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Latest Featured Reports | Thursday, November 14, 2019
'If This Isn't Impeachable Conduct, What Is?':
Public Hearings Begin:
'BradCast' 11/13/19
Extended excerpts and analysis with guest Heather Digby Parton...
New EPA Rule Guts Science, Public Health for Corporate Polluters: 'BradCast' 11/12/19
Guest: Dr. Andrew Rosenberg of Union of Concerned Scientists; Also: SCOTUS allows suit against gun-makers, but may kill DACA; Impeachment begins; Our 1000th 'GNR'!...
'Green News Report' 11/12/19
  w/ Brad & Desi
OUR 1000th EPISODE! Looking back and forward at a thousand episodes of the 'GNR' with a few messages from some friends and the funniest snarky comment of all time!...
Previous GNRs: 11/7/19 - 11/5/19 - Archives...
EVERYTHING Is Now Political (Even CA Wildfires!): 'BradCast' 11/11/19
Callers ring in on impeachment, the climate change 'hoax', the new touchscreen vote system disasters last week in GA and PA, and in L.A. before next year's 2020 election...
Sunday 'Leaves of Crass' Toons
All the fall colors are on display in PDiddie's latest weekly toon collection...
Religious Freedom in Opposite World: 'BradCast' 11/8/19
Guest Host Nicole Sandler with Frederick Clarkson of Political Research Associates on the Christian right's new 'Project Blitz'...
Might Bevin Really Try to Steal KY's Gubernatorial Election?: 'BradCast' 11/7/19
Guest: U. of KY's Joshua A. Douglas; Also: NY judge fines Trump millions for fraudulent 'charitable' foundation; Much more...
'Green News Report' 11/7/19
  w/ Brad & Desi
11,000 scientists issue dire warning; Hottest Oct. ever recorded; Trump EPA to weaken water standards, again; PLUS: Honolulu, Maui County sue Big Oil for climate damages...
Previous GNRs: 11/5/19 - 10/31/19 - Archives...
2019 Off-Year Election Vote System Disasters and Electoral Triumphs: 'BradCast' 11/6/19
Guest: VA Delegate Mark Levine; Also: Brand new touchscreen vote systems failed in GA, PA, while Dems saw big wins elsewhere...
One Year Out: Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid. (Then Take Action!): 'BradCast' 11/5/19
Election Day 2019 voting system failures; Trump failures; 2020 polling failures; What YOU must do about all of it...
'Green News Report' 11/5/19
Trump begins withdrawal from Paris pact; Another Keystone Pipeline spill; Trump threatens disaster aid for CA wildfires; PLUS: Thunberg takes Los Angeles...
Nope. Not 'Getting Over It', A Year After Kavanaugh: 'BradCast' 11/4/19
Guest: Slate's Dahlia Lithwick on not returning to SCOTUS; Also: John Oliver touches on touchscreens; KY Gov's reelection contest...
Sunday 'Fall Back' Toons
You've got an extra hour this week to peruse PDiddie's latest toon collection! You're welcome!...
Warren's Plan to Pay for 'Medicare for All' Without Raising Middle Class Taxes: 'BradCast' 11/1/19
Guest: Alice Ollstein; Also: Repubs blocking 2020 student vote; Hill's final floor speech...
Divided House Holds Historic Vote on Impeachment Rules: 'BradCast' 10/31/19
Also: Impeachment 101; NSC official corroborates Trump's quid pro quo Ukraine pressure campaign...
'Green News Report' 10/31/19
Trump losing 'war on coal'; CA fires, blackouts an ominous sign for nation; Severe flooding coming to coastal cities; PLUS: Carmakers pick sides in clean air battle....
BARCODED BALLOTS AND BALLOT MARKING DEVICES
BMDs pose a new threat to democracy in all 50 states...
VIDEO: 'Rise of the Tea Bags'
Brad interviews American patriots...
'Democracy's Gold Standard'
Hand-marked, hand-counted ballots...
Brad's Upcoming Appearances
(All times listed as PACIFIC TIME unless noted)
Media Appearance Archives...
'Special Coverage' Archives
GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal 2012...
VA GOP VOTER REG FRAUDSTER OFF HOOK
Felony charges dropped against VA Republican caught trashing voter registrations before last year's election. Did GOP AG, Prosecutor conflicts of interest play role?...

Criminal GOP Voter Registration Fraud Probe Expanding in VA
State investigators widening criminal probe of man arrested destroying registration forms, said now looking at violations of law by Nathan Sproul's RNC-hired firm...

DOJ PROBE SOUGHT AFTER VA ARREST
Arrest of RNC/Sproul man caught destroying registration forms brings official calls for wider criminal probe from compromised VA AG Cuccinelli and U.S. AG Holder...

Arrest in VA: GOP Voter Reg Scandal Widens
'RNC official' charged on 13 counts, for allegely trashing voter registration forms in a dumpster, worked for Romney consultant, 'fired' GOP operative Nathan Sproul...

ALL TOGETHER: ROVE, SPROUL, KOCHS, RNC
His Super-PAC, his voter registration (fraud) firm & their 'Americans for Prosperity' are all based out of same top RNC legal office in Virginia...

LATimes: RNC's 'Fired' Sproul Working for Repubs in 'as Many as 30 States'
So much for the RNC's 'zero tolerance' policy, as discredited Republican registration fraud operative still hiring for dozens of GOP 'Get Out The Vote' campaigns...

'Fired' Sproul Group 'Cloned', Still Working for Republicans in At Least 10 States
The other companies of Romney's GOP operative Nathan Sproul, at center of Voter Registration Fraud Scandal, still at it; Congressional Dems seek answers...

FINALLY: FOX ON GOP REG FRAUD SCANDAL
The belated and begrudging coverage by Fox' Eric Shawn includes two different video reports featuring an interview with The BRAD BLOG's Brad Friedman...

COLORADO FOLLOWS FLORIDA WITH GOP CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION
Repub Sec. of State Gessler ignores expanding GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal, rants about evidence-free 'Dem Voter Fraud' at Tea Party event...

CRIMINAL PROBE LAUNCHED INTO GOP VOTER REGISTRATION FRAUD SCANDAL IN FL
FL Dept. of Law Enforcement confirms 'enough evidence to warrant full-blown investigation'; Election officials told fraudulent forms 'may become evidence in court'...

Brad Breaks PA Photo ID & GOP Registration Fraud Scandal News on Hartmann TV
Another visit on Thom Hartmann's Big Picture with new news on several developing Election Integrity stories...

CAUGHT ON TAPE: COORDINATED NATIONWIDE GOP VOTER REG SCAM
The GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal reveals insidious nationwide registration scheme to keep Obama supporters from even registering to vote...

CRIMINAL ELECTION FRAUD COMPLAINT FILED AGAINST GOP 'FRAUD' FIRM
Scandal spreads to 11 FL counties, other states; RNC, Romney try to contain damage, split from GOP operative...

RICK SCOTT GETS ROLLED IN GOP REGISTRATION FRAUD SCANDAL
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) sends blistering letter to Gov. Rick Scott (R) demanding bi-partisan reg fraud probe in FL; Slams 'shocking and hypocritical' silence, lack of action...

VIDEO: Brad Breaks GOP Reg Fraud Scandal on Hartmann TV
Breaking coverage as the RNC fires their Romney-tied voter registration firm, Strategic Allied Consulting...

RNC FIRES NATIONAL VOTER REGISTRATION FIRM FOR FRAUD
After FL & NC GOP fire Romney-tied group, RNC does same; Dead people found reg'd as new voters; RNC paid firm over $3m over 2 months in 5 battleground states...

EXCLUSIVE: Intvw w/ FL Official Who First Discovered GOP Reg Fraud
After fraudulent registration forms from Romney-tied GOP firm found in Palm Beach, Election Supe says state's 'fraud'-obsessed top election official failed to return call...

