Impeached president Donald Trump is taking his war on blue states to a new level. He has declared California, New York, and Washington state coronavirus disaster areas, but has so far refused to release a key part of that designation: unemployment assistance.
That’s specific, disaster-related unemployment insurance to go to workers who aren’t eligible for traditional UI, like gig economy workers. Under the program, they can receive 26 weeks of benefits if their job loss is a result of the disaster, either because their position has been eliminated or they can’t get to their job site. When the disaster was declared—March 20 in New York and March 22 in California and Washington—the Federal Emergency Management Agency said that “federal emergency aid has been made available.” The unemployment funds, however, have not been released.
Politico reports that the only aid the administration has released to the three states has been for “crisis counseling,” and that a “senior administration official said the administration is holding off on approving requests for disaster unemployment assistance because it anticipates Congress will provide similar protections in the coronavirus stimulus package under negotiation.” Given the flux we’ve seen in the last five days on that legislation, that’s a bullshit excuse.
“We appreciate that the federal government has recognized the severity of the public health emergency,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said; however, that declaration did not “unlock many forms of federal assistance we have requested to help workers.” Jack Sterne, a spokesperson for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, added, “It is time for the federal government to provide Disaster Unemployment Assistance to New Yorkers.”
Inslee and three other governors—Mike Dunleavy (R-Alaska), Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), and J.B. Pritzker (D-Illinois)—wrote to Trump on Tuesday, urging him to free up the funds and move faster in declaring disasters for all their states. “Even as states enact policies to flexibly provide unemployment insurance to those in need,” the governors wrote, “we are still leaving many hourly and independent workers behind who desperately need assistance during this crisis.”
GIVING THE PRESIDENT HIS DUE BEFORE THE CRITICISM:
HE HAS FINALLY “GOTTEN” IT (?) AND BEHIND MOBILIZING, FOR HIM AND REPUBLICANS, A HUGE PROACTIVE AID PACKAGE FOR ‘SAVING THE COUNTRY’
i’M GOING TO SAY HE MEANS WELL AND SO HAS GOTTEN OUT OF HIS COMFORT ZONE.
BY THE VERY LOW STANDARDS OF GOVERNMENT ACTIVISM FOR TRUMP AND THIS COHORT OF HIS SUPPORTERS (A MINORITY OF REGISTERED VOTERS), HE HAS FINALLY RISEN TO THE OCCASION.
THE PROBLEMS WITH THE PRESIDENT’S MAGICAL THINKING:
EVERY SCIENTIST, MEDICAL PERSON, MOST JOURNALISTS AND STATE GOVERNORS RECOGNIZE THAT THE IDEA OF SOME RETUR TO NORMALITY BY APRIL 12TH EASTER WE WILL ALL BE HUGGING AND GOING TO CHURCH TO CELEBRATE IS SHEER FANTASY. IF THIS BELIEF INFLUENCES HIS POLICY MOVES, HE WILL BEAR CRIMINAL REPEAT CRIMINAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR FEDERAL UNDER-ACTION, (NOT INACTION BUT LESS THAN NEEDED ACTION)
2. HIS STRESS AND HIS LAP-DOG MIKE PENCES’S BRIEFINGS ON THE HEROIC MEASURES HE IS TAKING AND THAT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE WILL APPRECIATE THIS, BE BEHIND HIM, SING KUM-BAA-YAA’S OF GRATITUDE.
3. THE PROBLEMS WITH THIS ANALYSIS ARE THAT ANY, REPEAT ANY PRESIDENT FACED WITH THIS WORLD WAR TWO-GREAT DEPRRESSION-1918 FLU PANDEMIC WOULD BE DOING EVERYTHING HE IS DOING AT LEAST AS MUCH AND PROBABLY MUCH MORE. HE IS MUCH CLOSER TO HERBERT HOOVER OR OR JAMES BUCHANAN THAN TO EVEN GW BUSH WITH 9.11 MUCH LESS ROOSEVELT.
4. TRUMP’S DIE-HARD SUPPORTERS AND THE UNINFORMED PUBLIC SEE HIM AS SOME SORT OF MACHO HERO: NOT SO. AS BIDEN SAID, HE DID NOT CAUSE THE VIRUS OR ENABLE IT (OF COURSE!), HE HAS JUST BEEN BEHIND THE CURVE SINCE DAY 1. THOUSANDS WILL ALREADY DIE BECAUSE OF HIS SLOW, SKEPTICAL EARLIER RESPONSE. THIS IS NOT “HUMAN ERROR” THIS IS CRIMINAL REPEAT CRIMINAL NEGLECT.
HIS RHETORIC HAS IMPROVED AND HE IS DEFINITELY “ON IT” COMPARED WITH A MONTH AGO. BUT THE DAMAGE HAS BEEN DONE. PRAISE GOD THAT HE IS FINALLY BEGINNING TO GET IT. OR IS IT? WE’LL SING TOGETHER IN CHURCH BY EASTER LOOKING BACK ON THIS THING IS SERIOUS MISINFORMATION. IT IS FANTASY. IT IS KILLING PEOPLE. THIS IS ALREADY TRUMP’S KATRINA. BUT THIS IS NOT 2005. IT IS 2020. AN ELECTION YEAR. BYE-BYE MR, PRESIDENT. THE UKRAINE IMPEACHMENT WAS INDEED PEANUTS COMPARED TO THIS .
+Trump Hoping to See US Economy Reopened by Easter Amid Virus
By The Associated Press
March 24, 2020Updated 5:08 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON — With lives and the economy hanging in the balance, President Donald Trump said Tuesday he is hoping the United States will be reopened by Easter as he weighs how to relax nationwide social-distancing guidelines to put some workers back on the job during the coronavirus outbreak.
As many public health officials call for stricter — not looser — restrictions on public interactions, Trump said he was already looking toward easing the advisories that have sidelined workers, shuttered schools and led to a widespread economic slowdown.
