Browsing the blog archives for January, 2018.


Fake President, Meaningless Speech

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Trump Maladministration

Here’s an annotated State of the Union fact-checking Trump’s remarks. Politifact also rated the speech mostly false. It’s telling that most of the headlines are reverting back to issues surrounding The Memo and the Mueller investigation.

In WaPo’s “winners and losers” column today, one of the losers was “the truth.”

The reason there’s a State of the Union address is that the Constitution stipulates in Article II, Section 3  that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” The first SOTU address was delivered by George Washington. But in the 19th century, many presidents sent a written text rather than speak to Congress in person. It wasn’t really until the 20th century that the SOTU became an annual whoop-dee-doo speech that was supposed to be significant to the whole nation, somehow. And a few SOTUs have been genuinely memorable. But it’s really kind of pointless now, isn’t it?

 

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Les atrocités du jour, or Why the Memo May Stay Undisclosed

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Nunes Memo, Trump Maladministration

So Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee voted to release the Nunes memo but quashed release of the Democratic memo that provides context showing that the Nunes memo is a crock. Typical. The ball has been punted to Trump, who has five days to decide whether he wants it released, or not.

Why wouldn’t he release it? Well, for one thing, according to people who know this stuff, there’s no way the FISA court would have approved an extension of the warrant on Carter Page if the original surveillance hadn’t turned up some compelling evidence. According to this very good backgrounder that I recommend, FISA warrants are good for 90 days, and if the original surveillance comes up dry, that’s it. And the backgrounder says that, given the time frame, the extension approved by Rosenstein would not have been the first, but (at least) the second extension.

It’s also the case that FISA warrants go through a stringent approval process that includes a boatload of lawyers before they are given to a judge, according to the backgrounder. Rosenstein would not have had sole discretion of approving it.

My bet is that Trump’s lawyers are going to tell him to keep the damn memo in a lead-lined box in hopes it doesn’t see the light of day.  However, the Judiciary Committee could release it, anyway, without his approval.

Indeed, Newsweek is reporting that The Memo admits Carter Page might have been a Russian agent. If he were a Russian agent while a member of the Trump campaign, that’s kind of not helpful to Trump’s claim of no collusion between his campaign and Russia, is it? Especially during the same week Trump is refusing to implement sanctions on Russia that passed Congress by an overwhelming majority vote.

Wait, what? Oh, yes, and as usual the excuses make no sense. See Aaron Blake at WaPo:

So to recap, the head of America’s foreign intelligence agency says Russia will attempt to do what it did in the 2016 election again in 2018 and that he hasn’t “seen a significant decrease in their activity.” But then the State Department announces that it doesn’t need to impose the sanctions that were meant to punish that behavior because the legislation is already serving as a deterrent? Pompeo seems to be saying the legislation hasn’t deterred Russia from trying to meddle in U.S. elections again — at least not to a “significant” degree.

For all of Trump’s talk about building an alliance with Russia as president, his administration has taken some tough positions. But his reluctance to sign these sanctions into law was crystal clear — he even called them “seriously flawed” but signed them knowing Congress could easily override his veto — and his continued doubts about Russian meddling in the 2016 election can’t help but make this decision seem convenient. And his administration’s contrasting narratives on the purpose and effectiveness of these sanctions could use some explaining. Otherwise, it risks looking as if it’s just ignoring Congress’s will.

Also, too:

The Guardian is reporting that the FBI has another dossier created by a former journalist named Cody Shearer. Shearer worked independently from Christopher Steele but allegedly turned up a lot of the same information. However, Shearer appears to be kind of a sketchy character, so this may not be much of a help to anybody.

Marcy Wheeler speculates that the Steele Dossier itself may actually have hurt Dems and helped Trump in 2016.

Here’s more background on how Andrew McCabe was pushed into stepping down.

See also Paul Waldman, “Trump’s Slow-Motion Massacre at the Justice Department.”