GOP REGISTRATION FRAUD FOUND IN FL
State GOP fires Romney-tied registration firm after fraudulent forms found in Palm Beach; Firm hired 'at request of RNC' in FL, NC, VA, NV & CO...
The Secret Koch Brothers Tapes...


Guest: Former Asst. U.S. Attorney Randall Eliason; Also: Army officer was so alarmed by Trump's Ukraine scheme he alerted NSC lawyers; NC court orders ungerrymandered U.S. House maps for 2020!...
By Brad Friedman on 10/29/2019 6:17pm PT  

On today's BradCast: We're at the point in the ongoing impeachment inquiry of Donald J. Trump when the facts against him have become so damning that he and his supporters in Congress are pretty much just tossing everything they can against the wall to see what, if anything sticks. [Audio link to show is posted below.]

But first today, some long-overdue very good news out of North Carolina, where a three-judge state court panel has determined the state's Republican-drawn Congressional maps to be an "extreme partisan gerrymander" and has ordered new maps before the 2020 elections. The court went so far as to state that no more Congressional elections may be run on the current maps, and if new ones aren't drawn in time for next year's March 3 primary election, the judges --- two Democrats and a Republican --- will postpone the primaries until they do.

The news is long-overdue, though hardly a surprise. North Carolina is the most divided of swing states, but the GOP-skewed maps have resulted in 3 Democrats and 10 Republicans in the state's Congressional delegation for the past decade. A federal appeals court already ruled the same map to be an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander and ordered a new one drawn. But that ruling was ultimately over-ruled by the stolen Republican majority on the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year, when they declared in a 5 to 4 opinion that federal courts may not hear partisan gerrymandering cases. Only state courts may now do so, and now North Carolina's state court has done so. The same court ruled last month that the state's legislative districts were also drawn in violation of the state constitution and ordered new maps there as well.

Meanwhile, speaking of Congress, a White House national security official and decorated Iraq War vet offered startling testimony to House impeachment investigators on Tuesday, regarding Trump's scheme to withhold nearly $400 million in military assistance to Ukraine unless the nation's President promised to investigate Joe Biden in advance of the 2020 election. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman serves as the top Ukraine expert on the White House's National Security Council (NSC) and is the first official to testify in the impeachment matter who actually listened live to Trump's infamous July 25 "I need a favor though" phone call with Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelensky.

According to Vindman's prepared opening statement obtained by the New York Times, the veteran Army officer and longtime civil servant was so alarmed by Trump's strong-arm tactics and withholding of military aid that, out of a "sense of duty", he alerted the top lawyer at the NSC --- twice --- in order to register internal objections about the policy, which he feared would "undermine national security."

"I am a patriot,” Vindman says in his testimony, "and it is my sacred duty and honor to advance and defend our country irrespective of party or politics." Since news of his testimony broke on Monday night, rightwing media have been attacking the Purple Heart winner who was wounded by an IED in Iraq, as a traitor who must be working for Joe Biden or George Soros or Ukraine, after he fled the then Soviet-controlled country as a 3-year old with his parents in 1979.

Next, were joined by former Asst. U.S. Attorney turned George Washington University Law School professor RANDALL ELIASON to discuss the Republicans' continuing, nonsensical whining that the impeachment inquiry lacks "due process" for the President. Though each of their arguments toward that end have been dismantled by both facts and federal courts in recent days, they are still making the case which Eliason describes as "nonsense" in his latest Washington Post op-ed.

He explains why on today's program, noting the old "saying in Washington, that if you're arguing about process then you're losing," adding: "I think that's certainly the case here." Eliason, a longtime expert in white collar crime, government fraud and federal criminal law, responds to a number of different allegations being offered by Trump and his defenders, including the specious claim that there is no crime at the heart of Trump's quid pro quo pressure campaign against Ukraine.

He also offers his thoughts on the recent news --- and "incredibly suspicious" timing behind it --- that Trump's Attorney General Bill Barr has elevated the Dept. of Justice's probe into the origins of the 2016 investigation into Russian election meddling into a criminal investigation of some sort.

Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for the latest Green News Report on California's wind-drive wildfires, Massachusetts' new climate fraud lawsuit against Exxon Mobil, and Trump's new plan to steal Syria's oil in violation of international law. Also, as we close, late news and a few thoughts on the nation's largest private coal company, Murray Energy, declaring bankruptcy protection today. So much for Trump's promise to save the dirty coal industry. Now, what about the company's long-serving coal miners who may very well lose their pensions and health care under Trump-supporter Robert Murray's scheme to restructure his dying company?...

Download MP3 or listen to complete show online below...

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AG Barr ordered to hand over grand jury transcripts, exhibits redacted from the Mueller Report to Congress by October 30
UPDATE 10/29/19: DC Circuit Court of Appeal Grants Temporary Stay of Order to Release Grand Jury Materials...
By Ernest A. Canning on 10/28/2019 9:35am PT  

In her landmark, 75-page decision filed on Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Beryl A. Howell did much more than simply grant a motion filed by the House Judiciary Committee (HJC) to compel the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide it with grand jury materials from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe that had been previously concealed. In that same order, the court systematically demolished every quasi-legal objection the DOJ and White House have raised in their specious efforts to interfere with an ongoing and lawful impeachment inquiry.

The core question raised by HJC's motion was whether the court should order the DOJ to release pertinent grand jury materials in accordance with Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Although grand jury testimony and exhibits are ordinarily kept secret, Rule 6(e) authorizes a court to order the disclosure of such materials "preliminarily to" or "in connection with a judicial proceeding" when there is a "particularized need" for disclosure.

Judge Howell suggested that a House impeachment inquiry, in and of itself, may be considered a "judicial proceeding". She concluded, however, that the court did not have to reach that issue because the HJC was correct in its assertion that its impeachment inquiry was "preliminary to" a judicial proceeding.

In her erudite decision, Howell cited historical practice, the Federalist Papers, the text of the Constitution, and both Supreme Court and binding DC Circuit Court of Appeals precedent. All of these make it abundantly clear: U.S. Senate impeachment trials are "judicial proceedings". Indeed, the DOJ's contrary position is not only at odds with the appellate decision in Haldeman v. Sirica (1974) but also with the DOJ's own legal position in that Watergate-era decision. The DOJ was unable to satisfactorily explain why, under Attorney General William P. Barr, it had changed its previous, long-standing legal position.

The "particularized need" to release the materials arises, in this instance, because Mueller, in deference to the opinions of the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) that a sitting President may not be indicted,* refrained from reaching conclusions about the legality or illegality of the President's conduct. "This," the court observed, "leaves the House as the only federal body that can act on allegations of presidential misconduct." Yet, the court observed, "under the DOJ's reading of Rule 6(e), the Executive Branch would be empowered to wall off any evidence of presidential misconduct from the House by placing that evidence before a grand jury."

The DOJ's contentions were, thus, not simply wrong but untenable. "In carrying out the weighty constitutional duty of determining whether impeachment of the President is warranted," Judge Howell observed at the outset of her opinion, "Congress need not redo the nearly two years of effort spent on the Special Counsel's investigation, nor risk being mislead by witnesses, who may have provided information to the grand jury and the Special Counsel that varies with what they tell HJC."

Had she stopped there, Judge Howell's ruling would be significant. Her demolition of every argument against the validity of the impeachment inquiry that has been presented by the DOJ, by the White House and by some Republican members of Congress, however, was nothing short of breathtaking...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---




Guest: Ann Ravel goes from FEC Commish to CA State Senate candidate, with some thoughts on many criminal violations by the President, and on our broken campaign finance system; Also: Giuliani snowballing...
By Brad Friedman on 10/25/2019 6:44pm PT  

In my exclusive interview on today's BradCast with ANN RAVEL, former Chair of the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), we cover quite a bit of ground. From the reasons she has decided to run for office in California, to the apparent violations of federal election laws at the heart of the Trump impeachment inquiry into the quid pro quo with Ukraine, to the absurd campaign finance laws that allowed two now-indicted Rudy Giuliani associates to buy their way into the White House and directly effect U.S. foreign policy, to the Stormy Daniels affair, and to our shamefully broken FEC. [Audio link to show follows below.]

