Friday, May 29, 2020

Republican Voters Against Trump - voting for Biden is OK. Other Republicans like you are also disgusted by Trump.

The Lincoln Project, a group of conservatives that really don’t like Trump, is running some rather fine attack ads. Most recently, they’ve taken after Moscow Mitch but in a different way. The ad exposes McConnell’s rise to a multimillionaire status, branding him Rich Mitch.

From the Lincoln Project’s mission statement: “Defeat President Trump and Trumpism at the ballot box.”

We do not undertake this task lightly nor from ideological preference. Our many policy differences with national Democrats remain. However, the priority for all patriotic Americans must be a shared fidelity to the Constitution and a commitment to defeat those candidates who have abandoned their constitutional oaths, regardless of party. Electing Democrats who support the Constitution over Republicans who do not is a worthy effort.

If the video does not play for you, go to the web site: https://lincolnproject.us/news/rich-mitch/

The Never Trumpers might finally be on to something writes Paul Waldman in the Washington Post’s Plum Line. Here’s a bit of that.

The quandary of the “Never Trump” Republicans has always been that although they get plenty of attention from the media, their success in persuading rank-and-file members of their party to reject this president has been negligible at best.

But 2020 is not 2016, for any number of reasons, and they’re hoping that things can be different this time.

Their latest effort, called Republican Voters Against Trump, is launching a $10 million advertising campaign with a somewhat different focus than those of the past. Rather than showing President Trump saying deranged things or listing his missteps, we hear from a Republican voter who has turned against him. Here’s the prototype …

You have to go to the original post to view the clip. In brief: “I’d vote for a tuna fish sandwich before I’d vote for Trump again,” says Republican Jack Spielman in a video made by Republican Voters Against Trump.

There are reasons to doubt whether this can be effective. But I’d argue that it has a better chance of working than almost any other message.

First, “working” doesn’t mean persuading 20 percent or even 10 percent of Republicans to vote for Joe Biden. It needs only to mean creating a permission structure for them to do so — even if it means only a few thousand votes move in a few key states. That could be enough to swing the election.

And that’s what this message is about. It doesn’t try to convince its targets that Trump is bad; they know all the reasons that’s true. What it does is say, There are other Republicans, people just like you, who have the same doubts you do.

If you’re a Republican, even one disgusted with Trump, voting for a Democrat is an extraordinarily difficult thing to do. It calls your entire identity into question. In order to do it, you need to be convinced that you can choose Biden and still remain a Republican.

[snip]

In 2018, the Democratic sweep was driven by suburban areas where there are plenty of moderate Republicans, especially women. There’s a good deal of evidence that these voters were pulled toward Democratic candidates out of disgust with Trump, but the Never Trumpers don’t actually want them to become Democrats, which is a high hurdle to clear.

They just want them to vote against Trump, this one time. And if that means telling themselves they’ll return to the GOP in 2024 once it nominates a saner candidate, that’s just fine.

Thanks to Charlie Sykes’ post in The Bulwark.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Trump's 'horrifying lies' may cost him punitive damages in civil court

Or so anyone with a speck of decency left would hope for. The DoJ might let Trump off the hook for criminal acts but civil court is totally different. Trump is vulnerable to the judgement of a civil jury for gobs and gobs of punitive damages. Following is the case by a distinguished professor of law (Yale, Berkeley).

Trump’s ‘Horrifying Lies’ About Lori Klausutis May Cross a Legal Line. The president’s innuendo about the death of a congressional staffer in 2001 could lead to a costly court judgment against him.

President Trump and his minions relentlessly grind out despicable acts — gratuitous insults to war heroes, over 18,000 (and counting) false or misleading statements, many decisions courts have ruled illegal. But Mr. Trump’s wantonly cruel tweets about the tragic death in 2001 of Lori Klausutis are distinctive: They may constitute intentional torts for which a civil jury could award punitive damages against him.

Here are the key facts. Ms. Klausutis, age 28, died in the Florida district office of a Republican congressman, Joe Scarborough, who was then in Washington. The police found no evidence of foul play and the coroner reported that the cause of death was a hard fall against a hard object precipitated by her floppy mitral valve disease.

That should have been the end of the story, but earlier this week the president tweeted to his 80 million followers that “some people think” that Mr. Scarborough, now a popular MSNBC news host who frequently criticizes Mr. Trump, “g[o]t away with murder,” calling Mr. Scarborough a “psycho” and a “total Nut job.”

The president has offered no evidence for this slander, because there is none. Last week, Timothy Klausutis, Lori’s widower husband, wrote a remarkably restrained, poignant letter to Jack Dorsey, the head of Twitter, citing the pain that Mr. Trump’s “horrifying lies” about his wife’s death have caused him and the family, and asking Mr. Dorsey to remove Mr. Trump’s tweet. Mr. Dorsey has refused, most likely because the 1996 Communications Decency Act probably protects him from defamation claims for publishing the words of another. However Twitter added a warning label to the president’s false tweets on Tuesday about mail-in ballots, the first time the service has taken such a step.

The text of the letter follows the break below.

Mr. Trump’s first tort is called intentional infliction of emotional distress, which the courts developed precisely to condemn wanton cruelty to another person who suffers emotionally as a result. This tort, which is sometimes called “outrage,” readily applies to Mr. Trump’s tweets about Ms. Klausutis. They were intentional and reckless, and were “extreme and outrageous” without a scintilla of evidence to support them. And they caused severe emotional distress — the protracted, daily-felt grief described in Mr. Klausutis’s letter to Mr. Dorsey.

Although the tweets targeted Mr. Scarborough, his own infliction of emotional distress claim may be weaker than Mr. Klausutis’s. By shrugging off the tweet as simply political gamesmanship on the president’s part, Mr. Scarborough may not have suffered the “severe emotional distress” required for an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim.

Even so, Mr. Scarborough might succeed in a defamation suit against Mr. Trump for reputational harm. After all, the president’s innuendo that Mr. Scarborough may have murdered Lori Klausutis — presumably credible to the many Trump Twitter followers who subscribe to conspiracy theories — may seriously harm Mr. Scarborough’s reputation with them and others.

Mr. Trump, moreover, often aims his tweets to lead multiple news cycles affecting well beyond his Twitter followers. The president will surely argue that he has not actually accused anyone of murder and was merely “raising questions.” But courts have held that such calculated innuendo can constitute defamation, depending on the facts. This would be for a jury to decide.

Mr. Scarborough, as a public figure in his own right, must satisfy the Supreme Court’s demanding test for defamation liability in its landmark New York Times v. Sullivan decision. Under this test — designed to free public debate from being unduly constrained by fear of legal liability — Mr. Scarborough must prove that Mr. Trump made his defamatory comment either with actual knowledge that it was false or with “reckless disregard” for whether it was true or false. But the president’s tweets about the Klausutis case probably satisfy this test. After all, he has not cited any evidence to support his calumny either before the tweets or in response to the backlash since then. If the jury found for Mr. Scarborough, it could require Mr. Trump to pay substantial punitive damages in addition to compensation for his reputational harm.

Under the court’s unanimous 1998 ruling in Paula Jones’s sexual harassment suit against President Bill Clinton, both of these lawsuits — by Mr. Klausutis and by Mr. Scarborough — could proceed against the president while he is still in office. Because his tweets reach followers nationwide, the lawsuits could probably be brought in any state. And since the subject of his tweets had nothing to do with his presidential responsibilities, he probably could not hide behind an assertion of executive privilege.

The Klausutis family has suffered enough for almost 20 years without having to endure Mr. Trump’s crocodile tears and malicious raking of the coals. Tort law might hold our brutish president to account.

The author, Peter H. Schuck, is an emeritus professor of law at Yale and Darling Foundation visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley, this semester.

Thanks to Roving Reporter Sherry for his tip.

Trump is STILL Unfit for Office...

… by reason of mental disorders.

I’ll begin with a horrifying benchmark.

As of its May 27, 2020, 10:39 AM MST update, NBCNews reports that, for COVID–19, U.S. death toll tops 100,000.

The number of U.S. coronavirus deaths reached 100,000 as of Wednesday afternoon, according to NBC News’ count. The U.S. leads the world in both deaths and confirmed cases, with 1.69 million infections.

Among the infected are more than 62,000 doctors, nurses and other health care providers on the front lines of the U.S.’s COVID–19 response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. At least 291 have died.

Meanwhile, Twitter slapped a fact check label on a pair of “misleading” tweets by President Donald Trump in which he railed against mail-in voting amid the COVID–19 pandemic. Trump went on to accuse the company of “interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election.”

And it doesn’t end there. Matt Lewis at the Daily Beast asks How Many People Will Trump Endanger to Give His Big Speech? … he wants thousands of people, most not wearing masks and scoffing at social distancing, to congregate. This will not end well.

Would Donald Trump really move the Republican National Convention to Florida (or somewhere else) from North Carolina? On Tuesday, Trump warned North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper that he has “a week” to decide if he’ll meet Trump’s demands. Trump doesn’t really seem to want to switch convention sites, and the logistical challenges would be tremendous. But if you don’t think there’s at least a possibility, you don’t know this president.

In case you missed it, Trump went on a Memorial Day Twitter rant that threatened the move. After saying how much he loves North Carolina, Trump warned that “Democrat Governor, [Roy Cooper] is still in Shutdown mood & unable to guarantee that by August we will be allowed..full attendance in the Arena.”

Unless the governor will promise Republicans they can “fully occupy the space,” Trump warned, he would be “reluctantly forced……to find, with all of the jobs and economic development it brings, another Republican National Convention site.”

So what Trump envisions is an event that will be an ideal breeding ground for the COVID–19 virus. Would any other president risk so many of the people he is duty bound to protect? Is not this evidence of how unfit this man is for the highest office in our land?

Back in October 2019 I blogged about the evidence of Trump’s mental disorders accumulated by George Conway III. As I have just shown you, nothing has changed in the intervening months. If anything, Trump has gone more batshit crazy than ever.

Here is what I blogged in October.

The Unfit Presidency, Part 1

Sometimes we encounter an essay that increases our understanding of our world by exposing connections that we had not imagined. This is such a document connecting history, politics, and clinical psychology.

George Conway III provides extensive evidence in The Atlantic that Trump is Unfit for Office.
Donald Trump’s narcissism makes it impossible for him to carry out the duties of the presidency in the way the Constitution requires.

Here’s what to expect.

  • Conway describes what the founders desired in a president and what they wished to avoid.
  • He provides, in narrative form, a compendium of Trump’s behaviors, both verbal and nonverbal, that bear on the question of fitness.
  • These behaviors are consistent with diagnoses of narcissistic personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder. Observations from public media agree with these possible clinical diagnoses.
  • Finally, Conway considers what remedies might be applied to remove Trump from office.

Below I provide excerpts consistent with the above points.

… Simply put, Trump’s ingrained and extreme behavioral characteristics make it impossible for him to carry out the duties of the presidency in the way the Constitution requires. To see why first requires a look at what the Constitution demands of a president, and then an examination of how Trump’s behavioral characteristics preclude his ability to fulfill those demands.

Though the Constitution’s drafters could hardly have foreseen how the system would evolve, they certainly knew the kind of person they wanted it to produce. “The process of election affords a moral certainty,” Hamilton wrote, “that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.” “Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity,” might suffice for someone to be elected to the governorship of a state, but not the presidency. Election would “require other talents, and a different kind of merit,” to gain “the esteem and confidence of the whole Union,” or enough of it to win the presidency. As a result, there would be “a constant probability of seeing the station filled by characters pre-eminent for ability and virtue.” This was the Framers’ goal in designing the system that would make “the choice of the person to whom so important a trust was to be confided.”

More than a diagnosis, what truly matters, … is the president’s behavioral characteristics and personality traits. And understanding how people behave and think is not the sole province of professionals; we all do it every day, with family members, co-workers, and others. Nevertheless, how the mental-health community goes about categorizing those characteristics and traits can provide helpful guidance to laypeople by structuring our thinking about them.

And that’s where the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders comes into play. The DSM, now in its fifth edition, “contains descriptions, symptoms, and other criteria for diagnosing mental disorders,” and serves as the country’s “authoritative guide to the diagnosis of mental disorders.” What’s useful for nonprofessionals is that, for the most part, it’s written in plain English, and its criteria consist largely of observable behaviors—words and actions.

One scholarly paper has suggested that accounts of a person’s behavior from laypeople who observe him might be more accurate than information from a clinical interview, and that this is especially true when considering two personality disorders in particular—what the DSM calls narcissistic personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder. These two disorders just happen to be the ones that have most commonly been ascribed to Trump by mental-health professionals over the past four years. Of these two disorders, the more commonly discussed when it comes to Trump is narcissistic personality disorder, or NPD—pathological narcissism. It’s also more important in considering Trump’s fitness for office, because it touches directly upon whether Trump has the capacity to put anyone’s interests—including the country’s and the Constitution’s—above his own.

… from the perspective of the public at large, the debate over whether Trump meets the clinical diagnostic criteria for NPD—or whether psychiatrists can and should answer that question without directly examining him—is beside the point. The goal of a diagnosis is to help a clinician guide treatment. The question facing the public is very different: Does the president of the United States exhibit a consistent pattern of behavior that suggests he is incapable of properly discharging the duties of his office?

… In a nutshell, while carrying out his official duties, a president has to put the country, not himself, first; he must faithfully follow and enforce the law; and he must act with the utmost care in doing all that.

… The president’s exceptional narcissism is his defining characteristic—and understanding that is crucial to evaluating his fitness for office.

The DSM–5 describes its conception of pathological narcissism this way: “The essential feature of narcissistic personality disorder is a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy that begins by early adulthood and is present in a variety of contexts.” The manual sets out nine diagnostic criteria that are indicative of the disorder, but only five of the nine need be present for a diagnosis of NPD to be made. Here are the nine:

  1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
  2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
  3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
  4. Requires excessive admiration.
  5. Has a sense of entitlement (i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations).
  6. Is interpersonally exploitative (i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends)
  7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings or needs of others.
  8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
  9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

You might wish test your own knowledge of what Trump has (and has not) done that might square with this list. “That’s Trump, to a T.” is how Conway thinks of the first three criteria. He goes on to expand on each with instances from Trump’s behaviors and claims.

Narcissism resides in each of us. But Trump’s NPD is off scale.

Experts haven’t suggested that Trump is psychotic, but many have contended that his narcissism and sociopathy are so inordinate that he fits the bill for “malignant narcissism.” Malignant narcissism isn’t recognized as an official diagnosis; it’s a descriptive term coined by the psychoanalyst Erich Fromm, and expanded upon by another psychoanalyst, Otto Kernberg, to refer to an extreme mix of narcissism and sociopathy, with a degree of paranoia and sadism mixed in. One psychoanalyst explains that “the malignant narcissist is pathologically grandiose, lacking in conscience and behavioural regulation with characteristic demonstrations of joyful cruelty and sadism.” In the view of some in the mental-health community, such as John Gartner, Trump “exhibits all four” components of malignant narcissism: “narcissism, paranoia, antisocial personality and sadism.”

Just as scary are signs of cognitive decline.

Mental-health professionals have raised a variety of other concerns about Trump’s mental state; the last worth specifically mentioning here is the possibility that, apart from any personality disorder, he may be suffering cognitive decline. This is a serious matter: Trump seems to be continually slurring words, and recently misread teleprompters to say that the Continental Army secured airports during the American Revolutionary War, and to say that the shooting in Dayton had occurred in Toledo. His overall level of articulateness today doesn’t come close to what he exhibits in decades-old television clips. But that could be caused by ordinary age-related decline, stress, or other factors; to know whether something else is going on, according to experts, would require a full neuropsychological work-up, of the kind that Trump hasn’t yet had and, one supposes, isn’t about to agree to.

To sum up:

… His “mental state,” according to Justin A. Frank, a former clinical professor of psychiatry and physician who wrote a book about Trump’s psychology, “include[s] so many psychic afflictions” that a “working knowledge of psychiatric disorders is essential to understanding Trump.” Indeed, as [John] Gartner puts it: “There are a lot of things wrong with him—and, together, they are a scary witch’s brew.”

What constitutional mechanisms exist for dealing with a president who cannot or does not comply with his duties, and how should they take the president’s mental and behavioral characteristics into account? One mechanism discussed with great frequency during the past three years, including within the Trump administration, is Section 4 of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment. That provision allows the vice president to become “Acting President” when the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” But it doesn’t define what such an inability entails; essentially, it lets the vice president and the Cabinet, the president himself, and ultimately two-thirds of both houses of Congress decide.

That’s a high bar.

… so it turns out that impeachment is a more practical mechanism for addressing the fact that Trump’s narcissism and sociopathy render him unable to comply with the obligations of his office. It’s also an appropriate mechanism, because the constitutional magic words (other than Treason and Bribery) that form the basis of an impeachment charge—high Crimes and Misdemeanors, found in Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution—mean something other than, and more than, offenses in the criminal-statute books. High Crimes and Misdemeanors is a legal term of art, one that historically referred to breaches of duties—fiduciary duties—by public officeholders. In other words, the question of what constitutes an impeachable offense for a president coincides precisely with whether the president can execute his office in the faithful manner that the Constitution requires.

… now that the House of Representatives has embarked on an impeachment inquiry, one of the most important judgments it must make is whether any identified breaches of duty are likely to be repeated. And if a Senate trial comes to pass, that issue would become central as well to the decision to remove the president from office. That’s when Trump’s behavioral and psychological characteristics should—must—come into play. From the evidence, it appears that he simply can’t stop himself from putting his own interests above the nation’s. Any serious impeachment proceedings should consider not only the evidence and the substance of all impeachable offenses, but also the psychological factors that may be relevant to the motivations underlying those offenses. Congress should make extensive use of experts—psychologists and psychiatrists. Is Trump so narcissistic that he can’t help but use his office for his own personal ends? Is he so sociopathic that he can’t be trusted to follow, let alone faithfully execute, the law?

Congress should consider all this because that’s what the question of impeachment demands. But there’s another reason as well. The people have a right to know, and a need to see. Many people have watched all of Trump’s behavior, and they’ve drawn the obvious conclusion. They know something’s wrong, just as football fans knew that the downed quarterback had shattered his leg. Others have changed the channel, or looked away, or chosen to deny what they’ve seen. But if Congress does its job and presents the evidence, those who are in denial won’t be able to ignore the problem any longer. Not only because of the evidence itself, but because Donald Trump will respond in pathological ways—and in doing so, he’ll prove the points against him in ways almost no one will be able to ignore.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Twitter needs sanitization - Potty mouth Trump 's attack on Scarborough is reason enough

Widower of Scarborough staffer asks Twitter to remove Trump’s conspiracy theories. Per his reading of Twitter’s terms of service, he said, other users would be banned for tweets like Trump’s.

The widower of a woman whose 2001 death has become fodder for baseless conspiracy theories spread by President Donald Trump is appealing directly to the head of Twitter to take down the president‘s tweets.

“I’m asking you to intervene in this instance because the President of the United States has taken something that does not belong to him — the memory of my dead wife — and perverted it for perceived political gain,” Timothy J. Klausutis wrote in a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, which was dated last week but gained attention Tuesday when The New York Times’ Kara Swisher published it in an op-ed.

But Klausutis’ letter was not enough to move Twitter or Trump. Twitter will not be removing the posts at this time, according to a company spokesperson.

"We are deeply sorry about the pain these statements, and the attention they are drawing, are causing the family,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “We’ve been working to expand existing product features and policies so we can more effectively address things like this going forward, and we hope to have those changes in place shortly.”

Klausutis’ wife, Lori, died at age 28 from a fall precipitated by an undiagnosed heart condition, as confirmed by the medical examiner and police. Nineteen years later, her death is making headlines because of her employer at the time: then-Rep. Joe Scarborough (R-Fla.). She was working in a Florida office, while Scarborough was in Washington at the time of her death.

But now Scarborough is an outspoken — and, thanks to his MSNBC talk show “Morning Joe,” prominent — critic of Trump. So fringe conspiracy theories that have circulated in the past began to bubble up again, intimating he might have murdered Lori Klausutis. The president and his family were quick to pick up on the thread in multiple tweets this month.

And on Tuesday, after Klausutis’ letter drew widespread attention, Trump doubled down on Twitter. He incorrectly described it as a cold case, called Scarborough a “Psycho” and wrote, “So many unanswered & obvious questions, but I won’t bring them up now! Law enforcement eventually will?”

In his letter, Klausutis suggested to Dorsey that “Twitter’s policies about content are designed to maintain the appearance that your hands are clean.” Per his reading of Twitter’s terms of service, he said, other users would be banned for tweets like Trump’s.

Klausutis also wrote of the enduring pain his wife’s loved ones feel over her early death, and how the conspiracy theories have made it harder for them to move on.

“I have mourned my wife every day since her passing. I have tried to honor her memory and our marriage,” he wrote. “As her husband, I feel that one of my marital obligations is to protect her memory as I would have protected her in life.”

Twitter last year said it would begin marking politicians’ rule-breaking tweets with warnings, but the company has been reluctant to remove them out of free speech and censorship concerns. An October blog post laid out company executives’ thinking, positing that leaving world leaders’ tweets up may serve the public interest even if they violate policies.

Trump’s top spokesperson, Kayleigh McEnany, defended the social media missives from the White House briefing room Tuesday, responding to numerous questions from reporters by sidestepping the concerns raised in Klausutis’ letter and asserting that “the onus is on” Scarborough to answer questions about Lori Klausutis’ death.

Crocodile tears
Crocodile tears!

Oh, hell no! Trump’s mouthpiece has just dumped another load of shit on the presidency specifically and on our democracy generally. tRump and his minions have redefined the rule of law as guilty until proven innocent.

McEnany said she wasn’t sure if Trump had seen the letter from her widower, and wouldn’t elaborate on what Trump’s intention was by reviving the case online but added, “Our hearts are with Lori’s family.”

Required reading -- why the world regards the US with pity

This Irish Times article should be read by every last person in this country. It’s behind a paywall, so here it is in full:

Read it and weep, my fellow Americans.
From the Irish Times
April 25, 2020
By Fintan O’Toole

THE WORLD HAS LOVED, HATED AND ENVIED THE U.S. NOW, FOR THE FIRST TIME, WE PITY IT

Over more than two centuries, the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger. But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the US until now: pity.

However bad things are for most other rich democracies, it is hard not to feel sorry for Americans. Most of them did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016. Yet they are locked down with a malignant narcissist who, instead of protecting his people from Covid–19, has amplified its lethality. The country Trump promised to make great again has never in its history seemed so pitiful.

Will American prestige ever recover from this shameful episode? The US went into the coronavirus crisis with immense advantages: precious weeks of warning about what was coming, the world’s best concentration of medical and scientific expertise, effectively limitless financial resources, a military complex with stunning logistical capacity and most of the world’s leading technology corporations. Yet it managed to make itself the global epicentre of the pandemic.

As the American writer George Packer puts it in the current edition of the Atlantic, “The United States reacted … like Pakistan or Belarus – like a country with shoddy infrastructure and a dysfunctional government whose leaders were too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering.”

It is one thing to be powerless in the face of a natural disaster, quite another to watch vast power being squandered in real time – wilfully, malevolently, vindictively. It is one thing for governments to fail (as, in one degree or another, most governments did), quite another to watch a ruler and his supporters actively spread a deadly virus. Trump, his party and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News became vectors of the pestilence.

The grotesque spectacle of the president openly inciting people (some of them armed) to take to the streets to oppose the restrictions that save lives is the manifestation of a political death wish. What are supposed to be daily briefings on the crisis, demonstrative of national unity in the face of a shared challenge, have been used by Trump merely to sow confusion and division. They provide a recurring horror show in which all the neuroses that haunt the American subconscious dance naked on live TV.

If the plague is a test, its ruling political nexus ensured that the US would fail it at a terrible cost in human lives. In the process, the idea of the US as the world’s leading nation – an idea that has shaped the past century – has all but evaporated.

Other than the Trump impersonator Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, who is now looking to the US as the exemplar of anything other than what not to do? How many people in Düsseldorf or Dublin are wishing they lived in Detroit or Dallas?

It is hard to remember now but, even in 2017, when Trump took office, the conventional wisdom in the US was that the Republican Party and the broader framework of US political institutions would prevent him from doing too much damage. This was always a delusion, but the pandemic has exposed it in the most savage ways.

Abject surrender
What used to be called mainstream conservatism has not absorbed Trump – he has absorbed it. Almost the entire right-wing half of American politics has surrendered abjectly to him. It has sacrificed on the altar of wanton stupidity the most basic ideas of responsibility, care and even safety.

Thus, even at the very end of March, 15 Republican governors had failed to order people to stay at home or to close non-essential businesses. In Alabama, for example, it was not until April 3rd that governor Kay Ivey finally issued a stay-at-home order.

In Florida, the state with the highest concentration of elderly people with underlying conditions, governor Ron DeSantis, a Trump mini-me, kept the beach resorts open to students travelling from all over the US for spring break parties. Even on April 1st, when he issued restrictions, DeSantis exempted religious services and “recreational activities”.

Georgia governor Brian Kemp, when he finally issued a stay-at-home order on April 1st, explained: “We didn’t know that [the virus can be spread by people without symptoms] until the last 24 hours.”

This is not mere ignorance – it is deliberate and homicidal stupidity. There is, as the demonstrations this week in US cities have shown, plenty of political mileage in denying the reality of the pandemic. It is fuelled by Fox News and far-right internet sites, and it reaps for these politicians millions of dollars in donations, mostly (in an ugly irony) from older people who are most vulnerable to the coronavirus.

It draws on a concoction of conspiracy theories, hatred of science, paranoia about the “deep state” and religious providentialism (God will protect the good folks) that is now very deeply infused in the mindset of the American right.

Trump embodies and enacts this mindset, but he did not invent it. The US response to the coronavirus crisis has been paralysed by a contradiction that the Republicans have inserted into the heart of US democracy. On the one hand, they want to control all the levers of governmental power. On the other they have created a popular base by playing on the notion that government is innately evil and must not be trusted.

The contradiction was made manifest in two of Trump’s statements on the pandemic: on the one hand that he has “total authority”, and on the other that “I don’t take responsibility at all”. Caught between authoritarian and anarchic impulses, he is incapable of coherence.

Fertile ground
But this is not just Donald Trump. The crisis has shown definitively that Trump’s presidency is not an aberration. It has grown on soil long prepared to receive it. The monstrous blossoming of misrule has structure and purpose and strategy behind it.

There are very powerful interests who demand “freedom” in order to do as they like with the environment, society and the economy. They have infused a very large part of American culture with the belief that “freedom” is literally more important than life. My freedom to own assault weapons trumps your right not to get shot at school. Now, my freedom to go to the barber (“I Need a Haircut” read one banner this week in St Paul, Minnesota) trumps your need to avoid infection.

Usually when this kind of outlandish idiocy is displaying itself, there is the comforting thought that, if things were really serious, it would all stop. People would sober up. Instead, a large part of the US has hit the bottle even harder.

And the president, his party and their media allies keep supplying the drinks. There has been no moment of truth, no shock of realisation that the antics have to end. No one of any substance on the US right has stepped in to say: get a grip, people are dying here.

That is the mark of how deep the trouble is for the US – it is not just that Trump has treated the crisis merely as a way to feed tribal hatreds but that this behaviour has become normalised. When the freak show is live on TV every evening, and the star is boasting about his ratings, it is not really a freak show any more. For a very large and solid bloc of Americans, it is reality.

And this will get worse before it gets better. Trump has at least eight more months in power. In his inaugural address in 2017, he evoked “American carnage” and promised to make it stop. But now that the real carnage has arrived, he is revelling in it. He is in his element.

As things get worse, he will pump more hatred and falsehood, more death-wish defiance of reason and decency, into the groundwater. If a new administration succeeds him in 2021, it will have to clean up the toxic dump he leaves behind. If he is re-elected, toxicity will have become the lifeblood of American politics.

Either way, it will be a long time before the rest of the world can imagine America being great again.

Monday, May 25, 2020

How Trump could steal the election

In 2016 Trump lost the popular vote by about three million votes. But he won the election based on the electoral college. That was child’s play.

