Weekly Wilson - Blog of Author Connie C. Wilson

Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books—-her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Category: Politics Page 2 of 20

Beto O’Rourke HBO Documentary “Running with Beto” World Premiere on March 9, 2019, at SXSW: Crowd Wants to Know: Is He Running for President in 2020?

(L to R) Amy, Molly and Beto O’Rourke on March 9, 2019, in Austin, Texas at the World Premiere of HBO documentary “Running with Beto.” (Photo by Connie Wilson).

Beto O’Rourke (Photo by Connie Wilson).

Running with Beto,” the HBO documentary that will air on HBO in early spring (May 28 release date), was screened at a World Premiere at the Paramount Theater in Austin this morning (March 9 at 11:30 a.m.) and a rapt crowd of supporters got to see Beto O’Rourke, his wife Amy, and their daughter Molly (as well as all those associated with the film) up-close-and-personal during a Q&A after the film.

I was seated in the third row on the right for “Running with Beto” when a large group of people began ascending the stairs that lead to stage right. The tallest of the group, hunched over so as not to block the credits then running, was Beto O’Rourke, who managed a small wave to those of us who noticed his entrance with family and campaign workers and Director David Modigliani.

All spoke to us after the film. Director David Modigliani described his goal as “wanting to capture a moment in Texas where there’s a real political re-awakening going on. It’s never too late or too early to get involved in politics.”

The crowd outside the Paramount Theater in Austin, Texas, at SXSW, waiting for the World Premiere of “Running with Beto,” an upcoming HBO documentary, on March 9, 2019 at 11:00 a.m. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

Modigliani had creative control of the film, however, saying that the 700 hours of footage they shot in nearly final draft format was cleared as his project (others wanted the job, as well) with Beto over lunch in Austin.  Beto protested, “I didn’t realize it would be THIS involved. I am very Begrateful that you did this with us.  The audience was probably wondering why Shannon Gay wasn’t the candidate.”

Shannon Gay was a particularly feisty blonde worker on the campaign (and in the film) who fought for Beto’s win to promote veterans (among other issues). She was seen crawling around on her roof to tack down a large campaign sign in a prominent spot. When asked what her reaction was to being onstage this day,  Shannon’s response was typically Shannon: “I wish I had a vodka IV,” (which got a laugh). She is shown in the documentary saying “Tough as Texas, my ass” (an allusion to Ted Cruz’s campaign slogan) and “I want so desperately to hear Beto tell Ted Cruz ‘pack your shit and get the Hell out of Dodge.’” Easy to see why Shannon’s outspoken advocacy will catch your eyes—and ears.

(L to R) Wife Amy, daughter Molly and Beto O’Rourke onstage in Austin, Texas, on March 9, 2019. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

When Amy O’Rourke (Beto’s wife) was asked her reaction to the rough draft that “David was kind enough to show us in advance,” she said her reaction was that it was “Very powerful. We knew this was their (HBO’s) film and we trusted him (Modigliani) at every turn.” She also added, to the crowd’s amusement, “The only thing I asked was ‘Could you take out some of the expletives?’” The film was separate from the campaign. It was being edited up until six months before the election.

In an Austin “American-Statesman” article that ran the day of the World Premiere (March 9th) Modigliani said, “The film is about people responding to crisis in democracy and allowing themselves to be vulnerable and allowing themselves to participate in politics in a new way.”

David Modigliani, Writer/Director of “Running with Beto.” (Photo by Connie Wilson).

Modigliani went on to say, “I felt it was brave of Beto to give us the access that he did. There is real conflict and tension and there are moments where he doesn’t always come off as a prince. It just shows the realities of the stress on the campaign trail, the realities of stress and tension within the family.  It has a realness that we were able to capture because of the access we were afforded. They were committed to running a no-BS campaign and we wanted to make a real no-BS film that captured that experience.” Modigliani, a Massachusetts native who is a graduate of the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas (and the director of the 2008 documentary “Crawford,” about George W. Bush’s effect on that small Texas town) added from the stage during the Q&A his suspicion going in that Beto’s campaign was going to be interesting, that O’Rourke was a total long shot, and that he was unlikely to win.

However, said, Modigliani, “I felt like there was going to be a national conversation that was going to run through the middle of this race.”

O’Rourke was asked point blank, from the audience (in the Q&A following the show), if he was going to run for President. He bobbed and weaved on that one. You can sign up to be one of the first to find out at [email protected] [Sounds like a yes, to me.]

When the turnout in Harris County in Texas increased from 26,000 to 60,172 in the last election cycle, you know something is happening at the grass roots level. The possible candidate, onstage after the film, said, “Thank you to everyone who allowed themselves to hope and to dream.  I am grateful. I was like, what can we talk about up here that will not make me cry.” (laughter) He added, commenting on the many candidates who subsequently drew inspiration from his unsuccessful attempt (and have begun campaigns of their own) that he visited every one of Texas’ 254 counties. The O’Rourke campaign brought the Democratic party alive in Texas like it had not been in over 25 years. Said Beto,“Turn hope into action.”

Adam Schiff, John Bolton on “Face the Nation” on March 3, 2019

 

“I saw Little shifty Schiff,” is the way the President of the United States referred to the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee recently when addressing the CPAC Conservative conference. The following article summarizes appearance(s) by John Bolton and Adam Schiff as part of “Face the Nation” on March 3, 2019 (today).

“The President’s ready to keep talking” (John Bolton).

Q:  So, is North Korea a growing threat?

A:  President Trump’s objective has always been denuclearization. The president opened the door in Singapore. He kept the door open during that 8 month period. The North Koreans can walk through it. It’s really up to them.

Q:  Within a year? That is what you said after Singapore.

