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2020 American Political Scene

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  • Firestorm
    It just goes to show that Trump has taken over nearly the entire Republican base. None of these people would need to be this servile and sycophantic if they weren't scared of getting primaried and flushed down the toilet if they break with Trump. The latest Republican to call for Trump to concede is Pat Toomey. No prizes for guessing why. He has already decided not to run for the Senate again in 2022.

    I see little point in blaming the Republicans for not breaking with him. They are representing their base....who are all part of the cult now. Their options are to fall in line or get out of politics. What do you expect them to do?

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  • astralis
    well, at this point I don't know what's more pathetic: pissing on someone behind his back and being a sycophant to their face, OR being a part-and-parcel true believer.

    I mean yeah, the first group are craven cowards but at least intelligent enough to see what's going on; the second group, well...

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  • TopHatter
    Originally posted by Albany Rifles View Post
    Woodward holds onto info regarding Trump's knowledge about COVID for months to sell a book.

    Bernstein has zero fucks to give and flamethrowers almost half the GOP Senate Caucus for their craven cowardice.

    Having followed these two since the early 1970s...I delivered the Washington Post 1970-1972 and read it daily and would discuss things (Pentagon Papers, Vietnam, Watergate with my Dad daily)...I always preferred Bernstein's writing.
    Woodward pretty well defended his holding onto the information, I thought. Certainly first and foremost, it wouldn't have done any good. Trump's cult wasn't going to change their behavior regardless of what Trump said or did and people that despise Trump already know what a malignant sociopath he is.

    And let's face it, Bernstein's revelation really isn't all that much of a revelation. We've always known that the GOP establishment sold their souls to Trump.

    I mean, what kind of person willingly allows Trump to summon them like a dog and then THANKS him for it?

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  • Albany Rifles
    Woodward holds onto info regarding Trump's knowledge about COVID for months to sell a book.

    Bernstein has zero fucks to give and flamethrowers almost half the GOP Senate Caucus for their craven cowardice.

    Having followed these two since the early 1970s...I delivered the Washington Post 1970-1972 and read it daily and would discuss things (Pentagon Papers, Vietnam, Watergate with my Dad daily)...I always preferred Bernstein's writing.

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  • TopHatter
    Carl Bernstein Names 21 GOP Senators Who ‘Privately Expressed Their Disdain for Trump’

    Legendary journalist Carl Bernstein used his Twitter account late Sunday night to spill the names of 21 Republican senators who he said have privately expressed “contempt” for President Donald Trump — while publicly praising him. Among them were Sens. Marco Rubio, Mitt Romney and Chuck Grassley.

    “I’m not violating any pledge of journalistic confidentially in reporting this,” the Watergate journalist insisted in a tweet before he dropped the names. “21 Republican Sens-in convos w/ colleagues, staff members, lobbyists, W. House aides-have repeatedly expressed extreme contempt for Trump & his fitness to be POTUS.”

    In the next tweet, he named names:

    Mitt Romney of Utah
    Chuck Grassley of Iowa
    Rob Portman of Ohio
    Lamar Alexander of Tennessee
    Ben Sasse of Nebraska
    Roy Blunt of Missouri
    Susan Collins of Maine
    Lisa Murkowski of Alaska
    John Cornyn of Texas
    John Thune of South Dakota
    Mike Braun and Todd Young of Indiana
    Tim Scott of South Carolina
    Rick Scott and Marco Rubio of Florida
    Richard Burr of North Carolina
    Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania
    Martha McSally of Arizona
    Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts of Kansas
    Richard Shelby of Alabama

    According to Bernstein, all of them “have privately expressed their disdain for Trump.”

    He was careful not to let the name-dropping look like a rehabilitation attempt for the senators’ post-Trump reputations, however. In a third tweet, Bernstein observed, “With few exceptions, their craven public silence has helped enable Trump’s most grievous conduct–including undermining and discrediting the US the electoral system.”

    As of Monday morning, Trump still has not accepted the results of the 2020 election, which he lost to President-elect Joe Biden in both the popular and electoral vote. As a result, many of the president’s allies and fellow Republicans have held off on congratulating Biden or even referring to the Democrat as president-elect.

    Remember these names, gutless cowards, every last one of them, willing and able to put their own political careers over the integrity of this country's institutions.

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  • Albany Rifles
    Originally posted by JRT View Post

    A lot can happen in a couple of months, and much depends on what Trump does between now and late January. If his many transgressions veer over the line into sedition or seditious conspiracy, then I would think he would have a bigger problem staying out of prison. I don't see that possibility as a vanishingly low probability.
    Would love to see that Risk Table!!!

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  • astralis
    lol, and wasn't it -leftists- that were supposed to be into cancel culture?

