A blizzard of dangerous, irresponsible misinformation from………of course, Trump

As cases spread across the United States (in part because of expanding testing) and states declare public health emergencies, Trump cited a “hunch” to make a case that the mortality rate is actually “a fraction of 1 percent.” He recklessly dismissed the WHO mortality rate as “really a false number,” used bogus numbers to compare the coronavirus to the much less deadly seasonal flu, and didn’t discourage people with Covid-19 (the disease caused by coronavirus) from going to work.

It was a blizzard of dangerous, irresponsible misinformation, all delivered within a span of just over two minutes. Hannity responded not by challenging Trump, but by quickly changing the topic.

Trump’s arrogant ignorance was on public display during coronavirus meetings with pharmaceutical execs. The episode illustrated the dangers of Trump leading any response to a public health emergency — and how out of step he is even with public health experts within his own administration.

“Now, this is just my hunch” Trump’s prefaced his soliloquy with Then continued on about an illness he misleadingly and falsely described as “this corona flu” began after Hannity asked him to respond to the WHO’s 3.4 percent death rate figure (which the organization said could vary by region). He was also asked about the possibility that the Summer Olympics scheduled for this summer in Tokyo could be delayed.

While public health experts are still gathering data that will inform what the precise death rate figure is, there is little doubt the coronavirus is much more deadly than the flu. Trump could listen to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director, who said during hearings this week of the coronavirus that “the mortality of this is multiple times what the seasonal flu is.”

In a Thursday hearing before the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, Dr. Peter Hotez, of the Baylor College of Medicine, echoed Fauci.

In a lame attempt to calm public fears, you’re hearing things like, “it’s a mild illness, this is like flu.”  “It’s not really the case, because this is an unusual virus,” Hotez said. “For many young people, it is a mild illness, but we’re seeing some devastating things. And we got a heads up about this from the Chinese … nursing homes. Look at what this virus did at that nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, it rolled through like a train.”

As Hotez alluded to, coronavirus is especially dangerous for elderly people like those at a Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, where at least five deaths have already been linked to the virus following an outbreak in the facility. Health care workers and first responders are also at higher risk of infection, according to Hotez.

But Trump instead downplayed the danger in general. And while Trump may think it’s no big deal that people with Covid-19 symptoms are “sitting around and even going to work,” Fauci pointed out during hearings that the best course of action is “when someone is suspected of being exposed they either self-isolate or they get actually institutional quarantine.” But if someone listened to Trump’s advice, they might show up at work with symptoms and spread the virus.

The Fox spin:
Trump’s comments were completely out of step with what experts are saying, but his mouthpiece Fox News wasted no time normalizing them as one side of an argument. Trump goes on a completely irresponsible and medically illiterate rant about a pandemic, and fox news treats it as trump owning the media. Trump clearly perceives that it’s in his political self-interest to downplay coronavirus, and Fox News — at least during its primetime programming — is taking his lead.

This approach might fend off negative news cycles for a while but at the cost of jeopardizing the well being not only of those who take Trump seriously but also those who come into close contact with them in the workplace or elsewhere.

 

edited from Vox

 

 

Great, now beside lack of local info on COVID-19 we’ve got Russian bots hyping fear

It’s bad enough that our local DHHS office is being so evasive about what’s happening here in Humboldt, now we’vegot Russia bots in on spreading fear.

Thousands of Russian-linked social media accounts have launched a coordinated effort to spread alarm about the new coronavirus, disrupting global efforts to fight the epidemic, US officials say.

The disinformation campaign promotes unfounded conspiracy theories that the United States is behind the COVID-19 outbreak, in an apparent bid to damage the US image around the world by seizing on health concerns.

State Department officials tasked with combatting Russian disinformation told AFP that false personas are being used on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to advance Russian talking points in multiple languages.

“Russia’s intent is to sow discord and undermine US institutions and alliances from within, including through covert and coercive malign influence campaigns,” said Philip Reeker, the acting Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia.

“By spreading disinformation about coronavirus, Russian malign actors are once again choosing to threaten public safety by distracting from the global health response,” he said.

The claims that have been circulating in recent weeks include allegations that the virus is a US effort to “wage economic war on China,” that it is a biological weapon manufactured by the CIA or part of a Western-led effort “to push anti-China messages.”

US individuals including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, a philanthropist who has spent billions on global health programs, have also been falsely accused of involvement in the virus.

The disinformation campaign was identified by US monitors in mid-January after Chinese officials announced a third death from the new coronavirus in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.

More than 2,340 people have since died, mostly in China, and the number of cases exceeds 76,000, most are in China.

– Close coordination observed –

Several thousand online accounts — previously identified for airing Russian-backed messages on major events such as the war in Syria, the Yellow Vest protests in France and Chile’s mass demonstrations — are posting “almost near-identical” messages about the novel coronavirus, according to a report prepared for the State Department’s Global Engagement Center and seen by AFP.

