Day 903 – Acosta Fails to Answer

Embattled Labor Secretary Alex Acosta held a press conference yesterday.  He began by praising New York prosecutors who just brought new charges against sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, and went on to try to clarify his actions and decision making in the 2008 prosecution of Epstein in Florida that led to what many now call a “sweetheart” deal for Epstein.

Acosta eventually took questions from the press, and his answers ranged from evasive to outright lies.  Acosta was asked about his solo off-site meetings with Epstein’s lawyers and he answered that they occurred after a deal had already been reached.  But a Florida prosecutor later yesterday claimed that negotiations were ongoing at that point and that in the secret meeting Acosta acquiesced to the defense team to keep the Epstein settlement from the victims, a fact later corroborated in a letter sent by the defense team.  Acosta also gave no satisfactory reason for giving Epstein’s co-conspirators immunity from prosecution in the case.  A Florida State Attorney also disclosed last night that a 53-page federal indictment of Epstein was mysteriously “abandoned after secret negotiations between Mr. Epstein’s lawyers and Mr. Acosta.”  Acosta also implied that because the state of Florida was in charge of the case he couldn’t step in and start his own investigation. But this was also entirely false.  Acosta had tremendous discretion to start a federal investigation if he wanted to.

Why did Acosta negotiate with Epstein’s defense team in secret?  Why did Acosta grant immunity to others involved in Epstein’s crimes?  Why did Acosta abandon an indictment against Epstein?  Why did Acosta fail to start a Federal investigation?

Acosta did nothing to dispel a sense that the rich and powerful receive different justice than the rest of us, and his decisions in this case remain troublingly unethical and inexplicable.

On a different note, it was reported yesterday in Time Magazine that the giant Thwaites glacier, part of the western ice sheet of Antarctica, is becoming increasingly unstable.  The glacier is the size of Florida and if it were to collapse and melt would raise sea levels by around two feet.  And of course, the surrounding ice would become concurrently less stable and the entire Antarctica ice system would continue melting at a faster pace.  Here’s terrifying reporting from Jasmine Aquilera:

Finally, it was reported yesterday that in some battleground states, and especially states with gubernatorial elections in 2020, more people are registering as Republicans than Democrats.

This should be a wake-up call to all activists that 2020 is going to a long, bitter fight for the White House, and probably for NY-19 as well.  We can’t take anything for granted and, as exhausting as the Trump debacle has been, we can’t rest until we vote Trump and his corrupt party out of power.  Voter registration is critical here in Dutchess and NY-19.

Keep resisting and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

Day 902 – The Barr Fiasco

Trump’s Attorney General William Barr was rebuked yesterday in the 2020 Census case when a judge ruled that the DOJ could not swap out all of their existing lawyers for a new crew.  Only two lawyers were allowed to leave the case, while rest were required to stay.  It remains unclear why all of the DOJ lawyers requested to leave the case–perhaps they were trying to salvage their reputations, or perhaps Barr was trying to fire them in hopes that a new team would increase his chances for a fresh hearing of the case–but the judge was having none of it, calling the DOJ’s motion to withdraw its lawyers “patently insufficient.” The decision was a setback for Trump’s desire to revive the citizenship question on the Census.  Barr’s new “path” to get the question reinstated now seems more like a pipe dream than a legitimate strategy.

Attorney General Barr also declared yesterday that, while he remains recused from any involvement in the probe of Labor Secretary Alex Acosta’s role in the original Florida-based Jeffrey Epstein sexual solicitation case, Barr decided to un-recuse himself from the new Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking case in New York.  Barr’s former law firm Kirkland & Ellis represented Epstein in 2009, and Barr’s father gave Epstein a job at the Dalton School in Manhattan years ago.  These facts would lead most lawyers to recuse themselves from such a case, but not Barr, who has proven himself an ethical disaster.  It’s not far fetched to wonder if Barr is ignoring ethics rules in order to monitor whether the Epstein case will reveal any link to president Trump.  Barr continues to heap disgrace upon disgrace as he places his loyalty to Trump over his allegiance to the Constitution and the American public.

