NEWSWEEK: Gonzo Apocalypto’s Next Targets: The 1st Amendment & Reporters — Truth-Challenged Press Conference Assails “Leakers!”

http://www.newsweek.com/sessions-leaks-trump-fired-fake-news-media-cnn-mueller-comey-obama-golf-646838?spMailingID=2132659&spUserID=MzQ4OTU2OTQxNTES1&spJobID=850160461&spReportId=ODUwMTYwNDYxS0

Jeff Stein reports:

“Another day, another Donald Trump show. The president was absent from the elaborate press conference that Attorney General Jeff sessions held at the Justice Department on Friday to showcase the administration’s intent to crack down on leaks.

But his looming presence was palpable. The president reportedly often watches and critiques the TV performance of his officials.

“This culture of leaking must stop,” Sessions said, echoing Trump’s increasingly bitter tweets.

Flanking Sessions were Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the Director of National Intelligence, Daniel Coats and William Evanina, head of the little-known National Counterintelligence and Security Center.

“Conspicuously absent,” The Washington Post noted, “were representatives for the FBI, which generally investigates leaks.” Rosenstein said the new FBI Director, Christopher Wray, wasn’t there because he had just started his job this week.

Unlikely. Wray’s office is just a short walk across Pennsylvania Avenue from the Justice Department. If Wray were unavailable, plenty of other top FBI officials certainly were. Under a president obsessed with how his officials come across on television, the exclusion of them seemed deliberate.

. . . . .

The tableau presented by Sessions, who is struggling to hold on to his job after weeks of withering criticism from Trump for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, seemed designed to suggest to the president’s political base that other, more trusted security agencies would play a prominent role in the leak investigation.

Not going to happen. As opposed to what the TV pictures might suggest, U.S. intelligence agencies are barred from criminal investigations of leaks (although they conduct their own internal probes).  

“Only the FBI has jurisdiction to conduct that type of investigation,” Robert L. Dietz, who has held senior legal positions at the CIA, NSA, the National Geo-Spatial Agency and the Defense Department, tells Newsweek. “Indeed, the entire intel establishment has no authority over leaks.”

. . . .

Historically, critics of leak investigations, including government officials, have called them “a fool’s errand.” They can often lead right back to the offices of the White House or cabinet official who demanded them.

But Sessions added a dark element to his Friday announcement, suggesting he might start issuing subpoenas to reporters. The secret monitoring of media organizations could well accompany such investigations, history shows.

Press freedom organizations denounced the idea. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said it would “strongly oppose” a revision of Obama administration guidelines generally prohibiting such subpoenas. It also announced it had set up a toll-free hotline for reporters to call for legal advice if they got a subpoena.

Most leaks involving controversial Trump administration policies and its in-fighting and chaos have not included classified information. But some national security officials, both Democrats and Republicans, said Thursday they were shocked by the leaks of complete transcripts of Trump’s private telephone conversations with the president of Mexico and prime minister of Australia. Both transcripts revealed Trump saying things in stark contrast to his public positions. He had denounced previous reports characterizing the calls—accurately, as it turned out—as “fake news.” Sessions indicated he was going to get to the bottom of who leaked the transcripts.

But far from being investigated and punished, whistleblowers should be recognized as playing an important role in a democracy, says Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a Washington, D.C. nongovernmental organization. Leak probes, she said, can stumble onto rightful efforts to expose crimes by government officials.

“Whistleblowers are the nation’s first line of defense against fraud, waste, abuse and illegality within the federal government,” Brian told The Washington Post. “The last thing this administration wants to do is to deter whistleblowing in an effort to stymie leaks.”

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Notable that Sessions’s so-called “press conference” (is it really a “press conference” if you don’t take questions from the press?) was actually a performance aimed at reassuring President Trump that he was “on message” after being accused (falsely) by the President of being “weak on leaks.”

There is one major disclosure of classified information that should concern all Americans: Trump’s cavalier offering of sensitive documents to the Russians, who are not our friends or allies. Other than that, most of the “leaked” information consists of what NBC’s Chuck Todd would call “water cooler stuff” that more likely than not was “leaked” by members of Trump’s own “inner circle” as part of the never ending “palace intrigues” and “power struggles” surrounding the West Wing. While it’s easy to understand why truth could be embarrassing to Trump and his minions, its not by any means a threat to national security. No, the biggest REAL thereat to our national security remains President Trump himself.

