Quotes of the Day: Jimmy Kimmel & Stephen Colbert On The Shutdown

Jimmy Kimmel On The Shutdown:

In Washington, Democrats and Republicans reached a deal. Kind of a deal, to reopen the government for, well, at least three weeks. The Democrats agreed to fund the government through February 8 in exchange for a promise from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that they would have a debate and a vote on DACA. In other words, for nothing.

Schumer said negotiating with the president was like trying to negotiate with Jell-O, specifically the orange Jell-O.

Trump was completely removed from the negotiations. It’s funny, he always claimed to be the best negotiator. This was his big selling point, “I’m the dealmaker.” At this point it seems pretty clear he couldn’t even negotiate 20% off at Bed Bath & Beyond with the coupon.

Bonus Quote From Stephen Colbert:

To avoid another shutdown, all that needs to happen is Congress has to agree on how to fix our entire immigration system in 17 days. And once they do that, the pigs that fly will solve world hunger.

Collaborators, Not Resistance: Eighteen Senate Democrats Vote To Support Restrictions On Civil Liberties

After the House, with the support of fifty-five Democrats including Nancy Pelosi and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, blocked attempts to reform the FISA Act, Rand Paul and Ron Wyden attempted to filibuster FISA renewal in the Senate. They wrote this letter describing the civil liberties violations in the bill to renew and expand the FISA act for six years. The vote was close, with sixty votes required for the cloture vote. Cloture passed on a vote of 60 to 38, with  Democrat Claire McCaskill casting the deciding vote. Once again several Democrats voted to betray the Constitution and vote against civil liberties.

Eighteen Democratic Senators, along with independent Angus King of Maine, vote for cloture. The Democrats voting for cloture were: Tom Carper (Del.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Maggie Hassan (N.H.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Doug Jones (Ala.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Joe Manchin (W.V.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Gary Peters (Mich.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Mark Warner (Va.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.).

The following Republican Senators voted to support the filibuster, which would have provided an opportunity to debate and offer amendments to reform the law: Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Steve Daines, Cory Gardner, Dean Heller, Jerry Moran, and Lisa Murkowski. Yes, Ted Cruz was on the right side of this while eighteen Democrats were not.

The American Civil Liberties Union Tweeted this response: “Members of both parties who voted in favor of this legislation should be sharply rebuked for supporting a bill that is in flagrant violation of the rights enshrined in the Constitution.”

The final bill is expected to pass the Senate this week.

Reason described how the bill expands violations of civil liberties in the FISA Act:

This bill doesn’t just renew Section 702 for six years; it also codifies permission for the FBI to access and use data secretly collected from Americans for a host of domestic federal crimes that have nothing to do with protecting America from foreign threats. It has added some unusually worded warrant requirements that will protect some people—but only when they’re actually suspected and are being investigated for criminal activities.

Furthermore the bill will give the NSA permission to attempt to restart what are known as “about” searches, access to communications that merely reference a foreign target, not just communications to and from that target. The NSA voluntarily ended these types of searches once it became clear they were gaining access communications that they had no authority to be viewing. This bill will allow them to attempt to restart it unless Congress acts separately to stop it.

Once again many Democrats have acted as collaborators rather than as the resistance. Democrats who claim that Trump is a tyrant in cahoots with Putin have not been able to unite to oppose giving him increased powers to spy on Americans. Although they are a minority in both Houses of Congress, the presence of some Republicans supporting privacy rights, along with the requirement for sixty votes in the Senate, provided Democrats with the power to force changes.  A swing of one vote in the Senate or twenty-six Democrats in the House could have forced reforms to the law which allows warrantless surveillance of Americans as well as foreigners.

Democrats, Including Nancy Pelosi, Help Republicans Block Civil Liberties Protections

The House has voted to renew the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program after previously failing to pass an amendment to place limitations on the program to help protect the rights of Americans. The New York Times reports:

The House of Representatives voted on Thursday to extend the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance program for six years with minimal changes, rejecting a yearslong effort by a bipartisan group of lawmakers to impose significant new privacy limits when it sweeps up Americans’ emails and other personal communications.

