GONZO’S WORLD: DERELICTION OF DUTY – SESSIONS ACKNOWLEDGES, BUT SHRUGS OFF, RUSSIA’S CONTINUING ATTACKS ON AMERICAN DEMOCRACY! – He’s Too Busy Ginning Up Attacks On Asylum Seekers, Busboys, Gays, Forensic Scientists, Muslims, Sanctuary Cities, Local Law Enforcement, Dreamers, Minority Voters, Private Property, Due Process, Reporters, and U.S. Immigration Judges To Be Bothered With Doing His REAL Job!

http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/10/20/jeff-sessions-just-confessed-his-negligence-on-russia/

,  report in Foreign Policy:

“The headlines from Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday focused on his refusal to answer questions about his conversations with President Donald Trump and his declaration — dragged out of him with all the elegance of a tooth extraction — that he had not yet been interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller. Lost in the back-and-forth and amid focus on his testy exchange with Sen. Al Franken about Russian contacts, however, was a truly damning moment about Sessions’s tenure at the Justice Department thus far.

That moment came not in the context of hostile questioning from a committee Democrat but in a perfectly cordial exchange with Republican Sen. Ben Sasse.

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With Midwestern gentility, the Nebraska senator told Sessions that he wasn’t going to grill him about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Rather, he said, “I would like to continue talking about the Russians but in the context of the long-term objectives that Vladimir Putin has to undermine American institutions and the public trust.… We face a sophisticated long-term effort by a foreign adversary to undermine our foreign policy and our ability to lead in the world by trying to undermining confidence in American institutions.”

Russia will be back in the 2018 and 2020 election cycles, Sasse argued. “We live at a time where info ops and propaganda and misinformation are a far more cost-effective way for people to try to weaken the United States of America than by thinking they can outspend us at a military level.… So as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer and as a supervisor of multiple components of our intelligence community … do you think we’re doing enough to prepare for future interference by Russia and other foreign adversaries in the information space?”

You’d think this question would be a golden opportunity for Sessions. After all, if you’re a man who has had some — ahem — inconvenient interactions with former Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, you might relish the chance to answer a question about what you are doing to prevent Russian interference in the future, as a chance to go on offense and show how serious you are about tackling a problem that has undermined your reputation.

But Sessions’s answer did not inspire confidence: “Probably not. We’re not. And the matter is so complex that for most of us, we are not able to fully grasp the technical dangers that are out there.”

Sessions acknowledged “disruption and interference, it appears, by Russian officials” and noted that it “requires a real review.” But he said nothing about what the department is doing to ready itself.”

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Read the rest of the quite damning article at the above link. If you are not a Foreign Policy subscriber, you can register for five free articles per month and read this article in full!

When your entire agenda is driven by a White Nationalist xenophobic program to “turn back the clock” on the rights of large segments of the American public (whose views you don’t happen to share and whose contributions to America you don’t value), attention to what you are supposed to be doing is an afterthought, at best. At worst, like many of the Trump appointees, Sessions is at DOJ to undermine and potentially destroy the entire U.S. Justice system as we know it.

The Trump Administration, and its “fellow travelers” among GOP politicos and voters, is the biggest threat to our national security and the future of American Democracy.

PWS

10-22-17

 

 

GONZO’S WORLD: THE “KING OF OBFUSCATION” “STONEWALLS” THE US SENATE! — “He Don’t Know Nothin’ ‘Bout Nothin’” — But He Can’t Tell You Why He Can’t Talk About Why He Doesn’t Know! — And, He Bristles With Righteous Indignation If Anyone Accuses Him Of Not Being Very Forthcoming!

What Jeff Sessions wouldn’t say was more revealing than what he did
How the Senate Judiciary Committee grilled Jeff Sessions

THE BIG IDEA: Jeff Sessions was the personification of a hostile witness whenever a Democratic lawmaker questioned him during a contentious five-hour oversight hearing on Wednesday.

The attorney general set the tone early in his first appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee since his January confirmation. “I can neither assert executive privilege nor can I disclose today the content of my confidential conversations with the president,” Sessions said in his opening statement.

There were several yes-or-no questions that should have been easy for Sessions to answer, but he refused. Sometimes what someone will not say is more interesting than what they do.

THE SPECIAL COUNSEL:

— Sessions said he has not been interviewed by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. But has his team requested an interview? “I don’t think so,” the attorney general told Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), reflecting the cautiousness he showed all day. “I don’t know … I don’t want to come in here and be trapped. … I will check and let you know.” Later, Sessions announced: “My staff handed me a note that I have not been asked for an interview at this point.”

— The attorney general declined to express personal confidence in Mueller, a former FBI director: “I think he will produce the work in a way he thinks is correct and history will judge,” Sessions said.

— He also declined to say whether he would resign if President Trump tried to fire Mueller. Sessions said getting rid of Mueller would be up to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein because he has recused himself. (Rosenstein was interviewed by Mueller’s team this summer.)

Sessions says he can’t disclose ‘confidential conversations’ with Trump

“THE CLOUD”:

— Sessions declined to discuss anything the president told him before firing James Comey. He pointedly refused to answer multiple questions about whether Trump told him that getting rid of the FBI director would “lift the cloud” of the Russia investigation. “I do not confirm or deny the existence of any communication with the president,” Sessions replied. Yet he didn’t hesitate to defend the president’s dubious rationale for axing Comey, which was the former FBI director’s alleged mishandling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

— If Trump hadn’t mentioned “the cloud,” why not just say so? In sworn testimony this June, Comey recounted a phone call he received from Trump at the FBI on March 30: “He described the Russia investigation as ‘a cloud’ that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country. He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia. He asked what we could do to ‘lift the cloud.’ … He finished by stressing ‘the cloud’ was interfering with his ability to make deals for the country and said he hoped I could find a way to get out that he wasn’t being investigated.”

Trump called again on April 11 to ask for an update on when Comey was going to announce publicly that he was not personally under investigation. “I replied that I had passed his request to the Acting Deputy Attorney General, but I had not heard back,” the former FBI director said. “He replied that ‘the cloud’ was getting in the way of his ability to do his job. … That was the last time I spoke with President Trump.”

— Sessions also would not say whether he was aware of Trump’s draft letter detailing some of the real reasons that he wanted to remove Comey, which Mueller has been reviewing.

Donald Trump and Joe Arpaio campaign together in Iowa last year. (Mary Altaffer/Associated Press)

Donald Trump and Joe Arpaio campaign together in Iowa last year. (Mary Altaffer/Associated Press)

PARDONS:

— Can the president pardon someone under investigation by Mueller before they’ve been charged? “Well, the pardon power is quite broad,” Sessions replied. “I have not studied it. I don’t know whether that would be appropriate or not, frankly.” Pressed further, he added later: “My understanding is a pardon can be issued before a conviction has occurred.” (He said that he’d like to reply with more detail in writing. That was one of his go-to lines throughout the day, though Democrats have complained for months that the Justice Department doesn’t respond to their letters.)

— Could the president pardon himself? Sessions again said he hadn’t studied the issue.

— Did Trump discuss pardoning Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio with Sessions before he announced it? “I cannot comment on the private conversations I’ve had with the president,” he replied.

— What was the process that led to Arpaio’s pardon? “I don’t know that I remember or I know it precisely,” Sessions dodged.

Sessions: ‘I don’t know that I can make a blanket commitment’ to not jail reporters

JAILING REPORTERS:

— Will he commit to not putting reporters in jail for doing their jobs? “Well, I don’t know that I can make a blanket commitment to that effect,” Sessions replied to Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). “But I would say this: We have not taken any aggressive action against the media at this point. But we have matters that involve the most serious national security issues, that put our country at risk, and we will utilize the authorities that we have, legally and constitutionally, if we have to.”

Durbin slams Sessions for wanting safer cities, withholding police grants

LGBT DISCRIMINATION:

— Two weeks ago, Sessions sent a memo to all federal agencies on “protections for religious liberty.” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) asked about it: “Could a Social Security Administration employee refuse to accept or process spousal or survivor benefits paperwork for a surviving same-sex spouse?

After four seconds of silence, Sessions replied: “That is something I have never thought would arise, but I would have to give you a written answer to that, if you don’t mind.”

Durbin followed up: Would the guidance Sessions released permit a federal contractor to “refuse to provide services to LGBTQ people, including in emergencies, without risk of losing federal contracts?”

“I’m not sure that is covered by it,” Sessions said, “but I will look.”

“The questions were hardly out of left field — or unfamiliar to the Justice Department,” BuzzFeed notes, adding that the Justice Department has been declining to answer them for weeks.

— The evasiveness played out on a host of other policy questions:

Did Sessions talk with the Texas attorney general about DACA before convincing Trump to end the program? He said such a conversation, if it happened, would be tantamount to “work product” and thus privileged.

Is there any evidence to support Trump’s claim on Monday that the Cuban government was behind the sonic attacks on U.S. diplomats in Havana? “I’m just not able to comment,” Sessions replied.

Democrats noted that Sessions, when he was a member of the committee, would never have tolerated one of Barack Obama’s appointees being so evasive.

— Republicans mostly rallied to Sessions’s defense. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, noted that Eric Holder refused to turn over documents relating to the Fast and Furious program by asserting executive privilege. Though, Grassley added, “The American people have a right to know why (Comey) was fired.”

