Trump Administration, Week 161: Friday, 14 February – Thursday, 20 February 2020 (Days 1,121-1,127)

 

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are usually my emphasis, though not always. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently during the day. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ for a day or so before posting. I hope readers will peruse the articles in full for a better understanding of the issues and their context; our democracy and our future depend on citizens who can distinguish between facts and falsehoods and who are engaged in the political process.

 

For “a weekly newsletter celebrating people-powered wins against the Trump administration’s agenda,” visit Small Victories.

For independent global news, visit Democracy Now!

 

Friday, 14 February 2020, Day 1,121:

 

Trump Claims He Has the ‘Legal Right’ to Interfere in Justice Department Cases, The New York Times, Michael D. Shear, Friday, 14 February 2020: “President Trump asserted Friday that he had the legal right to intervene in federal criminal cases, a day after Attorney General William P. Barr publicly rebuked him for attacks on Justice Department prosecutors and others involved in the case of Roger J. Stone Jr., the president’s longtime friend. In a morning tweet, Mr. Trump quoted Mr. Barr saying that the president ‘has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case.’ The president said he had ‘so far chosen’ not to interfere in a criminal case even though he insisted that he was not legally bound to do so. ‘This doesn’t mean that I do not have, as President, the legal right to do so, I do, but I have so far chosen not to!’ he said. Though he and Mr. Barr both said the president had not directly asked for any specific inquiries, Mr. Trump has long pressured law enforcement officials both publicly and privately to open investigations into political rivals and to drop inquiries. Mr. Trump also pressed former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to retake control of the Russia investigation after he recused himself. The assertion by the president, which implicitly rejected a request by Mr. Barr to stop tweeting about the department’s cases, adds to the mounting controversy over the decision by senior Justice Department officials to overrule prosecutors who had recommended a seven- to nine-year sentence for Mr. Stone, who was convicted of seven felonies in a bid to obstruct a congressional investigation that threatened the president…. Past presidents in both parties have respected long standing traditions that are aimed at preventing political influence from the White House on Justice Department investigations, especially criminal inquiries that involved administration officials or friends of the president. The rules have been in place since the Watergate investigation, in which President Richard M. Nixon sought to pressure the F.B.I.” See also, Trump bucks Attorney General William Barr’s request to stop tweeting about the Justice Department, declaring he has a ‘legal right’ to seek intervention in criminal cases, The Washington Post, Matt Zapotosky, John Wagner, Devlin Barrett, and Spencer S. Hsu, Friday, 14 February 2020: “President Trump on Friday bucked his attorney general’s public request to stop tweeting about criminal cases just as the department prepared to reveal it would not charge a former FBI official Trump considers a political foe — significantly escalating the tension between the commander in chief and his top law enforcement officer. A day after Attorney General William P. Barr publicly warned Trump not to tweet about the Justice Department, Trump did just that, declaring that he has the ‘legal right’ to ask his top law enforcement official to get involved in a criminal case. Just hours later, the department made a move that might be seen as exerting its independence, revealing that it would not charge former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe with lying to investigators about a media disclosure. McCabe had authorized the bureau to investigate Trump in 2017 and has been a persistent target of presidential attacks.” See also, Trump-Barr divide worsens as Trump bucks a request to stop tweeting, and the Justice Department declines to charge ex-FBI official Andrew McCabe, The Washington Post, Matt Zapotosky, Josh Dawsey, Devlin Barrett, and Spencer S. Hsu, Friday, 14 February 2020. See also, Trump claims he has the ‘legal right’ to intervene in criminal cases, The Guardian, Edward Helmore, Friday, 14 February 2020.

Attorney General William Barr Installs Outside Prosecutor to Review Case Against Michael Flynn, Ex-Trump Adviser, The New York Times, Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman, and Matt Apuzzo, Friday, 14 February 2020: “Attorney General William P. Barr has assigned an outside prosecutor to scrutinize the criminal case against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, according to people familiar with the matter. The review is highly unusual and could trigger more accusations of political interference by top Justice Department officials into the work of career prosecutors. Mr. Barr has also installed a handful of outside prosecutors to broadly review the handling of other politically sensitive national-security cases in the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, the people said. The team includes at least one prosecutor from the office of the United States attorney in St. Louis, Jeff Jensen, who is handling the Flynn matter, as well as prosecutors from the office of the deputy attorney general, Jeffrey A. Rosen.” See also, US officials say Attorney General William Barr privately ordered re-examination of Michael Flynn’s case, CNN Politics, Evan Perez, David Shortell, and Katelyn Polantz, Friday, 14 February 2020: “Attorney General William Barr is ordering a re-examination of several high-profile cases, including that of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, US officials briefed on the matter say, in a move that could bring fresh scrutiny of the political motives behind actions at the Justice Department.” See also, Justice Department opens inquiry into FBI interview at heart of Flynn’s guilty plea, NBC News, Carol E. Lee, Friday, 14 February 2020: “The Department of Justice recently opened an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the FBI’s interview of Michael Flynn while he was serving as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, according to two people familiar with the inquiry. Flynn pleaded guilty to giving false statements to the FBI during that interview, but recently asked to withdraw that plea, further delaying his sentencing.” See also, 9 Democratic senators, including Warren and Sanders, formally call for Attorney General William Barr’s resignation, The Week, Friday, 14 February 2020: “Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has formalized her call for the resignation of Attorney General William Barr. Following up on her Wednesday insistence that Barr resign over his apparent interference in the criminal case against Roger Stone, Warren led eight other Democratic senators in a formal letter calling for Barr’s departure on Friday. ‘We are writing to express our alarm about and opposition to the unethical political intervention’ by Barr and the Justice Department in the case of President Trump’s longtime adviser Roger Stone, the senators, including fellow 2020 candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) claim in their letter to Barr. ‘The interference … is a clear violation of your duty to defend fair, impartial, and equal justice for all Americans,’ and ‘we call on you to resign immediately,’ the senators wrote to Barr.” See also, Attorney General William Barr Moves to Take the Reins of Politically Charged Cases, The New York Times, Charlie Savage and Adam Goldman, Friday, 14 February 2020: “While Attorney General William P. Barr asserted his independence from the White House this week, he has also been quietly intervening in a series of politically charged cases, including against Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, people familiar with the matter said on Friday. Mr. Barr installed a phalanx of outside lawyers to re-examine national security cases with the possibility of overruling career prosecutors, a highly unusual move that could prompt more accusations of Justice Department politicization. The case against Mr. Flynn, who twice pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. in the Russia investigation, is a cause célèbre for Mr. Trump and his supporters, who say the retired general was ensnared in a ‘deep state’  plot against the president. The disclosures came as Mr. Trump made clear on Friday that he believes he has free rein over the Justice Department and its cases, rejecting Mr. Barr’s public demand of a day earlier that the president stop commenting on such cases.” See also, How Trump’s Relationship With Attorney General William Barr Got So Complicated, The New York Times, Peter Baker and Kichael D. Shear, Friday, 14 February 2020: “Since taking office, Mr. Trump has searched for an attorney general who would function much as Roy Cohn did for him as his personal lawyer and fixer in the 1970s — a warrior committed to protecting him and going after his foes. The president thought he had found that person in William P. Barr. But now, people close to Mr. Trump say, he is not so sure. The president was cheered this week when Mr. Barr moved to reduce the sentence of a convicted presidential friend, only to be shocked when the attorney general publicly called on Mr. Trump to stop tweeting about it. And after his livid reaction to the Justice Department’s decision to drop a separate case, which he heard about without any advance notice, he learned that Mr. Barr was intervening more favorably on behalf of another presidential ally. The whipsaw events of recent days have bewildered much of Washington, including some of the people around the president and his attorney general…. Critics assume it is all a Kabuki dance, cynical theater meant to preserve Mr. Barr’s credibility as he executes Mr. Trump’s personal political agenda while pretending to look independent. And it is certainly true that, even now, Mr. Barr continues to demonstrate a willingness to personally take charge of cases with Mr. Trump’s interests at stake. But insiders insist the tension is real, with potentially profound consequences for an administration that has redrawn the lines at the intersection of politics and law enforcement. Barely a week after being acquitted in a Senate impeachment trial, Mr. Trump is demanding that some of the people whose actions he believes led to his troubles be charged, convicted and sent to prison, and it is not clear that even Mr. Barr is willing or able to go as far as the president wants.”

Andrew McCabe, Ex-F.B.I. Official, Will Not Be Charged in Lying Case, The New York Times, Adam Goldman, Friday, 14 February 2020: “Andrew G. McCabe, the former deputy F.B.I. director and a frequent target of President Trump’s, will not face charges in an investigation into whether he lied to investigators about a media leak, his defense team said on Friday. The decision by prosecutors in Washington ends a case that had left Mr. McCabe in legal limbo for nearly two years. It also appears to be a sign that Attorney General William P. Barr wants to show that the Justice Department is independent from the president: The notification came a day after Mr. Barr publicly challenged Mr. Trump to stop attacking law enforcement officials on Twitter and said the criticisms were making his job more difficult.” See also, The Justice Department won’t charge Andrew McCabe, the former FBI official who authorized the investigation of President Trump, The Washington Post, Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, Karoun Demirjian, and Josh Dawsey, Friday, 14 February 2020: “The Justice Department will not charge former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe with lying to investigators about a media disclosure, according to people familiar with the matter and McCabe’s legal team, ending a long-running inquiry into a top law enforcement official who authorized the bureau to investigate President Trump and soon became [Trump’s] political punching bag.” See also, Department of Justice drops probe into former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, Politico, Josh Gerstein, Friday, 14 February 2020: “The Justice Department has decided to abandon its efforts to seek criminal charges against former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, according to a letter sent to his attorneys. McCabe’s lawyers were told last September that he should expect to be indicted on charges stemming from inaccurate statements he made to FBI investigators about his actions around the time of the 2016 election. However, no indictment was ever returned, leading to speculation that the Washington-based grand jury probing the matter took the rare step of rejecting charges. Prosecutors had been cagey since that time about the status of the investigation into McCabe, who has been a frequent subject of public attacks from President Donald Trump. In theory, they could have presented the case to another grand jury, but on Friday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington informed McCabe’s attorneys that it was giving up its quest to charge the FBI veteran.” See also, Justice Department Closes Investigation Into Ex-FBI No. 2 Andrew McCabe, The Wall Street Journal, Aruna Viswanatha, Friday, 14 February 2020: “The Justice Department has closed its investigation into former No. 2 FBI official Andrew McCabe without bringing charges, lawyers for Mr. McCabe said Friday, bringing to an end a controversial investigation into someone President Trump has repeatedly criticized…. The office had been examining whether Mr. McCabe, the former deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, misled investigators about his role in providing information related to an investigation into the Clinton Foundation in October 2016 to a reporter for The Wall Street Journal. Mr. McCabe has long disputed the allegations.”

Continue reading Week 161, Friday, 14 February – Thursday, 20 February 2020 (Days 1,121-1,127)

Border Patrol Will Deploy Elite Tactical Agents to Sanctuary Cities, The New York Times, Caitlin Dickerson and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Friday, 14 February 2020: “The Trump administration is deploying law enforcement tactical units from the southern border as part of a supercharged arrest operation in sanctuary cities across the country, an escalation in the president’s battle against localities that refuse to participate in immigration enforcement. The specially trained officers are being sent to cities including Chicago and New York to boost the enforcement power of local Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, according to two officials who are familiar with the secret operation. Additional agents are expected to be sent to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston, Boston, New Orleans, Detroit and Newark, N.J. The move reflects President Trump’s persistence in cracking down on so-called sanctuary cities, localities that have refused to cooperate in handing over immigrants targeted for deportation to federal authorities. It comes soon after the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security announced a series of measures that will affect both American citizens and immigrants living in those places.”