The accounts — run by humans, not bots — post at similar times in English, Spanish, Italian, German and French and can be linked back to Russian proxies, or carry similar messages to Russian-backed outlets such as RT and Sputnik, it said.

Russian state-funded media started pushing anti-Western messages about the cause of the epidemic on January 20, with operators of the social media accounts beginning to post globally the following day, US officials say.

“In this case, we were able to see their full disinformation ecosystem in effect, including state TV, proxy web sites and thousands of false social media personas all pushing the same themes,” said Special Envoy Lea Gabrielle, the head of the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, which is tasked with tracking and exposing propaganda and disinformation.

During many past news events, the accounts would post actively for up to 72 hours. But messages about the new coronavirus have been uploaded every day over the past month — a sign, US officials said, of Russia’s investment in a story unlikely to disappear soon from the headlines.

“In the Russian doctrine of information confrontation, this is classic,” said another official from the Global Engagement Center.

“The number of coronavirus cases globally hasn’t reached its apex, so the Russian strategy is to very cheaply but very effectively take advantage of the information environment to sow discord between us and China, or for economic purposes.”

Experts saw parallels with previous conspiracy theories traced to Moscow, including a KGB disinformation campaign in the 1980s that convinced many around the world that US scientists created the HIV virus that causes AIDS.

US intelligence has also said that Russia interfered through social media manipulation in the 2016 election and seeks to do so again in 2020. The Kremlin has denied the charges and President Donald Trump has scoffed at suggestions of Russian help.

– Risks seen in response –

Scientists believe the COVID-19 illness originated in late December in Wuhan at a market selling exotic animals for human consumption.

Bats are known carriers of this strain of the coronavirus, whose official name is SARS-CoV-2, but scientists think it spread to humans via another mammal species, possibly pangolins.

The US believes the latest Russian disinformation campaign is making it harder to respond to the epidemic, particularly in Africa and Asia, with some of the public becoming suspicious of the Western response.

The World Health Organization warned Friday that the window to stem the outbreak was narrowing, voicing alarm at a surge of cases with no clear link to China.

A State Department official said that Russian operatives appeared to have been given “carte blanche” to attack the US reputation.

“Whether or not a particular theme is being directed at the highest levels doesn’t matter. It’s the fact that they have freelance ability to operate in this space to do whatever damage they can, which could have seismic implications.”

 

Agence France-Presse via Raw Story

 

 

The Mad King is leading an army of zombie-like cult members right off the fascist cliff

Over the past week, Donald John Trump’s Circus Maximus of American fascism reached full bloom.

In ancient Rome, the Circus Maximus was the largest coliseum. It hosted chariot races, gladiatorial combat, hunts of wild animals, sporting events, parades and other grand happenings. Like the Roman Empire in its decline, the United States is now vomiting up grotesque spectacles.

To that end, Trump’s regime uses spectacle as a means of distracting the public from its assault on democracy, the Constitution, the rule of law, and the American people. Trump’s fascist Circus Maximus is also a way of intimidating his foes and further seducing his cult members and other followers.

Last Tuesday, Mad King Trump gave his annual State of the Union speech. On Twitter, political scientist and Washington Post contributor Brian Klaas described the event as “the logical conclusion of populism: a series of misleading lies and fear-mongering dressed up as theatrical spectacle that aimed to show one team ‘winning’ rather than the serious business of governing and improving people’s lives.”

Of course, Trump lied with great enthusiasm about the country’s economy, his health care plans, the country’s overall well-being, his proposals for the future and many other matters both small and large.

Republicans cheered their Mad King, while Democrats were disgusted and stunned. Some, understandably, did not subject themselves to the spectacle of Trump’s unrepentant assault on reality, morality, truth and virtue. Writing at the New Yorker, Susan Glasser explained the entirety of this horrible scene:

No wonder Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night was such a painful spectacle, in which the nation’s divisions were indelibly exposed by the raw visual of blindly cheering Republicans and outraged, slumping Democrats. Republicans in this strange new era of demagogic takeover applaud policies they don’t agree with because they come from their leader. Democrats cannot even bear the sight of the Mad King Trump. Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, who made the consequential decision to pursue Trump’s impeachment knowing that it would end up this way, pronounced herself so disgusted by Trump’s “manifesto of mistruths” that she carefully and deliberately ripped up her copy when he finished speaking — a performative act of partisan disgust that predictably left her supporters cheering and Trump himself obsessively complaining.

In all, Donald Trump’s State of the Union address had less to do with serving the American people as a whole — since the very idea of public service and the common good are beyond his comprehension — than with offering him a stage on which to display his worst aspects parts and to throw political red meat to his most die-hard supporters.

Likely at the urging of White House adviser Stephen Miller, an overt white supremacist, Donald Trump erased nonwhite people from the country’s history. He spoke not in dog whistles but through a virtual air raid siren, promising evangelical Christian nationalists that he would continue to advance their agenda of subverting the Constitution and transforming the United States into a theocracy.

