Tag Archives: Lawless

Dangerously Unfit

Originally posted on August 20, 2020

Earlier today 70 Republican former security officials released a statement:We are profoundly concerned about our nation’s security and standing in the world under the leadership of Donald Trump. The President has demonstrated that he is dangerously unfit to serve another term.

They went on to list 10 areas where he has failed:

  • Donald Trump has gravely damaged America’s role as a world leader.
  • Donald Trump has shown that he is unfit to lead during a national crisis.
  • Donald Trump has solicited foreign influence and undermined confidence in our presidential elections.
  • Donald Trump has aligned himself with dictators and failed to stand up for American values.
  • Donald Trump has disparaged our armed forces, intelligence agencies, and diplomats.
  • Donald Trump has undermined the rule of law.
  • Donald Trump has dishonored the office of the presidency.
  • Donald Trump has divided our nation and preached a dark and pessimistic view of America.
  • Donald Trump has attacked and vilified immigrants to our country.
  • Donald Trump has imperiled America’s security by mismanaging his national security team.

Pretty strong stuff, especially coming from former REPUBLICAN administrations. Roughly the same group put out a warning in 2016 that Trump “would be the most reckless president in American history.” It seems that they were right way back then. Let’s hope more Americans pay attention to their warnings in 2020.

Delay the Election?

Originally posted on July 30, 2020

It was only a matter of time until Trump showed his real intentions for the upcoming election on November 3. He certainly doesn’t like mail-in voting because he’d lose even worse than the polls currently have him losing, but the virus has made in-person voting a risky endeavor for many of us. So what would be his cure?

Sure, just delay the election. Until ??? Perhaps he’s thinking of 4 years. No doubt that would suit him just fine. Of course, there might be a problem with that pesky Constitution.

In an interesting back story, Biden actually predicted that Trump would try something like this. Biden said on April 23: “Mark my words: I think he is gonna try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can’t be held.”

Shortly thereafter Henry Olsen, one of the Washington Post’s “conservative” writers, wrote an editorial beating up on Biden for this “baseless accusation”. Apparently Olsen is a terrible judge of character – anybody with half a brain knows Trump is totally capable of trying anything to stay in power, and our low opinion of him is justified one more time.

The Trump campaign also got into the act, describing Biden’s speculation about Trump wanting to delay the election as “incoherent, conspiracy theory ramblings of a lost candidate who is out of touch with reality.” Even Trump’s campaign projects rather well, doesn’t it?

I’m guessing that at some point in the near future Trump will walk back the idea after he sees even his toadies like Mitch don’t support this. Look, I was kidding!

The Wallace Interview

Originally posted on July 19, 2020

Several days ago Chris Wallace of Fox News interviewed Trump for over an hour. The interview aired this morning, Sunday the 19th, and immediately caused quite the stir. You can watch the entire thing or clips if you subscribe to Fox and can stand it, or you can get the “4-minute” highlights and a lot of commentary here at the Washington Post.

There were any number of things that Trump said during the interview that were either wrong or problematical.

  • He wasn’t sure if he would accept the results of the November election. Really? I didn’t know he had a choice. But it is pretty easy to see where he could declare there was fraud and he and Barr would use the levers available to see if a loss could be overturned.
  • He reiterated his ongoing claim that the U.S. doesn’t have so many covid-19 cases as other places, blaming the high numbers on the high numbers of tests (that aren’t really that high) we’ve done. Wallace tried to correct him, but either he is too corrupt or too stupid to understand.
  • He dismissed the serious consequences to some people who get the virus, like kids with sniffles.
  • He gave tacit approval to those who display the Confederate flag.
  • He accused the “cancel culture” of wanting to change history, in this case by focusing on the year 1619. I don’t think they are trying to forget 1492; rather they are trying to make sure we don’t forget 1619. I doubt Trump even knew the significance of the date – when the first slaves were brought in.
  • Schools have to open. We’d all agree that having schools closed in not good, but at what cost? Trump doesn’t seem to care about the very real consequences of opening schools without the preconditions to make it safe for everyone involved.
  • Where did he find out that schools are “teaching our children to hate America?” No answer, of course, because schools don’t. But Trump “watches” and “reads”. Really?
  • He claims Biden wants to defund the police. Actually, he doesn’t.
  • All the polls are fake.
  • Trump claims medical preconditions will be taken care of, 100%, in some unspecified new plan that he’ll release in the next couple of weeks. We’ve been waiting for over 3 years for an actual plan, as Wallace mentions, and we’re still waiting. Trump’s answer, involving the DACA dreamers, was nonsensical.

