Thursday, February 20, 2020

PARDON ME?

The real message of Trump's pardons
[NB: Many of these folks were convicted for things Trump has done. A good example is Rod Blagojevich, convicted for seeking a quid pro quo over who got to replace Obama's Senate seat in Illinois. I'm sure Trump thinks, "What's wrong with that?"

https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2010-06-29-ct-met-blagojevich-trial-0630-20100629-story.html
"I've got this thing and it's (expletive) golden," Blagojevich said in a conversation secretly recorded by government agents. "I'm not just giving it up for (expletive) nothing."]

Drain the swamp, huh? https://www.vox.com/2020/2/19/21142836/trump-blagojevich-kerik-milken-negron-debartolo-pardons-corruption
Trump’s latest pardons show how quickly he’s normalizing corruption 

https://crooksandliars.com/2020/02/john-avlons-reality-check-trump-preparing 
Reality Check: Trump Is Preparing Us For Bigger Pardons 

Just a coincidence, I'm sure

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/family-of-pardoned-construction-exec-donated-over-200k-to-trumps-reelection-campaign
Family Of Pardoned Construction Exec Donated Over 200K To Trump’s Reelection Campaign 

And the latest WH explanation for all these pardons?

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2020/2/19/1920391/-White-House-spokesman-offers-bizarro-explanation-for-Donald-Lock-Her-Up-Trump-s-pardons
“The president is against aggressive sentencing.” Excuse me, what? . . . [read on] 

More: https://www.vox.com/2020/2/19/21144162/white-house-spin-trump-pardons-hogan-gidley 

Trump is prepping for more and more pardons

https://politicalwire.com/2020/02/20/white-house-takes-control-of-pardon-process/

Julian Assange says he was offered a pardon to lie for Trump. Can he prove it?

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/muckraker/assange-claims-rohrabacher-offered-him-a-doozy-of-a-pardon-quid-pro-quo

More: https://www.emptywheel.net/2020/02/19/doj-is-withholding-the-mike-flynn-302-describing-how-the-campaign-considered-reaching-out-to-assange-after-the-podesta-leaks/ 

Trump says he is more popular than ever because of impeachment

https://twitter.com/cspan/status/1227696620000727046
Q: "Some Republicans have said they hoped you would learn a lesson from impeachment. What lesson did you learn from impeachment?"

President Trump: "That the democrats are crooked…that they shouldn't have brought impeachment and my poll numbers are 10 points higher."

Ahem

Sept 24: https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1176569846684766208

Feb 18: https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1229897661555212291

[NB: Neither of these numbers is real. Rasmussen is consistently more pro-Trump than any other poll. Still, 53 > 50.]

The Dems have a big debate. For the first time, it really felt like a contest, and some people are clearly fighting for their lives. Elizabeth Warren gets all up in Bloomberg's grill, in what felt like a real comeback for her, Bernie defends socialism, and Amy and Pete go after each other with a real edge to it. Oh yeah, and Biden, he was okay

Highlights: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/2/19/21144763/nevada-democratic-debate-highlights-warren-bloomberg

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/democratic-debate-nevada-takeaways_n_5e4dd42bc5b6a8bbccb85783

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/02/19/democratic-debate-2020-best-moments-116169

Winners and losers: https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/483792-winners-and-losers-from-the-democratic-debate-in-las-vegas

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/02/20/who-won-the-debate-winners-and-losers-116286

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/2/19/21144877/who-won-nevada-democratic-debate-2020

In other investigation news . . .

AG Bill Barr's threat to resign looks like just another whimper of pseudo-independence from someone who ultimately makes peace with continuing to enable the orange-faced monster

https://www.axios.com/barr-considers-leaving-over-trumps-tweets-report-065b84ca-d64c-4bc6-b6f5-b363db1c9d7f.html
Bill Barr's spokesperson tweeted Tuesday night the "Attorney General has no plans to resign" after multiple reports said he's considering leaving the administration over President Trump's tweets on the Justice Department. . . .

More: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2020/2/19/1920331/-Barr-isn-t-about-to-quit-he-s-not-trying-to-stop-Trump-and-he-s-not-concerned-about-justice 

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/white-house-gidley-trump-ignoring-barr-tweets 

Another fact-based truth teller gets shown the door -- this time, the #3 in the Defense Dept

https://politicalwire.com/2020/02/19/top-pentagon-official-pushed-out/
“Rood was involved in certifying to Congress that Ukraine had embarked on significant reforms to justify its receipt of $250 million in security assistance. That certification undermined one of the justifications — concerns about corruption in Kiev — that some members of the Trump administration made to defend blocking aid to Ukraine.”

