AuthorTopic: 🤡 Trumpty-Dumpty POTUS Thread  (Read 180900 times)

Offline RE

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https://www.cbsnews.com/news/secret-service-director-randolph-alles-other-top-dhs-officials-leaving-homeland-security-overhaul-today-2019-04-08/

Secret Service director and other top Homeland Security officials leaving in overhaul purge

By Major Garrett

April 8, 2019 / 8:41 PM / CBS News


More top Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials are leaving the Trump administration, two senior administration officials said Monday, increasing the leadership vacuum at DHS as Washington grapples with the news of DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen's resignation.

U.S. Secret Service Director Randolph "Tex" Alles was fired Monday, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Lee Cissna, DHS undersecretary for management Claire Grady and DHS general counsel John Mitnick are also leaving the administration. The officials' departures are part of a system-wide purge of senior management at DHS as top Trump adviser Stephen Miller looks to overhaul immigration-related policy and personnel.

Alles learned from the White House that he would be part of a mass overhaul of DHS leadership a few weeks ago. The notification came prior to the security incident at Mar-a-Lago on March 30, a law enforcement official told CBS News. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed in a statement that Alles will leave "shortly" and James M. Murray, a career Secret Service member, will take over in May.  One Secret Service source described Murray as a "good pick."
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    DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen speaks for first time since resignation announcement

"United States Secret Service director Randolph 'Tex' Alles has done a great job at the agency over the last two years, and the president is thankful for his over 40 years of service to the country," Sanders said. "Mr. Alles will be leaving shortly and President Trump has selected James M. Murray, a career member of the USSS, to take over as director beginning in May."

Alles' wife, Sara Alles, told reporters, "We're very proud of the Secret Service. The agents are very professional, so pleased he was able to serve. They serve the nation well."

Grady was the official standing in the way in December when the president wanted to oust Nielsen. The president would have had to place Grady in charge of DHS, given that she was the most senior Senate-confirmed official there.

A source on the House Homeland Security Committee says Chairman Bennie Thompson, whose responsibility it is to oversee DHS, was given no heads up on the departures. It's unclear if the White House gave Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, a Republican, any heads up.

These departures also come as Mr. Trump announced last week he wants to go in a "tougher" direction than his original pick for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Tom Vitiello.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly expressed his frustration with the flow of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, and his top officials' inability to fix the matter. In recent days, he has threatened to close the border, or at least large parts of it, if he doesn't get what he wants.

Arden Farhi and Kathryn Watson contributed to this report.

First published on April 8, 2019 / 2:21 PM
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🤡 POLITICO Playbook: Trump purged DHS. Now, the real fight begins.
« Reply #1861 on: April 09, 2019, 07:31:56 AM »
https://www.politico.com/newsletters/playbook/2019/04/09/trump-purged-dhs-now-the-real-fight-begins-422645

POLITICO Playbook: Trump purged DHS. Now, the real fight begins.

By JAKE SHERMAN, ANNA PALMER and DANIEL LIPPMAN

04/09/2019 06:09 AM EDT


President Donald Trump has been stymied by both the legislative process and his own administration on immigration. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

DRIVING THE DAY

THE PRESIDENT AND THE WHITE HOUSE are fond of saying that it’s Democrats who are standing in the way of a big-time rewrite of the nation’s immigration laws. Next time he tries to squarely blame Democrats, we should ask him this: “How did purging the top officials at DHS move you closer to an immigration overhaul?”

THE PRESIDENT has been stymied by both the legislative process and his own administration. If you’re a vulnerable Republican senator, how do you feel about the president vowing to get tougher at the border?

BACKLASH …

-- WAPO’S SEUNG MIN KIM: “Grassley warns White House not to oust any more top immigration officials”: “The most senior Senate Republican is warning the White House not to oust another top immigration official, making appeals to the administration against dismissing Lee Francis Cissna, the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, amid a purge of Homeland Security leaders.

“In an interview with The Washington Post, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said he was ‘very, very concerned’ regarding reports that Cissna could be next in a series of rapid-fire DHS dismissals that began late last week when the White House suddenly pulled the nomination of Ronald Vitiello, who had been tapped as director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“‘One, those are good public servants,’ Grassley said Monday evening, after rumors of Cissna’s potential exit percolated all day. “Secondly, besides the personal connection I have with them and the qualifications they have, they are the intellectual basis for what the president wants to accomplish in immigration.” WaPo

-- BURGESS EVERETT, JOHN BRESNAHAN and MELANIE ZANONA: “Trump’s DHS purge floors Republicans”: “‘It’s a mess,’ Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said, summing up the dynamic on the border and in Washington.

“‘Strikes me as just a frustration of not being able to solve a problem. Honestly, it wasn’t Secretary Nielsen’s fault. It wasn’t for lack of effort on her part. I don’t know if there’s anybody who’s going to be able to do more,’ said Cornyn, who spoke to Nielsen on Monday and planned to speak to her interim replacement, Kevin McAleenan, later in the day.

“‘I thought that Nielsen was doing a fantastic job,’ added Joni Ernst of Iowa, the No. 5 Senate GOP leader. ‘I would love to see some continuity. I think that’s important.’” POLITICO

WHAT THIS ALL MEANS … NYT A1: “Trump Signals Even Fiercer Immigration Agenda, With a Possible Return of Family Separations,” by Michael Shear, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Maggie Haberman: “President Trump’s purge of the nation’s top homeland security officials is a sign that he is preparing to unleash an even fiercer assault on immigration, including a possible return of his controversial decision last summer to separate migrant children from their parents, current and former administration officials said Monday. …

“But the longer term effect of the eruption of Oval Office frustration is likely to be a burst of hard-line policies that stand out even in an administration that has pursued an unprecedented series of executive actions and rules changes aimed at reducing legal and illegal immigration into the United States.

“In addition to urging Mr. Trump to revisit the idea of family separation, several of the president’s closest immigration confidants have been pushing him to consider even harsher measures. Those include further limits on who can seek asylum; stronger action to close ports of entry along the Mexican border; an executive order to end birthright citizenship; more aggressive construction of a border wall; and a more robust embrace of active-duty troops to secure the border against illegal immigration.

“In an administration that is famous for chaos and last-minute decision-making, it is unclear on which of those policies the president might choose to move forward. But by removing Ms. Nielsen, Mr. Vitiello and perhaps others, Mr. Trump is getting rid of voices who sometimes cautioned him against taking actions they believed to be illegal or unwise.” NYT

BUT, BUT, BUT … Meanwhile, in Palm Beach: “At Trump’s Florida Resort Empire, a Quiet Effort to Eliminate an Undocumented Work Force,” by NYT’s Miriam Jordan, Annie Correal and Patricia Mazzei

-- “House Dem, experts question legality of Trump move to replace Nielsen,” by JOSH GERSTEIN and STEPHANIE BEASLEY: “n a letter to Trump on Monday, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) wrote that ‘the law of succession at the Department is clear’ that upon Nielsen’s departure the temporary duty to lead the agency would pass to Undersecretary for Management Claire Grady.

“The legal hitch could lead Trump to fire Grady, since she appears to be an obstacle to McAleenan being able to assume the top role at the agency.” POLITICO … Thompson’s letter

HOW TRUMP FIRES PEOPLE -- DANIEL LIPPMAN and ANDREW RESTUCCIA, “‘I would have preferred not to have been ejected like an Austin Powers villain’: From Nielsen to Mattis to Mooch, an optics-obsessed president narrates exits.” POLITICO

Good Tuesday morning. “THE HILL TO DIE ON” is in stores everywhere today. JAKE and ANNA will sit down with NYT’S MAGGIE HABERMAN at Murmrr Ballroom in Brooklyn tonight at 7:30 to talk about the book, and news of the day. The event … Order the book

SPOTTED: Former Virginia A.G. KEN CUCCINELLI, who has been mentioned as a potential nominee for DHS secretary and is a 1991 U.Va. grad, hanging out with hundreds of other U.Va. basketball fans at the Marquette Hotel in downtown Minneapolis, before Monday night’s NCAA national championship.

