Sen. Klobuchar pushes back on Barr’s conclusion against Trump obstruction of justice

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., pushed back against Attorney General William Barr’s conclusion that President Donald Trump’s actions as detailed in the Mueller report did not constitute obstruction of justice. During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Barr explained why he did not think several of the instances outlined in the Mueller report constituted obstruction. Sen. Klobuchar, a 2020 presidential candidate, also asked Barr to work with senators on a bill that aims to prevent Russian interference in the 2020 elections. Barr said he would look into the proposal.

Attorney general may withdraw from Mueller report hearing over terms of his testimony, House Democrats say

Democrats and the Justice Department are in a standoff over the terms of Attorney General William P. Barr’s planned testimony before the House Judiciary Committee this week, raising the prospect that the hearing might not go forward at all.

A senior Democratic committee aide said Sunday that Barr risks being subpoenaed if he refuses to testify over his objections to the lawmakers’ desired format for the hearing.

Barr is expected to appear before the Senate and House Judiciary committees Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, to address questions about special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. But according to senior aides for the panel’s chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Justice Department officials have objected to Democrats’ plans to permit extended questioning, including by the committee’s lawyers, and threatened that Barr may withdraw.

“The attorney general agreed to appear before Congress,” Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement. “Therefore, members of Congress should be the ones doing the questioning. He remains happy to engage with Members on their questions regarding the Mueller report.”

.. Democrats maintain that statements and letters Barr issued before releasing Mueller’s redacted report have helped Trump make a case to the public that the special counsel investigation exonerated him, despite what they believe to be a wealth of incriminating evidence detailed throughout the 448-page document. A televised hearing is seen among lawmakers as their opportunity to hold Barr to account and make their case to the American people.

Daniel Schwarz, a spokesman for Nadler, said Sunday, “It would be a shame if Barr refused to show up for the hearing, but it is important that there be a chance to ask follow-up questions as has been done in the past, and members should not be prohibited from asking about redacted sections of the Mueller report, which means we would need to go into executive session in order for Barr to be able to answer in a secure setting.”

.. Democratic members think it’s important, given Barr’s past testimony and what they viewed as his attempt to shape the narrative on Mueller’s report, that he be subjected to extended questioning, including by committee lawyers, said one congressional aide familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity surrounding Mueller’s report. Ordinarily, each member gets five minutes for questioning.

Democratic lawmakers “have seen administration witnesses filibuster for 4½ minutes, then say something nonresponsive in the last half-minute,” the aide said. “The Democratic members have been nearly unanimous in their opinion that circumstances warrant extended questioning, including by counsel.

Democrats also want to reserve the right to vote to have Barr participate in a closed-door session following his public hearing to address questions about the information that remains shrouded by redactions in Mueller’s report, aides said.

But according to Nadler aides, Barr’s team objected to that proposal as well and said such a demand would prevent Barr from delivering his testimony as anticipated.

A Justice Department official came back to the committee Democrats on Friday “very worked up about” Nadler’s plan, and said that if the Democrats insisted on following their plan, Barr “might not come,” the aide said.

The chutzpah of telling us how the hearing is going to be structured and then threatening to walk goes directly to our working thesis that [Barr] is interested in carrying water for the president but not interested in providing answers to the public,” the aide said.

The committee staff have researched other instances in which committee lawyers have questioned Cabinet officials during open congressional hearings, the aide said. The last time was during the 1980s, when President Ronald Reagan’s attorney general, Edwin Meese, gave testimony during the Iran-contra hearings, the aide said.

“The attorney general can choose to come in voluntarily under the chairman’s framework or risk being subpoenaed at a later date,” the senior aide said.

Barr and Democrats have long been at odds over the Mueller report and how the attorney general has handled its rollout. Many Democrats say Barr misrepresented Mueller’s findings in his public statements before the report’s release, and the party as a whole is frustrated that Barr has not taken further steps to ensure that all members of Congress are able to view the information that was redacted.

Barr’s most recent offer was that a select group of lawmakers, including several committee chairs, be allowed to view the redacted information, except for passages that cite grand jury testimony. Democrats have rejected that offer, arguing that more members and staffers should be privy to the redactions, and that Barr should assist lawmakers in seeking a court order to release the grand jury testimony to them.

A spokesperson for committee Republicans said Barr “wasn’t asked to testify before the committee — he offered.” The attorney general provided the Mueller report voluntarily and invited Democratic leaders to view a less-redacted version of the report in person, said the spokesperson, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information.

