Can Donald Trump Pardon Himself? Can He Be Indicted While Still In Office?

It has become so widely accepted that the investigations into Donald Trump’s business dealings are very likely to reveal criminal activities that subjects including whether Trump can pardon himself and whether he can be indicted while in office are now being discussed. While many disagree, Donald Trump claims he does have the power to pardon himself. The New York Times reports:

President Trump on Saturday asserted the “complete power to pardon” relatives, aides and possibly even himself in response to investigations into Russia’s meddling in last year’s election, as he came to the defense of Attorney General Jeff Sessions just days after expressing regret about appointing him.

Mr. Trump suggested in a series of early morning messages on Twitter that he had no need to use the pardon power at this point but left the option open. Presidents have the authority to pardon others for federal crimes, but legal scholars debate whether a president can pardon himself. Mr. Trump’s use of the word “complete” seemed to suggest he did not see a limit to that authority.

“While all agree the U.S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us,” he wrote on Twitter. “FAKE NEWS.”

The Washington Post reported in recent days that the president and his advisers had discussed pardons as a special counsel intensifies an investigation into whether associates of Mr. Trump and his campaign conspired with Russia to intervene in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Many Constitutional experts and lawyers disagree with Donald Trump. Laurence Tribe, Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School, Richard Painter,  a law professor at the University of Minnesota and chief White House ethics lawyer for George W. Bush from 2005 to 2007, and Norman Eisen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and chief White House ethics lawyer for Barack Obama from 2009 to 2011, wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post entitled, No, Trump can’t pardon himself. The Constitution tells us so:

Can a president pardon himself? Four days before Richard Nixon resigned, his own Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel opined no, citing “the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case.” We agree.

The Justice Department was right that guidance could be found in the enduring principles that no one can be both the judge and the defendant in the same matter, and that no one is above the law.

The Constitution specifically bars the president from using the pardon power to prevent his own impeachment and removal. It adds that any official removed through impeachment remains fully subject to criminal prosecution. That provision would make no sense if the president could pardon himself…

The Constitution’s pardon clause has its origins in the royal pardon granted by a sovereign to one of his or her subjects. We are aware of no precedent for a sovereign pardoning himself, then abdicating or being deposed but being immune from criminal process. If that were the rule, many a deposed king would have been spared instead of going to the chopping block…

President Trump thinks he can do a lot of things just because he is president. He says that the president can act as if he has no conflicts of interest. He says that he can fire the FBI director for any reason he wants (and he admitted to the most outrageous of reasons in interviews and in discussion with the Russian ambassador). In one sense, Trump is right — he can do all of these things, although there will be legal repercussions if he does. Using official powers for corrupt purposes — such as impeding or obstructing an investigation — can constitute a crime.

But there is one thing we know that Trump cannot do — without being a first in all of human history. He cannot pardon himself.

While it is commonly believed that Donald Trump would not be indicted until out of office, The New York Times reports that the commonly held view that a president cannot be indicted while in office is wrong:

A newfound memo from Kenneth W. Starr’s independent counsel investigation into President Bill Clinton sheds fresh light on a constitutional puzzle that is taking on mounting significance amid the Trump-Russia inquiry: Can a sitting president be indicted?

The 56-page memo, locked in the National Archives for nearly two decades and obtained by The New York Times under the Freedom of Information Act, amounts to the most thorough government-commissioned analysis rejecting a generally held view that presidents are immune from prosecution while in office.

“It is proper, constitutional, and legal for a federal grand jury to indict a sitting president for serious criminal acts that are not part of, and are contrary to, the president’s official duties,” the Starr office memo concludes. “In this country, no one, even President Clinton, is above the law.”

Bill Clinton was impeached, but was neither convicted in the Senate nor indicted while in office. While the investigations are at an early stage, it does appear likely that Donald Trump has committed acts far more significant than lying about an affair, and these considerations regarding indictment very well could wind up applying to him.

Quote of the Day: Seth Meyers on Jeff Sessions

President Trump said in a new interview that he had regrets about appointing Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions said today that he will continue to serve as long as it is appropriate. So only until about 1955. –Seth Meyers

At least he managed to remain around longer than Sean Spicer, who announced his resignation today.

