What Fresh Hell Is This?

June 30, 2017

Disgusting, disgusting, disgusting. Trump's Not The Only Disgusting Here.

62,984,825 Americans voted for Donald J. Trump last November (and that would include Pennsylvania's Junior Senator Pat Toomey).

Did they know they were voting for this?
To his credit, Senator Toomey took the trouble to distance himself from the tweet:
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey told CNN that President Donald Trump's Thursday-morning tweets were "maddening."

"This is maddening. It's maddeningly frustrating because this is beneath the dignity of the President of the United States, or at least it should be," the Pennsylvania senator said on CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper," adding, "It's a distraction. It starts to undermine his ability to get the agenda done."
Ok, so Pat hates the rampant sexism and blatant disrespect for the First Amendment because it gets in the way of "the agenda"?

But he's still on board with the agenda?

Would that include the policy shift outlined in this morning's tweet?
So presumably, Pat, the guy you voted for, the guy you're usually defending (or at least giving political cover to), would be OK with not only the 20+ million fewer insured Americans but with all the newly-insured because of Obamacare becoming no-longer insured because of the inability of the Congreess to pass Trumpcare. Trump's OK with tossing those with pre-existing conditions out of the affordable insurance marketplace until you can manufacture a replacement.

Are you?

You don't like it when he insults a female journalist with a bloody tweet (I take it his bloody Megyn Kelly attack wasn't quite enough to sway your presidential vote) but are you OK with his latest attack on those who'd more than likely lose their health insurance if you follow his latest policy shift?

Which part of this is maddening, Pat?  Which part?

June 29, 2017

Senator Pat Toomey Gets Fact-Checked By Politifact

In case you missed it, Pennsylvania's junior Senator, Pat Toomey, got fact-checked by Politifact a few days ago.

It was about this:
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania has made clear he supports the Senate’s new health care bill, which is expected to be voted on this week. The Republican said on CBS’s "Face the Nation" Sunday the plan would "make permanent" Medicaid expansion and that the federal government would "pay the lion’s share of the cost."

"Remember, Obamacare created a new category of eligibility," Toomey continued. "Working-age, able-bodied adults with no dependents for the first time became eligible for Medicaid if their income is below 138 percent of the poverty level. We’re going to continue that eligibility. No one loses coverage."
The eligibility continues - remember that? We all know that's BS.

But Pat said - he said it right there - that "No one loses coverage."

But his office has since clarified:
Steve Kelly, Toomey’s press secretary, said that when the Senator said "no one loses coverage" he was referring to federal eligibility for expanded Medicaid and was not saying no single person would lose coverage.
So when he said "No one loses coverage" he didn't exactly mean that no one loses coverage.

How is that not a lie, Pat?

Then there's the funding aspect:
[Urban Institute Senior Analyst Matthew] Buettgens said moving a greater amount of the cost burden to states would leave them with difficult choices. To make up for the shortfall, they’d likely either have to raise taxes, pay providers less or cut Medicaid benefits. He said failure or inability to do so could lead to a loss in coverage for some individuals.

"Basically if states aren’t willing to raise taxes, pay providers less or cut benefits they will have to cut enrollment," Buettgens said.

[Sara Rosenbaum, the Harold and Jane Hirsh Professor of Health Law at George Washington], said some states would likely make up for the increased costs and others wouldn’t, as the CBO projected for the House health care bill.

"But the notion that these people will continue to have Medicaid is just absurd," Rosenbaum said. "It rests on an assumption states will keep covering people as they are today once the enhancement money is gone."
Does Pat Toomey really think that the Republican legislature in Harrisburg will raise taxes to cover Medicaid for poorer Pennsylvanians?

Of course not. That's just absurd. They're gonna pay providers less (which will lead to lower benefits) or cut enrollment.

Polifact's ruling:
So Toomey is correct that eligibility for a certain class of adults who qualify for Medicaid under Obamacare and previously hadn’t continues under the Senate plan. But it’s possible, even likely, individuals enrolled in Medicaid under the Obama expansion would lose coverage if states decline to cover the shortfall they’ll face after the federal government reduces its share of expanded Medicaid costs.

We rule the claim Half True.
I'd go further. Since Pat Toomey has to know that he's presenting a, shall we say, less than accurate picture of his healthcare plan, one designed to let people interpret it in a way that's actually counter to reality, I'd have to say that he's guilty of a lie of omission.

Politifact defines "Half True" as "The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context." Whereas I would have gone with at least a "Mostly False" here: "The statement contains some element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression."

June 28, 2017

Senator Toomey Responds! (Or, rather, "Responds")

It's been a while since we've heard from Pennsylvania's jr Senator. Initially, he wrote back to me via the USPS but then he started responding via email.

Yesterday was no exception. It was email. Which is good for me because it's easier to cut and paste his responses.

So what was he responding to? Which of my NINETEEN (so far) letters is he answering?

His first line is a clue:
Thank you for contacting me about Russian actions during the 2016 election. I appreciate hearing from you.
Before we go any further, I just noticed something. Toomey's first sentence in response to my ninth letter begins like this:
Thank you for contacting me about the situation in Syria. I appreciate hearing from you.
And his response to my seventh letter begins like this:
Thank you for contacting me about United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch. I appreciate hearing from you.
Hmm. I'm beginning to think there's a pattern here.

Anyway, which letter could it be? Toomey's next paragraph offers a clue-er-two:
Former FBI Director James Comey recently testified before Congress that an investigation into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government is still ongoing. While the former director did not say whether any coordination has been found, he confirmed there is no evidence of vote tampering. President Trump recently fired Mr. Comey, and has nominated Christopher Wray as the next FBI director. It is now up to the Senate to vet and confirm this nomination.
There are only three of my letters that mention Comey:
  • The Sixth - but that's about Trump's false allegation lie about the Obama Administration wiretapping him.
  • The Thirteenth - but that's about Trump's leaking of sensitive intelligence to the Russian Ambassador in the Oval Office, not about Russian interference in our recent election.
  • The Fourteenth - but that was about Trump firing Comey and calling him a "nut job."
As far as I can tell, I've never actually asked Senator Toomey about Comey investigating any "potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government" so I am at a loss as to which letter he's answering.

In any event, here's the letter in its entirety:
Thank you for contacting me about Russian actions during the 2016 election. I appreciate hearing from you.

