Friday, July 31, 2020
He floated the idea of breaching the Constitution by illegally delaying the national election. It follows his logic on a pandemic that has taken more than 150,000 American lives. If there were less testing for the coronavirus, cases would go down. Ergo, if there were no election on Nov. 3, he couldn't be booted from office in a wipeout. The stable genius strikes again!
Here's a better suggestion: As a mortal threat to those looking for life-and-death guidance from the White House, he should do humanity a favor and surrender now. He can quit while he's only behind by 10 points or so. More important, by walking away today, he can save many lives of supporters who have listened to the lethal quackery from the presidential podium.
He gave up in the war on Covid-19 from Day 1, when he declared that there was nothing to worry about, it would all soon disappear like magic. And his throw-in-the-towel tactics continue to this day, as he promotes the harmful and bizarre suggestions of a woman who also believes in demon sperm transmitted through dreams.
And here's the net result of a country run by a crackpot: On a single day this week, there were nearly twice as many Covid-19 deaths in just one American state, Texas, than in the five major countries of Western Europe combined. On that same day, Thursday, the Covid Tracking Project reported 1,400 American deaths, the most in a single day since May 15.
Trump publicly quit on his country two years ago, when he chose Vladimir Putin's word over that of American intelligence officials, the infamous sellout in Helsinki. So it was no surprise when the two leaders spoke by phone this week, that Trump did not even raise the question of Russians paying a bounty to have American soldiers killed in Afghanistan. That is dereliction of duty, son.
He quit on the economy in early spring, when he pushed for a widespread reopening, even though health experts warned that the results could be catastrophic. And thus, this week we saw the largest drop in economic output on record, as people were afraid to resume normal commerce in a country fevered with viral hotspots.
Trump has yet to realize what every sensible business owner knows: The only path back to prosperity is through the managed economic sacrifice and uniform health guidelines needed to get the virus under control.
He quit on the Constitution, obstructing Congress and abusing power, in the scheme to tie aid to a struggling ally to a demand that Ukraine dig up dirt on a political opponent.
From there, he's become increasingly authoritarian. Clearing a park full of peaceful protesters by force in order to stage a photo op with a Bible was just the start.
Of late, Trump has been itching for a riot. With buildings aflame, windows smashed and mobs in the streets, he could fulfill his prophecy of being the only man able to fix the American carnage he warned us about. Majorities support changes needed to root out systemic racism. The only way that Trump can hold back the tide is to change the story.
Except, some of the players are not who we think they are. The police have identified the man who turned largely peaceful Black Lives Matter protests into mayhem in Minneapolis — the window-smashing Umbrella Man — as a white supremacist.
Sending Trump's troops into American cities appears to have backfired, even as the president announced plans to possibly send new federal agents into Cleveland, Milwaukee and Detroit, counting on swing state showdowns for the Fox News machine.
If Trump were to quit, he would join Richard Nixon in disgrace — he'd be an impeached president (Nixon quit on the brink of impeachment) forced from office. Except, Nixon is a notch higher in the hell-scape, given his diplomatic openings in China and his signing of landmark environmental laws.
Delaying the Nov. 3 election is not only illegal, it would be unprecedented. Lincoln held the regular election during the Civil War, and Franklin Roosevelt faced voters on time during World War II.
If Trump were to walk away today, the likely nominee of his party would be Mike Pence. And Democrats shouldn't be afraid of facing Pence. He's Trump with a pious veneer, the man sent to the border to justify putting kids in cages, the Stepford veep always there with a timely bootlick. And of course, he carries a portfolio of failure as the man chosen to oversee the federal government's disastrous response to the pandemic.
Quitting before an election would deprive Americans of the satisfaction of rejecting him by an overwhelming margin, a national shower to clean off four years of his grime and grift.
But there's another image, equally satisfying. Trump could play one last gambit in the dictator's checklist and refuse to leave office on Jan. 20 — election or no election — as required by the Constitution. If he does this, a weary nation would be rewarded with a presidential perp walk, as Trump is escorted out of the White House and into infamy by military police.
Thursday, July 30, 2020
That is why I had to visit Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, though I was admitted to the hospital the following day. I just had to see and feel it for myself that, after many years of silent witness, the truth is still marching on.
Emmett Till was my George Floyd. He was my Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor. He was 14 when he was killed, and I was only 15 years old at the time. I will never ever forget the moment when it became so clear that he could easily have been me. In those days, fear constrained us like an imaginary prison, and troubling thoughts of potential brutality committed for no understandable reason were the bars.