Jeff Sessions testifies. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Jeff Sessions testifies. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Sessions stumbles through questions about communicating with Russia

RUSSIA CONTACTS:

— The main headline out of the hearing is that the nation’s chief law enforcement officer is still getting his story straight on his interactions with the Russians: “Sessions offered a slightly new wrinkle Wednesday, asserting that he may have discussed Trump campaign policy positions in his 2016 conversations with (Ambassador Sergey) Kislyak,” Matt Zapotosky, Sari Horwitz and Devlin Barrett report. “The attorney general said it was ‘possible’ that ‘some comment was made about what Trump’s positions were,’ though he also said, ‘I don’t think there was any discussion about the details of the campaign.’The Post reported in July that Kislyak reported back to his superiors in the Kremlin that the two had discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow. Sessions has previously said he did not ‘recall any specific political discussions’ …”

— Another significant admission: Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) asked whether the U.S. government is doing enough to prevent Russian interference in future elections. “We’re not,” Sessions responded.

— In the testiest exchange of the day, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) sparred with Sessions over whether he told the truth during his confirmation hearing:

Al Franken Cross-Examines Jeff Sessions On Lying About Russian Meeting

HOW IT’S PLAYING:

— On the left:

  • Slate: “Jeff Sessions Is Using Phony Executive Privilege to Shield Trump, and GOP Senators Are Letting Him.”
  • Esquire: “Jeff Sessions Is Not Donald Trump’s Lawyer. And that suggestion could be a license for corruption.”
  • Mother Jones: “Justice Department Has Communicated With Controversial Election Commission, Sessions Confirms. The revelation fuels concerns over voter suppression efforts and could raise legal questions.”
  • The Nation: “Jeff Sessions Keeps Lying to the Senate. Sessions once claimed he never met with the Russians. Well, sorta, kinda, maybe. It depends…”
  • Los Angeles Times editorial page: “Trump and Sessions are still telling different stories about Comey.”

— On the right:

  • Daily Caller: “Sessions Admits The Wall Won’t Run Full Length Of The Border.”
  • Breitbart: “Sessions: ‘We’re Not’ Doing Enough to Prepare for Future Info Interference By Russia and Other Countries.”
  • Fox News: “Sessions tangles with Durbin over Chicago violence.”
  • Washington Examiner: “Sessions is confident Trump’s travel ban will win in Supreme Court.”
  • Washington Free Beacon: “Franken, Sessions Spar Over Time Restrictions During Russia Hearing: ‘No, No, No.’”

— All politics is local:

Here’s a link to Hohmann’s complete rundown, which contains lots of other news beyond today’s “Gonzo Report:”

https://s2.washingtonpost.com/camp-rw/?e=amVubmluZ3MxMkBhb2wuY29t&s=59e886a9fe1ff6159ed350e0

*****************************************

Gonzo would have been a “perfect fit” in the Nixon Administration which gave birth to the term, “stonewalling!”

Let’s see, Gonzo’s “progressed” from saying under oath that he had no contact whatsoever with any Russians during the campaign, to later “clarifying” that he met with none other than the Russian Ambassador during the campaign (while at least implying that these meetings were in his capacity as a Senator, not a campaign official), to saying that he “may have discussed Trump campaign policy positions in his 2016 conversations with (Ambassador Sergey) Kislyak.” Gosh, that sounds to me like enough to sustain an “adverse credibility finding” in U.S. Immigration Court if said by an immigrant!

But, Gonzo says it’s all the fault of bullies like Sen. Al Franken for springing “trick” questions on him. After all, who would have thought that a major figure in the Trump Campaign (one of his earliest, most vocal, and proudest supporters) would be asked nasty questions about the Russia probe?

Gonzo basically refused to discuss the dark implications of his war on LGBTQ Americans, while allowing as how he might target reporters in the future (this Dude recently made speeches on the First Amendment?) if necessary to stop national security leaks.

And, on DACA, Tal Kopan reports for CNN:

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions told senators they have an “opportunity to do something historic” on immigration on Wednesday as he was pressed repeatedly on the administration’s move to terminate a popular protection for young undocumented immigrants.

“We have got to have more than just an amnesty,” Sessions said in his opening remarks. “We need a good improvement in the illegality that’s going on, and there is an opportunity right now, I’m telling you, an opportunity to do something historic.”

Despite multiple follow-ups, Sessions did not diverge much from the remarks, repeatedly telling lawmakers the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was in their hands.

Testifying before the Senate judiciary committee, the longtime immigration hardliner was asked by senators from both parties about the administration’s plans for DACA, which President Donald Trump has opted to end, citing Sessions’ recommendation.

. . . .

Sessions did not lay out details of what the administration may want to do for the Obama-era program, which protects young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children from deportation. Sessions has long railed against the program and once again expressed his belief that the executive action was unconstitutional.

Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, though, who has pursued legislation that would offer DACA-like protections for nearly two decades, pressed Sessions on how he could recommend to Trump that the program is unconstitutional and would be found the same in the courts when the Justice Department still maintains a 2014 Office of Legal Counsel memo on its website that found DACA would be constitutional.

“I believe this is accurate, that the so-called approval of DACA by OLC, Office of Legal Counsel, was based on the caveat or the requirement that any action that’s taken be done on an individual basis,” Sessions said, then appeared to mix up court precedent on the issue.

Sessions said a court had struck down the program because individual decisions were not made, but was seemingly referring to a decision made about an expansion of the program to parents. Courts have not found DACA to be unconstitutional to date. 

Durbin noted that each DACA applicant is evaluated individually. All go through background checks before receiving the two-year permits.

Growing frustrated at Session’s answers, Durbin referenced his former colleague’s past on the other side of the dais. “I believe this is just about the moment that Sen. Sessions would have blown up,” Durbin said. 

Later in the hearing, Hawaii Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono, also a lawyer, asked Sessions if he considered any due process or “bait and switch” issues in recommending the program be ended, since DACA recipients willingly gave the Department of Homeland Security their information in exchange for protection when the program was created. Sessions said he didn’t believe it was discussed.

“It’s a valid issue,” Sessions said. “You’re right to raise it.”

But when Hirono pressed Sessions on what might happen to the individuals covered under the program if it ends in six months, Sessions deflected.

“The answer to that is in your hands,” he said. “Congress has the ability to deal with this problem in any number of ways.” He reiterated he did not support “simply an amnesty” without additional anti-illegal immigration measures, but said “if we work together, something can be done on that.”

Here’s the link to Tal’s report:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/18/politics/jeff-sessions-hearing-daca-remarks/index.html

In other words, Sessions continued to assert his conclusory, essentially “law free” position that DACA is unconstitutional. He didn’t even know which case he was wtalking about (and it’s not that he didn’t have any idea that Durbin and others were going to quiz him on DACA). At the same time, he can’t bring himself to acknowledge that the DACA young people have been a great boon to the US and to our economy and that they deserve a path to citizenship. Indeed, if Gonzo had his way and the “Dreamers” were actually removed from the US, it would actually “TANK” our economy by reducing our GNP by nearly one-half trillion dollars! See CNBC, John W. Schoen, “DACA deportations could cost US economy more than $400 billion,” available at this link:

https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/05/daca-deportations-could-cost-us-economy-more-than-400-billion.html

And, Gonzo goes on to press his absurd demand that any relief from “Dreamers” be “offset” by  Trump’s “off the wall” immigration restrictionist program. Dreamers are contributing over $400 billion to our GNP, so what’s there to “offset?” We should be happy to have them as permanent members of our society.

No, the real problem here is that the Dreamers and their families (who also are contributing to our society and economy) should have been screened and admitted through our legal immigration system. The solution isn’t to extract a “penalty” from the Dreamers, but rather to expand our legal immigration system so that future Dreamers and their hard-working productive families can be properly screened and legally admitted into the United States in the first place!

That Gonzo, others in the Administration, and the “restrictionist wing” of the GOP keep pushing in exactly the opposite direction is truly reprehensible. The real  “national debate” that we should be having on immigration is how to get Dreamers and other law-abiding undocumented residents on a track to full integration into our society, how many MORE legal immigrants we should admit each year, and how we should select them to achieve the most both for our country’s future and for those vibrant, hard-working, and much-needed future immigrants that we should be attracting! Legal immigration is a good thing, to be valued and welcomed! It’s NOT something to be feared and restricted as Gonzo and his cronies would have us believe! And, by converting most of the flow of “undocumented migrants” into “legal immigrants” we would reduce the need for DHS enforcement directed at the immigrant community. Those resources could be redirected at removing the “real bad guys.”

 

PWS

10-19-17

NY TIMES: Trump Actually Fired Jeff Sessions Over Mueller Appointment — Pence & Others Talked Unglued Prez Out Of Accepting Resignation! — Trump’s Intent To Obstruct Russia Investigation Clear If Report Accurate!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/14/us/politics/jeff-sessions-trump.html?smid=tw-share

Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman report:

“WASHINGTON — Shortly after learning in May that a special counsel had been appointed to investigate links between his campaign associates and Russia, President Trump berated Attorney General Jeff Sessions in an Oval Office meeting and said he should resign, according to current and former administration officials and others briefed on the matter.

