By Robert A. Vella
“If conservatives become convinced that they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. They will reject democracy.” – David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush and now senior editor at The Atlantic, from his 2018 book Trumpocracy.
We all knew that once Senate Republicans rammed through a sham impeachment trial to cover-up Donald Trump‘s illegal coercion of Ukraine and other crimes, the Megalomaniac-in-Chief’s dictatorial and fascist ambitions would be unleashed upon this weary nation. His first target emerged immediately afterwards, to weaponize the U.S. Department of Justice into a political retribution apparatus to crush his perceived enemies and rewrite the history of his traitorous collusion with Vladimir Putin’s Russia which helped him win the presidency in 2016. With William Barr at the helm of the DOJ, a man whose official actions are evoking disturbing memories of Nazi Germany’s Heinrich Himmler during the 1930s, Trump appears poised to achieve his nefarious goals.
Although Barr is fully onboard with Trump’s plans, he doesn’t want to be perceived as a mere henchman. Perhaps he is just being Machiavellian in order to conceal his intentions as a means to expedite Trump’s objectives. Perhaps his own ego won’t allow him to see himself as anything other than independent. Perhaps he feels morally conflicted in some way, and that he is deluding himself into thinking that what he is doing for Trump is somehow right or just. Regardless, Barr angered Trump earlier this week by publicly criticizing his incessant tweets especially those regarding the Roger Stone trial which subsequently triggered an internal crisis at the DOJ.
Officials are fighting back against this madness, however. The four federal prosecutors in the Stone case resigned in protest (for having their sentencing recommendation overridden by Barr), and there are rumblings within the DOJ’s ranks about additional resignations. If enough of them resist, Trump’s hostile authoritarian assault on democracy and the rule of law will fail. Dictators fall when disobedience robs them of their power. Furthermore, the “to be or not to be” question must be answered not just by the DOJ but by all Americans too. In every country ruled by an autocrat in every era in human history, justice is never applied equally nor impartially. The arbitrary decrees of the dictator prevail. The people lose all faith in fairness, disillusionment robs them of their hopes and dreams, fear replaces their aspirations, economic conditions deteriorate, and even the greatest of societies collapse into despair.
Just ask the people who survived World War II. Just ask the people of Russia today – that is, if they will even talk with you… honestly. Here’s today’s news:
In the span of five days, Barr revealed that he’s established a private channel for Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to relay his allegations on Ukraine and ordered prosecutors to reduce their sentencing recommendation for Trump associate Roger Stone. News also surfaced that Barr has moved to review the prosecution of Michael Flynn, the president’s first national security adviser.
At week’s end, the Justice Department’s reputation for independence was under siege in a way it hadn’t seen since Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017. Barr had managed to take steps that seemed likely to anger everyone from Trump to Democrats and Justice Department career prosecutors.
“The history of the department, when it’s written, will have two parts — before Trump and after Trump,” said Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor. “This is the hinge.”
The Justice Department confirmed that Jeff Jensen, a prosecutor in the U.S. attorney’s office in St. Louis, is working closely with Flynn prosecutor Brandon Van Grack to review the case. The issue being reviewed is not related to the supervision of the case. Van Grack worked on the special counsel’s team.
CBS News has reported that Flynn’s lawyers are trying to withdraw his guilty plea based on allegations that Van Grack sought to suborn perjury by allegedly pressuring Flynn to make false statements in a Virginia case against a former business partner, Bijan Rafiekian.
Two years ago, Flynn admitted he lied to the FBI in a case that stemmed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Andrew Weissmann, a former Justice Department official who was known as Mueller’s “pit bull” during the Russia investigation, said the Justice Department swapped out the “loser case” of Andrew McCabe, who escaped criminal charges on Friday for allegedly lying to investigators about authorizing media disclosures, for a fresh one targeting top former FBI officials, including McCabe, led by Jeffrey Jensen, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri.
