Weekend Open Thread
[guest post by Dana]
Hello and happy weekend. Let’s get started.
First news item
A distressed Trump asked what were they going to do about assault rifles:
One of the most extraordinary moments of Donald J. Trump’s presidency was an hourlong meeting with U.S. senators in the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., in which he forcefully argued for a litany of gun safety measures that the National Rifle Association had long opposed.
Mr. Trump’s support for gun control measures — which he unrolled on live television from the White House on Feb. 28, 2018 — astonished lawmakers from both parties. But the next day, N.R.A. officials met with Mr. Trump without any cameras or reporters in the room, and he immediately backed down.
That apparent surrender to N.R.A. pressure came to sum up Mr. Trump’s record on gun control in the eyes of his critics.
Unbeknownst to the public, however, Mr. Trump again pushed inside the White House for significant new gun-control measures more than a year later, after a pair of gruesome shooting sprees that unfolded over 13 hours. Those discussions have not previously been reported.
At the White House the next day, Mr. Trump was so shaken by the weekend’s violence that he questioned aides about a specific potential solution and made clear he wanted to take action, according to three people present during the conversation.
“What are we going to do about assault rifles?” Mr. Trump asked.
“Not a damn thing,” Mick Mulvaney, his acting chief of staff, replied.
“Why?” Trump demanded.
“Because,” Mr. Mulvaney told him, “you would lose.”
Second news item
A foul stench wafting from the bench:
Last month, I covered a legal motion in the case Planned Parenthood of Michigan v. Attorney General of the State of Michigan, in which Michigan Right to Life and the Michigan Catholic Conference argued that the presiding judge ought to recuse herself due to conflicts of interest.
The judge in question, Elizabeth L. Gleicher, had disclosed that she donates annually to the Planned Parenthood’s Michigan affiliate and that, prior to becoming a judge, had represented Planned Parenthood in a lawsuit. Despite these obvious conflicts of interest, she declined to recuse herself. The pro-life groups calling for her recusal noted that she had also received a Planned Parenthood “advocate award,” which she did not disclose, and that she had represented Planned Parenthood in lawsuits other than the one she informed them about publicly.
Gleicher went on, unsurprisingly, to decide on behalf of Planned Parenthood in this case, ruling against a Michigan pro-life law that is slated to take effect if the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Third news item
Could be the much needed game-changer:
On Thursday, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense tweeted a video of a Russian barrage on defenders’ positions in the Donetsk Oblast. “Ukraine is ready to strike back,” it said. “To do this, we need NATO-style MLRS. Immediately.”
“Russia is now using artillery extensively and ruthlessly,” Oleksandr Merezhko, chair of the Ukrainian parliament’s foreign affairs committee, told Newsweek. “To counter this, to save the lives of our servicemen and civilians, we need MLRS.”
American-made launchers would allow Ukrainians to target more Russian artillery batteries and attackers at longer ranges. The extended range would also threaten Russian logistics hubs and routes, disruption of which will slow the offensive
The U.S. has declined thus far to send the necessary equipment:
Politico, who spoke to an unnamed Biden administration official last week, reported concern in the White House that providing technologically advanced, destructive, and long-range American MLRS and HIMARS will be interpreted as escalation by Moscow.
Meanwhile, Kasparov sees the urgency of the moment, and vents:
Three months into Putin’s genocidal total war on Ukraine, Putin’s Global Rescue Team is assembling again. Heads of state, media, pundits, all the usual suspects eager to preserve a horrific status quo & sacrifice thousands of Ukrainian lives, and call it peace.
Ukraine is bleeding, without the weapons it asked for. Putin is rushing to annex more Ukrainian territory, issuing passports and currency, killing and deporting thousands and bringing in Russians, as he’s been doing for 8 years in occupied Crimea and Donbas.
The profiteers and appeasers, working with or for Putin, like Kissinger, join the false “peacemakers” in France and Italy to send more Ukrainians to the hell of Russian occupation, dozens of Buchas to come. Who are they to tell Ukrainians how to live and die?
