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FTR #1126 Bio-Psy-Op Apocalypse Now, Part 2: The Democracy-Killing Virus

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FTR #1126 This pro­gram was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment.  

Trump kept a copy of this by his bed­side, accord­ing to his ex-wife Ivana (in an inter­view in “Van­i­ty Fair.”)

Intro­duc­tion: We begin a series of pro­grams high­light­ing var­i­ous aspects of the “three-dimen­sion­al chess” aspect of the Covid-19 “bio-psy-op” we feel is under­way. Actu­al­ly six or sev­en dimen­sion­al chess might be a bet­ter way of express­ing this ana­lyt­i­cal con­cept.

It is of para­mount impor­tance for listeners/readers to under­stand that the con­cep­tu­al break­down is for cog­ni­tive clar­i­ty only. The bio-psy-op” is mul­ti-dimen­sion­al in its entire­ty and must be under­stood to be a type of “fascist/totalitarian lasagna” with many lay­ers to be con­sumed.

In this pro­gram, we present ways in which the Covid-19 out­break is sub­vert­ing democ­ra­cy, both inside and out­side of the Unit­ed States.

Although he has only flirt­ed with exer­cis­ing them, to date, Trump does indeed have some emer­gency pow­ers that can be invoked to fur­ther his agen­da” ” . . . . The most notable aspect of pres­i­den­tial emer­gency action doc­u­ments might be their extreme secre­cy. It’s not uncom­mon for the gov­ern­ment to clas­si­fy its plans or activ­i­ties in the area of nation­al secu­ri­ty. . . . By con­trast, we know of no evi­dence that the exec­u­tive branch has ever con­sult­ed with Con­gress — or even informed any of its mem­bers — regard­ing the con­tents of pres­i­den­tial emer­gency action doc­u­ments. . . . That is a dan­ger­ous state of affairs. The coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic is fast becom­ing the most seri­ous cri­sis to face this coun­try since World War II. And it is hap­pen­ing under the watch of a pres­i­dent who has claimed that Arti­cle II of the Con­sti­tu­tion gives him ‘the right to do what­ev­er I want.’ It is not far-fetched to think that we might see the deploy­ment of these doc­u­ments for the first time and that they will assert pres­i­den­tial pow­ers beyond those grant­ed by Con­gress or rec­og­nized by the courts as flow­ing from the Con­sti­tu­tion. . . .”

Next, we add that the Bio-Psy-Op Apoc­a­lypse is spawn­ing total­i­tar­i­an manifestations–not surprisingly–at the Depart­ment of Jus­tice head­ed by “ex” CIA offi­cer William Barr. ” . . . . The request raised eye­brows because of its poten­tial impli­ca­tions for habeas cor­pus — the con­sti­tu­tion­al right to appear before a judge after arrest and seek release. ‘Not only would it be a vio­la­tion of that, but it says ‘affect­ing pre-arrest,’” said Nor­man L. Reimer, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Crim­i­nal Defense Lawyers. ‘So that means you could be arrest­ed and nev­er brought before a judge until they decide that the emer­gency or the civ­il dis­obe­di­ence is over. I find it absolute­ly ter­ri­fy­ing. Espe­cial­ly in a time of emer­gency, we should be very care­ful about grant­i­ng new pow­ers to the gov­ern­ment.’ . . .”

It will come as no sur­prise to vet­er­an lis­ten­ers, the Pen­ta­gon has con­tin­gency plans for vary­ing degrees of gov­ern­men­tal and/or civic dis­abil­i­ty. ” . . . . But Coro­n­avirus is also new ter­ri­to­ry, where the mil­i­tary itself is vul­ner­a­ble and the dis­as­ter sce­nar­ios being con­tem­plat­ed — includ­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty of wide­spread domes­tic vio­lence as a result of food short­ages — are forc­ing plan­ners to look at what are called ‘extra­or­di­nary cir­cum­stances’. Above-Top Secret con­tin­gency plans already exist for what the mil­i­tary is sup­posed to do if all the Con­sti­tu­tion­al suc­ces­sors are inca­pac­i­tat­ed. Stand­by orders were issued more than three weeks ago to ready these plans, not just to pro­tect Wash­ing­ton but also to pre­pare for the pos­si­bil­i­ty of some form of mar­tial law. . . .”

The mil­i­tary’s con­tin­gency plans have been par­tial­ly acti­vat­ed” . . . . While being hit with coro­n­avirus at rates equiv­a­lent to the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion, the U.S. mil­i­tary has acti­vat­ed its ‘defense sup­port of civ­il author­i­ties’ appa­ra­tus, estab­lish­ing liaisons in all 50 states, acti­vat­ing units and com­mand posts, and mov­ing forces to pro­vide med­ical, trans­porta­tion, logis­tics, and com­mu­ni­ca­tions sup­port in New York and Wash­ing­ton states. Lt. Gen. Lau­ra Richard­son, the com­mand of Army North (ARNORTH), has request­ed and received approval for the deploy­ment of ground units in response to the now declared nation­al emer­gency. . . .”

We note, in pass­ing, that, although not in effect at this point, dis­cus­sion of “mar­tial law” are far more than just social media fod­der, to coin a term. ” . . . . Because of so many rumors fly­ing in social media, the Pen­ta­gon estab­lished a ‘rumor con­trol’ web­site to beat down sto­ries of mil­i­tary-imposed quar­an­tines and even mar­tial law. And it said it was going to lim­it details of both the spe­cif­ic num­bers of coro­n­avirus cas­es and oper­a­tional details. . . .”

Mar­tial law dis­cus­sion has been spurred by, among oth­er things, Trump’s rumi­na­tions about what he can and will do: “. . . . Ear­li­er Sat­ur­day, Mr. Trump said that he is con­sid­er­ing declar­ing an ‘enforce­able’ quar­an­tine affect­ing some res­i­dents of the New York met­ro­pol­i­tan area, pos­si­bly includ­ing New Jer­sey and Con­necti­cut. He called the region a ‘hot spot’ of the coro­n­avirus out­break sweep­ing the coun­try. . . . Mr. Trump reit­er­at­ed in his remarks before the send off of the USNS Com­fort that he was con­sid­er­ing a quar­an­tine of the area. The Com­fort is a naval hos­pi­tal boat which is car­ry­ing over 1,000 beds and 1,200 med­ical per­son­nel to New York City. . . . Using active duty troops to enforce a quar­an­tine would require the pres­i­dent to sus­pend the Posse Comi­ta­tus Act, which for­bids the use of the armed ser­vices for law enforce­ment. . . .”

Trump has plen­ty of com­pa­ny” . . . . In Hun­gary, a new law has grant­ed Prime Min­is­ter Vik­tor Orban the pow­er to side­step Par­lia­ment and sus­pend exist­ing laws. Mr. Orban, who declared a state of emer­gency this month, now has the sole pow­er to end the emer­gency. Par­lia­ment, where two-thirds of the seats are con­trolled by his par­ty, approved the leg­is­la­tion on Mon­day. . . .‘The draft law is alarm­ing,’ said Daniel Kar­sai, a lawyer in Budapest who said the new leg­is­la­tion had cre­at­ed ‘a big fear’ among Hun­gar­i­ans that ‘the Orban admin­is­tra­tion will be a real dic­ta­tor­ship.’ . . .”

Orban’s Hun­gary has been joined by, among oth­ers, the long-stand­ing British democ­ra­cy: ” . . . . some of the pro­vi­sions . . . . will give the gov­ern­ment unchecked con­trol. The leg­is­la­tion gives sweep­ing pow­ers to bor­der agents and the police, which could lead to indef­i­nite deten­tion and rein­force ‘hos­tile envi­ron­ment’ poli­cies against immi­grants, crit­ics said. ‘Each clause could have had months of debate, and instead it’s all being debat­ed in a few days,’ said Adam Wag­n­er, a lawyer who advis­es a par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee on human rights. . . . ‘These are eye-water­ing pow­ers that would have not been real­ly imag­in­able in peace­time in this coun­try before,’ said Silkie Car­lo, the direc­tor of Big Broth­er Watch, a rights group. She called the mea­sures ‘dra­con­ian.’ . . . .”

Pri­va­cy is being dra­mat­i­cal­ly cur­tailed under cov­er of com­bat­ting the virus: ” . . . . As Thomas Gaulkin of the Bul­letin of the Atom­ic Sci­en­tists not­ed ear­li­er this month, many Amer­i­cans— often fierce in their objec­tions to per­ceived gov­ern­ment over­reach into their lives—might nor­mal­ly object to dystopi­an images of fly­ing robots polic­ing lock­downs. But these, of course, are not nor­mal times. ‘If drones do begin to hov­er over U.S. streets to help con­trol this pan­dem­ic,’ Gaulkin wrote, ‘it will be yet anoth­er vis­i­ble reminder that we’ve entered a pub­lic health Twi­light Zone where Amer­i­cans have no bet­ter option than to embrace what was once only imag­in­able, and nev­er real.’ . . . ”

The alpha preda­tor of the elec­tron­ic sur­veil­lance land­scape is Peter Thiel’s Palan­tir. They have land­ed two key gov­ern­ment con­tracts in con­nec­tion with the Covid-19 out­break:” . . . . Palan­tir, the $20 bil­lion-val­ued Palo Alto tech com­pa­ny backed by Face­book-fun­der Peter Thiel, has been hand­ed a $17.3 mil­lion con­tract with one of the lead­ing health bod­ies lead­ing the charge against COVID-19. It’s the biggest con­tract hand­ed to a Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pa­ny to assist America’s COVID-19 response, accord­ing to Forbes’ review of pub­lic con­tracts, and comes as oth­er Cal­i­forn­ian giants like Apple and Google try to fig­ure out how best to help gov­ern­ments fight the dead­ly virus. . . . The mon­ey, from the fed­er­al government’s COVID-19 relief fund, is for Palan­tir Gotham licens­es, accord­ing to a con­tract record reviewed by Forbes. That tech­nol­o­gy is designed to draw in data from myr­i­ad sources and, regard­less of what form or size, turn the infor­ma­tion into a coher­ent whole. The ‘plat­form’ is cus­tomized for each client, so it meets with their mis­sion needs, accord­ing to Palan­tir. . . . Palan­tir Gotham is slight­ly dif­fer­ent to Foundry, a new­er prod­uct that’s aimed more at gen­er­al users rather than data sci­ence whizzes, with more automa­tion than Gotham. As Forbes pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed, Foundry is being used by the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC) to ingest infor­ma­tion from all man­ner of hos­pi­tals across Amer­i­ca to see where best to pro­vide more or less resource. . . . Palan­tir is now work­ing with at least 12 gov­ern­ments on their respons­es to coro­n­avirus, accord­ing to two sources with knowl­edge of its COVID-19 work. That includes the U.K.’s Nation­al Health Ser­vice, which is using Foundry for sim­i­lar pur­pos­es as the CDC. . . .”

Exem­pli­fy­ing the mul­ti-dimen­sion­al chess sce­nario in con­nec­tion with the “bio-psy-op” is the GOP’s plan to use the Covid-19 out­break to scape­goat Chi­na and tar the Democ­rats and Joe Biden with the same brush. Of par­tic­u­lar note in this regard is the Steve Bannon‑J. Kyle Bass-Tom­my Hicks, Jr. tri­umvi­rate dis­cussed in–among oth­er pro­grams–FTR #‘s 1111 and 1112.

At the epi­cen­ter of the anti-Chi­na effort, Ban­non is net­worked with Bass, who is asym­met­ri­cal­ly invest­ed with regard to the Hong Kong and Chi­nese economies. Hicks, in turn, is a co-investor with Bass, co-chair­man of the RNC, and one of the prime movers of the inter­a­gency gov­ern­men­tal net­works involved in the anti-Chi­na desta­bi­liza­tion oper­a­tion. This net­worked rela­tion­ship affords investors like Bass and Hicks the ulti­mate posi­tion from which to prof­it from “insid­er” infor­ma­tion. 

The syn­the­sis of covert oper­a­tions and elec­toral pol­i­tics reminds us of the 1952 elec­tion, in which Arthur Bliss Lane occu­pied a key posi­tion in the Cru­sade For Free­dom, as well as the GOP. (We dis­cussed this in AFA #37, and uti­lized infor­ma­tion from, among oth­er sources, Blow­back by Christo­pher Simp­son.

Exem­plary, as well, of the bio-psy-op as syn­the­sis of covert oper­a­tion and polit­i­cal cru­sad­ing is the GOP’s cyn­i­cal manip­u­la­tion of emer­gency appro­pri­a­tions to achieve their long­stand­ing objec­tive of crip­pling state and local gov­ern­ments, as well as dri­ving the Postal Ser­vice into bank­rupt­cy. Pri­va­tiz­ing postal ser­vice has been a right-wing/­GOP objec­tive for a long time. ” . . . . Every­one, and I mean every­one, knows what is real­ly hap­pen­ing: McConnell is try­ing to get more mon­ey for busi­ness­es while con­tin­u­ing to short­change state and local gov­ern­ments. After all, “starve the beast” — forc­ing gov­ern­ments to cut ser­vices by depriv­ing them of resources — has been Repub­li­can strat­e­gy for decades. This is just more of the same. . . . Oh, and Trump per­son­al­ly has ruled out aid for the Postal Ser­vice. . . .”

1a. Although he has only flirt­ed with exer­cis­ing them, to date, Trump does indeed have some emer­gency pow­ers that can be invoked to fur­ther his agen­da” ” . . . . The most notable aspect of pres­i­den­tial emer­gency action doc­u­ments might be their extreme secre­cy. It’s not uncom­mon for the gov­ern­ment to clas­si­fy its plans or activ­i­ties in the area of nation­al secu­ri­ty. . . . By con­trast, we know of no evi­dence that the exec­u­tive branch has ever con­sult­ed with Con­gress — or even informed any of its mem­bers — regard­ing the con­tents of pres­i­den­tial emer­gency action doc­u­ments. . . . That is a dan­ger­ous state of affairs. The coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic is fast becom­ing the most seri­ous cri­sis to face this coun­try since World War II. And it is hap­pen­ing under the watch of a pres­i­dent who has claimed that Arti­cle II of the Con­sti­tu­tion gives him ‘the right to do what­ev­er I want.’ It is not far-fetched to think that we might see the deploy­ment of these doc­u­ments for the first time and that they will assert pres­i­den­tial pow­ers beyond those grant­ed by Con­gress or rec­og­nized by the courts as flow­ing from the Con­sti­tu­tion. . . .”

“Trump Has Emer­gency Pow­ers We Aren’t Allowed to Know About” by Eliz­a­beth Gotein and Andrew Boyle; The New York Times; 4/10/2020.

The past few weeks have giv­en Amer­i­cans a crash course in the pow­ers that fed­er­al, state and local gov­ern­ments wield dur­ing emer­gen­cies. We’ve seen busi­ness­es closed down, cit­i­zens quar­an­tined and trav­el restrict­ed. When Pres­i­dent Trump declared emer­gen­cies on March 13 under both the Stafford Act and the Nation­al Emer­gen­cies Act, he boast­ed, “I have the right to do a lot of things that peo­ple don’t even know about.”

The pres­i­dent is right. Some of the most potent emer­gency pow­ers at his dis­pos­al are like­ly ones we can’t know about, because they are not con­tained in any pub­licly avail­able laws. Instead, they are set forth in clas­si­fied doc­u­ments known as “pres­i­den­tial emer­gency action doc­u­ments.”

These doc­u­ments con­sist of draft procla­ma­tions, exec­u­tive orders and pro­pos­als for leg­is­la­tion that can be quick­ly deployed to assert broad pres­i­den­tial author­i­ty in a range of worst-case sce­nar­ios. They are one of the government’s best-kept secrets. No pres­i­den­tial emer­gency action doc­u­ment has ever been released or even leaked. And it appears that none has ever been invoked.

Giv­en the real pos­si­bil­i­ty that these doc­u­ments could make their first appear­ance in the coro­n­avirus cri­sis, Con­gress should insist on hav­ing full access to them to ensure that they are con­sis­tent with the Con­sti­tu­tion and basic prin­ci­ples of democ­ra­cy.

Pres­i­den­tial emer­gency action doc­u­ments emerged dur­ing the Eisen­how­er admin­is­tra­tion as a set of plans to pro­vide for con­ti­nu­ity of gov­ern­ment after a Sovi­et nuclear attack. Over time, they were expand­ed to include pro­posed respons­es to oth­er types of emer­gen­cies. As described in one declas­si­fied gov­ern­ment mem­o­ran­dum, they are designed “to imple­ment extra­or­di­nary pres­i­den­tial author­i­ty in response to extra­or­di­nary sit­u­a­tions.”

Oth­er gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments have revealed some of the actions that old­er pres­i­den­tial emer­gency action doc­u­ments — those issued up through the 1970s — pur­port­ed to autho­rize. These include sus­pen­sion of habeas cor­pus by the pres­i­dent (not by Con­gress, as assigned in the Con­sti­tu­tion), deten­tion of Unit­ed States cit­i­zens who are sus­pect­ed of being “sub­ver­sives,” war­rant­less search­es and seizures and the impo­si­tion of mar­tial law.

Some of these actions would seem uncon­sti­tu­tion­al, at least in the absence of autho­riza­tion by Con­gress. Past pres­i­den­tial emer­gency action doc­u­ments, how­ev­er, have test­ed the line of how far pres­i­dents’ con­sti­tu­tion­al author­i­ty may stretch in an emer­gency.

For exam­ple, a Depart­ment of Jus­tice mem­o­ran­dum from the Lyn­don B. John­son admin­is­tra­tion dis­cuss­es a pres­i­den­tial emer­gency action doc­u­ment that would impose cen­sor­ship on news sent abroad. The memo notes that while no “express statu­to­ry author­i­ty” exists for such a mea­sure, “it can be argued that these actions would be legal in the after­math of a dev­as­tat­ing nuclear attack based on the president’s con­sti­tu­tion­al pow­ers to pre­serve the nation­al secu­ri­ty.” It then rec­om­mends that the pres­i­dent seek rat­i­fy­ing leg­is­la­tion from Con­gress after issu­ing the orders.

Much less is known about the con­tents of more recent pres­i­den­tial emer­gency action doc­u­ments — but we do know they exist. They under­go peri­od­ic revi­sion to take into account new laws, con­di­tions and con­cerns. The Depart­ment of Jus­tice reviews the pro­posed changes for legal sound­ness, the Fed­er­al Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency plays a coor­di­nat­ing role and the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil pro­vides pol­i­cy direc­tion and final approval.

Based on bud­getary requests from the Depart­ment of Jus­tice to Con­gress and oth­er doc­u­ments, it appears that pres­i­den­tial emer­gency action doc­u­ments were revised in the late 1980s, in the 2000s and again start­ing in 2012 and con­tin­u­ing into the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. The lat­est num­bers avail­able sug­gest there are between 50 and 60 such doc­u­ments in exis­tence.

