Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Taxes, tariffs, and trouble for Trump's economy

Trump’s economy? You bet it is. He owns this one. Most of the stimulating effects of the tax break went to the upper class of investors and large corporations; the average worker saw little of that, and what they did get was in the form of one-off bonuses. That piddling amount is going to be more than eliminated by the higher prices due to the tariffs already in place (and more to come). Around 97% of the tax breaks went to the wealthy and the remaining 2–3% went to workers.

Arizona stands to be the 6th hardest hit state in the country by proposed tariffs. (This story appeared on the front page of the Daily Star as “US Chamber: Trump tariffs on Mexico would hurt Ariz.”) But not according to Gov. Doug Ducey. Dismissing the concerns of the Chamber of Commerce, and particularly those of the AZ Chamber’s head, Glenn Hamer, Ducey said “There are no tariffs.” Here is an excerpt that captures that rift.

Arizona stands to be the sixth-hardest-hit state in the country by President Trump’s plan to impose a 5% tariff on goods from Mexico, increasing costs to the state’s consumers by about $452 million, an analysis from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce shows.

The chamber also said if the levy goes to 25% in October, as the president has threatened, that would translate to an additional nearly $2.3 billion paid by Arizonans.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, however, was unimpressed, taking a swat of sorts Monday at businesses concerned about the effects of the president’s threatened tariffs on the state and national economy.

But it isn’t just the concerns of the national chamber that Ducey is minimizing. There also are the comments of Glenn Hamer, president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who late last week said the president’s announcement of an escalating system of tariffs against Mexico is “baffling and, if carried out, will be terribly damaging.”

“This will only inflict harm on the U.S. consumer,” Hamer told Capitol Media Services. And Hamer pointed out that tariffs are not paid by the foreign country or even the foreign company that is exporting the goods, but are added on to the costs for customers here.

Ducey on Monday brushed aside that threat of tariffs to the state’s Arizona financial situation.

“Our economy is roaring right now,” the governor said. “Our economy is doing terrific. Our economy is going to continue doing terrific.”

And what of the fact that tariffs are paid not by the host country but by U.S. consumers in the form of higher prices?

“There are no tariffs,” the governor said as he got into his vehicle and left.

That’s reminiscent of Mad Magazine’s Alfred Newman - “What Me Worry”. The “roaring” Ducey boasts about could quickly turn into a whimper because of Trump’s tariffs. Here is an analysis from the NY Times, Trump’s Tariffs Could Nullify Tax Cut, Clouding Economic Picture.

President Trump’s tax cuts provided a temporary jolt to the United States economy by putting more money into taxpayers’ pockets. The tariffs that Mr. Trump has grown so fond of may have the opposite effect.

Two new analyses show that the tariffs Mr. Trump is using to punish China, Mexico, Europe and other governments would more than wipe out any gains from his $1.5 trillion tax cut for low- and middle-income earners, leaving them with less money to spend into a consumer-driven economy. Higher earners would fare only slightly better, with their tax gains significantly eroded but not entirely washed away.

The potential for Mr. Trump’s tariffs to nullify his signature tax cut shows how the president’s trade war could undermine his biggest selling point going into his 2020 re-election campaign: a strong economy.

Investors, bond markets and Wall Street analysts appear increasingly alarmed by the potential slowdown in growth that could result from Mr. Trump’s trade escalations, including his plan to impose tariffs of up to 25 percent on Mexican goods and to tax everything that China imports into the United States. He is also mulling tariffs on imported automobiles from Europe and Japan.

AZBlueMeanie has a broad summary of how and why the Trump tax break bill was not the economic “rocket fuel” claimed by Trump: The Trump tax cut bill was as bad as everyone predicted it would be.

Last week the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) issued a report that makes it official: the “Trump tax cut bill,” the only legislative achievement of the previous Republican Congress, has not generated any meaningful new economic growth that was not already underway. And the crooks who passed it are laughing all the way to their bank.

Here are some snippets.

From Think Progress: “Large corporations with shiny accounting departments ended up being the largest beneficiaries of the tax bill’s largesse, with the rate of tax they actually pay dropping by half in 2018, according to the CRS analysis. ” “Annual growth hit 2.9% … right in line with what the CBO had predicted the economy would have done without Trump’s corporate-tax munificence.”

