Saturday, April 21, 2018

Economic Anxiety Watch 2018

Meanwhile, here in Ohio...


A display featuring several Confederate flags, black figures with wigs, and a black mannequin with painted lips is spurring controversy in Lindale. 
Some witnesses have described the display as disturbing. The homeowners claim they have received threats over it. 
The flags and figurines are outside a home in the 2000 block of OH-132, about a 30-minute drive east from downtown Cincinnati. 
“In no way, shape, or form should anybody think that it’s racist," said Louie Jones, Jr., who lives at the home where the display is set up. 
Jones says the porch has multiple antique pieces on it including a tin poster of John Wayne, a lantern, and a gnome. 
Jones lives at the home with his father. He says the display has been up for years.
FOX19 NOW's Maytal Levi asked Jones: "What would you say to someone driving by this saying that family hates black people?" 
Everybody hates everybody, ya know?" Jones said. "It just depends on what you hate and what you like. It ain’t got nothing to do with race, we ain’t racial.”

That economic anxiety, man, it's brutal.

Say what you will about Kentucky, there are entire counties in Ohio I won't go through because of garbage like this.

Bonus points as to how the story as framed as "Is this racist?  Opinions differ."

Friday, April 20, 2018

Last Call For Rudy Toot Toot

You guys, Rudy Giuliani is going to make the Mueller probe go away in May because, you know, he's the best lawyer on Earth!

Rudy Giuliani said Thursday that he will join President Trump’s legal team and hopes to bring an end to the special counsel’s investigation into Russian election meddling in “a week or two.” 
“I’m going to join the legal team to try to bring this to a resolution,” Giuliani told The Post. 
“The country deserves it. I’ve got great admiration for President Trump. 
“I’ve had a long relationship with Bob Mueller. I have great respect for him. He’s done a good job.” 
Giuliani, a former US Attorney, served as New York City’s mayor when Mueller was the FBI director. 
“I don’t know yet what’s outstanding. But I don’t think it’s going to take more than a week or two to get a resolution. They’re almost there
“I’m going to ask Mueller, ‘What do you need to wrap it up?’” he said.

When this blows up in his face, expect Trump to get all "apoplectic" again, sure.  But keep in mind that Rudy is the shiny object you're supposed to be looking at while Trump's real new lawyers, the husband and wife team of Marty and Jane Raskin, go to work.

As for Giuliani, the choice is peculiar. Trump has shown a penchant, especially lately, for hiring people more for their ability to advocate for him on television than for their experience. Unlike some of the other attorneys who have circulated through Trump’s team or been rumored as possible additions, Giuliani has legitimate criminal-law experience, most prominently as a U.S. Attorney. But he left that job in 1989 to run for mayor. Over the years since, he has practiced law, but most often has served as a consultant or an executive, not as a litigator. These days he is most often known for his outspoken and sometimes outlandish opinions.

He is also awkwardly tied to the Russia investigation. In July 2016, Giuliani asserted that Russia had possessed Hillary Clinton’s emails for some time. In November, he boasted that FBI officials were leaking to him about the Clinton investigation, and that he had known about Comey’s decision to reopen the probe before it was announced. National-security lawyer Bradley Moss tweeted that the government is due in June to file an affidavit in a case over whether Giuliani received FBI leaks during the campaign. 
Indeed, Giuliani told CNN later on Thursday that his involvement in the Trump team would be limited in both scope and timeframe. The last time Trump announced a big addition to the team, the former U.S. Attorney and current conspiracy theorist Joseph diGenova, Sekulow had to quietly announce a few days later that the new hire wouldn’t actually be coming on due to conflict-of-interest issues with another client. 
Raskin and Raskin might be a more important hire in the broad scope. Unlike Sekulow, a First Amendment specialist, they are experienced white-collar criminal-defense lawyers. While Ty Cobb, the White House special counsel working on Russia, has criminal-law experience, the president hasn’t had a real criminal-defense lawyer working on his personal legal team since John Dowd’s exit in March, at least as far as is publicly known. Moreover, the Raskins are not famous partners at a big firm, but litigators who spend a great deal of time in a courtroom. While there’s no first-call attorney for defending a sitting president, they have a record of defending public officials
Giuliani’s brash promise of a negotiated settlement, and the leak about Rosenstein, both telegraph a president feeling increasingly confident about the Russia investigation. Hiring Raskin and Raskin sends a different message: that Trump is moving toward getting serious about a very serious investigation.

