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Trump is Showing How Desperate His Legal Situation Really Is: Tuesday’s Good News

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Trump is Showing How Desperate His Legal Situation Really Is: Tuesday’s Good News

 

eeeannie20k / Flickr Donald Trump...
eeeannie20k / Flickr

This is an exhausting, ride, huh?  Did you see that we are 500 days into this mess?  Sometimes it it feels like 500 years.

But nonetheless, there is so much reason for hope and so much reason for pride in our resistance and our party.

The last few days have made it pretty clear that trump’s legal situation is a mess for him.  Let’s start there.

Russia Russia Russia

Lots and lots of crazy talk from trump the last few days.  Most of it can be summarized as “I am above the law!”  That kind of talk can be very disturbing because it goes against the very idea of our non-monarch democracy.

However, it tells us more about his situation than our democracy.  trump *saying* that he is above the law is as meaningless as any of the other crazy lies he tells on a daily basis.  The judicial branch (even justices he has appointed) have stood up to his attempts again and again.

This is not a banana republic.  trump can’t just announce that he is above the law and make it so.  it just doesn’t work that way.  ask the ghost of Richard Nixon.  Or Michael Scott:

And actually, not only am I not worried about trump saying these crazy things, but I actually think it is good news.  Why?  I’ll let the wise John Brennan sum it up:

Think about it.  The story has shifted from “I didn’t do anything wrong.  it is just a witch hunt.” to “I am allowed to do bad things.”  that is not a good sign for the trumpster.

The big news over the weekend was the secret memo to Mueller that was leaked. People were focused on the ridiculous power assertion, but the big news was actually trump admitting that he wrote the memo that jr released.

More on that:

Secret memo to Mueller actually reveals weakness of Trump’s position

while all of these moves have stirred great concern that Trump is preparing to exercise near-dictatorial powers on his own behalf, they are better seen as a window into how weak and precarious Trump’s position — politically, if not legally — has become.

To see why, look at a specific point in the memo: the striking concession by Trump’s lawyers that he did, in fact, dictate that initial statement for his son Donald Trump Jr., which falsified the real rationale for the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians. As the memo puts it, “the president dictated a short but accurate response to the New York Times.”

The admission by Trump’s lawyers that he “dictated” the false statement (no, it is not “accurate”) is important, because it comes after Trump’s lawyers and White House officials repeatedly denied in various forms that the president had played such a hands-on role.

In political terms, the fact that Trump’s lawyers had to concede to such an important episode — one in which the president misled the country to cover up his son’s effort to conspire with a foreign power’s corruption of our democracy on his behalf — shows what a perilous position he’s in.

Trump lawyers say he ‘dictated’ statement on Trump Tower meeting, contradicting past denials

In a confidential letter to special counsel Robert Mueller in January, President Donald Trump’s legal team acknowledged for the first time that Trump “dictated” the first misleading statement put out about his son’s controversial 2016 meeting with Russians at Trump Tower.

“You have received all of the notes, communications and testimony indicating that the President dictated a short but accurate response to the New York Times article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump, Jr.,” the letter said, according to The New York Times, which published a copy of it.

except that WASN’T “accurate.”  The statement said the meeting was primarily about Russian adoptions, which is just not true.  This is a big deal.

An Admission of Obstruction: Is the letter from President Trump’s lawyers a smoking gun?

 buried in the letter is a bigger bombshell: an apparent admission that Trump obstructed justice.

Let me make two observations about the analysis that follows. First, I am using a standard of “probable cause,” the evidentiary threshold for indictments. Second, I’m assuming that the evidence “indicating that the President dictated” a short response is sufficient to conclude that, in fact, he probably did, and that Trump Jr.’s statement reflected the substance of his father’s dictation. With those assumptions in mind, the lawyers’ letter appears to be a confession to obstruction of justice. Some had speculated that President Trump shaped his son’s statement. Now there seems to be an admission that he dictated it.

That statement was false. The meeting was not primarily about adoption. Emails and statements have demonstrated it was primarily about “dirt” on Hillary Clinton provided by Russian sources. Rob Goldstone’s initial email informed Trump Jr. that a Russian contact “offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.” Trump Jr. replied, “[I]f it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.” None of their 16 email exchanges mentions “adoptions.” The meeting was not about adoptions. This is no gray area: Trump Jr.’s statement was a lie. It’s also not clear that “there was no follow-up.” The president’s lawyers’ description of it in their letter as “accurate” is, to put it mildly, inaccurate.