Ravel, who also previous served as Chair of California's Fair Political Practices Commission (or FPPC --- a more functional version of the FEC, but for the state of CA) and as Deputy Asst. Attorney General during the early years of the Obama Administration, is now running for State Senate in CA's 15th District, which includes San Jose in the Northern California Bay Area. After a lifelong career of public service, this is her first actual run for elected office.

We begin today's conversation with a few thoughts on the "local" issues regarding Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E)'s preemptive blackouts for hundreds of thousands of customers to avoid their above ground power lines sparking wildfires. The bankrupt for-profit power utility, the state's largest, has been found liable for billions of dollars after several deadly recent fires, thanks to a failure to properly maintain or bury power lines amid increasingly warm and dry climate changed weather. We discuss whether the state should simply take over the company, following Gov. Gavin Newsom's scathing remarks on Thursday citing PG&E's many deadly failures, which he attributed to "dog-eat-dog capitalism and corporate greed meeting climate change."

Then it's on to many issues of national importance --- as highlighted of late by several matters related to Trump's ongoing impeachment inquiry --- regarding our broken FEC, which does not currently even have a quorum of Commissioners to either meet or vote as we head into the most critical election year in the history of our nation!

Ravel, who resigned as FEC Chair "in abrupt and dramatic fashion", according to the Mercury News in February of 2017, "declaring in a public resignation letter that the Federal Election Commission is on a gridlocked road to nowhere," offers her many insights on...

  • Campaign finance laws apparently violated by Trump in soliciting a "thing of value" from a foreign entity. That impeachable and criminal violation of law is at the heart of Trump's attempted withholding of military aid and the strong-arming of Ukraine in exchange for dirt on the Biden family and the 2016 election. "There is no question whatsoever that there was a crime at the heart of this," Ravel tells me. "And I'm appalled, having also been at the Department of Justice at the beginning of the Obama Administration, what has become of a Department that is supposed to be doing justice for the people";
  • Attorney General Bill Barr and the Dept. of Justices' failure to refer that matter, exposed by a whistleblower complaint, to the FEC for civil charges, as per a longstanding agreement between the two federal agencies. "That was the general understanding that always was the principal we operated by at the FEC";
  • The FEC's lack of ability to take immediate action on such a charge, even if it had been referred to them, given the FEC's current lack of a quorum. "Had it been referred as a complaint, that would begin the statute of limitations. And there is a five-year statute. So at some point, assuming there are other Commissioners appointed, ever --- by McConnell, or the Democratic Minority Leader, and assuming that the President makes the nominations --- it could, in the coming five years, actually take some action";
  • The obscene lack of campaign finance laws following Citizens United and other woeful "dark money" rulings from SCOTUS in recent years. Those High Court rulings have allowed men like Rudy Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman to run an influence operation to purchase access to the White House and Republican members of Congress and actually effect U.S. foreign policy in the Ukraine matter in exchange for a few hundred thousands dollars (of unknown origin) given to Trump's SuperPAC, to Giuliani, and to other Republican officials and organizations. While Parnas and Fruman were recently indicted, their charges were based on lying to officials about the source of the money. Had they simply used their own, as we also recently discussed with Brendan Fischer of Campaign Legal Center (which filed the original complaint to the FEC about the pair's donations last year), the influence operation would have been perfectly legal under current law, she confirms. "And that is a whole other problem with our campaign finance system...That will only be fixed if there is a different Supreme Court";
  • Why isn't the case of Trump's hush-money payoffs to porn star Stormy Daniels a bigger matter, given that Trump is known to have "directed" a campaign finance law felony conspiracy in making the payments, and then failed to report them to the FEC as required by law? To Ravel's consternation, Democrats in Congress, to date, have yet to make the matter a central point in their impeachment inquiry, and the short-handed FEC is otherwise unable to bring civil charges for Trump's willful violation of the law. She notes that fines levied against the Obama Campaign years ago were for far less serious violations of campaign finance law. "I often say, to much laughter, that I consider myself an expert in Stormy Daniels. I think this is scandalous. It is a campaign violation, without question, and it was being done at the behest of the President."

Those are just some of the many topics discussed on today's program with Ravel.

Finally, after some breaking news on a ruling late today by a federal judge ordering the DoJ to turn over unredacted grand jury testimony and other materials from the Robert Mueller probe to House Democrats working on impeachment, we take a quick look at the quickly snowballing fate of Rudy Giuliani, who finds himself in deeper and more embarrassing --- and potentially criminal --- straits by the hour. For now, Trump is standing by his man. But probably not for long. So, for a musical close to to the week, we turn to the inimitable Randy Rainbow, who recently threw Rudy entirely under a bus...

Download MP3 or listen to complete show online below...

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While we post The BradCast here every day, and you can hear it across all of our great affiliate stations and websites, to automagically get new episodes as soon as they're available sent right to your computer or personal device, subscribe for free at iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn or our native RSS feed!
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Guest Host Nicole Sandler with the latest news and Marcy Wheeler too...
By Nicole Sandler on 10/3/2019 3:14pm PT  

It's NICOLE SANDLER, still manning the guest host desk for Brad and Desi at the BradCast.

The news is breaking at warp speed. I open the show with a recap of what's happened since the last BradCast, and there's a lot!

My guest today is MARCY WHEELER from Emptywheel.net who explained how Attorney General Bill Barr is implicated in Trump's efforts to solicit help from foreign leaders to damage his political opponents. And it's not only Barr, but Pompeo, Pence, Giuliani and even Lindsey Graham!

Plus, I'll share an amazing essay from John Pavlovitz titled, "I’m Not The Radical Left, I’m The Humane Middle."

And because we need it and deserve it, we end the show with some levity, courtesy of the always brilliant Randy Rainbow.

Download MP3 or listen online below...

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While we post The BradCast here every day, and you can hear it across all of our great affiliate stations and websites, to automagically get new episodes as soon as they're available sent right to your computer or personal device, subscribe for free at iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn or our native RSS feed!




Guest Host Nicole Sandler with whistleblower John Kiriakou and Professor Harvey J. Kaye...
By Nicole Sandler on 10/2/2019 3:30pm PT  

It's NICOLE SANDLER, still holding down the fort at the BradCast for Brad and Desi.

As you know, it's been an insane few weeks in the news. I begin each show with an update on the latest from Trumpland and Impeachment World. Today, we witnessed a Trump meltdown that started with presidential profanity on Twitter in the wee hours of the morning, and continued through two media moments with the president of Finland looking on, horrified!

We had two great guests today. I wanted to get a whistleblower's take on what's happening, so I reached out to JOHN KIRIAKOU, who served 23 months in prison for blowing the whistle on the US torture program during the Bush years, who brings a unique perspective to the story. He's written three great books on his experience.

Then, I went the academic route, and called on HARVEY J. KAYE, author and professor of Democracy and Justice Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, to get his thoughts on this moment in history.

Download MP3 or listen online below...

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While we post The BradCast here every day, and you can hear it across all of our great affiliate stations and websites, to automagically get new episodes as soon as they're available sent right to your computer or personal device, subscribe for free at iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn or our native RSS feed!




Guest Host Nicole Sandler with The Nation's DD Guttenplan and author Tom LoBianco...
By Nicole Sandler on 10/1/2019 2:13pm PT  

It's NICOLE SANDLER in the BradCast guest host seat again today, filling in for Brad and Desi. Since there's so much breaking each day, we begin with an update on the latest news in the Donald Trump impeachment inquiry! Both Mike Pompeo and Bill Barr are in it up to their eyeballs!

My first guest is D.D. GUTTENPLAN, editor of The Nation. We discussed his new article, "We Don’t Have to Choose Between Warren and Sanders Yet," a topic I'm obsessed with these days.