More: https://www.axios.com/john-rood-resignation-pentagon-trump-ukraine-183c9824-3423-431b-8c95-4da9771a63d6.html
Pentagon policy chief resigns amid reported discord with Trump 

[NB: And yet another govt dept is pressured to get rid of people with integrity and expertise because they ran afoul of Trump.]

Trump's choice to be the next DNI is another political operative and Trump loyalist --with no intelligence background. Looks like just the guy to sweep out intelligence professionals who aren't with the Trump program, and tilt intelligence assessments to what Trump wants to hear

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/muckraker/nyt-trump-to-name-richard-grenell-acting-dni

https://www.axios.com/trump-richard-grenell-acting-dni-intelligence-50282c35-d802-41ae-9ea3-efba8fbbf02d.html

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/02/19/trump-ric-grenell-director-national-intelligence-116137

More: https://www.thedailybeast.com/trumps-choice-for-intel-chief-richard-grenell-leaves-officials-blindsided
The president’s appointment of another acting official to serve as the chief overseer of 17 U.S. intelligence agencies allows him to effectively bypass the Senate confirmation process—which a full-time nominee would be subjected to—in order to install his preferred person for the post. . . . One former intelligence official told The Daily Beast that career officials in ODNI were “blindsided” by the announcement. . . .

In other news . . .

We still have courts

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/appeals-court-fl-must-allow-ex-felons-too-poor-to-pay-back-court-fees-to-vote
Appeals Court Sides With Ex-Felons Who Challenged Florida ‘Poll Tax’ Law

Trump keeps trying to screw California

https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/483754-trump-order-redirects-california-water-supply-after-reversal-from

Trump's campaign is pushing data and social media use into new domains -- scary ones

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/02/19/trump-cambridge-analytica-oczkowski-114075
President Donald Trump’s campaign is bringing on an alum of the controversial data firm Cambridge Analytica, a move likely to raise alarms among Trump critics and data privacy advocates who worry the president will push the technological envelope to get reelected in 2020. . . . 

More: https://crooksandliars.com/2020/02/trump-s-new-age-disinformation
“I had a colleague that was in a meeting in the Roosevelt Room and he said he heard Trump say, ‘Have you ever seen the nation so divided?’ My colleagues and others said, ‘No, we haven’t.’ Trump said, ‘I love it that way.’ . . .” Jolly explained.

Trump cheers on Rush Limbaugh's homophobic comments about Pete Buttigieg

https://www.salon.com/2020/02/19/president-trump-urged-rush-limbaugh-to-never-apologize-for-homophobic-remarks-about-pete-buttigieg_partner/

As other Dems founder, Sanders holds a strong national lead. Can he grow his support beyond his base?

https://politicalwire.com/2020/02/18/does-sanders-have-a-ceiling-on-his-support/

Latest polls: https://www.axios.com/2020-democratic-race-national-polls-sanders-biden-bloomberg-ace740f8-47a1-4592-93a7-ea66b3f17c14.html 

Now the bad news

https://politicalwire.com/2020/02/19/what-voters-dont-want-in-a-president/ 
What Voters Don’t Want In a President
Socialist: 67%
Heart attack in the past year: 57%
Older than 75 years old: 53%

Here is the likely trend, as things stand today: Sanders goes into the convention with more delegates and a plurality of support, claiming the national lead -- but with most Dems looking for an alternative, splitting their votes among several others. Then what does the party do at the convention?

https://politicalwire.com/2020/02/19/why-democrats-may-soon-have-an-uncatchable-leader/ 

More: https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/483664-bloomberg-campaign-warns-of-insurmountable-sanders-lead-if-moderates-split

Don't do that

https://thehill.com/homenews/media/483606-sanders-press-secretary-falsely-claims-on-cnn-that-bloomberg-has-suffered
Sanders press secretary falsely claims on CNN that Bloomberg 'has suffered heart attacks'

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/bernie-sanders-press-secretary-heart-attacks-michael-bloomberg_n_5e4d3ed1c5b65f25da5265da
Bernie Sanders’ Press Secretary Compares Call For Medical Records To Birtherism

What Trump said about Bloomberg. What Bloomberg said about Trump

https://politicalwire.com/2020/02/19/flashback-quote-of-the-day-68/
“He’s made a tremendous fortune, he’s a brilliant guy… He’s got some, you know, really amazing ideas, he’s done a very, very good job as the mayor of New York.”
            — Donald Trump, talking about Michael Bloomberg on Fox & Friends in 2013.