There is no ques­tion that pres­i­den­tial emer­gency action doc­u­ments could be used in a pan­dem­ic like that caused by the coro­n­avirus. A 2006 Nuclear Reg­u­la­to­ry Com­mis­sion mem­o­ran­dum addressed that agency’s plan under Pres­i­dent Bush’s 2005 “Nation­al Strat­e­gy for Pan­dem­ic Influen­za.” The con­cern was how to main­tain oper­a­tions in response to a pan­dem­ic that proved to be “per­sis­tent, wide­spread, and pro­longed.” The memo’s authors offered the Nuclear Reg­u­la­to­ry Com­mis­sion 14 bul­let points of actions, includ­ing to “review pres­i­den­tial emer­gency action doc­u­ments” and “select those most like­ly to be need­ed” by the com­mis­sion.

The most notable aspect of pres­i­den­tial emer­gency action doc­u­ments might be their extreme secre­cy. It’s not uncom­mon for the gov­ern­ment to clas­si­fy its plans or activ­i­ties in the area of nation­al secu­ri­ty. How­ev­er, even the most sen­si­tive mil­i­tary oper­a­tions or intel­li­gence activ­i­ties must be report­ed to at least some mem­bers of Con­gress. By con­trast, we know of no evi­dence that the exec­u­tive branch has ever con­sult­ed with Con­gress — or even informed any of its mem­bers — regard­ing the con­tents of pres­i­den­tial emer­gency action doc­u­ments.

That is a dan­ger­ous state of affairs. The coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic is fast becom­ing the most seri­ous cri­sis to face this coun­try since World War II. And it is hap­pen­ing under the watch of a pres­i­dent who has claimed that Arti­cle II of the Con­sti­tu­tion gives him “the right to do what­ev­er I want.” It is not far-fetched to think that we might see the deploy­ment of these doc­u­ments for the first time and that they will assert pres­i­den­tial pow­ers beyond those grant­ed by Con­gress or rec­og­nized by the courts as flow­ing from the Con­sti­tu­tion.

Even in the most dire of emer­gen­cies, the pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States should not be able to oper­ate free from con­sti­tu­tion­al checks and bal­ances. The coro­n­avirus cri­sis should serve as a wake-up call. Pres­i­den­tial emer­gency action doc­u­ments have man­aged to escape demo­c­ra­t­ic over­sight for near­ly 70 years. Con­gress should move quick­ly to rem­e­dy that omis­sion and assert its author­i­ty to review these doc­u­ments, before we all learn just how far this admin­is­tra­tion believes the president’s pow­ers reach.

Eliz­a­beth Goitein is a co-direc­tor and Andrew Boyle is a lawyer at the Lib­er­ty and Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Pro­gram at the Bren­nan Cen­ter for Jus­tice at New York Uni­ver­si­ty School of Law.

1b. The Bio-Psy-Op Apoc­a­lypse is spawn­ing total­i­tar­i­an man­i­fes­ta­tions, including–not surprisingly–at the Depart­ment of Jus­tice head­ed by “ex” CIA offi­cer William Barr.

“DOJ seeks new emer­gency pow­ers amid coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic” by Bet­sy Woodruff Swan; Politi­co; 03/21/2020

The Jus­tice Depart­ment has qui­et­ly asked Con­gress for the abil­i­ty to ask chief judges to detain peo­ple indef­i­nite­ly with­out tri­al dur­ing emer­gen­cies — part of a push for new pow­ers that comes as the nov­el coro­n­avirus spreads through­out the Unit­ed States.

Doc­u­ments reviewed by POLITICO detail the department’s requests to law­mak­ers on a host of top­ics, includ­ing the statute of lim­i­ta­tions, asy­lum and the way court hear­ings are con­duct­ed. POLITICO also reviewed and pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed on doc­u­ments seek­ing the author­i­ty to extend dead­lines on merg­er reviews and pros­e­cu­tions.

The move has tapped into a broad­er fear among civ­il lib­er­ties advo­cates and Don­ald Trump’s crit­ics — that the pres­i­dent will use a moment of cri­sis to push for con­tro­ver­sial pol­i­cy changes. Already, he has cit­ed the pan­dem­ic as a rea­son for height­en­ing bor­der restric­tions and restrict­ing asy­lum claims. He has also pushed for fur­ther tax cuts as the econ­o­my with­ers, argu­ing it would soft­en the finan­cial blow to Amer­i­cans. And even with­out pol­i­cy changes, Trump has vast emer­gency pow­ers that he could deploy right now to try to slow the coro­n­avirus out­break.

The DOJ requests — which are unlike­ly to make it through a Demo­c­ra­t­ic-led House — span sev­er­al stages of the legal process, from ini­tial arrest to how cas­es are processed and inves­ti­gat­ed.

In one of the doc­u­ments, the depart­ment pro­posed that Con­gress grant the attor­ney gen­er­al pow­er to ask the chief judge of any dis­trict court to pause court pro­ceed­ings “when­ev­er the dis­trict court is ful­ly or par­tial­ly closed by virtue of any nat­ur­al dis­as­ter, civ­il dis­obe­di­ence, or oth­er emer­gency sit­u­a­tion.”

The pro­pos­al would also grant those top judges broad author­i­ty to pause court pro­ceed­ings dur­ing emer­gen­cies. It would apply to “any statutes or rules of pro­ce­dure oth­er­wise affect­ing pre-arrest, post-arrest, pre-tri­al, tri­al, and post-tri­al pro­ce­dures in crim­i­nal and juve­nile pro­ceed­ings and all civ­il process and pro­ceed­ings,” accord­ing to draft leg­isla­tive lan­guage the depart­ment shared with Con­gress. In mak­ing the case for the change, the DOJ wrote that indi­vid­ual judges can cur­rent­ly pause pro­ceed­ings dur­ing emer­gen­cies but that their pro­pos­al would make sure all judges in any par­tic­u­lar dis­trict could han­dle emer­gen­cies “in a con­sis­tent man­ner.”

The request raised eye­brows because of its poten­tial impli­ca­tions for habeas cor­pus — the con­sti­tu­tion­al right to appear before a judge after arrest and seek release.

“Not only would it be a vio­la­tion of that, but it says ‘affect­ing pre-arrest,’” said Nor­man L. Reimer, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Crim­i­nal Defense Lawyers. “So that means you could be arrest­ed and nev­er brought before a judge until they decide that the emer­gency or the civ­il dis­obe­di­ence is over. I find it absolute­ly ter­ri­fy­ing. Espe­cial­ly in a time of emer­gency, we should be very care­ful about grant­i­ng new pow­ers to the gov­ern­ment.”

Reimer said the pos­si­bil­i­ty of chief judges sus­pend­ing all court rules dur­ing an emer­gency with­out a clear end in sight was deeply dis­turb­ing.

“That is some­thing that should not hap­pen in a democ­ra­cy,” he said.

The depart­ment also asked Con­gress to pause the statute of lim­i­ta­tions for crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tions and civ­il pro­ceed­ings dur­ing nation­al emer­gen­cies, “and for one year fol­low­ing the end of the nation­al emer­gency,” accord­ing to the draft leg­isla­tive text.

Trump recent­ly declared the coro­n­avirus cri­sis a nation­al emer­gency.

Anoth­er con­tro­ver­sial request: The depart­ment is look­ing to change the Fed­er­al Rules of Crim­i­nal Pro­ce­dure in some cas­es to expand the use of video­con­fer­ence hear­ings and to let some of those hear­ings hap­pen with­out defen­dants’ con­sent, accord­ing to the draft leg­isla­tive text.

“Video tele­con­fer­enc­ing may be used to con­duct an appear­ance under this rule,” read a draft of poten­tial new lan­guage for Fed­er­al Rule of Crim­i­nal Pro­ce­dure 5(f), cross­ing out the phrase “if the defen­dant con­sents.”

“Video tele­con­fer­enc­ing may be used to arraign a defen­dant,” read draft text of rule 10©, again strik­ing out the phrase “if the defen­dant con­sents.”

Reimer said forc­ing peo­ple to have hear­ings over video rather than in per­son would threat­en civ­il lib­er­ties.

“If it were with the con­sent of the accused per­son it would be fine,” he said. “But if it’s not with the con­sent of the accused per­son, it’s a ter­ri­ble road to go down. We have a right to pub­lic tri­als. Peo­ple have a right to be present in court.”

The depart­ment also wants Con­gress to change the law to explic­it­ly say that peo­ple with COVID-19 — the ill­ness caused by the nov­el coro­n­avirus — are not includ­ed among those who may apply for asy­lum. And the depart­ment asked for the same change regard­ing peo­ple who are “sub­ject to a pres­i­den­tial procla­ma­tion sus­pend­ing and lim­it­ing the entry of aliens into the Unit­ed States,” accord­ing to the draft leg­isla­tive lan­guage.

Layli Miller-Muro, the CEO of the Tahir­ih Jus­tice Cen­ter, which advo­cates for women and girls flee­ing vio­lence, said the lan­guage would block any­one on a pres­i­den­tial trav­el ban list from seek­ing asy­lum in the U.S.

“I think it’s a human­i­tar­i­an tragedy that fails to rec­og­nize that vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple from those coun­tries are among the most per­se­cut­ed and that pro­tect­ing them is exact­ly what the refugee con­ven­tion was designed to do,” she said.

The asy­lum request comes as the Trump admin­is­tra­tion says it will begin deny­ing entry to all migrants ille­gal­ly cross­ing the U.S. south­ern bor­der, includ­ing those seek­ing asy­lum.

“I hope we come out of this with a sense of one­ness, inter­con­nect­ed­ness,” Miller-Muro said of the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic. “Bor­ders can’t pro­tect us. Virus­es do not care.”

2. It will come as no sur­prise to vet­er­an lis­ten­ers, the Pen­ta­gon has con­tin­gency plans for vary­ing degrees of gov­ern­men­tal and/or civic dis­abil­i­ty. ” . . . . But Coro­n­avirus is also new ter­ri­to­ry, where the mil­i­tary itself is vul­ner­a­ble and the dis­as­ter sce­nar­ios being con­tem­plat­ed — includ­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty of wide­spread domes­tic vio­lence as a result of food short­ages — are forc­ing plan­ners to look at what are called ‘extra­or­di­nary cir­cum­stances’. Above-Top Secret con­tin­gency plans already exist for what the mil­i­tary is sup­posed to do if all the Con­sti­tu­tion­al suc­ces­sors are inca­pac­i­tat­ed. Stand­by orders were issued more than three weeks ago to ready these plans, not just to pro­tect Wash­ing­ton but also to pre­pare for the pos­si­bil­i­ty of some form of mar­tial law. . . .”

“Exclu­sive: Inside the Military’s Top Secret Plans If the Coro­n­avirus Crip­ples Gov­ern­ment” by William M. Arkin; Newsweek; 3/18/2020.

Even as Pres­i­dent Trump says he test­ed neg­a­tive for coro­n­avirus, the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic rais­es the fear that huge swaths of the exec­u­tive branch or even Con­gress and the Supreme Court could also be dis­abled, forc­ing the imple­men­ta­tion of “con­ti­nu­ity of gov­ern­ment” plans that include evac­u­at­ing Wash­ing­ton and “devolv­ing” lead­er­ship to sec­ond-tier offi­cials in remote and quar­an­tined loca­tions.

But Coro­n­avirus is also new ter­ri­to­ry, where the mil­i­tary itself is vul­ner­a­ble and the dis­as­ter sce­nar­ios being con­tem­plat­ed — includ­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty of wide­spread domes­tic vio­lence as a result of food short­ages — are forc­ing plan­ners to look at what are called “extra­or­di­nary cir­cum­stances”.

Above-Top Secret con­tin­gency plans already exist for what the mil­i­tary is sup­posed to do if all the Con­sti­tu­tion­al suc­ces­sors are inca­pac­i­tat­ed. Stand­by orders were issued more than three weeks ago to ready these plans, not just to pro­tect Wash­ing­ton but also to pre­pare for the pos­si­bil­i­ty of some form of mar­tial law.

Accord­ing to new doc­u­ments and inter­views with mil­i­tary experts, the var­i­ous plans – code­named Octa­gon, Free­jack and Zodi­ac – are the under­ground laws to ensure gov­ern­ment con­ti­nu­ity. They are so secret that under these extra­or­di­nary plans, “devo­lu­tion” could cir­cum­vent the nor­mal Con­sti­tu­tion­al pro­vi­sions for gov­ern­ment suc­ces­sion, and mil­i­tary com­man­ders could be placed in con­trol around Amer­i­ca.

“We’re in new ter­ri­to­ry,” says one senior offi­cer, the entire post‑9/11 par­a­digm of emer­gency plan­ning thrown out the win­dow. The offi­cer jokes, in the kind of mor­bid humor char­ac­ter­is­tic of this slow-mov­ing dis­as­ter, that Amer­i­ca had bet­ter learn who Gen. Ter­rence J. O’Shaugh­nessy is.

He is the “com­bat­ant com­man­der” for the Unit­ed States and would in the­o­ry be in charge if Wash­ing­ton were evis­cer­at­ed. That is, until a new civil­ian leader could be installed.

‘We’re in ter­ri­to­ry we’ve nev­er been in before’

What hap­pens, gov­ern­ment expert Nor­man Orn­stein asked last week, if so many mem­bers of Con­gress come down with the coro­n­avirus that the leg­is­la­ture can­not meet or can­not muster a quo­rum? After 9/11, Orn­stein and oth­ers, alarmed by how lit­tle Wash­ing­ton had pre­pared for such pos­si­bil­i­ties, cre­at­ed a bipar­ti­san Con­ti­nu­ity of Gov­ern­ment Com­mis­sion to exam­ine pre­cise­ly these and oth­er pos­si­bil­i­ties.

It has been a two-decade long futile effort, Orn­stein says, with Con­gress unin­ter­est­ed or unable to either pass new laws or cre­ate work­ing pro­ce­dures that would allow emer­gency and remote oper­a­tions. The rest of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment equal­ly is unpre­pared to oper­ate if a pan­dem­ic were to hit the very peo­ple called upon to lead in an emer­gency. That is why for the first time, oth­er than plan­ning for the after­math of a nuclear war, extra­or­di­nary pro­ce­dures are being con­tem­plat­ed.

In the past, almost every imag­ined con­tin­gency asso­ci­at­ed with emer­gency pre­pared­ness has assumed civ­il and mil­i­tary assis­tance com­ing from the out­side. One mil­i­tary offi­cer involved in con­ti­nu­ity plan­ning calls it a “cav­al­ry” men­tal­i­ty: that mil­i­tary assis­tance is request­ed or ordered after local civ­il author­i­ty has been exhaust­ed.

“There might not be an out­side,” the offi­cer says, ask­ing that she not be named because she is speak­ing about sen­si­tive mat­ters.

In recog­ni­tion of the equal vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of mil­i­tary forces, the Pen­ta­gon has insti­tut­ed unprece­dent­ed restric­tions on off-base trav­el. Last Wednes­day it restrict­ed most over­seas trav­el for 60 days, and then on Fri­day issued sup­ple­men­tal domes­tic guid­ance that essen­tial­ly keeps all uni­formed per­son­nel on or near mil­i­tary bases. There are excep­tions, includ­ing trav­el that is “mis­sion-essen­tial,” the Pen­ta­gon says.

Mis­sion essen­tial in this regard applies to the maze of more than a dozen dif­fer­ent secret assign­ments, most of them falling under three larg­er con­tin­gency plans:

  • CONPLAN 3400, or the mil­i­tary’s plan for “home­land defense,” if Amer­i­ca itself is a bat­tle­field.
  • CONPLAN 3500, “defense sup­port of civ­il author­i­ties,” where the mil­i­tary assists in an emer­gency short of armed attack on the nation.
  • CONPLAN 3600, mil­i­tary oper­a­tions in the Nation­al Cap­i­tal Region and con­tin­u­a­tion of gov­ern­ment, under which the most-secret plans to sup­port con­ti­nu­ity are nest­ed.

All of these plans are the respon­si­bil­i­ty of U.S. North­ern Com­mand (or NORTHCOM), the home­land defense mil­i­tary author­i­ty cre­at­ed after 9/11. Air Force Gen­er­al O’Shaugh­nessy is NORTH­COM’s Col­orado Springs-based com­man­der.

On Feb­ru­ary 1, Defense Sec­re­tary Mark T. Esper signed orders direct­ing NORTHCOM to exe­cute nation­wide pan­dem­ic plans. Secret­ly, he signed Warn­ing Orders (the WARNORD as it’s called) alert­ing NORTHCOM and a host of east coast units to “pre­pare to deploy” in sup­port of poten­tial extra­or­di­nary mis­sions.

Sev­en secret plans – some high­ly com­part­ment­ed – exist to pre­pare for these extra­or­di­nary mis­sions. Three are trans­porta­tion relat­ed, just to move and sup­port the White House and the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment as it evac­u­ates and oper­ates from alter­nate sites. The first is called the Res­cue & Evac­u­a­tion of the Occu­pants of the Exec­u­tive Man­sion (or RESEM) plan, respon­si­ble for pro­tect­ing Pres­i­dent Trump, Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, and their families–whether that means mov­ing them at the direc­tion of the Secret Ser­vice or, in a cat­a­stro­phe, dig­ging them out of the rub­ble of the White House.

The sec­ond is called the Joint Emer­gency Evac­u­a­tion Plan (or JEEP), and it orga­nizes trans­porta­tion for the Sec­re­tary of Defense and oth­er nation­al secu­ri­ty lead­ers so that they can leave the Wash­ing­ton area. The Atlas Plan is a third, mov­ing non-mil­i­tary lead­ers – Con­gres­sion­al lead­er­ship, the Supreme Court and oth­er impor­tant fig­ures – to their emer­gency relo­ca­tion sites. Under Atlas, a still- secret bunker would be acti­vat­ed and cor­doned, with gov­ern­ment oper­a­tions shift­ing to Mary­land.

The three most com­part­ment­ed con­tin­gen­cies – Octa­gon, Free­jack, and Zodi­ac – call upon var­i­ous mil­i­tary units in Wash­ing­ton DC, North Car­oli­na and east­ern Mary­land to defend gov­ern­ment oper­a­tions if there is a total break­down. The sev­enth plan – code­named Gran­ite Shad­ow – lays out the play­book for extra­or­di­nary domes­tic mis­sions that involve weapons of mass destruc­tion. (I dis­closed the exis­tence of this plan in 2005, and its asso­ci­at­ed “nation­al mis­sion force”–a force that is on alert at all times, even in peace­time, to respond to a ter­ror­ist attack or threat with the nuclear weapon.)