Trump figures he has the clout to hire both Giuliani and the Raskins.   If one fails, the other approach might work.

Or, you know, Trump is just so completely guilty that they quit just like everyone else.

You Can Bank On The Winner Not Being You

The Trump Tax Scam™ has already saved taxpayers billions of dollars, and when I say "taxpayers", I mean the nation's six largest banks who posted record profits in Q1 2018.

The nation’s six big Wall Street banks posted record, or near record, profits in the first quarter, and they can thank one person in particular: President Donald Trump
While higher interest rates allowed banks to earn more from lending in the first quarter, the main boost to bank came from the billions of dollars they saved in taxes under the tax law Trump signed in December. Combined, the six banks saved at least $3.59 billion last quarter, according to an Associated Press estimate, using the bank’s tax rates going back to 2015. 
Big publicly traded banks — such JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America — typically kick off the earnings season. Their reports for the January-March quarter are giving investors and the public their first glimpse into how the new tax law is impacting Corporate America. 
Before the change in tax law, the maximum U.S. corporate income tax rate was 35 percent, not including what companies paid in state income taxes. Banks historically paid some of the highest taxes among the major industries, due to their U.S.-centric business models. Before the Trump tax cuts, these banks paid between 28 to 31 percent of their income each year in corporate taxes
The results released over the past week show how sharply those rates have dropped. JPMorgan Chase said it had a first-quarter tax rate of 18.3 percent, Goldman Sachs paid just 17.2 percent in taxes, and the highest-taxed bank of the six majors, Citigroup, had a tax rate of 23.7 percent. This is just one quarter’s results, however, and bank executives at the big six firms have estimated that their full-year tax rates will be something closer to 20 percent to 22 percent.

$3.6 billion per quarter comes out to roughly $14 billion a year for the six largest banks in America, and I'm sure all that money is going to the employees in the form of raises and to customers in the form of reductions in fees and service charges.

I mean, that's what Trump promised, right?

Oh, you mean that's not what the banks are doing?

Shares of Bank of America rose 0.3 percent in Tuesday midday trading after the bank announced it would be buying back an additional $5 billion worth of shares
The board of directors approved the additional repurchase, which will occur through June 2018. The company had previously announced plans to repurchase $12 billion in common stock earlier this year
In a statement from Bank of America, the repurchase program "will be subject to various factors, including the company's capital position, liquidity, financial performance and alternative uses of capital, stock trading price, and general market conditions, and may be suspended at any time."

Bank of America shares are 31 percent higher this year, with a 4 percent jump in the last one month alone, as investors bet that banks will be one of the top beneficiaries of tax reform.

That was in December.  Shares went up all the way into March before last month's Trump Tariff crash shaved BoA's share price back down to those December levels.  But hey, BoA has enough money to buy $17 billion in stock since Trump got elected.

That's just one of the big six.

And they just got another $600 million a piece this quarter.

But sure, her emails.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

Last night I mentioned that the House GOP plan to mollify Trump involved a House Judiciary Committee subpoena to Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein demanding former FBI Director James Comey's contemporaneous memos from the months before he was fired last May, and that Rosenstein handed those memos over yesterday.

This morning we find that overnight the House Judiciary has immediately leaked those 15 pages of memos to every press outlet in DC in an effort to damage James Comey, Robert Mueller, and Rod Rosenstein.

In a series of startlingly candid conversations, President Donald Trump told former FBI Director James Comey that he had serious concerns about the judgment of a top adviser, asked about the possibility of jailing journalists and described a boast from Vladimir Putin about Russian prostitutes, according to Comey’s notes of the talks obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday night.

The 15 pages of documents contain new details about a series of interactions with Trump that Comey found so unnerving that he chose to document them in writing. Those seven encounters in the weeks and months before Comey’s May 2017 firing include a Trump Tower discussion about allegations involving Trump and prostitutes in Moscow; a White House dinner at which Comey says Trump asked him for his loyalty; and a private Oval Office discussion where the ex-FBI head says the president asked him to end an investigation into Michael Flynn, the former White House national security adviser.

The documents had been eagerly anticipated since their existence was first revealed last year, especially since Comey’s interactions with Trump are a critical part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the president sought to obstruct justice. Late Thursday night, Trump tweeted that the memos “show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION.”

The president also accused Comey of leaking classified information. The memos obtained by the AP were unclassified, though some portions were blacked out as classified. Details from Comey’s memos reported in news stories last year appear to come from the unclassified portions.