But, with impeachment looming, if Trump is removed from office, Mike Pence is first in line to become president. Or he could be implicated along with the rest of this administration. Either way, he's an interesting topic, and the focus of the new book from veteran journalist TOM LOBIANCO called Piety and Power: Mike Pence and the Taking of the White House.

Download MP3 or listen online below...

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While we post The BradCast here every day, and you can hear it across all of our great affiliate stations and websites, to automagically get new episodes as soon as they're available sent right to your computer or personal device, subscribe for free at iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn or our native RSS feed!




Also: Judge overturns Mnuchin scheme to make 'dark money' even darker; Texas sued for tossing out absentee ballots without notifying voters...
By Brad Friedman on 8/13/2019 6:39pm PT  

"You've heard about 'Draining the Swamp'," Donald Trump's Acting Chief of Staff and Office of Management and Budget Director told a bunch of GOPers at a fundraiser recently in South Carolina. "What you haven't heard is what we're actually doing." He's right. We try to do something about that on today's BradCast. Again. [Audio link to show is posted at end of summary.]

Lack of funding and a hiring freeze by the Trump Administration has resulted in a shortage of correctional officers at facilities like the federal lockup in Manhattan where accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein was found dead on Saturday morning. The billionaire financier and friend of Trump was supposed to have been monitored every 30 minutes by correctional officers after being removed, for some reason, from the prison's "suicide watch" list just 6 days after he reportedly tried to kill himself. But media reports say that Epstein was not monitored for hours before being found dead. Both of the officers tasked with the job were working overtime and one was merely a substitute, reportedly, not fully trained for it. Trump's Attorney General Bill Barr has temporarily suspended both of them and reassigned the warden at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, as he claims to be seeking accountability for the failure at the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facility overseen by the Attorney General.

The lack of federal funding at BOP is not an accident, of course. It's just one small part of this Administration's ongoing efforts to, as Mulvaney admitted, "streamline government" by making it simply disappear any way they possibly can. As Trump's Director of the OMB, Mulvaney attempted to cut funding in half for several key scientific and economic departments at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. When Congress rejected those cuts, the Administration implemented Plan B, which is what Mulvaney was bragging about to the Republican donors in South Carolina. The USDA gave just over 30 days for career officials at two important and long-established USDA agencies, the Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), to decide if they wished to uproot their lives and those of their family's to move to Kansas City (either Missouri or Kansas, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue has not told anyone which state it will be) or be fired.

Matt Shuham at Talking Points Memo has been covering the ongoing crises at the two agencies in a series of stories, documenting how senior officials, with decades of institutional knowledge are being lost in the bargain, as more than half of those longtime federal workers have chosen against moving 1,000 miles across the country before the end of September.

"It's nearly impossible to fire a federal worker," Mulvaney complained while explaining the Administration's scheme for forcing longtime federal employees to either move to "the real part of the country" or quit. "They quit," Mulvaney boasted to the delight of the corporate GOP funders. "What a wonderful way to sort of streamline government and do what we haven't been able to do for a long time." One of Shuham's latest reports details the gut-wrenching decision of a 30-year veteran branch chief at the ERS, who says that staffers working on everything from researching genetically engineered seeds to soil conservation to climate change are almost all entirely gone from the agency now, along with hundreds of years of collective knowledge and institutional experience. Ironically enough, when Purdue issued the letter to employees notifying them of the move, he claimed it was being done, among other reasons, to "improve USDA's ability to attract and retain highly qualified staff."

The gutting of the USDA is a "test case", one economist at ERS said. "If they can carry this out, what’s to stop them from doing this on a larger scale to another agency?" The answer: Nothing. They are already doing something identical to the Bureau of Land Management at the Dept. of Interior. And there will be more to come if these moves aren't somehow blocked. Donald Trump is actively and purposely killing your government and both he and corporate industry interests couldn't be more delighted about it. This will only be stopped --- maybe --- if he is turned out of office no later than next year.

To that end, we catch up on a couple of (mostly) good news elections-related stories today as well. In Montana, a federal judge has overturned a new rule by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that would have allowed "dark money" non-profit 501(c)4 groups to keep their donors a secret from the IRS. Such groups are already exempt from disclosing their funding sources publicly, but Mnuchin didn't want even the Government to know where their money used for elections is coming from either. A lawsuit by Montana Governor and 2020 Democratic Presidential hopeful Steve Bullock has successfully blocked that new rule --- for now. It would have made it almost impossible for the Government to determine if foreign sources were unlawfully funding elections work by such groups.

And down in Texas, the Texas Civil Rights Project and other plaintiffs are suing the state on behalf of voters to force election officials to notify voters when absentee vote-by-mail ballots are rejected by county election officials in time to correct any perceived signature mismatches. Such decisions are largely ad hoc from county to county --- elections officials are not hand-writing experts after all --- as there are no statewide standards for making the determination that the signature on the vote-by-mail ballot does not match that of the registered voter. Thousands of ballots in the Lone Star state have been tossed without the knowledge of voters who, under state law, do not need to be notified about signature mismatches that will keep their ballots from being counted, until 10 days after the election. With Texas potentially in play for Democrats next year, every vote may very well matter. So this lawsuit, like similar ones successfully filed in other states in recent years, is very important on several levels.

Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, in which another new rule imposed by the Trump Administration's Dept. of Interior is set to gut federal protections for thousands of endangered species; his EPA has cleared the way for an enormous, controversial mine project in Alaska which threatens key, pristine salmon fisheries in the region; and with details on the one energy project that the Administration is suddenly interested in slow-walking for some reason...

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Also: Andrew Cohen of The Marshall Project on America's shameful epidemic of prison suicides; Plus: The Administration's new rules to restrict legal immigration and gut the landmark Endangered Species Act...
By Brad Friedman on 8/12/2019 6:46pm PT  

On today's BradCast, it's one of those shows you may have to take a shower after --- or even during. Apologies in advance. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]

We start today with the easy stuff. The Trump Administration announced two new federal rules of note on Monday. Both include major changes to federal law without Congress actually voting to have changed anything and both will result in lawsuits from opponents.

The first is a change to the law that would further restrict legal immigration to the U.S., by barring green card status in the country to whomever the Administration believes is not wealthy enough and may require public assistance. The move, if not blocked by the courts, would put the emphasis on the skills of immigrants seeking permanent status, rather than on family reunification. The new rule would prevent many U.S. citizens from being joined here by parents, siblings or children.

The Administration's other major rule change today is to significantly weaken the landmark Endangered Species Act on behalf of industry profits. The ESA has protected thousands of plants and animals from becoming extinct since President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1973. Trump's changes would end protection for plants and animals newly deemed threatened and allow federal officials, for the first time, to consider the economic costs of protecting a particular species. The change could also allow officials to disregard the impact of climate change when determining which species require federal protection. Both rule changes, according to opponents, are unlawful and will face legal challenges almost immediately.

Next, we turn to the weekend's disturbing news regarding the death of imprisoned financier, sexual predator and former Donald Trump friend, Jeffrey Epstein. The accused pedophile was found dead Saturday morning alone in his federal prison cell in lower Manhattan where he was supposed to have had a cellmate and guards that were supposed to monitor him every 30 minutes. His death came less than 24 hours after thousands of documents from an earlier lawsuit were publicly released, revealing lurid allegations that he'd sexually abused scores of young girls and just two weeks after he'd been removed from "suicide watch" after reportedly trying to kill himself just six days earlier.

There are many questionable circumstances that resulted in Epstein's death, angering elected officials, his many victims and even Trump's Attorney General who claimed to be "appalled". Barr announced over the weekend that he had tasked the Dept. of Justice Inspector General to investigate the matter. But, of course, conspiracy theories began flying almost immediately upon the news of Epstein's death, given his years of contact with high profile celebrities from Presidents to prime ministers to princes to other politicians and titans of industry and the academic world. Those conspiracies are hardly surprising. But the fact that Donald Trump, over the weekend, tweeted out several such conspiracies, attempting to tie Epstein's death to Bill Clinton, suggesting the former President had a hand in murdering the accused sex trafficker and may even have been a "pedophile" himself, seems to be a new low, even for this President.