White House Memo Justifying Suleimani Strike Cites No Imminent Threat. A new report sent to Congress about the drone strike that killed Iran’s top general contradicted the original justification the administration provided. The New York Times, Catie Edmondson, Friday, 14 February 2020: “The White House told Congress on Friday that President Trump authorized the strike last month that killed Iran’s most important general to respond to attacks that had already taken place and deter future ones, contradicting the president’s claim that he acted in response to an imminent threat. In a legally mandated, two-page unclassified memo to lawmakers, the White House asserted that the strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani was ‘in response to an escalating series of attacks in preceding months’ by Iran and Iran-backed militias…. The document confirmed what lawmakers had privately suspected as the Trump administration has offered a shifting set of justifications for the strike against General Suleimani in Baghdad — taken with no congressional consultation — which brought the United States and Iran to the brink of war. ‘This official report directly contradicts the president’s false assertion that he attacked Iran to prevent an imminent attack against United States personnel and embassies,’ Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement. ‘The administration’s explanation in this report makes no mention of any imminent threat and shows that the justification the president offered to the American people was false, plain and simple.'” See also, White House memo on Soleimani strike makes no mention of imminent threat, The Washington Post, Anne Gearan and Colby Itkowitz, Friday, 14 February 2020: “A White House memo justifying the U.S. strike that killed Iranian military leader Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani in January makes no mention of an imminent threat, which was President Trump’s rationale for the attack. The two-page memo made public by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Friday instead says the Soleimani strike was carried out in response to previous attacks and to deter Iran from conducting or supporting attacks in the future.”

8 days after his acquittal, Trump openly admitted sending Rudy Giuliani to hunt for dirt on Joe Biden–reversing a key part of his impeachment defense, Business Insider, Tom Porter, Friday, 14 February 2020: “President Donald Trump on Thursday casually cast aside one of the central claims of his impeachment defense by openly admitting to sending his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine to hunt for dirt on the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. The president made the claim in a podcast interview with the Fox News personality Geraldo Rivera, who had asked him whether it was ‘strange to send Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine’ and whether he regretted the decision. ‘No, not at all,’ said Trump, who then praised Giuliani as a ‘crime fighter.’ Giuliani last year led a campaign in Ukraine to seek damaging information on Biden, the former vice president who emerged as a leading contender for the Democratic nomination. He tried to get Ukraine to announce an investigation into the role Biden’s son Hunter had as a board member on the Ukrainian energy firm Burisma. Trump previously said he did not direct Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine, seeking to distance himself from damaging information that emerged during his impeachment trial in the House last year. The president told the former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly in November amid the House impeachment investigation: ‘No, I didn’t direct him, but he’s a warrior, Rudy’s a warrior.'” See also, Trump contradicts past denials and admits sending Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine, CNN Politics, Marsahll Cohen, Friday, 14 February 2020: “Emboldened after his impeachment acquittal, President Donald Trump now openly admits to sending his attorney Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine to find damaging information about his political opponents, even though he strongly denied it during the impeachment inquiry.”

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy says the army won’t investigate Alexander Vindman over his impeachment testimony, Politico, Jacqueline Feldscher, Friday, 14 February 2020: “The Army will not investigate Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the former National Security Council staffer who testified in the president’s impeachment investigation, the service’s top civilian said Friday. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy made the announcement at an event just days after President Donald Trump said he imagined the military would ‘take a look at’ whether Vindman should face disciplinary action for the ‘horrible things’ he told House investigators about the president’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last July.”

As impeachment trial ended, federal prosecutors took new steps in probe related to Rudy Giuliani, according to people familiar with case, The Washington Post, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, Friday, 14 February 2020: “As the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump drew to a close in Washington earlier this month, federal prosecutors in New York contacted witnesses and sought to collect additional documents in an investigation related to Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, according to people familiar with their activities. The recent steps — including an interview with a witness last week — indicate that the probe involving Giuliani and two of his former associates is moving forward, even as the Justice Department has set up a process to evaluate claims Giuliani is making about alleged wrongdoing in Ukraine related to former vice president Joe Biden.”

After impeachment, Trump has been passing most of the checkpoints on the way to authoritarianism, Foreign Policy, Stephen M. Walt, Friday, 14 February 2020: “Shortly after Donald Trump was elected, I wrote up a list of the ‘10 Ways to Tell if Your President Is a Dictator.’ I wasn’t saying Trump was in fact an aspiring autocrat; it was merely a list of warning signs to keep track of as his presidency preceded. In 2017, I offered an updated assessment and concluded that the danger of creeping autocracy was pretty serious. Now that Trump has been acquitted by a Republican-controlled Senate that couldn’t even be bothered to interview any witnesses with personal knowledge of his possible high crimes and misdemeanors, it seems appropriate to revisit my list once again. Spoiler alert: There are some flashing red lights on the dashboard. 1. Systematic efforts to intimidate the media. 2. Building an official pro-Trump media network. 3. Politicizing the civil service, military, National Guard, or domestic security agencies. 4. Using government surveillance against domestic political opponents. 5. Using state power to reward corporate backers and punish opponents. 6. Stacking the Supreme Court. 7. Enforcing the law for only one side. 8. Really rigging the system. 9. Fearmongering. 10. Demonizing the opposition.”

Donald Trump is appointing federal judges at a blistering pace, The Economist, Friday, 14 February 2020: “In a little over three years, Mr Trump has nominated and won Senate confirmation for 192 federal judges, including 137 district-court judges, 51 appellate judges and two Supreme Court justices. No president since at least Ronald Reagan has racked up judicial appointments so quickly (the closest was Bill Clinton with 189 at this point in his presidency: see chart). By the end of the year, on current trends, a quarter of federal judges will be Mr Trump’s appointees. They may prove his most enduring legacy.”

Appeals Court Rejects Trump Medicaid Work Requirements in Arkansas, The New York Times, Abby Goodnough, Friday, 14 February 2020: “A federal appeals court panel on Friday unanimously upheld a lower court’s ruling striking down work rules for Medicaid recipients in Arkansas, casting more doubt over broader Trump administration efforts to require poor people to work, volunteer or train for a job as a condition of getting government health coverage. A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found that approval of the Arkansas work requirement by the health and human services secretary, Alex M. Azar, was ‘arbitrary and capricious’ because it did not address how the program would promote the objective of Medicaid as defined under federal law: providing health coverage to the poor.” See also, Appeals court unanimously strikes down Medicaid work requirements, The Washington Post, Amy Goldstein, Friday, 14 February 2020: “A federal appeals court on Friday struck down the Trump administration’s decision to allow states to compel some Medicaid recipients to work or prepare for a job in exchange for their health benefits. In a unanimous decision that blocks the first state that had imposed work requirements, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that President Trump’s health officials had been ‘arbitrary and capricious’ in allowing Arkansas to launch a Medicaid program called ‘Arkansas Works’ two years ago. The ruling marks the first time that an appellate court has weighed in on what has been one of the Trump administration’s signature attempts to push health policy in a more conservative direction. The D.C. Circuit is considered the nation’s top appeals court below the U.S. Supreme Court, and the 19-page opinion was written by a jurist appointed by Ronald Reagan, David Sentelle. The panel’s other judges are Cornelia Pillard, an appointee of Barack Obama, and Harry Edwards, appointed by Jimmy Carter.”

A Customs and Border Protection Officer Said They Were Told to Lie About Not Having Enough Space to Process Asylum-Seekers, BuzzFeed News, Adolfo Flores, Friday, 14 February 2020: “A Customs and Border Protection officer said supervisors instructed them to lie about not having space to process asylum-seekers at the border and turning them away, according to court documents…. ‘So you were instructed to lie to people when turning them back; is that right?’ said the plaintiff’s attorney Stephen Medlock. ‘We were instructed, yes,’ the unidentified CBP officer said.”

U.S. Watchdog to Investigate Trump’s Farm Bailout Program, The New York Times, Alan Rappeport, Friday, 14 February 2020: “The U.S. Government Accountability Office is opening a review of President Trump’s $28 billion bailout for farmers harmed by his trade war amid allegations that the money was mismanaged and allocated unfairly. The investigation came at the request of Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, who has been vocal in her concern that the aid program was biased, providing more funds to southern states that voted for Mr. Trump and favoring large and foreign agriculture companies over small farms.”

In interview, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer can’t name Mexican president, Associated Press, Friday, 14 February 2020: “Democratic presidential hopefuls Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer were stumped when asked during a televised interview in Nevada to name the Mexican president. Klobuchar, Steyer and fellow 2020 candidate Pete Buttigieg were asked during one-on-one interviews with the Spanish-language station Telemundo on Thursday night if they knew the name of the president whose country borders the U.S. It is Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who took office in December 2018.”

 

Saturday, 15 January 2020, Day 1,122:

 

How the Iowa caucuses came ‘crashing down,’ under the watchful eye of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), The Washington Post, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Saturday, 15 February 2020: “[A] detailed review by The Post found that the chaotic events of Feb. 3 were years in the making, and that the responsibility extends beyond the local party leaders who have borne the brunt of the criticism. Rather, the turmoil in Iowa reflected a systemic failure in which Democratic officials eager to avoid repeating the disastrous campaign of 2016 — marred by Russian hacks of party emails and allegations that the nominating process had been tilted against Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — oversaw changes that triggered a whole new crisis. At the heart of the reforms would be a newly transparent caucus process, with raw vote totals announced publicly for the first time. Party officials, however, never effectively vetted the basic tool used to collect and publish those results, the review found. They hardly questioned why an app was necessary, rather than a simpler reporting method, though internal correspondence shows that DNC staffers were privy to discussions about the testing and rollout of the technology. This account of the debacle in Iowa — the actions that caused it and the fallout that cast a cloud over the early days of the 2020 election — is based on an examination of internal documents and correspondence related to caucus planning as well as interviews with 54 people who were involved, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared for their future in Democratic politics.”

A Presidency Increasingly Guided by Suspicion and Distrust, The New York Times, Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, Saturday, 15 February 2020: “President Trump suggested in recent days that he had, in fact, learned a lesson from his now-famous telephone call with Ukraine’s president that ultimately led to his impeachment: Too many people are listening to his phone calls. ‘When you call a foreign leader, people listen,’ he observed on Geraldo Rivera’s radio show. ‘I may end the practice entirely. I may end it entirely.’ Mr. Trump has always been convinced that he is surrounded by people who cannot be trusted. But in the 10 days since he was acquitted by the Senate, he has grown more vocal about it and turned paranoia into policy, purging his White House of more career officials, bringing back loyalists and tightening the circle around him to a smaller and more faithful coterie of confidants.”

