Department of Justice

A Low Barr for President Trump

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

U.S. Attorney General William Barr speaks during his confirmation hearing at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., 16 January 2019. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

It seems worth reminding of our American time and circumstance. Sometimes disbelief is not answered by asking, “How is this true?” but, rather, by considering environmental conditions within the range of observation; sometimes the question runs, “How is this not untrue?”

Those who marvel at the point of Mr. Barr’s private-sector memo denouncing the Mueller investigation being over four times longer than Attorney General Barr’s summary of an investigation he loathed should simply remember that a public attorney is still an attorney. We might well have our own opinions of turpitude and integrity vis à vis the Attorney General and the President he serves, but within the boundaries of what we might understand about Mr. Barr’s outlook, it is worth considering how the summary he released would fail to equal obstruction, misprision, or other such offense against either the law or his license to practice, and seek its meaning therein.

In the moment, the discourse seems almost as if we all saw the sleight coming, watched it happen right in front of us, yet pretend to believe it, anyway. It’s almost as if the years Americans spent watching and complaining about politicians, lawyers, and PR flaks splitting hairs and manipulating language, we are supposed to look upon this most bizarre circumstance as if such notions have never occurred to our tabula rasa innocence.

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Image note: U.S. Attorney General William Barr speaks during his confirmation hearing at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., 16 January 2019. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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Everyday, Easy Cowardice (Palmetto Virtue Edition)

#rapeculture | #WhatTheyVotedFor

House Benghazi Committee Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC04) speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, 6 January 2016, before the start of the committee's closed-door hearing. The House committee is looking into the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya and is interviewing former CIA director David Petraeus as the investigation enters its third calendar year, and a presidential election year. (Susan Walsh/AP Photo)

The report from Griffin Connolly, for Roll Call, might not be surprising—

Rep. Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, will not initiate an investigation into allegations of sexual assault against President Donald Trump, he signaled in a letter Tuesday.

—but it seems worth pointing out that Republicans are not even trying. Nor is this a new phenomenon; it just seems especially relevant.

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The Gathering Storm (Sally Forth)

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

#PutiTrump: Protest image of Vladimir Putin, artist unknown. Donald Trump in detail of photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for msnbc, 2016.

Via Associated Press:

Former acting attorney general Sally Yates is expected to testify to Congress next week that she expressed alarm to the White House about President Donald Trump’s national security adviser’s contacts with the Russian ambassador, which could contradict how the administration has characterized her counsel.

Yates is expected to recount in detail her Jan. 26 conversation about Michael Flynn and that she saw discrepancies between the administration’s public statements on his contacts with ambassador Sergey Kislyak and what really transpired, according to a person familiar with that discussion and knowledgeable about Yates’s plans for her testimony. The person spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to pre-empt the testimony.

As a general rule, it seems wise to suggest we cannot really know what to expect, except, of course, the general outline of history, that Yates warned the Trump administration about Michael Flynn, and all the President’s men and women seem to have ignored her. Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., 28 June 2016. (Photo: J. David Ake/AP Photo) And, you know, maybe that explains she was fired, though upsetting the president by refusing to enforce his unvetted executive order might do it, regardlesss of being yet another improper reason to dismiss a Justice Department attorney.

And, true, it is not necessarily helpful to wonder if this will be what blows proverbial lids into orbit or smithereens or whatever happens to them when they come off highly-pressurized metaphors. Still, though, as societal institutions struggle to catch up on the avalanche backlog of dubious and dangerous implications about Team Trump’s behavior, complacency can have many meanings. There is comfort in the notion that the processes continue despite Congressional Republicans, but it is also easy to get lost in some abstract faith that this all adds up to something. Their guilt does not preclude process, and that, apparently, requires some degree of extraordinary vigilance, as the Congressional majority really does not seem particularly interested in doing their job. All told, though, this should be something of a spectacle. You know, in that boring way that Congressional hearings are, followed by breathless analysis verging on panic because we … must … know … this … now! … even if it’s just some pundit saying we don’t know anything yet.

You know: Breaking: Pundit — “Too soon to know what to think.”

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Image note: Top — #PutiTrump: Protest image of Vladimir Putin, artist unknown. Donald Trump in detail of photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for msnbc, 2016. Left — Sally Q. Yates (Credit: J. David Ake/AP Photo).

Tucker, Eric. “AP source: Yates to testify on warning White House on Flynn”. Associated Press.

A Steady Drip (Carter Page)

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Composite — Donald Trump: Detail of photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for msnbc; Carter Page: AP Photo; Puti-Toots: Artist unknown.

Something goes here about the headlines that drop in the evening; in the week before President Trump’s infamous tweetstorm accusing President Obama of wiretapping him, evening headlines kept the White House running ragged night after night. And, yes, there is some irony that we have now come far enough ’round the circle that Carter Page might well be the answer to what the president was on about. Or, as the evening headline from the Washington Post has it, “FBI obtained FISA warrant to monitor Trump adviser Carter Page”:

This is the clearest evidence so far that the FBI had reason to believe during the 2016 presidential campaign that a Trump campaign adviser was in touch with Russian agents. Such contacts are now at the center of an investigation into whether the campaign coordinated with the Russian government to swing the election in Trump’s favor.

