Somebody better wake up the shade of Machiavelli, or at the very least Richard Nixon, and get some input on the latest move in the palace intrigue of Bill Barr’s botched and bungled Friday Night Massacre. As of mid-afternoon Pacific Time here’s the latest, but not necessarily the last word. The last time Trump fired a high-profile DOJ figure, he ended up with Robert Mueller, a year of bad headlines and an impeachment. Trump will be in no hurry to run out in front of Berman’s alleged firing. There is a chance Barr may have gotten out over his skis here. — The Hoarse Whisperer (@HoarseWisperer) June 20, 2020 Trump told Ukraine to talk to Rudy and Barr. Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York subpoenaed all of Rudy’s communications. Barr tried to fire the person leading that investigation. Boy, that’s quite a coincidence. — The Hoarse Whisperer (@HoarseWisperer) June 20, 2020 Now this makes a lot of sense. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that this was probably the burr under Barr’s saddle that caused his inopportune and unwise termination of Geoffrey Berman. Now here’s what Berman is doing to fight back. Berman backed Barr into appointing a replacement who is far more of a DOJ lifer than he was. Barr just threw the SDNY investigations out of the frying pan and into the fire. And now Berman is free to speak. https://t.co/6AlCwooXOx — The Hoarse Whisperer (@HoarseWisperer) June 20, 2020 Here’s the statement, that went out on Justice.gov FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Saturday, June 20, 2020 Statement Of Geoffrey S. Berman “In light of Attorney General Barr’s decision to respect the normal operation of law and have Deputy U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss become Acting U.S. Attorney, I will be leaving the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, effective immediately. It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve as this District’s U.S. Attorney and a custodian of its proud legacy, but I could leave the District in no better hands than Audrey’s. She is the smartest, most principled, and effective lawyer with whom I have ever had the privilege of working. And I know that under her leadership, this Office’s unparalleled AUSAs, investigators, paralegals, and staff will continue to safeguard the Southern District’s enduring tradition of integrity and independence.” This is good. Berman’s colleague and right arm, Strauss, is now in charge and now all eyes are on SDNY. I think it’s safe to say that Bill Barr blew it. Also, go back earlier in the day and you’ll see that Barr offered Berman a position in the Justice Department, which was some inducement for him to play ball and obviously that backfired, when Berman declined the new post and publicly said he wasn’t resigning. So Berman has made Barr look like a fool, and provoked Trump into telling a blatant lie on live television. Good day’s work. I applaud the man. And Barr is apparently figuring out this isn’t Iran Contra and Trump has no problem leaving him in the field. Good, all good.
Welcome to the daily therapy session of People Without A President. You’ve all heard of Parents Without Partners? Well, this is People Without A President, where we offer friendship and support and a place to dialogue about the hellacious prospect of being a family of 330 million members, without a functioning adult in charge. If you haven’t heard, Donald Trump gave a short presser Saturday wherein he said that the judge’s order not to block the Bolton book was “great” which is a far cry from what he said earlier in the morning and then he said that he “wasn’t involved” in the decision to fire SDNY U.S. attorney Geoffrey Berman — in direct contradiction of what his attorney general said in the letter of termination which he sent to Berman. So now we’ve got a liar’s contest between the titular president of the United States and the equally titular attorney general, who is supposed to “serve the people and interests” of the country. Your guess is as good as anybody’s whose interests Barr is really serving but it sure as hell ain’t ours. The president just said that he was not involved in the matter of Geoff Berman in SDNY. That means that though both Trump and Barr lie, at least one of them is lying about who is firing Berman. https://t.co/jDAiPzJEpx — Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) June 20, 2020 Trump on firing of Geoffrey Berman: "I'm not involved." (AG Barr says Trump gave the order to fire Berman.) pic.twitter.com/EVv6k5g9Zv — Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) June 20, 2020 It’s one or it’s the other, friends, and you do not need a law degree to figure this one out. Did Trump fire Berman, in which case Berman is fired? Did Barr fire Berman, which he doesn’t have the legal right to do, and if so, does that mean Berman is still on the job? or here’s a great third alternative: 3. Did Donald Trump just throw Bill Barr under the proverbial bus? In all events, Barr is not having a good day. In the past fifteen hours he’s been called a liar by Berman and now he’s being called a liar by Trump. It’s safe to say that the Friday night massacre backfired and that Barr is drunk with his own power, but perhaps this will act as a wake up call. It’s also safe to say that Trump doesn’t want anything to do with this fracas and is leaving Barr to figure things out for himself. And the dysfunctional government lurches on, with damage control statements being furiously drafted aboard Air Force One as Trump heads out for #Oklacovid! or #coronapalooza, take your pick and creates more chaos. This administration is toxic. It is a cankerous sore that we need to remove before it infects the body politic any more than it has. Enough.