A:  Operationally, how long would it take, you asked then. With a few exceptions, our judgment was that we could do it within a year, once the progress was started. There’s no expiration date. The President is fully willing to negotiate at lower levels. I think we will keep the maximum pressure in place. Relief (from the sanctions) they can get, if they de-nuclearize.

Q:  Did you know that (complete de-nuclearization) was not on the table?

A:  We don’t know what’s on the table from North Korea until it comes out of the mouth of Kim Jong-Un. We didn’t walk away with a failure. We honestly didn’t know. We’ve tried to make it clear to them: we’re not going to make the mistakes of previous administrations (Obama in Iran mentioned).

Q:  You’ve tested this proposition on negotiating from the top down now. But the success rate has not been any more than in the past. Would you go back to doing it from the bottom up?

A:  The success rate in the past has been zero, so that’s not a hard bar to overcome.

Q:  But they can still produce nuclear fuel. He no longer looks like a pariah. Didn’t Kim Jong-Un gain from this? He sat across from the President almost as an equal.

A:  I’m the national security advisor. I’m not the national security decision maker. My job now is to help the President and give him my advice. He’ll make the decisions. The position of the administration is de-nuclearization and that’s what we are prepared to negotiate on.

Q:  When was Otto Wermbeer brought up?

A:  In Singapore. The best thing North Korea could do now is come up with a complete explanation of what happened to him.  I’ve heard the President talk about Otto on numerous occasions in the past. I  know how concerned he was.

Adam Schiff from Boynton Beach, Florida

Q:  The President personally attacked you yesterday at CPAC (calling him “Shifty Schiff”). Can you clarify what the Democrats and the Investigation Committee you head up are looking for?

A:  We have seen from our own investigation and the Special Counsel’s just how perilous it would be to limit our investigation. (Mentioned Trump Tower Moscow) That was a deal that stood to make him more money than any other in his life and that is the most compromising position I can imagine. We’re also looking at persistent allegations that the Russians have been laundering money through the Trump properties.

Q:  Who can answer those questions?

A:  We’ll need to talk to Deutsche Bank and some of the banks that did business with Mr. Trump (mentioned that most banks would no longer do business with Trump, except for Deutsche Bank) and we’ll also want to talk with the accountants and chief financial officers for the Trump organization. We’re bringing Felix Sater in to speak about Trump Tower. There are any number of people who can testify as to whether America’s national security has been compromised because the President has been doing business with the Russians.

We have a deep and compelling interest as to whether others know more about his (Cohen’s) false statements to Congress.

Q:  Cohen said he had no direct evidence of collusion with Russia.

A:  I think there is direct evidence in the e-mails offering dirt on HRC, offering that dirt to Donald Trump, Jr. There is an acceptance of that offer in writing from Don, Jr. Apparently the President took part in the lies to cover that up. Mananfort and the polls…Roger Stone…(these are germane, he implied).

Q:  Impeachment grounds?

A:  While there’s abundant evidence of collusion, but is there proof beyond a reasonable doubt of criminal conspiracy? We will have to look at the whole body of improper acts. We will have to await the evidence from Bob Mueller to see if there is evidence of collusion.

Q:  Kevin McCarthy has called for your recusal because of your contact with Cohen.

A:  That’s pretty frivolous. I invited Michael Cohen to testify and he accepted. That is what Kevin McCarthy is upset about. The extent of my contact was just inviting him to testify and laying out what were the threats against him and his family. Mr. McCarthy can be excused for not knowing how to run a criminal investigation. The degree to which Mr. McCarthy and others have prostrated themselves before this president is one thing he cannot be excused for. For Mr. McCarthy to debase himself and go along with this is, I think, unforgivable.

(After his remarks were over, Adam Schiff asked that the cameras be turned back on so he could respond to the remarks of John Bolton):

I was struck by how Bolton responded. This is indication of a President and a staff that is not well prepared that is flying by the seat of its pants but whose actions have world wide consequences.  (Schiff added this observation on the heels of John Bolton’s previous comments, and said that even the President’s own security advisor could not agree with his own president. Touche, Mr. Schiff.)

The 2 leaders spent far longer traveling to the summit than they did negotiating. Sixty hours for Kim Jong-Un and 17 for Trump to fly halfway across the world. (Kim’s people are forbidden to travel).

North Korea depends on state-owned businesses, like small business that send money to North Korea from Vietnam. Kim does not want to be isolated. He wants the financial strain on North Korea lifted. At least neither side seemed willing to escalate to war, leaving the door open to future diplomacy, but Kim Jong-Un won a footing almost equal to that of the United States as he sat opposite the President. What did the U.S. get?- The team of talking heads, including the chief correspondent for the New York Times said that usually the President would only come in for the final 10% of such negotiations, but this administration seemed to have done no prior planning. As they put it, “Nothing was pre-cooked.”

North Korea Nuclear Summit Bulletin from Vietnam at 1:30 A.M. (CDT) on Feb. 28: No Nukes Is Good News?

    Kim Jong Un of North Korea
        (Wikipedia image)

The Nuclear Summit between North Korea and the United States ended abruptly 2 days into the process and was carried on NBC News at 1:30 a.m. CDT:

Trump:  “I want to thank all of the people of Vietnam for having treated us so well.”

We have relatively attractive news from Pakistan and India. They’ve been going at it and we‘ve been in the middle trying to help them both out.

Venezuela has been very much in the news and we’ve been sending supplies. We’re sending a lot of supplies down to Venezuela. You would think the man in charge currently would let the supplies get through.