PWS

08-07-17

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

WHAT’S TRUMP’S TRAVEL BAN PROTECTING US FROM? — DUH, NOTHING, OF COURSE — But, It IS Distracting Attention From The REAL Threat To Our National Security!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/06/26/supreme-court-partially-restores-trump-travel-ban-which-wouldnt-have-kept-out-anyone-behind-deadly-terrorist-attacks/?utm_term=.b3e979184075

Mark Berman writes in the Washington Post:

“The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to let a limited version of President Trump’s travel ban take effect, so we are republishing an updated version of this story.

President Trump’s executive order temporarily banning travelers from six Muslim-majority nations due to “heightened concerns about terrorism” was quickly frozen by the courts, much like an earlier version of the ban, until the Supreme Court acted on Monday.

The justices said they would let the ban partially take effect and, in the ruling, announced plans to consider the case later this year. The Supreme Court made a key exception, saying the ban could not be “enforced against foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” But otherwise, the Trump administration is now free to impose a 90-day ban on travelers from six countries that it had said posed certain “national security risks.”

The second travel ban had something big in common with the first version: It would not have kept out of the United States anyone responsible for a deadly terrorist attack since 2001.”

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Read the complete article (with charts and map) at the above link.

Question of the Day:

In any “normal” Administration, how many of the characters holding positions in the Trump White House would be granted high level security clearances (including, of course, the “Tweeter-in-Chief” himself)?

PWS

06-30-17

 

 

 

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

WORLDVIEWS IN THE WASHPOST: No Matter How The Legal Case Comes Out, Trump’s Travel Ban Will Stand As An Ugly Blot On America’s Reputation!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/06/27/trumps-travel-ban-still-doesnt-make-any-sense/?hpid=hp_rhp-more-top-stories_no-name%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.105cc6430610

Ishaan Tharoor writes:

“But whatever the case, it’s important to remember that the travel ban on its face makes very little sense. The two federal appeals courts that ruled against it said separately that Trump’s order was both discriminatory toward Muslims and not necessary for national security, despite the White House’s continued insistence.

“There is no finding that present vetting standards are inadequate, and no finding that absent the improved vetting procedures there likely will be harm to our national interests,” the judges of the 9th Circuit wrote. “These identified reasons do not support the conclusion that the entry of nationals from the six designated countries would be harmful to our national interests.”

Not a single person has died in a terrorist attack on American soil carried out by a citizen from one of the six nations covered by the ban. Since the Refugee Act of 1980 set up a system for vetting refugees to the United States, no person accepted as a refugee has been implicated in a fatal terrorist attack. Critics of the order have also nitpicked in the past about the absence of other “terror-prone” nations in the ban’s purview, such as Pakistan, Afghanistan or even Saudi Arabia, whence 15 of the 9/11 attackers came. And, while Trump voices fear over foreign threats, he has been conspicuously quiet about the scourge of domestic terrorism within the United States.

Mourners at a memorial for the victims of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. (Amanda Voisard)
The broader point the ban’s opponents make is that singling out immigrants, tourists and refugees based on their country of origin will do little to keep the United States safe, while badly damaging the nation’s reputation abroad.

 

“Far from being foreign infiltrators, the large majority of jihadist terrorists in the United States have been American citizens or legal residents. Moreover, while a range of citizenship statuses are represented, every jihadist who conducted a lethal attack inside the United States since 9/11 was a citizen or legal resident,” concluded a recent report by the New America Foundation. “In addition about a quarter of the extremists are converts, further confirming that the challenge cannot be reduced to one of immigration.”

. . . .

The underlying impetus has always been Trump’s desire to make real a campaign promise for some kind of Muslim ban — “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” as he put it in 2015. Taking into account the statements of both Trump and his allies before and after last year’s election, the 4th Circuit court had ruled that the executive order “in context drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination.”

The Supreme Court’s decision on Monday doesn’t strip away the moral validity of the arguments posed by the ban’s critics. And the court’s justices wrote “the relief we grant today” should enable the White House “to conclude its internal work and provide adequate notice to foreign governments within the 90-day life of [the order].” If the Trump administration seeks to extend the ban well beyond the summer, it will be all the more clear that its motives aren’t quite as benign as it claims.”

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Read the complete article at the above link.  “We should all be afraid all the time even of things that we have no objective reason to fear.” That’s essentially Trump’s dark, downbeat message on immigration and pretty much everything else. What would FDR think?

