No one is going to win this argument on the DOJ Inspector General’s report

I’m the kind of person who will actually read the U.S. Department of Justice Inspector General’s report entitled “A Review of Various Actions by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice in Advance of the 2016 Election,” or at least the Executive Summary.[1] So let me just note – for those complaining about the length and expense of the Mueller investigation – that there have been not only half a dozen investigations into Hillary Clinton’s role in Benghazi and her use of a private email server, but now also an investigation into the conduct of those investigations. It’s a meta-investigation (if not a series of mega-investigations).[2]

To review, this investigation by the DOJ Inspector General was initiated by requests from Congress, “various organizations” and “members of the public” and focused on the conduct of the FBI in relationship to the investigations into Hillary’s private email server.[3] The IG was charged with answering six particular questions:

  • allegations that FBI policies or procedures were not followed in regards to then-FBI director James Comey’s public announcement on July 5, 2016, and Comey’s letters to congress on October 28 and November 6, 2016;
  • allegations that certain investigative decisions were based on improper considerations;
  • allegations that then FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe should have been recused from participating in certain investigatve matters;
  • allegations that the DOJ’s then Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs, Peter Kadzik, improperly disclosed non-public information and/or should have been recused from participating in certain matters;
  • allegations that Department and FBI employees improperly disclosed non-public information during the course of the investigation;
  • allegations that decisions regarding the timing of the FBI’s release of certain Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents on October 30 and November 1, 2016, and the use of a Twitter account to publicize this release, were influenced by improper considerations.

The report also addresses the allegations by the Trump administration that the FBI is improperly biased towards President Trump.

As noted in the news coverage of the report’s release, the report provides plenty of ammunition for both sides of the aisle to have complaints about how the FBI went about its business.

The FBI’s Impact on the Clinton Campaign

Most observers (other than complete Trump partisans) by now acknowledge that James Comey’s October 28 announcement that the FBI was re-opening the investigation into Clinton’s emails was the “October Surprise” that swung the razor thin margins in Donald Trump’s favor in the 2016 presidential election. The margins were so thin in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania (the state’s that eventually put Trump over the top) that even a single percentage point swing would have been enough to make the difference. What this IG report shows is that Comey clearly did not follow the rules with respect to any of his public announcements about the Clinton investigations. What Comey should have done is not made any announcements with respect to his investigations, but leave that to the Department of Justice.

It’s clear, by the way, that Comey thought that Hillary would win the election by a country mile, and that his disclosing information about the re-opened investigation would not make any difference. As the IG wrote:

[W]e found that his decision [to send the letter to Congress] was the result of several interrelated factors that were connected to his concern that failing to send the letter would harm the FBI and his ability to lead it, and his view that candidate Clinton was going to win the presidency and that she would be perceived to be an illegitimate president if the public first learned of the information after the election.

That’s all nice and fine, except the clear protocol is for the FBI not to comment on pending investigations. These announcements almost certainly cost Hillary the election.

Peter Strock and Lisa Page

Republicans, on the other hand, are going to have a lot of fun with FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok and Special Counsel to the Deputy Director Lisa Page (who may have been having an affair). What a couple of idiots! Aren’t these people supposed to be FBI agents? Haven’t they ever heard of the maxim to not put anything in an email (or a text) that you don’t want to have published in the NY Times? Especially if you’re an FBI agent!

It turns out that Strock and Page thought Trump was an “utter idiot” and a “disaster,” and wrote so to each other in texts that they exchanged.  They wondered about how destabilizing his Presidency would be. (That just makes them sane in my book, and not necessarily partisans.)

The two of them turn out to have been equal opportunity detractors, as they also hated (Obama-era Attorney General) Eric Holder, House Speaker Paul Ryan, former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Senator Ted Cruz, Trump advisor Roger Stone, and Congress “as a whole.” Strock also had criticisms of Hillary Clinton and complained that a fact-checker dismissed Bernie Sanders’s criticism of her as being too close to fossil-fuel lobbyists.[4]

No One Will Win this Argument

No one’s going to win this argument, that’s for sure. Again, there is too much ammunition on both sides. But I still find it highly ironic that Trump so hates the FBI, the agency that basically hand-delivered the election to him on a silver platter.

Instead of firing James Comey, he should have canonized him.

But then there is the little problem of all the illegal shit Trump got into while running for office (not to mention since becoming President) and the fact that somebody has to investigate those things. Republicans will surely dismiss the Mueller report once it’s finished, but people in the middle may see that there really has been a problem with how Trump has been running his presidency as well has campaign, which is basically like an unindicted criminal enterprise.

[1] Given that the report itself is 568 pages, it’s a little much to comprehend in one sitting. And also completely unnecessary.

[2] In short, the number of investigations into Hillary Clinton – which produced no indictments and no findings of criminal conduct – should require all those complaining about the Mueller investigation to just STFU! Of course, that won’t happen.

[3] In one of the delicious twists of irony, the report found that FBI Director Comey was himself guilty of using a private email account relative to some of his correspondence.

[4] Strock was removed from the Mueller investigation on December 2, 2017, as soon as his political texts came to the attention of the FBI.