Former FBI Director James Comey recently testified before Congress that an investigation into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government is still ongoing. While the former director did not say whether any coordination has been found, he confirmed there is no evidence of vote tampering. President Trump recently fired Mr. Comey, and has nominated Christopher Wray as the next FBI director. It is now up to the Senate to vet and confirm this nomination.

In the interim, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to continue the investigation into any links between Russia and individuals associated with the Trump campaign, and any matters that arose from such investigation - an assignment that encompasses the recent allegations surrounding Michael Flynn and Mr. Comey. I have every confidence that Robert Mueller will execute these responsibilities with integrity and professionalism.

I look forward to reviewing the findings of Special Counsel Mueller and the findings by the various House and Senate Committees investigating these issues. If the Russian government or its agents meddled in our election, they should face serious consequences. Towards that end, I was pleased to support legislation (S. 722) that codified and strengthened existing sanctions on Russia. If the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government in an attempt to influence the election, then that should be disclosed and acted upon, too. Russia remains a dangerous threat, and Congress must remain vigilant against our adversaries' attempts to expand their influence and undermine trust in our government.

While I am not a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, please be assured I understand your concerns and will keep your thoughts in mind moving forward. Thank you again for your correspondence. Do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of assistance.
A few take-aways from the letter:
  • He said he appreciates hearing from me and that I should not hesitate to contact him in the future.
  • He said he has "every confidence that Robert Mueller will execute these responsibilities (the investigation into any links between Russia and individuals associated with the Trump campaign, and any matters that arose from such investigation - an assignment that encompasses the recent allegations surrounding Michael Flynn and Mr. Comey) with integrity and professionalism." Though I don't know what Comey allegations he's referring to.
  • He said, that if the Russian government/agents interfered in the election, "they should face serious consequences."
  • He said that if the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians, "then that should be disclosed and acted upon, too." Though you'll note that the language he used was much less harsh than the "serious consequences" for Russia. 
And here's the questions from the above letters that he didn't answer:
  • Sixth Letter - "Ok, so here's the thing. If there's no evidence that supports those tweets (about Obama wiretapping him), then there has never been any evidence to support those tweets. And yet, Trump repeated the allegation as recently as this week in his press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

    This, after numerous other refutations of his charge by former NSA/CIA director Michael Hayden, former DNI James Clapper and others.

    The facts are clear and yet Donald Trump continues to push this untruth. So here's my question: How much does this erode your confidence in his ability as a leader?"
  • Thirteenth Letter - "Given the events of the last few days (the Comey firing and the disclosure of highly classified information to the Russians) do you a still have confidence in Donald J Trump's ability to be president and commander in chief? If not, what are your plans to deal with him? If you still do have confidence in his leadership abilities, considering the events of the past few days, what would it take for you to lose that confidence?"
  • Fourteenth Letter - "A few days ago the New York Times reported that Donald Trump, in his meeting in the Oval Office with the Russian Foreign Minister and the Russian Ambassador to the US, called the former head of the FBI James Comey (who he'd just fired) "crazy" and "a real nut job."

    Here's my question: Are you OK with any of this?

    Are you OK with the president of the United States in effect bragging to the Russian Ambassador that he'd just fired the guy in charge of the investigation into whatever connections there may have existed between his presidential campaign and Russian intelligence?

    Are you OK with his characterization of Comey as "crazy" and "a real nutjob" during that brag?"
It's nice to see Senator Toomey supporting Robert Mueller and going on the record saying that if there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians then that's something to be "acted upon." To be honest, I'd rather get an answer to "given all of Trump's shenanagans, what would it take for Toomey to lose confidence in him?" or whether he's OK with Trump lying about being wiretapped and so on.

Time will tell. More letters to Toomey to come. I promise.

June 27, 2017

My NINETEENTH Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey (Updated)

I'll be dropping this letter to Senator Pat Toomey in the mail today:
Dear Senator Toomey:

It's me, again. Your constituent who also writes for the local Pittsburgh-based political blog, "2 Political Junkies."

My apologies, Senator. But we're still going to have to talk about the bill you drafted, the "Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017" and its projected effect on the American people.

The progressive think-tank the Center for American Progress estimated that your draft bill, if enacted into law, could result in the deaths of as many as 27,000 Americans in 2026, due to their lost of the insurance coverage. I realize you might not have gotten around to reading the report (or indeed any) report from a progressive think-tank, but there is significant evidence that points to significant health benefits stemming from increased access to health insurance.

They based those numbers from the recently released CBO report. The second paragraph of the report states:
The Senate bill would increase the number of people who are uninsured by 22 million in 2026 relative to the number under current law, slightly fewer than the increase in the number of uninsured estimated for the House-passed legislation.
Even if the Center for American Progress is wrong, the CBO is still estimating that 22 million fewer Americans will be insured, thanks to your draft bill.

Are you OK with that?

Are you OK with the possibility of thousands of Americans dying so that you can make sure those who are already wealthy can get just a little wealthier?

I await your response.
And I will be posting whatever response I get from him or his office.

Follow-up: 
UPDATE: Senator Toomey responded (I'm pretty sure) to this letter. 

June 26, 2017

On Language

Yesterday was Eric Blair's birthday. He was born on June 25 in 1903 in Motihari, India.

You probably know him by his pen name: George Orwell.

He's the guy who wrote 1984 and Animal Farm (two books you should really read before they've all been bonfired.)

In 1946, a few years before he died, Orwell published an essay titled "Politics and the English Language." It's probably something else you should probably read.

Here's a taste:
In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. [British spelling and italics in original]
A day or so ago in Time:
White House Senior Adviser Kellyanne Conway denied that the Senate's health care bill would cut Medicaid, even though the draft revealed Thursday suggests otherwise.

"These are not cuts to Medicaid,"Conway told George Stephanopoulos on ABC's This Week. "This slows the rate for the future and it allows governors more flexibility with Medicaid dollars because they're closest to the people in need."

But the draft of the health care bill Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released on Thursday includes steep cuts to Medicaid, aiming to phase out the federal funding implemented under Obamacare for states to expand Medicaid eligibility.
So it's not a cut in funding. It simply "slows the rate for the future" and so on.

June 25, 2017

Revisiting Pat Toomey's Flawed "Defense" Of His Flawed Healthcare Bill

Hey, remember yesterday when we found out that Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey was misleaing you, his Pennsylvania constituents, about his Obamacare replacement bill?

Well, I'm not the only one.