Of course, while there is no evidence that Clinton was a close friend of Epstein's, Trump is known to have partied with him on several occasions, telling New York magazine in 2002 that he had "known Jeff for fifteen years" by that time, that he was a "terrific guy" and a "lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side." Trump's senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway actually defended Trump's Twitter smears of Bill Clinton, claiming on Fox "News" on Sunday that "the President just wants everything to be investigated".

Okay. If so, does he also want a proper investigation of the detailed 2016 lawsuit filed against him and Epstein --- before many of the allegations against Epstein had even come to public light --- by a woman who claims she was raped and abused by both men when she was 13 years old? Trump vigorously denied the charges at the time, and the case was eventually dropped after the woman says she faced death threats. But, given the many credible allegations of sexual assault by Trump, including from his own ex-wife who claimed at one point she was also raped by Trump, there is certainly more evidence to support that conspiracy than the ones forwarded by the President of the United States over the weekend following Epstein's death by apparent suicide --- in a federal prison overseen by Trump's own Administration.

While we have never discussed those rape allegations against Trump by the anonymous woman on The BradCast before --- yes, we saw them originally when they appeared in 2016, but didn't share them on air, preferring not to traffic in unverified allegations --- it seems that Trump himself has no such reservations. That, even after the death of his sexual predator friend in a federal prison overseen by his own federal Bureau of Prisons. If Trump is happy to spread wildly defamatory unsubstantiated allegations about former Presidents, I guess its now appropriate to publicly share allegations with far more substance since, right? According to Conway, after all, he "just wants everything to be investigated." And, as noted, we just want to take a shower at this point!

Finally, setting aside grotesque conspiracies, ANDREW COHEN, senior editor at The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization which reports on the U.S. criminal justice system, and a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, took the opportunity of Epstein's death to note that it was "completely predictable". Not due to Epstein's high-profile or even the particular circumstances of his case, but because there is what Cohen describes as an "epidemic" of prison suicides in U.S. prisons.

He explains that the epidemic --- shamefully resulting in an all-time high of hundreds of suicides in both federal and state prisons each year --- is the number one cause of death in such facilities. Cohen says the epidemic crosses all demographics and has been exacerbated --- arguably, even caused --- by a lack of interest or empathy by prison officials and both funding and interest from elected officials. "There's plenty of blame to go around," he tells me. "Yes, it's a long term problem [and] yes, it's gotten worse under the Trump Administration."

If anything good can possibly come of all of these horrific events, perhaps it begins in conversations like the one we have on today's program with Cohen. After your shower, I hope you will tune in for it...

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Guest: Heather Digby Parton on the former Special Counsel's testimony and what's next; Also: Everyone giving everyone else the finger...
By Brad Friedman on 7/25/2019 5:10pm PT  

Both Democrats and Republicans alike --- on Capitol Hill and in the media --- are trying to make sense of Wednesday's landmark testimony by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller and where things go from here. We do a bit of the same ourselves on today's BradCast. Though I hope we are a great deal more honest about it than Donald Trump and Fox "News", and less confusing than Fox' Ainsley Earhardt who announced this morning that Mueller's testimony "didn't change anything", before going on to tell viewers that "it changed everything". [Audio link to show our full program is posted below.]

For full coverage and extended excerpts from Mueller's nearly seven hours of hearings before the U.S. House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, see yesterday's special coverage show. For analysis and the fallout since the Republican former FBI Director confirmed the multiple and repeated felonious and impeachable crimes by the President of the United States detailed in his 448-page report [PDF], we're joined by the great HEATHER DIGBY PARTON of Salon and Hullabaloo today. As usual, we attempt to cut through the media drama and partisan positioning to get to the actual facts and important content that matters.

Among the issues discussed with Parton....

  • The fact that only Republicans are ever allowed to be Special Counsel/Prosecutors, no matter whether the President being investigated is a Democrat or a Republican;
  • Content of note from Wednesday's hearings that was both damning to Donald Trump and at risk of being lost amid frequently lousy corporate media coverage (and, wholly dishonest coverage from rightwing outlets);
  • The proper context for making "sense" of some of the conspiracies offered on Wednesday by Republicans, even as Trump's AG/fixer Bill Barr and other GOPers may have done harm lately to the prospects of their own conspiracy-based argument about the origins of what would eventually become the Mueller investigation;
  • How House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is still dropping the ball on impeachment in Congress, at least for now, and setting the country up for even more Presidential corruption in both the near and distant future in the bargain;
  • And, where all of this madness may and/or should go next.

"It seems obvious to me that we have a criminal in the White House. And an abuser, a corrupt leader, and a barbarian and an ignoramus," Parton explains, cutting to the chase. "He's an unfit President and he should be impeached. To me, this is obvious."

But, she goes on, in struggling to make sense of why impeachment proceedings have not already been triggered, "One of the reasons that the dial is not being moved is the way that the press is covering this. There was a lot of criticism, during and after the testimony, about the fact that they covered it like a sporting event. 'He didn't put on the best show', etc. etc. The theater criticism. This is a big problem because this is a complicated story. People are seeing it as a game, as this is a strategy, instead of what it really is --- which is a fundamental threat to our democracy.

"If Donald Trump gets away with this, if he gets off scot-free --- re-elected or not --- if he gets away with doing these things while in office, it has changed everything. The President is no longer accountable. If Donald Trump cannot be impeached, then nobody can be impeached. Impeachment no longer exists as a stop on a President like this. And that's very scary," warns Parton.

Also on today's BradCast: "Unprecedented" heat and wildfires in the Arctic; Ohio's "socialist" Republicans give the planet and Ohio residents the finger by going all in on Big Government bailouts of coal and nuclear power companies; U.S. automakers give Trump the finger by working out a secret deal with California to lower vehicle emissions; The Trump Administration gives humanity the finger by deciding to "Make America Kill Americans Again"; A federal judge in California gives the finger to the Administration's new, unlawful southern border asylum ban; And Kim Jong Un gives his friend Donald the finger by firing off a few ballistic missiles to celebrate Mueller's testimony.

And, finally, we're joined by Desi Doyen for the latest Green News Report on some of the above, and much much more...

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In nearly seven hours of long-awaited, halting responses from the former Special Counsel, the need for impeachment became clearer than ever...
By Brad Friedman on 7/24/2019 5:39pm PT  

As documented by today's BradCast special coverage, former FBI Director Robert Mueller finally offered his long-awaited testimony in the U.S. House during nearly 7 hours of hearings before both the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees. [Audio link to show is posted below.]

The Republican former Special Counsel confirmed key details of his two-volume, 448-page report [PDF] on Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 election, the Trump Campaign's coordination with that effort and, in most detail, multiple instances of both indictable and impeachable criminal corruption of justice laid out by the report. In frequently halting and often terse responses to members of the two House panels, Mueller, as promised, refused to stray from the "four corners" of his report, issued earlier this year following his two-year probe.

Nonetheless, as heard on today's program, his responses made clear that both Donald Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr --- not to mention the bulk of the Republican Party and their rightwing media outlets --- have been completely misleading the American public with their claims that Mueller's report somehow "exonerated" the President. It did anything but.

"Did you actually totally exonerate the President?" Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler asked during his opening round of questions. "No," Mueller flatly replied, later adding that "the President was not exculpated for the acts that he alleged committed." When Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic Chair of the Intel Committee, asked, "Your investigation is not a witch hunt, is it?," Mueller dryly responded: "It is not a witch hunt."

In fact, as Mueller's testimony made clear to those who watched --- especially to those who didn't bother to read his actual report --- any other American who committed the crimes detailed in the Special Counsel's report would have been indicted on multiple felony counts, as more than 1,000 former federal prosecutors have now stated. But for the Dept. of Justice Office of Legal Counsel's (unsupportable) opinion that a sitting President cannot be indicted, Trump would most likely have been charged long ago for his repeated, unlawful attempts to quash the Special Counsel's investigation.