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Ann Coulter has no Shame

Yesterday I published a post on my own experience in being separated from my parents at a young age for a short period of time.

Last night I came across this: Ann Coulter, claiming that the children being torn from their parents at the border are “crisis actors.”

This is a lot like Alex Jones claiming that the parents of the children shot at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton Connecticut in 2012 are also “crisis actors.”

Jones is now being sued for defamation by some of these “crisis actor” parents, and it will be very interesting to see how that case turns out.

For his part, Jones has previously claimed (in his divorce proceedings) that he is a “performance artist” playing a character. Kind of like Stephen Colbert in his now defunct Colbert Report.

Just like Glenn Beck claimed (when it was convenient) that he was just an “entertainer.

Why is it that only Republicans and conservatives get away with this kind of shit? If our side just tried lying outright, we’d be shamed right off of the World Wide Web.

This is the kind of false equivalence that exists between the likes of Ann Coulter, and someone like Rachel Maddow, who takes pains to be as scrupulously accurate as she can.

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The Legacy that Republicans are Creating and will have to Wrestle With

When I was about eighteen months old, my parents dropped me off at a Catholic nunnery for about two weeks. My sister was about to be born, there were complications, and my Grandparents (they thought) had enough on their hands with my rambunctious brother. My father would come and visit me every day – I don’t know if that helped or hurt, since he would also leave without me every day – until my sister was born and they brought me home.

About twenty years later, in my first year of law school, I had one too many hash brownies at a party. I went to bed and then woke up in a complete panic. I was so panicked that I went upstairs to my friends Gabi and Günther’s room and asked if I could stay up there for the rest of the night. That was the kick-off to a period where I regularly had anxiety attacks, which it took me a number of years to get over.

Sometime during that process of calming down my mother told me the story of having dropped me off at the nunnery, an event I had absolutely no recollection of, but which I recognized immediately.

Aha! That was the panic that I had been experiencing.[1]

I’ve worked through this over the years, but there is one lingering symptom left: when I travel overseas, I’m always conscious of being very far away from home. It doesn’t prevent me from traveling overseas, but it can make the experience of it less exuberant. There is a part of me that always has to fight with myself, reminding me that I’m an adult and that I would be no safer if I were back at home.

I’ve been thinking about this while reading the stories of the asylum-seeking children being ripped away from their parents at the U.S. border.

There’s unnecessary trauma being created for thousands of them, on top of whatever trauma was already in play that motivated their families to go on the run in the first place.[2]

This action of ripping children out of the arms of their parents has created a storm of outrage, including by (the rarely heard from) Laura Bush, who authored and op-ed for the Washington Post, and (remarkably enough) Melania Trump, who joined in with Laura Bush (and proved once again that she has absolutely no influence on her husband whatsoever).

In the meantime, Jeff Sessions went before the press to quote the Apostle Paul for the notion that it is Godly to “obey the laws,” a sentiment which Sarah “Huckster” Sanders immediately endorsed with her own Biblical quotations.

This is what happens when you allow people to cherry-pick verses from the Bible. You can find a verse for almost any sentiment.

I’m no Jesus scholar, but it’s my understanding that Jesus was much more concerned with welcoming strangers, lifting up the downtrodden, and sheltering the oppressed. He was, I’m told, no fan of obedience to the Roman empire.

To cherry-pick just one verse of my own:

Deuteronomy 10:18-19 – “For the Lord your God…loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing.  You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

And yet, while large majorities of Americans disapprove of this heartless policy, a clear majority of Republicans approve of the policy.

Oh boy.

There is a large and growing number of Republicans who are going to have to wrestle with their legacy and what they approved of once the Trump years are over. Many of them will discover that whatever moral “cachet” they once had (or were seen as having) has been pissed away in their support of this extraordinarily malicious “President” they so claim to adore.

[1] Let me be the first to admit that I’m not the most courageous person to begin with, and I might have developed anxiety attacks for other reasons. But this was the trigger in my case.

[2] I’ll just add the obvious observation that if Republicans really wanted to keep people from streaming to the border, we here in the United States could do a lot more to improve conditions in countries like El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. People don’t undertake journeys like these unless they are completely desperate and at their wits end.

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Sometimes Someone Does the Right Thing for All the Wrong Reasons

President Drumpf and Kim Jong Un met last night (Tuesday morning their time) in Singapore. What will come out of it? Who knows? Even if they come to an ostensible agreement, it’s a long way to that actually meaning something. It’s a long way to actually denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

Here’s the sad thing. President Drumpf isn’t there to make the world a safer place for all of us. He’s there for self-aggrandizement. He wants what Obama has, which is a Nobel Peace Prize. [1] A number of Republican Congressmen already nominated him for the prize last month, when the summit was initially scheduled and before anything else had happened.

Believe me when I tell you that it pains me to say this, but if President Drumpf could get a formal peace treaty between the two Korea’s[2] and get the peninsula denuclearized, he might actually deserve a Nobel.

Sometimes someone can do the right thing for all the wrong reasons.