Today’s news also makes it likely that Sessions will again be a target of the late night comedians. The Washington Post reports: Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show.

Investigations Of Trump Expand Along With Speculation That He Will Repeat Saturday Night Massacre

News reports discussed two avenues of investigation being pursued regarding Donald Trump. One of them, his business ties, appears to be of value. The other is of more questionable value–fake news on Facebook.

Bloomberg is reporting that Robert Mueller is expanding the investigation into Trump’s business ties:

The U.S. special counsel investigating possible ties between the Donald Trump campaign and Russia in last year’s election is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe.

FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said.

The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The Wall Street Journal has further information related to the investigation of Paul Manafort:

Mr. Manafort, a Republican political consultant, spent years working for a pro-Russia party in Ukraine. He served as Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign manager for roughly three months in 2016 before resigning.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. also are investigating Mr. Manafort’s real-estate transactions, The Wall Street Journal has reported, with both offices examining his dealings for possible money-laundering and fraud. Messrs. Schneiderman and Vance are Democrats.

Mr. Manafort has spent and borrowed tens of millions of dollars in connection with properties in the U.S. over the past decade, including a Brooklyn, N.Y., townhouse and California properties being developed by his son-in-law, the Journal has reported.

The nature of the investigation, along with the contempt for law enforcement expressed by Donald Trump in an interview with The New York Times, has many predicting that Trump will wind up firing Paul Manafort in a scenario reminiscent of Richard Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre. Periodically I receive comments that such criticism of Trump comes from out of touch left wingers, so I will note that the conservative National Review also predicts, Yeah, Trump Is Probably Going to Fire Robert Mueller.

While I hope to see Manafort pursue investigations into the business dealings of Donald Trump and his associates, I question whether Congressional investigators will really find out much of value in an investigation of fake news and Facebook. CNN reports:

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, met with Facebook officials in California more than a month ago as part of his committee’s investigation into potential collusion or election interference, and he’s convinced the company can explain whether anyone from the Trump campaign helped Russians boost fake news articles targeting Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Warner is testing the theory popular among Democratic operatives that Russia was behind spikes in fake news that were anti-Clinton and that Russia had help targeting those articles from US political operatives…

At the core of Warner’s questioning is a theory among Democratic operatives and former top-level Clinton campaign staff that Russia had help from domestic political operatives to micro-target fake news articles. No evidence has been uncovered to prove that theory.

Last month, Senate intelligence staff interviewed Brett Horvath, a social media technology expert who argues it’s possible that Russian operatives got political data that could then be used for successfully micro-targeting swing voters on Facebook.

“Facebook has all the data that could prove this is happening or not happening, that’s the starting point,” Horvath, a veteran Democratic political operative, told CNN.

The key line above is, “No evidence has been uncovered to prove that theory.”

There certainly was fake news spread during the campaign, as there also was against Barack Obama and John Kerry in their presidential campaigns. Only the Clinton campaign has gone so far as to blame Russia for this, with reporters covering the campaign to write the book Shattered reporting that Clinton developed the strategy of blaming Russia and others for her loss within twenty-four hours of losing, failing to take responsibility for her own mistakes. Whether or not the fake stories being spread came from Russia, they did far less harm to Clinton than the damage caused by her violation of State Department rules (as verified by the State Department Inspector General), and then repeatedly being caught lying about the matter. The truth was far more damaging than fiction.

The questionable business ties involving Donald Trump and others in his family and campaign appears to be worth investigating, but I bet it will be a mistake to divert resources from the more important issues to pursue partisan fantasies. If Democrats rely upon such weak attacks they risk allowing the Republicans to survive the actual Trump scandals.

Clinton’s Popularity Continues To Decline, Possibly Affecting Democratic Voter Enthusiasm

Democrats lead in the generic Congressional polls, but there are warning signs for Democrats. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that by a 52 to 38 percent margin voters want Democrats to control Congress to be a check on Trump. However, 65 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning adults say they are “almost certain to vote,” only 57 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters say they are likely to vote.