    Leave a comment:

  • JRT
    Originally posted by The_New_York_Times

    Tucker Carlson Dared Question a Trump Lawyer. The Backlash Was Quick.

    by Jeremy W. Peters
    20 November 2020

    For more than a week, a plain-spoken former federal prosecutor named Sidney Powell made the rounds on right-wing talk radio and cable news, facing little pushback as she laid out a conspiracy theory that Venezuela, Cuba and other “communist” interests had used a secret algorithm to hack into voting machines and steal millions of votes from President Trump.

    She spoke mostly uninterrupted for nearly 20 minutes on Monday on the “Rush Limbaugh Show,” the No. 1 program on talk radio. Hosts like Mark Levin, who has the fourth-largest talk radio audience, and Lou Dobbs of Fox Business praised her patriotism and courage.

    So it came as most unwelcome news to the president’s defenders when Tucker Carlson, host of an 8 p.m. Fox News show and a confidant of Mr. Trump, dissected Ms. Powell’s claims as unreliable and unproven.

    “What Powell was describing would amount to the single greatest crime in American history,” Mr. Carlson said on Thursday night, his voice ringing with incredulity in a 10-minute monologue at the top of his show. “Millions of votes stolen in a day. Democracy destroyed. The end of our centuries-old system of government.” But, he said, when he invited Ms. Powell on his show to share her evidence, she became “angry and told us to stop contacting her.”

    The response was immediate, and hostile. The president’s allies in conservative media and their legions of devoted Trump fans quickly closed ranks behind Ms. Powell and her case on behalf of the president, accusing the Fox host of betrayal.

    “How quickly we turn on our own,” said Bo Snerdley, Mr. Limbaugh’s producer, in a Twitter post that was indicative of the backlash against Mr. Carlson. “Where is the ‘evidence’ the election was fair?”

    The backlash against Mr. Carlson and Fox for daring to exert even a moment of independence underscores how little willingness exists among Republicans to challenge the president and his false narrative about the election he insists was stolen. Among conservative media voices and outlets, there’s generally not just a lack of willingness — they have proved this month to be Mr. Trump’s most reflexive defenders.

    For months before the election, as Mr. Trump spread disinformation about the reliability of mail-in ballots, Republicans largely avoided contradicting him and insisted that his concerns about fraud were not entirely unreasonable. And in the weeks since election night, when Mr. Trump falsely declared himself the winner and then refused to accept President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory, the acknowledgments that the race is settled have come mostly from former officials like President George W. Bush, or from a few current office holders, like Senator Mitt Romney, who have not been afraid to air their differences with Mr. Trump.

    The same fear that grips elected Republicans — getting on the wrong side of voters who adore Mr. Trump but have little affection for the Republican Party — has kept conservative media largely in line. And that has created a right-wing media bubble that has grown increasingly disconnected from the most basic facts about American government in recent weeks, including who will be inaugurated as president on Jan. 20, 2021.

    In the hours after Mr. Carlson’s monologue, word of which spread quickly across social media, Mr. Trump’s supporters not only went after Mr. Carlson but also Fox News. The network has become a source of particular frustration with many on the right after taking a more skeptical view of Mr. Trump’s claims about voter fraud and refusing to reconsider its call on election night that Mr. Biden would win Arizona.

    That decision, which proved correct, deeply angered the president and led him to start promoting some of Fox’s smaller competitors on cable like Newsmax and One America News Network as more suitable alternatives for his large and loyal following.

    Roosh Valizadeh, a writer and podcast host who supports the president, summed up the anger aimed at Fox by many on the right, saying, “As long as Tucker Carlson works for Fox News, he can’t be fully trusted.”

    All week on networks like Newsmax and OANN and talk radio programs, the president’s supporters have been given a steady diet of interviews with Trump allies, campaign officials and news stories that promote allegations of fraud with little or no context.

    One lawyer who is assisting the Trump campaign in its efforts, Lin Wood, went unquestioned this week on Mr. Levin’s show when he made the fantastical claim that Mr. Trump had won the election with 70 percent of the vote. A story that OANN broadcast on Friday afternoon falsely declared, “The state of Michigan is back in play,” giving credence to Mr. Trump’s extraordinary but almost certainly unsuccessful efforts to delay certification of the vote in Detroit.

    Republican officials have remained mostly measured and muted in their response, even after the conspiratorial and unsubstantiated claims floated by Ms. Powell, Rudolph W. Giuliani and other members of Mr. Trump’s legal team at a news conference on Thursday. Republicans like Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, who said that Ms. Powell’s accusations were “absolutely outrageous,” were the exception.

    Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review and sometimes critic of the president who called his refusal to concede “absurd and sophomoric,” said that whether it was a Republican politician or a talk-show host, breaking the will that many Trump supporters have to believe he is the rightful winner was extremely difficult.

    “They want it to be true,” Mr. Lowry said. “On top of that, there’s an enormous credibility gap and radical distrust of other sources of information. And that’s compounded by the fact that the president has no standards and is surrounded by these clownish people who will say anything. It’s a toxic stew.”

