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babylonsister's Journal
babylonsister's Journal
April 29, 2019

"We Wouldn't Have Let Obama Get Away With This"


We Wouldn’t Have Let Obama Get Away With This
I worked for Republicans on the House Oversight Committee back when the GOP cared about keeping the president in check.
6:00 AM ET
Kurt Bardella
Senior adviser for the House Oversight and Reform Committee from 2009 to 2013


Trump’s defiance of Congress is outrageous and dangerous. It also exposes Republicans’ hypocrisy. There is a world of difference between how Republicans viewed oversight when Barack Obama was president and their support of Trump’s obstruction. I know, because for five years I worked for Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

In a 1957 Supreme Court ruling, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote, “The power of Congress to conduct investigations is inherent in the legislative process. That power is broad … It comprehends probes into departments of the federal government to expose corruption, inefficiency, or waste.”

During my time on Oversight, the chief justice’s words were often cited as justification for our vigorous supervision of the Obama administration. Led by Representative Darrell Issa, my former boss, Republicans issued more than 100 subpoenas, held Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, created a select committee to investigate Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s handling of the Benghazi crisis, and filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging President Obama’s use of executive privilege.


The entire point of having separate but equal branches of government was to create protections against the kind of tyranny and absolute rule that was common in Europe. If Trump can simply ignore Congress and act unilaterally without consequence, then he is America’s first dictator.

This fight is bigger than one hearing or one investigation or one subpoena. It is a struggle to preserve the foundation of our republic. Republicans won’t rise to the challenge. Which means it’s up to Democrats to keep Trump in check, and to support the Constitution. They have to learn to confront Trump as aggressively as we confronted Obama.
April 29, 2019

William Barr Is Cowering at the Prospect of a Proper Cross-Examination


William Barr Is Cowering at the Prospect of a Proper Cross-Examination
By Frank Bowman
April 29, 2019
3:43 PM
This piece first appeared on the blog Impeachable Offenses.

This weekend brought a subtle, but important, bit of good news for those interested in effective congressional investigations of the Trump administration.

Attorney General William Barr is threatening to refuse the request of the House Judiciary Committee that he testify later this week. Reportedly, Barr is balking because the committee will deviate from the pattern of recent congressional hearings in which members do all the questioning and every member gets a paltry three to five minutes to ask questions of the witness, with no opportunity for follow-up. Instead, House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler is delegating some of the questioning to committee lawyers who will have 30 minutes to pursue lines of questioning to their logical conclusions. There may also be a private session about any classified materials in the Mueller report.

The “get every Member on camera for five minutes” mode of proceeding has long had those of us who are trial lawyers tearing our hair and screaming at our TV sets (or computer screens). It is guaranteed to be ineffectual for three reasons: First, cross-examination, particularly of reluctant or hostile witnesses, is the single most difficult trial skill. To do it well takes training and years of practice. Perishingly few members of either the House or Senate have the professional background to have mastered it. For most of those few, the experience was years in the past, and they’ve lost their edge.


It is extraordinarily heartening to see that Nadler seems to have learned a lesson from history. Barr’s anguished cries at the prospect of a modest move back toward earlier and more productive modes of procedure should be seen as what they are—the vain protestations of a lawyer who knows the power of competent cross-examination and desperately wants to avoid having it directed at him.

That said, Nadler’s proposal is only a modest step in the right direction. The staff questioning will still be broken up into five-minute alternating chunks between majority and minority counsel, which is sadly reminiscent of the clumsy experiment by the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Republican majority in the Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

Nadler should do two things. He should stick to his guns in this confrontation with Barr. And in the future, he should move even more firmly in the direction of procedural rules that, in living memory, facilitated the discovery of truth. Committees of both the House and Senate who want facts should follow and build on his example.
April 29, 2019

Mitch McConnell is not invincible

Mitch McConnell is not invincible
By Meredith McGehee, opinion contributor — 04/29/19 04:00 PM EDT

Washington mythology would like us to believe that when it comes to political reform in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is and always will be unbeatable. According to the legend, when he declares something is dead, that is the end of it. Some senators have admitted they will not even consider legislation to secure our elections because of his opposition. But this ongoing narrative is nothing more than a fantasy.

McConnell is not invincible. A review of ethics and campaign reforms of the past two decades makes clear that he can be beat on political reform. To be sure, McConnell has mastered using every tactic available to delay hearings, deny votes, or drain support from proposals, but he has also lost several high profile fights on these issues. When both Republicans and Democrats agree that it is good politics and good policy to fix the broken political system, they overcome leadership and roadblocks in their way.