“I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” he said during a Fox News virtual town hall. Easter is just over two weeks away — Apr. 12.
“Wouldn’t it be great to have all of the churches full,” Trump said in a subsequent interview. “You’ll have packed churches all over our country.”
Health experts have made clear that unless Americans continue to dramatically limit social interaction — staying home from work and isolating themselves — the number of infections will overwhelm the health care system, as it has in parts of Italy, leading to many more deaths. While the worst outbreaks are concentrated in certain parts of the country, such as New York, experts warn that the highly infectious disease is certain to spread.
The U.S. is now more than a week into an unprecedented 15-day effort to encourage all Americans to drastically scale back their public activities. The guidelines, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are voluntary, but many state and local leaders have issued mandatory restrictions in line with, or even tighter than, those issued by the CDC.
On Monday, the U.S. saw its biggest jump yet in the death toll from the virus, with more than 650 American deaths now attributed to COVID-19. Trump’s comments come after dire warnings by officials in hard-hit areas. New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his state’s hospital system will soon hit a breaking point — resulting in avoidable deaths — even with the restrictions already in place.
“I gave it two weeks,” Trump said during the town hall from the Rose Garden. He argued that tens of thousands of Americans die each year from the seasonal flu and in automobile accidents and “we don’t turn the country off.”
When the 15-day period ends next Monday, he said, “We’ll assess at that time and we’ll give it some more time if we need a little more time, but we need to open this country up.” He added, “We have to go back to work, much sooner than people thought.”
Trump’s Easter target was not immediately embraced by Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator for the White House task force, who indicated any move would have to be guided by data still being collected. She suggested that public health professionals could recommend a general easing, while pushing for local restrictions to remain in the hardest-hit areas.
Trump acknowledged that some want the guidance to continue, but claimed without providing evidence that keeping the guidance in place would lead to deaths from suicide and depression.
“I’m sure that we have doctors that would say, ‘Let’s keep it closed for two years,'” Trump said. “No, we got to get it open.”
He added, “This cure is worse than the problem.”
Trump’s reassessment comes as the White House is encouraging lawmakers on Capitol Hill to pass a roughly $2 trillion stimulus package to ease the financial pain for Americans and hard-hit industries.
Trump’s enthusiasm for getting people back to work comes as he takes stock of the political toll the outbreak is taking. It sets up a potential conflict with medical professionals, including many within his government, who have called for more social restrictions to slow the spread of the virus, not fewer.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases and a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, did not appear at the virtual town hall, but Trump denied there were any tensions between the two men.
Lawmakers have suggested they’ll look to Fauci for guidance on when the restrictions should be lifted.
“I’m going to take my lead from Anthony Fauci,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., said on CNN. “That’s the person I trust, that’s the person Americans trust.
Fauci told WMAL radio in Washington on Tuesday that Trump has always heeded his recommendations.
“The president has listened to what I have said and to what the other people on the task force have said,” Fauci said. “When I have made recommendations he has taken them. He’s never countered or overridden me, the idea of just pitting one against the other is just not helpful.”
Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economic adviser, told reporters Tuesday that “public health includes economic health.”
“That’s the key point. And it’s not either-or. It’s not either-or, and that’s why we’re taking a fresh look at it,” he said.
During a private conference call with roughly 30 conservative leaders on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence reinforced Trump’s eagerness to lift coronavirus-related work and travel restrictions “in a matter of weeks, not months.”
When pressed on a specific timeline for lifting restrictions, Pence said there would be no formal decisions made until the current 15-day period of social distancing was complete, according to a conference call participant who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details of the private discussion.
Pence told the group that accommodations would need to be made for the highest-risk populations if and when restrictions begin to be lifted.
Despite Trump’s rosy talk, other elements of the government were digging in for the long haul. Top defense and military leaders on Tuesday warned department personnel that the virus problems could extend for eight to 10 weeks, or even into the summer.
Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a Defense Department town hall meeting that restrictions could go into late May or June, possibly even July. He said there are a variety of models from other countries, so the exact length of the virus and necessary restrictions are not yet clear.
Associated Press writers Lita Baldor in Washington and Steve Peoples in New York contributed to this report.
WELL IT WAS OVER A LONG TIME AGO BUT HERE IS EVIDENCE OF THE DEATHBLOW. Shiels/ Progressive Future
It has taken a good deal longer than it should have, but Americans have now seen the con man behind the curtain.MARCH 13, 2020Peter WehnerContributing writer at The Atlantic and senior fellow at EPPCEnjoy unlimited access to The Atlantic for less than $1 per week.Sign inSubscribe Now
Editor’s Note:The Atlantic is making vital coverage of the coronavirus available to all readers. Find the collection here.
When, in January 2016, I wrote that despite being a lifelong Republican who worked in the previous three GOP administrations, I would never vote for Donald Trump, even though his administration would align much more with my policy views than a Hillary Clinton presidency would, a lot of my Republican friends were befuddled. How could I not vote for a person who checked far more of my policy boxes than his opponent?
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What I explained then, and what I have said many times since, is that Trump is fundamentally unfit—intellectually, morally, temperamentally, and psychologically—for office. For me, that is the paramount consideration in electing a president, in part because at some point it’s reasonable to expect that a president will face an unexpected crisis—and at that point, the president’s judgment and discernment, his character and leadership ability, will really matter.
“Mr. Trump has no desire to acquaint himself with most issues, let alone master them” is how I put it four years ago. “No major presidential candidate has ever been quite as disdainful of knowledge, as indifferent to facts, as untroubled by his benightedness.” I added this:
Mr. Trump’s virulent combination of ignorance, emotional instability, demagogy, solipsism and vindictiveness would do more than result in a failed presidency; it could very well lead to national catastrophe. The prospect of Donald Trump as commander in chief should send a chill down the spine of every American.
It took until the second half of Trump’s first term, but the crisis has arrived in the form of the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s hard to name a president who has been as overwhelmed by a crisis as the coronavirus has overwhelmed Donald Trump.
