’ team expects to face more negative attention in his second run — both from rivals who view him as a legitimate threat and the broader political world that takes him seriously enough to devote more time and energy to dig deeper into his policies and personal background.

He will face particularly difficult questions over his campaign’s handling of allegations of sexual harassment and gender inequity during his 2016 campaign. The senator has already apologized and instituted a series of changes designed to prevent similar abuse in the future, but in a Democratic field that currently features more women than men, the issue is not going away anytime soon.

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean warned Democrats against underestimating Sanders.

“Bernie’s political career is littered with people who don’t take him seriously,” said Dean, who has encouraged Democrats to embrace a younger generation of candidates in 2020.

At the White House, meanwhile, Trump offered a mixed view of Sanders’ 2020 chances when asked during an unrelated event.

“Personally, I think he missed his time,” Trump said, even as he praised Sanders’ trade policies. “I wish Bernie well. It’ll be interesting to see how he does.”
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Copyright © 2019 Capitol Hill Blue

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

In May 2017 FBI was troubled by president’s actions, behavior

Update Feb. 18, 2019: The 60 Minutes interview video and transcript

In this clip of outtakes, McCabe reveals a self-aggrandizing Donald Trump 

McCabe said Rosenstein raised the idea of using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump out of concern about the president’s “capacity and about his intent at that point in time.”

The key words, above, from a mental health perspective, are “capacity” and from the concern over President Trump’s loyalty, “intent.”

For once I agree with Lindsay Graham (on CBS “Face the Nation”):

Graham called the idea of invoking the 25th Amendment “beyond stunning.”

Indeed, the very idea that Trump’s psychological impairment might justify removal from office is beyond stunning. That there was evidence being taken seriously by experienced intelligence experts to ponder taking such a step is staggering and mind-boggling.

Then, there’s this:

Trump insisted intelligence reports that North Korea had launched an ICBM were incorrect because Putin had told him that North Korea did not have that capability, the book says, per The Washington Post.

The most innocent explanation of this is that Trump does not have the judgment to think rationally about an issue vital to national security, that he took the word of the leader of a nation which is an adversary over his own intelligence experts. Is it any wonder that those aware of this were considering invoking the 25th Amendment because of mental incapacity?

Jeremy Bash, former chief of staff for the Defense Department and the CIA under Barack Obama told Michelle Wallace on MSNBC today: “Think about this, Putin says to an American president, ’I don’t want you to take seriously the threat of an ICBM from North Korea.’” He said that Putin’s motives would be to “undermine U.S. intelligence. More  fundamentally, the Russian Federation has had a long-standing agenda to stop the United States from building national missile defenses because those defenses could defend our territory from Russian ICBMs.” He said that Trump heeding Putin’s advice represents a “very dangerous situation.”

Update: Feb. 19, 2019


Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe said he briefed a bipartisan group of congressional leaders about the FBI’s counterintelligence operation into President Donald Trump in May 2017, and that none of them objected. “No one objected — not on legal grounds, not on constitutional grounds, and not based on the facts,” he said Tuesday in an interview on NBC’s “Today,” ahead of the release of his book about his time at the FBI under Trump. (Emphasis added)



Feb. 16, 2019


A few months after mental health professionals said Trump was dangerously mentally unfit in the Spring of 2017, FBI Director Comey was fired, and Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe engaged in discussions about whether there was justification in invoking the 25th Amendment. To reiterate what you’ve no doubt already heard:

“There’s some dispute about whether invoking the 25th Amendment was discussed seriously. But there’s no question that at the FBI — which, let’s not forget, may be the most politically conservative agency in the entire federal government — what happened during the campaign, as well as Trump’s own actions after becoming president, was so alarming that extraordinary measures to safeguard the U.S. government seemed like something that had to be considered.” (Washington Post)

It is important to understand that the notion that the president appeared to be mentally unbalanced and therefore not able to think rationally and that when criticized he often reacted with rage did not come just from the observations which James Comey, Andrew McCabe, and others in the intelligence community had made.

Pundits were reluctant to use psychiatric jargon to describe Trump’s troubling behavior. Instead, they readily used words like “unhinged” and “mercurial” or even “off the rails,” as if there was some normalcy to a president being described using these words. It was as if nobody bothered to look the definitions up: for the words: “mentally unbalanced; deranged” for the former and for the later “a person subject to sudden or unpredictable changes of mood or mind.”  Trump has been repeatedly described as someone whose narcissism and insecurity led him to make irrational and self-defeating decisions. This, again, is part and parcel of one definition of mental illness.

