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Trump’s Prying Becomes Source of Distress for Justice Department Lawyers

WASHINGTON — In an email a few days ago to the 270 lawyers he oversees, Nicola T. Hanna, the United States attorney in Los Angeles, offered a message of reassurance: I am proud of the work you do, he wrote.

Other U.S. attorneys in the Justice Department’s far-flung 93 field offices relayed similar messages of encouragement after President Trump’s efforts to influence a politically fraught case provoked the kind of consternation the department has rarely seen since the Watergate era. “All I have to say,” another United States attorney wrote to his staff, “is keep doing the right things for the right reasons.”

But the fact that the department’s 10,000-odd lawyers needed reassurances seemed like cause for worry all by itself.

In more than three dozen interviews in recent days, lawyers across the federal government’s legal establishment wondered aloud whether Mr. Trump was undermining the Justice Department’s treasured reputation for upholding the law without favor or political bias — and whether Attorney General William P. Barr was able or willing to protect it.

Mr. Trump elicited those fears by denouncing federal prosecutors who had recommended a prison sentence of up to nine years for his longtime friend and political adviser Roger J. Stone Jr. Mr. Barr fanned them by scrapping the recommendation in favor of a far more lenient one, leading the prosecutors to quit the case in protest.

Mr. Barr then took to national television to complain that Mr. Trump’s angry tweets were undermining him and his department’s credibility — a sign to some current and former lawyers that the department’s freedom from political influence is in imminent danger. Their worries are compounded by the fact that people in Mr. Trump’s circle have been mired in so many criminal or ethical scandals that practically any legal action on those cases could be seen through a political lens.

As many of the department lawyers and some recently departed colleagues see it, Mr. Barr has devoted much of his authority and stature to bolster the president since he took office a year ago.

In ever stronger terms, he has attacked the F.B.I.’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election. He has said it was mounted on “the thinnest of suspicions” and advanced despite a lack of evidence. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, ultimately found insufficient evidence that the president or his advisers engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russia but documented their openness to Moscow’s sabotage effort.

While he has pledged that the department will not pursue politically motivated investigations, Mr. Barr said this month that he had created an “intake process” for the president’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani to forward supposed proof of misconduct in Ukraine. Mr. Giuliani has claimed to have evidence damaging to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son.

Meanwhile, Mr. Barr’s expansive view of presidential authority has helped Mr. Trump fight off congressional oversight. It was the Justice Department, for instance, that decided it was unnecessary to give Congress the whistle-blower complaint that ultimately led to the president’s impeachment.

Mr. Barr’s critics say those and other moves have all but invited increasingly aggressive demands from the White House. His supporters in the Justice Department counter that he has used his political capital to protect the department and national security interests. But they sound increasingly worried about whether he will be able to manage the expectations of an ever more volatile president.

Mr. Barr’s effort this week to scale back those expectations, officials said, was born of necessity. He is said to have told the president privately that he will not open politically inspired inquiries on Mr. Trump’s behalf and that the president’s public comments about specific criminal cases are damaging the department’s work.

When the president’s public outburst over the prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation for Mr. Stone made it clear that Mr. Barr’s message had not sunk in, Mr. Barr and a few trusted advisers elected to deliver it again in a way that has repeatedly proved effective in grabbing the president’s attention: on television, this time in a nationally broadcast interview with ABC News.

By the end of the week, many at the Justice Department’s headquarters were uncertain whether that interview would resolve what some called an increasingly untenable situation. Some steeled themselves for a stream of presidential invective or even Mr. Barr’s departure in response.

In the legal trenches where the department’s lawyers handle controversial cases on a daily basis, some expressed relief that Mr. Barr had defended the department and tried to set boundaries for a president seemingly intent on erasing the red line between political motivations and individual criminal cases that has prevailed since Watergate.

“Thank God,” one lawyer said. “I was beginning to be really upset over the sentencing, but I really admire that he told Trump to shut up,” said another. A third wrote in a memo: “Barr was EXACTLY right.”

But others questioned Mr. Barr’s sincerity, saying he was already too closely aligned with Mr. Trump’s political priorities to accept his words at face value.

One described Mr. Barr’s timing as self-serving, saying that the president had attacked the department before but Mr. Barr spoke up only when he felt his own credibility was on the line. Another suggested that the best way for Mr. Barr to demonstrate his integrity would be to resign.

All spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists, or for fear of job repercussions. A spokeswoman for Mr. Barr declined to comment.

The supervisor of one team of prosecutors questioned whether the Stone case portended a presidential crusade to use the department’s legal powers to damage his political enemies and help his friends. Is it “a one-off or a trend?” another supervisor in a different office asked.

Some former senior officials predicted that government lawyers, especially those with politically sensitive cases, would face new skepticism in court about the department’s motivations.

“I’m sure that some D.O.J. attorneys feel that judges are not going to look at them in the same way,” said Mary McCord, a former assistant attorney general for the department’s national security division. “And I’m sure there are judges who are going to wonder, ‘Can we credit what you say, or is D.O.J. going to come back tomorrow and say something different?’”

Generally, lawyers across the department’s vast legal apparatus said they were simply trying to ignore the political drama unfolding in Washington and concentrate on their own work.

In the capital, the Justice Department has been grappling with Mr. Trump’s tweets almost since he took office. Amazon is suing the government over its loss of a $10 billion defense contract, saying Mr. Trump’s tweets prove his animosity toward its owner, Jeff Bezos. A team of Justice Department lawyers moved to withdraw from a case over the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census after Mr. Trump blindsided them by declaring on Twitter that their assertions in court were “fake.”