Fearful of Trump’s Attacks, Justice Department Lawyers Worry Attorney General William Barr Will Leave Them Exposed, The New York Times, Katie Benner, Sharon LaFraniere, and Nicole Hong, Saturday, 15 February 2020: “In an email a few days ago to the 270 lawyers he oversees, Nicola T. Hanna, the United States attorney in Los Angeles, offered a message of reassurance: I am proud of the work you do, he wrote. Other U.S. attorneys in the Justice Department’s far-flung 93 field offices relayed similar messages of encouragement after President Trump’s efforts to influence a politically fraught case provoked the kind of consternation the department has rarely seen since the Watergate era. ‘All I have to say,’ another United States attorney wrote to his staff, ‘is keep doing the right things for the right reasons.’ But the fact that the department’s 10,000-odd lawyers needed reassurances seemed like cause for worry all by itself. In more than three dozen interviews in recent days, lawyers across the federal government’s legal establishment wondered aloud whether Mr. Trump was undermining the Justice Department’s treasured reputation for upholding the law without favor or political bias — and whether Attorney General William P. Barr was able or willing to protect it.” See also, Attorney General William Barr’s internal reviews and re-investigations feed resentment and suspicion inside the Justice Department, The Washington Post, Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky, and Josh Dawsey, Saturday 15 February 2020: “The Justice Department in the Trump era has repeatedly tasked U.S. attorneys from far-flung offices to parachute into politically explosive cases in Washington, raising concerns among current and former officials that agency leaders are trying to please the president by reviewing and reinvestigating cases in which he is personally or politically invested. After a tumultuous week for federal law enforcement in which Attorney General William P. Barr declared he could not do his job if the president kept tweeting about criminal cases, and officials revealed they had dropped one politically charged case while adding new prosecutors to others, several current and former officials expressed alarm at what they characterized as a troubling pattern.” See also, Attorney General William Barr’s actions spark outrage and unease among US prosecutors, CNN Politics, Erica Orden and Kara Scannell, Saturday, 15 February 2020.

Michael Bloomberg’s Billions: How the Candidate Built an Empire of Influence, The New York Times, Alexander Burns and Nicholas Kulish, Saturday, 15 February 2020: “In the fall of 2018, Emily’s List had a dilemma. With congressional elections approaching and the Supreme Court confirmation battle over Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh underway, the Democratic women’s group was hosting a major fund-raising luncheon in New York. Among the scheduled headline speakers was Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor, who had donated nearly $6 million to Emily’s List over the years. Days before the event, Mr. Bloomberg made blunt comments in an interview with The New York Times, expressing skepticism about the #MeToo movement and questioning sexual misconduct allegations against Charlie Rose, the disgraced news anchor. Senior Emily’s List officials seriously debated withdrawing Mr. Bloomberg’s invitation, according to three people familiar with the deliberations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. In the end, the group concluded it could not risk alienating Mr. Bloomberg. And when he addressed the luncheon on Sept. 24 — before an audience dotted with women clad in black, to show solidarity with Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Judge Kavanaugh of sexual assault — Mr. Bloomberg demonstrated why. ‘I will be putting more money into supporting women candidates this cycle than any individual ever has before,’ he declared. It was not an idle pledge: Mr. Bloomberg spent more than $100 million helping Democrats take control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections. Of the 21 newly elected lawmakers he supported with his personal super PAC, all but six were women. The decision by Emily’s List, to mute its misgivings and embrace Mr. Bloomberg as a mighty ally, foreshadowed the choice Mr. Bloomberg is now asking Democrats to make by anointing him their presidential nominee.”

Mike Bloomberg for years has battled women’s allegations of profane, sexist comments, The Washington Post, Michael Kranish, Saturday, 15 February 2020: “As Mike Bloomberg celebrated his 48th birthday in 1990, a top aide at the company he founded presented him with a booklet of profane, sexist quotes she attributed to him. A good salesperson is like a man who tries to pick up women at a bar by saying, ‘Do you want to f—? He gets turned down a lot — but he gets f—– a lot, too!’ Bloomberg was quoted in the booklet as saying. Bloomberg also allegedly said that his company’s financial information computers ‘will do everything, including give you [oral sex]. I guess that puts a lot of you girls out of business.’ At the time, some Bloomberg staffers said, they laughed off the comments in the 32-page booklet, ‘The Wit and Wisdom of Michael Bloomberg,’ as a macho side of one of the nerdiest men on Wall Street. But others viewed them more darkly, seeing them as blunt examples of what they considered to be a hostile environment, artifacts of a workplace employees said was saturated with degrading comments. Several lawsuits have been filed over the years alleging that women were discriminated against at Bloomberg’s business-information company, including a case brought by a federal agency and one filed by a former employee, who blamed Bloomberg for creating a culture of sexual harassment and degradation.”

Ted Cruz once called Trump ‘utterly amoral’ and a ‘sniveling coward.’ Then he worked to save his presidency. The Washington Post, Mike DeBonis, Saturday, 15 February 2020: “Donald Trump called him ‘Lyin’ Ted’ Cruz, mocked his wife’s appearance and falsely suggested his father was involved in President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Cruz called Trump a ‘sniveling coward,’ a ‘pathological liar’ and ‘utterly amoral,’ and infuriated Republicans when he declined to endorse the nominee at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Four years later, one of the nastiest rivalries in recent memory — a brawl both personal and political — has given way to a mutually beneficial partnership forged in the crucible of impeachment. Working inside the Senate and out, Cruz (R-Tex.) played a unique role in securing President Trump’s swift acquittal at the third-ever presidential impeachment trial — simultaneously serving as legal strategist, jury consultant, messaging guru, broadcast surrogate and, unexpectedly, a breakout podcasting star.”

 

Sunday, 16 February 2020, Day 1,122:

 

More Than 1,100 Former Justice Department Lawyers Press for Attorney General Barr to Step Down, The New York Times, Katie Benner, Sunday, 16 February 2020: “More than 1,100 former federal prosecutors and Justice Department officials called on Attorney General William P. Barr on Sunday to step down after he intervened last week to lower the Justice Department’s sentencing recommendation for President Trump’s longtime friend Roger J. Stone Jr. They also urged current government employees to report any signs of unethical behavior at the Justice Department to the agency’s inspector general and to Congress. ‘Each of us strongly condemns President Trump’s and Attorney General Barr’s interference in the fair administration of justice,’ the former Justice Department lawyers, who came from across the political spectrum, wrote in an open letter on Sunday. Those actions, they said, ‘require Mr. Barr to resign.’ The sharp denunciation of Mr. Barr underlined the extent of the fallout over the case of Mr. Stone, capping a week that strained the attorney general’s relationship with his rank and file, and with the president himself.” See also, More than 1,100 ex-Justice Department officials call for Attorney General William Barr’s resignation, The Washington Post, Devlin Barrett, Sunday, 16 February 2020: “More than 1,100 former Justice Department employees signed a public letter Sunday urging Attorney General William P. Barr to resign over his handling of the case of President Trump’s longtime friend Roger Stone — and exhorted current department employees to report any unethical conduct.” See also, More than 2,000 ex-Department of Justice employees call for Attorney General Barr’s resignation, USA Today, Savannah Behrmann and Kristine Phillips, Sunday, 16 February 2020: “More than 2,000 ex-employees of the Department of Justice have signed a letter calling on Attorney General William Barr to resign, writing that his handling of the Roger Stone case ‘openly and repeatedly flouted’ the principle of equal justice under the rule of law. The letter, published Sunday, comes after a contentious week for the Justice Department, which already faces allegations of succumbing to political pressure from President Donald Trump. ‘Although there are times when political leadership appropriately weighs in on individual prosecutions, it is unheard of for the Department’s top leaders to overrule line prosecutors, who are following established policies, in order to give preferential treatment to a close associate of the President, as Attorney General Barr did in the Stone case,’ the letter reads.” See also, Department of Justice Alumni Statement on the Events Surrounding the Sentencing of Roger Stone, Medium, Sunday, 16 February 2020.

Democrats Plan to Highlight Health Care and Jobs Over Investigating Trump, The New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Sunday, 16 February 2020: “House Democrats, recovering from their failed push to remove President Trump from office, are making a sharp pivot to talking about health care and economic issues, turning away from their investigations of the president as they focus on preserving their majority. Top Democrats say that oversight of the president will continue, and they plan in particular to press Attorney General William P. Barr over what they say are Mr. Trump’s efforts to compromise the independence of the Justice Department. But for now, at least, they have shelved the idea of subpoenaing Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, who was a central figure in the president’s impeachment trial.”

‘Something has to be done’: Trump’s quest to rewrite history of the Russia probe, The Washington Post, Philip Rucker, Sunday, 16 February 2020: “The U.S. intelligence community long ago produced evidence of Russia’s illegal interference in the 2016 presidential election to try to boost Donald Trump’s candidacy. Then the special counsel investigating the matter detailed myriad ways President Trump sought to stymie the probe. And then Robert S. Mueller III testified to Congress about Trump’s conduct — and warned of Russia’s continued interest in thwarting U.S. elections. But it is Trump who is trying to have the last word. Seven months after Mueller’s marathon testimony brought finality to the Russia investigation, Trump is actively seeking to rewrite the narrative that had been meticulously documented by federal law enforcement and intelligence officials, both for immediate political gain and for history. Turbocharged by his acquittal in the Senate’s impeachment trial and confident that he has acquired the fealty of nearly every Republican in Congress, Trump is claiming vindication and exoneration not only over his conduct with Ukraine — for which the House voted to impeach him — but also from the other investigations that have dogged his presidency.”

Unloved by Trump, NPR Carries On, The New York Times, Rachel Abrams, Sunday, 16 February 2020: “First President Trump questioned the existence of National Public Radio in a tweet. Then, as part of the annual budget request released last Monday, he recommended slashing federal funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the body that distributes taxpayer dollars to NPR and other public media outlets, to $0 by 2023. Past budget proposals from Mr. Trump have apparently had little influence over the amounts that public media has received from the government. For the 2020 fiscal year, the White House recommended $30 million for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Congress, which has traditionally shown support for public media, ultimately decided on $465 million. Although Congress controls how much federal money goes to public broadcasters, NPR is not taking the potential threat lightly. About 1 percent of its budget comes from federal money, but Mike Riksen, an NPR vice president, said the funding was ‘essential’ to public radio.”

Trump attends wedding of Stephen Miller and Katie Waldman, Politico, Rishika Dugyala, Sunday, 16 February 2020: “President Donald Trump attended the wedding of senior adviser Stephen Miller on Sunday evening, according to the White House. The wedding took place in the president’s Washington hotel, just blocks from the White House: ‘The President is at Trump International Hotel for the wedding of Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Miller,’ read a statement sent to reporters. Though the White House didn’t identify the bride, Miller was engaged to Katie Waldman, press secretary for Vice President Mike Pence…. Miller, an immigration hard-liner and frequent speechwriter for the president, is one of the few remaining staffers from Trump’s 2016 campaign. Miller has been instrumental in shaping the administration’s immigration policies, with ties to Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ and ‘zero-tolerance’ family separation policy. He also came under fire from several Democrats after reports emerged of him pushing theories popular with white nationalists to Breitbart News. Waldman previously worked for Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona. Waldman was also previously the spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, where she defended the administration’s family separations policy and made some controversial comments about immigrants.”

 

Monday, 17 February 2020, Day 1,123:

 

Federal judges’ association calls emergency meeting after the Department of Justice intervenes in case of Trump ally Roger Stone, USA Today, Kevin Johnson, Monday, 17 February 2020: “A national association of federal judges has called an emergency meeting to address growing concerns about the intervention of Justice Department officials and President Donald Trump in politically sensitive cases, the group’s president said Monday. Philadelphia U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe, who heads the independent Federal Judges Association, said the group “could not wait” until its spring conference to weigh in on a deepening crisis that has enveloped the Justice Department and Attorney General William Barr. ‘There are plenty of issues that we are concerned about,’ Rufe told USA TODAY. ‘We’ll talk all of this through.’ Velma White, an aide to the judge, said the meeting is set for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. USA TODAY had previously reported that the meeting would take place Tuesday. Rufe, nominated to the bench by President George W. Bush, said the group of more than 1,000 federal jurists called for the meeting last week after Trump criticized prosecutors’ initial sentencing recommendation for his friend Roger Stone and the Department of Justice overruled them.”

