Patterico's Pontifications

12/12/2019

How Trump Acts Like a Guilty Criminal Defendant

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:28 am



I have a piece at ArcDigital today titled They Sure Do Look Guilty. Here is an excerpt:

[D]efendants often have no real defense based on the facts and merits. So they and their lawyers try to make a simple, straightforward question seem very, very complicated. They attack the process. They scream that the prosecution is engaged in a witch hunt. They try to vilify law enforcement, whether it be the police or the prosecutors. The more unscrupulous defendants may intimidate witnesses, fabricate evidence, or tell falsehoods under oath.

But all guilty defendants who go to trial try to deny the reality in front of everyone’s face. They scream and yell and try to get the fact-finder upset, annoyed, distracted … anything but focused on the facts and evidence. And if they find jurors who are emotionally inclined to lean towards the defense, these tactics can work.

If you have followed impeachment, this should all sound familiar.

There is a clip in the piece that I ask people to watch, which contrasts the weaselly way that the Republican staff lawyer addresses the central part of the transcript of Trump’s “perfect” call with the straightforward manner in which the Democrat staff lawyer does. For whatever reason, Medium is unable to embed a YouTube video with timestamps, but below is the 80-second video:

Weasel vs. non-weasel. Simple.

12/11/2019

Trump Loyalist: The Next Democratic President Must Be Impeached

Filed under: General — Dana @ 12:54 pm



[guest post by Dana]

Mark Levin, who called the impeachment inquiry an “outrageous violation of the Constitution,” wants to set his own precedent in light of the “precedent” being set by Democrats in impeaching Trump:

What the Democrats have done here will only be stopped and the precedent that is so damning to this country will only be stopped if it is unleashed on them. The next president who’s a Democrat must be impeached. They must be investigated over and over again, follow exactly the Schiff-Nadler procedures, the Nancy Pelosi process. It must be done. I know it sounds painful. I had a caller say to me the other day when I said that it was disingenuous, that it shows that we’re no better than them. No, that’s wrong. It shows we must defeat this internal Fifth Column enemy. And they must understand that we have the willingness to do it so they don’t pull this again because otherwise, this is the precedent set in place now. Republicans will be rollovers for the rest of their time and Democrats will be bulldogs. We can’t allow that.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

12/10/2019

Trump Pays $2 Million In Damages For Misusing His Charity

Filed under: General — Dana @ 5:22 pm



[guest post by Dana]

In other Trump news today, the president has paid $2 million in a court-ordered settlement for using funds from the Trump Foundation charity for his own personal gain and to benefit his 2016 presidential campaign:

The payment was ordered last month by a New York state judge in an extraordinary rebuke to a sitting president. Trump had been sued in 2018 by the New York attorney general, who alleged that the president had illegally used funds from the Donald J. Trump Foundation to buy portraits of himself, pay off his businesses’ legal obligations and help his 2016 campaign.

[…]

In addition, Trump agreed to distribute the remaining $1.8 million left in the Donald J. Trump Foundation to the same eight charities. In all, each charity received $476,140.41.

“Charities are not a means to an end, which is why these damages speak to the president’s abuse of power and represent a victory for not-for-profits that follow the law,” James, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Funds have finally gone where they deserve — to eight credible charities.”

Moreover, if the president wants to create another New York state charity, it will face certain restrictions and supervision.

Reports also say that, along with using the charity’s money for his presidential campaign and Pam Bondi’s Florida attorney general campaign, Trump paid $258,000 in legal settlements for his (for-profit) clubs, purchased sports memorabilia, champagne for a charity gala, and arranged for the charity to pay $10,000 for a 6-foot portrait of himself. Yep, that sounds about right.

Back when the lawsuit was filed in 2018, Trump was determined to not settle the case:

The sleazy New York Democrats, and their now disgraced (and run out of town) A.G. Eric Schneiderman, are doing everything they can to sue me on a foundation that took in $18,800,000 and gave out to charity more money than it took in, $19,200,000. I won’t settle this case!

Still to be ruled on is whether Trump can write off the fine payment as a “charitable donation” on his taxes.

The President of the United States got caught with his hand in the cookie jar, and as a result there is no longer a charity to use as his own personal piggy-bank. Good!

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

The Democrats Are Blowing the Impeachment

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:46 am



How? By not introducing (at least so far) an article of impeachment based on Trump’s obstruction of justice as described in the Mueller report. In particular, telling Don McGahn to fire Mueller, and to prepare a false document denying that Trump gave that order.

The following are arguments that Republicans have made, and will make again in the Senate, against impeachment based on the Ukraine matter:

  • The investigation was begun by partisans, and not by an outside counsel.
  • The acts complained of do not amount to statutory crimes.
  • There is no first-hand witness to the events whose account has been made public.
  • There is an arguable national purpose to the actions that does not relate to President Trump personally.

