It’s because of things like this that I still support Elizabeth Warren

Feel free to talk about Michael Bloomberg’s performance, or anything else from tonight’s bare knuckle boxing match of a debate, but I just want to take this opportunity to reiterate that I’m still with Elizabeth Warren. Watching this tonight, I think it’s clear that she’s the most thoughtful person in this campaign, and the one best suited to make an anti-corruption case against Donald Trump. She’s the right person for this moment.Here’s some more, if you don’t believe me.

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Tireless fighter of corruption, Donald Trump, commutes sentence of politician found guilty of attempting to sell a U.S. Senate seat

Back during Trump’s impeachment trial, the Republicans made the case that the President was a “corruption fighter.” That, they told us, was why he’d put the screws to the administration of Volodymyr Zelensky in Ukraine, in hopes of getting his administration to announce an investigation into Joe Biden. Well, today, Donald Trump, the anti-corruption champion, commuted the sentences of several white, male convicted criminals, including former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was found guilty in 2010 on 11 counts related to the attempted sale of Barack Obama’s former Senate seat, and 6 counts of shaking people down for bribes.

The Feds had Blagojevich on tape saying of the Senate seat, which was his to fill as Governor once Obama was elected president, “I’ve got this thing and it’s fucking golden… I’m not just giving it up for fucking nothing.” And he was found guilty by a jury of his peers, and sentenced to 14 years in prison. But, before the sentencing, he made what would turn out to be an incredibly fortuitous decision. He decided to appear as a contestant on Donald Trump’s “reality” television program, Celebrity Apprentice. And, today, Donald Trump chose to let Blagojevich go, over the advice of every House Republican from the Illinois delegation… Here’s Donald Trump, after saying that he didn’t really know Blagojevich, and chose to let him go because he ‘saw his wife on television,’ implying that his was a wrongful prosecution because James Comey was at the FBI at the time. [fact check: Comey was not at the FBI at the time. He was in the private sector from 2003 to 2013.]

There is a little silver lining, though. As Marcy Wheeler pointed out earlier, “The nice thing about Trump freeing every corrupt person ever mentioned on Fox News is now the GOP will have to stop pretending Trump gives a flying fuck about corruption.”

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MLive to close their comments section… Should I keep mine?

MLive is reporting today that, as of this Thursday, they’ll no longer allow for readers of their site to leave comments. There was a time in my life when I would have given them shit for the decision, just as I’d given them shit for their decision, back at the beginning, to “aggressively moderate” the comments left by their readers, but I can sympathize with their predicament. As they said in their announcement today, it’s a relatively small percentage of readers who leave comments, and those that do leave “an out-sized impression,” often dragging conversations off-topic in uncivil ways, and requiring the intervention of MLive employees. It had gotten so bad, they said, that their moderators, and the employees of a firm they brought on to oversee the comments section, were “stay(ing) busy around the clock policing the conversations, addressing flagged comments, and even going so far as to ban some users.”

If I had to guess, I’d say it’s probably more about cutting overhead in this case, than it is about growing incivility, but I can certainly see why someone operating a website these days would choose to pull the plug. I mean, if you go to the comments section here on any given day, you’ll find all kinds of insanity. But, at the same time, you’ll find some really good, thoughtful stuff. And that’s why I keep it going. I like the possibility that an open comments section represents. I like thinking that, at any time, someone could come forward with a piece of trivia that I wasn’t aware of, or make a connection that I hadn’t seen. But, with that said, those instances seem to come less frequently these days, as the comments section here has been disproportionately utilized of late by anti-vaxxers, Trumpists, self-proclaimed Christian patriots, and followers of Qanon. And, I imagine, with the shutting down of the MLive comments section, and the approach of the 2020 election, that it’s only going to become more challenging to keep my doors open to anyone who wants to weigh in. [Unlike MLive, I’ve never attempted aggressive moderation. For the most part, I’ve been happy to let people have their say, with the understanding and hope that the community would regulate itself. In fact, I’ve only cut three comments over the past 15 years. And I’ve never banned anyone from this site.]

At any rate, I’m curious as to what you think. Should I continue to allow comments here? Do you find value in it? I’ve love to know your thoughts.

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Disbar Barr

Over this past week, I’ve been collecting articles about William Barr and the work he’s been doing post-impeachment to help reward Donald Trump’s friends, and punish his perceived enemies. My intention was to write something truly brilliant – something that would explain everything in such a way that people, once they read it, would not only feel compelled to share it with everyone they’d ever known, but also take to the streets and demand Barr’s immediate removal from office. That, at least, was the plan. Then, however, my son pointed out to me that Curt Siodmak’s 1951 Bride of the Gorilla was streaming online for free. So, now, I’m just going to share the following with you. This in an excerpt from a letter posted today by over 1,100 former Justice Department officials calling for William Barr to resign. “Mr. Barr’s actions in doing the President’s personal bidding unfortunately speak louder than his words,” the authors, who have served both Republican and Democratic presidents, said. “Those actions, and the damage they have done to the Department of Justice’s reputation for integrity and the rule of law, require Mr. Barr to resign.”

It’s worth noting that the authors of the letter don’t just ask Barr to step down. Conceding that the Attorney General, given what we know him to be like, would never do that, the authors of the letter also ask those still working within the Department of Justice to make a stand and defend the rule of law. “(B)ecause we have little expectation (Barr will step down), it falls to the Department’s career officials to take appropriate action to uphold their oaths of office and defend nonpartisan, apolitical justice,” the former officials wrote in a statement… While I’ve yet to hear of large-scale protests within the Department of Justice, news did break late last week that all four career prosecutors who brought the case against Roger Stone have stepped down from their positions in apparent protest of Barr’s decision to overrule their sentencing recommendation. [Stone, for those of you who don’t remember, was found guilty by a grand jury of all seven counts that had brought against him by the Justice Department.]

