Informing Fauci and other government scientists that they must clear all public comments with Mike Pence, the vice-president, is unacceptable. This is not a time for someone who denies evolution, the climate crisis and the dangers of smoking to shape the public message. Thank goodness Fauci, Francis Collins, the director of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), and their colleagues across federal agencies are willing to soldier on and are gradually getting the message out.
While scientists are trying to share facts about the epidemic, the administration either blocks those facts or restates them with contradictions. Transmission rates and death rates are not measurements that can be changed with will and an extroverted presentation. The administration has repeatedly said – as it did last week – that virus spread in the United States is contained, when it is clear from genomic evidence that community spread is occurring in Washington state and beyond. That kind of distortion and denial is dangerous and almost certainly contributed to the federal government’s sluggish response. After three years of debating whether the words of this administration matter, the words are now clearly a matter of life and death.
And although the steps required to produce a vaccine could possibly be made more efficient, many of them depend on biological and chemical processes that are essential. So the president might just as well have said, “Do me a favor, hurry up that warp drive.”
I don’t expect politicians to know Maxwell’s equations for electromagnetism or the Diels-Alder chemical reaction (although I can dream). But you can’t insult science when you don’t like it and then suddenly insist on something that science can’t give on demand. For the past four years, Trump’s budgets have made deep cuts to science, including cuts to funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the NIH. With this administration’s disregard for science of the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the stalled naming of a director for the Office of Science and Technology Policy – all to support political goals – the nation has had nearly four years of harming and ignoring science.
The GOP’s decade long war against science, and experts in general, is finally bearing bitter fruit for all of us. Drink deeply.
I am also genuinely curious if the anti-vaxxer idiot crowd will accept this vaccine without complaint. Will they insist upon being first in line? Or will they block widespread distribution of it? We won’t know for a bit, and by then, the death toll will most likely be higher. A real test of their principles, or lack of them. Herd immunity and all that…
Many Americans who are sick and seeking a coronavirus test continue to be turned away, creating a vexing problem for patients and health officials as the virus spreads. The problem persists, doctors and patients across the country say, despite increased production and distribution of the tests in recent days.
At a time when U.S. fatalities from the virus have risen, there remain limited numbers of tests and the capacity of laboratories is under strain.
The constraints are squeezing out patients who don’t meet rigid government eligibility criteria, even if their doctors want them tested, according to dozens of interviews with doctors and patients this week.
The gap between real-life obstacles to testing and President Trump’s sweeping assurances that “anybody that needs a test gets a test” has sown frustration, uncertainty and anxiety among patients who have symptoms consistent with covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, but have been unable to find out whether they are infected.
Having competent leadership really does matter. Trump’s people knew about the virus in early January, did nothing to ramp up the nation’s pandemic infrastructure, twiddled their thumbs, and now we are all paying the price, or about to.
If Trump had any love of America1 he’d resign in shame.
The vaccine won’t be available for a while in any case…
Los Angeles Times:
Nothing can stop a global outbreak in its tracks better than a vaccine. Unfortunately, creating a vaccine capable of preventing the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 will probably take at least a year to 18 months, health officials say.
“That is the time frame,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the House Oversight and Reform Committee this week. Anyone who says they can do it faster “will be cutting corners that would be detrimental.”
While there are about 10 vaccine candidates in the works — and at least one of them could begin clinical trials in April — it would still take about three more months to conduct the first stage of human testing and another eight months or so to complete the next stage of the trial process, he added.
New vaccines require copious research and time-consuming testing that can cost hundreds of millions of dollars. There’s no guarantee of success, but even if everything goes well, the final product might not hit the market until after an outbreak has subsided.
Here’s a look at how vaccines are made and why the process takes so long.
Keep washing your hands, we are in for a long, bumpy ride…
Now, however, we face a much bigger crisis with the coronavirus. And Trump’s response has been worse than even his harshest critics could have imagined. He has treated a dire threat as a public relations problem, combining denial with frantic blame-shifting.
His administration has failed to deliver the most basic prerequisite of pandemic response, widespread testing to track the disease’s spread. He has failed to implement recommendations of public health experts, instead imposing pointless travel bans on foreigners when all indications are that the disease is already well established in the United States.
And his response to the economic fallout has veered between complacency and hysteria, with a strong admixture of cronyism.
It’s something of a mystery why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, normally a highly competent agency, have utterly failed to provide resources for widespread coronavirus testing during the pandemic’s crucial early stages. But it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that the incompetence is related to politics, perhaps to Trump’s desire to play down the threat.