Until last spring, the impact of Mr. Trump’s outbursts about criminal prosecutions were blunted somewhat by the fact that he largely aimed them at Mr. Mueller, whose stature with Congress and the public made it unlikely he would be fired.

Even then, Mr. Trump or his legal team hinted broadly at the prospect of pardons for some associates who faced criminal charges brought by the Mueller team. And Mr. Trump publicly praised one defendant, his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, even as a federal jury deliberated whether to convict him on financial fraud charges.

But United States attorneys lack the political buffer that Mr. Mueller enjoyed. So Mr. Trump’s attacks on the career prosecutors in Mr. Stone’s case carry different weight.

In his interview with ABC News, Mr. Barr seemed concerned about the possibility of more mass defections. Three prosecutors withdrew from the Stone case while the fourth resigned from the department entirely the week before Judge Amy Berman Jackson of Federal District Court in the District of Columbia was scheduled to sentence Mr. Stone.

“I hope there are no more resignations,” Mr. Barr said. “We, we like our prosecutors and hope they stay.”

As Mr. Trump has pointed out on Twitter, two of those prosecutors — Aaron Zelinsky and Adam C. Jed — helped carry out the special counsel’s investigation, which Mr. Trump detested. Their supervisors reassured them this week that they would suffer no retaliation for withdrawing from the Stone case.

Timothy J. Shea, a close ally of Mr. Barr’s who took over this month as interim U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, sent his staff an email of support this week. “While there are times where reasonable minds may disagree, I respect the work that each of you do, and I will do my best to support our work,” he wrote.

Mr. Shea’s role is especially fraught because the Washington office, the largest in the country with 300 lawyers, often handles politically sensitive cases and inherited several prosecutions begun under Mr. Mueller. At least some in that office privately complained that Mr. Trump and Mr. Barr both treated Mr. Shea’s predecessor, Jessie K. Liu, shabbily.

Ms. Liu, a Trump appointee, was viewed in the office as a leader who helped protect prosecutors from political meddling. But her relationship with other department officials grew strained, especially after she decided there was insufficient evidence to seek an indictment of Andrew G. McCabe, the former deputy director of the F.B.I. and a frequent target of the president, according to two people familiar with the situation.

She was nominated for a top job at the Treasury Department and transferred there this month to await her confirmation. Then this week, the president decided to rescind her nomination, even over Mr. Barr’s objections, according to three people familiar with the discussions.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin delivered the news in a meeting, according to one of them. He gave her no reason for the reversal, and Ms. Liu resigned from the government.

Katie Benner and Sharon LaFraniere reported from Washington, and Nicole Hong from New York. Adam Goldman and Charlie Savage contributed reporting from Washington. Susan Beachy contributed research.

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De Blasio to endorse Bernie Sanders

De Blasio, whose steady support among black Democrats has weathered his many political storms, stands to be an effective surrogate for Sanders as he jockeys for an increasing share of Joe Biden’s diverse supporters. The mayor’s agenda of combating inequality — most closely aligned with his implementation of universal pre-kindergarten — his biracial family, his ties to prominent labor unions and the bully pulpit that comes with his day job make him a useful validator for Sanders.

He will begin his tour of duty in Nevada on Sunday, and plans to travel throughout the country for the campaign, according to people familiar with his plans.

And as the mayor of the nation’s largest city, de Blasio is one of the highest-ranking politicians to embrace Sanders’ unapologetically liberal White House bid.

But his greatest asset also stands to be a vulnerability on the trail.

De Blasio can speak to Bloomberg’s liabilities better than most, having inherited New York City from him after running against his record of race-based policing and perceived indifference to income inequality. Oftentimes, though, De Blasio makes no effort to hide his disdain for Bloomberg — and comes across more resentful than constructive. From his 2013 inauguration ceremony — which turned into a roast of Bloomberg that featured a de Blasio guest likening New York City to a plantation under his tenure as Bloomberg sat stone-faced in the front row — de Blasio has made a point of going after his predecessor whenever he sees an opening.

Outside the boundaries of the city he ran for 12 years, Bloomberg has found extensive support among current and former mayors for his unconventional White House bid, which involves skipping the first four voting states and focusing on the delegate-rich Super Tuesday ones.

The endorsement comes five months after he ended his own brief bid for the presidential nomination, and later than many other prominent New Yorkers began stumping for candidates.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced her support for Sanders in a raucous rally in Queens in October, shortly after he had a heart attack. A host of city and state lawmakers office backed Elizabeth Warren throughout the year last year. Public Advocate Jumaane Williams endorsed Sanders last month, before any votes were cast.

One New York politician trailing de Blasio is Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who over the weekend backed off prior praise for Joe Biden in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that landed amid Biden’s poor showing in the early voting states.

De Blasio’s announcement will come one week before the Democratic primary’s third voting contest in Nevada, and as Sanders has secured the lead spot in national polls.

It is the culmination of his tortured relationship with national politics.

Six days after taking the helm at City Hall he contemplated traveling to speak at the Ohio Democratic Party’s annual dinner. He decided against it, telling an aide, “From time to time I do want to project the progressive message nationally to reinforce my fellow progressives,” according to emails released as the result of a transparency lawsuit.

On the day Hillary Clinton announced her presidential candidacy on New York City’s Roosevelt Island in 2015, de Blasio declared on Meet The Press that she had yet to earn his support. The snub infuriated her aides, who labeled him a “terrorist” and “a bit insufferable” in emails subsequently made public through Wikileaks.

He continued to stumble through his self-appointed role of kingmaker, holding off supporting Clinton — whose 2000 U.S. Senate campaign he managed — while declining to back Sanders.