Though I was surrounded by two loving parents, plenty of brothers, sisters and cousins, their love could not protect me from the unholy oppression waiting just outside that family circle. Unchecked, unrestrained violence and government-sanctioned terror had the power to turn a simple stroll to the store for some Skittles or an innocent morning jog down a lonesome country road into a nightmare. If we are to survive as one unified nation, we must discover what so readily takes root in our hearts that could rob Mother Emanuel Church in South Carolina of her brightest and best, shoot unwitting concertgoers in Las Vegas and choke to death the hopes and dreams of a gifted violinist like Elijah McClain.
Like so many young people today, I was searching for a way out, or some might say a way in, and then I heard the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an old radio. He was talking about the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence. He said we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better by and by. He said each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.
Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.
You must also study and learn the lessons of history because humanity has been involved in this soul-wrenching, existential struggle for a very long time. People on every continent have stood in your shoes, through decades and centuries before you. The truth does not change, and that is why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time. Continue to build union between movements stretching across the globe because we must put away our willingness to profit from the exploitation of others.
Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.
When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.
Today, America passed 150,000 deaths from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, Covid-19.
America has suffered more than a fifth of the world's recorded deaths. At TalkingPointsMemo, Josh Marshall likened the U.S. to an abuse victim, its citizens unable to see just how badly we are suffering from the virus because we have come to think "catastrophe feels normal without grasping that in most other countries with a similar set of tools to the United States things really are close to normal."
Scholars at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security warned that the U.S. "is not currently on course to get control of this epidemic…. It is time to reset." They call for testing, stay at home orders in places where the disease is spreading, and the mandatory use of masks. The Association of American Medical Colleges warns that if we do not take such steps, deaths could soar "well into the multiple hundreds of thousands."
And yet, various Republican leaders continue to resist wearing a mask. Today, Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX) tested positive for the coronavirus before a flight he was scheduled to take with the president. He assembled his staff members, who are forbidden from wearing a mask, in person, to tell them he had tested positive. He returned to his office at the Capitol, where he lives rather than having accommodations in Washington, D.C., prompting a colleague to demand he find somewhere else to quarantine.
Gohmert was present at yesterday's House Judiciary Committee meeting, where Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) reprimanded a number of other Republicans for taking off their masks. After Gohmert tested positive, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi mandated mask wearing in the House chamber, but a number of Republicans ignored the order.
Against the backdrop of this health catastrophe, the president is running a reelection campaign openly based on racism. This morning, he tweeted "I am happy to inform all the people living their Suburban Lifestyle Dream that you will no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low income housing built in your neighborhood…. Your housing prices will go up based on the market, and crime will go down. I have rescinded the Obama-Biden AFFH Rule. Enjoy!" This is no longer even coded racial language: the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule (AFFH) was explicitly intended to end racial segregation in housing.
Other members of the Republican Party are following Trump's lead on race, manipulating the images of their Democratic opponents to make them look more stereotypically racialized. Yesterday, Georgia Republican Senator David Perdue had to pull a Facebook advertisement that featured his Jewish opponent, Democrat Ossoff, with a digitally altered face. Tapping into old anti-Semitic tropes, the ad lengthened and widened Ossoff's nose in an image of him shown over the caption "DEMOCRATS ARE TRYING TO BUY GEORGIA." Perdue's campaign spokesman called the ad "an unfortunate and inadvertent error" and blamed it on "an outside vendor."
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who is facing an unexpectedly strong challenge from Democrat Jaime Harrison, is doing something similar, running a Facebook ad in which Harrison's face has been digitally altered to make his skin appear darker than it is (Harrison is Black). When called on the manipulation, Graham's campaign accused Harrison of "manufacturing a fake controversy to inject race into this campaign at a time of great turbulence in our country." Like the Nazi-themed ads from the Trump campaign, the backlash against such an ad provides free news coverage for the Graham campaign. Graham is the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in charge of overseeing the appointments of America's judges.
But for all that Trump seems eager to win reelection, he appears to have little interest in governing. Emergency federal unemployment benefits of $600 a week, designed to help people tossed out of work as the pandemic closed businesses, are running out just as a moratorium on evictions ends. Currently, 31.8 million U.S. workers are collecting those unemployment benefits. The country is on the edge of a catastrophe, but Republican leaders in the Senate have been unable to agree to a new package of aid even amongst themselves, let alone with Democrats.
Apparently frustrated that even Republicans did not want to put $1.75 billion into the package to fund the construction of a new FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., which would keep the site from becoming a hotel that could rival his own, Trump appears to have abandoned the whole process of negotiating a new bill.