Page has not been accused of any crimes, and it is unclear whether the Justice Department might later seek charges against him or others in connection with Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The counterintelligence investigation into Russian efforts to influence U.S. elections began in July, officials have said. Most such investigations don’t result in criminal charges.

Rachel Maddow spent some effort on msnbc last night driving a point about how unusual it is that we should see leaked such details of a FISA warrant. In that context perhaps it behooves us to consider whether or not the prospect of leaking this FISA warrant would come about at all were it not for President Trump’s twitterpated tantrum after a week of bad evening headlines.

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Good News, Everyone! (Justice Before Profit)

This is very nearly confusing. That is to say, sometimes we forget to pay attention, but, really, why am I so genuinely surprised?

Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., 28 June 2016. (Photo: J. David Ake/AP Photo)The Justice Department plans to end its use of private prisons after officials concluded the facilities are both less safe and less effective at providing correctional services than those run by the government.

Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates announced the decision on Thursday in a memo that instructs officials to either decline to renew the contracts for private prison operators when they expire or “substantially reduce” the contracts’ scope. The goal, Yates wrote, is “reducing―and ultimately ending―our use of privately operated prisons.”

“They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security,” Yates wrote.

(Zapotosky and Harlan)

No, really, I didn’t see this coming. Perhaps that is the problem; this is the sort of thing I should have at least noticed along the way.

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Image note: Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., 28 June 2016. (Photo: J. David Ake/AP Photo)

Zapotosky, Matt and Chico Harlan. “Justice Department says it will end use of private prisons”. The Washington Post. 18 August 2016.

Our American President (Bathroom Bigot Brawl)

Obama Administration Warns Schools to Allow Transgender Access To Bathrooms (Huffington Post, 14 May 2016)

It really is a nifty headline from HuffPo’s Queer Voices.

The detail:

The Obama administration on Friday told schools and colleges nationwide they must allow transgender students access to bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.

Transgender signThe Justice Department and the Education Department, in guidance directed at every American public school district, admonished educators to treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity, regardless of what sex is listed on student records.

The guidance, which cites the gender equity law Title IX, further injects the federal government into a heated debate over controversial anti-LGBT state legislation, including a North Carolina law that bars transgender students from bathrooms that don’t match their birth gender. The Justice Department on Monday filed a civil rights lawsuit against North Carolina.

“No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus,” Education Secretary John King Jr. said in a statement.

(Kingkade)

Meanwhile, apparently something goes here about Disney freaking out zealots, and, you know, it must absolutely suck to be a bigot these days. To swallow their prude pride and just carry on with life is a bitter load to face. Still, there are times when it is worth pointing out that some people spend too much effort worrying about other people’s intimate lives; and then there are such occasions we might point out that some people spend too much effort paying attention to Disney. What sort of cruel God―? Oh, sorry, wrong monologue.

Anyway, Disney aside, everyone say thank you.

Thank you, President Obama. Thank you, Secretary King.

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Kingkade, Tyler. “Obama Administration Warns Schools To Allow Transgender Access To Bathrooms”. The Huffington Post. 13 May 2016.

Sieczkowski, Cavan. “Religious Right Is Losing Its Mind About ‘Frozen’s’ Elsa Possibly Being Gay”. The Huffington Post. 12 May 2016.

How We Do It (Freedom Forfeit Fried)

United States Department of Justice

So, you know, irony doesn’t really do any good for the people who have been hurt―

The Department of Justice announced this week that it’s suspending a controversial program that allows local police departments to keep a large portion of assets seized from citizens under federal law and funnel it into their own coffers.

The “equitable-sharing” program gives police the option of prosecuting asset forfeiture cases under federal instead of state law. Federal forfeiture policies are more permissive than many state policies, allowing police to keep up to 80 percent of assets they seize―even if the people they took from are never charged with a crime.

The DOJ is suspending payments under this program due to budget cuts included in the recent spending bill.

(Ingraham)

―but for the rest of us, that’s gotta be worth something. There are some days when we take what we can get, and if budget constraints will accomplish what justice cannot, well, what else do we expect? This is your federal government. These are your United States of America.

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Ingraham, Christopher. “The Justice Department just shut down a huge asset forfeiture program”. The Washington Post. 23 December 2015.

The Republican (ahem!) “Quandary”

Loretta Lynch, President Obama's nominee to be the next attorney general, meets with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-VT, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Toss a coin; is the problem the political reporting or the politics? Consider a lede from Jonathan Weisman and Jennifer Steinhauer for the New York Times:

Senate Republicans bolted for a two-week spring recess with the confirmation of Loretta E. Lynch as attorney general in jeopardy, and themselves in a quandary: Accept a qualified nominee they oppose because she backs President Obama’s policies or reject her and live with an attorney general they despise, Eric H. Holder Jr.

See, that’s pabulum. But, to the other, whence comes it? After all, U.S Attorney Loretta Lynch has seen her nomination to succeed Eric Holder as Attorney General languish, though Senate Republicans are hard pressed to come up with a reason.

But, still, really? This is like a children’s book―And then the poor Senator had to choose …―except, come on, it wouldn’t make any sense even to children.

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