The president blamed the appointment of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, on Mr. Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s Russia investigation — a move Mr. Trump believes was the moment his administration effectively lost control over the inquiry. Accusing Mr. Sessions of “disloyalty,” Mr. Trump unleashed a string of insults on his attorney general.

Ashen and emotional, Mr. Sessions told the president he would quit and sent a resignation letter to the White House, according to four people who were told details of the meeting. Mr. Sessions would later tell associates that the demeaning way the president addressed him was the most humiliating experience in decades of public life.

The Oval Office meeting, details of which have not previously been reported, shows the intensity of Mr. Trump’s emotions as the Russia investigation gained steam and how he appeared to immediately see Mr. Mueller’s appointment as a looming problem for his administration. It also illustrates the depth of antipathy Mr. Trump has had for Mr. Sessions — one of his earliest campaign supporters — and how the president interprets “disloyalty” within his circle of advisers.

Mr. Trump ended up rejecting Mr. Sessions’s May resignation letter after senior members of his administration argued that dismissing the attorney general would only create more problems for a president who had already fired an F.B.I. director and a national security adviser. Mr. Trump once again, in July, told aides he wanted to remove Mr. Sessions, but for a second time didn’t take action.

. . . .

The president relented, and eventually returned the resignation letter to Mr. Sessions — with a handwritten response on it.

For Mr. Sessions, the aggressiveness with which Mr. Trump has sought his removal was a blow. The son of a general store owner in a small town in Alabama, Mr. Sessions had long wanted to be the nation’s top federal law enforcement official or to serve in another top law enforcement or judicial post. He earned a reputation in the Senate as someone tough on immigration, and was the first senator to back Mr. Trump in the presidential campaign.

But their relationship began to deteriorate little more than a month after Mr. Trump was sworn in as president, after Mr. Sessions’s announcement that he was recusing himself from the Russia inquiry caught Mr. Trump by surprise.

The president spent months stewing about the recusal. In a July 19 interview with The Times, Mr. Trump said he never would have appointed Mr. Sessions to be attorney general if he knew he was going to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Mr. Trump called the decision “very unfair to the president.”

Days after the Times interview, Mr. Trump told aides he wanted to replace Mr. Sessions. Some of the president’s aides, not sure if Mr. Trump really wanted the attorney general gone or was just working through his anger, were able to delay the firing until the president’s anger passed.

But Mr. Trump continued his public attacks in the days that followed, including taking to Twitter to call him “weak” — a word that is among the harshest criticisms in Mr. Trump’s arsenal.

Administration officials and some of Mr. Trump’s outside advisers have puzzled at Mr. Sessions’s decision to stay on. But people close to Mr. Sessions said that he did not leave because he had a chance to have an impact on what he sees as a defining issue of his career: curtailing legal and illegal immigration.

In recent weeks, he has spearheaded the effort to undo what he believed to be the Obama administration’s dangerously lenient immigration policies, including the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program.

Mr. Sessions had no illusions about converting Mr. Trump to his side of the argument — Mr. Trump remains deeply ambivalent — and he had no illusions about repairing a damaged relationship he had once regarded as a friendship. But he told people he felt he had successfully pushed the president toward ending the Obama immigration policy, and thought it had given him increased leverage in the West Wing.

The president agreed to terminate the program, and on Sept. 5 Mr. Sessions stood alone at a lectern — a moment that seemed to be a significant victory for the attorney general.

But his satisfaction was fleeting. Mr. Trump quickly undercut Mr. Sessions in a tweet by saying he would reconsider whether or not to end the program, leading the attorney general to tell allies that he was frustrated that the president had muddled months of work leading to the announcement of the new policy.

On Wednesday evening, Democrats announced they had reached a deal with the president to quickly extend protections for young undocumented immigrants.

On Thursday morning, taking a vastly different position from the one Mr. Sessions had announced, the president tweeted about the need for protections for people brought here “through no fault of their own.”

*********************************

I’m not in favor of publicly humiliating any human being, even Jeff Sessions. But, my sympathy is tempered by Sessions’s willingness to lie and humiliate migrants, Hispanics, African Americans, and members of the LGBTQ community, among others, in pursuit of his obscene White Nationalist agenda. In other words, to pick on the most vulnerable members of our society, rather than using the laws to protect them and advance the cause of justice, including social justice (a concept that Sessions has never grasped).

Trump’s reasons for firing Sessions were unethical and wrong. But, Sessions is already the worst and least qualified Attorney General in modern history. When he finally departs the Department of Justice, of his own volition or otherwise, it will be a relief to all Americans who believe in the Constitution and a diverse, humane, inclusive society. The only question is whether the damage that Sessions is doing at Justice and to the Department’s credibility can ever be repaired after the debacle of his tenure finally ends.

PWS

09-14-17

 

COURTSIDE COMMENTARY/ANALYSIS: AG Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions Might Be A Clown 🤡 — But His White Nationalist Plan To Destroy The American Justice System Is No Joke — He Has Already Done Untold Damage To Our Country & Our Rights — And, He And His White Supremacist Buddy Steve Bannon, The Alt-Right, And Other Haters Are Just Getting Started On Their Plan To Turn America Into A “Whites Only” Paradise!

Three articles from today show the “clear and present danger” to American democracy, our national security, and our fundamental values stemming from Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions and his radical right — some would say fascist is more accurate — cabal.

While Trump increasingly appears to be a looney incompetent functioning primarily in the early morning “tweetosphere,” Sessions & Co. know a thing or two about how to take over and sabotage government of the people, by the people, and for the people. (Ironically, the “Party of Lincoln” has morphed into  the “anti-Lincoln,” opposed to equality, generosity, democracy, and inclusion.)

First, Dana Milbank in the Washington Post describes “Gonzo the Clown’s” ludicrous attempts to use and abuse criminal law to suppress free public expression of opinions:

“Did you hear the one about Jeff Sessions?

I’d like to tell you, but I can’t. You see, it’s illegal to laugh at the attorney general, the man who on Tuesday morning announced that the 800,000 “dreamers” — immigrants brought here illegally as children — could soon be deported. If you were to find my Sessions jest funny, I would be an accessory to mirth.

This is no joke, because liberal activist Desiree Fairooz is now being put on trial a second time by the Justice Department — Jeff Sessions’s Justice Department — because she laughed at Sessions during his confirmation hearing. Specifically, she laughed at a line about Sessions “treating all Americans equally under the law” (which is, objectively, kind of funny).”

Yeah, I guess what Sessions, a well-established liar, probably a perjurer, really meant was “all Americans except Blacks, Hispanics, Asian Americans, immigrants, migrants, Dreamers, gays, lesbians, transgendered, bisexual, criminal defendants, Democrats, non-Christians, protestors, non-GOP women, and the poor.” Read the rest of Dana’s article here:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/apparently-its-illegal-to-laugh-at-jeff-sessions/2017/09/05/86b6e48a-9278-11e7-aace-04b862b2b3f3_story.html?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-b%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.c6b057add449

But, the following list of hostile actions that Sessions has already taken at Justice, compiled by CNN’s Gregory Krieg, are no laughing matter:

“*Directed federal prosecutors to pursue the stiffest possible charge in every single criminal case — potentially triggering draconian mandatory minimum sentences the Obama administration tried to avoid on fairness grounds for non-violent offenders.

*Withdrawn an Obama administration directive offering protections for transgender students who wanted to use bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity.

*Reversed an Obama DOJ order that the federal Bureau of Prisons back off new deals with private facilities. “I direct the Bureau to return to its previous approach,” Sessions said in a memo citing concerns that the “future needs of the federal correctional system” would be “impaired.”

*Launched a broad-based effort to reduce federal oversight of local police departments, like those put under increased scrutiny following investigations into alleged abuses. The deputy attorney general and associate attorney general were ordered to review lots of things, including all “contemplated consent decrees.”

*In a move criticized by voting rights advocates, asked state election officials in June to lay out their processes for purging voter rolls of individuals who have become ineligible due to, among other reasons, “death or change of residence.”

*Put in place a policy that could pave the way for an increase in a certain kind of civil asset forfeiture, a controversial practice — in this case a joint federal, state and local version that some departments were accused of using to get around state law — that allows police to seize money or property from suspects who haven’t been convicted of a crime. (The DOJ says it has put new safeguards in place to prevent abuse.)

And more.
Consider Trump’s plan to end DACA. When it came down to it, the President steered clear of the spotlight and let Sessions be the public face of a decision officials from both parties have described as unfair or even cruel.
It’s not the first time Trump has been happy enough — or detached enough, depending on your assessment of the his mindset on these issues — to defer to Sessions or, in cases where executive action is required, follow his lead. Where Trump is primarily focused on how he’s covered in the press and how his actions play with “the base,” officials like Sessions and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt have shown themselves to be laser-focused on very specific policy points.

. . . .

By his side? None other than a once anonymous aide turned top Trump White House official: Stephen Miller.”