He envisioned commanding primary candidates on both sides of the aisle to a forum he would oversee in Iowa to vet them for his own satisfaction — a pipe dream he abandoned when even the lowest-ranking candidates ignored his invitations.

Eventually he backed Clinton on Morning Joe in October of 2015, months after many well-known politicians announced their picks.

The clumsiness of the process erased any goodwill he might otherwise have earned with the Clintons, who swore him in as mayor in 2013. He was given an undesirable midday speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia that July and was relegated to knocking on doors for her in Iowa.

“CORN STALKER!,” screamed the Daily News headline.

De Blasio insisted he wanted to be in Iowa, and didn’t view it as a punishment.

With that mess behind him, de Blasio made clear his support for Sanders.

He has taken pains to praise him whenever he can, vacationed with him in Vermont, and, when it was time to be sworn in for a second term, Sanders and his wife shivered in the same seats Hillary and Bill Clinton had occupied four years earlier to do the honors.

In an interview with POLITICO last year, de Blasio declared Sanders would have defeated Trump had he been the nominee — a proclamation that earned him more derision from Team Clinton. “[I]f he thinks Bernie would have beaten Trump then he should have had the foresight to endorse him in 2016. His view is of little importance now,” Clinton’s communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, said at the time.

Despite the lovefest with Sanders, he saw fit to run against him in a primary bid that ended when de Blasio ran out of money and couldn’t continue to qualify for the national debates.

De Blasio never criticized Sanders directly, but it was implicit in the talking points of his brief campaign: Only an executive like he had the necessary experience to serve as president.

He also put out a tax plan that he boasted is to the left of anyone else on stage.

Now, faced with his own national loss and the prospect of cozying up to a top-tier presidential candidate, de Blasio will change his tune.

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Joe Biden: Pres. Trump ‘Weaponized’ AG Barr’s Office

Former Vice President and 2020 presidential hopeful Joe Biden accused President Donald Trump Thursday of ‘weaponizing’ the Department of Justice, he said on The View.

“He goes out and he basically reduces a sentence for a guy that was testifying against his campaign. I mean, he’s weaponized… the Attorney General’s office. It’s a weapon now,” Biden said.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME, was a key swing vote in the President’s acquittal in the Senate last week. In justifying her vote, Sen. Collins said she believed President Trump had done “wrong”, but in the end, she said he’d learned a “pretty big lesson.”

When asked about Collins’ explanation, Biden remarked, “Well, yeah, he’s learned a lesson. He’s learned how to make it work even worse.”

On Wednesday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) announced that Attorney General William Barr will testify before the committee on March, 31.

In his letter, signed by twenty-three other Democrats on the committee, Nadler alleges that AG Barr “engaged in a pattern of conduct in legal matters relating to the President that raises significant concerns for this Committee.”

The letter cites three instances from just this week that “raises significant concerns” for the committee about Barr’s work at the Justice Department.

The letter states:

  • The ongoing developments following the removal of U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu, who oversaw the prosecutions of President Trump’s deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, President Trump’s former national security advisor Michael Flynn, and President Trump’s longtime political adviser Roger Stone.[4]
  • The creation of a new “process” by which President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani can feed the Department of Justice information, through you, about the President’s political rivals.[5]
  • The decision to overrule your career prosecutors and significantly reduce the recommended sentence for Roger Stone, who has been convicted for lying under oath, at the apparent request of the President — a decision that led to all four prosecutors handling the case to withdraw from the proceedings in protest.[6]

One GOP official criticized the move Wednesday, telling this reporter that the timing of the letter is suspect.

“It’s only fitting that the day Attorney General Barr is scheduled to testify, is the same day that the Supreme Court will hear arguments over access to the President’s financial records.” a GOP official told this reporter, “It just goes to show you that although impeachment is over, the attacks against the President just will not stop.”

In an exclusive interview with ABC News Thursday, AG Barr said the President “has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case”, adding that his Tweets about the Justice Department “make it impossible for me to do my job.”

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Bernie Sanders leads in Texas

Bernie Sanders is in the top spot now in Texas according to the latest poll released by the University of Texas/Texas Tribune. Bernie’s having a moment and it’s even showing up in Texas polling.

Since the beginning of the Democrat primary season, Joe Biden has consistently led in Texas polls. His lead has been strong enough that I doubt his campaign thought he would need to put too much effort into campaigning in the state. This is the first poll that shows Biden’s vulnerability in the Lone Star State. Bernie leads Biden by 2 points – 24% to 22%. Granted, that’s not a big lead but it is certainly enough to cause heartburn within Biden’s flailing campaign. If Bernie is ahead in a state that normally favors moderates and conservatives, his current momentum is real.

The last UT/Texas Tribune released was last October. Bernie has doubled his support since then. In that poll, Biden and Elizabeth Warren were at the top. Back then, Robert Francis O’Rourke was still in the primary race and he ranked third in that poll. Michael Bloomberg hadn’t entered the race and he is now in fourth place. Bloomberg is ahead of both Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar – all three considered the moderates in the race. Andrew Yang, who dropped out after the New Hampshire primary this week, was behind Buttigieg and ahead of Klobuchar.

All of this points to some real trouble for Biden. Sanders and Bloomberg are on the rise while Biden is unable to expand his support and is falling.


