We can start with a bit of good news — this morning in a 5 to 4 decision, the Supreme Court overturned a Louisiana abortion law that required any doctor offering abortion services to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. Chief Justice Roberts voted with the liberals, while the usual suspects — Scalia, Thomas, Gorsuch, and BeerBong — said screw precedent and voted to keep the law. However, Kevin Drum points out that Roberts’s written decision leaves room to possibly allow other abortion restrictions to stand.
And I’ve just seen that Paul Waldman agrees. Roberts certainly wants to overturn Roe v. Wade, Waldman writes, just not right now.
Roberts has an ideology, but he is not an ideologue. He is an extremely savvy political operator, one who carefully sides with liberals when he determines that it is necessary to save the Republican Party from itself. Which is what he just did.
Roberts knows that the timing could not be worse for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe, or even to gut it without explicitly overturning it, as conservatives wanted to do with this case. The party that nurtured and raised him up is in a position of extraordinary peril, and if it is not restrained, it could destroy its political prospects for years or even decades, which would dramatically undermine the conservative legal project to which Roberts is devoted. He isn’t going to let that happen.
If the Louisiana law had been upheld, Waldman continues, we all know good and well that every state Repubican legislature in the U.S. would go on an abortion-restriction binge. And doing this just months before a presidential election could trip a backlash that could eviscerate many Republicans’ election or re-election chances. If Trump wins another term, and especially if the Senate stays in Republican hands, it’s a sure bet that Trump will put more hard-right judges on the bench, and then no liberal laws will be upheld for the next forty years. Of course, conservatives are unlikely to see this nuanced position and will just call Roberts a traitor.
Speaking of BeerBong, do see Marty Baron Made The Post Great Again. Now, the News Is Changing. by Ben Smith at the New York Times. Marty Baron is WaPo’s executive editor, and back in 2018 after the Kavanaugh nomination, Baron killed a story by Bob Woodward that exposed BeerBong as an anonymous source for Woodward’s book Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate, published in 1999.
Mr. Woodward was planning to expose Mr. Kavanaugh because the judge had publicly denied — in a huffy letter in 1999 to The Post — an account about Kenneth Starr’s investigation of President Bill Clinton that he had himself, confidentially, provided to Mr. Woodward for his book. (Mr. Kavanaugh served as a lawyer on Mr. Starr’s team.)
The article, described by two Post journalists who read it, would have been explosive, arriving as the nominee battled a decades-old sexual assault allegation and was fighting to prove his integrity.
But Marty Baron killed the story, and the rest is travesty, as you might remember.
Now, on to our current and ongoing travesties. The story that Russia put bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and that the White House knew about this and did nothing, gets more and more outrageous. It’s also getting more and more corroborated.
This morning, David Ignatius was on “Morning Joe” saying that the Trump Administration has known about the bounty for awhile, and that Pentagon officials were “pounding on the door” of the White House demanding a response.
The Pentagon officials still don’t have a response. Trump is denying he was ever briefed, and anyway he’s now being told by “intel” to disregard it.
Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or @VP. Possibly another fabricated Russia Hoax, maybe by the Fake News @nytimesbooks, wanting to make Republicans look bad!!! https://t.co/cowOmP7T1S
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2020
The reference to @nytimesbooks suggests he thinks the Times book review section is out to get him. But there’s a large amount of reporting coming from several different sources corroborating the original story.
Jonathan Chait says it’s possible Trump didn’t know, but that doesn’t exonerate him.
The original Times scoop has been confirmed by other American media and European intelligence sources. Other administration officials have tried to draw a less obviously indefensible line. Over the weekend, the White House press secretary and Director of National Intelligence denied “the president nor the vice-president were briefed” on Russia’s involvement. This would seem to push responsibility away from Trump and onto a nebulous bureaucratic failure.
Yet the administration conspicuously failed to deny the Times report that the bounty intelligence was included in the President’s Daily Brief. The gap between Trump “being briefed” on the Russian bounty, and information on the bounty being included in his brief, may sound merely semantic. But Trump is known not to read his brief, instead relying on a verbal summary from intelligence officials.
The Washington Post reported three years ago that the officials who deliver Trump’s intelligence summaries have learned to dance carefully around anything that casts a dark light on Putin. “Russia-related intelligence that might draw Trump’s ire is in some cases included only in the written assessment and not raised orally,” it found, noting that briefers have learned that Russian-related intelligence tends to send the briefing “off the rails.”
And so the Russian bounty might well have been included in Trump’s official briefings, which everybody knows he doesn’t read. And the officials around him may well have decided not to mention the matter to him because experience has taught them not to broach the topic of Russian misconduct with the boss.
In other words, it’s possible Trump’s own mismanagement and lack of interest in doing his damn job has caused his briefers to have given up trying to brief him. It’s also possible he was told and just shut it out of his mind because he didn’t want to deal with it. It’s so much more fun to just send rage tweets about polls all day long.
The White House spent three days trying to decide whether its most effective defense was that the Commander-in-Chief was actively negligent in this regard, or that the Commander-in-Chief was as plainly ignorant about this as he is about every other part of his job.
It seemed by Monday to have settled on the latter, with the president* himself tweeting out that his intelligence community had told him that there was no “credible” information regarding the bounty program, which is almost certainly a lie, and which undoubtably will bring a cascade of new leaks from Spook Central designed to counter the president*’s threadbare alibis. It also has been denied by both the Russian government and by the Taliban, both of which possess roughly the same credibility as the president* at this point. Not even Republicans are buying this tale. Congresswoman Liz Cheney already is raising all kinds of hell and, prior to getting together on the links with the president* on Sunday, Senator Lindsey Graham insisted that it was “imperative” that Congress get to the bottom of the situation. Whether Graham will stay on the fairway in this regard is beyond my poor analytical skills.
I’m gong to go out on a limb and say it’s possible Miz Lindsey will stay on the fairway, so to speak, if only because Graham appears to be in a tougher re-election fight than he probably anticipated, and he may decide that opening up some space between himself and Trump is the smart move right now. We’ll see.