Read Gregory’s complete article here:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/06/politics/jeff-sessions-donald-trump-daca-policy/index.html

And, in the Washington Post,  Sarah Posner puts it all in scary context by describing the Bannon-led White Nationalist’s larger program to turn America into a White Theo-Fascist State:

“Now that he is out of the White House, Bannon’s ambitions, if anything, appear to seek an even more enduring footprint on Republican politics. His grand plan is to remake American conservatism, by shifting it away from its long-standing “three-legged stool” coalition of tax-cutters, defense hawks and the religious right. His strategy is to peel away Christian conservatives from that coalition, and to build a new coalition with anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, far-right nationalists, in order to make the Trump revolution permanent, even after Trump has left the White House.
Consider the headline on a prominently placed “exclusive” published on the site late last night, which heaps the most coveted of Breitbartian praise on Moore: “Judge Roy Moore Embodies Jeff Sessions.” In an interview with Breitbart, Moore says he shares Sessions’s views on immigration and trade, and that he, too, is a “very strict constructionist of the Constitution.” He says he favors impeaching federal judges, even Supreme Court justices, and singles out Obergefell v. Hodges , the landmark 2015 case legalizing same-sex marriage, as warranting impeachment.
Bannon hinted at some of his designs in an interview with me last year. He said that, without the religious right, his base alone lacks the numbers to “to ever compete against the progressive left.”
In Moore, Bannon has found an unabashed proponent of “biblical law.” Bannon doesn’t appear to care much about “biblical law,” but Moore’s overheated depiction of the overreach of the federal government dovetails with the Bannon goal of “the deconstruction of the administrative state.”
Indeed, the Breitbart-Moore alliance is the most vivid example to date of the anti-government, white-nationalist Breitbart forces teaming up with a candidate with shared views on issues such as immigration and the role of the federal government, but which are driven by outwardly theocratic aspirations. Bannon is not seen as an overtly religious figure, but he has actively sought the religious right’s imprimatur for purely political purposes.
As Politico reports, Bannon himself is now using Breitbart to help “orchestrate the push” for Moore’s candidacy in high-level meetings with influential conservative groups.
There is a good deal of overlap between Bannon’s depiction of Trumpism as a revolt against global elites and Moore’s own rhetoric. Moore has long railed at elitists and “tyrannical” government overreach, albeit from a theocratic point of view. He first became a national hero to the religious right over a decade ago, after he was stripped of his post as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for defying a federal court order to remove a 2.6-ton Ten Commandments monument from the state courthouse, because it violated the separation of church and state.
Undeterred, Moore ran unsuccessfully for governor and then again for his state’s top judicial post, regaining his seat in 2012. After a federal court struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in early 2015, Moore pointedly told Alabama’s governor that complying with the federal court order could violate God’s law.
Although Breitbart hardly teems with religious language, Moore shares its conspiratorially dark vision of America, and particularly America’s perceived enemies. When I saw him speak in 2011, when Barack Obama was still president, Moore maintained: “Our government is infiltrated with communists, we’ve got Muslims coming in and taking over where we should be having the say about our principles.” On immigration, he said the government was failing “to protect against invasions” and was “letting anybody come in!”
Ultimately, the Breitbart-Moore alliance offers a hint at where the Trump base is headed. If Bannon has his way, it will evolve into a kind of coalition of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim white nationalists seeking to disrupt the GOP from within by joining forces with the Christian right, long an essential component of the GOP base. Whether or not Moore wins, if Bannon can keep pushing the Trumpist base in that direction by continuing to solidify that coalition, we can only guess at the consequences that will have for the GOP over the long term.”

Consequences for the GOP, Sarah? What about the consequences for the world and humanity of turning America into a White Fascist State incorporating the worst parts of Christian mythology, while leaving the kind, merciful, inclusive, and forgiving message of Jesus Christ in the dust?

In the first place, fortunately, only a minority of Americans share the Bannon-Sessions White Nationalist dream. So, making it come to fruition has to involve suppressing and overcoming by unlawful or unconstitutional means the will and rights of those of us in the majority.

That’s an old Bolshevik trick. And, indeed, Bannon is a self-proclaimed “Leninist revolutionary” — Sessions is his Trotsky. (Can’t really picture Stephen Miller as Stalin —  but his ability to concoct lies at a moment’s notice and his cold lack of humanity or any discernible decency or human values, along with his disdain for representative government and love of the dictatorial model certainly fits “Papa Joe” to a tee. You could definitely imagine Miller as leader of a Trump “personality cult” in a fascist regime.)

Read Sarah’s complete article here:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2017/09/05/steve-bannons-grand-disruptive-designs-are-only-getting-started/?utm_term=.80ddcfa9f294

But, that’s not all folks! Intentionally cruel, racist, and gonzo as Sessions’s grand plan of “ethnic cleansing” of Dreamers might be, it would actually cost the US economy an astounding  $215 billion, and that’s a conservative estimate that doesn’t even factor in the billions that would be wasted by DHS and EOIR in arresting and deporting America’s future stars (basically, because they aren’t White. As I’ve said before, no sane person thinks we’d be having this orchestrated “immigration debate” if the migrant population were predominantly white, English as a first language, Christians)!

According to Vanessa Wang in Buzzfeed:

“Reversing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program could cost the economy $215 billion in lost GDP and cost the federal government $60 billion in lost revenue over ten years, according to the libertarian think tank the Cato Institute.
Ike Brannon, a visiting fellow at Cato, wrote in a recent blog post: “It is important to note that these estimates are conservative, as DACA recipients will likely end up being more productive than their current salaries indicate, as they complete their degrees and gain experience in the workplace. Nor does this analysis factor in the enforcement cost of physically deporting recipients should the program be eliminated, which we believe would be significant.”
California, New York and Florida would bear the greatest costs, according to the Cato Institute’s analysis.
The New American Economy — a coalition of business leaders and mayors “who support immigration reforms that will help create jobs for Americans today” — estimated that the DACA-eligible population earns almost $19.9 billion in total income annually, contributes more than $1.4 billion to federal taxes, more than $1.6 billion to state and local taxes and represent almost $16.8 billion in spending power.
“Despite the rhetoric claiming undocumented youths are a drain on the U.S. economy, 90% of the DACA-eligible population who are at least 16 years old are employed” and contribute meaningfully to the economy, the coalition wrote in a brief.
“Ending DACA will disrupt hundreds of thousands of promising careers and cost the US economy dearly,” said John Feinblatt, President of New American Economy in a statement on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security said it would shut down DACA in six months, potentially giving Congress some time for a legislative solution. House Speaker Paul Ryan has said there are DREAMers “who know no other country, who were brought here by their parents and don’t know another home. And so I really do believe there that there needs to be a legislative solution.”
“Now it’s imperative for Congress to do what’s right and economically smart – protect the young achievers who know no home but America,” said Feinblatt.”

That’s right folks! The Bannon-Sessions White Nationalists would be willing to damage our economy to the the tune of probably a quarter of a trillion dollars for the sheer joy of ruining human lives and entrenching their White Power structure. In most other contexts, there would be a name for such conduct: “domestic terrorism!”

Here’s a link to Vanessa’s article:

https://www.buzzfeed.com/venessawong/scrapping-daca-could-cost-the-economy-as-much-as-215-billion?utm_term=.xdw9nKYOa#.liAZ2w8Y5

Finally, a number folks have noted that DACA is a DHS/USCIS program. So, why was the Attorney General, who pointedly was stripped of his immigration deportation functions and responsibilities by the Act creating DHS, out there acting like he is the deporter-in-chief and administrator of the DHS (which, by statute, he no longer is.)

 

Well, not suprisingly, I’m not in the Trump Administration’s “inner circle.” So, who knows for sure.

But, to me two things were evident. First, Donald Trump is a coward who didn’t have the guts to be the front man for his own inhumane policy — particularly since Sessions contradicted Trump’s public assurances that he “loved Dreamers,” understood their plight, and that they had “nothing to fear” from him and his Administration because he was going to come up with a”great solution” to their situation.

Second, Sessions has never accepted his secondary statutory and Constitutional role in immigration enforcement. With the weak Gen. Kelly in charge of DHS, Sessions simply pretended like the AG was back at the helm of immigration enforcement. After all, Sessions has spent a lifetime attempting to turn back the clock. This is just the first time that he has gotten away with it without any real opposition.

Kelly was a “bobblehead,” meekly agreeing with Sessions’s most outrageous, unlawful, and inhumane statements. He even lent his name to an infamous Sessions-Miller contrived “letter” asking the President for Travel Ban 2.0 and citing facially bogus statistics and disingenuous arguments attempting to tie individuals from Muslim countries to unrelated terrorist threats. In other words, on immigration enforcement, Kelly’s “substance” was about 1/16″ deep, and I’m being generous.

Obviously, killing the Dreamers’ future while heaping scorn on them was Session’s version of “Super Bowl Sunday:” a chance to publicly reclaim the role of deporter-in-chief, while inflicting gratuitous harm on a gallant but vulnerable (largely non-White) group of young people, and tossing in some gratuitous racist insults and nativist lies in the process. For a guy who has spent a lifetime heretofore unsuccessfully trying to “get back to Jim Crow” (where not coincentally, bogus “rule of law” arguments and “state’s rights” were used by Sessions’s Alabama antecedents to deny Black Americans not only their constitutional rights but in many cases their very lives in the process) this had to be “hog heaven.” Let’s not forget that Sessions has endorsed the blatantly racist and anti-semitic “Immigration Act of 1924” as a model for White Nationalist restrictionist policies. See, e.g.http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2017/09/05/jeff_sessions_praise_of_1924_eugenics_immigration_law_remains_insane.html

I’m sure Gonzo pines for the “good old days” of the Chinese Exclusion Laws when America knew how to use the “rule of law”  and just how to treat the folks who built the trans-continental railroad, most of California, lots of New York, and points in between. Declare them to be an “inferior race” — a threat to our cultural integrity —  and throw them out before they can displace the White Americans who exploited their ingenuity and hard labor.