The vote, 256 to 164, centered on an expiring law that permits the government, without a warrant, to collect communications of foreigners abroad from United States firms like Google and AT&T — even when those targets are talking to Americans. Congress had enacted the law in 2008 to legalize a form of a once-secret warrantless surveillance program created after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The legislation approved on Thursday still has to go through the Senate. But fewer lawmakers there appear to favor major changes to spying laws, so the House vote is likely the effective end of a debate over 21st-century surveillance technology and privacy rights that broke out in 2013 following the leaks by the intelligence contractor Edward J. Snowden…

Before approving the extension of the law, known as Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, the House voted 233 to 183 to reject an amendment that proposed a series of overhauls. Among them was a requirement that officials get warrants in most cases before hunting for and reading emails and other messages of Americans swept up under the program.

Daniel Schuman of Demand Progress tweeted a list of the fifty-five Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi and Intelligence Committee Democratic Ranking Member Adam Schiff, who voted against the amendment introduced by Republican Justin Amash.

Schuman noted that the USA Rights amendment could have passed if twenty-six of these Democrats had supported it.

The Intercept described the effects of the bill which was passed:

The law serves as the legal backing for two mammoth NSA programs revealed by Edward Snowden: Upstream, which collects information from the internet junctions where data passes into and out of the country, and PRISM, which collects communications from U.S.-based internet companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Yahoo.

The programs rest on the notion that they are “targeting” foreigners, but they collect massive amounts of data on Americans as well, including wholly domestic communications. Amazingly, the intelligence community has never disclosed how much. Numerous members of Congress have requested an estimate since 2011, but both the Obama and Trump administrations have refused to provide one.

The bill also consolidates the FBI’s legal authority to search those communications without a warrant. Under current rules, the NSA shares certain kinds of information it collects under Section 702 with the FBI, whose agents can then search it in the course of investigating crimes unrelated to national security. In a secret court hearing in 2015, a lawyer for the Justice Department compared the frequency of those searches to the use of Google.

The American Civil Liberties Union issued this statement:

The House voted today to give President Trump and his administration more spying powers. The government will use this bill to continue warrantless intrusions into Americans’ private emails, text messages, and other communications.

No president should have this power. Yet, members of Congress just voted to hand it to an administration that has labeled individuals as threats based merely on their religion, nationality, or viewpoints. The Senate should reject this bill and rein in government surveillance powers to bring Section 702 in line with the Constitution.

Of course there is little chance of stopping this in the Senate either.  Rand Paul and Ron Wyden have sponsored a Senate version of the USA Rights Act.

There was one amusing aspect of this with Donald Trump again showing he has no understanding of the legislation before Congress. Trump initially put out a tweet opposing the bill after someone on Fox and Friends had said that the FISA Act had been used to justify surveillance of him based upon the Steele Dossier. He later reversed this after someone explained the position of his administration to him regarding the legislation.

This turned out to be only the second most stupid thing said by Donald Trump today. Later in the day this president with a shithole for a brain referred to Haiti and African countries as shithole countries.

Establishment Democrats Again Trying To Smear Jill Stein

I have my doubts as to whether the request for material from former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein by the Senate Intelligence Committee will amount to anything, but establishment Democrats cannot contain their glee. Here is the response from one former Clinton aide who was just one of many Clinton supporters to demonstrate their McCarthyism with chants claiming their unproven (and unlikely) assertion that Jill Stein is a Russian agent:

Others responded by pointing out how weak the logic is that being placed at the table as Putin at an event makes one a Russian agent:

Pictures with the tweet show both Hillary and Bill Clinton sitting with Putin.

When it is a political opponent, Clinton supporters typically consider any form of an investigation being evidence of guilt. However, when it comes to Clinton, they conveniently forget the recent investigations which showed that Clinton was guilty of highly unethical behavior.  The State Department Inspector General’s report showed that Hillary Clinton violated rules designed to promote transparency as Secretary of State by exclusively using a private server and failing to turn this email over for archiving as required by law until forced to after she left office. The FBI report revealed that Clinton repeatedly lied to the public and press on multiple points regarding the email scandal, and that that Clinton and her colleagues were  “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”

Clinton supporters have been trying to smear Stein since the election under the mistaken belief that if Stein wasn’t running they would have picked up her votes. In reality, few who voted for Stein would have voted for a corrupt war monger like Clinton. Even if, which I think is unlikely, it turns out that Stein was a Russian agent, and this was revealed during the campaign, I might have voted differently, but still would not have voted for Clinton.