There are probably many reasons why Democratic-leaning voters are less likely to vote, but the damage to the Democratic brand caused by the nomination by of Hillary Clinton in 2016 cannot be underestimated. For those who have voted Democratic in protest against the policies of the Bush administration, it was a great disappointment to see the Democrats nominate a candidate with essentially the same agenda. The undemocratic manner in which the party establishment essentially picks the nominees, despite the charade of a primary system, creates further disenchantment with the party. As bad a choice as Donald Trump was, at least he was nominated due to beating the establishment candidates in a year in which many voters from both parties did not want another Bush/Clinton, with the Republican establishment accepting the decision of its voters.

Normally losing candidates do better in the polls after the election. With Donald Trump doing such a terrible job and dropping in the polls, if she followed traditional patterns Hillary Clinton should be seeing a boost in her support. Instead a Bloomberg National Poll shows that Clinton’s support has declined and that she is even more unpopular than Donald Trump.

This is not based upon opposition to the party in general  as Barack Obama and Joe Biden’s popularity has increased since they left office, and Bernie Sanders has become the most popular politician in the country.

The poll doesn’t provide reasons for Clinton’s further decrease in popularity. Just losing to a candidate as terrible as Donald Trump further highlights how weak a candidate she was, with reports such as those in Shattered providing further confirmation. I would also bet that many people expressed positive views of Clinton in the context of an election campaign against Donald Trump, but now that the campaign is over have no reason to hide their distaste for her.

Clinton’s actions following her loss give additional reasons for an already unpopular politician to now receive even less support. Her frequent statements blaming others for her loss, while downplaying the serious mistakes she made, shows her lack of character. While her far right wing views on civil liberties has received too little attention, her call for Congressional action against fake news, which amounts to censorship of material critical of her, is alarming in light of her long standing support for restricting freedom of speech and dissent.

Clinton’s anti-Russia hysteria, going well beyond what has been proven in the investigations to date, might be fooling some Democratic partisans, but is alarming to others. Clinton does not benefit politically from the revelations involving the Trump administration and Russia when fear of world war with Russia was a motivating factor for some who voted for her. A recent study suggests that her ultra-hawkish views might have played a significant role in her loss. News out of Syria provides further reason to oppose Clinton, considering her push for greater interventionism, even to the point of risking direct conflict with Russia.

Clinton has been out of step with more liberal voters on other issues, including economics, trade, the drug war, and health care policy. While many Democratic leaning voters support a single-payer system (as promoted by people including Bernie Sanders and Al Gore), Hillary Clinton also showed she was out of step in campaigning against  Medicare-for-all.

It is hard for many independents, along with principled Democrats, to be enthusiastic about the Democrats after nominating a candidate which so many dislike for good reason. The attacks on liberals and progressives opposing Clinton from partisan Democrats, showing a gross lack of respect for the basic principles of democracy in thinking that those who oppose her had some obligation to vote for her, further alienates potential Democratic voters. If Democrats are to expand their base and win elections, they need to show more respect for the views of those who oppose their move to the right.

Democrats have done poorly in 2010, 2014, and again in 2016 after moving to the right and running as a Republican-lite party. Bloomberg reports that Democrats are again looking at promoting more conservative candidates in 2018, failing to learn that voters see no reason to turn out to vote for candidates who do not stand for anything. The Democrats should do well in 2018 in response to the Trump disaster, but they also appear capable of pulling defeat again out of what should be sure victory.

Yes Donald Trump, You Are President, And Therefore You Do Own Obamacare

In the past Donald Trump claimed that he alone could fix Obamacare. He turned out to have no plan of his own, leaving this to the Republicans in Congress. They did not have a real plan either. Now he says that Obamacare should be repealed and that, “We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you, the Republicans are not going to own it.”

Sorry, Donald, you do own Obamacare. You took an oath to faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States. The Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land, and as head of the executive branch, you are responsible for administering the program.

Despite Republican claims, the Obamacare exchanges are not in a death spiral. The program was strong when Donald Trump assumed responsibility for it, and if it fails, it is his fault.