Also, make no mistake about it, if Sessions were able to carry out his gonzo plans to deport Dreamers to foreign lands that most of them have hardly lived in, some will actually die in the process. But, hey, the lives of non-Whites are just “collateral damage” in the Bannon-Sessions world vision.

Sessions is part of our nation’s racist, White Supremacist past that we will need to get beyond to continue to prosper as a country and to lead the free world. The Dreamers can help us do that! The only question for the rest of us is what legal channels are available to move Sessions and his cohorts out of the way so that the Dreamers, along with other immigrants and minorities, can help lead us to a brighter future as a proudly diverse, humane, and powerful nation.

Liz Warren was right! America is better than Jeff Sessions! It’s time we showed it!  

PWS

09-05-17

 

 

OUR BETTER ANGELS: The Gibson Report For 09-05-17 & “A Message For Dreamers”

“We are here for you.

We are inspired by you.

We know you belong here.

We share your dream.

We will fight alongside you.”

—- From The Gibson Report

The Gibson Report 09-05-17

Here are this week’s headlines:

Memorandum on Rescission Of Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

 

Effective immediately, the Department:

  • Will adjudicate—on an individual, case-by-case basis—properly filed pending DACA initial requests and associated applications for Employment Authorization Documents that have been accepted by the Department as of the date of this memorandum.
  • Will reject all DACA initial requests and associated applications for Employment Authorization Documents filed after the date of this memorandum.
  • Will adjudicate—on an individual, case by case basis—properly filed pending DACA renewal requests and associated applications for Employment Authorization Documents from current beneficiaries that have been accepted by the Department as of the date of this memorandum, and from current beneficiaries whose benefits will expire between the date of this memorandum and March 5, 2018 that have been accepted by the Department as of October 5, 2017.
  • Will reject all DACA renewal requests and associated applications for Employment Authorization Documents filed outside of the parameters specified above.
  • Will not terminate the grants of previously issued deferred action or revoke Employment Authorization Documents solely based on the directives in this memorandum for the remaining duration of their validity periods.
  • Will not approve any new Form I-131 applications for advance parole under standards associated with the DACA program, although it will generally honor the stated validity period for previously approved applications for advance parole. Notwithstanding the continued validity of advance parole approvals previously granted, CBP will—of course—retain the authority it has always had and exercised in determining the admissibility of any person presenting at the border and the eligibility of such persons for parole. Further, USCIS will—of course—retain the authority to revoke or terminate an advance parole document at any time.
  • Will administratively close all pending Form I-131 applications for advance parole filed under standards associated with the DACA program, and will refund all associated fees.
  • Will continue to exercise its discretionary authority to terminate or deny deferred action at any time when immigration officials determine termination or denial of deferred action is appropriate.

 

Trump administration announces end of immigration protection program for ‘dreamers’

WaPo: “The Trump administration announced Tuesday it would begin to unwind an Obama-era program that allows younger undocumented immigrants to live in the country without fear of deportation, calling the program unconstitutional but offering a partial delay to give Congress a chance to address the issue…The Department of Homeland Security said it would no longer accept new applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which has provided renewable, two-year work permits to nearly 800,000 dreamers. The agency said those currently enrolled in DACA will be able to continue working until their permits expire; those whose permits expire by March 5, 2018, will be permitted to apply for two-year renewals as long as they do so by Oct. 5.”

 

From NYIC:

  • The Mayor will have some type of press conference at 5, after which there will be a rally/civil disobedience starting at City Hall. Text “NYIC” to 864-237 for updates. The NYIC will also email updates and put them on our social media.
  • Immigrant ARC is working with MOIA for a large scale event. More details coming soon.
  • If you are an Immigrant ARC member and develop materials etc. that can be shared, please send them my way and I will upload them into the databank.
  • We will be uploading flyers for events, etc onto the nyic calendar (link on our front page).

 

TOP UPDATES

 

Article: Immigration Agency May Be Expanding Anti-Fraud Program

Posted 8/31/2017

Bloomberg reports that immigration attorneys are seeing what could be an expansion of a USCIS effort to root out fraud in the immigration system. It’s “clear” the agency is looking for fraud across all visa categories, AILA Treasurer Allen Orr said.

AILA Doc. No. 17083138

 

Article: Federal Judge Blocks Texas Ban on Sanctuary Cities in Blow for Trump

Posted 8/31/2017

The Guardian reports that a federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction that blocks key parts of Texas’s ban on sanctuary cities, two days before the law was scheduled to go into effect. AILA moved its 2018 conference out of the Dallas area in protest at SB 4.

AILA Doc. No. 17083140

 

CALLS TO ACTION

 

DACA Rally – The Mayor will have some type of press conference at 5, after which there will be a rally/civil disobedience starting at City Hall. Text “NYIC” to 864-237 for updates.

 

NYIC SIJS Request: As a follow up to ongoing conversations that have come out of our liaison meetings and other conversations with the local USCIS office, they have asked me to put together a list of A numbers of over 18 year old SIJS cases that have been pending with no movement or decision so that they can get more information from the NBC. If you have cases like that could you let me know. I would love to get this to them in mid-September so that they have the information by our next liaison meeting.

*****************************************

In times like these, all of us on the “right side of history” —  who have reflected on things like the causes of World War I and World War II, the horrors of Communism, Jim Crow Laws, the failure of the American Legal System to stand up to racism during most of the century following the Civil War, and the costs of “science deniers” —  need to stick together and work as a team to resist and ultimately defeat the forces of darkness and evil that have taken over our Government, our country, and are now threatening the future and safety of our world. They can’t be allowed to prevail with their ignorant, yet disturbingly arrogant, messages and actions of hate, disdain, racism, and selfishness.

Time for the “good hombres” to stand up and be counted in opposition to the “bad hombres!”

PWS

09-05-17

 

PAUL KRUGMAN IN THE NYT: THE NEW AMERICAN FASCISTS — TRUMP & ARPAIO!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/28/opinion/fascism-arpaio-pardon-trump.html?em_pos=small&emc=edit_ty_20170828&nl=opinion-today&nl_art=0&nlid=79213886&ref=headline&te=1&_r=0

Krugman writes:

As sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., Joe Arpaio engaged in blatant racial discrimination. His officers systematically targeted Latinos, often arresting them on spurious charges and at least sometimes beating them up when they questioned those charges. Read the report from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and prepare to be horrified.

Once Latinos were arrested, bad things happened to them. Many were sent to Tent City, which Arpaio himself proudly called a “concentration camp,” where they lived under brutal conditions, with temperatures inside the tents sometimes rising to 145 degrees.

And when he received court orders to stop these practices, he simply ignored them, which led to his eventual conviction — after decades in office — for contempt of court. But he had friends in high places, indeed in the highest of places. We now know that Donald Trump tried to get the Justice Department to drop the case against Arpaio, a clear case of attempted obstruction of justice. And when that ploy failed, Trump, who had already suggested that Arpaio was “convicted for doing his job,” pardoned him.

By the way, about “doing his job,” it turns out that Arpaio’s officers were too busy rounding up brown-skinned people and investigating President Barack Obama’s birth certificate to do other things, like investigate cases of sexually abused children. Priorities!

Let’s call things by their proper names here. Arpaio is, of course, a white supremacist. But he’s more than that. There’s a word for political regimes that round up members of minority groups and send them to concentration camps, while rejecting the rule of law: What Arpaio brought to Maricopa, and what the president of the United States has just endorsed, was fascism, American style.

 

So how did we get to this point?

Trump’s motives are easy to understand. For one thing, Arpaio, with his racism and authoritarianism, really is his kind of guy. For another, the pardon is a signal to those who might be tempted to make deals with the special investigator as the Russia probe closes in on the White House: Don’t worry, I’ll protect you.

. . . .

This bodes ill if, as seems all too likely, the Arpaio pardon is only the beginning: We may well be in the early stages of a constitutional crisis. Does anyone consider it unthinkable that Trump will fire Robert Mueller, and try to shut down investigations into his personal and political links to Russia? Does anyone have confidence that Republicans in Congress will do anything more than express mild disagreement with his actions if he does?

As I said, there’s a word for people who round up members of ethnic minorities and send them to concentration camps, or praise such actions. There’s also a word for people who, out of cowardice or self-interest, go along with such abuses: collaborators. How many such collaborators will there be? I’m afraid we’ll soon find out.”

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Read Krugman’s entire op-ed at the link.

A most unhappy commentary. My parents’ generation fought the fascists. Our generation appears to have handed the reins of the US Government over to them.