Attorney General Bill Barr Must Resign, The Atlantic, Donald Ayer, Former U.S. Deputy Attorney General under George H. W. Bush, Monday, 17 February 2020: “When donald trump chose Bill Barr to serve as attorney general in December 2018, even some moderates and liberals greeted the choice with optimism. One exuberant Democrat described him as ‘an excellent choice,’ who could be counted on to ‘stand up for the department’s institutional prerogatives and … push back on any improper attempt to inject politics into its work.’ At the end of his first year of service, Barr’s conduct has shown that such expectations were misplaced. Beginning in March with his public whitewashing of Robert Mueller’s report, which included powerful evidence of repeated obstruction of justice by the president, Barr has appeared to function much more as the president’s personal advocate than as an attorney general serving the people and government of the United States. Among the most widely reported and disturbing events have been Barr’s statements that a judicially authorized FBI investigation amounted to ‘spying’ on the Trump campaign, and his public rejection in December of the inspector general’s considered conclusion that the Russia probe was properly initiated and overseen in an unbiased manner. Also quite unsettling was Trump’s explicit mention of Barr and Rudy Giuliani in the same breath in his July 25 phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky, as individuals the Ukrainian president should speak with regarding the phony investigation that Ukraine was expected to publicly announce. Still more troubling has been Barr’s intrusion, apparently for political reasons, into the area of Justice Department action that most demands scrupulous integrity and strict separation from politics and other bias—invocation of the criminal sanction. When Barr initiated a second, largely redundant investigation of the FBI Russia probe in May, denominated it criminal, and made clear that he is personally involved in carrying it out, many eyebrows were raised. But worst of all have been the events of the past week. The evenhanded conduct of the prosecutions of Roger Stone and Michael Flynn by experienced Department of Justice attorneys have been disrupted at the 11th hour by the attorney general’s efforts to soften the consequences for the president’s associates. More generally, it appears that Barr has recently identified a group of lawyers whom he trusts and put them in place to oversee and second-guess the work of the department’s career attorneys on a broader range of cases. And there is no comfort from any of this in Barr’s recent protests about the president’s tweeting. He in no way suggested he was changing course, only that it is hard to appear independent when the president is publicly calling for him to follow the path he is on. Bad as they are, these examples are more symptoms than causes of Barr’s unfitness for office. The fundamental problem is that he does not believe in the central tenet of our system of government—that no person is above the law. In chilling terms, Barr’s own words make clear his long-held belief in the need for a virtually autocratic executive who is not constrained by countervailing powers within our government under the constitutional system of checks and balances.”

John Bolton Hints at Further Revelations if He Overcomes White House ‘Censorship,’ The New York Times, Peter Baker, Monday, 17 February 2020: “John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser to President Trump, suggested on Monday that his unpublished book contained far more revelations than just the campaign to pressure Ukraine for help with domestic politics but said he was fighting ‘censorship’ by the White House. In his first public appearance since the Senate impeachment trial in which Republicans refused to hear his testimony, Mr. Bolton said that the White House was trying to keep him from publishing important parts of his new memoir by terming them classified. He said he was pushing back but feared that a pre-publication review could stop the book from being published next month…. His reluctance to speak out more explicitly has been enormously frustrating for months to Democrats who say that he could simply tell what he knows without waiting for a subpoena or White House permission. Indeed, the Duke audience applauded twice at suggestions that he should have testified in the House or simply given a news conference telling what he knew. ‘He had every opportunity to voluntarily come forward,’ Representative Denny Heck, Democrat of Washington and a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said on CNN shortly after Mr. Bolton’s appearance at Duke. ‘He refused despite the fact that many others did. What John Bolton is interested in, frankly, is selling as many copies of his book as he can, period, full stop.'”

Jeff Bezos commits $10 billion to fight climate change, The Washington Post, Kimberly Kindy, Monday, 17 February 2020: “Jeff Bezos announced the formation of the Bezos Earth Fund on Monday, saying it will provide $10 billion in grants to scientists and activists to fund their efforts to fight climate change. ‘Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet,’ Bezos said in the announcement on Instagram. ‘I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share.’ The Amazon founder and CEO said the grants, which will be issued this summer, will go to individuals and organizations from around the globe, adding that the effort will ‘take collective action from big companies, small companies, nation states, global organizations, and individuals.’ The fund builds off prior commitments that Bezos has made in recent years to reduce Amazon’s impact on the environment, including signing a ‘climate pledge’ last year that commits the company to operate on 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030.”

 

Tuesday, 18 February 2020, Day 1,124:

 

Trump Grants Clemency to Rod Blagojevich, Michael Milken, Bernard Kerik, and Edward DeBartolo Jr., The New York Times, Michael Shear and Maggie Haberman, Tuesday, 18 February 2020: “President Trump, citing what he said was advice from friends and business associates, granted clemency on Tuesday to a who’s who of white-collar criminals from politics, sports and business who were convicted on charges involving fraud, corruption and lies — including the financier Michael R. Milken. The president pardoned Mr. Milken, the so-called junk bond king of the 1980s, as well as the former New York City police commissioner Bernard B. Kerik and Edward J. DeBartolo Jr., a former owner of the San Francisco 49ers. He also commuted the sentence of Rod R. Blagojevich, a former Democratic governor of Illinois. Their political and finance schemes made them household names, and three received prison terms while Mr. DeBartolo paid a $1 million fine…. [Trump’s] announcements on Tuesday were mostly aimed at wiping clean the slates of rich, powerful and well-connected white men. And they came after years of sophisticated public relations campaigns aimed at persuading Mr. Trump to exercise the authority given to him under the Constitution.” See also, Who Is Rod Blagojevich? Why Did Trump Commute His Sentence? The New York Times, Monica Davey and Mitch Smith, Tuesday, 18 February 2020: “Rod R. Blagojevich, whose criminal sentence President Trump has commuted, became a household name when he was arrested 12 years ago on an explosive accusation: Prosecutors said he had tried to sell or trade to the highest bidder the Senate seat that Barack Obama was vacating to become the president. Mr. Blagojevich’s expletive-filled remarks about his role in choosing a new senator — caught on government recordings of phone calls — became punch lines for late-night television. ‘I’ve got this thing, and it’s golden,’ he was memorably quoted as saying, using profanities. ‘And I’m just not giving it up for nothing. I’m not going to do it. And I can always use it. I can parachute me there.'” See also, Trump Granted Full Pardons to Seven People and Commutations to Four Others on Tuesday. Here’s Who They Are. The New York Times, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Heather Murphy, and Mariel Padilla, Tuesday, 18 February 2020. See also, Trump grants clemency to high-profile individuals, including Rod Blagojevich, Michael Milken, and Bernard Kerik, The Washington Post, Anne Gearan, Josh Dawsey, Beth Reinhard, and Colby Itkowitz, Tuesday, 18 February 2020: “President Trump on Tuesday used his sweeping presidential pardon powers to forgive the crimes of a list of boldface names, including disgraced politician Rod R. Blagojevich, convicted junk bond king Michael Milken and former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik. Trump pardoned or commuted the sentences of seven convicted white-collar criminals at the center of federal anti-corruption and tax fraud cases spanning decades, alongside four women whose cases were not as well known. The action frees Blagojevich, the former Democratic governor of Illinois, from the federal correctional facility in Colorado where he was serving out his 14-year sentence. He was convicted on corruption charges in 2011 for trying in 2008 to sell President-elect Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat.” See also, Who did Trump pardon or grant clemency to? The Washington Post, Colby Itkowitz, Tuesday, 18 February 2020. See also, Trump announces a blitz of pardons and commutations, Politico, Caitlin Oprysko, Tuesday, 18 February 2020. See also, Trump commutes Rod Blagojevich’s sentence and grants clemency to 10 others, CNN Politics, Kevin Liptak and Kaitlan Collins, Tuesday, 18 February 2020.

As Trump Claims to Be Law of the Land, Attorney General William Barr’s Irritation Builds, The New York Times, Peter Baker, Katie Benner, and Sharon LaFraniere, Tuesday, 18 February 2020: “President Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr agree on one thing at least: The president is making the attorney general’s job much harder. What they don’t agree on: Mr. Trump sees no reason to stop. Defying Mr. Barr’s pleas, the president renewed his public attacks on law enforcement on Tuesday, denouncing the prosecutors, judge and jury forewoman in the case of his longtime friend Roger J. Stone Jr. and defending his convicted former adviser Michael T. Flynn against Mr. Trump’s own Justice Department. Explicitly rebuffed, Mr. Barr was left by the end of the day to consider his own future. He expressed dissatisfaction to associates and his irritation soon fed news reports that he was considering resignation if the president continued to publicly weigh in on individual prosecutions of his own associates. But it was unclear whether that would persuade Mr. Trump to back off or only get his back up. The suggestions of resignation came at the end of a day when the president asserted his dominance over a justice system that had long sought to insulate itself from political pressures. Calling himself ‘the chief law enforcement officer of the country,’ Mr. Trump demanded a new trial for Mr. Stone, urged federal judges to address the ‘tremendous’ abuse of the special counsel investigation of his campaign and bypassed the traditional pardon process to grant clemency to celebrity convicts recommended by his friends, allies and political donors.”  See also, Attorney General William Barr has told those close to Trump he is considering quitting over Trump’s tweets about Justice Department investigations, The Washington Post, Matt Zapotosky, Josh Dawsey, John Wagner, and Rachel Weiner, Tuesday, 18 February 2020: “Attorney General William P. Barr has told people close to President Trump — both inside and outside the White House — that he is considering quitting over Trump’s tweets about Justice Department investigations, three administration officials said, foreshadowing a possible confrontation between the president and his attorney general over the independence of the Justice Department. So far, Trump has defied Barr’s requests, both public and private, to keep quiet on matters of federal law enforcement. It was not immediately clear Tuesday whether Barr had made his posture known directly to Trump. The administration officials said Barr seemed to be sharing his position with advisers in hopes the president would get the message that he should stop weighing in publicly on the Justice Department’s ongoing criminal investigations.”

Video: Trump falsely declares himself ‘the chief law enforcement officer’ of the US, The Guardian, Tuesday, 18 February 2020: “Donald Trump has falsely claimed he is ‘the chief law enforcement officer’ in the US. The chief law enforcement officer in the country is actually the attorney general, William Barr.” See also, Post-impeachment, Trump [falsely] declares himself the ‘chief law enforcement officer’ of the US, The Washington Post, Toluse Olorunnipa and Beth Reinhard, published on Wednesday, 19 December 2020: “During his Senate impeachment trial, Democrats repeatedly asserted that President Trump is ‘not above the law.’ But since his acquittal two weeks ago, analysts say, the president has taken a series of steps aimed at showing that, essentially, he is the law. On Tuesday, Trump granted clemency to a clutch of political allies, circumventing the usual Justice Department process. The pardons and commutations followed Trump’s moves to punish witnesses in his impeachment trial, publicly intervene in a pending legal case to urge leniency for a friend, attack a federal judgeaccuse a juror of bias and threaten to sue his own government for investigating him…. Trump added to the sense of legal disarray Tuesday by granting executive clemency to a group of 11 people that included several political allies and others convicted of corruption, lying and fraud…. Trump said the pardons and commutations were based on ‘the recommendations of people that know them,’ including Blagojevich’s wife, Patricia, who made a direct appeal to the president on Fox News. Legal experts said that by relying on his personal connections rather than the Justice Department’s established review process for finding convicts deserving of clemency, Trump risked politicizing his pardon power. ‘It’s a clemency process for the well-connected, and that’s it,’ said Rachel Barkow, a professor and clemency expert at the New York University School of Law. ‘Trump is wielding the power the way you would expect the leader of a banana republic who wants to reward his friends and cronies.'” See also, Trump falsely declares himself the ‘chief law-enforcement officer of the United States’ and admits he makes Attorney General William Barr’s job harder, Business Insider, Sonam Sheth, Tuesday, 18 February 2020.