PWS

06-28-17

NO CHAOS: Matt Zapotosky Summarizes Supreme’s Travel Ban Decision — Former DOJ Immigration Litigator Leon Fresco Says Case Likely To Resolve Itself Before Argument In Fall!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/what-the-supreme-courts-travel-ban-ruling-means/2017/06/26/5e86e1cc-5a7e-11e7-9fc6-c7ef4bc58d13_story.html?utm_term=.13c35f5c2033

Zapotosky writes in the WashPost:

“The Supreme Court’s decision to allow portions of President Trump’s travel ban to take effect is a win for the administration, but the impact will be far less severe than President Trump’s initial version of the measure.

That is because the high court effectively allowed Trump to ban from coming to the United States only citizens of six majority-Muslim countries “who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” It also nudged the president to complete his promised review of vetting procedures, which might mean the issue is resolved by the time the court is set to fully consider the ban in its October term.

For now, if you are not a U.S. citizen and have a relative here, have been hired by a U.S. employer or admitted to an American university, you can still probably get a visa. But if you’re applying cold as a visitor or through the diversity visa program, you probably can’t.

. . . .

The Supreme Court wrote that the government now should be able to do its work. “We fully expect that the relief we grant today will permit the Executive to conclude its internal work and provide adequate notice to foreign governments within the 90-day life of [the order],” the justices wrote.

The court said it would take up the travel ban fully in its October term; their ruling Monday only partially lifted lower courts’ stays on the measure. By that time, the 90-day period will have run, and Fresco said the administration will be pressed to come up with good reasons for imposing a ban.

“If there is not an answer to the question on the first day of oral arguments about why this ban is still in place, that is going to make the court much more skeptical about the government’s reasons for having this ban,” Fresco said.”

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Read the complete analysis at the link.

According to this analysis, the six Justices in the majority apparently have skillfully maneuvered the Trump Administration into a “put up or shut up” situation. They have alleviated the greatest hardships caused by the ban by allowing individuals with bona fide connections to the U.S. to continue to come. At the same time, they have pressured the Trump Administration into completing its “study” before Fall and lifting the “temporary ban,” thus largely mooting the case. As Fresco points out, if the Administration attempts to continue the ban after its scheduled expiration, they will likely have to come up with a much more convincing explanation that they have provided to date. Otherwise, the whole thing is going to look like a “pretext” for a blanket “Muslim ban,” which is what the plaintiffs have been arguing all along. Actually, sounds to me like the kind of practical solution that Chief Justice Roberts sometimes devises to avoid ugly showdowns between the three branches of Government. Interesting.

PWS

06-26-17

 

NOLAN HITS 100! — “Ninth Circuit gives green light for much larger travel ban” in THE HILL is Rappaport’s 100th Published Article! — Read It Here!

http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/immigration/339300-ninth-circuit-gives-green-light-for-much-larger-travel-ban?amp

Nolan writes:

“The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a new decision on President Donald Trump’s March 6 Executive Order 13780, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.”

The court affirmed the portions of the district court injunction that apply to the 90-day, six-country travel ban, but it vacated the portions of the injunction that relate to the government doing an internal review of its vetting procedures, which could lead to a much larger ban based on a different criterion.

. . . .

Where this is headed

Unlike the travel ban, which, notwithstanding pessimistic claims to the contrary, is just a 90-day suspension, the new ban will apply to uncooperative governments until they agree to cooperate, which in some cases will never happen. What’s more, it almost certainly will apply to more than six countries. According to DHS Secretary John Kelley, in addition to the six countries on the travel ban list, 13 or 14 other countries also have very questionable vetting procedures.”

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Read Nolan’s complete article in The Hill at the link.

Congratulations, Nolan, on reaching then”century mark!” You are prolific. Just from putting together this blog, I can appreciate all of the hours of reaearch, writing, and interviews that 100 published articles represents. And, unlike you, I don’t even have to deal with an editor (although my wife Cathy points out that I could use one).

Here’s a link to a list of all 100 of Nolan’s published articles:

Article List

Congrats, again, Nolan! Looking forward to the “next 100.”

PWS

06-26-17

 

NADA BAKOS IN WASHPOST OUTLOOK: Trump Tweets Threaten Our National Security!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/president-trumps-twitter-feed-is-a-gold-mine-for-foreign-spies/2017/06/23/e3e3b0b0-5764-11e7-a204-ad706461fa4f_story.html?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-b%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.f1a2ff55b798

Bakos writes:

“Every time President Trump tweets, journalists and Twitter followers attempt to analyze what he means. Intelligence agencies around the world do, too: They’re trying to determine what vulnerabilities the president of the United States may have. And he’s giving them a lot to work with.