PWS

08-29-17

TRUMP & PUTIN USE THE SAME BOGUS TACTIC TO CHANGE THE DIALOGUE: “Whataboutism”

http://wapo.st/2fPY0v

Dan Zak writes in the Washington Post:

“What about antifa? What about free speech? What about the guy who shot Steve Scalise? What about the mosque in Minnesota that got bombed? What about North Korea? What about murders in Chicago? What about Ivanka at the G-20? What about Vince Foster? If white pride is bad, then what about gay pride? What about the stock market? What about those 33,000 deleted emails? What about Hitler? What about the Crusades? What about the asteroid that may one day kill us all? What about Benghazi?

What about what about what about.

We’ve gotten very good at what-abouting.

The president has led the way.

His campaign may or may not have conspired with Moscow, but President Trump has routinely employed a durable old Soviet propaganda tactic. Tuesday’s bonkers news conference in New York was Trump’s latest act of “whataboutism,” the practice of short-circuiting an argument by asserting moral equivalency between two things that aren’t necessarily comparable. In this case, the president wondered whether the removal of a statue of Confederate leader Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville — where white supremacists clashed this weekend with counterprotesters — would lead to the teardown of others.

Donald Trump’s news conference on Tuesday offered a crash course in whataboutism. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

Robert E. Lee? What about George Washington?

“George Washington was a slave owner,” Trump said to journalists in the lobby of his corporate headquarters. “Are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson?”

Using the literal “what about” construction, Trump then went on to blame “both sides” for the violence in Charlottesville.

“What about the ‘alt-left’ that came charging at the, as you say, the ‘alt-right’?” the president said. “Do they have any semblance of guilt?”

For a nanosecond, especially to an uncritical listener, this stab at logic might seem interesting, even thought-provoking, and that’s why it’s a useful political tool. Whataboutism appears to broaden context, to offer a counterpoint, when really it’s diverting blame, muddying the waters and confusing the hell out of rational listeners.

“Not only does it help to deflect your original argument but it also throws you off balance,” says Alexey Kovalev, an independent Russian journalist, on the phone from Moscow. “You’re expecting to be in a civilized argument that doesn’t use cheap tricks like that. You are playing chess and your opponent — while making a lousy move — he just punches you on the nose.”

Vladi­mir Putin has made a national sport of what-abouting. In 2014, when a journalist challenged him on his annexation of Crimea, Putin brought up the U.S. annexation of Texas. The American invasion of Iraq is constantly what-abouted on state television, to excuse all kinds of Russian behavior.

In Edward Snowden, “Russia has found the ultimate whataboutism mascot,” the Atlantic’s Olga Khazan wrote in 2013. “By granting him asylum, Russia casts itself, even if momentarily, as a defender of human rights, and the U.S. as the oppressor.”

The term was first coined as “whataboutery” and “the whatabouts,” in stories about the Irish Republican Army in the 1970s, according to linguist Ben Zimmer. But the practice goes back to the chilly depths of the Cold War.

“An old joke 50 years ago was that if you went to a Stalinist and criticized the Soviet slave-labor camps, the Stalinist would say, ‘Well what about the lynchings in the American South?’” philosopher Noam Chomsky once said.”

************************************************

Read the entire article at the link.

Trump is an expert on this; most of us “bite” at least some of the time. He’s also a master practitioner of the “big lie” — a technique used by Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler, among others.

PWS

08-19-17

CNN POLITICS: “A Trump meltdown for the ages!” — Prez Aligns Himself Squarely With Racist Hate Groups!

http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/15/politics/trump-news-conference-twitter/index.html

Key Quote from Stephen Collinson’s article:

“But ultimately, Tuesday’s stunning appearance will be remembered for the sentiments that passed the lips of a President of the United States.
In the long and tortured history of a nation still trying to work through its complicated story on race, Trump’s meltdown will stand out, as a moment ripped from the darkest pages of history and transposed into the 21st Century.
In the process, he appears to have abdicated any claim to the traditional presidential role as a moral voice for the nation and the world.”

***************************************

Read the full article at the link.

What a tragic nightmare for our country and the world. Watching the daily disintegration of the U.S. and our stunning fall from a position of world leadership. “Making America Great” — yup, for White Supremacists, Nazis, racists, and Vladimir Putin (who must be beside himself with joy at what a bunch of chumps we are). But not for the majority of Americans.

PWS

08-15-17

 

 

 

THE HUMAN COST OF GONZO POLICIES!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trumps-travel-ban-is-leaving-these-orphans-stuck-in-refugee-camps/2017/07/28/58195d24-6d52-11e7-8fb5-d101fa38cebd_story.html?utm_term=.c1979f167906&wpisrc=nl_buzz&wpmm=1

Justin Wm. Moyer reports in the Washington Post:

“The tranquil home of James Isaacs, an Episcopal priest, and wife Maggie Brewinski Isaacs, a pediatrician, sits on a hill above a creek on 5½ wooded acres in suburban Maryland. Inside, an unoccupied bedroom awaits a refu­gee ready to join the family.

But the 16-year-old girl, blocked by the Trump administration’s travel ban, is stuck in an Ethio­pian refu­gee camp and might never see the room.

“The children ask us when their big sister is going to arrive,” James Isaacs said of his sons, ages 4 and 2, one of whom was adopted from South Africa. “We are left in this time of uncertainty because of the administration and the Supreme Court decision.”

The girl, from the East African nation of Eritrea and identified to The Washington Post only by her initials “M.T.” to protect her privacy, is an “unaccompanied minor refu­gee” — a young, displaced person without a parent or guardian who is seeking refuge in the United States.

Jimmy Isaacs, 4, left, and his brother, Joseph, 2, play on the bed inside the room that the family prepared to foster an “unaccompanied minor refugee” from Africa. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

A painting is seen inside the room that Irene Stevenson prepared to foster an “unaccompanied minor refugee” from Africa. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

On July 19, the Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration’s travel ban to stand, leaving about 100 unaccompanied minor refugees stranded overseas. The decision comes after months of judicial back-and-forth over the ban, casting doubt on the children’s plans to live in the United States.

“They are youth that are on their own,” said Autumn Orme, a director at Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area, which works with unaccompanied minor refugees. “I find it pretty extraordinary that they are managing this all on their own. These are children that don’t have parents to care for them.”

The result: M.T., an orphan who fled child labor in Eritrea two years ago and was approved by the State Department to live in the United States, remains in legal limbo.

“Not only is she missing out now, we’re missing out,” Isaacs said.

The Isaacs family is not the only one with an empty bedroom after the ban.”

********************************************

Read the rest of the stories at the link.

So what kind of country bars vulnerable kids in need while letting the real threats to our national security — Trump, his family, and his cronies — have free rein at the seat of Government? Trump, his family, and some of his advisers probably wouldn’t be able to pass the type of security screening to which overseas refugees are subjected.

PWS

07-28-17

GONZO MIGHT BE NEXT TO GO AFTER NEW BOMBSHELL REVELATIONS CAST FURTHER DOUBT ON HIS ALREADY SHAKY CREDIBILITY!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/sessions-discussed-trump-campaign-related-matters-with-russian-ambassador-us-intelligence-intercepts-show/2017/07/21/3e704692-6e44-11e7-9c15-177740635e83_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-top-table-high_sessions-7pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.3ade0f8bbe22

Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller report in the Washington Post:

“Russia’s ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, according to current and former U.S. officials.

Ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s accounts of two conversations with Sessions — then a top foreign policy adviser to Republican candidate Donald Trump — were intercepted by U.S. spy agencies, which monitor the communications of senior Russian officials both in the United States and in Russia. Sessions initially failed to disclose his contacts with Kislyak and then said that the meetings were not about the Trump campaign.

One U.S. official said that Sessions — who testified that he has no recollection of an April encounter — has provided “misleading” statements that are “contradicted by other evidence.” A former official said that the intelligence indicates that Sessions and Kislyak had “substantive” discussions on matters including Trump’s positions on Russia-related issues and prospects for U.S.-Russia relations in a Trump administration.

Sessions has said repeatedly that he never discussed campaign-related issues with Russian officials and that it was only in his capacity as a U.S. senator that he met with Kislyak.

“I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign,” Sessions said in March when he announced that he would recuse himself from matters relating to the FBI probe of Russian interference in the election and any connections to the Trump campaign.

Current and former U.S. officials said that assertion is at odds with Kislyak’s accounts of conversations during two encounters over the course of the campaign, one in April ahead of Trump’s first major foreign policy speech and another in July on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention.

The apparent discrepancy could pose new problems for Sessions at a time when his position in the administration appears increasingly tenuous.”

****************************************************

“Contradicted by the evidence.” Hmmm, that seems to be the definition of “not credible” if not outright perjury. If Sessions were a migrant pleading for his life in one of his Immigration Courts, he would long ago have been sent packing based on his misleading statements and highly implausible explanations. And, don’t forget that this is a dude who has been peddling the White Nationalist agenda of lies and misrepresentations about immigrants and denying their fundamental contributions to America’s greatness, not to mention their fundamental humanity and rights, for years. He’s also squandering taxpayer dollars every day by picking unnecessary fights with states and localities trying to straighten out the shambles that Sessions and his cohorts have made out of immigration enforcement policy. He’s undone years of progress on voting rights, race relations, policing, forensic science, private prisons, transgender tolerance, prosecutions of minor crimes, sentencing, and protection of property rights, in addition to accelerating the destructions of due process in the U.S. Immigration Courts.