“Yet the only thing, apparently, that will satisfy Democrats, who refuse to read the less-redacted report, is to have staff pinch-hit when a Cabinet-level official appears before us,” the spokesperson said. “What actual precedent is there for our committee making such demands of a sitting attorney general as part of our oversight duties? The attorney general isn’t a fact witness, and this committee’s investigations — as Democrat leadership reminds us daily — don’t constitute impeachment, so Democrats have yet to prove their demands are anything but abusive and illogical in light of the transparency and good faith the attorney general has shown our committee.”

After Standoff, Comey and Republicans Come to Agreement Over Congressional Testimony

Lawyers for the former FBI director filed a brief in court saying he had reached an ‘acceptable accommodation’ that would allow him to testify in a closed door hearing

Former FBI director James Comey has reached an agreement with House Republicans, ending a standoff over whether he would appear in front of Congress to discuss his role in law-enforcement decisions during the 2016 election.

Lawyers for Mr. Comey filed a brief in court on Sunday saying he had reached an “acceptable accommodation” that would allow for the former FBI director to testify in a closed door hearing on Friday.

The agreement will make Mr. Comey’s testimony in front of the House Judiciary and Oversight committees public within 24 hours of his appearance. A representative of the FBI will also be present to advise on any issues of confidentiality and legal privilege, according to Mr. Comey’s attorney. In exchange, the GOP-led committees will withdraw a subpoena demanding his testimony.

Mr. Comey had been pushing for a public appearance rather than a closed-door hearing. He said that he was concerned about leaks and wanted the American people to be able to hear his testimony.

Boys Will Be Supreme Court Justices

Kavanaugh’s accuser is credible. Will it matter?

.. Speaking to The Washington Post, she produced notes from a therapist she saw in 2012, whom she’d told about being attacked by students “from an elitist boys’ school” who grew up to become “high-ranking members of society in Washington.” According to her husband, that year she identified Kavanaugh to him by name. When Kavanaugh appeared on a shortlist of potential Supreme Court picks — but before his nomination had been announced — Blasey contacted both The Post and her member of Congress, Anna G. Eshoo of California. By all indications, she wanted to head his nomination off without being forced into the spotlight.

.. Blasey passed a polygraph administered by a former F.B.I. agent. The utility of polygraphs is dubious, but her willingness to take one is evidence of her sincerity. According to Axios, some Republicans wanted to call on Blasey to testify publicly, assuming she’d decline.

.. Judge, who wrote a memoir of his teenage alcoholism, has veered between denying the incident and saying he doesn’t recall it.

.. it’s a sign of how credible Blasey seems that, since this story broke, much of the public debate has been less about whether her accusations are true than whether they are relevant.

.. Ari Fleischer pondered the weight of high school misbehavior. “Should that deny us chances later in life?” he asked. “Even for Supreme Court job, a presidency of the United States, or you name it?”

.. Such arguments would be more convincing if people on the right weren’t so selective in their indulgence. Donald Trump called for the death penalty for the Central Park 5, who were 14 to 16 years old when they were arrested. (They’ve since been proven innocent.) Children are regularly put on sex offender registries, sometimes for their entire lives, for conduct less serious than what Kavanaugh is accused of.

In a sour irony, some legal experts think Kavanaugh’s confirmation could imperil Miller v. Alabama, a 2012 decision banning life sentences without parole for most teenage convicts.

We need to determine, as best we can, if he’s lying now.

.. Senators should also demand that Kavanaugh’s old friend Judge, who grew up to become a right-wing writer, testify, though Kavanaugh would surely prefer other character witnesses.

(“Oh for the days when President George W. Bush gave his wife, Laura, a loving but firm pat on the backside in public,” Judge once wrote. “The man knew who was boss.”)

.. There is a small, dark part of me that thinks it would be fitting if Republicans shove Kavanaugh through despite the allegations against him. Anyone Trump nominates is going to threaten Roe v. Wade. Kavanaugh would at least make plain the power dynamics behind forced pregnancy. We would lose Roe because

  • a president who boasted of sexual assault,
  • elected against the wishes of the majority of female voters,
  • was able to give a lifetime Supreme Court appointment to an ex-frat boy credibly accused of attempted rape.

.. Kavanaugh, helped by an all-male Republican caucus on the Judiciary Committee, would join Clarence Thomas, whose confirmation hearing helped make the phrase “sexual harassment” a household term.

They and three other men would likely vote against the court’s three women.

The brute imposition of patriarchy would be undeniable.

.. “If somebody can be brought down by accusations like this, then you, me, every man certainly should be worried.” If the Kavanaugh nomination goes forward, it’s because Trump and his allies believe that a certain class of men accused of sexual assault deserve impunity.

