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Gender: Male
Hometown: America's Finest City
Current location: District 50
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 10,603

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Trump's purge just got much more corrupt. Here's what's coming next.

President Trump’s abrupt decision to remove the inspector general of the State Department constitutes the latest in a string of corrupt efforts to remove public servants who prioritize real oversight and accountability over protecting Trump at all costs.

But in the case of Trump’s termination of Steve Linick, the State Department IG, this could end up looking far worse than we know. There’s a backstory here that has not yet gotten scrutiny — one that could make the firing appear even more corrupt.

House Democrats have discovered that the fired IG had mostly completed an investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s widely criticized decision to skirt Congress with an emergency declaration to approve billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia last year, aides on the Foreign Affairs Committee tell me.

“I have learned that there may be another reason for Mr. Linick’s firing,” Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement sent to me. “His office was investigating — at my request — Trump’s phony declaration of an emergency so he could send weapons to Saudi Arabia.”


Trump's latest firing is a blatant attempt to shield Pompeo from accountability

STATE DEPARTMENT Inspector General Steve Linick was asked by House Democrats last year to investigate whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo abused his authority in declaring an emergency to ram through arms sales to Saudi Arabia in spite of congressional opposition. Mr. Linick was also reportedly probing Mr. Pompeo’s use of an aide to perform personal errands for himself and his wife. Mr. Pompeo asked President Trump to fire Mr. Linick — and late on Friday, the president did just that, in a blatant attempt to shield the secretary of state from accountability.

The blunt dismissal of a nonpartisan official whose job it is to provide an independent evaluation of just the sort of allegations Mr. Pompeo was facing would be shocking — if it were not just the latest step in a campaign by Mr. Trump to eliminate accountability across the federal government. Mr. Linick is one of four inspectors general fired or replaced by Mr. Trump since April 3, when he ousted the intelligence community IG who forwarded a whistleblower’s account of his wrongdoing on Ukraine to Congress.

The purge makes a mockery of Congress’s attempt to protect the independence of inspectors general, including a legal requirement that they not be removed without written justfication. In the case of Mr. Linick, Mr. Trump dispatched a vague letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) saying he “no longer” had “the fullest confidence” in the IG. But Mr. Pompeo did not hesitate to blurt out the real reason Monday: Mr. Linick was not doing his bidding. He “wasn’t performing a function in a way that we had tried to get him to,” Mr. Pompeo said in an interview. But it is not the inspector general’s job to do what the secretary of state demands — especially when it comes to investigating his own behavior.

Mr. Linick, who had held his post since 2013, had a record of holding secretaries of state of both parties to account. In 2016, he issued a critical report on Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, fueling a controversy that helped get Mr. Trump elected. But he also reported last year on the harassment of career staff in the State Department accused of disloyalty to Trump, and he cooperated with the House’s impeachment inquiry.


By order of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp: The day after Thursday is now Sunday

Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp needed a way to show that he hadn’t been rash to reopen restaurants, theaters, nail salons and the like in late April.

His administration came up with a creative solution. They doctored the statistics.

Last week, Georgia’s Department of Public Health released a graph showing a dramatic, steady decline in cases, deaths and hospitalizations in the state’s five most affected counties, from a peak on April 28, just before the state’s restrictions were eased, to near zero two weeks later.
Full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic

But on closer inspection, the dates on the chart showed a curious ordering: April 30 was followed by May 4; May 5 was followed by May 2, which was followed by May 7 — which in turn was followed by April 26. The dates had been re-sorted to create the illusion of a decline. The five counties were likewise re-sorted on each day to enhance the illusion.


Georgia's coronavirus data made reopening look safe. The numbers were a lie.

Nothing about the spread of the coronavirus or the nature of the disease suggests that it’s safe to get back to business as usual. And yet “reopen” is the word on almost every American’s lips, despite apocalyptic warnings from public heath experts suggesting that, without an aggressive national public health strategy, the country could face its “darkest winter.”

In the absence of a coherent federal public health response, millions of Americans are trying to will the coronavirus away through the sheer force of their God-given exceptionalism.