A spokesperson for Stein provided the following statement:

Responding to a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence request for documents pertaining to interference in the 2016 election, former Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein said she is cooperating by sharing all communications relevant to the committee’s mission. “We take seriously the issue of potential interference in our elections, as demonstrated by our continuing efforts to investigate the integrity of the 2016 election and examine our voting machines that are widely known to be vulnerable, but which still have not been examined for evidence of interference. To restore trust in our elections and democracy itself, we must safeguard our elections from all potential sources of interference, whether by foreign state actors or domestic political partisans, criminal networks, lone wolves, or private corporations – including those who control voting software.

Our campaign has observed the highest standards of transparency and integrity in our interactions with foreign nationals as well as Americans. Our communications with Russian individuals regarding an invitation to speak on international relations at the RT 10th anniversary media conference will confirm what we stated publicly at that time and since: that we did not accept any payment or even reimbursement for the trip, and that we made the trip with the goal of reaching an international audience and Russian officials with a message of Middle East peace, diplomacy, and cooperation against the urgent threat of climate change, consistent with long-standing Green principles and policies.

We strongly support legitimate inquiry into any illegal activity in our elections – including quid pro quo deals, money laundering, corruption and violation of campaign finance laws. At the same time, we caution against the politicization, sensationalism and collapse of journalistic standards that has plagued media coverage of the investigation. In the current climate of attacks on our civil liberties, with the emergence of censorship in social media and the press, criminalization of protest, militarization of police and massive expansion of the surveillance state, we must guard against the potential for these investigations to be used to intimidate and silence principled opposition to the political establishment.

Stein said that she would release a more comprehensive statement about the investigation in the near future.

Jill Stein was also interviewed by The Intercept:

Stein clearly resents the Senate’s attention vis-à-vis  electoral interference and foreign meddling: “This smacks of the dangerous underbelly of these investigations. The extent to which they exercise overreach, politicizing, and sensationalism is a danger to democracy, especially in the current climate of all-out war on our First Amendment rights. This is not a time to be attacking the rights of political speech and political association.”

…It’s safe to assume the Intelligence Committee is interested in anything pertaining to Stein’s now-infamous attendance of an RT gala in Moscow, at which she was seated and photographed with Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Stein told The Intercept that as she has routinely appeared on RT and expects to hand over communications related to booking those TV segments and other “administrative” messages between her campaign and the Russian network, as well as “logistical” messages about the Moscow event. Stein also noted that before her Moscow visit, she had “requested to speak with either Putin or [Russian Foreign Minister Sergey] Lavrov, or someone in the Russian government, to be able to discuss our policies, because I was there to advance our agenda for peace and climate action and diplomacy and nuclear weapon abolition.”

Stein says this request was not granted. Stein also maintains that she declined to let RT pay for any portion of her trip to Moscow and further denies requesting or receiving any other assistance, monetary or otherwise, from RT, the Russian government, WikiLeaks, or the Trump campaign, adding that any dialogue or cooperation with Trump “would have been quite contrary to our values.”

When asked why she had attended the gala and sought an audience with Putin, she told The Intercept that “we sought contact with every powerful world leader we had access to,” and that the Russian government was of particular interest because of its involvement in the Syrian civil war. “We don’t have any reason to suspect that there was any backdoor communication,” Stein said. “We were very much focused on the substantive issues of the elections, and we avoid like the plague manipulations and machinations in order to make things happen behind the scenes.”

 Stein also described the dinner, along with how minimal her contact was, in this interview with Jeremy Scahill.

A Defeat For Trump And The Religious Right In The GOP Tax Bill

This week has seen some good with the defeat of Roy Moore, some bad with the ending of net neutrality, and we appear to be closer to the Republicans passing a “tax reform” package designed to greatly increase the wealth of the ultra-wealthy. There is a one piece of good news related to the tax bill today. As the Republicans are forced to pass this through budget reconciliation, there are limits on what can be included. The  Senate parliamentarian has ruled that the repeal of the highly popular Johnson Amendment cannot be included.