And no, I’m not going to watch the SOTU. I don’t have the strength.

Update: See Josh Marshall, “The Hidden F-U in the White House Russia Sanctions Response.

You’ve likely seen the reports that the Trump administration violated the spirit though probably not the letter of the new Russia sanctions law by simply deciding not to impose any sanctions. But the law also mandated that the administration produce a list of “senior political figures and oligarchs” in Russia. These individuals were not to be sanctioned themselves. But the list is meant to impose some stigma and, more importantly, serve as an implicit signal about which individuals might be sanctioned in the future.

The administration put out that list along with news it wasn’t going to impose sanctions. But many noted that it seemed almost identical to a list of oligarchs published in 2017 by Forbes. The most amazing thing is that when Buzzfeed asked the Treasury whether there was any truth to this, they said, candidly enough, yes. That’s where we got it.

Marshall points out that the law actually mandated a list of known Putin cronies. What the White House released was a list of Russians with the highest net worth, which included some dissidents.

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That’s Why the Memo Is a Sham

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Nunes Memo, Trump Maladministration

The New York Times reported today that according to three people who have read it, The Unreleased Memo reveals that, some time last year, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein approved an application to keep Carter Page under surveillance. This is apparently the bombshell information that has so shocked and horrified the handful of Republicans who have read The Memo.

In case you misled your score card, Carter Page was a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser who already had been under surveillance under a FISA warrant beginning in 2016, when he joined the Trump campaign, the BBC says. The FBI suspected Page of being an agent of a foreign government. “The FBI had reportedly had previously investigated Page because of his 2013 ties to Russian bank executive Evgeny Buryakov, who was convicted in 2015 of spying on the US,” the BBC continues. Page resigned from the Trump campaign in September 2016 as Trump’s alleged ties to Russia were gaining attention.

Seems to me that if some guy who has known ties to a convicted foreign spy joins a presidential campaign, putting him under surveillance is not outrageously out of bounds. So what’s the deal? The New York Times explains,

The memo’s primary contention is that F.B.I. and Justice Department officials failed to adequately explain to an intelligence court judge in initially seeking a warrant for surveillance of Mr. Page that they were relying in part on research by an investigator, Christopher Steele, that had been financed by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

So let’s get this straight — first, the shocked and horrified Republicans aren’t complaining about the original FISA warrant, they are complaining about the extension of the warrant. And they are complaining because they say the application for extension didn’t adequately explain that some of the allegations against Carter Page might have come from the Steele Dossier. Allegedly.

David Graham writes for The Atlantic,

First, there’s no obvious reason why the Justice Department couldn’t use information obtained in opposition research in a warrant application, assuming, of course, that it was accurate. Simpson said Steele approached the FBI with information he had obtained not at the behest of the DNC, but because he worried that there was information important to Americ the woran national security, and he had a duty to inform law enforcement. This is arguably in contrast to the behavior of the Trump campaign, which after being told that an agent of a foreign government wished to offer damaging information about the Hillary Clinton campaign ahead of a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, chose not to inform law enforcement. Many political operatives have said they would have contacted the FBI under similar circumstances.

Second, it’s unclear what if any non-Steele information was referenced in the warrant application. Bradley Moss, a lawyer who works on national-security cases, said in an email that he expected any application would have used other sources.

So, there is nothing about the Steele research that makes it automatically out of bounds to use to obtain a warrant, and it appears that even if the Steele Dossier were a source, it wouldn’t have been the only one.

So, yeah, release the freaking memo.

Graphic Ripped Off a Wingnut Website

 

Several media outlets are reporting today that the Trump Administration and much of the Republican Party have targeted Rod Rosenstein as an enemy agent and part of the “deep state” conspiracy they imagine — emphasis on the word imagine — is trying to bring down Donald Trump. Aaron Blake writes at WaPo:

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein is increasingly in President Trump’s crosshairs, and Trump’s long-standing wish to get rid of Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe finally came true Monday. The subject of his derision in both cases? The idea that they are both essentiallyDemocrats.