Trump’s Twitter feed is a gold mine for every foreign intelligence agency. Usually, intelligence officers’ efforts to collect information on world leaders are methodical, painstaking and often covert. CIA operatives have risked their lives to learn about foreign leaders so the United States could devise strategies to counter our adversaries. With Trump, though, secret operations are not necessary to understand what’s on his mind: The president’s unfiltered thoughts are available night and day, broadcast to his 32.7 million Twitter followers immediately and without much obvious mediation by diplomats, strategists or handlers.

Intelligence agencies try to answer these main questions when looking at a rival head of state: Who is he as a person? What type of leader is he? How does that compare to what he strives to be or presents himself as? What can we expect from him? And how can we use this insight to our advantage?

 

At the CIA, I tracked and analyzed terrorists and other U.S. enemies, including North Korea. But we never had such a rich source of raw intelligence about a world leader, and we certainly never had the opportunity that our adversaries (and our allies) have now — to get a real-time glimpse of a major world leader’s preoccupations, personality quirks and habits of mind. If we had, it would have given us significant advantages in our dealings with them.

. . . .

Analysts would also be likely to use technology to perform content analysis on the president’s tweets in the aggregate. Intelligence agencies can employ a more robust version than the open-source projects that news organizations have used, because they can marry Trump’s tweets with information they collect through intercepts and other means. Software could look for patterns in speech or word categories representing confidence related to policy, whether Trump is considering opposing points of view and if he harbors uncertainty toward any subject. Computers can perform metadata analysis to build timelines and compare Trump’s Twitter feed with his known public schedule, creating a database of when and where he tweets and what else he’s doing at the time. Anything that provides a digital footprint adds context to the analysis.

Trump says it’s the press’s fault that he uses Twitter as much as he does. His aides clearly want him to stop, but the president just as clearly wants and needs to be heard unfiltered. Fortunately for him, the platform lets him speak directly to his supporters whenever he chooses. Unfortunately for the rest of us, they aren’t the only ones listening.”

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Read the entire article about how our President’s reckless behavior and childish lack of self-restraint endangers America. And, this doesn’t even get into his inviting Russian diplomats into the White House, handing over classified information, or ignoring the seriousness of the Russian’s attempts to interfere with our last election.

Yeah, I know that according to recent reports, the Obama Administration badly flubbed the Russian election investigation. Big time! But, Trump is President now, and he seems determined to sweep the Kremlin’s attack on our fundamental institutions under the rug rather than getting to the bottom of it and taking effective steps to prevent its repetition.

PWS

06-25-48

THE HILL: Professor Andy Schoenholtz Of Georgetown Law On Why Americans Should Be Grateful To The 9th Circuit For Upholding The Rule Of Law Against Executive Overreach!

 

http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/civil-rights/337955-9th-circuit-on-travel-ban-president-must-respect-congress

Professor Schoenholtz concludes:

“In fact, had the president focused on asking America’s civil servants to build on the progress achieved since 9/11 and try to find new ways of identifying security threats among those who seek visas, that work would have been accomplished by now, according to the schedule set by both the first and second EO’s.

If the Supreme Court decides at some point to hear a case regarding the EO, they will now be asked to consider not only whether the President has violated the Establishment Clause but also whether he has exceeded his statutory authority. As determined by the Supreme Court in the late nineteenth century, Congress has the constitutional authority to establish the immigration laws.

It has done just that by statute. The president has broad authority to implement that statutory system, but does the president have the power to stop admitting immigrants from six countries? From sixty? From all countries? Where does this end, and where would that leave Congress and the equilibrium established by the Constitution? We should thank the Ninth Circuit for raising that issue clearly and thoughtfully.

Andrew I. Schoenholtz is a Professor from Practice at Georgetown Law and the author, with Professors Jaya Ramji-Nogales and Philip G. Schrag, of “Lives in the Balance: Asylum Adjudication by the Department of Homeland Security.”

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Read Andy’s entire analysis at the link.