Now, in 2020, it’s widely accepted that Trump and his co-conspirators will attempt to subvert the election in his favor. Here are Trump’s Five Simple Tricks for Stealing the Election explained by Michael Tomasky at the Daily Beast. Sure, he could use ordinary cheating to eke out another narrow Electoral College win and popular vote loss. But he has other cards up his sleeve if that doesn’t work out this time.

So many shocking things have become normal now under this administration that it’s kind of hard to imagine what would genuinely jolt the nation at this point. And with regard to November’s election, the shocking-but-normal reality is that we know Donald Trump will cheat. There was a terrifying piece in the Times on Sunday laying out all the different moves he could pull to steal the election that his opponents are war-gaming to prepare for and counter. One little nugget from it: Trump could issue orders that impact cities in battleground states like “declaring a state of emergency, deploying the National Guard or forbidding gatherings of more than 10 people.”

Everyone knows he’ll cheat. Even his supporters know he’ll cheat. His cheating is one of the things they love about him. So that he’ll cheat—while loudly accusing the other side of cheating—is a given. We just don’t know yet exactly how. Here are five all-too-plausible scenarios. Trigger warning: They may literally make you sick, especially the last one.

Scenario One: He steals it “fair and square.” In other words, he wins like he did in 2016, eking out a 78,000-vote, three-state Electoral College margin (or something along those lines) while losing the popular vote. Except this time, he’s likely to lose the popular vote by more than last time, perhaps far more. Why? Because Joe Biden’s margins are likely to be bigger than Clinton’s were in the large blue states, and Trump’s margins are likely to be smaller in the big red states like Texas and Georgia. So he could lose the popular vote by five or six million this time instead of the 2.8 million of last time.

The result would not, strictly speaking, be “cheating,” since these are the effed-up rules of our democracy, though there would still be the usual, run-of-the-mill cheating he’d do during the election—colluding with Russia, blocking vote-by-mail, doing the kinds of things the Times article suggested he’d do to put a few of his short, vulgar fingers on the scale. So there’d be plenty of cheating done on the way.

Scenario Two: The Florida felon option. Remember how Floridians voted nearly 2-to–1 in 2018 to allow felons who’d served their time to vote, with even a majority of Republicans agreeing? Then remember how the Florida legislature passed a law in 2019 saying felons had to pay all costs and arrears before they could vote?

Fortunately, the latest news seems to be that a federal judge is leaning toward siding with the voters over the legislature. But the right-wingers are going to fight this tooth and nail. I have no idea what they’ll come up with, but imagine a scenario, say, where Biden narrowly wins Florida, the Trump campaign declares fraud and demands a recount, the governor agrees, the courts agree, and lo and behold just enough ex-felon votes are invalidated to flip the result. If you think that sounds too outlandish, all I can tell you is that you’re not paying attention.

Scenario Three: The Supreme Court steals it. The Florida scenario is one of several that could involve the Supreme Court handing Trump a second term. The sickest and most shameless SCOTUS scenario would involve the following. Remember how in Bush v. Gore the five conservative justices in essence ruled against states’ rights, that supposedly time-honored conservative principle? That is, Florida wanted to recount the votes, but the court—in an unsigned decision that they insisted did not set precedent—overruled the state.

Well, this time, they might do the exact opposite! In other words, let’s say Trump ekes out a really narrow win in a red state, Arizona perhaps, and it is that win that put him over the top, and there are questions about the validity of the tally such that some people are demanding a recount, but the state says no. It goes all the way up to the Supreme Court, and the court rules 5–4 with Arizona because hey, states’ rights! Again, if you think this is outlandish…

Scenario Four: The faithless elector possibility. Team Trump has already teed this one up, and I’ll actually be surprised if we don’t see this happen to some extent. As you know, even though we cast votes for presidential candidates, the president is officially elected by the states’ electors when they meet in December. In any Republican-controlled states that Biden may win, the state can simply appoint electors who might refuse to vote for Biden. Of course the Democrats could do the same, but come on, which side do you think is more likely to do this?The Supreme Court is expected to hand down a decision next month on whether electors have to vote for the candidate who won their state. Wanna bet it’s 5–4, with the conservatives saying electors can do as they please?

Scenario Five: The House of Representatives steals it. This is the mother of all nightmare scenarios, one I’m really not sure this (county sic - country) would survive.

Imagine, first, an Electoral College tie, 269–269. Yes, it can happen. Under the 12th Amendment, a tie goes to the House, which votes for the next president. Easy-peasy, right? The Democrats control the House, so President Biden, your day has come.

Not so fast. First of all, it’s not the current Congress that votes, it’s the next one, the one the nation will elect on Nov. 3 (yes, I’m correct about this). OK, but that Congress is still likely to be Democratic, so what’s the problem? Here’s the problem. The 435 members of the House don’t vote as individuals. They vote as state delegations, each delegation getting one vote. That’s right. So for this vote, Liz Cheney (Wyoming’s lone legislator) will have a voting power equal to that of the 45 California Democrats (and seven Republicans). Let that sink in. Cheney’s vote on this matter would carry more than 50 times the weight of Nancy Pelosi’s.

It is completely insane. Why is it this way? It was a compromise designed to placate—you guessed it—states’ rights advocates, who feared the big states would push the small states around but who won so many arguments that it’s actually the small states that push the big ones around (see United States Senate).

So who controls state delegations? Right now, the Republicans do, 26–25 (the District of Columbia counts here). But as I said, it would be the next Congress that would vote. So Democrats would need to flip one state, and of course hold all the seats in states where they have majorities now. Democrats are up one seat in Pennsylvania, 9–8. Republicans are up one in Florida, 14–13. In Michigan, it’s Democrats by 7–6–1, the one being Justin Amash. How would he vote, assuming he’s re-elected?

But if Democrats can’t flip a state delegation, then the 26–25 Republican edge will hold. So picture it. Trump has lost the popular vote by five million. Through rampant voter suppression and other dirty tricks like those mentioned in that Times piece, he manages to finagle an Electoral College tie. Then it goes to the House, where this nutso scheme they came up with in 1803 when state population differentials weren’t anywhere near what they are today is used to hand Trump re-election. And to really rub salt in the wound, under the terms of the 19th century law that still governs this process, presiding over all this would be a smirking Mike Pence.

We. Are. So. Screwed.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

ND Republican Governor pleads for empathy in needless mask-no mask culture war

49 of 50 governors have better coronavirus poll numbers than Trump reports Aaron Blake at the Washington Post.

New polling data from SurveyMonkey, which were shared with The Washington Post, show that fully 49 of 50 governors have significantly higher approval ratings for their coronavirus responses than Trump does in recent polls. A Washington Post-Ipsos poll last week showed 43 percent of Americans approved of Trump’s handling of the outbreak. The SurveyMonkey data show Trump at a slightly higher 47 percent.

The one governor on Trump’s level is Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), whose efforts to reopen his state have proved controversial. In the Post-Ipsos poll, Kemp’s approval rating was 39 percent; in the new one, it’s a similar 43 percent — the same as Trump’s.

Apart from Kemp, the governor closest to Trump is Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D), at 54 percent. No other governor falls below half of their constituents supporting their response.

Also reported by Blake, a GOP governor offers emotional plea to the anti-mask crowd: Stop this senseless culture war.

That governor is Doug Burgum of North Dakota. His approval rating is tied with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine for 6th in the nation and bests New York Gov. Cuomo by 5 points (80 vs. 75).

Here is some of what he had to say.

… GOP Gov. Doug Burgum on Friday offered a plea to stop the madness.

Burgum suggested the debate over masks was being needlessly politicized and that those who are bucking federal health officials’ guidance should rethink their posture.

“I would really love to see in North Dakota that we could just skip this thing that other parts of the nation are going through where they’re trading a divide — either it’s ideological or political or something — around masks versus no mask,” Burgum said. “This is a, I would say, senseless dividing line, and I would ask people to try to dial up your empathy and your understanding.”

The subtext of the remarks was pretty clear: This is a needless culture war.

Burgum then went on, getting emotional.

“If someone is wearing a mask, they’re not doing it to represent what political party they’re in or what candidates they support,” Burgum said, before his voice began breaking. “They might be doing it because they’ve got a 5-year-old child who’s been going through cancer treatments. They might have vulnerable adults in their life who currently have covid, and they’re fighting.”

Burgum concluded his thought: “I would just love to see our state, as part of being North Dakota Smart, also be North Dakota Kind, North Dakota Empathetic.”

Here is the full ranked list of governors (from Aaron Blake). You will find Trump’s score at the very bottom.

No alcoves there

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Daily Kos -- Georgia is now a battleground state

Yesterday your Scriber posted some startling poll results showing McSally trailing Kelly in the AZ US Senate race. Arizona is one of the Daily Kos picks for a battleground state. Here are more:

[Kos has] been saying that there are seven presidential battleground states: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Six of the seven are obvious and long-standing battlegrounds. But … Georgia? Yes. Georgia.

kos predicts Holy crap, Trump is on track to lose Georgia.

The latest numbers are courtesy of Civiqs for Daily Kos:

According to the 2016 exit polls, Trump won rural Georgia 67–29, which is virtually identical to what this poll found. Clinton won urban Georgia 68–29, again within rough range of Civiqs’ findings. But those suburban numbers! That’s the new ball game, going from Trump 51–46 in 2016 to 52–43 Biden in this poll—a 14-point swing.

Kos has other breakdowns of various voter groups. If you dig numbers, read this one.