Except they aren’t, really.

But in that way, they fit a growing pattern: Almost every person who has stood atop the supposed “deep state” law-enforcement-led conspiracy against Trump just so happens to be either a Republican or tied to the same party Trump belongs to.

Rosenstein? A longtime registered Republican. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III? He was a registered Republican when GOP President George W. Bush appointed him as FBI director, and he still was as of 2017. James B. Comey? A longtime registered Republican before testifying in 2016 that he no longer was. McCabe? As CNN reported recently, he voted in the 2016 Republican presidential primary.

In case you missed it — yes, Andrew McCabe is stepping down from his job as FBI Deputy Director as of today, which is something he had already announced he would do. According to many reports, Trump had been pressuring him to quit. McCabe stayed on the job until he could retire at full pension.

But now the wingnut noise machine will be concentrating on Rod Rosenstein. Back to David Graham:

Attacking Rosenstein serves a dual purpose for Trump and his allies. If Rosenstein is forced to resign or fired, Trump would appoint a replacement who would become Mueller’s boss, and could fire the special counsel or move to limit his probe. The White House seems to recognize that firing Rosenstein merely to mess with the Mueller probe would be politically disastrous, but alleging misconduct in a warrant application could provide an excuse to push him out for other reasons. Even if Rosenstein doesn’t go, however, the current line of argument serves the purpose of undermining trust in the FBI and DOJ as they continue to investigate Trump.

I take it Rosenstein didn’t sign the original FISA warrant application for surveillance on Carter Page, just the extension. That explains why they’re hysterical about the extension application but not the original application.

See also “Trump’s most desperate move yet? Here’s what pushing out Rod Rosenstein would mean.”

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Stuff to Read About Obstruction of Justice

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Trump Maladministration

Whether a direct link between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin is ever proved decisively may not matter. All the smart legal expert guys think Mueller must be building a slam-dunk obstruction of justice case.

Renato Mariotti, The Hill, “It’s Now Likely Mueller Thinks Trump Obstructed Justice.”

Thursday’s explosive New York Times story that President Donald Trump ordered the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller last June renewed the public’s focus on the obstruction of justice investigation against Trump, which will soon culminate in Trump’s interview by Mueller. The case against Trump has grown stronger in recent months, and it now appears likely that Mueller will conclude that Trump obstructed justice.

Adam Serwer, The Atlantic, “How Trump Built an Obstruction of Justice Case Against Himself.”

Obstruction of justice is a crime that depends on a person’s state of mind, and so is difficult for prosecutors to prove. The law on whether a sitting president can be prosecuted, as opposed to impeached and removed from office by Congress, is unsettled. But legal experts say that Trump’s pattern of behavior has made the case against him much stronger, because that pattern shows Trump repeatedly attempting to undercut the investigations into Russian interference and obstruction, and then in some cases misleading the public about it. That Trump was unsuccessful in firing Mueller is irrelevant—obstruction is a crime whether or not the attempt succeeds.

Aaron Blake, Washington Post, “Did Trump just admit that he tried to impede the Russia investigation?

When asked whether he’s concerned about Mueller’s fairness in investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, Trump explained that there was no collusion and no obstruction of justice. And then he extrapolated on the obstruction part in a highly questionable way.

“Here’s what we’ll say and everybody says: No collusion. There’s no collusion. Now they’re saying, ‘Oh, well, did he fight back?’ ” Trump said.

After some cross-talk, Trump finished his thought to ABC News’s Jon Karl: “You fight back. Jon — you fight back. ‘Oh, it’s obstruction.’ ”

Trump’s meaning seems to be clear: What people see as obstruction of justice is, to him, just fighting back. And that fits with his brand as a fighter and a counterpuncher and all that.