According to Reuters, the Trump administration has ordered health agencies to treat all coronavirus deliberations as classified. This makes no sense and is indeed destructive in terms of public policy, but it makes perfect sense if the administration doesn’t want the public to know how its actions are endangering American lives.
The U.S. was not prepared to respond to the coronavirus — in no small part because Trump had hamstrung the nation’s pandemic response capabilities. The Washington Post detailed Saturday the “many preventable missteps and blunders in the federal government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis — the embodiment of an administration that, for weeks, repeatedly squandered opportunities to manage and prepare for a global epidemic.” The problems started from the top: Trump “has undermined his administration’s own efforts to fight the coronavirus outbreak — resisting attempts to plan for worst-case scenarios, overturning a public-health plan upon request from political allies and repeating only the warnings that he chose to hear,” Politico reported the same day.
Trump’s lax response to the spread of the coronavirus mimics the reaction of his favorite network — and that’s no coincidence. The president is shunning aides who provide him with negative information about the epidemic and basking in Fox’s glowing coverage. On Friday afternoon, amid a rambling and incoherent press event at the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Trump downplayed the threat posed by the disease, praised his administration’s response, lashed out at Democrats, and told reporters that he was getting information about the spread of the coronavirus from Fox.
“As of the time I left the plane with you, we had 240 cases — that’s at least what was on a very fine network known as Fox News,” he said. “I know you love it. But that’s what I happened to be watching.” This was not an anomaly. As coronavirus spread in February 2020, Trump sent more than twice as many live-tweets of Fox’s coverage as he did in February 2019. On Friday morning alone, he sent three tweets about coronavirus in response to Fox.
What was Trump learning from his regular Fox-watching? Roughly an hour before his comments, a Fox medical correspondent argued on-air that coronavirus was no more dangerous than the flu; a few hours later, the same correspondent argued that coronavirus fears were being deliberately overblown in hopes of damaging Trump politically. The network’s personalities have frequently claimed that the Trump administration has been doing a great job responding to coronavirus, that the fears of the disease are overblown, and that the real problem is Democrats and the media politicizing the epidemic to prevent Trump’s reelection. The president absorbs those narratives and parrots them to the public in tweets and statements; the network responds by continuing to push those talking points.
No one wants a public panic. But by downplaying the risks of coronavirus in order to rally to Trump’s defense, Fox is endangering its audience, which skews older and is most susceptible to the disease. It seems to be having an effect — both anecdotally and based on polling: Republicans are less likely to view the disease as a serious threat.
But the greater danger is that one of Fox’s older Republican viewers is the president of the United States. And when the network tells him that coronavirus is nothing to worry about, he listens.
As a result, a significant number of Americans are likely to die — prematurely and unnecessarily — because Trump is taking advice from Fox News. We are courting disaster, thanks to the Trump-Fox feedback loop.
Put President Trump in a room full of scientists, and he’s going to start to feel very insecure. Put him in a crisis he can’t boast his way out of, and things are going to go very badly.
That’s what we now face with the coronavirus. The crisis is not happening only in a foreign country, or in just one spot in America. It threatens to touch all of us. By all accounts, the president’s handling of it so far has been somewhere between awful and disastrous. Worst of all, from his perspective, it threatens the reality distortion field he works so hard to maintain.
Trump is plainly more concerned with how the virus affects his public image than how it affects Americans’ health. He blurted out that he wanted to keep a cruise ship off the coast of California “because I like the numbers being where they are. I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship.”
But when Trump feels the need to remind you that he is related to a smart person, it’s pretty obvious that he’s afraid people might not think he’s smart enough.
[The Dotard] trumpets that he is the most bodacious barrier builder of all, yet he can’t seem to get his one “big, beautiful wall” funded or even taken seriously, much less built. Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump has continuously stamped his tiny feet and demanded that Congress shell out more than 10 billion of our taxpayers’ dollars to erect a monster of a wall across some 2,000 miles of the U.S. border with Mexico. Like a flimflamming snake-oil peddler, he rants that his magnificent edifice would magically keep “aliens,” “rapists,” “murderers,” “terrorists,” “drugs” and “cartels” from entering the U.S. from the south. But even when his own party controlled both houses of Congress, the presidency and the courts, his grand scheme went unloved, unfunded and unbuilt.