Asked if he had been contacted about being on the short list for DHS secretary, he said he was “just here rooting for U.Va. tonight,” according to our tipster. Pic
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Offline RE

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🤡 The dictatorial impulse behind Trump’s political purge
« Reply #1862 on: April 10, 2019, 02:07:06 AM »
https://www.greanvillepost.com/2019/04/09/the-dictatorial-impulse-behind-trumps-political-purge/

The dictatorial impulse behind Trump’s political purge

By Patrick Martin, wsws.org


Trump laying the charm on Kirstjen Nielsen: who can trust this man? Only fools.

Dateline: 9 April 2019

The series of firings of top US security officials over the past few days has brought to the surface a profound crisis within the Trump administration and the national-security state as a whole.

On Friday, Trump withdrew the nomination of Ronald Vitiello, acting head of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a unit of the Department of Homeland Security, to become the permanent director, telling reporters, “We want to go in a tougher direction.” On Sunday, he fired Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, reportedly because she objected to resuming the policy of forcible separation of parents and children for refugees seeking asylum. On Monday, he fired Randolph Alles, the director of the Secret Service, which supplies the president’s personal bodyguard. Like ICE and CBP, the Secret Service is a unit of DHS, the second largest US government department, created as an all-encompassing domestic police agency in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Trump’s principal adviser on immigration issues, the fascistic Stephen Miller, was reportedly the driving force in the purge of DHS officials. Miller previously spearheaded the “Muslim ban” against visitors and refugees from mainly Muslim countries and has developed close relations with the most vicious right-wing elements in American political life. The firing of Nielsen came after demands for such an action were voiced by the fascist Daily Stormerpublication, by Breitbart News, and by leaders of the Border Patrol union.

According to a CNN report, during Trump’s visit to the California-Mexico border area on Friday, he told a group of border agents that he wanted them to stop letting refugees cross the border to make asylum claims, although this procedure is laid down in US and international law and has been repeatedly upheld by the federal courts. Only after the president left the room did supervisors tell the agents that what Trump had asked them to do was illegal, and that they should disregard his request.

The Department of Homeland Security will be run, at least temporarily, by Kevin McAleenan, who has been director of the Customs and Border Protection unit. As a result, DHS, as well as three of its major units, ICE, CBP and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will all be run by “acting” officials. The Department of Defense is also under an acting secretary, former Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan, following the ouster of Secretary James Mattis, a retired Marine general, in December. A slew of other top posts in the Trump administration are now held by “acting” officials: White House chief of staff, budget director, UN ambassador, secretary of interior.
Nielsen and Trump make almost a laughable duo of Northern European racists deciding the fate of Indigenous latins, whose plight they know nothing about and don’t care to understand. Would they behave the same if the people escaping horrid conditions at home were Swedes?

There are two reasons for Trump’s reliance on such appointees. The “acting” officials conduct themselves as direct instruments of the White House, hoping to gain a permanent appointment by ingratiating themselves with the president. And these officials are not subject to Senate confirmation: there are no committee hearings at which they must testify, undergo questioning, or defend the policies they plan to implement. In this way, the executive branch of the US government more and more conducts itself independently of the legislative branch, rejecting any shred of democratic accountability.

It is significant that such appointments are concentrated in the military-police agencies. This must be understood as an effort by Trump to establish personal control of all the major security forces in the US government, surrounding himself with a network of loyalists. He seeks to create a sort of praetorian guard to protect the administration, not merely from its political opponents within the ruling elite, but from an expected upsurge in social struggles from below.

What is taking place in America is not merely the outcome of the installation of Trump, the gangster billionaire from the worlds of real estate, casino gambling, and “reality” television, in the White House. Or more precisely, there is an objective social logic to the turn by the US ruling elite to gangsterism as its method of class rule. The constitutional framework through which the United States has been governed for more than two centuries is breaking apart under the stress of class tensions fueled by the unprecedented growth of social and economic inequality.

There is a certain resemblance between the methods of the current White House and those of Mussolini during the first period of his rule. Italy maintained a semblance of constitutional government, although the fascist leader more and more sought to free himself from the constraints of bourgeois parliamentarism, culminating in the murder of the socialist deputy Matteotti after a speech in parliament denouncing the fascists.

Trump, too, seeks at every point to free himself from traditional constitutional restraints, as in the 35-day shutdown of the federal government, followed by his declaration of a national emergency, on a completely illegal and unconstitutional basis, to obtain funds for building a border wall after Congress had refused to provide them. Now he seeks to incite murderous attacks by the Border Patrol on vulnerable immigrants and refugees fleeing repression and state violence in Central America, while railing against judges who declare his anti-immigrant persecution to be against the law.

There are, of course, important differences between Trump and Mussolini. Trump does not command a mass fascist movement or thousands of black-shirted thugs. But his preparations for violent repression are just as dangerous because they involve the mobilization of the police, the military and the intelligence agencies of the most powerful imperialist state.

The Trump administration is gripped by fear of a social explosion in America, particularly amid signs of an economic slowdown and return to recession conditions which would explode Trump’s right-wing populist demagogy about restoring jobs in the deindustrialized Midwest and Appalachia.

When Trump rants against socialism and pledges to destroy it, he is reacting to a powerful movement from below developing—strikes and protests by teachers, service and industrial workers, the prospect of a major clash with autoworkers in the fall, the widespread oppositional sentiments among young people. This terrifies the White House and the entire American financial elite, because its objective logic is to challenge the profit system as a whole.

The Democratic Party, far from representing an opposition to the drive towards authoritarian rule, is merely an alternative route to the same destination. Both capitalist parties, the Republicans under George W. Bush, the Democrats under Barack Obama, have built up the powers of the national-security state, carried out illegal wars, and attacked the democratic rights and social gains of the American working class. Trump invents nothing new; he merely takes hold of instruments forged by his predecessors to use against his political opponents in the ruling class and, above all, against the working class.

There is a chasm between the ruthless and aggressive posture of Trump, and the feckless response of the Democratic Party. The Democrats are more frightened of the implications of appealing to the American people to oppose the government than they are of anything the Trump administration might do. Herein lies Trump’s political advantage: his own inclinations better correspond to the desperate position in which the American ruling elite finds itself, with its social order crumbling, the working class coming forward, and the world position of American imperialism in decline.

The Democratic Party fights Trump on a right-wing basis, appealing to the national-security apparatus through its bogus campaign over Russian “meddling” in the 2016 election. They attack Trump from the right on foreign policy, demanding a more aggressive approach to Syria, Russia, North Korea and China. Even after the Mueller report has debunked their claims, the Democrats continue to promote allegations that Trump is a Russian puppet.

The real threat to democratic rights in America comes from the capitalist state itself, to which both capitalist parties are loyal, the Democrats as much as the Republicans. While the two parties employ the methods of the palace coup against each other, they will use even more violent means against a mass movement of the working class.

Patrick Martin

The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff we publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for our website, which will get you an email notification for everything we publish.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The author is a senior editor with wsws.org, a Marxian publication.
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🤡 Farce and loathing in Donald Trump's Washington
« Reply #1863 on: April 10, 2019, 03:02:03 AM »
Homage to the Dr. of Gonzo!  :icon_sunny:  His genius lives on after a half-century!