As he left Washington for an event in Texas, Trump told reporters that he wants to "send payments to the people," but as for "the rest of it, we're so far apart, we don't care…. We really don't care." White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters that it seems likely the federal unemployment benefits will lapse. "We're nowhere close to a deal," he said.
Instead of focusing on the looming economic crisis, Trump upset members of both parties today when he announced that he would be withdrawing 12,000 troops from Germany. This will remove the troops from a European hub with a sophisticated transportation system that enables them to move quickly, thus countering Russian aggression. Trump claims the removal is retaliation because he says Germany is not paying enough into NATO, but the removal will waste billions of dollars spent recently on upgrading US military installations, and will further weaken NATO, which is a key goal of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Both the top Democrat and the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee criticized the plan, and almost two dozen Republican members of the committee sent an open letter to the president warning that the step will "significantly damage U.S. national security as well as strengthen the position of Russia to our detriment." They warned that "signs of a weakened U.S. commitment to NATO will encourage further Russian aggression and opportunism." They urged him to reject the idea.
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, who commanded the US Army in Europe, said he was "sickened by this decision and explanation. It is not tied to any strategic advantage and in fact is counterproductive to showing strength in Europe." Admiral Jim Stravidis, the former top military commander in Europe and NATO for the US Navy, said "abruptly pulling 12,500 troops out of Germany (to put half of them in countries who spend LESS on defense) doesn't make sense financially, hurts NATO solidarity overall, and is a gift to Putin."
Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), a former Republican presidential nominee agreed: "The plan outlined by the Administration today to remove thousands of U.S. troops from Germany is a grave error. It is a slap in the face at a friend and ally… and it is a gift to Russia coming at a time when we just have learned of its support for the Taliban and reports of bounties on killing American troops." Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said "champagne must be flowing freely this evening at the Kremlin."
Trump has spoken at least eight times with Putin since news from U.S. intelligence broke the story that Moscow offered bounties to Taliban-linked fighters to kill U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan. Trump and Putin spoke most recently on Friday; Trump told reporters they did not discuss the Russian bounty scandal. Indeed, the pattern of Trump's favoritism to Russia is so marked that CNN today ran a story listing "37 times Trump was soft on Russia."
And there is now news of another Russian attack on the U.S.: yesterday U.S. officials said that two people from Russia's military intelligence service, the GRU, are behind an effort to spread disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic.
Wednesday, July 29, 2020
Attorney General William Barr testified today before the House Judiciary Committee. His combative answers confirmed that he is Trump's man. He is committed to the narrative that dangerous anarchists are endangering law and order, and that Trump was unfairly targeted by FBI agents in what Barr calls "Russiagate."
Helping him to bolster this narrative were the Republicans on the committee, especially Jim Jordan (R-OH), who began the Republican side of the questioning with both his signature rapid-fire yelling and a video deceptively edited to give the impression that the country and its police are under siege by violent protesters, and that Trump's crackdowns are necessary to stop them. He is also on board with ginning up accusations of impropriety over the Russia investigation: he began his tirade with the word "Spying!" (An investigation by the Justice Department's inspector general says the investigation was begun properly, and the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously endorsed that conclusion.)
House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) permitted Jordan to show the video, but afterward noted that the committee's rules required him to say he was doing such a thing 48 hours in advance, which Jordan did not. For Jordan, Congressional hearings are all theater to get sound bites and footage for later news clips that will tell a misleading narrative. As Democrats spoke over Barr, Jordan repeatedly complained at their behavior, saying "I do not think we have ever had a hearing where the witness was not allowed to respond to points made, questions asked, and attacks made." Jordan, of course, is famous for being the member of Congress most notable for precisely this behavior.
Barr's stance is that he is defending the rule of law in America. When Nadler pressed him on whether the crackdowns were simply an effort to aid Trump's reelection, Barr said he has chosen the cities he has for "neutral" reasons. (They are all Democratic cities, and the Trump campaign has used video from the crackdowns in campaign ads.)
Barr denied that he had interfered inappropriately in Trump's friend Roger Stone's sentencing, although when Representative Ted Deutch (D-FL) asked him to name any other case where the DOJ had called for a more lenient sentence for a defendant who had threatened a judge and a witness, Barr did not answer the question.
Barr denied that he ordered the protesters removed from Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C. to enable Trump's photo-op in front of St. John's church, although he did say he had learned that afternoon that Trump might walk to the church. He also said that the officers clearing the square did not use tear gas, although recent testimony from Washington, D.C. National Guard Major Adam DeMarco says they did.
