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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Weaponizing the Federal Government

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, is well underway.  

Martin Pengelly at The Guardian:
The attorney general, William Barr, told Rupert Murdoch to “muzzle” Andrew Napolitano, a prominent Fox News personality who became a critic of Donald Trump, according to a new book about the rightwing TV network.

After a repentant Trump voter's one-man protest, what happened next?

Barr’s meeting with Murdoch, at the media mogul’s New York home in October 2019, was widely reported at the time, with speculation surrounding its subject. According to Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth, by CNN media reporter Brian Stelter, subjects covered included media consolidation and criminal justice reform.
“But it was also about Judge Andrew Napolitano.”
Stelter’s in-depth look at Fox News, its fortunes under Trump and its links to his White House will be published on Tuesday. The Guardian obtained a copy.
Ryan Grim at The Intercept:
IN THE final months of its first term, the Trump administration is cutting career government employees out of the process of apportioning federal funds, according to a memo reviewed by The Intercept, sent to staff on August 12 by Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought.
...
For decades, OMB’s career staff have been responsible for signing off on the legality of the apportionment of funds to agencies and for projects. Political appointees, meanwhile, worked within the bounds the career staff set.

Under the new regime, however, program associate directors — political appointees known as PADs — will sign off on disbursements themselves. The rationale behind the shift is that apportionment decisions are fundamentally policy decisions and therefore, should be the responsibility of political aides who are ostensibly accountable to voters, rather than government bureaucrats immune from such democratic responsiveness.

...
Vought’s memo also gives him the ability to exercise the decision-making authority himself. “The delegation supersedes any previous delegation of such authority and will remain in place until revised or revoked,” the memo reads. “The Program Associate Directors may re-delegate this authority as necessary in writing. The delegation does not limit the authority of the director to exercise the delegated authority.”
Ronald Brownstein at The Atlantic:
Beyond his recent efforts to impede mail delivery, Trump has:
  • rapidly purged inspectors general across the federal government, replacing five of them within a short period, including the intelligence-community IG who forwarded to Congress the whistleblower complaint that triggered Trump’s impeachment.
  • openly pressured the Justice Department to back off the prosecution of his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and to request more lenient sentencing for his ally Roger Stone. Trump later commuted Stone’s sentence outright.
  • deployed federal law-enforcement officials from the Department of Homeland Security to confront protesters in Portland, Oregon, and other cities over the explicit objection of governors and mayors.
  • enlisted the military into his campaign against protesters, drafting Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley to accompany him during his walk to St. John’s Church in Washington, D.C., after armed personnel forcibly cleared out peaceful protesters. The decision prompted so much concern in the military that Milley later apologized.
  • taken repeated steps to manipulate the results of the decennial census in a manner that could undercount people of color and benefit the Republican Party. The Supreme Court stopped Trump from adding a citizenship question to the census, but the administration now says it intends to exclude undocumented immigrants from the population counts used to apportion congressional seats and Electoral College votes among the states. It also announced it will cut off efforts to contact households that haven’t responded to the census on September 30, despite the disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak. Census experts and former Census Bureau directors have said that such a truncated schedule is guaranteed to undercount minorities.