In the midst of the discussion about this statement, Hope Hicks reportedlytold President Trump on a conference call that the Trump Jr. emails “will never get out …” This letter wasn’t simply a media statement. It was their political and legal strategy. The Mueller investigation was up and running. This statement boxed Trump Jr. into a false and misleading account as he approached inevitable congressional and FBI questioning. Trump Jr. would have to face a significant cost to his credibility in public and in court if he had to contradict this statement. Trump spokesman Mark Corallo, who participated in these calls, was reportedly so concerned that these events constituted obstruction that he resigned and later spoke to Mueller’s prosecutors.

So, this is seems like a clear admission of obstruction of justice.  No wonder they moved right into the sad (and seemingly untrue) assertion that a president can’t obstruct justice.

Indeed, the claims by Trump’s attorneys that he can obstruct justice as president and has complete control over every investigation are BS and have been called out as such by many smart people.

This understanding of presidential power is radical and absolutist. It is also unsound and almost certain to be sharply rejected should it ever be proffered in court.

No tenable account of executive power holds that a president’s purposes in exercising powers accorded under Article II, “to take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,” have no import. If it were otherwise — if the president had the authority to use his constitutional powers for any reason — it would follow that he could accept a bribe for doing an official act, or, more saliently, extend a pardon to keep a witness from testifying. This would very clearly violate the maxim that the president is not above the law.

If this sounds like legal theorizing, just consider the fact that Mr. Trump’s position is soundly contradicted by the Richard Nixon case. Under Mr. Trump’s view, Nixon would not have been guilty of obstruction for ordering the F.B.I. to stand down on the investigation of the Watergate burglars or paying off the defendants to keep them quiet.

Subsequent investigations into alleged abuses of presidential power — Iran-contra as well as Whitewater — took it as accepted law that the president is capable of obstructing justice.

The second pillar of the letter submitted by Mr. Trump’s lawyers to Mr. Mueller is that he is too busy running the country to sit for an interview. Relatedly, they argue, forcing him to testify “demeans the office of the president before the world.”

Here Mr. Trump’s position run completely afoul of another presidential precedent: that of Bill Clinton.

Also in WaPo → Trump’s lawyers say he’s above the law. They clearly don’t understand it.

As lawyers and watchdogs who have prosecuted and defended federal investigations of public officials for decades, we thought we had seen (and made) every argument. But the memorandum by President Trump’s lawyers that the New York Times published Saturday startled even us. We often have argued about whether a subject is innocent under the law — but never about whether a subject is above it entirely, as Trump’s lawyers contend.

There is no legal authority for this audacious position to sidestep presidential testimony, and the lawyers’ letter cites none.

The next argument, via his lawyers, is that it is not possible for him to obstruct justice — even if he did seek to interfere with the investigation to protect himself, his family or his cronies. This has no basis in the law, either, as we have explained in a Brookings report.

The weakness of the president’s position is, finally, highlighted by his attorneys’ concluding attempt to discredit the investigation. That is done by making the extraordinary argument that his own Department of Justice and the FBI are corrupt. While many subjects of criminal investigations may harbor that view, the fact that the attorneys for our chief law enforcement officer — who oversees the executive branch, where the Justice Department and FBI reside — made that desperate claim in their letter is striking. The president is not only arguing that he is above the law, but also above the facts. That audacious move is unbecoming for our nation’s chief law enforcement officer, and neither Mueller nor Congress should let him get away with it.

Even Chris Christie agrees → ‘Outrageous claim’ that Trump cannot obstruct justice

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie knocked the claim from Donald Trump’s legal team that, by nature of his office, the President cannot obstruct justice and could simply shut down the Russia investigation altogether.

“It’s an outrageous claim, it’s wrong,” the former Republican governor said on ABC News’ “This Week.”

and as for his ridiculous claim that he can pardon himself?  First, who even says that unless they know they did something that they could be prosecuted for?!?!  Talk about an admission of guilt.  Second, there is no legal reason to think that he can actually do that.  I’ll defer to the amazing Adam Schiff

LoL

And the less amazing, but occasionally accurate Grassley → Trump should get new lawyer if told he can pardon himself

“If I were president of the United States and I had a lawyer that told me I could pardon myself, I think I would hire a new lawyer,” Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told CNN, when asked if Trump had the ability to pardon himself.

