The Week of Saturday, February 8 through Friday, February 14, 2020 [#30]
The Week’s Most Notable:
The Current Assault on the Rule of Law could also be called an authoritarian transmogrification of the Department of Justice inspired by the wishes of President Trump as executed and adumbrated by the high priest of the Imperial presidency, Attorney General William Barr. We’ve known for some time that Trump wanted an Attorney General to be his fixer, his Roy Cohn. Barr has done better than that; he has spent much of his time devising ways to alter the nonpartisan mission of the DOJ to serve a political master. We’ve hazily known about some of his efforts, but this week provided clear information about multiple specific instances – interference in the Stone sentencing, insertion into cases in the Southern District of New York, investigations into Hunter Biden and the origin of the Mueller probe, a special prosecutor for the Michael Flynn case. These are indicative of an orchestrated widespread politicization. In short, an effort to turn a portion of the Department of Justice into a law firm serving the needs of an imperial president. In this scheme, the president is not only above the law but can bend the law to his purposes, such as helping his friends and punishing his enemies – the classic authoritarian profile. We know more about this now because Trump is in a vindictive mood and has used his tweets to highlight his repurposing of the DOJ.
Saturday, February 8
[William Barr’s DOJ] DOJ Has “intake process” for Giuliani Information About Bidens – While Barr maintained the “intake” was intended to vet Giuliani’s information, it also revealed the pattern of internally connecting not only Giuliani’s but all sources of information that could be useful in cases involving President Trump.
[Elections 2020] Iowa Democratic Party Declares Buttigieg Won the Most Delegates – The now infamous Iowa caucus results are finally in, giving the almost tied leaders Buttigieg 14 delegates and Sanders 12.
[Irish Elections] Sinn Fein Declared Winner in Irish Elections – The controversial, leftish, unity-oriented party emerged from an almost three-way tie.
Monday, February 10
[William Barr’s DOJ] Prosecutors Recommend 7-9 Year Sentence for Roger Stone – Following standard DOJ guidelines, prosecutors recommended the sentence based on Stone’s conviction on all seven counts. The judge in the case, Amy Berman Jackson, will make the final decision. Trump has already tweet-attacked the recommendation and the judge. He also continues to flirt with pardoning.
[Budget] White House Releases FY 2021 Budget – Among the notable pieces: cuts to Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, coupled with increases to the military budget and a request for a 10-year extension to the individual tax cut scheduled to end in 2025 (this will cost about $1.4 trillion). The budget is based on rosy economic forecasts and, like most such budgets, will not survive even first scrutiny by the House.
[North Korea] UN Declares North Korea in Violation of Nuclear Sanctions – North Korea continues to develop its nuclear and ballistic missile programs in clear violation of United Nations sanctions – and clearly not in the spirit of Trump’s negotiations.
Tuesday, February 11
[Election 2020] Sanders Wins New Hampshire Primary – The vote was close: Sanders 25.9% and Buttigieg 24.4%. Amy Klobuchar, capitalizing on her effective pre-primary debate, got 19.8%, a strong third. All other candidates had less than 10%, a particularly weak showing for Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden. There was a record turnout for this primary.
[William Barr’s DOJ] Roger Stone Sentencing Intervention – Perhaps for the first time ever an Attorney General has reduced DOJ prosecutors’ recommendations for sentencing, just coincidentally in a case involving a friend of the president. [Update: Barr to testify before House Judiciary Committee March 31 about the Stone sentencing and related matters.]
[William Barr’s DOJ] Four Prosecutors Quit Stone Case – Adding to the uproar over interference in sentencing guidelines by Barr and Trump, all four prosecutors of the Stone case quit, including one who quit the DOJ entirely.
[Iran Missile Attack] Update: More Than 100 U.S. Soldiers Injured – Brain injuries resulting from the concussion caused by the Iranian missile attacks now involve more than 100 cases, up from a few headaches in Trump’s initial estimate.
Wednesday, February 12
[Federal Deficit] Federal Deficit up 25% in FY 2020 – Trump and Republicans predicted economic growth would absorb the deficit; however, the growth rate has declined and the deficit grew by $389.2 billion in the first quarter of 2020 – heading for least $1.1 trillion added to the debt this year. Democrats say: Remember the 2017 tax cuts!
[Iran] Senate Passes Resolution to Limit Trump Iran Options – Eight Republican Senators joined Democrats to pass the resolution, which will now go to conference committee with the House, and then be sent on to the president for veto.
[Impeachment Testimony] Trump Calls for Disciplinary Action Against Lt. Col. Vindman – Not content with removing Vindman from his White House post, Trump wants him punished for his “insubordination” and for “reporting the contents of my perfect phone calls incorrectly.” Officially neither the Army nor the DOD is investigating Vindman.
[Election 2020] Andrew Yang and Michael Bennet End Presidential Campaigns – As part of the fallout from the New Hampshire primary two more Democratic candidates dropped out of the race, followed by Governor Deval Patrick.
Thursday, February 13
[William Barr’s DOJ] Trump Tweets “make it impossible for me to do my job”– Although Barr apparently meant to slightly chastise Trump, the contretemps appeared staged, and most observers interpreted it like this: “Donald, I am trying to do your bidding without attracting attention; please don’t undermine my efforts by announcing what I’m trying to do!” Announcing the threat of DOJ action is precisely what Trump wants; he wants friends and foes in fear.