McGahn, White House Counsel, Has Cooperated Extensively in Mueller Inquiry

The White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, has cooperated extensively in the special counsel investigation, sharing detailed accounts about the episodes at the heart of the inquiry into whether President Trump obstructed justice, including some that investigators would not have learned of otherwise, according to a dozen current and former White House officials and others briefed on the matter.1

In at least three voluntary interviews with investigators that totaled 30 hours over the past nine months, Mr. McGahn described the president’s fury toward the Russia investigation and the ways in which he urged Mr. McGahn to respond to it

.. It is not clear that Mr. Trump appreciates the extent to which Mr. McGahn has cooperated with the special counsel. The president wrongly believed that Mr. McGahn would act as a personal lawyer would for clients and solely defend his interests to investigators

..  Mr. McGahn cautioned to investigators that he never saw Mr. Trump go beyond his legal authorities, though the limits of executive power are murky.

.. the two rarely speak one on one — the White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, and other advisers are usually present for their meetings — and Mr. Trump has questioned Mr. McGahn’s loyalty.

.. Mr. McGahn that he has called the president “King Kong” behind his back, to connote his volcanic anger, people close to Mr. McGahn said.

.. Mr. Burck said that Mr. McGahn had been obliged to cooperate with the special counsel. “President Trump, through counsel, declined to assert any privilege over Mr. McGahn’s testimony

.. He wanted to take on Mr. Mueller directly, attacking his credibility and impeding investigators. But two of his newly hired lawyers, John M. Dowd and Ty Cobb, have said they took Mr. Trump at his word that he did nothing wrong and sold him on an open-book strategy.

.. As White House counsel, not a personal lawyer, he viewed his role as protector of the presidency, not of Mr. Trump. Allowing a special counsel to root around the West Wing could set a precedent harmful to future administrations.

..  Mr. Trump blamed him for a number of fraught moments in his first months in office, including the chaotic, failed early attempts at a ban on travelers from some majority-Muslim countries and, in particular, the existence of Mr. Mueller’s investigation.

.. Mr. McGahn’s decision to cooperate with the special counsel grew out of Mr. Dowd’s and Mr. Cobb’s game plan, now seen as misguided by some close to the president.

.. Last fall, Mr. Mueller’s office asked to interview Mr. McGahn. To the surprise of the White House Counsel’s Office, Mr. Trump and his lawyers signaled that they had no objection, without knowing the extent of what Mr. McGahn was going to tell investigators.

Mr. McGahn was stunned

.. Mr. Burck has explained to others that he told White House advisers that they did not appreciate the president’s legal exposure and that it was “insane” that Mr. Trump did not fight a McGahn interview in court.

..  the White House has to understand that a client like Mr. Trump probably made politically damaging statements to Mr. McGahn as he weighed whether to intervene in the Russia investigation.

.. Mr. McGahn and his lawyer grew suspicious. They began telling associates that they had concluded that the president had decided to let Mr. McGahn take the fall for decisions that could be construed as obstruction of justice, like the Comey firing, by telling the special counsel that he was only following shoddy legal advice from Mr. McGahn.

.. McGahn told people he was determined to avoid the fate of the White House counsel for President Richard M. Nixon, John W. Dean, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice in the Watergate scandal.

Mr. McGahn decided to fully cooperate with Mr. Mueller. It was, he believed, the only choice he had to protect himself.

.. “This sure has echoes of Richard Nixon’s White House counsel, John Dean, who in 1973 feared that Nixon was setting him up as a fall guy for Watergate and secretly gave investigators crucial help while still in his job,” said the historian Michael Beschloss.

.. By exerting attorney-client privilege, which allows the president to legally withhold information, they would have gained the right to learn what Mr. McGahn planned to tell investigators and what he might reveal that could damage the president. But the president’s lawyers never went through that process, although they told people that they believed they still had the ability to stop Mr. Mueller from handing over to Congress the accounts of witnesses like Mr. McGahn and others.

.. Mr. Burck and Mr. McGahn met the special counsel team in November for the first time and shared all that Mr. McGahn knew.

.. Mr. McGahn gave to Mr. Mueller’s investigators, the people said,

.. it became apparent that Mr. McGahn and Mr. Burck had overestimated the amount of thought that they believed the president put into his legal strategy

 

 

Krista Tippet: The Moral World in Dark Times: Hannah Arendt for Now

she says, if you can’t have that inner dialogue, then you can’t speak and act with others either because it’s part of — if you’re already divided in yourself because you’re having this conversation with yourself, and that’s the passion of your being, people who can do that can actually then move on to having conversations with other people and then judging with other people. And what she called “the banality of evil” was the inability to hear another voice, the inability to have a dialogue either with oneself or the imagination to have a dialogue with the world, the moral world.