For instance, after nearly half a decade of wrangling, bipartisan pressure overwhelmed objections from McConnell to the first sweeping reform of lobbying laws in 50 years.
In 1995, Congress was set to vote on the Lobbying Disclosure Act. The curtains were pulled back on many influence peddling scandals and no bid military contracts. Republicans had campaigned on cleaning up Congress, and a majority of voters believed lobbyists controlled power in Washington. A bipartisan group of more than a dozen senators joined together to update gift rules in the legislative branch. At the time, Senator Russell Feingold said in his first two years in Congress, he had received and returned 800 gifts to his office. The bipartisan group soon overcame objections from McConnell.

Then in 2002, Congress passed the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act that was championed by Senators John McCain and Feingold. Before the vote, McConnell famously declared, “I have often said, with a smile on my face, that this issue for average Americans ranks right up there with static cling as an issue of concern to them.” The measure banned soft money, clamped down on sham issue ads by defining electioneering communications, and was the last major political reform legislation that was passed by Congress. The legislation was passed by a Republican House and Senate, and was signed into law by a Republican president.


April 29, 2019

Lindsey Graham gets second Democratic challenger in Senate race

Lindsey Graham gets second Democratic challenger in Senate race
By Bristow Marchant
April 28, 2019 05:00 AM, Updated 4 hours 48 minutes ago

The 2020 presidential race is already pretty crowded. Now South Carolina’s U.S. Senate race next year is heating up, too.

Gloria Bromell Tinubu, a former Democratic candidate for Congress and lieutenant governor, will enter the race against U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-Seneca, on Tuesday. The Georgetown resident will formally kick off her campaign at a State House press conference on Wednesday.

She told The State she was inspired to run during a discussion with an African American history class at the College of Charleston.

“Much of it centered around work and race and how the people who contribute to the wealth are not able to benefit from the wealth they create,” Bromell Tinubu said. “That has an impact on college students who are working two jobs to afford school and be in debt by the time they finish.”

Bromell Tinubu’s entry into the race could set up a fight in the Democratic primary. Former S.C. Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison has also formed a committee exploring a possible challenge to Graham. He is expected to announce his candidacy soon.

Bromell Tinubu told The State her campaign will focus on rural areas that she says have been left behind in today’s economy.


April 29, 2019

Jared Kushner Was Advised On The Trump Campaign By Pro-Kremlin Russian

And this from less than a week ago:

Jared Kushner's laughable attempt to dismiss Russian election interference



Posted on Mon, Apr 29th, 2019 by Jason Easley
Jared Kushner Was Advised On The Trump Campaign By Pro-Kremlin Russian
Jared Kushner sought out and was advised on Trump’s campaign by a Russian who is known to have a pro-Kremlin agenda during the 2016 election.

Politico reported:

Kushner and Simes met at the lunch and began communicating, including in a meeting at Kushner’s office later that month. Although the Trump campaign never identified Simes as an adviser, he provided counsel to the Trump team, particularly with regard to Russia. In June 2016, Mueller found, he sent a memo to then-Senator Jeff Sessions, who headed up Trump’s foreign policy team, offering several policy recommendations, including “a new beginning with Moscow,” and in August he would send Kushner himself a “Russia policy memo.”

“It’s very transparent what his agenda is,” said Michael Carpenter, a former adviser to Vice President Joe Biden and a top Pentagon official for Russia and Ukraine in the Obama administration. Carpenter said that while Simes positions himself as a pragmatic foreign policy realist, “he is completely pro-Kremlin and always has been.”

Trump was being advised by a pro-Kremlin Russian during the campaign

The bottom line is Jared Kushner sought out help from Russians during the campaign. The big question that could likely be answered by a deep dive into Trump’s tax returns and financial records is what sort of relationship does the Trump family have with Russians? Why specifically did Kushner seek out a Russian for help? None of this is regular campaign activity.

The reason why Mueller couldn’t prove a Trump criminal conspiracy with a hostile foreign power is that Kushner used go-betweens that gave both Trump and the Russians plausible criminal deniability. Kushner didn’t directly conspire with Russian government officials. He used pro-Russia non-officials to implement the Russian agenda into the Trump campaign.

Russia was baked into the Trump campaign cake, and they will be there again in 2020.

Russia’s help more than mattered to Trump. It was part of his foreign policy.
April 28, 2019

Lindsey Graham's shamelessness


Lindsey Graham’s shamelessness
By James Downie
Opinions editor
April 28 at 4:46 PM

One difficulty about a career in politics is that the longer you’re in the business, the longer a track record of quotes and video your opponents can scour to undercut you. It’s something former vice president Joe Biden is contending with as he enters the Democratic primary, and it’s an obstacle his old Senate colleague Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) has run into in the wake of the Mueller report.

On CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Graham spoke to host Margaret Brennan; naturally, much of the interview focused on Attorney General William P. Barr’s planned testimony to Congress this week. As the new chair of the Judiciary Committee, Graham has shown enthusiasm for thoroughly investigating some scandals through to the end, such as the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server. He showed the same enthusiasm during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, when he was one of the House’s prosecutors during Clinton’s trial in the Senate.

But Graham’s doggedness has disappeared when it comes to a Republican White House, replaced by a deliberate ignorance. “From my point of view, I’ve heard all I need to really know,” he told Brennan. He reiterated the sentiment again and again, especially regarding Trump’s ordering then-White House counsel Donald McGahn to fire Mueller. “It doesn’t matter,” he told Brennan. “I don’t care what he said to Don McGahn. … I don’t care what happened between him and Don McGahn. … No, I’m — I’m done.”

Graham’s putting the energy he’s saving into moving goal posts. Asked what he wants the Barr hearings to focus on, Graham replied, “Does the report support his summary? Does the report actually indicate there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians?” Graham left out, of course, that Mueller made no finding regarding the nonlegal concept of “collusion,” only one regarding the higher standard of criminal conspiracy. And he left out that there was significant evidence that individuals associated with the Trump campaign conspired with WikiLeaks over the release of stolen Democratic emails.


Graham is far from the first hypocritical politician. But the South Carolina senator particularly prides himself on being no-nonsense and on his legal experience. That he has opted for such an obvious double standard is especially shameless.
April 28, 2019

How Bad Does It Have to Get?


Saturday, April 27, 2019
by Common Dreams
How Bad Does It Have to Get?
by Robert Freeman

How Bad Does It Have to Get? (cc/DonkeyHotey)

It’s bad enough that he lost the election by 3,000,000 popular votes.
It’s bad enough that the Russians helped him get elected by manipulating social media in critical electoral college states.
It’s bad enough that he helped the Russians do that by providing them confidential polling data to guide their Facebook ad targeting.
It’s bad enough that those ads were seen by more than 100,000,000 people when the total electoral college difference over three states was 70,000 votes.
It’s bad enough that those involved with his campaign who were also engaged with the Russians lied repeatedly, both publicly and under oath, about that engagement.
It’s bad enough that many tens of millions of dollars mysteriously disappeared from his inauguration committee, and he feels no compunction to explain where it went.
It’s bad enough that he brags about groping women and grabbing them by the pussy. Is there an honest woman in the country who admires that? Wants that?
It’s bad enough that he’s been credibly accused of sexual assault by more than 20 women.
It’s bad enough that he is an unindicted co-conspirator in the felony to commit election finance fraud by paying hush money to a Playboy bunny and a porn star.
It’s bad enough that he filed for bankruptcy six times, stiffing workers, contractors, and lenders for tens of millions of dollars.
It’s bad enough that his resorts and other properties for years hired undocumented aliens, even as he railed against a “tidal wave” of illegal immigrants.
It’s bad enough that he inherited $413,000,000 from his father, much of it through illegal tax dodges, but pretends to be a self-made man.
It’s bad enough that his “charitable” foundation was ordered shut down after having been revealed to be a sham, used to help promote his business and political interests.
It’s bad enough he claims he was a good student, but threatens to sue any schools that release his grades.
It’s bad enough he claims to be a brilliant businessman but refuses to release his taxes which would prove it. Or, disprove it.
It’s bad enough that he says the Mueller report “totally exonerates” him, yet refuses to allow it to be released, or, for critical witnesses to be able to testify about it.
It’s bad enough that he grossly understated the value of his assets to dodge taxes, while grossly overstating their value to secure bank loans.
It’s bad enough that the Mueller report detailed 10 instances of obstruction of justice that would be criminal, were he not the president and, so, immune from indictment.
It’s bad enough that he’s a pathological liar, telling almost 10,000 lies since assuming office, literally not being able to deal with reality.
It’s bad enough, his boot-licking of Putin at Helsinki, where he said he believed Putin about Russian interference in the 2016 election, but not his own intelligence chiefs.
It’s bad enough that he has separated thousands of immigrant children from their parents, put them in cages, and then lost track of them.
It’s bad enough that he praised neo-Nazi marchers in Charlottesville two years ago, then re-defended them just a few days ago.
It’s bad enough that, though sworn to ensure that the laws are faithfully executed, he told immigration officials to break the law, promising to pardon them if they were convicted.
It’s bad enough that he told senior White House aides to lie to the Mueller commission about his efforts to obstruct the same commission’s investigation.
It’s bad enough that he smeared a Gold Star Family whose son was killed in Iraq.
It’s bad enough that he repeatedly smeared bona-fide Vietnam war hero, John McCain, while he, himself, wrangled five draft deferments to dodge service in the same war.
It’s bad enough he promised to help the working man, but immediately passed a $1.5 trillion tax cut that went almost exclusively to corporations and the wealthy.
It’s bad enough he continues to claim he’s building The Wall when not a single inch of new wall has been built since he took office.
It’s bad enough he promised to protect Social Security but just two weeks ago submitted a budget that cuts benefits to millions, including seniors in poverty.
It’s bad enough that he refuses to cooperate with Congressional hearings, trashing the Constitution and the checks and balances at the very heart of our form of government.