Mass delusion seems a dubious strategy for ending the coronavirus crisis. And yet if you look at the data coming out of Georgia over the past month — which had one of the earliest and most aggressive efforts to reopen its economy — you might be convinced that there is little danger in a broad economic reopening.

According to state data models, which Gov. Brian Kemp used to justify Georgia’s aggressive reopening, the state’s infection curve has been rapidly heading in a direction that would be the envy of states like California, with its aggressive lockdown rules. The Wall Street Journal hailed the “Georgia Model” as evidence that aggressive lockdowns were needlessly harming the economy.


The only culprit in the Flynn 'unmasking' scandal is the Trump administration

There was no wrongdoing on the part of Obama administration officials who, during the presidential transition in 2016 and 2017, “unmasked” the identity of Michael Flynn, who was set to become national security adviser. Indeed, the only wrongdoing is by the Trump administration, which, in releasing last week a list of officials who made the unmasking requests, has yet again politicized the intelligence community.

The Trump administration released the list to promote its claim that officials in the outgoing administration attempted to discredit Flynn and others associated with the incoming administration. But this claim makes absolutely no sense.

To understand why, we need some background on the unmasking procedure. In the course of doing its job to gather information critical to our national security, the intelligence community might discover that a foreign intelligence target has talked about or even to an American. The intelligence community is only interested in the foreign side of the information collected and, in reporting it, will only make reference to the American if it is important to understanding the intelligence. Even then, to protect the privacy of that American, they would refer to him or her simply as “a U.S. person.” This isn’t required by the Constitution, but it has been a long-established protection.

Most recipients of the reports don’t care about the identities of U.S. persons. There are, however, cases in which, to do his or her duty, the official receiving the report does need to know the identity. For example, if a report says that foreign intelligence officers were considering recruiting a U.S. person, it would be irresponsible for the FBI not to ask for the identity of that American, if only to warn them about the recruiting attempt.


The future belongs to the pandemic pragmatists

In Washington and the media, the pandemic is, alas, being taken over by extremists. They demand that we choose A or B, the virus or the economy, locking down or setting free. But while they rage and clash, the future will probably be won by Pandemic Pragmatists, who blend and balance both priorities to keep going in the shadow of covid-19.

The Pandemic Pragmatists understand certain realities. First, the novel coronavirus is, for all intents and purposes, here to stay. Treatments will be found to ameliorate it. A vaccine may be developed to protect against it. But like the various strains of influenza and the human immunodeficiency virus — and measles and chickenpox, for heaven’s sake — it might be tamed eventually, but not soon eradicated.

And since we can’t hide from it indefinitely, Pandemic Pragmatists understand that we have to find ways to live with it. Lockdowns and quarantines are severe and temporary responses. We might need them in certain places in the months — even years — to come. But they can’t last forever and ideally shouldn’t even last long, given the tremendous shock they send through the economy and the culture.

I found a resolute example of the Pandemic Pragmatist attitude when I spoke with my friend Greg Gunderson the other day. He is president of Park University in Parkville, Mo. Overlooking the Missouri River near Kansas City, its picturesque campus appears at first glance to be a typical example of the many small colleges and universities founded across America after the Civil War.


A Sitting President, Riling the Nation During a Crisis

By smearing his opponents, championing conspiracy theories and pursuing vendettas, President Tru​mp has reverted to his darkest political tactics in spite of a pandemic hurting millions of Americans.

Even by President Trump’s standards, it was a rampage: He attacked a government whistle-blower who was telling Congress that the coronavirus pandemic had been mismanaged. He criticized the governor of Pennsylvania, who has resisted reopening businesses. He railed against former President Barack Obama, linking him to a conspiracy theory and demanding he answer questions before the Senate about the federal investigation of Michael T. Flynn.

And Mr. Trump lashed out at Joseph R. Biden Jr., his Democratic challenger. In an interview with a sympathetic columnist, Mr. Trump smeared him as a doddering candidate who “doesn’t know he’s alive.” The caustic attack coincided with a barrage of digital ads from Mr. Trump’s campaign mocking Mr. Biden for verbal miscues and implying that he is in mental decline.

That was all on Thursday.