[Government Contracting] Judge Temporarily Blocks Microsoft’s JEDI Contract – The $10 billion contract to modernize Defense Dept. technology was challenged by an Amazon lawsuit claiming contract irregularities and “improper pressure” by Trump. The judge agreed.
[Equal Rights Amendment] House Votes to Lift ERA Deadline – Last month Virginia became the 38th state to approve the Equal Rights Amendment, the final state needed to pass it. Unfortunately, the legal deadline for passage was 1982. The new House bill seeks to permanently remove a deadline. Unfortunately, Mitch McConnell has said the Senate is uninterested in passing the bill. More fundamentally, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – who fought for the bill most of her life – has said the deadline should not be extended. She says the ERA has too many problems, too many open court cases, and should be started anew.
[Coronavirus] Under New Diagnostic Rules Coronavirus Cases Soar – Almost 15,000 new cases in China were reported, a huge spike largely attributed to expanding the configuration of symptoms officially associated with coronavirus. China also altered its leadership configuration (firings and demotions) in Hubei province, part of the ripple effect from incompetence in handling the outbreak.
[Climate Emergency] Last January the Hottest on Record – NOAA reported that global temperatures were 55.65° F; 2.05° above average.
Friday, February 14
[William Barr’s DOJ] Outside Insider Groups to Monitor Sensitive Cases – Barr has apparently formed ad hoc groups that will look into any cases involving the president. (A Barr Chamber?) Reportedly today’s announcement that an outside prosecutor will review the criminal case against Michael Flynn is an outcome of this new initiative.
[Post Mueller Investigation] Andrew McCabe Will Not Face Criminal Charges – After multiple attempts to pin a charge on the former FBI official, the DOJ finally called it quits. McCabe must be so squeaky clean they don’t even have enough dirt to gin up an indictment. By all reports, Trump has exploded about this, implying his loyal AG has failed him.
[William Barr’s DOJ] Democratic Senators Call for Barr’s Resignation – Along with calls for his impeachment, calls for resignation are a symbolic protest; they do highlight a week of expanding information about Barr’s debasement of the rule of law at the DOJ.
For Democrats, it might come down to this: Sanders versus Bloomberg. Nobody guaranteed that the primary election process or its ultimate result would be palatable. It’s all boiled down to a prolonged effort to determine a nominee who will beat Trump. Yet, so far, such a candidate has been difficult to identify. The media is not much help; it’s mostly a vehicle for people paid to attack, support, polish, undermine, or gaslight the currently prominent candidates. It’s difficult to distinguish stories influenced by political payola from those of reasonably honest analysis. And so far, early, non-representative primary results have not been definitive. Skipping obvious controversy and a book’s worth of narrative, it may all come down to this:
Above all, Bernie Sanders is rich in authenticity; at a personal level he appeals to many people, especially the young. When Bernie talks about Medicare For All, people still listen because he makes it sound credible. When Trump calls him a communist, most people know that’s, to use Trump’s expression, bullshit. Bernie may call himself a socialist rather than a Democrat, but his progressive policies and vision of the future (one not based on unfettered capitalism) makes sense to a lot of Democrats, and not only Democrats. That’s why Bernie is leading the field, at least until Super Tuesday (March 3).
Michael Bloomberg is extraordinarily rich. This week the media finally depicted Bloomberg as a real contender. That triggered a deluge of conflicting stories, among which it was said, “the Blacks like him,” or “he has a bad history with women,” or “remember stop and frisk,” or “he is stealing the soul of the Democratic Party,” et cetera. Nevertheless, one Bloomberg fact rules them all – he is worth multiple billions. In one month, Bloomberg can give more money to a Democratic campaign than George Soros, that supposed fountain of liberal money, has donated to politics in his entire life. People know this about Bloomberg and have seen his ubiquitous ads. Whatever his history, whatever his real beliefs, it looks like people know he can out-spend Trump and the entire GOP; and people do sense that in the Citizens United era, money buys political success (it buys propaganda and propaganda secures votes). As a bonus, having been a Republican as well as an Independent, Bloomberg won’t scare the 1%. He’s also a pedigreed New Yorker with gravitas and to him Trump is a chump. Finally, he’s championed some progressive ideas such as dealing with the climate emergency and gun control. Will a broad spectrum of Democratic voters stomach Bloomberg buying an election, whether for himself or the ultimate candidate? Is it, to paraphrase Cato, “Trumpus delenda est?” (Trump must be destroyed.)
We’ll know a lot more on March 4.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are passingly familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search (Google it).]
Quotes of the Week
“Can’t recall a worse day for DOJ and line prosecutors. A robbery in broad daylight in the middle of Chicago is more subtle than Barr’s obsession to shield Trump and his co-conspirators.”
Jeffrey Cramer, former federal prosecutor, 12 years at the DOJ, Business Insider, 2/12/2020.
“If any fields on a [visa] form are left blank, it will automatically be rejected. Even if it makes no sense for the applicant to fill out that field. For example, if ‘Apt. Number’ is left blank because the immigrant lives in a house: rejected. Or if the field for a middle name is left blank because no middle name exists: rejected, too.”
“This Latest Trick from the Trump Administration . . .” Catherine Rampell, The Washington Post, 2/13/2020.