But there’s one major problem with that: The actions at-issue here aren’t supposed to be aimed at fighting back against the investigation. The argument Trump’s lawyers are likely to make is that Trump did things like firing FBI Director James B. Comey for reasons unrelated to the Russia probe.

Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post, “Trump’s inability to understand ‘obstruction of justice’ may be his downfall.”

The normal problem in these cases is proving whether an accused obstructionist had “corrupt” intent. That is, did he interfere with an investigation to protect himself or further his own interests. Here, Trump is shouting his corrupt intent — though he has no idea it’s corrupt — from the rooftops. He’s not at all embarrassed to admit he tried to strong-arm the FBI and shut down Comey. In fact, he believes he was entitled to do these things.

Chris Strohm and Shannon Pettypiece, Bloomberg, “Mueller Almost Done With Obstruction Part of Trump Probe, Sources Say.”

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is moving at a far faster pace than previously known and appears to be wrapping up at least one key part of his investigation — whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice, according to current and former U.S. officials.

Mueller has quietly moved closer to those around Trump by interviewing Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former FBI Director James Comey in recent weeks, officials said. His team has also interviewed CIA Director Mike Pompeo, NBC News reported.

Those high-level officials all have some degree of knowledge about events surrounding Trump’s decisions to fire Comey and Michael Flynn, his first national security adviser.

“Clearly the names that are coming out now indicate that we’re into the obstruction of justice side of it,” said Stanley Twardy, a former U.S. attorney for Connecticut who’s now a white-collar criminal defense lawyer at the law firm Day Pitney LLP. “He’s now getting people who are closest to the president, closest to the issues.”

Harry Litman, Los Angeles Times, “Sweet words we may soon hear: ‘Mr. President, you are a target for obstruction of justice charges‘.”

That’s where the path of this investigation directly points: Mueller has spoken to all the crucial witnesses except Trump, and has the full account from the two principals, namely Comey and Flynn.

That “target” statement would demolish Trump’s public stance, and completely alter the stakes for an interview.

Stay tuned.

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Trump’s Immigration Framework Is DOA on Both Left and Right

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Trump Maladministration

It’s the Trump initiative nobody likes. Yesterday the Trump Administration ran an “immigration framework,” probably cobbled together by the clueless Stephen Miller, up the flagpole. Nobody saluted.

From the Right, from National Review — “The Art of the Choke.” “The amnesty and chain migration components are fatally flawed,” it says. Via Mother Jones I found this graphic from Breitbart:

They don’t mind the end of “chain migration,” which I take it is something like the new “anchor baby” complaint, and they don’t like the visa lottery, but citizenship for all those “illegals”? Big nooooooooo from the Right.

Jonathan Swan at Axios explains why it’s also DOA on the Left:

*Stephen Miller is dangling out a DACA amnesty — which sounds very generous to the uninitiated.

*The price is way too high for Democrats. The wall funding is way, way too high at $25 billion. A number closer to $10 billion is more realistic.

*The larger problems: The increase of ICE agents, faster deportations, stronger interior enforcement and the massive cuts to legal immigration by eliminating extended family migration.

*The bottom line: Two progressive immigration leaders who’ve analyzed the proposal believe it could lead to reductions of 40-50% in legal immigration — the biggest reductions since the 1920s.

By next week the White House will be denying it ever released an immigration framework. Fake news!

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Yeah, Release the Bleeping Memo. Please.

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Nunes Memo, Trump Maladministration

You may have heard about the #ReleaseTheMemo movement on the Right. Jane Coaston has written a backgrounder for Vox that explains the whole thing. The memo in question was written by Devin Nunes and his staff based on classified information shown only to Nunes (and his staff?). The memo has also been promoted by Devin Nunes as the proof that there is a sinister cabal in the Justice Department deliberately trying to undermine the Trump Administration.

