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Zorro's Journal
Zorro's Journal
December 16, 2020

Bill Barr Quit. What Finally Spooked Him?

The attorney general’s sudden departure raises alarms about what Trump might do next.

Attorney General William Barr has resigned with a little more than a month left in President Donald Trump’s administration. This seems to suggest that Barr thinks what happens in the next five weeks could irretrievably tarnish his legacy. If so, that’s pretty stunning, considering how much Barr has already diminished his reputation and that of the Justice Department with his pro-Trump shenanigans.

What’s the January surprise Barr wants no part of? One possibility is that Barr wants to create bureaucratic distance between himself and the president so that he can say he resigned rather than serving out his term. But this seems implausible, even for a canny bureaucratic operator like Barr, given how close he has been to the presidency. And it certainly seems at odds with the fawning tone of his resignation letter.

Another option is that Barr realizes that Trump plans to continue challenging the election outcome. Barr has been willing to tolerate Trump’s arguments thus far, even if he himself has refused to say that Justice has evidence of meaningful fraud. Yet the prospect of increasingly wild claims of conspiracy and an inauguration without Trump in attendance might perhaps be enough for Barr to prefer to be out of town — and out of the administration — for the next few weeks.

The most likely possibility, however, involves presidential pardons, and perhaps legally questionable executive orders designed to make more permanent some of Trump’s policies.


IMO Trump is planning some fuckery so indefensible that even Barr can't support.
December 16, 2020

Trump Is Considering Clemency for Silk Road 'Kingpin'

Two sources tell The Daily Beast that the president has expressed sympathy for the situation of Ross Ulbricht, who is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

In his final weeks in office before Joe Biden’s inauguration, President Donald Trump is weighing granting clemency to Ross Ulbricht, the founder and former administrator of the world’s most famous darknet drug market, Silk Road, The Daily Beast has learned.

According to three people familiar with the matter, the White House counsel’s office has had documents related to Ulbricht’s case under review, and Trump was recently made aware of the situation and the pleas of the Silk Road founder’s allies. Two of these sources say the president has at times privately expressed some sympathy for Ulbricht’s situation and has been considering his name, among others, for his next round of commutations and pardons before the Jan. 20 inauguration of his 2020 Democratic opponent.

It is unclear if Trump has arrived at a final decision yet, but Ulbricht has gained some influential backers in the president’s political and social orbit. Behind the scenes, he has the support of some presidential advisers, as well as criminal justice reform advocates with close ties to the administration and Trump family, including Alice Johnson, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

“I’ve had documents forwarded to my contacts in the White House as early as February,” activist Weldon Angelos, a former music producer and ex-federal inmate, said in a brief interview on Tuesday evening. “In the beginning of the year, [Ulbricht’s] family had reached out to us for our support, and my organization and I have endorsed his full commutation, and I am hopeful that President Trump will commute his sentence in its entirety. This case has perhaps more support than I’ve seen in any case of this kind.”

December 15, 2020

Why Bill Barr Did It All for Donald Trump

Why did a formerly respected conservative sell his soul to an amoral troll? Because his soul was at stake.

Ah, Bill Barr, we hardly knew ye.

No one is sad that you’re gone. Not the left, who will never forgive you for misrepresenting the Mueller report and exonerating President Trump. Not the hard right, who will never forgive you for betraying their spray-tanned god in the hour of his greatest need. And not the reasonable, rational centrists, either, who thought you were one of them until you showed them that you weren’t.

But all of us who have followed your bizarre second career as attorney general are left pondering one, impenetrable question: Why?

Why did you do it? Why did you even take this job, knowing the kind of man you’d be working for? And why did you then surprise the Washington establishment by not only carrying water for this amoral troll but contorting the truth, eroding the integrity and independence of the Department of Justice, indulging Trump’s basest authoritarian instincts, and even being held in contempt of Congress along the way?

The sycophancy went right to the end. Even Barr’s resignation letter is a gigantic kiss on Trump’s posterior, lauding “the many successes and unprecedented achievements you have delivered for the American people.” Though I guess we can chalk that up to Stockholm Syndrome.


Bottom line: Barr is a religious nutjob who was fighting against the "moral decay" of American society.
December 15, 2020

The GOP reckoning never came

Opinion by Catherine Rampell

Over the years, Republican politicians seemed many times to be on the cusp of a reckoning — a realization that a lunatic fringe had seized control of the party’s more pragmatic center and that conspiracy-theorizing, race-baiting, science-denigrating demagogues had transformed the GOP base into ungovernable paranoiacs. The situation seemed untenable; the fever had to break eventually.