“All they did was swapped out a loser case for starting an investigation that is going to be of Comey, McCabe, Pete Strzok,” Weissmann told MSNBC host Chuck Todd.
All three officials were involved in the investigation into the Trump 2016 campaign’s alleged ties to Russia, which Trump and his allies have called a “witch hunt.” Mueller, who took over the inquiry after FBI Director James Comey was fired in May 2017, found no criminal conspiracy when the investigation ended last year.
Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe said Friday that he doesn’t think he will “ever be free of” President Trump and “his maniacal rage,” despite the Justice Department announcing it will no longer pursue criminal charges against him.
His comments came hours after the Justice Department said it would not pursue charges based on an Inspector General’s recommendation that was made before McCabe was fired from the FBI by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The Inspector General had alleged that McCabe was not forthcoming during interviews with federal investigators and claimed he “lacked candor — including under oath — on multiple occasions.”
Trump has long considered McCabe a political enemy, and some have questioned whether the decision Friday to drop possible charges is an attempt to quell controversy surrounding the Justice Department’s recommended sentencing for longtime Trump aide Roger Stone, which was reduced after complaints by the president.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is requesting interviews with a slew of current and former Justice Department and FBI officials as part of his panel’s probe into the department’s handling of the investigation into Russia’s election interference and the Trump campaign.
Graham sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr on Friday asking that he make 17 officials, many of whom are identified only by title, available for interviews.
As the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump drew to a close in Washington earlier this month, federal prosecutors in New York contacted witnesses and sought to collect additional documents in an investigation related to Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, according to people familiar with their activities.
The recent steps — including an interview with a witness last week — indicate that the probe involving Giuliani and two of his former associates is moving forward, even as the Justice Department has set up a process to evaluate claims Giuliani is making about alleged wrongdoing in Ukraine related to former vice president Joe Biden.
In the latest legal setback for Governor Mike Dunleavy, a first-term Republican and ally of U.S. President Donald Trump, the state’s high court lifted a stay blocking state election officials from printing and distributing petition booklets for the recall drive.
During his first 13 months in office, Dunleavy has antagonized large swaths of Alaska’s electorate in both major political parties.
His most controversial actions have included a bid to slash state university funding by more than 40%, a drastic cutback of state ferry operations that left coastal communities stranded over the winter, endorsement of an unpopular copper-mine plan, and the awarding of a no-bid $441,000 contract to a major campaign contributor’s grandson.
The reasons cited for his ouster in the recall petition are narrower, however.
It accuses Dunleavy of illegally using state funds for partisan politicking, violating legal requirements for filling a judicial vacancy and violating the constitutional separation of powers with a budget veto intended to punish the courts for an abortion-rights ruling.
Security researchers are reporting flaws in a smartphone-based voting app that’s been used by military voters overseas and is now being tested for use in the US.
The vulnerabilities could allow nation-state hackers to view, block or even change smartphone ballots before they’re counted, according to a new paper written by three researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The app is designed by the company Voatz, whose technology has been piloted so far in West Virginia, Colorado and Utah.
The Trump administration is deploying law enforcement tactical units from the southern border as part of a supercharged arrest operation in sanctuary cities across the country, an escalation in the president’s battle against localities that refuse to participate in immigration enforcement.
The specially trained officers are being sent to cities including Chicago and New York to boost the enforcement power of local ICE officers, according to two officials who are familiar with the secret operation. Additional agents are expected to be sent to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston, Boston, New Orleans, Detroit and Newark, N.J.
Household debt surged by more than $600 billion in 2019, marking the biggest annual increase since just before the financial crisis, according to the New York Federal Reserve.
Total household debt balances rose by $601 billion last year, topping $14 trillion for the first time, according to a new report by the Fed branch. The last time the growth was that large was 2007, when household debt rose by just over $1 trillion.
Fed economists said on the Liberty Street Economics blog that the growth was driven mainly by a large increase in mortgage debt balances, which increased $433 billion and was also the largest gain since 2007.