Most of these plans have been qui­et­ly acti­vat­ed dur­ing pres­i­den­tial inau­gu­rals and State of the Union address­es, the cen­tral­i­ty of the weapons of mass destruc­tion sce­nario seen in the annu­al Cap­i­tal Shield exer­cise in Wash­ing­ton. Last year’s exer­cise posit­ed a WMD attack on Metro Sta­tion. Mil­i­tary sources say that only the mas­sive destruc­tion caused by a nuclear device – or the enor­mous loss of life that could be caused by a bio­log­i­cal agent – present cat­a­stroph­ic pres­sure great enough to jus­ti­fy move­ment into extra-Con­sti­tu­tion­al actions and extra­or­di­nary cir­cum­stances plans.

“WMD is such an impor­tant sce­nario,” a for­mer NORTHCOM com­man­der told me, “not because it is the great­est risk, but because it stress­es the sys­tem most severe­ly.”

Accord­ing to anoth­er senior retired offi­cer, who told me about Gran­ite Shad­ow and is now work­ing as a defense con­trac­tor, the nation­al mis­sion force goes out on its mis­sions with “spe­cial author­i­ties” pre-del­e­gat­ed by the pres­i­dent and the attor­ney gen­er­al. These spe­cial author­i­ties are need­ed because under reg­u­la­tions and the law, fed­er­al mil­i­tary forces can sup­plant civ­il author­i­ty or engage in law enforce­ment only under the strictest con­di­tions.

When might the mil­i­tary’s “emer­gency author­i­ty” be need­ed? Tra­di­tion­al­ly, it’s thought of after a nuclear device goes off in an Amer­i­can city. But now, plan­ners are look­ing at mil­i­tary response to urban vio­lence as peo­ple seek pro­tec­tion and fight over food. And, accord­ing to one senior offi­cer, in the con­tin­gency of the com­plete evac­u­a­tion of Wash­ing­ton.

Under Defense depart­ment reg­u­la­tions, mil­i­tary com­man­ders are autho­rized to take action on their own – in extra­or­di­nary cir­cum­stances – where “duly con­sti­tut­ed local author­i­ties are unable to con­trol the sit­u­a­tion.” The con­di­tions include “large-scale, unex­pect­ed civ­il dis­tur­bances” involv­ing “sig­nif­i­cant loss of life or wan­ton destruc­tion of prop­er­ty.” The Joint Chiefs of Staff cod­i­fied these rules in Octo­ber 2018, remind­ing com­man­ders that they could decide, on their own author­i­ty, to “engage tem­porar­i­ly” in mil­i­tary con­trol in cir­cum­stances “where pri­or autho­riza­tion by the Pres­i­dent is impos­si­ble” or where local author­i­ties “are unable to con­trol the sit­u­a­tion.” A new Trump-era Pen­ta­gon direc­tive calls it “extreme sit­u­a­tions.” In all cas­es, even where a mil­i­tary com­man­der declares mar­tial law, the direc­tives say that civ­il rule has to be restored as soon as pos­si­ble.

“In sce­nar­ios where one city or one region is dev­as­tat­ed, that’s a pret­ty straight­for­ward process,” the mil­i­tary plan­ner told me. “But with coro­n­avirus, where the effect is nation­wide, we’re in ter­ri­to­ry we’ve nev­er been in before.”

An extend­ed peri­od of devo­lu­tion

Con­ti­nu­ity of gov­ern­ment and pro­tec­tion of the pres­i­den­cy began in the Eisen­how­er admin­is­tra­tion with the pos­si­bil­i­ty emerg­ing that Wash­ing­ton could be oblit­er­at­ed in an atom­ic attack. The need to plan for a nuclear deci­sion-mak­er to sur­vive even a direct attack led to the build­ing of bunkers and a maze of secret pro­ce­dures and excep­tions, many of which are still fol­lowed to this day. Con­gress was also fold­ed in – at least Con­gres­sion­al lead­er­ship – to ensure that there would always be a Con­sti­tu­tion­al suc­ces­sor. And then the Supreme Court was added.

Before 9/11, con­ti­nu­ity and emer­gency pro­grams were broad­ened beyond nuclear war pre­pared­ness, par­tic­u­lar­ly as hur­ri­canes began to have such dev­as­tat­ing effects on mod­ern urban soci­ety. And because of the advent of pan­demics, broad­ly begin­ning with the Avian Influen­za, civ­il agen­cies respon­si­ble for nation­al secu­ri­ty, such as the Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices, which is the lead agency to respond to coro­n­avirus, were also brought into con­ti­nu­ity pro­tec­tion.

Despite well-honed plans and con­stant test­ing over 30 years, the attacks of Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001 severe­ly test­ed all aspects of con­ti­nu­ity move­ment and com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Many of the pro­ce­dures writ­ten down on paper were either ignored or thrown out the win­dow. As a result, con­ti­nu­ity had a sec­ond com­ing, bil­lions spent by the new Depart­ment of Home­land and the oth­er nation­al secu­ri­ty agen­cies to ensure that the Wash­ing­ton lead­er­ship could com­mu­ni­cate and move, a whole new sys­tem estab­lished to be ready if a ter­ror­ist attack came with­out warn­ing. Bunkers, many shut­tered at the end of the Cold War, were reopened and expand­ed. Befit­ting the pan­ic at the time, and the atom­ic lega­cy, the most extra­or­di­nary plan­ning sce­nario posit­ed a ter­ror­ist attack that would involve an impro­vised nuclear or radi­o­log­i­cal dis­per­sal device in a major Amer­i­can city.

The ter­ror­ist attack sce­nario dom­i­nat­ed until 2006, when the dis­as­trous gov­ern­ment response to Hur­ri­cane Kat­ri­na in New Orleans shift­ed fed­er­al gov­ern­ment pre­pared­ness to for­mal­ly adopt an “all-haz­ards” sys­tem. Civ­il agen­cies, the 50 states and local com­mu­ni­ties – par­tic­u­lar­ly large cities – all began to syn­chro­nize emer­gency pre­pared­ness with com­mon pro­to­cols. U.S. North­ern Com­mand was cre­at­ed to har­ness mil­i­tary assis­tance in domes­tic dis­as­ters, it’s three over­ar­ch­ing con­tin­gency plans the prod­uct now of 15 years of tri­al and error.

3. The mil­i­tary’s con­tin­gency plans have been par­tial­ly acti­vat­ed:

“Exclu­sive: U.S. Mil­i­tary Acti­vates Its Nev­er-Before-Used Fed­er­al Response to Com­bat Coro­n­avirus Out­break” by William M. Arkin; Newsweek; 2/27/2020.

While being hit with coro­n­avirus at rates equiv­a­lent to the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion, the U.S. mil­i­tary has acti­vat­ed its “defense sup­port of civ­il author­i­ties” appa­ra­tus, estab­lish­ing liaisons in all 50 states, acti­vat­ing units and com­mand posts, and mov­ing forces to pro­vide med­ical, trans­porta­tion, logis­tics, and com­mu­ni­ca­tions sup­port in New York and Wash­ing­ton states.

Lt. Gen. Lau­ra Richard­son, the com­mand of Army North (ARNORTH), has request­ed and received approval for the deploy­ment of ground units in response to the now declared nation­al emer­gency. The moves begin to imple­ment two exist­ing con­tin­gency plans—CONPLAN 3400 for “home­land defense” and CONPLAN 3500 for “defense sup­port of civ­il authorities”—as well as numer­ous new orders specif­i­cal­ly relat­ing to coro­n­avirus. Four­teen states have also appoint­ed “dual-sta­tus com­man­ders,” pres­i­den­tial­ly-approved Nation­al Guard offi­cers who serve in both state and fed­er­al chains of com­mand, with anoth­er 20 states to fol­low.

The Pen­ta­gon announced that the first dual-sta­tus com­man­ders had been appoint­ed in Cal­i­for­nia, Col­orado, Mass­a­chu­setts, Mary­land, New York, Okla­homa, South Car­oli­na and Wash­ing­ton.
“The role of the dual-sta­tus com­man­der is that he works for two dif­fer­ent prin­ci­pals through two dif­fer­ent chains of com­mand,” says Army Maj. Gen. Giselle Wilz, head of the Nation­al Guard Bureau’s strate­gic plans and pol­i­cy direc­torate. The dual-sta­tus com­man­ders will report to Gen. Richard­son as well as to the gov­er­nors of each state.

That is, except for Hawaii. That dual-sta­tus com­man­der reports to U.S. Army Pacif­ic (USARPAC) – an orga­ni­za­tion of U.S. Indo-Pacif­ic Com­mand that is respon­si­ble for Hawaii and the Pacif­ic ter­ri­to­ries.

The fed­er­al mil­i­tary response, nev­er before acti­vat­ed on a nation­wide scale, is a patch­work of com­plex orga­ni­za­tion­al schemes. While Gen. Richard­son is the com­man­der of the Joint Forces Land Com­po­nent Com­mand of U.S. North­ern Com­mand for all fed­er­al (and dual-sta­tus) ground troops in the con­ti­nen­tal Unit­ed States and Alas­ka, USARPAC is in charge in the Pacif­ic, report­ing to NORTHCOM just as Gen. Richard­son does. As “mar­itime” assets, the two hos­pi­tal ships—the USNS Com­fort and the USNS Mer­cy, now in Los Ange­les and New York—are also under a sep­a­rate com­mand, the Navy’s Fleet Forces Com­mand, which also serves as Naval Forces North (NAVNORTH) and the Joint Forces Mar­itime Com­po­nent Com­man­der for North Amer­i­ca. And still anoth­er com­mand, Marine Forces North (MARFORNORTH) oper­ates side-by-side with ARNORTH, in charge of Marine Corps troops.
In total, Army North has deployed approx­i­mate­ly 1,100 active duty ser­vice­mem­bers assigned to spe­cif­ic units, and they start­ed mov­ing to New York and Wash­ing­ton states imme­di­ate­ly after they were assigned. The active duty units deployed include:

  1. Joint Task Force-Civ­il Sup­port Head­quar­ters, Fort Eustis, Vir­ginia
  1. 3rd Expe­di­tionary Sus­tain­ment Com­mand, Fort Bragg, North Car­oli­na
  2. 4th Sus­tain­ment Brigade, 4th Infantry Divi­sion, Fort Car­son, Col­orado
  3. 63rd Expe­di­tionary Sig­nal Bat­tal­ion, Fort Stew­art, Geor­gia

Joint Task Force-Civ­il Sup­port was estab­lished in 1999 as the domes­tic response author­i­ty in case involv­ing weapons of mass destruction—chemical, bio­log­i­cal, radi­o­log­i­cal and nuclear (CBRN). Accord­ing to its web­site, “when direct­ed, JTF-CS will deploy to an inci­dent site, estab­lish com­mand and con­trol of Depart­ment of Defense forces, and pro­vide mil­i­tary assis­tance and sup­port to civ­il author­i­ties by sav­ing lives, pre­vent­ing fur­ther injury and pro­vid­ing tem­po­rary crit­i­cal sup­port to enable com­mu­ni­ty recov­ery.”

But its sec­ondary mis­sion is what the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment calls “all-haz­ards” response. “Although pri­mar­i­ly charged with a CBRN response mis­sion,” the Joint Task Force says, it “could be direct­ed to respond to a nat­ur­al or man-made dis­as­ter if asked to do so by U.S. North­ern Com­mand.“
On March 28th, Gen. Richard­son also announced that four U.S. Army Reserve units would be called to active duty to sup­port the fed­er­al response:

  1. Task Force 76 Head­quar­ters, formed by the 76th Oper­a­tional Response Com­mand, Salt Lake City, Utah
  1. 377th The­ater Sus­tain­ment Com­mand Head­quar­ters, New Orleans, Louisiana.
  2. 4th Expe­di­tionary Sus­tain­ment Com­mand Head­quar­ters, San Anto­nio, Texas.
  3. 505th Mil­i­tary Intel­li­gence Brigade Head­quar­ters, San Anto­nio, Texas.

To align with the ten FEMA regions respon­si­ble for emer­gency man­age­ment, Army North has also acti­vat­ed its ten Defense Coor­di­nat­ing Offices, senior Colonels who are embed­ded with each region­al com­mand cen­ter. These are a spe­cial­ized plan­ning cells that serve as mil­i­tary liaisons to coor­di­nate fed­er­al assis­tance. Anoth­er 100 Emer­gency Pre­pared­ness Liai­son Offi­cers are also now active, aug­ment­ing the Defense Coor­di­na­tion cells.

In announc­ing the acti­va­tion and move­ment of forces, Army North was care­ful to spec­i­fy that none of the units “will ... direct­ly par­tic­i­pate in civil­ian law enforce­ment activ­i­ties.”

Sim­i­lar­ly, Air Force Maj. Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the Nation­al Guard Bureau and a mem­ber of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said: “I’m hear­ing unfound­ed rumors about Nation­al Guard troops sup­port­ing a nation­wide quar­an­tine. Let me be clear: There has been no such dis­cus­sion.”

Because of so many rumors fly­ing in social media, the Pen­ta­gon estab­lished a “rumor con­trol” web­site to beat down sto­ries of mil­i­tary-imposed quar­an­tines and even mar­tial law. And it said it was going to lim­it details of both the spe­cif­ic num­bers of coro­n­avirus cas­es and oper­a­tional details.

“Unit lev­el readi­ness data for key mil­i­tary forces is infor­ma­tion that is clas­si­fied as a risk to oper­a­tional secu­ri­ty and could jeop­ar­dize oper­a­tions and/or deter­rence,” Alyssa Farah, the Pen­tagon’s press sec­re­tary, told Mil­i­tary Times. “If at some point in the future, a com­man­der believes that the coro­n­avirus could affect the readi­ness of our strate­gic deter­rent or strate­gic response forces we would under­stand­ably pro­tect that infor­ma­tion from pub­lic release and falling into the hands of our adversaries―as we expect they would do the same.”

As of March 31, the Defense Depart­ment report­ed 1204 con­firmed active cas­es of coro­n­avirus through­out its com­mu­ni­ty: 673 ser­vice­mem­bers, 247 civil­ians work­ing for the mil­i­tary, 212 fam­i­ly mem­bers and 72 con­trac­tors. . . .

4. Trump float­ed the idea of a fed­er­al­ly enforced quar­an­tine of the New York metro area, along with New Jer­sey and parts of Con­necti­cut. A fed­er­al­ly enforced quar­an­tine. It appeared Trump was propos­ing using the mil­i­tary to ensure no one leaves New York City, some­thing that would require sus­pend­ing the Posse Comi­ta­tus Act. That was what he tweet­ed about ear­li­er on Sat­ur­day and lat­er talked about dur­ing a press con­fer­ence on the White House lawn and reit­er­at­ed that it was under con­sid­er­ing dur­ing a speech on the Naval hos­pi­tal ship the USNS Com­fort. Trump decid­ed to make a big point to the pub­lic on a mil­i­tary ship that he was con­sid­er­ing send­ing in the mil­i­tary to quar­an­tine the tri-state area. 

Declar­ing on Sat­ur­day that he decid­ed a quar­an­tine wasn’t nec­es­sary,  Trump issued a “severe trav­el advi­so­ry” instead. The idea is now out there. Fed­er­al­ly quar­an­ti­ning large cities with the mil­i­tary is now going to be one of things Trump is con­sid­er­ing in order to seem like a ‘strong wartime leader’. Going ‘to war’ against New York City’s spread of the Chi­nese virus. That’s now part of his ‘being a wartime pres­i­dent’ the­atri­cal reper­toire.

The push for enforce­ably quar­an­ti­ning large (pre­dom­i­nant­ly Demo­c­rat-con­trolled) metro areas has­n’t been lim­it­ed to Trump. It was appar­ent­ly Florida’s Repub­li­can Gov­er­nor Ron DeSan­tis who put the idea of a fed­er­al quar­an­tine for New York City in Trump’s head. DeSan­tis – who is now infa­mous for decid­ing to allow Florida’s beach­es to remain open as Spring Break partiers filled Florida’s beach­es before scat­ter­ing back across the world – has appar­ent­ly decid­ed to make New York City res­i­dents the main vil­lain as his state becomes the new nation­al ‘hot spot’ for COVID-19 cas­es. So when Trump pushed this idea, he was implic­it­ly run­ning polit­i­cal cov­er or DeSan­tis as Flori­da becomes a glob­al COVID-19 infec­tion vec­tor.

Per­ceived polit­i­cal neces­si­ty to deflect polit­i­cal out­rage over the COVID-19 out­breaks in ‘Red states’ may man­i­fest in every state to some extent–will we see a nation­wide GOP call for quar­an­ti­ning New York and Cal­i­for­nia? Per­haps the Amer­i­can far right can use this as an excuse to use the mil­i­tary to turn US cities into giant pris­ons and act like they’re defend­ing against a for­eign invad­er. All of the ‘Patri­ot’ per­son­al­i­ties that dom­i­nate mod­ern right-wing Amer­i­can dis­course like Alex Jones and Tuck­er Carl­son can explain to their grow­ing audi­ences why sus­pend­ing Posse Comi­ta­tus is required to defend against the New World Order’s viral inva­sion and this isn’t at all like the mar­tial law sce­nar­ios they’ve spent decades warn­ing their audi­ences against. ‘Blame it on New York (and/or Cal­i­for­nia) and the Chi­nese virus’ can become the ral­ly­ing cry of GOP offi­cials for the rest of the elec­tion sea­son. The high­er the num­ber of COVID-19 cas­es in ‘Red state’ Amer­i­ca, the greater the calls for call­ing in the army to quar­an­tine New York and even­tu­al­ly Cal­i­for­nia. It’s like some sort of alter­na­tive Serpent’s Walk Nazi dream sce­nario play­ing out. So when Trump float­ed this idea it wasn’t just the ran­dom mus­ings of an addled mind. It was the strate­gic mus­ings of an addled mind that warns of many more mus­ings about fed­er­al quar­an­tines of large cities because a fas­cist dream sce­nario is tak­ing shape.

“Trump revers­es ear­li­er call for quar­an­tine on New York res­i­dents” by Grace Segers; CBS News; 03/28/2020

Hours after Pres­i­dent Trump said he was con­sid­er­ing an “enforce­able” quar­an­tine of all res­i­dents who leave the New York metro area, includ­ing pos­si­bly parts of New Jer­sey and Con­necti­cut, Mr. Trump tweet­ed that a “quar­an­tine will not be nec­es­sary.” Mr. Trump tweet­ed that he has asked the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion and state gov­er­nors to cre­ate a “trav­el advi­so­ry.”

Ear­li­er Sat­ur­day, Mr. Trump said that he is con­sid­er­ing declar­ing an “enforce­able” quar­an­tine affect­ing some res­i­dents of the New York met­ro­pol­i­tan area, pos­si­bly includ­ing New Jer­sey and Con­necti­cut. He called the region a “hot spot” of the coro­n­avirus out­break sweep­ing the coun­try.

“I am giv­ing con­sid­er­a­tion to a QUARANTINE of devel­op­ing ‘hot spots’, New York, New Jer­sey, and Con­necti­cut. A deci­sion will be made, one way or anoth­er, short­ly,” Mr. Trump tweet­ed Sat­ur­day after­noon.