I’m still somewhat skeptical that the Supremes will take this case given the problems caused by the President’s out of court statements and tweets. Future Chief Executives likely will be more “Presidential” and act with more prudence and thoughtfulness. So, why take a case that hopefully will turn out to be more or less “sui generus?” If I were the Supremes, I would let the lower courts sort through this mess and make a complete record before approaching the legal questions. But, we’ll see.  Very soon!

PWS

06-19-17

POLITICO: HOW DEEP IN THE DOJ BULLPEN WOULD TRUMP HAVE TO GO TO FIRE MUELLER? — Sessions, Rosenstein, Brand Likely “Toast,” But Others Down the Line Might Also Balk At Carrying Out Order! — NEWSWEEK SAYS FIRING MUELLER WOULD MEAN “PRESIDENT PENCE!”

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/06/16/donald-trump-justice-department-succession-plan-239652?cid=apn

Annie Karni writes in Politico:

“An abstract, in-case-of-emergency-break-glass executive order drafted by the Trump administration in March may become real-world applicable as the president, raging publicly at his Justice Department, mulls firing special counsel Robert Mueller.

Since taking office, the Trump administration has twice rewritten an executive order that outlines the order of succession at the Justice Department — once after President Donald Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to defend his travel ban, and then again two months later. The executive order outlines a list of who would be elevated to the position of acting attorney general if the person up the food chain recuses himself, resigns, gets fired or is no longer in a position to serve.

In the past, former Justice Department officials and legal experts said, the order of succession is no more than an academic exercise — a chain of command applicable only in the event of an attack or crisis when government officials are killed and it is not clear who should be in charge.

But Trump and the Russia investigation that is tightening around him have changed the game.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has already recused himself from overseeing the investigation into possible collusion between Trump campaign aides and Russian operatives, after it was revealed that he failed to disclose meetings with the Russian ambassador during the campaign. And Trump started his morning on Friday by appearing to take a public shot at his deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who has increasingly become the target of his impulsive anger.

“I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt,” the president tweeted.

The Justice Department said in a statement on Friday that there are no current plans for a recusal, but Rosenstein has said in the past that he would back away from overseeing Mueller’s investigation if his role in the ouster of former FBI Director James Comey becomes a conflict.

That has legal experts closely examining the dry executive order to figure out who might be next up to bat, or, as Democratic lawyers and consultants view it, who might serve as Trump’s next sacrificial lamb.

“We know Rachel Brand is the next victim,” said Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the editor-in-chief of Lawfare, referring to the former George W. Bush official who was recently confirmed as associate attorney general, the third-highest position in the Justice Department.

“For those of us who have high confidence in Rachel — the more confidence you have in someone in this role, the less long you think they’ll last,” said Wittes, who said he considers Brand a friend. “That does put a very high premium on the question of who is next.”

That question, however, has become more complicated because the Trump administration has been slow to fill government positions and get those officials confirmed. Typically, the solicitor general would be next in line after the associate attorney general, followed by the list of five assistant U.S. attorneys, the order of which would be determined by the attorney general. But none of those individuals have been confirmed by the Senate, and they would be unable to serve as acting attorney general without Senate confirmation.

Because of that, the executive order comes into play — one that puts next in line after Brand the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Dana Boente. Boente, a career federal prosecutor and an appointee of former President Barack Obama, was tapped last April to serve as the interim head of the Justice Department’s national security division, which oversees the FBI’s Russia investigation.

Boente, who was briefly thrust into the no. 2 spot at the Justice Department after Yates was fired, was also tasked with phoning Preet Bharara, then U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, to deliver the unexpected news that he was fired. At the time, Boente also vowed to defend Trump’s travel ban in the future.

Boente is followed, on the succession list, by the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, John Stuart Bruce; and the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas, John Parker. Both are career prosecutors who are serving in their posts on an interim basis, until a presidential appointment is made. But they would not need to be Senate confirmed to take over.”

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

Read Karni’s full article at the link. Meanwhile, over at Newsweek, Graham Lanktree speculates that Trump’s outside legal team is building a case against Mueller. But, that case appears to be totally bogus, a rather blatant attempt to obstruct and pervert justice, in the best (or worst) traditions of Richard Nixon. Many believe that the firing of Mueller would lead to the fall of Trump (either by impeachment or forced resignation) and the ushering in of President Mike Pence.

Here’s the link to the Newsweek article:

http://www.newsweek.com/pence-will-soon-be-president-if-trump-fires-mueller-says-bush-lawyer-626987?spMailingID=1969868&spUserID=MzQ4OTU2OTQxNTES1&spJobID=810837063&spReportId=ODEwODM3MDYzS0

And, here’s an excerpt from Lanktree’s report:

“Vice President Mike Pence will soon lead the U.S. if President Donald Trump fires Russia investigation special counsel Robert Mueller, a Bush administration ethics lawyer said Saturday.