Moreover, near the close of today's long hearings, Mueller offered a chilling warning about what he describes as still-ongoing efforts by Russia and other foreign powers, "as we sit here", to interfere with and manipulate upcoming U.S. elections.

We hold most of the commentary and analysis on all of this for another day in order to bring you extended excerpts on today's program from the detailed questions and answers with members of Congress from both parties and in both the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees. If you weren't able to catch seven hours of hearings beginning at 8:30am ET on a work day, we'll get you fairly well caught up on the key through-line and the most noteworthy stuff in just under an hour. You're welcome!

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Guest: Constitutional law expert Ian Millhiser on the GOP's ACA challenge and the passing of SCOTUS' 'last great conservative Justice'...
By Brad Friedman on 7/17/2019 6:46pm PT  

The United States, according to our guest today on The BradCast, lost "the last great conservative Justice" on the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday. Justice John Paul Stevens, who lead the liberal wing of SCOTUS before retiring in 2010, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 99 after serving some 35 years on the High Court. IAN MILLHISER, Constitutional law expert, longtime Editor of ThinkProgress Justice and author of the book Injustices: The Supreme Court's History of Comforting the Comfortable and Afflicting the Afflicted joins us today to discuss that loss as well as the rightwing legal challenge seeking to strike down the entirety of the Affordable Care Act. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]

We begin today with a conversation about Stevens' remarkable legacy, and how his tenure was so starkly different from the so-called "conservatives" now seated on the GOP's stolen Supreme Court. Nominated to SCOTUS by Republican President Gerald Ford (after being appointed to the federal bench by Richard Nixon), Stevens, as AP eulogizes, "stood for the freedom and dignity of individuals, be they students or immigrants or prisoners. He acted to limit the death penalty, squelch official prayer in schools, establish gay rights, promote racial equality and preserve legal abortion. He protected the rights of crime suspects and illegal immigrants facing deportation. He influenced fellow justices to give foreign terrorism suspects held for years at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, naval base the right to plead for their release in U.S. courts." All positions now seen as "liberal".

And yet, Stevens said during a 2007 interview that he did not think of himself as liberal, but rather as "pretty darn conservative". Millhiser explains how Stevens was able to separate the law from politics, including his own personal preferences, while remaining true to the Constitution and both the rule of law and Court precedent --- all issues which those who call themselves "conservative" today seem to have a difficult time understanding or respecting.

"When he got on the Court, he was widely viewed as a center-right judge. He personally held very, very conservative views. But what made Justice Stevens a great judge was that he knew his political views didn't matter when he was a judge. He knew that regardless of what he thought about minimum wage, or Obamacare, or whatever else, his job was to be faithful to the law and the Constitution," Millhiser tells me. "He was able to set his political views aside and let the law work. And that is all you can ask for in a judge. If we had conservatives like John Paul Stevens right now, who understand that law and politics are separate, we would be in a much better place as a country."

Moreover, as I note at the top of the show, based on my own reporting from 2013, Stevens was willing to admit when he got cases wrong. That year he conceded that his 2008's controlling opinion in Crawford v. Marion County Board of Elections --- the case which approved Indiana's Republican law requiring voters to present Photo ID at the polling place before being allowed to vote --- was ultimately the wrong decision. That SCOTUS opinion has been falsely cited by GOPers across the country as confirmation that Photo ID restriction laws do not suppress legal votes, but help prevent illegal ones. That is both inaccurate and decidedly not what the Court found that case. In 2013, Stevens conceded, "as a matter of actual history," dissenting Justice David Souter was "dead right" in his opposition and warnings about how the precedent would be abused to suppress the vote.

As to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) challenge we had originally booked Millhiser to discuss before news of Stevens' passing, oral arguments in Texas v. United States were heard in New Orleans last week before a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. In his coverage for ThinkProgress, Millhiser, who was in the courtroom, describes the hearing before two Republican-appointed judges (one by George W. Bush, the other by Donald Trump) and one Democratic-appointee as a "disaster for Obamacare".

On today's show, he explains the "dumb" and "ridiculous" basis for the case brought by some 20 Republican state Attorneys General --- and now joined by Trump's Dept. of Justice --- and how the challengers specifically filed it in a Texas jurisdiction, a "a kangaroo court", where they knew they could get a favorable ruling from the lower court judge and were likely to get a similar ruling from the rightwing 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. He describes the suit as "the stupidest case I have ever seen", but notes that the appellate court's three-judge panel --- "the two Republicans on this panel were really wacky and behaved in a really partisan way in the oral arguments" --- may ultimately uphold the lower court ruling, at least in part.

Nonetheless he believes the case cannot possibly pass muster at the U.S. Supreme Court given previous rulings on ObamaCare by Chief Justice John Roberts. However, he has a caveat: that prediction only holds if the makeup of the High Court when the case ultimately reaches SCOTUS remains the same as it is today. That, as Millhiser cautions, is not a guarantee. "If Trump gets another vote, all bets are off." And there are ways that both the 5th Circuit and the Republicans challenging the landmark healthcare law could hedge that timing, depending on how quickly they act and how long they delay both the court's decision and any subsequent appeal.

While the basis for this case, he details, is so absurdly thin, that may not mean it will fail, even if, as Millhiser observes, an estimated 24,000 Americans will die each year if the ACA is entirely struck down as plaintiffs seek --- and as the lower court judge already ruled should happen.

Finally, there was a flurry of breaking news coming over the wires as we spoke with Millhiser today, including Democrats in the House scuttling a vote on Articles of Impeachment against Trump; the House voting to hold AG William Barr and Commerce Sec. Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt and MA prosecutors dismissing sex assault charges against actor Kevin Spacey. And then we close today with a few thoughts on the House Dems successful vote on Tuesday for a resolution finding Donald Trump's (legally) racist tweets attacking four freshmen Congresswomen of color were, in fact, racist, and on the 4 Republicans in the 197-seat GOP House caucus willing to vote in favor of that resolution...

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Guest-host Nicole Sandler with 2020 Presidential hopeful Mike Gravel...
By Nicole Sandler on 7/11/2019 5:34pm PT  

On today's BradCast, I'm back! It's Nicole Sandler, host of The Nicole Sandler Show at nicolesandler.com, doing the guest-hosting duties today.

My guest is former Senator MIKE GRAVEL, who's running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.... sort of. It's the most unusual campaign in that he's not trying to win. He just wants to get on the debate stage to pull the field to the left! He's very close to meeting the threshold to get in the CNN debate at the end of the month; the deadline to qualify is tomorrow.

Also today: Donald Trump finally gave up his quest to put a citizenship question on the 2020 census, though he still won't admit it. We have that story along with the rest of the day's news too. Enjoy!...

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Guest: Migration Policy Institute's Sarah Pierce; Also: Barr's power grabs continue elsewhere; Hurricane Barry takes aim at already flooded NOLA...
By Brad Friedman on 7/10/2019 6:46pm PT  

On today's BradCast, Donald Trump's Attorney General continues to make extraordinary, unprecedented moves at the Dept. of Justice as he takes power for himself on all manner of things. And only some of those moves are receiving the attention they deserve. [Audio link to show follows below.]

But first up today, just two days after nearly 4 inches of record rainfall in one hour resulted in flash flooding and a number of high-water rescues in the nation's capital --- on the very same day Trump was delivering a ridiculous, rambling speech on his (horrific) environmental record --- an even worse downfall slammed New Orleans on Wednesday. What lies ahead this week for NOLA, however, may be far worse. A tropical storm spun up quickly off the Gulf Coast following the downpour, and now threatens to become a hurricane that could, as soon as this weekend, over-top levees that protect the city. The Mississippi River at New Orleans is already at 16 feet, just below flood stage, thanks to historic spring flooding in the central U.S. But Hurricane Barry could bring a storm surge of several feet of ocean water and as much as 18 inches of rain that could test the city's 20-foot high levees. The National Weather Service is now projecting the river could crest at that same height by Saturday, depending on which way the winds blow. That may happen despite the failure of science denier and corrupt fossil fuel swamp-dweller Trump to utter the words "climate change" during his environmental speech earlier this week.