Still, he kept insisting … and persisting. In January, he directed his Customs and Border Control officials to put up a short section of his 30-foot-tall wall on the border at Calexico, California, to show the world how effective the Trump bulwark would be. Alas, though, the thing blew over! Not from a hurricane-force storm but from moderate winds topping out at only 37 miles an hour. The metal panels flung over into Mexico. Embarrassing.
A month later, a climbing group in Kentucky built a replica of that wall and held an up-and-over competition. Winning time was 13.1 seconds! Sixty-five competitors easily topped it, including an 8-year-old girl and a guy who climbed it one-handed while juggling various items with his other hand.
Would be amusing if it wasn’t so sad. What else could Wall money be spent on? Nearly anything would be more useful…
El Paso Times reports:
Smugglers in Juárez have engineered camouflage hook-and-ladders made of rebar that blend in so well with the border wall that it can be hard to detect, according to U.S. Border Patrol. The ladders are the same rust brown color as the mesh panels or steel beams of the fence.
El Paso’s urban stretch of border is littered with the rusted rebar ladders at the base on both sides — ladders lying in wait on the Mexican side, ladders pulled down by border agents or abandoned by smugglers on the U.S. side. One of the rebar ladders was poking out of a dumpster in a lot near the Chihuahuita neighborhood on Thursday.
The ladders appear to be made with two poles of 3/8-inch rebar and four thinner poles, outfitted with steps and bent over at the end in a U, to hook on the top of the wall. It’s the sort of cubed rebar support structure used in construction in Mexico, called castillo.
Six meters of castillo costs 99 pesos, or about $5.30, at the Hágalo — or Do It Yourself — True Value hardware store in Juárez. There is no indication that smugglers are shopping at that store in particular.
Romero said the rebar ladders started turning up in large numbers in the El Paso sector last year in May, around the time that construction of the most recent replacement wallfinished downtown. They’ve been a go-to method for scaling the fence in the urban footprint since.
A pardon for Roger Stone would be the capstone of the White House’s extraordinary interference in this legal case. Attorney General William Barr already created a firestorm by overriding the sentencing guidelines of the original prosecutors in the case, who resigned in protest.
Trump’s use of his pardon power can be distinguished from the other scandals of his presidency in that it is a perfectly legal, indeed constitutional, form of corruption. The fact a president can pardon his own criminal associates doesn’t make the action any better than actually impeachable offenses like obstructing justice or using foreign aid to advance his political fortune.
Rather, the very constitutionality of Trump’s actions makes them worse, because they show how the legal powers of the presidency are themselves ripe for abuse. Trump, by being bolder than his predecessors, has shown how easily a president can undermine the rule of law without even breaking any laws.
A revelatory book about the rise and fall of the world’s biggest bank might hold some interest to financiers, business school professors and readers of the Economist. But what about one that also has all the elements of a page-turning mystery novel: suspicious suicides, Russian money laundering, securities and tax fraud, price fixing, $100 million bonuses, whistleblowers who are ignored and fired, and a heroin junkie peddling stolen documents to journalists and FBI agents? Add to that a big client with a sketchy financial history who suddenly becomes president of the United States, and you’ve got the makings of a blockbuster.
A new Russian subsidiary laundered tens of billions of rubles into dollars for Russian oligarchs and cronies of President Vladimir Putin. Its London traders helped organize a conspiracy to fix interest rates. Its New York investment bankers were at the front of the pack peddling collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and mortgage-backed securities they knew would go bad. Its bankers conspired with corporate clients to evade economic sanctions against Iran and Syria, and helped giant hedge funds avoid taxes in the United States. Its enormous stash of risky derivatives was carried on its books at prices well above their market value. And its top executives repeatedly lied about all these things to investors, regulators and even their own directors.
The consequences of all this risk-taking, mismanagement and fraud are now clear. Between 2015 and 2017, the bank was forced to record losses of more than $10 billion, and it only barely returned to profitability in 2018. Since 2007, its stock price has fallen 95 percent. And as Enrich reports, the bank’s financial position was so precarious that even longtime corporate customers abandoned it. The International Monetary Fund recently singled out Deutsche Bank as the institution posing the biggest risk to the global banking system.
And when Trump was on the verge of defaulting on loans used to buy his failing hotels and casinos in Atlantic City, Deutsche Bank came to the rescue by peddling $484 million in junk bonds to investors — bonds on which Trump defaulted within a year.
Normally, such a default would have been enough to scare away even the most risk-tolerant lenders. But within months, Deutsche Bank’s real estate division was again providing Trump with a $640 million loan needed to build a new Chicago hotel, while its team in Moscow was steering Russian investors to Trump projects in Hawaii and Mexico. The relationship hit a low point in 2009 when Trump announced he had no intention of repaying his loan on the Chicago hotel, claiming that the unfolding financial crisis was an act of God that freed him of his obligation.
