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emptywheel: How William Barr Did Old Man Back-Flips to Avoid Arresting Donald Trump

Did Old Man Back-Flips to Avoid Arresting Donald Trump
How William Barr Did Old Man Back-Flips to Avoid Arresting Donald Trump
March 24, 2019/132 Comments/in 2016 Presidential Election, Mueller Probe /by emptywheel

Attorney General William Barr just engaged in utterly cowardly dereliction of duty.
During his confirmation hearing, Barr confirmed that things Trump has done are obstruction

When we were awaiting the Mueller report yesterday, I wondered whether William Barr was thinking about two things he had said as part of his confirmation process. First, in his column that has always been interpreted to say that a President can’t obstruct justice, at the bottom of the first page, he instead acknowledged that a President actually could obstruct justice.

Obviously, the President and any other official can commit obstruction in this classic sense of sabotaging a proceeding’s truth-finding function. Thus, for example, if a President knowingly destroys or alters evidence, suborns perjury, or induces a witness to change testimony, or commits any act deliberately impairing the integrity or availability of evidence, then he, like anyone else, commits the crime of obstruction.

Barr — who at the time had no understanding of the evidence — made three comments in his confirmation hearing about obstruction. Among others, he point blank said that a person could not lawfully issue a pardon in exchange for someone’s promise not to incriminate him.

“Do you believe a president could lawfully issue a pardon in exchange for the recipient’s promise not incriminate him?” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) asked Barr during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“No, that would be a crime,” Barr said.


Posted by babylonsister | Sun Mar 24, 2019, 09:09 PM (7 replies)

Pete Buttigieg just raised an oft-overlooked topic: the religious left's role in politics


Pete Buttigieg just raised an oft-overlooked topic: the religious left’s role in politics
By John Gallagher ·
Saturday, March 23, 2019


“The idea that the only way a religious person could enter politics is through the religious right — I just don’t think that makes sense. What could be more different than the message I take from my faith and what we’re being shown in Washington right now?” Buttigieg said this week on Morning Joe.

“I think a lot of people wonder where they fit, either because who they are, if you’re a member of the LGBTQ community like I am, or because of what you believe politically,” Buttigieg went on. “I think the time has come for more of a religious left to emerge in our country, that let’s people know that they aren’t alone when they look at faith and think that teaches us to reach out to others, to humble ourselves, to take care of the immigrant, the prisoner, and frankly the sex worker.”


But there are liberal believers, like Buttigieg, and even liberal evangelicals. Their faith leads them to embrace progressive policies, including LGBTQ rights, which is embraced by 5,000 churches nationwide.

None of this is to suggest that liberals want to erase the separation of Church and state. (On the other hand, the religious right considers that principle a myth.) Buttigieg prefaced his remarks to emphasize the importance of maintaining that wall.

Reclaiming (or more accurately, rescuing) the language of faith from the right is a noble cause. When he was president, Barack Obama spoke about the importance of faith. But Buttigieg is taking it one step further, talking about how faith can bring people into politics.

Just as significant is that Buttigieg says the president has to represent people of no faith. Despite the enduring image of Americans as people of faith, even the religious right is shrinking and the number of people who profess no faith is growing. Not coincidentally, that group is actually much more likely to support LGBTQ rights.

Whether anyone other than Buttigieg will continue this conversation is up for grabs. But the fact that Buttigieg raised it at all underscores just why he’s burning up the media race right now. Talking in plain language about important issues is one of his strengths. What’s setting him apart is talking about them in a way no one else does.
Posted by babylonsister | Sat Mar 23, 2019, 10:28 PM (6 replies)

One company bought all the retail outlets for glasses, used that to force sales...

/ Cory Doctorow / 7:39 am Tue Mar 12, 2019
One company bought all the retail outlets for glasses, used that to force sales of all the eyewear companies and jacked up prices by as much as 1000%

If you wear glasses, you might have noticed that they've been getting steadily more expensive in recent years, no matter which brand you buy and no matter where you shop.