There’s a hell of a lot more I could say here, about Trump’s tweets, and Barr’s ridiculous claim that he didn’t weigh in on Stone’s sentencing because of pressure from the White House, but I’m going to have to call it a night, as the Bride of the Gorilla is waiting. I would, however, like to share one more thing with you. The following excerpt is from an op-ed that ran a few days ago in the Washington Post by former U.S. Attorney and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Harry Litman.

…The action runs counter not only to standard practice but also to the standard that the Justice Department is supposed to embody: the administration of justice without fear or favor.

It is hard to overstate the irregularity and impropriety of the department’s rollback of Stone’s sentence.

Stone was convicted of serious crimes: lying to Congress and witness tampering. His recommended sentence was by the book — literally. Federal prosecutors go by a manual from the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Commission that lays out appropriate sentences for specific offenses. The seven- to nine-year sentence that prosecutors had sought was precisely what equal justice mandated. That’s far from the “miscarriage of justice” that Trump called it in a tweet.

…The Justice Department updated its sentencing recommendation Tuesday in a filing that said the initial guidance “could be considered excessive and unwarranted under the circumstances.” The department’s leadership had been “shocked” at the initial recommendation, an official reportedly told The Post.

Keep in mind, however, that Stone chose to go to trial. He also sought to vilify the prosecution and engage in circus maneuvers designed to suggest his prosecution was a joke. Federal defendants who engage in such tactics virtually never receive sentences lighter than the guidelines stipulate. The system would break down were it otherwise.

But that anomaly is the least of the outrages in this situation. More worrisome is the naked countermand of the recommendation of career prosecutors in favor of a sweetheart recommendation for a political ally of the president. This is indefensible in the U.S. justice system for any reason, least of all raw political favoritism.

..I have never experienced or even heard of a situation in which a career prosecutor had been ordered to withdraw a sentencing memorandum within the guidelines’ range…

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The Trump administration finally issues its formal justification for the assassination of Iranian General Qassim Soleimani, and no mention is made of an imminent attack

At the beginning of the new year, as you may recall, Donald Trump, without either alerting our allies and running the idea by Congressional leaders, gave the command to assassinate Iranian General Qassim Soleimani. At the time, as you may also remember, Donald Trump told the American people that this was absolutely necessary, as they had evidence of an “imminent attack” against U.S. forces… one which could only be stopped by eliminating the powerful Iranian leader. And, in the days following the assassination, as foreign affairs professionals came forward to say that there was no such evidence of an imminent attack, Donald Trump, as he’s known to do, doubled down, telling the us that Soleimani wasn’t just planning to attack one U.S. embassy, but four of them. [Even U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said that he “didn’t see” evidence of any such plans on the part of Soleimani.] As Donald Trump told Fox News’s Laura Ingraham at the time, “I can reveal that I believe it probably would’ve been four embassies.” Well, guess what? The Trump administration just released their formal legal justification for the Soleimani strike, and nowhere does it mention an “imminent threat” against Americans. The evidence of an imminent attack that Donald Trump promised, it would seem, does not exist. Here’s Michigan Representative Justin Amash with more.

This, of course, was exactly what we expected to happen. We knew there was no imminent threat. And we knew that we’d been lied to. I just wanted to note it here to formally close the loop on this matter.

One more thing. I know I shared this before, but it’s worth repeating. As Agnes Callamard, the United Nations official in charge of assessing the legality of targeted killings under international law, said following of the assassination of Soleimani, “The test for so-called anticipatory self-defence is very narrow: it must be a necessity that is ‘instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment of deliberation’”. So, yes, it’s looking like Soleimani’s killing was illegal under international law.

What follows is something that I posted back in January, when we were last discussing the Soleimani assassination. Like the quote from Callamard, I think it too deserves repeating.

…As for why Donald Trump would make a move like this against Soleimani when, in addition to being illegal, so many thought it would only serve to escalate tensions in the Middle East, here’s a possible clue from the Wall Street Journal.

Granted, just because Trump told people that he gave the order to kill Soleimani because Republican senators told him to, it doesn’t make it true, but it warrants investigating. And, thankfully, Americans for Oversight have already FOIA’d “senior State Department and Department of Defense officials’ communications with Senators Lindsey Graham, Tom Cotton, and Marco Rubio during the weeks immediately before the strike”. So, with any luck, we’ll find out soon what kind of pressure Donald Trump might have been under from the Iran hawks in the Republican Party… This is a long way from being over.

Speaking of uncomfortable videos of administration officials lying for Donald Trump, here’s National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien telling Chuck Todd that we need to take him at his word when he tells us that there was “exquisite intelligence” about an imminent attack, even though he’s not at liberty to share it, even with members of the House Intelligence Committee… I’m not the biggest Chuck Todd fan, but I loved how, at the end of the clip, he asks O’Brien why, if there was an imminent attack against U.S. embassies in the offing, no embassy personnel were alerted. O’Brien’s response? “It was a very fast moving situation.” If only Chuck Todd had followed up with, “Well, if that’s the case, how is that Donald Trump was talking about the operation to Mar-a-Lago members several days before it happened?”

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