Speak­ing to reporters on the White House South Lawn, Mr. Trump told reporters that he had spo­ken to Flori­da Gov­er­nor Ron DeSan­tis about the pan­dem­ic. Mr. Trump said DeSan­tis, a Repub­li­can, told the pres­i­dent that he want­ed to stop the flow of New York­ers who may be infect­ed with the new COVID-19 virus into the state.

“We’d like to see New York quar­an­tined because it’s a hotspot — New York, New Jer­sey, maybe one or two oth­er places, cer­tain parts of Con­necti­cut quar­an­tined. I’m think­ing about that right now,” Mr. Trump said. “We might not have to do it but there’s a pos­si­bil­i­ty that some­time today we’ll do a quar­an­tine — short-term two weeks for New York, prob­a­bly New Jer­sey and parts of Con­necti­cut.”

Mr. Trump also said “I’ll speak to the gov­er­nor about it lat­er.”

New York Gov­er­nor Andrew Cuo­mo said a few hours lat­er on CNN that he had not spo­ken to Mr. Trump about a quar­an­tine, but said it would be a “pre­pos­ter­ous idea.”

“I don’t believe that any fed­er­al admin­is­tra­tion could be seri­ous about phys­i­cal lock­downs of states or parts of states across this coun­try,” Cuo­mo said. “I don’t believe it’s legal. I think it would be eco­nom­ic chaos. I don’t think the Amer­i­can peo­ple would stand for it and I think it makes absolute­ly no sense and I don’t believe any pro­fes­sion­al would sup­port it.”

Mr. Trump reit­er­at­ed in his remarks before the send off of the USNS Com­fort that he was con­sid­er­ing a quar­an­tine of the area. The Com­fort is a naval hos­pi­tal boat which is car­ry­ing over 1,000 beds and 1,200 med­ical per­son­nel to New York City.

“I am now con­sid­er­ing, and will make a deci­sion very quick­ly, very short­ly, a quar­an­tine, because it’s such a hot area,” Mr. Trump said. “We’ll be announc­ing that one way or anoth­er fair­ly soon.”

Mr. Trump also said that the quar­an­tine would not affect truck dri­vers pass­ing through the region, or trade in any­way.

The chief of the Nation­al Guard, Gen­er­al Joseph Lengel, has said there is no con­sid­er­a­tion being giv­en to using the mil­i­tary to enforce a quar­an­tine. How­ev­er, he has also said that the Nation­al Guard troops called up by state gov­er­nors can be used to sup­port law enforce­ment oper­a­tions — but they are under con­trol of the gov­er­nor.

Using active duty troops to enforce a quar­an­tine would require the pres­i­dent to sus­pend the Posse Comi­ta­tus Act, which for­bids the use of the armed ser­vices for law enforce­ment.

Cuo­mo, a Demo­c­rat, told reporters short­ly after Mr. Trump’s first remarks on it that he had not spo­ken to the pres­i­dent about quar­an­ti­ning the metro region. Cuo­mo also said he didn’t know what an enforce­able quar­an­tine means, but “I don’t even like the sound of it.”

“I don’t even know what that means. I don’t know how that could be legal­ly enforce­able. And from a med­ical point of view, I don’t know what you’d be accom­plish­ing,” Cuo­mo said.

The gov­er­nor added that there were no geo­graph­i­cal con­straints when the state required peo­ple in the city of New Rochelle to stay home.

“So we nev­er set any geo­graph­ic con­straints, right? Manda­to­ry quar­an­tine is a scary con­cept, because it sounds like you’re say­ing to peo­ple can’t leave this dis­trict. We nev­er did that,” Cuo­mo said.

Cuo­mo said that he spoke with Mr. Trump Sat­ur­day morn­ing about four tem­po­rary hos­pi­tal sites in New York City. Cuo­mo said there have been 728 deaths in New York, an increase of over 200 from the pre­vi­ous day. There are over 50,000 cas­es of coro­n­avirus in New York alone, with New Jer­sey fol­low­ing with 8,825 cas­es.

Gov­er­nor Phil Mur­phy of New Jer­sey also said he had not received any infor­ma­tion from the admin­is­tra­tion about a poten­tial quar­an­tine.

In a state­ment, Con­necti­cut Gov­er­nor Ned Lam­ont indi­cat­ed that he did not believe a fed­er­al­ly man­dat­ed quar­an­tine would be nec­es­sary.

“Regard­ing the President’s con­sid­er­a­tion of a quar­an­tine of New York, as well as parts of Con­necti­cut and New Jer­sey, our state has already called on res­i­dents to stay at home. Fur­ther, if inter­state trav­el is absolute­ly nec­es­sary, our state has direct­ed trav­el­ers to self-quar­an­tine to pre­vent against fur­ther trans­mis­sion of the virus,” Lam­ont said.

Mean­while, DeSan­tis announced Sat­ur­day check­points along major inter­states, such as I‑95 and I‑10, to check for dri­vers for New York and New Orleans.

5. Trump has plen­ty of com­pa­ny: ” . . . . In Hun­gary, a new law has grant­ed Prime Min­is­ter Vik­tor Orban the pow­er to side­step Par­lia­ment and sus­pend exist­ing laws. Mr. Orban, who declared a state of emer­gency this month, now has the sole pow­er to end the emer­gency. Par­lia­ment, where two-thirds of the seats are con­trolled by his par­ty, approved the leg­is­la­tion on Mon­day. . . .‘The draft law is alarm­ing,’ said Daniel Kar­sai, a lawyer in Budapest who said the new leg­is­la­tion had cre­at­ed ‘a big fear’ among Hun­gar­i­ans that ‘the Orban admin­is­tra­tion will be a real dic­ta­tor­ship.’ . . .”

Orban’s Hun­gary has been joined by, among oth­ers, the long-stand­ing British democ­ra­cy: ” . . . . some of the pro­vi­sions . . . . will give the gov­ern­ment unchecked con­trol. The leg­is­la­tion gives sweep­ing pow­ers to bor­der agents and the police, which could lead to indef­i­nite deten­tion and rein­force ‘hos­tile envi­ron­ment’ poli­cies against immi­grants, crit­ics said. ‘Each clause could have had months of debate, and instead it’s all being debat­ed in a few days,’ said Adam Wag­n­er, a lawyer who advis­es a par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee on human rights. . . . ‘These are eye-water­ing pow­ers that would have not been real­ly imag­in­able in peace­time in this coun­try before,’ said Silkie Car­lo, the direc­tor of Big Broth­er Watch, a rights group. She called the mea­sures ‘dra­con­ian.’ . . . .”

“For Auto­crats and Oth­ers, Coro­n­avirus Is a Chance to Grab Even More Pow­er” by Selam Gebrikadan; The New York Times; 3/30/2020.

In Hun­gary, the prime min­is­ter can now rule by decree. In Britain, min­is­ters have what a crit­ic called “eye-water­ing” pow­er to detain peo­ple and close bor­ders. Israel’s prime min­is­ter has shut down courts and begun an intru­sive sur­veil­lance of cit­i­zens. Chile has sent the mil­i­tary to pub­lic squares once occu­pied by pro­test­ers. Bolivia has post­poned elec­tions.

As the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic brings the world to a jud­der­ing halt and anx­ious cit­i­zens demand action, lead­ers across the globe are invok­ing exec­u­tive pow­ers and seiz­ing vir­tu­al­ly dic­ta­to­r­i­al author­i­ty with scant resis­tance.

Gov­ern­ments and rights groups agree that these extra­or­di­nary times call for extra­or­di­nary mea­sures. States need new pow­ers to shut their bor­ders, enforce quar­an­tines and track infect­ed peo­ple. Many of these actions are pro­tect­ed under inter­na­tion­al rules, con­sti­tu­tion­al lawyers say.

But crit­ics say some gov­ern­ments are using the pub­lic health cri­sis as cov­er to seize new pow­ers that have lit­tle to do with the out­break, with few safe­guards to ensure that their new author­i­ty will not be abused.

The laws are tak­ing swift hold across a broad range of polit­i­cal sys­tems — in author­i­tar­i­an states like Jor­dan, fal­ter­ing democ­ra­cies like Hun­gary, and tra­di­tion­al democ­ra­cies like Britain. And there are few sun­set pro­vi­sions to ensure that the pow­ers will be rescind­ed once the threat pass­es.

“We could have a par­al­lel epi­dem­ic of author­i­tar­i­an and repres­sive mea­sures fol­low­ing close if not on the heels of a health epi­dem­ic,” said Fion­nu­ala Ni Aolain, the Unit­ed Nations Spe­cial Rap­por­teur on coun­tert­er­ror­ism and human rights.

As the new laws broad­en state sur­veil­lance, allow gov­ern­ments to detain peo­ple indef­i­nite­ly and infringe on free­doms of assem­bly and expres­sion, they could also shape civic life, pol­i­tics and economies for decades to come.

The pan­dem­ic is already redefin­ing norms. Inva­sive sur­veil­lance sys­tems in South Korea and Sin­ga­pore, which would have invit­ed cen­sure under nor­mal cir­cum­stances, have been praised for slow­ing infec­tions. Gov­ern­ments that ini­tial­ly crit­i­cized Chi­na for putting mil­lions of its cit­i­zens under lock­down have since fol­lowed suit.

Israel’s prime min­is­ter, Ben­jamin Netanyahu, has autho­rized his country’s inter­nal secu­ri­ty agency to track cit­i­zens using a secret trove of cell­phone data devel­oped for coun­tert­er­ror­ism. By trac­ing people’s move­ments, the gov­ern­ment can pun­ish those who defy iso­la­tion orders with up to six months in prison.

And by order­ing the clos­ing of the nation’s courts, Mr. Netanyahu delayed his sched­uled appear­ance to face cor­rup­tion charges.

In some parts of the world, new emer­gency laws have revived old fears of mar­tial law. The Philip­pine Con­gress passed leg­is­la­tion last week that gave Pres­i­dent Rodri­go Duterte emer­gency pow­ers and $5.4 bil­lion to deal with the pan­dem­ic. Law­mak­ers watered down an ear­li­er draft law that would have allowed the pres­i­dent to take over pri­vate busi­ness­es.

“This lim­it­less grant of emer­gency pow­ers is tan­ta­mount to autoc­ra­cy,” a Philip­pine rights group, the Con­cerned Lawyers for Civ­il Lib­er­ties, said in a state­ment. The lawyers not­ed that Mr. Duterte had once com­pared the country’s Con­sti­tu­tion to a “scrap of toi­let paper.”

Some states are using the pan­dem­ic to crack down on dis­sent. In Jor­dan, after an emer­gency “defense law” gave wide lat­i­tude to his office, Prime Min­is­ter Omar Raz­zaz said his gov­ern­ment would “deal firm­ly” with any­one who spreads “rumors, fab­ri­ca­tions and false news that sows pan­ic.”

Prime Min­is­ter Prayuth Chan-ocha of Thai­land has assumed the author­i­ty to impose cur­fews and cen­sor the news media. Jour­nal­ists there have been sued and intim­i­dat­ed for crit­i­ciz­ing the government’s response to the out­break.

While the virus itself may have cooled pro­test­ers’ will to crowd pub­lic squares, Chile’s dec­la­ra­tion of a “state of cat­a­stro­phe” and the military’s pres­ence on city streets has mut­ed rag­ing dis­sent that rocked the nation for months.

The pan­dem­ic has also dis­rupt­ed planned elec­tions. This month, Bolivia sus­pend­ed a much antic­i­pat­ed pres­i­den­tial elec­tion that had been sched­uled for ear­ly May. A dis­put­ed elec­tion last year set off vio­lent protests and forced Pres­i­dent Evo Morales to resign.

The inter­im pres­i­dent, who promised to serve only as a care­tak­er, has since con­sol­i­dat­ed pow­er and announced her plan to run for an elect­ed term. The country’s elec­tion tri­bunal said on Thurs­day that it would hold the elec­tions some­time between June and Sep­tem­ber.

In the Unit­ed States, the Jus­tice Depart­ment asked Con­gress for sweep­ing new pow­ers, includ­ing a plan to elim­i­nate legal pro­tec­tions for asy­lum seek­ers and detain peo­ple indef­i­nite­ly with­out tri­al. After Repub­li­cans and Democ­rats balked, the depart­ment scaled back and sub­mit­ted a more mod­est pro­pos­al.

Rights groups say gov­ern­ments may con­tin­ue to absorb more pow­er while their cit­i­zens are dis­tract­ed. They wor­ry that peo­ple may not rec­og­nize the rights they have ced­ed until it is too late to reclaim them.

Some emer­gency bills were waved through so quick­ly that law­mak­ers and rights groups had no time to read them, let alone debate their neces­si­ty. Rights advo­cates have also ques­tioned the speed with which states have draft­ed lengthy leg­is­la­tion.

Cer­tain gov­ern­ments have a set of desired pow­ers “ready to go” in case of emer­gency or cri­sis, said Ms. Aolain, the Unit­ed Nations spe­cial rap­por­teur. They draft laws in advance and wait “for the oppor­tu­ni­ty of the cri­sis to be pre­sent­ed,” she said.

It is far from clear what will become of the emer­gency laws when the cri­sis pass­es. In the past, laws enact­ed in a rush, like the Patri­ot Act that fol­lowed the Sept. 11 attacks, have out­lived the crises they were meant to address.

Over time, emer­gency decrees per­me­ate legal struc­tures and become nor­mal­ized, said Dou­glas Rutzen, the pres­i­dent of the Inter­na­tion­al Cen­ter for Not-for-Prof­it Law in Wash­ing­ton, which is track­ing new leg­is­la­tion and decrees dur­ing the pan­dem­ic.

“It’s real­ly easy to con­struct emer­gency pow­ers,” Mr. Rutzen said. “It’s real­ly dif­fi­cult to decon­struct them.”

The pan­dem­ic may be a boon to gov­ern­ments with an auto­crat­ic bent.

“A Real Dic­ta­tor­ship”

In Hun­gary, a new law has grant­ed Prime Min­is­ter Vik­tor Orban the pow­er to side­step Par­lia­ment and sus­pend exist­ing laws. Mr. Orban, who declared a state of emer­gency this month, now has the sole pow­er to end the emer­gency. Par­lia­ment, where two-thirds of the seats are con­trolled by his par­ty, approved the leg­is­la­tion on Mon­day.

Crit­ics say the new leg­is­la­tion could allow Mr. Orban’s gov­ern­ment to fur­ther erode demo­c­ra­t­ic insti­tu­tions and per­se­cute jour­nal­ists and mem­bers of the oppo­si­tion. The law will per­ma­nent­ly amend two arti­cles of the crim­i­nal code that will fur­ther lim­it free­dom of expres­sion and penal­ize peo­ple for breach­ing quar­an­tine orders. It will also sus­pend all elec­tions and ref­er­en­dums.

Under one mea­sure, any­one who dis­sem­i­nates infor­ma­tion that could hin­der the government’s response to the epi­dem­ic could face up to five years in prison. The leg­is­la­tion gives broad lat­i­tude to the pub­lic pros­e­cu­tor to deter­mine what counts as dis­tort­ed or false infor­ma­tion.

“The draft law is alarm­ing,” said Daniel Kar­sai, a lawyer in Budapest who said the new leg­is­la­tion had cre­at­ed “a big fear” among Hun­gar­i­ans that “the Orban admin­is­tra­tion will be a real dic­ta­tor­ship.”

“There is not enough trust in the gov­ern­ment in this respect,” he said.

Oth­ers point­ed to the government’s track record of pro­long­ing emer­gency leg­is­la­tion long after a cri­sis. One such decree, issued at the height of Europe’s migra­tion cri­sis five years ago, is still in effect.

“Eye-Water­ing Pow­ers”

Robust democ­ra­cies are also using the pan­dem­ic to expand their pow­er.

Britain has a long his­to­ry of democ­ra­cy and well-estab­lished demo­c­ra­t­ic cus­toms. Nev­er­the­less, a coro­n­avirus bill that was rushed through Par­lia­ment at a break­neck pace affords gov­ern­ment min­istries the pow­er to detain and iso­late peo­ple indef­i­nite­ly, ban pub­lic gath­er­ings includ­ing protests, and shut down ports and air­ports, all with lit­tle over­sight.

Intro­duc­ing the bill in Par­lia­ment, the health sec­re­tary, Matt Han­cock, called it “a depar­ture from the way that we do things in peace­time.” He said the mea­sures would be “strict­ly tem­po­rary and pro­por­tion­ate to the threat that we face.”

But some of the pro­vi­sions — called Hen­ry VIII pow­ers, after the noto­ri­ous 16th-cen­tu­ry monarch — will give the gov­ern­ment unchecked con­trol. The leg­is­la­tion gives sweep­ing pow­ers to bor­der agents and the police, which could lead to indef­i­nite deten­tion and rein­force “hos­tile envi­ron­ment” poli­cies against immi­grants, crit­ics said.

“Each clause could have had months of debate, and instead it’s all being debat­ed in a few days,” said Adam Wag­n­er, a lawyer who advis­es a par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee on human rights.

“Everybody’s been try­ing just to read it, let alone prop­er­ly cri­tique it,” he said of the leg­is­la­tion, which runs to 340 pages.

“These are eye-water­ing pow­ers that would have not been real­ly imag­in­able in peace­time in this coun­try before,” said Silkie Car­lo, the direc­tor of Big Broth­er Watch, a rights group. She called the mea­sures “dra­con­ian.”

Ms. Car­lo fears that Britain will “swing from cri­sis to cri­sis, health pan­ic to health pan­ic, and then find that we’ve lost.”

“We risk eas­i­ly find­ing our­selves in a per­pet­u­al state of emer­gency,” she said.

6. Naren­dra Modi of India has used the Covid-19 out­break to fur­ther his Hin­dut­va fas­cist agen­da: Media voic­es that were crit­i­cal of Mod­i’s han­dling of the Kash­mir cri­sis and recent police beat­ings and harass­ment of Mus­lims in Mum­bai and New Del­hi have been har­rassed and/or dri­ven into silence under cov­er of the coro­n­avirus out­break.

“Media Dis­sent Fades as Modi Tight­ens Grip” by Vin­du Goel and Jef­frey Get­tle­man; The New York Times; 4/3/2020.

Span­ish Coro­n­avirus Sur­veil­lance Drone

7a. Pri­va­cy is being dra­mat­i­cal­ly cur­tailed under cov­er of com­bat­ting the virus: ” . . . . As Thomas Gaulkin of the Bul­letin of the Atom­ic Sci­en­tists not­ed ear­li­er this month, many Amer­i­cans— often fierce in their objec­tions to per­ceived gov­ern­ment over­reach into their lives—might nor­mal­ly object to dystopi­an images of fly­ing robots polic­ing lock­downs. But these, of course, are not nor­mal times. ‘If drones do begin to hov­er over U.S. streets to help con­trol this pan­dem­ic,’ Gaulkin wrote, ‘it will be yet anoth­er vis­i­ble reminder that we’ve entered a pub­lic health Twi­light Zone where Amer­i­cans have no bet­ter option than to embrace what was once only imag­in­able, and nev­er real.’ . . . ” 

“Coro­n­avirus Sur­veil­lance Is Enter­ing Dystopi­an Ter­ri­to­ry” by Eric Lutz; Van­i­ty Fair; 4/9/2020.