In explaining the purpose of creating the memos, which have been provided to Mueller, Comey has said he “knew there might come a day when I would need a record of what had happened” to defend not only himself but the FBI as well.

The memos cover the first three months of the Trump administration, a period of upheaval marked by staff turnover, a cascade of damaging headlines and revelations of an FBI investigation into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. The documents reflect Trump’s uneasiness about that investigation, though not always in ways that Comey seemed to anticipate.

Trump is claiming total vindication once again, especially since Rosenstein reportedly told Trump that he's not a target of the Mueller probe or the SDNY investigation into Trump's lawyer and fixer, Robert Cohen.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told President Donald Trump last week that he isn’t a target of any part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation or the probe into his longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, according to several people familiar with the matter.

Rosenstein, who brought up the investigations himself, offered the assurance during a meeting with Trump at the White House last Thursday, a development that helped tamp down the president’s desire to remove Rosenstein or Mueller, the people said.

After the meeting, Trump told some of his closest advisers that it’s not the right time to remove either man since he’s not a target of the probes. One person said Trump doesn’t want to take any action that would drag out the investigation.

The change in attitude by the president comes after weeks of attacks on the special counsel and the Justice Department, raising questions about whether he might take drastic steps to shut down the probes.

The shift gives some breathing room for Mueller, as well as Rosenstein, who has been criticized strongly by House Republicans for being slow to comply with requests for classified documents. Last week’s meeting was set up in part to allow Rosenstein to assuage Trump’s frustration with his decisions.

If all this is true, and Trump's not a target (yet) it doesn't mean that Trump isn't a subject of either investigation, and Rosenstein's actions make a lot more sense: he's buying Mueller time to continue his probe.

Of course, there's ample evidence that leaking Comey's interpretation of his meetings with Trump isn't helping Trump's case at all.  It also isn't going to stop, say, Michael Cohen, who most certainly is a target, from flipping on Trump.

Stay tuned.


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Last Call For It's Mueller Time, Con't

Greg Sargent of the Washington Post finds that House Republicans are now actively interfering with the Mueller probe in hope of slowing it down until after the midterms, if not giving Donald Trump cover for outright termination of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his boss, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein.

One of the big political questions of the moment is this: Will GOP congressional leaders act to protect special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation against President Trump’s threats to hamstring or kill it? 
But in a way, this question, while important, doesn’t really get at the full story here, because its premise is that Republicans are mostly behaving passively toward the Mueller probe, clearing the way for Trump to act if he wishes. In reality, Republicans are, under cover of fake oversight, actively working to interfere in the investigation, on Trump’s behalf. 
Here’s the latest on this front: The Post reports that House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte is planning to issue a subpoena for release of the memos that former FBI director James B. Comey has made of his private conversations with Trump, which have been turned over to Mueller
Those conversations include the ones in which Trump demanded Comey’s loyalty and pressed him to drop the probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, but there is a lot more in those memos we haven’t heard about. They are probably important evidence in Mueller’s efforts to establish whether Trump obstructed justice.

Surprise!  And you thought Trey Gowdy and Jason Chaffetz were assholes.

The Justice Department is already signaling reluctance to release these memos. Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller probe, has already told congressional Republicans that he wants more time to evaluate “the consequences” of giving them to Congress and worries about “publicizing them.” 
Does anyone really believe Republicans are motivated by nothing but pure oversight impulses here? There are two other reasons they might want these memos. The first is to deliberately provoke Rosenstein into declining to provide them all — which could create a pretext to hold Rosenstein in contempt of Congress or even for Trump to fire him
“The Deputy Attorney General should be aware that no matter what he gives to these members of Congress, it will never be enough,” Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told me this morning. “The point is to create a conflict with the Justice Department that would give the president grounds to get rid of Mueller or Rosenstein. They don’t care what damage they do to our institutions to protect the president.” Separately, Schiff is pushing a new bill that would create disincentives for Trump to pardon people involved in the investigation.

The second reason for getting these memos — and let’s not pretend this isn’t perfectly plausible — would be to selectively leak from them, to mislead the public by, say, creating phony impressions of misconduct on Comey’s part that could provide more fodder for Trump and his allies to delegitimize the investigation, possibly manufacturing further pretext to hamstring or kill it. Let me remind you that Republicans already tried a similar caper with the bad-faith-saturated Nunes memo.