Over at Whatifpost, Rob Cullen did basically the same thing (if by "basically" I can mean he covered more of Pat's disassembling with a wider range of information - hahahaha!).

Take a look at a few examples of Cullen's work.

Pat wrote:
The reason is simple: The foundation of Obamacare, a dramatically enhanced federal role in health insurance, has failed to deliver on the promises of its architects.
Rob countered:
Obamacare hasn’t delivered on every one of its promises, but it has inarguably delivered on its biggest: fewer people are uninsured than at any time in America’s history, and they have coverage that actually protects them when they get ill. Here’s the CBO’s coverage estimates for Obamacare vs. the House bill, which, like the Senate version, ends the Medicaid expansion and cuts tax credits to help purchase insurance:
Including some art:


Then there's this from Pat:
Millions, who liked their plans and their doctors, couldn’t keep them.
And this from Rob:
Only 2.2% of Americans who purchased coverage on their own (400,000 people), and just 0.3% of Americans with coverage through their employer (500,000 people), had their health insurance policies cancelled when the ACA took effect in 2014. Not millions.
Now on this one I have to call a technical. 900,000 is close to a being million and a million  is close to being "millions" so I guess technically what Pat said  is close to being true.

Haha.  I'm only kidding.  Pat's BSing us all here, too.

But here's some bigly BS from our junior Senator:
Republicans have begun the process to roll back this misguided experiment, and the first step is to address the most immediate challenges presented by Obamacare’s collapse.
And from Rob:
Again, the CBO has made it clear that Obamacare was not on the verge of collapse.
Had I written this, I have to be honest, I would have gone with a few other links than Vox.

Like these:
  • Snope:
    Republicans repeatedly claim that Obamacare is in a “death spiral,” collapsing of its own weight. This is wishful thinking on their part, with little evidence to support it.
  • The Washington Times:
    Obamacare in a death spiral? It’s been a mantra of Republicans, who say the law is collapsing and they are riding to the rescue.

    But the Congressional Budget Office, in a little-noticed part of its report last week, said that is not the case. In fact, the CBO analysts said, Obamacare’s exchanges are likely to “be stable in most areas” under the existing law.

    The analysts said the key is the tax subsidies the government provides to most of those buying plans on the exchanges. As premiums go up, so does the amount the government pays out to help people buy their coverage — meaning there will always be a pool of customers.
  • CBO:
    Under current law, most subsidized enrollees purchasing health insurance coverage in the nongroup market are largely insulated from increases in premiums because their out-of-pocket payments for premiums are based on a percentage of their income; the government pays the difference. The subsidies to purchase coverage combined with the penalties paid by uninsured people stemming from the individual mandate are anticipated to cause sufficient demand for insurance by people with low health care expenditures for the market to be stable.
Did Pat get anything right in his defense of his cruel bill?

Rob Cullen gets the last word:
Over a million Pennsylvanians rely on [Obamacare] for coverage, and the Senate bill (which Toomey apparently supports) guts the funding that makes their coverage affordable. It then goes a step forward and guts federal funding for traditional Medicaid, putting Pennsylvania’s disabled, children, and elderly at risk.

June 24, 2017

Senator Pat Toomey's Defense Of His ACA Replacement (SPOILER: He's Lying About Medicaid)

Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey has, luckily for us, posted an explanation/defense of his "draft bill" to replace Obamacare.

This gives us a very good opportunity to contrast/compare what he says about the bill with the reality of the bill.  For example, he writes:
Despite inaccurate reports to the contrary, the Senate draft bill keeps Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid, the program for low-income Americans. Obamacare created a new category of eligibility: working age, able-bodied, childless adults. Under the Senate bill, both the 700,000 Pennsylvanians who signed up for this expansion and future expansion enrollees will retain their federal eligibility for the program. In fact, the federal government will pay at least 90 percent of their costs through 2020, with states paying the balance. Then, over a four-year phase-in period, states wishing to cover this new category of recipients will be required to pay their fair share — only 48 percent in Pennsylvania — for the Medicaid expansion. This is the same amount states currently pay for every traditional Medicaid category: the aged, disabled, children, and families.
The Senate's bill keeps the expansion and enrollees retain their federal eligibility.  That's what Pat Toomey said.

So what's changed?  Ah, Pat you hinted at it but you left out an uber-important part, dinja?

From AARP:
The Senate bill would restructure the Medicaid program, which provides health care coverage for 74 million poor and low-income adults, children, pregnant women and people with disabilities. Medicaid also pays for long-term care services and supports, including home- and community-based care, and covers two-thirds of the care for people living in nursing homes.

The bill would phase out the additional federal funding 31 states and Washington, D.C., receive to expand their Medicaid populations. This phaseout would leave states with a huge deficit. [Emphasis added.]
The program would still be there.  The eligibility would still be there. But the funding wont be (thanks be to Pat).

AARP has more on that point:
These changes mean less federal money would be available to the states for Medicaid. Starting in 2025, the rate of growth of the per capita cap would decline significantly, meaning even deeper cuts to the program. Given the aging demographics of the country, the cap would not keep pace with the funding necessary to support the needs of the senior and disabled population.
Pat also wrote:
The Senate draft proposal will not affect that vast majority of Pennsylvania families who receive their coverage through an employer, Medicare, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Bu-u-u-u-t, the scaling back of Medicaid funding DOES effect children's health, doesn't it, Pat?

Take a look at this from the President of the American Academy of Pediatrics:
The bill fails children by dismantling the Medicaid program, capping its funding, ending its expansion and allowing its benefits to be scaled back. The bill fails all children by leaving more families uninsured, or without insurance they can afford or that meets their basic needs. This bill fails children living in or near poverty, children in foster care and children with complex health care needs whose parents have private insurance – all of these children depend on Medicaid, and if this bill passes, Medicaid will no longer be there for them.

The bill includes misleading ‘protections’ for children by proposing to exempt them from certain Medicaid cuts. A ‘carve-out’ for children with ‘medically complex’ health issues does little to protect their coverage when the base program providing the coverage is stripped of its funding. Doing so forces states to chip away coverage in other ways, by not covering children living in poverty who do not have complex health conditions, or by scaling back the benefits that children and their families depend on. This bill would make a child’s access to health care dependent on his or her ZIP code and force states to make decisions about which vulnerable population gets services. Put simply, this bill is bad policy for children.
So you seen what he did? He lied by not tell you the whole truth.