For background on why nothing Nunes says deserves to be taken seriously, see  “Why Does Devin Nunes Still Have a Job?” by Joan Walsh. See also Burr: Nunes ‘created’ unmasking allegations against Rice by Max Greenwood at The Hill.

On the Right, The Memo has taken on mythic proportions; it’s like the Holy Grail of evidence of all the plots and knavish tricks of the evil liberal elite. But as with the phony Susan Rice “unmasking” scandal Nunes promoted last year, the mystique surrounding The Memo exploits widespread ignorance of how the FISA program actually works.

According to the New York Times, the memo alleges that a FISA warrant was issued targeting Carter Page, a Trump campaign consultant, based on the infamous Steele Dossier that was commissioned by the Clinton campaign, which makes the warrant evidence of anti-Trump conspiracy. Never mind that the allegation that the Steele Dossier was the sole instigator of the investigation into the Trump campaign has been thoroughly discredited.

Nunes is not releasing the memo because it contains classified information. But, of course, not releasing the memo works better for Nunes than releasing it. As long as its contents are a mystery, people can project all manner of plots into it. Once it’s released, once it’s a concrete thing, it loses its power. And it can be debunked. As a propaganda tool, however, The Unreleased Memo is brilliant.

Michael McGough wrote in the Los Angeles Times,

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) says the memo contains “some of the most alarming things I’ve ever read, and every single American citizen should be able to read that material as soon as possible.” “Jaw-dropping!” pronounced Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.). Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s lawyers, said on his radio show that it appears the memo reveals corruption that’s “breathtaking in scope.”

Democrats on the Intelligence Committee, not surprisingly, don’t find the document that big a deal. In a joint statement, they denounced it as a “misleading set of talking points” and questioned Republicans’ call for public release of the document. On Wednesday, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), the ranking member, announced that Democrats had drafted their own memo, “setting out the relevant facts and exposing the misleading character of the Republicans’ document so that members of the House are not left with an erroneous impression of the dedicated professionals at the FBI and the DOJ.”

Saying that it appeared Republicans were seeking to make their “spin memo” public, Schiff added: “We would strongly urge against this course, but would have to insist that our memorandum be likewise made public so that the entire nation is not then misled.”

On Wednesday, the Justice Department asked Nunes, reasonably, for an opportunity to review the memo before it was released publicly. The Democrats’ memo should be subjected to the same screening. If redactions are necessary in either document to protect sources and methods or the integrity of a criminal investigation, they should be made.

With that proviso, #ReleaseTheMemos — both of them.

That works for me.  Note that Rep. Peter King says Nunes won’t let the DoJ review the memo, however. See also Why an Unreleased 4-Page Memo From Devin Nunes Is Causing a Frenzy on the Right by Cristian Farias at New York magazine.

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Explain This to Me

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Trump Maladministration

Charles Pierce has an article at Sports Illustrated about the sentencing of Dr. Larry Nassar, the former team physician for USA gymnastics, to 40-175 years in prison. Pierce being Pierce:

Burn it all down. That is the calm and reasoned conclusion to which I have come as one horror story after another unspooled in the courtroom. Nobody employed in the upper echelons at USA Gymnastics, or at the United States Olympic Committee, or at Michigan State University should still have a job. If accessorial or conspiracy charges plausibly can be lodged against those people, they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Those people should come out of civil courts wearing barrels. Their descendants should be answering motions in the 22nd Century. In fact, I can argue convincingly that none of those three institutions should continue to exist in its current form. USA Gymnastics and the USOC should lose their non-profit status forthwith. Michigan State should lose its status within the NCAA for at least five years. American gymnastics is no longer a sport. It’s a conspiracy of pedophiles and their enablers. … No punishment is too harsh for the inhabitants of this universe of ghouls and gargoyles to which these brave young women were condemned.  Burn it all down. Salt the earth so it never rises again.

One might have assumed that, maybe, other people at USA Gymnastics simply didn’t realize what was going on. However, consider the testimony of Aly Raisman, who is the winner of three Olympic gold medals.