My favorite political journalism of all time!

RE

https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/10/politics/donald-trump-washington-congress-barr-mueller-mnuchin-taxes/index.html

Farce and loathing in Donald Trump's Washington

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

Updated 3:16 AM ET, Wed April 10, 2019

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/3k20omOp2dw" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/3k20omOp2dw</a>

Washington (CNN)It might have been the day when Donald Trump's Washington finally slipped the limits of credulity.
The administration's big guns -- Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin -- got a hostile reception on Capitol Hill from Democrats eager to pull back a presidency they see as out of control.
Tuesday zipped by in a blur of grave constitutional tussles scented with the whiff of corruption. Surreal exchanges unfolded in Congress that left witnesses spluttering. There were superficial feuds over alternative facts.
The bizarre sideshow encompassed climate denial, a spat about Adolf Hitler, one senator's meditation on Hollywood's molesting actors and a schoolroom-style squabble between a top Democrat and Mnuchin.

The weird juxtaposition of the weighty and the frivolous seemed an apt metaphor for how Trump's presidency has torn age-old codes of political custom and behavior to shreds.
In the odd new normal of the Trump era, several top Cabinet officials found themselves answering questions about topics that would have seemed unthinkable in more conventional times.
Barr faced a grilling over his conclusions about the most serious investigation into presidential conduct in years -- and a report by special counsel Robert Mueller that Americans have yet to read.
Mnuchin was beating back demands for the release of Trump's tax returns, after the President bucked tradition and refused to share them with Americans.
Both men left serious questions unanswered that offered ample evidence of the Trump administration's allergy to scrutiny, which is knotting up the political system.
Their intransigence offered a reminder that while Democrats in the House now have the duty of oversight after the midterm elections, making effective use of their power is far from easy.
For once, the President himself was not in the brightest spotlight.
But Trump had his moments, saying that a visiting Arab dictator accused of arresting and torturing opponents was doing a "great job" and blaming former President Barack Obama for locking up kids in cages at the southern border.
More than anything, though, a day of barely suppressed tensions, flaring mistrust and a disconnect between foes who barely share a common political language exemplified the effect the 45th President has had on the culture and character of Washington.
The Russia scandal roars back
Burnett: Barr refusing to give clear and simple answers

Burnett: Barr refusing to give clear and simple answers 02:45
The capital is still reverberating after the forced resignation of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Sunday, in a White House purge of her agency amid an immigration crisis.
But the Russia scandal, which dominated politics for two years before a brief hiatus when Mueller ended his probe last month, came roaring back.
Barr sparked new intrigue when he refused to say whether the White House has seen, or will see, the full Mueller report ahead of the release of a redacted version he promised to release within in a week.
His reticence only fanned Democratic suspicions that the newly installed attorney general is running interference for Trump -- after Barr released a letter last month underlining what he says are bottom-line findings that are largely favorable to the President.
Such misgivings will hardly be eased by Barr's testimony that Mueller had been given the chance to review the letter before it went out but had declined.
Reports last week said members of Mueller's team had been dismayed, feeling that Barr inadequately portrayed the findings of a probe they thought was more damaging to Trump than he suggested.
Furious Democrats accused Barr of covering up for his new boss.
"It's what he was hired to do, which is to protect the President," said House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff.
"The President wanted his own Roy Cohn and apparently he got one," the California Democrat said, comparing Barr to the New York attorney and Machiavelli who had mentored Trump as a rising real estate kingpin.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, until recently part of a GOP majority that spent months trying to make public documents embarrassing to Democrats, argued against Congress exercising oversight over the unredacted report.
"Do you think they would keep a secret? No. We would harm people," he said.
The kind of chaos now unfolding in Washington -- with American set against American and skepticism rife about the legitimacy of the President -- is the kind of result of which Putin can only have dreamed at the start of the Russian election interference effort.
It may not be a coincidence that he chose this moment to offer his most expansive remarks yet on the Mueller probe, which appear calculated to sow even more discord.
Choosing talking points similar to Trump's own, Putin said in St. Petersburg that the scandal was "total nonsense aimed only at a domestic audience."
"It's clearer to Trump what a witch hunt is. We know the history of the United States. It's a dark page in American history," Putin said of the investigation.
Like Barr, Mnuchin left his Democratic inquisitors with the impression that the White House was stacking the deck behind the scenes.
He revealed that his department's lawyers had consulted with the White House before Democrats lodged their request with the IRS for six years of the President's tax returns last week.
Given that the legal process underlying the request is supposed to be insulated from the White House to avoid interference, his answer set alarm bells ringing again.
"I don't see that as interference," Mnuchin said, arguing that his team had not taken direction from White House lawyers.
Even the lighter moments on Tuesday emphasized the feeling of giant disconnect that pervades Washington.
Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois opened the hearing by asking Mnuchin how his NCAA bracket had panned out.
"I'm a bigger fan of professional basketball," Mnuchin replied.
Festering ill feeling between the administration and Democrats boiled over when Mnuchin sought to leave a later hearing for an appointment with a senior official from Bahrain.
After an exchange that sounded like bickering between a teacher and a challenging student, Mnuchin told House Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters that he needed to be formally dismissed: "You're supposed to take the gavel and bang it, that's the appropriate ..."
The California Democrat replied: "Please do not instruct me as to how I am to conduct this committee."
'Are you serious?'
John Kerry fires back at congressman: Are you serious?

John Kerry fires back at congressman: Are you serious? 05:21
Tuesday's most flagrant display of failing to connect came over at the House Oversight Committee, where two old Washington bulls -- John Kerry and Chuck Hagel -- testified on climate change.
Republicans on the panel greeted Kerry like a returning victim ready for another roughing up in a hearing that revealed two rival sides working from a contradictory vision of fact.
The former secretary of state had trouble believing the assaults mounted by GOP members on the subject of global warming.
At one point, Kentucky's Republican Rep. Thomas Massie questioned Kerry on his Yale degree, suggesting that someone who had majored in political science was unqualified to testify on climate change.
"I think it's appropriate that someone with a pseudo-science degree is here pushing pseudo-science in front of our committee today," Massie said.
A baffled Kerry replied: "Are you serious?"
After another exchange, in which Massie downplayed the impact of humans on climate change, Kerry shot back, saying this was "just not a serious conversation."
"Your testimony is not serious," Massie replied.
Hearing on climate change and national security becomes an angry partisan clash
Hearing on climate change and national security becomes an angry partisan clash
In a more sinister sign of the times, YouTube was forced to disable comments on a livestream of a House Judiciary Committee hearing on hate crimes after it was flooded with racist and anti-Semitic remarks.
In a contentious moment inside the hearing room, Rep. Ted Lieu held up his cell phone to play earlier comments made by a witness that he suggested legitimized Hitler and played into white nationalist sentiment.
The witness, Candace Owens, of the conservative group Turning Point USA, who had subsequently distanced herself from the remarks, hit back angrily at the California Democrat.
"I think it's pretty apparent that Mr. Lieu believes that black people are stupid and will not pursue the clip in its full entirety," she said.
Owens accused Lieu of taking her remarks out of context, but the exchange was a reminder that it is never a good idea to include Hitler in any contemporary political analogy.
In an equally strange twist on another difficult issue, Sen. John Kennedy offered a typically florid aside in a floor speech touting his bill on tackling sexual harassment.
"I don't know how the actors in Hollywood have time to make movies," said the Louisiana Republican. "They are too busy molesting each other."
In the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, it was a case of poacher-turned-gamekeeper as Pompeo turned up to testify.
Pompeo, in a previous incarnation as a Kansas congressman, was a master of committee histrionics, especially when Hillary Clinton was in the witness chair.
Now that he's taken her place, he's disdainful of such behavior, and there were tense exchanges on US policy in the Middle East and Trump's scything of the diplomatic budget, which Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, blasted as "bananas."

