Opinion | The Democrats’ Midterm Dilemma – by Ross Douthat – NYT

“One of the few people to really see Donald Trump coming was the University of Chicago economist Luigi Zingales, who warned way back in 2011 that American politics was going the way of his native Italy, that we could easily produce our own version of Silvio Berlusconi, and that Trump was an obvious candidate to bottle the celebrity-populist-outsider cocktail.

So Zingales’s advice to Democrats after their 2016 defeat carried more weight than the average act of punditry. On the evidence of Berlusconi’s many victories and rare defeats, he argued, the best way to beat Trump was to do exactly what many liberals understandably didn’t want to do — to essentially normalize him, to treat him “as an ordinary opponent” rather than an existential threat, to focus on issues rather than character debates, to deny him both the public carnival and the tone of outraged hysteria in which his brand of politics tends to thrive.”

I haven’t forgiven Ross yet for his creepy column supporting right to life laws in Ireland, that have caused great pain and suffering to the poor and middle classes of Ireland. See Maureen Dowd’s report that same Sunday.

But his basic warning here is sound and important. “So Zingales’s advice to Democrats after their 2016 defeat carried more weight than the average act of punditry. On the evidence of Berlusconi’s many victories and rare defeats, he argued, the best way to beat Trump was to do exactly what many liberals understandably didn’t want to do — to essentially normalize him, to treat him “as an ordinary opponent” rather than an existential threat, to focus on issues rather than character debates, to deny him both the public carnival and the tone of outraged hysteria in which his brand of politics tends to thrive.” “

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Opinion | Neal Katyal: Can’t Indict a President? That Could Hurt Trump – The New York Times

“Everything having to do with President Trump and Russia, whether it is Mr. Trump’s demand for an investigation into the investigation by the special counsel Robert Mueller, or whether Mr. Trump will testify, requires an answer to one essential background question: Can Mr. Mueller seek to indict the president?

Last week, the president’s new lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, claimed Mr. Mueller had concluded the answer was no. And Mr. Giuliani went even further, asserting the president has so much constitutional immunity that he could not even be subpoenaed to testify about what he knows and did. Such statements are dangerously incomplete and tremendously misleading. And the ultimate loser here is not just the American people, but also perhaps Mr. Trump himself.

Begin with the basics. An indictment — a formal accusation that someone has committed a crime — can be brought only by a prosecutor working either in the federal or state system. Mr. Mueller is one such prosecutor. But even if Mr. Mueller has the goods on Mr. Trump, two barriers remain before he may indict him. First, some constitutional scholars believe a sitting president cannot be indicted. And second, two Department of Justice opinions, dating back to the Nixon and Clinton administrations, side with this view. From that vantage point, it looks as if Mr. Giuliani’s report about what Mr. Mueller said appears plausible.

But there are deep problems here. For one thing, the scholars who believe that a sitting president cannot be indicted always couple that belief with the insistence that the remedy for a president who commits a crime is to impeach him first (so he is no longer “sitting” and could then be indicted). Otherwise, a president would be above the law; he could, say, shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and face no legal process whatsoever. For that reason, the “can’t indict a sitting president” view is necessarily dependent on Congress having all of the information necessary to conduct thorough impeachment proceedings.”

DL: You should read the whole thing, but the main part is what follows, the 2nd half of the essay:

“The mishmash of bad constitutional arguments being floated by Mr. Trump has to cause Mr. Mueller concern. And that is why Mr. Giuliani’s story that Mr. Mueller’s team told him that Mr. Trump cannot be indicted seems at best incomplete. It is true that the special counsel regulations (which I drafted in 1999 for the Justice Department) generally require the special counsel to obey Justice Department policy. And it is also true that Justice Department policy is that a sitting president cannot be indicted. But the regulations contemplate that a special counsel could, in appropriate circumstances, depart from Justice Department policy.

The regulations had to be written that way. Those of us who created them could not foresee all the possible permutations of law and facts that would unfold in the years to come. If congressional leadership, for example, was in criminal cahoots with the president, no one would want the special counsel to be powerless to indict or to report information to the full Congress for impeachment.

Accordingly, the regulations permitted the special counsel to seek a departure from Justice Department policy, by going to the acting attorney general (in this case, Rod Rosenstein) and requesting it. The idea was that if responsibility for decision-making was vested in Justice Department leadership, decisions to protect the rule of law were more likely to be made. And as a safeguard against wrongdoing by Justice Department leadership, the regulations require transparency in the process: If the acting attorney general refuses a special counsel request, he must notify the majority and minority parties in Congress.