We may never know whether these top intelligence officials knew about the thousands of mental health professionals who were making their case that Trump suffered from psychopathology so severe that he was, to paraphrase a best-selling book’s title (review), a dangerous case. Even though the book “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump” was published several months later, a few months before the Comey firing mental health professionals began to publish articles or write letters to newspapers stating why they believe the president was mentally unfit. A month prior to the Comey firing a well-publicized conference was held at a Yale University venue (not sponsored by Yale).

We also may never know whether these intelligence officials consulted with clinicians working as profilers within the FBI and/or outside mental health expert consultants to help them understand the behavior of the president which gave them concern. My hunch is that any responsible intelligence officer would make every effort to essentially profile someone whose behavior didn’t seem, to use a layman’s term, “normal.”

Andrew McCabe is beginning his book tour and may be called to testify before Congress. In addition to grave worry within the FBI about Trump being mentally unfit to be president, once the book is published I am certain we will learn more about how deeply troubled members of the intelligence community were by the many indications that he had been compromised by Vladimir Putin. If this was wittingly it would make him a traitor. If it was unwittingly it would strongly suggest mental illness severe enough for him to be judged unfit to be president. These two are not mutually exclusive. He could be both, in other words:

All of the behaviors that have had pundits scratching their heads as they attempt to make sense of them can be explained by one or both of two things: He is a malignant narcissist or he is working to advance the interests of Russian president Putin.

On a lesser note, Jeff Sessions doesn’t come across well in McCabe’s account of interactions he had with the then attorney general. Here’s an excerpt from an article, well worth reading in its entirety, from The Hill: Sessions once said FBI was better off when it ‘only hired Irishmen’

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe alleged that former Attorney General Jeff Sessions once said the bureau was better off when it “only hired Irishmen,” according to a copy of his new book seen by The Washington Post.

“They were drunks but they could be trusted. Not like all those new people with nose rings and tattoos — who knows what they’re doing?” McCabe reportedly quoted Sessions as saying in his new book while recounting what it was like to work under him.

McCabe also reportedly claimed that Sessions would forgo reading intelligence reports during his time as a senior official in the Trump administration and confused classified information with stories he had read in the newspaper.


Related column from Feb. 15, 2019: “25th Amendment: No Perry Mason moment from Pence”

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Astronaut not a shoo-in against Sen. McSally

Former astronaut Mark Kelly just announced his intention to run for the U.S. Senate in 2020 for the Senate seat now occupied by Martha McSally. “McSally was the Republican nominee in Arizona’s 2018 U.S. Senate election, losing 50–48% to Democratic Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema. Following that election, interim U.S. Senator Jon Kyl announced his resignation from the state’s other seat. Governor Doug Ducey then appointed McSally to succeed Kyl.”  McSally is a retired Air Force colonel and combat pilot veteran. She is an Air Force Academy graduate and received her Masters in Public Policy from Harvard University. Wikipedia

It is already being reported (on MSNBC) that Mark Kelly will be challenging Republican Sen. McSally in the general election.

In the online video announcing his candidacy Kelly says “I learned a lot from being an astronaut. I learned a lot from being a pilot in the Navy. I learned a lot about solving problems from being an engineer; but what I learned from my wife is how you use policy to improve people’s lives.” He highlights his experience as an astronaut and Navy pilot in addition to his views on climate change, affordable health care, the stagnation of wages, job growth and the economy.

“We’ve seen this retreat from science and data and facts,” he says.  He is best known nationally as former Rep. Gabby Giffords husband who was standing next to her when she nearly lost her life in an assassination attempt.
However, there is another Democrat who is poised to enter the race. He is the serving U.S. Representative Ruben Marinelarena Gallego.

The New York Times reported today that “Mr. Kelly may not have an open path to the Democratic nomination. At least one other prominent Democrat, Representative Ruben Gallego, has been exploring the race. He could present a challenge to Mr. Kelly on the left. Mr. Gallego said on Tuesday morning that he was still considering the race, indicating he would not make way for Mr. Kelly. “I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m looking seriously at running for the U.S. Senate in 2020, and that hasn’t changed,” Mr. Gallego said on Twitter. “I’ll be making a final decision and announcement soon.”

Rep. Gallego is a combat veteran who joined the Marines after graduating from Harvard University. He did not become an officer, mustering out as a corporal. After completing infantry training, he deployed to Iraq where his unit lost 46 Marines and two Navy corpsmen between January 2005 and January 2006 including his best friend.  He was a staffer to Phoenix City Councilman Michael Nowakowski form 2009 to 2010. He began his career in elected politics when he ran in two losing primary races for the Arizona State House of Representatives in 2010 and 2012. Then he ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014 and won both the primary and the general election. He currently serves on the House Armed Services and the Natural Resources committees. He is a long-time supporter of LGBT causes and in 2015 became vice-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus.