I’m not saying they are good arguments. The first is irrelevant. The second is irrelevant and indeed laughable, given the Founders’ concerns about abuse of presidential power. The third is a joke because we have the transcript, I mean the summary, of the call. And the fourth depends on the notion that Trump deeply cared about corruption in Ukraine — but only corruption related to two individuals, a father and a son, and only after the father became his chief political opponent.

But these arguments would be even harder to make about the obstruction of justice outlined in the Mueller report. The investigation was done by a special counsel, investigating and finding substantial evidence of statutory violations. McGahn is a firsthand witness and we know what he told Mueller. And telling McGahn to lie has no plausible public justification.

Nothing would change if this article of impeachment were introduced, of course. The Republican hacks in the Senate would vote to acquit on this charge too. But they’d look like even bigger fools doing so than they already will. And there is no reason to give Trump a pass on the egregious behavior outlined in the Mueller report.

Well. They didn’t ask me.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

12/9/2019

Reactions To The IG Report Released Today

Filed under: General — Dana @ 11:43 am



[guest post by Dana]

If you’re interested, consider this an open thread about the release of the IG Report, which can be found here.

The voluminous report, released Monday by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, identified 17 separate inaccuracies across three surveillance applications, effectively inflating the justification for monitoring former foreign policy adviser Carter Page starting in the fall of 2016.

Horowitz, nevertheless, concluded the FBI was legally justified in launching its inquiry into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and that there was no “documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the FBI’s decision to conduct these operations.”

Reactions:

Attorney General William Barr on Monday rejected a key conclusion of an investigation conducted by his own agency’s watchdog that a probe into Russian interference into the 2016 election was justified.

Barr…called the FBI’s investigation into Moscow’s interference “intrusive” and said it had been launched “on the thinnest of suspicions” — even though the Justice Department’s inspector general report released Monday concluded that the overall probe was justified and not motivated by politics.

“The Inspector General’s report now makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken,” Barr said.

Barr added that “the evidence produced by the investigation was consistently exculpatory.”

***

U.S. Attorney John Durham said Monday he disagrees with the Justice Department inspector general’s conclusion that the FBI was justified in 2016 when it launched an investigation into President Trump’s campaign.

Mr. Durham was tasked by Attorney General William P. Barr earlier this year to oversee a separate investigation into the origins of the Russia probe. His investigation is covering much of the same territory as Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz.

[…]

Mr. Durham says he’s reached a different conclusion.

“Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the Inspector General that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened,” Mr. Durham said in a statement.

Mr. Durham noted the inspector general’s authority was limited to information within the Justice Department, while his investigation found information from “other persons and entities both in the U.S. and outside of the U.S.”

***

President Trump said Monday the findings of an inspector general’s report on the FBI’s surveillance of his 2016 campaign were “far worse than what I ever thought possible.”

The president told reporters at the White House that he’s been briefed on Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz’s conclusions. The report found multiple errors and uncorroborated claims in the FBI’s applications for surveillance warrants, but said there was no political bias evident.

“It’s a disgrace what’s happened with the things that were done to our country,” Mr. Trump said. “They fabricated evidence and they lied to the courts. This was an attempted overthrow and a lot of people were in on it, and they got caught.”

He called it “a very sad day … probably something that’s never happened in the history of our country.”

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

UPDATE BY PATTERICO: I thank Dana for writing this post. I lack the energy to weigh in at length. I think Allahpundit sums up the whole thing best: “Today the dominant emotion in every major player in this saga should be humility, but we can’t find an ounce of it among them collectively.”

I predicted long ago that the IG would find the investigation was properly predicated. I also predicted that it would find mistakes by the FBI, because (as I said) an IG always finds mistakes. But I admit to being surprised and dismayed at the extent of the FBI’s failures to disclose important information in the Page FISA applications.

This reminds me in some ways of the Mueller report. Because of the wild and absurd heightened expectations by partisans (Trump was engaged in an active criminal conspiracy with Russia! The FBI planned a coup), the big headline ends up being that the absurd expectations didn’t pan out. If the media gave us the “collusion hoax” then Trump gave us the “coup hoax” and even though no sane person believed either, the big story ends up being that the hoax is a hoax. But in each case, the big dopey headline obscures what should be the real story. For the Mueller report, the real story should have been Trump’s rampant corrupt obstruction. For the IG report, the real story should be an incredibly slipshod and unprofessional handling of a critical FISA application — and that description is being very charitable.

Trump has spent three years undermining the rule of law. If the IG is to be believed, the FBI just contributed its own heaping helping of reasons to worry about the rule of law.