One of both of these will happen as a result of these subpoenas, count on it.  Not only did this happen with the Nunes memo, it happened with the texts of FBI agent Peter Strzok, who the Republicans have been flogging for months as proof of bias in the FBI.  It has worked, too: fewer than 20% of Republicans have a favorable opinion of Robert Mueller and 55% believe Mueller's investigation is "unfair" to Donald Trump.

And indeed, earlier today, Rosenstein caved on these memos and produced them for the subpoena. He's buying time and playing along, but of course now Goodlatte knows he can subpoena anything and everything that Mueller's team may have.

This will happen again, and soon.  And eventually Goodlatte will find something he can use.

The ground is being laid to fire Rosenstein and Mueller ahead of midterm elections.  We need to be paying attention...and more importantly, we need to be voting.

Trump Cards, Con't

Again, anyone at this point expecting Republicans to see reason and abandon Trump are people still somehow unaware that the real issue hasn't been Trump for the last two years, but the Republican party that enabled, nominated, and elected him.  Congressional Republicans, especially House Republicans, are now fully on-board with authoritarian lists of enemies to be prosecuted.

Eleven House Republicans — Ron DeSantis, Andy Biggs, Dave Brat, Jeff Duncan, Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar, Andy Harris, Jody Hice, Todd Rokita, Claudia Tenney, and Ted Yoho — have signed a joint letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions calling for the criminal prosecution of Hillary Clinton and a variety of other Obama administration appointees, career FBI officials, and even Trump appointee Dana Boente, who is currently the FBI’s general counsel. 
The lead of the letter states that the authors are “especially mindful of the dissimilar degrees of zealousness that has marked the investigations into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, respectively.” 
Clinton was, of course, extensively investigated by multiple committees of the US Congress as well as the FBI. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy went so far as to concede at one point that the only actual purpose of the Clinton investigations was to hurt her poll numbers, and though the FBI’s investigations exonerated Clinton, then-FBI Director James Comey offered, against DOJ guidelines, multiple instances of public commentary on her conduct that ultimately hurt her campaign. 
Nonetheless, House Republicans suggest that she should be prosecuted on the theory that because the Steele dossier was paid for in part by a lawyer who worked for the Clinton campaign, the campaign was “disguising payments to Fusion GPS” in a way that violated federal campaign finance law. 
But the issue here, to be clear, is not a particular zeal for campaign finance law. It’s a broad request that the full force of the US government be brought to bear against Trump’s political enemies.

Clinton, Comey, Loretta Lynch, Andrew McCabe, and several others are named in the six-page letter.  Trump has been shouting on Twitter for months, hell he held "Lock her up!" rallies across the country attacking Clinton both before and after the election.

But this is an official and formal criminal referral to the DoJ from eleven House Republicans.  This is something far more sinister that a tweet or a campaign rally chant.  This is the GOP starting the gears of the US government to declare the losing presidential campaign and the people investigating the president as enemies of the state.

Nobody who has been paying attention should be surprised by this, and I fully expect the number of House Republicans signing onto this abomination to grow.  You also shouldn't be surprised if the DoJ follows through on such prosecution.

And in fact on Andrew McCabe, it looks like they are considering doing just that.

The Justice Department inspector general has asked prosecutors in Washington, D.C., to examine whether former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe should face criminal charges. 
Inspector General Michael Horowitz has referred McCabe to the U.S. Attorney's Office for Washington, D.C., according to a source familiar with the matter. The source asked not to be identified discussing the sensitive ongoing case. 
Such referrals are not uncommon when the Justice Department IG has completed its work, but they don't automatically trigger any action. Prosecutors could try to prove that McCabe broke the law, or they could do nothing. 
The U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment. The Justice Department and its inspector general's office both declined to comment. Attorneys for McCabe made no comment.

Expect more such referrals.

A Republic, if you can keep it.

Meanwhile in Bevinstan...

Kentucky GOP Gov. Matt Bevin is as awful at apologies as he is at everything else (being governor, being a empathetic human being, etc) after attacking protesting teachers and blaming them for causing child abuse and neglect by striking last week.

Bevin said of the protesters: “Children were harmed — some physically, some sexually, some were introduced to drugs for the first time — because they were vulnerable and left alone.” 
On Sunday, Bevin said “I’m sorry,” but buffered the apology with about four minutes of wordy passive voice. 
“I apologize for those who have been hurt by the things that were said. It was not my intent whatsoever,” the governor said. 
“It’s my responsibility to represent you — not only when I’m speaking to you, but when I’m speaking on your behalf — in ways that are clear, that are understood, that don’t hurt people and don’t confuse people,” he added, addressing public employees. “And so to the extent that I do that well, great, and to the times when I don’t do it well, that’s on me.” 
“I do again— I’m sorry for those of you, every single of one of you, that has been hurt by things that I have said.”