Last Wednesday, Trump’s Republican servants in the Senate “acquitted” him for abuse of power, obstruction of Congress and other obvious crimes related to the Ukraine scheme and his plans to blackmail or bribe that country into interfering in the 2020 presidential election on his behalf. Trump’s show trial in the Senate had no witnesses. Now that he has been crowned an American king by his Republican flunkeys, Trump’s “innocence” is never in doubt, despite the obvious evidence of his many obvious crimes against the Constitution and the rule of law.

Writing at the New York Review of Books, Fintan O’Toole elaborates on this:

The reason why evidence is irrelevant to Trump’s trial is not just that the evidence itself is inconveniently damning. It is that this doctrine of a president’s will as the source of all authority must not be undermined by the manner of the trial. At the heart of Trump’s defense is the justification that underlies all authoritarian rule. The leader is special. He is not like us because he has unique instincts. His gut (or divine inspiration or mystical ability to discern the true will of the people) leads him to make the right call. And the gut cannot be questioned: the job of everyone else in government is to accept what the leader does first and find the reasons for it later….

The Senate is supposed to be acting as a kind of court. But it is showing itself to be a court in a different sense: almost all Republican senators are now quite openly behaving as courtiers….

O’Toole then previews where King Trump’s coronation may lead the country, observing that Republicans “cannot question what a president has done because that would violate the principle that his reasons are unquestionable”:

What is lost for them and for Trump in this process is any possible claim that Trump has been vindicated by a genuine trial of the evidence against him. What is gained is the assurance that, if Trump wins a second term, he can indeed do whatever he wants. Donald Trump has used impeachment to propel himself forward, somewhat like James Caan on roller skates holding on to the back of a motorcycle in the 1975 dystopian science fiction film “Rollerball.”

On the same day as Trump’s coronation in the Senate, Attorney General William Barr announced a new policy under which all investigations of alleged criminal behavior by presidential candidates or their senior staff members are prohibited, except with his personal approval. As a practical matter, this means that Trump is free to break the law with impunity and that the Department of Justice has been weaponized against the Democratic Party and Trump’s other “enemies.”

On Tuesday of this week, Barr continued his assault on the rule of law by rejecting federal prosecutors’ sentencing guidelines for Trump minion Roger Stone, who has been convicted of lying under oath in connection with the Russia scandal. In response to this nearly unprecedented political intervention, four career federal prosecutors withdrew from the case, and one resigned from the Department of Justice.

NBC News reported that Barr’s intervention in the Stone is part of a much larger effort. Instead of serving as the nation’s leading law enforcement officer, Barr is instead acting as Trump’s de facto personal attorney and agent: “The U.S. attorney who had presided over an inconclusive criminal investigation into former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe was abruptly removed from the job last month in one of several recent moves by Attorney General William Barr to take control of legal matters of personal interest to Donald Trump, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.”

Trump will likely pardon Stone for the crimes he committed in service to his longtime master. Like other autocrats and de facto crime bosses, Trump rewards his servants’ loyalty to further cement his control over them.

Last Thursday morning, Trump spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast. In what is supposed to be a nonpartisan event, Trump attacked Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats for participating in a “conspiracy” against him by daring to impeach him for his abuses of the Constitution and the rule of law.

Trump even accused Pelosi of being a fraud who does not really pray and by implication does not believe in God. Because Trump is a malignant narcissist who inhabits his own delusional alternate reality, he likely sees himself as the equivalent of God, and indeed has called himself “the chosen one.” In his warped worldview, any criticism of Donald Trump, or any attempt to hold him accountable for his behavior, is an assault on the deity.

Later in the day, Trump assembled his coterie of sycophants and minions in the East Room of the White House, where like Stalin, Hitler, Caligula, Nero or some other autocratic fiend from the worst annals of human history, he promised that retaliation and destruction would be visited upon those people who dared to oppose him.

Trump again claimed that he was a “victim”; his heroism in the face of such great and evil opposition was the stuff of legend. As the Guardian reported, his speech “quickly turned into a screed against all of the investigations into his administration, starting with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference. ‘We first went through Russia, Russia, Russia,’ Trump said. ‘It was all bullshit.’”

Trump’s court performed on cue, clapping, nodding their heads and smiling in approval.

At the Daily Beast, David Rothkopf summarized Trump’s Circus Maximus week this way:

As the week drew to a close, a chilling realization settled in on the nation. Our most corrupt, unfit, demented and malevolent tyrant has been given more power than any other human being in our history. He has been told he is above the law, incapable of committing a crime. He has been told that Article II of the Constitution grants him unlimited powers. He has been told he does not have submit to the oversight of Congress.