Some allies are slow-rolling weapons deliveries, afraid of Ukrainian victory. If Ukraine makes more progress pushing Russia back, Western leaders might lose their coveted “peace for our time” moment and not be able to rush back to Russian gas & oil.
Ukraine needs air cover, while allies point fingers and play hot potato with who needs what permissions to provide jets and other weapons. Do they want the carnage to end, or just cover it up, postpone more, guaranteeing it will be worse next time?
Stop thinking about concessions Ukraine can make. They are paying a terrible price in blood, with decades of rebuilding to come. They are paying for years of weakness and corruption of the European nations that eagerly did business & diplomacy with their invader.
Ukraine needs every weapon they ask for without hesitation. The free world is lucky to have a brave and skilled Ukrainian military on the front line of a war they never wanted, a war the West tried to pretend did not exist. They aren’t a proxy, they are a partner.
Bankrupt Putin & his regime. Give Ukraine what it needs to win. Shame anyone who would rescue Putin from suffering the consequences of his murderous war. Ukraine must choose, and as long as they choose to fight we must fight with them.
Fourth news item
President Biden leaning toward $10,000:
Advocates expressed anger and disappointment on Friday in response to news that the Biden administration is leaning toward forgiving $10,000 in student loans per borrower.
Some Democrats and activists have insisted that President Joe Biden needs to cancel at least $50,000 per borrower to make a meaningful impact on the country’s $1.7 trillion outstanding student loan balance. More than 40 million Americans are in debt for their education, and about 25% of those borrowers are in delinquency or default…While running for president, Biden had vowed immediate debt cancellation of $10,000 per borrower, and he hadn’t said anything about limiting the relief to people who earn under a certain amount. Now the administration is looking at imposing income caps of $150,000 for individuals and $300,000 for married couples for the relief…
Unfortunately for Biden, some of his more popular teammates are none too happy with his number:
$10k means tested forgiveness is just enough to anger the people against it *and* the people who need forgiveness the most.
$10k relieves most the people who owe the least. What relief is there for the most desperate? For them, interest will undo that 10k fast. We can do better. https://t.co/HhfWbeCf0v
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 27, 2022
Fifth news item
Cheney in the woods – at least for now:
GOP Rep. Liz Cheney is down 30 points in a new survey of her August primary conducted by the Club for Growth, which is opposing the embattled incumbent.
The poll, which provides perhaps the starkest illustration yet of the political peril Cheney faces this year, shows Wyoming attorney Harriet Hageman garnering 56 percent of the vote to Cheney’s 26 percent in the GOP primary. A third Republican got 12 percent support, and just 6 percent are undecided.
The survey accounts for frequent GOP voters, but also new voters and those who identify as Democrats or independents but intend to vote in the GOP primary.
Interestingly, Cheney’s war chest has a hefty $6.8 million compared to Hageman’s $1 million.
From Cheney’s just-released video asking for Wyoming voters to vote for her, she hits the nail on the head:
If our generation does not stand for truth, the rule of law and our Constitution, if we set aside our founding principles for the politics of the moment, the miracle of our constitutional republic will slip away. We must not let that happen.
I’m signing onto this. There’s a long game in play:
I suspect her strategy in this race consists of two steps: (1) Hurt Trump among swing voters ahead of 2024 by framing this primary as a referendum on the rule of law versus authoritarianism, knowing which side Trump and MAGA will enthusiastically take, and (2) run against him for the Republican nomination in 2024 and use the spotlight that provides her to reiterate that case to those swing voters. Cheney’s on a mission now to keep Trump out of the White House, nothing more or less. If she cared about saving her career, she would have laid low after voting for impeachment like eight of the other nine Republicans who joined her did.
Sixth news item
A federal judge on Friday dismissed former President Trump’s lawsuit against New York Attorney General Letitia James, which he filed in an attempt to stop her office’s civil investigation into the Trump Organization’s business practices.