On North Korea, we just left Chairman Kim. We had a very productive time but we felt it wasn’t a good time to be signing anything. We spent pretty much all day with Chairman Kim. He’s quite a guy and quite a character. At this time, we decided not to do any of the options. It was a very interesting 2 days.

Sometimes you have to walk and this was one of those times.

(Then he threw the discussion to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo)

Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo:

We had brought a team and tried to make real progress. Unfortunately, we didn’t get all the way. We didn’t get to something that ultimately made sense for the United States of America. I’m still optimistic. I am hoping that we’ll get back together and work something out. I think as we continue to work on this in the days and weeks ahead, I hope we can get to the goal of de-nuclearizing North Korea.

I’m very optimistic in the progress that we made. It put us in a position to make good progress. They couldn’t quite get to the point of making a deal. I hope we’ll do so in the days and weeks ahead.

Q:  Has this process been more difficult than you thought?

A:  It was about the sanctions. Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety. They were willing to de-nuke a large portion of the area that we wanted. We will continue to work, but we had to walk away.

Q:  All things are still in place?

A:  We haven’t given up anything, and frankly I think we’ll end up being very good friends with Chairman Kim and everybody. It was about sanctions. They wanted sanctions lifted, but they weren’t willing to give us the areas that we wanted.

Q:  (John Roberts of Fox News) Did you get any distance towards Kim’s vision of de-nuclearization?

A:  He has a certain vision and it is not exactly our vision, but it’s a lot closer than it was a year ago. For this particular visit we decided that we had to walk.

Q:  (Sean Hannity): If he wants the sanctions completely off and you wanted more, how do you bridge that gap?

A:  We have to get what we have to get.

Q: (Sean Hannity)_ Could you elaborate a little bit more?

A:  I want to keep the relationship going. As you know, we got our hostages back. Chairman Kim of North Korea promised me he isn’t going to do testing of nuclear. I trust him and I take him at his word. Mike (Pompeo) will be speaking with his people. It’s a process and it’s moving along. We could have signed an agreement today, but I just felt it wasn’t appropriate.

Q:  Did you learn anything new about Chairman Kim of North Korea? While this was going on Michael Cohen called you a liar, a con-man, a racist.

A:  It’s incorrect and it’s very interesting, but I think having a fake hearing like that and having it in the middle of this very important summit was really a terrible thing. They could have made it even a week later. Having it in front of this very important summit was a terrible thing. He lied about so many things but he didn’t say there was any collusion. I was a little impressed about that, to be honest. I call it the witch hunt. This should never happen to another president. I call it the witch hunt. I now add the word hoax. The most important question was the one about collusion and he said he saw no collusion. (Trump said that Cohen lied about 95% of the time rather than 100%).

Q; What was the atmosphere between you and North Korea’s Chairman Kim?

A:  Very good, very friendly. We shook hands. There’s a warmth that we have. I hope it stays, and I think it will. This should have been solved during many presidential runs before me. People talked about it but never did anything. .It was a very friendly walk.

(Secretary of State Mike Pompeo)

We are certainly closer today than we were 36 hours ago. Real progress was made. Everyone had hoped we could do just a little bit better, but both sides are resolved to achieve it.

Q: How do you find things in common between you and North Korea’s Chairman Kim when you are from such different economic systems and even from different generations (from a foreign correspondent)?

A: We just like one another.

Q:  Do you think this meeting was premature (BBC)?

A:  You always have to be prepared to walk. We could have signed something, but it just wasn’t appropriate. I’d much rather do it right than do it fast.

Q:  (South Korea reporter) Can you elaborate on the options?

A:  We discussed many ways. De-nuclearization is a very important word. To me, it’s pretty obvious. We have to get rid of the nukes. But North Korea is in an incredible location. ..There’s tremendous potential in North Korea. I think its going to be an absolute economic power.

Q:  David Sagner of the NY Times: Six months ago you said we should come back and ask you about it if nothing had been solved. In that time you have seen the number of missiles from North Korea increase. That’s been a pressure point on you.

A:  Some people are saying that and some people aren’t. We’re partners with a lot of countries on this including Russia, China and others. I don’t want to do something that is going to violate the trust that we’ve built up.

Q:  More detail?

A:  Chairman Kim of North Korea wants all the sanctions off. He was willing to do things, but we have to have more than that. We had to do more than just the one level.

POMPEO: There were timing issues. There were a lot of other issues that we needed to discuss.

Q:  (black reporter): Are you still wanting North Korea to give up everything?

A:  I don’t want to say that to you, because I don’t want to put myself in that position. I’m always prepared to walk. I’m never afraid to walk from a deal.

Q:  Are you afraid the testing will start again?

A:  He said the testing will not start. He said he won’t do testing of anything having to do with nuclear.

Q:  Jessica Stone of CVTN:  How would you describe China’s role in facilitating the engagement so far?

A:  China has been a big help. 93% of things come in through China to North Korea. China has an influence and China has been a big help and Russia has been a big help, too. About 28 miles of the border…things can happen there, too.

Q:  Did the topic of China come up?

A:  We did talk about China today a lot. He’s getting along with China and so are we. (Lots of talk about how great things are going in the U.S. that has nothing to do with the question). “We have the strongest economy possibly that we’ve ever had.” Cited Fiat Chrysler as building a new plant. “But China is having some difficulty, as you know.” He mentioned the tariff moneys which have decreased the U.S. bottom line. “I want them (China) to do great, but we’ve been losing anywhere from $300 to $500 billion a year. Many presidents should have done this before me, but nobody did.” (Later, he cited the Obama administration by name, but insisted that it went back further than that.)

Q:  Message from President Moon?

A:  I like President Moon. We have a great relationship. Believe it or not I have a great relationship with almost every leader. Some people would find this difficult to believe, but we do. We’ll be calling President Moon very soon. I’ll be calling the President of Japan.