Donald Trump not only fails to understand the policy. He doesn’t even understand the process to attempt to repeal and replace it. He called for an end to the filibuster saying, “The U.S. Senate should switch to 51 votes, immediately.” While some things the Republicans would like to do would require sixty votes, only fifty-one votes were required for the Senate health care plan, and they couldn’t come up with that many.

The Republican plans to repeal and replace Obamacare failed because they had no real plan to replace it with. Fortunately a handful of Republicans have also announced they will not vote for the next plan–repeal without a replacement at this time.

In stopping the Republicans from repealing Obamacare, there is a sign that resistance works which should be applied to other areas of the Republican agenda. It will be even harder for Republicans to ram through unpopular legislation next year during an election year. After that, they will hopefully suffer loses making it even harder for them.

If the Republicans want to please voters and work for the good of the country, they should work with Democrats to strengthen and improve Obamacare. High premiums and out of pocket expenses were characteristic of the individual market prior to Obamacare, and more action is needed to fix this. A public option and/or Medicare buy-in is needed. Of course it is pure fantasy to think that the Republicans will do this, so if we are going to fantasize, we might as well encourage them to pass a single payer system.

Over 2000 Civilian Deaths From Trump’s Air War In Less Than Six Months

Donald Trump said before he was inaugurated that he would “bomb the shit” out of ISIS. This is one of the few promises he has kept, and the consequence is a marked increase in the number of civilian deaths compared to under Barack Obama. The Daily Beast, in a study conducted with the watchdog organization Airwars, reports:

Civilian casualties from the U.S.-led war against the so-called Islamic State are on pace to double under President Donald Trump, according to an Airwars investigation for The Daily Beast.

Airwars researchers estimate that at least 2,300 civilians likely died from Coalition strikes overseen by the Obama White House—roughly 80 each month in Iraq and Syria. As of July 13, more than 2,200 additional civilians appear to have been killed by Coalition raids since Trump was inaugurated—upwards of 360 per month, or 12 or more civilians killed for every single day of his administration…

A number of factors appear responsible for the steep recent rise in civilian deaths—some policy-related, others reflecting a changing battlespace as the war enters its toughest phase. In one of his first moves as president, Trump ordered a new counter-ISIS plan be drawn up. Second on his list of requests were recommended “changes to any United States rules of engagement and other United States policy restrictions that exceed the requirements of international law regarding the use of force against ISIS.”

In short, Trump was demanding that the Pentagon take a fresh look at protections for civilians on the battlefield except those specifically required by international law. That represented a major shift from decades of U.S. military doctrine, which has generally made central the protection of civilians in war…

Though the U.S. military had shifted to such annihilation tactics—a change cited with glee by the Trump White House—Mattis claimed there have been no updates to U.S. rules of engagement. “There has been no change to our continued extraordinary efforts to avoid innocent civilian casualties,” he told reporters.

When Airwars asked the Department of Defense whether, once implemented, the new plan was expected to lead to more civilian casualties, officials did not answer the question and only pointed to Mattis’ remarks.

Yet beginning in March 2017—the month after Mattis handed over the new plan—Airwars began tracking a sharp rise in reported civilian fatalities from U.S.-led strikes against ISIS. In part this was due to the savagery of the battle for Mosul. But in Syria—where almost all strikes are American—likely civilian fatalities monitored by Airwars researchers increased five-fold even before the assault on Raqqa began.

There is much more detail in the full report.

This report is consistent with  a recent UN report cited by Reuters of ‘Staggering’ civilian deaths caused by US-led air strikes in Syria.

In comparing the number of civilian casualties since Donald Trump took office to those under Barack Obama, it should also be considered that Hillary Clinton had supported much greater military intervention in Syria than under Obama, which would probably have also lead to an increase in civilian deaths. There is no way to compare what the number of deaths would be under Clinton compared to Trump.

Last week I looked at a report on the failures from the U.S. war on terror. Another recent study suggested that her support for greater military interventionism might have cost Clinton the election.