Yet the party’s radicalization continued, and the reckoning never came. Today, U.S. democracy is paying the price as millions of Americans refuse to acknowledge the results of a legitimate election, and their leaders appear too cowardly or too powerless to disrupt the collective delusion.

Republican politicians have had ample motives to decide that enough was enough, that they had lost control of a once-useful strain of the paranoid style in American politics and that the golem must be decommissioned. Public association with tinfoil-hatters is usually bad PR, after all. Or, as William F. Buckley Jr. put it in his quest to purge the Birchers from conservatism 60?years ago, linkage with extremists might allow the media “to anathematize the entire American right wing.”

More recently, Republican fellowship with unstable bigots has alienated segments of the population their party wishes to woo — women, minorities, immigrants and others who might be otherwise open to right-of-center ideas.


December 15, 2020

Barr failed at his job. His bootlicking resignation letter made that clear.

Opinion by Ruth Marcus

William P. Barr told friends, when he was tapped for attorney general two years ago, that he was returning to the position to help save the Justice Department. Barr failed spectacularly at that task and ruined his reputation in the process.

Nothing made that more clear than the bootlicking letter of resignation he submitted Monday to President Trump.

No aspect of Barr’s departure is normal. Cabinet officials do not leave administrations to spend more time with their loved ones — the president tweeted that Barr wanted to “spend the holidays with his family” — 37 days before the end of a presidency.

When Cabinet secretaries do leave, they tend to use their letters of resignation to laud the public servants who worked with them. Barr’s fired predecessor, Jeff Sessions, thanked “the hard work of our prosecutors and law enforcement around the country,” adding, “I am particularly grateful to the fabulous men and women in law enforcement all over this country with whom I have served. I have had no greater honor than to serve alongside them. As I have said many times, they have my thanks and I will always have their backs.”

Barr choked out a single sentence — actually, a single, semi-coloned phrase in a much longer sentence — praising the department’s work supporting “the men and women of law enforcement who selflessly — and too often thanklessly — risk their lives to keep our communities safe.”

He saved his praise-heaping for the man who had spent the weekend bellyaching about Barr for failing to go after Hunter Biden — or, more precisely, for failing to break the law by disclosing an investigation into Biden before the election, when it might have helped Trump’s reelection prospects.


December 15, 2020

The moral hypocrisy of conservative leaders is stunning

Opinion by Michael Gerson

“It was stolen,” said conservative luminary William Bennett on a recent podcast. “The election was stolen.”

In a Dec. 10 open letter, a group of conservative stalwarts — including activist Gary Bauer, former senator and former president of the Heritage Foundation James DeMint, and head of the Family Research Council Tony Perkins — alleged that “President Donald J. Trump is the lawful winner of the presidential election.” They called on state legislators in battleground states to “appoint clean slates of electors to the Electoral College to support President Trump” and urged the House and Senate to reject competing slates reflecting the actual vote.

For some of us, watching prominent conservatives turn against rationality and democracy is not just disappointing; it is disorienting.

As a youth in the 1980s and 1990s, I could not accept the hardest-edged versions of the conservative tradition. Yet when leaders such as Bauer, DeMint and Perkins claimed to believe in ordered liberty, protected by democracy and the rule of law, I did not doubt them. I thought, by their own lights, they were people of conviction. And this was particularly true of Bennett, whom I viewed with awe. No one, I felt, better combined conservative reasoning with humane learning.

Much of what I believed is now suspect. Ideological stars that once seemed fixed to me have shifted, leaving an unfamiliar sky.

The intellectual bankruptcy and moral hypocrisy of many conservative leaders is stunning. People who claimed to favor limited government now applaud Trump’s use of the executive branch to undermine an election. A similar attempt by Barack Obama would have brought comparisons to Fidel Castro. People who talked endlessly about respecting the Constitution affirm absurd slanders against the constitutional order. People who claimed to be patriots now spread false claims about their country’s fundamental corruption. People who talked of honoring the rule of law now jerk and gyrate according to the whims of a lawless leader.

These conservative leaders no longer deserve the assumption of sincerity. They are spreading conspiratorial lies so unlikely and irrational, they must know them to be lies. But their motive remains a matter of debate.


Sounds as if Gerson has seen the light.