Discussion following Trump’s 40 minute press conference: A lunch meeting did not happen and a scheduled signing ceremony did not happen.  Peter Alexander of NBC News said they wound up abruptly. Trump flew 800 miles for nothing, basically. The last time Trump walked (the wall) he ended up with a deal that was worse than he had before. It’s not entirely clear what he can do to go forward. Why is there any reason for optimism? Clearly something happened at some point. Trump flew halfway around the world and then flew home early empty-handed. “They didn’t get to the finish line at all.”

 

Michael Cohen on “Late Night”: Were the Congressional Hearings of 2/27 the “Not-Ready-for-Prime-Time Players”?

 I watched (most of) the Michael Cohen testimony today on CNN. I even taped the earlier testimony, in case I wanted to go back and watch, for instance, the argument that broke out between a Democrat and a Republican about Donald J. Trump’s racist tendencies. I thought these tendencies had been fairly well established back when the state of New York targeted DJT and his father (Fred) in a sting operation that involved the duo not renting to blacks.

A black couple was told there was “no room in the inn.” Immediately afterwards, a white couple was rented an apartment. This is old news and easily checked out online. There have been plenty of other examples since then, but that would bog down this mention of today’s appearance of Michael Cohen in front of Congress and serve no purpose other than to rehash old news.

I was most put off by Republican Jim Jordan (blue shirt, yellow tie guy) who was extremely hostile and, in a particularly funny moment, tried to introduce an amendment AFTER he had already yielded his time. Then there was Congressman Matt Gaetz who threatened Cohen on Twitter, saying Michael Cohen’s wife was likely to hear about his girlfriends. (Didn’t happen). Gaetz added the rather low comment, “I wonder if she’ll be waiting for you while you’re in prison.” As Seth Meyer said on “Late Night,” “I didn’t think anyone could out-sleaze Trump on Twitter, but you did it, my friend.”

There was talk of whether Michael Cohen wanted a job in the White House.  Meyer said, “Well, that would have been a solid source of income for weeks.” I was instantly reminded of General Kelly, face buried in palm for weeks, saying, “This is the worst job I ever had.”

THINGS WE LEARNED TODAY:

1)Michael Cohen testified that Trump knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange of WikiLeaks.

2) Michael Cohen testified that Trump knew about the leaked Democratic documents from the DNC.

3)  Michael Cohen expressed contrition and (hopefully genuine) remorse and endured a great deal of unattractive, immature bashing from the Republicans in the hall.

Seth Meyer showed a picture of DJT in Vietnam for his “summit” with North Korean’s Kim Jung Un and made the comment, “Trump finally went to Vietnam, but he’s getting killed back home.” For those of you who have been living under a rock, this was a reference to the bogus bone spurs that Trump used as his excuse to avoid active military service in Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

4)  Michael Cohen told the assembled Congressmen and women: “He (DJT) had no desire or intention to lead this country, only to market himself.”

Democratic National Convention, 2008, Denver: CNN Headquarters. (Photo from Connie Wilson’s book “Obama’s Odyssey.”)

Michael Cohen went on to talk about Trump’s goals when he began running for President and even shared that he was the one  responsible for setting up a website to explore a potential run, early on. According to Michael Cohen, 5)  “Donald J. Trump ran for office to market his brand and to increase his power. He would often say, ‘This campaign is going to be a great info-mercial.’

Added Seth Meyer, “like most things on infomercials, it turned out to be much crappier than it looked on TV.” 

6)  Michael Cohen spoke about the Trump Tower Meeting, specifically, Donald Trump, Jr. coming in and walking behind DJT’s desk and speaking to his father. Said Cohen, “What struck me as I look back was that DJT had frequently had told me his son Don, Jr., had the worst judgment in the world.” Meyer said, “That’s saying a lot when he claims his son is even dumber than he is, because he’s as dumb as a box of rocks.” (Ouch!)

Then came a close-up look at Paul Gosar (R, AZ), whose own siblings took out ads endorsing his opponent in 2018. A dentist from Arizona, he couldn’t get his statement out before his time expired, but he came with a giant poster that bore a picture of Cohen with the words, “Liar! Liar! Pants on fire!” What struck me was that he could simply put Trump’s face over Cohen’s and it could  become a permanent fixture of any televised appearance by Agent Orange in the future, since Trump has told well over 9,000 verifiable lies since assuming office.

Louisiana Congressman Clay Higgins (R, LA) was highlighted, saying, “I didn’t know who you were until today really.” He also likened Cohen to “many of the thousands of men I arrested” saying he doubted the sincerity of all of the criminals he had apprehended, who claimed remorse after their arrest. Higgins’ accusation was that Cohen was angling to get a TV show from his appearance this day.

7)  Cohen replied, rather calmly, “Mr. Higgins, “I’ve been on TV representing Mr. Trump since 2011.”

 As Seth Meyer said, “He looks like the kind of guy who’d say, ‘Well, I don’t have a TV set. I get all my news from a gossip-y alligator.” The writers also compared Jim Jordan’s rapid-fire staccato outburst of names of individuals who were currently accused of being less than forthcoming (Jim Comey was one) as “Like a Fox News version of ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire!'” Meyer was right; the entire outburst was like a small child on the playground.

Actually, nearly all of the Republican questioners of Michael Cohen, the sad-eyed beagle amongst them, came off that way. Their chief purpose was not to elicit information. They don’t seem to care if Trump is a petty or a major criminal, but only whether they will remain in power.