And for what? Pat brushes against it a few times but doesn't quite come out and say it. But the AP does:
Senate Republicans’ new health bill cuts taxes by nearly $1 trillion over the next decade, mostly for corporations and the richest families in America.
As does CNBC:
The health-care bill the GOP rolled out on Thursday morning will retain the nearly $1 trillion in tax cuts previously proposed, with few minor differences.

This means the Senate health-care bill's tax breaks would go primarily to the wealthy, with 40 percent of savings going to the top 1 percent of earners and 64 percent of savings going to the top 20 percent of earners.
For the sake of shuffling off all that money to the very wealthy, Pat Toomey's cutting funding for the medical care of the very poor.

That's simply reprehensible, Pat.  Cruel, mean and reprehensible.

And now you own it, Pat. This work is yours. Forever. Congratulations.

June 23, 2017

Thanks, Senator Toomey! This Is YOUR Draft Legislation.

As much as I love to write about how Trump lied (or is still lying) about the "Comey tapes" I think a more important issue is how the GOP in the Senate plans to "fix" Obamacare.

From ConsumerReports, there's an analysis.  Under the headline there's this one sentence summary:
The Better Care Act would roll out more slowly than the House proposal, but funding cuts could be even more severe
And then they begin:
Republicans moved closer to their goal of replacing the Affordable Care Act Thursday, with Senate Republicans issuing a plan that significantly restricts access to Medicaid and eliminates billions of dollars in taxes for companies and higher-income people.

The plan was hatched in a matter of weeks by a small group of senators meeting in secret. In many key ways, it's similar to the American Health Care Act, passed by the House in May after several failed attempts.

Thursday’s legislation, dubbed the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, gives the public—as well as senators who weren’t in on the discussions—the first detailed look at how the Senate proposes to amend the AHCA.
One of that "small group of senators" was Pennsylvania's own Pat Toomey. And yes, that's a pun, of sorts. He owns this. This is his work.  Back to what Toomey's work:
Medicaid expansion is phased out more slowly. Under the ACA, the Medicaid expansion brought health insurance to 14 million Americans who didn't previously qualify. The Senate pledges to continue to fund the expansion through 2021 and phase it out over three years. The House bill would have phased out and then stopped funding in 2020.

But funding for Medicaid is cut more drastically. Beyond the expansion, both the House and Senate legislation make fundamental changes to how the federal government pays for Medicaid, changes that have nothing to do with ACA provisions. But the Senate proposal would make even deeper cuts than the House plan. It would shrink the annual growth rate in federal funding to state Medicaid programs to align with consumer inflation—not medical inflation, which grows faster. [Bolding in original.]
And then there's this from President Obama:
The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else. Those with private insurance will experience higher premiums and higher deductibles, with lower tax credits to help working families cover the costs, even as their plans might no longer cover pregnancy, mental health care, or expensive prescriptions.
Cutting Medicaid. Tax cuts for the wealthy. Lotsa people will suffer while a few will have more money for a second luxury car.

It's mean and it's cruel and it came from the pen of Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey.

Thanks, Pat!  We'll remember this day.

June 22, 2017

The Latest On Trump's (Alleged) Obstruction Of Justice

From Politico:
In an interview with POLITICO Wednesday in his Capitol office, [Republican senator Chuck] Grassley was the most definitive yet that his committee’s probe will examine issues of obstruction of justice.

“I don’t want to say for sure. But I don’t know how you can avoid it,” Grassley said regarding questions of obstruction of justice in his investigation. “Because the FBI was investigating it before there was a special counsel.”

The Iowa senator, who took charge of the Judiciary panel two years ago, has been hammering out the parameters of an investigation with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on probing Comey’s dismissal, as well as potential political interference at the Justice Department under the Obama administration.

Grassley and Feinstein, along with two other key senators in the Russia probe, met with special counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday.
Amber Phillips over at the Washington Post has a "cheat sheet" for the current Trump investigations:
  • A special counsel on Russia 
  • The FBI Investigation
  • Various congressional committees
Of that last point, she writes:
The House and Senate intelligence committees, which deal with some of the nation’s most well-kept secrets, are investigating Russia’s attempt to influence the U.S. presidential election and Trump associates’ connections to Russia.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which oversees the federal government, is asking the FBI for Comey’s memos. So is the Senate Judiciary Committee.
How many days has the little-handed pussy-grabber been in office, anyway?

June 21, 2017

Meanwhile Outside...

From NOAA (the Climate Scientists left working for the science denier Trump):
Averaged as a whole, the global land and ocean temperature for May 2017 was 0.83°C (1.49°F) above the 20th century average of 14.8°C (58.6°F) and the third highest May in the 138-year global records, behind 2016 (+0.89°C / +1.60°F) and 2015 (+0.86°C / +1.55°F). This was also the coolest monthly temperature departure from average since December 2016 (0.80°C / 1.44°F) and tied with April 2010, November 2013, and December 2014 as the 26th highest monthly global land and ocean temperature departure from average in the 1,649-monthly records. May 2017 also marks the 389th consecutive month with globally-average temperature nominally above the 20th century average. December 1984 was the last time a monthly temperature was below the 20th century average at -0.09°C (-0.16°F).
And:
Globally, the average land and ocean surface temperature for March–May 2017 was the second highest such period since global temperature records began in 1880 at 0.92°C (1.66°F) above the 20th century average of 13.7°C (56.7°F) and behind 2016 by 0.15°C (0.27°F).
Meanwhile, from the White House, according to NYMag:
“For some reason or another,” says Vice-President Mike Pence, “this issue of climate change has emerged as a paramount issue for the left in this country and around the world.” Might that reason be … a global scientific consensus that greenhouse-gas emissions pose a dire risk to humanity? Pence does not pause to consider it, instead moving on to the “burden” of Paris and how “refreshing” it is to finally have a president who stands up for American interests.

The Trump administration has been conspicuously silent on the question of climate science. When George Stephanopoulos asked Kellyanne Conway about Trump’s stance on climate change, she replied, “He believes in clean air, clean water, a clean environment.” Press Secretary Sean Spicer, asked whether the president still dismisses climate science as a Chinese hoax, said, “Honestly, I haven’t asked him.” EPA Director Scott Pruitt, himself a confirmed skeptic, refused to answer whether Trump believes in climate change. A White House official deflected the question by insisting, “I have not talked to the president about his personal views,” and then shut down follow-up questions as “off topic.”
Nevertheless, let me persist in saying that it's still getting warmer out there and that human activity significantly contributes to that warming - something, by the way, Senator Pat Toomey voted against..