SciFi Weekend: Jodie Whittaker Cast As The 13th Doctor; Game of Thrones Returns; George A. Romero and Martin Landau Die

After fifty-four years there will be a female lead on Doctor WhoJodie Whittaker shows that glass ceilings can be broken, especially when you have the right woman. News came out earlier in the week  that the identity of the thirteenth doctor would be revealed with a video which featured the number 13:

We finally saw who held the key to the TARDIS in another video earlier today:

Jodie Whittaker was revealed to be the thirteenth Doctor, and Chris Chibnall said he had always wanted his first lead to be a woman:

“I always knew I wanted the 13th Doctor to be a woman, and we’re thrilled to have secured our No. 1 choice. Her audition for the Doctor simply blew us all away. Jodie is an in-demand, funny, inspiring, super-smart force of nature and will bring loads of wit, strength and warmth to the role.”

In retrospect this is should not come as a surprise. While Jodie Whittaker has had more genre-oriented roles, the most important one leading to getting this role must have been playing Beth Latimer in Broadchurch, which Chibnall was show runner for. He showed that he thought Whittaker was important by giving her a new position in the third season to provide for significant on screen time even though the focus of the show had changed.

Her role on Broadchurch also enabled Whittaker to work with both a former Doctor (Peter Tennant) and a former companion (Arthur Darvill).

The BBC has posted an interview with Jodie Whittaker about taking this new role:

1) What does it feel like to be the Thirteenth Doctor?
It’s very nerve-racking, as it’s been so secret!

2) Why did you want the role?
To be asked to play the ultimate character, to get to play pretend in the truest form: this is why I wanted to be an actor in the first place. To be able to play someone who is literally reinvented on screen, with all the freedoms that brings: what an unbelievable opportunity. And added to that, to be the first woman in that role.

3) Has it been hard to keep the secret?
Yes. Very hard! I’ve told a lot of lies! I’ve embroiled myself in a whole world of lies which is going to come back at me when this is announced!

4) Who was the first person you told when you got the role?
My husband. Because I was allowed to!

5) Did you have a codename and if so what was it?
In my home, and with my agent, it was The Clooney. Because to me and my husband, George is an iconic guy. And we thought: what’s a really famous iconic name? It was just fitting.

6) What does it feel like to be the first woman Doctor?
It feels completely overwhelming, as a feminist, as a woman, as an actor, as a human, as someone who wants to continually push themselves and challenge themselves, and not be boxed in by what you’re told you can and can’t be. It feels incredible.

7) What do you want to tell the fans?
I want to tell the fans not to be scared by my gender. Because this is a really exciting time, and Doctor Who represents everything that’s exciting about change. The fans have lived through so many changes, and this is only a new, different one, not a fearful one.

8) What are you most excited about?
I’m most excited about becoming part of a family I didn’t even know existed. I was born in 1982, it’s been around longer than me, and it’s a family I couldn’t ever have dreamed I’d be part of.

9) How did Chris sell you the part?
We had a strange chat earlier this year where he tricked me into thinking we were talking about Broadchurch. And I started to quiz him about his new job in Wales, and asked him if I could be a baddie! And he quickly diverted the conversation to suggest I should consider auditioning to be the 13th Clooney.

It was the most incredible chat because I asked every question under the sun, and I said I’d take a few weeks to decide whether I was going to audition. He got a phone call within 24 hours. He would’ve got a phone call sooner, but my husband was away and there was a time difference!

10) Did he persuade you?
No. There was no persuasion needed. If you need to be persuaded to do this part, you’re not right for this part, and the part isn’t right for you. I also think, for anyone taking this on, you have to want to fight for it, which I certainly had to do. I know there will have been some phenomenal actors who threw their hats in the ring.

11) What are you going to wear?
Don’t know yet.

12) Is that your costume in the filmed sequence which introduced you as the new Doctor?
No.

13) Have any of the other Doctors given you advice?
Well they can’t because they haven’t known until now, but I’m certainly expecting a couple of calls – I’ve got a couple of mates in there. I’m mates with a companion [Arthur Darvill], I’m mates with a trio of Doctors. I know Matt Smith, Chris Eccleston and obviously David Tennant. Oh! And let’s throw in David Bradley! Four Doctors! So I’m hoping I get some calls of advice.