8)  It seems quite sad that they are completely indifferent as to whether or not the Chief Executive (the guy with his finger on the nuclear button) might be  a traitor (a “useful idiot”) or in bed with the Russians or maybe just a petty small-time criminal who used money from his (so-called) cancer charity to pay for a portrait of himself and cheated on his taxes every chance he got. [Constitution? What Constitution! Pshaw! Ain’t no big deal!]

As Meyer concluded, the hearings merely showed ” that Republicans are supporting Trump despite the fact that there is still so much to learn about him.”

 

Schiff on Mueller Investigation: “We’ll Take Trump to Court!”

Image result for Adam Schiff images

[Adam Schiff Image from Wikipedia]

Adam Schiff, Democratic Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, on George Stephanopoulus on February 24, 2019 had the following message for the nation about the Mueller investigation.

Q:  George Stephanopoulus:  What do you hope to learn when Michael Cohen testifies tomorrow (Feb. 27th)?

A: Well, many things. Why the false statements when he first appeared before our committee? Did his testimony go beyond what he testified to us the first time we looked into Moscow Trump Tower? Who else would have been aware of the false testimony he was giving? What other light can he shed? What else can he tell us about the Trump Tower New York meeting or any other endeavor he can shed light on.

Q:  GS – What about the Trump campaign’s finances? You’ve suggested that is the new front in your investigation.

A:  AS – This is something I’ve been concerned about for 2 years now. We weren’t really permitted to explore it when the Republicans headed the committee. We are learning the perils of ignoring the financial issues and crossing what the president called his “red line.” What we’ve learned to date about Moscow Trump Tower is chilling: As Donald Trump was campaigning for the presidency and was telling the American public that he had no dealings with Russia, he was privately negotiating with the Russians to make what may well have been the most lucrative deal of his life, even reportedly offering an inducement to Putin to make it happen. (*Note: it is reported that DJT offered Putin a penthouse apartment for assistance in helping make the deal go through.) If DJT was discussing removing sanctions against Russia, whether it is criminal or not, it is deeply compromising to our national security, so those issues have to be probed, and they include money laundering as well.

Q: GS – In regards to the Mueller investigation if the President did not collude but, if that’s not criminal, does Mueller have a responsibility to report on it or no?

A: AS – He does, in fact, have a responsibility to report  it, and, in fact, if you take the position—and I think it’s a  flawed one—that the President cannot be indicted and the only remedy for improper conduct is impeachment, then you have the necessity to report that to Congress, or essentially the President has immunity. That cannot be allowed to be the case. Bill Barr has committed in his testimony to making as much of the report public as he can. The regulations allow him to make ALL of it public, and we’re going to insist on that. And more than that, we’re going to insist on the underlying evidence because there is certain evidence that is only in the hands of the Department of Justice that we can’t get in any other way….the conduct of Roger Stone and Paul Mananfort, for instance…there’s just no way to get the evidence that was seized except going through the Department of Justice and we can’t tell the country what happened without it.

Q:  GS – If you decline to prosecute someone, then the DOJ has said the information, the underlying evidence, should not be released.

A:  AS – But, George, the Department has violated that policy repeatedly and extensively to a great extent over the last 2 years. In fact, I’ve had this conversation with Rod Rosenstein and others in the Justice Department as they turned over thousands and thousands of pages of testimony in the Clinton e-mail investigation and there was no indictment in that investigation. This was a new precedent they were setting, and they were going to have to live by this precedent whether it was a Congress controlled by the Democrats or the Republicans. So they’re going to have to abide by that. And I think, also, that, apart from the precedent they’ve already set, that the public has an intense  need to know, here, which I think overrides every other justification.

Q:  GS – You say they have to live by that precedent, but what if they refuse to live by it. What if they simply say no?

A:  AS – Well, we will obviously subpoena the report, we will bring Bob Mueller in to testify before Congress; we will take it to court, if necessary, and, in the end, I think the Department understands they’re going to have to make this public. I think Barr will ultimately understand that, as well. Barr comes into this job with 2 strikes against him. He applied for the job by demonstrating a bias against the investigation. He’s also been shown to not follow the advice of ethics lawyers—indeed, that was part of the reason he was hired. If he were to try to withhold, try to bury any part of this report, that will be his legacy, and it will be a tarnished legacy. So, I think there will be immense pressure not only on the department, but also on the Attorney General to be forthcoming.

Q:  GS – You’re talking about public pressure. Are you prepared to take the Administration to court?

A: AS – Absolutely! We are going to get to the bottom of this. We are prepared to share this information with the public and if the president is serious about all his claims of exoneration by this report, then the President should welcome this report.

Q:  GS – Do you have any evidence at all that the President colluded?

A:  AS – George, there is ample evidence of collusion, and it is very much in the public record. It’s everything from Paul Mananfort from sharing polling date—and not top-line data “this is why we think Trump is gonna’ win data”—but raw data, complicated data. We’ve seen evidence of Roger Stone in communication with WikiLeaks. We’ve seen Trump’s son having a secret meeting in Trump Tower that was presented to him as part of the Russian government’s attempt to help the Trump campaign. His acceptance of that help, his interest in getting that—all of that is evidence of collusion. Whether that will amount to a criminal conspiracy that can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, we’ll have to wait for Bob Mueller to tell us but to not see what is clearly in front of us means that you clearly don’t WANT to see what is in front of us, because it is quite abundant.

 

 

 

“Meet the Press:” Mueller’s Report; Home-Grown Terrorist; Florida Amendment 4

If Mueller is going to have more indictments, they would come before the report. “They’d be returned, if not revealed,”
said one of the talking heads on Sunday morning’s “Meet the Press” on February 24, 2019.