This has turned into a dog fight. William Barr has decided to play rough and he exercised the option to have Trump fire Geoffrey Berman, which Trump has done. NOW: AG Barr says in a letter to Manhattan US Attorney Geoffrey Berman that Trump has now officially fired him, and that's that, rejecting any argument by Berman that a judicial appointment means he can't be removed. Previously: https://t.co/3Kil8GKQQv pic.twitter.com/y1fkXsAFDC — Zoe Tillman (@ZoeTillman) June 20, 2020 Some context from the New York Times. Mr. Barr asked Mr. Berman to resign, but he refused, so Mr. Barr moved to fire him, according to a person familiar with the matter. Mr. Trump had been discussing removing Mr. Berman for some time with a small group of advisers, the person said. Mr. Trump has been upset with Mr. Berman ever since the Manhattan prosecutor’s office pursued a case against Mr. Cohen. At some point during their conversation, Mr. Barr suggested to Mr. Berman that he might take over the civil division of the Justice Department if he agreed to leave the position in Manhattan, according to a person familiar with the conversation. Mr. Barr’s attempt to fire Mr. Berman had received unexpected pushback from Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a close Trump ally. Mr. Graham, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee — which would approve Mr. Clayton’s nomination — suggested in a statement that he would allow New York’s two Democratic senators to thwart the nomination through a procedural maneuver. I’m not sure what the “procedural maneuver” is. I had read previously that Graham said he would take blue slips from the two New York senators, a blue slip being an opinion on a nominee, favorable or unfavorable, but I scarcely see that as “thwarting” what’s been done. Of all the corruption in government right now, this is the most singular act of the moment. Conservative writer Jennifer Rubin calls it “gobsmacking.” There will be plenty more pieces as this latest debacle unfolds, in the same real time that Trump resumes his MAGA rallies.
If you have been following the trail of breadcrumbs on what looked to be yet another, by now routine, Friday night hatchet job in Trump world, this latest one is not going according to plan and is, in fact, blowing up in Bill Barr’s face as we speak. The basic facts are that the attorney general lied that U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman was “stepping down” from his post at SDNY and would be temporarily replaced by the current U.S, Attorney for the District of New Jersey Craig Carpenito. Berman’s permanent replacement was to be Jay Clayton, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, who has never been a prosecutor, but did do defense work for Deutsche Bank during the Russian money laundering scandal. Clayton would of course have to be confirmed by the Senate. So that was the set up but it went severely awry when Berman refused to play ball and came out publicly and contradicted Barr. “I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning, my position, to which I was appointed by the Judges of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. I will step down when a presidentially appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate. Until then, our investigations will move forward without delay or interruption. I cherish every day that I work with the men and women of this Office to pursue justice without fear or favor — and intend to ensure that this Office’s important cases continue unimpeded.” That put things on an entirely different footing. AlterNet: This was a dramatic shot across the bow for three reasons. First, it’s always a high-stakes situation when a subordinate directly contradicts their superior’s public statements — even more so when the statement is about their own position. Berman is, in essence, calling Barr a liar. It seems Barr thought he could push Berman out by sheer bravado, but Berman is showing remarkable fortitude. Second, Berman is setting up a power struggle for control of SDNY with potential constitutional implications. His claim is that because he was appointed by a judge to fill a vacancy at SDNY, Barr can’t simply force him out; he can only be forced out when the Senate approves a presidential nominee. Berman is the Acting U.S. Attorney by dint of a *judicial* appointment. There’s a pretty good argument that, per the plain language of 28 U.S.C. § 546(d), he gets to keep serving in that post until the *vacancy* is filled (through Senate confirmation of a permanent successor). pic.twitter.com/xeRpvMRHWN — Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) June 20, 2020 Third, and perhaps most importantly, Berman’s repeated reference to his cases, and preserving their integrity, suggests that he believes he is being forced out in order to interfere with an ongoing investigation. We know SDNY has investigated President Donald Trump’s conduct and allies in the past, including Michael Cohen and Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani’s associates — who also have ties directly to Trump — Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman are currently under indictment from the office. This all raises the disturbing prospect that Barr might be trying to push Berman out because his office has uncovered damaging information pertaining to the president. These are sound observations and this is pretty much the template for all the pieces that will be banged out in the […]