He is, in other words, free to be himself. And we all know who that is — except perhaps Senator Susan Collins and the other Senate suckers who expected that somehow our felon-in-chief had learned a lesson from this impeachment ordeal. Trump is a man who thinks the law is for little people, that the rich can buy their way out of any legal predicament. He thinks character and courage and duty, the traits displayed by [Marie] Yovanovitch and [Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman], are for suckers. …

Rothkopf continued by observing that “a concerted focusing on cheating at the ballot box” has been “one of the few consistent initiatives” of Trump’s erratic administration, which has “never been so empowered to abuse [its] power as a way to maintain that power. Punishing truth-tellers and witnesses is the technique mob enforcers use to escape the consequences for their crimes.”

Such punishment is now “a signature tactic of the most powerful ruler in American history and the most dangerous and corrupt public official the United States has ever known,” Rothkopf concluded. “Few weeks in our history … have made it so clear what the people of the United States must do if they wish to preserve our republic.”

While Donald Trump was celebrating his victories over the forces of democracy and accountability, the cruel gears of his regime continued to turn. One should never forget that the overall goal of Trumpian spectacle is to distract the public and the media from the harm he and his agents are doing to the country and reality itself.

Contrary to his numerous false claims, Trump has released a proposed 2020 federal budget that guts Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The Affordable Care Act, already under siege by Trump and his Republicans, will be further targeted. The ultimate outcome will be to deprive health care away from tens of millions of Americans.

The Trump regime’s assault on human dignity and freedom continues with its Social Darwinist campaign to eliminate the “useless eaters” by cutting food stamps, assistance for the disabled and other programs which aim to make the United States a more humane society.

Ultimately, the Trump regime’s gangster-capitalist assault is a gross moral hazard, in which the tax code becomes a means to redistribute public money to the very richest individuals, families and corporations. Under Trump’s proposed budget, the Pentagon, as always, will receive even more money while the country’s infrastructure continues to fail, public health is neglected, diplomacy is abandoned, and public education and the environment are reduced to ruins.

Trump’s detention centers for nonwhite migrants and refugees will be expanded under the proposed 2020 budget. Trump’s wall along the U.S.-Mexico border — a monument to hate and nativism — will be fully funded. Of note, the Trump regime has recently won endorsement from the courts to expand its “Muslim ban,” and has also received permission to follow through on a plan to restrict nonwhite people from poorer countries from immigrating to the United States.

On Twitter, Donald Trump imagines himself to be the fictional characters “Superman” and “Rocky.” In his Circus Maximus performance, Donald Trump also likely sees himself as Russell Crowe’s character in the classic sword-and-sandal epic “Gladiator.”

In that role, Trump has slain all his foes in brutal combat. He turns to face the crowd while screaming “Are you not entertained?” But Donald Trump has no coliseum and is no great warrior. He only has Fox News and the right-wing echo chamber, where his cult members, advisers, servants, and followers assure him that he is the greatest warrior of all, not to mention their king, emperor, and godhead.

Unfortunately, the age of Trump is not a movie. It is all too real.

Historian Timothy Joseph offers this truth about the Roman Empire’s lessons for America:

To this point, however, a Temple of Lady Liberty and Trump along the lines of the Temple of Roma and Augustus has not yet been constructed.

But the Senate impeachment trial has shown us how far along the identification of leader and state has moved in the Trump era. A central part of Trump’s impeachment defense is, as we have seen, that the personal will of a president is indistinguishable from the will of the state and the good of the people.

Will the GOP-led Senate’s endorsement of this defense clear a path for more of the manifestations — and consequences — of authoritarianism? The case of the Roman Republic’s rapid slippage into an autocratic regime masquerading as a republic shows how easily that transformation can occur.

All empires rise and fall. In the year 410, the Roman Empire was brought down when the Visigoths sacked the capital city. America is a failing democracy where the pale horse of death is not being ridden by foreign “barbarians” but instead by our own supposed leader, America’s first mercenary ruler leading an army of zombie-like cult members. Instead of resisting forcefully and fighting for their democracy, most Americans are either indifferent to the struggle or actively cheering on the invaders with tweets and selfies.

 

Chauncey Devega, Salon- Commentary

A full-on war with Iran, are you worried yet?

Donald Trump’s brazen assassination of the Evil Iranian General Qassim Suleimani has lots of young men (and some young women) in America worried about being drafted for a new war in the Middle East,

Federal law requires all men aged 18 to 25 to register with the Selective Service System, but there has not been a draft since 1973.

“Historically, only men have been eligible for the draft. But the question of whether to register women has gained traction in recent years, as women have taken on broader roles within the military,” The Times noted. “In 2015, the Pentagon opened up all combat jobs to women. Last year, a federal judge in Houston ruled that excluding women from the draft was unconstitutional.”

Fears of a new war are “spiking anxiety among many Americans.”

There has been a rush of interest in the Selective Service System. Crashing their web site on Friday

Selective Service tweeted. “…our website is experiencing high traffic volumes at this time,” “If you are attempting to register or verify registration, please check back later….we are working to resolve this issue,” Do they mean by removing Trump?