That's because a giant-but-obscure company called Luxottica bought out Sunglass Hut and Lenscrafters, then used their dominance over the retail side of glasses to force virtually every eyewear brand to sell to them (Luxxotica owns or licenses Armani, Brooks Brothers, Burberry, Chanel, Coach, DKNY, Dolce & Gabbana, Michael Kors, Oakley, Oliver Peoples, Persol, Polo Ralph Lauren, Ray-Ban, Tiffany, Valentino, Vogue and Versace); and used that to buy out all the other eyewear retailers of any note (Luxottica owns Pearle Vision, Sears Optical, Sunglass Hut and Target Optical) and then also bought out insurers like Eyemed Vision Care and Essilor, the leading prescription lens/contact lens manufacturer.

Controlling the labs, insurers, frame makers, and all the major retail outlets has allowed Luxottica to squeeze suppliers -- frames are cheaper than ever to make, thanks to monopsony buying power with Prada-grade designer frames costing $15 to manufacture -- while raising prices as much as 1000% relative to pre-acquisition pricing.

It's even worse for lenses: a pair of prescription lenses that cost $1.50 to make sell for $800 in the USA.


Posted by babylonsister | Sat Mar 23, 2019, 04:20 PM (91 replies)

Trump Defenders Underestimate The Mueller Report By Touting No Indictments

Mar 22, 2019, 11:21pm
Trump Defenders Underestimate The Mueller Report By Touting No Indictments
Charles Tiefer

The pro-Trump spin machine is out on the airwaves, touting that the just-completed Mueller Report recommends no new indictments.

For ten briefly-stated reasons, the Mueller action marks more of a beginning, than an end, to the search for wrongdoing in the Russia scandal.

First, there are very active continuing investigations. When special counsels complete their reports of their principal findings, that does not end the inquiries. Instead, the tasks for prosecutors and investigators are turned over to the continuing active investigations. In this instance, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York has brought prosecutions already, like Michael Cohen’s, to build on. Matters within that U.S. Attorney’s broad jurisdiction will continue forward.

Second, it is pure spin to make the issue whether new indictments are in the report. Mueller may well think that the report should give an account of his findings. New indictments are not to be expected in a report on findings. Indictments come, when ready, from the grand jury, not in reports. Rather, indictments that are moving toward readiness would come out in the other investigations, like that of the SDNY.

Third, there is particular reason to expect evidence to come out about Trump and Russia. The former National Security Adviser, Michael T. Flynn, has pled to Mueller’s charges. But nothing further of what he knows has become public before now. There is every reason to expect that whatever limited Flynn evidence is revealed via Mueller's report, there will be further evidence at the highest level as Flynn becomes a witness for more forums.

Fourth, there are a host of witnesses whose cooperation can be expected from the pressures built up from the investigations. An example is Allen Weisselberg, the corporate finance officer who carried out Trump’s instructions within the Trump Organization. In the immediate aftermath of Cohen’s testimony, it was clear than Weisselberg has not been cooperating, and that he knows an enormous amount of the wrongful things Trump ordered. The report by Mueller hardly marks an end for the pressure on Weisselberg to cooperate. That pressure will build both from prosecutors and from Congress.


Posted by babylonsister | Sat Mar 23, 2019, 11:47 AM (5 replies)

As Republicans Celebrate, Mueller Just Won Two Huge Victories


Posted on Sat, Mar 23rd, 2019 by Leo Vidal
As Republicans Celebrate, Mueller Just Won Two Huge Victories


Mueller Just Won Two Victories, With Major Implications

Lost in all the premature celebrating (by Republicans) and the hand-wringing (by Democrats) is the fact that Robert Mueller just scored two huge victories. And as a result, it is very likely that the legal peril for President Donald Trump (and at least three of his children) is just beginning.

Here are the victories won by Mueller:

1. The special counsel made it all the way to the finish line without being fired. He got to finish his important work of investigating collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. And, after massive amounts of worry and hype, he was allowed to write and submit his final report. There are many people who believed he would never get to this point. So score this a big win for the special counsel.

2. By law William Barr is required to publicly reveal any time that Robert Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein asked him to approve something, but he refused. In his announcement letter, Barr says that there were no such instances where he refused a request.

This means a lot. It means that Mueller got approval every time he asked Barr to approve something.
If Mueller asked for approval to refer criminal cases against Trump and or his children to the U.S. Attorney’s office in New York (SDNY) then he got it. Which means that there may be more indictments and prosecutions coming from other places within the Justice Department.

The Mueller Report Will Be Made Public, and There Will Be More Indictments

We don’t know what Mueller asked for from Barr, but we do know that whatever it was, he got his way.