    Mr. Lowry added that he thought Mr. Carlson’s words were “admirable” and had told the Fox host so himself. “It’s one thing for people who’ve been opposed to Trump all along, or mixed, to say something like that,” Mr. Lowry said. “It’s another thing for a leader of the populist wing of the conservative movement to call it out.”

    A question for conservative media that are more independent of Mr. Trump is how much of the market the unabashedly pro-Trump media dominates in the future. Some scholars said they expected that audience to be substantial.

    “Drudge and Fox can try to pull back from the abyss,” said Yochai Benkler, a professor at Harvard Law School who studies conservative media. “But the audience is going to get what it wants and reward those who give it to them.”

    Mr. Carlson is no ordinary Trump critic. He has been one of the president’s most aggressive defenders in prime time, especially when it came to standing up for Mr. Trump as he attacked African-American politicians, athletes and the racial justice activists in the Black Lives Matter movement. He has also generally bought into the disproved notion that voter fraud is a widespread problem — a popular position with Mr. Trump and on Mr. Carlson’s network.

    He has not been shy in criticizing aspects of the president’s policies he disagrees with, whether the bombing raid in Iraq that killed Iran’s top general, Qassim Suleimani, or Mr. Trump’s failure to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously when it started spreading last winter. But he has never gone out on a limb like this, with the president and his followers so besieged.

    Mr. Carlson, no doubt aware that many in his audience, including possibly the president himself, would not like what they were hearing, walked a fine line on Thursday night. He insisted that he and his producers “took Sidney Powell seriously,” and that he had invited her on the show to present her evidence.

    He also tried to reassure his audience that he was on their side after all, explaining how he always kept an open mind about alleged cover-ups like the one Ms. Powell has promoted. “We don’t dismiss anything,” he said. “We literally do U.F.O. segments.”



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  • JRT
    commented on 's reply
    Originally posted by TopHatter View Post
    Got a funny feeling that Trump and his criminal organization aren't going to be able to slither away scot free. ... Trump almost certainly won't see the inside of a jail cell but holy moly the avalanche that's coming down on him.
    A lot can happen in a couple of months, and much depends on what Trump does between now and late January. If his many transgressions veer over the line into sedition or seditious conspiracy, then I would think he would have a bigger problem staying out of prison. I don't see that possibility as a vanishingly low probability.
    Last edited by JRT; 21 Nov 20,, 23:42.

  • JRT
    Originally posted by NBC_News

    Bypassing US Senate Leader, Republican Mitch McConnell: Democrats push Biden to aggressively use executive power

    21 November 2020
    by Sahil Kapur

    WASHINGTON — Democrat senators are calling on President-elect Joe Biden to use executive power to advance goals such as tackling climate change, relieving student debt and creating a more progressive immigration system.

    The calls from Democrat senators reflect a recognition that they may be in the minority and not be able to pass a transformative legislative agenda after under-performing in congressional races.
    And unless Democrats win two Georgia Senate runoffs on Jan. 5, Biden will be the first president since 1989 to enter office without his party controlling both chambers of Congress.

    "The president-elect, beginning on January 20, should act as aggressively as possible to reverse the effects of the four years of Donald Trump, and to advance a more positive and effective agenda to make the United States the leader in fighting the climate crisis," Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., told NBC News.

    He said Biden can re-enter the U.S. into the Paris climate accord and slap new fuel economy standards on vehicles and energy-efficiency requirements on appliances. Markey said Biden should "test the outer limits of his powers" through administrative action.

    The push for executive action is also an attempt to nudge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., not to stonewall Biden's agenda, by dangling the prospect of going around Congress, as President Donald Trump often did with Republican support.

    "I think President Biden has significant executive power. And anybody who doubts it? Look at his predecessor," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

    Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, who led a 263-page Democrat report on climate action, said the president has "enormous power" over the issue, between international accords and within agencies.

    "From Treasury to State to Interior (departments) and the financial regulators, climate action and climate risk management has to be infused into literally everything," he said.

    Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have pushed for Biden to use his powers under the Higher Education Act to cancel up to $50,000 in debt to federal student loan borrowers.

    The calls for use of executive power comes as McConnell maintains control of the Senate, at least for now, and it will be a point of contention with moderates like Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who have called on Biden to govern through bipartisanship and consensus.

    Even if Democrats capture both Georgia seats and take control of the Senate, McConnell would retain the power to filibuster legislation and force a 60-vote threshold. And Democrats' shrunken House majority shortens Speaker Nancy Pelosi's runway to pass major legislation.

    Some Democrats fear a repeat of what occurred under the previous administration.

    "My concern is — we all know what happened with Barack Obama. Mitch McConnell came right out of the gate and just said, My big goal is to keep Barack Obama from getting a second term," Wyden said. "So the question already is: Is he teeing this up for the same sort of strategy?"

    Biden "should be looking at executive actions," said Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii. "He's not gonna let the Senate and Mitch McConnell — if he still is holding forth — to stop what we need to be doing for our country."