.. And one of the first things she pointed out is that what was exposed by the refugee crisis of the last century was how so-called human rights were actually political and national rights. So you were only — you only had as many rights as were guarded by the country in which you happened to be born.

Once that country decided to decitizenize you, once it decided that you were no longer a citizen, once it decided that it had no more responsibilities towards you, you were rightless. She said very famously, “The world found nothing sacred in the abstract nakedness of being human.”

MS. TIPPETT: And that is where we are, and it’s interesting — interesting in a terrible way — I think that with globalization, which is not necessarily a word she would have used or predicted — but with globalization, there was this assumption, which actually didn’t rest on a very sophisticated examination of the human condition — but there was this assumption that we would just grow out of that, right?

MS. STONEBRIDGE: Yeah.

MS. TIPPETT: But what she understood, because she was looking at the human condition, and taking that seriously, is that, as you say, that “dark background,” that this would become a crisis again.

.. But she says globalization is about the accumulation of capital. It’s expansion for expansion’s sake. It will not produce more equality. It will produce more inequality, hence the background of difference. So trying to work for a worldliness that’s genuinely worldly, as against a worldliness, which is actually about accumulation and expansion for expansion’s sake, which will increase the divides between people.

 

.. here’s her essay “Lying in Politics.” She says that “factual truths,” here’s that. “Factual truths are never compellingly true. The historian knows how vulnerable is the whole texture of facts in which we spend our daily life. It is always in danger of being perforated by single lies, or torn to shreds. Facts need testimony to be remembered and trustworthy domain of human affairs. From this it follows that no factual statement can ever be beyond doubt.” Take us inside that and what that means for us now.

MS. STONEBRIDGE: For Arendt, I think why the idea of thinking and speaking as a form of action are important to her is that what she’s saying there is, you can throw enough facts, you can throw all the facts you like at people, and they will not stick. We had this, in the U.K., and I know you have, too, that it’s — “OK, against the false news we’ll have fact-finding, and we’ll tell you.

And we’ll have a team of researchers, and you just have to look on our website, and we’ll tell you which of those are lies.” And you can scream facts at people until you’re blue in the face, and a lot of colleagues and universities and journalists have been doing exactly that very hard, working tirelessly. And it’s not making any difference. And I think what she’s talking about there is the ability through thinking and communal discourse, to make truth meaningful in the world, it has to happen between people. Which is not saying we just make up our own reality. She’s not saying that. It means that this is why…

MS. TIPPETT: When she says testimony, it needs…

MS. STONEBRIDGE: Testimony.

MS. TIPPETT: It needs experience. It needs human experience around it.

MS. STONEBRIDGE: Yeah. And so I think she — that was why testimony was important to her. It’s why history and the sense of a myth were all important to her because it’s what makes truth meaningful to people together in a community. If you want a culture that’s going to take on fake news, and the political lie, I say as someone who teaches literature and history, what you need is a culture of the arts and humanity. What you need is more storytelling. What you need is more discourse. What you need is more imagination. What you need is more creation in that way, and more of a sense of what it is that ties us to those words and ties us to those stories.

How the Most Dangerous Place on Earth Got Safer

Three years ago, Honduras had the highest homicide rate in the world. The city of San Pedro Sula had the highest homicide rate in the country. And the Rivera Hernández neighborhood, where 194 people were killed or hacked to death in 2013, had the highest homicide rate in the city. Tens of thousands of young Hondurans traveled to the United States to plead for asylum from the drug gangs’ violence.

This summer I returned to Rivera Hernández to find a remarkable reduction in violence, much of it thanks to programs funded by the United States that have helped community leaders tackle crime. By treating violence as if it were a communicable disease and changing the environment in which it propagates, the United States has not only helped to make these places safer, but has also reduced the strain on our own country.

.. Honduras has dropped from first place to third among Central American countries sending unaccompanied children to the United States illegally.

.. most Americans think the United States should “deal with its own problems” while others deal with theirs “as best they can,” a sentiment that’s at the core of Donald J. Trump’s “America First” slogan and “build a wall” campaign. Many seem to have lost their faith in American power.

.. The funding for violence prevention in Honduras — which this year cost between $95 million and $110 million — has also come under attack from the left.

.. This summer, a bill was introduced in Congress to suspend security aid to Honduras because of corruption and human rights violations. These concerns are legitimate, but cutting our support would be a mistake.

.. What is working in Honduras may offer hope to Guatemala, El Salvador and other countries in crisis.

