May 23, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 PM


Mueller's Illegitimate Hoax Investigation Somehow Just Led to Another Indictment Involving the Trump Campaign (BEN MATHIS-LILLEY, MAY 23, 2019, Slate)

Mueller moreover referred a number of related cases to other Department of Justice prosecutors. We don't know what all those cases are yet because information about them was redacted from his report to Attorney General William Barr. But one of them was likely revealed today as the U.S. attorney's office in New York's Southern District announced charges against Stephen Calk, the CEO of Federal Savings Bank. Calk is accused of facilitating loans in 2016 to Trump's campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, that Manafort might otherwise not have qualified for because he was on the verge of going broke--and Manafort, the feds say, paid Calk back by getting him a spot on the Trump campaign's economic advisory committee and, later, recommending that the Trump transition team consider him for the position of undersecretary of the Army. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:47 PM


Bid to stifle court akin to those of pre-Nazi Germany, 98 retired judges say: Ex-jurists from all levels sign open letter protesting reported efforts by PM to pass legislation allowing Knesset to override High Court veto, as he seeks to safeguard immunity (JACOB MAGID, 23 May 2019, Times of Israel)

Ninety-eight retired judges signed an open letter on Thursday that compared the current environment, in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly seeking to drastically curb the powers of Israel's High Court of Justice, to the situation in pre-Nazi Germany.

Referencing the words of the late German-born Israeli chief justice Alfred Witkon, the ex-jurists said that "there have been throughout history countries with democratic regimes where movements were established that used the rights granted to them in order to carry out destructive activities to protect themselves."

The exact quote given by Witkon in a 1964 High Court ruling stated, "more than once in history have fascist and totalitarian movements risen to establishment in  proper democratic regimes, where they used all the rights of freedom of speech, press and association granted by the state in order to carry out destructive activities to protect themselves. Anyone who saw this during the days of the Weimar Republic [the German government from 1918-1933] will not forget this lesson."

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 PM


Records in Jussie Smollett case to be unsealed, judge rules (Elisha Fieldstadt and Samira Puskar, 5/23/19, NBC News)

"To be sure, it is easily conceivable that a defendant whose case was dismissed would wish to maintain his sense of privacy, even if, perhaps especially if, the media covered the case," Judge Steven G. Watkins wrote in the decision. "However, that isn't that case."

"While the court appreciates that the defendant was in the public eye before the events that precipitated this case, it was not necessary for him to address this so publicly and to such an extent. By doing so, the court cannot credit his privacy interest as good cause to keep the case records sealed," the decision said.

Posted by orrinj at 3:09 PM


Despite Trump's racial rhetoric, white prejudice has gone down, Penn study finds (Jeff Gammage, May 22, 2019,

Daniel Hopkins, a professor of political science, and Samantha Washington, a bachelor's degree candidate, set out to see if Trump's rhetoric led white Americans to express more prejudiced views of African Americans or Latinos.

"Prejudice takes a variety of forms in different places at different times," Hopkins said in an interview. "But a lot of white Americans are not listening to Trump's rhetoric uncritically. There are many, many millions of white Americans who view Trump's rhetoric as racist."

They reviewed "expressed prejudice," which can be measured when people respond to surveys or polling. Declines occurred in both major parties but were more pronounced among Democrats.

Hopkins was surprised by the results, but also knew that there's "a longstanding tradition in political science that when the president moves in one direction, the public moves in the other direction."

The scholars relied on nationally representative surveys of some 20,000 people between 2008 and 2018. They also considered earlier work that assessed white respondents' beliefs in stereotypes, by asking them to rate African Americans and Latinos on work ethic and trustworthiness.

Before 2016, the authors said, presidential candidates who sought to harness animus toward African Americans or other racial groups did so through implicit clues, targeted toward certain audiences. Trump broke from that, such as declaring there were "very fine people on both sides" of a violent "Unite the Right" confrontation between white supremacists and protesters in Charlottesville, Va. One woman was killed and dozens of people injured when a neo-Nazi rammed his car into the crowd.

He's death on brands.