This is still a half-assed apology, the "If I hurt you" qualifier is a classic GOP copout.  "I'm sorry because I said things that were hurtful and wrong" is the correct answer, much less apologizing for suggesting that kids were physically abused because teachers were protesting and that it was the teachers' fault.

Also, Bevin didn't bother to apologize until after his accusations gained national attention over the weekend and after Kentucky's GOP-controlled House censured Bevin not once, but twice in the session where his vetoes were overridden, only adding to his massive embarrassment.

I really hope this is the straw the breaks Bevin's political back.  We'll see what the climate is like in 2019 when he's up for a second term, but at this point if he does go down in flames, this is looking like the point where Kentucky voters changed their minds about him.


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Last Call For A Monumental Mistake

Southern Republicans defending the Confederacy are back in the news this week, because America has to keep up the fiction that the Civil War wasn't about enslaving others or people might start asking questions like "Are black people human beings with rights and stuff"?  First, Alabama GOP Gov. Kay Ivey reminds the world that Alabama is still quite happy to redo Pickett's Charge anytime you'd like, thank you.

Alabama doesn't need "folks in Washington" or "out-of-state liberals" instructing the state on what it should do with Confederate monuments, Gov. Kay Ivey said Tuesday. 
Ivey, during a campaign appearance in Foley, defended a new campaign ad released earlier in the day that touted the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act of 2017, which she signed into law less than 11 months ago. 
"I believe the people agreed with that decision and support in protecting our historical monuments," Ivey said after speaking at a Baldwin County Young Republicans function. Her appearance also occurred one day before the Reckon by GOP governor's debate at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Lyric Fine Arts Theatre in Birmingham. Ivey said she does not plan to attend. 
"We can't and shouldn't even try to charge or erase or tear down our history. We must learn from our history," Ivey said.

The law requires local governments to obtain state permission before altering or renaming historically significant buildings and monuments that date back to 40 years or longer. The law also creates a 11-member commission which is charged with determining whether historic buildings or monuments can be moved or renamed. 
Ivey, in her campaign ad, criticized Alabama outsiders for pushing an agenda on the state.

The lesson we have to learn, according to Gov. Ivey, is that black folk in Alabama have to be constantly reminded that racist traitors to the country who fought the Union in order to preserve slavery get their own monuments that will last forever.

Next door in Tennessee, Memphis found out the hard way that those who question the status quo by removing these monuments will be punished by Confederate Republican Party.

The Republican-dominated House in Tennessee voted Tuesday to punish the city of Memphis for removing Confederate monuments by taking $250,000 away from the city that would have been used for a bicentennial celebration next year. 
The retaliation came in the form of passage of a last-minute amendment attached to the House appropriations bill that triggered heated debate on the House floor and stinging rebukes from lawmakers from Memphis. 
Rep. Antonio Parkinson began to call the amendment vile and racist before being cut off by boos from fellow lawmakers. 
“You can boo all you want but let’s call it for what it is,” the Memphis representative said. 
Last year the city of Memphis, which is majority black, was able to find a legal loophole to get rid of two Confederate statues and a bust by selling city parks to a nonprofit, which swiftly removed the monuments. Taken away under cover of darkness were statues of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Nathan Bedford Forrest. Forrest was a general in the confederacy, a slave owner and a leader in the Ku Klux Klan. A bust of a Confederate soldier was also removed. 
Parkinson, who is African-American, said he was sick of how fellow lawmakers revered Forrest “as if he was God, as if he was an idol.” 
“You remove money from a city because we removed your God from our grounds,” Parkinson said.

Well, Tennessee Republicans didn't take kindly to that truth at all.

The amendment that stripped the money away from Memphis was sponsored by Matthew Hill, a Republican from Jonesborough. 
Another Republican lawmaker said removing the monuments was erasing history, he said “that’s what ISIS does” and it was a bad action that deserved punishment. 
Today is a demonstration that bad actions have bad consequences, and my only regret about this is it’s not in the tune of millions of dollars,” Rep. Andy Holt, of Dresden, said of the punishment.

If the law allowed them to shoot us, we'd be dead.  Hell, the law basically does allow them to shoot us, and we die because of it.