From Philip Bump at the Washington Post: “Although the economy did grow, the cuts came nowhere close to paying for themselves … 95 percent of the increase in the deficit wasn’t offset at all.” “Although the repatriation and cuts occurred, “relatively little” went to the worker bonuses that Trump celebrated after the cuts were signed into law. “One organization that tracks these bonuses has reported a total of $4.4 billion,” the report states. “With US employment of 157 million, this amount is $28 per worker. This amount is 2% to 3% of the corporate tax cut, and a smaller share of repatriated funds.” ”Put directly, the CRS report finds no justification for Trump’s dubious claims that the tax cuts served as a significant boost to the economy, much less played a central role in “America’s revival.”"

Now, adding in the negative effects of higher consumer prices, that $28 evaporates quickly.

If you really wanted to stimulate the economy try inverting those percentages: 97% to workers and 3% to corporations. AZBlueMeanie wraps it up.

Republican faith based supply-side “trickle-down” tax policy is and always has been a lie — George H.W. Bush was right when he called it “voodoo economics” — and yet too many Americans keep falling for it, time and again, to their own financial detriment. I guess it’s true that you can’t fix stupid.

And adding insult to injury, as only Trump can do, AZBlueMeanie reports this:

In an insult to economic science and all that is good and holy, Trump is Giving a Medal Of Freedom To ‘Trickle Down’ Economist, ‘Trumponomics’ Co-Author Arthur Laffer, the “father of supply-side economics” and “trickle-down” tax fraud, and the notorious “Laffer Curve.”

Monday, June 3, 2019

Scribers on vacation

The Scribers will be on vacation for the next couple of weeks. Our access to the internet will be spotty in places and when we do get on, I’m likely to post more about what we are doing (hiking) and where (Peruvian Andes, Amazon river) than about politics.

Meanwhile back at the ranch ...

Every so often it’s worth taking a break from the fog of national politics and check in on happenings here at home in Arizona. The Arizona Corporation Commission (which I think of as the Arizona Corruption Commission) is back in the news. Gov. Ducey elevated one of the commissioners, Andy Tobin, to a department directorship with a big bump in pay: $79,500 to $195,000. And who will replace him? Ducey named to the Commission Lea Marquez Peterson who has received campaign contributions from a power company regulated by the Commission. Suppress your gag reflex and read on.

The Arizona Capitol Times (to which I subscribe) reports that Governor Doug Ducey’s choice for agency head shuffles Corp Comm.

Gov. Doug Ducey on Thursday tapped former Republican congressional contender Lea Marquez Peterson to the agency that decides how much utilities can charge their customers.

The announcement came just moments after Ducey announced that Andy Tobin, currently serving on the Arizona Corporation Commission, will leave that agency to become the head of the state Department of Administration. That is the agency that handles internal matters for the state, like payroll and managing office space.

Tobin, a former speaker of the House, was … named to the commission by Ducey in 2015. He won election to a four-year term the following year in a campaign in which APS openly spent $4 million to ensure the commission remained an all-Republican affair.

Marquez Peterson, who formerly was president of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, will fill out the balance of Tobin’s term, which runs through 2020.

The announcement comes at a particularly critical time at the commission, which is looking at whether Arizona Public Service, the state’s largest electric utility, is earning too much, particularly after the regulators gave the go ahead in 2017 for the company to collect another $95 million from customers.

… Pinnacle West Capital Corp., the parent company of APS, reported profits in the first three months of 2019 of $17.9 million, versus $3.2 million for the same period a year ago.

Hmmm. Ya gotta wonder how they spent that increase. Read on.

Pinnacle West gave Marquez Peterson $2,500 in the Republican primary last year. Marquez Peterson’s congressional campaign also was the beneficiary of $5,000 from David Hutchens, chief executive of Tucson Electric Power, and $350 from TEP lobbyist Steve Eddy.

But she told Capitol Media Services those donations are different than the money that APS funneled into commission races in 2014 and 2016 to help elect regulators of their choice.

Remember the old Texas saying: Ya gotta dance with them that brung ya.