When Deutsche Bank sued to get its money back, Trump countersued, preposterously accusing the bank of predatory lending practices. The matter was finally settled with a two-year extension on the loan — and a vow by the bank’s real estate lenders never to do business with Trump again. But two years later, Trump somehow sweet-talked his way into Deutsche’s private banking division, which over the next several years provided him with $350 million in personal loans to cover projects in Chicago, Miami and Washington.
Sounds interesting. It always seemed odd to me that a bank would continue to lend vast sums of money to such an obvious deadbeat like Trump. Was it all money laundering? Something else? I guess I’ll have to read the book and find out.
“Enrich tells the story of how one of the world’s mightiest banks careened off the rails, threatening everything from our financial system to our democracy. Darkly fascinating. A tale that will keep you up at night.” — John Carreyrou, #1 bestselling author of Bad Blood
From New York Times finance editor David Enrich, a searing exposé of the most scandalous bank in the world, revealing its shadowy ties to Donald Trump, Putin’s Russia, and Nazi Germany
On a rainy Sunday in 2014, a senior executive at Deutsche Bank was found hanging in his London apartment. Bill Broeksmit had helped build the 150-year-old financial institution into a global colossus, and his sudden death was a mystery, made more so by the bank’s efforts to deter investigation. Broeksmit, it turned out, was a man who knew too much.
In Dark Towers, award-winning journalist David Enrich reveals the truth about Deutsche Bank and its epic path of devastation. Tracing the bank’s history back to its propping up of a default-prone American developer in the 1880s, helping the Nazis build Auschwitz, and wooing Eastern Bloc authoritarians, he shows how in the 1990s, via a succession of hard-charging executives, Deutsche made a fateful decision to pursue Wall Street riches, often at the expense of ethics and the law.
Soon, the bank was manipulating markets, violating international sanctions to aid terrorist regimes, scamming investors, defrauding regulators, and laundering money for Russian oligarchs. Ever desperate for an American foothold, Deutsche also started doing business with a self-promoting real estate magnate nearly every other bank in the world deemed too dangerous to touch: Donald Trump. Over the next twenty years, Deutsche executives loaned billions to Trump, the Kushner family, and an array of scandal-tarred clients, including convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Dark Towers is the never-before-told saga of how Deutsche Bank became the global face of financial recklessness and criminality—the corporate equivalent of a weapon of mass destruction. It is also the story of a man who was consumed by fear of what he’d seen at the bank—and his son’s obsessive search for the secrets he kept.
The Trump administration is deploying highly trained officers to boost arrests of unauthorized immigrants in cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, the latest move in a battle against localities that adopt “sanctuary” policies to protect them from deportation.
Members of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Border Patrol Tactical Unit will be among the officers deployed to cities to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. They will also be sent to San Francisco, Atlanta, Houston, Boston, New Orleans, Detroit and Newark, New Jersey, CBP spokesman Lawrence Payne said in a statement.
The way the federal budget works is often a mystery to Americans. But it shouldn’t be to the president of the United States.
Here, the president makes a basic mistake. He asserts that even though he signed into law a bill cutting taxes in 2017, revenue has kept going up — a fact he attributes to a robust economy. Some listeners might even have gotten the impression that the tax cuts were paying for themselves — a false claim the administration made repeatedly before the passage of the tax bill.
But revenue was always supposed to be going up year after year, despite the tax cuts. And revenue is way down from what had been anticipated before Congress approved the tax cuts, which (along with higher spending) is the reason the federal budget deficit is soaring despite a good economy.
Raw numbers don’t tell the whole story, of course. When comparing budget numbers over time, it’s generally more useful to look at revenue as a percentage of the gross domestic product (GDP), the broadest measure of the U.S. economy. As a percent of GDP, revenue was expected to drop from 17.2 percent in 2017 to 16.3 percent in 2019 and 16.4 percent in 2020, the CBO said.
That’s a key reason the federal deficit is soaring — from $665 billion in 2017 to more than $1 trillion in 2020. That’s not supposed to happen when the unemployment rate is below 4 percent. Recall that in Bill Clinton’s presidency — he raised taxes and Congress cut spending — that the budget actually went into surplus. But Trump has signed bills that cut taxes and also dramatically increased spending — the exact opposite approach.