Who would get your vote in a Democratic primary today?
Bernie Sanders 24%
Joseph R. Biden 22%
Elizabeth Warren 15%
Michael R. Bloomberg 10%
Pete Buttigieg 7%
Andrew Yang* 6%
Amy Klobuchar 3%
Tom Steyer 3%
Tulsi Gabbard 2%
Others 8%

*Dropped out; name remains on Texas ballot.
Numbers may not add up to 100 due to rounding. Margin of error = ± 4.09 percentage points.
Source: University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, February 2020
Credit: Anna Novak

The poll shows that overall, Democrat voters have a favorable opinion of all the candidates but Sanders, Biden, and Warren remain the preference. Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and Bloomberg are seen as favorable candidates but are not as well-known to Texas voters. Trust me when I say that soon every voter will be able to identify Michael Bloomberg, thanks to his advertising blitz in the state. In a state as big as Texas, it is impossible for a candidate to depend on traditional retail politics – the battle for the airwaves is critical. Bloomberg jumped into that contest early and has been running television ads in Texas 24/7 for weeks now. In the last couple of days, Bernie Sanders has entered the battle for the airwaves in Texas. I saw several ads for Bernie both Thursday and Friday.

When Texans register to vote, political party affiliation is not declared. Primaries are open to voters of any party affiliation – the voter is asked which ballot they want, Republican or Democrat at the time of voting. This is appealing to the candidates hoping to capture the imagination of Republican voters and Independents. For example, both the Bloomberg and Sanders campaigns have texted me on my cell phone in recent days though I have only ever voted as a Republican in primaries. In other words, the Bloomberg and Sanders campaigns are actively reaching out to all voters, not just concentrating on traditional Democrats. This is the same that Donald Trump did in 2016 and his work to appeal to everyone was a winning formula.

Both Bernie and Trump supporters are loyal and energized. Biden’s campaign is not inspiring by any stretch of the imagination. His whole campaign is centered around the premise that he’s the safe choice, the electable one. That strategy has now flamed out with his dismal performances in both Iowa and New Hampshire. It looks like he will do poorly in Nevada next so he is counting on South Carolina to save his campaign. Real Clear Politics has Biden up by 5.3% overall in Texas now, with Bernie in second place at 22.7% and Elizabeth Warren at 15%. Bloomberg comes in at fourth place with 11.7%. Warren is listed as a second choice candidate for almost half of the Sanders voters.

Asked about their second choices for the presidential nomination, 48% of Democratic voters who support Sanders listed Warren. Biden’s voters listed Warren (25%) and Bloomberg (24%). Warren supporters’ second choices were Sanders (43%), Biden (15%) and Klobuchar (14%). Biden was the second choice for 28% of Bloomberg’s supporters in the survey, followed by Warren (20%).

There is good news for President Trump in the UT/Texas Tribune poll. Though 52% of those polled said they would not vote to re-elect President Trump, Republican support is at a solid 90% and the responses show he will beat any of the Democrat candidates. Independent voters were against reelection, but less so than Democrat voters – 38% said they would vote to reelect Trump, while 62% said they would vote against him. The poll indicates Trump is underperforming in Texas but would still win the state in November.

This poll is usually pretty reliable, as polls go. You’ll note that registered voters, not likely voters were polled. Likely voters produce a more reliable picture, as a general rule. Here’s the standard disclosure of how the poll was conducted:

The University of Texas/Texas Tribune internet survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted from Jan. 31 to Feb. 9 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 2.83 percentage points, and an overall margin of error of +/- 4.09 percentage points for Democratic trial ballots. Numbers in charts might not add up to 100% because of rounding.

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Joe Andruzzi Foundation hits $7 million donation mark, giving back to local cancer patients

Boston native Amy Deveau was exhausted, dizzy and barely able to function when she drove herself to the emergency room in 2017 thinking she had pneumonia.

She didn’t leave the hospital for a month, and launched into aggressive, daily cancer treatment for a rare form of leukemia.

“The world kind of just went dark. I didn’t hear the rest of what the doctor told me,” said Deveau of when she got the diagnosis.

“I so naively thought I was just going to get checked out and go home,” said Deveau, who was in her early thirties and had a 5-month-old daughter at the time.

Deveau would undergo treatment for eight months, meaning she couldn’t work and the family would need to survive on her husband’s income. “Panic starts to set in and you realize one paycheck only covers so much,” she said.

That’s when a hospital social worker directed Deveau to the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, a nonprofit that helps local families with the non-medical cost of cancer such as phone bills, mortgage or car payments.

The Joe Andruzzi Foundation, created by the former New England Patriots’ three-time Super Bowl-winning offensive guard and his wife Jen Andruzzi, CEO and president of the organization, surpassed $7 million in donations last month.

Andruzzi had his own battle with cancer in 2007, when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Burkitt’s lymphoma, which ended his football career, but later served as motivation to launch the foundation.

“No one financially plans for cancer. When you’re in treatment and can’t work, those household bills keep coming and the stress that a family feels can be tremendous,” said Andruzzi.

Jen said, “It’s a health scare, but it’s so much greater than that. The cost of cancer, what it actually does to a family, is so much more.”

She said 42% of new cancer patients lose their entire life savings in two years because of treatment, adding up to an average of $92,000.

Halfway through treatment, Deveau submitted her car payment, car insurance and cellphone bill to the organization and almost immediately got checks in the mail with everything taken care of.

“They thought of everything, it was pretty incredible,” said Deveau. “It kind of just gave us the morale boost that we needed in the middle of this long haul.”

Deveau and her family are among the 12,000 JAF has helped. The organization has connections with 20 health care facilities in New England that identify patients in need, said Jen, who looks forward to reaching even more families this year.

“It’s really scary to think that there’s patients out there that don’t have the means to stay in their home and have to worry about keeping a roof over their children’s head,” said Jen.

Deveau was declared in complete remission in August 2018. “It still feels surreal,” she said. Her daughter is 2 years old now, and Deveau cherishes “every single moment” of family time.

Deveau stays involved with JAF by attending events and speaking at fundraisers.

“Cancer can be devastating and it doesn’t have to take such a financial toll on families, you shouldn’t have to go bankrupt because you got sick,” said Deveau.

Andruzzi said, “When I meet JAF patient recipients or their family members and get a hug during an extremely difficult time in their lives, it reinforces the importance of the work we’re doing each day.”

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Opinion | A Meme Girl Mash-Up

WASHINGTON — In a meta master stroke, Tina Fey made an epic teen movie, “Mean Girls,” in 2004, then turned it into a Broadway musical and is now making a movie out of the musical.

She should do her first casting call here. Politics has never been filled with so many mean girls.

How’s this for a bitchyyy lunch table? Mitch McConnell, Rudy Giuliani, Don Jr., Bill Barr, Mike Pompeo, Lindsey Graham, John Bolton, Jim Jordan, Kellyanne Conway, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham.

Of course Donald Trump, who uses Twitter like the Burn Book, takes the form of Regina George, Queen Bee.

Now comes the new kid in school: Mike Bloomberg, who wants to topple the Queen Bee and is aiming to get there with mean girl — and meme girl — tactics.

Many rivals have struggled to spar with Trump in debates and on Twitter but have found it difficult, demeaning and self-destructive to sink to his level.

They don’t seem authentic when the claws come out and the fur flies. Who can forget Marco Rubio stooping to a joke about Trump’s penis size and then apologizing, saying it wasn’t really who he was?

Another example of a rival getting unbalanced by Trump’s bullying: Hillary still wonders if she should have wheeled around, when Trump was lurking behind her on the debate stage and making her skin crawl, and said, “Back up, you creep, get away from me.” She overthought it, fearing she would come across as overwrought.

Bloomberg, however, has no such qualms. He can be a bitch when he wants to be. (And certainly, he has gotten in trouble crossing the line on offensive comments to women staffers and on stop-and-frisk.)

When Bloomberg was asked recently about the clash of the billionaires, he snapped back: “Who’s the other one?”

Trump, who tweeted in 2012 that Bloomberg was doing a great job as mayor of New York, is now scratching Bloomy’s eyes out. (The president’s post-acquittal megalomania and tweets about softening Roger Stone’s punishment have spurred Bill Barr and Republican senators to urge Trump to cut down the bullying, incendiary tweets. King Donald tweeted back that he can do as he likes. In the spirit of the Brangelina split, conservatives are now left agonizing about which of their stars to support — Trump or Barr.)

The president has been on a prolonged tweet rant about “Mini Mike” and his “vanity project,” claiming his “loser” billionaire rival with “zero presence” wants to stand on a box at the debates. A Bloomberg spokeswoman punched back about Trump: “He is a pathological liar who lies about everything: his fake hair, his obesity and his spray-on tan.” (Michael Dukakis did stand on a specially built mound.)

This past week, Trump tweeted that “Mini Mike is a 5’4” mass of dead energy,” to which Bloomberg trash-tweeted back: “we know many of the same people in NY. Behind your back they laugh at you & call you a carnival barking clown. They know you inherited a fortune & squandered it with stupid deals and incompetence.”

As Charlie Warzel wrote in The Times’s Opinion section, “On Twitter, where some Democratic hopefuls have adopted a ‘they go low, we go high’ mentality, Bloombergians have instead opted to wade into the mud and wrestle with Mr. Trump’s Twitter feed.”

Bloomberg has dumped over $188 million into his campaign so far, including a million dollars a day on Facebook ads. A chunk has been thrown at an innovative digital campaign that taps legions of Instagram’s most prolific meme-makers to flood social media with ironic jokes designed to make the 78-year-old Bloomberg seem hip and to get millennials talking about him.

Like the mean tweets, the memes are a success in that people are talking (and DM-ing) about Bloomberg. But, like the mean tweets, they have been grating for some digital natives, who mock the naked bid to buy affection as condescending and inorganic.

The two candidates who inspire the greatest number of memes and web warriors are, funnily enough, two of the oldest men ever to run for president, Bernie Sanders, 78, and Trump, 73. And they don’t have to pay for their meme-makers.

“Bloomberg’s memes are comical in the worst possible way,” said Sarah Matthews, deputy press secretary for the Trump campaign. “Paying for internet influencers and memes proves you don’t understand how meme culture works. President Trump’s supporters create content for free out of genuine love for the president.”

And the president loves his meme-meisters back. Last summer, he invited a bunch of these masters of vicious trolling, conspiracy theories and doctored videos to the White House for a festive social media summit — an ogre with all his digital goblins kickin’ it in the cave.

“The Trumpistas have been buying social media exposure for years,” said Tim O’Brien, a Trump biographer and former Bloomberg reporter who now is a senior adviser to the Bloomberg campaign. “It’s the only tactic that they actually stay focused on and try to build a strategy around. The idea that there is some grass-roots movement funding this is silly.”

There’s no question that it’s going to get really nasty as these two oligarchs go at it, now that the nastiest place ever — the internet — has become the foreground of political campaigning. The real question is: Who can make fetch happen?

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Harvard’s Progress Is Not Our Progress

Many of us have come together tonight, some no doubt interested to see how this idea of “class warfare” suits Harvard. Since we announced this event, I have heard and seen people remarking with surprise and irony that Harvard should be the site of anything to do with a class war. But I assure you, Harvard has always played a key role in the class war.

Perhaps you have read an article from one of our panelists, Meagan Day. “Defend Your Class,” which ran in Jacobin last April, is named for the slogan that Harvard deployed to inspire its students to leave the classroom in 1912 and take up arms with the National Guard to break the Lawrence, Massachusetts “Bread and Roses” textile workers’ strike.

What was the threat from which Harvard elites needed defense? It was a movement of the working class, men, women, and children, of thirty countries of origin, speaking forty-five languages, demanding freedom from the daily threats to their lives posed by underpaid and dangerous jobs — and, even more radically, the freedom to exist beyond the value assigned to their labor by the capitalist bosses.

What was the value of those three words, “Defend your class,” to the Harvard undergraduate militiamen? Perhaps you know that hundreds of strikers were beaten and thrown in jail by the strikebreakers, and two were murdered. For demonstrating their allegiance to their class, the Harvard students received course credit.

The Harvard brand has expanded fabulously in its prestige and in its power since that strike. And above all, it has expanded its capacity to defend its class. About a mile from where we are gathered here, a new engineering school complex is being built, described by our President Lawrence Bacow as “a jewel of a building.” To Bacow, Allston has long been “just an idea, a vision of the future,” but with the construction of the engineering school, a billion-dollar project, “that future is rapidly coming into focus.” It’s a bleak “future” for one of the last affordable neighborhoods in Boston, while hundreds of our neighbors sleep on the streets every night and a minimum-wage worker must work 210 hours to make rent on a one-bedroom apartment in Cambridge.

President Bacow’s praise for the new Allston campus is just pretty talk for a class war. Harvard’s progress is not our progress.

Has anyone, watching our teaching fellows and course assistants strike for fair pay and decent health care, taken comfort in the fact that sixty-two of the world’s current billionaires are Harvard men and women? Who among us reads that the Harvard endowment has reached $40 billion in fiscal year 2019 and celebrates, knowing that those dollars rebound from investments in private prisons and the global destruction of fossil fuels?

We do not, because Harvard’s progress is not our progress. This institution stands shoulder to shoulder with the National Guard of 1912, the Henry Kissingers of 1969, and the war-mongering presidents of the 2000s, Republican and Democrat. In these 384 years, it has not missed a single step.

My task is not to build up a pile of evidence against Harvard out of hatred or spite. I want to illustrate that the war-making, strike-breaking impulses of this institution are not random; they are not unrelated. Harvard is a case study in the unified power of the elite in pursuit of the almighty profit motive, the power of the next dollar and the dollar after that.

That is what we all are worth to it. But every single one of you is worth the world to me. And I hope that you feel that way about one another, because our shared future depends upon it. We can comfort, rally, mourn, and transform the face of the earth with this knowledge.

At the heart of that approach to each other is the indispensable ethic of solidarity. In the words of St Augustine, “Charity is no substitute for justice withheld.” When our homeless brothers and sisters walk into an apartment and call it home, we will say: this is justice, and not charity. When working-class children enroll in free college instead of the army in order to build a better life, we will say: this is justice, not charity. When we realize and honor Fred Hampton’s vision for a rainbow coalition against a racist police and incarceration system, against the starvation of children, and against the commodification of health care, we will say: this is not charity, this is not generosity, this is justice.

Behind the idea of charity is the sense that we do not deserve the things we need for our own survival. In our time, in which class warfare is reaching a great crescendo, something tells me that the powerful institutions of this world will continue to become ever less charitable. Let us take the matter of our survival out of their hands and into our own. Let us have justice, a justice made possible by solidarity. There is no substitute on earth for that.

I am a literature student, so I am thinking of a verse written by W. B. Yeats in praise of a friend “bred to a harder thing than Triumph.” As a volunteer for the Bernie Sanders campaign, I have knocked hundreds of doors in Iowa and in New Hampshire. I will not forget the Iowans that I met shortly before the New Year. I spoke to a woman who was on leave from her low-wage job because a physical disability made the work too painful. But what decided her vote was the idea of a world in which she could afford mental health care.

She told me about the struggle she faces every day to get out of her bed, and then told me that on February 3, she would get out of bed, get into her car, and drive to a caucus site to caucus for Bernie Sanders. She planned to do all of these things in the name of a harder thing than triumph.

Here in Massachusetts, the great antiwar activist Al Johnson canvassed among us in Nashua every weekend. Al passed away on January 1, 2020. From his deathbed on December 31, 2019, Johnson made two hundred phone calls for Bernie Sanders. Born to a Kentucky coal miner, raised in Massachusetts public housing, he was imprisoned as a conscientious objector of the Vietnam War. He spent a year in that military prison for loving peace. So great was Johnson’s love for peace that it led him not only to work alongside the Black Panthers and the Poor People’s Movement, but ultimately to join Bernie Sanders’s movement for an end to war and poverty across the globe.

Al Johnson was bred to a harder thing than triumph. Al Johnson was bred to solidarity his entire life.

Let us be bred to a harder thing than triumph: the thing that makes triumph possible. Let it be solidarity. For then our work can never come to nothing.

In the last day of his life, Al Johnson placed two hundred calls in the name of a world he would not live to see. What great certainty he had in those final hours — not a certainty in victory, but a certainty in the value of your life and mine. Let us be so certain in our shared purpose and certain in our shared way forward.

With every undocumented family, with every climate refugee, with every community devastated by the “war on drugs,” with every unionized worker, we are more certain that the world must change, because we belong in it. The day will come when the working class lives in the housing it has built and benefits from the labor it has exerted. We must work for that day together in solidarity, and we must accept no substitute. We must vote for solidarity in 2020 — but this is only the beginning.

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Biden Defends Obama’s Caged Border Children over Trump’s Caged Border Children (VIDEO)

Democrat Privilege: Biden Defends Obama’s Caged Border Children over Trump’s Caged Border Children (VIDEO)


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Democratic rivals sharpen attacks as Bloomberg rises

White House hopefuls are unloading on Mike Bloomberg in an effort to draw him into the fray amid uncertainty over whether the former New York City mayor will be on the Democratic debate stage next week in Nevada.

At town hall events, on social media and at meetings with donors, Bloomberg’s 2020 rivals are sharpening their attacks against him, underscoring his growing strength in the fluid primary race.

Bloomberg has assembled a fearsome campaign apparatus that includes hundreds of the Democratic Party’s top operatives and strategists. He’s plowed more than $350 million into a months-long national advertising campaign that has lifted him in the polls.

He has also been on an apology tour to address several racially charged controversies from his time as mayor of New York City. But he’s received cover from black leaders on Capitol Hill and new polls show him cutting into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenProgressive journalist: Unions don’t want to ‘ruffle any feathers’ by endorsing in primary Behar, McCain get into fiery exchange over 2016 election in debate about Bloomberg Sanders leads Biden in latest Nevada poll MORE’s support among black voters. 

Bloomberg’s rivals are eager to get their first crack at him the national stage on Wednesday in Nevada — one of the final four debates of the primary season. 

But there’s no guarantee that Bloomberg will qualify and there are growing fears among his rivals that he’ll continue running a parallel general election campaign, gliding above it all, while the rest of the Democratic hopefuls fight among themselves.

“They have to now start to actually get on the debate stage and start to defend their records,” Biden said of Bloomberg at a Thursday night at a fundraiser in New York City.

So far five candidates have made the debate in Las Vegas on Feb. 19: Biden, Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersProgressive journalist: Unions don’t want to ‘ruffle any feathers’ by endorsing in primary Behar, McCain get into fiery exchange over 2016 election in debate about Bloomberg Sanders leads Biden in latest Nevada poll MORE (I-Vt.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenBehar, McCain get into fiery exchange over 2016 election in debate about Bloomberg Sanders leads Biden in latest Nevada poll Senate Dems blast Barr for ‘clear violation’ of duty in Stone case, urge him to resign MORE (D-Mass.) and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharSanders leads Biden in latest Nevada poll The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Trump insists he can tweet about cases in rare break with Barr Poll: Bloomberg overtakes Biden in Florida MORE (D-Minn.) and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegBehar, McCain get into fiery exchange over 2016 election in debate about Bloomberg Sanders leads Biden in latest Nevada poll The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Trump insists he can tweet about cases in rare break with Barr MORE.  

If Bloomberg hits 10 percent support in one more sanctioned national poll released by Feb. 18, he’ll qualify for Wednesday’s debate.

Bloomberg has said he wants to debate but the campaign did not respond to a question about whether he’d accept an invitation to the Las Vegas forum if he qualifies.

There is some frustration on the left that the Democratic National Committee dropped the fundraising criteria for the debates, paving the way for Bloomberg, a self-funder, to qualify.

Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBooker, Cornyn introduce bill to fund school nutrition programs Hillicon Valley: Facebook suspends misinformation networks targeting US | Lawmakers grill census officials on cybersecurity | Trump signs order to protect GPS | Dem senators propose federal facial recognition moratorium Booker, Merkley propose federal facial recognition moratorium MORE (D-N.J.) and former San Antonio, Texas, Mayor Julián Castro were casualties of the stringent early debate requirements before ending their presidential campaigns.

Sanders on Friday said it was unacceptable that a billionaire should be able to buy his way on stage when the candidates of color were excluded. 

“That is what being a multi-billionaire is about,” Sanders said on CBS This Morning. “Some very good friends of mine who are competing in the Democratic nomination, people like Cory Booker of New Jersey … Julián Castro, work really, really hard. Nobody changed the rules to get them into the debate. But I guess if you’re worth $60 billion, you can change the rules. I think that is very, very unfortunate.”

But for the most part, the Democratic field is champing at the bit to get a shot at Bloomberg.

Sanders’s campaign has led the way in demanding that Bloomberg be held to account for how his stop-and-frisk policy resulted in the harassment and detainment of large numbers of racial minorities in New York City when he was mayor.

That policy received new scrutiny this week after audio resurfaced of Bloomberg advocating for racial profiling in 2016, saying that violent criminals were usually made up of “male, minorities, 16 to 25.”

“He should not be running now that that has come up,” said Nina Turner, national co-chairwoman for the Sanders campaign. “I think he should drop out of the race.”

Bloomberg apologized for the policy in front of a predominantly black audience in Houston on Thursday night, saying the policy stemmed from a desire to curb violent crime and that he didn’t understand at the time the “unintended pain it was causing to young black and brown families and their kids.”

“I’ve spent a lot of time speaking with black leaders and community members and listening to their stories,” Bloomberg said. “I heard their pain, their confusion, and their anger, and I’ve learned from them, and I’ve grown from them.”

There is no evidence that the racial controversies have damaged Bloomberg.