Q: Would we see the Russian collusion charge revealed? (From Chuck Todd)

A:  “Mueller has indicted Roger Stone for conspiring with WikiLeaks, which is a Russian organization”. Solomon Wisenberg, former special counsel, says  “Everyone should be concerned about and be worried about” the obstruction of justice charge. [Does obstruction of justice mean the same thing as collusion? “These are crucial crimes because they delay the revelation of the truth.”] 

A:  Wisenberg: “It’s a big mystery why some of the people did lie and we should absolutely be concerned about it.”

“At the conclusion of the Special Counsel’s work, he or she shall provide the Attorney General with a confidential report….” Chuck Todd: “Does this mean the public will never see it?”

A:  “The overall intent of the regulation is public confidence in the investigation and any sort of suppression will flunk the test.”

The charging of the Mueller investigation said:

“The A.G. will notify the Chairman and ranking minority member of the House with an explanation…”

Wisenberg: “Barr has great discretion over what he reveals. How will Mueller reveal his report to Barr? He can do it in a way that makes it easier for Barr to release it to the public.”

Neal Katyal, former acting solicitor general: “We’re in a different world than when those regulations (from the Clinton impeachment hearings under Ken Starr) were created. There will be a lot more pressure on Mueller to give all of the information to Congress.”

Chuck Todd notes that the President will get to read the report first. 

The catch, they say, is whether the president will order someone to do something about the Mueller report. “That is when things would get interesting. The obstruction of justice is of great consequence to anyone, but especially when committed by the Chief Executive of our land, the President.” (Asa Hutchinson R/Ar of Kentucky, now the Governor of Arkansas said this in 1999 when commenting on the Kenneth Starr investigation into Bill Clinton.) Hutchinson says it is a very serious charge. “The American public look at any charge against the president of the United States with great scrutiny, as they should…This one is less than 2 years of time, where the investigation of President Clinton took 4 years under Kenneth Starr.”

Q:  What are you looking for in this report?

Q/A:  Jim Himes (D/CT): “I’m looking for a report that gets to the truth and gets out there. More than anything else, the question of the Russian interference and the possibility of collusion and obstruction has twisted our politics into something unrecognizable. The way to end that is to get the truth out there. First and foremost, given that we’ve been on the edge of our seats for the past 2 years, everyone needs to know what happened and then we’ll be ready to take it further.”

Hutchinson: “You have to have conversations in a bi-partisan way in the timing of what should be revealed. This could simply be a report that does not list any offenses against the president of the United States. Let’s communicate. Let’s see if that can be done in a bi-partisan way.” (Jim Himes expressed doubt that there would be much bi-partisanship in the current political climate).

Chuck Todd: Q:  “Is there anything that can be done (to make it more bi-partisan)?

A:  Jim Hines, D/CT: “One answer is that Devin Nunes is no longer the head of the investigative committee. I sort of chuckle at Governor Hutchinson’s optimism, because today, facts are disputed. Now, each and every fact is disputed. I point out that we’re going to get a sort of partisan warping of our system because there will be legislation before the House saying that his decision to spend money on his border wall is not constitutional. I suspect that the GOP are going to vote that Trump is not going to be held accountable for going around the Congress to get money for his wall.”

Jim Hines:  “There’s always some question about whether Michael Cohen feared retribution for his testimony.”

Chuck Todd: “The House GOP seems to be rigging the rules to keep the president from having a challenge in 2020.”

Asa Hutchinson (R/AR):  “Obviously, in our system of democracy, anyone is free to make a challenge. It will be very difficult for someone to make a successful challenge against President Trump. You’re always going to have a debate…It’s about what he has accomplished.”

“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows and you don’t need a special report to know what kind of president Trump is.” (David Graham)

Talking heads: It’s (the Mueller Report) a political document and a historical document. “We have to have a long view of the reckoning that we have to take after this administration is over.” (Al Cardenas, Republican strategist): “A lot of people who are bad people around the President of the United States have been indicted…I don’t feel the President will be indicted…I think the Mueller Report will leave a lot of unfinished business. This will be a setting of the bar.”

How serious is obstruction of justice to Congress (Andrea Mitchell): “We have let people normalize criminal and abnormal behavior. If this is a witch hunt, they found a coven—37, so far. Going forward in 202 we do not know what impulses in social media are being programmed from Moscow. I’m now so suspicious of anything we’re reading.”

Lanhee Chen, Republican strategist – “Clearly the president not directly saying, ‘I look forward to the report’ is telling. I think it’s a fairly simply political calculus.”

Chuck Todd: “Will Democrats regret it if they DON’T open an impeachment investigation?” (Many now regret not standing up to Mitch McConnell over Obama’s right to name a Supreme Court Justice.)

Talking Heads, A:  “These are people who took an oath to the Constitution.” (Implied: yes there must be an impeachment).

Andrea  Mitchell: “Mueller’s reputation in the country seems impeccable. It will not go well with the Republicans if they attempt to impugn him. I’m curious how the Attorney General will handle the Mueller Report.”

COAST GUARD HOME-GROWN TERRORIST

It was 72 hours before the public learned of the Coast Guard officer who had stockpiled weapons since 2017 and planned to massacre as many people as possible, especially Democratic leadership and various political commentators. The head of Homeland Security, commenting, said he was glad that they found this individual’s writings on his Homeland Security computer.

Todd: “How did someone with this ideology get into the Coast Guard and stay in the Coast Guard and not get caught doing things like this at his work computer?”

