Repub Venality Open Thread: Jefferson Davis Beauregard III Lives Out His Authoritarian Dreams

If “rule of law” meant anything other than “people with power should have a free hand to do what they like to people without power”, the rule-of-law people would be screaming themselves blue over this. As if we needed any further proof they’re acting in bad faith…

Sessions has stepped into the immigration system in an unprecedented manner: giving himself and his office the ability to review, and rewrite, cases that could set precedents for a large share of the hundreds of thousands of immigrants with pending immigration court cases, not to mention all those who are arrested and put into the deportation process in future.

He’s doing this by taking cases from the Board of Immigration Appeals — the Justice Department agency that serves as a quasi-appellate body for immigration court cases — and referring them to himself to issue a decision instead.

Sessions isn’t giving lawyers much information about what he’s planning. But he’s set himself up, if he wants, to make it radically harder for immigration judges to push cases off their docket to be resolved elsewhere or paused indefinitely — and to close the best opportunity that tens of thousands of asylum seekers, including most Central Americans, have to stay in the United States. And he might be gearing up to extend his involvement even further, by giving himself the authority to review a much bigger swath of rulings issued in the immigration court system…

Immigration courts aren’t part of the judicial branch; they’re under the authority of the Department of Justice. Their judges are supposed to have some degree of independence, and some judges are certainly harsher on immigrants and asylum seekers than others. But their decisions are guided by precedent from the Board of Immigration Appeals, which is basically the appellate court of the immigration system and which also answers to the DOJ and the attorney general.

If the attorney general doesn’t like that precedent, he has the power to change it — by referring a case to himself after the Board of Immigration Appeals has reviewed it, issuing a new ruling, and telling the immigration courts to abide by the precedent that ruling sets in future…

In theory, Sessions’s office is supposed to make its decision based on amicus briefs from outside parties, as well as the immigrant’s lawyer and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) prosecutor. But advocates and lawyers’ groups say they can’t file a good brief if they don’t know what, exactly, the cases Sessions is getting involved in actually are — and Sessions is withholding that information.

In one of the cases Sessions has referred to himself, the DOJ refused to provide a copy of the decision that Sessions is reviewing or any information about where the case came from and who the immigrant’s lawyer was. In another case, congressional staff happened to find the decision under review on a DOJ website days before the deadline for amicus briefs.

That opacity makes it basically impossible to know whether Sessions is planning to issue relatively narrow rulings or very broad ones. In the case in which the decision under review was discovered by congressional staffers, both the immigrant’s lawyer and the Department of Homeland Security (serving as the prosecution) asked Sessions’s office to clarify the specific legal question at hand in the review — in other words, to give them a hint of the scope of the potential precedent being set. They were denied…

Sessions and the Trump administration claim they’re trying to restore efficiency to a backlogged court system that poses the biggest obstacle to the large-scale swift deportation of border-crossing families and to unauthorized immigrants living in the US. But lawyers are convinced that Sessions’s diktats, if they’re as broad as feared, would just gum up the works further.

“If the attorney general were seriously concerned about the backlog, as opposed to a desire for quick deportations, he would be focused on transferring as many cases away from” immigration judges as possible, attorney Jeremy McKinney told Vox — not forcing them to keep cases on their docket that they would rather close, or that could be rendered moot by other decisions. It’s “not smart docket control.”

And Sessions isn’t simply planning to issue these rulings and walk away. His office is planning to give itself even wider power over the immigration court system. A notice published as part of the department’s spring 2018 regulatory agenda says, “The Department of Justice (DOJ) proposes to change the circumstances in which the Attorney General may refer cases to himself for review. Such case types will include those pending before the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) but not yet decided and certain immigration judge decisions regardless of whether those decisions have been appealed to the BIA.”

In other words, even when a DOJ judge makes a ruling in an immigrant’s favor and ICE prosecutors don’t try to appeal the ruling, the attorney general’s office could sweep in and overrule the judge…

If the Attorney General believes this is an improvement over the current system, why is he so determined to keep the mechanisms secret?

I personally suspect Mr. Sessions’ ambitions have something to do with last weekend’s flurry of reports about “President” Trump screaming at Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen. If the blond chick can’t throw enough brown people out of “our country” fast enough, Judge Jeff assures Lord Smallgloves, then by Christianist Jeebus he’ll roll up his sleeves and git ‘er done. It’s not as if Trump calling him nasty names has deterred his zeal for enforcing the “Just Us” of Justice in the past…

Repub Venality Open Thread: ‘Normalizing’ the Monstrous

How our Discourse becomes “Coarsened” — as illustrated in tweets:

This is widely shared, because, yeah it’s nasty fun:

The meaty pull-quote:

So… one or more of Axios’ “five sources”, as Mr. Pierce would say, looked a lot like Mercedes Schlapp, and was wearing her shoes.