We could go on. And on. And on. And on. But as bad as all of this is, the real question is, “When does it get so bad that we will no longer tolerate this scum running the country, dividing us against each other, desecrating our values, degrading our civic spaces, and destroying our institutions?” When does it get bad enough that WE will actually do something to stop being so mocked, so humiliated, and so defiled? When will we have Republican Congressmen who will get up off their knees before him and represent us, the people who actually elected them, and defend our country against the greatest domestic threat it has faced in over a century?
April 28, 2019

Robert De Niro Calls Trump 'Unrepentant, Lying Scumbag'


April 28, 2019 11:03AM ET
Robert De Niro Calls Trump ‘Unrepentant, Lying Scumbag’
Actor scalded president at second annual Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner
By Ilana Kaplan

Robert De Niro made an appearance at the Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington D.C. Friday night, roasting Donald Trump by calling him an “unrepentant, lying scumbag.”

“I’m happy to stand with Samantha Bee tonight to support the First Amendment – the right of the president to be a relentless and unrepentant, lying scumbag, the right of his supporters to not give a shit, and our right to do something about it,” De Niro told the crowd.

The actor, a vocal critic of the president who has appeared as Robert Mueller on Saturday Night Live, also said he was in anticipation of “the exquisite release” of voting the president out of office in 2020.

In his speech, De Niro addressed the idea of “fake news” saying how much he “loved it.” “If I get a bad review, fake news. Some nosy reporter finds out I never finished high school, fake news. Then the president stole my phrase. You might say he moved in on it like a bitch. All that, fake news. Turns out it’s real news or as we in this room call it: news,” he told the audience.

Bee’s event aired on TBS Saturday night, during the actual White House Correspondents’ Association gala. Since Michelle Wolf’s scathing speech at the 2018 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the official event has gone comedy-free. Even so, Trump declined an invitation to attend the annual dinner for the third year in a row also asking that administration officials boycott the event.

All proceeds from Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner are given to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
April 28, 2019

Nadler hits back at Barr: 'The witness is not going to tell the committee' how to run its hearing

Nadler hits back at Barr: 'The witness is not going to tell the committee' how to run its hearing
By Michael Burke - 04/28/19 11:50 AM EDT

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) fired back Sunday at Attorney General William Barr after the attorney general warned he may not appear at a scheduled committee hearing this week.

"The witness is not going to tell the committee how to conduct its hearing, period," Nadler said Sunday, according to CNN.

Nadler also threatened to issue a subpoena if President Trump's attorney general refuses to attend the hearing.

"Then we will have to subpoena him, and we will have to use whatever means we can to enforce the subpoena," Nadler said.

Barr previously told House Democrats that they need to change the proposed format for the hearing, scheduled for Thursday, before he agrees to attend.

The Department of Justice has not returned a request for comment to The Hill.


April 28, 2019

Bolton confirms U.S. signed document to pay North Korea for Otto Warmbier


Zachary Basu2 hours ago
Bolton confirms U.S. signed document to pay North Korea for Otto Warmbier

National security adviser John Bolton confirmed on "Fox News Sunday" that a Trump administration official signed a document pledging to pay North Korea a $2 million hospital bill to release Otto Warmbier, though he said no money was ultimately transferred.

WALLACE: Did North Korea demand money for the release of Otto Warmbier?

BOLTON: It appears that they did. This occurred before I came into the administration, but that's my understanding.

WALLACE: Did the U.S. official who was there to get him out of the country, Joseph Yun, did he sign a document pledging the money in order to get him out.

BOLTON: That is what I am told, yes.

WALLACE: I guess the bottom line question is, did the U.S. pay any money to North Korea, however it was disguised, after Warmbier was released?

BOLTON: Absolutely not. And that's the key point.

The backdrop: President Trump called the Washington Post story that first reported the hospital bill "fake news," though the report notably said it was "unclear" whether the administration actually ended up paying the bill. Nothing in the story has been proven inaccurate.

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