As for Trump not accepting the results of the November election, Biden’s campaign had a nice reply: “The American people will decide this election,” Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said. “And the United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House.”

Who’s Pendley?

Originally posted on July 17, 2020

William Perry Pendley is not a household name. He currently heads the BLM – the federal Bureau of Land Management. That bureau is responsible for the management of some 247 million acres of publicly-owned land, almost all of it in the western states.

Pendley’s history at the BLM is contentious, and not just because of any policies, although those are contentious enough. Normally the director of the BLM is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. However, in Trump’s chaotic administration finding competent and non-controversial candidates who would work for Trump is apparently fairly difficult So lots of positions are filled with “acting” administrators and the faces seem to change rather quickly.

The Department of the Interior (where the BLM resides) seems to have had significant problems finding able administrators. In what is to me a remarkable document, the Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt (who was also an acting Secretary until shortly before he issued the remarkable document, replacing Ryan Zinke a few months earlier, whew!) named seven (7!) positions that normally needed Senate confirmation that remained unfilled. He went ahead and didn’t really actually name people to those positions; rather he delegated their responsibilities. Pendley was “c” in the below list. So he was never even nominated, let alone confirmed. Here’s the gist of the remarkable document:

The purpose of this Order is to temporarily redelegate authority for the following vacant non-career Presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed positions for which there is no Principal Deputy that would automatically become acting by operation of law:

  • a. Deputy Secretary
  • b. Solicitor
  • c. Director, Bureau of Land Management
  • d. Special Trustee for American Indians
  • e. Director, National Park Service
  • f. Director, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement
  • g. Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

OK, so he isn’t entirely legit. What about his policies? One can have legitimate disagreements about the use and scale of federally-owned lands. Pendley advocates selling federal lands to various private interests, a position that doesn’t sit well with most Americans; at least most Americans who don’t stand to profit from those sales. Aside from that general policy, he has some views that are remarkably consistent with Trump’s – that is, racist and bigoted.

So why is he in the news now? Well, Trump just nominated him for the director’s job. Finally. Nobody can say why, especially so close to the election. What this nomination really does is put a number of western Senators in a real bind. If they support him they piss off all their constituents who don’t want to potentially lose access to a large part of their state. If they don’t they piss off the Trump true believers. Politico calls this an “unforced error” and it seems that Trump is making more and more of them these days.

Pardon Me?

Originally posted on July 12, 2020

As part of my research into the Roger Stone pardon I chanced upon a more complete listing of Trump’s pardons. In what should be no surprise, Trump’s use of his pardoning powers has been unprecedented for at least three reasons.

The first of these is the relatively few pardons he has (at least, so far) given – a total of 36. Obama gave 963, Bush 100, and Clinton 229. You’d have to go back to Washington and Adams to find presidents who have given fewer. Perhaps on his last day in office he’ll issue some more.

The second is that all other presidents have generally gone through the Department of Justice’s Pardon Attorney, who reviews cases and makes recommendations. The president isn’t required to do so – his power to pardon or commute is absolute and guaranteed by the constitution. Exceptions tend to be controversial though, like Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich. Of Trumps’ 36 pardons/commutations, only 5 have apparently gone through this office, and all 5 of them were done on the same day. No other president has a ratio even close to this low.