Secretary Acosta, meanwhile, faced calls for his resignation by a host of Congressional Democrats as well as attorneys from across the political spectrum for his abysmal role in the original Epstein sexual solicitation prosecution.  Epstein received special treatment and a sweetheart deal from then-prosecutor Acosta that shocked legal insiders and was later determined to have violated the rights of the plaintiffs.  Acosta even held off-site meetings with Epstein’s lawyers without any other members of the prosecution (much less the plaintiffs) in attendance, which was highly unusual and likely unethical.  Trump praised Acosta yesterday, but it seems likely that Acosta is now serving on borrowed time.

A federal court yesterday also admonished Trump when a judge ruled that Trump was not allowed to censor or block anyone on Twitter.  Since he uses Twitter as a public megaphone he cannot selectively decide who can and cannot follow him.  The judge said that Trump’s blocking of certain people amounted to an unconstitutional breach of the First Amendment.

To summarize, William Barr is an unethical partisan hack, Alex Acosta is a corrupt enabler of a sexual predator, and Trump is a violator of the Constitution.

Keep resisting and keep working to “vote their asses out of office.”


Day 901 – A Giant Cluster

Three things for your Tuesday:

Partisan hack William Barr announced yesterday that the DOJ has a “path forward” to continue the Trump quest to add a citizenship question on the 2020 Census.  Part of that path forward was prompted, at least in part, when ALL of the DOJ lawyers working on the case for the Federal Government resigned and were replaced by lawyers from the Consumer Protection Bureau–lawyers that have little or no experience with this kind of case.  It’s not clear if the DOJ lawyers were fired or quit on their own, but it’s likely that they quit on their own to protest the about-face that Trump made on the Census.  These lawyers told a judge that the Census was already being printed without the citizenship question but Trump’s tweeting of the opposite called into question their integrity and credibility.  The plaintiffs in the case are trying to stop the new lawyers from taking the case, but meanwhile the old lawyers had insisted that the issue be resolved by the Census print date of June 30th, which we’ve already passed.  The whole situation is a giant clusterf*** caused by a Trump tweet.

Meanwhile Trump gave a speech yesterday praising his record on the environment, and of course social media and cable news took him to task for such blatant dishonesty.  An MSNBC segment hosted by Ali Velshi  went point-by-point through some of the things Trump has done to destroy the environment and it was a clear and devastating critique.  You can see the video here:

Finally, the arrest of wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein on sex trafficking charges continued to make waves.  His Manhattan townhouse was raided by the Feds, and they apparently found a trove of photographs (and possibly videos) showing potentially underage girls in various stages of nudity.   Epstein was arrested years ago for similar crimes and the fact that he still possessed such materials is a damning display of a lack of contrition or guilt.  It may also imply that Epstein felt invulnerable, which begs the question of how he got away with so much for so long.  Who was protecting him?  This question was tackled yesterday by Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times in this perfectly titled op-ed:

It seems likely that some of Epstein’s employees are at risk of arrest in this case.  He required an army of helpers to accomplish the things he is accused of, which has been described as a criminal enterprise–not just a lone dude doing bad things.  But it remains to be seen if any other of his high-profile friends–like Donald Trump–will turn up in the documents or photos or videos seized at his town house.  If so, it could explain how he was able to avoid the consequences of his crimes for so long.  He had blackmail leverage.

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”


Day 900 – Third Rate Administration

The big news that broke over the weekend was the arrest by New York prosecutors of billionaire Jeffrey Epstein for sex trafficking.  He will be arraigned in Manhattan District Court today and there is much speculation that others may be indicted along with Epstein.  He has already been convicted of sex crimes in Florida but the deal he struck in that case was recently voided by a Judge when it came to light that the plaintiffs in that case were never consulted about nor notified of the deal inexplicably offered to Epstein by prosecutor Alex Acosta, now Trump’s Labor Secretary.  The deal remains a stain on Acosta’s reputation and he is currently under an ethics investigation.  Here’s coverage in the New York Times:

Epstein was a good friend of Donald Trump and an accusation continues to circulate that Trump raped a then-13-year-old girl at one of Epstein’s parties.  Social media was buzzing yesterday that the re-arrest of Epstein might bring the rape claims back into the spotlight.  Keep your eye on this story.