Last night both House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and Senator Richard Blumenthal said that more indictments are likely coming, and they will probably come from the SDNY.

This makes it clear that Barr will not bury the Mueller report and go on with business as usual, as if nothing happened.


Posted by babylonsister | Sat Mar 23, 2019, 10:10 AM (9 replies)

2020 Democrats: You might be surprised by Mayor Pete Buttigieg. He reminds me of Obama.


2020 Democrats: You might be surprised by Mayor Pete Buttigieg. He reminds me of Obama.
Peter Funt, Opinion contributor Published 3:15 a.m. ET March 19, 2019
The young South Bend mayor is an unlikely commander in chief contender. But he's got a potentially appealing X factor: calmness and command of issues.


Buttigieg might not have all the answers, but whatever is thrown at him by reporters or TV hosts or folks at a town hall, he handles so authoritatively, so logically, that you’d swear Donna Brazile had arranged to get him the questions in advance.

Is he too young? “We’re the generation that provided most of the troops for the conflicts after 9/11," Buttigieg said on CBS. "We’re the generation that’s going to be on the business end of climate change. And if nothing changes economically, we’ll be the first generation ever to make less than our parents. So I believe that no one has more at stake right now than younger people coming up.”

He added, on CNN: “I have more years of government experience under my belt than the president.”

Buttigieg's book is beautifully crafted. It might have benefited from some judicious pruning, but it's an engrossing autobiography — especially coming from an author with fewer than four decades of experiences to draw upon. He's so new at being in the public eye that he and his husband can't even agree on the pronunciation of their last name. (Boot-edge-edge or Buddha-judge are top choices.)

Buttigieg supports "bedrock Democratic values" and considers himself a progressive, while refusing to overreach with Medicare for All or the more unrealistic elements of the Green New Deal. He speaks of "economic fairness and racial inclusion (that) could resonate very well in the industrial Midwest, but not if they were being presented by messengers who looked down on working- and lower-middle-class Americans."


Beyond policy, successful politicians nowadays need an X factor. Obama's was rousing oratory. Trump's was slick marketing honed on reality TV. Buttigieg has a certain calmness and command of the issues that is particularly comforting in these tumultuous times. How far that will ultimately take him — and whether his destiny is now or somewhere down the road — remains to be seen.

Even so, as you watch him on TV and read his book, ask yourself: When was the last time a politician's words resonated quite this way? If you have to go back to the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois, in February 2007 for the answer, then perhaps in 2020 Pete Buttigieg will be your guy.
Posted by babylonsister | Fri Mar 22, 2019, 05:44 PM (4 replies)

Racist Violence Threat Keeps Charlottesville Schools Closed

Why aren't we hearing about this???

Racist Violence Threat Keeps Charlottesville Schools Closed
By Reuters
March 22, 2019

(Reuters) - Schools in Charlottesville, Virginia, remained closed for a second consecutive day on Friday as police investigated a threat of racist violence against non-white students that had been posted online, officials said.

City leaders have worked to ease racial tensions in the city since a white nationalist rally in August 2017 descended into violence, with a white nationalist killing a counter-protester and injuring others after he drove into a crowd.

A threat against Charlottesville High School was reported to the police on Wednesday afternoon, according to the police department.

School officials then quickly decided to close all schools in the city. According to U.S Census Bureau data, African Americans make up around 19 percent of Charlottesville's population of nearly 50,000 people.

"We would like to acknowledge and condemn the fact that this threat was racially charged," Charlottesville City Schools said in a letter sent to parents and posted on its website on Thursday evening notifying them of Friday's closures. "The entire staff and School Board stand in solidarity with our students of color."


Posted by babylonsister | Fri Mar 22, 2019, 10:28 AM (0 replies)

Twenty Things You Probably Didn't Know About Pete Buttigieg

I learned a few things, and this conservative source didn't diss him a bit.

Twenty Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Pete Buttigieg
By Jim Geraghty
March 22, 2019 6:30 AM

One: South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg’s father, Joseph Buttigieg, immigrated to the United States from Malta and was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1979. He was a professor of European literature who taught at New Mexico State and then Notre Dame. The elder Buttigieg was a fan of Manchester United soccer and easily transitioned to become a fan of Notre Dame football. Buttigieg’s mother, Anne Montgomery Buttigieg, was also a professor at Notre Dame for nearly three decades. Joseph Buttigieg passed away in January. Mayor Buttigieg now lives on the same block as his mother and says his mortgage payment on a “large old house facing the river” is $450.