But finally, at the end of a long, dispiriting Washington day, there was a rare moment of comity, after Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, offered a survey of foreign policy challenges in Africa.
"I think I agree with everything you said there," Pompeo said.

CNN's Donna Borak, Lindy Royce, Manu Raju, Nicky Robertson, Kylie Atwood and Leslie Bentz contributed to this story.
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🤡 More from the Gonzo Tapes of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
« Reply #1864 on: April 10, 2019, 03:10:23 AM »
MOAR from the Bass Lake Run with the Hell's Angels...  ;D



RE
« Last Edit: April 10, 2019, 03:15:53 AM by RE »
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🤡 Bill Barr Is Trying Hard to Be President Trump’s Roy Cohn
« Reply #1865 on: April 11, 2019, 02:19:44 AM »
https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-04-10/bill-barr-wants-to-be-trump-s-new-attack-dog

Bill Barr Is Trying Hard to Be President Trump’s Roy Cohn

It’s not that bad. Yet.

By Timothy L. O'Brien
April 10, 2019, 11:00 AM AKDT


He has “concerns about various aspects” of the Trump-Russia investigation. Photographer: Anna Moneymaker/Bloomberg

Timothy L. O’Brien is the executive editor of Bloomberg Opinion. He has been an editor and writer for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, HuffPost and Talk magazine. His books include “TrumpNation: The Art of Being The Donald.”
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The attorney general of the United States is, we now know, quite sure of himself.

Exhibit A: Spying

During Senate testimony on Wednesday, William Barr was asked if, as Bloomberg News reported, he was planning to review how and why the Federal Bureau of Investigation launched an investigation into possible conspiracy involving Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia.

He was indeed, he responded.

“I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal,” Barr said, citing federal guidelines governing when it’s OK for intelligence agencies and law enforcement to conduct domestic political surveillance. “It’s a big deal.”

“I’m not suggesting that those rules were violated, but I think it’s important to look at that,” he added. “I’m not talking about the FBI necessarily but intelligence agencies more broadly.”

“So you’re not suggesting, though, that spying occurred?” asked Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat.

Barr stumbled a bit in responding to that, but he found his footing.

“I don’t, well, I guess you could, I think there’s a spying did occur, yes — I think spying did occur,” he said. “The question is whether it was predicated, adequately predicated. And I'm not suggesting it wasn't adequately predicated, but I'd need to explore that.”

Barr went out of his way to say that he supports and admires the FBI but that there was “probably a failure among a group of leaders there at the upper echelon.” (Are you looking over your shoulders now, James Comey and Andrew McCabe?)

Barr is wading into a political and legal quagmire here and of course he knows that. He’s also, in his own soft-spoken and resolute way, dropping depth charges into the national conversation about the Trump presidency and the Trump-Russia investigation, and he knows that, too. Barr could have simply said he’s reviewing the investigation to make sure it was conducted properly but couldn’t comment beyond that. Here’s a handy sample sentence for future use: “I’m reviewing the investigation to make sure it was conducted properly. I can’t comment beyond that.”

Instead, unprompted, Barr referred to what he’s examining as “spying.” Spying is cloak-and-daggerish and, when it doesn’t involve foreign governments trying to game and surveil one another, it feels untoward. It’s your neighbor looking into your bedroom window, it’s an old boyfriend stalking an old girlfriend online, it’s the FBI or the Central Intelligence Agency snooping around the Trump campaign and it’s all sort of dirty.

Saying you’re looking into spying prejudices the perspective and prejudices the conversation, especially if you’re relying on gut instinct and your thoughts about all of it are just sort of a … hunch. Asked if he had any “specific of evidence that there was anything improper” in the FBI investigation or Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, Barr said, “I have no specific evidence that I would cite right now — I do have questions about it.”

“You just have some interest in this, you don’t have any evidence?” asked Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat.

“I have concerns about various aspects of it,” Barr responded, noting that whether Mueller had conducted a “witch hunt” of Trump “really depends on where you’re sitting.”

To clarify: Barr has no evidence of improprieties in the FBI investigation, including “spying,” but wants to examine the matter anyway because he has concerns and because, as he said, he believes that spying did occur (even if he hasn’t seen evidence of it).

Well now. It’s reasonable and proper for Barr to make sure that the Justice Department, which he runs, has its house in order. It’s reasonable for him to make sure that the agency’s employees, including FBI agents, are on the straight and narrow. But it’s unreasonable and reckless for him to taint the public’s perspective about a matter of grave national concern because his Spidey-sense is tingling.

Exhibit B: No Obstruction

We’ve been here before with Barr, however. And quite recently.

On March 24, Barr rushed to exculpate Trump and his advisers in a four-page letter in which he put his personal imprint on the Mueller report before Congress or the public had even seen it. He noted that although Mueller felt his report didn’t completely exonerate the president, he also didn’t think Trump and his team engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russia to sabotage the 2016 presidential campaign. On the other hand, Barr advised, Mueller didn’t decide whether Trump had obstructed justice. But why leave any lingering uncertainties? If Mueller hadn’t decided, Barr would. There was no obstruction, he proclaimed.

Happy days. The president took that to mean he was “completely exonerated” and went about saying so. Much criticism of Barr’s rash behavior and omniscience followed. Barr, recognizing that he may have come across as a little too sure of himself in that first letter, decided to write a second missive on March 29 that walked back some of what he said on March 24. The first letter, he wrote, was never meant to be a summary or even an “exhaustive recounting” of everything in Mueller’s report. It was just a “bottom line” conclusion.

Too late, counselor. Your decision to pollute perception of what the Mueller report contained had already gained lots of traction. I suspect your decision to label an investigation as “spying” without any evidence may have a similar effect, even if it doesn’t keep you from behaving like this again.

Summary Judgment

Why is Barr — a lawman presumably devoted to the fact pattern and dedicated to the rule of law — taking it upon himself to single-handedly and repeatedly offer subjective and definitive appraisals of the complex and troubling events that have hung over the Trump presidency? I’ll take a page from Barr and offer my own subjective and definitive take:

    His ego is substantial and he’s having the time of his life, or
    He has an imperial view of the presidency and doesn’t care about the character of the person who inhabits it, or
    He’s his boss’s legal hatchet man, or
    All of the above.

Trump has complained, notably, that Jeff Sessions didn’t act like Roy Cohn when he was attorney general. Cohn was a ruthless and sleazy attack dog who taught Trump how to weaponize the legal system to get his own way as a young developer in New York. Barr certainly isn’t anything like Cohn. But he’s trying.
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We'll dump the Wetbacks on them!  That'll teach them a lesson!  ::)

RE

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/white-house-proposed-releasing-immigrant-detainees-in-sanctuary-cities-to-target-political-enemies

White House proposed releasing immigrant detainees into ‘sanctuary cities’ to target political foes: report
By Louis Casiano | Fox News

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/XSXkv0zJ9Q4" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/XSXkv0zJ9Q4</a>

What are sanctuary cities?

What are sanctuary cities and why are they so controversial in the illegal immigration debate?

The Trump administration proposed releasing immigrant detainees onto the streets of “sanctuary cities”--including San Francisco-- on at least two occasions within the past six months as retribution against the president’s political enemies, The Washington Post reported, citing unnamed Department of Homeland Security officials and emails.

The proposal was first floated in November amid reports of a large migrant caravan from Central America making its way to the southern border. The other time it was considered-- in February-- occurred during a standoff between Trump and Democrats over border wall funding.