One of my biggest wishes is for the citizens of the United States to collectively decide that the office of the President is important, and should only be staffed by competent, smart people, and not award it to someone who proves again and again he is not competent, nor smart.
Since I looked this up, here is the list of Senators who are running for election in 2020. I would suggest that the ones who voted against witnesses in the Trump* trial should not win their re-election, unfortunately, some will anyway.
Alabama – Doug Jones – voted for witnesses, but who knows if he’ll win again in deeply conservative Alabama
Alaska – Dan Sullivan – voted no, sadly will probably win re-election
Arizona (special) – Martha McSally – voted no, of course, and should lose her election because of it and other reasons
Arkansas – Tom Cotton – voted no, sadly will probably win re-election
Colorado – Cory Gardner, voted no, should lose because of his moral cowardice
Delaware – Chris Coons – voted yes, should win in a Democratic plurality state
Georgia –David Perdue – voted no, sadly will probably win re-election
Georgia (special) –Kelly Loeffler – voted no, sadly will probably win re-election
Idaho – Jim Risch -voted no, sadly will probably win re-election
Illinois –Dick Durbin – voted yes, should win re-election handily as he’s fairly popular in Illinois
Iowa – Joni Ernst – voted no, should lose for being a tool of Putin, but Iowa is a toss-up so who knows
Kansas – Pat Roberts (retiring) -voted no, because he has no moral courage. Not sure who wins to replace Roberts, the universe sure hopes it isn’t Kris Kobach. Doubtful this seat flips, but maybe?
Kentucky – Mitch McConnell -voted no, sadly will probably win, but it will be closer than usual for Moscow Mitch.
Louisiana – Bill Cassidy – voted no, sadly will probably win re-election
Maine – Susan Collins – voted yes, but is not popular in Maine and could very well lose which would cause much rejoicing across the country.
Massachusetts – Ed Markey – voted yes, should win easily
Michigan –Gary Peters – voted yes, and probably will win, but it will be close
Minnesota – Tina Smith – voted yes, and might squeak out a win in Al Franken’s old seat
Mississippi –Cindy Hyde-Smith – voted no, sadly will probably win re-election in deeply conservative Mississippi
Montana – Steve Daines -voted no, sadly will probably win re-election
Nebraska – Ben Sasse – voted no, sadly will probably win re-election despite having no moral courage
New Hampshire – Jeanne Shaheen – voted yes, will probably win re-election
New Jersey – Cory Booker – voted yes, will probably win easily. Did you know he is a vegan?
New Mexico – Tom Udall (retiring) – voted yes, but will the seat flip? Depends who wins the primary I suppose
North Carolina – Thom Tillis – voted no, could very well lose because of it, but it’s currently a toss-up
Oklahoma – Jim Inhofe – voted no, sadly will probably win re-election. Should really move to Yemen or somewhere not America.
Oregon – Jeff Merkley – voted yes, should win easily
Rhode Island – Jack Reed – voted yes, should win easily
South Carolina – Lindsey Graham – voted no, of course, and is in real trouble. I’d be embarrassed to be represented by such a sycophant if I lived in South Carolina
South Dakota – Mike Rounds – voted no, sadly will probably win re-election
Tennessee – Lamar Alexander (retiring) – voted no, even though said Trump* was probably guilty. No moral courage, in contrast to his mentor Howard Baker. Will the state flip? Probably not.
Texas – John Cornyn – voted no, and as much as I hate to say it, will probably win because of rural Texans and voter suppression etc.
Virginia – Mark Warner – voted yes, should win re-election, though it could be close
West Virginia – Shelley Moore Capito – voted no, sadly will probably win re-election
Wyoming –Mike Enzi (retiring) – voted no, sadly will be replaced by a similarly morally bankrupt Republican.
Too early to game it out with certainty, but it is possible that Moscow Mitch will no longer be Senate Majority Leader in 2021, and the nation will collectively heave a sigh of relief
Just like that, at precisely 11 p.m. on Thursday, minutes after the end of the ninth day of the Senate trial of Donald John Trump, Senator Lamar Alexander ended it. In a statement tweeted out by his office, the Tennessee Republican said that the President was guilty of “inappropriate” pressure on Ukraine in the service of his own reëlection. The House Democrats managing the case had “proven” it, but that was not enough to impeach and remove Trump from office. Nor was it enough to continue the trial, Alexander said. He would not support calling witnesses. He would not support any effort to obtain further evidence. He did not want to hear even from John Bolton, the former Trump national-security adviser who is prepared to testify that the President directly admitted to the central allegation in the impeachment case. Without Alexander’s support, the trial almost certainly cannot continue. Democrats do not have the fifty-one votes they need to call witnesses, and so, sometime on Friday or early Saturday, the third Presidential-impeachment trial in American history is virtually certain to reach its preordained conclusion: a partisan acquittal by the Republican-controlled Senate, following a partisan impeachment by the Democratic-controlled House.