Meanwhile, back in D.C., Trump's Attorney General and personal fixer William Barr continues to exercise extraordinary, unprecedented powers in his role as the nation's chief law enforcement official. So far, the federal courts have held off a fair amount of his attempted power grabs, including a federal court in New York which has, for the moment, blocked his latest move to replace all of the Dept. of Justice attorneys previously assigned to defend legal challenges to the Administration's effort to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 Census. Another federal judge in another legal challenge on the same matter in Maryland is now considering whether to block those replacements as well.

At the same time, however, Barr is also reportedly instructing former members of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team to not appear before Congress to give testimony next week on the same day Mueller is currently scheduled to do so.

But a recent, little noticed move over the 4th of July holiday week to grant himself the power to establish precedent on immigration laws, overriding decisions by immigration judges, needs much more attention. Last week, a federal court blocked Barr's decree to disallow bond hearings for asylum-seekers who successfully demonstrate a "credible fear" of return to their home countries. But for a ruling by the federal court in Washington state last week, Barr's decree would have resulted in immigrant asylum-seekers being held for months or even years in already horrific, overcrowded detention facilities as they await their official hearings in immigration court. U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman ruled that detaining asylum-seekers indefinitely is "unconstitutional".

The day before her ruling, however, Barr quietly signed yet another new regulation --- without the traditional public comment period --- that restructures the way immigration courts have handled appeals for years. Previously, while tens of thousands of decisions are made on cases by the Board of Immigration Appeals each year, only a small number of them, about 30 per year, are published in order to establish them as precedent. Under current law, unpublished decisions are not binding on the entire system and are only published if a majority of the 21 member Board votes to do so. But last week, relying on a public comment period from about 15 years ago concerning a regulation proposed (but rejected) by the George W. Bush Administration, Barr granted himself unilateral power to selectively publish any such decisions that he likes. The move, in effect, will allow him the authority as Attorney General to set immigration law precedent that must be followed during this Administration as well as future ones, at his own whim.

We're joined today by SARAH PIERCE, immigration attorney and Policy Analyst for the non-partisan Migration Policy Institute to explain both the encouraging news on Barr's temporarily blocked bond hearing rule, first decreed back in April, as well as his move last week to reign as king over U.S. immigration policy by using the abandoned "zombie regulation", as Pierce describes it, on appeals court precedents first proposed by the Bush Administration. She describes the latter as "alarming", noting that "under this new regulation, the Attorney General will have his pick of whatever issue he wants, and really, whatever plans on the issue he wants, when deciding whether or not to make some of these decisions precedent." Pierce warns that these could be "decisions on what kinds of crimes makes someone deportable from the United States," for example, adding that "the possibilities are really endless when he has so many decisions before him to choose from."

She argues that the way immigration courts are currently structured, under the control of the DoJ, not the Judicial Branch, results in unconfirmed and even unqualified people being appointed as immigration judges without Congressional confirmation or oversight. They all serve at the pleasure and whims of the Attorney General. "This is a huge problem with our immigration court that we have this political appointee who is in charge of effectively the legal well-being of our immigration system. That's a huge problem and a huge conflict of interest," she tells me.

We also discuss the mountain of recent reports of overcrowded, unsafe and unsanitary conditions at detention centers on the border; why we are seeing this influx of families seeking asylum in the U.S.; why this Administration is handling it all so poorly, despite the number of immigrants and asylum seekers being far larger during previous administrations; and how the system itself needs to be reformed, with immigration courts placed under an independent body.

Finally today, with all of the coverage in the media and focus by Democrats on the 2020 Presidential race, the need to win back a majority in the U.S. Senate no matter who wins the White House has taken a back seat, unfortunately. But Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer was able to claim at least one recruiting victory this week, with Marine combat aviator Amy McGrath, who narrowly lost a U.S. House race last November in Kentucky, declared her intention of taking on Republican Majority Leader and democracy villain Mitch McConnell during his reelection bid in the Bluegrass State next year. We share McGrath's announcement video and ponder why the hell more big name Democrats --- including many who have chosen to run for the Presidential nomination instead --- aren't stepping up to the equally-as-important task of winning back the U.S. Senate for their party in 2020...

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Guest: Former Dep. Asst. AG Lisa Graves; Also: Acting SecDef withdraws nomination; S. America power grid collapse did not prevent voting; Swing district Rep. Porter calls for impeachment proceedings...
By Brad Friedman on 6/18/2019 6:24pm PT  

I've had a lot of legal questions swirling through my head in recent weeks as Trump and his minions have expanded their attempts at blocking all Congressional investigations of his many crimes. On today's BradCast, despite the unprecedented and ever-changing nature of what Trump is attempting, I get a bit of clarity from a guest with a long background in legal, legislative and executive matters regarding all three branches of the federal government. [Audio link to show follows below.]

First up, however, some quick news of the day. Donald Trump's Acting Sec. of Defense Patrick Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, has withdrawn his formal nomination after reported difficulties obtaining a standard FBI background clearance due to a history of domestic violence with his former wife. Former Raytheon lobbyist and Trump's Sec. of the Army Mark Esper has been tapped, for now, as the new Acting SecDef.

The widespread --- and still-unexplained --- failure of the electrical grid in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay over the weekend that affected tens of millions in South America, did not, at least, prevent gubernatorial elections from continuing on Sunday in Argentina, where they wisely use HAND-MARKED paper ballots. The election was uninterrupted despite the outage, as voting was able to continue as usual, even if voters needed to rely on mobile phone flashlights in order to see their ballots while filling them out by hand. That, by way of contrast with the utter havoc and chaos that would result from a similar outage or cyber-attack on the U.S. power grid during an election next year, with dozens of states relying on computer voting systems and electronic poll books, including a number of jurisdictions such as Los Angeles County (the nation's largest), which are set to move from hand-marked paper ballots to 100% unverifiable touch-screen voting systems in advance of the 2020 Presidential primary elections. What could possibly go wrong?

Freshman Democratic U.S. House Rep. Katie Porter announced on Monday night that, after weeks of careful consideration, she has decided to call for an official impeachment inquiry of Donald Trump. Her announcement is significant in that Porter narrowly won election last year in Republican-leaning Orange County, California, defeating her incumbent GOP opponent by just over three points. With more than 65 Democratic members in the House (and one Republican) now calling for impeachment proceedings, Porter is one of only two Democrats from closely divided swing districts where GOP incumbents were ousted last November to call publicly for beginning the Constitutional process of impeachment of our criminal President.

At the same time, the Trump Administration has spent months following the release of the damning, redacted Special Counsel's report from Robert Mueller [PDF], exercising all manner of legal schemes and Presidential tricks to try and obstruct the Congressional investigation of the many criminal obstruction offenses by Trump detailed in Mueller's report. The Administration, with the aid of his new Attorney General and fixer William Barr, has invoked so-called Executive Privilege over the entire report (even the already released material) in an attempt to prevent the unredacted report and its underlying evidence from being disclosed to Congress and the American public. They've also used Executive Privilege to try and block lawful Congressional subpoenas of current and former White House officials, many of whom cooperated as witnesses with the Mueller probe, in hopes of preventing them from testifying in the House or turning over subpoenaed documents. Barr's DoJ has gone so far this week as to offer a legal claim that the IRS need not turn over Trump's tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee in defiance of a decades-old statute requiring the IRS to do so. Trump's private attorneys have attempted to block Congressional subpoenas for the President's financial documents at his accounting firm Mazars and at Deutsche Bank, and, during a recent interview with ABC News, Trump said his own FBI Director was "wrong" for insisting that candidates contact the FBI if they are approached by foreign nationals with opposition research on their political opponents.