The facts are sketchy at this point, but SDNY U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman was in fact fired Friday night, according to ABC News. US Atty for SDNY Geoffrey Berman was fired. The news came as a shock tonight. Sources close to him & DOJ official say AG Barr offered him other positions including head of Civil Division at main justice and Berman declined. News via me @alex_mallin & @AaronKatersky — Katherine Faulders (@KFaulders) June 20, 2020 The knee jerk reaction to this is that Trump is desperately trying to get control of SDNY because of the threat it poses to him. They’re already preparing for the likelihood that they lose the election — nbabeau (@NBABeau) June 20, 2020 💯 Trump directing his henchmen to pull strings and chop heads in an effort to prevent @SDNYnews from arresting him the minute he loses re-electionWE CANNOT LET THIS HAPPEN WITHOUT PROTEST#StandUpFightBack — Unabashed Misfit (@UnabashedMisfit) June 20, 2020 America is right to expect the worst of Bill Barr, who has repeatedly interfered in criminal investigations on Trump’s behalf. We have a hearing on this topic on Wednesday. We welcome Mr. Berman’s testimony and will invite him to testify. https://t.co/SpVYzLhANR — Rep. Nadler (@RepJerryNadler) June 20, 2020 This is another one of those stories “moving faster than a hummingbird’s wings” as Dan Rather once put it. Woo. This is breathtaking. I thought John Mitchell was something back in the day. Bill Barr leaves him in the dust in the corruption department. But then I have to remind myself, there is no bottom in Trump world. Whenever you think it has been reached, a trap door opens and down you go again. As stated in the previous post, this is a developing story and we’ll be posting updates or new bulletins as more information becomes available.
Friday night firings are standard in Trump world, although this one sent some sparks flying. Bill Barr announced that U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman was leaving his post at SDNY and Barr proposed Jay Clayton as a replacement. What is intriguing here is that Clayton defended Deutsche Bank in the Russian money laundering scandal and Trump is very much in debt to Deutsche Bank. That was the story for a few hours, but then Geoffrey Berman issued this statement. pic.twitter.com/hFNvQs5orV — US Attorney SDNY (@SDNYnews) June 20, 2020 This is a developing story and we will update it. WTH is Bill Barr doing?
For all of you who thought it a bit bizarre that Melania didn’t move into the White House until June of 2017, here is a theory that fits the facts and considering the “character” of the principals involved in this story, it is perfectly plausible. A new book, “The Art Of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump” drops June 16. It purports that the reason Melania delayed in coming to the White House after the election was because she was renegotiating the terms of her pre-nuptial agreement with Trump. And that she did so again last year in order to secure her services in helping Trump run for reelection. To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, we’ve always known exactly what she is, now we know how much she costs — and costs us, too, I might add. The taxpayers dropped over a million bucks on extra security costs for Melania and Barron to be safe in Manhattan, while she dickered with Trump’s lawyers. Washington Post: Melania’s original prenup had not been incredibly generous, Jordan reports. But she has been married to Trump longer than both his ex-wives and had bargaining power: Her perceived calming effect on him was so great that Trump’s pals and at least one of Trump’s adult children exhorted her to come to the White House as soon as possible. She had him over the proverbial barrel. He had to cave, so that she would come to Washington and play First Lady. He had no choice. And here’s what I love. She is characterizing this episode as “taking care of Barron.” I’m actually starting to like Melania. She’s kind of a dumbed down Lady Macbeth. Fewer brains, but the instincts are the same. And one adjustment to the prenup wasn’t enough. Observers in the White House had noticed an uptick in her mood by mid-2018 that might account for her being so willing to fight for a second term. According to three people close to Trump, Jordan writes, Melania had finally renegotiated the prenup to her liking. She’d already been looking out for Barron’s future by making sure he had dual citizenship in Slovenia, which will position him to work in Europe for the Trump Organization when he comes of age. Now, she’d made sure he wasn’t shut out of the family business. Jordan writes: “She wanted proof in writing that when it came to financial opportunities and inheritance, Barron would be treated as more of an equal to Trump’s oldest three children.” She’s not wrong about the three older Trump kids being on board to screw a sibling. Just ask Tiffany. Isn’t it heartwarming that the Party of Family Values elected this particular standard bearer and his klan? I find it inspiring.