And Senate Republicans warn Trump not to pardon himself

Senate Republicans on Monday warned President Trump, with varying degrees of alarm, against entertaining the prospect of pardoning himself of any federal crime — once again forcing members of his own party into an uncomfortable position as the president openly pondered another controversial move in connection with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation.

“There’s no doubt that the president is not above the law,” Collins said Monday. “It would be a tremendous abuse of his authority if he were to do so, as well as remarkably unwise.”

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) stressed that the Constitution “doesn’t give carte blanche freedom to a president.”

On Monday, Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) gently remarked that while Trump may have the authority to pardon himself, “he’d be smarter than to exercise that.” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said he couldn’t “imagine a president even bringing that up.”

“I don’t even want to get into that,” said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), one of Trump’s most effusive congressional allies. “He does have the pardon power, and I suspect that that’s something that will never be tested to begin with.”

And across the board, Senate Republicans said they prefer Trump avoid discussing the issue.

“He may be right from a strictly legal standpoint, but I don’t think it’s helpful in terms of the conclusion of the investigation,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said.

And after trump spent the weekend downplaying and trashing manafort, turns out he is in even more trouble. 

Federal prosecutors on Monday accused President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, of attempting to tamper with witnesses in his federal tax and money laundering case.

In court documents, prosecutors working for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, said that violated the terms of Mr. Manafort’s release while he awaits trial. They asked a federal judge to revise those terms or send him to jail until trial.

Prosecutors said that Mr. Manafort tried to contact witnesses by phone, through an intermediary and through an encrypted messaging program. One witness told the F.B.I. that Mr. Manafort was trying to “suborn perjury,” prosecutors said. Two witnesses provided the texts to the F.B.I., which also searched Mr. Manafort’s cloud-based Apple account, according to court records.

witness tampering, just like any innocent person would do /s 😉

The truth will come out, friends.  The truth will come out.

In the meantime, our focus has to be on November and only November.

We have some promising news there too:

Good Election News

Steve King may be in trouble

This is great news.  Check out this story in Mother Jones wherein reporter Brian Barth, after spending several days on the campaign trail with dem candidate J.D. Scholten, makes a very compelling case for Dem victory over the racist republican Steve King.  This could be one of the, if not the most, satisfying democratic victories this fall.

Republicans beware: The ‘blue wave’ is already changing red states

Democrats may pick up a significant number of congressional seats in November. Some former solid-red districts may tick a few shades bluer, especially with a wave of GOP retirements.

Sound apocalyptic? No. It’s simply that demographics are destiny. Waves of left-leaning voters are moving from blue areas like New York, Boston, Chicago and parts of California to red areas like New Hampshire, Texas, North Carolina. The ultimate end result? The voting patterns and policies that ruined Democratic-dominated regions will shift to traditionally Republican areas.

House Republicans need to hold California seats. Trump’s agenda is making that really hard.

From immigration to tax reform and health care, the Trump agenda hits the state hard.

President Donald Trump’s agenda hasn’t been kind to blue states.

And it’s been particularly rough on California, where voters will go to the polls Tuesday, June 5, to pick candidates to run in November’s midterm elections.

California has a jungle primary, where candidates from all parties run together and the first- and second-place candidates move on to the general. It means Tuesday will be not only a measure of voter enthusiasm but also an early referendum on the Trump agenda.

There’s no question that Democrats are looking to make big gains in the state; however you look at it, Democrats need to flip California Republican seats to blue if they have any hope of retaking control of the House in November.

The potential for a blue wave has put California’s 14 Republicans on the defensive. And after months spent trying to repeal Obamacare, ceding the immigration debate to hardliners, and passing a tax bill that disadvantages more high-tax states, they have a lot to defend.

Democrats Hope Asian-American Influx Will Help Turn Orange County Blue

Whether Asians are also good for votes is one of the biggest political questions driving this year’s midterm races in Orange County, where Democrats are counting on immigrants to help the party pull off, if not quite a blue wave, then at least an unmistakable purpling.

Orange County is now one-fifth Asian and more than one-third Latino, with a Little Saigon in Garden Grove and Westminster; a Koreatown in nearby Buena Park that is beginning to rival Los Angeles’s; and a thriving Latino community centered in Santa Ana. Forty-five percent of the county’s households speak a language other than English.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas students to embark on summer tour

The students of March for Our Lives, including survivors of the Parkland high school shooting, today will announce a 60-day, 20-state, 75-stop summer bus tour to register young people to vote and to promote gun law reform.