Gorsuch A Mess

Yesterday the US Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision in Dimaya v. Sessions, a case involving Trump's deportation orders of immigrants that commit certain crimes.  The headline is that the court's newest Justice, Neil Gorsuch, sided with Justice Kagan and the court's liberals as the deciding vote.

In a 5-to-4 decision Tuesday, the court overturned the deportation of a 25-year legal U.S. resident from the Philippines who was convicted of two burglaries.

James Dimaya came to the U.S. at age 13 as a legal permanent resident. More than two decades later — after he was convicted of two home burglaries in California and sentenced to a total of four years in prison — the government sought his deportation under a "violent crime" immigration law, though neither of Dimaya's crimes involved violence. The statute defines a violent crime as one involving force or the "substantial risk" of force.

The Supreme Court, however, said that language is so vague that it invites arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.

Writing for the court majority, Justice Elena Kagan said the ruling is compelled by the court's decision in a similar case, Johnson v. United States — a decision written by the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia in 2015, a year before his death.

Pointing to that decision and others like it, Kagan quoted Scalia from a dissent on the subject of following these precedents: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results."

"We abandoned that lunatic practice" the last time the court ruled on this issue, Kagan said, adding that there is "no reason to start it again."

Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch, Scalia's successor, cast the fifth and decisive vote, along with four liberal justices. In a lengthy concurring opinion, he said the "Constitution looks unkindly on any law so vague that reasonable people cannot understand its terms and judges do not know where to begin in applying it."

But as Think Progress's Ian Millhiser points out, Gorsuch isn't "pulling a Scalia" here and siding with the liberals out of a libertarian impulse, he's actually pulling a Clarence Thomas with intent to cripple government regulatory power.

Dimaya is not the first time Gorsuch has used an immigration case to make a broader statement against government regulation. As a federal appellate judge, Gorsuch wrote two opinions in Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch, a case involving an immigrant who was unfairly jerked around by conflicting decisions by various government decision makers. In his first opinion, written on behalf of a three-judge panel, Gorsuch wrote a relatively narrow decision siding with the immigrant.

Then, in separate opinion joined by no other judge, Gorsuch launched into a rant against the Supreme Court’s decision in Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council

Chevron is one of the most important Supreme Court decisions of the last half-century. It provides that, when a federal agency pushes out a new regulation, and the statute which allegedly permits such a regulation is ambiguous, courts will typically defer to the agency’s reading of the statute unless that reading is outlandish.

Though Chevron was uncontroversial for several decades, it became one of the conservative Federalist Society’s most hated decisions during the Obama years — no doubt because Chevron required a judiciary controlled by Republicans to defer to environmental and labor regulators in a Democratic administration. Gorsuch’s critique of Chevron largely mirrors that of the Federalist Society — that Chevron places too much power in the executive branch and not enough in the legislature and judiciary.

The practical effect of a Supreme Court decision overruling Chevron would be to transfer power from whoever controls the presidency to a Republican-controlled judiciary.

Some of Gorsuch’s other writings, moreover, suggest that he may take an extraordinarily narrow view of Congress’ power to delegate regulatory authority to federal agencies. Gorsuch may even agree with Justice Thomas’ view that “generally applicable rules of private conduct” can only be created by an act of Congress.

Among other things, if Thomas’ view were ever to become law, much of America’s environmental law, which requires the EPA to continually update environmental standards as technology improves, would simply cease to exist.

In other words, Gorsuch is all but signaling to the world that he's to the right of Scalia, something I think that's going to be made abundantly clear as we head closer to decisions in the biggest SCOTUS cases this term in June.

The Bonfire Of The Manatee, Con't

I know I've gotten excited about the prospect of America's orange nightmare being over sooner rather than later, but frankly it's time for some sober reality on Trump:  he's probably not going anywhere, and he's likely to end up being re-elected if my lifetime is any indication. 

Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have all but given the go-ahead for Trump to fire Mueller as Ryan insists that Trump won't do it, and McConnell is now vowing to never allow legislation to protect Mueller to even get a vote, as Trump would just veto it.

There will be no Senate vote on protecting special counsel Robert Mueller, no vote on clawing back billions from a new spending law and probably no vote on a war authorization, the Senate majority leader said on Tuesday.

Even as the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to advance a bill that would shield the special counsel from removal by President Donald Trump's administration, McConnell says it won't ever see the Senate floor.

The Senate majority leader said on Tuesday that the bill is "not necessary" and that Trump would never sign it. And though McConnell doesn't want Trump to fire Mueller, he is making sure that the only viable legislation to offer a backstop for Mueller won't see the Senate floor.