    Hirono said if Biden's nominees are blocked by the Senate, he should take a page from Trump’s playbook and unilaterally appoint them in temporary or acting capacities.

    "We've watched Mitch. He's ruthless," she said. "And he apparently doesn't care about the impact of his blocking everything on the country. He's done it before."

    A McConnell spokesperson didn't return an email seeking comment on Friday.

    Jeff Hauser, a progressive strategist who runs the Revolving Door Project that vets Cabinet appointees, said Biden should not wait for Congress to pass new laws but to look for existing laws to advance his agenda. He said climate regulations can be beefed up through the 1963 Clean Air Act and corporate excesses can be curtailed using the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act.

    "You don't necessarily need to pass new laws to solve problems. You can implement old laws," Hauser said. "Our basic message is that each agency and department should utilize the statutory tools at their disposal to make positive change, rather than waiting for some complicated sequential game developed by the White House and Congress."

    The courts could be a hurdle for Biden. The Supreme Court's new 6-3 conservative majority may have a more limited view of the extent of Biden's executive authority after Republicans replaced the late liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg with conservative Amy Coney Barrett one week before the election.

    Hauser urged Biden not to be "intimidated" by potential court defeats, arguing that a judicial blockade of popular policies could be useful as a campaign issue in the 2022 midterm elections.

    "Biden's going to need to be willing to lose on occasion to clarify the stakes, rather than avoiding potential defeat at all costs, which at times was a guiding mentality in the Obama years," he said.

    Jamal Brown, a spokesman for Biden's transition team, said his agenda will include executive power.

    "President-elect Biden is taking action now to address the devastating COVID-19 pandemic and implement his agenda on Day One, using both executive action and legislation, to build a more resilient and sustainable economy, fix our broken and unjust immigration system, ensure every American has a fair shot into the middle-class, and create millions of good-paying union jobs," Brown said.



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  • TopHatter
    Originally posted by JRT View Post

    In all, it adds up to a legally perilous — and potentially expensive — post-presidency.

    "It's a potential avalanche," Wehle said. "But this is, again, a man that is very used to using the legal system to his advantage."

    Got a funny feeling that Trump and his criminal organization aren't going to be able to slither away scot free. Trump made the same mistake that John Gotti: He made himself too visible and visibly thumbed his nose at the justice system of this country. There's a reason that Tony "Big Tuna" Accardo spent, at most, a single night in jail while Gotti died in prison. Trump almost certainly won't see the inside of a jail cell but holy moly the avalanche that's coming down on him....

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  • JRT

    Originally posted by Fox_News

    Georgia's military voters seen as pivotal bloc in runoffs that will decide Senate control

    by Hollie McKay
    20 November 2020

    The old mantra that every vote counts may ring truer nowhere than in the state of Georgia, where overseas and military ballots could end up determining control of the U.S. Senate and the fate of Democratic President-elect Joe Biden's agenda.

    Given that neither of Georgia’s Republican senators captured a majority of more than 50% of ballots on Election Day earlier this month, the races in which voters will determine if Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue will continue serving have been extended through early January runoffs.

    “If Biden becomes president, there won't be much he can do without control of the Senate and such a close House on top of that,” Carsten Pfau, an economist and political strategist, told Fox News.

    The integrity of the election may prove just as important as the outcome following President Trump's as-yet unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud that have nonetheless been accepted by wide swaths of his Republican base.

    "All eyes will be set on the Georgia runoff concerning clean elections," Pfau said. Many of Trump's complaints have been centered on mail-in ballots that skewed Democratic and weren't counted until after in-person votes that had initially given the incumbent the appearance of substantial leads.

    In Georgia, according to data provided by the U.S. Vote Foundation and Overseas Vote, more than 26,000 overseas and military ballots were requested for this year’s general election – a number that far supersedes the margin of victory – meaning the voting bloc is a crucial one.

    “Preliminary data reveals that just over 18,000 of the 26,428 overseas and military voters that had received ballots, returned them,” said Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, president and CEO of the U.S. Vote Foundation.

    “Although we cannot say that it is inconsistent with other data, it deserves deeper examination," she added. "If these GA voters requested their ballots, why didn’t they return them? We suspect that many requested to receive their ballots online, which is possible for overseas and military voters. It’s an upside in terms of the time it takes, but the downside is that these voters likely do not realize that they need to be prepared to print and post those ballots back by post or express mail.”

    Confusion about such logistics during the Senate runoffs may have a significant impact. Democrats need to secure both the seats to attain a 50-50 Senate tie that would leave Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in a position to cast a tie-breaking vote, handing her party effective control.

    The preliminary data from the Georgia secretary of state showed that the 28 of the state's counties -- out of a total 159 -- that submitted 100 or more overseas and military ballots were either home to military bases or located near them.

    In the runoff races, ballots are sent automatically to overseas or military voters who requested them during the November general election.

    David Beirne, Federal Voting Assistance Program director, pointed out that a service member can also request a postcard application through the agency's site.

