Posted on

Trump Threatens New York Unless They Drop Lawsuits Against Him

The President Of The United States threatened the state of New York and demanded that they drop several lawsuits against him and his business.

Trump tweeted:

That’s the President threatening a state and demanding that they drop lawsuits against him and his businesses. Trump wasn’t concerned about anything involving the national interest. He’s is trying to use his position to get out of legal trouble in New York.

Trump is pulling the Ukraine shakedown on New York.

Noah Bookbinder noted that Trump is conditioning federal aid to a state on the dropping of lawsuits:

In case anyone needed any proof that Trump was guilty of trying to blackmail Ukraine, the President pulled the exact same plot on New York. Trump is engaging in rampant abuses of power that are happening because Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans decided that they would let a criminal president walk for their own political gain instead of upholding the Constitution and the rule of law.

Trump’s abuses of power have gone domestic and are growing by the day.

For more discussion about this story join our Rachel Maddow and MSNBC group.

Follow Jason Easley on Facebook

Posted on

Nevada’s biggest union won’t endorse Democratic presidential candidate

Nine days before the state’s pivotal caucuses, Nevada’s most powerful union declined to endorse a candidate for president in the Democratic primary — though it has made its opposition to Sen. Bernie Sanders’s Medicare-for-all plan clear.

“We’re going to endorse our goals,” Culinary 226 Secretary-Treasurer Geoconda Arguello-Kline said at a Thursday press conference. “We’re not going to endorse a candidate.”

The non-news followed the union, which represents 60,000 workers in Nevada’s huge hospitality industry, ramping up its attacks on Medicare-for-all in the last few days. Ahead of the third primary contest, nobody will receive the boon of a Culinary 226 endorsement, but Sanders is enduring more criticism from the union over his health care plan. (And union leaders, for their part, have reportedly received threats or had their personal information posted online because of their health care stance.)

The union has been opposed to Medicare-for-all, which would set up a national health insurance plan, for a while. But it put out new materials on Tuesday night as Sanders was heading for a win in the New Hampshire primary, warning that Medicare-for-all would be the end of their negotiated health benefits.

“We want to have choices in our health care,” Arguello-Kline said on Thursday. “We want our health care.”

Despite its outsized influence, Culinary 226 is not a ticket to a win in Nevada. In 2008, the union endorsed Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton but the latter eked out a win. The union didn’t endorse anybody in the primary between Clinton and Sanders in 2016; Clinton again won a narrow victory.

The non-endorsement leaves a bit of a muddled message about who the union thinks would be a good president, but Sanders, the frontrunner after Iowa and New Hampshire, is the clear target of its opposition. The union’s materials have praised moderate proposals for protecting the union’s health care and they softened their language when describing Elizabeth Warren’s Medicare-for-all proposal, but warned Sanders would “end” their workers’ current health benefits with his Medicare-for-all bill.

“We know and we believe every human being has a right to health care,” Arguello-Kline said. “But we believe everybody has the right to make choices.”

Next Saturday, their workers will get the chance to make theirs.

The Culinary Union recently went on the attack against Bernie Sanders

Before the New Hampshire Democratic primary results had even finished coming in on Tuesday, Nevada’s Culinary Union took aim at Sanders. The group, which is hugely influential in the state’s upcoming caucuses due to its organizing power, singled out Sanders as the only candidate who would get rid of union health care plans in the near term.

Their flyer broke down the positions of Nevada’s top six Democratic candidates in recent polls, summarizing their platforms around health care, immigration, and jobs. It takes a jab at Sanders, listing him as the only candidate who would “end” the union’s health care, while noting that Warren would replace it after a three-year transition period.

The message targets union members who might be concerned about losing a health care plan won through long and difficult negotiations if Medicare-for-all was implemented. (Among people who are currently in a union or whose family member currently is, 39 percent think Medicare-for-all is a good idea and 59 percent think it’s a bad idea, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll.)

It’s a problem Sanders has faced before, and one he’s responded to by noting that the implementation of Medicare-for-all would not only provide robust health care coverage but would also enable companies to transfer what they save on health care costs toward higher worker wages and other benefits. He’s emphasized, too, that the policy would guarantee reliable health care for all workers, even amid potential strikes and other job changes.

“Sanders’s proposed plan is more generous than the typical private-sector plan, offering no co-pays or deductibles and covering virtually everything,” Tara Golshan previously wrote for Vox. “If it were to pass as proposed, many unions likely would see Medicare-for-all as a better deal.”

Sanders’s Nevada State Director Sarah Michelsen echoed this point and noted that the Culinary Union would be able to maintain a health clinic it established exclusively for its workers. “Bernie has been clear that under Medicare for All, we will guarantee that coverage is as comprehensive or more so than the health care benefits union workers currently receive, and union health clinics, including the Culinary’s health clinic, will remain open to serve their members,” she said in a statement.

While some unions have endorsed Sanders, not all are behind his health care plan. The Culinary Union’s opposition to Medicare-for-all is especially significant given how powerful a force the organization is in Nevada elections.