In the end, it’s no small irony that Trump was saved from embarrassing public testimony against him by one of the last representatives of the Republican establishment that so recently scorned him—and for which the President himself has nothing but scorn. Alexander declined to endorse Trump in 2016, and had previously bucked the President on trade, health care, and his much-vaunted border wall. But as Alexander retires later this year, after decades of service once characterized by bipartisanship, his most decisive final act will have been to do Trump an enormous favor. Alexander’s mentor in politics, Senator Howard Baker, is remembered as the Republican leader who pursued the facts about Richard Nixon during Watergate and demanded answers to the key question of what Nixon knew and when he knew it. Lamar Alexander will not have such an honor. He will go down in history as the Republican senator whose choice at a pivotal moment confirmed the complete and final capitulation of the G.O.P. to the crass New York interloper in the White House.
Alexander’s late-night statement was no real surprise. The “closest friend” to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—as McConnell made sure to point out to the Times, earlier this week—Alexander ended up where most Senate Republicans were always expected to end up. He criticized Trump but refused to vote to remove him from office. After making that decision, Alexander went a step further and said that there was no real need to hear any of the evidence that Trump has so far successfully ordered his Administration not to provide. Even the last-minute revelation, on Sunday night, in the Times, of Bolton’s unpublished manuscript, could not sway Alexander; he knew enough.
All fifteen previous impeachment trials in the U.S. Senate, including the two previous Presidential-impeachment trials, had witnesses. But Lamar Alexander has spoken. Donald Trump’s stonewalling will succeed where Nixon’s failed. Perhaps Alexander has done us all a favor: the trial that wasn’t really a trial will be over, and we will no longer have to listen to it. The Senate can stop pretending.
Sad day for our system of government, craven politicians choosing their own political party over the country they were elected to serve. The impeachment of Trump* was always going to fail, but the Republicans couldn’t even make a pretense of wanting a fair airing of evidence. Traitors to democracy, and to rule of law…
Meanwhile, in non-impeachment news, Catherine Rampell, The Washington Post reports:
Perhaps distracted by the beauty and billionaires of Davos, Switzerland, this week Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin let slip an embarrassing admission: President Trump’s justification for his trade wars is hogwash.
For two years, the administration has offered increasingly ludicrous explanations for its tariffs. Sometimes tariffs are designed to shield pet U.S. industries from unfair competition. (Those industries are still shuttering plants despite the tariffs, but no matter.)
Sometimes, tariffs are instead intended to raise revenue from abroad. (That additional tax revenue is being paid by Americans, not foreigners, but whatever.)
Perhaps the most farcical rationale, however, has been that massive tariffs are necessary to safeguard America’s “national security.”
First, the Trump administration argued that it needed to impose worldwide tariffs on steel and aluminum on these bogus “national security” grounds. After all, Trump explained, “If you don’t have steel, you don’t have a country,” whatever that means.
Loyal allies, such as Canada and Britain, were understandably offended to learn that their metal products somehow threatened U.S. national security and would thus be tariffed.
Last year, at Trump’s request, the Commerce Department produced a report determining that imports of autos and automotive parts somehow also put America at grave risk, and that it thereby needs to do something to increase “American-owned” production. Precisely how your Subaru or Honda, or some foreign-made part buried somewhere in your Ford, compromises U.S. security is unclear; that Commerce Department report has never been released.
To be clear, the auto industry does not want these tariffs. Industry groups — comprising both U.S. and foreign companies — have called them “absurd” and “spurious,” particularly because these imports support millions of American jobs in auto manufacturing, parts and sales.
Bullshit from these professional bullshit artists. And yet corporate America still supports the political party that regularly screws them because, you know, tax cuts for millionaires is popular in most corporate boardrooms.
And Mnuchin’s “slip of the tongue”:
At a Davos panel Wednesday, Mnuchin finally acknowledged the obvious: that the administration’s official rationale for auto tariffs was made up, a legal fiction designed to let it bully or retaliate against opponents whenever Trump felt like it. In the context of a discussion about digital service taxes proposed by European countries, Mnuchin told the audience: “If people want to just arbitrarily put taxes on our digital companies, we will consider arbitrarily putting taxes on car companies.”