I first heard Whittaker’s name as a front runner yesterday, and was excited by the prospect of an actress of her ability taking on the role. Being an American who watches some, but limited, British television, this was only the second time (after Peter Capaldi) I was familiar with an incoming Doctor’s work at the time they were cast. I had previously gotten accustomed to the idea of a woman receiving the role when another British actress I’m familiar with, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, was often being called the front runner.

In retrospect I suspect that Steven Moffat was helping Chris Chibnall set up for this transition. The first mention I can recall that a Time Lord can regenerate into a man or woman occurred in The Doctor’s Wife. There have been minor characters who changed gender as Time Lords, but the most significant was when The Master regenerated into Missy, played by Michelle Gomez. The possibility of the Doctor being a woman was further foreshadowed this season. The Doctor suggested that he might have been a woman in the past in World Enough And Time. In the season finale, The Doctor Falls, there was an exchange in which the Master asked, “Will the future be all girl?” and the Doctor answered, “We can only hope.”

There has been some negative reaction among fans, but reaction has generally been positive among reviewers (such as here) and those involved with the show. Peter Capaldi had this to say: “Anyone who has seen Jodie Whittaker’s work will know that she is a wonderful actress of great individuality and charm. She has above all the huge heart to play this most special part. She’s going to be a fantastic Doctor.”

The Guardian had additional comments:

Emily Cook, editorial assistant at Doctor Who magazine, said: “I am very excited about this. As soon as I saw Jodie Whittaker appear on the video in the BBC clip announcing her, it just felt right – she just felt like the Doctor. Having a female Doctor is really exciting and significant. I cannot wait to see what she does with the role and where she takes the show.

“She will bring a freshness. She is younger than Peter Capaldi and, being a woman, she will have a different approach to the role. It’s completely new territory for the show and that is very exciting. Whittaker has worked with David Tennant on Broadchurch and St Trinian’s so there is a strong Doctor Who connection there.”

Erica Lear, the social secretary at the Doctor Who Appreciation Society, said: “I think it’s very brave but she is a brilliant actress. I did not expect it but I think it’s brilliant. My only wish was that we have a good actor and that is what we have.”

But Lear noted that the appointment might divide opinion. “It will spark debate and split fandom; there will be lots of people not happy with the decision but it’s up to the new series to change their mind.”

It will be interesting to see what direction the show goes in beyond naming a woman Doctor. While they can take the show in multiple directions, I suspect that her portrayal of the Doctor might be more conventional beyond the gender change, while it would have probably been more off beat if they had gone with Phoebe Waller-Bridge. In order to save time in getting to the action, it is commonplace for the Doctor to go to new surroundings and quickly take control. Will this stay the same or will they show a woman having more difficulty here? Will the Daleks recognize her as the Doctor? What will be her relationship with her companion or companions?

It could also be interesting to bring back some past characters. Doctor Who has had a female Time Ladies in the past, including two different regenerations of Romana. Maybe Romana can return, possibly regenerated into a male Roman. For that matter, will she be called a Time Lord or Time Lady?

The most interesting match up could be if they bring back River Song. There were two different situations in the Star Trek universe in which aliens changed sex in situations somewhat comparable to regeneration involving Beverley Crusher and Dax. In both of those situations, romances were not continued when the gender of both partners became female, although different reasons than being the same sex were given. Society has changed a lot since then. Today I think the best way to handle River Song meeting Thirteen would be for her to just say “hello sweetie” and totally ignore the gender change.

Game of Thrones has also returned tonight. In the spirit of today’s lead story I’ll direct your attention towards a story at Wired entitled, This Is How GAME OF THRONES Ends In Total Matriarchy.Of course there are some major characters who are male who are not likely to give up without a fight.  Incidentally, Sophie Turner does not think that Sansa Stark should sit on the Iron Throne. She sees Sansa as taking control of Winterfell while Jon Snow ultimately sits on the Iron Throne.

There was news of two deaths. George A. Romero, creator of  Night of the Living Dead, died at age 77. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Legendary filmmaker George A. Romero, father of the modern movie zombie and creator of the groundbreaking “Night of the Living Dead” franchise, has died at 77.