“A few days ago, U.S.A. Gymnastics put out a statement attributed to its president and C.E.O., Kerry Perry, saying she came to listen to the courageous women and said, “Their powerful voices leave an indelible imprint on me and will impact my decisions as president and C.E.O. every day,” Raisman continued. “This sounds great, Ms. Perry, but at this point talk is cheap. You left midway through the day and no one has heard from you or the board. Kerry, I have never met you, and I know you weren’t around for most of this. But you accepted the position of president and C.E.O. of U.S.A. Gymnastics, and I assume by now you are very well aware of the weighty responsibility you’ve taken on.

“Unfortunately, you’ve taken on an organization that I feel is rotting from the inside, and while this may not be what you thought you were getting into, you will be judged by how you deal with it. A word of advice: continuing to issue empty statements of empty promises, thinking that will pacify us, will no longer work. Yesterday, U.S.A. Gymnastics announced that it was terminating its lease at the ranch where so many of us were abused. I’m glad that it is no longer a national team training site, but U.S.A. Gymnastics neglected to mention that they had athletes training there the day they released the statement.”

She wasn’t finished.

“Why have I and the others here probably not heard anything from the leadership of the U.S.O.C.? Why has the U.S. Olympic Committee been silent? Why isn’t the U.S.O.C. here right now?,” Raisman asked. “Larry was the Olympic doctor and he molested me at the 2012 London Olympic Games. They say now they applaud those who have spoken out, but it’s easy to say that now. When the brave women started speaking out back then, more than a year after the U.S.O.C. says they knew about Nassar, they were dismissed.

“At the 2016 Olympic Games, the president of the U.S.O.C. said that the U.S.O.C. would not conduct an investigation. It even defended U.S.A. Gymnastics as one of the leaders in developing policies to protect athletes. That’s the response a courageous woman gets when she speaks out? And when others joined those athletes and began speaking out with more stories of abuse, were they acknowledged? No. It is like being abused all over again. I have represented the United States of America in two Olympics and have done so successfully. And both U.S.A. Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee have been very quick to capitalize on and celebrate my success. But did they reach out when I came forward? No.”

I sincerely and honestly don’t understand this. I’m not the least bit curious about Larry Nassar; I want to know why it is people protect abusers like him? And notice it isn’t just men protecting him. Pierce also said that the Michigan State gymnastics coach  “tried to coerce her athletes into signing a card to support Nassar when the first charges began to come down. This is unfathomable to me. I believe it also would be unfathomable to Vlad the Impaler.”

All these officials enjoy the prestige and income of being associated with world-class athletes. You’d think they would care about the athletes. Surely it’s easier to dismiss and replace a team doctor than to replace Olympic gold medal contenders. Yet their first reaction is to protect the doctor and throw the athletes under the bus.

Why? That makes absolutely no sense. Even assuming everyone in USA Gymnastics and the USOC is a cold-hearted sociopath, why was it in their interest to protect the doctor and not the athletes?

Maybe they somehow hoped the whole thing would go away, but considering the lot of these people and probably their organizations will be spending a large part of the rest of their lives dealing with civil suits, again, you would think it would have been in their own best interest to cut ties with Nassar as soon as the first complaint was made.

I will say one thing for these young women — considering the abuse was going on while they were competing in the highest level world competitions, under huge spotlights, in a sport where a slipped foot on the beam or slight miscalculation on the bars could result in devastating injury — boy howdy, they must have nerves of steel.  But I do wonder about young women with just as much talent but less nerve, who might have washed out of the program because of Nassar.

And, of course, it’s not just gymnasts, and it’s not just young women. Institutions close ranks around their own. But particularly when the very commodity that is the entire purpose of the institution is being abused, why is the reaction always to protect the abuser? And how can we change that?

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Ursula Le Guin, 1929-2018

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Trump Maladministration

A giant has left us.