The Hill reports:

The Senate parliamentarian has blocked language repealing the Johnson Amendment and allowing churches and 501(c)3 nonprofits to endorse candidates and engage in partisan politics from inclusion in the tax bill.

Sen. Ron Wyden‘s (D-Ore.) office confirmed to The Hill on Thursday night that the Senate parliamentarian had determined the inclusion of the Johnson Amendment repeal did not meet Senate rules that require elements of the tax bill to have something to do with the budget.

The Senate is seeking to move a House-Senate conference report under special budgetary rules that prevent Democrats from using a filibuster. To use those rules, all parts of the bill must have a budgetary effect, and the parliamentarian ruled the Johnson language did not meet that standard…

The proposal was a major priority for President Trump, who vowed to repeal the amendment during his 2016 presidential campaign, saying it would “give our churches their voice back.”

Specifically, the House bill would have temporarily allowed nonprofits to engage in political speech in the ordinary course of its activities, so long as the organization didn’t incur significant expenses while doing so.

The Johnson Amendment, named for then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson (D-Texas), has been part of the tax code since 1954. It prohibits churches and other tax-exempt organizations from participating in some political activity.

This is another political setback for Trump, who has (fortunately) failed at getting through much of his agenda or fulfilling most of his campaign promises. To put it in language which Donald Trump would understand, he is a loser.

While a defeat for Trump and the religious right, most Americans should be pleased by this development. A poll earlier this year showed that 72 percent of Americans want to keep the Johnson Amendment. Many church leaders also agree in supporting the Johnson Amendment.

The Washington Post also notes that repeal would have allowed a further increase in dark money in politics:

There were concerns that a repeal would create a new dark-money channel for powerful donors to quietly funnel funds to political candidates. Under the House plan, both the Clinton Foundation and Trump Foundation would be able to openly get involved in U.S. political campaigns, for example.

Democratic Lead In Generic Poll Disappears When Adjusted For Likely Voters

A Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that, “Voters say they prefer Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives over Republicans by the widest margin in over a decade.” My first reaction was that I’ve seen similar claims going into previous elections, only to see the Democrats under-perform. A follow up story from ABC News suggests we could see the same again, warning Democratic advantage for ’18 might not be what it seems as likely voters have a more favorable view of Republicans:

For one thing, despite President Donald Trump’s historic unpopularity, almost as many Americans say they’ll vote in 2018 to show support for Trump as to show opposition to him, 22 versus 26 percent, with half saying he won’t be a factor. Indeed 57 percent of Republicans say they’ll vote to show support for Trump, while fewer Democrats, 46 percent, intend to send a message against him.

Further, among the results of this poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates:

Just 27 percent of Americans express confidence in the Democrats in Congress “to make the right decisions for the country’s future,” matching the low set when the question last was asked January 2014, and a wide 16 points below its peak in 2009. The Democrats’ confidence rating is almost as poor as the Republicans’ in Congress (21 percent trust) and worse than Trump’s (34 percent)…

The main change for congressional Democrats from their peak in 2009, moreover, is diminished trust in some of their key support groups — under 30s (down 27 points in trust), Democrats themselves (down 26 points) and liberals (down 21 points).

The Democratic Party leads the GOP among all Americans as being “more concerned with the needs of people like you” (49-36 percent) and as “better representing your own personal values” (46-37 percent). But the Democrats had advantages that big on these same questions in October 2014, and still got hammered a few weeks later.

Indeed today, the Democratic lead on concern with “the needs of people like you” shrinks from 13 points among all adults to a mere 3 points among those most likely to vote in 2018. And the 9-point Democratic advantage on personal values among all Americans goes to a non-significant 3-point Republican advantage among the likeliest 2018 voters.

Similarly, the Democrats enjoy an 11-point advantage among all adults in the sense that the country would be better off if they took control of Congress in a year’s time, 37-26 percent. Among the likeliest voters, though, this shrinks to essentially nothing, 2 points.