Committee Republicans cheered Barr on. Representative Ken Buck (R-CO) asked Barr to use anti-racketeering laws against the protesters. "General Barr, this has to stop," he said. "We can't let antifa continue terrorizing our country."
The most memorable moment of the hearing was when Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) asked Barr why he had responded so differently to the Portland protesters than he did to the armed anti-mask protesters who had swarmed the Michigan Capitol and called for the Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, to be "lynched, shot, and beheaded."
Barr first said he did not know about the Michigan events (this is not believable), and then suggested he was deferring to the state governor. This is belied by the deployment of federal officers in Oregon despite the strong opposition of Oregon Governor Kate Brown. More convincingly, Barr said he was deploying federal forces to defend federal property. Jayapal pointed out that a more likely difference between the two responses was that, in Michigan, white supremacists were threatening to behead a Democratic governor, and in Oregon, protesters were supporting BlackLivesMatter.
Overall, the Attorney General signaled that he has every intention of doing all he can to keep Trump in office.
Although the DOJ has a policy of avoiding roiling the country in the 60 days before an election, Barr says that he will, in fact, feel free within that period to release the results of the pending examination he commissioned into the Russia investigation when it became clear the DOJ's official inspector general had found the probe was lawfully begun. When that happened, Barr tapped the U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut, John Durham, to launch his own investigation, traveling with him to Italy and the United Kingdom to talk to people in those countries to investigate the actions of our Intelligence Community. Today, Barr said "Any report will be, in my judgment, not one that is covered by the policy and would disrupt the election."
And yet, while today's questioning was about Durham's report, Barr has repeatedly said that the Russia probe was "one of the greatest travesties in American history," and that Durham's job is not to "prepare a report" but establish criminal violations that will lead to prosecutions. Trump supporters expect that Durham's report will have an important effect on the campaign.
When Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) asked Barr if it was ever appropriate for a president to solicit or accept foreign assistance in an U.S. election" Barr first responded: "Depends on what kind of assistance." After Cicilline made it clear he meant any kind of assistance, Barr answered: "No, it's not appropriate." (According to Federal Elections Commission Chair Ellen Weintraub it is illegal.)
Barr reiterated the president's stance that mail-in ballots will create massive fraud. There is no evidence that this is the case, and many states already have such a system. Indeed, Barr himself, as well as the president, have used mail-in ballot themselves.
Barr also said he would leave office if Trump is not reelected, "if the results are clear."
Today, the former head of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush, Michael Chertoff, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times accusing Trump of "hijacking" the department for his own ends. He noted that Trump's statements show he is "reveling in the use of brutal and aggressive force, especially in cities that he characterizes as government by liberal Democratic mayors. And if the politically performative aspect of this policy were not already obvious," he wrote, "it is rendered unmistakable when footage of the mayhem is broadcast by Trump campaign commercials."
Chertoff noted that, after the June 1 photo-op in front of St. John's, military leaders had indicated that the military would not back Trump, and had "made explicit and unequivocal statements affirming for their department that the military's primary loyalty is to the Constitution of the United States and that it must remain apart from politics." It is "past time" he said, for the leadership of Homeland Security to do the same. "The commitment to the rule of law and to restrained and measured operational behavior must be articulated and carried out. That is especially true as we approach a critical election, to avoid any concern that agents of the department might be deployed to inhibit or frighten certain citizens from going to the polls."
Meanwhile, Minneapolis police say that the man dressed in black carrying an umbrella who helped to spark the violence in the city after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been identified as a white supremacist intent on inciting violence. So-called "umbrella man" was caught on video smashing windows near the site of Floyd's murder, starting a wave of fires and looting. He is allegedly a 32-year-old member of the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang and has been linked to confrontation last month with a Muslim woman in a Minneapolis suburb.
Tuesday, July 28, 2020
Appearing on Fox News, Trump would not disclose the source of the theory, saying only, "This is something a lot of people are talking about."
"Tony Fauci graduated first in his medical school class, in 1966, because he knew that would make him look good someday," Trump told Sean Hannity. "He's been planning this for a long, long time."
Fauci went on to become a leading epidemiologist as part of a carefully plotted scheme to give himself credibility, Trump alleged.
"He spent years working on H.I.V., aids, Ebola, you name it," Trump charged. "Anthony Fauci would stop at nothing to make himself look like an expert."
Trump said he was baffled by polls showing that Americans overwhelmingly trust Fauci more than him when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic.
"There is zero difference between me and Tony Fauci, except for fifty years of so-called medical experience," he said.