If you having primaries today, please go out and vote!  And for everyone, what are you going to help us out in November?  Here are some ideas.  Nothing will make you feel better than action!

Donate to ActBlue

Donate to Swing Left

Send postcards to voters in other districts

Sign up to go door to door in your district

Sign up to drive people to the polls

 Find your local Democratic Party and volunteer!

Also, if you have 5 minutes, call your reps to push them to protect the midterms from Russian intervention. 

Eyes on the prize, everyone.  Eyes on the prize.

Are you in a primary state?  vote! vote! vote!  If you are in California, try to vote in a way that won’t keep Democrats off the ballot, if you can. ❤ Let’s do this! ❤

Democrats Are Awesome

it is nearly impossible for Democrats to get word out on all they are doing and plan to do with the constant hum of the trump show.  But that doesn’t mean they aren’t working hard for us.  Here are some good examples:

Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee are demanding DHS Secretary Nielsen and Jeff Sessions provide a briefing on the Trump admin’s family separation policies for immigrants at the border

Cops are called when a senator tries to see kids taken from their immigrant parents

As the sun set Sunday night, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) went to a shuttered Walmart in Brownsville, Texas, that has been converted into a detention center for immigrant children who have been separated from their parents. He asked for a tour. Instead, the government contractor that runs the converted store called the cops. An officer filled out a police report, and the senator was asked to leave.

Merkley’s visit to the site was Kabuki theater tailor-made to go viral on social media and feed progressive activists the sort of red meat they are so hungry for in this tumultuous era.

so, not at all good news that they wouldn’t let him in, but great news that a Democrat found a way to bring attention to this in the trump filled news era.

Senate Democrats demand Trump hold the line in North Korea talks

The Senate’s top Democrats insisted in a letter to President Trump on Monday that any deal with North Korea must completely dismantle Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs permanently — and that the White House must loop Congress in on its plans before negotiations begin.

The minority leader and several ranking Democrats issued a list of conditions in anticipation of the expected June 12 summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un, pressing the president to maintain a tough and unsparing stance with the North Korean leader and with his ally China to ensure that the talks achieve the goal of a “full, complete and verifiable denuclearization of North Korea” — and nothing less.

“Any deal that explicitly or implicitly gives North Korea sanctions relief for anything other than the verifiable performance of its obligations to dismantle its nuclear and missile arsenal is a bad deal,” the Democratic senators wrote.

We Have Many Allies

Mourning America: What my father, Ronald Reagan, would say today

He would be appalled and heartbroken at a Congress that refuses to stand up to a president who not only seems ignorant of the Constitution but who also attempts at every turn to dismantle and mock our system of checks and balances.

He would plead with Americans to recognize that the caustic, destructive language emanating from our current president is sullying the dream that America once was. And in a time of increased tensions in the world, playing verbal Russian roulette is not leadership, it’s madness. He would point to one of the pillars of our freedom — a free press — which sets us apart from dictatorships and countries ruled by despots. He didn’t always like the press — no president does — but the idea of relentlessly attacking the media as the enemy would never have occurred to him. And if someone else had done so, he wouldn’t have tolerated it.

He would ask us to think about the Statue of Liberty and the light she holds for immigrants coming to America for a better life. Immigrants like his ancestors, who persevered despite prejudice and signs that read “No Irish or dogs allowed.” There is a difference between immigration laws and cruelty. He believed in laws; he hated cruelty.

Apple stands up to the thought police

We understand that Apple is not going to cave in to the Russian thought police. Apple has not removed Telegram from the App Store nor blocked notifications, and on Friday, Apple pushed out an update of Telegram as Mr. Durov requested. We have been critical of Mr. Cook in the past for Apple’s decisions in China, which has made no secret of its invasive surveillance practices and intentions. Mr. Cook has said Apple must follow local laws in the countries where it does business, but others have pointed out that those laws can often be written to serve the needs of authoritarian regimes.

In this case, Mr. Cook has quietly stood on principle and refused to give in to Russia’s demands. This is an important development in the still-unsettled battle over freedom in the digital world. Telegram is an extremely significant test case. If Apple backs up Mr. Durov and resists pressure, as it appears to be doing, others may be encouraged to stand tall as well.

Bad News that isn’t as Bad as You Thought It Was

The religious right didn’t get the Supreme Court victory it hoped for. 