It is possible that 2018 will be a better year for Democrats in light of how terrible a job both Donald Trump and the Republican Congress have done. However, Democrats better not use this as an excuse to avoid fixing their own rather serious problems. Relying on early polls for victory in 2018 could be as perilous as relying on the mythical blue wall in the electoral college in 2016.

While Donald Trump is likely to do serious harm to the Republican brand, having nominated Hillary Clinton in 2016 was already a serious black mark against the Democratic Party. This damage is exacerbated by Clinton’s post-election activities including her excuses tour and spreading hysteria about Russia, as well as other revelations still coming out regarding unethical activity during the 2016 campaign.

Washington Post Reveals That Trump-Russia Dossier Was Commissioned By Clinton Campaign And DNC

The Washington Post today revealed that the dossier complied with accusations including ties between Donald Trump and Russia (along with more salacious claims) was funded by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. From their report:

The Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped fund research that resulted in a now-famous dossier containing allegations about President Trump’s connections to Russia and possible coordination between his campaign and the Kremlin, people familiar with the matter said.

Marc E. Elias, a lawyer representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC, retained Fusion GPS, a Washington firm, to conduct the research.

After that, Fusion GPS hired dossier author Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer with ties to the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community, according to those people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Elias and his law firm, Perkins Coie, retained the firm in April 2016 on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC. Prior to that agreement, Fusion GPS’s research into Trump was funded by a still unknown Republican client during the GOP primary.

The Clinton campaign and the DNC, through the law firm, continued to fund Fusion GPS’s research through the end of October 2016, days before Election Day.

This may or may not have any bearing on the accuracy of the information released, but knowing that this was paid opposition research from the Clinton camp could cast doubts on its credibility. We will hopefully know more about the accuracy of the report after investigations by Robert Muller and the Congressional investigations are completed. At this time questions about money laundering and other financial crimes involving Donald Trump, his family, and associates appear to be more credible than claims of collusion between Trump and Russia to alter the election results (not that Trump’s family wasn’t interested if Russia had something to offer).

While some items have been found to be true, much of the information in the dossier has not been independently verified. Today’s revelation of Clinton’s involvement in funding the dossier must cast doubt as to whether its claims such as ties between Russian intelligence and the Trump campaign are true, especially in light of how Shattered revealed that Clinton had latched onto the claim that Russia was responsible within twenty-four hours of her loss to distract from the many mistakes made by her campaign which were the more likely cause of her loss. Even former Clinton strategist Mark Penn recently disputed the claims that Russia caused Clinton to lost the election.

The Russia hysteria being generated by Clinton’s claims has undermined the credibility of the US electoral process with Clinton and many of her supporters making unsubstantiated claims that the election was stolen, been used as justification for restrictions on internet freedom, and has fueled Cold War style hostilities which feed into the goals of Clinton’s neocon allies for increased hostilities towards Russia.

As opposition research can be biased towards the desired conclusions of those paying for the report, the information in the dossier now must be considered to be based upon partisan bias until the claims are independently verified. On the other hand, the decisions announced today by the House to launch two investigations of Hillary Clinton will also be seen as based upon partisanship. This includes investigations regarding the Justice Department’s handling of the Clinton investigation and the sale of uranium mines. The later comes after a recent report providing new accusations of Russian bribes to the Clintons while the matter was being reviewed at the State Department.

While there is undoubtedly plenty to investigate in the conduct of Hillary Clinton, especially her influence peddling at the State Department, it is questionable whether the Republican House can be trusted to conduct a meaningful hearing after how they handled Benghazi.

Update: Vox takes a similar line in recommending skepticism towards the dossier:

Now, however, we know that the dossier’s research during much of 2016 was funded by a top lawyer working for the Clinton campaign itself. That of course doesn’t necessarily mean the information in it is deliberately false — campaigns usually try to dig up opposition research that is true, if they can.

But it certainly presents the possibility that the research of the dossier and subsequent circulation of it were more akin to a dirty trick than a genuine, disinterested effort to find the truth about Trump and Russia. After all, if a campaign hires a firm to find dirt on their opponent, that is what that firm will try and deliver, even if what they turn up is dubious or thinly-sourced.

Overall, viewing this uncorroborated document very skeptically was always a good idea, and the fact that its funders were Trump’s biggest opponents only makes that more the case.

