J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

A Very Interesting Question

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

A child walks past a graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the walls of a bar in the old town in Vilnius, Lithuania, 14 May 2016. (Photo by Mindaugas Kulbis/AP Photo)

Yes, that Jack Goldsmith, for Lawfare:

One puzzle that deepens with Mike Schmidt’s New York Times story on “Trump’s Struggle to Keep [a] Grip on [the] Russia Investigation” is why Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has not recused himself from overseeing the Mueller investigation.

In short, before the Schmidt story, we knew that Rosenstein was intimately involved in the president’s decision to fire Comey. Rosenstein’s memo was used as a pretext to fire Comey;Rod Rosenstein is shown during his confirmation hearing to become deputy attorney general on 7 March 2017. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press) Rosenstein knew that the president wanted to fire Comey; and he read the Bedminster draft before he wrote his own memorandum.

In this light, it has been very puzzling for a while why Rosenstein does not have a conflict of interest in the Mueller investigation. The Washington Post reported unequivocally that Mueller’s investigation includes “whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice,” including, as a central issue, in his firing of Comey. Rosenstein was in the middle of that firing. He possesses information about the president’s beliefs and motives in firing Comey, and quite possibly a personal interest in how those beliefs and motives are construed, since he appeared to many to have been used by the president (and was reportedly very angry about it). Rosenstein would thus would very likely be a fact witness in any obstruction inquiry in connection with the Comey firing. It is hard to understand why he did not have a conflict of interest the moment Mueller’s investigation turned to obstruction in the firing of Comey.

File under, he might have a point, y’know.

Just sayin’.

____________________

Image notes: Top —A child walks past a graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the walls of a bar in the old town in Vilnius, Lithuania, 14 May 2016. (Photo by Mindaugas Kulbis/AP Photo)  Right — Rod Rosenstein is shown during his confirmation hearing to become deputy attorney general on 7 March 2017. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Barrett, Devlin, Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, and Sari Horwitz. “Special counsel is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice, officials say”. The Washington Post. 14 June 2017.

Goldsmith, Jack. “Why Hasn’t Rod Rosenstein Recused Himself from the Mueller Investigation?” Lawfare. 5 January 2018.

Schmidt, Michael S. “Obstruction Inquiry Shows Trump’s Struggle to Keep Grip on Russia Investigation”. The New York Times. 4 January 2018.

The 2020 Republican Presidential Nomination Contest

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) flashes a thumbs up as he leaves the stage during the third day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, 20 July 2016.  (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

We might reasonably propose that it bodes naught but ill for Republicans that we might consider the 2020 GOP presidential nomination contest already afoot. We might also wish to be joking about that, but this is your Republican Party after all.

Before Ted Cruz’s memorable remarks at the Republican National Convention last night, the Texas senator hosted an outdoor event with supporters in Cleveland yesterday afternoon. As luck would have it, Donald Trump’s plane flew overhead when Cruz said the party had a nominee―and his backers started booing.

And while the timing was notable, so too was the fact that Cruz’s supporters chanted “2020” during the event.

Steve Benen continues, noting, “as ridiculous as this may seem to Americans who are already tired of the 2016 presidential race, there is little doubt that Republican jostling is well underway―in the 2020 race.”

Nor is Mr. Benen joking.

(more…)

The Ryan Budget (Murmur Mix)

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, 16 December 2015. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

“When the next Democratic speaker wants to spend $350 billion over ten years to make public colleges tuition-free for undergraduates, the system will turn in knots to make it seem like we’re broke and can’t afford it. But when Speaker Ryan wants $350 billion to help multinational corporations lower their tax burdens, the system will clear the runway as quickly as possible for these vital and necessary investments.”

David T. S. Jonas

Anyone giving even a modicum of attention to the manner in which Congress actually works can understand why the Ryan Budget seems like a fine accomplishment, but it is also, to the one, a “kind of backroom deal that offers real concessions to Democrats and blows up the deficit wasn’t the change insurgent Republicans were looking for when they ousted John Boehner”, Ezra Klein explained; more directly, he continues that in the larger context the lesson is, “No one cares about the deficit―or, at the very least, everyone cares about other priorities more than they care about the deficit.” "If John Boehner made the spending deal Paul Ryan just did, conservatives would’ve called for his head." (Jim Newell, Slate, 16 December 2015) To the other, we might also beg leave to wonder at what Matt Fuller and Jennifer Bendery described as the “massive spending bill that nobody especially likes”. Jim Newell summarizes, “If John Boehner made the spending deal Paul Ryan just did, conservatives would’ve called for his head”.

And there is merit in the idea that nobody is wholly satisfied, but it also says something important that compromise means lowered expectations. Something about competition and partnership goes here.

____________________

Image notes: Top ― House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, 16 December 2015. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Left ― Via Jim Newell of Slate: “If John Boehner made the spending deal Paul Ryan just did, conservatives would’ve called for his head.”

French, Lauren. “Ryan: Budget package a true compromise”. Politico. 15 December 2015.

Fuller, Matt and Jennifer Bendery. “Congress Ready To Pass Massive Spending Bill That Nobody Especially Likes”. The Huffington Post. 16 December 2015.

Jonas, David T. S. “Maybe Rush Limbaugh has a point: Paul Ryan just blew up the deficit, and Democrats are letting him”. Salon. 19 December 2015.

Klein, Ezra. “The big new budget deal, explained”. Vox. 18 December 2015.

Newell, Jim. “The Paul Ryan Compromise”. Slate. 16 December 2015.

The Times Editorial Board. “Ryan shows compromises can be reached in the House without brinkmanship”. 17 December 2015.