Someone mentioned that Representative Adam Schiff has a side gig as a screenwriter.
Back in 2018, Jeffrey Toobin of The New Yorker wrote a nice profile of Adam Schiff, which includes this:
Schiff mostly sticks to business with his staffers, but they all know that he was a movie buff long before he became the congressman from Hollywood. (Several years ago, his holiday gift to each staffer was a DVD of “The Big Lebowski,” which Schiff often quotes.) It’s less known that, like many lawyers in Los Angeles, Schiff has been writing screenplays on the side for years, which together amount to a kind of autobiography. “The first was a post-Holocaust story called ‘Remnant.’ ” As Schiff recalled, “I had an agent at William Morris tell me it was good but no one would want to see it—too depressing. Then ‘Schindler’s List’ came out, and I was, like, ‘Come on!’ ” His next, written when he was a prosecutor, was a murder mystery called “Minotaur.” “I had a friend who was a producer, and he said there were two answers in Hollywood—‘Yes,’ and ‘Here’s a check.’ I was getting lots of yeses.” But perhaps there is hope for his third. “It’s a spy drama,” he said. “That one is a work in progress.”
So no wonder his closing argument yesterday was so eloquent. He’s molding the Democratic impeachment case as if it was a narrative, using his skills as a screenwriter. It makes perfect sense.
If you didn’t see the whole impeachment saga yesterday, at least watch nine minutes of Adam Schiff’s closing argument
Congressman Adam Schiff: “We believe we will have made the case overwhelmingly of the President’s guilt. He has done what he’s charged with… but I want to address one other thing tonight. Okay he’s guilty, does he really need to be removed?”
MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes blasted senators who reportedly fell asleep during the opening of President Trump’s impeachment trial or left early, saying lawmakers can listen to arguments or “resign tomorrow.”
Hayes contrasted senators who are in the Senate chamber for the duration of the trial with citizens who regularly serve on juries, noting that many often have to take time off work to complete the responsibility.
“If the trial goes for a long time, often [jurors] don’t collect their paycheck from that and are given a meager amount of money relative to what some of those people might make,” Hayes said on the air Wednesday evening. “This is literally [senators’] job. If you find it too annoying or frustrating or uncomfortable to sit for eight hours and listen, you can resign tomorrow and go get another job.”
“It’s a terrible look to the public to the extent that the news reports are getting out,” MSNBC legal analyst Maya Wiley said during the segment. “These are people who are supposed to be listening, hearing and then making a decision on what’s being presented all day long. We’ve also heard a lot of people have made up their minds already and are not actually taking their oath seriously.”
Hayes reiterated the point on Twitter, assailing “the sheer entitled whininess on display here.”
The sheer entitled whininess on display here. We ask every citizen to serve on juries! And this is literally your job, to just show up and listen. I’m so sorry this is so hard for you. Go get another gig. https://t.co/JbKnwnbjbv
I whole-heartedly agree with this sentiment. I was under the impression that even leaving the chamber was forbidden, but multiple senators ignored this, and went to give interviews while the proceedings were underway. They should be chastised by Chief John Roberts, or even lose their ability to vote.
Laurie Kellman, AP, reports:
So much for the Senate’s quaint rules and tradition.
Almost immediately after Chief Justice John Roberts gaveled in Wednesday’s session of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, bored and weary senators started openly flouting some basic guidelines in a chamber that prizes decorum.
Crow, a military veteran speaking on the impact of Trump’s holdup of military aid to Ukraine, had trouble holding the Senate’s attention. Some senators left their seats and headed to cloakrooms, stood in the back or openly yawned as he spoke. At one point during his address, more than 10 senators’ seats were empty.
Crow wondered aloud if the Senate wanted to take a recess.
Despite my misgivings, I ended up watching about four hours of yesterday’s impeachment procedurals, on CNN, MSNBC, and eventually CSPAN1
Dan Froomkin of Press Watch reports:
The first real day of the impeachment trial of Donald Trump was an epic exercise in raw political power. The Trump team, effectively led by Mitch McConnell, put forth no plausible arguments to support their position. But they didn’t have to. Because they had the votes.
But the media failed to tell that story.
If you were dependent on the coverage from our biggest and most influential media outlets, what you learned was mostly that there was a spirited debate and that McConnell made a concession.