“That was an entirely different race, a different position, representing a district in southern Arizona,” Marquez Peterson said. “So I consider that completely separate from a role at the Arizona Corporation Commission.”

And by inference she has no biases regarding important issues like renewable energy?

The Tucson Hispanic Chamber, under her leadership, took a position last year against an initiative that would have required utilities like APS and TEP to generate half of their electricity from renewable sources. But Marquez Peterson, noting other business groups also opposed the measure, said that does not necessarily align her with the interests of the utilities.

The AZ Blue Meanie had a lot to say about how Gov. Ducey replaces one ‘Kochtopus’ crony with another on the Arizona Corporation Commission. Quoting from the AZ Daily Star on-line:

APS has been embroiled in controversy for several years after suspected political spending in the 2014 commission election and political activity it acknowledged in more recent elections. The utility recently acknowledged it spent $3.2 million to elect favored regulators in 2014 and gave an accounting of its later political spending, including $4.1 million to influence its regulators’ 2016 election and nearly $40 million to defeat a citizens’ initiative last year that would have required that it get much more of its power from solar and other renewable sources.

Former Democratic commissioner Bill Mundell said Marquez Peterson “is deep in the pockets” of APS as a recipient of campaign money and a supporter of APS positions while at the chamber.

“Of all the unbiased and qualified people in Arizona that Ducey could have appointed, he picked an APS lobbyist that I’m concerned will do the bidding of APS when she gets to the commission,” Mundell said.

Marquez Peterson will fill out Tobin’s term and is expected run for election in 2020. Mundell, a really qualified candidate, is also running for election to the Commission in 2020.

I was going to lead with an audio version of the Illustrated Gnus. But then Mueller went silent.

  • When it comes to Mueller, we just have to figure out the code.
Mueller breaks silence
Silence is worth a thousand words.
Mueller breaks silence
Mueller chooses his words carefully

Here are the rest of themes, schemes, memes, and falemes in this edition of the Mournday Mourning Gnus (aka cartoons from AZ Blue Meanie at Blog for Arizona).

  • The difference between Barr and Mueller is the color of their magic markers. One obscures and the other highlights.
  • What Mueller said: If we had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime we would have said so. What Trump tweeted: The President clearly did not commit a crime. What Pelosi admits: “If we had confidence”
  • Kim: “Trump and I deal with staff differently. He says ”You’re fired.“ I say ”open fire." That opens up two versions of the perennial question: If Trump shot an outgoing staffer on the White House lawn, (a) would that be enough for the House Dems to move impeachment? (b) would that be enough for the Republican Senate to convict?
  • U. S. Navy admits to pressure to hide USS John S. McCain while Trump is in Japan. I wonder if the Japanese press renamed the ship USS Bone Spurs.
  • Harriet Tubman knocked off the $20 bill - Scriber’s Usually Unreliable Sources say she will be replaced by Steve Bannon.
  • Trump announces his key issues for his 2020 run: health care, immigration, deficits, trade, infrastructure, climate change. Democrats rejoice.
  • 20-odd states are banning reproductive freedom. Think positively. Think of economic opportunity. Open a chain of burqa shops.
  • When it comes to McConnell filling SCOTUS seats, here’s an analogy for you. 2016 : No :: 2020 : Yes.
  • When it comes to Cynthia May, there is no “May” be, just BRExit.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Why Democrats may lose Roe v. Wade.

In the Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference for May 23rd. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi likened the House’s capabilities to walking and chewing gum. “We can walk and chew gum at the same time. I hope [the President] can, too.” She cited legislation and various investigations in support of that claim.

So here is a quiz. Which of these activities does not belong?

(A) legislate
(B) investigate
(C) confirmate

If you’ve been tracking the back-and-forth between Pelosi and Trump, you will know that Pelosi was referring to the House legislating and investigating at the same time. I thought I had invented (C) but only to find out that it is the “first-person plural present active imperative of cōnfirmō”, a Latin word present in the Wiktionary.

The Senate has the constitutional responsibility to confirmate judicial nominees (or not). Why are the Republicans racking up more and more hits for conservative judges and SCOTUS justices? Why cannot Dems in Congress do all three of those things at once?