It’s also a good time to remember that our nation has not had a Secretary of Defense for over six months.  This fact alone is a disgrace.  But there are many other cabinet positions that have been filled by an “acting” secretary in order for Trump to avoid the Senate confirmation of a legitimate secretary.  Many of the acting secretaries are incompetent or third-rate, the only required qualification being loyalty to the Emperor.  The Washington Post published a good overview of this unprecedented and irresponsible situation:

Our government has been devastated by Trump, including countless regulations that have been rolled back, programs that have been cancelled, and career professionals that have been fired or driven out of public service.  If we don’t vote him out in 2020 there’s no telling what could become of our system of government under a lying fascist like Trump.

Let’s keep resisting and let’s keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

Day 899 – The Process of Fascism

Ten days from now Robert Mueller will reluctantly testify before Congress and as much as he dreads that event it’s a safe bet that he’s as angry at the corrupt Trump White House as any of us.  He knows that Attorney General William Barr tossed the Mueller Report into the sewer by lying about its contents and front-running its release with a “legal conclusion” that was wrong and unmerited.  He knows now that Barr is a gutter dwelling, dishonest partisan hack who jettisoned whatever ethics and reputation he had to serve a grotesquely corrupt and tyrannical president.  Mueller also knows that the Trump regime has treated our Intelligence Community like garbage and destroyed the careers of many of its revered top brass, including former FBI Chief Andy McCabe.  And Mueller must be aware that the Trump regime is on the verge of defying court orders, forcing a Constitutional crisis in hopes of getting their way on a host of controversial issues and keeping their reign the most opaque in modern history.

It strains the imagination to believe that the majority of career officials at the FBI and CIA don’t despise Donald Trump.  Given how badly he and conservative propaganda networks have demonized and lied about them, how could they have any other opinion?  We understand that the FBI and CIA are not saints, but they serve an extremely vital law enforcement role in our nation, especially when it comes to official corruption and foreign meddling.  When entire agencies are under attack, as they are now by Trump and the Justice Department, it’s a big problem for all of us.  When Trump and Barr and Fox start calling law enforcement “traitors” and claiming that the FBI is the problem rather than Russia and Putin, our Democracy is at risk. It’s the beginning of fascism.  And members of the GOP in Congress don’t seem to care that Trump is destroying Federal law enforcement.  Yet that’s where we are right now.  The GOP plan on attacking Robert Mueller during his Congressional testimony, hoping to ask him questions that echo their bogus right-wing talking points about illegal spying on the president and the “partisan witch hunt” genesis of the investigation.  It’s another chapter in the Trump presidency that would seem ridiculous and fictional if it weren’t actually happening. 

An excellent article was published in, of all places, the Irish Times by Fintan O’Toole on the process of fascism as it relates to president Trump.  He talks about how fascists–and Trump–are experts at testing the public by pushing limits and defying norms to see what the public will and won’t tolerate.  He goes on to say this:

You have to undermine moral boundaries, inure people to the acceptance of acts of extreme cruelty. Like hounds, people have to be blooded. They have to be given the taste for savagery. Fascism does this by building up the sense of threat from a despised out-group.

Here’s the link:

O’Toole rightly pins much of the blame on Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Network as the mouthpiece of propaganda that has helped demonize “out groups” and provided so much oxygen for the conservative hate machine.  This is a fact we have to spread and message and never lose sight of.  Our nation will never improve as long as a third of our citizens are getting their “news” from a lying, distorting, fear-mongering, divisive cable network.  Right now the out-group most targeted is the immigrant community, but Fox and the Trumpers are trying hard to demonize liberals and anyone else who doesn’t bow and scrape to Trump.  This is a dangerously divisive and unAmerican effort that can’t go on forever without tragic consequences.

By the way, if you want to see how Fox became such a cancer on our political culture (thanks in large part to Roger Ailes), watch the excellent “The Loudest Voice” on Showtime.

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

Day 898 – World War Mobilization

The Trump team continued their about-face on the 2020 Census yesterday, signalling that they were going to resume their fight for a citizenship question because the Emperor was not happy.  The courts have rejected their arguments thus far, and it seems likely–though not certain–that the courts will continue to reject a citizenship question, but lawyers for the Trump regime reversed the position they had previously agreed to with a judge, stating that they would continue their fight even though they were not sure what the new rationale was going to be.  The tweet from Trump that restarted this whole mess already provided a rationale, one that affirmed the rationale the courts had already rejected.  So we are now facing weeks, if not months, of more legal wrangling to determine whether or not the Census will feature a question based on the racial animus of the white supremacists in the Trump regime.