To be sure, the president isn’t responsible for either the coronavirus or the disease it causes, COVID-19, and he couldn’t have stopped it from hitting our shores even if he had done everything right. Nor is it the case that the president hasn’t done anything right; in fact, his decision to implement a travel ban on China was prudent. And any narrative that attempts to pin all of the blame on Trump for the coronavirus is simply unfair. The temptation among the president’s critics to use the pandemic to get back at Trump for every bad thing he’s done should be resisted, and schadenfreude is never a good look.
That said, the president and his administration are responsible for grave, costly errors, most especially the epic manufacturing failures in diagnostic testing, the decision to test too few people, the delay in expanding testing to labs outside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and problems in the supply chain. These mistakes have left us blind and badly behind the curve, and, for a few crucial weeks, they created a false sense of security. What we now know is that the coronavirus silently spread for several weeks, without us being aware of it and while we were doing nothing to stop it. Containment and mitigation efforts could have significantly slowed its spread at an early, critical point, but we frittered away that opportunity.
“They’ve simply lost time they can’t make up. You can’t get back six weeks of blindness,” Jeremy Konyndyk, who helped oversee the international response to Ebola during the Obama administration and is a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, told TheWashington Post. “To the extent that there’s someone to blame here, the blame is on poor, chaotic management from the White House and failure to acknowledge the big picture.”
Earlier this week, Anthony Fauci, the widely respected director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases whose reputation for honesty and integrity has been only enhanced during this crisis, admitted in congressional testimony that the United States is still not providing adequate testing for the coronavirus. “It is failing. Let’s admit it.” He added, “The idea of anybody getting [testing] easily, the way people in other countries are doing it, we’re not set up for that. I think it should be, but we’re not.”
But that’s not all. The president reportedly ignored early warnings of the severity of the virus and grew angry at a CDC official who in February warned that an outbreak was inevitable. The Trump administration dismantled the National Security Council’s global-health office, whose purpose was to address global pandemics; we’re now paying the price for that. “We worked very well with that office,” Fauci told Congress. “It would be nice if the office was still there.” We may face a shortage of ventilators and medical supplies, and hospitals may soon be overwhelmed, certainly if the number of coronavirus cases increases at a rate anything like that in countries such as Italy. (This would cause not only needless coronavirus-related deaths, but deaths from those suffering from other ailments who won’t have ready access to hospital care.)
Some of these mistakes are less serious and more understandable than others. One has to take into account that in government, when people are forced to make important decisions based on incomplete information in a compressed period of time, things go wrong.
Yet in some respects, the avalanche of false information from the president has been most alarming of all. It’s been one rock slide after another, the likes of which we have never seen. Day after day after day he brazenly denied reality, in an effort to blunt the economic and political harm he faced. But Trump is in the process of discovering that he can’t spin or tweet his way out of a pandemic. There is no one who can do to the coronavirus what Attorney General William Barr did to the Mueller report: lie about it and get away with it.
The president’s misinformation and mendacity about the coronavirus are head-snapping. He claimed that it was contained in America when it was actually spreading. He claimed that we had “shut it down” when we had not. He claimed that testing was available when it wasn’t. He claimed that the coronavirus will one day disappear “like a miracle”; it won’t. He claimed that a vaccine would be available in months; Fauci says it will not be available for a year or more.
Trump falsely blamed the Obama administration for impeding coronavirus testing. He stated that the coronavirus first hit the United States later than it actually did. (He said that it was three weeks prior to the point at which he spoke; the actual figure was twice that.) The president claimed that the number of cases in Italy was getting “much better” when it was getting much worse. And in one of the more stunning statements an American president has ever made, Trump admitted that his preference was to keep a cruise ship off the California coast rather than allowing it to dock, because he wanted to keep the number of reported cases of the coronavirus artificially low.
“I like the numbers,” Trump said. “I would rather have the numbers stay where they are. But if they want to take them off, they’ll take them off. But if that happens, all of a sudden your 240 [cases] is obviously going to be a much higher number, and probably the 11 [deaths] will be a higher number too.” (Cooler heads prevailed, and over the president’s objections, the Grand Princess was allowed to dock at the Port of Oakland.)
On and on it goes.
To make matters worse, the president delivered an Oval Office address that was meant to reassure the nation and the markets but instead shook both. The president’s delivery was awkward and stilted; worse, at several points, the president, who decided to ad-lib the teleprompter speech, misstated his administration’s own policies, which the administration had to correct. Stock futures plunged even as the president was still delivering his speech. In his address, the president called for Americans to “unify together as one nation and one family,” despite having referred to Washington Governor Jay Inslee as a “snake” days before the speech and attacking Democrats the morning after it. As TheWashington Post’s Dan Balz put it, “Almost everything that could have gone wrong with the speech did go wrong.”
Taken together, this is a massive failure in leadership that stems from a massive defect in character. Trump is such a habitual liar that he is incapable of being honest, even when being honest would serve his interests. He is so impulsive, shortsighted, and undisciplined that he is unable to plan or even think beyond the moment. He is such a divisive and polarizing figure that he long ago lost the ability to unite the nation under any circumstances and for any cause. And he is so narcissistic and unreflective that he is completely incapable of learning from his mistakes. The president’s disordered personality makes him as ill-equipped to deal with a crisis as any president has ever been. With few exceptions, what Trump has said is not just useless; it is downright injurious.
The nation is recognizing this, treating him as a bystander “as school superintendents, sports commissioners, college presidents, governors and business owners across the country take it upon themselves to shut down much of American life without clear guidance from the president,” in the words of Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman of TheNew York Times.
Donald Trump is shrinking before our eyes.
The coronavirus is quite likely to be the Trump presidency’s inflection point, when everything changed, when the bluster and ignorance and shallowness of America’s 45th president became undeniable, an empirical reality, as indisputable as the laws of science or a mathematical equation.