At least half a dozen prominent media tweeters get to point out:

Jake Tapper, at least, is outraged (as well he might be)…

But the Mad Bitcher, Chris Cillizza, spots a trend!!!

Ergo: Mercedes Schlap posturing to replace Hope Hicks — an ongoing series; savvy journalists have been mocking her desperation since the day Hicks’ resignation was announced — becomes “Our Media Is, Alas, Coarse.”

Why complain about Trump and the other Oval Office Occupants’ lewd mockery of every normal standard of governance and civility, when The Savvy Guys can tell you that everybody does it?

The DOE Announces Plans For Pit Production

The Department of Energy has been contemplating the future production of nuclear weapon pits – the fissile part of the weapon, usually plutonium. Rocky Flats, between Golden and Boulder, Colorado, used to do it, but it turned into an environmental disaster. All buildings have been removed from the site.

Los Alamos and Savannah River are the only two DOE sites that can work with plutonium. Both put themselves into the running for the task. Both have had some problems with safely handling the stuff, for example. The decision was announced today. Both were, in effect, selected.

This is the kind of bad decision that the DOE has long made. It avoids the political problems that would come with selecting one site or the other. The congressional delegations of both states will be pleased. To be fair, there are people with expertise at these sites and facilities that can be used or upgraded.

And they will need to be upgraded. Whether the funds will be appropriated and whether they will turn out to be adequate when the plans are fully worked out is another question, one that has been answered very poorly by both the DOE and Congress in the past.

The evidence seems to be that pits last a longish time, perhaps up to a century. We have several thousand nuclear weapons, more than we are ever likely to need.

Carson Mark, a Los Alamos weapons physicist, once proposed that we simply let all the tritium, a radioactive component of thermonuclear weapons, decay and not replace it as a partial step toward disarmament. The way the US is going, it looks like something similar is happening with the capability to build nuclear weapons. Russia is keeping its capacity going and is not in a friendly mood to talk about just letting it all go. But I would love to see the US just say F***it, we’re done, and see how that plays.


Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner.

Late Night Sad Trombone Open Thread: Mr. Tuff Talk, Globally Renowned Clown

Thing is, he didn’t even need instructions from the home office in Moscow. Trump’s strongest instinct is to do whatever he think makes him look like The Manly Leader, right this minute, — he can’t think far enough ahead to imagine what might happen next week, much less by November, or next year, or next decade…

Saved this David Rothkopf link from the LA Times last week:

In his short time in office, Trump has revealed himself to be unlike his predecessors in several important ways. Although all presidents have egos, Trump has spent his career promoting his own personal brand, inscribing his name in big gold letters wherever he could. He has shown himself to be extraordinarily self-absorbed, providing a constant stream of self-congratulatory remarks.

He has claimed credit for economic recoveries that started years before he assumed office, for launching the career of Lady Gaga and for business deals he had nothing to do with — not to mention the supposedly record-breaking inauguration crowd that wasn’t.

All of this sends a message to other world leaders. As one former U.S. Cabinet official who deals regularly with foreign leaders put it to me: “They know he can be played.” Or, as a prominent business leader said during a trip to China in April: “He is so vain. He’s like a child — easy to manage if you know what he wants.”
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Russiagate Open Thread: Rudy Dreams of TeeVee Glory

(Drew Sheneman via

They’ve been cronies since Roy Cohn’s glory days, but I suspect “America’s Mayor” has begun to think less about Donald’s requirements and more about Rudy’s. And he’s doing a remarkably bad job of it, either way. A little Saturday night reputation massacre:

Sunday morning:

Thoundbites, he croons to himself, That’ll get the hot bookings…
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Russiagate Open Thread: WHO FARTED LEAKED?!?

If the goal was to drive “President” Two-Scoops completely ’round the bend… well, it was a short trip:

In a tense meeting in early March with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, President Trump’s lawyers insisted he had no obligation to talk with federal investigators probing Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

But Mueller responded that he had another option if Trump declined: He could issue a subpoena for the president to appear before a grand jury, according to four people familiar with the encounter.