Update II: Further Reaction To Revelation That Trump Russia Dossier Was Commissioned By The Clinton Campaign

Talk Of Impeachment From The Brookings Institution, A Democratic Congressman, And A Major Democratic Donor

There has been talk of possible impeachment of Donald Trump starting even before he took office, but the topic seems to be coming up more this week, along with reports of a dysfunctional White House. Yesterday the Brookings Institution released a report on the obstruction of justice by Donald Trump. Following is from the Executive Summary, raising the question of impeachment but leaving it as premature pending the outcome of Robert Mueller’s investigation:

There are significant questions as to whether President Trump obstructed justice. We do not yet know all the relevant facts, and any final determination must await further investigation, including by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. But the public record contains substantial evidence that President Trump attempted to impede the investigations of Michael Flynn and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, including by firing FBI Director James Comey. There is also a question as to whether President Trump conspired to obstruct justice with senior members of his administration although the public facts regarding conspiracy are less well developed.

Attempts to stop an investigation represent a common form of obstruction. Demanding the loyalty of an individual involved in an investigation, requesting that individual’s help to end the investigation, and then ultimately firing that person to accomplish that goal are the type of acts that have frequently resulted in obstruction convictions, as we detail. In addition, to the extent conduct could be characterized as threatening, intimidating, or corruptly persuading witnesses, that too may provide additional grounds for obstruction charges.

…Special Counsel Mueller will have several options when his investigation is complete. He could refer the case to Congress, most likely by asking the grand jury and the court supervising it to transmit a report to the House Judiciary Committee. That is how the Watergate Special Prosecutor coordinated with Congress after the grand jury returned an indictment against President Nixon’s co-conspirators. Special Counsel Mueller could also obtain an indictment of President Trump and proceed with a prosecution. While the matter is not free from doubt, it is our view that neither the Constitution nor any other federal law grants the president immunity from prosecution. The structure of the Constitution, the fundamental democratic principle that no person is above the law, and past Supreme Court precedent holding that the president is amenable to other forms of legal process all weigh heavily in favor of that conclusion. While there can be debate as to whether a sitting president can be indicted, there is no doubt that a president can face indictment once he is no longer in office. Reserving prosecution for that time, using a sealed indictment or otherwise, is another option for the special counsel.

Congress also has actions that it can take, including continuing or expanding its own investigations, issuing public reports, and referring matters for criminal or other proceedings to the Department of Justice or other executive branch agencies. In addition, there is the matter of impeachment. We describe the articles of impeachment drafted against Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, as well as those drafted against Judges Harry Claiborne and Samuel Kent to show that obstruction, conspiracy, and conviction of a federal crime have previously been considered by Congress to be valid reasons to remove a duly elected president from office. Nevertheless, the subject of impeachment on obstruction grounds remains premature pending the outcome of the special counsel’s investigation.

While they are probably right that it is too early to begin impeachment proceedings, one Democrat did write an impeachment resolution. From The Hill:

Green’s articles of impeachment state that Trump “is fueling an alt-right hate machine” that’s “causing immediate injury to American society.”

The Texas lawmaker, who represents a district that covers part of Houston, read aloud his articles on the House floor and stressed that Trump should not have to be convicted of a crime in order to be impeached.In his articles of impeachment, Green cited Trump’s equivocating response to the violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.; attacks on NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality; and since-debunked accusations that former President Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower as examples of how Trump has “undermined the integrity of his office” and “brought disrepute on the presidency.”

Another article of impeachment states that Trump engaged in “perfidy” by making the false claim that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election. Trump won the Electoral College and therefore the presidency, but Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won the popular vote.

Green stopped short of forcing the House from taking a vote on the measure, to the relief of Democrats who did not want to have to take a firm position at this time. The Washington Post reports:

A Democratic congressman stopped just short of forcing a House vote on President Trump’s impeachment Wednesday, pulling back under apparent pressure from his own party.

Rep. Al Green (D-Tex.) read his impeachment resolution on the House floor Wednesday afternoon, bringing it up under rules that would force a rapid vote. But when, less than an hour later, the House’s presiding officer called the resolution up for action, Green did not appear on the floor to offer it.