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Sympathy for the Devil, er, Chuck Schumer

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Trump Maladministration

The Senate agreed to a short-term spending bill today, so the shutdown is over, for now, and the can is kicked down the road to February 8.

I’m reading at Vox that today’s bill included six years of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, so if this bill is approved by the House at least one thing will be off the table for awhile.  If it doesn’t go through, 1.7 million children in 20 states and the District of Columbia would lose access to healthcare in the next few weeks, and another 2 million children will lose access in just a bit more time. Ten states plus DC would have to shut down their programs in a couple of weeks. It’s being cut pretty close.

However, the bigger concern right now is DACA. I’m seeing lefties on social media absolutely slam Chuck Schumer for caving on DACA. Whether it’s really a cave or just a semi-cave depends on whom you ask.

Dylan Scott at Vox:

In agreeing to break the impasse after a three-day shutdown, Democrats are banking that they have successfully pigeonholed Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell into opening an immigration debate in the coming weeks and that an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote for an immigration bill would put pressure on the House and White House. They are already warning that if their demands aren’t met, another government shutdown could happen on February 8, when the three-week short-term funding bill runs out. And next time they won’t have Republicans dangling a six-year funding extension for the Children’s Health Insurance Program over their heads.

Brian Beutler at Crooked:

Late Friday night, Democrats drew the line here: our votes will not help fund a government that will deport immigrants brought to the country by their parents as children. Republicans rejected that demand, and the government shut down.

On Monday morning, less than three full days later, they redrew the line at a less-than-ironclad promise from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to consider legislation in the Senate that would presumably protect at least some of the Dreamer population.

This is unsatisfying in a number of ways, most obviously because the government shutdown will end without any guarantee that Congress, as opposed to just the Senate, will pass, and Donald Trump will sign, legislation that creates permanent protections for Dreamers. To the contrary, the structure of the arrangement almost guarantees that we will reach the next government spending deadline no closer than we are today to resolving the problem Trump created when he terminated the deferred action program for childhood arrivals in September.

There’s no guarantee what Trump might do, no matter what Congress does. He’s already been offered funding for his wall if the Dreamers can be protected, and he shot that down.  And don’t forget, Trump created this problem by ending the DACA program, which he could reinstate with a signature. Brian Beutler continues,

Together, the Republican leaders of the House and Senate could take matters into their own hands. It is their cynicism, indifference, and fear, as much as Trump’s incompetence, that leaves Dreamers confronting the imminence of their expulsions.

You know I’m not a big fan of Chuck, but I think he was in a lose/lose situation here. If he’d passed up CHIP funding to hold out for DACA, he’d have been skewered for that, especially if DACA falls through anyway.

Note that a lot of activists were upset with Schumer last week because he offered to fund the wall in exchange for reinstating DACA. Philip Bump wrote at WaPo last week:

When the New York Times first reported it, it seemed unlikely. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) offered President Trump funding for his wall in exchange for protecting immigrants who entered the country illegally as children? The most powerful Democrat in the Senate was willing to support one of his party’s most-hated proposals, just like that? The Times wrote simply that Schumer “discussed the possibility of fully funding the president’s wall on the southern border with Mexico” — which leaves some wiggle room.

On the floor of the Senate on Saturday, though, Schumer explained that it was almost exactly that: A deal on those covered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that would also potentially fund the wall.

That it was. Schumer offered to give Trump something that Schumer’s own base would hate; in return, Republicans would agree to something that their base is fine with.

Yep, that’s what Bump said.

… the DACA program — which allows those who immigrated illegally as children to remain and work in the United States — is broadly popular: 84 percent of Americans think it should be preserved, including 72 percent of Republicans.

If so, why is it so hard to get a DACA bill through Congress? Two reasons: Trump doesn’t like it, and congressional Republicans are nuttier than a Planters factory.