Mueller’s warning — the first time he is known to have mentioned a possible subpoena to Trump’s legal team — spurred a sharp retort from John Dowd, then the president’s lead lawyer.

“This isn’t some game,” Dowd said, according to two people with knowledge of his comments. “You are screwing with the work of the president of the United States.”

The flare-up set in motion weeks of turmoil among Trump’s attorneys as they debated how to deal with the special counsel’s request for an interview, a dispute that ultimately led to Dowd’s resignation.

In the wake of the testy March 5 meeting, Mueller’s team agreed to provide the president’s lawyers with more specific information about the subjects that prosecutors wished to discuss with the president. With those details in hand, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow compiled a list of 49 questions that the team believed the president would be asked, according to three of the four people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly. The New York Times first reported the existence of the list…

Now Trump’s newly reconfigured legal team is pondering how to address the special counsel’s queries, all while assessing the potential evidence of obstruction that Mueller might present and contending with a client who has grown increasingly opposed to sitting down with the special counsel. Without a resolution on the interview, the standoff could turn into a historic confrontation before the Supreme Court over a presidential subpoena…

The president has repeatedly decried the investigation as a “witch hunt.”…

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Saturday’s Child Open Thread: “Status Anxiety”, *Sigh*…

It’s the latest euphemism for “racism, with a grounding in sexism”. From the Atlantic, “People Voted for Trump Because They Were Anxious, Not Poor”:

After analyzing in-depth survey data from 2012 and 2016, the University of Pennsylvania political scientist Diana C. Mutz argues that it’s the [former]. In a new article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, she added her conclusion to the growing body of evidence that the 2016 election was not about economic hardship.

“Instead,” she writes, “it was about dominant groups that felt threatened by change and a candidate who took advantage of that trend.”

“For the first time since Europeans arrived in this country,” Mutz notes, “white Americans are being told that they will soon be a minority race.” When members of a historically dominant group feel threatened, she explains, they go through some interesting psychological twists and turns to make themselves feel okay again. First, they get nostalgic and try to protect the status quo however they can. They defend their own group (“all lives matter”), they start behaving in more traditional ways, and they start to feel more negatively toward other groups…

Mutz examined voters whose incomes declined, or didn’t increase much, or who lost their jobs, or who were concerned about expenses, or who thought they had been personally hurt by trade. None of those things motivated people to switch from voting for Obama in 2012 to supporting Trump in 2016. Indeed, manufacturing employment in the United States has actually increased somewhat since 2010. And as my colleague Adam Serwer has pointed out, “Clinton defeated Trump handily among Americans making less than $50,000 a year.”

Meanwhile, a few things did correlate with support for Trump: a voter’s desire for their group to be dominant, as well as how much they disagreed with Clinton’s views on trade and China. Trump supporters were also more likely than Clinton voters to feel that “the American way of life is threatened,” and that high-status groups, like men, Christians, and whites, are discriminated against…

Michael (no, not *that* guy) Cohen, at the Boston Globe, is more honest:

Mutz found little to no evidence that a decline in income, loss of a job, or concerns over a worsening “personal financial situation” drove voter preference. Rising unemployment or a drop in manufacturing jobs in the area where someone lived wasn’t much of a factor either. In fact, “living in an area with a high median income” was a far more important predictor of a vote for Trump. This is precisely the opposite of what one might expect for an election allegedly decided by “economic anxiety.”…

Many pundits (myself included) came to believe that Trump’s racism would doom his chances. The opposite occurred. It spearheaded his victory. It’s small wonder that as president Trump has stuck to race-baiting and xenophobia on everything from immigration and terrorism to protests at NFL games. The man might not understand anything about policy or how to be president, but he does appear to grasp that his supporters share his cultural and racial resentments — and that the key to his continued political success is to keep fanning those flames.

The lesson for Democrats is that winning over Trump voters on economic issues may not be the most effective message in upcoming midterm election. The better strategy is to activate the multi-racial coalition of blacks, Hispanics, white liberals, and suburban women who supported Clinton in 2016 and who have become the engine of the so-called resistance. Of course, that also means that the racial resentments activated by Trump will not be dissipated — and if the attacks on Clinton are any indication, will be further magnified. It’s a depressing reminder that as much as we’d like to wish 2016 away, it will remain with us for some time to come.

If we can’t change their tiny minds — or, as the Media Village Idiots would prefer, pretend a more thoughtful, less prejudiced electorate into being — then we can at least be clear about who our “friends” really are.