About the only decent thing he has done since assuming office has been, under pressure, properly to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. But, that single exercise of appropriate judgement under the law has gotten him in trouble with his Boss who was counting on a complete regime of lawlessness at the DOJ.

PWS

07-21-17

NOT GONZO ENOUGH: AG Jeff Sessions Has Faithfully Advanced The White House’s White Nationalist Agenda At The DOJ — But The Donald Also Wanted Someone Who Would “Throw” The Russia Investigation — Expects “Cabinet Of Toadies”

In a far ranging interview with the NY Times that some would call “unhinged,” President Trump trashed Jeff Sessions, Rod Rosenstein (he’s from Baltimore, home of Democrats), James Comey, and Robert Mueller for showing any modicum of ethics and independence.

Here’s the entire article by Times reporters 

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/19/us/politics/trump-interview-sessions-russia.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

Here are some key excerpts:

“WASHINGTON — President Trump said on Wednesday that he never would have appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions had he known Mr. Sessions would recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation that has dogged his presidency, calling the decision “very unfair to the president.”

In a remarkable public break with one of his earliest political supporters, Mr. Trump complained that Mr. Sessions’s decision ultimately led to the appointment of a special counsel that should not have happened. “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” Mr. Trump said.

In a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times, the president also accused James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director he fired in May, of trying to leverage a dossier of compromising material to keep his job. Mr. Trump criticized both the acting F.B.I. director who has been filling in since Mr. Comey’s dismissal and the deputy attorney general who recommended it. And he took on Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel now leading the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election.

Mr. Trump said Mr. Mueller was running an office rife with conflicts of interest and warned investigators against delving into matters too far afield from Russia. Mr. Trump never said he would order the Justice Department to fire Mr. Mueller, nor would he outline circumstances under which he might do so. But he left open the possibility as he expressed deep grievance over an investigation that has taken a political toll in the six months since he took office.

. . . .

But Mr. Trump left little doubt during the interview that the Russia investigation remained a sore point. His pique at Mr. Sessions, in particular, seemed fresh even months after the attorney general’s recusal. Mr. Sessions was the first senator to endorse Mr. Trump’s candidacy and was rewarded with a key cabinet slot, but has been more distant from the president lately.

“Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself, which frankly I think is very unfair to the president,” he added. “How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I’m not going to take you.’ It’s extremely unfair — and that’s a mild word — to the president.”

Mr. Trump also faulted Mr. Sessions for his testimony during Senate confirmation hearings when Mr. Sessions said he had not had “communications with the Russians” even though he had met at least twice with Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak. “Jeff Sessions gave some bad answers,” the president said. “He gave some answers that were simple questions and should have been simple answers, but they weren’t.”

A spokesman for Mr. Sessions declined to comment on Wednesday.

The president added a new allegation against Mr. Comey, whose dismissal has become a central issue for critics who said it amounted to an attempt to obstruct the investigation into Russian meddling in the election and any possible collusion with Mr. Trump’s team.

. . . .

Mr. Trump rebutted Mr. Comey’s claim that in a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office on Feb. 14, the president asked him to end the investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn. Mr. Comey testified before Congress that Mr. Trump kicked the vice president, attorney general and several other senior administration officials out of the room before having the discussion with Mr. Comey.

“I don’t remember even talking to him about any of this stuff,” Mr. Trump said. “He said I asked people to go. Look, you look at his testimony. His testimony is loaded up with lies, O.K.?”

He expressed no second thoughts about firing Mr. Comey, saying, “I did a great thing for the American people.”

Mr. Trump was also critical of Mr. Mueller, a former F.B.I. director, reprising some of his past complaints that lawyers in his office contributed money to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. He noted that he actually interviewed Mr. Mueller to replace Mr. Comey just before his appointment as special counsel.

“He was up here and he wanted the job,” Mr. Trump said. After he was named special counsel, “I said, ‘What the hell is this all about?’ Talk about conflicts. But he was interviewing for the job. There were many other conflicts that I haven’t said, but I will at some point.”

The president also expressed discontent with Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, a former federal prosecutor from Baltimore. When Mr. Sessions recused himself, the president said he was irritated to learn where his deputy was from. “There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any,” he said of the predominantly Democratic city.

He complained that Mr. Rosenstein had in effect been on both sides when it came to Mr. Comey. The deputy attorney general recommended Mr. Comey be fired but then appointed Mr. Mueller, who may be investigating whether the dismissal was an obstruction of justice. “Well, that’s a conflict of interest,” Mr. Trump said. “Do you know how many conflicts of interests there are?”

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I guess reversing Obama-era civil rights, voting rights, transgender rights protections, switching sides in several lawsuits to oppose plaintiffs seeking to vindicate Constitutional rights, turning local police loose on minorities, trashing forensic science, firing U.S. Attorneys, going to war with states and localities over immigration enforcement, re-instituting the use of private prisons operated by those with political ties, rearranging U.S. Immigration Court Dockets to support more or less random DHS enforcement priorities, defending some over the top positions on immigration in court, seizing property from non-criminals, and hastily coming up with some contrived reasons for firing James Comey after Trump had already decided to do so aren’t enough to stay in favor with the Boss.

It’s not that one would have to be a “rocket scientist” to figure out that Sessions, a member of the campaign team, would ethically have to recuse himself from an investigation into the activities of the campaign team. And, if anyone at DOJ beyond Mueller and the now departed Comey have shown any bit of independence from the White House, it certainly hasn’t been obvious to the public. Indeed the DOJ appears to be in lockstep with the Administration’s most extreme and Constitutionally questionable plans. But, I guess “complete toadyism” requires going “an extra mile.”

The latest from the NY Times is that Sessions says he’s going to stay, at least for now.

PWS

07-20-17

COLBERT I. KING IN WASHPOST OP-ED: “Americans put Trump in the Oval Office. What does that say about the country?”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/americans-put-trump-in-the-oval-office-what-does-that-say-about-americans/2017/07/14/e6dd8996-67e8-11e7-a1d7-9a32c91c6f40_story.html?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-a%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.490e8d0e535b

King writes:

“The vaudeville show that’s running at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue didn’t book itself into the White House. Nearly 63 million Americans sent that burlesque comedy with headliner Donald Trump to Washington. That 66 million other voters thought otherwise is beside the point. Trump didn’t anoint himself president. Millions put him in office.

What does that tell us about the country?

Was hatred of President Barack Obama, fear of Hillary Clinton, outrage over America’s perceived direction enough to transfer the reins to Trump?

It’s not as if the Trump on display in the Oval Office is not the same Trump we saw on the campaign trail or on reality TV or out and about touting his businesses. He was, by any yardstick, the most unqualified presidential nominee in modern history.

Trump didn’t seize the presidency by deception. For months on end, he was out there for all voters to see, measure and judge. Some of us did offer our preelection assessments, based upon his campaign, well before time came to cast ballots.

In my view, Trump showed himself to be one who could be neither out-demagogued nor out-nastied.

Well in advance of the vote, the country heard Trump’s vile insults and claims: Mexican immigrants are criminals and rapists; Obama wasn’t born in the United States and was an illegitimate president.

 

And his attacks on people. Megyn Kelly: “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.” Jews: “The only kind of people I want counting my money are little short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.): “He’s not a war hero . . . I like people that weren’t captured.” My journalist colleague Serge Kovaleski, who has limited mobility in his arms: “Now the poor guy, you ought to see this guy,” Trump said, before contorting his arms in an apparent impersonation.

Trump the candidate showed himself to be an ignorant, undisciplined, ranting bully who exaggerated and lied without shame. A man who wore a tough-guy masculinity but was actually a coward, who picked on women, demeaned minorities and was thoroughly lacking in human decency.

Trump’s character defects were on full display well before the polls opened.

President Trump’s behavior in the White House has been equally as disgusting and beneath the dignity of that high office.

And now our nation’s capital is being wrenched apart by the Trump-Russia scandal and congressional and federal investigations into the Kremlin’s intrusion in the election.

The country can’t claim not to have seen this coming.”

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Read King’s full op-ed at the link.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the Trump fiasco is that although he might be “historically unpopular,” his support in the polls has remained steady at around 35% – 40%. That means that at least 1/3 of Americans are willing to accept incompetence, dishonesty, bias, racism, xenophobia, intentional cruelty and divisiveness, nepotism, bullying, anti-intellectualism, scientific ignorance, undermining national security, and misogyny as the “new norms” in America. It essentially means that a substantial number of our fellow Americans have put themselves out of reach of rational political dialogue. That’s going to make America “tough to govern” no matter who wins the next round of elections.

PWS

07-15-17

NYT: CONFEDERACY OF LIARS!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/11/opinion/donald-trump-jr-russian-lawyer.html?em_pos=small&emc=edit_ty_20170711&nl=opinion-today&nl_art=0&nlid=79213886&ref=headline&te=1&_r=0

Today’s NY Times Editorial:

“At a critical juncture in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign last year, his son Donald Trump Jr. met with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer who promised to share political dirt on Hillary Clinton. Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman at the time, and Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and a key strategist, also attended.