For those of you who were cracking wise last week, after it was announced that Donald Trump might come forward and regale us with his views on race and unity, “And who’s gonna write it? Stephen Miller? HA!” Well, laugh not, that’s exactly what’s going on. American Urban Radio Networks: George Floyd was laid to rest today in his hometown of Houston, with the eulogy delivered by Rev. Al Sharpton. The White House is preparing a speech on race relations written by Stephen Miller, who crafted the Trump Administration’s immigration plan along the southern border with Mexico. Vice President Mike Pence recently hosted prominent Black Conservatives at the White House to discuss race relations. However, the administration did not reach out to civil rights organizations including the NAACP, National Action Network, and National Urban League. Now is the time to stock up on snacks and brewskies, because you are emphatically not going to want to miss one minute of an address crafted by a known hate mongering racist, delivered by a buffoon who lacks the basic intellectual and emotional depth to even grasp the problem of systemic racism — let alone offer a solution to it. And then there’s the fact that the buffoon’s son-in-law Jared Kushner aka “My Star” already fixed it, right? I mean, that’s what he said Monday, that it was fixed already, so why is Stephen Miller going to bother to elaborate on the subject? It’s fair to say that the base doesn’t want to hear anything conciliatory and the rest of the world isn’t going to believe anything that comes out of Trump’s mouth, so what’s the point? Now this is encouraging. Kushner and Meadows are on their way to meet with the token GOP black senator, Tim Scott. WH officials including Meadows and Kushner heading to Hill to meet with GOP Senator Tim Scott to discuss police reform issues, WH officials confirm. — Jim Acosta (@Acosta) June 9, 2020 This is shaping up to be one hell of a brain trust, here, with Meadows, Miller, Kushner and now Tim Scott in the think tank. Back in February, it was reported that the Department of Justice was investigating allegations that Tim Scott procured a half million dollar grant so that one of his crony’s daughters could run an “assistance program” for human trafficking victims. Her offices were at her parent’s mansion, just by the by. Abuse of power, much? But, on the other hand, Scott is a Trump supporter and he’s black and he’s Republican, and he’s a senator, and those qualifications don’t attach to any other living soul alive right now, so tag, he’s it. So now we get to wait for a race relations treatise, authored by a Nazi, and delivered by a bigot, reading off a teleprompter, in a phony monotone, because he’s bored on his ass. And this is supposed to help, how, exactly? Let’s hope it’s good for laughs. If it wasn’t for the comic relief afforded by this administration, they truly wouldn’t have anything.