June 20, 2017

My EIGHTEENTH Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey

I'll be dropping this letter to Senator Pat Toomey in the mail today:
Dear Senator Toomey:

It's me, again. Your constituent who also writes for the local Pittsburgh-based political blog, "2 Political Junkies."

I need to ask you again about the GOP's plans to appeal and replace Obamacare. Last week, I asked you why we, your constituents (and members of the American public), couldn't see the draft of the replacement you're working on. It seems that you and your party are planning on sliding it in for a vote with little or no public discussion.

This week, however, I'd like to draw your attention to some recent poll data by Kaiser Health. When they asked in May 2017, "As you may know, a health reform bill was signed into law in 2010. Given what you know about the health reform law, do you have a generally favorable or generally unfavorable opinion of it?" 49% of those polled (if I am reading it correctly) said they approved of the ACA with 42% opposed. Those numbers are more or less in line with the current (June 2017) data at Real Clear Politics.

Given that the public approves of Obamacare more than it opposes it, I'll ask it again, why are you drafting its replacement in secret?

I await your response.
And I will be posting whatever response I get from him or his office.

Follow-up: 

June 19, 2017

JUNETEENTH

By the President of the United States of America:

A Proclamation.

Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

"That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

"That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States."

Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:

Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.

And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.

And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.

And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-seventh.

By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN

June 15, 2017

And So It Begins...Mueller Is Investigating Trump For Obstruction Of Justice

From The Washington Post:
The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said.

The move by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said.
And:
Officials said one of the exchanges of potential interest to Mueller took place on March 22, less than a week after Coats was confirmed by the Senate to serve as the nation’s top intelligence official.

Coats was attending a briefing at the White House with officials from several other government agencies. When the briefing ended, as The Washington Post previously reported, Trump asked everyone to leave the room except for Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

Coats told associates that Trump had asked him whether Coats could intervene with Comey to get the bureau to back off its focus on former national security adviser Michael Flynn in its Russia probe, according to officials. Coats later told lawmakers that he never felt pressured to intervene.

A day or two after the March 22 meeting, Trump telephoned Coats and Rogers to separately ask them to issue public statements denying the existence of any evidence of coordination between his campaign and the Russian government.

Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the president’s requests, officials said.
If this wasn't serious before, it's certainly serious now.  From Paul Rosenzweig over at Lawfare:
What's the worst thing that happened to Donald Trump this week? It was NOT Director Comey's testimony. Rather, it must be the late Friday news that Robert Mueller has hired Michael Dreeben, on a part-time basis, to help with his investigation. Dreeben, a deputy in the Office of the Solicitor General, has argued more than 100 cases before the Supreme Court. His specialty has, for the last 20 years, been criminal matters and he has an encyclopedic knowledge of criminal law. I once saw him argue a Supreme Court matter without a single note. In short, he is quite possibly the best criminal appellate lawyer in America (at least on the government's side). That Mueller has sought his assistance attests both to the seriousness of his effort and the depth of the intellectual bench he is building.
Rosenzweig is a Visiting Fellow at the Heritage Foundation so you know he's a lyin' lib'rul.

Also on Mueller's team, as reported by The Washington Post:
Mueller’s team includes Jeannie Rhee, a former deputy assistant attorney general and a partner in the investigations practice at WilmerHale, and Andrew Weissmann, the chief of the Justice Department’s fraud section who oversaw corruption investigations including the probe into cheating by Volkswagen on diesel emissions tests.

Mueller, who is working with a team of FBI agents, has also brought on Aaron Zebley, who was Mueller’s chief of staff when Mueller was FBI director, and James Quarles, who worked as an assistant special prosecutor on the Watergate Special Prosecution Force and was also an attorney at WilmerHale.
And then Wired has this:
Also, while the Special Counsel’s office has yet to make any formal announcements about Mueller’s team, it appears he has recruited an experienced Justice Department trial attorney, Lisa Page, a little-known figure outside the halls of Main Justice but one whose résumé boasts intriguing hints about where Mueller’s Russia investigation might lead. Page has deep experience with money laundering and organized crime cases, including investigations where she’s partnered with an FBI task force in Budapest, Hungary, that focuses on eastern European organized crime. That Budapest task force helped put together the still-unfolding money laundering case against Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash, a one-time business partner of [Paul] Manafort.
And just think, it was only yesterday that we read that Senator Pat Toomey said of Donald Trump:
That's because nobody has found any evidence that suggests that he should be the subject of an investigation. So, yeah, this is just wildly overblown and fortunately most of us are not paying any attention.
My advice to you Senator, is that you probably can' say things like this anymore.

June 14, 2017

Senator Pat Toomey In The News - He's Covering For Donald Trump And It's REALLY Disappointing.

From CNN:
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey said Tuesday called the investigation into possible collusion between members of Donald Trump's presidential campaign and Russia "overblown" and said he isn't paying much attention to it.

"I have seen that (Sen.) Dianne Feinstein has stated to her credit -- liberal Democrat who has been on the intelligence committee for I don't know, for decades I think -- she has acknowledged that there is absolutely no evidence of any collusion anywhere," Toomey said on the Chris Stigall Show on WPHT radio. "(Sen.) Mark Warner has said, the Democrat from Virginia, has said the exact same thing. (Former FBI Director) James Comey told us at the hearing that the President himself is not the subject of investigation.

"That's because nobody has found any evidence that suggests that he should be the subject of an investigation. So, yeah, this is just wildly overblown and fortunately most of us are not paying any attention."
This is not exactly what one could call "accurate" is it?  Let's take the Senator Feinstein part first.

Senator Toomey says that she "acknowledged that there is absolutely no evidence of any collusion anywhere" but that's not exactly what she said.  She said on CNN that she hasn't seen any evidence that would establish collusion.  Not that there "absolutely isn't any." She's also depending on the Mueller investigation to find whatever is there.

In logical terms, Senator, that's a far cry from acknowledging that there "is absolutely no evidence...anywhere" doncha think?

So that's a lie, isn't it?

But is the Comey similarly innacurate?