Brian Beutler is right that today’s agreement is unsatisfactory, but there’s no guarantee that continuing the shutdown would have created anything satisfactory, either. The zeitgeist I’m seeing on leftie social media today is that Chuck should have let the CHIPS kids die already and focused on DACA, but you know that soon enough people would have noticed the dying children and blamed that on Chuck, too.

Seems to me that if Beutler’s numbers are accurate, it would be in Republicans’ own interest to work with the Democrats on a DACA bill. If Trump vetoes it, that’s on him. But the Republican Party seems to have inflicted on itself the same curse it inflicted on Republican voters — for some reason, they are compelled to vote against their own interests.

It’s also the case that the DACA deadline is not as clear cut as is being made out on social media. Eric Columbus writes in Politico,

So is DACA already dead? Not so fast. On January 9, a federal judge in San Francisco ruled that Trump’s DACA rescission was illegal because it rested on a “flawed legal premise that the agency lacked authority to implement DACA.” The court ordered DHS to resume processing all DACA renewal applications. …

…Most expected that the administration would immediately ask a higher court to put the ruling on hold — in legal terms, to seek a “stay” — pending an appeal.

Instead, on January 13, DHS announced that it would abide by the injunction and reopen the DACA renewal process. Anyone whose DACA permit has expired, or is about to expire, may reapply for a two-year extension. …

…California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, whose state is a plaintiff in the DACA litigation, said that DACA’s temporary reprieve diminishes the need for Democrats to make other immigration-related concessions — possibly including funding for Trump’s wall along the Mexican border, limits on family-based migration, and speeding up the deportation process — in order to save it. Most DACA advocates, however, are loath to let up the pressure for a DACA fix, given the difficulty of finding another suitable must-pass legislative vehicle to force Republicans to the negotiating table.

It’s true that on January 18 the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to review the federal court decision, rather than go through the court of appeals first, but it’s unlikely the SCOTUS will take the case. However, the Justice Department didn’t ask for a stay of the injunction, which undermines its own case that DACA is a five-alarm fire that must be put out ASAP. Eric Columbus continues,

Either way, March 5 is highly unlikely to mean anything at all. Any end to the injunction—whether at the hands of the Supreme Court or the 9th Circuit—is almost certainly months away at the earliest. And if the injunction is lifted, the administration will need to decide whether to end DACA immediately or develop another gradual wind-down process like the one it announced last fall.

On the other hand, children were in danger of losing health care beginning in a couple of weeks. I think taking the CHIPS offer is a deal I might have taken, too.

I have no feel for whether a DACA bill could pass Congress (although why not, if Philip Bump is right and Republicans like DACA?). I don’t trust that the Republicans will magically start bargaining in good faith. It’s entirely possible that Trump would veto any bill with DACA in it. It’s said he’s being manipulated by the hard liners on his staff, in particular Stephen Miller and John Kelly. Miller is an out-and-out white supremacist neo-Nazi asshole, in spite of being the great grandson of immigrant Polish Jews. CNBC published a story Saturday saying that John Kelly was behind killing a deal to fund the government

Here’s a list of how every Senator voted, if you’re interested.

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Trump at Work

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Trump Maladministration

The White House released a photo of Trump at work in the Oval Office, at the famous Resolute Desk.

This is Trump working hard to avert the shutdown, the White House says. But what’s odd about this photo? Beside the fact that it’s obviously posed?

I looked for photos of other presidents at the Resolute Desk and found this one:

My, look at all those papers and stuff. But Trump’s desk is empty. Have you ever seen a desk that empty, other than in furniture stores? We can’t see if Trump has someone stashed under his desk, but maybe that’s just as well.  I’d rather not know.

Of course, there was also this guy:

Well, okay, Dubya wasn’t the only one who propped his feet on the desk. But there’s other stuff on the desk, too, besides a telephone and a foot.

President Truman had a famous sign on his desk.

Here’s a close up of that sign.

What sign should Trump have on his desk?

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