Posted by orrinj at 1:44 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:21 PM


THE U.S. IS DENYING CITIZENSHIP TO SERVICE MEMBERS AT AN UNPRECEDENTED RATE: Non-citizens in the military are now denied citizenship more frequently than their civilian counterparts. The Department of Defense appears to be behind the shift. (MASSOUD HAYOUN, 5/23/19, Pacific Standard)

United States immigration authorities are denying military service member applications for citizenship at a higher rate than their civilian counterparts, newly released data from the Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) shows. Immigrant rights advocates are calling on elected officials to overcome partisan impasses to remedy what appears to be the penalization of immigrants serving in the U.S. armed forces--particularly at a time when the Department of Defense is failing to meet its voluntary recruitment goals.

The USCIS data shows that the agency denied 16.6 percent of military citizenship applications in the last three months of 2018, over 5 percent more than civilian applications. Prior to his administration, and in the first few quarters of the Donald Trump presidency, military citizenship application acceptances were higher than their civilian counterparts. Experts say that, amid Trump's attempts to bar immigrants of all stripes from legally remaining in the U.S., the data shows that non-citizen service member applications have faced an increased degree of scrutiny.

He does hold service in contempt, so it probably harms them.
Posted by orrinj at 12:19 PM


What Rod Rosenstein Knew When He Helped Trump Fire Comey  (Murray Waas, 5/23/19, NYRB)

In May 2017, then Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein agreed to assist President Trump in an effort to fire James Comey as FBI director despite Rosenstein's knowing beforehand that the president had devised a false cover story to conceal the fact that he was firing Comey for his oversight of the FBI's Russia investigation, according to previously confidential White House records and interviews with former and current government officials familiar with the matter.

In this previously unreported episode, President Trump gave Rosenstein a draft of a letter to then FBI Director Comey, in which the president justified his firing of Comey with a concocted story claiming that, at the beginning of his presidency, Trump had retained Comey on a probationary or trial period only, because of what he described as poor job performance by Comey. After reading this draft letter, Rosenstein agreed to write a memorandum for the president severely criticizing Comey's handling of the FBI's investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of State. The White House used Rosenstein's memo as its initial public rationale for Comey's firing.

The Mueller Report mentioned this draft letter that Trump gave to Rosenstein, but quoted only portions of two sentences of its text. Trump stated in the letter that Comey had "asked [the president] at dinner shortly after inauguration to let [Comey] stay on in the Director's role, and [the president] said that [he] would consider it," but the president ultimately had "concluded that [he had] no alternative but to find new leadership for the Bureau--a leader that restores confidence and trust."

I was able to read the full draft of that letter, and two earlier drafts, as well as notes made by Stephen Miller, a senior policy adviser to President Trump, who helped the president write the various drafts. The Trump administration has refused to provide these records to Congress, citing claims of executive privilege.

In these documents, President Trump claimed that Comey sought a private dinner with the president in an effort to keep his job. In one early account, Trump quoted Comey vowing to earn the president's trust to retain his job, with the president concluding that Comey had underperformed in a number of ways, including failing to have the FBI more aggressively identify and prosecute leakers. Mueller's investigators were later able to discount most of these claims--a conclusion that Trump's own advisers seemed to have drawn themselves, since the claims were largely absent from the letter that Trump ultimately sent to Comey firing him.

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 AM


Trump Dumped Thousands of Immigrants in San Antonio. The City's Response Was a Lesson in Kindness. (Fernanda Echavarri, 5/23/19, Mother Jones)

Up until that point, there had been dozens of families showing up every day at the bus station in need of food and money to buy their next ticket, but never this many, Bridger said. Catholic Charities USA and Interfaith Welcome Coalition had been assisting migrants at an average of about 50 a day. This was different.

"We had surges of 150, then 250 and 300 people coming in one day," Bridger said, "and (the nonprofits) came to the city and said, 'We can't keep doing this--this is beyond our capacity. Will you please help us?'" 

That's when the city quickly turned the vacant storefront across from the Greyhound station into a pit stop for families to rest, eat, call family members, and plan out their next steps. One city official described it to me as a "compassionate layover." But the resource center wasn't equipped to keep families overnight, so Catholic Charities helped create an shelter at the nearby Travis Park Church.