Romero died Sunday in his sleep after a “brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer,” according to a statement to The Times provided by his longtime producing partner, Peter Grunwald. Romero died while listening to the score of one his favorite films, 1952’s “The Quiet Man,” with his wife, Suzanne Desrocher Romero, and daughter, Tina Romero, at his side, the family said.

Romero jump-started the zombie genre as the co-writer (with John A. Russo) and director of the 1968 movie “Night of the Living Dead,” which went to show future generations of filmmakers such as Tobe Hooper and John Carpenter that generating big scares didn’t require big budgets. “Living Dead” spawned an entire school of zombie knockoffs, and Romero’s sequels included 1978’s “Dawn of the Dead,” 1985’s “Day of the Dead,” 2005’s “Land of the Dead,” 2007’s “Diary of the Dead” and 2009’s “George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead.”

The original film, since colorized, has become a Halloween TV staple. Among other notable aspects of the cult classic was the casting of a black actor, Duane Jones, in the lead role, marking a milestone in the horror genre.

Martin Landau died at age 89. Deadline reports:

Academy Award winning actor of Ed Wood, Martin Landau has died at the age of 89. Also known for his versatile roles in classic films like Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest and for his role in the Mission: Impossible television series as master of disguise Rollin Hand , the actor died Saturday of “unexpected complications.”

…His career in television, film, and stage spanned over five decades.  “Martin Landau is living proof that Hollywood will find great roles for great actors at any stage of their careers,” said Guttman in a release.

He made his big screen debut the Gregory Peck war film Pork Chop Hill in 1959, but his first major film appearance was North by Northwest, a role he nabbed when Hitchcock after saw his stage performance with Edward G. Robinson in Paddy Chayefsky’s Middle of the Night. In addition to the classic film and TV’s Mission: Impossible, he starred opposite Jeff Bridges in Francis Ford Coppola’s Tucker: The Man His Dream in 1988, where he received his first Oscar nomination. The following year he earned his second Oscar nod for his role as Judah Rosenthal in Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors. In 1994, when he received a third nom and won for Best Supporting Actor in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood where he played Bela Lugosi.

His performance in Ed Wood also earned him a Golden Globe Award the Screen Actor Guild’s first annual award, The American Comedy Award, The New York Film Critics Award, The National Society of Film Critics Award, The Chicago Film Critics Award, The Los Angeles Film Critics Award, and every other award for Best Supporting Actor in 1994. He collaborated with Burton again as a voice actor for his animated features 9 and Frankenweenie.

Landau also stared in the science fiction television show, Space 1999 in 1975-6.

Shepard Smith Speaks Out About All The Lies From The Trump Administration

So many lies have come from the Trump administration that even an anchor at Fox is starting to complain about all the lies. Shepard Smith had this to say about the various stories being told about the meeting between Donald Trump, Jr. and Russians when speaking with Chris Wallace:

Fox News can now confirm new, more — Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, the lawyer from Russia, the interpreter, this new guy we found out about today, and a mystery person. John Roberts confirms there was an eighth person in that meeting. We don’t know, there may have been more, but there was an eighth. Jared Kushner filled out his form, I think it’s an F-86, saying who he’d met with and what he had done.

Very important stuff, you can go to prison for messing it up, you know, intentionally. He went back and added 100 names and places. None of these people made it. It’s still not — we’re still not clean on this, Chris.

It’s — if there’s nothing there and that’s what they tell us, they tell us there’s nothing to this and nothing came of it, there’s a nothing burger, it wasn’t even memorable, didn’t write it down, didn’t tell you about it, because it wasn’t anything so I didn’t even remember it, with a Russian interpreter in the room at Trump Tower.

If all of that, why all of these lies? Why is it lie after lie after lie? If you’re clean, come out clean. You know, my grandmother used to say “When first we practice to — oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

The deception, Chris, is mind boggling. And there are still people out there who believe we’re making it up, and one day they’re going to realize we’re not, and look around and go, “Where are we? And why are we getting told all these lies?”