Mean if you weren’t freaking out already…………

The U.S is making stunningly specific threats, with Trump tweeting Saturday night that the military could target 52 Iranian sites — including some “important” to Iranian culture — and an Iranian commander reciprocated by pointing to “35 U.S. targets in the region as well as Tel Aviv.”

This inflammatory rhetoric suggests that any way around a hot conflict may be disappearing, with Trump’s over the top threats about cultural sites prompting Iranian officials to accuse Trump of flouting international law and threatening war crimes.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responds “Through MILLENNIA of history, barbarians have come and ravaged our cities, razed our monuments and burnt our libraries,”  “Where are they now? We’re still here, & standing tall.”

A 1954 Hague treaty makes targeting cultural sites a war crime. The UN Security Council also unanimously passed a resolution in 2017 condemning the destruction of heritage sites in response to attacks by the Islamic State.

So doofus Don wanted so badly to pull out of the region that he abandoned our Kurdish allies northeast Syria and now he’s blundering into massive conflict with Iran.”

We don’t have and army big enough to deal with Iran. Draft age youth, male and female, should be worried, very worried.

 

 

The very dangerous Trump flunky that is the Attorney General of the US

Trump lackey (Attorney General) Bill Barr has become a lightning rod for the Trump administration, standing out front and taking public hits as he does Donald Trump’s dirty work at the Justice Department.

Far from being the so-called institutionalist, even many critics of Trump hoped Barr would be, the attorney general showed his true colors when he spun Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the conclusions of the Russia investigation. Mueller and his team so objected to that presentation that they sent Barr a letter arguing that the report had been distorted to the public. Barr later said that the letter was “snitty.” Since the end of the Mueller investigation, Barr has repeatedly and consistently proven himself to be a fierce defender of Trump’s interests, regardless of the consequences to U.S. institutions. Why is the attorney general acting like the personal attorney of the president? In a new interview this week, Barr finally gave a clear reason why, from his perspective, he acts the way he does.

NBC News asked Barr about why he is so aggressively pursuing Trump’s “investigation of the investigators” — now a criminal probe of the Russia investigation run by U.S. Attorney John Durham — even after the Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a lengthy report on the subject. The answer was revealing.

“I think our nation was turned on its head for three years I think based on a completely bogus narrative, that was largely fanned and hyped by an irresponsible press,” Barr said, referencing the Mueller probe and the resulting press coverage. “And I think that there were gross abuses of FISA and inexplicable behavior that was intolerable in the FBI. And the attorney general’s primary responsibility is to protect against the law enforcement and intelligence apparatus and make sure that it doesn’t play an improper role in our political life. That’s my responsibility, and I’m going to carry it out.”

In this answer, Barr revealed that the animating force behind his crusade is the media coverage of Trump, not the law. He was particularly incensed about the media coverage of the Russia investigation. He’s clearly angry, that it dominated so much of Trump’s first term in office. He is, seeking to get retribution and to set things right. At other points in the interview, he made clear that he is preoccupied with the media. Asked why Durham put out statements contradicting Horowitz’s finding that the Russia investigation was properly predicated, he said:

“It was sort of being reported by the press that the issue of predication was sort of done and over, even though it was a very limited look at that issue by the IG given the narrowness of the evidence available to him. And I think it was important for people to understand that Durham’s work was not being pre-empted and that Durham was doing something different… I think it was perfectly appropriate so the public understood the relationship between the two exercises.” [emphasis added]

Again, Barr made it clear that what’s he’s concerned with is public perception and press reporting, not law and procedure.
After Durham’s statement, which referenced his ongoing investigation, many legal experts were shocked. U.S. attorneys carrying out grand jury investigations do not talk about their ongoing investigations except in extraordinary circumstances. Former FBI Director James Comey, for one, was baffled by Durham’s actions, saying, “I can’t make any sense of it.” It seemed Barr may have put him up to it — and even if he didn’t, he now defends the move despite no substantial justification.

And despite Barr’s claim that he’s supposed to “protect against the law enforcement and intelligence apparatus and make sure that it doesn’t play an improper role in our political life,” that’s not actually what his official duties are as attorney general. Much of the intelligence apparatus — the CIA, the NSA — falls outside his department, though federal investigators can, of course, probe their activities and prosecute their crimes. But Barr has made clear that he seems to think the CIA was somehow nefariously involved in the origins of the Russia investigation. He seems to think this part of Durham’s probe will be key to defending the president and fighting back against what he sees as an unfair press.

And it’s clear he’s not actually worried about the Justice Department’s influence on media coverage in general. He’s specifically worried about how it affects Trump. He continued, again discussing the beginnings of the Russia probe during the 2016 election:

“From a civil liberties perspective, the greatest danger to our free system is that the incumbent use the apparatus of the state, principally the law enforcement agencies and the intelligence agencies, both to spy on political opponents but also to use them in a way that could affect the outcome the election. As far as I’m aware, this is the first time in history that this has been done to a presidential campaign. The use of these counter-intelligence techniques against a presidential campaign.”