Where, again, is the humility?

About The War In Afghanistan: “The American People Have Constantly Been Lied To”

Filed under: General — Dana @ 9:49 am



[guest post by Dana]

The Washington Post publishes a damning report about the endless war. It’s a long read but well worth your time:

A confidential trove of government documents obtained by The Washington Post reveals that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.

The documents were generated by a federal project examining the root failures of the longest armed conflict in U.S. history. They include more than 2,000 pages of previously unpublished notes of interviews with people who played a direct role in the war, from generals and diplomats to aid workers and Afghan officials. …

“We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn’t know what we were doing,” Douglas Lute, a three-star Army general who served as the White House’s Afghan war czar during the Bush and Obama administrations, told government interviewers in 2015. He added: “What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.”

“If the American people knew the magnitude of this dysfunction . . . 2,400 lives lost,” Lute added, blaming the deaths of U.S. military personnel on bureaucratic breakdowns among Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department. “Who will say this was in vain?”

Several of those interviewed described explicit and sustained efforts by the U.S. government to deliberately mislead the public. They said it was common at military headquarters in Kabul — and at the White House — to distort statistics to make it appear the United States was winning the war when that was not the case.

[…]

“Every data point was altered to present the best picture possible,” Bob Crowley, an Army colonel who served as a senior counterinsurgency adviser to U.S. military commanders in 2013 and 2014, told government interviewers. “Surveys, for instance, were totally unreliable but reinforced that everything we were doing was right and we became a self-licking ice cream cone.”

John Sopko, the head of the federal agency that conducted the interviews, acknowledged to The Post that the documents show “the American people have constantly been lied to.”

[…]

“We don’t invade poor countries to make them rich,” James Dobbins, a former senior U.S. diplomat who served as a special envoy to Afghanistan under Bush and Obama, told government interviewers. “We don’t invade authoritarian countries to make them democratic. We invade violent countries to make them peaceful and we clearly failed in Afghanistan.”

[…]

“I may be impatient. In fact I know I’m a bit impatient,” Rumsfeld wrote in one memo to several generals and senior aides. “We are never going to get the U.S. military out of Afghanistan unless we take care to see that there is something going on that will provide the stability that will be necessary for us to leave.”

“Help!” he wrote.

The memo was dated April 17, 2002 — six months after the war started.

And so it goes…

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

12/8/2019

Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 90

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:37 am



It is the second Sunday of Advent. Today’s Bach cantata is “Es reißet euch ein schrecklich Ende” (A horrible end will carry you off):

Today’s Gospel reading is Matthew 3:1-12:

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”

John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

The text of today’s piece is available here. It contains these words:

A horrible end
will carry you off, you sinful scoffers.
The measure of your sins is fully told,
yet your minds, completely hardened,
have totally forgotten your Judge.

The goodness of the Highest is renewed from day to
day,
but ingratitude continually commits sin against grace.
O, what a confused and evil failing,
that leads you to your damnation.
Alas! Is your heart not stirred?
Does God’s goodness not
lead you to true repentance?
His faithful heart is manifest
in innumerable good deeds:
soon He has the temple rebuilt,
soon the meadows are prepared
upon which the manna of His word will fall,
which will sustain you.
However, O! wickedness of this life,
these good deeds are wasted on you.

. . . .

Lead us with Your right hand
and bless our city and land;
give us Your holy word always,
guard against the devil’s deceit and harm;
grant a blessed little hour to us,
in which we shall be eternally with You!

Happy listening! Soli Deo gloria.

12/7/2019

Weekend Open Thread

Filed under: General — Dana @ 9:48 am



[guest post by Dana]

Feel free to talk about anything you think is newsworthy or might interest readers.

I’ll start.

First news item: Uh-oh, Democrats, not again:

2010:

The authors quote Reid as saying privately that Obama, as a black candidate, could be successful thanks, in part, to his “light-skinned” appearance and speaking patterns “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”

[…]

“Reid was convinced, in fact, that Obama’s race would help him more than hurt him in a bid for the Democratic nomination,” they write.

2019:

While discussing his 2020 competitors with CBS’s Gayle King in an interview that aired Friday morning, Bloomberg said, “Cory Booker endorsed me a number of times, and I endorsed Cory Booker a number of times. He’s very well spoken, he’s got some good ideas.”

Second news item: What she said, what she didn’t say (watch video before commenting):

People on social media are piling on her for suggesting that a racist atrocity somehow “hijacked” the meaning of a flag that was carried into battle against the United States by a regime founded to protect its citizens’ prerogative to commit racist atrocities. The Charleston killer knew what that flag meant to black Americans, which is why he embraced it. But Haley’s point, then and now, was that over time many white southerners had come to embrace the flag for more innocuous reasons, as a symbol of southern culture generally. Her point about “hijacking” is that the murders reasserted the flag’s meaning as a symbol of racist violence. Well-meaning whites couldn’t properly look at it the same way afterward as an anodyne symbol of the south, drained of its history.