Those, of course, are just some of the ways that Trump continues to obstruct justice and defy the rule of law. But what are the chances that he will ultimately succeed in his attempts to obstruct Congress? We're joined today by LISA GRAVES, who has worked as a senior advisor in all three branches of the federal Government, to help us better understand some of the key elements of Trump's crimes and his attempts to invoke measures to block accountability for them.

Graves, the co-founder of the non-profit Documented, formerly served as Deputy Asst. Attorney General at the Dept. of Justice, General Counsel in the US Senate, and former Deputy Chief for the US Court system. On today's program, she explains the seriousness of obstruction crimes; how "Executive Privilege" has been invoked by Presidents (successfully or otherwise) in the past, and what the privilege really is and isn't (hint: it's not actually a statutorily or Constitutionally defined thing); whether it's actually possible or justifiable to prevent the disclosure of Trump's tax returns under the DoJ's new pretext; and whether she believes Trump should be impeached.

On criminal obstruction, says Graves: "The fact is that obstruction is a very serious crime. I suppose that if they really wanted to know how serious obstruction is, they could call Nixon back from the grave to ask him how serious this is."

On Barr's collusion with Trump: "It's truly a shame, quite frankly, that under the broken Senate led by Mitch McConnell, that Barr was confirmed to this role that he was most undeserving to hold. And that he now holds basically as a lapdog to this President, willing to his bidding, and to really subvert the true mission of this Justice Department."

On Trump's broad attempted use of Executive Privilege: "The idea that any President could somehow assert privilege over revealing evidence of his own potential obstruction of justice, the crime of obstruction, is simply astounding...There's simply no way that any reasonable interpretation of whatever that privilege might or might not be, would allow a President to hide from Congress --- which expressly has powers under our Constitution to impeach a President and to try a President --- to hide evidence from that Congress that has those express powers to hold a President accountable."

But, on that last point, she offers some "hesitation" thanks to "this Supreme Court which has been stacked by McConnell and the dark money which backs him." I'm also happy to hear her correctly note that "this court is not truly conservative, they are radically reactionary."

Graves also responds to my question about the recent statement from the chair of Federal Elections Commission, Ellen Weintraub, issued in response to Trump's assertion that he needn't contact the FBI if approached by a foreign national with dirt on a political opponent. Weintraub's statement clarified that "It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a US election." But, isn't that precisely what the Hillary Clinton Campaign (and a Republican primary campaign before it) did during the 2016 election by soliciting oppo-research on Donald Trump from former British spy Christopher Steele? I discuss that and much more with Graves today.

Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for the latest Green News Report, with more details on Sunday's South American power grid failure, news of a reported U.S. cyber-offensive against the Russian power grid, bad climate change-related news for the Gulf of Mexico's "dead zone", and some very good news from outgoing conservative British Prime Minister Theresa May who is vowing to commit the UK to the world's most aggressive targets to combat our climate crisis by eliminating greenhouse gas emissions while boosting the nation's economy at the very same time...

Download MP3 or listen to complete show online below...

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Bizarre day in the Conway household; Remarkable GOP excuses for ignoring Mueller; MI drops Flint water crisis indictments; Plus: A long-overdue musical tribute to the Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues!...
By Brad Friedman on 6/13/2019 6:40pm PT  

On today's BradCast, we've got quite a bit of hard news, though we have to start off with a brief personal note. [Audio link to today's show follows below.]

Among the stories covered today...

  • My much-beloved hometown hockey team, the St. Louis Blues, are now Stanley Cup Champions for the first time in the franchise's storied if oft-frustrating 52-year history! After going from last place in the NHL in January to win the Cup in Game 7 in Boston, it seems only fair I'm allowed a short, if long-overdue, victory lap on today's program --- along with a bumper music tribute to the team I grew up with throughout today's show. (And no, Blues fans, it's probably not the music you expect!);
  • In somewhat more substantive, if less pleasant, matters (kicked off by a Daily Kos BradCast commenter who deserves credit for an appropriate invocation of the word "paracosm" today), life in the Conway household must be getting more bizarre by the day. On Thursday, the Trump-appointed head of the federal government watchdog Office of Special Counsel (not to be confused with Robert Mueller's Special Counsel's Office) recommended that Kellyanne Conway, one of Donald Trump's top advisers and apologists, be fired for "repeated violations" of the Hatch Act. The federal law bars federal officials from using their official offices for political purposes, yet Kellyanne repeatedly used hers to bash Democrats running for office while promoting Donald Trump and other Republicans. Scoffing at the watchdog's recommendation, of course, the corrupt White House is all but certain to ignore the multiple violations of federal law by one of its top officials;
  • Meanwhile, at the other end of Chez Conway, Kellyanne's husband, longtime Republican attorney and activist George took to the pages of Washington Post to file a scorching op-ed with Barack Obama's former Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal, slamming Trump's latest legal appeal in the President's attempt to block Congressional subpoenas for financial documents from his accounting firm Mazars. Conway and Katyal deride the President's claims that Congress is Constitutionally barred from investigating criminal matters, and that only the Executive Branch may do so. "The idea that only the president can investigate the president is an argument for autocrats, not Americans," the pair write, arguing that Trump's legal argument seems to invite an official impeachment proceeding by Congress. "Every principle behind the rule of law requires the commencement of a process now to make this president a former one," they conclude, in what must make for some very chilly dinner conversation at the Conway household;
  • In not-at-all unrelated news, Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, the only sitting Republican member of Congress to call for impeachment proceedings against Trump, continues to maintain is not planning a run for President on the Libertarian ticket, though he said he has not "ruled anything out". He also lobbed back a pretty impressive response to an attempted Twitter shot by Donald Trump, Jr. (Of course, given the information-starved Trump supporters, it may be one they don't even understand.) Earlier this week, Amash officially resigned from the hard-right "House Freedom Caucus" (formerly known as the "Tea Party Caucus") which he had co-founded, having split with the group whose members have now become amongst the most virulent defenders and apologists for Trump in Congress. He also voted yesterday with Democrats in the House Oversight Committee to hold Attorney General Bill Barr and Commerce Sec. Wilbur Ross in contempt for defying a subpoena to turn over documents related to false Administration claims regarding the addition of a question about citizenship on the 2020 Census;
  • Of course, the reason Amash is currently the only sitting GOPer to call for Trump's impeachment is because he may be the only Republican in the House who actually bothered to read the Mueller Report, which details multiple instances of criminal obstruction by the President for Congress to consider for impeachment proceedings. This past week has brought some remarkably original excuses from GOP House members as to why they are willing to overlook and excuse multiple, well-documented federal crimes by the President, who Mueller found to have committed some of the very same unlawful actions for which articles of impeachment were brought against both Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. For example, Ohio Rep. Steve Chabot, who as a member of the Judiciary Committee in 1998 voted for impeachment against Clinton, now says Donald Trump never swore on a bible, so there's nothing to impeach him for. Georgia Rep. Rob Woodall fell all over himself with some remarkable, false and contradictory statements while trying to explain why he proudly refuses to even read Mueller's report at all! But while Republican members of Congress might be excused --- under the world's most generous interpretation possible --- for being clueless when it comes to the Rule of Law, no such generosity can possibly excuse the jaw-dropping response to the Mueller Report's findings from the state of Louisiana's chief law enforcement officer, Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry;
  • Finally today, stunning news out of Michigan, where the state's recently appointed Solicitor General, tapped earlier this year by newly-elected Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel, announced that state prosecutors were dropping all criminal charges against eight people indicted in the Flint lead poisoning water crisis and starting the probe over from scratch after an expansive new body of evidence was reviewed. Prosecutors say they may recharge some of the previously indicted individuals, but that new evidence reveals former Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette's three-year investigation failed to properly examine large swaths of material evidence, some of which is said to be tied to former Republican Gov. Rick Snyder. We try to make some sense of that news as we close out today's show...and musical tribute to my favorite underdog hometown team...

Download MP3 or listen to complete show online below...

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