Why yes, yes it is.  Take a look at this from Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine:
It is true that Comey told Trump that the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation was not targeting him personally at the time. But many portions of Comey’s testimony also indicated just how precarious that assurance was. Comey explained that his leadership team did not agree on whether they could even give Trump this assurance at all.
And Chait quotes this from Comey's testimony:
Wasn’t unanimous. One of the members of the leadership team had a view you that although it was technically true we did not have a counter-intelligence file case open on then President-elect Trump. His concern was because we’re looking at the potential, again, that’s the subject of the investigation, coordination between the campaign and Russia, because it was President Trump, President-elect Trump’s campaign, this person’s view was inevitably his behavior, his conduct will fall within the scope of that work. And so he was reluctant to make the statement. I disagreed. I thought it was fair to say what was literally true.
And then Comey's expansion of the above:
And the leader had that view that didn’t change. His view was still that it was probably although literally true, his concern was it could be misleading, because the nature of the investigation was such that it might well touch, obviously it would touch, the campaign, and the person that headed the campaign would be the candidate, and so that was his view throughout.
Chait explains:
Comey used the word “technically” once, and “literally” twice, to describe the non-investigation of Trump. And he explained the reason for these caveats: The FBI was investigating the Trump campaign. Since Trump ran the Trump campaign, it seemed highly plausible that the investigation could and would eventually lead to Trump himself. [Italics in original.]
The "we're not investigating you" part was about the Steele dossier. Back to Comey's testimony:
I was briefing him about salacious and unverified material. It was in a context of that that he had a strong and defensive reaction about that not being true. My reading of it was it was important for me to assure him we were not person investigating him. So the context then was actually narrower, focused on what I just talked to him about. It was very important because it was, first, true, and second, I was worried very much about being in kind of a J. Edgar Hoover-type situation. I didn’t want him thinking I was briefing him on this to sort of hang it over him in some way.
Look at all that's gone missing from Senator Pat Toomey's deceptive "Comey told us at the hearing that the President himself is not the subject of investigation."

The biggest part of Toomey's Trump cover?

It's this.  When Senator Cotton asked one very simple question:
Cotton: Do you think Donald Trump colluded with Russia?

Comey: That’s a question I don’t think I should answer in an opening setting. As I said, when I left, we did not have an investigation focused on President Trump. But that’s a question that will be answered by the investigation, I think.
Hey, isn't that basically was Senator Feinstein said? 

In any event, if the answer was a simple "no" why didn't he just say "no"? If the answer was "there's absolutely evidence of any collusion anywhere" why didn't he just say that instead of "I don’t think I should answer in an opening setting."?

Senator Pat Toomey is giving political cover to the little-handed pussy-grabber.

How disappointing, Senator.


June 13, 2017

My SEVENTEENTH Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey

I'll be dropping this letter to Senator Pat Toomey in the mail today:
Dear Senator Toomey:

It's me, again. Your constituent who also writes for the local Pittsburgh-based political blog, "2 Political Junkies."

In May, the New York Times reported that you were one of the dozen or so Senators making up Senator Mitch McConnell's health care working group - a group dedicated to writing the Senate's bill to replace Obamacare.

This week, Axios reported that the Senate, without making the bill public, will be sending it to the CBO for scoring and that no one knows when it will be made public. It was also reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will want it voted on before the July 4 recess. Given that it would take about two weeks for the CBO to analyze it and given that that leaves only about a week for the Senate (and the rest of us?) to look at it, I'd like to ask you: Why can't we, your constituents, see the bill you helped draft?

I await your response.
And I will be posting whatever response I get from him or his office.

Follow-up: 

June 11, 2017

More Voter ID Shenanigans From The Tribune-Review

Let's take a break from the impending impeachment of the little-handed pussy-grabber and take a look at some more regular conservative disinformation, shall we?

Like this piece on today's Tribune-Review op-ed page:
The liberal narrative that voter fraud is a figment of conservatives' imagination took an illuminating turn in Virginia, where a voter-integrity group has documented 5,500 noncitizen registrants between 2011 and 2017. At least 1,852 of them cast ballots during that time.

One noncitizen said she voted in 14 different elections and wasn't removed from the voter rolls until she, herself, reported being a noncitizen, according to a new report by the Public Interest Legal Foundation. Based on the group's findings, the largest number of ineligible votes cast in a Virginia election were 1,065 in 2008, a presidential election year.
If you are fact-checking at home (and that's something I'd encourage EVERY citizen of EVERY political persuasion to do - especially now in the Age of Trump) the first thing to check is this "voter-integrity" group named the "Public Interest Legal Foundation."

Who are they? Who runs the shop? Do they do good work? And finally, is the Trib completely honest in calling them a "voter-integrity group"?

It's that last question where the Trib first trips up. This is how The Daily Signal describes the PILF in a piece on this exact report:
Virginia election officials removed thousands of voters from voter rolls between 2011 and May 2017, according to a conservative legal organization.

In a report released Tuesday, the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a conservative legal group, found 5,556 voters were removed because they were noncitizens and that one-third of those removed voted illegally.[Emphasis added.]
And before you wonder whether The Daily Caller Signal is some biased left-wing "news" website, take a look at this from their "About" page:
More and more people are grabbing bites of news from mobile devices on the go—and they need a place where they can find digestible, trusted news on the most important policy debate of the day.

That’s why the Heritage Foundation team created a digital-first, multimedia news platform called The Daily Signal. [Emphasis added.]
So when The Daily Caller Signal says the PILF is a "conservative legal group", it's The Heritage Foundation talking.

So the first question you have to ask yourself right now is: Why doesn't the Tribune-Review editorial board want you to know that the PILF is conservative?  It's certainly ok for the (Scaife-funded) Heritage Foundation to say so, so why not the Trib?

Do they think that it'll negatively frame your opinion of the report?  Why would that be, exactly?

Now, let's look at whether the report can be trusted. At 24 pages, it's probably ill-advised to go page-by-page (I'd probably lose your interest at page 5 or so) so let's just look at one "astonishing" example.

This one, on page 17:
In one astonishing example, a non-citizen was invited to remain on the voter rolls even after he had informed election officials he was an alien.When William Leslie Gray registered to vote in 2007, he checked “yes” in response to the application’s citizenship question. In 2010, Mr. Gray renewed his driver’s license and on his application, he checked “no” to the citizenship question.