“[It] is not just a great turnout machine for workers, but it’s essentially the Hispanic turnout machine,” Jon Ralston, editor of the Nevada Independent, previously told Vox’s Ella Nilsen. “If you can get the Culinary Union to go out for you and go out for you hard, that can be a game changer.”

Previously, the union released more oblique statements challenging both Sanders’s and Warren’s health care plans. But this new, more pointed attack, suggests the organization is increasingly concerned about Sanders’s recent rise and worried about whether his vision for universal health care is in its members’ best interests.

The Culinary Union’s flyers highlight a question that’s been posed about unions and Medicare-for-all

Questions about how Medicare-for-all would affect union members have cropped up throughout the Democratic primary.

It’s an issue that members of the Culinary Union have raised at every presidential town hall that’s taken place at its headquarters in Nevada, writes the Los Angeles Times’s Matt Pearce:

“We love our Culinary healthcare,” Elodia Muñoz, who went on strike for more than six years at the Frontier Hotel and Casino in the 1990s, told Sanders [in December]. “We want to keep it. I don’t want to change it. Why should I change it?”

The subject is also one that some of Sanders’s opponents — including former Vice President Joe Biden — have tried to harp on in an attempt to undermine the Vermont senator’s support from workers. Although the Culinary Union will not endorse anyone, other affiliates of Unite Here — its parent organization — have come out in favor of Sanders, as well as Warren. Unions including the American Federation of Teachers and National Nurses United have also expressed their support of Medicare-for-all.

Sanders has argued that the successful implementation of Medicare-for-all would continue to guarantee strong health care benefits for all workers while bolstering unions’ bargaining power on other fronts. For instance, workers wouldn’t need to worry about paying for health care during an extended strike, as many United Auto Workers members said they struggled to do during a General Motors strike last fall. Sanders has noted his bill also includes a provision that would enable companies to funnel savings they obtain from Medicare-for-all to workers in the form of either higher wages or other benefits.

With the Nevada caucuses fast approaching on February 22, this conversation — and the debate about how Medicare-for-all would affect union health care — is one that’s sure to continue. The Culinary Union’s flyer simply made this existing tension explicit.

Posted on

After Trump’s Attacks on Justice Dept., Barr Says He Will Not ‘Be Bullied’

WASHINGTON — In an extraordinary rebuke of President Trump, Attorney General William P. Barr said on Thursday that Mr. Trump’s attacks on the Justice Department had made it “impossible for me to do my job” and asserted that “I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody.”

Mr. Barr has been among the president’s most loyal allies and denigrated by Democrats as nothing more than his personal lawyer but publicly challenged Mr. Trump in a way that no other sitting cabinet member has.

“I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody,” Mr. Barr said in an interview with ABC News. “And I said, whether it’s Congress, newspaper editorial board, or the president, I’m going to do what I think is right. I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me.”

Mr. Barr’s remarks were aimed at containing the fallout from the department’s botched handling of its sentencing recommendation for Mr. Trump’s longtime friend Roger J. Stone Jr., who was convicted of seven felonies in a bid to obstruct a congressional investigation that threatened the president.

Mr. Trump’s criticisms “make it impossible for me to do my job and to assure the courts and the prosecutors in the department that we’re doing our work with integrity,” Mr. Barr said.

He added, “It’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases.”

People close to the president said they were caught off guard by the interview.

Hours after prosecutors recommended on Monday that a judge sentence Mr. Stone to seven to nine years in prison, Mr. Trump attacked their request as “horrible and very unfair” and as a “miscarriage of justice.” The next day, Mr. Barr and other senior department officials intervened to lower the recommendation.

The episode ignited a firestorm among rank-and-file lawyers at the Justice Department. While the officials blamed the original filing on a miscommunication and said they had intended to correct it even before Mr. Trump assailed it, four of the prosecutors working on the case withdrew. Career prosecutors began to express worry that their work could be used to settle political scores.

The optics only worsened when Mr. Trump congratulated Mr. Barr for his decision to step in and ease the sentencing recommendation for Mr. Stone. “Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter.

The president also accused the prosecutors who had secured a conviction against Mr. Stone of engaging in an “illegal” investigation. He incorrectly accused Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is presiding over the Stone trial, of placing his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in solitary confinement. Mr. Manafort, who was convicted of monetary fraud in a case that grew out of the special counsel’s investigation, at one point had a jail cell to himself but was not in solitary confinement, and Judge Jackson was not involved in his placement.

And Mr. Trump compared the Stone case to the Russia investigation led by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. “Even Bob Mueller lied to Congress,” Mr. Trump said, without evidence.

Mr. Barr did not immediately respond to those false claims about the prosecutors, the judge and Mr. Mueller.

Mr. Barr quickly became one of Mr. Trump’s trusted advisers after becoming attorney general last February — a reversal of the tense relationship that Mr. Trump had with Mr. Barr’s predecessor, Jeff Sessions.

Mr. Trump soured on Mr. Sessions after he recused himself from oversight of the Russia investigation. Their toxic relationship cast a political shadow over the department and strained dealings between the department and the White House.

Tensions eased when Mr. Barr arrived and embraced some of the most divisive aspects of Mr. Trump’s agenda, often serving as a polished and articulate defender of the president against accusations of abuse of power.

Maggie Haberman contributed reporting from New York.

Posted on

Barr blasts Trump’s tweets on Stone case: ‘Impossible for me to do my job’: ABC News Exclusive

In an exclusive interview, Attorney General Bill Barr told ABC News on Thursday that President Donald Trump “has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case” but should stop tweeting about the Justice Department because his tweets “make it impossible for me to do my job.”

Barr’s comments are a rare break with a president who the attorney general has aligned himself with and fiercely defended. But it also puts Barr in line with many of Trump’s supporters on Capitol Hill who say they support the president but wish he’d cut back on his tweets.

“I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases,” Barr told ABC News Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas.

When asked if he was prepared for the consequences of criticizing the president – his boss – Barr said “of course” because his job is to run the Justice Department and make decisions on “what I think is the right thing to do.”

“I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody … whether it’s Congress, a newspaper editorial board, or the president,” Barr said. “I’m gonna do what I think is right. And you know … I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me.”

Barr ignited a firestorm this week after top Justice Department officials intervened in the sentencing of Roger Stone, a longtime friend and former campaign adviser to the president who was convicted of lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstruction of justice.

In a stunning reversal, the Justice Department overruled a recommendation by its own prosecution team that Stone spend seven to nine years in jail and told a judge that such a punishment – which was in line with sentencing guidelines – “would not be appropriate.”

The about-face raised serious questions about whether Barr had intervened on behalf of the president’s friend. It also raised questions about whether Trump personally pressured the Justice Department, either directly or indirectly.

In the interview with ABC News, Barr fiercely defended his actions and said it had nothing to do with the president. He said he was supportive of Stone’s convictions but thought the sentencing recommendation of seven to nine years as excessive. When news outlets reported the seven to nine year sentencing recommendation last Monday, Barr said he thought it was spin.

Barr said he told his staff that night that the Justice Department has to amend its recommendation. Hours later, the president tweeted that it was “horrible and very unfair” and that “the real crimes were on the other side.”

“Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!” Trump tweeted.

The blowback from such an unprecedented move by the Justice Department leadership was immediate, both internally among the rank-and-file and in Congress. The entire four-man DOJ prosecution team withdrew from the case, and one prosecutor resigned from the Justice Department entirely. Sen. Lindsey Graham, chair of the Judiciary Committee that oversees the Justice Department and one of Trump’s closest allies on Capitol Hill, said the president should not have tweeted about an ongoing case.

The Justice Department, while led by a president appointee and Cabinet member, is tasked with enforcing the law and defending the interests of the U.S. without political influence.

Barr said Trump’s middle-of-the-night tweet put him in a bad position. He insists he had already discussed with staff that the sentencing recommendation was too long.

“Do you go forward with what you think is the right decision or do you pull back because of the tweet? And that just sort of illustrates how disruptive these tweets can be,” he said.

When asked directly if he had a problem with the president’s tweets, Barr responded, “Yes. Well, I have a problem with some of, some of the tweets. As I said at my confirmation hearing, I think the essential role of the attorney general is to keep law enforcement, the criminal process sacrosanct to make sure there is no political interference in it. And I have done that and I will continue to do that,” adding, “And I’m happy to say that, in fact the president has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case.”

Barr also told ABC News he was “a little surprised” that the prosecution team withdrew from the case and said he hadn’t spoken to the team.

He said it was “preposterous” to suggest that he “intervened” in the case as much as he acted to resolve a dispute within the department on a sentencing recommendation.

Trump has been pleased with Barr’s actions on Stone, praising him on Twitter. Trump on Wednesday said he was “not concerned about anything” about the resignations at the Justice Department and suggested the prosecutors “should go back to school and learn.”

“Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought,” Trump tweeted this week, after all prosecutors assigned to the case quit.

Trump has repeatedly come under fire for trying to influence the Justice Department, including forcing out his first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, in 2018 after Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation. Early in his presidency, Trump also encouraged then-FBI Director James Comey to drop a probe into Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, according to a memo Comey wrote at the time.

When asked earlier this week if he would pardon Stone, Trump said: “I don’t want to talk about that now.”

Barr told ABC that he would object if ever asked to use his power at the Justice Department to achieve political means.

“If (Trump) were to say, ‘Go investigate somebody because’—and you sense it’s because they’re a political opponent, then the attorney general shouldn’t carry that out, wouldn’t carry that out,” Barr said.

When asked if he expects the president to react to his criticism of the tweets, Barr said: “I hope he will react.”

“And respect it?” ABC’s Thomas asked.

“Yes,” Barr said.

Posted on

Senate passes Iran War Powers resolution despite Trump’s opposition

The vote was 55-45. Eight Republicans voted in favor of it: Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Todd Young of Indiana, Mike Lee of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Jerry Moran of Kansas.

The President warned the Senate not to green-light the measure on Wednesday, tweeting that “it is very important for our country’s security that the United States Senate not vote for the Iran War Powers Resolution,” and adding, “If my hands were tied, Iran would have a field day.”

The White House has also issued a veto threat against it.

Despite that, the resolution, chiefly authored by Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, won bipartisan support. Several Republican senators, including Lee, Paul and Collins, signed on as co-sponsors.

Earlier on Thursday, potential problems threatened to derail the resolution ahead of an the final vote, with Senate Democrats warning that an amendment filed late Wednesday by GOP Sen. Tom Cotton — that Democrats described as a poison pill — could draw enough support to pass and possibly make it difficult for the underlying bipartisan War Powers Resolution to maintain majority support.

Ultimately, however, the Senate defeated the controversial amendment, clearing the way for final passage. The Senate voted to table — or kill — the amendment.

The resolution “directs the President to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces for hostilities against the Islamic Republic of Iran or any part of its government or military, unless explicitly authorized by a declaration of war or specific authorization for use of military force against Iran.”

It includes a provision stating that no part of the resolution “shall be construed to prevent the United States from defending itself from imminent attack.”

Despite some Republican support in the Senate, however, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has strongly opposed the measure, which is unlikely to win enough votes for a veto-proof majority.

Lee argued during a news conference on Wednesday that the resolution is not at odds with the President’s foreign policy agenda and objectives.

“I support what the President is doing with our foreign policy,” Lee said, adding, “For me, this is about supporting President Trump in his foreign policy, in his effort to make sure that we don’t get involved too easily, too quickly, in an unconstitutional way, in any war. This is entirely consistent with his policy.”

Kaine argued Wednesday that the resolution is “not directed toward President Trump, it would apply equally to any President,” adding, “It’s fundamentally about Congress owning up to and taking responsibility for the most significant decision that we should ever have to make.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, however, argued on Tuesday that passage in the House and Senate will send a warning to the White House, even if the President vetoes the measure.

“It sends a shot across his bow that the majority of the Senate and the majority of the House do not want the President waging war without congressional approval,” he said.

Debate on the Iran war powers resolution comes in the wake of a divisive impeachment trial in the Senate, which temporarily put consideration of the measure on hold as it stalled other legislative business while the proceedings — which ended in acquittal of the President — played out.

Kaine introduced the war powers resolution last month following the President’s decision to order a strike that killed Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani.

The House passed a similar resolution last month, but since the structure and text of the Senate resolution is not identical, the War Powers resolution introduced by Kaine would need to be voted on by the House after it gets a Senate vote before going to the President’s desk.

This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.

CNN’s Phil Mattingly contributed to this report.

Posted on

Kelly McParland: Knees are knocking across Democrat Land. Could Bernie Sanders win?

At this point in the 2016 presidential race, all the most knowledgeable pundits were assuring their audience Republicans could not possibly be so self-destructive as to choose Donald Trump as their nominee, given that he had not one chance in a million of becoming president.

They had a compelling argument, or so it seemed. Rarely had there been a candidate so obviously ill-suited to represent a respectable party. And should the GOP be so obtuse as to select him, he would unquestionably go down to defeat before the juggernaut of Hillary Clinton.

Rarely had there been a candidate so obviously ill-suited to represent a respectable party

Bright people learn lessons from their mistakes, so it seems unlikely Americans will be offered the same comforting words as they contemplate the possibility that the Democratic Party is on track to choose just an unseemly a representative as their standard-bearer in the effort to unseat Trump come November. The arm-swinging firebrand socialist Bernie Sanders won the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, a week after topping the chaotic Iowa caucuses, putting him ahead of all other suitors for the nomination, and with a headwind behind him going into the most crucial month of the race.

On one level, Sanders’ strength to date should not come as a surprise, or raise undue alarm. As a longtime political figure from next-door Vermont he had a significant head start on his rivals. The big news would have been if he’d managed to lose. That he barely outpaced the upstart Pete Buttigieg, with Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar gaining significant ground, suggests he’s anything but the runaway favourite. In the 2016 primary he beat Clinton by 23 points; this time he scraped past Buttigieg by less than two percentage points, and would have been a distant third if Buttigieg and Klobuchar hadn’t split the moderate vote.


Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders arrives to speak at a primary night event in Manchester, N.H. on Feb. 11, 2020.

Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images

As one anonymous tweeter observed, Sanders’ “victory” came after five years of non-stop electioneering, umpteen millions in campaign costs and no clear opponent of the Clinton stature. Yet the best he could do was 25 per cent against an opponent who, until a few months ago, was the obscure mayor of South Bend, Ind. Some triumph.

Yet knees are knocking across Democrat Land. The reason is in the system the party uses to pick its nominee, and the immense pool of votes up for grabs over a few short weeks between now and the end of March. By putting so many of their eggs in one big basket, Democrats allow themselves no time to stop and assess what they’re in the process of doing, and perhaps taking a time-out to reassess the situation.

As the non-partisan website Axios points out, Sanders could well win by accident. If the moderate vote remains divided between Buttigieg and Klobuchar, with former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg gaining ground and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren fading fast, Sanders will be in a position to harvest the overwhelming majority of left-wing support while centrists are split among three candidates, and perhaps four if former vice-president Joe Biden remains in the race. Sanders would thus be piling up delegates at such a pace that by the time the moderates finally coalesce behind one candidate it would be all but impossible to overtake his lead. Trump, it notes, would not have won in 2016 if his opponents had consolidated behind one rival. Democrats look to be in the same position now. Six weeks from now they could very well find they’ve picked a socialist from a tiny northeastern state — only one state, Wyoming, has fewer people than Vermont — and they’re stuck with him.


Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg speaks during a primary night rally in Nashua, N.H., on Feb. 11, 2020.

Kate Flock/Bloomberg

Could Bernie Sanders defeat Donald Trump? Given the economic implications, would even confirmed Never Trumpers want to find out? Sanders says his Medicare-for-all plan would cost “somewhere between $30 and $40 trillion over a 10-year period,” which he says would be less expensive than the existing system. But that’s the thing: Sanders would junk a health system the majority of Americans say they support. Would they risk throwing away benefits they like in the hope Sanders could do better? Especially after electing a president whose chief argument was that Washington can’t do anything right?

That’s just the start of it. Sanders has promised a “federal jobs guarantee” that would ensure “everyone is guaranteed a stable job that pays a living wage.” He would provide free tuition and student loan forgiveness for college students, expand social security benefits and housing programs and launch an expensive climate plan. It all sounds very enticing but the money has to come from somewhere, and Trump’s administration is already running a trillion-dollar deficit. What’s more, a Gallup poll found 61 per cent of Americans say they are better off than they were before Trump was elected, higher than any incumbent president going back to 1992, none of whom topped 50 per cent.

People may not like Trump as a person, or the contempt he shows for other people and important institutions, but who says no to a strong economy and low unemployment in favour of a sweeping revolution that carries incalculable risks should it fail to turn out as planned, as so many socialist revolutions have done elsewhere? One of Sanders’ lesser-known proposals would turn the internet into a public utility, like water or electricity, making it a “publicly owned and democratically controlled, co-operative.” Government control of the internet seems an odd route to victory in New Hampshire, whose official state motto is “Live Free or Die.”

Four years ago, people said the Republican establishment would never let Trump win the nomination. They’d find a way to block that disaster from happening. Democrats may be thinking the same thing about Sanders. They could be fooling themselves just as badly.

• Twitter:

Posted on

In Bipartisan Bid to Restrain Trump, Senate Passes Iran War Powers Resolution

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted on Thursday to require President Trump seek congressional authorization before taking further military action against Iran, as Democrats joined forces with eight Republicans to try to rein in the president’s war-making powers weeks after he escalated hostilities with Tehran.

The bipartisan vote, 55 to 45, amounted to a rare attempt by the Senate to restrain Mr. Trump’s authority just over a week after it voted to acquit him of impeachment charges, and nearly six weeks after the president moved without authorization from Congress to kill a top Iranian security commander.

But it was a mostly symbolic rebuke of the president, as support for the measure fell short of the two-thirds supermajority needed to override a promised veto by Mr. Trump. The House passed a similar measure last month on a nearly party-line vote that also fell well short of the two-thirds margin.

Still, indignant at the administration’s handling of a drone strike in Iraq last month that killed a top Iranian official — a major provocation that pushed the United States and Iran to the brink of war — an unusually large number of Senate Republicans crossed party lines in an attempt to claw back Congress’s authority to weigh in on matters of war and peace.

“We don’t send a message of weakness when we stand up for the rule of law in a world that hungers for more rule of law,” Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia and the lead sponsor of the measure, said.

“We need a Congress that will fully inhabit the Article I powers,” Mr. Kaine added, referring to the portion of the Constitution that grants Congress the power to declare war. “That’s what our troops and their families deserve.”

Mr. Kaine drafted the resolution in early January as tensions ratcheted up with Iran after the strike in Baghdad that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s most important general. In briefings with Mr. Trump’s national security team, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, already angry that the administration had not consulted with them before the operation, complained that top officials demeaned and dismissed them in briefings for questioning the president’s strategy.

Both Republicans and Democrats who sponsored the resolution insisted that the measure was not intended to tie Mr. Trump’s hands, but to reassert Congress’s constitutional prerogatives on matters of war. For decades, lawmakers in both parties have ceded those powers with little resistance, deferring to an increasingly assertive executive branch.

Still, Mr. Trump viewed the resolution as a personal affront, and on Wednesday urged Republicans to reject it, framing the measure as a dangerous show of timidity and an attempt by Democrats to “embarrass the Republican Party.”

“We are doing very well with Iran and this is not the time to show weakness,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter, adding: “If my hands were tied, Iran would have a field day. Sends a very bad signal.”

The legislation is sure to pass the Democratic-led House, but White House advisers warned in a formal statement of administration policy that Mr. Trump would veto it if it reached his desk. The statement described the measure as “grounded in a faulty premise” because the United States was not currently engaged in any use of force against Iran.

In the Senate, Republicans mirrored Mr. Trump’s language, arguing that the resolution would shackle the president at a potentially perilous time and be viewed by Tehran as a message of weakness.

“If this passes, the president will never abide by it — no president would,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said. “I want the Iranians to understand, when it comes to their provocative behavior, all options are on the table.”

But a small group of moderate and libertarian-minded Republicans who were rankled by the administration’s handling of the Suleimani strike supported the measure, insisting that it was both morally and constitutionally necessary.

Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky, who have advocated disengaging U.S. troops from prolonged military conflicts abroad, were infuriated by a contentious congressional briefing delivered last month by Mr. Trump’s top national security advisers on the operation. They complained that administration officials had been unwilling to engage in a genuine discussion about a possible military escalation in the Middle East. Previously lukewarm on their support for Mr. Kaine’s resolution, both senators signed on after the briefing.

“They were in the process of telling us that we need to be good little boys and girls and not debate this in public,” Mr. Lee said then, emerging red-faced from the briefing. “I find that absolutely insane. It’s un-American, it’s unconstitutional and it’s wrong.”

The vote was the latest in a series of bids by Congress over the past year to rein in Mr. Trump’s war powers. Last year, Congress cleared a bipartisan measure invoking the War Powers Act that would have cut off American military support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen’s civil war, and a separate measure seeking to curtail the president’s war-making powers in Iran ping-ponged between the two chambers, passing the House but not the Senate.

Despite a recognition in both parties that much of the American public is weary of perpetual military conflict, the measures drew only modest support from Republicans, each time falling well short of the two-thirds majority vote necessary to override a veto.

Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, said that he had voted multiple times to send troops to war — first as a member of the House and then later in the Senate. He described them as “the toughest votes” he ever had to cast, “knowing that in the best of circumstances, that Americans will die.”

“Before you make that decision, you have to think long and hard, and many members of Congress would like to race away from that,” he said. He described the rationale adopted by many lawmakers as: “I’d just rather blame the president if it turns out bad.”

Supporters of the resolution approved Thursday saw a glimmer of hope in the final vote tally. In July, the Senate rejected a similar measure to curtail the president’s war powers related to Iran, with only four Republican senators defecting to support it. Twice as many supported the resolution on Thursday.

“We want to make sure that any military action that needs to be authorized is in fact authorized properly by Congress,” Mr. Lee said. “That doesn’t show weakness; that shows strength.”

Posted on

Michael Bloomberg Positions Himself as Anti-Trump Superhero Like Michael Avenatti, Robert Mueller

Brett CarlsenGetty Images

Michael Bloomberg’s plan was to parachute into the 2020 Democratic primary on Super Tuesday, ignoring Iowa and New Hampshire and the traditional Momentum Model that has dominated American political narratives for decades to focus on delegate-rich states like California and Texas. Like any sensible paratrooper, he hoped the ground would be softened up for him a bit with a $350-million ad blitz before he jumped out of the plane. Except events of the last week have forced him to crash-land into the primary conversation early, even as he blankets Instagram with an astroturfed campaign across the biggest meme-aggregation (read: meme-thieving) accounts. All together now, folks: FuckJerry!

You see, people keep posting tape of Bloomberg being racist. There was the clip where he essentially discussed black men between the ages of 16 and 25 as a criminal class. This was not just in defense of his stop-and-frisk policies as New York mayor, but of a more general policing regime where you flood black and brown neighborhoods with cops and lock people up on minor offenses like marijuana possession. A CNN person reacted to this by questioning the motives of the person who dug the clip up, despite the fact it’s been on YouTube for years.

Then someone posted tape of Bloomberg suggesting that getting rid of redlining—a policy wherein black Americans were denied the opportunity to buy homes in middle-class neighborhoods, a pillar of building wealth and getting a decent education in America—was somehow responsible for the 2008 housing crisis and the resulting global financial meltdown. That’s right: it’s not Bloomberg’s Wall Street buddies or the firms to which he sold Bloomberg terminals who are to blame, even if they engaged in reckless behavior and created an incentive structure that rewarded risky lending. It’s the people who fought against racial discrimination in housing!

This is particularly gross considering the Great Recession decimated black wealth, in part because banks targeted black homeowners with predatory lending practices, to the point that the average white household now has 10 times the wealth of the average black household. That’s worse than in 2007.

All this should serve to remind people that Bloomberg is essentially just a wealthy Republican in the mold of, say, Mitt Romney. He’s disgusted by Trump’s personal conduct, and by his inaction on the climate crisis and gun violence. (Romney, in fairness, doesn’t give a shit about climate change. Bloomberg’s record on that front is strong.) But Bloomberg basically thinks the system as presently constructed is working, that it is delivering fair and just results for our society, that the powerful people within it are nearly always right and deserve to be where they are, and that the powerless are where they are because of their personal failings. Also, as mayor of New York City, he had something of an authoritarian streak.

Presidential Candidate Mike Bloomberg Holds Campaign Rally In Nashville

Bloomberg tried to parachute into the Democratic contest on Super Tuesday.

Brett CarlsenGetty Images

Bloomberg would almost certainly be a better president than the current one, if only because he seems to have full access to his cognitive faculties and is not a two-bit grifter with shady financial connections that sprawl across the multinational underworld. (Full disclosure: I once interned in the mayor’s office in 2012, while Bloomberg was mayor. I primarily worked on updating spreadsheets keeping track of the fire hydrants on Randall’s Island. City government!) He’s also receiving all this highly justified scrutiny because he has gained some serious ground in the polls. He’s up to 14 percent nationally in the RealClearPolitics polling average, behind only Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. He may take a hit after this week’s attention, particularly because he’s actually been attracting quite a few black voters from Biden’s faltering campaign. Then again, he’s also getting plenty of endorsements from black Democratic leaders.

Bloomberg’s rise is rooted in his astroturf strategy, a campaign which seems to exist only in the commercial blocs between television programming segments and in the corniest precincts of social media. In the latter case, part of his strategy seems to be to bait Donald Trump into personal back-and-forths, so that America can get what it truly deserves: two alleged New York billionaires—only Bloomberg’s status is truly assured in that department—arguing about their comparative heights, intelligence, and facial complexion in order to determine who should run the country. Thursday brought Exhibit A—or maybe J.

There’s reason to believe that this strategy might just pay off for Bloomberg. First of all, people buy astroturf. It’s like grass, but you don’t have to water it! With Bloomberg, people might feel they won’t have to pay attention to politics all the time anymore, which could appeal to professional-class coastal liberals who, like Bloomberg himself, generally like the economic status quo and are tired of being mad. (This impulse is understandable and also a huge part of why American democracy is in severe decay.) There is also reason to believe that a segment of the Democratic base is hungry for an Anti-Trump Superhero to do battle with the president on top of the Empire State Building or whatever. As our tangerine generalissimo has himself shown, the aesthetics of personal combat are powerful in American politics, if only because it feels like someone’s doing the fighting for you.

For a while, the anti-Trump Resistance adopted Special Counsel Robert Mueller as their avatar, putting full and unflinching faith in the aging lawman to bring down a lawless scoundrel at high noon. It was approaching a messiah-complex situation, and even featured cartoon caricatures of the 74-year-old that, in the vein of the pro-Trump stuff, depicted him as a buff hyper-patriotic warrior. (You might call this Krassenstein’s Monster.) Then Mueller bowed before a Justice Department rule against indicting the president, outlining obstruction-of-justice charges without calling them that, and he then testified before Congress in a performance that failed to produce the TV spectacle required to move the needle on anything in America. Meanwhile, the increasing sprawl of Trump’s activities in West Asia, combined with the treachery of Mueller’s eventual boss in Attorney General William Barr, raises questions about whether he really got to the bottom of what happened.

Presidential Candidate Mike Bloomberg Holds Campaign Rally In Nashville

Bloomberg is banking on states like Tennessee, Texas, and California, which will all vote March 3.

Brett CarlsenGetty Images

Similarly, when Trump swept to power with a fully Republican Congress in 2016, there was no institutional bulwark against his renegade behavior except the free press. Democratic leadership in the House and Senate appeared particularly weak. And so we should have seen it coming when a brash, tough-talking young lawyer came on the scene representing a thorn in the Trumpian side—Stephanie Clifford, d.b.a. Stormy Daniels—and made himself into a Resistance Hero. Michael Avenatti was “everything Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats were not: aesthetically combative; dismissive of the when-they-go-low-we-go-high mentality of the previous election; and a budding rival to Donald Trump in his sheer ability to garner publicity.” Or at least, that’s what I wrote when the news broke that Avenatti had been arrested on a string of federal charges, including those related to an alleged attempted shakedown of Nike.

Back in the glorious present day, Bloomberg is positioning himself as the Anti-Trump Candidate now that Biden is really starting to slip. Unlike Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren or even fellow billionaire Tom Steyer, he is not running on the basis that much of anything outside the Oval Office is broken in this country. Only Amy Klobuchar has anything resembling his singular focus on Trump, and getting rid of El Jefe is the number-one concern for Democratic voters. It could work, particularly because Bloomberg is unlikely to meet the same fate as either of those onetime Anti-Trump Superheroes. He is not a gutter-brawling grifter in the Avenatti mold, and he seems a little more lively than Mueller did in those congressional hearings in which he so reluctantly participated.

He also has more money than God, and can keep the firehose of ads going regardless of how much negative coverage he gets in the press. This, of course, raises the question of whether Bloomberg merely represents a different kind of threat to American democracy than does Trump, who openly denies any legitimate power outside his own. If American oligarchs exist, Bloomberg is one. Certainly, he’s a plutocrat. And he seems decently well-positioned to skip along the gold-brick road all the way to Oz, a state of affairs which would lead the Democratic Party towards Rockefeller Republicanism. Then the choice for the electorate would be between that and the modern Republican Party’s reactionary ethno-nationalism. Where’s your money on what working-class folks would choose four years later?

Posted on

Why Is Nevada’s Most Powerful Union Turning on Bernie Sanders?

Earlier this month, Unite Here Local 2 of San Francisco — along with four other California locals of the hotel and restaurant employees’ union — endorsed Bernie Sanders for president. This came on the heels of two other Unite Here endorsements: the state-wide Texas chapter of Local 23, and Local 11 from southern California (which endorsed both Sanders and Warren).

A recent report also showed that Unite Here staff are donating at particularly high rates to Bernie Sanders. And just today, Unite Here members launched a Bernie endorsement letter, calling upon members and leaders of the union to “stand with the Bernie Sanders campaign, the movement for workers’ rights and Medicare for All.”

Many Unite Here members, elected leaders, and staffers are making the right move and supporting the pro-worker Democratic frontrunner, Bernie Sanders.

Unfortunately, the largest Unite Here local, 226, has taken a shocking position: declaring war on Bernie Sanders and his signature policy initiative, Medicare for All. Though a recent flier, the union claimed that his Medicare proposals would “end” members’ health care. It has far kinder things to say about the center-right of the Democratic field: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Tom Steyer.

Of course, it’s worth noting that Local 226 is a strong union that does important, progressive work and that has negotiated excellent health insurance for more than 100,000 workers. This should be lauded.

But let’s also be clear about what is happening: top leaders of Local 226 are taking a conservative position and harming the whole labor movement in the process. That Local 226 is a powerful and important union makes this all the more tragic. Rather than engage with the pro-worker frontrunner on his plan, they are poisoning the well for workers everywhere.

We have to push for Local 226 to change course before the February 22 Nevada Caucus.

There have always been two impulses in the labor movement: first, the one that 226’s leaders are currently following, to keep benefits weak for nonunion workers, so they are incentivized to unionize. But there is another competing, progressive impulse, the one that led labor leaders to champion the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, creating a federal minimum wage for nearly all workers, for the first time in the nation’s history. This second impulse is to raise the floor for all workers, not just the ones who are lucky enough to have union representation.

This politics of solidarity is not only ethical, but it has a self-interested element. Medicare for All would take health care out of competitive market forces; winning it would enable Local 226 and every other union in the country to raise the floor even further, by negotiating new benefits and higher wages.

We should feel good to live in a world where a union like Local 226 is powerful enough to negotiate excellent health care for their members. But every worker deserves excellent health care. We finally have a shot at making that happen with President Bernie Sanders.

Top leaders in Unite Here Local 226 should do the right thing and stop slandering the most pro-worker candidate in the race.

Posted on

U.S. House votes to revive decades-old women’s rights amendment

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday voted to revive a decades-old effort to enshrine equal rights for women in the U.S. Constitution, setting up an election-year confrontation that faces long odds of success.

FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator holds a sign calling for an equal rights amendment (ERA) during in the Third Annual Women’s March at Freedom Plaza in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

By a vote of 232 to 183, the Democratic-controlled House voted to remove a long-past deadline for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, which was first proposed in 1923. The vote fell largely along party lines.

The Republican-controlled Senate also would need to vote to extend the deadline, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, said last week that he was “personally not a supporter.”

The Trump administration also opposes the measure.

The amendment states in part: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.”

The House vote came after legislators in Virginia last month became the 38th state to approve the amendment, clearing the threshold required to change the Constitution.

But that vote came decades after Congress first approved the ERA in 1972. Congress set a seven-year deadline for ratification, and later extended it to 1982. The fight over the amendment was a defining issue in the 1970s, but has languished for decades.

Democrats say the ERA is a needed bulwark against sexual discrimination and would help women achieve equal pay.

“Nowhere in our Constitution does it state clearly that women must be treated equally,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said.

Conservative activists say they fear it could be used to bolster abortion rights.

Opponents, including President Donald Trump’s administration, say advocates are trying to make an end run around the original timetable for ratification.

Despite Virginia’s recent ratification, several states have voted to reverse their earlier ratifications.

“If you count a latecomer on the plus side, how do you disregard states that said we changed our mind?” said Republican Representative Doug Collins.

Republican lawmakers pointed out that even liberal Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a long-time supporter of the amendment, has said she would like to see the United States “start over” with the measure.

Republican Representative Vicky Hartzler argued that the amendment was not needed because women’s rights have been upheld by federal laws and court precedents.

The amendment would not bring women more rights, but would “entrench the legality of abortion,” she said.

Last month, the U.S. Justice Department issued a legal opinion saying the ratification process would have to begin anew.

Reporting by Susan Cornwell in Washington; Editing by Andy Sullivan and Matthew Lewis