But expecting they may eventually lose in court, Trump is now saying he might try to add the citizenship question to the Census by Executive Order–which is rich coming from a con man who screamed bloody murder about Obama using the Executive Order to bypass Congress.  Trump’s plan would face instant litigation, and who knows where it would lead.  But Trump doesn’t care what norms he violates or what institutions he destroys or what traditions he defiles as long as he gets his way.

As important as it will be to vote Trump out of office in 2020, it might be too little too late.  Anchorage, Alaska, just recorded a record high temperature of 90 degrees this week.  Not just a peculiarly warm day, but a hot day in a string of hot days in a string of hot weeks and months.  The average historical temperature near the poles has increased the most versus near the equator, which is exactly what the science of climate change predicts.  But it’s happening way sooner than anyone expected, as we’ve noted in this blog recently.  The permafrost is melting some 70 years ahead of schedule and it’s hard to convey just how alarming and catastrophic this fact is.  We have entered a planetary climate emergency and we have to start talking about it in terms of an emergency.

Fortunately, New York City just declared a “climate emergency,” and while this declaration is mostly symbolic, it’s meant to elevate the urgency and reframe the conversation about climate.  We have to use terms that reflect the dire truth, and we’ve just seen record breaking heat in Alaska, record breaking heat in Europe, record breaking heat in India, and a historic rain event in our own mid-west that has devastated both our corn and soybean crops for the year.  This is serious stuff, and it’s only going to get worse–even if we somehow reverse the trend of carbon emissions tomorrow.  Nobody wants to be facing an extinction-level climate process, but that’s where we’re heading if we don’t make some big changes soon.  Many are calling for a “world-war” level of mobilization to address this issue, though Trump and the corrupt GOP are doing their level best to usher in our own demise for the sake of a few more years of oil profits.  Disgusting.

Keep resisting and keep working to “vote his ass out of office” in 2020, along with as many other Republicans as possible.


Day 897 – Soggy Stumbling Speech

Trump held his ego event yesterday in the rain at the Lincoln Memorial–the first time the memorial had been closed off to the public that any of the Parks Department workers could remember.  His soggy speech was delivered to a group of VIP’s in a large, cordoned-off zone that the Trump team had trouble filling.  Every year a lot of people want to go to the District of Columbia on the Fourth of July to watch fireworks, but apparently not a lot of big-shot GOP donors wanted to come this year to hear Trump stumble through a lifeless teleprompter speech.

Many long-time National Mall fireworks watchers described the event as the most poorly planned and bungled they’d ever seen.  Even the tanks that Trump was so keen to show off were trailered to the site and displayed only to the VIPs, but that didn’t keep Trump’s speech from celebrating the military on a day that has little to do with the military and everything to do with our declaring independence from a tyrannical monarch.

Robert O’Neill, one of the Navy SEALS who took out Bin Laden, said this on Twitter in 2018 and reaffirmed it on Wednesday:

A military parade is third world bullshit. We prepare. We deter. We fight. Stop this conversation.

A spiritless and droning Trump stuck to his lengthy script and avoided ad-libbing, bungling a few lines of his tribute to American military power while making an all-around tepid impression.  If he does the same thing next year we need to mobilize the Resistance and get a million protesters to the mall to send him a message.

In disturbing local news, Congressman Antonio Delgado was mocked at an Independence Day Parade in Saugerties by Trump supporters, though the Congressman dismissed the encounter.  The coverage in the Daily Freeman seemed a bit more ominous.

It’s in Delgado’s character to shrug off an incident like this, but we activists will surely need to watch for similar situations in the future and guard Delgado’s back.  I don’t know Saugerties well but it’s not a town I think of as a MAGA stronghold.

I’m reminded of the fact that NY-19 activists constantly confronted John Faso and few of his supporters ever had his back.  We can’t kid ourselves that 2020 is going to be anything but a difficult battle to keep Delgado’s seat blue.  The closer we get to the election, the more heat will be coming from Republicans toward Delgado and the Indivisible movement, and the more we will need to confront the Trump cult and defend the gains we have made.  As Samuel Adams warned:

If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”