She’s under no illusions about the flag’s heritage. You know how I know that? Because she talked about it on the day she called for removing the flag from the South Carolina statehouse grounds.

Third item: Say what??

Fourth news item: Maybe it’s time we stop letting them train here?

Six Saudi nationals were reportedly detained for questioning after a Saudi Arabian aviation student killed three people and injured eight when he opened fire at the Pensacola Naval Base on Friday. The New York Times reports that while they believe the shooter acted alone, at least some of the Saudi nationals called in for questioning were seen filming the entire shooting. No one has confirmed if any of them were involved. SITE Intelligence, a group that monitors jihadist activity, also reported that a man with the gunman’s name, which was identified by the Times as Mohammed Saeed Slshamrani, posted a Twitter message hours before the shooting in which he referred to the U.S. as a “nation of evil” for its support of Israel.

Fifth news item: Seriously?? James Comey??:

I would be a coward if I didn’t speak out': Comey blasts Mattis for silence on Trump.

Added: A date that will live in infamy:

Have a great weekend.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

12/6/2019

Artist Monkeys Around With Banana, Sells For $120,000

Filed under: General — Dana @ 2:22 pm



[guest post by Dana]

When an artist runs out of ideas but knows that the privileged beau monde still need to feel like the world looks at them as uniquely original and are willing to pay whatever it takes to make that happen. Or maybe it’s something more simple, like, there really is a sucker born every minute:

A banana duct-taped to a wall sold for $120,000 at Miami’s Art Basel this week — it may be the most talked-about artwork at this year’s event. Two of the three editions have been sold, according to Perrotin, the contemporary art gallery behind the work. The last one is expected to go for $150,000.

The controversial piece, called “The Comedian,” was created by Maurizio Cattelan, an Italian artist who had also entertained art lovers from around the globe in 2017 with his “America” 18-carat-gold toilet. However, the $6-million throne was stolen from England’s Blenheim Palace over the summer.

Emmanuel Perrotin, the gallery founder, told CBS News that Maurizio’s work is not just about objects, but about how objects move through the world.

“Whether affixed to the wall of an art fair booth or displayed on the cover of the New York Post, his work forces us to question how value is placed on material goods,” he said.

He added that “the spectacle is as much a part of the work as the banana.”

Irony all the way around:

Some critics argue this piece is a perfect representation of what the art world has become with its gaping wealth inequalities. Others, however, chose not to go as deep and appreciate the simplicity of the art piece.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

Democracy Dies In Broad Daylight: Media Should Work Harder To Persuade Americans To Support Impeachment

Filed under: General — Dana @ 1:21 pm



[guest post by Dana]

I say let it die in broad daylight for everyone to see. Margaret Sullivan, former public editor of the New York Times and now a columnist for the Washington Post makes it clear that she supports impeachment (which is her prerogative), and is now calling on members of the media to collectively find a way to *persuade* resistant Americans to get on board the impeachment train. As if persuasion and advocacy is the job of journalists and reporters:

The diplomats have been inspiring, the legal scholars knowledgeable, the politicians predictable.

After endless on-air analysis and written reporting, pundit panels and emergency podcasts, not much has changed.

If anything, weeks into the House of Representatives’ public impeachment hearings, Americans’ positions seem to have hardened on whether President Trump should be impeached and removed from office.

So, is the media coverage pointless? Are journalists merely shouting into the void?

Clearly, to Sullivan’s mind, the media should be doing something more than just reporting the news and letting Americans make up their own damn minds. They should be collectively advocating for a specific political position and pushing that onto the masses via media outlets:

[T]hat’s what the nightly newscasts on the three major broadcast networks attempt to do: boil the complex down to a few minutes.

But that audience, although still substantial — more than 20 million people on average per night — certainly doesn’t include everyone. And far too often, those broadcasts fall prey to false equivalency: This side said this, and this side said that, and we don’t want to make anyone mad, so we’ve got to cut to a commercial now.

[H]ere’s the thing: There are facts. There is truth. We do live in a country that abides by laws and a Constitution, and nobody ought to be above them.

Despite the hardened positions, some members of the public are still uncertain. Some are persuadable, and yes, it matters.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s the job of American journalism in this moment to get serious about trying to reach these citizens.

Sullivan has tweeted three responses to her post. If these are representative of America at large, then, boy-howdy, we are in trouble:

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(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

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