But what he doesn’t mention is that there’s actually very little evidence that the Russia probe had much of an effect on the 2016 election. The Carter Page surveillance, which Barr and other Republicans are outraged about, and in which the FBI did make significant errors, could not conceivably have impacted the election. Page wasn’t even a part of the Trump campaign when the surveillance was finally ordered, and even when he was working with the campaign, he was an extremely minor figure. It’s not even clear how it could have been used against the Trump campaign, and there’s certainly no reason to think it was. Barr also suggested in his interview that he finds something suspicious about the fact that the Page surveillance continued after the election, suggesting that it was somehow an affront to Trump, but not acknowledging that Page had no contact with Trump after that point.

The FBI’s actions during the 2016 election that likely did have an impact on the election, though, were bad for Hillary Clinton, not Trump. First, an investigation into the Clinton Foundation — which never led to any indictments — was confirmed to the media. Most significantly, though, Comey announced that he was reopening the Clinton email investigation less than two weeks before Election Day. The evidence suggests that may have cost her the election, and there’s also reason to believe that Comey’s choice was influenced in part by anti-Clinton bias within the bureau.

Not only does Barr not seem at all concerned about those events, he defended them at the time in a Washington Post op-ed:

“If the FBI remained silent about the newly discovered incompleteness of its earlier investigation, it would be deliberately leaving uncorrected a misleading statement being used by the Clinton campaign to its political advantage. Thus, failure to correct the record would have been deceitful and would have represented a political decision to influence the election by leaving in place a misleading statement. At this point, the right choice was honesty — explaining that new emails had been found and would have to be reviewed. To the extent this step might affect the election, its effect arises from correcting a previous erroneous statement — in other words, from truthfulness.”

“The claim that Comey’s actions violated a Justice Department policy is just wrong. There is no policy — and never has been — that the department avoids any action that could affect an election. Rather, the policy has been twofold. First, prosecutors should not take any action for partisan reasons, i.e., for the purpose of affecting an election. Second, where the timing of an otherwise bona fide investigative or prosecutive step could affect the outcome of an election, those actions should be deferred absent a strong public interest that justifies taking the action before the election. Sometimes this requires difficult judgments. Here, it did not. Indeed, if anything would have “violated” Justice Department policy, it would have been to remain mute and fail to correct the record.”

He cheered Comey’s decision as the right one — even though former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would letter cite Comey’s decision to justify Trump’s decision to fire the director.

It’s quite clear how Barr operates. When the Justice Department does something that could hurt a Democrat’s chances in an election, that’s good. When it does something that could conceivably hurt a Republican, that’s bad.

And while Barr’s very concerned about improper political motivations affecting the opening of investigations of associates of Trump, he has shown no concern about the president’s efforts to get Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden or the DNC — investigations that would clearly be motivated by politics.

“Fortunately, I haven’t gotten into the Ukraine thing yet,” he told Williams.

When Williams asked about the Justice Department’s decision not to investigate Trump’s Ukraine scandal, despite getting receiving referrals for the case from others, he was pretty tight-lipped.

“The criminal division made that decision, and in the process consulted with the senior-most career employees who are the experts on campaign finance laws,” he said. “And that process was supervised by the deputy. But I’m not going to go beyond what we’ve already said about that process.”

Williams asked: “Were you satisfied that everything that should have been done was done?”

“Absolutely, absolutely,” Barr said. He has never said publicly that he wasn’t involved in the decision — a question he seems to be studiously avoiding.

He refused to discuss the matter further, even though he’s happy to pontificate and speculate publicly on whether Obama officials were improperly biased against Trump — long before Durham’s investigation is completed.

And as for Durham’s investigation — which Barr says will likely wrap up in the spring or summer of the coming year — should we expect a public report? Again, Barr wouldn’t say directly. But he indicated that he has an opinion on how public it should be.

“I’m going to largely leave that to him,” Barr said, “but I’m also interested in discussing that with him as he gets further along.”

The very dangerous Trump flunky that is the Attorney General of the US

When you’re on the crazy Trump train… All roads really do lead to Putin

A completely deranged Donald Trump on Friday spoke in front of a gaggle of reporters and made a series of unhinged and outright false claims about his political opponents, the still-anonymous whistleblower, and the news media.

Below are the lowlights from Trump’s latest crazed rant.

1.) Trump says that the whistleblower should be exposed as the whistleblower’s lawyer “sued for treason.”

The president continued calling for the public release of the whistleblower’s name, which would be against the law, before serving up a particularly weird attack on Mark Zaid, the attorney representing the whistleblower.

According to PBS News’ Yamiche Alcindor, the president said Zaid should be sued “maybe for treason.”

2.) Trump says he might endorse Jeff Sessions after all because the former attorney general said “very nice things” about him in his campaign launch video.