Trump Threatened to Sue ‘Everyone All Over the Place’ Involved in the Special Counsel Inquiry and Continued Public attacks on the Case Against His Associate Roger Stone Jr., The New York Times, Eileen Sullivan, Tuesday, 18 February 2020: “‘If I wasn’t President, I’d be suing everyone all over the place. BUT MAYBE I STILL WILL. WITCH HUNT,’ Mr. Trump wrote in a series of Twitter posts, after lumping a string of perceived and disproved miscarriages of justice dating back to the 2016 presidential campaign…. Mr. Trump also quoted a Fox News legal analyst, Andrew Napolitano, who opined Tuesday morning on ‘Fox and Friends’ that the judge overseeing the Stone case, Justice Amy Berman Jackson of the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, should approve Mr. Stone’s recent request for a new trial.” See also, Trump threatens lawsuits over Mueller investigation, Politico, Quint Forgey, Tuesday, 18 February 2020: “Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened to file retaliatory lawsuits ‘all over the place’ for damages he claims to have incurred as a result of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. In a multi-post morning Twitter screed, the president fiercely condemned the 22-month-long probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and also appeared to weigh in once again on the federal criminal case against his longtime political adviser Roger Stone.”

Roger Stone will be sentenced Thursday despite his ongoing bid to overturn conviction, The Washington Post, Rachel Weiner and Matt Zapotosky, Tuesday, 18 February 2020: “Republican strategist Roger Stone, a close friend of President Trump, will be sentenced Thursday despite his ongoing efforts to overturn the guilty verdicts against him, a judge in Washington federal court ruled. ‘There’s been a lot of work that’s gone into the sentencing,’ U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Tuesday. ‘It makes sense to proceed.’ Jackson said that ‘execution of the sentence will be deferred’ while she decides whether Stone deserves a new trial.” See also, Trump calls for Roger Stone’s conviction to be thrown out, The Guardian, Miranda Bryant and Joan E. Greve, Tuesday, 18 February 2020.

2020: The Democrats on criminal justice, The Marshall Project, Katie Park and Jamiles Lartey, Tuesday, 18 February 2020: “The candidates vying to challenge Trump in November want to move their party left on bail reform, marijuana, immigration, and more.”

Michael Bloomberg qualifies for the next Democratic debate, NBC News, Dareh Gregorian, Ben Kamisar, and Allan Smith, Tuesday, 18 February 2020: “Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg on Tuesday qualified for his first appearance in a Democratic presidential primary debate. The billionaire media mogul received 19 percent of support from an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, allowing him to join the stage at the Feb. 19 debate in Las Vegas. The poll is the latest in a series of national and statewide surveys that have shown Bloomberg rising in the race. His competitors have increasingly taken him to task over past remarks and some of his policies as mayor, while accusing him of seeking to buy the nomination with his vast wealth…. The DNC announced last month that it was doing away with the grassroots donor threshold that had been used in the qualifications for the previous eight debates. The campaign of Sanders — who leads in national polls, according to a RealClearPolitics average— has accused the DNC of doing Bloomberg’s bidding with the rule change. Bloomberg had not qualified for earlier debates because he was not accepting campaign donations. ‘To now change the rules in the middle of the game to accommodate Mike Bloomberg, who is trying to buy his way into the Democratic nomination, is wrong,’ Jeff Weaver, one of Sanders’ top advisers, said then. ‘That’s the definition of a rigged system.'” See also, When Did Michael Bloomberg Turn Against Stop-and-Frisk? When He Ran for President. The New York Times, Maggie Astor, published on Wednesday, 19 February 2020: “Days before he announced his presidential campaign in November, Michael R. Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City from 2002 through 2013, renounced one of his signature policies: stop-and-frisk, in which police officers stopped and searched millions of New Yorkers, the vast majority of whom were black or Hispanic and had not committed a crime. But as his campaign has grown — he qualified on Tuesday for this week’s Democratic debate — and stop-and-frisk has become a major piece of ammunition for his opponents, Mr. Bloomberg has begun to imply that he turned against the policy much sooner than he did. He has also taken credit for the near-disappearance of the practice by the time he left office at the end of 2013 (the practice plummeted because of a court case whose outcome Mr. Bloomberg fiercely opposed), and claimed that the only reason he didn’t apologize before 2019 was that no one asked him about it (not true). In reality, Mr. Bloomberg defended stop-and-frisk throughout his time as mayor and continued to do so, consistently and repeatedly, for nearly six years afterward — including in an interview the month before he entered the presidential race.”

Pete Buttigieg hits back at Trump and Limbaugh over homophobic attacks, The Washington Post, Chelsea Janes, Tuesday, 18 February 2020: “Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg fired back against homophobic attacks from conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh in a CNN town hall Tuesday night, offering some of his most fiery responses yet to Limbaugh’s assertion that President Trump told him not to apologize for saying that Americans wouldn’t elect ‘a gay guy kissing his husband on the debate stage.’ Limbaugh, whom Trump recently awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, doubled down on those comments Monday when he told listeners ‘Hell, the president even called me about this! He said, Rush, I just got to tell you something. Never apologize. Don’t ever apologize.’ Trump recently said he would have no trouble voting for a gay candidate. Buttigieg said he can’t take Trump at his word. ‘Not if he’s sending out his supporters to talk in this way. Look, the idea of the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Donald Trump lecturing anybody on family values . . .’ Buttigieg said. ‘Sorry, but one thing about my marriage is it’s never involved me having to send hush money to a porn star after cheating on my spouse.'”

State appeals court temporarily blocks voter ID law in North Carolina, The Washington Post, Elise Viebeck, Tuesday, 18 February 2020: “A second court has temporarily blocked North Carolina’s new voter identification law on the argument that it discriminates against African Americans. The ruling reduces the likelihood that the rule will be in effect in a key swing state during November’s elections. A three-judge panel of the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that intent to discriminate was a ‘primary motivating factor’ behind the voter ID law, which passed the Republican legislature in late 2018. Triggered by a ballot measure, the law requires voters to produce an acceptable form of photo ID before casting a ballot but excludes types of identification disproportionately held by African Americans.”

Iowa Democrats Complete Recanvass, but No Delegates Are Shifted, The New York Times, Maggie Astor, Tuesday, 18 February 2020: “The Iowa Democratic Party announced on Tuesday that it had completed its partial recanvass, changing results in 29 precincts but shifting no national delegates. But the Epic of Iowa still isn’t over. The recanvass drastically narrowed Pete Buttigieg’s small lead over Senator Bernie Sanders in state delegate equivalents: Mr. Buttigieg now has 563.207 to Mr. Sanders’s 563.127. The campaigns can now request a recount, which is a much more intensive process. And Mr. Sanders’s campaign said it would do just that.”

Michael Bloomberg Once Again Called Transgender People ‘It’ and ‘Some Guy Wearing a Dress,’ BuzzFeed News, Dominic Holden, Tuesday, 18 February 2020: “A newly uncovered video shows Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg in 2019 describing transgender people as ‘he, she, or it’ and ‘some guy in a dress’ who enters girls locker rooms — invoking a conservative cliché as he argued that transgender rights are toxic for presidential candidates trying to reach Middle America.”

Homeland Security waives federal contracting laws for border wall, Associated Press, Elliot Spagat, Tuesday, 18 February 2020: “The Trump administration said Tuesday that it is waiving federal contracting laws to speed construction of a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, moving the president closer to fulfilling a signature campaign promise in an election year but sparking criticism about potential for fraud, waste and abuse. The Department of Homeland Security said waiving procurement regulations will allow 177 miles (283 kilometers) of wall to be built more quickly in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The 10 waived laws include a requirement for open competition and giving losing bidders a chance to protest decisions. The acting Homeland Security secretary, Chad Wolf, is exercising authority under a 2005 law that gives him sweeping powers to waive laws for building border barriers…. Secretaries under President Donald Trump have issued 16 waivers, and President George W. Bush issued five, but Tuesday’s announcement marks the first time that waivers have applied to federal procurement rules. Previously they were used to waive environmental impact reviews.”

 

Wednesday, 19 February 2020, Day 1,125:

 

Elizabeth Warren Leads an Onslaught of Attacks, Zeroing In on Michael Bloomberg, The New York Times, Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin, Wednesday, 19 February 2020: “The Democratic presidential candidates turned on one another in scorching and personal terms in a debate on Wednesday night, with two of the leading candidates, Senator Bernie Sanders and Michael R. Bloomberg, forced onto the defensive repeatedly throughout the evening. In his first appearance in a presidential debate, Mr. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, struggled from the start to address his past support for stop-and-frisk policing and the allegations he has faced over the years of crude and disrespectful behavior toward women. Time and again, Mr. Bloomberg had obvious difficulty countering criticism that could threaten him in a Democratic Party that counts women and African-Americans among its most important constituencies…. Ms. Warren landed the most stinging blows against Mr. Bloomberg throughout the debate, starting with an opening broadside that likened him to the figure most reviled among Democrats: President Trump. ‘I’d like to talk about who we’re running against: a billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians,’ Ms. Warren said. ‘And no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.'” See also, Elizabeth Warren, Criticizing Michael Bloomberg, Sent a Message: She Won’t Be Ignored, The New York Times, Maggie Astor, Wednesday, 19 February 2020. See also, 6 Takeaways From the Democratic Debate in Nevada, The New York Times, Shane Goldmacher and Reid J. Epstein, published on Thursday, 20 February 2020. See also, Fact-Checking the Las Vegas Democratic Debate, The New York Times, Wednesday, 19 February 2020. See also, Billions of Targets on His Back, Michael Bloomberg Joins the Democratic Debate Fray, The New York Times, Matt Flegenheimer, published on Thursday, 20 February 2020. See also, Protesters Denounce Biden’s Immigration Record at Democratic Debate, The New York Times, Stephanie Saul, Wednesday, 19 February 2020: “Protesters opposing the United States’ immigration policy disrupted the Democratic debate Wednesday night, drowning out former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s closing remarks and momentarily bringing the event in Las Vegas to a halt…. Mr. Biden had just begun to speak when noise erupted from the rear of the Paris Theater, with protesters shouting about deportations under President Barack Obama. ‘You deported three million people,’ one of the protesters yelled. RAICES Action, an immigrant rights group, said on Twitter that it was responsible for the protest. The demonstrators were immediately escorted out of the debate, and Mr. Biden resumed his closing statement. The group said in a statement, ‘We disrupted the Democrat debate tonight because candidates have consistently refused to address the immigration crisis, and it’s simply not good enough.’ The statement added: ‘We understand not everyone will agree with this form of protest, but we do this as a last resort: Thousands are locked in detention centers, over 60,000 who came here for asylum were sent back to Mexico under MPP, and they’re gutting [our] refugee programs. This is a humanitarian crisis.'” See also, At fiery Democratic debate, a sour welcome for Michael Bloomberg and criticism for Bernie Sanders, The Washington, Post, Matt Viser, Annie Linskey, Chelsea Janes, and Michael Scherer, published on Thursday, 20 February 2020: “Former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg suffered a punishing welcome and Sen. Bernie Sanders was bludgeoned with criticism as an animated cast of rival candidates spent Wednesday’s presidential debate scrambling to stake their claims against the two rising contenders in the Democratic race. The result was an urgent, two-hour free-for-all that sizzled with animosity. Candidates who mostly avoided political combat in the previous debates, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg, came out swinging, each of them aiming to avoid elimination from the race. Contenders who had once respected time limits eagerly spoke over one another, posing questions directly to each other; former vice president Joe Biden, facing his own make-or-break moment, was among those who repeatedly interrupted with the phrase ‘Let me finish!'” See also, Live Updates: Democrats jockey for advantage after spirited debate in Nevada, The Washington Post, John Wagner, Colby Itkowitz, Amy B. Wang, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, and Isaac Stanley-Becker, published on Thursday, 20 February 2020: “Wednesday’s debate marked Bloomberg’s first moment facing the rhetorical volley, and he quickly became a target for his rivals. They challenged him on everything from the stop-and-frisk policy, which the Democrats decried as a form of racial profiling, to alleged disparaging comments about women to the use of his personal wealth to muscle his way into the primary contest. But the impassioned argument didn’t all revolve around Bloomberg. Buttigieg and Klobuchar, who have been competing for centrist voters while both straining to court minority support, squared off in starkly personal terms about experience — even knowledge. As in previous debates, a through line was the contest between pragmatism and transformational change, with candidates like Klobuchar and Biden making the case for reversing policies of the Trump administration without making what they described as overly ambitious promises. Warren, and to an even greater extent Sanders, countered that the incremental path would lead only to defeat.” See also, Fact-checking the ninth Democratic debate, The Washington Post, Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo, and Sarah Cahlan, Wednesday, 19 February 2020. See also, Michael Bloomberg faces attacks for refusing to release women from confidentiality agreements, The Washington Post, Michael Kranish, Thursday, 20 February 2020: “It was a dramatic moment at Wednesday’s Democratic debate: Elizabeth Warren turned to Mike Bloomberg and demanded that he release women from nondisclosure agreements they had signed after suing him, so they could tell their stories of alleged harassment or discrimination. Bloomberg, visibly unsettled by the fierceness of the attack, refused to back down, saying the deals were mutual and there was no reason to nullify them. ‘They signed the agreements, and that’s what we’re going to live with,’ Bloomberg said. Warren did not let up. ‘What we need to know is exactly what’s lurking out there,’ she said. ‘He has gotten some number of women — dozens, who knows — to sign nondisclosure agreements both for sexual harassment and for gender discrimination in the workplace. So, Mr. Mayor, are you willing to release all of those women from those nondisclosure agreements, so we can hear their side of the story?'”