The inconsistencies in Mr. Gray’s answers alerted election officials that he might not be eligible to vote. His registration, however, was not cancelled. Instead, Mr. Gray was mailed an “Affirmation of Citizenship,” which asked Mr. Gray to affirm, subject to penalty of law, that he was a U.S. citizen. Mr. Gray signed the form and returned it. In May 2015, Mr. Gray’s voter registration was cancelled after election officials determined that he was, in fact, not a U.S. citizen. [Emphasis added. You'll see why in a few paragraphs.]
There's an end note that leads to Exhibit 13.  Take a look at the chronology here:
  • 02/12/2007 - Gray's driver's license application, where he checks the "yes" box
  • 02/18/2010 - Gray's renewal application, where he initials in the "no" box
  • 05/10/2010 - Gray's "Affirmation of Citizenship" form, where he declares he IS a citizen.
Now take a look at the internal notes and the chronology found there:


And what do we see?
  • 04/10/2010 - "Declared non-citizen cancelled" (this is AFTER Gray's license renewal form)
  • 05/17/2010 - "Returned Affirmation of Citizenship"
  • 05/18/2010 - "Reinstated"
  • 02/12/2015 - "Deceased"
Take a closer look at that chronology. So what happened in 2015? It clearly says that in 2015 William Gray is deceased (and that's what, presumably, gets him off the voter rolls - not any question of his citizenship). It also clearly states that he was reinstated Gray after they received his affirmation of citizenship.  The day after, in fact.

Now go back and look at how the report describes this paperwork.

This is the "astonishing example" they're using to prove non-citizens are voting in droves in Virginia. If such a big part of the report is so obviously wrong what does that say about the rest of it?

These are lies, plain and simple - it's hardly surprising they show up on the Trib's Op-Ed page.

UPDATE: I mislabeled The Daily Signal.  Sorry.

June 9, 2017

Dishonest Donald - Comey Testimony



Via the Washington Post:
“Although the law required no reason at all to fire an FBI director, the administration then chose to defame me — and, more importantly, the FBI — by saying the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader,” Comey said. “Those were lies, plain and simple.”
And:
“I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting,” Comey said. “It led me to believe that I gotta write it down, and I gotta write it down in a detailed way."
That last sentence came as a response to this question from Senator Warner:
I want to go through a number of the meetings that you referenced in your testimony, and let's start with the January 6th meeting in Trump Tower, where you went up with a series of officials to brief the President-elect on the Russia investigation. My understanding is you remained afterwards to brief him, on again, "Some personally sensitive aspects of the information you relayed." Now you said after that briefing you felt compelled to document that conversation that you actually started documenting it as soon as you got into the car.
January 6 was two weeks before Trump's inauguration.  Comey didn't trust Trump not to lie two weeks before Donald raised his tiny hand and took the Oath of Office.

How did Donald tweet respond this morning?

With this: 

He's evidently talking about Comey memo. It came up in his testimony when he was questioned by Senator Collins of Maine:
COLLINS: Okay. You mentioned that from your very first meeting with the president, you decided to write a memo memorializing the conversation. What was it about that very first meeting that made you write a memo when you have not done that with two previous presidents?

COMEY: As I said, a combination of things. A gut feeling is an important overlay, but the circumstances, that I was alone, the subject matter and the nature of the person I was interacting with and my read of that person. Yeah, and really just gut feel, laying on top of all of that, that this is going to be important to protect this organization, that I make records of this.

COLLINS: Finally, did you show copies of your memos to anyone outside of the department of justice?

COMEY: Yes.

COLLINS: And to whom did you show copies?

COMEY: I asked — the president tweeted on Friday after I got fired that I better hope there's not tapes. I woke up in the middle of the night on Monday night because it didn't dawn on me originally, that there might be corroboration for our conversation. There might a tape. My judgment was, I need to get that out into the public square. I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter. Didn't do it myself for a variety of reasons. I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel. I asked a close friend to do it.
And Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri:
BLUNT: One, I thought the March 30th, very interesting, you said, well, even though you don't want — you may not want — that was 27th, where he said, why don't you look into that more? You said, you may not want that because we couldn't say with — we couldn't answer the question about you being a target of the investigation. You didn't seem to be answering that question anyhow. Senator Rubio pointed out the one unanswered, unleaked question seems to have been that. In this whole period of time. You said something earlier and I don't want to fail to follow up on, you said after dismissed, you gave information to a friend so that friend could get that information into the public media.

COMEY: Correct.

BLUNT: What kind of information was that? What kind of information did you give to a friend?

COMEY: That the — the Flynn conversation. The president had asked me to let the Flynn — forgetting my exact own words. But the conversation in the Oval Office.

BLUNT: So you didn't consider your memo or your sense of that conversation to be a government document. You considered it to be, somehow, your own personal document that you could share to the media as you wanted through a friend?

COMEY: Correct. I understood this to be my recollection recorded of my conversation with the president. As a private citizen, I thought it important to get it out.

BLUNT: Were all your memos that you recorded on classified or other memos that might be yours as a private citizen?

COMEY: I'm not following the question.

BLUNT: You said you used classified —

COMEY: Not the classified documents. Unclassified. I don't have any of them anymore. I gave them to the special counsel. My view was that the content of those unclassified, memorialization of those conversations was my recollection recorded.

BLUNT: So why didn't you give those to somebody yourself rather than give them through a third party?

COMEY: Because I was weary the media was camping at the end of my driveway at that point. I was actually going out of town with my wife to hide. I worried it would be feeding seagulls at the beach. If it was I who gave it to the media. I asked my friend, make sure this gets out.
Trump, again dishonestly, is accusing Comey of being a leaker. But look closer at the timeline.  This was after Comey was fired, after he evidently turned over all of the classified government files that he had in his possession ("I don't have any of them anymore.")

Who to believe?  Someone who has lied repeatedly to the American people or, basically, anyone else on the planet?

June 8, 2017

Comey Statement - Obstruction of Justice or Not?

First, read the statement.

It was released by the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday.

So who's saying it's enough for an Obstruction charge and who isn't?

Jeffrey Toobin, of CNN:
Jonathan Turley, at USAToday:
The release of former FBI director James Comey's testimony on Wednesday was received with the same breathless reactions that have long characterized coverage of the Russian investigation. CNN ran comments that the Comey testimony was nothing short of the Watergate tapes. The desire for some indictable or impeachable offense by President Trump has distorted the legal analysis to an alarming degree. Analysts seem far too thrilled by the possibility of a crime by Trump. The legal fact is that Comey's testimony does not establish a prima facie — or even a strong — case for obstruction.
Lawfare has a good legaleze-filled analysis.  It all depends, as I read it, on the definition of "proceeding" and whether there is one:
There’s been a lot of talk of obstruction of justice of late, and we’ve been part of it. In the three weeks since President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey and two weeks since the New York Times bombshell report that Trump had asked Comey to drop the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, many commentators have examined whether evidence of President Trump’s behavior currently in the public record amounts to a prima facie case of obstruction of justice. In several prior pieces on Lawfare, writers looked at the question of how big a problem President Trump has under the obstruction statute.