    In the meantime, Democrats and Republicans alike are devoting ample personnel and financial resources to the runoff, engaging voters and urging their bases in the state of 10.6 million not to succumb to voter fatigue.

    The last time Republicans lost a Senate race in Georgia was two decades ago, but with shifting demographics, especially in growing urban areas, political pundits surmise that the vote may swing either way.

    “This election saw an increase of overseas and military voter participation in Georgai, exactly what we predicted based on our website usage,” Dzieduszycka-Suinat added. “I predict that a new record for overseas and military ballots cast in a runoff, and possibly any Georgia election, is about to be set.”



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  • JRT

    Originally posted by NPR_All_Things_Considered

    Once Out Of Office, Trump Faces Significant Legal Jeopardy

    20 November 2020
    by Ryan Lucas, Justice Correspondent, NPR

    Of all the perks of being president, Donald Trump may soon miss most the legal protection that it affords.

    For four years, Trump has benefited from the de facto immunity from prosecution that all presidents enjoy while in office. But that cloak will pass to Joe Biden when he's sworn in on Jan. 20, leaving Trump out in the legal cold.

    "Clearly, the president enjoyed immunity when he was in office," said Danya Perry, a former state and federal prosecutor in New York. "And it's possible, as a matter of law, that he could be indicted on Jan. 21."

    There's no indication that an indictment is imminent, and it's possible that Trump could emerge entirely unscathed. But there's also no doubt that once he's out of office, he'll be facing a higher level of legal jeopardy than he has in years.

    "His legal risks increase immeasurably come Jan. 21, both on the civil and the criminal side," Perry said.

    Potential federal liability

    The most developed case that could ensnare Trump might be out of the Southern District of New York. It stems from the federal prosecution against Michael Cohen, Trump's onetime personal attorney and fixer.

    Cohen pleaded guilty to a range of crimes, including arranging illegal hush money payments to keep women silent during the 2016 campaign about extramarital affairs they say they had with Trump before he was president. Trump has denied the allegations.

    Cohen has said he acted at the direction of and in coordination with Trump. Prosecutors, meanwhile, referred to the president in court papers as "Individual 1."

    It is Justice Department policy that a sitting president cannot be indicted. So although it's possible for a president to break the law before or during his time in office, prosecutors' inability to seek an indictment effectively means he can't be accused, tried or punished while still in office.

    Cohen's wrongdoing, which prosecutors tied to Trump without naming him, raises the question as to whether Trump might face charges of his own.

    "Ordinarily, had the target not been a sitting president with immunity, I think 'Individual 1,' as he's referred to, very likely would have been prosecuted along with his aider and abettor, Michael Cohen," Perry said.

    Uncharted waters

    There could be significant complications to pursuing such a case, however.

    For one, prosecuting a former president would be politically fraught, particularly in a country as divided as this one. The decision on whether to do so at the federal level will fall to the new administration.

    "It comes down to a political calculation," said Kim Wehle, a former federal prosecutor who now teaches at the University of Baltimore School of Law.

    "And the understanding is President-elect Biden has already signaled he doesn't have an appetite for that, which makes sense given he has a lot of political capital that needs to be used on critical issues like the pandemic, like climate change, like the economy."

    Biden has indeed signaled his reluctance to pursue a case against his predecessor. In August, Biden said he'd leave the decision to the Justice Department and the attorney general, but he suggested pursuing charges might do more damage than good.

    "I think it is a very, very unusual thing and probably not very — how can I say it? — good for democracy to be talking about prosecuting former presidents," Biden said.

    There's also the possibility that Trump could attempt to pardon himself before leaving office. The president has asserted he has that power but said in the past he didn't feel he needed to use it because he argues he hasn't broken any law.

    An attempt at a self-pardon would be an unprecedented move and could very well face legal challenges.

    The city and state of New York

    What is clear about Trump's pardon power, however, is that it does not extend to crimes at the state level. And that could prove problematic for Trump in his former hometown.

    Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. has an active criminal investigation into Trump and his businesses. The exact contours of the probe are not clear, but court papers suggest he's investigating possible insurance or financial fraud.

    "That looks like it's the most likely place where he could have some criminal liability around taxes, for example," Wehle said.

    The case has been tied up for months as Trump fights a grand jury subpoena that Vance issued to the president's personal accounting firm. Vance's office is seeking eight years of Trump's tax returns and financial records.

    The president fought the subpoena all the way to the Supreme Court last summer and lost, although the high court left the door open for him to raise other legal challenges.

    Trump did so, arguing that the subpoena was overly broad and politically motivated. Vance rejected those claims, and lower courts agreed with the district attorney's office. Trump's attorneys are now asking the Supreme Court to block the subpoena.

    Wehle said the patience Vance's team has shown in litigating its subpoena case suggests the probe isn't simply political — a Democratic city official in New York playing to the crowd there.

    "It's hard to imagine that Cyrus Vance would have put this kind of effort into investigating Donald Trump while he was president if he was just going to drop that investigation and anything that could come out of that when he is a private citizen like anyone else," Wehle said.