Two: Buttigieg is the youngest candidate in the large Democratic field, born in 1982. He was a child or young man for events that might seem “not that long ago” to many older voters. He remembers an elementary-school teacher explaining that the maps and globes with the label “Soviet Union” were now obsolete. He was ten when Bill Clinton was elected president, a college freshman when George W. Bush was elected president, and a sophomore on 9/11. One of his first jobs out of college was doing research and press work for John Kerry’s presidential campaign; he turned down an offer to work for Barack Obama’s Senate campaign.

Three: In high school, Buttigieg was senior-class president, valedictorian, and president of the school’s chapter of Amnesty International. In his autobiography, Shortest Way Home, he describes his high-school gym teacher as objecting to the group’s focus on “Ay-rabs.” He won an essay contest sponsored by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library as part of the organization’s annual Profile in Courage Award. Buttigieg wrote an essay saluting the courage of then-congressman Bernie Sanders, declaring that the congressman’s “real impact has been a reaction to the cynical climate which threatens the effectiveness of the democratic system.” Invited to the JFK library, Buttigieg met Senator Ted Kennedy, and the senator offered him an internship.

His thoughts of running for office started quite early. In Shortest Way Home, Buttigieg writes of his high-school years, “I had begun to wonder what it would be like to be involved in public service directly, instead of reading or watching movies about it. Could political action be a calling, not just the stuff of dinner table talk?”

Four: Buttigieg was accepted to Harvard University and found that his dorm room had previously housed Ulysses Grant Jr., Cornel West, and Horatio Alger. He describes college life in his autobiography like something out of the X-Men: “It began to feel like the academy of X-Men: everyone had some concealed special power: Cate, on the second floor, could read books at four or five times the normal pace. Andrew, on the ground floor, could do a Rubik’s Cube from any starting point in about a minute. Steve, my roommate, was like a science-fiction telepath; he could dissect social interactions and predict with remarkable accuracy how relationships among other freshmen we knew would play out with time.”

Five: Buttigieg became the student president at Harvard’s Institute of Politics, a role described by The New Yorker as being “sought by the most ambitious of the exceptionally ambitious.” At the time the institute was headed by retired senator David Pryor — who is credited with being one of Bill Clinton’s key political mentors. Buttigieg thanks Pryor for providing “the political education we really needed.”

He was a board member of the Harvard College Democrats and protested the war in Iraq. He wrote a regular column for the Harvard Crimson, and in one mocked George W. Bush for his Ivy League elitism in poetry form:


Posted by babylonsister | Fri Mar 22, 2019, 09:37 AM (17 replies)

The Reckoning of Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center


News Desk
The Reckoning of Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center
By Bob Moser
March 21, 2019
The firing of Morris Dees, the co-founder of the S.P.L.C., has flushed up uncomfortable questions that have surrounded the organization for years.

In the days since the stunning dismissal of Morris Dees, the co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, on March 14th, I’ve been thinking about the jokes my S.P.L.C. colleagues and I used to tell to keep ourselves sane. Walking to lunch past the center’s Maya Lin–designed memorial to civil-rights martyrs, we’d cast a glance at the inscription from Martin Luther King, Jr., etched into the black marble—“Until justice rolls down like waters”—and intone, in our deepest voices, “Until justice rolls down like dollars.” The Law Center had a way of turning idealists into cynics; like most liberals, our view of the S.P.L.C. before we arrived had been shaped by its oft-cited listings of U.S. hate groups, its reputation for winning cases against the Ku Klux Klan and Aryan Nations, and its stream of direct-mail pleas for money to keep the good work going. The mailers, in particular, painted a vivid picture of a scrappy band of intrepid attorneys and hate-group monitors, working under constant threat of death to fight hatred and injustice in the deepest heart of Dixie. When the S.P.L.C. hired me as a writer, in 2001, I figured I knew what to expect: long hours working with humble resources and a highly diverse bunch of super-dedicated colleagues. I felt self-righteous about the work before I’d even begun it.