When families have to spend the night in San Antonio, volunteers at the resource center walk with them to the church, where they can sleep. "Last night we actually had 75 people sleeping here," said Antonio Fernandez, CEO of Catholic Charities in San Antonio. "We know that there are more people coming than there was in the past, so we are preparing bigger coalitions to provide services for the families because we don't know how long this is going to happen."

The Gabarrete family slept in the church the night before I met them. By morning, families go back to the resource center for the day where the kids can draw and watch cartoons to stay occupied. Hector Gabarrete said he didn't expect such a warm welcome in a US city, and that he felt "taken care of and safe."

"I'm not here to judge people or political parties--I'm here to help people in need," Fernandez said. "I don't care if you're Catholic or not. I don't care if you're documented or undocumented. My mission in life is to feed anyone who walks through that door."

Fernandez said they've been spending about $14,000 each week for bus tickets for the hundreds of families that need help getting to their final destination.

As far as the city's contributions go, Bridger said it has provided in-kind donations to the NGOs, such as the storefront, but haven't directly provided financial assistance. She said they thought the emergency resource center would be open for about two weeks, but it's been two months now. They've planned to continue with this setup until the end of the fiscal year in September. But, Bridger added, "I don't think it's going to be sustainable in the long haul."

The city employees helping right now are either doing this as part of their already assigned duties, or as volunteers. "Some of them are working a full day for the city and then volunteering for an eight-hour shift at the volunteer center, so we have people that are really tired and that are working really hard to make it a success, but we can't do that indefinitely," she said.

It's an opportunity to differentiate America from Trumpism.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM

"VERY FINE" TRUMPBOTS (profanity alert):

Leaked Proud Boys Chats Show Members Plotting Violence At Rallies (Andy Campbell, 5/23/19, Huffington Post)

In the chats, covering a time period between February and March of this year, members claimed they needed a conclusive "win" this time around, which they defined as a bloody battle against "antifa" in Providence. If this brawl were bigger and more violent than previous iterations, they might regain some of the street cred and followers they'd lost.

"We'll grow this group of patriots and we'll never back down," wrote the event's organizer, Proud Boys member Alan Swinney, in the private chat messages. "If we win, it will make more patriots come to the next rally. We just need to go there and we'll beat them. We'll have enough to crush them at some point." 

A source with direct knowledge of the exchanges confirmed to HuffPost that the logs were authentic. Swinney also responded to several screenshots. When asked about discussions of violence in the chat logs, he told HuffPost, "They're warriors. ... Choir boys don't go up against people like that [anti-fascists]. It takes a person with a certain type of mindset."

The logs contained a revolving door of up to 30 Proud Boys and their allies, including militia members and other "patriots," as Swinney called them. Those named in this story either publicly identify as members of the Proud Boys or affiliated groups, or have been identified as such in national news stories or by the groups' leaders.

Looking forward to Providence, members in the private channel were pumped for the opportunity to cause mayhem. One Proud Boy named Anthony Mastrostefano said:

"All I want to do is smash commies too. Actually I'm lying, I'm way past just hitting them. When the time comes I will stop at nothing to fully eradicate them all!"

The Proud Boys have a yearslong history of violence, and they've built an entire brand off of the fights they've helped organize in American streets, from spars in Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon, to attacks in Providence and New York.

McInnes created a set of rules by which his gang members could gain clout in the organization, which include forgoing masturbation, getting a Proud Boy tattoo and fighting in the name of the gang.

Their leadership has always claimed that such violence is incidental, acts of self-defense necessitated by their anti-fascist opponents, who show up to each of their purported free-speech events in protest.

They've gone as far as to file lawsuits to maintain that facade ― on Monday, several of their members stood at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and announced that they were suing the Southern Poverty Law Center for labeling them as a hate group. McInnes himself filed a defamation lawsuit against the civil rights organization in February.

"We're a drinking club that stands behind Donald Trump," said Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio at the D.C. event. "That's enough to earn hate of the left."