Shepard Smith has varied from the hard line pro-Republican viewpoint at Fox at times, but it is also rare to see such outright acknowledgement about government lying including using the L-word. The Fix is calling this a “Cronkite moment” referring to when Walter Cronkite spoke out about the lies being told about the United States involvement in Vietnam.

This is a bit of an exaggeration. Walter Cronkite speaking out against the war is often seen as precipitating a turning point in public perception of the war. The majority of people in the nation is already opposed to Donald Trump and realizes he is a liar. However it would be more comparable if this leads to a change in perception of Donald Trump among Fox viewers.

Partisan Claims From Both Sides Not Holding Up Re Trump And Russia

As more comes out, it increasing looks (not surprisingly) that both the Clinton and Trump camps have been wrong about Russia. The meeting with Donald Trump, Jr. and a reportedly growing number of Russians shows (not surprisingly) a lack of ethics on the part of the Trump campaign, but neither actual collusion nor even any sign that the Russians actually had any information on the Clinton campaign.

This follows the pattern to date. While we do not know the final results of the investigations in progress, the facts we do have undermine both those who defend the Trumps (mainly on the right, but including a small contingent on the left), as well as those who blame Clinton’s loss on collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. The later is an excuse which Hillary Clinton latched onto withing twenty-four hours of losing  in order to place the blame on others according to Shattered.

There is no evidence of any successful collusion between Russia and Trump to change the election result as many Clinton supporters have claimed. However that now appears to be because attempts on the part of the Trump family and campaign were unsuccessful, not due to any innocence on their part.  The scandal is rapidly changing from alleged rigging of an election to a violation of election laws in soliciting information from a foreign government–not all that unlike what the Clinton campaign has also been accused of. In Trump’s case, this has become more serious because of what increasingly looks like a cover-up of Watergate proportions, including firing James Comey to obstruct the investigation. I also would not be surprised if there are major revelations to come regarding the Trumps’ financial affairs.

At this time we do not know for certain whether the accusations of Russian meddling in the election are true, but considering the long history of U.S. meddling in foreign elections, this is hardly justification for the anti-Russia hysteria and McCarthyism being generated by some Democratic partisans. The New York Times at least did take a more sensible approach in a recent editorial, concentrating on recommendations to improve the security of our election systems. This is warranted regardless of the validity of accusations against Russia.

While less dramatic than the unproven allegations of a foreign country affecting general election results, we do know that Clinton and her allies in the DNC were successful in rigging the Democratic nomination for Clinton–ultimately leading to the election of Donald Trump. While Trump’s actions should continue to be investigated, Democrats need to concentrate more on reforming their own party than engaging in unsubstantiated attacks. 

As was the case throughout the 2016 campaign, we continue to see that neither the Clinton camp nor the Trump camp can be trusted.

Opposition Continues To Republican Health Care Plan

Little has changed on health care legislation. The Republican plan for replacing Obamacare continues to provide inadequate coverage. This includes reducing coverage for Medicaid and destabilizing the individual market, now with a provision written by Ted Cruz. As Ezra Klein wrote, The new Senate health bill is terrible for anyone who is sick, has been sick, or will be sick. This is especially true for those who do not receive coverage through an employer, or ever get sick enough that they cannot continue working to keep that coverage.

Fortunately the Republicans remain in a difficult position with regards to passing their plan. They can only afford to lose three Republican votes, and at this point two Republicans, Rand Paul and Susan Collins, say they will not vote for it. Several other Republicans are undecided. Mitch McConnell plans on holding a procedural vote on Tuesday to consider the measure, and there very well might not be enough votes to proceed.

There continues to be wide spread public opposition to the Republican plan, with multiple medical groups working to oppose the bill. This includes  the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Physicians, the American Osteopathic Association and the American Psychiatric Association. Putting further pressure on Republican Senators, the Cook Political Report also notes that 94 percent of ads have been opposed to the bill.

There has been some talk that the Republicans would work with the Democrats on a bill to shore up the exchanges should the Republican measure fail. It is doubtful that the Republicans would agree to the types of measures which would be best to cover those obtaining coverage on the individual market such as a public option or Medicare buy in. It is even more unlikely that the Republicans, or even enough Democrats, would back the most sensible solution–a single payer plan.