"I'm the one who decides what we take to the floor. That's my responsibility as the majority leader and we'll not be having this on the floor of the Senate," McConnell told Fox News's Neil Cavuto on Tuesday afternoon.

Even in the increasingly unlikely possibility that the Mueller probe is allowed to finish and the results made public, as I've said multiple times, in the end the only way Donald Trump leaves office is his resignation, impeachment and removal, or the voters kick him out in 2020.  Slate's Jim Newell reminds us that the first two options are extremely unlikely, and that as voters we've already failed miserably once already at the third.

No one knows whether Trump firing Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, or revelations from the Russia probe or the investigation of Michael Cohen, will hasten a previously unscheduled closure to Trump’s presidency. Davidson doesn’t argue that by “end stages” he means impeachment, or resignation in the face of certain impeachment, because that would require him to commit to something he’s not sure of. 
But if we’re now in the “end stages,” at Month 16 of Trump’s 48-month term, then impeachment and conviction, or some manner of forced resignation, would seem to be the only source of this impending demise. For any of those things to happen, the continuation of Trump’s presidency would have to become an irreparable political liability for rank-and-file Republicans—meaning, his approval ratings among Republicans would have to fall underwater. In the most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, Trump’s approval rating among Republicans is 81 percent. Would a full telling of all of the Trump Organization’s misdeeds and associations over the years, or images of Don Jr. and/or Jared Kushner in handcuffs, be enough to flip the narrative among Republican voters? 
The more generous interpretation of “end stages,” or the “beginning of the end,” is a situation in which the remainder of Trump’s four years is so loaded with baggage, legal and otherwise, that nothing gets done and voters choose not to re-elect him. Maybe? 
Davidson rejects the assessment that “any new information about [Trump’s] corrupt past has no political salience” or that “[t]hose who hate Trump already think he’s a crook; those who love him don’t care.” It is a reasonable point: Just because something hasn’t done the trick doesn’t mean that it will never happen. But there’s no reason to predict that it will happen that way
It seems almost equally likely that more dirt about Trump’s business comes out, more confidants go to jail, the economy stays fine, Trump continues yelling at NFL players for kneeling prior to football games, and he wins a second term. Expansive proof of decades of criminality could be the thing that flips Trump supporters. Or Trump supporters would continue to support him, because they like him, which is why they’re Trump supporters, and they know how much a second Trump term would trigger the libs.

Frankly, a scenario where people vote Trump just to piss off the "social justice warriors" is eminently feasible, because we know it's already happened.  In the end, the only surefire way to get rid of the guy is to vote in 2018 and 2020 and set up a Democratic party bloc that has the power to right the ship of state.

As I said last week:

I don't know where all this will end up. As with Iraq and the Great Recession, the coda will take years, if not decades, to perform on the world stage. I don't know what will come after, whether it's a Pence presidency, a neutered Trump under a Democratic Congress, or an America plunged into something much worse, but the Trump era as it is now is on its way out.

I still believe it.  But that third act and the prologue to this story could take a very long time for us to get through, and probably will.  I believe the Trump era s it is now is on its way out, but there's a solid chance that what follows it will be a much worse version of the Trump era.

I do know this:  If we blow 2018 and 2020 again at the polling booth, then this country is done, and millions of us will be done along with it.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Last Call For Three People Outside Jefferson City, Missouri Con't

Two developments today in the ongoing train wreck that is Missouri GOP Gov. Eric Greitens and his impending impeachment on sexual assault charges.  First up, Missouri's Attorney General has announced evidence of potentially brand-new campaign fraud charges unrelated to the previous sexual assault case that Grietens is already facing.

Attorney General Josh Hawley announced Tuesday morning that his office has uncovered potential criminal wrongdoing by Republican Gov. Eric Greitens
Hawley said that during the course of an investigation into the charity Greitens founded, his office found evidence that Greitens allegedly obtained and transmitted the charity’s donor list for political fundraising. 
“And he did all of this without permission of the Mission Continues,” Hawley said Tuesday. 
This is known as computer tampering. And given the value of the list in question it is a felony.” 
Hawley, a Republican, said that his office lacks the jurisdiction to prosecute the governor on this matter because the alleged crime was committed in St. Louis. 
He said he obtained court permission to share all of the evidence with St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, which will enable her to make a decision on whether to charge the governor before the statute of limitations runs out. 
Gardner’s office is already prosecuting Greitens for allegedly invading a woman’s privacy by taking her photo without her permission in 2015. 
In February, Hawley launched an investigation into Greitens’ use of the charity donor list belonging to The Mission Continues, a charity Greitens founded in 2007. The inquiry is part of the attorney general's role to enforce Missouri's consumer protection and charitable registration and reporting laws.