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/02/19/bloomberg-trump-2016-115921
"But you really do love me, don't ya?" Trump continued, in Bloomberg's retelling. "And I said, 'Yes, Donald, I do love you, I just disagree with everything you've ever said.'" "And we had a good laugh," Bloomberg continued. "If you’ve sat and had dinner with Donald Trump, you’d probably walk away saying everything he just said is bullshit, he can’t be doing that. But you have a good time. He is socially a nice person. Will he be a good president? I hope so. Because we desperately need leadership in the country and the world.”

Bonus item: Trevor Noah has a different idea for debates

https://crooksandliars.com/2020/02/trevor-noahs-ideal-debate

***If you enjoy Progressive Blog Digest and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sharing its URL (http://pbd.blogspot.com) with others via email or social media. Thanks for helping to spread the word!

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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

MUSIC MAN

Trump loves military bands -- but doesn't love music

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-white-house-business-session-nations-governors/
But it is wonderful being with you. And we had a great evening last night. And the talent of those musicians — they could be anywhere in the world. Many of them could work in the great opera houses, but they love the military. When you heard the violins and the talent, the great talent — I don’t know if anybody has an ear for music. Believe it or not, a long time ago, I was told I have a great ear for music by somebody. I took a test. They said, “He has a wonderful aptitude for music.” I said, “I do?” But when you listen to that, it’s really incredible, the talent. They’re great people. They want to be in the military; they don’t want to be anywhere else. So it’s really — really something.

https://www.chicagotribune.com/opinion/commentary/ct-opinion-music-president-donald-trump-20190812-nagzw755crhddnbp2xqij54h2i-story.html
Some of the most memorable moments of the JFK era came when President John F. Kennedy, playing the role of patron of the arts, invited accomplished musicians — including Leonard Bernstein, Pablo Casals and Isaac Stern — to perform at the White House. Other presidents, of each party, continued the tradition of showcasing a wide variety of musical talent. Jimmy Carter invited Vladimir Horowitz, Leontyne Price, Mstislav Rostropovich and others for a televised event that came to be called “In Performance at the White House.” Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald and Beverly Sills performed for Ronald Reagan; Harry Connick Jr., Loretta Lynn and Johnny Mathis for George H.W. Bush; Aretha Franklin, B.B. King and Linda Ronstadt for Bill Clinton; James Brown, Lionel Hampton and Itzhak Perlman for George W. Bush; and Ray Charles, Audra McDonald and James Taylor for Barack Obama . . . It appears that only the United States Marine Corps Band performs at the White House under the current president . . . His indifference to music is not his principal flaw, but it is a disturbing one . . . For three consecutive years, Trump’s proposed budgets have eliminated any funding at all for the National Endowment for the Arts, an agency that provides crucial grants to orchestras, choral ensembles, songwriters, jazz artists, chamber groups and folk musicians in every part of the United States . . . Each year, in a glamorous televised event, the Kennedy Center Honors Awards are conferred for outstanding lifetime achievements in the arts. Trump has broken precedent by choosing not to attend during each year of his presidency . . . “I punched my music teacher,” Trump recalls, “because I didn’t think he knew anything about music and I almost got expelled.” Trump would seem to exhibit the symptoms of musical anhedonia, an inability to enjoy music, said to afflict 3-5% of the population. . . .

Trump, supposed enemy of corruption, pardons some of the most corrupt public officials (and others) of recent years: Rod Blagojevich, Bernie Kerik, Michael Milken, and others

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2020/2/18/1920113/-Donald-Trump-gives-giant-middle-finger-to-justice-pardons-biggest-names-in-corruption-and-fraud

Why? https://www.salon.com/2020/02/18/president-trump-pardons-junk-bond-king-michael-milken--a-friend-of-steve-mnuchin/

https://www.salon.com/2020/02/18/was-trumps-decision-to-pardon-eddie-debartolo-part-of-his-strategy-to-win-a-second-term/

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/from-junk-bond-king-to-abramoff-pal-trumps-pardon-list-dredges-swamp

What do they all have in common? https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/02/trump-pardons-another-round-of-well-connected-white-collar-criminals.html
Trump Issues Pardons for Another Round of White-Collar Criminals He Knows Socially 