In this way, the regulations put a thumb on the scale in favor of having Mr. Mueller seek an indictment if he finds evidence of criminal wrongdoing by Mr. Trump. Unlike the Independent Counsel Act, a predecessor to the special counsel regulations that required the prosecutor to write a detailed final report to Congress, the regulations require only a substantive report when the acting attorney general overrules the special counsel. The acting attorney general is free to write one otherwise, but the only way Mr. Mueller can ensure such a report is written is to make a request that is overruled.

All of this explains why Mr. Giuliani’s story that Mr. Mueller has concluded he cannot indict a sitting president seems implausible and incomplete. It is far more likely that Mr. Mueller has concluded that Justice Department policy currently forbids such a step, but that he has a path forward toward seeking indictment if he believes it warranted. And Mr. Trump, whose Justice Department has, with his blessing, repeatedly overruled longstanding Justice Department positions at an unheard-of rate, is in no position to complain if Mr. Rosenstein overrules these two old opinions. Of course, if Mr. Rosenstein refuses to overrule them, he would still be creating a record that Congress may use as it considers impeachment.

Thus the various pieces of the constitutional and regulatory scheme work together: If indictment is off the table, then impeachment must be on it; and (perhaps in a future setting) if impeachment is off the table because of nefarious congressional activity, then indictment must be on it. That is the genius of our system, and the only way to ensure we remain a government of laws which no one is above.”

Neal K. Katyal (@neal_katyal), an acting solicitor general in the Obama administration, is a law professor at Georgetown and a partner at Hogan Lovells.

Code Name Crossfire Hurricane: The Secret Origins of the Trump Investigation – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — Within hours of opening an investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia in the summer of 2016, the F.B.I. dispatched a pair of agents to London on a mission so secretive that all but a handful of officials were kept in the dark.

Their assignment, which has not been previously reported, was to meet the Australian ambassador, who had evidence that one of Donald J. Trump’s advisers knew in advance about Russian election meddling. After tense deliberations between Washington and Canberra, top Australian officials broke with diplomatic protocol and allowed the ambassador, Alexander Downer, to sit for an F.B.I. interview to describe his meeting with the campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos.

The agents summarized their highly unusual interview and sent word to Washington on Aug. 2, 2016, two days after the investigation was opened. Their report helped provide the foundation for a case that, a year ago Thursday, became the special counsel investigation. But at the time, a small group of F.B.I. officials knew it by its code name: Crossfire Hurricane.

The name, a reference to the Rolling Stones lyric “I was born in a crossfire hurricane,” was an apt prediction of a political storm that continues to tear shingles off the bureau. Days after they closed their investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, agents began scrutinizing the campaign of her Republican rival. The two cases have become inextricably linked in one of the most consequential periods in the history of the F.B.I.”

David Lindsay Jr.:   Here is a comment I approved, and my reaction below it:

NM
Times Pick

“They said Ms. Page and others advocated a slower, circumspect pace, especially because polls predicted Mr. Trump’s defeat. They said that anything the F.B.I. did publicly would only give fodder to Mr. Trump’s claims on the campaign trail that the election was rigged.”
That’s reminiscent of James Comey recently saying that he must have envisioned Hillary Clinton winning the presidency and not wanting hand-wringing after the fact that they had not been forthright.
But coming public with only one candidate’s story is not being transparent. Moreover, the election outcome was not guaranteed and FBI pronouncements most certainly can sway public opinion. That’s why the Bureau is supposed to stay out of elections.
What happened with the FBI’s double standard was interference with our election and we continue to pay a price for Comey’s poor decision-making.

 

David Lindsay:
This is stomach turning. Comey should be indicted.

The Walls That Hillary Clinton Created – By CHARLOTTE ALTER – NYT

CHASING HILLARY Ten Years, Two Presidential Campaigns, and One Intact Glass Ceiling By Amy Chozick 382 pp. Harper/HarperCollins Publishers. $27.99.

“For many female journalists, covering the 2016 election meant facing a particular professional conundrum: Are you a reporter first, or a woman first? How do you stay neutral while covering a unique moment in women’s history? Which do you use: your head or your heart?