Leaked Bloomberg Campaign Nondisclosure Agreement Protects Abusive Bosses. The campaign’s nondisclosure agreement could prevent staffers from reporting workplace abuse and discrimination. The Nation, Ken Klippenstein, Wednesday, 19 February 2020: “A nondisclosure agreement utilized by the campaign of Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire CEO of Bloomberg LP and former New York mayor now running for president, contains language that could prevent staffers from reporting workplace abuse. The NDA totals nine pages and forbids employees from discussing ‘any and all non-public information’ and ‘activities’ by the campaign. And while it’s understandable that a campaign would want to keep things like internal polling under wraps, transparency advocates say that the NDA is overly broad to the point of preventing sexual harassment, as well as other forms of workplace abuse like racial discrimination, from being reported.”

Trump Names Richard Grenell as Acting Director of National Intelligence. The move places a loyalist atop the intelligence agencies that Trump has long battled. The New York Times, Julian E. Barnes and Maggie Haberman, Wednesday, 19 February 2020: “President Trump on Wednesday named Richard Grenell, a vocal loyalist who quickly antagonized the German establishment as the American ambassador there, to be the acting director of national intelligence overseeing the nation’s 17 spy agencies. By choosing Mr. Grenell, who has little experience in intelligence or in running a large bureaucracy, the president signaled that he wants a trusted, aggressive leader atop an intelligence community that he has long viewed with suspicion and at times gone to war against…. Now, overseeing the intelligence agencies, Mr. Grenell will choose which spy reports and analyses are sent to the White House and which urgent threats to inform the president and congressional leaders about. While intelligence directors have tried to serve as neutral arbiters of facts, Mr. Grenell’s experience as an ideological advocate prompted some former officials to express concern that he could color the intelligence he presents to Mr. Trump.” See also, Trump to name Richard Grenell, U.S. ambassador to Germany, as acting head of intelligence, The Washington Post, Shane Harris, Anne Gearan, and Josh Dawsey, Wednesday, 19 February 2020: “President Trump on Wednesday named Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, as the next acting director of national intelligence, placing a fiercely loyal ally atop an intelligence structure he has frequently railed against.”

John Rood, top Pentagon policy official who warned against withholding Ukraine aid, resigns at Trump’s request, CNN Politics, Jim Sciutto, Barbara Starr, and Zachary Cohen, Wednesday, 19 February 2020: “The Pentagon’s top policy official who warned against withholding military aid to Ukraine last year resigned on Wednesday at the request of President Donald Trump, according to a copy of his resignation letter obtained by CNN. John Rood, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy at the Pentagon, is the latest senior national security official involved in the Ukraine controversy to be forced out following Trump’s acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial, but sources told CNN that he broke with the administration on several issues, in addition to the handling of aid to Ukraine, leading to a loss of support from leadership.” See also, John Rood, Top Defense Policy Official, Is the Latest to Be Ousted by Trump After Impeachment Saga, The New York Times, Helene Cooper, Wednesday, 19 February 2020: “John C. Rood, the Defense Department’s top policy official, is the latest member of President Trump’s national security team involved in the Ukraine matter to be ousted from the government. Mr. Rood, the under secretary of defense for policy, will step down at the end of February, the department’s press secretary, Alyssa Farah, said Wednesday. A department official said that Mr. Trump had told Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper that he wanted Mr. Rood out; in his resignation letter, Mr. Rood himself made it clear that he had been pushed out…. Mr. Rood was part of the team at the Defense Department that told Congress last year that Ukraine had made the necessary changes to justify sending the country $250 million in promised security assistance. The certification was widely viewed as undermining a key argument that Mr. Trump’s defense team made during his impeachment battle: that Mr. Trump withheld the aid because he was concerned about corruption in Ukraine.”

Trump Takes Up Call for Attorney General William Barr to ‘Clean House’ at the Justice Department. With a series of retweets, Trump kept up attacks on federal law enforcement agencies, despite pleas from the attorney general. The New York Times, Eileen Sullivan, Wednesday, 19 February 2020: “Ignoring appeals from his attorney general to stop tweeting about the Justice Department, President Trump renewed his attacks on the agency on Wednesday, demanding ‘JUSTICE’ for himself and all future presidents. With a series of retweets, Mr. Trump appeared to embrace the suggestion that Attorney General William P. Barr ‘clean shop’ at the department. And the president promoted the idea of naming a special counsel to investigate what Tom Fitton, the head of the conservative nonprofit Judicial Watch, described as a ‘seditious conspiracy’ at the department and the F.B.I.” See also, Against the wishes of Attorney General William Barr, Trump fires off more tweets about the Justice Department, The Washington Post, John Wagner, Matt Zapotosky, and Devlin Barrett, Wednesday, 19 February 2020.

Oil and gas firms ‘have had far worse climate impact than previously thought,’ The Guardian, Jonathan Watts, Wednesday, 19 February 2020: “The oil and gas industry has had a far worse impact on the climate than previously believed, according to a study indicating that human emissions of fossil methane have been underestimated by up to 40%. Although the research will add to pressure on fossil fuel companies, scientists said there was cause for hope because it showed a big extra benefit could come from tighter regulation of the industry and a faster shift towards renewable energy. Methane has a greenhouse effect that is about 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period and is responsible for at least 25% of global heating, according to the UN Environment Programme.” See also, Oil and Gas May Be a Far Bigger Climate Threat Than We Knew, The New York Times, Hiroko Tabuchi, Wednesday, 19 February 2020: “Oil and gas production may be responsible for a far larger share of the soaring levels of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, in the earth’s atmosphere than previously thought, new research has found. The findings, published in the journal Nature, add urgency to efforts to rein in methane emissions from the fossil fuel industry, which routinely leaks or intentionally releases the gas into air.”

Appeals court sides with Florida ex-felons in fight for voting rights, CNN Politics, Kelly Mena, Wednesday, 19 February 2020: “A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld a ruling giving Florida ex-felons the right to vote regardless of fines and fees associated with their convictions. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, affirming a district court’s previous decision, said a Republican-led effort to require ex-felons to pay up before they can vote — a requirement that in some cases could cost individuals thousands of dollars — violates the Equal Protection Clause. ‘Here, the plaintiffs are not punished in proportion to their culpability but to their wealth — equally guilty but wealthier felons are offered access to the ballot while these plaintiffs continue to be disenfranchised, perhaps forever,’ the court said in its decision. The practical effect of the 11th circuit’s decision is unclear, and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis plans to appeal, a spokeswoman said. The registration deadline to vote in the state’s presidential primaries was on Tuesday, and the legal and legislative challenges that have been launched since voters gave ex-felons the right to vote in a 2018 referendum could prevent many of them from participating in November’s general election. But the decision was hailed by voting rights groups, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, which represented two plaintiffs in the case.” See also, Appeals court says Florida rule barring certain ex-felons from voting is unconstitutional, The Washington Post, Elise Viebeck, Wednesday, 19 February 2020: “A Florida law prohibiting ex-felons who cannot pay certain legal fines from voting is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday in a case that could have significant consequences for one of the country’s largest swing states. In a unanimous ruling, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit affirmed a lower court’s finding that Florida’s S.B. 7066 violates the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. The panel also upheld that court’s preliminary injunction barring enforcement for the plaintiffs. Florida’s governor immediately signaled that he would appeal the decision to the full circuit.” See also, Florida loses appeals court ruling on felon voting law, Politico, Gary Fineout, Wednesday, 19 February 2020.

US judge sides with migrants over ‘inhumane and unsanitary’ border patrol conditions, Associated Press, Astrid Galvan, Wednesday, 19 February 2020: “A U.S. judge in Arizona sided Wednesday with migrants who have long-complained about inhumane and unsanitary conditions in some U.S. Border Patrol facilities in the state. The ruling came weeks after the conclusion of a seven-day trial in which attorneys for migrants who sued in 2015 argued that the agency holds immigrants in extremely cold, overcrowded, unsanitary and inhumane conditions. The order makes permanent a preliminary injunction that U.S. District Court Judge David C. Bury issued in 2016 requiring the Tucson Sector to provide clean mats and thin blankets to migrants held for longer than 12 hours and to allow them to clean themselves. It also bars the agency from holding migrants more than 48 hours if they’ve been fully processed, which is common when other agencies involved in taking the migrants, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement, don’t have the capacity to pick them up in a reasonable amount of time.”

But the decision was hailed by voting rights groups, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, which represented two plaintiffs in the case.