A:  (Jeh Johnson, former Head of Homeland Security): “We don’t probe into people’s political leanings. We need to do a better job of rooting out people with extremist leanings that could lead to terrorist actions.” In 2016, the budget was $21 million, whereas in 2018 the budget has been reduced to $8 million to ferret out plots like this. (Fewer employees, less money).In 2017 , there were 65 incidents totalling 95 deaths. Muslim extremists committed just 7 attacks. “Very definitely there is a rise in the level of extremists and violent actions directed towards individuals perceived to be in positions of power: “the list.” “The levels of hatred and violence that we see are going up. It’s got to start at the top. Leaders lead. We’ve got to see it start at the top. Individuals like the Coast Guard individual become emboldened and may even feel entitled. It is incumbent to raise the levels of our political discourse.”

THE BORDER WALL

Q:  Is a wall at the border a national emergency? (Chuck Todd)

A:  Jeh Johnson, former head of Homeland Security: “I do not believe it was appropriate for the President to evoke the National Emergency statute. Better to work with Congress and collectively come to a decision.”

FLORIDA AMENDMENT

Florida: Amendment 4  returning voters’ rights to convicted felons who have served their time; the end result is that 1.4 voters could be added to the rolls. Many are African American. 52% of those who had lost their voting rights were Democrats and 14% were Republican. Democrats could see a net gain of voters. Amendment 4 has the potential to be a game-changer in Florida. Not happening yet as newly enrolled voters were nearly evenly split between the GOP and Democrats, so far.

 

Beto O’Rourke Speaks Out (Con’t., The End)

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Texas Legislature Image, Beto O’Rourke

(From Beto O’Rourke, on the border wall controversy)

But we still have a choice.  In this democracy, if, in fact, the people are the government and the government is the people, we still have a chance to prove it.

We can decide that we’ll get past the lies and fear, focus on the facts and human lives in our midst, and do the right thing.  The end goal is a stronger, safer, more successful country.  Critical to achieving that goal is having immigration, security and bilateral policies that match reality and our values.

  1.  Extend citizenship to the more than 1,000,000 Dreamers in this country.  Not only those who are in our classrooms, but those who are teaching in our classrooms, those who are keeping our country safe around the world tonight in the military; those who contribute more to our communities than they’ll ever take.
  2. Give permanent legal protection and a path to citizenship to their parents, the original Dreamers.
  3. Bring millions more out of the shadows and onto a path to citizenship by ensuring that they register with the government and gain status to legally work, pay taxes and contribute even more to our country’s success.
  4. Make us safer and more secure.  Significantly reduce illegal drug trafficking and stop human trafficking by investing in infrastructure, technology and personnel at our ports of entry.  The ports that connect us with Mexico are where the vast majority of everything and everyone that ever comes into our country crosses.
  5. Increase the visa caps so that we match our opportunities and needs (for work, for education, for investment, for innovation, for family reunification) to the number of people we allow into this country.  Ensure that those who want to work in jobs that we can’t fill can legally come here and legally return to their home country.
  6. Fully accept our opportunity and responsibility under our asylum laws to welcome those whose own governments can no longer protect them, including women fleeing abusive relationships.
  7. Address visa overstays (which account for the majority of undocumented immigration) through better tracking of and notification to visa holders (a first step could be text message reminders) and fully harmonizing our entry/exit systems with Mexico’s and Canada’s (when a visa holder exits the U.S. and enters Mexico, we will then know that they have left the U.S. Currently, if they leave through a land port of entry, we literally haveno clue if they are still here or have returned to their country of origin.
  8. Make Latin America and specifically Central America a top foreign policy priority. Stop relegating it to second-tier status. Invest the time, talent and resources to assist in the development of the domestic institutions that will allow these countries to thrive and offer their citizens protection and economic opportunity.  It is the long long-term solution to the number of asylum seekers and refugees coming to this country.
  9. End the global war on drugs.  An imprisonment adn interdiction-first approach has not worked, has accelerated the erosion of civil society in much of Latin American and has militarized a public health issue to the detriment of all concerned.
  10. Speak with respect and dignity when referring to our fellow human beings who happen to be immigrants and asylum seekers, who, in so many cases, are doing exactly what we would do if presented with the same threats and opportunities.  No more “invasions,” “animals,” “rapists and criminals,” “floods,” “crisis”—dehumanizing rhetoric leads to dehumanizing policies.  We cannot sacrifice our humanity in the name of security or we risk losing both.

Last week we welcomed the President of the United States to one of the safest cities in the United States.  Safe not because of walls and not in spite of the fact that we are a city of immigrants.  Safe because we are a city of immigrants and because we treat each other with dignity and respect.  A city that has the opportunity to lead on the most important issues before us, out of experience, out of compassion and out of a fierce determination to see this country live its ideals and rise to its full potential.

We can learn from the errors of our past, have the courage to do what’s right while we still have the chance, and ensure that the President doesn’t commit this country to making mistakes from which we may never recover.

It’s up to us.

Beto O’Rourke

(Received on 2/19/2019 via e-mail)

Beto O’Rourke Speaks Out (Day #3)

Beto O’Rourke’s piece about the border wall, mailed out from Beto O’Rourke headquarters. As someone who has captured a great deal of interest from the general public in his run against Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, it is safe to say that we haven’t heard the last of Beto O’Rourke.

“After terror attacks in the 1990s and in 2001, the Mexican immigrant was a ready scapegoat for politicians, and the intensity and brutality of enforcement and deterrence measures increased.  In the face of terrorism that originated in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, the United States chose to conflate the war on terror with immigration from Mexico and Latin America.

With the passage of the Patriot Act of 2001 the number of deportations skyrocketed, with nearly 400,000 sent back to their country of origin in 2009 alone.  Not one of the 9/11 terrorists entered through Mexico—and yet Mexicans bore the brunt of this country’s immigration response to the terror attacks.  Last year, the State Department’s Bureau of Counter-terrorism found that “there are no known international terrorist organizations operating in Mexico, no evidence that any terrorist group has targeted U.S. citizens in Mexican territory, and no credible information that any member of a terrorist group has traveled through Mexico to gain access to the United States.”