Jeffery Toobin writing in the New Yorker has the answer: Why Mitch McConnell Outmaneuvers Democrats at Filling the Supreme Court. To be sure “… the main reason that McConnell might push through a Republican nominee to the Court while blocking a Democratic choice is simple: because he can.”

There’s another, less obvious reason that McConnell can game the Supreme Court confirmation process with impunity. The Republican Party has been far more invested in the future of the Supreme Court, and of the judiciary generally, than the Democratic Party has. Judicial appointments, especially to the Supreme Court, are a central pillar of the Republican agenda, and Republican voters will forgive any number of other transgressions if the Party delivers on the courts.

Donald Trump understood this. … That’s why, during the 2016 campaign, he released a short list of possible nominees to the Court. The list was largely compiled by Leonard Leo, the executive vice-president of the Federalist Society, and the names on it demonstrated to the Republican base that Trump was serious about following its agenda—starting with overruling Roe v. Wade. Trump’s nominations of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, and of dozens of other conservatives to the lower courts, have been crucial to the President’s preservation of his stratospheric level of support from that base. Conservatives forgive Trump his louche personal life and his casual dishonesty because they know that they are getting the judges and the Justices they want.

Democrats are different. Consider what happened after McConnell blocked the Garland nomination. After a few days of perfunctory outrage, most Democratic politicians dropped the issue. …

Four years later, this pattern is recurring. Consider, for example, the Web sites of three leading contenders for the Democratic Presidential nomination: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren. Each site has thousands of words outlining the candidates’ positions on the issues—and none of them mentions Supreme Court nominations, much less nominations for lower-court judges. …

It’s difficult to pinpoint why Republicans are so much more motivated by the Supreme Court than Democrats are. Complacency could be part of the reason. Despite a preponderance of Republicans on the Court for the past couple of generations, the Justices have expanded gay rights, including the right to marriage, and preserved abortion rights, by reaffirming Roe. But, thanks largely to McConnell, and, of course, to Trump, those days are likely over. Trump rallied his supporters by promising to appoint Justices who will vote to overturn Roe, and the day of that vote may soon be upon us. By the time Democrats wake up to the importance of the Court, it may be too late.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Required viewing - over 1,000 ex-prosecutors from both parties make a 'damning case' for obstruction of justice by Trump

Please, please don’t take a pass on this one. It’s a powerful video produced by Republicans for the Rule of Law and Protect Democracy. It features officials from three Republican administrations, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush. (h/t AZBlueMeanie)

Here is the YouTube link: Former Republican Federal Prosecutors Speak Out Against President Trump’s Obstruction of Justice. It ends with them calling out fellow Republicans for not taking a principled, truly conservative stand against obstruction of justice and for the rule of law. The stakes are nothing short of the fundmental basis of our democracy.

Let’s move forward on a constitutionally mandated impeachment inquiry. And let’s put a representative bipartisan sample of those 1,000 plus prosecutors on the witness stand with their testimony for Americans all to see.

Justice Department refuses to obey court order

Only in these dark times for America would you see such a headline.

Last night on The Rachel Maddow Show we learned that Justice Department prosecutors in the Flynn case refused to obey Judge Emmet Sullivan’s court order to hand over additional transcripts of conversations with Russians (notably the Russian ambassador) and to un-redact portions of the Mueller report dealing with Flynn.

The first thing that came to (my) mind was whether this is another example of stone-walling by Trump’s Justice Department. Note that just now I did not say “our” Justice Department - I meant “his” Justice Department. IMO, increasingly, now referencing other posts on this blog this morning, the Justice Department is being used by Trump for his own corrupt purposes.

If you don’t want to spend the several minutes viewing the Maddow video, check out the AZ Blue Meanie’s summary, DOJ lawyers defy Judge Emmet Sullivan’s order in Michael Flynn case.

Trump plans Stalinesque show trials to jail political opponents

Last week Michael Tomasky at the Daily Beast (subscription required) made a stunning, if not surprising, prediction: You Think It’s Bad Now? Wait for Next Year’s Show Trials. Koestler and Orwell and Kundera described the hall-of-mirrors horror of totalitarian states. Trump’s gang is getting away with it in a democracy._ (h/t AZ Blue Meanie)

I’ve been trying to tell people, with varying degrees of success, that next year’s campaign is going to be—by far—the most ruthless and dishonest campaign that any living American has seen. Some people take me seriously. But most say something along the lines that it can hardly get any worse.

Oh yes it can. It can get a lot worse. And if you want to see how, watch this clip of Corey Lewandowski on Fox News Thursday night, via Josh Marshall’s Twitter feed:

Here’s the transcript, although you really have to study his face and eyes and hear his voice to get the full Weimar effect: “They should be fearful, and I’ll tell you why. The person who has gotten a pass on this so far is Joe Biden. Because I believe that the investigation which was launched came from somewhere inside the White House to greenlight Clapper, Comey, and Brennan to start this investigation into Donald Trump for no valid reason. We now know the State Department, we’ve seen the contemporaneous emails that were put into place after Victoria Nuland did a meeting with Christopher Steele, then notified the FBI this person had no credibility. But it continued. Because it came from the highest levels of the government.

“And Joe Biden has not answered what he knew and when he knew it of how this investigation began. And when Attorney General Barr and Mr. Horowitz release that report in approximately a month I think we’re gonna see additional criminal referrals, with McCabe getting another referral, Comey a referral, Strzok and Page, James Baker, possibly Bruce Orr, and other people we haven’t even meant [sic] as household names yet—but criminal referrals. And I think what we’re gonna see, Gregg, is in March or April of next year, Jamey Comey, Andy McCabe, Strzok and Page will be on trial for the crimes they have committed against the Fourth Amendment Reich, against this president Fuhrer, and we can’t wait.” [Strikes and adds from your Scriber.]

“Gregg” was Gregg Jarrett, sitting in for Lou Dobbs; he added helpfully as Lewandowski was winding down that John Brennan and James Clapper were due for their time in the barrel as well.

You can’t ask for more than that. Lewandowski laid out the whole strategy. First, pin the Steele dossier on Biden. Did Lewandowski have even a feather’s weight of evidence before going on national television to suggest that the man who happens to be leading Donald Trump in almost every poll right now was the brains behind the Steele Dossier? If he did, he didn’t produce it. “Because I believe…” “Joe Biden has not answered…”

Because he believes based on what? And of course Joe Biden has not answered. He’s not answered because no one has asked, because what in blazes would Biden have had to do with the Steele dossier? Hillary Clinton didn’t start paying for Steele’s work until April 2016, by which time the nomination was basically hers and Biden was understood to be heading off to the retirement village.

For years, the Steele dossier has done the work of allowing the right to accuse Clinton of secretly working with the Russians to destroy Trump. But now she’s old news, finally, so they’re just going to sub in Biden. And as long as they do it on Fox, they will not be challenged, as indeed Lewandowski was not Thursday night. And the rest of the media will note soberly that there’s no evidence that Biden had any connection etc. etc., but by that time, the liars will have won: They’ll win every time “Biden” and “Steele dossier” are mentioned in the same sentence on television.

But the second part of the rant was even more chilling. The plan here is to wait for the report from the Justice Department inspector general (that’s Horowitz) to hit next month, pry whatever passages they can out of that report to go on Pravda TV, and stitch together the appearance of a vast, deep state conspiracy to take Trump down.

Then wait again, this time for Attorney General Bill Barr to do his part. Trump’s announcement Thursday that Barr would be in charge of releasing the intel on the Trump campaign probe is a staggering development, something we’ve never seen the likes of. Barr, who already demonstrated he’ll cherry pick evidence on Trump’s behalf, can pluck out whatever evidence he wants and leave buried whatever evidence he wants to leave buried.

Tomasky points us at tweets by Evan McMullin:

“This is truly a dangerous abuse of power. Barr will selectively release sensitive information, as he did with Mueller’s report, to shape a favorable narrative for Trump and impede the intelligence community’s ability to collect intel on foreign threats that assist the president.”

“Attorney General Barr has no business knowing what assets CIA has in Russia. It’s absurd and inappropriate for him to even ask. Only in a world in which he’s empowered beyond his official capacity by the president would he have the audacity to pursue this information.”

But with everything filtered through a state television network and no Republicans in Congress willing to utter a syllable of protest, there will be no accountability.

And then, next spring (what a coincidence, election year!), Barr’s Justice Department can bring indictments against James Comey, Andy McCabe, Peter Strzok, and Lisa Page for—well, they’ll come up with something. And maybe John Brennan and James Clapper too.

Welcome, folks, to the first Stalinist show trials in the history of our country.

Justice has been miscarried in this country in a hundred different ways a thousand different times, usually with poor people, black people, or political radicals getting the short end of the stick. That’s not defensible, but it’s old hat, and it happens everywhere, not just in America.

What we have not seen in America, not even during the McCarthy era, is an orchestrated effort of this sort with the goal, if Lewandowski is to be believed, and I don’t see why he shouldn’t be, of sending political opponents to jail.

This is not Stalin’s Russia. They may not be able to pull it off. They may get an unlucky draw on the judge. A jury of Peter Strzok’s peers may determine he did nothing wrong.

But it won’t be for lack of trying. And if all goes to plan, the trials will stretch into the summer, into the fall, close to November. You can’t miss the point of that.

So take this seriously. On Friday, Trump accused Comey, McCabe, Strzok, and Page of “treason.” For investigating a presidential campaign. Treason is aiding an enemy during wartime. And is punishable by death. Trump used the word specifically to signal to his attack dogs that anything is fair game.

So yes, next year’s campaign will be a nightmare beyond the imagination of any novelist who has yet tried to capture and describe totalitarian, hall-of-mirrors horror, from Koestler to Orwell to Kundera or anyone else. They were all describing how a regime gets away with it in a totalitarian state. But these people will be getting away with it in a democracy.

This is the weekend we honor the men and women who’ve laid down their lives to keep that democracy breathing. Today, it is in serious danger of being suffocated. What would we say today to the men who stormed Omaha Beach; if they could speak to us and wanted to be reassured that the sacrifice they knew they were charging into was worth it, how would we tell them that the government they died to protect is now in the hands of at least some people who might well have fought on the other side? Contemplating that is the necessary patriotic gesture of this Memorial Day.

Joseph Welch to Donald Trump - You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency.

We always can learn from history - if we have a mind to - and a mind that can. Here is some history of the Army-McCarthy hearings from the U. S. Senate.

Wisconsin Republican senator Joseph R. McCarthy rocketed to public attention in 1950 with his allegations that hundreds of Communists had infiltrated the State Department and other federal agencies. These charges struck a particularly responsive note at a time of deepening national anxiety about the spread of world communism.

In the spring of 1954, McCarthy picked a fight with the U.S. Army, charging lax security at a top-secret army facility. The army responded that the senator had sought preferential treatment for a recently drafted subcommittee aide. Amidst this controversy, McCarthy temporarily stepped down as chairman for the duration of the three-month nationally televised spectacle known to history as the Army-McCarthy hearings.

The army hired Boston lawyer Joseph Welch to make its case. At a session on June 9, 1954, McCarthy charged that one of Welch’s attorneys had ties to a Communist organization. As an amazed television audience looked on, Welch responded with the immortal lines that ultimately ended McCarthy’s career: “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.” When McCarthy tried to continue his attack, Welch angrily interrupted, “Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?”

Those were the most famous words spoken by Welch, but there were more, even more cutting, words directed at McCarthy that resulted in overwhelming applause from the audience. See this YouTube video.

Overnight, McCarthy’s immense national popularity evaporated. Censured by his Senate colleagues, ostracized by his party, and ignored by the press, McCarthy died three years later, 48 years old and a broken man.

Imagine that the hearings were never televised, McCarthy’s base remained uninformed and thus unshaken, and that Welch’s damning question was never heard by America. Some might regard such hearings and the conveying media as a “circus.” But as this history makes clear, the circus can serve a useful purpose.

Special Counsel Mueller is said to not want to participate in House hearings that could, or would, degenerate into a media circus. Read on.

The Jim Jordans and Mark Meadows’s are licking their GOP chops at the thought of “grilling” Mueller - should Mueller ever appear before the House Judiciary Committee. Team Trump Now Wants Mueller to Testify Before Congress in Hopes of a Grilling. The president has said he doesn’t want the special counsel to talk on the Hill. But after Mueller’s statement Wednesday, Trump’s team is itching for it. But there is another side to such an appearance.

Robert Mueller Just Told Congress to Do Its Damn Job explains Joan Walsh at he Nation.
Mueller came as close as possible to saying that he would have indicted Trump for obstruction of justice, if Justice Department policy allowed him to do so.

… “Charging the president with a crime was not an option we could consider,” he said. But then he delivered the most important information in his 10-minute statement: “If we had confidence the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not.”

Respected intelligence analyst Marcy Wheeler tweeted immediately: “Shorter Mueller: That was an impeachment referral, damnit, now act on it.” Presidential candidates Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren both used the same “impeachment referral” language. May all the 2020 Democrats join in, and soon.

Significantly, while Mueller made it clear he’d rather not testify before Congress, he did not say he would refuse to do so, if asked. “Any testimony would not go beyond our report. The work speaks for itself. I would not provide any information that is not in the report.”

While that might sound disappointing, it isn’t. Having Mueller delve into the details of a 445-page report (plus its footnotes) would be must-see TV. Just imagine Mueller being asked by the House Judiciary Committee to narrate the more shocking details of his investigation.

Here’s an example: Let Mueller run down his attempts to confirm whether and how President Trump ordered White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller, and then to cover up the fact that he ordered McGahn to fire Mueller. …

Mueller closed by making two very powerful points. For one, he thanked the lawyers and FBI agents who worked on his investigation, praising them for being “fair and independent” and for acting with “the highest integrity.” At a time when Attorney General William Barr—whom Mueller took pains not to criticize—wants to investigate these investigators, Mueller made a strong stand on behalf of their professionalism and decency.

Second, Mueller chose to end his statement with the finding the president apparently will not accept: “There were multiple, systematic attempts to interfere in the 2016 election.” He clearly doesn’t believe American leaders are taking that seriously enough, and I agree with him.

This is a bad day for Donald Trump. But it’s also a tough day for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and any other Democratic leader who is trying to slow-walk an impeachment inquiry. In the long relay of justice, Robert Mueller just handed you the baton. Run with it. Today.

If you do not, then answer Eugene Robinson’s question in the Washington Post: If Trump doesn’t warrant impeachment, who does?

What would a president have to do, hypothetically, to get this Congress to impeach him?

Obstruct a Justice Department investigation, perhaps? No, apparently that’s not enough. What about playing footsie with a hostile foreign power? Abusing his office to settle personal grievances? Using instruments of the state, including the justice system, to attack his perceived political opponents? Aligning the nation with murderous foreign dictators while forsaking democracy and human rights? Violating campaign-finance laws with disguised hush-money payments to alleged paramours? Giving aid and comfort to neo-Nazis and white supremacists? Defying requests and subpoenas from congressional committees charged with oversight? Refusing to protect our electoral system from malign foreign interference? Cruelly ripping young children away from their asylum-seeking parents? Lying constantly and shamelessly to the American people, to the point where not a single word he says or writes can be believed?

President Trump has done all of this and more. If he doesn’t warrant the opening of an impeachment inquiry, what president ever would?

I’ve been back and forth on the wisdom of taking that step [impeachment], but there’s one question that nags me: If the impeachment clause of the Constitution wasn’t written for a president like Trump, then why is it there?

… Trump’s going to claim “no collusion, no obstruction” anyway, and he’ll say if Democrats really thought he had committed a crime, they would have the guts to impeach him.

And that’s a way for Dems to lose - to fail to fight for the soul of our country.

The Trump era will end someday, and we’ll all have to account for what we did, or failed to do, to fight for our nation’s soul. Mueller gave our elected representatives in Congress a clear road map for holding Trump accountable. Ten years from now, even one year from now, I wonder what we’ll think of those who decided not to take even the first step.

So, as the AZ Blue Meanie put it, Dear Nancy Pelosi: Duty Calls.

Jeff Daniels explains why America is NOT great again

“we can’t go on like this”

Thursday night on The Last Word “Emmy award winning actor Jeff Daniels explains to Lawrence O’Donnell what Americans can learn from Atticus Finch in the age of Trump.”

Daniels is a superb actor appearing in a network series (Newsroom), in films (Fly Away Home), and now on stage in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Here is 3 1/2 minutes of riveting analysis of why America is not great again.