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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Abuse of Power Saturday

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 Trump is exploiting presidential power in unprecedented ways.

Stephen Collinson at CNN:

President Donald Trump on Tuesday went further than ever before in putting the degradation of the rule of law at the center of his reelection campaign.

Trump called on his supporters in North Carolina to act as poll watchers, to watch out for "thieving, and stealing and robbing" that he is warning without evidence will taint Election Day. He made his call at a packed rally in Winston-Salem where he and many of his fans made a mockery of the state's mask mandate -- as well as the advice of his own government amid a pandemic that has killed nearly 190,000 Americans and was exacerbated by his prioritizing politics over science.

But most shockingly, and in one of the most stunning maneuvers in the modern history of the Department of Justice, government lawyers Tuesday applied to take over the defense of Trump in a defamation lawsuit filed against him by a woman who accused him of rape in the 1990s.

Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein at Politico:

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s lies to the FBI are so clear — and their effect on the FBI’s Russia probe so obvious — that the Justice Department’s decision to drop the case can only be a pretext to help an ally of President Donald Trump, a court-appointed adviser to Judge Emmet Sullivan argued Friday.

In an unsparing, 30-page brief, John Gleeson, tapped by Sullivan to argue against the dismissal of the case, suggests that the Justice Department’s arguments for letting Flynn off the hook conflict with its positions in other cases — and even in earlier rounds of the Flynn case itself — and therefore can only be chalked up to Trump’s pressure campaign.

“There is clear evidence that this motion reflects a corrupt and politically motivated favor unworthy of our justice system,” wrote Gleeson, a former federal judge in Manhattan who was appointed by President Bill Clinton.

Ryan J. Reilly at Huffington Post:

An elected prosecutor who took a role in Donald Trump’s presidential commission on law enforcement has resigned, telling Attorney General William Barr that he is concerned the commission was “intent on providing cover for a predetermined agenda that ignores the lessons of the past” and will issue a final report that “will only widen the divisions in our nation.”

Trump formed the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice late last October, announcing its formation at the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s annual meeting. Trump’s order mandated that the commission issue a report within one year ― a deadline that falls just days ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

The commission is stacked with members of law enforcement, and the American Civil Liberties Union has questioned whether it is a “sham commission formed only for the purposes of advancing a ‘Thin Blue Line’ law and order agenda.”

John Choi, the elected prosecutor in Ramsey County, Minnesota, served as a member of the commission’s criminal justice system personnel intersection working group. But Choi, whose county includes the city of St. Paul, wrote in a letter to Barr that he was quitting his role on one of the commission’s 17 working groups because he worries the final report “will vilify local prosecutors who exercise their well settled prosecutorial discretion consistent with their community’s values and the interests of justice.”

Morgan Chalfant at The Hill:

President Trump said Thursday that he would “very quickly” stifle riots on election night if Democrats organize protests against his potential victory, suggesting he would do so by employing a law allowing him to deploy active-duty troops domestically.

“We’ll put them down very quickly if they do that. We have the right to do that, we have the power to do that if we want,” Trump told Fox News host Jeanine Pirro when asked how he would stop potential riots on election night should he win.

“Look, it’s called insurrection. We just send in and we do it, very easy. I mean, it’s very easy. I’d rather not do that because there’s no reason for it, but if we had to we’d do that and put it down within minutes,” Trump continued.

Trump appeared to be referring to the Insurrection Act, an 1807 law that authorizes the commander in chief to deploy U.S. troops domestically to enforce federal or state laws under certain circumstances. The law has been used in rare and extreme cases in U.S. history, and Trump endured backlash when he suggested he could use the provision earlier this year to quell protests following the police killing of George Floyd.
Dan Diamond at Politico:
The CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports are authored by career scientists and serve as the main vehicle for the agency to inform doctors, researchers and the general public about how Covid-19 is spreading and who is at risk. Such reports have historically been published with little fanfare and no political interference, said several longtime health department officials, and have been viewed as a cornerstone of the nation's public health work for decades.

But since Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign official with no medical or scientific background, was installed in April as the health department's new spokesperson, there have been substantial efforts to align the reports with Trump's statements, including the president's claims that fears about the outbreak are overstated, or stop the reports altogether.

Caputo and his team have attempted to add caveats to the CDC's findings, including an effort to retroactively change agency reports that they said wrongly inflated the risks of Covid-19 and should have made clear that Americans sickened by the virus may have been infected because of their own behavior, according to the individuals familiar with the situation and emails reviewed by POLITICO.