Green said to reporters afterward that he had wanted to allow more time for his colleagues to review the resolution before it was voted on, and he suggested that the House floor staff had misled him about the timing of that vote.

While Democrats do not want to vote on impeachment at this time, Tom Steyer, one of the party’s largest donors, is demanding that Democratic candidates pledge to support impeaching Trump:

One of the Democratic Party’s most prominent financial backers is demanding that lawmakers and candidates on the left support removing President Trump from office, putting pressure on Democrats to make Mr. Trump’s ouster a defining issue in the 2018 midterm elections.

Tom Steyer, a billionaire California investor who spent more than $91 million supporting Democrats in the 2016 elections, issued the demand to his party in a letter on Wednesday. In his message, Mr. Steyer described Mr. Trump as a “clear and present danger to the republic” and called on Democrats to pledge that they would seek to remove him from office if they take control of Congress next year.

Mr. Steyer — who is considering a run for Senate, perhaps against Senator Dianne Feinstein, a fellow Democrat — cited a range of acts by Mr. Trump to justify impeachment, including the president’s “relationship with Vladimir Putin and Russia,” allegations that Mr. Trump has used the presidency to “promote his own business interests” and his “seeming determination to go to war.”

While such a desire to impeach Donald Trump is understandable, I would prefer that donors from the left do more to get Democrats to take a firm stand against neoconserative interventionism and the surveillance state after the Democratic Party nominated a candidate who was firmly behind the Bush/Cheney agenda in 2016.

House Republicans Pass Anti-Abortion Bill Based On Pseudo-Science

Conservatives rarely give up on a bad idea, and have no problem with basing their legislation on junk science. Back in January, 2015 I wrote about Republican efforts to restrict abortion based upon the scientifically invalid idea that a fetus can feel pain at twenty weeks:

Conservative efforts to ban abortions after 20 weeks are based on ignoring science, just as many conservatives do in denying evolution and climate change. Conservatives make pseudo-scientific claims that the fetus can feel pain at this point, despite the cerebral cortex not being developed until well after this point. There is no real controversy over this point in medicine. Conservatives sometimes twist studies showing simple reflexes as indicating that the fetus is feeling pain. Often they misquote researchers to falsely claim their is a scientific basis for their bogus claims. More on this faux controversy over the science here and here.

The 20 week ban is especially harmful to the rights of women as fetal abnormalities are often not discovered until after this point. It is understandable that a woman who discovers after 20 weeks that she is carrying a fetus which has severe brain abnormalities which would prevent survival might want to abort, but Republicans would deny them this choice by setting an arbitrary limit before such abnormalities are apparent. It is also feared that once they set the line at 20 weeks they will use more pseudo-science to justify moving it up.

Conservatives have also practiced pseudo-science in trying to make the abortion debate over the moment when life begins, when development of the human embryo and fetus is a continuum. Conception is a process without an exact moment at which it occurs, and even fertilization can take twenty-four hours.

If conservatives are really concerned about preventing fetal pain their policies are counterproductive. Late term abortions are very rare in this country, primarily done when the mother’s health is in danger. Another common reason for abortions being delayed until after 20 weeks is the inability of the mother to obtain the abortion earlier, often due to roadblocks placed by Republicans making abortions more difficult to obtain. Of course Republican opposition to contraception further increases the number of abortions. If conservatives were consistent in desiring to prevent fetal pain, they should facilitate the ability of women to obtain both contraception and to obtain early abortions even beyond twenty weeks and before the actual ability to feel pain is present.

What I wrote in that previous post still applies today as the House of Representatives passed a bill to ban abortions nationwide after twenty weeks, ignoring the fundamental right of a woman to control her own body, ignoring the science, and even ignoring conservative arguments regarding states’ rights. Vox reports on this, and presents arguments regarding the science similar to those made above:

The House voted on Tuesday to pass a bill that would make abortion after 20 weeks illegal in every state in the country. Called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, it’s based on the idea that a fetus at 20 weeks’ gestation can feel pain.

“The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act will protect the voiceless, the vulnerable, and the marginalized,” said Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the House majority leader, in a statement last month. “It will protect those children who science has proven can feel pain.” President Donald Trump has promised to sign the bill if it passes; during the campaign, he said such a bill “would end painful late-term abortions nationwide.”