New polls show Bloomberg’s national rise has been in part due to support from black voters, who are giving him a look in the aftermath of Biden’s distant showings in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The Bloomberg campaign this week rolled out new endorsements from a trio of Congressional Black Caucus members — Reps. Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksThe Hill’s Campaign Report: Rising Klobuchar, Buttigieg face test in diverse states Bloomberg builds momentum on Capitol Hill with new endorsements Senior black Democrats urge party chairman to take responsibility for Iowa MORE (D-N.Y.), Lucy McBathLucia (Lucy) Kay McBathThe Hill’s Campaign Report: Rising Klobuchar, Buttigieg face test in diverse states Conservative women’s group rolls out new GOP endorsements for 2020 Bloomberg builds momentum on Capitol Hill with new endorsements MORE (D-Ga.), and Del. Stacey PlaskettStacey PlaskettThe Hill’s Campaign Report: Rising Klobuchar, Buttigieg face test in diverse states Bloomberg builds momentum on Capitol Hill with new endorsements The Hill’s Morning Report – Sanders surge triggers Dem angst MORE of the Virgin Islands.

House Majority Whip Rep. Jim ClyburnJames (Jim) Enos ClyburnRep. Cunningham blasts Sanders: ‘South Carolinians don’t want socialism’ House Majority Whip: DNC shouldn’t change rules for Bloomberg Top Democrat: ‘Obstruction of justice’ is ‘too clear not to include’ in impeachment probe MORE (D-S.C.), who has not endorsed yet, said he thinks Bloomberg will “have one heck of a challenge trying to overcome” stop and frisk.

But he said that former Columbia, S.C., Mayor Steve Benjamin, a prominent African American national co-chairman of Bloomberg’s campaign, has set him at ease about Bloomberg’s intentions and how he’d govern going forward.

“I know, love and respect Steve Benjamin, and he’s told me that he’s had conversations with Bloomberg that satisfies him. That he’s regretful of the policy. That he was a bit flippant in describing it at times and he’s apologized for it,” Clyburn said Friday on MSNBC. “And Steve Benjamin says he’s comfortable with that apology and I’ve always been very comfortable with Steve Benjamin.”

But Bloomberg is facing a second racial controversy over his past remarks that the 2008 financial crisis was due in part to banks loosening their credit standards because they were under pressure from Congress to give loans to poor people.

He also implied that “red lining,” a banned practice wherein banks would refuse to lend to neighborhoods with high numbers of racial minorities, was effective in ensuring banks did not take on bad loans.

Warren, who rose to power as a fierce consumer financial advocate, hammered Bloomberg at a campaign event in Virginia on Thursday night, saying those remarks should be disqualifying.

Michael BloombergMichael Rubens BloombergBehar, McCain get into fiery exchange over 2016 election in debate about Bloomberg Sanders leads Biden in latest Nevada poll Facebook to allow influencers to produce sponsored content for political campaigns MORE is saying in effect that the 2008 financial crash was caused because the banks weren’t permitted to discriminate against black and brown people,” Warren said. “I want to be clear about this — that crisis would not have been averted if the banks had been able to be bigger racists and anyone who thinks that should not be the leader of our party.”

But no one has been able to confront Bloomberg on the debate stage yet.

Instead, Bloomberg has been content to go one on one with President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump declares war on hardworking Americans with new budget request Avenatti found guilty in Nike extortion trial First, we’ll neuter all the judges MORE, who has attacked the former New York City mayor’s height and said he’ll need to stand on a box if he gets on the debate stage.

“I’m not afraid of Donald Trump and that’s why he keeps tweeting about me,” Bloomberg said over Twitter. “The ways you can tell he’s worried is if he mentions you. He’s a narcissist and he understands name is everything and if you really want to annoy him say ‘that person,’ don’t say Donald Trump.”

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President Bill Clinton Senator John McCain Memorial Day Event 1993 : NPR

President Bill Clinton delivers a speech during Memorial Day ceremonies at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1993.

Ron Edmonds/AP

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Ron Edmonds/AP

President Bill Clinton delivers a speech during Memorial Day ceremonies at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1993.

Ron Edmonds/AP

Some weeks you may wonder what’s happened to public speech in America. Or even good manners.

This week Matt Schlapp, chairman of the Conservative Political Action Conference, declared he will not invite Senator Mitt Romney to this year’s CPAC after Mr. Romney cast the lone Republican vote for President Trump’s removal at his impeachment trial.

“We won’t credential him as a conservative,” Mr. Schlapp told Greta Van Susteren on her program Full Court Press. Then he added, “This year, I would actually be afraid for his physical safety, people are so mad at him.”

Perhaps it was just an offhand remark. Mr. Schlapp soon followed with a tweet in which he told Stuart Stevens, a Republican political consultant who had criticized his words, “I wish Gov Romney no harm I just want him to find a new hobby away from destroying GOP momentum.”

But we are living in times when schools, newspapers, a congressional softball game, churches and synagogues have all been scenes of real danger to people’s physical safety.

Two years ago, Mona Charen, a long-time conservative columnist and commentator, had to be escorted by security out of CPAC when she criticized members of the group who supported President Trump and other conservative politicians who have been accused of sexual misconduct.

It might be good this week to recall something another leader did, a generation ago.

In 1993, not long after he took office, President Bill Clinton prepared to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Memorial Day, for a speech honoring soldiers who died in service to America.

Protests were planned, including by veterans of the war in Vietnam who felt Bill Clinton had avoided the draft while they risked their lives halfway around the world. When Bill Clinton was at Oxford and Yale Law School after numerous deferments, John McCain was a prisoner of war in Hanoi; where he was tortured.

Senator McCain refused to join the protests. He didn’t agree on much with President Clinton, but urged him to go the Vietnam Memorial, writing, “I hope you will not be discouraged from doing so by the ill-conceived and unjustified opposition of a few.” He ultimately joined President Clinton at the ceremony, where boos reigned down on the rostrum.

It’s a story that perhaps our time could use: You don’t have to agree with someone’s views or vote to protect their right to be heard, and to be treated with respect.