About What We Expect from Congress

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, 10 December 2015.  (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Well, you know. They tried.

Like we noted last week, it’s Congress.

The failure of Congress to strike a budget deal Monday night to avert a government shutdown means House and Senate lawmakers will have to pass another short-term continuing resolution―even though they approved one last week.

(Fuller)

Show of hands: Who’s surprised?

Anybody? Anybody?

____________________

Image note: House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI01CD) meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, 10 December 2015. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Fuller, Matt. “Congress Needs Another Stopgap Spending Measure To Avoid Shutdown”. The Huffington Post. 14 December 2015.

A Perfect Way to Ruin Your Day (Light Bulb Belfry Remix)

Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), left, and Rep. Steve King (R-IA), right, speak with reporters at the Capiol, 11 December 2014. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

If I tell you that the headline above Scott Eric Kaufman’s report for Salon yesterday reads, “Michele Bachmann: Refugees coming to America in order to commit ‘rape jihad’ against non-Muslim women and girls”, and would, unfortunately, seem a reasonably accurate description of the wisdom proffered by Our Lady Light Bulb, do any of us really need me to post the detail?

Or is this one of those occasions we can trust that you will click and read, or not, according to your inclination?

Because it really is sickening.

____________________

Image note: Detail of photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo.

Kaufman, Scott Eric. “Michele Bachmann: Refugees coming to America in order to commit ‘rape jihad’ against non-Muslim women and girls”. Salon. 30 November 2015.

The End Times Shuffle (Bachmann’s Belfry Backbeat Redux Remix)

Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), left, and Rep. Steve King (R-IA), right, speak with reporters at the Capitol, 11 December 2014.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The Bach is back.

Indeed, if Michele Bachmann is aiming for a new hit, perhaps recycling her old clearance-bin favorites isn’t the best of ideas.

Former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann this weekend warned that gay couples marrying and legal abortion could lead to America’s destruction.

Appearing on Understanding the Times with Janet Markell, Bachmann, who spent much of her political career heaving anti-gay rhetoric, denounced President Barack Obama’s “dangerous policies,” which she claimed have angered God.

“When we raise our fist to a holy God and say that we are going to redefine marriage, we are going to be okay with paying a Planned Parenthood to cut up innocent baby parts and sell them for research, that clearly is a problem,” Bachmann said. “And we have seen God render judgment in the days of Noah, in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah and so forth throughout history. What the prophets have told every generation is that there is a just God and the people must repent and turn to him. So too in this day of wickedness in our own culture, we need to do the same. We need to repent, and we need to confess because a holy Savior is coming to save us and redeem us from this sin-sick world.”

Markell agreed, saying that the pair could witness “the Lord’s literal return even before we finish this broadcast.”

(On Top)

Maybe the problem is that Bachmann wasn’t clear enough last time, when she said God would remove his “hedge of protection” over the United States, “and we will suffer the consequences as a result”.

Then again, we might also wonder at the strange phenomenon in which faith in the Almighty and American patriotism alike depict a God and nation so horrible.

Think about it this way: This is the same brand of “Christian” faith that bawls about the lack of patriotism in a black preacher complaining of racial discrimination, but rallies around white Christians celebrating a murderous God who will destroy America because we’re not being mean enough to gays and women.

____________________

Image note: Michele Bachmann, then a Republican Congresswoman from Minnesota’s Sixth Congressional District, speaks with reporters at the U.S. Capitol, 11 December 2014. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

On Top Magazine Staff. “Michele Bachmann: God May Destroy America Over Gay Marriage, Abortion “. On Top. 29 September 2015.

Becoming a Ritual

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio responds to reporters about the impasse over passing the Homeland Security budget because of Republican efforts to block President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration, Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. The House voted last month to end Homeland Security funding on Saturday unless Obama reverses his order to protect millions of immigrants from possible deportation. After Democratic filibusters blocked the bill in the Senate, the chaber's Republican leaders agreed this week to offer a "clean" funding measure, with no immigration strings attached. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Is familiarity a bad thing?

The pieces are now in place for a replay of the GOP’s 2013 shutdown. Cruz is marshaling his House forces; Boehner and his leadership team have no idea how to move forward; and far-right lawmakers have a simple-but-unobtainable goal. The question is whether this time, we should expect a different result.

The beleaguered Speaker told reporters this morning, “The goal here is not to shut down the government. The goal is to stop these horrific practices of organizations selling baby parts.”

As a substantive matter, this is obviously nonsense – “selling baby parts” is illegal, and that’s not at all what Planned Parenthood has done – but as a political matter, is also non-constructive nonsense. If Boehner is serious about averting another GOP-imposed crisis, he probably ought to start being a little more responsible.

Of course, the more responsibly he behaves, the more likely it is the extremists in his conference will try to oust him – so Boehner’s in an unenviable spot.

(Benen)

There was some chatter last month, while Congress was away, in which pundits and analysts wondered whether the GOP would attempt a shutdown. And now that we arrive at this chapter, it seems almost a foolish question: Of course they are.

So here’s the thing: With less than a fortnight’s scheduled legislative through the month of September, Congress has a papal visit slated, as well as routine legislation such as a highway bill and the Export-Import Bank reauthorization that the Republican leadership just can’t seem to accomplish, and the Iran deal, at least, which the House has just broken into three parts in order to do something ostensibly more useful than just making inevitability that much more complicated.

Remember this, as we endure the ascending electoral cycle: When Republicans complain that government just doesn’t work, it would behoove us to check again to make certain it isn’t their own damn fault.

And the results, you know, are starting to look a little too consistent.

____________________

Benen, Steve. “As shutdown deadline draws closer, GOP leaders seem lost”. msnbc. 10 September 2015.