    The Vance case is not the only legal trouble brewing in New York.

    The state attorney general, Letitia James, is conducting a civil investigation into the Trump businesses. James is looking into whether the Trump Organization improperly inflated the value of its assets for loan or insurance purposes, and then deflated the value for tax purposes.

    The president's son, Eric Trump, reportedly was deposed under oath last month as part of the probe.

    While James' investigation is a civil one, it could cross over to the criminal side depending on what investigators uncover.

    According to Perry, the former New York prosecutor, both of the probes could be relatively straightforward because they are likely based heavily on documents.

    "If you're looking at several assets, for example, and different values are attributed to them, one in a tax return and another in a bank loan document, that might be relatively simple," she said. "They do seem to be very paper based."

    Cohen alleged in congressional testimony that Trump's businesses engaged in such practices.

    But there are significant challenges in criminal tax cases, Perry said, because returns for a sprawling business can be complicated, and prosecutors have to prove that people involved willfully broke the law.

    "To prove that the taxpayer here, Mr. Trump himself, has committed intentional, willful tax fraud can be difficult, and it doesn't necessarily fly off the pages of the tax returns," Perry said. "A cooperating witness is always very helpful for that."

    It isn't clear whether Cohen or other sometime aides of Trump might be in a position to appear in a criminal case and testify as to the boss's actions or intentions.

    He also faces defamation lawsuits filed by two women who say he sexually assaulted them — allegations he denies. While Trump doesn't face criminal liability in those suits, he does face potential damage to his reputation and financial repercussions.

    In all, it adds up to a legally perilous — and potentially expensive — post-presidency.

    "It's a potential avalanche," Wehle said. "But this is, again, a man that is very used to using the legal system to his advantage."


    Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.

    He focuses on the national security side of the Justice beat, including counterterrorism and counterintelligence. Lucas also covers a host of other justice issues, including the Trump administration's "tough-on-crime" agenda and anti-trust enforcement.

    Before joining NPR, Lucas worked for a decade as a foreign correspondent for The Associated Press based in Poland, Egypt and Lebanon. In Poland, he covered the fallout from the revelations about secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe. In the Middle East, he reported on the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and the turmoil that followed. He also covered the Libyan civil war, the Syrian conflict and the rise of the Islamic State. He reported from Iraq during the U.S. occupation and later during the Islamic State takeover of Mosul in 2014.

    He also covered intelligence and national security for Congressional Quarterly.

    Lucas earned a bachelor's degree from The College of William and Mary, and a master's degree from Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland.


    Last edited by JRT; 21 Nov 20,, 00:06.

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  • JRT
    Originally posted by AP_News

    Mnuchin denies trying to hinder incoming administration

    by Martin Crutsinger and Christopher Rugaber

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin denied that he is attempting to limit the choices President-elect Joe Biden will have to promote an economic recovery by ending several emergency loan programs being run by the Federal Reserve.

    Mnuchin said his decision was based on the fact that the programs were not being heavily utilized. He said Friday that Congress could make better use of the money by re-allocating it in another direction to support grants to small businesses and extended unemployment assistance.

    “We’re not trying to hinder anything,” Mnuchin said in a CNBC interview. “We don’t need this money to buy corporate bonds. We need this money to go help small businesses that are still closed.”

    However, critics saw politics at play in Mnuchin’s decision, saying the action would deprive the incoming administration of critical support the Fed might need to prop up the economy as coronavirus infections spike nationwide.

    “There can be no doubt, the Trump administration and their congressional toadies are actively trying to tank the U.S economy,” Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said in a prepared statement Friday. “For months, they have refused to take the steps necessary to support workers, small businesses and restaurants. As the result, the only tool at our disposal has been these facilities.”

    Mnuchin on Thursday had written Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell announcing his decision not to extend some of the Fed’s emergency loan programs, which had been operating with support from the Treasury Department. The decision will end the Fed’s corporate credit, municipal lending and Main Street Lending programs as of Dec. 31.

    The decision drew a rare rebuke from the Fed, which said in a brief statement Thursday that the central bank “would prefer that the full suite of emergency facilities established during the coronavirus pandemic continue to serve their important role as a backstop for our still-strained and vulnerable economy.”

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also criticized the move. “A surprise termination of the Federal Reserve’s emergency liquidity program, including the Main Street Lending Program, prematurely and unnecessarily ties the hands of the incoming administration and closes the door on important liquidity options for businesses at a time when they need them most,” said Neil Bradley, the chamber’s executive vice president, in a prepared statement.

    Private economists argued that Mnuchin’s decision to end five of the emergency loan facilities represents an economic risk.

    “While the backstop measure have been little used so far, the deteriorating health and economic backdrop could shine a bright light on the Fed’s diminished recession-fighting arsenal and prompt an adverse market reaction,” said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics.