Why it matters: The dismissal comes just a day after a four-judge panel ruled that Trump and his children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., are obligated to comply with subpoenas issued by James and testify under oath as part of the state’s investigation.
Trump related legal happenings:
As many as 50 witnesses are expected to be subpoenaed by a special grand jury that will begin hearing testimony next week in the criminal investigation into whether former President Donald J. Trump and his allies violated Georgia laws in their efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state.
The process, which is set to begin on Wednesday, is likely to last weeks, bringing dozens of subpoenaed witnesses, both well-known and obscure, into a downtown Atlanta courthouse bustling with extra security because of threats directed at the staff of the Fulton County district attorney, Fani T. Willis.
Ms. Willis, a Democrat, has said in the past that Mr. Trump created a threatening atmosphere with his open criticism of the investigation. At a rally in January, he described the Georgia investigation and others focusing on him as “prosecutorial misconduct at the highest level” that was being conducted by “vicious, horrible people.” Ms. Willis has had staffers on the case outfitted with bulletproof vests.
Willis stressed that this isn’t personal, but she is simply fulfilling her duties:
She added that she was treating Mr. Trump as she would anyone else. “I have a duty to investigate,” she said. “And in my mind, it’s not of much consequence what title they wore.”
Seventh news item
In response to an explosive investigation, top Southern Baptists have released a previously secret list of hundreds of pastors and other church-affiliated personnel accused of sexual abuse.
The 205-page database was made public late Thursday. It includes more than 700 entries from cases that largely span from 2000 to 2019.
Its existence became widely known Sunday when the independent firm, Guidepost Solutions, included it in its bombshell report detailing how the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee mishandled allegations of sex abuse, stonewalled numerous survivors and prioritized protecting the SBC from liability.
The Guidepost report, released after a seven-month investigation, contained several explosive revelations. Among them: D. August Boto, the committee’s former vice president and general counsel, and former SBC spokesman Roger Oldham kept their own private list of abusive ministers. Both retired in 2019. The existence of the list was not widely known within the committee and its staff.
“Despite collecting these reports for more than 10 years, there is no indication that (Oldham and Boto) or anyone else, took any action to ensure that the accused ministers were no longer in positions of power at SBC churches,” the report said.
Eighth news item
While China calls the allegations “lies of the century,” sane people know them as horrors of the century:
A new trove of hacked Chinese police photographs and documents shedding light on the human toll of Beijing’s treatment of its Uyghur minority in Xinjiang has been published as the UN high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, visits cities in the region.
The data trove – referred to as the Xinjiang police files and published by a consortium of media including the BBC – dates back to 2018 and was passed on by hackers to Dr Adrian Zenz, a US-based scholar and activist, who shared it with international media earlier this year. It includes thousands of photographs of detained people and details a shoot-to-kill policy for people who try to escape.
The ruling Communist party is accused of detaining more than 1 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the far-western region as part of a years-long crackdown the US and politicians in other western countries have labelled a “genocide”. In addition to mass detentions, researchers and campaigners accuse Chinese authorities of waging a campaign of forced labour, coerced sterilisation and the destruction of Uyghur cultural heritage in Xinjiang.
Ninth news item
Confirming what we have long known:
Almost no Democrats who oppose abortion rights hold seats in Congress any more, and it’s also become a litmus test for some state parties, even in red states.
…Anti-abortion Democrats are nearly extinct, and with the Supreme Court expected to overturn Roe v. Wade, national Democrats will be making abortion rights a centerpiece of their midterm campaigns.
…Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) — described by his primary challenger, Jessica Cisneros, as “the last anti-choice Dem in the House” — was barely clinging to a lead after Tuesday’s runoff election.
Democrats further down the ballot who oppose abortion rights are being pushed out or walking away.
In New Jersey, the Morristown Democratic Committee voted last year to strip Aaron Oliver of his chairmanship because of his anti-abortion views. “It was awful,” Oliver told Axios. “I didn’t want to resign, but this issue right now with the Democratic Party is an absolute litmus test.”
Spring palette cleanser after a rough week of bad news:
Have a restful weekend.