Ear­li­er this week, the Eliz­a­beth, New Jer­sey police depart­ment gave res­i­dents a look at one of the drones offi­cials there will use to help mon­i­tor res­i­dents and enforce social dis­tanc­ing mea­sures aimed at slow­ing the spread of the nov­el coro­n­avirus. “These drones will be around the City with an auto­mat­ed mes­sage from the May­or telling you to STOP gath­er­ing, dis­perse and go home,” the depart­ment said.

The city, which has seen close to 1,500 con­firmed COVID cas­es, is one of a grow­ing num­ber of com­mu­ni­ties in the Unit­ed States that is either deploy­ing or con­sid­er­ing the use of unmanned drones to sup­port their shel­ter-in-place directives—a prac­tice that has been used, seem­ing­ly with suc­cess, in coun­tries like France and Chi­na. But on Wednes­day, the Eliz­a­beth police depart­ment was forced to clar­i­fy in a sec­ond video empha­siz­ing that the drones were only there to spread “an auto­mat­ed notice about keep­ing your social dis­tance.”

“We are just try­ing to save lives, not try­ing to be big broth­er,” the depart­ment said on Face­book. “There is no record­ing and no pic­tures being tak­en, it is a tool of encour­age­ment to fol­low the rules.”

The episode under­scores the loom­ing ten­sions for fed­er­al and local gov­ern­ments between civ­il lib­er­ties and efforts to com­bat a dead­ly pan­dem­ic that has par­a­lyzed the coun­try. The U.S. gov­ern­ment was caught flat-foot­ed by the pub­lic health cri­sis, thanks to Don­ald Trump ignor­ing months of warn­ings and rely­ing on wish­ful think­ing rather than action. But with Amer­i­ca now the epi­cen­ter of the pan­dem­ic, the admin­is­tra­tion is try­ing to play catch-up, with Jared Kushner—the president’s unqual­i­fied son-in-law and senior advis­er—lead­ing a coro­n­avirus response team that has float­ed a num­ber of poten­tial mea­sures, includ­ing a nation­al sur­veil­lance sys­tem to mon­i­tor out­breaks. That has raised pri­va­cy con­cerns, with crit­ics liken­ing it to the Patri­ot Act put into place fol­low­ing 9/11. “This is a gen­uine crisis—we have to work through it and do our best to pro­tect people’s health,” Jes­si­ca Rich, a for­mer direc­tor of the Fed­er­al Trade Commission’s con­sumer pro­tec­tion bureau, told Politi­co. “But doing that doesn’t mean we have to destroy pri­va­cy.”

With­in the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment itself, there has been a clum­sy acknowl­edge­ment that there are lim­its to what the U.S. can do in its efforts to con­tain the virus. “We are not an author­i­tar­i­an nation,” Sur­geon Gen­er­al Jerome Adams said on Fox News last month, soon after the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion declared coro­n­avirus a pan­dem­ic. “So we have to be care­ful when we say, ‘Let’s do what Chi­na did, let’s do what South Korea did.’” (South Korea is a democ­ra­cy.) Still, actions by the Trump admin­is­tra­tion to loosen data shar­ing rules around health­care and the nation­al coro­n­avirus sur­veil­lance pro­pos­al from Kushner’s team have raised con­cerns from pri­va­cy advocates—particularly giv­en the long­stand­ing fears about how the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has used sur­veil­lance and tech­nol­o­gy in its immi­gra­tion enforce­ment and oth­er con­tro­ver­sial poli­cies, along with the president’s ero­sion of demo­c­ra­t­ic norms.

“We dealt with sim­i­lar issues in 9/11,” Rich said. “One rea­son that the gov­ern­ment doesn’t have all of this data is there’s a lot of con­cern about big broth­er main­tain­ing large data­bas­es on every con­sumer on sen­si­tive issues like health, and for good rea­son.” Indeed, for crit­ics, the pri­va­cy ques­tions extend beyond the present moment when gov­ern­ments are grap­pling with the dead­ly pan­dem­ic — what hap­pens when this cri­sis pass­es? Is it pos­si­ble to get the tooth­paste back in the tube? “My biggest con­cern is that tech will emerge more pow­er­ful than it was,” Bur­cu Kil­ic, who leads a dig­i­tal right pro­gram at con­sumer advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tion Pub­lic Cit­i­zen, told Politi­co. “When things get back to nor­mal, do you think they’ll want to reg­u­late them?”

Munic­i­pal­i­ties like Eliz­a­beth and Day­tona Beach, Flori­da that are mak­ing use of drones to enforce social dis­tanc­ing are get­ting a taste of what nor­mal might look like, thanks to the pan­dem­ic. As Thomas Gaulkin of the Bul­letin of the Atom­ic Sci­en­tists not­ed ear­li­er this month, many Amer­i­cans— often fierce in their objec­tions to per­ceived gov­ern­ment over­reach into their lives—might nor­mal­ly object to dystopi­an images of fly­ing robots polic­ing lock­downs. But these, of course, are not nor­mal times. “If drones do begin to hov­er over U.S. streets to help con­trol this pan­dem­ic,” Gaulkin wrote, “it will be yet anoth­er vis­i­ble reminder that we’ve entered a pub­lic health Twi­light Zone where Amer­i­cans have no bet­ter option than to embrace what was once only imag­in­able, and nev­er real.”

7b. The alpha preda­tor of the elec­tron­ic sur­veil­lance land­scape is Peter Thiel’s Palan­tir. They have land­ed two key gov­ern­ment con­tracts in con­nec­tion with the Covid-19 out­break: ” . . . . Palan­tir, the $20 bil­lion-val­ued Palo Alto tech com­pa­ny backed by Face­book-fun­der Peter Thiel, has been hand­ed a $17.3 mil­lion con­tract with one of the lead­ing health bod­ies lead­ing the charge against COVID-19. It’s the biggest con­tract hand­ed to a Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pa­ny to assist America’s COVID-19 response, accord­ing to Forbes’ review of pub­lic con­tracts, and comes as oth­er Cal­i­forn­ian giants like Apple and Google try to fig­ure out how best to help gov­ern­ments fight the dead­ly virus. . . . The mon­ey, from the fed­er­al government’s COVID-19 relief fund, is for Palan­tir Gotham licens­es, accord­ing to a con­tract record reviewed by Forbes. That tech­nol­o­gy is designed to draw in data from myr­i­ad sources and, regard­less of what form or size, turn the infor­ma­tion into a coher­ent whole. The ‘plat­form’ is cus­tomized for each client, so it meets with their mis­sion needs, accord­ing to Palan­tir. . . . Palan­tir Gotham is slight­ly dif­fer­ent to Foundry, a new­er prod­uct that’s aimed more at gen­er­al users rather than data sci­ence whizzes, with more automa­tion than Gotham. As Forbes pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed, Foundry is being used by the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC) to ingest infor­ma­tion from all man­ner of hos­pi­tals across Amer­i­ca to see where best to pro­vide more or less resource. . . . Palan­tir is now work­ing with at least 12 gov­ern­ments on their respons­es to coro­n­avirus, accord­ing to two sources with knowl­edge of its COVID-19 work. That includes the U.K.’s Nation­al Health Ser­vice, which is using Foundry for sim­i­lar pur­pos­es as the CDC. . . .”

“Palan­tir, The Peter Thiel-Backed $20 Bil­lion Big Data Crunch­er, Scores $17 Mil­lion Coro­n­avirus Emer­gency Relief Deal” by Thomas Brew­ster; Forbes; 04/11/2020

Palan­tir, the $20 bil­lion-val­ued Palo Alto tech com­pa­ny backed by Face­book-fun­der Peter Thiel, has been hand­ed a $17.3 mil­lion con­tract with one of the lead­ing health bod­ies lead­ing the charge against COVID-19.

It’s the biggest con­tract hand­ed to a Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pa­ny to assist America’s COVID-19 response, accord­ing to Forbes’ review of pub­lic con­tracts, and comes as oth­er Cal­i­forn­ian giants like Apple and Google try to fig­ure out how best to help gov­ern­ments fight the dead­ly virus.

The deal was signed on April 10 with a Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices (HHS) sub­sidiary agency, the Pro­gram Sup­port Cen­ter (PSC), which pro­vides “shared ser­vices across the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment.”

The mon­ey, from the fed­er­al government’s COVID-19 relief fund, is for Palan­tir Gotham licens­es, accord­ing to a con­tract record reviewed by Forbes. That tech­nol­o­gy is designed to draw in data from myr­i­ad sources and, regard­less of what form or size, turn the infor­ma­tion into a coher­ent whole. The “plat­form” is cus­tomized for each client, so it meets with their mis­sion needs, accord­ing to Palan­tir.

Palan­tir Gotham is slight­ly dif­fer­ent to Foundry, a new­er prod­uct that’s aimed more at gen­er­al users rather than data sci­ence whizzes, with more automa­tion than Gotham. As Forbes pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed, Foundry is being used by the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC) to ingest infor­ma­tion from all man­ner of hos­pi­tals across Amer­i­ca to see where best to pro­vide more or less resource. That includes sup­plies of COVID-19 per­son­al pro­tec­tion equip­ment like masks and res­pi­ra­tors.

Forbes also revealed ear­li­er this week that the U.S. Coast Guard, a depart­ment with­in the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty (DHS), had con­tract­ed Palan­tir for $8 mil­lion for its own COVID-19 response efforts. The tech com­pa­ny declined to talk about the nature of the work, whilst the Coast Guard hadn’t com­ment­ed at the time of pub­li­ca­tion.

Palan­tir is now work­ing with at least 12 gov­ern­ments on their respons­es to coro­n­avirus, accord­ing to two sources with knowl­edge of its COVID-19 work. That includes the U.K.’s Nation­al Health Ser­vice, which is using Foundry for sim­i­lar pur­pos­es as the CDC.

Despite the osten­si­bly con­tro­ver­sy-free deal with the British health body, the recep­tion was some­what frosty. That was, in part, because of Palantir’s links to the U.S. mil­i­tary intel­li­gence com­plex; it was fund­ed by the CIA’s ven­ture cap­i­tal fund, In-Q-Tel, and was said to have helped find Osama bin Laden. The uneasi­ness from pri­va­cy bod­ies was also relat­ed to Palantir’s work with Immi­gra­tion Cus­toms Enforce­ment (ICE), which has drawn some crit­i­cism from human rights groups.

Call­ing Cal­i­for­nia For Coro­n­avirus Con­tracts

Out­side of Cal­i­for­nia, a hand­ful of tech com­pa­nies are sign­ing off COVID-19 relief con­tracts. The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment sales arm of Dell, the Tex­an hard­ware and soft­ware busi­ness, signed off on a $35 mil­lion deal to pro­vide Vet­er­ans Affairs with Microsoft secu­ri­ty tech­nol­o­gy and ser­vices.

Oth­er Sil­i­con Val­ley giants like Apple, Google and Ora­cle have been offer­ing solu­tions to help ease the cri­sis. Ora­cle, as Forbes exclu­sive­ly report­ed, is work­ing on a giant data­base to track the impact of COVID-19 treat­ments on patients. On Fri­day, Apple and Google announced they were col­lab­o­rat­ing on a project for a pro-pri­va­cy con­tact trac­ing app to help peo­ple know if they’ve been in the same area as some­one who’d con­tract­ed the virus.

But in terms of Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pa­nies, whom many were hop­ing would rapid­ly devel­op coro­n­avirus-fight­ing tech, it’s Palan­tir that’s lead­ing, in mon­ey terms at least.

7c. About the above-men­tioned Foundry:

“Palan­tir, The $20 Bil­lion, Peter Thiel-Backed Big Data Giant, Is Pro­vid­ing Coro­n­avirus Mon­i­tor­ing To The CDC” by Thomas Brew­ster; Forbes; 03/31/2020

In the last week, staff at the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC) start­ed log­ging into a new web app. It promis­es to help them watch where COVID-19 is spread­ing and checks how well equipped hos­pi­tals are to deal with the spike in cas­es of the fatal virus, accord­ing to two sources famil­iar with the work. Accord­ing to those sources, it was built by Palan­tir, a $20 bil­lion-val­ued big data com­pa­ny whose data har­vest­ing work for the U.S. Immi­gra­tion and Cus­toms Enforce­ment agency has pro­voked crit­i­cism from human rights groups.

With the CDC project, it’s avoid­ing any such con­tro­ver­sy, part­ly because it isn’t ingest­ing per­son­al­ly-iden­ti­fi­able infor­ma­tion, said the sources, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty due to the sen­si­tiv­i­ties of the gov­ern­ment con­tract. Instead, the sources said the tech, based on its big data gath­er­ing and analy­sis tech­nol­o­gy called Palan­tir Foundry, takes in a range of anonymized data from U.S. hos­pi­tals and health­care agen­cies, includ­ing lab test results, emer­gency depart­ment sta­tus­es, bed capac­i­ty and ven­ti­la­tor sup­ply. Palan­tir is also devel­op­ing mod­els for the out­break of the virus to help CDC pre­dict where resources are required, they added.

“In the U.S. we are con­tin­u­ing to work close­ly with our part­ners at HHS, includ­ing CDC, and across the gov­ern­ment agen­cies to ensure they have the most com­pre­hen­sive, accu­rate and time­ly view of infor­ma­tion as the COVID-19 response effort evolves,” a Palan­tir spokesper­son said.

The CDC hadn’t respond­ed to a request for com­ment at the time of pub­li­ca­tion.

Such tech would give the CDC a clear under­stand­ing of what’s hap­pen­ing in any giv­en U.S. geog­ra­phy, whether at state, coun­ty or city lev­el, at a sin­gle moment in time. The infor­ma­tion would help the CDC decide where to allo­cate resources, such as masks and ven­ti­la­tors, one source said. That could prove vital giv­en the rush to meet a per­va­sive and urgent need for ven­ti­la­tors, in par­tic­u­lar.

Palan­tir is one of sev­er­al tech com­pa­nies, includ­ing Google and Ora­cle, flex­ing their prowess in data gath­er­ing and analy­sis in efforts to stem the coro­n­avirus. Some ideas, such as using loca­tions from mobile phones to track move­ments of peo­ple, have prompt­ed con­cerns that once the cri­sis ebbs, increased sur­veil­lance will be hard to unwind. Palantir’s tool does not use any per­son­al­ly-iden­ti­fi­able data at this point, but could do in the future, said one of the sources.

Sim­i­lar to Palantir’s U.K. work

The app, which CDC staff start­ed to use in the last few days, is host­ed by Ama­zon Web Ser­vices as part of a part­ner­ship for the CDC project, one of the sources said. Palan­tir has long used the cloud giant for back-end infra­struc­ture.

The U.S. data gath­er­ing app looks a lot like a project revealed in the U.K. last week, where reports indi­cat­ed Palan­tir was also pro­vid­ing its Foundry plat­form, along­side Ama­zon Web Ser­vices and Microsoft, to assist the Nation­al Health Ser­vice (NHS) in the coro­n­avirus cri­sis.

Palantir’s Foundry will help the NHS deter­mine cur­rent occu­pan­cy lev­els at hos­pi­tals, down to the num­ber and type of beds, as well as the capac­i­ty of acci­dent and emer­gency, depart­ments and wait­ing times, wrote the U.K. gov­ern­ment late last week. The tool is also gath­er­ing details of the lengths of stay for coro­n­avirus patients, the U.K. project coor­di­na­tors said.

“Palan­tir is a data proces­sor, not a data con­troller, and can­not pass on or use the data for any wider pur­pose with­out the per­mis­sion of NHS Eng­land,” it added.

The response to Palantir’s involve­ment in the U.K. has been cau­tious in light of its pre­vi­ous sur­veil­lance work, notably its pro­duc­tion of tools that helped ICE tar­get undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants in Amer­i­ca. It has close ties to U.S. intel­li­gence and law enforce­ment agen­cies, includ­ing the CIA, an investor via the agency’s In-Q-Tel ven­ture fund, and was cred­it­ed with help­ing find Osama Bin Laden before his killing. The com­pa­ny was found­ed by a social the­o­ry Ph.D. Alex Karp, a long-time asso­ciate of Palan­tir investor Peter Thiel, the bil­lion­aire ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist who was also an ear­ly backer of Face­book.

It’s unclear just how much Palan­tir will make from the work. Accord­ing to pub­lic records, the most recent con­tract signed by Palan­tir with the CDC was in ear­ly Feb­ru­ary for $675,000 for unspec­i­fied hard­ware and soft­ware license renewals. Palan­tir also signed a con­tract for just $28,000 with the Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion late last month for use of the Palan­tir Gotham tool, which is typ­i­cal­ly used to help gov­ern­ment agen­cies find crim­i­nals or crim­i­nal groups with­in mass­es of data. . . .

8. Exem­pli­fy­ing the mul­ti-dimen­sion­al chess sce­nario in con­nec­tion with the “bio-psy-op” is the GOP’s plan to use the Covid-19 out­break to scape­goat Chi­na and tar the Democ­rats and Joe Biden with the same brush.

Of par­tic­u­lar note in this regard is the Steve Bannon‑J. Kyle Bass-Tom­my Hicks, Jr. tri­umvi­rate dis­cussed in–among oth­er pro­grams–FTR #‘s 1111 and 1112.

At the epi­cen­ter of the anti-Chi­na effort, Ban­non is net­worked with Bass, who is asym­met­ri­cal­ly invest­ed with regard to the Hong Kong and Chi­nese economies. Hicks, in turn, is a co-investor with Bass, co-chair­man of the RNC, and one of the prime movers of the inter­a­gency gov­ern­men­tal net­works involved in the anti-Chi­na desta­bi­liza­tion oper­a­tion.

This net­worked rela­tion­ship affords investors like Bass and Hicks the ulti­mate posi­tion from which to prof­it from “insid­er” infor­ma­tion. 

The syn­the­sis of covert oper­a­tions and elec­toral pol­i­tics reminds us of the 1952 elec­tion, in which Arthur Bliss Lane occu­pied a key posi­tion in the Cru­sade For Free­dom, as well as the GOP. (We dis­cussed this in AFA #37, and uti­lized infor­ma­tion from, among oth­er sources, Blow­back by Christo­pher Simp­son.

“G.O.P. Aim­ing To Make Chi­na The Scape­goat” by Jonathan Mar­tin and Mag­gie Haber­man; The New York Times; 4/19/2020; pp. A1-A6 [West­ern Edi­tion]

The strat­e­gy could not be clear­er: From the Repub­li­can law­mak­ers blan­ket­ing Fox News to new ads from Pres­i­dent Trump’s super PAC to the bit­ing crit­i­cism on Don­ald Trump Jr.’s Twit­ter feed, the G.O.P. is attempt­ing to divert atten­tion from the administration’s heav­i­ly crit­i­cized response to the coro­n­avirus by pin­ning the blame on Chi­na.