The 11 Criminals Granted Clemency by Trump Had One Thing in Common: Connections, The New York Times, Peter Baker, J. David Goodman, Michael Rothfeld, and Elizabeth Williamson, Wednesday, 19 February 2020: “The clemency orders that the president issued [on Tuesday] to celebrity felons like Mr. Kerik, Rod R. Blagojevich and Michael R. Milken came about through a typically Trumpian process, an ad hoc scramble that bypassed the formal procedures used by past presidents and was driven instead by friendship, fame, personal empathy and a shared sense of persecution. While aides said the timing was random, it reinforced Mr. Trump’s antipathy toward the law enforcement establishment. All 11 recipients had an inside connection or were promoted on Fox News. Some were vocal supporters of Mr. Trump, donated to his campaign or in one case had a son who weekended in the Hamptons with the president’s eldest son. Even three obscure women serving time on drug or fraud charges got on Mr. Trump’s radar screen through a personal connection.” See also, White House assembles team of advisers to guide clemency process as Trump considers more pardons, The Washington Post, Toluse Olorunnipa, Josh Dawsey, and Neena Satija, Wednesday, 19 February 2020: “The White House is moving to take more direct control over pardons and commutations, with President Trump aiming to limit the role of the Justice Department in the clemency process as he weighs a flurry of additional pardon announcements, according to people familiar with the matter. Trump, who granted clemency Tuesday to a group of 11 people that included several political allies and supporters, has assembled a team of advisers to recommend and vet candidates for pardons, according to several people with knowledge of the matter who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.”

Lawyer Acting for WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Claims Trump Offered Assange a Pardon if He Covered Up Russia’s Involvement in Hacking Emails From the Democratic National Committee, Daily Beast, Noco Hines, Wednesday, 19 February 2020: “A lawyer for Julian Assange has claimed in court that President Donald Trump offered to pardon Assange if the WikiLeaks founder agreed to help cover up Russia’s involvement in hacking emails from the Democratic National Committee. Assange’s lawyers said on Wednesday that former Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher offered Assange the deal in 2017, a year after emails that damaged Hillary Clinton in the presidential race had been published. WikiLeaks posted the stolen DNC emails after they were hacked by Russian operatives.” See also, Lawyer for Julian Assange claims Trump offered Assange a pardon if he denied Russia was linked to the hack of the emails of the Democratic National Committee, The Guardian, Julian Borger and Owen Bowcott, Wednesday, 19 February 2020: “Donald Trump offered Julian Assange a pardon if he would say Russia was not involved in leaking Democratic party emails, a court in London has been told. The extraordinary claim was made at Westminster magistrates court before the opening next week of Assange’s legal battle to block attempts to extradite him to the US, where he faces charges for publishing hacked documents. The allegation was denied by the former Republican congressman named by the Assange legal team as a key witness. Assange’s lawyers alleged that during a visit to London in August 2017, congressman Dana Rohrabacher told the WikiLeaks founder that ‘on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr Assange … said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC [Democratic National Committee] leaks.'” See also, Assange lawyer claims former Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher offered pardon on behalf of Trump in exchange for absolving Russia in WikiLeaks Democratic National Committee case, The Washington Post, William Booth and Ellen Nakashima, Wednesday, 19 February 2020: “A lawyer for Julian Assange said in a British court Wednesday that former Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher, an ally of President Trump, made an offer to the WikiLeaks founder on behalf of Trump to pardon Assange in exchange for saying that Russia had nothing to do with the 2016 hack and leak of emails from the Democratic National Committee.” See also, White House Denies Claim That Trump Offered Pardon Deal to Julian Assange, The New York Times, Charlie Savage, Wednesday, 19 February 2020: “The White House on Wednesday denied an allegation that President Trump had offered to pardon Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who is fighting extradition to the United States, if he absolved Russia of hacking Democratic emails during the 2016 campaign. Mr. Assange’s legal team told a court in London on Wednesday that Mr. Trump had made the offer in 2017 through Dana Rohrabacher, who at the time was a Republican congressman from California.” See also, Former California Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher confirms he offered a Trump pardon to Julian Assnage for proof Russia didn’t hack Democratic National Committee (DNC) email, Yahoo! News, Michael Isikoff, published on Thursday, 20 February 2020: “Former California Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher confirmed in a new interview that during a three-hour meeting at the Ecuadorian Embassy in August 2017, he told Julian Assange he would get President Trump to give him a pardon if he turned over information proving the Russians had not been the source of internal Democratic National Committee emails published by WikiLeaks. In a phone interview with Yahoo News, Rohrabacher said his goal during the meeting was to find proof for a widely debunked conspiracy theory: that WikiLeaks’ real source for the DNC emails was not Russian intelligence agents, as U.S. officials have since concluded, but former DNC staffer Seth Rich, who was murdered on the streets of Washington in July 2016 in what police believe was a botched robbery.” See also, Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of California Asks for Pardon of Julian Assange in Return for Evidence Russia Wasn’t the source of Hacked Emails, The Wall Street Journal, Byron Tau, Peter Nicholas, and Siobhan Hughes, published on 15 September 2017: “A U.S. congressman contacted the White House this week trying to broker a deal that would end WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s U.S. legal troubles in exchange for what he described as evidence that Russia wasn’t the source of hacked emails published by the antisecrecy website during the 2016 presidential campaign. The proposal made by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R., Calif.), in a phone call Wednesday with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, was apparently aimed at resolving the probe of WikiLeaks prompted by Mr. Assange’s publication of secret U.S. government documents in 2010 through a pardon or other act of clemency from President Donald Trump. The possible ‘deal’—a term used by Mr. Rohrabacher during the Wednesday phone call—would involve a pardon of Mr. Assange or ‘something like that,’ Mr. Rohrabacher said. In exchange, Mr. Assange would probably present a computer drive or other data-storage device that Mr. Rohrabacher said would exonerate Russia in the long-running controversy about who was the source of hacked and stolen material aimed at embarrassing the Democratic Party during the 2016 election.”

Millions of Americans Donate through Crowdfunding Sites to Help Others Pay for Medical Bills, NORC (formerly National Opinion Research Center) at the University of Chicago, Wednesday, 19 February 2020: “One in five Americans reported that they or someone in their household have contributed to a crowdfunding campaign to pay for medical bills or treatments, according to a new AmeriSpeak® Spotlight on Health survey from NORC at the University of Chicago. Crowdfunding is the process by which individuals may raise funds from a large amount of people, often through sites such as GoFundMe. The survey also found that an estimated 8 million Americans had started a campaign for themselves or someone in their household and more than 12 million Americans had started a campaign for someone else.”

In speech, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney says Republicans are hypocritical on deficits, The Washington Post, Josh Dawsey, Wednesday, 19 February 2020: “Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Wednesday night that the Republican Party is hypocritical when it comes to deficits, according to audio of an overseas speech obtained by The Washington Post. ‘My party is very interested in deficits when there is a Democrat in the White House. The worst thing in the whole world is deficits when Barack Obama was the president. Then Donald Trump became president, and we’re a lot less interested as a party,’ Mulvaney said at the Oxford Union to a group of several hundred people.”

E. Jean Carroll Says Elle Magazine Fired Her After She Accused Trump of Raping Her, The New York Times, Neil Vigdor and Ed Shanahan, Wednesday, 19 February 2020: “E. Jean Carroll, the longtime Elle magazine advice columnist who last year accused Donald J. Trump of raping her before he was elected president, said on Tuesday that she was fired by the publication because of Mr. Trump’s repeated insults against her. Ms. Carroll, the author of the ‘Ask E. Jean’ column, announced her departure from the magazine on Twitter and blamed it on Mr. Trump, who she said had sexually assaulted her in a dressing room at an upscale New York department store more than 20 years ago. Mr. Trump has repeatedly denied Ms. Carroll’s accusation. ‘Because Trump ridiculed my reputation, laughed at my looks, & dragged me through the mud, after 26 years, ELLE fired me,’ Ms. Carroll wrote on Twitter. ‘I don’t blame Elle. It was the great honor of my life writing Ask E. Jean.’”

 

Thursday, 20 February 2020, Day 1,126:

 

House Lawmakers Are Warned by Intelligence Officials That Russia Is Meddling to Re-elect Trump, The New York Times, Adam Goldman, Julian E. Barnes, Maggie Haberman, and Nicholas Fandos, Thursday, 20 February 2020: “Intelligence officials warned House lawmakers last week that Russia was interfering in the 2020 campaign to try to get President Trump re-elected, five people familiar with the matter said, a disclosure to Congress that angered Mr. Trump, who complained that Democrats would use it against him. The day after the Feb. 13 briefing to lawmakers, the president berated Joseph Maguire, the outgoing acting director of national intelligence, for allowing it to take place, people familiar with the exchange said. Mr. Trump was particularly irritated that Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the leader of the impeachment proceedings, was at the briefing. During the briefing to the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Trump’s allies challenged the conclusions, arguing that he had been tough on Russia and that he had strengthened European security. Some intelligence officials viewed the briefing as a tactical error, saying the conclusions could have been delivered in a less pointed manner or left out entirely to avoid angering Republicans. The intelligence official who delivered the briefing, Shelby Pierson, is an aide to Mr. Maguire and has a reputation for speaking bluntly. Though intelligence officials have previously told lawmakers that Russia’s interference campaign was continuing, last week’s briefing included what appeared to be new information: that Russia intended to interfere with the 2020 Democratic primaries as well as the general election. On Wednesday, the president announced that he was replacing Mr. Maguire with Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany and an aggressively vocal Trump supporter. And though some current and former officials speculated that the briefing might have played a role in that move, two administration officials said the timing was coincidental. Mr. Grenell had been in discussions with the administration about taking on new roles, they said, and Mr. Trump had never felt a kinship with Mr. Maguire.” See also, Senior intelligence official told House lawmakers that Russia wants to see Trump reelected, The Washington Post, Ellen Nakashima, Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey, and Anne Gearan, published on Friday, 21 February 2020: “A senior U.S. intelligence official told lawmakers last week that Russia wants to see President Trump reelected, viewing his administration as more favorable to the Kremlin’s interests, according to people who were briefed on the comments. After learning of that analysis, which was provided to House lawmakers in a classified hearing, Trump grew angry at his acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, in the Oval Office, seeing Maguire and his staff as disloyal for speaking to Congress about Russia’s perceived preference. The intelligence official’s analysis and Trump’s furious response ­ruined Maguire’s chances of becoming the permanent intelligence chief, according to people familiar with the matter who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.”