In fact, the best available science shows that fetuses probably cannot feel pain until well after 20 weeks. Advocates of abortion rights say 20-week bans at the state level have harmed women, forcing them to travel to another state, often at great expense, to get the care they seek. And opponents of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act fear that, though it is unlikely to pass the Senate, it will ultimately spread dangerous misinformation…

The text of the bill includes a section on the science of fetal pain, which states that “there is substantial medical evidence that an unborn child is capable of experiencing pain at least by 20 weeks after fertilization, if not earlier.”

However, the general scientific consensus is that no such evidence exists. “There’s actually conclusive evidence that shows that the neurologic structures in a fetus aren’t completely laid down and working yet until much further along in pregnancy, we think even the third trimester,” said Jennifer Conti, a clinical assistant professor and OB-GYN at Stanford University and a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health. Twenty weeks, she said, “is just an arbitrary limit set in place by politicians that has no medical or scientific backing.”

The most comprehensive look at fetal pain to date was a literature review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2005. According to the review, the structures needed for fetuses to feel pain begin to develop between 23 and 30 weeks’ gestation, and studies of premature babies suggest they can’t feel pain until 29 or 30 weeks. While this review is now 12 years old, it still holds true — “no research since its publication has contradicted its findings,” wrote Mark S. DeFrancesco on behalf of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in 2015.

The House bill makes a number of claims that contradict scientific consensus. For instance, the bill states that “after 20 weeks, the unborn child reacts to stimuli that would be recognized as painful if applied to an adult human, for example, by recoiling.” However, according to the group Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California, San Francisco, “limb withdrawal occurs even in full-term babies in response to non-painful tactile sensations, including light touch. Thus the appearance of limb withdrawal on ultrasound represents a reflex rather than a response to pain.”

Jared Kushner Failed To Disclose Private Email Account To Senate Intelligence Committee

We have significant new information regarding Jared Kushner’s use of private email. As I discussed earlier in the week, if his attorney has been telling the complete truth (which is a big if), then Kushner does not appear to have violated the rules regarding the use of personal emails as Hillary Clinton did. The differences were that Clinton exclusively used a private server, destroyed over half the email with claims later shown to be false that she only destroyed private email, discussed classified information in her private email, and failed to turn the email over to be archived as required. Kusher’s lawyer had claimed that he primarily used government email and that he has turned over copies of private email discussing government business to be archived.

CNN reports a new aspect which of the case with Kushner being accused of failing to disclose the private email account when testifying before the Senate:

In his closed interview with the staff of the Senate intelligence committee, White House senior adviser and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner did not share the existence of his personal email account, which he has used for official business, CNN has learned.

CNN has also learned that the chair and vice chair of the committee were so unhappy that they learned about the existence of his personal email account via news reports that they wrote him a letter via his attorney Thursday instructing him to double-check that he has turned over every relevant document to the committee including those from his “‘personal email account’ described to the news media, as well as all other email accounts, messaging apps, or similar communications channels you may have used, or that may contain information relevant to our inquiry.”

The emphasis in the letter on “all other” personal accounts not known by the committee would seem to be a reflection of the frustration the committee leaders feel with that fact that Kushner was not up-front about the existence of his personal email account and their desire for him to cover the bases of all his possible communications avenues when responding to their letter. This issue could become more serious if there emerge any emails or communications related to the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election that Kushner has not turned over, and whether he did so with the express purpose of concealing information from the committee.

If this is true, it would not be the first time Kushner failed to disclose relevant information:

Kushner has been criticized in the past for initially not disclosing more than 100 contacts with foreign leaders including those from Russia, as well as ownership of a multimillion dollar tech company with links to Goldman Sachs and businessmen Peter Thiel and George Soros. Kushner was also one of three top campaign officials or surrogates who failed to disclose a June 2016 meeting with a woman billed as being with the Russian government and having incriminating information on Hillary Clinton.

Of course Hillary Clinton was also far from honest in her testimony before Congress. Her testimony to the FBI, when she faced a more serious risk of perjury and was therefore more likely to be honest, differed significantly from what she had been saying before Congress and to the American people.