This year’s report found much the same thing.  “There was no credible evidence indicating that international terrorist groups have established bases in Mexico, worked with Mexican drug cartels, or sent operatives via Mexico into the United States.”

In addition, walls and fences authorized by the Secure Fence Act of 2006 pushed migration flows to ever more treacherous stretches of the U.S.-Mexico border.  More than 4,500 human beings died while crossing the border from 2006 to 2017.

Far too many of these deaths were children.”

Beto O’Rourke Speaks Out (Con’t, #2)

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                                        Beto O’Rourke, Wikipedia

Here’s why the illegal immigration population grew: as we made it harder for people to cross into the United States, we made it less likely that, once here, they would attempt to go back to their home country.  Fearing an increasingly militarized border, circular patterns of migration became linear, with immigrants choosing to remain in the U.S., many of them ultimately joined by family members from their home country.

This government-created condition continued to feed upon itself:

“The sustained accelerating accumulation of anti-immigrant legislation and enforcement operation produced a massive increase in border apprehensions after the late 1970s, when the underlying flow of migrants had actually leveled off.  For any given number of undocumented entry attempts, more restrictive legislation and more stringent enforcement operations generated more apprehensions, which politicians and bureaucrats could then use to inflame public opinion, which led to more conservatism and voter demands for even stricter laws and more enforcement operations, which generated more apprehensions, thus bringing the process full circle.

In short, the rise of illegal migration, its framing as a threat to the nation, and the resulting conservative reaction set off a self-feeding chain reaction of enforcement that generated more apprehensions, even though the flow of undocumented migrants had stabilized in the late 1970s and actually dropped during the late 1980s and early 1990s.”

This would only get worse.

(Beto O’Rourke Speaks Out, Continued, Day 2)

Beto O’Rourke Speaks Out

Beto O’Rourke photo from his Facebook page.

Beto O’Rourke reached out via an e-mail and, since I’ll be traveling for the Oscar weekend, I’m going to break it up into smaller sections and share it with those of you who have, perhaps, not received it. I probably received it because I contributed to his campaign against Ted Cruz; I am in Texas. We are likely to hear a lot more about Beto O’Rourke, I think, so hear him out, in smaller segments. Thanks!

Connie:

The President came to El Paso last week.  He promised a wall and repeated his lies about the dangers that immigrants pose.  With El Paso as the backdrop, he claimed that this city of immigrants was dangerous before a border fence was built here in 2008. (*Untrue, El Paso was named the nation’s 2nd safest city after San Jose, California in one poll).

El Paso was one of the safest communities in the United States before the fence was built here. The president said the wall saves lives. In fact, walls push desperate families to cross in ever more hostile terrain, insuring greater suffering and more deaths.  He spoke about immigrants and crime, when immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than Americans born here. It’s worth thinking about how we got to this place.

How did it come to be that 11 million undocumented immigrants call America home? How did we come to militarize our border?  How did we arrive at such a disconnect between our ideals, our values, the reality of our lives, and the policies and political rhetoric that govern immigration and border security?

I’ve come to the conclusion that the challenges we face are largely of our own design—a function of the unintended consequences of immigration policy and the rhetoric we’ve used to describe immigrants and the border.  At almost every step of modern immigration policy and immigration politics, we have exacerbated underlying problems and made things worse.  Sometimes with the best of intentions, sometimes with the most cynical exploitation of nativism and fear.

Much of the history of immigration policy, and the source for the data that I’m using, is powerfully summarized in a report entitled “Unintended Consequences of U.S. Immigration Policy:  Explaining the Post-1965 Surge from Latin America,” by Douglas S. Massey and Karen A. Pren.

In 1965, the United States ended the bracero farm-worker program, in part because of the sub-standard wages and conditions in which these Mexican workers labored.  And yet, after decades of employing this labor, with our economy dependent on the laborers and the laborers dependent on access to the U.S. job market, the system of low-cost Mexican labor didn’t go away.  Many of the same Mexican nationals returned to the U.S., returned to the same back-breaking jobs, only now they were undocumented.  Ironically, despite the intent of the 1965 law ending the program, they enjoyed fewer protections and wage guarantees in the shadows as they continued to play a fundamental role in our economy.

As this same population converted from being documented to undocumented, a wave of scary metaphors was employed to gin up anxiety and paranoia and the political will to employ ever more repressive policies to deter their entry.  It was good for politicians and newspapers, but terrible for immigrants and immigration policy.  Thus began the “Latino threat” narrative.

As Massey and Pren wrote:

“The most common negative framing depicted immigration as a ‘crisis’ for the nation.  Initially, marine metaphors were used to dramatize the crisis, with Latino immigration being labeled a ‘rising tide’ or a ‘tidal wave’ that was poised to ‘inundate’ the United States and ‘drown’ its culture while ‘flooding’ American society with unwanted foreigners (Santa Ana 2002).  Over time, marine metaphors increasingly gave way to martial metaphors, with illegal immigration being depicted as an ‘invasion’ in which ‘outgunned’ Border Patrol agents sought to ‘hold the lin’ in a vain attempt to ‘defend’ the border against ‘attacks’ from ‘alien invaders’ who launched ‘banzai charges’ to overwhelm American defenses.” (Nevins 2001; Chavez 2008).

The fear stoked by politicians produced the intended paranoia and political constituency demanding ever tougher immigration measures.  The result of this was not to stop undocumented immigration.

Instead, it caused the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States to grow.
(Beto O’Rourke’s words continued tomorrow)

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