The June 9, 2016, meeting is of obvious interest to Robert Mueller III, the Justice Department special counsel investigating the Trump team’s potential involvement in Russia’s effort to influence the presidential election. In two clumsy statements over the weekend, the younger Mr. Trump on Saturday said the meeting was related to Russia’s freezing of an adoption program popular with Americans. When confronted a day later with a Times story citing authoritative sources that Ms. Veselnitskaya had promised damaging material on Mrs. Clinton, he said that the information she supplied was essentially meaningless and merely a “pretext” for discussing the adoption issue.

On the face of it, this seemed a clear though perhaps unintended admission by Donald Trump Jr. that he had gone into the meeting expecting damaging information, and the episode is clearly grist for Mr. Mueller’s mill. As is a report Monday night by The Times that the president’s son had received an email saying Ms. Veselnitskaya’s information came from Moscow. But his shifty statements are also further evidence of how freely his father and the people around the president contort the truth. Only six months in, President Trump has compiled a record of dishonesty — ranging from casual misstatements to flat-out lies — without precedent in the modern presidency. Equally disheartening is his team’s willingness to share in his mendacity.

On Sunday, before Donald Trump Jr. acknowledged that there was a Clinton-related aspect to the meeting, Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, was on Fox News suggesting that the Veselnitskaya episode was “a big nothingburger” for the Trump campaign.

If a culture of dishonesty takes root in an administration, how can Americans believe anything its officials say? Take, for instance, the matter of whether President Vladimir Putin of Russia personally directed Moscow’s hacking of the 2016 presidential election. In statements dating from his first days in office until the eve of his meeting with Mr. Putin in Germany last week, when he said “nobody really knows,” Mr. Trump has deflected and sought to discredit his own intelligence agencies’ finding that Moscow, at Mr. Putin’s direction, tried to disrupt the election to help him win. Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, said after the American and Russian presidents met in Hamburg that they “had a very robust and lengthy exchange on the subject” and that Mr. Trump had “pressed” Mr. Putin on the issue. Later, Mr. Trump made much the same claim on Twitter. The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, had quite a different version of the facts, suggesting that Mr. Trump had characterized the hacking controversy as a “campaign” against Russia in which “not a single fact has been produced.” So whom should Americans believe? In a more credible administration, who would ever ask?

On Monday, Donald Trump Jr. hired a lawyer, while maintaining on Twitter that he’d been forthright in answering questions about the meeting last year. Meanwhile, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy press secretary, blew more smoke: The “only thing I see inappropriate” about the meeting, she said, is that it was leaked to the media.”

********************************************

Not only are they congenital liars, but they aren’t even very good at it!

PWS

07-11-17

THERE IS A REAL THREAT TO OUR NATIONAL SECURITY — AND IT’S GOT NOTHING TO DO WITH GRANDPARENTS, MEXICAN WORKERS, OR CENTRAL AMERICAN REFUGEES!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trumps-behavior-is-the-biggest-threat-to-us-national-security/2017/07/09/a5d3a842-64a8-11e7-8eb5-cbccc2e7bfbf_story.html?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-b%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.6a555fb6107b

Lawrence H. Summers writes in a WashPost op-ed:

“Confusing civility with comity is a grave mistake in human or international relations. Yes, the Group of 20 summit issued a common communique after the leaders’ meeting. Some see this as an indication that some normality is being restored in international relations between the United States and other countries. The truth is that at no previous G-20 did the possibility occur to anyone that a common statement might not be agreed to by all participants.

Rather than considering agreement on a communique as an achievement, it is more honest and accurate to see its content as a confirmation of the breakdown of international order that many have feared since Donald Trump’s election. And the president’s behavior in and around the summit was unsettling to U.S. allies and confirmed the fears of those who believe that his conduct is currently the greatest threat to American national security.

The existence of the G-20 as an annual forum arose out of a common belief of major nations in a global community with common interests in peace, mutual security, prosperity and economic integration, and the containment of global threats, even as there was competition among nations in the security and economic realms. The idea that the United States should lead in the development of international community has been a central tenet of American foreign policy since the end of World War II. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the aspiration to international community has been an aspiration to global community.

All of this is troubling enough. The elephant in the room, however, is the president’s character and likely behavior in the difficult times that come during any presidential term. Biographer Robert Caro has observed that power may or may not corrupt but it always reveals. Trump has yet to experience a period of economic difficulty or international economic crisis. He has not yet had to make a major military decision in a time of crisis. Yet his behavior has been, to put it mildly, erratic.

. . . .

A corporate chief executive whose public behavior was as erratic as Trump’s would already have been replaced. The standard for democratically elected officials is appropriately different. But one cannot look at the past months and rule out the possibility of even more aberrant behavior in the future. The president’s Cabinet and his political allies in Congress should never forget that the oaths they swore were not to the defense of the president but to the defense of the Constitution.”

******************************************************

The Administration’s fear-mongering, xenophobia, insulting rhetoric, environmental destruction, and sometimes outright racism is a smokescreen to divert attention from the real threat to American’s national security — Donald Trump, some of his right wing extremest supporters, and the “fellow travelers” in Congress otherwise known as the GOP.

PWS

07-09-17

 

 

 

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S WAR ON AMERICA’S GREATNESS CONTINUES –TILLERSON DECONSTRUCTS CENTURIES OF AMERICAN DIPLOMACY!

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/06/29/how-rex-tillerson-destroying-state-department-215319

Max Bergmann writes in Politico:

“The deconstruction of the State Department is well underway.

I recently returned to Foggy Bottom for the first time since January 20 to attend the departure of a former colleague and career midlevel official—something that had sadly become routine. In my six years at State as a political appointee, under the Obama administration, I had gone to countless of these events. They usually followed a similar pattern: slightly awkward, but endearing formalities, a sense of melancholy at the loss of a valued teammate. But, in the end, a rather jovial celebration of a colleague’s work. These events usually petered out quickly, since there is work to do. At the State Department, the unspoken mantra is: The mission goes on, and no one is irreplaceable. But this event did not follow that pattern. It felt more like a funeral, not for the departing colleague, but for the dying organization they were leaving behind.

As I made the rounds and spoke with usually buttoned-up career officials, some who I knew well, some who I didn’t, from a cross section of offices covering various regions and functions, no one held back. To a person, I heard that the State Department was in “chaos,” “a disaster,” “terrible,” the leadership “totally incompetent.” This reflected what I had been hearing the past few months from friends still inside the department, but hearing it in rapid fire made my stomach churn. As I walked through the halls once stalked by diplomatic giants like Dean Acheson and James Baker, the deconstruction was literally visible. Furniture from now-closed offices crowded the hallways. Dropping in on one of my old offices, I expected to see a former colleague—a career senior foreign service officer—but was stunned to find out she had been abruptly forced into retirement and had departed the previous week. This office, once bustling, had just one person present, keeping on the lights.

This is how diplomacy dies. Not with a bang, but with a whimper. With empty offices on a midweek afternoon.

When Rex Tillerson was announced as secretary of state, there was a general feeling of excitement and relief in the department. After eight years of high-profile, jet-setting secretaries, the building was genuinely looking forward to having someone experienced in corporate management. Like all large, sprawling organizations, the State Department’s structure is in perpetual need of an organizational rethink. That was what was hoped for, but that is not what is happening. Tillerson is not reorganizing, he’s downsizing.

While the lack of senior political appointees has gotten a lot of attention, less attention has been paid to the hollowing out of the career workforce, who actually run the department day to day. Tillerson has canceled the incoming class of foreign service officers. This as if the Navy told all of its incoming Naval Academy officers they weren’t needed. Senior officers have been unceremoniously pushed out. Many saw the writing on the wall and just retired, and many others are now awaiting buyout offers. He has dismissed State’s equivalent of an officer reserve—retired FSOs, who are often called upon to fill State’s many short-term staffing gaps, have been sent home despite no one to replace them. Office managers are now told three people must depart before they can make one hire. And now Bloomberg reports that Tillerson is blocking all lateral transfers within the department, preventing staffers from moving to another office even if it has an opening. Managers can’t fill openings; employees feel trapped.

Despite all this, career foreign and civil service officers are all still working incredibly hard representing the United States internationally. They’re still doing us proud. But how do you manage multimillion-dollar programs with no people? Who do you send to international meetings and summits? Maybe, my former colleagues are discovering, you just can’t implement that program or show up to that meeting. Tillerson’s actions amount to a geostrategic own-goal, weakening America by preventing America from showing up.

State’s growing policy irrelevance and Tillerson’s total aversion to the experts in his midst is prompting the department’s rising stars to search for the exits. The private sector and the Pentagon are vacuuming them up. This is inflicting long-term damage to the viability of the American diplomacy—and things were already tough. State has been operating under an austerity budget for the past six years since the 2011 Budget Control Act. Therefore, when Tillerson cuts, he is largely cutting into bone, not fat. The next administration won’t simply be able to flip a switch and reverse the damage. It takes years to recruit and develop diplomatic talent. What Vietnam did to hollow out our military, Tillerson is doing to State.”

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While Trump and his cronies fabricate security threats from refugees, Muslims, and immigrants (and, I guess we can now add “grandparents” to that list), the greatest threat to our national security is the Trump Administration itself and its toxic mix of arrogance, incompetence, ignorance, and disdain for America and all it has stood for.

PWS

06-25-17