With the death toll from the pan­dem­ic already sur­pass­ing 34,000 Amer­i­cans and unem­ploy­ment soar­ing to lev­els not seen since the Great Depres­sion, Repub­li­cans increas­ing­ly believe that ele­vat­ing Chi­na as an arch­en­e­my cul­pa­ble for the spread of the virus, and har­ness­ing America’s grow­ing ani­mos­i­ty toward Bei­jing, may be the best way to sal­vage a dif­fi­cult elec­tion.

Repub­li­can sen­a­tors locked in dif­fi­cult races are prepar­ing com­mer­cials con­demn­ing Chi­na. Con­ser­v­a­tives with future pres­i­den­tial ambi­tions of their own, like Sen­a­tors Tom Cot­ton and Josh Haw­ley, are com­pet­ing to see who can talk tougher toward the coun­try where the virus first emerged. Par­ty offi­cials are pub­licly and pri­vate­ly bran­dish­ing polling data in hopes Mr. Trump will con­front Bei­jing.

Mr. Trump’s own cam­paign aides have endorsed the strat­e­gy, releas­ing an attack ad last week depict­ing Joseph R. Biden Jr., the pre­sump­tive Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­nee, as soft on Chi­na. The ad relied heav­i­ly on images of peo­ple of Asian descent, includ­ing for­mer Gov. Gary Locke of Wash­ing­ton, who is Chi­nese-Amer­i­can, and it was wide­ly viewed as fan­ning the flames of xeno­pho­bia. . . .

. . . . The strat­e­gy includes efforts to lever­age the U.S.-China rela­tion­ship against Mr. Biden, who Repub­li­cans believe is vul­ner­a­ble because of his com­ments last year play­ing down the geopo­lit­i­cal chal­lenge posed by Chi­na and what Repub­li­cans claim was high-pay­ing work that his son, Hunter, has done there. (A lawyer for the younger Mr. Biden said he was uncom­pen­sat­ed for his work.)

Mr. Biden, for his part, has crit­i­cized Mr. Trump’s warm words for Chi­na. On Fri­day, his cam­paign released a video assail­ing the pres­i­dent for not press­ing Mr. Xi to let the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion into his coun­try and for being “more wor­ried about pro­tect­ing his trade deal with Chi­na than he was about the virus.”

On a con­fer­ence call with reporters, Antony J. Blinken, a senior Biden advis­er, not­ed that in Jan­u­ary and Feb­ru­ary “the pres­i­dent praised Chi­na and Pres­i­dent Xi more than 15 times.” He attrib­uted the flat­tery to the administration’s not want­i­ng to “risk that Chi­na pull back on imple­ment­ing” the ini­tial trade agree­ment the two coun­tries signed in Jan­u­ary. . . .

. . . . The president’s hopes for secur­ing a major trade agree­ment with Chi­na have been rein­forced by a coterie of his advis­ers, includ­ing Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin,who have often pre­vailed in inter­nal bat­tles over White House hard-lin­ers.

But with the coro­n­avirus death toll grow­ing and the econ­o­my at a stand­still, polls show that Amer­i­cans have nev­er viewed Chi­na more neg­a­tive­ly.

In a recent 17-state sur­vey con­duct­ed by Mr. Trump’s cam­paign, 77 per­cent of vot­ers agreed that Chi­na cov­ered up the extent of the coro­n­avirus out­break, and 79 per­cent of vot­ers indi­cat­ed they did not think Chi­na had been truth­ful about the extent of infec­tions and deaths, accord­ing to a Repub­li­can briefed on the poll. . . .

. . . . “At this moment in time a trade deal is not the right top­ic of dis­cus­sion,” said Sen­a­tor Steve Daines, Repub­li­can of Mon­tana, who said the pan­dem­ic had high­light­ed the country’s reliance on Chi­na in the same painful fash­ion that the oil cri­sis of the 1970s revealed how it was at the mer­cy of the Mid­dle East. “This has exposed our depen­den­cy on Chi­na for P.P.E. and for crit­i­cal drugs.”

Mr. Haw­ley, a first-term Mis­souri sen­a­tor has also denounced Chi­na, call­ing for a Unit­ed States-led inter­na­tion­al com­mis­sion to deter­mine the ori­gin of the virus and demand­ing that Amer­i­can vic­tims be allowed to sue the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment.

“This is the 9/11 of this gen­er­a­tion,” said Mr. Haw­ley, adding that he hopes Mr. Trump “keeps the pres­sure high.”

He said Repub­li­cans should make the issue cen­tral this fall and demon­strate “how are we going to come out of this stronger by actu­al­ly stand­ing up to the Chi­nese.”

Few Repub­li­cans have been more out­spo­ken than Mr. Cot­ton, an Arkansan who was warn­ing about the virus at the start of the year when few law­mak­ers were pay­ing atten­tion, and has been urg­ing Sen­ate can­di­dates to make Chi­na a cen­ter­piece of their cam­paigns.

“Chi­na unleashed this pan­dem­ic on the world and they should pay the price,” Mr. Cot­ton said. “Con­gress and the pres­i­dent should work togeth­er to hold Chi­na account­able.” . . .

9. Exem­plary, as well, of the bio-psy-op as syn­the­sis of covert oper­a­tion and polit­i­cal cru­sad­ing is the GOP’s cyn­i­cal manip­u­la­tion of emer­gency appro­pri­a­tions to achieve their long­stand­ing objec­tive of crip­pling state and local gov­ern­ments, as well as dri­ving the Postal Ser­vice into bank­rupt­cy. Pri­va­tiz­ing postal ser­vice has been a right-wing/­GOP objec­tive for a long time. ” . . . . Every­one, and I mean every­one, knows what is real­ly hap­pen­ing: McConnell is try­ing to get more mon­ey for busi­ness­es while con­tin­u­ing to short­change state and local gov­ern­ments. After all, “starve the beast” — forc­ing gov­ern­ments to cut ser­vices by depriv­ing them of resources — has been Repub­li­can strat­e­gy for decades. This is just more of the same. . . . Oh, and Trump per­son­al­ly has ruled out aid for the Postal Ser­vice. . . .”

“Starve the Beast, Feed The Depres­sion” by Paul Krug­man; The New York Times; 4/17/2020; p. A27 [West­ern Edi­tion].

. . . . Right now the econ­o­my is in the equiv­a­lent of a med­ical­ly induced coma, with whole sec­tors shut down to lim­it social con­tact and hence slow the spread of the coro­n­avirus. We can’t bring the econ­o­my out of this coma until, at min­i­mum, we have sharply reduced the rate of new infec­tions and dra­mat­i­cal­ly increased test­ing so that we can quick­ly respond to any new out­breaks. . . .

. . . . Since we’re nowhere close to that point — in par­tic­u­lar, test­ing is still far behind what’s need­ed — we’re months away from a safe end of the lock­down. This is caus­ing severe hard­ship for work­ers, busi­ness­es, hos­pi­tals and — last but not least — state and local gov­ern­ments, which unlike the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment must bal­ance their bud­gets. . . .

. . . . What pol­i­cy can and should do is mit­i­gate that hard­ship. And the last relief pack­age did, in fact, do a lot of the right things. But it didn’t do enough of them. . . .

. . . . It’s true that Sen­ate Repub­li­cans are try­ing to push through an extra $250 bil­lion in small-busi­ness lend­ing — and Democ­rats are will­ing to go along. But the Democ­rats also insist that the pack­age include sub­stan­tial aid for hos­pi­tals and for state and local gov­ern­ments. And Mitch McConnell, the Sen­ate major­i­ty leader, is refus­ing to include this aid.

McConnell claims that he would be will­ing to con­sid­er addi­tion­al mea­sures in lat­er leg­is­la­tion. But let’s get real. There is absolute­ly no rea­son not to include the mon­ey now.

Every­one, and I mean every­one, knows what is real­ly hap­pen­ing: McConnell is try­ing to get more mon­ey for busi­ness­es while con­tin­u­ing to short­change state and local gov­ern­ments. After all, “starve the beast” — forc­ing gov­ern­ments to cut ser­vices by depriv­ing them of resources — has been Repub­li­can strat­e­gy for decades. This is just more of the same.

This real­i­ty leaves Democ­rats with no choice except to stand firm while they still have lever­age. Bear in mind that McConnell could have the mon­ey he wants tomor­row if he were will­ing to meet them halfway. So far, how­ev­er, he isn’t. Oh, and Trump per­son­al­ly has ruled out aid for the Postal Ser­vice.

Discussion

18 comments for “FTR #1126 Bio-Psy-Op Apocalypse Now, Part 2: The Democracy-Killing Virus”

  1. This AP arti­cle reports that the UN Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al, Anto­nio Guter­res urged world lead­ers to fight hate in his speech. He address­es this dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic in which he reports how strength­ens eth­no-nation­al­ism, pop­ulism, author­i­tar­i­an­ism intrude and repress on human rights. He men­tions that elder­ly are being tar­get­ed by claim­ing they are the most vul­ner­a­ble. Oth­er tar­gets include health pro­fes­sion­als, aids work­ers, jour­nal­ists and whistle­blow­ers, He talked about how minori­ties includ­ing Mus­lim and Jews and Mus­lims were being tar­get­ed. The link at the bot­tom also includes a video por­tion of his speech.

    By ASSOCIATED PRESS
    PUBLISHED: 00:54 EDT, 8 May 2020 | UPDATED: 05:13 EDT, 8 May 2020
    Covid-19 has unleashed a ‘tsuna­mi of hate’ with a surge in anti-Semit­ic con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries and attacks on Mus­lims, UN chief warns
    • Anto­nio Guter­res urged world lead­ers to ‘immu­nize soci­ety against virus of hate’ 
    • Said minori­ties such as Jews and Mus­lims are being scape­goat­ed over Covid-19 
    • Warned extrem­ists will use lock­down ‘to prey on cap­tive and despair­ing peo­ple’ 

    UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­er­al Anto­nio Guter­res said Fri­day the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic keeps unleash­ing ‘a tsuna­mi of hate and xeno­pho­bia, scape­goat­ing and scare-mon­ger­ing’ and appealed for ‘an all-out effort to end hate speech glob­al­ly.’

    Guter­res said ‘anti-for­eign­er sen­ti­ment has surged online and in the streets, anti-Semit­ic con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries have spread, and COVID-19-relat­ed anti-Mus­lim attacks have occurred.’

    The UN chief said migrants and refugees ‘have been vil­i­fied as a source of the virus — and then denied access to med­ical treat­ment.’
    Anto­nio Guterres@antonioaguterres
    #COVID19 does not care who we are, where we live, or what we believe.

    Yet the pan­dem­ic con­tin­ues to unleash a tsuna­mi of hate and xeno­pho­bia, scape­goat­ing and scare-mon­ger­ing.

    That’s why I’m appeal­ing for an all-out effort to end hate speech glob­al­ly.

    ‘With old­er per­sons among the most vul­ner­a­ble, con­temptible memes have emerged sug­gest­ing they are also the most expend­able,’ he said. ‘And jour­nal­ists, whistle­blow­ers, health pro­fes­sion­als, aid work­ers and human rights defend­ers are being tar­get­ed sim­ply for doing their jobs.’

    Guter­res called on polit­i­cal lead­ers to show sol­i­dar­i­ty with all peo­ple, on edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tions to focus on ‘dig­i­tal lit­er­a­cy’ at a time when ‘extrem­ists are seek­ing to prey on cap­tive and poten­tial­ly despair­ing audi­ences.’

    He called on the media, espe­cial­ly social media, to ‘remove racist, misog­y­nist and oth­er harm­ful con­tent,’ on civ­il soci­ety to strength­en their out­reach to vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple, and on reli­gious fig­ures to serve as ‘mod­els of mutu­al respect.’

    ‘And I ask every­one, every­where, to stand up against hate, treat each oth­er with dig­ni­ty and take every oppor­tu­ni­ty to spread kind­ness,’ Guter­res said.

    The sec­re­tary-gen­er­al stressed that COVID-19 ‘does not care who we are, where we live, what we believe or about any oth­er dis­tinc­tion.’
    His glob­al appeal to address and counter COVID-19-relat­ed hate speech fol­lows his April 23 mes­sage call­ing the coro­nar­ivus pan­dem­ic ‘a human cri­sis that is fast becom­ing a human rights cri­sis.’

    Guter­res said then that the pan­dem­ic has seen ‘dis­pro­por­tion­ate effects on cer­tain com­mu­ni­ties, the rise of hate speech, the tar­get­ing of vul­ner­a­ble groups, and the risks of heavy-hand­ed secu­ri­ty respons­es under­min­ing the health response.’

    With ‘ris­ing eth­no-nation­al­ism, pop­ulism, author­i­tar­i­an­ism and a push back against human rights in some coun­tries, the cri­sis can pro­vide a pre­text to adopt repres­sive mea­sures for pur­pos­es unre­lat­ed to the pan­dem­ic,’ he warned.

    In Feb­ru­ary, Guter­res issued a call to action to coun­tries, busi­ness­es and peo­ple to help renew and revive human rights across the globe, lay­ing out a sev­en-point plan amid con­cerns about cli­mate change, con­flict and repres­sion.

    https://mol.im/a/8299683

    Posted by Mary Benton | May 9, 2020, 11:51 am
  2. Oh look at that: Pres­i­dent Trump was rage tweet­ing on Thurs­day night about the protests in the Twin Cities over the clear mur­der of an African Amer­i­can man under arrest, George Floyd, end­ing the rage tweets with a threat to call in the Nation­al Guard to start shoot­ing pro­tes­tors:

    I can’t stand back & watch this hap­pen to a great Amer­i­can City, Min­neapo­lis. A total lack of lead­er­ship. Either the very weak Rad­i­cal Left May­or, Jacob Frey, get his act togeth­er and bring the City under con­trol, or I will send in the Nation­al Guard & get the job done right.....— Don­ald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2020

    And to under­score that threat he end­ed the tweets with a tru­ly chill­ing phrase that was quite pos­si­bly the worst and most inflam­ma­to­ry thing he could have pos­si­bly said under the sit­u­a­tion: “When the loot­ing starts, the shoot­ing starts.”

    ....These THUGS are dis­hon­or­ing the mem­o­ry of George Floyd, and I won’t let that hap­pen. Just spoke to Gov­er­nor Tim Walz and told him that the Mil­i­tary is with him all the way. Any dif­fi­cul­ty and we will assume con­trol but, when the loot­ing starts, the shoot­ing starts. Thank you!— Don­ald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2020

    As the fol­low­ing TPM piece points out, it was­n’t just hyper-inflam­ma­to­ry because it was a pres­i­den­tial threat of dead­ly mil­i­tary force against civil­ians. It’s also a slo­gan that has become syn­ony­mous with a cel­e­bra­tion of police bru­tal­i­ty against the black com­mu­ni­ty. Sur­prise:

    Talk­ing Points Memo
    News

    ‘When The Loot­ing Starts, The Shoot­ing Starts’: Trump Quotes ’60s Police Chief’s Bloody Phrase

    By Matt Shuham
    May 29, 2020 11:40 a.m.

    Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Fri­day tweet­ed a phrase that recalled the racist police vio­lence of the ’60s: “When the loot­ing starts, the shoot­ing starts.”

    The Pres­i­dent was respond­ing to the upheaval in Min­neapo­lis in recent days in response to the police killing of George Floyd.

    Trump’s use of that phrase earned him a warn­ing label of sorts from Twit­ter: The tweet wasn’t vis­i­ble until click­ing through a dis­claimer that the text “vio­lat­ed the Twit­ter Rules about glo­ri­fy­ing vio­lence.”

    In a state­ment, Twit­ter con­firmed that the spe­cif­ic vio­la­tion had to do with “the his­tor­i­cal con­text of the last line, its con­nec­tion to vio­lence, and the risk it could inspire sim­i­lar actions today.”

    The words indeed have a bloody his­to­ry.

    The phrase itself comes from a Decem­ber 1967 press con­fer­ence held by then-Mia­mi police chief Wal­ter Headley, in which he declared a “get tough” pol­i­cy — a “war” on crime in black neigh­bor­hoods in Mia­mi. Or as Headley was quot­ed in news reports at the time, “young hood­lums, from 15 to 21, who have tak­en advan­tage of the civ­il rights cam­paign.”

    “We don’t mind being accused of police bru­tal­i­ty,” Headley said. “They haven’t seen any­thing yet. Com­mu­ni­ty rela­tions and all that sort of thing have failed. We have done every­thing we could, send­ing speak­ers out and meet­ing with Negro lead­ers. But it has amount­ed to noth­ing.”

    The chief added that Mia­mi hadn’t had a “seri­ous prob­lem with civ­il upris­ing and loot­ing because I’ve let the word fil­ter down that when the loot­ing starts, the shoot­ing starts.”

    Headley said at the press con­fer­ence that patrols in black neigh­bor­hoods would be armed with shot­guns and police dogs.

    The police chief was known for his aggres­sive “stop and frisk” pol­i­cy, which often esca­lat­ed police encoun­ters. In Feb­ru­ary 1968, for exam­ple, police sus­pect­ed a teenag­er had car­ried a con­cealed knife into a pool hall. In 2018, The Wash­ing­ton Post detailed what hap­pened next: Police offi­cers dan­gled the teen by his feet over a bridge 100 feet above the Mia­mi Riv­er.

    The Post not­ed a report from the Nation­al Com­mis­sion on the Caus­es and Pre­ven­tion of Vio­lence pub­lished the fol­low­ing year, in 1969, that said the poli­cies had left the black com­mu­ni­ty in Mia­mi “in a state of con­tin­ued agi­ta­tion” from Decem­ber 1967 to August 1968. It read:
    [see news arti­cle excerpt]

    Eight months after that press con­fer­ence, Headley repeat­ed the “loot­ing” phrase dur­ing a riot that occurred par­al­lel to the August 1968 Repub­li­can Nation­al Con­ven­tion in Mia­mi Beach.

    The three-day riot began with the police incur­sion into what orga­niz­ers described as “a mass ral­ly of con­cerned Black peo­ple” — and end­ed with the police killing of three peo­ple and wound­ing of 18 more.

    Headley was on vaca­tion in North Car­oli­na at the time and did not return home as the vio­lence esca­lat­ed, the New York Times report­ed in his obit­u­ary when he died in Novem­ber 1968.

    “They know what to do,” the vaca­tion­ing Headley said of Mia­mi police offi­cers. “When the loot­ing starts, the shoot­ing starts.”

    On Fri­day, even the right-wing mili­tia group the Oath Keep­ers con­demned the President’s tweet. That group first came to promi­nence in 2015 as an armed pres­ence in Fer­gu­son, Mis­souri, after the police killing there of Michael Brown.