In AZ Senate race Kelly leads 'Trump Hack' McSally

Republican Senator Martha McSally trails Democratic Challenger Mark Kelly by 13 points in latest poll. She is getting hammered by the latest ads from the Lincoln Project, one calling her a “Trump Hack” who may not be remembered at all.

Following is a rundown of what is going on from Charlie Sykes at The Bulwark.com.

Nine percent of 2016 Trump voters now say they will vote for Joe Biden. That could decide the election.

Will party switching influence the 2020 presidential election? Our analysis suggests that, yes, a significant number of Trump’s 2016 voters are ready to vote for the presumptive Democratic Party nominee, Joe Biden.

Mike Madrid writes about the impact of the Lincoln Project.

Trump Republicans are in deep trouble in Arizona. The President continues to be a drag on the national brand and an anchor on the GOP’s prospects of holding the White House, Senate and recapturing the House. Moreover, Republicans tying themselves to Trump are sinking faster than the President. A recently released poll in Arizona shows what’s happening and why it changes the electoral college roadmap.

It’s important to know that two days prior to the poll being conducted, The Lincoln Project, a Republican organization created to defeat Trump, began airing ads targeting McSally. The ads were sharp, hard-hitting and effective.

McSally now trails Democrat Mark Kelly by 13 points, according to the latest tracking poll by OH Predictive Insights. While the April poll of 600 likely voters favored Kelly 51% to McSally’s 42%, in May it’s now 51%–38%.

In the Hill, Juan Williams also writes about the Lincoln project. “Anti-Trump Republicans flex their muscle.”

The emotional impact of the Lincoln Project’s ad is generating envy among some Democrats who wonder why - despite Trump’s consistently high disapproval ratings among all voters - they have had trouble penetrating the Trump bubble to reach dissident conservatives.

“The way that you run a presidential campaign is you’re a pirate ship. … You seize and you loot and you burn,” James Carville, the Democratic strategist, said on MSNBC last week.

“Let me tell you … these ‘Never Trumper’ Republicans, the Democrats could learn a lot from them. They’re mean. They fight hard. And we [Democrats] don’t fight like that.”

That is why I think (know) that the group of conservatives making up the Lincoln Project is our best friend.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Obama graduation speeches - 'all the cards have been thrown up into the air, waiting to be gathered up into new patterns.'

WaPo summarizes commencement speeches in which Obama criticizes nation’s leaders for bungled handling of coronavirus pandemic. If the world is going to get better, it’s up to you,” former president Barack Obama said in his address to graduating high school students on May 16.

Yes, he certainly did that, but more generally, he called on graduates to take charge and do things differently. Here are a few excerpts.

Former president Barack Obama criticized the nation’s leaders for bungling their handling of the coronavirus pandemic Saturday, accusing them in twin commencement addresses of not “even pretending” to be in charge and asking the wrong questions.

The comments came in a speech to high school graduates broadcast by major television networks and a similar streamed speech for graduates of 74 historically black colleges and universities across the United States, which also included his first public comments on the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man shot when two white men attempted to stop him while he was jogging near his hometown of Brunswick, Ga.

Obama mentioned racial, gender and economic inequity in both addresses, saying the current economic and health crises had revealed much about the country.

"A disease like this just spotlights the underlying inequalities and extra burdens that black communities have historically had to deal with in this country,” Obama said. “We see it in the disproportionate impact of covid–19 on our communities, just as we see it when a black man goes for a jog and some folks feel like they can stop and question and shoot him if he doesn’t submit to their questioning.

“Injustice like this isn’t new,” Obama continued. “What is new is that so much of your generation has woken up to the fact that the status quo needs fixing, that the old ways of doing things don’t work.”

Heather Cox Richardson (Letters from an American) highlighted some spots in the Obama speeches.

The former president noted that we are in a frightening moment, when we are coping with a deadly pandemic and a terrible recession. But he also heralded the enormous possibilities of a time when all the cards have been thrown up into the air, waiting to be gathered up into new patterns.

Today former President Barack Obama gave two virtual graduation speeches. Midday, he spoke to the graduates of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and in the evening, he spoke to the high school graduates of 2020 in an event called Graduate Together.

Both speeches were a striking contrast to the language we have become accustomed to hearing from today’s White House. And while they were directed at this year’s graduates, they mapped out more generally a new direction for America than the one we have taken since 2017.

He rejected the aggressive individualism that has defined America since the Reagan years. “[I]t doesn’t matter how much money you make if everyone around you is hungry and sick…. [O]ur society and democracy only works when we think not just about ourselves, but about each other.”

He placed America’s strength in community. “No one does big things by themselves. Right now, when people are scared, it’s easy to be cynical and say let me just look out for myself, or my family, or people who look or think or pray like me. But if we’re going to get through these difficult times; if we’re going to create a world where everybody has the opportunity to find a job, and afford college; if we’re going to save the environment and defeat future pandemics, then we’re going to have to do it together. So be alive to one another’s struggles. Stand up for one another’s rights. Leave behind all the old ways of thinking that divide us — sexism, racial prejudice, status, greed — and set the world on a different path.”

He urged young people to change the world. “If the world’s going to get better, it’s going to be up to you. With everything suddenly feeling like it’s up for grabs, this is your time to seize the initiative. Nobody can tell you anymore that you should be waiting your turn. Nobody can tell you anymore ‘this is how it’s always been done.’"

“More than ever,” the former president said, "this is your moment—your generation’s world to shape.”

More reports question bases for the Tara Reade allegation

PBSNewsHour interviewed dozens of Biden staffers about Tara Reade. Here is some of what they found. That was my post from yesterday. Now there is even more reporting.

From Politico.com - ’Manipulative, deceitful, user’: Tara Reade left a trail of aggrieved acquaintances. A number of those who crossed paths with Biden’s accuser say they remember two things: She spoke favorably about her time working for Biden, and she left them feeling duped.

New Reporting Increases Doubts on Tara Reade’s Allegation Against Joe Biden by Jonathan Chait in the NY Mag Intelligencer.

Chait says “three detailed reports — by Vox’s Laura McGann, PBS NewsHour, and Politico’s Natasha Korecki — have delved into Reade’s allegations. Neither reaches a definitive conclusion. But all of them on balance add a lot of grounds for skepticism. At this point, Reade’s allegation seems to me to be more likely to be false than true.”

Sunday, May 17, 2020

American mishandling of the pandemic - March 6th is Trump's day of infamy.

I picked up this Financial Times article from a tweet by MSNBC host Nicole Wallace. The author, Edward Luce, is the FT’s US national editor.

Inside Trump’s coronavirus meltdown | Free to read. What went wrong in the president’s first real crisis — and what does it mean for the US?

Following are some of my reactions mixed with a few excerpts from the FT article.

When the history is written of how America handled the global era’s first real pandemic, March 6 [2020] will leap out of the timeline. That was the day Donald Trump visited the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. His foray to the world’s best disease research body was meant to showcase that America had everything under control. It came midway between the time he was still denying the coronavirus posed a threat and the moment he said he had always known it could ravage America.

[Several days later] Trump’s mindset became increasingly surreal. He began to tout hydroxychloroquine as a cure for Covid–19. On March 19, at a regular televised briefing, which he conducted daily for five weeks, often rambling for more than two hours, he depicted the antimalarial drug as a potential magic bullet. It could be “one of the biggest game-changers in the history of medicine”, he later tweeted.

The thing is that hydroxychloroquine is dangerous for those with heart troubles. But it got worse.

When Trump suggested in late April that people could stop Covid–19, or even cure themselves, by injecting disinfectant, such as Lysol or Dettol, his chief scientist, Deborah Birx, did not dare contradict him. The leading bleach companies issued statements urging customers not to inject or ingest disinfectant because it could be fatal. The CDC only issued a cryptic tweet advising Americans to: “Follow the instructions on the product label.”

That silence is symptomatic of the status of science under Trump. “Scientists across Washington are terrified of saying anything that contradicts Trump.”

“The way to keep your job is to out-loyal everyone else, which means you have to tolerate quackery,” says Anthony Scaramucci, an estranged former Trump adviser, who was briefly his White House head of communications. “You have to flatter him in public and flatter him in private. Above all, you must never make him feel ignorant.”

An administration official says advising Trump is like “bringing fruits to the volcano” – Trump being the lava source. “You’re trying to appease a great force that’s impervious to reason,” says the official.

And retaliation is the name of the game in Trump world. In a whistleblower complaint, Rick Bright (the federal scientist in charge of developing a vaccine0 said he was pressured to send millions of dollars worth of contracts to a company controlled by a friend of Jared Kushner. When he refused, he was fired.

The short of it is that Trump is failing, failing to unite us, failing to keep us safe, failing to keep us healthy, failing to keep us prosperous. Yep, he is failing our economy too. So he cannot credibly use any of this in his campaign.

Luce concludes:

“Trump is caught in a box which keeps getting smaller,” says George Conway, a Republican lawyer who is married to Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s senior counsellor. “In my view he is a sociopath and a malignant narcissist. When a person suffering from these disorders feels the world closing in on them, their tendencies get worse. They lash out and fantasise and lose any ability to think rationally.” Conway is known for taunting Trump on Twitter (to great effect, it should be added: Trump often retaliates).

Yet without exception, everyone I interviewed, including the most ardent Trump loyalists, made a similar point to Conway. Trump is deaf to advice, said one. He is his own worst enemy, said another. He only listens to family, said a third. He is mentally imbalanced, said a fourth. America, in other words, should brace itself for a turbulent six months ahead – with no assurance of a safe landing.

Now go read the full history Luce lays out in the Financial Times report.

And then, when you awake tomorrow morning, the number of deaths in the USA will exceed 90,000.

PBSNewsHour interviewed dozens of Biden staffers about Tara Reade. Here is some of what they found.

What 74 former Biden staffers think about Tara Reade’s allegations In the main, the allegations don’t jive with what the staffers recall.

Over his decades-long career in the Senate, former Vice President Joe Biden was known as a demanding but fair and family-oriented boss, devoted to his home life in Delaware and committed to gender equality in his office.

He was not on a list of “creepy” male senators that female staffers told each other to avoid in the elevators on Capitol Hill.

Yet Biden, now the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, was also a toucher, seemingly oblivious to whether physical contact made some women uncomfortable. That behavior has persisted in recent years. Biden is now facing fresh scrutiny after a former aide in March charged that he sexually assaulted her when she worked in his Senate office in the early 1990s, an allegation Biden has categorically denied.

The PBS NewsHour spoke with 74 former Biden staffers, of whom 62 were women, in order to get a broader picture of his behavior toward women over the course of his career, how they see the new allegation, and whether there was evidence of a larger pattern.

None of the people interviewed said that they had experienced sexual harassment, assault or misconduct by Biden. All said they never heard any rumors or allegations of Biden engaging in sexual misconduct, until the recent assault allegation made by Tara Reade. Former staffers said they believed Reade should be heard, and acknowledged that their experiences do not disprove her accusation.

But lots of what came out in the PBS interviews are not consistent with the allegations. Here is an example.

Biden’s Senate offices were in a prime location, bookending the second floor of the Russell Senate Office building, the closest to the U.S. Capitol.

No alcoves there
No alcoves here

Reade’s attorney told the NewsHour that Reade recalls the assault happening “in a semiprivate area like an alcove” and that it was “somewhere between the Russell (building) and/or Capitol building.” He pointed out that survivors often have difficulty with specifics about trauma.

Reade’s description aligns with other staffers’ recollections of Biden’s short indoor route between his office and the Capitol. It is a roughly 10-minute walk that consists of one flight of stairs and one long hallway inside the Russell Building, followed by a wide tunnel through which he could walk or take an internal subway train to the Capitol.

The layout of that route and building has not changed. A recent walk through that area showed the subway tunnel contains no out-of-view areas, like an alcove. The remaining portion of the route includes multiple stairwells as well as corridors lined with offices. It is a main thoroughfare for senators and staffers.

“When I worked in the Senate, it was always crowded [and] packed with lobbyists, staff and tourists,” said Sheila Nix, who was Biden’s chief of staff on the 2012 presidential campaign and previously worked as chief of staff to two other Democratic senators.

I remain deeply concerned about what Reade is doing and why. See the PBS report for more reasons for concern, how her story has changed over time, for example.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

America is a country to be pitied, but not respected - and why that is.

Yesterday there were 35 new cases of COVID–19 in Pima county Arizona. Today there are 54.

In case its not obvious from the numbers: the curve is not flattening. Those who cry out for reopening at any cost will get their wish. But are they willing to pay that cost in human lives?

How did we get here? This morning I offer you a trifecta of answers to that question. The common theme is in order to get away from the “here” we need to consign T-Rump to the oblivion experienced by T-Rex, politically speaking, of course.

It is a long read so grab your coffee and get started.

(1) A country to be pitied

Eugene Robinson, Washington Post Columnist, thinks that The United States is a country to be pitied.

Only a handful of nations on Earth have arguably done a worse job of handling the coronavirus pandemic than the United States. What has happened to us? How did we become so dysfunctional? When did we become so incompetent?

The shocking and deadly failures by President Trump and his administration have been well documented — we didn’t isolate, we didn’t test, we didn’t contact trace, we waited too long to lock down. But Trump’s gross unfitness is only part of the problem. The phrase “American exceptionalism” has always meant different things to different people — that this nation should be admired, or perhaps that it should be feared. Not until now, at least in my lifetime, has it suggested that the United States should be pitied.

No amount of patriotism or pride can change the appalling facts. The pandemic is acting as a stress test for societies around the world, and ours is in danger of failing.

I’m used to thinking of a nation such as South Korea as a kind of junior partner, a beneficiary of American expertise and aid. Yet the U.S. death toll from covid–19 exceeds 85,000 while South Korea’s fatalities total 260. That is not a typo. How could a nation with barely half our per capita income have done so much better? Washington has been Seoul’s patron and teacher for more than six decades, yet somehow we apparently have unlearned much of what we taught.

Much closer to home, Trump’s boasting about how his border wall is supposedly helping protect Americans against the virus is a joke. Mexico’s reported death rate from covid–19 is a small fraction of ours (though the numbers may be higher than the official count). In the border town of Nogales, Mexican authorities are using disinfectant spray to sanitize visitors arriving from Arizona.

How could it be that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which I always thought of as the premier public health agency in the world, so completely botched the development of a test for the novel coronavirus? We have by far the biggest economy in the world, and we believe we have the most advanced science. Yet for the first months of the pandemic, as the coronavirus silently spread, we were essentially blind. By the time we had eyes on the enemy, it was too late.

We have managed to slow the spread of the virus, but I worry we lack the social cohesion to stay the course. On Wednesday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court invalidated Gov. Tony Evers’s (D) extension of his stay-at-home order. By evening, bars in some Wisconsin cities were packed — no social distancing, no masks. In Milwaukee and several other jurisdictions, however, orders by local officials kept the bars closed. What are the Wisconsin cities that remain closed supposed to do? Set up roadblocks to keep outsiders away?

The Florida Keys have done just that: Since March 27, checkpoints have been in place to keep visitors from entering the island chain — which has seen just 95 cases of covid–19 and only three deaths. The America I know, or thought I knew, is one of restlessness, free movement, open roads. Until there is a vaccine, post-covid America may be very different.

Thanks to Trump, we have no coherent national plan to survive the pandemic. But also thanks to the federal government — and I include Congress as well as the president — we lack the kind of sturdy economic safety net that protects unemployed workers and shut-down business owners in some of the hardest-hit European countries — nations that once looked up to the United States as a model. In the Netherlands, for example, the government is granting employers up to 90 percent of their payroll costs so they can keep paying their workers rather than resort to furloughs or layoffs. That kind of continuity ought to speed recovery when reopening becomes safe.

Here, nearly 40 million workers have filed for unemployment.

The European Union is working with the World Health Organization and other wealthy nations such as Japan and Saudi Arabia in a crash program to develop a covid–19 vaccine, with initial funding of $8 billion. The United States has decided to go it alone with its own vaccine program, “Operation Warp Speed.” In the past, one might have bet on U.S. ingenuity and drive to win the race. But given our failure in testing, would you still make that bet now? And why is there a race at all, rather than a U.S.-led global effort?

The covid–19 pandemic has exposed the depth of America’s fall from greatness. Ridding ourselves of Trump and his cronies in November will be just the beginning of our work to restore it.

(2) The rise and fall of the CDC - and a revival?

The Lancet, the venerable British medical journal, published this stunning editorial, Reviving the US CDC, concluding that: Americans must put a president in the White House come January, 2021, who will understand that public health should not be guided by partisan politics.

The COVID–19 pandemic continues to worsen in the USA with 1·3 million cases and an estimated death toll of 80 684 as of May 12. States that were initially the hardest hit, such as New York and New Jersey, have decelerated the rate of infections and deaths after the implementation of 2 months of lockdown. However, the emergence of new outbreaks in Minnesota, where the stay-at-home order is set to lift in mid-May, and Iowa, which did not enact any restrictions on movement or commerce, has prompted pointed new questions about the inconsistent and incoherent national response to the COVID–19 crisis.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flagship agency for the nation’s public health, has seen its role minimised and become an ineffective and nominal adviser in the response to contain the spread of the virus. The strained relationship between the CDC and the federal government was further laid bare when, according to The Washington Post, Deborah Birx, the head of the US COVID–19 Task Force and a former director of the CDC’s Global HIV/AIDS Division, cast doubt on the CDC’s COVID–19 mortality and case data by reportedly saying: “There is nothing from the CDC that I can trust”. This is an unhelpful statement, but also a shocking indictment of an agency that was once regarded as the gold standard for global disease detection and control. How did an agency that was the first point of contact for many national health authorities facing a public health threat become so ill-prepared to protect the public’s health?

In the decades following its founding in 1946, the CDC became a national pillar of public health and globally respected. It trained cadres of applied epidemiologists to be deployed in the USA and abroad. CDC scientists have helped to discover new viruses and develop accurate tests for them. CDC support was instrumental in helping WHO to eradicate smallpox. However, funding to the CDC for a long time has been subject to conservative politics that have increasingly eroded the agency’s ability to mount effective, evidence-based public health responses. In the 1980s, the Reagan administration resisted providing the sufficient budget that the CDC needed to fight the HIV/AIDS crisis. The George W Bush administration put restrictions on global and domestic HIV prevention and reproductive health programming.

The Trump administration further chipped away at the CDC’s capacity to combat infectious diseases. CDC staff in China were cut back with the last remaining CDC officer recalled home from the China CDC in July, 2019, leaving an intelligence vacuum when COVID–19 began to emerge. In a press conference on Feb 25, Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, warned US citizens to prepare for major disruptions to movement and everyday life. Messonnier subsequently no longer appeared at White House briefings on COVID–19. More recently, the Trump administration has questioned guidelines that the CDC has provided. These actions have undermined the CDC’s leadership and its work during the COVID–19 pandemic.

There is no doubt that the CDC has made mistakes, especially on testing in the early stages of the pandemic. The agency was so convinced that it had contained the virus that it retained control of all diagnostic testing for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, but this was followed by the admission on Feb 12 that the CDC had developed faulty test kits. The USA is still nowhere near able to provide the basic surveillance or laboratory testing infrastructure needed to combat the COVID–19 pandemic.

But punishing the agency by marginalising and hobbling it is not the solution. The Administration is obsessed with magic bullets—vaccines, new medicines, or a hope that the virus will simply disappear. But only a steadfast reliance on basic public health principles, like test, trace, and isolate, will see the emergency brought to an end, and this requires an effective national public health agency. The CDC needs a director who can provide leadership without the threat of being silenced and who has the technical capacity to lead today’s complicated effort.

The Trump administration’s further erosion of the CDC will harm global cooperation in science and public health, as it is trying to do by defunding WHO. A strong CDC is needed to respond to public health threats, both domestic and international, and to help prevent the next inevitable pandemic. Americans must put a president in the White House come January, 2021, who will understand that public health should not be guided by partisan politics.

(3) The global pandemic spells political doom for Trump

“Obamagate” Is Niche Programming for Trump Superfans writes Susan B. Glasser in The New Yorker. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump has reverted to a favorite distraction: bashing his predecessor, Barack Obama. (Concluding paragraphs follow).

Since the beginning of his anti-Obama rant on Mother’s Day morning, Trump has tweeted and retweeted attacks on the former President thirty-three times, by my count, with around a dozen of those referring to the vague but nefarious “OBAMAGATE.” On Wednesday, Trump forwarded to his Twitter followers a video, from 2016, of Obama suggesting that Trump could never become President. “Obama was always wrong!” he tweeted. Although he never did spell out what it is, Trump promised his followers at one point, “OBAMAGATE makes Watergate look small time!” It’s as though he sees an attack on Obama as a political get-out-of-jail-free card, with the mere mention of Obama’s name an incantation of such political force that invoking it can miraculously rally Trump’s Obama-hating base.

But is there really political magic for Trump in this? The numbers don’t suggest it. Obama remains broadly popular with the American public, certainly far more so than Trump has ever been.Trump has been attacking Obama vociferously for the past three years of his Presidency, without those attacks demonstrably affecting either his or Obama’s over-all popularity. Why should “Obamagate,” coming as it does in the midst of a true national emergency, be any different? Yet, in seeking to explain the latest Trumpian distraction, Brian Kilmeade said on Fox the other day that this was in fact a strategic move by the President, an effort to reset the fall campaign from a race between Trump and the presumptive Democratic nominee, Obama’s former Vice-President, Joe Biden, into “Obama against Trump.” …

Maybe, but I don’t buy it. Trump has been running this play for a long time already, and it seems to me not so much about electoral politics as it is a reflection of the ongoing temper tantrum that is Trump’s response to the global pandemic—a catastrophe that has upended Trump’s Presidency and may well spell his political doom. It’s about his fury at being impeached, and his rage at having as an enemy a virus that doesn’t give a damn about his Twitter feed.

Trump demands Obama be made to testify in the Senate. In his latest tweet, Trump seems to be ordering Sen. Lindsey Graham to put Obama through a kind of show trial (Zack Beauchamp at vox.com.)

Donald J. Trump
@realDonaldTrump
If I were a Senator or Congressman, the first person I would call to testify about the biggest political crime and scandal in the history of the USA, by FAR, is former President Obama. He knew EVERYTHING. Do it @LindseyGrahamSC, just do it. No more Mr. Nice Guy. No more talk!

Glasser ends:

… Trump’s attacks on Barack Obama, above all else, are a barometer for measuring the level of Trump’s raging insecurity, and what they tell us now is that Trump is having an enormous meltdown, almost certainly connected with his diminishing prospects for reëlection.

This seems to be Obama’s interpretation, too. On Friday, in a phone call with several thousand supporters that was quickly leaked, Obama called Trump’s response to the pandemic an “absolute chaotic disaster” and warned that the “rule of law” was at stake in Trump’s efforts to undo Flynn’s conviction. He then refrained from comment for days as Trump’s latest storm against him raged. Finally, at 2:44 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, Obama responded with a one-word tweet of his own. It said, simply, “Vote.”

Friday, May 15, 2020

Timeline!

Timeline is the new Joe Biden ad. The star is Donald Trump. His own words condemn his mismanagement of the response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Trump says 'We’ve done a great job.' Number of COVID-19 deaths is 85,600 and climbing

This morning (May 14, 2020) Trump said that he and his administration were managing the pandemic very well. “We’ve done a great job.”

From Remarks by President Trump Before Marine One Departure (transcript issued May 14, 2020):

“I’ll tell you what: What we’ve done on ventilators and what we’ve done on testing — except the press doesn’t write it that way because you have all this fake news. But what we’ve done on testing, we’ve now tested more than the entire world put together. The entire world put together, we have many more tests than they do and better tests. And the reason we have more cases is because we have more testing.”

And that brag and BS from the mismanagement team of the Trumpidemic.

As of noon, MST, the COVID–19 death count was 85,601. Projections from models indicate that we can expect way over 100,000 by the end of May.

Trump’s only response has been scorn for modelers and the results. Somehow, I doubt that, despite his attempts to reduce the number in order to make him look good, the numbers will continue to make him look bad.

Perhaps Trump subscribes to a saying often attributed to Josef Stalin - which is our Quote of the Day:

“A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.” Attributed to Josef Stalin in New York Times Book Review, September 28, 1958. -Freakonomics.com

Might that explain Trump’s indifference, his emotional flatness? Is 85,601 is just a statistic to him?

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Joe Biden's WaPo op-ed on Trump's inadequate coronavirus response

For those of you who do not subscribe (or just track) the Washington Post here is a Washington Post op-ed in which Joe Biden explains How the White House coronavirus response presents us with a false choice.

Joe Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee for president of the United States.

The coronavirus, to date, has taken the lives of more than 79,000 Americans. One of every 5 U.S. workers has filed for unemployment — with the unemployment rate now the highest since the Great Depression. It is an extraordinary moment — the kind that begs for urgent, steady, empathetic, unifying leadership.

But instead of unifying the country to accelerate our public health response and get economic relief to those who need it, President Trump is reverting to a familiar strategy of deflecting blame and dividing Americans. His goal is as obvious as it is craven: He hopes to split the country into dueling camps, casting Democrats as doomsayers hoping to keep America grounded and Republicans as freedom fighters trying to liberate the economy.

It’s a childish tactic — and a false choice that none of us should fall for.

The truth is that everyone wants America to reopen as soon as possible — claiming otherwise is completely absurd. Governors from both parties are doing their best to make that happen, but their efforts have been slowed and hampered because they haven’t gotten the tools, resources and guidance they need from the federal government to reopen safely and sustainably. That responsibility falls on Trump’s shoulders — but he isn’t up to the task.

It’s been more than two months since Trump claimed that “anybody that wants a test can get a test.” It was a baldfaced lie when he said it, and it still isn’t remotely true. If we’re going to have thriving workplaces, restaurants, stores and parks, we need widespread testing. Trump can’t seem to provide it — to say nothing of worker safety protocols, consistent health guidelines or clear federal leadership to coordinate a responsible reopening.

In addition to forgetting the tests, he seems to have forgotten that ours is a demand-driven economy — you can shout from the rooftops that we’re open for business, but the economy will not get back to full strength if the number of new cases is still rising or plateauing and people don’t believe that it’s safe to return to normal activities. Without measures in place to prevent the spread of the virus, many Americans won’t want to shop in stores, eat in restaurants or travel; small-business owners know that a nervous public won’t provide enough customers to ensure they thrive.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) began “reopening” his state’s dine-in restaurants on April 27 — 12 days later, according to data from restaurant-booking service OpenTable, there were still 92 percent fewer diners than there were on the same day a year ago. States and cities that have attempted to reopen are discovering that the economy isn’t a light switch you can simply flip on — people need confidence to make it run, and that confidence must be earned by credible leadership and demonstrable safety.

Again, the solution isn’t a mystery. The Trump administration could focus on producing and distributing adequate testing and protocols that conform with the guidance of public health experts; doing so would speed up the reopening process considerably and make it a whole lot more effective. The administration is fully aware that this is the right path, too — after all, the president and his staff are now reportedly receiving daily tests. They knew exactly how to make the Oval Office safe and operational, and they put in the work to do it.

They just haven’t put in that same work for the rest of us.

If Trump and his team understand how critical testing is to their safety — and they seem to, given their own behavior — why are they insisting that it’s unnecessary for the American people?

And why does the president insist on trying to turn this into yet another line of division, pitting strained, grieving Americans against one another across manufactured battle lines of “health” and “the economy”? Everybody knows that we can’t revive the latter unless we safeguard the former — and pretending otherwise is the most transparent of political ploys. Instead of once again seeking to divide us, Trump should be working to get Americans the same necessary protections he has gotten for himself.

It’s the right thing to do, and the only path to truly getting the economy back on track.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Then see Obama’s critique of the Trump failings. ‘An absolute chaotic disaster’: Obama accurately describes Trump’s COVID–19 response in private call (from Jessica Sutherland at the Daily Kos Staff).

Prospects for a vaccine as COVID-19 deaths head for 6 digits by June

Here is sobering, scary modeling covered by NPR: How To Make Sense of All The COVID–19 Projections? A New Model Combines Them. The projections converge on 110,000 deaths by the first week in June.

Enter Nicholas Reich, a biostatistician at University of Massachusetts Amherst. Reich and his colleagues have developed a method to compare and ultimately to merge the diverse models of the disease’s progression into one “ensemble” projection. The resulting forecast is sobering. By June 6, it projects, the cumulative death toll in the U.S. will reach 110,000.

The team unveiled the first version four weeks ago and ever since has been adding in more forecasts and updating the projections weekly. The latest update — released Tuesday — incorporates eight models, including some oft-cited ones, such as those built by the Imperial College London, the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Columbia University and Northeastern University. (The team also sends each week’s release to the CDC, which publishes a version with a slight time lag.)

The projections vary substantially — with the most pessimistic forecasting a total death toll of 120,000 by June 6 and the most optimistic forecasting 103,000 deaths by that date. But the models have been inching closer to each other. Over the past several weeks, the distance between the highest and lowest estimates has halved from a gap of 36,000 deaths two weeks ago to a gap of 17,000 deaths in the most recent update released Tuesday.

Its worth taking a look at the NPR report to get a graphic look at the individual and ensemble projections. The individual models tend to change overtime.

So how do we make sense of these COVID–19 projections if the models can see-saw so abruptly from week to week? That’s where Reich’s “ensemble” model may be helpful. It’s a strategy that forecasters use regularly to model not just disease outbreaks, but other phenomena ranging from weather to electoral outcomes.

Reich thinks he can still improve his ensemble model. For instance, at the moment Reich is giving equal weight to each of the forecasts that go into it. But soon he hopes to give more weight to those that are proving more accurate — an approach that he uses in his ensemble models for flu.

The bottom line is (1) we are far from over this thing, and (2) we can expect yet more fatalities if/when counties, states and the nation reopen.

If we want to reopen, the safest way is to have a vaccine in place. And that is easy to say but hard to do. For a realistic assessment of the hurdles and potential for success, see this NPR report: When Can We Expect A Coronavirus Vaccine?

Under Putin, Russian response to COVID-19 eerily similar to that of US under Trump

Russia has been hit hard by COVID–19, reports CNN. “the spread of coronavirus appears to be cresting. Russia on Tuesday reported 10,899 more coronavirus cases on Tuesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 232,243. The country is now ranked second in the world for confirmed cases, behind the US, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Moscow is the worst hit city in Russia, with 121,301 cases.”

Putin’s coronavirus crisis deepens with fatal hospital fire and spokesman’s diagnosis. This is really eerie. If I were to rewrite this CNN report I could substitute “Trump” for “Putin” and it still would be coherent. Let me try it and you can see what I mean.

Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s longtime spokesperson, had been hospitalized with coronavirus. Substitute: Katie Miller, the spokeswoman for Vice President Mike Pence, tested positive.

Putin said his priority was “getting the economy back on track as soon as possible.” Substitute: Trump’s push to reopen.

Putin has delegated the difficult work of easing lockdown to regional governors, who must decide when conditions are right to lift restrictive measures. And that’s where the seriousness of the crisis is reflected: local leaders have already moved to prolong lockdown measures. Subtitute: Trump hands over responsibility to states.

A little humor from photoshopping props used by Trump in press briefing

Trump unveiled new props at bizarre COVID–19 briefing that spurred instant memes - many are listed by Walter Einenkel of the Daily Kos Staff. Here is a good example.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Flynn charges dropped - 2000 former DOJ officials lay bare Barr's political interference with law enforcement

Neal Katyal @neal_katyal tweets: The combo of these 3 pieces about DOJ dropping the Flynn charges is astounding. I’ve never seen anything like it. [Scriber added a 4th at the end of this post - the letter from 2000 former DOJ officials.]

Mary B. McCord was an acting assistant attorney general for national security at the Justice Department from 2016 to 2017. In her op-ed she says that Bill Barr Twisted My Words in Dropping the Flynn Case. Here’s the Truth. The F.B.I.’s interview of Mr. Flynn was constitutional, lawful and for a legitimate counterintelligence purpose.

The long list of people who thought Flynn’s lies were material says Chuck Rosenberg (a former U.S. attorney, senior FBI official and acting head of the Drug Enforcement Administration.)

Michael Flynn made false statements to FBI agents interviewing him about his December 2016 telephone conversation with a Russian diplomat. Flynn had previously traveled to Russia; received payments from Russia-related companies, including more than $40,000 from a Russian state-backed entity; dined with the Russian president; intervened in sanctions levied by the outgoing Obama administration punishing Russia for its 2016 election interference; and then lied to the incoming vice president — among other senior White House officials — about his intervention.

When he repeated similar lies to the FBI during a January 2017 interview, he was charged with a federal crime and subsequently pleaded guilty in federal court.

Now, in a stunningly dishonest intervention orchestrated by Attorney General William P. Barr, the Justice Department posits that Flynn’s false statements were not material and that the charge to which he pleaded guilty should be dismissed.

[SNIP]

It might also be helpful to make a partial list of those who do not think (or no longer think) Flynn’s lies were material:

Barr, who orchestrated this stunning reversal with the assistance of his underlings. Barr noted that with respect to his decision to seek dismissal of the charge against Flynn, “history is written by the winners.”

Trump, who now says he is “very happy” for Flynn and that the people who prosecuted him are “human scum.”

Yes, Trump made both lists. “It’s a beautiful thing,” George Orwell wrote, “the destruction of words.”

A 10-year prosecutor, Jonathon Kravis, writes:I left the Justice Department after it made a disastrous mistake. It just happened again.

Three months ago, I resigned from the Justice Department after 10 years as a career prosecutor. I left a job I loved because I believed the department had abandoned its responsibility to do justice in one of my cases, United States v. Roger Stone. At the time, I thought that the handling of the Stone case, with senior officials intervening to recommend a lower sentence for a longtime ally of President Trump, was a disastrous mistake that the department would not make again.

I was wrong.

Last week, the department again put political patronage ahead of its commitment to the rule of law, filing a motion to dismiss the case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn — notwithstanding Flynn’s sworn guilty plea and a ruling by the court that the plea was sound.

[SNIP]

The attorney general’s public comments worsened matters. William P. Barr gave nationally televised interviews in which he disparaged the work of prosecutors and agents who handled these cases, criticizing the Stone prosecutors for losing “perspective” and the Flynn team for becoming “wedded to a particular outcome.”

As the attorney general knows, those career prosecutors and agents cannot respond. The department prohibits employees from talking to the media about criminal cases without high-level approval. Department lawyers are ethically bound to protect the confidences of their client. Barr’s decision to excuse himself from these obligations and attack his own silenced employees is alarming. It sends an unmistakable message to prosecutors and agents — if the president demands, we will throw you under the bus.

The dedicated public servants who remain cannot respond publicly to those who claim that the department acted appropriately in these cases. But I can, and I say this. If the department truly acted because of good-faith commitments to legal positions, then where is the evidence of those commitments in other cases that do not involve friends of the president? Where are the narcotics cases in which the department has filed a sentencing memorandum overruling career prosecutors? Where are the other false-statements cases dismissed after a guilty plea?

There are none. Is that because the only cases in the United States that warranted intervention by department leadership happened to involve friends of the president? Of course not.

The task of repairing this damage will fall to the department’s career agents and prosecutors, and it is for them that I write this. Your work of investigating and prosecuting criminal cases is hard, and it becomes even harder when witnesses and jurors start to believe that the Justice Department’s handling of these cases is infected by politics. Your service during these times is a credit to the department. And you will be at your posts, serving justice, long after this attorney general is gone.

Speaking of gone …*

ABC News reports that Nearly 2000 former DOJ officials call for AG Barr to resign over Flynn case. It’s not clear how the judge in Flynn’s case will react to DOJ’s reversal.

The letter, signed mostly by former career officials in the department, accuses Barr of joining with President Trump in “political interference in the Department’s law enforcement decisions.”

Make no mistake: The Department’s action is extraordinarily rare, if not unprecedented. If any of us, or anyone reading this statement who is not a friend of the President, were to lie to federal investigators in the course of a properly predicated counterintelligence investigation, and admit we did so under oath, we would be prosecuted for it.

We thus unequivocally support the decision of the career prosecutor who withdrew from the Flynn case, just as we supported the prosecutors who withdrew from the Stone case. They are upholding the oath that we all took, and we call on their colleagues to continue to follow their example. President Trump accused the career investigators and prosecutors involved in the Flynn case of “treason” and threatened that they should pay “a big price.” It is incumbent upon the other branches of government to protect from retaliation these public servants and any others who are targeted for seeking to uphold their oaths of office and pursue justice.

… in our previous statement, we called on Attorney General Barr to resign, although we recognized then that there was little chance that he would do so. We continue to believe that it would be best for the integrity of the Justice Department and for our democracy for Attorney General Barr to step aside. In the meantime, we call on Congress to hold the Attorney General accountable. In the midst of the greatest public health crisis our nation has faced in over a century, we would all prefer it if Congress could focus on the health and prosperity of Americans, not threats to the health of our democracy. Yet Attorney General Barr has left Congress with no choice. Attorney General Barr was previously set to give testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on March 31, but the hearing was postponed due to the COVID–19 pandemic. We urge the Committee to reschedule Attorney General Barr’s testimony as soon as safely possible and demand that he answer for his abuses of power. We also call upon Congress to formally censure Attorney General Barr for his repeated assaults on the rule of law in doing the President’s personal bidding rather than acting in the public interest. Our democracy depends on a Department of Justice that acts as an independent arbiter of equal justice, not as an arm of the president’s political apparatus.