Even though the president still reportedly loathes Sessions for not doing enough to block special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, he said on Friday that he might be open to endorsing him in the Alabama Senate race next year. (This after Sessions blatantly openly kissed Trump’s ass)

“I saw he said very nice things about me last night,” Trump said of Sessions. “But we’ll have to see.”

3.) Trump says he doesn’t know the man whom he appointed to be America’s ambassador to the European Union.

American EU ambassador Gordon Sondland testified this week that he told Ukrainian officials that military aid to their country would not be released unless they agreed to launch investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden.

When asked about this by a reporter, Trump began by saying, “I hardly know the gentleman.”

Other witnesses have testified that Sondland was regularly in contact with Trump this year, however, and Trump called Sondland “a really good man and great American” just one month ago.

On Twitter: Donald J. Trump✔@realDonaldTrump

“I would love to send Ambassador Sondland, a really good man and great American, to testify, but unfortunately he would be testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo court, where Republican’s rights have been taken away, and true facts are not allowed out for the public….”

4.) Trump melted down and kept yelling, “Quiet!” at a reporter.

While Trump was trying to accuse former Vice President Joe Biden of corruption, a reporter interrupted him with a question, which made Trump visibly angry.

“Be quiet,” Trump said. “Be quiet! Quiet! Quiet!”

5.) Trump stuns reporters by saying he might attend Russia’s May Day military parade.

Trump revealed that Russian President Vladimir Putin has invited him to attend next year’s May Day Parade in Moscow.

“President Putin invited me to the — it’s a very big deal!” he said. “Celebrating the end of the war, etc., etc. A very big deal. So I appreciate the invitation… I would love to go if I could.”

OMFG!

 

from Raw Story

The 82 violations that Trump should be impeach for…..so far

The Full Case (as of 10-14-19) for Impeachment:

A menu of high crimes and misdemeanors.

The crimes for which impeachment is the prescribed punishment are notoriously undefined. And that’s for a reason: Presidential powers are vast, and it’s impossible to design laws to cover every possible abuse of the office’s authority. House Democrats have calculated that an impeachment focused narrowly on the Ukraine scandal will make the strongest legal case against President Trump. But that’s not Trump’s only impeachable offense. A full accounting would include a wide array of dangerous and authoritarian acts — 82, to be precise. His violations fall into seven broad categories of potentially impeachable misconduct that should be weighed, if not by the House, then at least by history.

Abusing Power for Political Gain

Explanation: The single most dangerous threat to any democratic system is that the ruling party will use its governing powers to entrench itself illegitimately.

Evidence: (1) The Ukraine scandal is fundamentally about the president abusing his authority by wielding his power over foreign policy as a cudgel against his domestic opponents. The president is both implicitly and explicitly trading the U.S. government’s favor for investigations intended to create adverse publicity for Americans whom Trump wishes to discredit. (2) During his campaign, he threatened to impose policies harmful to Amazon in retribution for critical coverage in the Washington Post. (“If I become president, oh do they have problems.”) He has since pushed the postmaster general to double rates on Amazon, and the Defense Department held up a $10 billion contract with Amazon, almost certainly at his behest. (3) He has ordered his officials to block the AT&T–Time Warner merger as punishment for CNN’s coverage of him. (4) He encouraged the NFL to blacklist Colin Kaepernick.

Mishandling Classified Information

Explanation: As he does with many other laws, the president enjoys broad immunity from regulations on the proper handling of classified information, allowing him to take action that would result in felony convictions for other federal employees. President Trump’s mishandling of classified information is not merely careless but a danger to national security.

Evidence: (5) Trump has habitually communicated on a smartphone highly vulnerable to foreign espionage. (6–30) He has reversed 25 security-clearance denials (including for his son-in-law, who has conducted potentially compromising business with foreign interests). (31) He has turned Mar-a-Lago into an unsecured second White House and even once handled news of North Korea’s missile launch in public view. (32) He gave Russian officials sensitive Israeli intelligence that blew “the most valuable source of information on external plotting by [the] Islamic State,” the Wall Street Journal reported. (33) He tweeted a high-resolution satellite image of an Iranian launch site for the sake of boasting.

Undermining Duly Enacted Federal Law

Explanation: President Trump has abused his authority either by distorting the intent of laws passed by Congress or by flouting them. He has directly ordered subordinates to violate the law and has promised pardons in advance, enabling him and his staff to operate with impunity. In these actions, he has undermined Congress’s constitutional authority to make laws.

Evidence: (34) Having failed to secure funding authority for a border wall, President Trump unilaterally ordered funds to be moved from other budget accounts. (35) He has undermined regulations on health insurance under the Affordable Care Act preventing insurers from charging higher rates to customers with more expensive risk profiles. (36) He has abused emergency powers to impose tariffs, intended to protect the supply chain in case of war, to seize from Congress its authority to negotiate international trade agreements. (37–38) He has ordered border agents to illegally block asylum seekers from entering the country and has ordered other aides to violate eminent-domain laws and contracting procedures in building the border wall, (39–40) both times promising immunity from lawbreaking through presidential pardons.