In one of the most anticipated Supreme Court rulings of the year, involving the question of whether an anti-gay baker has to bake a cake for a gay wedding, the court today decided to punt. While you’ll probably see a lot of headlines proclaiming “Christian Baker Wins At Supreme Court!”, in fact the justices decided not to decide the underlying question of whether someone like that baker can discriminate against certain customers.

In baker’s case, neither side has much reason to rejoice

Both proponents of gay rights and defenders of Christians who refuse to provide certain services to gay couples will, no doubt, read much more into the decision handed down today than is warranted

Kennedy managed to find the most case-specific grounds for holding that the baker was entitled to refuse to create a cake for the gay couple. He began by cautioning that “religious and philosophical objections are protected, [but] it is a general rule that such objections do not allow business owners and other actors in the economy and in society to deny protected persons equal access to goods and services under a neutral and generally applicable public accommodations law.”

Gay Americans Have Little to Fear From the Supreme Court’s Compromise in Masterpiece Cakeshop

Who loses? Everybody who hoped this decision would definitively settle the ostensible clash between LGBTQ rights and religious freedom. In the end, Masterpiece Cakeshop barely resolves anything and doesn’t even touch the free-speech claim at the center of the case. Instead, it punts that question, leaving lower courts (and American society) to continue fighting about how, exactly, Justice Anthony Kennedy should feel about it.

Why you shouldn’t freak out about the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling

The ruling is far from ideal for LGBTQ advocates, but the worst was avoided.

Supreme Court Sides With Anti-Gay Baker. It’s Not a Loss for LGBT Equality.

Everyone is going to say the Supreme Court’s ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop is a win for the Christian baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple.  They’re wrong.  This case was forfeited by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

Other Good News

Endangered mountain gorillas shows 26% increase in six years

The critically endangered wild mountain gorilla received some good news this week as a newly-published census puts the known population at over 1,000. The animal, made world famous by the work of people like Dian Fossey, has been the subject of movies and documentaries over the years chronicling their near extinction due to human activities. According to Eureka Alert, the new census numbers show a 26 percent increase over a six-year period.

SCOTUS Rejects the Trump Administration’s Attempt to Punish the ACLU in Jane Doe Abortion Case

This resolution is not entirely satisfactory given the DOJ’s startlingly vindictive and groundless position with regard to Doe’s attorneys at the American Civil Liberties Union. Its request for sanctions was a flagrant effort to intimidate the ACLU, one of the Trump administration’s fiercest legal foes, and had absolutely no basis in legal ethics. Indeed, if the ACLU had done what the administration insisted, it would’ve acted contrary to its client’s interests, committing an actual ethical breach. The court could have spelled out the egregious faults in the DOJ’s position and condemned its efforts to persecute its opponents. Practically speaking, though, a curt dismissal of the DOJ’s claim works just as well.

I also think dis-inviting the Eagles from the WH is overplaying his hand.  He thinks this anthem thing is gold with his base, and it might be.  But there is a point at which it will seem like too much to the majority of Americans, and I wonder if this may be that point.  Time will tell.

That is it for today.  I know these are tough, tiring times, but don’t ever forget that you are not alone in this.  We are the majority. Don’t forget that our democracy is worth fighting for.  Our fellow Americans are worth fighting for.  The dignity of all people is worth fighting for.  Keep it up.  Keep faith.  I am so proud and lucky to be in this with all of you ❤ ✊ ❤

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Trump Building Massive Concentration Camp For Immigrant Children

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Trump Building Massive Concentration Camp For Immigrant Children

You remember during the election when people compared Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler and the common response was that at least he isn’t throwing people in concentration camps? Well, that’s because he wasn’t President* yet.

Now that he is Moron-in-Chief, he has made numerous attempts to ban people of an entire religion from the country, employed brutal tactics to expel immigrants (including legal immigrants and even some US citizens who happen to be brown), and generally acted — you guessed it — just like Hitler. He’s also building, as predicted, a massive concentration camp to house immigrant children who have been ripped from their parents at the border by fine men and women who are following orders.

McClatchy reports that Trump’s  Department of Health and Human Services is considering building a “tent city” like those built by former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to torture prisoners to house between 1,000 and 1,500 children who have been torn screaming from their parents’ arms.

HHS officials confirm that Fort Bliss and other locations in Texas to build what can reasonably be called concentration camps for the children.

“HHS will make the determination if any of the three sites assessed are suitable,” said an HHS official. These concentration camps are “necessary” because the number of children imprisoned by our government has increased by over 20 percent since white supremacist sympathizer, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, announced that the U.S. government would be taking children from their parents if they are caught trying to cross the border.

This comes following news that the Trump administration “lost” more children than this concentration camp will hold, even putting many directly into the hands of human traffickers.

“Detaining children for immigration purposes is never in their best interest and the prospect of detaining kids in tent cities is horrifying,” says Clara Long, a researcher at Human Rights Watch. “US authorities should focus on keeping families together, ensuring due process in asylum adjudications and protecting the rights of children.”

But Trump doesn’t care about decency. He cares about locking children up.

It is unclear when he will decide gas chambers are in these children’s best interest, but we shouldn’t put it past him. Human rights aren’t exactly something he cares about.

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Michael Cohen Just Got Some Very, Very Bad News

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Michael Cohen Just Got Some Very, Very Bad News

Michael Cohen is not having a great time as of late. Abandoned by his liege Donald Trump, he has been forced to deal with his numerous illegal activities all by his lonesome — and things have been pretty lonesome. Not only are his lawyers fleeing, but now it appears that he probably should kiss his friends and family goodbye.

MSNBC’s Katy Tur reports that Cohen has received word from federal prosecutors that he’s going to be arrested soon.

In May, Cohen’s office was raided, with investigators taking documents and recordings, electronic devices, and hard drives related to the $130,000 Cohen personally paid adult film star, Stormy Daniels, to cover up an affair she had with the big orange dotard currently occupying the Oval Office.

Daniels’ attorney Michael Avanatti predicted last month that Cohen would be indicted for “a number of crimes” within 90 says. Now, he says, “it looks like I’m about to be proven right.”

Cohen has been telling friend and family that he expects to be indicted any day. Lawyers at the Southern District of New York reportedly called Cohen’s attorneys, saying they were “preparing paperwork” to arrest the Trump fixer according to Tur, who spoke to a source close to Cohen.

Cohen’s arrest could be bad news for Donald Trump, who recently refused to rule out pardoning Cohen for his crimes — something he has considered for his allies and even himself while simultaneously denying that anyone has done anything wrong.

“Trump should be super worried about Michael Cohen,” an ex-White House official told Vanity Fair. “If anyone can blow up Trump, it’s him.”

Interestingly, Sean Hannity freaked out on air last week and urged people under investigation to destroy evidence. It seems we finally know why.

It’s unclear what Mueller has on Trump’s former personal lawyer, but one thing is for sure — Trump has reason to be worried.

 

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Mad as ever at Comey, yet still floored by the stupidity of the Clinton who got to be president

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Mad as ever at Comey, yet still floored by the stupidity of the Clinton who got to be president

 

TMcIntyre2009 / Flickr The First First Gentleman...
TMcIntyre2009 / Flickr

Excessive ego and failures in judgment often go hand in hand. That’s one lesson made plain by the Department of Justice Inspector General’s report on James Comey and the FBI’s handling of what Bernie Sanders memorably referred to—in defending Hillary Clinton—as her “damn emails.”

The report made a few things very clear. In legal terms, the most important was the finding that the decision to not bring charges against Sec. Clinton was the correct call. The IG found that there was no political bias in that decision, and found that the standard the FBI used in making that judgment “was consistent with the department’s historical approach in prior cases under different leadership, including in the 2008 decision not to prosecute former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for mishandling classified documents.” The Guy Who Lost the Popular Vote by 3 Million can tweet whatever he likes, but that is the key finding when it comes to the question of whether—as his supporters are still chanting more than 500 days after the election—his opponent should’ve been locked up.

Then there’s the matter of failures in judgment. The report cited FBI director James Comey’s egregious failures on the two most important matters relating to the email investigation. First was his decision to issue a statement on July 5, 2016, announcing his recommendation that Sec. Clinton not face charges, a statement that included wholly inappropriate remarks that she and her team had been “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.” Such remarks go far beyond what an FBI director is supposed to say about an investigation. In fact, he’s not supposed to say anything, he’s just supposed to make a recommendation to the attorney general or whomever else is supervising an investigation in case of a recusal.

The IG report went into more detail:

Comey admitted that he concealed his intentions from the Department until the morning of his press conference on July 5, and instructed his staff to do the same, to make it impracticable for Department leadership to prevent him from delivering his statement. We found that it was extraordinary and insubordinate for Comey to do so, and we found none of his reasons to be a persuasive basis for deviating from well-established Department policies in a way intentionally designed to avoid supervision by Department leadership over his actions.

In other words, Comey just said, “Fuck policy. I know best. I’m James Comey.” (Yes, I do imagine him saying this to himself, a la Keith Hernandez on “Seinfeld.”)

Now let’s talk about Bill Clinton’s role in this, in particular the impact of his unplanned yet mind-bogglingly stupid meeting on June 27, 2016, with Attorney General Loretta Lynch—you know, the person ultimately in charge of deciding whether his wife would be prosecuted over the email business.

I can imagine the political strategist in his head saying “Hmmm, maybe don’t go over to her plane,” and then the ego in his head saying, “Come on, I’m special, and besides, I’m so much fun to be around. How can I deprive poor Loretta of the pleasure of my company?”

According to the IG report, Clinton actually said “I don’t want her to think I’m afraid to shake hands with her because she’s the Attorney General. I just wanted to say hello to her and I thought it would look really crazy if we were living in [a] world [where] I couldn’t shake hands with the Attorney General you know when she was right there.” There’s nothing to add to those remarks.

The IG report concluded that nothing untoward happened during this meeting, and that the investigation was not discussed at all. Nevertheless, the report stated that Lynch’s “failure to recognize the appearance problem created by former President Clinton’s visit and to take action to cut the visit short was an error in judgment.”

Politics is perception, and Comey took that “appearance problem” into account in making his decision regarding the July 5 announcement. According to the IG report, Comey “was “90 percent there, like highly likely” to make a separate public statement prior to the tarmac meeting, but that the tarmac meeting “tipped the scales” toward making his mind up to go forward with his own public statement.”

One can only guess at how Hillary and Bill Clinton took the news that he had tipped those scales. Apparently, President Clinton was “offended” by criticism he’s taken over the meeting with Lynch. Really? Okay. Here’s my reaction. Remember how in 2012 Barack Obama dubbed the former president the “Secretary of Explaining Stuff”? Now I’m thinking a more appropriate name might be “Secretary of Fucking Up Really Important Stuff, Like Helping Your Wife Get Elected President Instead of Donald Trump”. How’s that?

But back to Comey. After having already crossed the Rubicon on this matter with his July 5 statement, the FBI director clearly felt that he had the right—no, the duty—to pretty much do whatever he felt necessary to protect whatever it was he felt needed protecting—and my sense is that he believed he was the only one in government with the courage, integrity, yadda yadda yadda to do so.

Then came Anthony Weiner ‘s laptop, and Comey’s decision to tell Congress on October 28, 11 days before the election, that the FBI was essentially going to be reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Remember that the FBI had said nothing about an ongoing investigation, begun in July 2016, into the Trump campaign, the matter of Russia interfering on behalf of Trump, and whether there was coordination between the two. Here’s what the IG report said about that Comey decision, which highlighted exactly that contrast:

We found no evidence that Comey’s decision to send the October 28 letter was influenced by political preferences. Instead, we found that his decision was
the result of several interrelated factors that were connected to his concern that failing to send the letter would harm the FBI and his ability to lead it, and his
view that candidate Clinton was going to win the presidency and that she would be perceived to be an illegitimate president if the public first learned of the
information after the election. Although Comey told us that he “didn’t make this decision because [he] thought it would leak otherwise,” several FBI officials told us
that the concern about leaks played a role in the decision.

Much like with his July 5 announcement, we found thatin making this decision, Comey engaged in ad hoc decisionmaking[sic] based on his personal views even if it meant rejecting longstanding Department policy or practice. We found unpersuasive Comey’s explanation as to why transparency was more important than Department policy and practice with regard to the reactivated Midyear investigation while, by contrast, Department policy and practice were more important to follow with regard to the Clinton Foundation and Russia investigations.

Comey’s description of his choice as being between “two doors,” one labeled “speak” and one labeled “conceal,” was a false dichotomy. The two doors were actually labeled “follow policy/practice” and “depart from policy/practice.” Although we acknowledge that Comey faced a difficult situation with unattractive choices, in proceeding as he did, we concluded that Comey made a serious error of judgment.

This post has examined the ego-driven failures committed by two men. One man’s failures, while far smaller in nature, played a part in helping the other man justify, to himself at least, the disastrous decisions that flowed from his serious errors of judgment. These failures made Donald Trump president of the United States.\

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