    Under law, the loan facilities required the support of the Treasury Department, which serves as a backstop for the initial losses the programs might incur.

    In his letter to Powell, Mnuchin said that he is requesting that the Fed return to Treasury the unused funds appropriated by Congress.

    He said this would allow Congress to re-appropriate $455 billion to other coronavirus programs. Republicans and Democrats have been deadlocked for months on approval of another round of coronavirus support measures.

    In public remarks Tuesday, Powell made clear that he hoped that the loan programs would remain in effect for the foreseeable future.

    “When the right time comes, and I don’t think that time is yet, or very soon, we’ll put those tools away,” he said in an online discussion with a San Francisco business group.

    The future of the Main Street and Municipal Lending programs has taken on greater importance with President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Many progressive economists have argued that a Democratic-led Treasury could support the Fed taking on more risk and making more loans to small and mid-sized businesses and cash-strapped cities under these programs. That would provide at least one avenue for the Biden administration to provide stimulus without going through Congress.

    Neither program has lived up to its potential so far, with the Municipal Lending program making just one loan, while the Main Street program has made loans totaling around $4 billion, to about 400 companies.

    Republicans including Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo of Idaho and Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania supported Mnuchin’s move.

    “Congress’ intent was clear: These facilities were to be temporary, to provide liquidity and to cease operations by the end of 2020,” Toomey said in a statement. ”With liquidity restored, they should expire, as Congress intended and the law requires, by Dec. 31, 2020.”


    Last edited by JRT; 20 Nov 20,, 20:14.

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  • TopHatter
    Crushed by COVID-19, rural red states finally start to mandate masks. It may be too little, too late.
    Earlier this week, Iowa’s Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds made national news when she reluctantly set aside her long-standing opposition to mask mandates and finally agreed to issue one in a state with a large rural population where COVID-19 is spreading at an "exponential and unyielding” rate.

    “I don’t want to do this,” said Reynolds, who for months dismissed mask requirements as an unenforceable “feel-good” measure that she was “not going to” implement. “[But] if Iowans don’t buy into this, we lose. The cost in human life will be high.”

    Reynold’s abrupt reversal, which coincided with similar U-turns in Montana and North Dakota, was largely seen as a welcome sign that red states are now accepting what blue states (and scientists) have known since summer: Mandating masks leads to more mask-wearing, and more mask-wearing leads to less coronavirus.

    According to a new study on the impact of St. Louis’s July 3 mask mandate, for instance, average daily COVID-19 case growth in St. Louis three weeks after the ordinance went into effect was 44 percent lower than in neighboring counties where masks were not required. Twelve weeks later, case growth in St. Louis was still 40 percent lower.

    Put another way, 13 of the 17 states currently struggling with the highest COVID-19 positivity rates are also states that don’t mandate masks or that just issued statewide mandates this month.

    “The data shows that … when you put in a mask mandate, more than 80 percent of that specific population [starts] following it,” explained Dr. Enbal Shacham of St. Louis University, the lead author of the Missouri mask study. “It's going to have a reduction.”

    Yet Reynolds’s belated and begrudging order, while preferable to more stonewalling, also embodies the larger problem with rural America’s approach to masks. If you’re going to mandate them eventually — and there is no cheaper, easier and less intrusive way for a leader to combat COVID-19 than by encouraging people to mask up — then it makes sense to do it before things get really bad.

    And make no mistake: Things in Iowa are really bad.

    In that light, Iowa’s new mask mandate should serve as a warning to the rest of the country about how not to craft a mask mandate. Don’t riddle it with loopholes. Don’t undermine it with mixed messages. And most of all, don’t issue it only after hospitals — especially rural hospitals — start to reach capacity.

    The statistics are stark. On Oct. 14, Iowa was averaging 1,100 new cases per day; one month later, that average had more than quadrupled to 4,703 new daily cases. But even this drastic spike vastly understates the true spread of the virus, because over the same period, the average percentage of Iowa tests coming back positive skyrocketed from (an already out-of-control) 20 percent to (a frankly terrifying) 51 percent.

    More Iowans are dying as a result. If Iowa were a country, it would rank 28th in the world for daily deaths per capita from COVID-19, according to a Nov. 16 analysis by the Federation of American Scientists. One month ago, about 10 Iowans were dying from COVID-19 every day. Now the state seems to be setting new death records every 48 hours or so, with 41 deaths Tuesday and many more to come in the days and weeks ahead.

    Why? Because deaths lag cases by about three weeks, which means that daily deaths in Iowa could exceed 100 early next month. To put that in perspective, it would represent a rate of 30 to 35 daily COVID-19 deaths per million residents — roughly two times the highest per capita death rate in the world right now. Already, a record 1,527 Iowans are hospitalized with COVID-19, up from a record 1,510 a day earlier. That’s double the number from two weeks ago. Coronavirus patients now make up one out of every four hospitalizations in the state.