The U.S. Attorneys’ Manual breaks down the three elements of an obstruction charge: “(1) there was a proceeding pending before a department or agency of the United States; (2) the defendant knew of or had a reasonably founded belief that the proceeding was pending; and (3) the defendant corruptly endeavored to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law under which the proceeding was pending.”

Our previous analysis focused on the third, and seemingly most complex, element: whether Trump’s conduct qualified as an effort to influence, obstruct, or impede justice and whether there is evidence that he possessed the requisite mental state to do so “corruptly.” Indeed, we took the first two elements as a given: “Here, the first two elements are abundantly clear. Assuming the Times account is correct, there was clearly an investigation, and Trump clearly knew about it.”

Not so fast, as it turns out. That statement missed an important and complex question—and one that may actually shield President Trump from exposure under the obstruction statute (though not under the impeachment clauses): whether an FBI investigation even counts as a “pending proceeding” for purposes of the agency obstruction of justice statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1505.
On the other hand, it ends with this:
In other words, it’s perfectly possible that Trump’s conduct is not cognizable as a violation of § 1505 but that Congress regards it nonetheless as a gross abuse of power for purposes of the impeachment clauses. In its impeachment function, Congress may not care how courts have narrowly defined “proceeding” or how precisely the conduct at issue maps onto to any specific criminal statute. Notably, Richard Nixon’s articles of impeachment charged “interfering or endeavoring to interfere with the conduct of investigations by the Department of Justice of the United States [and] the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” The articles cite no criminal statute at all.
So there's that.

June 7, 2017

This Is Not Surprising (Eric Trump Funnelled Charity Money To Dad)

This from some ultra-lib'rul snot-rag called Forbes.com:
LIKE AUTUMN LEAVES, sponsored Cadillacs, Ferraris and Maseratis descend on the Trump National Golf Club in Westchester County, New York, in September for the Eric Trump Foundation golf invitational. Year after year, the formula is consistent: 18 holes of perfectly trimmed fairways with a dose of Trumpian tackiness, including Hooters waitresses and cigar spreads, followed by a clubhouse dinner, dates encouraged. The crowd leans toward real estate insiders, family friends and C-list celebrities, such as former baseball slugger Darryl Strawberry and reality housewife (and bankruptcy-fraud felon) Teresa Giudice.

The real star of the day is Eric Trump, the president's second son and now the co-head of the Trump Organization, who has hosted this event for ten years on behalf of the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis. He's done a ton of good: To date, he's directed more than $11 million there, the vast majority of it via this annual golf event. He has also helped raise another $5 million through events with other organizations.

The best part about all this, according to Eric Trump, is the charity's efficiency: Because he can get his family's golf course for free and have most of the other costs donated, virtually all the money contributed will go toward helping kids with cancer. "We get to use our assets 100% free of charge," Trump tells Forbes.
The next sentence says it all in it's Trumpian-glory:
That's not the case.
Early on, it was so. But by 2011 (if I am reading the piece right) the board of the Eric Trump foundation was overweighed by people whose finances were intertwined with Donald Trump's. At that point, the son's charity was paying for the privilege of playing at the father's golf course.

But look at what happened during the transition:
At first the extra bills did not cost the Eric Trump Foundation anything. Shortly before the spike in costs, the Donald J. Trump Foundation donated $100,000 to the Eric Trump Foundation--a gift explicitly made, according to Gillule, to offset the increased budget. Thus, the Eric Trump donors were still seeing their money go to work for kids along the same lines as previous years.

The Eric Trump Foundation declined to comment on that donation. In effect, though, this maneuver would appear to have more in common with a drug cartel's money-laundering operation than a charity's best-practices textbook. That $100,000 in outside donations to the Donald J. Trump Foundation (remember: Trump himself didn't give to his own foundation at this time) passed through the Eric Trump Foundation--and wound up in the coffers of Donald Trump's private businesses.
So let's follow the money.  At some point, someone donated some cash to the Donald J. Trump foundation thinking that it would go to some good use.  The Donald foundation then turned around and donated 100 large to the Eric Trump Foundation to cover the latter's cost of using Donald's golf course.  The golf course would then then get reimbursed that amount for the use of said golf course and the money would go into (now wait for it) Donald J Trump's deep and dirty pockets.

But that was just the beginning.

Eventually:
THE COSTS FOR ERIC'S golf tournament quickly escalated. After returning, in 2012, to a more modest $59,000--while the event brought in a record $2 million--the listed costs exploded to $230,000 in 2013, $242,000 in 2014 and finally $322,000 in 2015 (the most recent on record, held just as Trump was ratcheting up his presidential campaign), according to IRS filings. This even though the amount raised at these events, in fact, never reached that 2012 high.
Trump the father was charging Trump the son for lots and lots of stuff related (and perhaps not related) to this charity event. Charity money funneled to the Trump Organization.

It's not personal, Sonny.  It's strictly business.

June 6, 2017

My SIXTEENTH Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey (UPDATE)

I'll be dropping this letter to Senator Pat Toomey in the mail today:
Dear Senator Toomey:

It's me, again. Your constituent who also writes for the local Pittsburgh-based political blog, "2 Political Junkies."

In light of Donald Trump's decision to remove the United States from the Paris Accord this past week, I'd like to ask you about your position on Climate Science. Specifically whether you agree or disagree with this statement:
Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver. These conclusions are based on multiple independent lines of evidence, and contrary assertions are inconsistent with an objective assessment of the vast body of peer-reviewed science.
That was from a letter sent to all United States Senators in October, 2009 but since you weren't elected Senator until 2010 you may not have seen it and it was signed by representatives of eighteen leading science organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Meteorological Society.

I just want to know if you agree with it.  A simple yes or no is all that's necessary.

I await your response.
And I will be posting whatever response I get from him or his office.

Senator Toomey "answered" this letter (but failed to answer it) here.

Follow-up: