United States Ambassdor to Israel David Friedman: “Israel has one secret weapon that not too many countries have. Israel is on the side of God, and we don’t underestimate that.”
Be sure to give this voting rights piece a glance. Tierney gives an overview of just how many fronts Republicans are operating on to limit voting as much as possible for 2020. I’m pretty versed on this. But it’s remarkable to see listed out just how many fronts they’re working on, just how central a part of GOP legal and legislative work this has become.
We’ll have more on this shortly. But I want to point out the common argument the President’s personal lawyers (yesterday) and the White House Counsel’s office (in today’s letter) are now making. They argue that the Congress has no legitimate oversight role with respect to the executive branch at all, a stunning argument that would clip the wings of Congress permanently. They are arguing first that the only legitimate document requests or subpoenas are those tied specifically and narrowly to shaping upcoming legislation. That’s an aspect of oversight but only a smallish part of it. Secondly, anything that is tied to wrongdoing or malfeasance or possibly crimes is “law enforcement”, which is the exclusive purview of the executive branch. In other words, from both sides of the equation, they argue that Congress has no oversight role at all.
Now the argument is out in the open.
Looking at the escalating (US-created) crisis with Iran, one thing I realize is that a lot of people do not quite know who John Bolton is. They assume – rightly – that anyone in the Trump orbit must be either a moral weakling, a crazy person or someone with one foot out the door. All true. But John Bolton is a unique and uniquely dangerous character.
To give some perspective, back during George W. Bush’s second term, Bush nominated Bolton to serve as UN Ambassador. That was in 2006 and with a GOP majority in the Senate. Bolton was seen as so manifestly ill-suited to the position that he couldn’t get confirmed. He had to settle for a pity recess appointment.
Leaked documents suggest that NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre may have used an NRA vendor to conceal costs for luxury Italian suits and European vacations from the NRA’s books. Non-profit attorneys told Josh Kovensky that the documents are a “goldmine” for New York Attorney General Letitia James’ probe into the gun rights group. Read More
Federal officials today briefed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Russian hacking of two county voting networks during the 2016 election. But according to DeSantis, they made him sign an NDA that barred him from revealing the details. “I’m not allowed to name the counties. I signed a [non-]disclosure agreement,” said DeSantis.
Let me mention one of the subthreads of this latest phony flare-up about Rashida Tlaib. I think this series of attacks from President Trump and top elected officials was so bogus on its face that it seems to be fading to a degree. But there’s another part of this drama that’s worth discussing, a point with a broader application that goes well beyond debates about anti-Semitism.
We now have the fourth investigation charged with ‘investigating the investigators’ who began the Russia probe. Attorney General Bill Barr has tasked the US Attorney in Connecticut, John H. Durham, with conducting yet another probe. Most press reports will say this is the third. There’s the on-going Inspector General investigation and the investigation by Utah US Attorney John H. Huber. But in fact this is the second Inspector General’s investigation into this question. Inspector General Michael Horowitz wrenched the first from its initial brief to probe leaks and potential bias against Hillary Clinton into one focused on bias against President Trump.
I’ve read the transcript of Rashida Tlaib’s words in the bogus “controversy” a number of times. I saw the actual video of what she said for the first time earlier this afternoon. This controversy is so baseless, so riddled with bad faith and malice. It’s simply gross. I don’t agree with Tlaib on everything. I don’t agree with her advocacy of a one-state solution, which is what she was actually arguing for in the interview in question. But she wasn’t saying anything malicious or even terribly remarkable in those words, let alone anything anti-Semitic. She was talking about the reality of Palestinian dispossession in the creation of the state of Israel but how this loss, one closely tied to her ancestors and national community, wasn’t for nothing. Palestine became a haven for Jews fleeing the Holocaust and as refugees in the aftermath of the Holocaust. She doesn’t say Palestinian Arabs were welcoming them, as some are claiming. She certainly doesn’t diminish the horror of the Holocaust in any way. She basically says that some good came from the dispossession because the Jews were also an oppressed and endangered people and she takes some comfort from that even though it was at the expense of the Palestinians.
Let’s start with the obligatory disclaimers and caveats and blah blah. It’s very early. The first caucuses and primaries are almost 10 months away. But Joe Biden is getting more than a bounce from his campaign launch announcement three weeks ago. The bump in his poll numbers haven’t subsided. His support continues to climb. A poll out over the weekend from South Carolina puts his support at 46% with Bernie Sanders far behind at 15% and three others, Harris (10%), Buttigieg (8%) and Warren (8%), just behind him.
Doris Day died early this morning at age 97. Many people forget that before she became an avatar of 1950s Hollywood wholesomeness she was an acclaimed Jazz big band singer from a very different part of the entertainment world. Here she is at Aquarium, a New York jazz club in 1946, touring with Les Brown. Photographs by famed Jazz journalist and photographer William Gottlieb.
Rudy Giuliani has now canceled his trip to Ukraine in which he planned to pressure the new government to launch investigations into Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. But this is irrelevant. It’s not 1810. Giuliani doesn’t need a personal visit to plot his schemes. We have phones, video conferencing, private jet transnational intermediaries. What’s more, this is a plot that goes back months. Indeed, Giuliani has peppered his cancelation with new threats, suggesting that the new government in Ukraine may be enemies of America. “I’m not going to go because I think I’m walking into a group of people that are enemies of the president, in some cases, enemies of the United States.”
It’s yet more of the same, leveraging the country’s foreign and national security power (which is of course immense and unparalleled in the world) to target political enemies at home, high crimes by any definition.
Last night at our DC event I picked up on a question someone had been asked on the panel: Basically, how bad can it get? To me it’s already gotten that bad and in a way and place that is at once front and center and yet oddly invisible. Virtually everyone closely involved in the origins of the Russia probe has either been fired, had their career ended or in key cases face real threats of imprisonment: Comey, McCabe, Strzok, Page, Baker, Ohr … I could list off at least half a dozen other names. Some of these folks will be fine. And in most cases the criminal jeopardy is probably somewhat notional. But it’s not about the individual people. It’s the warning it sends to everyone else through the federal bureaucracy – law enforcement, intelligence and everywhere else – that the real law is power. This is how autocrats discipline and destroy civil institutions and the rule of law. One of these people, former FBI general counsel Jim Baker spoke out for the first time this afternoon at an event at Brookings. Tierney Sneed was there.
If you’re still worried about the collusion described in the Mueller Report forgot about that because it probably means you’re not focused enough on how President Trump’s top advisors are already, more or less openly, trying to muscle Ukraine into targeting Trump’s political enemies in the US to throw the 2020 election in Trump’s favor.
I really cannot overstate how important this is.
This to me is one of those classic TPM stories. In fact, the man at the center of the story, James Russell Bolton Jr., is an embodiment of the Trump Era. Bolton runs a militia. But on the side he was posing as a Mexican drug cartel allegedly kidnapping his wife in order to extort money from the dorks who had joined his militia.
We’re so thick into constitutional crises today. But you’ve got to read this piece by Josh Kovensky. It’s about how the NRA tried to save itself financially or at least open up a critical new revenue stream by hawking what is not unfairly called “murder insurance.” Basically, if you’re a good guy with a gun and you kill someone, who’s going to cover you expenses? It turns out that even on its own morally dubious terms it wasn’t very good insurance and not necessarily legal. But beyond that, the contractors who created the plans were branching out from old fashioned defending your home style ‘self-defense’ to more like free range out and about waiting for bad guys to show themselves sort of ‘self-defense’. Proactive self-defense. Call it George Zimmerman insurance. Anyway, it’s simultaneously hilarious and really horrifying and on top of all that the NRA seems to have lost some serious cash on it. Read the whole story here.
In another impromptu White House appearance just now, President Trump went off on special counsel Robert Mueller all over again. In an especially bonkers moment, the President lamented the friendship between Mueller and fired FBI Director James Comey, citing a “picture file.”
“They were supposedly best friends,” Trump said. “You look at the picture file and you see hundreds of pictures of him and Comey.”
What is he talking about? A picture file?