Regardless of what happens at the Summit, it’s only the first step in a long process. The United States and North Korea still have very different expectations for the summit.  The Drumpf administration has announced that anything short of immediate, verifiable and irrevocable denuclearization on North Korea’s part will not lead to the lifting of any sanctions.  North Korea, as pundits have articulated, expects to make discrete steps and expects each of those steps to be rewarded. And, as historians have reminded us, North Korea has reneged on agreements before.

So, we’ll see. But remarkably enough, it appears to be a step in the right direction. And Donald J. Drumpf is involved. Who knew?

[1] Count me among those who thinks that Obama didn’t deserve his Nobel Prize. According to the Committee, Obama received the Nobel for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” They also cited promotion of nuclear nonproliferation and a “new climate” in international relations fostered by Obama, especially in reaching out to the Muslim world. Personally, I think Obama got the prize mostly for being elected President while being black.

[2] Although there is a Korean Armistice Agreement, signed back on July 27, 1953, that never turned into an official peace treaty between the two Korea’s.

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Propaganda in action: Fox News use of Kneeling Eagles

Here at the Skeptic’s blog we have long promised to expose examples of propaganda where we find it, and nothing could be much more delicious than catching Fox News redhanded.

As some of you may recall, Donald Trump disinvited the Philadelphia Eagles from the White House since it became obvious that fewer than 10 players were going to show up.[1]

The Donald, to fire up his base, turned it into a patriotic exercise, and Fox News, to pour gasoline on the flames, showed a picture of a praying Zach Ertz and another picture of a group of players praying as proof that they had kneeled in disrespect of the anthem.

The only problem was, the Philadelphia Eagles are one of the few teams that had no players kneel during the anthem throughout the entire 2017-18 season.


I’m not sure if Fox News didn’t think that any of the players would notice the discrepancy, or if they were just so eager to rush in with their extra container of gasoline that they didn’t have time to check the facts.

So there it is, my friends. Propaganda in action. If the lie hadn’t been so obvious, they probably would have gotten away with it. I’m sure there are still millions of Fox viewers and Trump supporters who will continue to believe that the praying players were out there disrespecting the flag.

[1] In the middle of their contentious NBA play-off, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors have already agreed on one thing: neither team is going to the White House when either one wins the championship. Courtesy of LeBron James and Steph Curry.

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Both Sons of Privilege, and yet so Different

As many have heard on the news, it’s been 50 years since Bobby Kennedy was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan.[1]

I was thinking today about the differences between Kennedy and our current President, one Donald John Drumpf. Consider:

  • Both are white men born of extreme privilege;
  • Both had fathers who were real assholes;
  • Both got an early start in what was essentially the family business.

And yet, they could not have turned out more differently.

What was the reason. Certainly, Bobby had some thing in spades that Drumpf does not: compassion. For his part, Drumpf is almost completely lacking in compassion. So much so, that one could argue that he is a sociopath.

I’m not a Kennedy apologist, and I’m well aware of the family shortcomings. But it is interesting to contemplate how history might be different if Bobby K had not been assassinated and had actually won the Presidency. There surely would have been a different course for the conflict in Vietnam.[2]

[1] For those of you who don’t remember, Sirhan was essentially an early model for what has now become the “Arab terrorist.” A Jordanian-born Palestinian, Sirhan assassinated Kennedy almost exactly one year after the beginning of the 1967 six-day war, in which the Arabs were just stunned by the efficient Israeli army. Bobby had promised to send 50 fighter jets to Israel if elected president. Sirhan had obsessed about this possibility, and it became the focus of his anger.

[2] I have yet to meet someone who went to Vietnam as part of the American military who didn’t get their brain scrambled there. It was the defining issue for my generation, and the country was at least as divided then as it is now.

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WTF, Eric Schneiderman?

It came as a bit of shock when, at the beginning of the week, I found out that crusading Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had suddenly resigned from his office because of accusations from four women with whom Schneiderman had had personal romantic relationships with that he had been abusive in those relationships.

What the fuck, Eric Schneiderman?

This is the same Eric Schneiderman who has been championing the Me-too Movement, prosecuting Harvey Weinstein, and taking on Donald Trump over and over again, including for his sham Trump University.

That Eric Schneiderman?

Schneiderman claimed that he had engaged in consensual “role playing” in the intimacy of his own personal relationships. The women claimed he had just assaulted them.

I believe the women.

Two of them have identified themselves as of this writing: the blogger and activist Michelle Manning Barish, and the author and actor Tanya Selvaratnam.  Two have not.

So, as readers of the blog know, I have frequently outed Republican hypocrisy under the heading “Our Hypocrisy is not like Theirs.” But not in this case.

If there is any man who should have known better, Eric Schneiderman is that man.  Not only did he victimize four women, but he completely undermined the things that he was fighting for.

What the fuck was he thinking?

And what is it with being the Attorney General of New York? This path – crusading reformer hoisted up by his own penis – is one that was previously tread by Eliot Spitzer, who eventually had to resign when it was discovered that he had been frequenting a “high class” prostitute by the name of Ashley Dupré.

What the fuck, Eric Schneiderman?

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