The first surprise was the office itself. On a hill in downtown Montgomery, down the street from both Jefferson Davis’s Confederate White House and the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where M.L.K. preached and organized, the center had recently built a massive modernist glass-and-steel structure that the social critic James Howard Kunstler would later liken to a “Darth Vader building” that made social justice “look despotic.” It was a cold place inside, too. The entrance was through an underground bunker, past multiple layers of human and electronic security. Cameras were everywhere in the open-plan office, which made me feel like a Pentagon staffer, both secure and insecure at once. But nothing was more uncomfortable than the racial dynamic that quickly became apparent: a fair number of what was then about a hundred employees were African-American, but almost all of them were administrative and support staff—“the help,” one of my black colleagues said pointedly. The “professional staff”—the lawyers, researchers, educators, public-relations officers, and fund-raisers—were almost exclusively white. Just two staffers, including me, were openly gay.

During my first few weeks, a friendly new co-worker couldn’t help laughing at my bewilderment. “Well, honey, welcome to the Poverty Palace,” she said. “I can guaran-damn-tee that you will never step foot in a more contradictory place as long as you live.”

“Everything feels so out of whack,” I said. “Where are the lawyers? Where’s the diversity? What in God’s name is going on here?”

“And you call yourself a journalist!” she said, laughing again. “Clearly you didn’t do your research.”

In the decade or so before I’d arrived, the center’s reputation as a beacon of justice had taken some hits from reporters who’d peered behind the façade. In 1995, the Montgomery Advertiser had been a Pulitzer finalist for a series that documented, among other things, staffers’ allegations of racial discrimination within the organization. In Harper’s, Ken Silverstein had revealed that the center had accumulated an endowment topping a hundred and twenty million dollars while paying lavish salaries to its highest-ranking staffers and spending far less than most nonprofit groups on the work that it claimed to do. The great Southern journalist John Egerton, writing for The Progressive, had painted a damning portrait of Dees, the center’s longtime mastermind, as a “super-salesman and master fundraiser” who viewed civil-rights work mainly as a marketing tool for bilking gullible Northern liberals. “We just run our business like a business,” Dees told Egerton. “Whether you’re selling cakes or causes, it’s all the same.”

Co-workers stealthily passed along these articles to me—it was a rite of passage for new staffers, a cautionary heads-up about what we’d stepped into with our noble intentions. Incoming female staffers were additionally warned by their new colleagues about Dees’s reputation for hitting on young women. And the unchecked power of the lavishly compensated white men at the top of the organization—Dees and the center’s president, Richard Cohen—made staffers pessimistic that any of these issues would ever be addressed. “I expected there’d be a lot of creative bickering, a sort of democratic free-for-all,” my friend Brian, a journalist who came aboard a year after me, said one day. “But everybody is so deferential to Morris and Richard. It’s like a fucking monarchy around here.” The work could be meaningful and gratifying. But it was hard, for many of us, not to feel like we’d become pawns in what was, in many respects, a highly profitable scam.


Posted by babylonsister | Fri Mar 22, 2019, 09:19 AM (4 replies)

GOP gerrymandering helped Republicans hold 16 House seats in 2018 midterms

GOP gerrymandering helped Republicans hold 16 House seats in 2018 midterms
Democrats would have picked up 16 additional seats in 2018 if not for Republican gerrymandering, according to study
Matthew Rozsa
March 21, 2019 7:01PM (UTC)

A new study reveals that, although Democrats were able to regain control of the House of Representatives for the first time in eight years during the 2018 midterm elections, their gains were offset by the effects of Republican gerrymandering over the past decade.

Democrats would have picked up roughly 16 additional seats from their actual total in 2018 if it had not been for partisan gerrymandering around the country, according to a new study by the Associated Press. The analysis also found that in state legislative elections, Republican redistricting may have helped them hold on to at least seven chambers that otherwise would have gone to the Democrats.

"The AP examined all U.S. House races and about 4,900 state House and Assembly seats up for election last year using a statistical method of calculating partisan advantage that is designed to flag cases of potential political gerrymandering," the Associated Press reported. "A similar analysis also showed a GOP advantage in the 2016 elections."

The report added, "The AP used the so-called “efficiency gap” test in part because it was one of the analytical tools cited in a Wisconsin gerrymandering case that went before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2017 and is part of a North Carolina case scheduled to be argued on Tuesday before the court. In that case, justices will decide whether to uphold a lower court ruling that struck down North Carolina’s congressional districts as an unconstitutional political gerrymander favoring Republicans."


Posted by babylonsister | Fri Mar 22, 2019, 08:52 AM (2 replies)
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