Trump’s legal team and surrogates are “building a case for firing Mueller,” wrote Richard Painter in a tweet after he appeared on Fox News Saturday. Painter was President George W. Bush’s chief White House ethics lawyer from 2005 to 2007.

“If that happens Mike Pence will soon become the 46th President,” Painter wrote. “Trump surrogates are making up Mueller ‘conflicts’ to justify firing him. That will be yet more obstruction of justice if it happens.”

. . . .

Friends of Trump said earlier this week that the president is considering firing Mueller. If that happens, legal scholars say, it would likely prompt the resignations of senior Department of Justice staff, reprisals from Congress, and resignation of White House staff. Painter argues that it could lead to impeachment.

“Mueller is absolutely not compromised by his professional relationship with Comey,” said Painter on Saturday. “This is just an effort to undermine the credibility of the special counsel.”

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Stay tuned. Almost everyone except Trump and his “outside advisers” believes that firing Mueller would be suicidal. But, Trump appears to be unhinged and often doesn’t let rationality or prudence enter into his decision making. He’s managed to survive many self-destructive acts that would have spelled the end of the line for any other politician. But, this one might well bring him down.

PWS

06-18-17

 

 

WashPost: Trump Now Appears To Have Made Himself Possible Target Of Russia Probe!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/special-counsel-is-investigating-trump-for-possible-obstruction-of-justice/2017/06/14/9ce02506-5131-11e7-b064-828ba60fbb98_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-top-table-main_trumpmueller625pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.16b2d1da2136

“The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said.

The move by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said.

Trump had received private assurances from then-FBI Director James B. Comey starting in January that he was not personally under investigation. Officials say that changed shortly after Comey’s firing.

Five people briefed on the requests, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said that Daniel Coats, the current director of national intelligence, Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, and Rogers’s recently departed deputy, Richard Ledgett, agreed to be interviewed by Mueller’s investigators as early as this week. The investigation has been cloaked in secrecy, and it is unclear how many others have been questioned by the FBI.”

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

Read the complete article at the link.

Predictably, Trump will be outraged by the “leakers.” But, his problems are totally self-created. And, they are only going to get worse if he can’t stop talking and tweeting about it. Don’t know where this is eventually going. I do know, however, that it isn’t going away any time soon.

PWS

06-14-17

 

SESSIONS SUMMARY: Irritated, Indignant, Not Very Informative! — Selective Memory On Display!

Of the many summaries floating around the internet, I found this one from “Will Drabold at Mic” to be the most useful:

Navigating Trump’s America — Special Jeff Sessions Edition — Tuesday, June 13, 2017
YOUR DAILY READ ON HOW THE
COUNTRY IS CHANGING UNDER DONALD TRUMP.
By Will Drabold at Mic.

 

Today’s question: Will Jeff Sessions’ testimony come to haunt him? Or did he hold up well under the spotlight? Email us at trumpsamerica@mic.com and join us for $1 a month to discuss this in our Facebook group.

 

Please respond to this email with your thoughts. You can read this in your browser here. And if someone forwarded this to you, do the right thing: Subscribe here.

 

Share #NTA on Facebook and Twitter.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions was defensive during his hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday. Sessions was adamant he — and the Trump campaign — had zero collusion with Russia. This special edition of Navigating Trump’s America recaps Sessions’ hearing and what comes next.

Read a blow-by-blow of the hearing here.

 

6 takeaways from Jeff Sessions’ Senate testimony

1. The attorney general gave conflicting answers about his reported meetings with the Russian ambassador.

 

The attorney general said he “did not have any private meetings, nor do I recall any conversations with any Russian officials” at an event for the president’s first major speech on foreign policy last year at a Washington, D.C., hotel. During questioning, Sessions’ tone grew shiftier.

 

Further, Sessions said he could not “recall” any meetings with Russian officials that have not been disclosed, nor did he have memory of conversations with other people tied to Russia.

 

This matters because Sessions, who was under oath, could later be grilled on this waffling by investigators running the Russia inquiry. Sessions seemingly acknowledged the need to give himself an out from that line of questioning, saying he cannot guarantee his recollection of events is correct.