Third, and in what should be no surprise, the remaining 31 of Trumps pardons/commutations, the ones not reviewed by the pardon attorney, involve people who had some connection to Trump himself or to his sense of self-importance. In the listing referenced above they used the following 4 criteria:

  • Did it advance a clear political goal of the president?
  • Did the person who was pardoned have a personal connection to Trump or someone Trump knows well?
  • Was the person who was pardoned brought to the President’s attention by television or a television commentator?
  • Was the pardon based on Trump’s admiration for celebrity?

They also referenced a chart that details all 36. Here’s a pdf backup.

Roger Stone

Originally posted on July 11, 2020

Roger Stone is a long-time dirty trickster who most recently helped Trump win in 2016 by, among other things, coordinating the Wikileaks’ release of the Podesta and Clinton emails. Robert Mueller investigated him as part of the investigation into Russian interference in Trump’s 2016 election victory. He lied and threatened other witnesses and was convicted on all charges in November 2019 and sentenced to prison.

This treatment of a loyal ally has always rubbed Trump the wrong way. More recently he’s been tweeting about it, i.e.

So, late last Friday night (when it would be least noticed) Trump commuted Stone’s prison sentence. Notice that he didn’t pardon Stone. So Stone is still a convicted seven-time felon. The difference? If Trump had pardoned Stone, then Stone could be compelled to testify against Trump at the risk of being held in contempt of court – after all, the only reason you can not answer questions is self-incrimination, and if you’ve been pardoned that’s no longer applicable. And Stone has made comments that indicate he has a lot more information that he has so far refused to reveal. And Trump has rewarded him for his loyalty. This is apparently what Trump means by “law and order”. My ass.

Reaction was swift and almost universally condemned the commutation. Most interesting was Robert Mueller, who has largely been silent as Trump and Barr have worked to undo most of the convictions he obtained. No longer. Here’s the paragraph that stood out to me.

Congress also investigated and sought information from Stone. A jury later determined he lied repeatedly to members of Congress. He lied about the identity of his intermediary to WikiLeaks. He lied about the existence of written communications with his intermediary. He lied by denying he had communicated with the Trump campaign about the timing of WikiLeaks’ releases. He in fact updated senior campaign officials repeatedly about WikiLeaks. And he tampered with a witness, imploring him to stonewall Congress.

And Stone is not the first Trump associate to benefit from Trump’s sense of law and order. He and Barr have also interfered in the Flynn case. Trump is also the first president to pardon a murderer.

We all know that Trump only considers himself and his approach to “law and order” should be understood in that light. If the law is on his side, it’s legal; if not, it’s illegal.


Originally posted on July 5, 2020

For several weeks some unknown person was posting on Facebook all about plans for Antifa to burn U.S. flags at the Gettysburg Memorial. Anyone with more than half a brain would be skeptical, but apparently there’s a lot of people around who don’t qualify. Several hundred of right-wing gun-toting “militiamen” showed up to, what, exactly? Protect the flag ? The burning of which is protected by the first amendment?

Almost needless to say, it was a hoax. First, there’s no Antifa organization, at least not worthy of the word “organization.” Second, this hoax has been foisted upon the “patriots” of the right wing any number of times before. It’s like they have their guns and they are eager to use them against anyone who is not like them.

The Washington Post had a long article about the fiasco, and if you just look through the pictures you can get a pretty good sense of just who these self-proclaimed “militiamen” are. Obviously, they are not well-regulated, as the second amendment requires. Just jerks out looking for trouble. I was especially intrigued by the Harley with a Confederate flag, pretending to be some sort of patriot. The irony is gobsmacking.


The comments were pretty interesting as well. The best one I saw was from nanouk, and it is copied below in its entirety.

In 2017, Antifa did not show up to that flag burning. In fact, no one showed up because there is no mass movement of people seeking to burn the flag or to desecrate US heritage. But, in 2020, these yahoos with guns fall for the same hoax. Exact same thing! And again, no flag burner shows up. The logical conclusion should have been that Antifa is not a threat, and that there aren’t throngs of people looking to burn the flag to roast their S’mores on 4th of July. This should have made them realize that Antifa and the ‘flag-burners’ are not a real threat. But again, that is not the conclusion reached by these ‘militias’. 

These guys live in a dream world where Antifa is a powerful well-organized radical and destructive dark and evil force. They are delusional. The worst is that their delusion is based in no small part on projection. They imagine Antifa to be like them: radical, senseless, destructive and full of rage. Just hitching for a fight, and maybe some murder, if the weather permits.

These Right-wing types are the dangerous ones. They are the threat to the Republic. Their enemies are largely imaginary, but their hatred, their rage and their guns aren’t. If the Second Amendment is really about allowing losers with guns to threaten and intimidate others, in a made-up game of ‘war’, then maybe the Second Amendment should be revisited.

More Treason?

Originally posted on June 27, 2020

Trump seems addicted to using the most extreme words, bending them totally away form their original meaning. An example might be calling any number of democrats “socialists” or even “communists” when very few, if any, prominent democrats would meet those original definitions. And so it goes with “treason”. Obama? Traitor!

Although the above quote from the BLM “leader” (I’m guessing he’s a leader only in the same sense as an antifa leader – in other words, not really a leader at all) seems pretty severe, it has been removed from a much longer discussion.

The “leader”, is one Hawk Newsome. Part of the interview – the part that isn’t played back so often – mentions the hypocrisy of all the 2nd Amendment folks who would much rather it be only for whites. Compared to some of the pro-Trump militia “leaders”, Newsome comes across are relatively measured.

A 5-minute search uncovered 9 others who Trump has either directly called traitors or called for an investigation into their treason: Comey, McCabe, Struck, Page, Obama, Pelosi, Schiff, the NYT and Google. It seems apparent that he doesn’t really know what the word actually means. From Merriam-Webster: the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign’s family. Even with a lot of stretching nothing any of these people have done rises to that level. A charge of treason from any other president would be a serious, life-threatening deal. But not from Trump. Just another day in Trump-land. This is just another example of Trump using the most extreme words he knows, apparently trying to convince his base that things are really stacked against him. Sadly, some of his followers buy into this stuff.

Berman Prelude

Originally posted on June 25, 2020

While researching the Berman debacle, I was reminded that this was not the first time Barr/Trump have played games with U.S. Attorneys. Along with the SDNY in New York City, the D.C. office in Washington D.C. is the main office where politics-inspired crimes are likely to be investigated. The D.C. office is also the largest district office, with about 300 prosecutors.

Jessie Liu became the U.S. Attorney in D.C. in September 2017. Before that she had a long career in both private and government legal circles. She was a Trump supporter, working on his transition team after his election. While serving as the U.S. Attorney she oversaw a number of, say we say, politically-sensitive cases.

The Mueller investigation had spun off a number of cases, including Roger Stone and Andrew McCabe. In both of these she went against the wishes of Trump: she didn’t interfere to save Stone and she exonerated McCabe. Obviously, she had to go. Trump transferred her to the Treasury Department and then pulled her nomination there, leaving her unemployed. Nice work.

She was replaced by Timothy Shea, who was a Barr confidant. Shea was just interim, only serving from February to May 2020. Just long enough to call for the dismissal of charges against Michael Flynn and pressure prosecutors for a lighter sentence for Roger Stone. Shea in turn was replaced in May 2020 by yet another interim Attorney, Michael Sherwin. He was best known for obtaining the conviction of a Chinese woman for trespassing at Mar-A-Lago.

Career attorneys are really getting fed up with the injection of politics into the Department of Justice. And this was before Berman’s firing in June 2020. One has to wonder just how deep the rot goes.

Berman Part 2

Originally posted on June 24, 2020

Several days ago Barr/Trump (they’re both blaming each other, sort of) fired Geoffrey Berman, the lead attorney in the Southern District of NY office. The firing didn’t go well, and no good reason for his firing has been forthcoming. I posted in it earlier and the intervening four days have given me a chance to look more closely at it.

Some history is needed. The SDNY is noted for its prominence (Manhattan) and its independence. When Trump was elected one of his first acts was to request resignation letters from all the district attorneys, including the SDNY’s attorney: Preet Bharara. Bharara declined to do so and was fired in March 2017. In January 2018 Jeffrey Sessions, then the Attorney General, appointed Berman as the U.S. attorney at SDNY. But Trump never formally submitted Berman’s name to the Senate for confirmation. After a statutory waiting period, the judges of the SDNY appointed him “permanently” in April 2018.

The law gets confusing here. Since Berman was appointed by the courts, not by Trump’s administration, there’s some thought that Trump’s administration can’t fire him. There’s other laws that say no matter, they can. When Barr put out the false announcement of Berman’s resignation Berman came back quite strongly denying that he had resigned. I’m guessing that Barr’s plan was to get Berman to go peacefully, even though it isn’t clear why he thought Berman would. The two of them had earlier that day discussed Berman getting a “promotion” to some assistant/associate deputy job, and maybe Barr thought they had reached an agreement. Apparently they hadn’t.

Also part of Barr’s plan was to temporarily replace Berman with Craig Carpenito, the United States Attorney in New Jersey, will serve as acting US attorney in New York, apparently to be followed by the president nominating Jay Clayton to succeed Berman. Clayton is currently the SEC Chairman but has never served as a prosecutor.

There’s lots to speculate about here. The original Barr message was issued late on Friday, the traditional time to announce stuff you want the public to not notice. Eventually, on Saturday, Berman announced he would in fact step down.

But this is where Barr’s plan seems to have gone off the rails. Barr’s chosen temporary replacement, Carpentino, is not moving to SDNY. Instead, Berman’s current deputy, Audrey Strauss, will serve as interim head of SDNY. Strauss is widely respected, was recruited by Berman, and may be even more independent than Berman, who was a registered republican and donated to Trump’s campaign. Strauss is a registered democrat and has contributed to a number of democratic candidates.

Perhaps even worse, she serves until Clayton is confirmed by the Senate. Lindsay Graham, the chairman of the judiciary committee and a Trump acolyte, has indicated that he will let New York’s senators exercise their traditional prerogative of vetoing Clayton’s nomination. They, democrats Schumer and Gillibrand, have lost no time doing so.

So whatever Barr was intending, it didn’t turn out that way. Berman must still have had some leverage, even after being fired. I’m guessing that Berman told Barr he would fight the firing on the basis of his court appointment. Berman would likely lose in the end, but in the meantime the whole affair would be in the news, and likely wouldn’t be resolved by the courts until months passed, potentially after the election.

But why, and why the timing? The White House has said it was a essentially a patronage deal. Clayton apparently wanted to move to NYC and Barr/Trump needed to create a suitable position for him. That’s the most favorable explanation, but even that doesn’t completely jell. The main problem is that this type of deal typically is done at the start of one’s term, not 5 months before the potential (and looking more likely) end of one’s term. Clayton would move, only to be dismissed in January?

And who is Clayton? Along with running the SEC, he is one of Trump’s golfing buddies. One can only wonder what enforcement actions he would take if, for example, Trump or Trump’s family or Trump’s friends were doing insider trading based on advance knowledge of Trump’s tweets.

Another explanation is that the SDNY was known to be pursuing several cases against Trump supporters, including Giuliani. Perhaps one of those cases was close to becoming public and changing lead attorneys would certainly delay such a case while the new guy got up to speed.

Yet another explanation is that Trump is continuing his practice of eliminating anyone who isn’t loyal enough, and Berman certainly wasn’t. Perhaps this was mixed in with pure retribution, another Trump trait.

Reaction has been unanimously negative, or at least I’ve not yet seen any opinions supporting Barr’s actions. The NYC Bar. The Atlantic. Even Fox News.