    “This is a dis­as­ter,” the tweet­ed tweet­ed. “Pres­i­dent Trump needs to retract that state­ment ASAP, stat­ing that he mis­spoke & did not mean to say that Nation­al Guard should shoot peo­ple for steal­ing.”

    ...

    ————

    “‘When The Loot­ing Starts, The Shoot­ing Starts’: Trump Quotes ’60s Police Chief’s Bloody Phrase” by Matt Shuham; Talk­ing Points Memo; 05/29/2020

    The phrase itself comes from a Decem­ber 1967 press con­fer­ence held by then-Mia­mi police chief Wal­ter Headley, in which he declared a “get tough” pol­i­cy — a “war” on crime in black neigh­bor­hoods in Mia­mi. Or as Headley was quot­ed in news reports at the time, “young hood­lums, from 15 to 21, who have tak­en advan­tage of the civ­il rights cam­paign.””

    You have to won­der: did Trump con­scious­ly choose that slo­gan or did he just vague­ly remem­ber it from decades ago with­out real­iz­ing the con­text and thought it had a nice ring to it? It’s one of fea­tures of Trump’s strate­gic chaos: we can nev­er real­ly dif­fer­en­ti­ate between the delib­er­ate cun­ning vs uncon­trol­lable chaos of his actions. But either way, Trump man­aged to choose to end his Nation­al Guard threat with what was pos­si­bly the most inflam­ma­to­ry his­tor­i­cal ref­er­ence he could have cho­sen. A slo­gan that was­n’t used just once by police chief Wal­ter Head­ly but mul­ti­ple times:

    ...
    “We don’t mind being accused of police bru­tal­i­ty,” Headley said. “They haven’t seen any­thing yet. Com­mu­ni­ty rela­tions and all that sort of thing have failed. We have done every­thing we could, send­ing speak­ers out and meet­ing with Negro lead­ers. But it has amount­ed to noth­ing.”

    The chief added that Mia­mi hadn’t had a “seri­ous prob­lem with civ­il upris­ing and loot­ing because I’ve let the word fil­ter down that when the loot­ing starts, the shoot­ing starts.”

    ...

    Eight months after that press con­fer­ence, Headley repeat­ed the “loot­ing” phrase dur­ing a riot that occurred par­al­lel to the August 1968 Repub­li­can Nation­al Con­ven­tion in Mia­mi Beach.

    The three-day riot began with the police incur­sion into what orga­niz­ers described as “a mass ral­ly of con­cerned Black peo­ple” — and end­ed with the police killing of three peo­ple and wound­ing of 18 more.

    Headley was on vaca­tion in North Car­oli­na at the time and did not return home as the vio­lence esca­lat­ed, the New York Times report­ed in his obit­u­ary when he died in Novem­ber 1968.

    “They know what to do,” the vaca­tion­ing Headley said of Mia­mi police offi­cers. “When the loot­ing starts, the shoot­ing starts.”
    ...

    It was such appalling lead­er­ship even the Oath Keep­ers had to come out and con­demn him. It’s pret­ty bad when your own mili­tia cult has to rebuke you:

    ...
    On Fri­day, even the right-wing mili­tia group the Oath Keep­ers con­demned the President’s tweet. That group first came to promi­nence in 2015 as an armed pres­ence in Fer­gu­son, Mis­souri, after the police killing there of Michael Brown.

    “This is a dis­as­ter,” the tweet­ed tweet­ed. “Pres­i­dent Trump needs to retract that state­ment ASAP, stat­ing that he mis­spoke & did not mean to say that Nation­al Guard should shoot peo­ple for steal­ing.”
    ...

    But that rebuke by the Oath Keep­ers isn’t just notable because the Oath Keep­ers are the lead­ing group in the US advo­cat­ing for a ‘sov­er­eign citizen’-style rev­o­lu­tion that calls for mili­tias to be dep­u­tized to pro­vide law enforce­ment ser­vices, a sce­nario in keep­ing with the Rex-84 mar­tial law sce­nar­ios drawn up by the Rea­gan admin­is­tra­tion. It’s also notable because it comes after weeks of Trump and the mili­tia joint­ly and enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly sup­port­ing the armed anti-COVID lock­down protests on state cap­i­tals across the US. It high­lights the sur­re­al nature of US pol­i­tics: the Pres­i­dent is sup­port­ing armed mili­ti­a’s intim­i­da­tion of state offi­cials — a con­flict that pits local offi­cials against state offi­cials which is the­mat­i­cal­ly con­sis­tent with the ‘sov­er­eign cit­i­zen’ refusal to rec­og­nize the author­i­ty of gov­ern­ment offi­cials above the lev­el of coun­ty sher­iff — at the same time we have the pres­i­dent threat­en­ing to send in the Nation­al Guard to shoot pro­tes­tors dur­ing anti police bru­tal­i­ty protests.

    But as the fol­low­ing Raw Sto­ry arti­cle describes, there’s anoth­er sig­nif­i­cant aspect of this the sto­ry of the Twin Cities protests that make the Oath Keep­er’s con­dem­na­tion of Trump’s threats so sig­nif­i­cant: as we should have expect­ed, the mili­tia move­ment that’s been increas­ing­ly open­ly threat­en­ing civ­il war over the COVID-19 lock­down poli­cies has been infil­trat­ing the Twin Cities protests. It’s being osten­si­bly done in ‘sol­i­dar­i­ty’ with the pro­tes­tors under the guise of a mutu­al oppo­si­tion to police bru­tal­i­ty. But as the fol­low­ing arti­cle makes clear, that’s basi­cal­ly just the cov­er sto­ry for infil­trat­ing the protests and try­ing and stok­ing vio­lence in the hopes of cre­at­ing a larg­er civ­il con­flict:

    Raw Sto­ry

    ‘They want their civ­il war’: Far-right ‘booga­loo’ mil­i­tants are embed­ded in the George Floyd protests in Min­neapo­lis

    By Jor­dan Green, Spe­cial to Raw Sto­ry
    Pub­lished on May 28, 2020

    Young, white men dressed in Hawai­ian-style print shirts and body armor, and car­ry­ing high-pow­ered rifles have been a notable fea­ture at state capi­tols, lend­ing an edgy and even some­times insur­rec­tionary tone to gath­er­ings of con­ser­v­a­tives angered by restric­tions on busi­ness­es and church gath­er­ings dur­ing the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic.

    Just as many states are reopen­ing their economies — and tak­ing the wind out of the con­ser­v­a­tive protests — the booga­loo move­ment found a new gal­va­niz­ing cause: the protests in Min­neapo­lis against the police killing of George Floyd.

    A new iter­a­tion of the mili­tia move­ment, booga­loo was born out of inter­net forums for gun enthu­si­asts that repur­posed the 1984 movie Breakin’ 2: Elec­tric Booga­loo as a code for a sec­ond civ­il war, and then mod­i­fied it into phras­es like “big luau” to cre­ate an insu­lar com­mu­ni­ty for those in on the joke, with Hawai­ian-style shirts func­tion­ing as an in-real-life iden­ti­fi­er. Booga­loo gained cur­ren­cy as an inter­net meme over the sum­mer of 2019, when it was adopt­ed by white suprema­cists in the accel­er­a­tionist ten­den­cy. In Jan­u­ary, the move­ment made the leap from the inter­net to the streets when a group booga­loo-ers showed up at the Sec­ond Amend­ment ral­ly in Rich­mond, Va.

    It’s not just the jit­tery aes­thet­ics and pop-cul­ture irony that sets booga­loo apart from an old­er gen­er­a­tion of mili­tia activists, but also its unbri­dled hos­til­i­ty towards law enforce­ment. In late 2019, the move­ment spread beyond pri­vate Dis­cord servers to mul­ti­ple Face­book groups with names like Thicc Boog Line, Boo­jahideen of Occu­pied Appalachis­tan and, in North Car­oli­na, Blue Igloo. Some of the memes gen­er­at­ed and shared on the Face­book pages con­tain overt sig­nals towards white nation­al­ists, includ­ing images of the Ger­man Wehrma­cht dur­ing World War II and ref­er­ences to the failed war to pre­serve white rule in Rhode­sia dur­ing the 1970s. But oth­ers sig­nal an inter­est in build­ing bridges with the polit­i­cal left by lift­ing up the names of black vic­tims of police vio­lence like Oscar Grant, Eric Gar­ner and Bre­on­na Tay­lor, along­side right-wing mar­tyrs like LaVoy Finicum, Sam­my Weaver and Dun­can Lemp, the lat­ter a booga­loo-er who was killed by police in March dur­ing a no-knock raid at his home in Mary­land.

    When protests against the police killing of George Floyd esca­lat­ed into clash­es between police and pro­test­ers on Tues­day night, a sig­nif­i­cant seg­ment of the booga­loo move­ment was elec­tri­fied.

    At 8:38 p.m., an anony­mous Dis­cord user iden­ti­fied as [MN-TC] Jimmydean338 post­ed in the #SOS chan­nel for the pri­vate Cit­i­zens Lib­er­ty Orga­ni­za­tion serv­er. The post dis­played a red but­ton inscribed with the words, “Send help!” fol­lowed by the address 3000 Min­neha­ha Ave., which is the loca­tion of the Min­neapo­lis Police 3rd Precinct. “Police open­ing fire on pro­test­ers breach­ing precinc [sic],” Jimmydean338 wrote. “Not a drill.”

    At about 11:30, the Big Igloo Bois Face­book group post­ed a pho­to of a young man hold­ing the trade­mark booga­loo flag depict­ing an igloo and palm tree in the protests.

    “If there was ever a time for bois to stand in sol­i­dar­i­ty with all free men and women in this coun­try, it is now,” the admin for the page wrote. “This is not a race issue. For far too long we have allowed them to mur­der us in our homes, and in the streets. We need to stand with the peo­ple of Min­neapo­lis. We need to sup­port them in this protest against a sys­tem that allows police bru­tal­i­ty to go unchecked.”

    Ben­jamin Ryan Teeter, a res­i­dent of the coastal com­mu­ni­ty of Hamp­stead in south­east­ern North Car­oli­na, reshared the red but­ton pan­el post­ed by Jimmydean338 on his Face­book page at 11:44 p.m., writ­ing, “Lock and load boys. Boog flags are in the air, and the nation­al net­work is going off.”

    Teeter, who is active in the North Car­oli­na Lib­er­tar­i­an Par­ty and has par­tic­i­pat­ed in week­ly armed excur­sions through down­town Raleigh with a group orga­nized through the Blue Igloo Face­book group over the four weeks alert­ed his friends that he would be dri­ving, not fly­ing to Min­neapo­lis.

    Tom Bai­ley, a Lib­er­tar­i­an can­di­date for Con­gress in 2018, com­ment­ed, “Grim.” To which Teeter replied, “Exact­ly! I love it!”

    Anoth­er pri­vate Dis­cord serv­er set up for booga­loo users — named “We should all Led(better)” — had des­ig­nat­ed spe­cial chan­nels for dif­fer­ent func­tions: #on-scene-only (for users on the ground), #off-scene-intel (for remote users shar­ing infor­ma­tion), and #loca­tion-want-to-repond (for users across the coun­try to coor­di­nate trav­el to Min­neapo­lis).

    Booga­loo activists who showed up for the first night of protests on Tues­day met with mixed reac­tion.

    One, a white man iden­ti­fied on Face­book as Michael Solomon, post­ed pho­tographs of him­self and anoth­er friend hold­ing high-pow­ered rifles while pos­ing along­side black pro­test­ers, includ­ing one wear­ing a Black Lives Mat­ter hood­ie. But anoth­er, Tyler Scott of Min­neso­ta man, warned in the Big Igloo Bois thread: “This is not the time for boog, this is how a race war starts.” He added that the pro­test­ers “jumped one of our 3%ers” — a term that denotes an old­er gen­er­a­tion of mili­tia activists — “ear­li­er tonight and stole a firearm. They are not with us. They’ve made it clear they don’t want us.” Scott’s state­ments were met with skep­ti­cism, with oth­er com­menters sug­gest­ing he was mak­ing it up or spec­u­lat­ing that the old­er mili­tia activists were racist and had it com­ing.

    “I think for a lot of booga­loo-ers, their pri­ma­ry inter­est is resist­ing the state, what they believe to be state tyran­ny,” said Alex Fried­feld, an inves­tiga­tive researcher at the ADL Cen­ter on Extrem­ism in Chica­go. “They have this hos­til­i­ty towards law enforce­ment…. They oppose these [pan­dem­ic] direc­tives. They’re upset about no-knock raids, police bru­tal­i­ty. The George Floyd case — this is an exam­ple of police bru­tal­i­ty, this will­ing­ness of the state to exe­cute those who dis­obey — so it’s not sur­pris­ing that they showed up to protest.”

    The nascent booga­loo move­ment is not mono­lith­ic, Fried­feld said, and it draws from spec­trum of groups from the right wing to the far right, from mili­tias and anar­cho-cap­i­tal­ists to white suprema­cists. An inter­nal strug­gle is under­way to define the movement’s rela­tion­ship with race, he said.

    “You see this in the Face­book com­ments,” Fried­feld said. “You’ll see very strong con­dem­na­tions of racism and homo­pho­bia. Then there are peo­ple who use racial­ly charged phras­es such as, ‘Vote from the rooftops.’ It’s a ref­er­ence to Kore­an shop-own­ers who went to rooftops to fire on loot­ers [dur­ing the 1992 Los Ange­les riots], who are pre­sumed to be black. There’s this debate: Why are we accept­ing Black Lives Mat­ter when they won’t accept us? There’s a good deal of social dis­trust.”

    ...

    “It’s a right-wing thing; it’s a neo-fas­cist thing,” said Daryle Lam­ont Jenk­ins, a vet­er­an antifas­cist orga­niz­er based in New Jer­sey, in a Twit­ter video. “And they’re try­ing to use what’s hap­pen­ing in Min­neapo­lis as a jump-off. Do not let them. They are not our friends.”

    Jenk­ins told Raw Sto­ry that he fears that booga­loo-ers are bring­ing their apoc­a­lyp­tic fan­tasies about civ­il war to Min­neapo­lis and will leave res­i­dents to pick up the pieces.

    “They can be more aggres­sive, and they can cause the police to be more aggres­sive,” he said. “They can get peo­ple hurt because they want their civ­il war…. Peo­ple who are in the com­mu­ni­ty, all they know is they have to defend them­selves. The peo­ple they hate get hurt, and they walk away scot-free. So, it’s kind of a win-win for them.

    “You don’t even nec­es­sar­i­ly have to be inter­act­ing with any­body in order to pop some­thing off,” he added. “You’re going to be one with the crowd.”

    Jenk­ins not­ed that Min­neapo­lis has rocky track record with armed white men inter­pos­ing them­selves in protests against police bru­tal­i­ty: In 2015, five peo­ple at a Black Lives Mat­ter protest were shot, result­ing in non-life-threat­en­ing injuries. A white man from Bloom­ing­ton named Allen Scarsel­la was lat­er con­vict­ed in the shoot­ings.

    Jenk­ins charges that the booga­loo-ers are oper­at­ing in bad faith, cit­ing a fel­low New Jer­sey res­i­dent named Paul Miller who was recent­ly involved in a Memo­r­i­al Day reopen protest. Miller iden­ti­fies him­self as a “Booga­loo Boy” on his Insta­gram account, which also includes the Latin Catholic mot­to “Deus vult,” or “God wills [it],” gen­er­al­ly asso­ci­at­ed with Islam­o­pho­bia.

    On Wednes­day, Miller re-shared livestreams from Min­neapo­lis on his Insta­gram, while refrain­ing from pro­vid­ing his views on the action under­way. A pre­vi­ous post includes a whim­si­cal video of armed pro­test­ers dur­ing an April 30 reopen protest at the Michi­gan state capi­tol cap­tioned, “When the booga­loo kicks off cuz the boys had enough.”

    Oth­ers more defin­i­tive­ly sig­nal that Miller’s pol­i­tics don’t align with the pro­test­ers in Min­neapo­lis. One calls for the release of the white father and son who are charged with mur­der­ing Ahmaud Arbery, a black jog­ger in Geor­gia, while anoth­er con­tends that the media is bury­ing cov­er­age of migrants “riot­ing through­out France.” Miller fre­quent­ly uses booga­loo hash­tags with Insta­gram posts, includ­ing #biglu­au, #booga­loomemes, #boogaloo2020, #Boogvirus, #booga­loosid­e­quest and #booga­loobois.

    “There’s two ver­sions of booga­loo,” said Fried­feld of the ADL. “There’s the white suprema­cist burn soci­ety down and build a white eth­no-stage. And then there’s the anti-gov­ern­ment resist tyran­ny at all costs, and if it cre­ates a civ­il war, so be it ver­sion.”

    So far, the wing of the booga­loo move­ment that’s shown up in the streets is the more main­stream, out­ward­ly inclu­sive ver­sion.

    But some white suprema­cists, espe­cial­ly in the accel­er­a­tionist ten­den­cy, are like­ly cheer­ing events in Min­neapo­lis from the side­lines, or look­ing for ways to melt into the crowd.

    A user iden­ti­fied as “Ter­ror­wave Refine” mes­saged at 11:59 p.m. on Tues­day: “Booga­loo boys are report­ed­ly on [sic] place. If some­one real­ly want­ed to kick off the booga­loo, now would be a fine time to fire some shots and frame the crowd around you as respon­si­ble.”

    Ear­li­er in the evening, a user named “The Shit­post Facil­i­ty (Dick)” wrote, “I hate that I sup­port the n****** over the pigs at this point, get some you dumb mon­key f****ot. This is absolute­ly the end goal of our philose­mit­ic soci­ety. Imag­ine giv­ing n****** ‘civ­il rights’ hahah­ha.”

    Anoth­er, named “Uncle Paul,” for­ward­ed Dick’s mes­sage, adding, “I don’t sup­port either the n****** or the pigs… cer­tain­ly not the k****. How­ev­er, I’ll do some pushups and pull-ups while I watch them redact­ing each oth­er.”

    Ben­jamin Ryan Teeter, the North Car­oli­na man trav­el­ing to Min­neapo­lis, said he is moti­vat­ed to join the protests out of gen­uine sol­i­dar­i­ty with black res­i­dents who are oppressed by police vio­lence. Teeter, who describes him­self as an “LGBT left-lean­ing anar­chist,” said he plans to “defend the pro­test­ers.”

    He deflect­ed when asked if he and oth­er booga­loo-ers are con­sult­ing with local res­i­dents to see how they can best sup­port them, as opposed to pur­su­ing their own agen­da.

    “I think try­ing to get the police to stop killing peo­ple is try­ing to sup­port the peo­ple of the com­mu­ni­ty,” he said. “If we’re not will­ing to stand up because we might hurt some­one, how bad are we going to allow things to get?”