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/jeffrey-toobin-donald-trump-pardons_n_5e4cf9bcc5b6eb8e95b50804
Jeffrey Toobin Exposes ‘The Real Lesson’ Of Donald Trump’s Pardons

John Bolton is just jerking us around now

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2020/2/18/1920033/-John-Bolton-speaks-in-public-at-critical-moment-to-deliver-a-commercial-for-his-unpublished-book
Bolton’s appearance on Monday at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, was technically to be a discussion of threats to national security. But, as might be expected, most of the questions he was asked concerned Bolton’s time in the Trump White House and the issues that led to Donald Trump’s impeachment. Bolton was given multiple opportunities to speak about Trump’s actions involving Ukraine, or what he knew about the scheme against Joe Biden, or how Trump’s political hit squads smeared and removed the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. And through it all, Bolton had one mustache-twirling response: Buy my book. . . .   As CNN reports, Bolton talked repeatedly about the "censorship" being applied to his book, about his desire to get events and statements before the public . . . But it’s the way Bolton responded to any factual questions that went instantly beyond off-putting and straight into infuriating. . . . The evening was far more a promotion for a book no one can buy than it was a musing on national security.  The highlight in a frustrating list of frustrations may have come when Bolton was asked whether he considered Trump’s July 25 call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “perfect,” as Trump has so often called it. "You'll love Chapter 14," said Bolton . . .

Has a draft manuscript already leaked? https://www.salon.com/2020/02/18/john-bolton-says-president-trump-wasted-two-years-trying-to-make-a-peace-deal-with-north-korea/

AG Bill Barr says he might quit if Trump doesn't stop tweeting about Justice matters

https://politicalwire.com/2020/02/18/barr-told-confidants-he-may-quit-over-trump-tweets/

More: https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/483572-trump-tweets-test-attorney-general-barr

In other investigation news . . .

Looks like Trump got AG Barr's message -- got it, and ignored it

https://politicalwire.com/2020/02/18/trump-threatens-to-sue-mueller-backs-mistrial-for-stone/
In the space of an hour on Twitter, President Trump threatened to sue former special counsel Robert Mueller, and suggested that Roger Stone should get a new trial because one of the members of the jury allegedly sent some mean tweets about him.

More: https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/483417-trump-suggests-he-may-sue-over-mueller-investigation

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2020/2/18/1920084/-Trump-threatens-to-MAYBE-SUE-EVERYONE-who-is-prosecuting-his-criminal-allies

https://www.emptywheel.net/2020/02/18/the-presidents-conspiracy-theories-get-more-whacko-than-george-papadopoulos/

[NB: Trump loves to threaten to sue -- but usually doesn't.]  

More: https://politicalwire.com/2020/02/18/quote-of-the-day-2478/ 
“I’m actually, I guess, the chief law enforcement officer of the country.”
            — President Trump, quoted by CNN, falsely claiming he’s got the power of the Attorney General 

[NB: I'm sure THAT reassured Barr.]  

Judge Jackson is not moved by Trump's threats

https://crooksandliars.com/2020/02/breaking-judge-jackson-refuses-reschedule 
Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled on Tuesday that Roger Stone’s sentencing would move forward as scheduled even though he has requested a new trial. . . .  

AG Barr views the whole Trump investigation through his theocratic world view that radical secular leftists are taking over the government

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/02/bill-barr/606685/
“The fact of the matter,” Barr went on, “is that, in waging a scorched earth, no-holds-barred war of ‘resistance’ against this administration, it is the left that is engaged in the systematic shredding of norms and the undermining of the rule of law.” . . . “In any age,” he argued, “the so-called progressives treat politics as their religion …. Whatever means they use are therefore justified because, by definition, they are a virtuous people pursing a deific end. They are willing to use any means necessary to gain momentary advantage in achieving their end.” Compare this, said Barr, to conservatives, who “do not seek an earthly paradise” and are instead more circumspect in their approach to politics, asking instead, “Would it be good for society over the long haul if [a given action] was done in all like circumstances?” Barr’s conclusion? “For these reasons, conservatives tend to have more scruple over their political tactics and rarely feel that the ends justify the means. And this is as it should be, but there is no getting around the fact that this puts conservatives at a disadvantage when facing progressive holy war, especially when doing so under the weight of a hyper-partisan media.” 