And that’s just plain wrong. The debate wasn’t spirited, it was wildly unbalanced, with the Democrats making a substantial case for evidence-gathering, bolstered by facts, legal analysis, precedent, and logic – and the Republicans batting around Fox-News-style talking points that were devoid of reasoned thinking.
And McConnell’s concession was, in the greater scheme of things, a minor one. He succeeded – effortlessly – in ramming through a procedure that almost guarantees that the impeachment trial will not be encumbered by fact-finding.
It was striking to watch, and obvious that the Trump team of Republican blowhards had nothing substantial to say. A sad day for our country, putting the GOP’s Party Over Country mantra on display.
Susan Glasser, The New Yorker:
It was only a couple hours into the first day of arguments in the Senate impeachment trial of Donald John Trump when Adam Schiff, the lead House manager prosecuting the case, summed up the day’s proceedings. The Senate’s proposed process for the trial, he said, was simply “ass-backwards,” requiring the House to present its case before considering whether to call witnesses and demand White House documents that Trump has been withholding.
Schiff’s edgy remark caused a jolt in the chamber. Senators who had been nodding off or staring down at their legal pads suddenly looked up. But it turns out that you can swear like that on the Senate floor. Schiff wasn’t even the first person to use the phrase, although David Vitter, the former senator from Louisiana, got in trouble back in 2008 when he did, and he had the remark stricken from the official record. Whether or not it was appropriate, in a stodgy institution that does not even allow reporters to wear denim in its hallowed chamber, Schiff’s remark certainly was incisive and to the point.
Ever since the Trump impeachment inquiry began, in September, the White House has declined to offer a formal defense, if one excludes all-caps tweets from the accused. But refusing to participate is no longer an option now that the Senate trial is actually happening. Trump’s lawyers not only showed up but very much showed their hands, offering a defense of Trump that was very much like the President himself: loud, intemperate, personally nasty, ad hominem, factually challenged, and often not even bothering to have a tenuous connection to the case at all. When the White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump’s personal attorney, Jay Sekulow, addressed the Senate, the volume went up in the chamber; the tone changed. As we watched from the press gallery, it was as if we had become the audience in an entirely different play. Why should there be no witnesses or documents produced in the trial? Listening to Cipollone and Sekulow, it was hard to tell.
They barely used the word “Ukraine” or even bothered to talk much about Trump’s “perfect” phone call with the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, for that matter. They mentioned the Mueller investigation—repeatedly—though that is not a subject of the impeachment articles. They made false claims, including that Republicans had been excluded from the depositions in the House “basement” that were taken by the House Intelligence Committee. Cipollone attacked Schiff by name, in personal terms, within a minute of beginning his first remarks at the trial, which was striking, if not entirely surprising, given that Cipollone is representing Trump, whose campaign is currently marketing on its Web site thirty-four-dollar T-shirts mocking Schiff as a “Pencil-Neck.”
In the impeachment trial of President Trump, the House Democrats — the prosecution — are mostly pounding the facts. The heart of their brief is a well-told narrative of Trump’s efforts to muscle Ukraine into investigating Democratic rival Joe Biden, and then to cover up the details once the scheme was discovered.
Their central charge is that Trump abused the power of the presidency by asking a foreign government to help him win reelection. There’s plenty of evidence on their side.
The president’s defense lawyers, in contrast, are mostly pounding the law — their own theory of the law, that is.
Their president’s legal brief devotes only 27 pages to contesting the House’s version of the facts. Short version: “The President did nothing wrong.”
Instead, the core of Trump’s argument is a novel interpretation of the law: Whatever the president did, it’s not impeachable.
Asking Ukraine (and later China) to investigate Biden? Not impeachable. Blocking $391 million in military aid to Ukraine despite a law requiring that the aid be released? Not impeachable. Ordering everyone in his administration to refuse to cooperate with congressional investigations? Not impeachable.
Under the Trump defense team’s argument, “the president is free to conduct all manner of hypothetical abuses of the office that are not criminal in nature,” Paul Rosenzweig, a former assistant to Kenneth W. Starr, the independent counsel who investigated President Clinton, told me.
“As I read President Trump’s theory, if he promised to pardon anybody who murdered Joe Biden, that would not itself be an impeachable offense,” Rosenzweig said. “The theory would mean that the president could choose to never appoint any Roman Catholics, and be free from fear of removal from office.”
Moreover, the concept of using impeachment to protect against a president’s abuse of power isn’t “newly invented” — far from it. Alexander Hamilton, one of the delegates at the constitutional convention, wrote in 1788 that impeachment would be a response to “the abuse or violation of some public trust.”