Roger Stone Is Sentenced to Over 3 Years in Prison. The sentencing played out amid extraordinary upheaval at the Justice Department and a virtual standoff between Trump and Attorney General William Barr. The New York Times, Sharon LaFraniere, Thursday, 20 February 2020: “Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime friend and adviser of President Trump, was sentenced Thursday to more than three years in prison in a politically fraught case that put the president at odds with his attorney general, stirred widespread consternation in the Justice Department and provoked the judge in the case to denounce pressure on the justice system. In announcing the 40-month sentence, Judge Amy Berman Jackson of United States District Court in Washington suggested that attacks on federal judges, prosecutors and juries should be a wake-up call about the threats now endangering an independent justice system. While she never mentioned Mr. Trump by name, her remarks seemed directed at him. ‘The dismay and the disgust at the attempts by others to defend his actions as just business as usual in our polarized climate should transcend party,’ the judge said of Mr. Stone. ‘The dismay and disgust at any attempt to interfere with the efforts of prosecutors and members of the judiciary to fulfill their duty should transcend party.’… [L]ess than three hours after Mr. Stone was sentenced, the president declared he should be ‘exonerated,’ echoing the defense team’s arguments in detail. Speaking in Las Vegas, he said Mr. Stone was the victim of ‘a bad jury’ led by an anti-Trump activist And he suggested that he would use his clemency power to spare Mr. Stone if Judge Jackson did not agree to a new trial sought by defense lawyers. A jury in November convicted Mr. Stone of seven felony charges, including lying under oath to a congressional committee and threatening a witness whose testimony would have exposed those lies. In biting tones, Judge Jackson dismissed any notion that the case lacked merit. She said that Mr. Stone hindered a congressional inquiry of national importance because the truth would have embarrassed the president and his 2016 campaign. The documentary evidence alone, she said, proved that Mr. Stone deceived the House Intelligence Committee about his efforts to obtain information from WikiLeaks about Democratic emails that had been stolen by Russian operatives who sought to influence the 2016 presidential election. ‘He was not prosecuted, as some have complained, for standing up for the president. He was prosecuted for covering up for the president,’ the judge said. In government inquiries, she added, ‘the truth still exists. The truth still matters.’ Otherwise, she said, ‘everyone loses.’ See also, Roger Stone sentenced to three years and four months in prison, as Trump predicts ‘exoneration’ for his friend, The Washington Post, Rachel Weiner, Matt Zapotosky, Tom Jackman, and Devlin Barrett, Thursday, 20 February 2020: “A federal judge on Thursday sentenced Roger Stone, President Trump’s longtime friend and political adviser, to serve three years and four months in prison for impeding a congressional investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The penalty from U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson comes after weeks of infighting over the politically charged case that threw the Justice Department into crisis, and it is likely not to be the final word. Even before the sentencing hearing began, Trump seemed to suggest on Twitter that he might pardon Stone. With the proceedings ongoing, Trump questioned whether his ally was being treated fairly. Afterward, he attacked the jury in the case and said he would ‘love to see Roger exonerated.’ In a lengthy speech before imposing the penalty, Jackson seemed to take aim at Trump, saying Stone ‘was not prosecuted for standing up for the president; he was prosecuted for covering up for the president.’ She also appeared to call out Attorney General William P. Barr, saying his intervention to reduce career prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation was ‘unprecedented.’ But she said the politics surrounding the case had not influenced her decision.’The truth still exists; the truth still matters,’ Jackson said, echoing prosecutors’ closing arguments at trial in November. ‘Roger Stone’s insistence that it doesn’t, his belligerence, his pride in his own lies are a threat to our most fundamental institutions, to the foundations of our democracy. If it goes unpunished, it will not be a victory for one party or another. Everyone loses.'” See also, Roger Stone sentenced to over three years in prison, Politico, Darren Samuelsohn and Josh Gerstein, Thursday, 20 February 2020. See also, Roger Stone Sentenced to Three Years and Four Months in Prison, The Wall Street Journal, Aruna Viswanatha and Byron Tau, Thursday, 20 February 2020: “President Trump’s longtime confidant Roger Stone was sentenced to three years and four months in prison on Thursday for lying to Congress and witness tampering, after a tumultuous two weeks in which Mr. Trump denounced the handling of the case and the government trial lawyers withdrew. At a 2½-hour hearing in a filled-to-capacity courtroom, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson repeatedly criticized Mr. Stone, saying that he had shown ‘flagrant disrespect’ for Congress and the court, and dismissed claims that he was being prosecuted for his politics. ‘The problem is that nothing about this case was a joke. It wasn’t funny. It wasn’t a stunt and it wasn’t a prank,’ Judge Jackson said.” See also, Roger Stone Sentenced to More Than Three Years for ‘Covering Up’ for Trump, Slate, Jeremy Stahl, Thursday, 20 February 2020. See also, Trump Renews Attack on Justice System, Again Disregarding Attorney General William Barr’s Pleas to Stop Publicly Intervening in Prosecutions Where He Has a Personal Interest, The New York Times, Peter Baker, Thursday, 20 February 2020: “President Trump once again berated the ‘dirty cops’ of the law enforcement establishment on Thursday, accusing the Justice Department of going after his friends but not his enemies in an outburst that flouted Attorney General William P. Barr’s pleas to stop publicly intervening in prosecutions where he had a personal interest. Speaking out hours after his friend Roger J. Stone Jr. was sentenced to more than three years in prison for lying to protect the president, Mr. Trump belittled the case and hinted broadly that he would use his clemency power to spare Mr. Stone if a judge did not agree to a retrial sought by defense lawyers. In essentially dangling a pardon or a commutation for a friend, Mr. Trump confronted Mr. Barr with a choice about how to respond after he declared last week that the president’s attacks on the criminal justice system were making his job ‘impossible.'” See also, Roger Stone and Everyone Charged in the 2016 Election Investigations, The New York Times, Karen Yourish, Larry Buchanan, and Alicia Parlapiano, updated on Thursday, 20 February 2020.

U.S. and Britain and Australia Blame Russia for Cyberattack on Republic of Georgia, The New York Times, David E. Sanger and Marc Santora, Thursday, 20 February 2020: “The United States and its key allies on Thursday accused Russia’s main military intelligence agency of a broad cyberattack against the republic of Georgia in October that took out websites and interrupted television broadcasts, in a coordinated effort to deter Moscow from intervening in the 2020 presidential election in the United States. The accusation, issued by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, was particularly notable at a time when President Trump has been seeking to shift blame for interference in the 2016 election from Russia to Ukraine, a central element of his impeachment trial last month.”

How conservatives learned to wield power inside Facebook, The Washington Post, Craig Timberg, Thursday, 20 February 2020: “Facebook created ‘Project P’ — for propaganda — in the hectic weeks after the 2016 presidential election and quickly found dozens of pages that had peddled false news reports ahead of Donald Trump’s surprise victory. Nearly all were based overseas, had financial motives and displayed a clear rightward bent. In a world of perfect neutrality, which Facebook espouses as its goal, the political tilt of the pages shouldn’t have mattered. But in a videoconference between Facebook’s Washington office and its Silicon Valley headquarters in December 2016, the company’s most senior Republican, Joel Kaplan, voiced concerns that would become familiar to those within the company. ‘We can’t remove all of it because it will disproportionately affect conservatives,’ said Kaplan, a former George W. Bush White House official and now the head of Facebook’s Washington office, according to people familiar with the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect professional relationships. When another Facebook staff member pushed for the entire list to be taken down on the grounds that the accounts fueled the ‘fake news’ that had roiled the election, Kaplan warned of the backlash from conservatives. ‘They don’t believe it to be fake news,’ he said, arguing for time to develop guidelines that could be defended to the company’s critics, including on the right. The debate over ‘Project P,’ which resulted in a few of the worst pages quickly being removed while most others remained on the platform, exemplified the political dynamics that have reigned within Facebook since Trump emerged as the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee to the White House in 2016. A company led mainly by Democrats in the liberal bastion of Northern California repeatedly has tilted rightward to deliver policies, hiring decisions and public gestures sought by Republicans, according to current and former employees and others who have worked closely with the company.”

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney says U.S. is ‘desperate’ for more legal immigrants, The Washington Post, Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey, Thursday, 20 February 2020: “Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told a crowd at a private gathering in England on Wednesday night that the Trump administration ‘needs more immigrants’ for the U.S. economy to continue growing, according to an audio recording of his remarks obtained by The Washington Post. ‘We are desperate — desperate — for more people,’ Mulvaney said. ‘We are running out of people to fuel the economic growth that we’ve had in our nation over the last four years. We need more immigrants.’ The Trump administration wants those immigrants to come in a ‘legal fashion,’ Mulvaney said, according to the recording. Mulvaney’s remarks appear in contrast to the public position of several top figures in Trump’s White House — especially that of senior policy adviser Stephen Miller — who have been working to slash legal and illegal immigration through a slew of policies that aim to close off the U.S. border to foreigners. They have insisted that the steady arrival of newcomers depresses wages for the blue-collar U.S. workers whose votes helped lift Trump to the presidency in 2016.”

Trump’s Reelection Campaign and the Republican National Committee to Spend $10M on Voting Lawsuits, The New York Times/Associated Press, Thursday, 20 February 2020: “President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee announced Thursday that they will spend more than $10 million during the 2020 election cycle to battle Democrats on voting-related lawsuits and to bolster their Election Day operations. The announcement comes one day after the RNC and the Michigan Republican Party formally requested that a federal judge in Michigan’s Eastern District allow the groups to be added as defendants in a lawsuit filed by the Democratic-aligned super PAC Priorities USA. The super PAC is challenging state laws that prohibit political organizers from helping voters submit absentee ballot applications and bar groups from hiring people to transport voters to the polls. The Republican promise to dedicate millions to anticipated voting rights fights follows court challenges by left-leaning groups against states that they believe are unconstitutionally suppressing participation in elections.”

Victoria Coates, top National Security Council official, is reassigned to the Energy Department amid suggestions that she is the author of ‘Anonymous: A Warning,’ Axios, Jonathan Swan, Thursday, 20 February 2020: “Deputy national security adviser Victoria Coates will be reassigned as a senior adviser to Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, the National Security Council said Thursday — and a senior White House official said that the administration ‘rejects’ the rumors that she is ‘Anonymous.’ Coates has battled claims that she is the still-unknown Trump administration official that penned a New York Times op-ed and book critical of President Trump. Coates has vehemently denied the charges, which strained her working relationship with national security adviser Robert O’Brien, to colleagues.” See also, White House transfers Victoria Coates, the National Security Council’s top Middle East adviser, after whisper campaign that she is the anonymous author of an anti-Trump book, Politico, Meridith McGraw, Thursday, 20 February 2020: “Victoria Coates, who was the subject of a whisper campaign that she is the anonymous author of a tell-all book about the Trump administration, is moving from the National Security Council to the Energy Department. Coates served as deputy national security adviser with a focus on the Middle East and North Africa and will be joining the Department of Energy as senior adviser to Secretary Dan Brouillette. According to the White House, the move had been in the works for weeks but the timing comes as Coates fends off unsubstantiated rumors she was behind the ‘Anonymous’ book. Both agents for the book and the White House denied the rumors. ‘The White House leadership rejects rumors that have circulated recently and does not put any stock in the suggestion that Victoria Coates is the author of “Anonymous: A Warning” or the related op-ed in The New York Times,’ a senior administration official said.” See also, Victoria Coates, National Security Council Official  Rumored to Be Anonymous Op-Ed Writer, Is Reassigned to the Energy Department, The New York Times, Michael Crowley, Thursday, 20 February 2020: “The White House is transferring a senior national security aide who fell under suspicion of writing an anonymous insider account of dissent within the Trump administration, the latest of several senior personnel moves stemming from questions of loyalty to President Trump. Victoria Coates, Mr. Trump’s deputy national security adviser, will move on Monday to the Department of Energy, where she will serve as a senior adviser to Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette.”

The FBI Is Investigating Erik Prince for Trying to Weaponize Crop Dusters, The Intercept, Matthew Cole, Thursday, 20 February 2020: “Last May, shortly after Congress accused Erik Prince of lying under oath and referred criminal charges to the Justice Department, an associate approached the Blackwater founder to offer help and commiserate about Prince’s potential legal jeopardy. Prince, who once moved to the United Arab Emirates to avoid being caught up in a federal prosecution, immediately dismissed the associate’s concerns. He was untouchable, he bragged, and would face no legal troubles. ‘Not under this guy,’ Prince said referring to President Donald Trump, according to a person with direct knowledge of the exchange. That assumption is about to be tested. Prince, an heir to a billion-dollar fortune who is widely viewed as a shadow adviser to the president, is under federal investigation for his 2015 attempt to modify two American-made crop-dusting planes into attack aircraft — a violation of arms trafficking regulations — two people familiar with the investigation told The Intercept. The planes became part of private military services Prince proposed to sell or use in mercenary operations in Africa and Azerbaijan, as The Intercept has previously reported.”

 

 

During the day on Saturday, I’ll post stories that were published on Friday. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened rather than on speculation and prognostication, I usually let the news ‘settle’ for a day or so before posting. I do include opinion pieces when I think they are appropriate.