It has taken a good deal longer than it should have, but Americans have now seen the con man behind the curtain. The president, enraged for having been unmasked, will become more desperate, more embittered, more unhinged. He knows nothing will be the same. His administration may stagger on, but it will be only a hollow shell. The Trump presidency is over.
It seems much more important to get the details on men behaving badly if you are: A. a Democrat B. Weathly. Being a Republican, say Trump, should apparently, just be overlooked
as Trump being Trump. Not that there is any excuse for sexual harassment or unhealthy workplace behavior. It’s just that if the Democrats hold their aides to higher standards it will increase the chances of reelection of Trump. But perhaps ethical purity is most important. It is a really complex problem reflecting fast changing/improving social standards. It may boil down in this One Case to accepting apologies with the idea that we all learn something and the “look the other way”
The vice presidency—likened to a “warm bucket of piss” by John Nance Garner, who suffered eight years in the office under FDR, and called a political dead end by others—has miraculously become Washington’s second most desirable job.
It’s not that the job has changed. What’s given the vice presidency a new sheen is the advanced age of four leading contenders for the presidency—Donald Trump, 73; Bernie Sanders, 78; Mike Bloomberg, 78; and Joe Biden, 77. None of the four amigos are likely to croak tomorrow, but the actuarial odds are bending against them. One scholar on aging reports that Trump has an 84.8 percent chance of surviving a 2020 term, while Sanders, Bloomberg and Biden rate several percentage points worse.
Lest you think I’m being ageist for harping on the candidates’, um, advanced maturity and general health, let me point out that they’re currently slicing each other up on the topic. On Wednesday, a Sanders spokesman fended off questions about her candidate’s health cast aspersion on Bloomberg health. She claimed he had had multiple heart attacks in the past. Not so, the Bloomberg campaign responded, explaining the Mike has never had a heart attack but he does have three heart stents. This language in this column may strike you as morbid but it’s no more morbid than what the campaigns are saying about one another.
If the Democratic Party is paying attention to this actuarial action—and I think it is—their next veep nominee won’t be another no-name ticket balancer picked to satisfy the geographic, gender, and ethnicity needs of the ticket. Rather, he (or she) will be selected based on the understanding that he stands a higher statistical chance completing the term of the presidential nominee than veeps before him. Instead of nominating one prospective president, the Democrats especially will effectively be nominating two. In the absence of a crystal ball, there’s no way to determine whether the winning candidate will survive his term. But it shouldn’t take a crystal ball to see that the advanced ages of these candidate should be a major campaign issue.
Of course, any president, no matter his age, could drop dead tomorrow. In 1961, writer Clare Booth Luce asked Lyndon Baines Johnson why he had surrendered his powerful position as Senate majority leader to become John F. Kennedy’s veep. “Clare, I looked it up: one out of every four presidents has died in office. I’m a gamblin’ man, darlin’, and this is the only chance I got,” he answered. Johnson was a little off—at the time, one in five presidents had died in office (four from natural causes and three from assassination). But he was also operating on the forbidden knowledge that Kennedy was a sick man who required heavy medication.
Consider the shaky grip the current frontrunners have on life. Sanders had an onstage heart attack last fall and has failed on his promise to release all of his medical records. Trump, the oldest president ever elected to a first term, is clinically obese, walks with a heavy gait, reportedly sleeps only 4-5 hours per night, looks terrible and plays similar games with his medical records. And then there’s that suspicious unplanned visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center he took in November. If Trump were to expire tomorrow in his golf cart, who would be astonished? Joe Biden projects more physical vigor than either Sanders or Trump, but his brain was marbled by two life-threatening aneurysms in 1988, requiring a microsurgical craniotomy. Only Bloomberg exhibits both physically and mentally vital, but at his age—and even with his billions—how long can he hold that pose?
The best historical parallel to 2020 might be 1944, when a frail Franklin Roosevelt prepared to run for his fourth term. Roosevelt had come to doubt that his existing vice president, Henry Wallace, would make a good successor in the likely event that he died. So he dumped Wallace for Harry S Truman. One day, Truman was drowning in the warm bucket of piss. The next, he was floating in a presidential sea of ambrosia. The 2008 election provided another example when the veep slot was more prize than consolation. At age 72, John McCain was older than any newly elected president, and was not a healthy man. Mindful that his war-time injuries and history of melanoma might conspire to prevent him from completing his first term, McCain reached down a full generation to select the youthful Sarah Palin, then 44, as his running mate. If Democrats follow that template, you can expect somebody like Stacy Abrams, a relative youngster at 46, to fill the ticket this year.
It should go without saying that the vice presidency will return to its low status if the Democrats nominate a young presidential candidate like Pete Buttigieg, 38, this year. Buttigieg has only a minuscule chance of dying in office, which could be career-ender for anybody who might run and win with him. At the end of Buttigieg’s two hypothetical terms, his veep would be stale political bread with little chance of winning the next presidential contest. History is quite consistent on this point: Since passage of the 12th Amendment, only two vice presidents—Martin Van Buren and George H.W. Bush—have been elected president immediately following the completion of their vice presidential terms. (Richard Nixon lost in 1960, but won the office eight years after his vice presidency concluded.)
The four elderly amigos can’t take sole credit for making the vice presidency potentially great again. You’ve got to tip the hat to Trump, whose erratic behavior nearly activated the 25th Amendment in May 2017. In pre-Trumpian times, the amendment—which allows the vice president to become the acting president should the president be ruled unable to “discharge the powers and duties of his office”—was used sparingly. It was invoked during Ronald Reagan’s colon surgery and George W. Bush’s colonoscopies. But nobody contemplated using it on a sitting president until Trump started acting nutty and fired FBI Director James Comey. Although nothing came of it, administration aides reportedly worked behind his back to activate the amendment and replace him with Mike Pence as acting president.
Should we elect a geezer president in 2020—something that looks more likely with every passing day—we can expect his aides to interpret the victor’s every behavior for signs of physical disability or mental breakdown. Meanwhile, in a separate room, we can expect the once lowly veep to patiently await his promotion by death.
As an aged candidate and incumbent, Trump could have easily shopped for a “better” veep than Mike Pence for 2020. By better I mean younger and more accomplished. Instead, Trump again bestowed the slot upon the slavishly loyal 60-year-old Pence. This indicates Trump has no intention of dying. Neither do I. Send longevity hints via mail to Shafer.Politico@gmail.com. My email alerts and my Twitter feed would make a great ticket. My RSS feed remains in exile.
WASHINGTON — In an email a few days ago to the 270 lawyers he oversees, Nicola T. Hanna, the United States attorney in Los Angeles, offered a message of reassurance: I am proud of the work you do, he wrote.
Other U.S. attorneys in the Justice Department’s far-flung 93 field offices relayed similar messages of encouragement after President Trump’s efforts to influence a politically fraught case provoked the kind of consternation the department has rarely seen since the Watergate era. “All I have to say,” another United States attorney wrote to his staff, “is keep doing the right things for the right reasons.”
But the fact that the department’s 10,000-odd lawyers needed reassurances seemed like cause for worry all by itself.
In more than three dozen interviews in recent days, lawyers across the federal government’s legal establishment wondered aloud whether Mr. Trump was undermining the Justice Department’s treasured reputation for upholding the law without favor or political bias — and whether Attorney General William P. Barr was able or willing to protect it.
Mr. Trump elicited those fears by denouncing federal prosecutors who had recommended a prison sentence of up to nine years for his longtime friend and political adviser Roger J. Stone Jr. Mr. Barr fanned them by scrapping the recommendation in favor of a far more lenient one, leading the prosecutors to quit the case in protest.
Mr. Barr then took to national television to complain that Mr. Trump’s angry tweets were undermining him and his department’s credibility — a sign to some current and former lawyers that the department’s freedom from political influence is in imminent danger. Their worries are compounded by the fact that people in Mr. Trump’s circle have been mired in so many criminal or ethical scandals that practically any legal action on those cases could be seen through a political lens.
As many of the department lawyers and some recently departed colleagues see it, Mr. Barr has devoted much of his authority and stature to bolster the president since he took office a year ago.
In ever stronger terms, he has attacked the F.B.I.’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election. He has said it was mounted on “the thinnest of suspicions” and advanced despite a lack of evidence. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, ultimately found insufficient evidence that the president or his advisers engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russia but documented their openness to Moscow’s sabotage effort.
While he has pledged that the department will not pursue politically motivated investigations, Mr. Barr said this month that he had created an “intake process” for the president’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani to forward supposed proof of misconduct in Ukraine. Mr. Giuliani has claimed to have evidence damaging to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son.
Meanwhile, Mr. Barr’s expansive view of presidential authority has helped Mr. Trump fight off congressional oversight. It was the Justice Department, for instance, that decided it was unnecessary to give Congress the whistle-blower complaint that ultimately led to the president’s impeachment.
Mr. Barr’s critics say those and other moves have all but invited increasingly aggressive demands from the White House. His supporters in the Justice Department counter that he has used his political capital to protect the department and national security interests. But they sound increasingly worried about whether he will be able to manage the expectations of an ever more volatile president.
Mr. Barr’s effort this week to scale back those expectations, officials said, was born of necessity. He is said to have told the president privately that he will not open politically inspired inquiries on Mr. Trump’s behalf and that the president’s public comments about specific criminal cases are damaging the department’s work.
When the president’s public outburst over the prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation for Mr. Stone made it clear that Mr. Barr’s message had not sunk in, Mr. Barr and a few trusted advisers elected to deliver it again in a way that has repeatedly proved effective in grabbing the president’s attention: on television, this time in a nationally broadcast interview with ABC News.
By the end of the week, many at the Justice Department’s headquarters were uncertain whether that interview would resolve what some called an increasingly untenable situation. Some steeled themselves for a stream of presidential invective or even Mr. Barr’s departure in response.
In the legal trenches where the department’s lawyers handle controversial cases on a daily basis, some expressed relief that Mr. Barr had defended the department and tried to set boundaries for a president seemingly intent on erasing the red line between political motivations and individual criminal cases that has prevailed since Watergate.
“Thank God,” one lawyer said. “I was beginning to be really upset over the sentencing, but I really admire that he told Trump to shut up,” said another. A third wrote in a memo: “Barr was EXACTLY right.”
But others questioned Mr. Barr’s sincerity, saying he was already too closely aligned with Mr. Trump’s political priorities to accept his words at face value.
One described Mr. Barr’s timing as self-serving, saying that the president had attacked the department before but Mr. Barr spoke up only when he felt his own credibility was on the line. Another suggested that the best way for Mr. Barr to demonstrate his integrity would be to resign.
All spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists, or for fear of job repercussions. A spokeswoman for Mr. Barr declined to comment.
The supervisor of one team of prosecutors questioned whether the Stone case portended a presidential crusade to use the department’s legal powers to damage his political enemies and help his friends. Is it “a one-off or a trend?” another supervisor in a different office asked.
Some former senior officials predicted that government lawyers, especially those with politically sensitive cases, would face new skepticism in court about the department’s motivations.
“I’m sure that some D.O.J. attorneys feel that judges are not going to look at them in the same way,” said Mary McCord, a former assistant attorney general for the department’s national security division. “And I’m sure there are judges who are going to wonder, ‘Can we credit what you say, or is D.O.J. going to come back tomorrow and say something different?’”
Generally, lawyers across the department’s vast legal apparatus said they were simply trying to ignore the political drama unfolding in Washington and concentrate on their own work.
In the capital, the Justice Department has been grappling with Mr. Trump’s tweets almost since he took office. Amazon is suing the government over its loss of a $10 billion defense contract, saying Mr. Trump’s tweets prove his animosity toward its owner, Jeff Bezos. A team of Justice Department lawyers moved to withdraw from a case over the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census after Mr. Trump blindsided them by declaring on Twitter that their assertions in court were “fake.”
Until last spring, the impact of Mr. Trump’s outbursts about criminal prosecutions were blunted somewhat by the fact that he largely aimed them at Mr. Mueller, whose stature with Congress and the public made it unlikely he would be fired.
Even then, Mr. Trump or his legal team hinted broadly at the prospect of pardons for some associates who faced criminal charges brought by the Mueller team. And Mr. Trump publicly praised one defendant, his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, even as a federal jury deliberated whether to convict him on financial fraud charges.
But United States attorneys lack the political buffer that Mr. Mueller enjoyed. So Mr. Trump’s attacks on the career prosecutors in Mr. Stone’s case carry different weight.
In his interview with ABC News, Mr. Barr seemed concerned about the possibility of more mass defections. Three prosecutors withdrew from the Stone case while the fourth resigned from the department entirely the week before Judge Amy Berman Jackson of Federal District Court in the District of Columbia was scheduled to sentence Mr. Stone.
“I hope there are no more resignations,” Mr. Barr said. “We, we like our prosecutors and hope they stay.”
As Mr. Trump has pointed out on Twitter, two of those prosecutors — Aaron Zelinsky and Adam C. Jed — helped carry out the special counsel’s investigation, which Mr. Trump detested. Their supervisors reassured them this week that they would suffer no retaliation for withdrawing from the Stone case.
Timothy J. Shea, a close ally of Mr. Barr’s who took over this month as interim U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, sent his staff an email of support this week. “While there are times where reasonable minds may disagree, I respect the work that each of you do, and I will do my best to support our work,” he wrote.
Mr. Shea’s role is especially fraught because the Washington office, the largest in the country with 300 lawyers, often handles politically sensitive cases and inherited several prosecutions begun under Mr. Mueller. At least some in that office privately complained that Mr. Trump and Mr. Barr both treated Mr. Shea’s predecessor, Jessie K. Liu, shabbily.
Ms. Liu, a Trump appointee, was viewed in the office as a leader who helped protect prosecutors from political meddling. But her relationship with other department officials grew strained, especially after she decided there was insufficient evidence to seek an indictment of Andrew G. McCabe, the former deputy director of the F.B.I. and a frequent target of the president, according to two people familiar with the situation.
She was nominated for a top job at the Treasury Department and transferred there this month to await her confirmation. Then this week, the president decided to rescind her nomination, even over Mr. Barr’s objections, according to three people familiar with the discussions.
The House of Representatives voted Thursday morning in a 232-196 vote to proceed with the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump. In her remarks on the House floor, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was sober and reflective. “I doubt anybody in this place, or anybody that you know, comes to Congress to take the oath of office to impeach the President of the United States unless his actions are jeopardizing honoring our oath of office.”
The chairmen leading the inquiry were equally reflective. Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said, “The task before us is a solemn one.” Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler was resolute, saying, “I support the resolution because we have no choice.” In concluding the debate, House Rules Chair Jim McGovern said, “History is testing us and I worry, based on what we have heard from the other side, that some may be failing that test.”
Halloween — when the doors open to spirits. Perhaps the ghosts of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Franklin, and Lincoln will pay a visit to the orange guy tonight, ala Ebenezer Scrooge. Maybe they can “teach” him something about democracy, honesty and integrity where everyone else has failed.ReplyRecommend28Recommended
I wonder if the boos and “lock him ups” of Game 5 called up those ghosts of United States Past, allowing the Nats could head back to Houston and beat the ‘Stros twice more to win the WS :)ReplyRecommend9Recommended
Kevin McCarthy also got illegal campaign money from Rudy Guiliani’s 2 Kremlin linked thugs Lev and Igor. The entire GOP, like Trump are up to their eyeballs in Russian mob money and they are shitting themselves that if Agent Orange gets taken down, he will take all of them with him. Its also why they refuse to defend the country from the traitor in the white house because they are complicit in the treason.ReplyRecommend47Recommended
Actually later is better. Let the investigations continue on well into next year (there’s plenty to investigate!), with a steady stream of incriminating revelations along the way.
Once the impeachment gets to the Senate, Moscow McCocaine will acquit the Putin-Pleasin’ Treason-Weasel Tangerine Rage-Baby in 10 minutes. They will claim Total Exoneration: Partisan Witch Hunt! And sweep all of it under the rug.
Better we keep the atrocities front and center all the way to the elections next year (or close to), to keep these criminals fresh in the voter’s minds. No on is going to be removed via the impeachment process. We are going to have to vote the rat-fuckers out.ReplyRecommend6Recommended
I used to agree with you 100%. I am wavering from that position now. This wavering is due to two related factors. First I have allowed hope that the senate might actually convict if the public opinion turns enough to seep in. The second is because he whom to be compared to is always an insult to that which he is compared (rat, piece of shit, crotch rot, ….whatever) is a cornered animal at this point and is only going to behave worse as the impeachment process goes on. There is nothing this malignant narcissist / sociopath will not do if he thinks it will distract or deflect. He will keep committing more damage to the country and the world as long as he is in office. We need to get him out ASAP and then follow up with endless stream of criminal prosecutions for the innumerable crimesReplyRecommend1Recommended
It is kind of appropriate for Hallow’s Eve — the gate to Hell is more open than usual, and the ancestors are closer — I hope Nixon and crew are coming back to drag the Rethugs down. The Dems recognize the solemnity and the Rethugs cry “not fair!” as if they were on the school grounds and had gotten caught bullying… ReplyRecommend26Recommended
It’s utterly pathetic the GOP cannot even CONCEIVE of this as being anything more than naked partisanship. They see everything through the lens of corruption and crime.
They know damn well that their impeachment of Clinton was nothing but a hatchet job to get the Democrat and they are so blinded by their corruption they cannot see the obvious crimes of Trump. Rather, they see the crimes but don’t care. They think the law should apply only to Democrats.
They are a disgrace to their oaths and a disgrace to America.ReplyRecommend49Recommended
Indeed. I just saw a scary Halloween monster when I turned on C-SPAN and Gym “See No Evil” Jordan was speaking. I immediately turned it off. That’s too scary even for Halloween.ReplyRecommend3Recommended
Peterson absolutely gets a pass on absolutely everything. Trump carried his district by 31 points. Anyone who calls for a primary against him is acting against our interests.
Van Drew’s district isn’t quite so bad in terms of statistical margins — Trump only carried it by 5 points — but the Republicans there are so rabid that even though their nominee against Van Drew was so horrible that the Republican Party disowned the guy Van Drew only won by 6 points. He is a prime target for the Republicans.
I suspect Nancy told both of them to do what they needed to do. ReplyRecommend29Recommended
Sorry, not sorry. If Peterson can’t muster up enough courage to do the right thing for his country on this, he doesn’t deserve to be there. This isn’t, and shouldn’t be about party, or keeping his job. This is about his primary responsibility – putting the country above all else. Obviously, he is not up to the task or his oath of office. He needs to go.ReplyRecommend3Recommended
Katie was staying for this vote, as the smartest, hardest-working and more effective member of the freshman class, bound for stardom which apparently some vindictive men didn’t like. She’s supposed to be making her farewell speech today. Am I pissed that instead of defending the bullying and harassment that drove her out of Congress, a lot of progressives are blaming her, usually pointing to the one part of the story that is unproven? You bet!ReplyRecommend10Recommended
Per Politics1, the four absentees were Donald McEachin (D-VA) (serious health issues), Jody Hice (R-GA) (father died), William Timmons (R-SC) (reservist on active duty), and John Rose (R-TN) (unknown).ReplyRecommend3Recommended
Gabbard missed all three votes on Turkey although she has recently been blistering in her attacks on Erdogan. That puts her barely ahead of Omar, who seems to have become a Turkish asset. :(ReplyRecommend2Recommended
By Salvador Rizzo Email President Trump has a soft spot for Saudi Arabia, notwithstanding the CIA’s conclusion that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi.In 2017, he falsely claimed the Saudis agreed to $350 billion in arms purchases and private sector investments in the United States. In 2018, he falsely claimed that $110 billion had been agreed to when looking only at arms sales.Now, after the administration announced Oct. 11 that it was sending to Saudi Arabia an additional 3,000 troops and nearly four dozen Air Force fighters and Patriot antimissile batteries, Trump claims: “Saudi Arabia is paying for 100 percent of the cost, including the cost of our soldiers. And that negotiation took a very short time — like, maybe, about 35 seconds.”We were naturally skeptical, given the president’s track record of exaggerating deals with the Saudis. Lo and behold, Trump’s secretary of defense and the State Department both said that the agreement between the two countries encourages “burden-sharing.” When you share a burden, you’re shouldering some of it yourself. That’s not compatible with saying one side is paying 100 percent of the cost.We gave Three Pinocchios to Trump.
The New Yorker’s big new profile of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is getting buzz for two reasons: 1) the newly discovered video above, in which a 2016 Pompeo warns that President Trump would be “an authoritarian President who ignored our Constitution,” and 2) an anonymous quote that describes the modern-day Pompeo as “like a heat-seeking missile for Trump’s ass.”
But focusing on those two quotes does the piece and its author, Susan Glasser, a disservice. Around those two narrative-building elements is a nuanced, thoughtful piece about the game Pompeo is playing with Trump. And as someone who has regularly spotlighted Pompeo’s sycophancy and willingness to pretend for Trump that up is down, I think it raises important questions.
Throughout the piece, Pompeo is described not as a hapless yes-man but, instead, as one of the smartest members of the president’s inner circle. He’s painted as a man so adept at playing “the Game” that he has navigated his own past comments about Trump and a worldview that departs from Trump’s in significant ways to become the president’s longest-lasting and perhaps most influential national security aide.How to provoke the ire of Mike PompeoWhen asked about something President Trump said, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is prone to belittle the questioner rather than answer the original question. (Video: JM Rieger/Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Even critics praise his remarkable political skills.
“Pompeo’s singular ability is in navigating power,” says Raj Goyle, the Democrat he beat for his Kansas U.S. House seat in 2010 — and against whom Pompeo ran a nasty race. “On that I give him massive respect: the way he mapped Wichita power, the way he mapped D.C. power, the way he mapped Trump.” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) calls Pompeo “very bright, very politically shrewd,” “with a certain pugnacious quality to his persona.” Foreign policy analyst Ian Bremmer says Pompeo has “in a sense become the real adult in the room. It is less the case than he would like, but vastly more the case than anyone else.”
The dilemma raised by Pompeo is a familiar one in Trumpworld, but it’s perhaps most pronounced — and consequential — in his case: What is the balance between serving Trump, managing him and enabling him?
It’s a balance we dealt with after that New York Times op-ed by a still-unnamed senior administration official, whom some critics said should have resigned rather than trying to, in the author’s estimation, salvage a bad situation from the inside. It’s one that’s even more important today, as internal critics are pushed out and the pool of replacements inevitably veers toward yes-men and -women (because, after all, who else would want to put up with all that?).
And perhaps the defining moment in that evolution, as Glasser notes, was Trump’s hastily announced Syria withdrawal. That was the moment at which Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — perhaps the most respected man in the administration — finally cut bait. It was also a highly symbolic moment for Pompeo, who in contrast with Mattis defended a decision he disagreed with.
Glasser puts it well in the piece’s penultimate paragraph:
This behavior is the reason that Pompeo has succeeded in becoming the lone survivor of Trump’s original national-security team. At the start of his Administration, the President had bragged about “my generals.” But, now that he has pushed out the actual generals who served as his chief of staff, his national-security adviser, and his Defense Secretary, it seems clear that Trump was uncomfortable with such leaders, and rejected their habits of command and independent thinking.
Then Glasser adds, “He wanted a Mike Pompeo, not a Jim Mattis, a captain trained to follow orders, not a general used to giving them.”
Beautifully put. But as with everyone in politics, we shouldn’t just admire someone because they’re good at playing a difficult game; we should ask what they get out of it. If Pompeo is doing this because of raw ambition — because he wants to be president or something like that — he’s playing a dangerous game as the nation’s top diplomat. If he’s doing it because he feels he can keep righting what has become an increasingly rickety foreign policy ship, then that could be seen as even admirable — especially given that he’s often lighting his own credibility on fire.
The Syria withdrawal is perhaps an example of when that approach can and does work. Despite Mattis resigning over it, Trump later backed off his initial decision to withdraw completely. Pompeo got something he wanted — albeit long after all eyes were trained on the internal drama of it all — by using the kid-gloves approach.
On the flip side, though, Trump is rewriting the rules of the presidency in precisely some of the ways Pompeo warned about. Trump has warmed to authoritarians and authoritarianism, similar to Pompeo’s warnings. Shortly before becoming Trump’s pick for CIA director, Pompeo tweeted that Trump should “make the undemocratic practice of executive orders a thing of the past;” Trump has instead taken it to new heights. The secretary of state who once assured that soldiers “don’t swear an allegiance to President Trump or any other President; they take an oath to defend our Constitution” has shown an almost-unmatched allegiance to Trump.
Some in the foreign policy establishment apparently want to believe it could all be for the best — that Pompeo can, on balance, be a force for good. But we’ve seen their hopes dashed when it comes to another man in whom they invested some wishful thinking, Attorney General William P. Barr.
Pompeo might be the other most consequential man in Trump’s Cabinet. And the narrative of his tenure is very much up in the air — and dependent upon the man he once derided as a dangerous commander in chief.ADVERTISING 57 Comments
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Aaron BlakeAaron Blake is senior political reporter, writing for The Fix. A Minnesota native, he has also written about politics for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and The Hill newspaper. Follow
Tom Steyer (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)In the
month since Tom Steyer jumped
into the Democratic presidential field with a promise to spend $100 million
on his own campaign,
the billionaire activist and former hedge fund manager has made his name known
across early primary states with millions in ad buys.
But it remains to be
seen whether Steyer, a major Democratic
donor who made headlines in recent years for his calls to
impeach President Donald Trump,
can convert name recognition into a spot on the Democratic debate stage in
September and a viable campaign in the long run.
The Steyer campaign
has spent more than $7 million on TV and digital ads during its first month,
according to data provided by social media companies and an analysis of Federal
Communications Commission filings available in the OpenSecrets political ad database.
identified more than $3.7
million in TV ad buys on more than 12,000 spots across the
first four primary states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
Steyer began running ads on July 10, the day after his campaign launched.
A Flourish data visualisation
The TV spots touch on
Steyer’s business acumen, philanthropic work and activism on climate change, as
well as his efforts to oust Trump.
“Donald Trump failed
as a businessman,” Steyer says in one ad,
citing a New York Times
investigationinto the president’s business losses during the late
1980s. “I started a tiny investment business and over 27 years grew it
successfully to $36 billion.”
The ad blitz appears
to have worked on some voters. Steyer, who is visiting Iowa for the first time
on Friday, has already hit at least 2 percent in three qualifying polls, just
one short of the polling requirement for the September debates. That puts him
ahead of several more conventional candidates, including Sens. Kirsten
Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)
and Govs. Jay Inslee, Steve Bullock and John
Of the three polls in
which Tom Steyer has achieved at least 2 percent, two were conducted in Iowa
while one was conducted in South Carolina. He has yet to hit 2 percent in any
Still elusive for
Steyer is the requirement of 130,000 unique donors, the Democratic
National Committee’s marker of grassroots support. Campaigns have
until Aug. 28 to reach the threshold. The Steyer campaign has not said how many
donors it has so far.
To attract new donors,
Steyer’s digital ads target voters across the country and ask for contributions
of just $1. During its first month, the campaign spent about $3.5 million on
digital ads: $2.6 million on Facebook,
nearly $700,000 on Google and
more than $200,000 on Twitter. These totals are
unprecedented, even as presidential candidates across the board have increased
digital spending in order to attract small-dollar donors.
campaign presence builds off his activism through political groups he
previously funded out of his own pocket, such as NextGen Climate
Action and Need to Impeach,
a super PAC targeting his now-opponent Donald Trump.
Prior to Steyer’s
official announcement of his candidacy in July, Need to Impeach spent more than
$4.4 million on ads promoting the “Tom Steyer” Facebook page, which is now used
by his campaign. After Steyer threw his hat in the ring, ads on the page
switched from being paid for by Need to Impeach or his personal funds to being
paid for by his 2020 campaign.
Steyer’s 458,000 likes
on Facebook already put him ahead of many better-known candidates including
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)
and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
And big spending on digital ads allows the billionaire activist to continue to
grow his audience. His campaign’s digital ad spending totals during its first
month are more than double those of any other Democrat during the same period.
When comparing total
spending on digital advertising, Steyer trails only the three candidates who
are leading most polls: former Vice President Joe Biden and
Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)
and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
Warren and Sanders officially launched their campaigns in February, while Biden
declared in April.
Steyer’s spending on
TV advertising, meanwhile, far outpaces other Democratic candidates, who have
generally focused on building their ground games in early primary states rather
than running TV ads.
Among the top five
candidates in terms of polling, only Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.)
has run TV ads so far. Her campaign’s first ad, a 1-minute spot titled
“3 a.m. agenda,” hit the airwaves in Iowa this week.
Gillibrand, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii)
and former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.)
have also devoted resources to TV ads. Gabbard has passed the donor threshold
to qualify for September but still needs three more polls. Delaney and
Gillibrand have yet to reach either benchmark.
While some candidates
might be forced to drop out if they do not qualify for the September debate
stage, Tom Steyer has plenty of resources to continue running ads and pick up
new donors. The DNC will host another debate in