Obstruction of Congress

Explanation: The executive branch and Congress are co-equal, each intended to guard against the usurpation of authority by the other. Trump has refused to acknowledge any legitimate oversight function of Congress, insisting that because Congress has political motivations, it is disqualified from it. His actions and rationale strike at the Constitution’s design of using the political ambitions of the elected branches to check one another.

Evidence: (41) Trump has refused to abide by a congressional demand to release his tax returns, despite an unambiguous law granting the House this authority. His lawyers have flouted the law on the spurious grounds that subpoenas for his tax returns “were issued to harass President Donald J. Trump, to rummage through every aspect of his personal finances, his businesses and the private information of the president and his family, and to ferret about for any material that might be used to cause him political damage.” Trump’s lawyers have argued that Congress cannot investigate potentially illegal behavior by the president because the authority to do so belongs to prosecutors. In other litigation, those lawyers have argued that prosecutors cannot investigate the president. These contradictory positions support an underlying stance that no authority can investigate his misconduct. (42) He has defended his refusal to accept oversight on the grounds that members of Congress “aren’t, like, impartial people. The Democrats are trying to win 2020.” (43) The president has also declared that impeachment is illegal and should be stopped in the courts (though, unlike with his other obstructive acts, he has not yet taken any legal action toward this end).

Obstruction of Justice

Explanation: By virtue of his control over the federal government’s investigative apparatus, the president (along with the attorney general) is uniquely well-positioned to cover up his own misconduct. Impeachment is the sole available remedy for a president who uses his powers of office to hold himself immune from legal accountability. In particular, the pardon power gives the president almost unlimited authority to obstruct investigations by providing him with a means to induce the silence of co-conspirators.

Evidence: (44–53) The Mueller report contains ten instances of President Trump engaging in obstructive acts. While none of those succeeded in stopping the probe, Trump dangled pardons and induced his co-conspirators to lie or withhold evidence from investigators. Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen testified to Congress that Trump had directed him to lie to it about his negotiations with the Russian government during the campaign to secure a lucrative building contract in Moscow. And when Cohen stated his willingness to lie, Robert Costello, an attorney who had worked with Rudy Giuliani, emailed Cohen assuring him he could “sleep well tonight” because he had “friends in high places.” Trump has publicly praised witnesses in the Russia investigation for refusing to cooperate, and he sent a private message to former national security adviser Michael Flynn urging him to “stay strong.” He has reinforced this signal by repeatedly denouncing witnesses who cooperate with investigators as “flippers.” (54–61) He has exercised his pardon power for a series of Republican loyalists, sending a message that at least some of his co-conspirators have received. The president’s pardon of conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza “has to be a signal to Mike Flynn and Paul Manafort and even Robert S. Mueller III: Indict people for crimes that don’t pertain to Russian collusion and this is what could happen,” Roger Stone told the Washington Post. “The special counsel has awesome powers, as you know, but the president has even more awesome powers.”

Profiting From Office

Explanation: Federal employees must follow strict rules to prevent them from being influenced by any financial conflict. Conflict-of-interest rules are less clear for a sitting president because all presidential misconduct will be resolved by either reelection or impeachment. If Trump held any position in the federal government below the presidency, he would have been fired for his obvious conflicts. His violations are so gross and blatant they merit impeachment.

Evidence: (62) He has maintained a private business while holding office, (63) made decisions that influence that business, (64) and accepted payments from parties both domestic and foreign who have an interest in his policies. (65) He has openly signaled that these parties can gain his favor by doing so. (66) He has refused even to disclose his interests, which would at least make public which parties are paying him.

Fomenting Violence

Explanation: One of the unspoken roles of the president is to serve as a symbolic head of state. Presidents have very wide latitude for their political rhetoric, but Trump has violated its bounds, exceeding in his viciousness the rhetoric of Andrew Johnson (who was impeached in part for the same offense).

Evidence: (67) Trump called for locking up his 2016 opponent after the election. (68–71) He has clamored for the deportation of four women of color who are congressional representatives of the opposite party. (72) He has described a wide array of domestic political opponents as treasonous, including the news media. (73–80) On at least eight occasions, he has encouraged his supporters — including members of the armed forces — to attack his political opponents. (“I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump — I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”) (81) He has threatened journalists with violence if they fail to produce positive coverage. (“If the media would write correctly and write accurately and write fairly, you’d have a lot less violence in the country.”) (82) There have been 36 criminal cases nationwide in which the defendant invoked Trump’s name in connection with violence; 29 of these cited him as the inspiration for an attack.

By Jonathan Chait, Intelligencer*

*This article appeared in the October 14, 2019, issue of New York Magazine.