So it looks like Greitens took his entire donor list for his charity dedicated to helping vets, and used it for his political campaign, which is a colossal no-no. This would have fried him like an egg even without the sexual assault charges he's facing, but after this I don't see how he can possibly stay in...oh wait a minute, I'm getting some new information here.

State lawmakers in Missouri claim they’ve been threatened with a sharp decrease in donations unless they actively support embattled Gov. Eric Greitens (R), who has been charged with photographing a woman while she was naked and using the image to threaten her with blackmail
Greitens has also been accused of assaulting the woman and coercing her into a sexual relationship. He was indicted on felony invasion of privacy charges related to the nude photo back in February. 
“Lots of people, including me, have been threatened that, if we go against the governor, we will never get financial support from any of the major donors in [Missouri],” one unnamed legislator reportedly told local Missouri Scout, a private news service covering state politics. 
When Missouri Scout asked other lawmakers to weigh in on the claim, many told the news outlet the threats were allegedly “widespread.” 
The legislator’s comment was tweeted out by public relations expert and former American Conservative Union (ACU) executive Gregg Keller on Monday morning.
Calls by ThinkProgress to several Missouri state lawmakers went unanswered on Monday. It’s unclear whether the lawmakers being targeted were predominantly Republican or who had allegedly threatened to pull their financial backing.

Well then.  Support the governor or we pull your money and you'll lose.  This is what happens when party over state happens, kids.  Eventually anyone who plays this game loses the purity test and is burned.

That's how the GOP rolls.  Luckily, we have ways of shutting them down.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is getting a lot of attention, and he's definitely under federal investigation and has been for months.  But if the goal is to find and flip the guy who knows where all the legal bodies are buried underneath all those Trump Organization properties, Bloomberg's Tim O'Brien notes that Cohen actually isn't the tastiest fish to fry, and that the real person Mueller and/or US Attorneys in New York want to flip is the Trump Organization's former executive VP: Jason Greenblatt.

Greenblatt specialized in real-estate law at a major New York firm before signing on with the Trump Organization in 1997. He soon became Trump's true in-house counsel and the company's executive vice president. Everything that mattered in the Trump Organization, every sizable deal or sensitive transaction, required Greenblatt's signature, not Cohen's. Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization's chief financial officer, has played a similar role when it comes to the company's finances. 
At the end of 2016, Greenblatt left the Trump Organization after the president made him a special representative for international negotiations. Weisselberg still helps Trump's sons manage the business while Trump is in the Oval Office. Now that special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed the Trump Organization for business records, his investigators may get around to interviewing Greenblatt and Weisselberg, who almost certainly have more expansive information on the president's business activities than Cohen does. 
If that happens -- or if the U.S. attorney's office in New York takes a similar interest -- then the media might have to reassess its take on Cohen and the role he's playing in the broader drama surrounding the White House
Adam Davidson, the New Yorker writer who wrote the recent article about Cohen, is a careful reporter who has spent a lot of time navigating some of Trump's business deals (he's also an acquaintance of mine). In his piece, however, he refers to Trump's company as "a small, sad operation, mostly run by his two oldest children and Michael Cohen." 
That's not true. Cohen has never run the company in a significant way. "I wish I was clearer about Michael Cohen's role," Davidson told me when we talked about his article. "He was a central player in the problematic overseas deals that will become central to these investigations. But he definitely wasn't running the company."

In other words, Cohen is definitely in trouble for all the foreign money and influence peddling, not to mention the whole Stormy Daniels payoff affair.  But if the true goal is cracking open the vault on Trump's money laundering through the Trump Organization, then Greenblatt is the man to go after.

He shouldn't be hard to find, either.  He's currently Trump's special envoy to the Middle East, apparently specializing in yelling at the Palestinians.

We'll see.  I would expect the Cohen trove will lead to some very uncomfortable interviews with Greenblatt. Allen Weisselberg, who is still with the Trump organization as CFO, has already gained the attention of NY AG Eric Schniederrman.

Stay tuned.  Trump's money guys have been the key to this mess for some time now.  Mueller may be closer than we know on them.
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