Intelligence official who blocked access to the original whistleblower complaint quits

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/02/18/intel-office-lawyer-ukraine-whistleblower-complaint-115776
The top lawyer for the intelligence community, whose decision to block a whistleblower's complaint about President Donald Trump and Ukraine from reaching Congress helped jumpstart the impeachment inquiry, is resigning from his post, officials confirmed. . . . He became the subject of scrutiny in September when he consulted with the Justice Department and determined that a whistleblower complaint deemed "urgent" by an internal watchdog would not be provided to Congress. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) demanded access to the complaint after learning it had been blocked — and that it likely pertained to Trump or his senior advisers — and the furor that ensued led to a cascade of support for impeachment in the House. . . [read on]

In other news . . .

"Let's not bring in personal relationships." Fox World host, after introducing the controversy over Pete Buttigieg's (faithful, committed) same-sex marriage, suddenly doesn't want to talk about Trump's serial adulteries

https://crooksandliars.com/2020/02/fox-guest-shut-down-bringing-trump

Trump waives contracting laws to speed up building of his Wall™

https://politicalwire.com/2020/02/18/trump-waives-contracting-laws-for-border-wall/

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/02/trump-real-id-border-wall.html

You watch: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/trump-border-wall-contract-fox-news-republican-donor-fisher-sand-gravel-arizona-a9230346.html
A construction company owned by a Republican donor has been given a $400m contract to build sections of Donald Trump’s border wall. . . .

Trump's approval numbers might be inflated

https://politicalwire.com/2020/02/18/why-trumps-approval-may-be-inflated/

Michael Bloomberg is not my preferred choice for the Democratic nomination, but he's the perfect foil for Sanders and Warren: "we can't let billionaires buy the nomination"

https://politicalwire.com/2020/02/17/sanders-says-bloomberg-trying-to-buy-presidency/

https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/25/politics/elizabeth-warren-slams-bloomberg/index.html

Bloomberg makes the next debate: https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/bloomberg-qualifies-for-debate-faces-attacks-on-stop-and-frisk-policy-and-sexist-comments

The case for Bloomberg: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/2/18/21135149/mike-bloomberg-democrat-polls-debate-new-york-mayor-record
Mike Bloomberg and his billions are what Democrats need to beat Trump 

The case against Bloomberg: https://www.salon.com/2020/02/18/if-the-democrats-nominate-bloomberg-were-facing-four-more-years-of-trump/
Don't get suckered, Democrats: Of any current candidate, Bloomberg would be the easiest for Trump to beat 

[NB: With lightning speed, this is starting to look like a Sanders-Bloomberg contest -- something they both would like to frame. It could change (again), certainly, but who would have guessed this a few weeks ago?]

What a contrast

https://politicalwire.com/2020/02/18/bloomberg-will-sell-company-if-elected/
Bloomberg Will Sell Company If Elected

Sanders disavows his bros' attacks on the Culinary Union. Good

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/02/18/bernie-sanders-internet-attacks-115920

Really?

https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/483584-sanders-says-he-wont-release-full-medical-records 
Sanders says he won't release full medical records

If Bloomberg has it, Trump has it

https://politicalwire.com/2020/02/18/bloomberg-campaign-hints-at-damaging-sanders-info/
Bloomberg campaign manager Kevin Sheekey tweets: “The opposition research on Bernie Sanders could fill Donald Trump’s empty Foxconn facility in Wisconsin.” “It is very damaging, perhaps even disqualifying.”

Warren has a right to be pissed

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2020/2/18/1920201/-NBC-News-Wall-Street-Journal-erase-Elizabeth-Warren-from-their-new-national-poll
A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll chose five Democratic candidates to test against Donald Trump in a new national poll. Elizabeth Warren, who is tied for third in the poll, wasn’t one of them. Instead, the outlets opted to test two candidates running below her—Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar. . . .

Poor Joe

https://politicalwire.com/2020/02/18/biden-still-attracting-small-crowds/
Biden Still Attracting Small Crowds

More: https://www.politico.com/news/2020/02/18/joe-biden-nevada-campaign-critics-115723
‘What the hell’s the matter with your campaign?’

Pete or Amy?

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/02/18/time-running-out-buttigieg-klobuchar-voters-115709
Time is running out on Buttigieg and Klobuchar  . . . Their ability — or inability — to connect with voters of color has become an existential threat.

Bonus item: Deepfake videos -- amazing, and kind of creepy

https://crooksandliars.com/2020/02/where-were-going-we-dont-needactors

***If you enjoy Progressive Blog Digest and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sharing its URL (http://pbd.blogspot.com) with others via email or social media. Thanks for helping to spread the word!

I don’t get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don’t run ads, etc.). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a “mission,” it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***