The White House lights being turned off is an apt metaphor for the way that Trump is running the government, generally. He simply lacks a clue about what is proper or how a real president would handle the situation. So he relies on instinct, his oft-touted instinct, I might add, with the result that he makes himself look like an even bigger fool. Beyond that, he exposes himself as the small, cowardly person that he is. For the first time since 1889, the lights of the White House were turned off, The President Donald Trump takes refuge in the bunker, and fires are started in the surroundings. Explosions, protests and injuries reported in Washington, D.C.#BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/I6m9khHvlv — ven (@hiddlesgold) June 1, 2020 Lights out at #WhiteHouse is a powerful symbol. Total lack of leadership from @realDonaldTrump #BunkerTrump pic.twitter.com/pJTUYA3trT — Steve Belovarich (@iplayitofflegit) June 1, 2020 This is what fascism is. The final respite for insecure, sad, pathetic men. Trump is a coward and a tiny, little man. He has created a cruel character, a bully persona, to hide this. But he’s a fraud. A paper tiger. Trump is so small and so insignificant. — Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) June 1, 2020 We’ve been lied to. Fascism isn’t about strength, it’s about weakness. Fascism isn’t about ideals, it’s about personal protection. These bullies are pathetic. These warmongers are pitiable. It’s their weakness that defines them. Period. — Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) June 1, 2020 Lights off?Nobody home? It's probably what they do on Hallowe'en. What are they thinking…they're a bomb target? Or that the protestors are so stupid they can't find the White House in the dark?!? 😂 — 🤺Sonia F. Khan, MD, FAAP💉 (@sapienist) June 1, 2020 I have never seen this in my entire life. I lived in DC and worked at a restaurant two blocks from here and rode my bike by the White House every night at around 2am. The lights were always on. This absolutely sums up this administration. Nobody’s home. https://t.co/Uk2rhxE1Wj pic.twitter.com/ACjZtaaRPR — Duff Goldman (@duffgoldman) June 1, 2020 Trump allowing the White House lights to be dimmed and his evacuation to the PEOC are acts of cowardice. He quakes and melts under pressure. He is falling apart. He is weak and derelict in his duty. https://t.co/e2bCk89Y0n — Steve Schmidt (@SteveSchmidtSES) June 1, 2020 Either #BunkerBoy is getting cell service now, or he’s slithered out of the basement. Either way, he’s tweeting conspiracy theories again. He’s not just a pitiful President, he’s a pathetic man. — Ken Olin (@kenolin1) June 1, 2020 Once more Trump displays he didn’t learn many of the lessons that most of us learned in chlldhood, i.e; pretending a problem doesn’t exist, doesn’t make it go away.
The 2020 presidential election will decide either the life or death of America. — John Gartner I have a list of things I fear — death by fire, a decline into dementia, Pop-Tarts — but I have never feared Donald Trump or his goose-stepping minions. I loathe and despise them, and I fear for the people whom their policies actively hurt (most all of us, really), but I don’t fear them. Neither should you. However, I do feel a deep apprehension for what Trump might do if and when he loses re-election in November. We all think, hope, pray and anticipate him getting his ass dragged around the block by Biden in November, but there’s a question: what will Trump do in the event he loses? Psychologist and psychotherapist John Gartner, a specialist in borderline personality disorders, has those same worries. And he feels Trump will go out swinging. Trump’s bagman Michael Cohen said in Congressional testimony in February 2019: Given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020, there will never be a peaceful transition of power. I’m not worried about him not leaving the White House, as some do. It doesn’t matter if he acknowledges the loss or not. If he loses in November, his presidency ends at noon on Wednesday, January 20, 2021, no matter what he and his idiot brownshirts say or do. I like to think that, given Trump’s penchant for belligerent, bullying behavior towards his “inferiors,” there will be plenty of Secret Service agents who are waiting for 12:01 pm on January 20 to put him on the ground and arrest him for trespassing. (Or just beat his flabby ass and throw him out of the front door. I’m good either way.) Former US Attorney Barbara McQuade agrees, writing for The Atlantic: “[T]he newly minted president would possess … presidential powers. If necessary, [Biden] could direct federal agents to forcibly remove Trump from the White House. Now a private citizen, Trump would no longer be immune from criminal prosecution, and could be arrested and charged with trespassing in the White House. While even former presidents enjoy Secret Service protection, agents presumably would not follow an illegal order to protect one from removal from office.” She doesn’t say anything about the Secret Service beating the brakes off him in the East Room, but I think privately she might get a chuckle out of the idea. Nor can he just cancel the election. If he does something insane to disrupt the election to the point where it cannot be held, then on 12:01 pm of January 20, 2021, Nancy Pelosi becomes president. Boy, would he hate that… What Gartner fears is the motivation for vengeance an infuriated Trump would feel in the days and weeks after the November election, should he lose it. You can forget about W’s being pried off keyboards. Trump is psychologically capable of far worse than that. Since Trump has taken office, he has performed not one action that was taken on behalf of the American people. Not one. He started by lying about the size of the crowd during his inauguration and attacking the media over its inauguration coverage, and in the last several days has recommended that Americans inject themselves with disinfectants to battle […]