It was rejected both times by immigration agencies, the report said. A Nov. 16 email from the White House to officials at several agencies reportedly asked whether migrants could be arrested and bused to “small-and mid-sized sanctuary cities” and other Democratic strongholds.

BORDER PATROL OFFICIAL: CARAVAN-SIZE INFLUX OF MIGRANTS ARRIVING EVERY WEEK IN RIO GRANDE VALLEY

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s district in San Francisco was considered one of the areas targeted, according to the paper. Pelosi blasted the plan Thursday, calling it “despicable” to use “human beings — including little children — as pawns in their warped game to perpetuate fear and demonize immigrants.”

The proposal was intended to alleviate crowded detention centers, the White House told U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). An ICE official responded the inquiry was littered with budgetary and liability issues, but said “there are PR risks as well.” Trump has repeatedly blasted “sanctuary cities,” areas where local authorities refuse to cooperate with immigration agencies.
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https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/04/william-barr-aca-lawsuit-donald-trump-doj.html

Jurisprudence
William Barr Obliterated the DOJ’s Standard for Defending Laws Because Donald Trump Asked

By David R. Lurie
April 12, 20195:06 PM


U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Recently in Jurisprudence

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Attorney General William Barr has faced harsh criticism for his problematic treatment of the Mueller report, which some have suggested appeared to be calculated to benefit the president. But a different action Barr recently took at President Donald Trump’s behest should be equally concerning. Last month, the attorney general announced that the United States will cease defending any portion of the Affordable Care Act in the courts. Instead, the DOJ will join a number of state attorneys general in challenging the constitutionality of the entire ACA, following the effective repeal of the individual mandate by Congress.

This comes after the DOJ stopped defending the constitutionality of the ACA’s protection of insurance coverage for those with preexisting conditions last year. In taking the position that the entire ACA is constitutionally void, Barr abandoned a long-standing principle that the Department of Justice is duty-bound to defend the constitutionality of federal laws. In the words of one of Barr’s predecessors, such an action by the nation’s chief law enforcement officer may jeopardize the equilibrium of our constitutional system.

Barr has all but acknowledged that the arguments against the ACA’s constitutionality, although they were accepted by one trial judge, are far from compelling; in fact, most observers (including some opponents of the law) consider them to be extremely weak. But during testimony before Congress this week, Barr stated that he nonetheless feels duty-bound to attack the ACA in the courts because Trump, after failing to convince a majority of the Senate to vote in favor of repealing the ACA, is now eager to see the act nullified by the courts instead.

Barr’s decision is at direct odds with a policy upheld for decades by attorneys general in Republican and Democratic administrations. As President Ronald Reagan’s first attorney general, William French Smith, wrote in 1981, the DOJ has “a duty to defend the constitutionality of an Act of Congress whenever a reasonable argument can be made in its support.”

While serving as President Jimmy Carter’s attorney general, Benjamin Civiletti explained that this policy is rooted in the Constitution’s separation of powers. While the courts are charged with protecting “both the government and the citizenry from unconstitutional action, legislative and Executive [ … ] only the Executive Branch can execute the statutes of the United States,” including by defending them in the courts. Therefore, “if executive officers were to adopt a policy of ignoring or attacking acts of Congress whenever they believed them to be in conflict with the provisions of the constitution, their conduct in office could jeopardize the equilibrium established within our constitutional system.”

Prior attorneys general recognized only one extremely narrow exception to this obligation to defend the nation’s laws: when an attorney general concludes that there is no reasonable argument in favor of a federal statute’s constitutionality. As Civiletti put it, where “everything in our constitutional jurisprudence inescapably establishes” that a law is unconstitutional, then the Executive Branch can properly decline to defend or enforce it.

Until recently, conservative legal scholars emphasized the narrowness of this exception. Many of them assailed Eric Holder, President Barack Obama’s attorney general, for choosing to end the DOJ’s defense of a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act denying federal government recognition to same-sex marriages. While Holder argued that changes in Supreme Court jurisprudence left no reasonable basis to defend the law, his opponents contended that Holder was being disingenuous and placing ideological concerns above his duty to defend a duly enacted federal law. In fact, conservative legal advocate Edward Whelan continued to assail Holder’s decision to abandon the defense of DOMA even after the law was struck down by the Supreme Court, calling it a “shameful moment in politicized government lawyering and … a dangerous precedent that deserves condemnation.”

Barr’s decision to attack the ACA in court, however, sets a far more dangerous precedent. Unlike Holder, Barr does not even make a pretense of arguing that there is no reasonable argument in favor of the ACA’s constitutionality. Rather, during his recent testimony, Barr explained to Republican Sen. Susan Collins that he acceded to the president’s demand to attack the ACA in the courts because the arguments mounted against the law are “defensible and reasonable.” Barr’s reasoning turns long-standing DOJ policy on its head, allowing the attorney general to abandon a federal law so long as there is some plausible basis to question its constitutionality—even if there are reasonable, or even compelling, arguments to be made in support of the law’s validity.

When pressed, Barr asserted that supporters of the ACA have “nothing to worry about” if they are right that the arguments the DOJ is adopting against the ACA’s constitutionality are weak. “I think people should take a deep breath,” Barr said. “If this is such a wacky position that the administration is taking, then there’s nothing to fear. Then the law will be upheld.” Just “[l]et the courts do their job,” the attorney general suggested. But Barr’s argument misses the point. As his predecessor Civiletti observed decades ago, while it is the courts’ constitutional “job” to protect against “unconstitutional action,” the Constitution assigns the executive branch the obligation to faithfully defend the nation’s laws, including before the courts. It is, therefore, in Ed Whelan’s words, shameful for the DOJ to abandon that job.

Barr’s DOJ is already taking full advantage of its newfound freedom to pick and choose which federal laws to defend in court. Just this week the solicitor general informed House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler that the DOJ has chosen to cease defending the constitutionality of a federal law criminalizing the practice of female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C).

Earlier this month, the acting director of the DOJ’s Office on Violence Against Women decried the “horrific crime of” FGM/C,” explaining that “at least 513,000 women and girls in the United States have suffered or are at risk of becoming victims” of it. The FBI, ICE, and the State Department have all recently likewise reiterated a commitment to using the full force of the federal government against this heinous practice.

But the federal law against FGM/C is largely grounded in Congress’ regulatory authority under the Commerce Clause, which conservative legal scholars and judges have long been intent upon limiting on principles of federalism; the other rationale for the statute—that it implements Congress’ power to enforce an international human rights treaty—is similarly objectionable to strong advocates of federalism. Accordingly, as in the case of the ACA, the DOJ is abandoning its defense of a law against this heinous practice for transparently ideological reasons.

In explaining his decision to mount a litigation effort against the ACA, Barr stated that he serves the president and other “stakeholders” in the executive branch. Therefore, if the president directs him to attack a statute, even one Barr seems to believe will ultimately be upheld in the courts, the attorney general considers himself duty-bound to oblige. This goes to the heart of Barr’s misconception of his role as attorney general. He is the lawyer for the United States, not for Donald Trump. As such, he and the DOJ owe a duty to uphold and defend the laws of the nation, even if the president does not like them, just as he is obligated to disclose facts uncovered by Robert Mueller, even if they are harmful to Donald Trump. Barr’s failure to abide by such foundational principles truly threatens the equilibrium of our constitutional system.
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🤡 Top House Democrat sets new deadline for release of Trump's tax returns
« Reply #1868 on: April 14, 2019, 01:22:47 AM »
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/top-house-democrat-sets-new-deadline-for-release-of-trumps-tax-returns-today-2019-04-13/

Top House Democrat sets new deadline for release of Trump's tax returns

Updated on: April 13, 2019 / 5:59 PM / CBS News


Washington — Rep. Richard Neal, the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, on Saturday set a new deadline for the IRS to furnish President Trump's tax returns: 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 23.