But private chat logs leaked to HuffPost fly directly in the face of that sentiment, showing Proud Boys premeditating violence they hope to commit. They spent months before the April rally meticulously planning strategies for injuring protesters.

Members discuss what weapons they might use against the "commies" they'll meet in the street, which police officers might be sympathetic to them, how they'll raise funding to fly out their long-distance compatriots, and how they'll "bait" protesters into throwing the first punch so that they can claim self-defense.

No one believes that onanism bit.

On the other hand, no one doubts the pool boy connection, Documents detail how Jerry Falwell Jr. went into South Beach venture with 'pool boy' (DOUGLAS HANKS, MAY 22, 2019, Miami Herald)

New court documents offer a peek into how evangelist Jerry Falwell Jr. wound up in the South Beach hotel business with a former Fontainebleau Hotel pool attendant [...]

Falwell's role as an early supporter of Donald Trump's presidential campaign helped drive media interest in the South Beach deal, along with the seemingly central role of a low-level hotel worker in the transaction. Earlier this month, interest revved up again when Reuters reported that former Trump "fixer" Michael Cohen had helped Falwell Jr. deal with "personal" photographs held by someone else. Cohen intervened and the person destroyed them, according to Reuters, which based its reporting on a recorded conversation with Cohen by comedian Tom Arnold. The report said Cohen flew to Florida in 2016 to deal with the photographs.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


Judge says Deutsche Bank, Capital One can give Trump financial records to House Democrats (Dan Mangan & Kevin Breuninger, 5/22/19, CNBC)

Ramos, an appointee of President Barack Obama, said in U.S. District Court in Manhattan that the Trump clan's arguments "are not sufficiently serious as it relates to Supreme Court precedent" dealing with the question of turning over documents to Congress.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


Putin out-prepared Trump in key meeting, Rex Tillerson told House panel (John Hudson and Josh Dawsey May 22, 2019, Washington Post)

Former secretary of state Rex Tillerson told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Russian President Vladimir Putin out-prepared President Trump during a key meeting in Germany, putting the U.S. leader at a disadvantage during their first series of tête-à-têtes.

The U.S. side anticipated a shorter meeting for exchanging courtesies, but it ballooned into a globe-spanning two-hour-plus session involving deliberations on a variety of geopolitical issues, said committee aides, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss Tillerson's seven-hour closed meeting with the committee.

"We spent a lot of time in the conversation talking about how Putin seized every opportunity to push what he wanted," a committee aide said. "There was a discrepancy in preparation, and it created an unequal footing." [...]

Committee aides said that Tillerson refrained from openly disparaging the president but that his inability to answer certain questions was revealing.

In one exchange, Tillerson said he and the president "shared a common goal: to secure and advance America's place in the world and to promote and protect American values."

"Those American values -- freedom, democracy, individual liberty and human dignity -- are the North Star that guided every action I took at the State Department," Tillerson said, according to a person in the room.

Upon questioning, Tillerson clarified that although he and the president shared the same goal, they did not share the same "value system."

When asked to describe Trump's values, Tillerson said, "I cannot," the person said.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Poll: 60 percent say Trump should not be reelected (JONATHAN EASLEY, 05/22/19, The Hill)

A Monmouth University survey released Wednesday found that only 37 percent of voters believe Trump should be reelected, while 60 percent said they think it's time to have someone new in the White House.

That's the highest percentage of voters saying they're eager for change since Monmouth first began asking the question in November.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why Pelosi is so good at infuriating Trump (JOHN BRESNAHAN and BURGESS EVERETT, 05/22/2019, Politico)

Something about Nancy Pelosi just gets under Donald Trump's skin.

On Wednesday, for the third time in barely six months, a meeting between the president, the speaker and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer blew up in spectacular fashion.

And in each case, Trump handed Pelosi a huge gift, a priceless moment that helped unify the Democratic Caucus behind her at a crucial time.

"She's smarter than him, and she's tougher than him, and I think that bothers him," said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), a Pelosi ally. "It's hard to get inside that head of his and figure out what drives him, other than an oversized ego and an undersized sense of ethics."

Saves him trips to Vegas,