In her funny and insightful memoir, “Chasing Hillary,” the journalist Amy Chozick grapples with this question while also providing a much-needed exploration of Hillary Clinton’s antagonistic relationship with the press. Unlike “Shattered,” by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, which provided an inside look at Clinton’s dysfunctional campaign, or “What Happened,” which was a personal reckoning from the candidate herself, “Chasing Hillary” doesn’t attempt to assess why Clinton lost the election. Instead, it’s a first-person account of Chozick’s failed 10-year quest to see the “real” Hillary, a quixotic mission that is as revealing in defeat as it would have been in victory.”

Editorial | The Law Is Coming- Mr. Trump – The New York Times

“Why don’t we take a step back and contemplate what Americans, and the world, are witnessing?

Early Monday morning, F.B.I. agents raided the New York office, home and hotel room of the personal lawyer for the president of the United States. They seized evidence of possible federal crimes — including bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations related to payoffs made to women, including a porn actress, who say they had affairs with the president before he took office and were paid off and intimidated into silence.

That evening the president surrounded himself with the top American military officials and launched unbidden into a tirade against the top American law enforcement officials — officials of his own government — accusing them of “an attack on our country.”

Oh, also: The Times reported Monday evening that investigators were examining a $150,000 donation to the president’s personal foundation from a Ukrainian steel magnate, given during the American presidential campaign in exchange for a 20-minute video appearance.

Meanwhile, the president’s former campaign chairman is under indictment, and his former national security adviser has pleaded guilty to lying to investigators. His son-in-law and other associates are also under investigation.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | Pending Approval at Comments to the NYT
Great editorial, “The Law Is Coming,” thank you. Now, please help me understand, why does Mitch McConnell stop the bipartisan bill to protect the Mueller investigation from getting passed? What is his game, or thinking? Does he expect that he and the GOP will prosper by keeping Trump in power? Is he an employee of Koch Industries and their club of coal, oil and gas oligarchs? Is he betting, against your editorial, that the Republicans will keep enough power, to stop the resistance to Trump, till at least 2020? Maybe the law is coming, but when?

David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.wordpress.com

F.B.I. Raids Office of Trump’s Longtime Lawyer Michael Cohen; Trump Calls It ‘Disgraceful’ – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — The F.B.I. raided the Rockefeller Center office and Park Avenue hotel room of President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, on Monday morning, seizing business records, emails and documents related to several topics, including a payment to a pornographic film actress.

Mr. Trump, in an extraordinarily angry response, lashed out hours later at what a person briefed on the matter said was an investigation into possible bank fraud by Mr. Cohen. Mr. Trump accused his own Justice Department of perpetrating a “witch hunt” and asserted that the F.B.I. “broke in to” Mr. Cohen’s office.The president, who spoke at the White House before meeting with senior military commanders about a potential missile strike on Syria, called the F.B.I. raid a “disgraceful situation” and an “attack on our country in a true sense.”

It is not clear how the F.B.I. entered Mr. Cohen’s office, but agents had a search warrant and typically would have presented it to office personnel to be let in. The documents identified in the warrant date back years, according to a person briefed on the search.The prosecutors obtained the search warrant after receiving a referral from the special counsel in the Russia investigation, Robert S. Mueller III, according to Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, who called the search “completely inappropriate and unnecessary.” The search does not appear to be directly related to Mr. Mueller’s investigation, but most likely resulted from information that he had uncovered and gave to prosecutors in New York.”

What a wonderful day we are having.
Here is one of many great comments to this extraordinarily important new piece, which I felt compelled to respond to.

Steve Burton Staunton, VA 18 hours ago
Michael Cohen has demonstrated himself to be a bully toward his adversaries, fast and loose with facts, and extremely arrogant in his demeanor. It’s fitting to see him taken down a notch or two. Still, it is troubling to consider the power of law enforcement to seize attorney-client communications…. On the other hand, I can’t help hoping that they nail him.

1906 Recommend

David Lindsay Jr. Hamden, CT Pending Approval
I am sorry Mr. Burton, it is not troubling that law enforcement can seize attorney-client communications if done properly. This is essential, if lawyers and politicians are not to be above the law that the rest of us must respect and live by.
As Madeleine Albright wrote in the NYT the Sunday Review, “no politician, not even in the oval office,” should be allowed to break the law and tarnish the dreams of the American people.