"I am aware that concerns have been raised regarding my request and the authority of the Committee," Neal wrote to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig. "Those concerns lack merit. Moreover, judicial precedent commands that none of the concerns raised can legitimately be used to deny the Committee's request."

Neal argued the statute used in his request, Section 6103, was "unambiguous and raises no complicated legal issues that warrant supervision or review" by either the Treasury Department or the Justice Department.
Trending News

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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin responded to the request for six years of the president's taxes by saying he would not be able to review the request for the president's tax returns by April 10, the original deadline set by Neal. Mnuchin called it an "unprecedented" move that raises questions about the scope of Congress' "investigative authority" and lawmakers' "legislative purpose."

Neal said his agency was consulting with the Justice Department to determine whether the request for Mr. Trump's tax returns is legal and constitutional.

The Ways and Means chairman also cited the Supreme Court, which, he argued, has noted that congressional motivations "are not to be second guessed, even by the courts." And he said that concerns about what the committee might do with the information in the president's tax returns were "baseless."

Last week, Neal sent a formal request to the IRS for Mr. Trump's tax returns, arguing the committee "has a responsibility to conduct oversight of our voluntary Federal tax system and determine how Americans — including those elected to our highest office — are complying with those laws."

The president responded by saying he's under audit — a pretext he has often cited — and "would not be inclined" to release his returns until the audit is completed. No federal statute bars individuals under audit from releasing their tax returns. Mr. Trump's lawyer in the matter, Will Consovoy, also asked the IRS not to hand over the president's tax returns until it receives a legal opinion from the Justice Department.

Last weekend, Mick Mulvaney, who is the acting White House chief of staff, told Fox News that Democrats would "never" see Mr. Trump's tax returns.

Rebecca Kaplan and Camilo Montoya-Galvez contributed to this report.
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🤡 President Donald Trump Tweetstorm – The Saturday Edition
« Reply #1869 on: April 14, 2019, 01:29:49 AM »
https://deadline.com/2019/04/president-donald-trump-tweetstorm-the-saturday-edition-28-1202595383/

President Donald Trump Tweetstorm – The Saturday Edition

By Bruce Haring   
Bruce Haring


AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Twitter is a good indicator of who is on President Donald Trump’s naughty and nice list. Judging from the Saturday edition of the tweet storm, there’s few surprises.

Related Story
Alec Baldwin Tweets: "If I Ran For President Would You Vote For Me?"

Not surprising, the President again declared his bromance with North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un, and hinted at yet a third summit on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The two leaders have met twice.

The President may not have met Rep. Illhan Omar, but he continued his jihad against her comments on 9/11 today by pinning her dismissive remarks to the top of his feed. The raw video presentation paints the controversial Omar as minimizing the terrorist attacks, drawing condemnation from several quarters.

Not to be forgotten, the President also brought up his favorite “Radical Left Democrats,” who are actively trying to find a way to re-ignite the Mueller investigation. The President rattled a saber on their tactics, noting that Attorney General William Barr is looking into his own investigation on their involvement in starting the collusion mantra.

The tweetstorm so far:

    Great playing by @TigerWoods (at the) @TheMasters. Tomorrow will be a big and exciting day for golf and for sports. Many fantastic players in the hunt. Ratings Gold – Good luck to all!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 13, 2019

    Why should Radical Left Democrats in Congress have a right to retry and examine the $35,000,000 (two years in the making) No Collusion Mueller Report, when the crime committed was by Crooked Hillary, the DNC and Dirty Cops? Attorney General Barr will make the decision!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 13, 2019

    ….extraordinary growth, economic success and riches under the leadership of Chairman Kim. I look forward to the day, which could be soon, when Nuclear Weapons and Sanctions can be removed, and then watching North Korea become one of the most successful nations of the World!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 13, 2019

    I agree with Kim Jong Un of North Korea that our personal relationship remains very good, perhaps the term excellent would be even more accurate, and that a third Summit would be good in that we fully understand where we each stand. North Korea has tremendous potential for…….

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 13, 2019
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🤡 Trumpovetsky: "I was just JOKING!"
« Reply #1870 on: April 14, 2019, 01:49:06 PM »


RE

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/trump-was-joking-about-loving-wikileaks-sarah-sanders-says-n994296

Trump was joking about loving WikiLeaks, Sarah Sanders says

"Look, clearly the president was making a joke during the 2016 campaign," Sanders said. "Certainly we take this serious."


Julian Assange gives the thumbs up from a police vehicle on his arrival at Westminster Magistrates court in London on April 11, 2019.Jack Taylor / Getty Images

April 14, 2019, 7:57 AM AKDT
By Allan Smith

President Donald Trump was just joking when commented during his campaign that he "loved" WikiLeaks, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Sunday.

"Look, clearly the president was making a joke during the 2016 campaign," Sanders told "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace about Trump's past praise for WikiLeaks. "Certainly we take this serious."

Sanders spoke about Trump's WikiLeaks remarks after the Department of Justice charged the website's fugitive founder Julian Assange with computer hacking following his arrest in London partly in connection with a U.S. extradition warrant. Assange had been living for nearly seven years in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid extradition.
Watch Trump's mentions of WikiLeaks in days leading up to election
Aug. 18, 201701:44

The Department of Justice indicted Assange on a charge of conspiring with former Army intelligence officer Chelsea Manning to hack a classified government computer. Manning provided WikiLeaks with a trove of secret government documents that the website published in 2010. Assange has insisted the U.S. is trying to infringe on journalistic freedom.

Assange and WIkiLeaks were at the forefront of leaking stolen emails during the 2016 presidential campaign, including from 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta.

At the time, Trump routinely name-dropped WikiLeaks, praising the organization.

“I love WikiLeaks,” Trump said in October 2016.
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🤡 Trump says he'll send 'unlimited supply' of immigrants to California
« Reply #1871 on: April 15, 2019, 01:39:39 AM »
We have not yet reached Peak Wetbacks!

RE

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/PH40N0wiu78" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/PH40N0wiu78</a>
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🤡 Trump offers advice to Boeing on 737 MAX planes: 'REBRAND'
« Reply #1872 on: April 15, 2019, 06:02:56 AM »
How about the Boeing 666?  Or the Boeing 007, "Licensed to Kill"?  Or use Roman Numerals, the Boeing XXX.   :icon_mrgreen:

You could Christen each one that comes off the production line with the name of a famous Mass Murderer from history!  The Adolf Hitler, the Vlad the Impaler, the Ted Bundy etc.

RE

https://www.politico.com/story/2019/04/15/trump-boeing-737-max-1274719

Trump offers advice to Boeing on 737 MAX planes: 'REBRAND'

By CAITLIN OPRYSKO

04/15/2019 07:30 AM EDT


President Donald Trump said he hoped the Boeing 737 MAX planes were only grounded “for a short period of time.” | Tom Brenner/Getty Images

President Donald Trump on Monday suggested aviation giant Boeing ditch the designation for its scandal-plagued 737 MAX planes, renaming the aircraft once a critical software issue is fixed and they are able to fly once again.

“What do I know about branding, maybe nothing (but I did become President!), but if I were Boeing, I would FIX the Boeing 737 MAX, add some additional great features, & REBRAND the plane with a new name,” Trump wrote in a tweet. “No product has suffered like this one. But again, what the hell do I know?”