 

2. Sessions said James Comey was fired because of how he handled the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

 

Sessions said Comey’s decision to publicly recommend not seeking charges in the email investigation was a “breathtaking usurpation of the responsibility of the attorney general.”

 

That doubled down on what Sessions put in his signed letter, but it contradicted Trump’s comment after Comey’s firing that the Russia investigation factored into the firing. Sessions said Tuesday that Trump’s words speak for themselves and he could not discuss more than the letter.

 

The attorney general shared his belief that it did not violate his recusal from the Russia investigation to be involved in firing Comey, something Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said did not “pass the smell test.” The attorney general was adamant it was his job, despite the recusal, to choose the leadership of the FBI.

 

3. The attorney general emphatically denied he had any involvement in allegations related to Russia.

 

Perhaps Sessions’ most sweeping statement came during his opening, when he said, “I have never met with or had any conversation with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States.”

 

The attorney general added that he did not recall anyone trying to influence him in his role with the Trump campaign.

 

4. The attorney general would not comment on whether he talked to Trump about firing Comey and whether the Russia investigation was part of the conversation about the firing.

 

“I am not stonewalling,” Sessions said in response to an accusation he was covering up conversations with the president.

 

Sessions repeatedly cited Justice Department regulations that he said bar him from discussing conversations he had with Trump. “I’m protecting the president’s constitutional right,” he said, by not discussing private conversations with Trump. “I think your silence speaks volumes,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.).

 

5. Sessions said he effectively recused himself from the Russia investigation the day after he was confirmed by the Senate.

 

Sessions said he has never had a briefing about the role of Russian interference in the U.S. election. The attorney general added that his recusal was made because of department regulations, not because he felt he could be a subject of the investigation.

 

“I recused myself that day,” Sessions said of the day after he was confirmed. “I never received any information about the campaign.”

 

6. The tone of the attorney general’s testimony was noticeably defensive.

 

“This is a secret innuendo being leaked out there about me,” Sessions said, raising his voice as he defended himself. Sessions called it an “appalling and detestable lie” to suggest he colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

 

The attorney general criticized anyone suggesting he has ties to Russia, saying there is no evidence he or fellow Trump supporters colluded with Russia.

 

A note on Sessions’ dodges:

 

Throughout the hearing, Sessions repeatedly dodged questions by claiming the president’s right to executive privilege. There’s just one problem: The president never invoked executive privilege, and the legal basis for Sessions’ dodges is questionable.

 

Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-N.C.) asked Sessions to work with the White House to identify which questions the attorney general refused to answer on Tuesday could be addressed later on, in writing.

 

So where does the Russia investigation stand now?

 

Sessions had little to say about the investigation into Russian influence on the 2016 election given his recusal from the inquiry. But there was news outside the hearing about the investigation.

 

After reports surfaced that Trump was considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller, the president did not answer questions from reporters on Tuesday about whether he was considering firing Mueller. Republican senators said that decision is not within Trump’s jurisdiction. Watch this space.

 

Senators were not eager to speak with reporters after the hearing. Mic could only connect with Sen. Marco Rubio, who said Sessions was forthcoming and answered questions. Neither Burr nor Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) offered public comment, as they did following Comey’s testimony. Journalists were told all other senators, and Sessions, had left the building within 30 minutes of the hearing wrapping.

 

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To me, there sure seems to be something fishy about the whole Comey firing. Why would the “new bosses” fire someone for something that happened well in the past and during a time that they were not even in charge of the DOJ? Why would they do it without waiting for the pending Inspector General report? Why wouldn’t they at least have given Comey, a well-respected figure in law enforcement, a chance to explain his side of the story? Why would they fabricate stories about “poor morale” in the FBI which certainly don’t seem to be borne out? It appears that while not universally beloved (who is, except for our “Supreme Leader?”) Comey generally was well-respected and trusted by the line agents. And, most important, why wouldn’t they carefully have considered whether or not Comey’s firing would impede the FBI’s most important pending investigation: into Russian interference with our elections?

That the Russians actively attempted to compromise our election process, the cornerstone of our democracy, is undisputed! Yet nobody, and I mean nobody, in the Trump Administration seems at all concerned about the national security aspect of it. And, notwithstanding the cosmetically bipartisan efforts, it’s clear that the GOP in Congress just wants the whole topic to go away. They plainly couldn’t care less about what Russia does to screw with our system unless they start losing some elections. While Trump gins up bogus national security concerns about a few Muslim countries that don’t send us very many migrants anyway, the real national security threat to America, Trump’s policies and his lackadaisical/permissive attitudes toward Russia are swept under the rug.