David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.wordpress.com

Opinion | Is It Policy- or Just Reality TV? – by Paul Krugman – NYT

“The other day the Trump administration announced a new trade deal with South Korea. It also announced that President Trump was nominating the White House physician to head the Department of Veterans Affairs. What do these announcements have in common?

The answer is that both are indicators of how Trump views his job. He doesn’t seem to see actual policymaking as important; instead, he treats it all as an exercise in reality TV.

Unfortunately, what looks good on TV isn’t necessarily good for America, or the world.Ronny L. Jackson, the veterans affairs nominee, certainly looks good on TV, as we saw when he gave Trump an excellent bill of health, including a declaration that the president, while overweight, is just shy of being officially obese — thanks to having apparently grown an inch in office.

However, girtherism isn’t the real issue here; as David Axelrod says, “a waist is a terrible thing to mind.” The point, instead, is that running veterans’ health is a management, not medical, job — and Jackson has no managerial experience.”

Wooing Saudi Business- Tabloid Mogul Had a Powerful Friend: Trump – The New York Times

“In July, David J. Pecker, the chairman of the company that owns The National Enquirer, visited his old friend President Trump at the White House.

The tabloid publisher took along a special guest, Kacy Grine, a French businessman who advises one of Saudi Arabia’s richest men and sometimes acts as an intermediary between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Western businesses.The two men and other Pecker associates chatted with the president in the Oval Office and briefly met with Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East envoy, Jared Kushner. Before moving on to dinner with the group, the president had a photographer snap pictures of the guests standing with him behind his desk.

Mr. Pecker has long used his media empire to protect Mr. Trump’s image. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Mr. Pecker’s company, American Media Inc., suppressed the story of a former Playboy model who claimed to have had an affair with Mr. Trump.The night of the dinner, Mr. Pecker got something from Mr. Trump: an unofficial seal of approval from the White House.”

David Lindsay:

Ouch. I can’t wash this dirt off my hands, it won’t come off.  Yes to this article. Here is one of many comments I recommended:

Avatar

New York 1 hour ago

So Pecker buys the Stormy Daniels story and doesn’t print it thereby covering for Trump. In return, Trump hooks Pecker up with Saudi investors. I’ll bet Pecker would have done the same thing if the story were about Obama. Right?

Trump repeatedly told us he’d drain the swamp; instead he’s filled it with the shadiest, sleaziest, most corrupt collection Washington, D.C. has ever seen. The Republican Congress thinks everything is just fine. Please leave our boss alone so we can go back to work tearing down protections for the poor, minorities, the environment, women, the 99%, public education, victims of the N.R.A., etc. As Ryan has repeatedly told us, Trump is new to the job; we need to give him time to “get adjusted.” In 2018 and 2020 we need to tell the Republican Party that their brand is destroying America.

All the President’s Thugs – The New York Times

“Among the most disturbing accusations the pornographic film star Stephanie Clifford made in her “60 Minutes” interview about President Trump was that after she sold her story about Mr. Trump to a magazine in 2011, a man approached her in a parking lot, while she was with her infant daughter, and said: “Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.”

“And then he leaned around,” she continued, “and looked at my daughter and said: ‘That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom.’ ”Five years later, said Ms. Clifford, known professionally as Stormy Daniels, when Mr. Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen offered to pay her $130,000 to be silent about her relationship with Mr. Trump, she took the deal because she “was concerned for my family and their safety.”

There is, of course, only Ms. Clifford’s word on this incident, which reads like a scene from a low-grade gangster movie. But this is not the first time that someone who has crossed Donald Trump has spoken of being threatened.”

Stormy Daniels Spanks Trump Again – by Michelle Goldberg – NYT

“Nevertheless, the Daniels interview aired on Sunday was important, portending danger for both Trump and his personal lawyer Michael Cohen. As I’ve written before, the Daniels affair is a corruption scandal disguised as a sex scandal. And on the corruption front, we learned things on Sunday that could help unravel Trump’s wretched presidency.

Daniels’s most shocking disclosure was her account of being threatened, apparently on Trump’s behalf, in 2011, a few weeks after agreeing to tell her story to a gossip magazine for $15,000. She said she was in a parking lot with her infant daughter when a man approached and said: “Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.” Then, she said, he looked at the baby and warned, “A beautiful little girl — it would be a shame if something happened to her mom.” “