The 737 MAX series planes were grounded worldwide last month after one of the planes crashed shortly after takeoff in Ethiopia, killing everyone on board and drawing comparisons with another deadly crash involving the same model in October.

At issue, according to preliminary crash reports for both fatal flights, was a flaw in the plane’s automation software. The crashes have renewed scrutiny on the FAA’s approval process, some of which has been outsourced to aircraft manufacturers. It has also spawned questions about how much Boeing knew about the glitch, prompting demands for congressional hearings on both issues.

The U.S. was one of the last major countries to ground the planes, with the FAA initially resisting such a move until it said new data collected from the site of the Ethiopian Air crash merited grounding the jetliners.
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The FAA is conducting a review of the planes and has insisted they will remain grounded until the agency can ensure the effectiveness of the eventual software fix. In the meantime, U.S. carriers like American Airlines and Southwest Air have continued to cancel flights through August due to the grounding.

Boeing has registered more than 7,700 orders for the MAX from air carriers around the world.

After last month’s crash, but before the U.S. issued its grounding order, Trump laid the blame on the industry’s technological advancements, complaining in a tweet that “pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT.”

That insistence from Trump prompted a personal phone call from Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, who the company said assured the president the MAX planes were safe to fly.

Trump later said that he didn’t believe Boeing knew how to fix the software glitch, but said he hoped the planes were only grounded “for a short period of time” and spoke highly of the company, whose former leader he tapped to lead the Pentagon as acting secretary of defense.

"It's a truly great company. Hopefully they'll figure it out very quickly. It was a big decision, also one of our largest exporters," he said. "One of our truly great companies of the world."
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https://thehill.com/policy/finance/439015-protesters-bring-inflatable-trump-chicken-to-irs-building-to-demand-tax

Protesters bring inflatable Trump chicken to IRS building to demand tax returns
By Brooke Seipel - 04/15/19 07:02 PM EDT


Members of the progressive Tax March group protested outside the IRS building in Washington, D.C., on Monday to demand President Trump release his tax returns.

The Tax Day protest included a giant inflatable depicting Trump as a chicken, which the Tax March has used at past protests on the National Mall. The group says it uses the figure because Trump is "too chicken" to release his tax returns.

The inflatable chicken is modeled after a statue unveiled in 2016 as the mascot for a Chinese mall. Since the statue was unveiled, a number of smaller copies have appeared across the United States and Europe.

Demands for Trump's tax returns have increased in recent days as House Democrats investigate the president's administration and businesses. The House Ways and Means Committee requested copies of Trump's taxes from the IRS last month, but the IRS did not meet Democrats' deadline for the documents.

Trump broke long-standing precedent in 2016 when he refused to release his tax returns on the campaign trail. He has since maintained that he cannot release his tax returns because they are under audit.

The IRS has said that audits don’t prevent individuals from releasing their own tax information, and the agency has an internal policy to audit the sitting president. Trump has said he's been under audit since before the election.

Democrats have pressed for Trump's returns, arguing they could reveal conflicts of interest or potential legal issues with the president's finances.

The move has drawn criticism from House Republicans, such as Oversight and Reform Committee members Reps. Mark Meadows (N.C.) and Jim Jordan (Ohio), who have accused their Democratic counterparts of seeking the information "solely to embarrass President Trump and to advance the relentless Democrat attacks upon the Trump administration."
Tags Mark Meadows Donald Trump Jim Jordan
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https://www.cnbc.com/2019/04/18/mueller-report-recounts-10-episodes-involving-trump-and-questions-of-obstruction.html

Mueller report recounts 10 ‘episodes’ involving Trump and questions of obstruction
Published an hour ago Updated Moments Ago
Jacob Pramuk
@jacobpramuk
   
   
Key Points

    Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on his Russia investigation recounts 10 “episodes” involving questions of President Donald Trump and obstruction of justice, Attorney General William Barr says.
    Barr explains his decision not to charge the president with obstructing the investigation, saying the DOJ considered Trump’s actions and his motives.

watch now
VIDEO16:32
Watch Attorney General Bill Barr’s complete statement on the Mueller report

The Justice Department considered President Donald Trump’s frustrations about media and political speculation about the Russia investigation when deciding whether to charge him with obstructing the probe, Attorney General William Barr said Thursday.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on his Russia investigation recounts 10 episodes involving Trump and questions of obstruction of justice, Barr said. After reviewing the information gathered by Mueller, the top Justice Department official and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded there was insufficient evidence to charge the president with obstructing the probe into Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election.

The special counsel himself did not weigh in on obstruction, and noted that the report “does not exonerate” Trump, Barr previously said in a summary of the report. A redacted version of the approximately 400-page document is expected to be released after Barr’s remarks.

During his roughly 20-minute remarks Thursday, the attorney general stressed that Mueller found no evidence that Americans, including the president or anyone associated with his campaign, “conspired or coordinated” with Russia. He noted that, as the president “said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion” with Moscow’s attempts to interfere in the election.
Attorney General William Barr speaks about the release of a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report during a news conference, Thursday, April 18, 2019, at the Department of Justice in Washington.
Patrick Semansky | AP

Barr’s press conference will only fuel more concerns about his independence. Congressional Democrats have questioned why the attorney general decided not to charge Trump, especially because of a memo he wrote criticizing the Mueller investigation before the president chose him to lead the Justice Department.

Barr told reporters Thursday he felt the Justice Department “had to” decide whether Trump’s conduct was criminal because Muller did not. In outlining the department’s decision not to charge Trump with trying to derail the probe, the attorney general said officials considered not only whether the “acts were obstructive” but also the president’s motives behind his actions.

Barr said the DOJ considered the “unprecedented situation” Trump faced entering office and what he called “substantial evidence” in Mueller’s report “to show that the president was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief” that the probe undermined his presidency.

He added:

Nonetheless, the White House fully cooperated with the Special Counsel’s investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely, and asserting no privilege claims. And at the same time, the President took no act that in fact deprived the Special Counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation. Apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the President had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation.

It is unclear exactly which “episodes” related to obstruction questions that Mueller outlines in the report. The release of the redacted document could cast more light on which events the special counsel probed.

Trump’s lawyers saw the final version of the redacted report “earlier this week,” but did not request to redact anything from it, Barr said. Several members of the president’s legal team went to the Justice Department on Tuesday and Wednesday to view the document, NBC News reported.

Barr noted that he and Rosenstein “disagreed with some of the special counsel’s legal theories and felt that some of the episodes examined did not amount to obstruction as a matter of law.” It is unclear which theories the two officials disputed.

Asked Thursday about the potential for accusations of political motives, the attorney general pointed to Mueller’s report itself.

“Actually, the statements about his sincere beliefs are recognized in the report that there was substantial evidence for that. I’m not sure what your basis is for saying I’m being generous to the president,” the attorney general said.

Read Barr’s full remarks on the probe, as prepared for delivery Thursday:

Good Morning. Thank you all for being here today.

On March 22, 2019, Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded his investigation of matters related to Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and submitted his confidential report to me pursuant to Department of Justice regulations.

As I said during my Senate confirmation hearing and since, I am committed to ensuring the greatest possible degree of transparency concerning the Special Counsel’s investigation, consistent with the law.

At 11:00 this morning, I will transmit copies of a public version of the Special Counsel’s report to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. The Department of Justice will also make the report available to the American public by posting it on the Department’s website after it has been delivered to Congress.

I would like to offer a few comments today on the report.

But before I do that, I want to thank Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for joining me here today and for his assistance and counsel throughout this process. Rod has served the Department of Justice for many years with dedication and distinction, and it has been a great privilege and pleasure to work with him since my confirmation. He had well-deserved plans to step back from public service that I interrupted by asking him to help in my transition. Rod has been an invaluable partner, and I am grateful that he was willing to help me and has been able to see the Special Counsel’s investigation to its conclusion. Thank you, Rod.