.. The gangs enforced a 6 p.m. curfew. Bodies littered the dirt streets in the morning. The 18th Street Gang set up a checkpoint

.. gangsters playing soccer with the decapitated head of someone they had executed.

.. In two years, homicides have plummeted 62 percent.

.. America’s support is “getting results,” said James D. Nealon, the United States ambassador to Honduras. We are, he said, reducing migration. But we are also repairing harms the United States inflicted — first by deporting tens of thousands of gangsters to Honduras over the past two decades, a decision that fueled much of the recent mayhem, and second by our continuing demand for drugs, which are shipped from Colombia and Venezuela through Honduras. If the United States sustains its anti-violence work in Honduras, Ambassador Nealon says, “in five years they will get their country back.”

.. the Ponce gang grabbed 13-year-old Andrea Abigail Argeñal Martínez because her family couldn’t afford the “war tax” the gang imposed on its tiny store. They raped Andrea for several days in that house, and called her mother so she could hear the girl’s screams as they cut her to death.

.. When he hears about a gangster cornered by the police, he will stand in the line of fire yelling, “Stop shooting!” until the officers allow the gangster to surrender. In this way he has gained the trust of all six gangs. He does the same when he hears that someone is about to be murdered by one of the gangs

.. The United States modeled its prevention strategy on what had worked in Boston in the 1990s, and later in Los Angeles: Concentrate efforts on the most violent hot spots.

.. One of the most effective tactics is the creation of neighborhood outreach centers

.. “The U.S. government has been a bigger partner in change than the Honduran government.”

.. One stocky player wearing a No. 11 jersey told me he had killed 121 people, charging $220 or more per hit.
.. “If they play each other, they see each other less as the enemy.
.. focuses on children who are identified by trained counselors as having a number of risk factors for joining gangs, like substance abuse, unsupervised time and a “negative life event” — having been the victim of a violent crime, having a family member killed.
..  In recent years, 96 percent of homicides did not end in a conviction. Everyone in Rivera Hernández knew what happened to witnesses who stepped forward: Their bodies were dumped with a dead frog next to them. The message: Frogs talk too much.
.. The A.J.S. assigns teams of psychologists, investigators and lawyers to look into all homicides and to coax witnesses to give testimony. More than half of completed homicide cases in seven pilot neighborhoods now result in guilty verdicts.
.. “It’s not like before — kill someone and there are no consequences,”
.. Half the family members usually know the killer; one in four witnessed the murder. They say it takes four to 15 visits to persuade a witness to testify.

.. Witnesses can testify anonymously, as they do in Italian Mafia cases.

.. She had witnessed three murders, but this was the first time she had told anyone. Afterward, in the car, she beamed. “I feel liberated!”

.. One afternoon several months ago, a Mara Salvatrucha gangster was caught by the police in Rivera Hernández with a hacked up body in the front basket of his bicycle, casually on his way to dispose of it.

.. 174,000 Hondurans, 4 percent of the country’s households, had abandoned their homes because of violence.

.. Gangsters stripped their houses of anything they could sell — window frames, doors, roofs — leaving whole blocks in rubble.

.. It will take much more than this project to change the reputation of the United States in this part of the world, where we are famous for exploiting workers and resources and helping to keep despots in power.

.. A 2016 study commissioned by U.S.A.I.D. found that working with people within the gangs — those who are active participants and those who want to leave — produced the biggest drops in violence. And yet the United States does hardly any of this, for fear of being seen as working with or paying off gang members.

.. The next priority must be to clean up the police.

.. I asked if any would go to the police station to report a crime. Not one hand went up. “No one with their five senses would report a crime,”

.. up to one in five of his cops was dirty, but community leaders say the number is closer to half.

.. two families who reported a crime to the police. Officers ratted them out, and three family members were killed that very day.

.. Mara Salvatrucha gangsters in Rivera Hernández say they receive warnings from the police of impending sweeps and are handed captured rivals to execute

.. Police officers also engage in extrajudicial killings.

.. Community leaders say the United States must find a better way to punish bad cops without withholding programs that help children.

.. half of the funds Congress budgets for Honduras go to the State Department bureaucracy or American companies paid to administer programs, so-called beltway bandits, rather than directly to local nonprofits or Hondurans.

.. The United States will also need to pressure Honduras to ante up more of its own money for violence prevention;

.. Fourteen-year-old Carlos Manuel Escobar Gómez told me things were so bad two years ago that he was ready to hop freight trains through Mexico to the United States. Both his parents and a brother were dead, and he was sure he wouldn’t survive his 11th year

.. he said with awe, “I haven’t seen a dead body in a year.”