December 14, 2020

The 126 Republicans who signed on for 'an act of cynical, unpatriotic, undemocratic hypocrisy'

Opinion by John Avlon

Republicans used to be the party of freedom, the party of President Abraham Lincoln. This week, 126 Republicans in Congress and 18 red state attorneys general decided to repudiate the legacy of Lincoln and freedom by endorsing Texas' ludicrous legal effort to overturn the election results. The good news is that the Supreme Court dismissed the case with no public dissents Friday night. The bad news is that a majority of congressional Republicans chose to support a demagogue over our democracy. It should not be forgotten or forgiven.

These 126 hyper-partisan politicians should now be known as members of the autocrat caucus. From Louisiana Rep. Ralph Abraham to New York Rep. Lee Zeldin, they added their names to this infamous list in a desperate attempt to overturn the election in four swing states won by Joe Biden. They decided to attack democracy itself when the results did not go their way.

Don't be fooled by whatever ornate excuses they make. This was not an attempt to find new evidence or even more absurdly "defend the constitution". It was objectively the opposite. Perhaps some of these 126 believed this a way to raise money from the base, insurance against a difficult partisan primary, or more to the point, insurance against an uncomfortable tweet from President Donald Trump. They surrendered their conscience and common sense because of fear and greed. Rarely have so many sold out their country for so little.

These chose to support a case based on false claims and lack of evidence. And it's particularly pathetic to see them do it for a weak and insecure lame duck President Trump, a would-be autocrat who's driving this nation to some kind of desperate reckoning based on nothing more than his own psychological inability to deal with the fact he lost an election and lost the ability to recognize reality as well. In most cases, that would be dismissed as a sad form of sickness that's incompatible with the power of the presidency, but these folks chose to trade their integrity to support Trump's delusion all the way up to the Supreme Court.


December 14, 2020

Is Florida better than California at containing the coronavirus? Analysis

A comparison of COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations.

Gov. Ron DeSantis often uses California as a foil. This year, he has targeted the Golden State for making a hash of controlling COVID-19. He did it again late last month during one of his few recent news conferences. When asked about business lockdowns and statewide mask mandates, DeSantis said they weren’t effective.

“At what point does the observed experience matter?” he countered.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s messaging about how to control the virus has been shaky at times. And he certainly deserves a Bronx cheer for attending a birthday party for his political adviser with several other families, defying his public advice to social distance. It didn’t help that the event took place at the French Laundry, a chic Napa Valley restaurant.

So no one will mistake Newsom for Winston Churchill, but how does his state stack up against Florida in controlling COVID-19? Does Cali deserve DeSantis’ aspersions?


The obnoxious contempt some people in other states have for California is really pathological.
December 14, 2020

DeSantis refused to disclose White House coronavirus report that contradicts him

The report said state officials should take urgent action to slow the spread of COVID-19. The governor has declined to do so.

White House Coronavirus Task Force report about the state of the pandemic in Florida made public Saturday urges state leaders to take immediate action to slow the virus’ spread. Officials should close or severely limit indoor dining, limit capacity at bars and issue stronger policies around mask wearing, the report states.

Those are the same public health measures that Gov. Ron DeSantis has publicly assailed for months as ineffective. While he was making the case for no new business restrictions, DeSantis’ office refused to publicize reports from the task force which recommended a more robust public response.

The Dec. 6 report, which was obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, is one in a series of weekly reports which the governor’s office has refused to regularly provide news organizations. The Tampa Bay Times began last month to request the reports dating back to Nov. 15. It has not received any reports from the governor’s office.

Earlier this week, the Orlando Sentinel and South Florida Sun Sentinel sued the governor’s office to release the reports. The governor’s office had not released any of the weekly reports issued during the month of November, the suit alleged.

December 14, 2020

Inside the 'nasty' feud between Trump and the Republican governor he blames for losing Georgia

The first major fissure in the relationship between President Trump and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp came a year ago, when Kemp paid Trump a clandestine visit in the White House residence.

On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, Kemp flew up to Washington to introduce Trump to Kelly Loeffler, an Atlanta business executive he wanted to appoint to fill his state’s open U.S. Senate seat.

But when Kemp and Loeffler finally got their audience with the president, Kemp presented Loeffler as a fait accompli — telling Trump that he wanted the president to meet the woman he was planning to name to the Senate.

Well, if you’ve already made your decision, Trump grumbled, then I’m not sure why you’re here, according to people familiar with the conversation.

Trump later complained to aides that Kemp was rude and impolite — never forgiving the Georgia governor for what he viewed as a major slight.


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