I would also like to thank Special Counsel Mueller for his service and the thoroughness of his investigation, particularly his work exposing the nature of Russia’s attempts to interfere in our electoral process.

As you know, one of the primary purposes of the Special Counsel’s investigation was to determine whether members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, or any individuals associated with that campaign, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election. Volume I of the Special Counsel’s report describes the results of that investigation. As you will see, the Special Counsel’s report states that his “investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

I am sure that all Americans share my concerns about the efforts of the Russian government to interfere in our presidential election. As the Special Counsel’s report makes clear, the Russian government sought to interfere in our election. But thanks to the Special Counsel’s thorough investigation, we now know that the Russian operatives who perpetrated these schemes did not have the cooperation of President Trump or the Trump campaign – or the knowing assistance of any other Americans for that matter. That is something that all Americans can and should be grateful to have confirmed.

The Special Counsel’s report outlines two main efforts by the Russian government to influence the 2016 election:

First, the report details efforts by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian company with close ties to the Russian government, to sow social discord among American voters through disinformation and social media operations. Following a thorough investigation of this disinformation campaign, the Special Counsel brought charges in federal court against several Russian nationals and entities for their respective roles in this scheme. Those charges remain pending, and the individual defendants remain at large.

But the Special Counsel found no evidence that any Americans – including anyone associated with the Trump campaign – conspired or coordinated with the Russian government or the IRA in carrying out this illegal scheme. Indeed, as the report states, ”[t]he investigation did not identify evidence that any U.S. persons knowingly or intentionally coordinated with the IRA’s interference operation.” Put another way, the Special Counsel found no “collusion” by any Americans in the IRA’s illegal activity.

Second, the report details efforts by Russian military officials associated with the GRU to hack into computers and steal documents and emails from individuals affiliated with the Democratic Party and the presidential campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton for the purpose of eventually publicizing those emails. Obtaining such unauthorized access into computers is a federal crime. Following a thorough investigation of these hacking operations, the Special Counsel brought charges in federal court against several Russian military officers for their respective roles in these illegal hacking activities. Those charges are still pending and the defendants remain at large.

But again, the Special Counsel’s report did not find any evidence that members of the Trump campaign or anyone associated with the campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its hacking operations. In other words, there was no evidence of Trump campaign “collusion” with the Russian government’s hacking.

The Special Counsel’s investigation also examined Russian efforts to publish stolen emails and documents on the internet. The Special Counsel found that, after the GRU disseminated some of the stolen materials through its own controlled entities, DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0, the GRU transferred some of the stolen materials to Wikileaks for publication. Wikileaks then made a series of document dumps. The Special Counsel also investigated whether any member or affiliate of the Trump campaign encouraged or otherwise played a role in these dissemination efforts. Under applicable law, publication of these types of materials would not be criminal unless the publisher also participated in the underlying hacking conspiracy. Here too, the Special Counsel’s report did not find that any person associated with the Trump campaign illegally participated in the dissemination of the materials.

Finally, the Special Counsel investigated a number of “links” or “contacts” between Trump Campaign officials and individuals connected with the Russian government during the 2016 presidential campaign. After reviewing those contacts, the Special Counsel did not find any conspiracy to violate U.S. law involving Russia-linked persons and any persons associated with the Trump campaign.

So that is the bottom line. After nearly two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas, and hundreds of warrants and witness interviews, the Special Counsel confirmed that the Russian government sponsored efforts to illegally interfere with the 2016 presidential election but did not find that the Trump campaign or other Americans colluded in those schemes.

After finding no underlying collusion with Russia, the Special Counsel’s report goes on to consider whether certain actions of the President could amount to obstruction of the Special Counsel’s investigation. As I addressed in my March 24th letter, the Special Counsel did not make a traditional prosecutorial judgment regarding this allegation. Instead, the report recounts ten episodes involving the President and discusses potential legal theories for connecting these actions to elements of an obstruction offense.

After carefully reviewing the facts and legal theories outlined in the report, and in consultation with the Office of Legal Counsel and other Department lawyers, the Deputy Attorney General and I concluded that the evidence developed by the Special Counsel is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.

Although the Deputy Attorney General and I disagreed with some of the Special Counsel’s legal theories and felt that some of the episodes examined did not amount to obstruction as a matter of law, we did not rely solely on that in making our decision. Instead, we accepted the Special Counsel’s legal framework for purposes of our analysis and evaluated the evidence as presented by the Special Counsel in reaching our conclusion.

In assessing the President’s actions discussed in the report, it is important to bear in mind the context. President Trump faced an unprecedented situation. As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as President, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates. At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the President’s personal culpability. Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion. And as the Special Counsel’s report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the President was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks. Nonetheless, the White House fully cooperated with the Special Counsel’s investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely, and asserting no privilege claims. And at the same time, the President took no act that in fact deprived the Special Counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation. Apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the President had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation.

Now, before I take questions, I want to address a few aspects of the process for producing the public report that I am releasing today. As I said several times, the report contains limited redactions relating to four categories of information. To ensure as much transparency as possible, these redactions have been clearly labelled and color-coded so that readers can tell which redactions correspond to which categories.

As you will see, most of the redactions were compelled by the need to prevent harm to ongoing matters and to comply with court orders prohibiting the public disclosure of information bearing upon ongoing investigations and criminal cases, such as the IRA case and the Roger Stone case.

These redactions were applied by Department of Justice attorneys working closely together with attorneys from the Special Counsel’s Office, as well as with the intelligence community, and prosecutors who are handling ongoing cases. The redactions are their work product.

Consistent with long-standing Executive Branch practice, the decision whether to assert Executive privilege over any portion of the report rested with the President of the United States. Because the White House voluntarily cooperated with the Special Counsel’s investigation, significant portions of the report contain material over which the President could have asserted privilege. And he would have been well within his rights to do so. Following my March 29th letter, the Office of the White House Counsel requested the opportunity to review the redacted version of the report in order to advise the President on the potential invocation of privilege, which is consistent with long-standing practice. Following that review, the President confirmed that, in the interests of transparency and full disclosure to the American people, he would not assert privilege over the Special Counsel’s report. Accordingly, the public report I am releasing today contains redactions only for the four categories that I previously outlined, and no material has been redacted based on executive privilege.

In addition, earlier this week, the President’s personal counsel requested and were given the opportunity to read a final version of the redacted report before it was publicly released. That request was consistent with the practice followed under the Ethics in Government Act, which permitted individuals named in a report prepared by an Independent Counsel the opportunity to read the report before publication. The President’s personal lawyers were not permitted to make, and did not request, any redactions.

In addition to making the redacted report public, we are also committed to working with Congress to accommodate their legitimate oversight interests with respect to the Special Counsel’s investigation. We have been consulting with Chairman Graham and Chairman Nadler throughout this process, and we will continue to do so.

Given the limited nature of the redactions, I believe that the publicly released report will allow every American to understand the results of the Special Counsel’s investigation. Nevertheless, in an effort to accommodate congressional requests, we will make available to a bipartisan group of leaders from several Congressional committees a version of the report with all redactions removed except those relating to grand-jury information. Thus, these members of Congress will be able to see all of the redacted material for themselves – with the limited exception of that which, by law, cannot be shared.

I believe that this accommodation, together with my upcoming testimony before the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, will satisfy any need Congress has for information regarding the Special Counsel’s investigation.

Once again, I would like to thank you all for being here today. I now have a few minutes for questions.
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