Far from a one-day onslaught, it was a climactic moment in a weeklong lurch by Mr. Tru​mp back to ​​the darkest tactics that defined his rise to political power​. Even those who have grown used to Mr. Trump’s conduct in office may have found themselves newly alarmed by the grim spectacle of a sitting president deliberately stoking the country’s divisions and pursuing personal vendettas in the midst of a crisis that has Americans fearing for their lives and livelihoods.


I really hate what this fucker has done and continues to do to this country.

Florida Governor Deploys National Guard To Force Residents Back Into Malls, Movie Theaters

TALLAHASSEE, FL—Proclaiming that he simply could not allow people to remain in their homes any longer, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday he had deployed the National Guard to force state residents back into shopping malls, movie theaters, restaurants, and other public spaces.

“Today I have ordered both the Army and Air National Guards to do whatever is necessary to ensure every person in the Sunshine State is fully participating in this economy,” said DeSantis, who issued a new directive making it illegal for the total number of shoppers in a Bed, Bath, and Beyond to dip below 90% of fire code capacity, or for anyone to refuse to attend sold-out screenings of Trolls World Tour.

“As governor, it is my duty to preserve the Florida we all know and love by requiring our 21 million residents to break quarantine so they can once again eat at Buffalo Wild Wings and shop at Aéropostale. Effective immediately, we will also be authorizing members of the reserve force to employ a variety of nonlethal and lethal methods to compel Floridians to frequent hair salons, roller rinks, and trampoline parks.”

At press time, reports confirmed an F-16 from the 159th Fighter Squadron had dropped a bomb on citizens in a Jacksonville Sunglass Hut who had refused to try on the latest in Ray-Bans.


If Trump had been in charge during World War II, this column would be in German

The 75th anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany got me thinking about how World War II might have turned out if President Franklin D. Roosevelt had acted like President Donald J. Trump.

Picture the scene a few months after Pearl Harbor. The first U.S. troops have arrived in England, and the Doolittle raiders have bombed Tokyo. But even though the war has just begun, the Trumpified FDR is already losing interest. One day he says the war is already won; the next day that we will just have to accept the occupation of France because that’s the way life is. He speculates that mobilization might be unnecessary if we can develop a “death ray” straight out of a Buck Rogers comic strip. He complains that rationing and curfews are very unpopular and will have to end soon. He tells the governors that if they want to keep on fighting, they will have to take charge of manufacturing ships, tanks and aircraft. Trumpy FDR prefers to hold mass rallies to berate his predecessor, Herbert Hoover. He even suggests that Hoover belongs in jail along with the leading Republican congressmen — “Martin, Barton and Fish.”

In reality, of course, Roosevelt focused with single-minded devotion on defeating the United States’ enemies until the day of his death. Old political battles and agendas fell by the wayside. “Dr. New Deal” had been transformed, he explained, into “Dr. Win-the-War.”

Trump, by contrast, cannot focus on a single subject for the length of a paragraph. So it is no surprise that he has already gotten bored with a war against the coronavirus that isn’t going his way. He is taking his cues not from FDR but from Sen. George Aiken, the Vermont Republican whose plan for the Vietnam War was summed up as “declare victory and get out.” In Trump’s case, that means getting Americans out of the home whether it’s safe to do so or not.


Mitch McConnell goes after the wrong president

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has bestirred himself, finally, to speak out against a president whose behavior has gone too far. Unfortunately, he went after the wrong president.

A sense of shame is not in the McConnell playbook. After all, this is the man who denied even a hearing to Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland — and now proclaims his intention to fill a high court vacancy if one arises before the election.

For years, McConnell has rigorously suppressed his evident distaste for Donald Trump in the service of the twin imperatives of what passes for his moral universe: retaining power and confirming judges. No presidential tweet, no presidential utterance, it seems, requires even the gentlest of pushbacks.

Now comes Barack Obama, with private comments critical of his successor, and McConnell is suddenly worked up about presidential decorum. Obama, in a certain-to-leak call with thousands of administration alumni, described the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic as an “absolute chaotic disaster.” He lambasted the Justice Department’s move to dismiss charges against former national security adviser Michael Flynn and said the “rule of law is at risk.”

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