As for the “Mueller rumors,” just “send in the clowns.” Oh, no need, “they’re already here.”🤡

PWS

06-14-17

Sessions Likely To Take Heat For Role In Comey Firing After Recusal!

http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/12/politics/jack-reed-attorney-general-jeff-sessions-cnntv/index.html

CNN reports:

“(CNN)A Democratic senator who will question Attorney General Jeff Sessions at tomorrow’s Senate intelligence committee hearing wants to know why he was involved in the decision to fire former FBI director James Comey after he had recused himself from the Russia investigation.

“I think it’s important to establish why he was involved in the dismissal of Director Comey since he had recused from, apparently, all matters related to the Russia investigation, and (President Donald Trump) himself has indicated that he, indeed, based his dismissal of Comey on the Russia Investigation,” Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed said on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront.” “The attorney general’s involvement is highly questionable, to be blunt, and I think those questions will be raised.”
The White House initially cited memos from Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein recommending Comey’s firing over his handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe as the reason for his dismissal, and did not mention the Russia investigation. Trump later said in an interview with NBC News’s Lester Holt that he was going to fire Comey “regardless of the recommendation” and that he was thinking of the investigations into Russian involvement in the 2016 election when he decided to let the FBI director go.
Sessions will answer lawmakers’ questions on those matters Tuesday at the hearing. Reed said he expects Sessions to be asked if he was aware that Trump was factoring Comey’s handling of the Russia investigation in his decision to fire Comey. And, if Sessions was aware of the President’s rationale, Reed said he expects that senators will ask why he did not remove himself from discussions about Comey.
Asked if he thinks Sessions will answer these questions, Reed said, “I don’t know frankly. I would hope that he would answer the questions.”

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

Sessions is a pretty slippery character with a conveniently bad memory for some things (like who the Russian Ambassador is, what he looks like, and what the question was). But, he is a lawyer, so I wouldn’t expect the Committee to get anything except platitudes from him (like at his Comformation hearings where he obscured his White Nationalist philosophy and his predetermined plans to undermime civil rights, tank sentencing reform, and “go gonzo” on immigration enforcement).

PWS

06-12-17

🤡 Just When You Thought Ringling Bros Was Dead — Listen To Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) Describe The “Clown-In-Chief’s” 🤡 Rose Garden Reality Show — Trump Is Debasing & Trivializing The High Office To Which He Was Elected!

http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2017/06/09/swalwell-trump-clownish-performance-lead-sciutto-intv.cnn Continue reading 🤡 Just When You Thought Ringling Bros Was Dead — Listen To Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) Describe The “Clown-In-Chief’s” 🤡 Rose Garden Reality Show — Trump Is Debasing & Trivializing The High Office To Which He Was Elected!

AND IT’S NOT GETTING ANY BETTER NEXT WEEK FOR EMBATTLED AG — Sessions To Appear Before Senate Intelligence Comm On Tuesday! — Topic: RUSSIA!

http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/10/politics/sessions-senate-testimony/index.html

CNN reports:

“(CNN)Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced he will appear before the Senate intelligence committee rather than House and Senate appropriations subcommittees on Tuesday, saying Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will testify on the latter panels in his place.

In a letter Saturday to the Senate Appropriations subcommittee chairman, Richard Shelby of Alabama, Sessions said the change in venue would be more appropriate for expected questions on the issues raised by former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony to the intelligence committee Thursday.
“The Senate Intelligence Committee is the most appropriate forum for such matters, as it has been conducting an investigation and has access to relevant, classified information,” Sessions explained.
It is unclear whether the upcoming intelligence committee hearing will be open or closed.”
**************************************************
You can get some video reports at the link:
Golly gee, sure hope Ol’ Jeff hasn’t forgotten what the Russian Ambassador looks like (again). Caution: If he denies the meeting under oath, and it can later be proved, Gonzo could follow in the footsteps of the his GOP antecedent, the notorious John Mitchell as a “law and order” AG who eventually became a guest of the Bureau of Prisons. But, Gonzo does love his prisons, so maybe that’s a good place for him. He’ll probably run into lots of “criminal” border crossers in minimum security. Perhaps, they will take pity on him and show him the ropes. He might want to brush up on his Spanish.
PWS
06-10-17