We Resist: Day 141

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One of the difficulties in resisting the Trump administration, the Republican Congressional majority, and Republican state legislatures is keeping on top of the sheer number of horrors, indignities, and normalization of the aggressively abnormal that they unleash every single day.

So here is a daily thread for all of us to share all the things that are going on, thus crowdsourcing a daily compendium of the onslaught of conservative erosion of our rights and our very democracy.

Stay engaged. Stay vigilant. Resist.

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Here are some things in the news today:

Earlier today by me: Trump vs. the Intelligence Community, Part Two.


Lots more news around Comey today...

Adam Serwer at the Atlantic: The Incompetence Defense. "On the surface, the argument for exculpatory ineptitude may seem absurd; if you try to rob a bank, and you slip on a banana peel and knock yourself out, you have still attempted to rob a bank. But the argument that Trump simply didn’t try hard enough to shut down the Flynn investigation is exactly the argument that a defense attorney might make if they were defending a client against an accusation of obstruction of justice, because it attacks the idea that there’s sufficient evidence to support the charge."

Eric Levitz at New York Magazine: Team Trump's Response to Comey's Testimony Is an Assault on Reason. "Comey's testimony stipulates that he never ruled out the possibility that Trump could become a target of the Russia inquiry—the former FBI director refused to publicly state that the president wasn't under investigation 'because it would create a duty to correct, should that change.' More significantly, Comey's testimony strongly suggested that the president is now under federal investigation. ...But he did say that he believed 'the special counsel will work toward' a conclusion on that question, and that it was '[special counsel] Bob Mueller's job to sort that out.' In other words: He thinks that Trump's conduct toward him came close enough to constituting obstruction of justice that special prosecutor Robert Mueller will at least consider such a charge."

Steve Vladeck at the Washington Post: Trump's Lawyer Says Comey Violated Executive Privilege: He's Wrong. "A few hours after former FBI director James B. Comey finished testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, [Donald] Trump's personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, suggested that Comey had violated the law. By causing memos about conversations between Trump and Comey to become public, Comey had committed an 'unauthorized disclosure of privileged information,' Kasowitz claimed. On a day characterized by hubris remarkable even for Washington, the blatant wrongheadedness of this 'privilege' claim still stands out. In fact, executive privilege almost certainly does not cover the Comey memo. And even if it did, disclosing it without authorization isn't illegal."

Sabrina Siddiqui and Lauren Gambino at the Guardian: Donald Trump Lawyers to File Complaint Against 'Leaker' James Comey. "Donald Trump called his former FBI director a 'leaker' on Friday, one day after James Comey testified under oath that the president lied about his firing and the FBI in an effort to undermine the agency's investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Trump's legal team was confirmed to be preparing to file a complaint against Comey, for sharing his memos of meetings with the president with the New York Times. ...The legal complaint will be filed with the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Justice early next week, according to a source close to the legal team who did not want to speak on the record before the complaint was filed."

Philip Bump at the Washington Post: There's No indication Comey Violated the Law; Trump May Be About To.
[Stephen Kohn, partner at a law firm focused on whistleblower protection]'s response to the story about [Trump's outside counsel, Marc Kasowitz, planning to file complaints with the inspector general of the Justice Department and the Senate Judiciary Committee about Comey's testimony], though, was visceral.

"Here is my position on that: Frivolous grandstanding," he said. "First of all, I don't believe the inspector general would have jurisdiction over Comey any more, because he's no longer a federal employee." The inspector general's job is to investigate wrongdoing by employees of the Justice Department, of which Comey is no longer, thanks to Trump.

"But, second," he continued, "initiating an investigation because you don't like somebody's testimony could be considered obstruction. And in the whistleblower context, it's both evidence of retaliation and, under some laws, could be an adverse retaliatory act itself."

In other words, Comey, here, is an employee who is blowing the whistle, to use the idiom, on his former boss. That boss wants to punish him for doing so. That's problematic — especially if there's no evidence that Comey actually violated any law that would trigger punishment.

...We can safely assume, though, that Trump's team is aware that Comey likely didn't violate any laws, and that they are simply using these arguments as a tool for undermining the parts of his testimony that they didn't like. How they're doing it, though, could make their problems worse.

Kohn summarized the new minefield into which Trump and his lawyer might be walking.

"They know that they're not going to get anything out of Comey on this, because there's no evidence," he added. "But they're clearly trying to create a chilling effect. Not a chilling effect on classified information. … This is a chilling effect on people not to talk about conversations they had with the president that are not classified as a matter of law."

"That is illegal," he said. "That is unconstitutional."
So, to recap all of the above: Trump, with the assistance of the Republican Party, is trying to cast James Comey as a "leaker" for disclosing the contents of his personal notes on his meeting with president. Except, there is no "leak," because nothing in that memo was classified, nor was the memo protected under executive privilege.

So, in filing a complaint against Comey, when he did nothing illegal, Trump is essentially doubling-down on obstruction of justice, because the complaint isn't to punish Comey for breaking the law, but to punish him for sharing information about the president that the president doesn't like.

It's like an inception of obstruction.

In other news...

Sahil Kapur at Bloomberg: Republicans Tiptoe Toward Safety-Net Cuts to Unlock Tax 'Logjam'. "Republicans searching for consensus on how to pay for tax cuts are beginning to weigh attacking spending in potentially sensitive areas of the budget. ...Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, a leader of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, called for $400 billion in unspecified cuts to welfare programs to help cover the cost of tax cuts. That's 'the way to unlock the logjam in the House' on setting tax and spending levels in a budget resolution, Jordan said Friday at an event sponsored by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative policy and advocacy group." FUCK. THIS.


And just in case you were wondering if Kellyanne Conway is still terrible (I know you weren't!), she definitely is!

Kellyanne Conway, seated onstage at a Faith & Freedom Coalition event, with a big, smarmy grin on her face: I do thank god every day, I'll admit, I thank god every day, I click my heels three times and say, "She is not the president. She is not the president. She is not the president." And it helps. [laughter and applause]
Can you imagine the look on my face right now? You can totally imagine the look on my face right now.

What have you been reading that we need to resist today?

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