    When issuing her mask mandate earlier this week, Reynolds cited Iowa’s spiraling hospital crisis — the unsustainable strain on healthcare facilities, resources and staff — as the reason she changed her mind. Her “hand,” as the New York Times reported Tuesday, “was forced.”

    “As pressure built from doctors, mayors and even people serving in [Reynolds’s] own administration, the message was clear: If she did not act, Iowa’s hospitals could soon be overflowing with coronavirus patients, leaving few ambulances, beds or doctors left to care for anyone else,” the paper explained.

    But here’s the problem: It’s already too late for a mask mandate — particularly a half-hearted mask mandate like Reynolds’s — to keep Iowa’s hospitals from overflowing.

    “We don’t have that many beds left,” Sioux City’s nonpartisan Mayor Bob Scott told the Times. “This should have happened three weeks ago.”

    Or earlier. Mandating masks is a good way to help keep a COVID-19 outbreak under control. But if you wait until the outbreak is out of control to mandate face coverings — if you wait until your hand is forced — then you’re still going to be staring down weeks of baked-in infections, hospitalizations and deaths that could have been reduced or even prevented by a preexisting requirement.

    This is doubly risky in the sort of red states that have resisted mask mandates the most. Small rural hospitals have been closing at a record pace due a decline in elective procedures (and revenue) during the pandemic. The facilities that have managed to survive are often the last to upgrade their air-circulation systems and the first to run out of ventilators, PPE and available medical professionals. Patients are being airlifted out. Meanwhile, some rural hospitals, according to the Associated Press, are “converting chapels, cafeterias, waiting rooms, hallways, even a parking garage, into patient treatment areas. Staff members are desperately calling around to other medical centers in search of open beds. Fatigue and frustration are setting in among front-line workers.”

    According to Eli Perencevich, an infectious disease doctor at the University of Iowa who spoke to the Atlantic’s Ed Yong, the state has already run out of staffed beds.

    “The wave hasn’t even crashed down on us yet,” Perencevich predicted. “It keeps rising and rising, and we’re all running on fear. The health care system in Iowa is going to collapse, no question.”

    Needless to say, this is not an optimal environment for saving lives, which arguably makes routine mask-wearing even more consequential in rural America than in places with sturdier medical systems (and presumably less burdensome, too, assuming lower population density means fewer close interactions with people from other households).

    In Iowa, the best-case scenario is that residents cooperate with Reynolds’s mask mandate and cases start to decline in a few weeks, eventually easing the crush on hospitals. But there’s reason to worry that won’t happen. Part of it is seasonal: Frigid temperatures and holiday celebrations will increasingly tempt people to gather indoors. Part of it is political: Polls show that Republicans are far more hostile to masks than Democrats, and Iowa is a red state where leaders like Reynolds have long framed universal masking as somehow inconsistent with personal liberty.

    But the most disturbing and avoidable factor is poor policy. According to Reynolds’s mandate, Iowans must wear a mask in indoor public places — but only if they will be within six feet of someone from outside their household for at least 15 minutes. And so “if you're standing 6 feet apart in a grocery line where the wait is 12 minutes, you aren't required to wear a mask,” Des Moines Register columnist Rekha Basu noted Tuesday. “And the mask rule doesn't apply to bars and restaurants — or religious services. Eateries and drinking holes can stay open 16 hours straight, to 10 p.m.” In fact, indoor dining is still permitted. And school districts are allowed to decide for themselves whether or not to mandate masks; about one-third of Iowa’s school districts currently do not require them.

    A policy that porous may not be powerful enough to counter Iowa’s significant seasonal and political headwinds. And it doesn’t help that Reynolds, speaking Tuesday, is still saying, “There’s science on both sides” about masks, and, “If you look, you can find whatever you want to support wherever you’re at.” (The science actually says that “universal masking policies can help avert future lockdowns.”)

    On Thursday, President-elect Joe Biden discussed a possible nationwide mask mandate during a call with Republican and Democratic governors, declaring afterward that covering your face is "not a political statement” but rather “a patriotic duty.” His team is also exploring ways to persuade resistant Republican governors to get on board, including possibly tying federal COVID-19 relief to statewide mandates.

    ut any national progress will have to wait until Biden takes office on Jan. 20. Before then, Reynolds may be a better model than, say, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who on Thursday refused to encourage her constituents to wear masks or to socially distance, saying those who go maskless are making a “personal decision” and deserve respect — despite the fact that COVID-19 cases and deaths are rising even faster in her state than in Iowa.

    But an even better model on masking would be California, which first mandated masks in public areas and other high-risk settings five months ago and earlier this week expanded that requirement to any outdoor setting within six feet of people from other households. The first mandate went into effect when 4.6 percent of California’s COVID-19 tests were coming back positive; today, the state’s positivity rate is only slightly higher (5.2 percent) and hospitals seem to have sufficient capacity to handle the winter surge.

    Here’s hoping it stays that way — and that the rest of America realizes sooner rather than later that following California’s lead on masks is smarter than following Iowa’s.

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