In 2014 according to a local paper “at a Washington fundraising event in September for his congressional campaign, Gallego told donors that he plans to spend the next 25 to 30 years in the House, all but ruling out a future run for the Senate.”

In a tweet posted today Gallego wrote: “I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m looking seriously at running for the U.S. Senate in 2020, and that hasn’t changed. I’ll be making a final decision and announcement soon.

There were, as of this writing, 25 comments with the overall sentiment being “stay where you are.” Here are several examples:

Replying to

The 2020 Senate races are crucial for both parties since every seat the Democrats can win from incumbent Republicans brings them closer to controlling the Senate. If they hold onto the House as seems likely and win the presidency they will control both the executive and legislative branches of government.

Mark Kelly has signalled in his video that he will be running on his compelling family history, his combat pilot experiences, and of course his experience as an astronaut as much as on his progressive positions. However there is no doubt that he became famous by being Gabby Gifford’s husband, and that he has featured her and their relationship prominently in his video.

The New York Times reports that Mr. Kelly has been among the most closely watched potential Democratic candidates along with Georgia’s Stacey Adams.

While national fame may count for a lot in a national election a Senate race is a different animal altogether. Let’s not count Rep. Gallego out too soon. There’s something to be said for electing people who already know something about governing.

From Kelly’s Twitter account Feb. 12th:

I can’t believe it, but more than 4 million of you watched this video yesterday. It means a lot to me that my story resonated with so many of you. A lot of you have already shared this with me, but which part is your favorite?

A huge thank you to everyone who saw our launch and joined our team yesterday. I’m new to this but I’m told we did well. In the first 24 hours we raised $604K from more than 9,700 contributions. We’re without a DIME of corporate PAC money.

All this being said, odds favor Mark Kelly to win the primary based on name recognition and personal story, and then hopefully the general election. This would make him the second former astronaut to serve in Congress. John Glenn served with distinction from 1974 to 1995 as the senator from Ohio.

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Democratic trouble in Virginia’s state capital

Vanessa Tyson (right) and Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.
(Photos courtesy of Scripps College & AP)

Double whammy on the Richmond, VA, statehouse scandal carnival Wednesday.

Virginia’s Democratic Attorney General, Mark Herring, admitted he dress up in blackface in college to sing a rap song with his buddies and the woman who says Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax sexually assaulted her went public in graphic detail about a blow job that she says he forced her to give him in 2004.

With Virginia’s top three Democratic office holders in trouble, the next in line for governor is the top Republican in the general assembly.

Unlike the instant demands that Gov. Ralph Northam resign from office after revelations of his blackface incident in Medical School hit last week, the response on the latest scandals have drawn a more measured “let’s wait and see” response.

Herring says he dressed up as rapper Kurtis Blow at a party at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville in 1980. He was 19.

That’s five years younger than Northam’s admitted appearance as Michael Jackson, complete with blackface, the glove and a “moonwalk” at age 24 in 1984 at Eastern Virginia Medical School.

Fairfax, it turns out, was also 24 and at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004 when he took Vanessa Tyson to his hotel room.

“What began as consensual kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault,” Tyson said Wednesday in a public statement. Fairfax admits the encounter with Tyson but claims all that happened as “a consensual sexual act” by a single man with a woman.

In her statement, Tyson continues:

Mr. Fairfax put his hand behind my neck and forcefully pushed my head towards his crotch. Only then did I realize that he had unbuckled his belt, unzipped his pants, and taken out his penis. He then forced his penis into my mouth. Utterly shocked and terrified, I tried to move my head away, but could not because his hand was holding down my neck and he was much stronger than me. As I cried and gagged, Mr. Fairfax forced me to perform oral sex on him.

“I cannot believe, given my obvious distress, that Mr. Fairfax thought this forced sexual attack was consensual,” she continues in her statement.

She said nothing to anyone at the time and did not file charges or a complaint, but came forward when she saw a news photo of Fairfax as Virginia’s new Lt. Governor in 2017.

The image hit me like a ton of bricks, triggering buried traumatic memories and the feelings of humiliation I’d felt so intensely back in 2004. Prior to reading the article, I had not followed Mr. Fairfax’s career and did not know that he was seeking public office.

She told a friend at The Washington Post but the paper said it could not confirm what happened and found no evidence of such behavior at any time by Fairfax.

After The Washington Post decided in March 2018 not to run my story, I felt powerless, frustrated, and completely drained. Again I tried to bury memories of this painful incident and focus on my work and my students.

The story emerged this week, however, on the same GOP-oriented web site that uncovered the blackface photo that started the uproar over Ralph Northern and she is telling her story again.

Fairfax, an attorney, released his own statement Wednesday saying again it was consensual but also asked people to “treat the accuser with respect.”

On Monday, however, he threatened legal action against Tyson, who is a fellow at Stanford University and associated professor at Scripps College. Fairfax said her story is “false.”

By Wednesday, and with the advice of aides and friends, Fairfax issued a new statement:

I would like to encourage the media, my supporters and others to treat both the woman who made the allegation and my family with respect for how painful this situation can be for everyone involved. I wish her no harm or humiliation, nor do I seek to denigrate her or diminish her voice. But I cannot agree with a description of events that I know is not true.

This has been an emotional couple of days for me and my family. And in my remarks on Monday, I think you could hear how emotional dealing with an allegation that I know is not true has been for me.

The stories about both Northam and Fairfax came from a website owned and run by a former political advisor to Corey Stewart, the white nationalist who ran against Tim Kaine in last year’s Virginia Senate election. Kaine easily won-re-election.

The website operator also previously worked for right-wing news sites like The Daily Caller and Breitbart News.

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Trump’s illogical state of the union

“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation” seems to be the most oft quoted and discussed line from Trump’s State of the Union speech. As messaging it works fairly well despite the fact that as a sentence it is so disconnected it borders on nonsensical. As poorly stated and illogical as it is, we know what he means. He conflated several unrelated issues into one, and it is an example of an “if this, then not this” statement.

As a sentence it is poorly structured. “If there is going to be peace, there cannot be war” is nonsense. It’s like saying if it’s going to be hot it cannot be cold. This is obvious. You can’t have peace at the same time as you have war.

What the president really wanted to say that is “if there is going to be legislation helping the country, there cannot be investigations into unfounded allegations against Donald Trump.”

Wrong again. Congress can pass legislation and conduct investigations concurrently. In fact, it is the role of Congress to do both.

Perhaps if it made sense this would be a half-decent two-line verse/chant for a rally rendered in a sing-song ballad style:

“If there is going to be peace and legislation,

there cannot be war and investigation.”

This doesn’t hold a candle to the Weavers:

I ain’t gonna study war no more, study war no more

I ain’t gonna study war no more

or:

Hey, hey LBJ!

How many kids did you kill today?

Merely because two words end with that same sounds and letter, in this instance “-ation” doesn’t mean that will become a meme. In this era of slogan driven campaigning an effective meme can replace the most thoughtful messaging.

Trump should stick to the simple three word crowd pleasers like “build the wall” and “whose gonna pay for it?” Trump’s best line was courtesy Chris Christie and the audience who started chanting “lock her up” after he mentioned Hillary Clinton’s supposed transgressions at the Republican National Convention. Evoking Hillary Clinton and her emails was Trump’s best rally line and he didn’t even invent it. The Washington Post describes how it all came about.

The New Jersey governor was in the middle of an attack on Hillary Clinton, listing what he saw as her many missteps as secretary of state. After each perceived misstep, he asked the crowd, “Is she guilty or not guilty?”

“Guilty!” the crowd thundered back again and again.

But this time, it sounded different. ….

His eyes narrowed for a moment, seeking out the disruption. But then a smile slowly took over his face. He nodded as he figured out what they were saying. The chant swelled to a roar, and delegates began standing up from their seats. They waved their red, white and blue “Trump” signs. They shook their fists. They screamed and hollered and made the building shake, in that now-familiar three-beat chant: lock her up! Lock Her Up!

Trump’s trying to rail against the Mueller investigation in his fractured Trumpian way has become one of the most critiqued part of the speech and for good reason. I wonder if this was the only part of the address he wrote himself.

In this column I thought I’d just focus on how unsuccessful President Trump was in trying to make a meme out of a foolish partisan Democratic investigations would make legislation impossible, and trying to connect this to blaming the Democrats for being responsible for being the pro-wars and anti-peace party.

Not only did Trump fail in making a meme which would benefit him, he opened himself to intense media criticism for bringing the Mueller investigation into the State of the Union.


Updated  – Slate’s Jim Newell had a similar take on these lines as I did in “A least he rhymed:” writing:

Donald Trump turned to the most lethal of oratorical tools in Tuesday night’s State of the Union address: the rhyme. To summarize his argument that Democratic investigations into his administration could imperil America’s economic gains, he said: “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation.” And then—copying directly from the prepared text here—the follow-up: “It just doesn’t work that way!”

In political speechwriting, flat attempts at cleverness are often made to paper over a total lack of substance, and this little rhyming number was no exception. Democrats in the chamber laughed at the line….

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