    Teeter insist­ed the share of white suprema­cists in the booga­loo move­ment is no greater than any oth­er group or polit­i­cal par­ty. But he plead­ed igno­rance when asked about Dil­lon Goad, a North Car­olin­ian who attend­ed the first Raleigh booga­loo walk on May 1 wear­ing a Hawai­ian-style shirt. In addi­tion to his pri­ma­ry Face­book page, Goad has an alt page under his name that pays trib­ute to Hans Friedrich, a mem­ber of the SS Infantry Brigade accused of mur­der­ing Jews and com­mu­nists in the Sovi­et Union.

    Teeter post­ed a breath­less update at 1:23 a.m. on Wednes­day.

    “Bal­ti­more cop shot,” Teeter wrote. “Chica­go is a pow­derkeg. MN police are plan­ning an emer­gency exit if the build­ing is breached.”

    Goad was the first to com­ment: “It’s all com­ing togeth­er.”

    Reached on the road nine hours out­side of Min­neapo­lis on Wednes­day evening, Teeter demurred when asked about Goad.

    “Dil­lon is some­one I’m not famil­iar with,” he said. “I don’t want to speak to the account with­out know­ing. I don’t know if it’s a satire account or some­thing else.”

    Whether their move­ment is infil­trat­ed with neo-Nazis or not, there’s lit­tle doubt that the booga­loo-ers want to see an esca­la­tion in Min­neapo­lis.

    In a post that has now been removed from the We should all be Led(better) serv­er, (KS) Rug­by­Is­Life lament­ed at 11:38 p.m. on Wednes­day: “Looks like it’s just a bunch of loot­ing that should have been booging. Are peo­ple going to wake the fu ck up and start lay­ing down lead or just steal TVs and sh it?

    ———–

    “‘They want their civ­il war’: Far-right ‘booga­loo’ mil­i­tants are embed­ded in the George Floyd protests in Min­neapo­lis” by Jor­dan Green; Raw Sto­ry; 05/28/2020

    Just as many states are reopen­ing their economies — and tak­ing the wind out of the con­ser­v­a­tive protests — the booga­loo move­ment found a new gal­va­niz­ing cause: the protests in Min­neapo­lis against the police killing of George Floyd.”

    It’s a key point in all of this: the glom­ming on of these mili­tia groups to the protests in Min­neapo­lis is hap­pen­ing at the same time vir­tu­al­ly all of the states are repen­ing their economies under­min­ing the entire premise of their “booga­loo” civ­il war cam­paign to wage wars against state gov­ern­ments. A “booga­loo” move­ment that reflects the growth of the “accel­er­a­tionist” wing of the far right that views cre­at­ing as much chaos and destruc­tion as pos­si­ble as the path to foment­ing a civ­il war intend­ed to be a race war. In oth­er words, this is basi­cal­ly an adap­ta­tion of Atom­waf­fen’s strat­e­gy which, in turn, is an adap­ta­tion of James Mason and Charles Man­son. That’s the under­ly­ing motive for the mili­tia groups’ sud­den sym­pa­thy for the black com­mu­ni­ty. So when we hear about the booga­loo move­ment cre­at­ing memes that incor­po­rate civ­il rights fig­ures it’s basi­cal­ly just trolling. Trolling intend­ed to cre­ate the illu­sion of a com­mon cause in the hops of using the protests as props to accel­er­ate the col­lapse of soci­ety to start a race war:

    ...
    A new iter­a­tion of the mili­tia move­ment, booga­loo was born out of inter­net forums for gun enthu­si­asts that repur­posed the 1984 movie Breakin’ 2: Elec­tric Booga­loo as a code for a sec­ond civ­il war, and then mod­i­fied it into phras­es like “big luau” to cre­ate an insu­lar com­mu­ni­ty for those in on the joke, with Hawai­ian-style shirts func­tion­ing as an in-real-life iden­ti­fi­er. Booga­loo gained cur­ren­cy as an inter­net meme over the sum­mer of 2019, when it was adopt­ed by white suprema­cists in the accel­er­a­tionist ten­den­cy. In Jan­u­ary, the move­ment made the leap from the inter­net to the streets when a group booga­loo-ers showed up at the Sec­ond Amend­ment ral­ly in Rich­mond, Va.

    It’s not just the jit­tery aes­thet­ics and pop-cul­ture irony that sets booga­loo apart from an old­er gen­er­a­tion of mili­tia activists, but also its unbri­dled hos­til­i­ty towards law enforce­ment. In late 2019, the move­ment spread beyond pri­vate Dis­cord servers to mul­ti­ple Face­book groups with names like Thicc Boog Line, Boo­jahideen of Occu­pied Appalachis­tan and, in North Car­oli­na, Blue Igloo. Some of the memes gen­er­at­ed and shared on the Face­book pages con­tain overt sig­nals towards white nation­al­ists, includ­ing images of the Ger­man Wehrma­cht dur­ing World War II and ref­er­ences to the failed war to pre­serve white rule in Rhode­sia dur­ing the 1970s. But oth­ers sig­nal an inter­est in build­ing bridges with the polit­i­cal left by lift­ing up the names of black vic­tims of police vio­lence like Oscar Grant, Eric Gar­ner and Bre­on­na Tay­lor, along­side right-wing mar­tyrs like LaVoy Finicum, Sam­my Weaver and Dun­can Lemp, the lat­ter a booga­loo-er who was killed by police in March dur­ing a no-knock raid at his home in Mary­land.

    ...

    The nascent booga­loo move­ment is not mono­lith­ic, Fried­feld said, and it draws from spec­trum of groups from the right wing to the far right, from mili­tias and anar­cho-cap­i­tal­ists to white suprema­cists. An inter­nal strug­gle is under­way to define the movement’s rela­tion­ship with race, he said.

    ...

    “There’s two ver­sions of booga­loo,” said Fried­feld of the ADL. “There’s the white suprema­cist burn soci­ety down and build a white eth­no-stage. And then there’s the anti-gov­ern­ment resist tyran­ny at all costs, and if it cre­ates a civ­il war, so be it ver­sion.”

    So far, the wing of the booga­loo move­ment that’s shown up in the streets is the more main­stream, out­ward­ly inclu­sive ver­sion.
    ...

    Keep in mind that, while it’s tech­ni­cal­ly true that the booga­loo move­ment is not mono­lith­ic and draws from a spec­trum of groups from mili­tias and anar­cho-cap­i­tal­ists to white suprema­cists, rare is the mili­tia mem­ber or anar­cho-cap­i­tal­ist that isn’t at least a latent white suprema­cist. Yes, such rare indi­vid­u­als do exist but all of those groups have a heavy over­lap in world­views. Also keep in mind that the ‘resist tyran­ny at all costs, and if it cre­ates a civ­il war, so be it’ ver­sion of the booga­loo move­ment is typ­i­cal­ly the pub­lic jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the idea of stok­ing a race war under osten­si­bly ‘patri­ot­ic’ rea­sons. In oth­er words, ‘resist tyran­ny at all costs, and if it cre­ates a civ­il war, so be it’ is real­ly just brand­ing for ‘burn soci­ety down and build a white eth­no-stage’.

    And note how rapid­ly there was bool­ga­loo mem­bers on the scene of the Min­neapo­lis protests: they were there on the scene on the first night with­in a few hours, with mem­bers in encrypt­ed chat forums open­ly talk­ing about fir­ing shots and blam­ing it on the crowd. And oth­ers from out-of-state were ready to pack up and dri­ve to Min­neapo­lis. So we can be con­fi­dent that these protests were infused with these far right activists from the very first evening of protests:

    ...
    When protests against the police killing of George Floyd esca­lat­ed into clash­es between police and pro­test­ers on Tues­day night, a sig­nif­i­cant seg­ment of the booga­loo move­ment was elec­tri­fied.

    At 8:38 p.m., an anony­mous Dis­cord user iden­ti­fied as [MN-TC] Jimmydean338 post­ed in the #SOS chan­nel for the pri­vate Cit­i­zens Lib­er­ty Orga­ni­za­tion serv­er. The post dis­played a red but­ton inscribed with the words, “Send help!” fol­lowed by the address 3000 Min­neha­ha Ave., which is the loca­tion of the Min­neapo­lis Police 3rd Precinct. “Police open­ing fire on pro­test­ers breach­ing precinc [sic],” Jimmydean338 wrote. “Not a drill.”

    At about 11:30, the Big Igloo Bois Face­book group post­ed a pho­to of a young man hold­ing the trade­mark booga­loo flag depict­ing an igloo and palm tree in the protests.

    ...

    Ben­jamin Ryan Teeter, a res­i­dent of the coastal com­mu­ni­ty of Hamp­stead in south­east­ern North Car­oli­na, reshared the red but­ton pan­el post­ed by Jimmydean338 on his Face­book page at 11:44 p.m., writ­ing, “Lock and load boys. Boog flags are in the air, and the nation­al net­work is going off.”

    Teeter, who is active in the North Car­oli­na Lib­er­tar­i­an Par­ty and has par­tic­i­pat­ed in week­ly armed excur­sions through down­town Raleigh with a group orga­nized through the Blue Igloo Face­book group over the four weeks alert­ed his friends that he would be dri­ving, not fly­ing to Min­neapo­lis.

    ...

    Anoth­er pri­vate Dis­cord serv­er set up for booga­loo users — named “We should all Led(better)” — had des­ig­nat­ed spe­cial chan­nels for dif­fer­ent func­tions: #on-scene-only (for users on the ground), #off-scene-intel (for remote users shar­ing infor­ma­tion), and #loca­tion-want-to-repond (for users across the coun­try to coor­di­nate trav­el to Min­neapo­lis).

    ...

    A user iden­ti­fied as “Ter­ror­wave Refine” mes­saged at 11:59 p.m. on Tues­day: “Booga­loo boys are report­ed­ly on [sic] place. If some­one real­ly want­ed to kick off the booga­loo, now would be a fine time to fire some shots and frame the crowd around you as respon­si­ble.”
    ...

    Also recall then when antifas­cist activist Daryle Lam­ont Jenk­ins warns us of the 2015 inci­dent when a far right group fired shots at a Black Lives Mat­ter (BLM) protest in Min­neapo­lis, that was­n’t just an inci­dent involv­ing a far right group approach­ing the BLM pro­tes­tors and fir­ing shots. They had pre­vi­ous­ly showed up at the protests pre­tend­ing to be sup­port­ers. And around that same time, an Oath Keep­er mem­ber was found try­ing to hand out AR-15 rifles to BLM pro­tes­tors at a par­al­lel protest in Fer­gu­son, Mis­souri. So this far right tac­tic of infil­trat­ing police bru­tal­i­ty protests in the hopes of stok­ing more vio­lence has been going on for a while:

    ...
    Jenk­ins not­ed that Min­neapo­lis has rocky track record with armed white men inter­pos­ing them­selves in protests against police bru­tal­i­ty: In 2015, five peo­ple at a Black Lives Mat­ter protest were shot, result­ing in non-life-threat­en­ing injuries. A white man from Bloom­ing­ton named Allen Scarsel­la was lat­er con­vict­ed in the shoot­ings.
    ...

    So we’ll see how much suc­cess the boola­goo move­ment has at form­ing alliances with groups they want to even­tu­al­ly go to war with. Maybe their joint open loathing of the police will be enough. But, of course, we can’t ignore the fact that these far right groups aren’t opposed to use of force by gov­ern­ment author­i­ties, espe­cial­ly when it’s used against per­ceived ene­mies. They’re only against the use of force against fel­low far right groups. That’s why they’re so keen on vig­i­lante jus­tice and they ask­ing to be dep­u­tized and giv­en pow­er by the state to enforce their own form of jus­tice. When Ammon Bundy waged his armed stand­off in Ore­gon they kept talk­ing about form­ing cit­i­zen grand juries with the pow­er to hang pub­lic offi­cials for trea­son because that’s the ulti­mate plan: bring about a civ­il war/race war and then exe­cute all of their polit­i­cal ene­mies. Pret­ty author­i­tar­i­an stuff.

    And as the fol­low­ing Buz­zFeed arti­cle describes, it was that exact far right dream meme — of hav­ing mili­tias go and round up and exe­cute all of their polit­i­cal ene­mies — that Pres­i­dent Trump just amplied Thurs­day morn­ing when he retweet­ed a post by a local New Mex­i­co GOP offi­cial. This offi­cial, Couy Grif­fin, an Otero Coun­ty, New Mex­i­co, com­mis­sion­er, also hap­pens to be a mem­ber of “Cow­boys for Trump.” So what did this offi­cial say that Trump decid­ed to retweet? Well, dur­ing an anti-COVID-lock­down protest ral­ly, Couy decid­ed to declare that “I’ve come to a place where I’ve come to the con­clu­sion that the only good Demo­c­rat is a dead Demo­c­rat,” to cheers and applause. And as we’re going to see, Grif­fin is unam­bigu­ous­ly of ‘sov­er­eign cit­i­zen’ vari­ety with a his­to­ry of encour­age local law enforce­ment to go to war with state police. That’s who Trump decid­ed to retweet on Thurs­day morn­ing, hours before his “when the loot­ing starts the shoot­ing starts” tweet:

    Buz­zFeed News

    Gab­by Gif­fords’ Group Con­demned Trump For Shar­ing A Video Say­ing “The Only Good Demo­c­rat Is A Dead Demo­c­rat”

    Gif­fords was almost killed by a gun­man in 2011 when she was a Demo­c­rat rep­re­sent­ing Ari­zona in Con­gress.

    Julia Rein­stein Buz­zFeed News Reporter

    Last updat­ed on May 28, 2020, at 5:56 p.m. ET
    Post­ed on May 28, 2020, at 4:20 p.m. ET

    Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump retweet­ed a video on Thurs­day in which a sup­port­er said that “the only good Demo­c­rat is a dead Demo­c­rat,” earn­ing the con­dem­na­tion of promi­nent Democ­rats — includ­ing the anti–gun vio­lence group found­ed by Gab­by Gif­fords, the for­mer Demo­c­ra­t­ic mem­ber of Con­gress who was almost assas­si­nat­ed by a gun­man in 2011.

    Peter Ambler, cofounder of Gif­fords’ orga­ni­za­tion, told Buz­zFeed News the US had already “seen the dead­ly con­se­quences of the twin threats of hate­ful rhetoric and loose gun laws.”

    “My home­town of El Paso suf­fered a hor­rif­ic tragedy because a man moti­vat­ed by hate drove 10 hours to slaugh­ter Lati­nos with a gun,” Ambler said. “We’ve already seen armed men enter state cap­i­tals in attempts to intim­i­date law­mak­ers nav­i­gat­ing pan­dem­ic response.”

    “Trump’s encour­age­ment of vio­lence, harass­ment, and intol­er­ance is a threat to our core demo­c­ra­t­ic insti­tu­tions, and it’s going to result in fur­ther vio­lence and tragedy,” he said. “It must end now.”

    In the video shared by the pres­i­dent, which was post­ed Wednes­day by the account “Cow­boys for Trump,” Couy Grif­fin, an Otero Coun­ty, New Mex­i­co, com­mis­sion­er, can be heard speak­ing at a ral­ly against the state’s restric­tions to slow the spread of the coro­n­avirus.

    The May 17 protest in the city of Truth or Con­se­quences was held after a local church received a cease-and-desist order for ille­gal­ly hold­ing in-per­son ser­vices, accord­ing to NM Polit­i­cal Report.

    “I’ve come to a place where I’ve come to the con­clu­sion that the only good Demo­c­rat is a dead Demo­c­rat,” Grif­fin says in the record­ed speech, to cheers and applause.

    Thank you Cow­boys. See you in New Mex­i­co! https://t.co/aCRJeskUA8— Don­ald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 28, 2020

    After the cheers die down, Grif­fin then adds that he does not mean that “in the phys­i­cal sense.”

    “I don’t say that in the phys­i­cal sense, and I can already see the videos get­ting edit­ed where it says I wan­na go mur­der Democ­rats,” Grif­fin says. “No, I say that in the polit­i­cal sense, because the Demo­c­ra­t­ic agen­da and pol­i­cy is anti-Amer­i­can right now.”

    Trump retweet­ed the Cow­boys for Trump video at mid­night on Thurs­day, say­ing, “Thank you Cow­boys. See you in New Mex­i­co!”

    In response to ques­tions about the tweet, a White House spokesman told Buz­zFeed News the pres­i­dent con­demns vio­lence.

    “The Pres­i­dent and the entire admin­is­tra­tion con­demn vio­lence in all forms as we have stat­ed many times,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in an email.

    Grif­fin was pho­tographed meet­ing Trump in the Oval Office in Feb­ru­ary, report­ed­ly after he and a group of sup­port­ers rode horse­back from Cum­ber­land, Mary­land, to Wash­ing­ton, DC, in sup­port of Trump’s dec­la­ra­tion of a nation­al emer­gency to build a wall along the US–Mexico bor­der.

    ...

    In an inter­view with ABC‑7, Grif­fin said he would not resign.

    “If their demand was war­rant­ed, then I would con­sid­er it,” Grif­fin said. “But their demand for me to step down because of that instance in which I said ‘the only good Demo­c­rat is a dead demo­c­rat’ when I was talk­ing about pol­i­tics to begin with — I believe it’s unwar­rant­ed.”

    In an inter­view with the Dai­ly Beast, Grif­fin admit­ted he should have cho­sen his words bet­ter.

    “I could’ve cho­sen a dif­fer­ent ver­biage, you know. I guess I need to be more care­ful when I choose the words that I speak,” Grif­fin said. “But you know, it’s just so hyp­o­crit­i­cal of the left how they’re blow­ing this up, like I’m some hate-speech mur­der­er.”

    But Grif­fin also said he would not rule out vio­lence as a tac­tic for the reopen­ing protests.

    “I’ll tell you what, part­ner, as far as I’m con­cerned, there’s not an option that’s not on the table,” Grif­fin said.

    He also repeat­ed to the Dai­ly Beast that “the only good Demo­c­rat is a dead Demo­c­ra­t­ic,” and said he thinks some Democ­rats, includ­ing Vir­ginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Michi­gan Gov. Gretchen Whit­mer, could be guilty of trea­son and even sug­gest­ed they be pun­ished by exe­cu­tion for it.

    “You get to pick your poi­son: You either go before a fir­ing squad, or you get the end of the rope,” Grif­fin said.

    Grif­fin has a his­to­ry of call­ing for vio­lence and the exe­cu­tion of Democ­rats.

    Accord­ing to KRWG, he has repeat­ed­ly said Democ­rats should be hanged for “trea­son” and has said laws requir­ing masks could result in “civ­il war.”

    ...

    ————

    “Gab­by Gif­fords’ Group Con­demned Trump For Shar­ing A Video Say­ing “The Only Good Demo­c­rat Is A Dead Demo­c­rat”” by Julia Rein­stein; Buz­zFeed News; 05/28/2020

    ““I’ve come to a place where I’ve come to the con­clu­sion that the only good Demo­c­rat is a dead Demo­c­rat,” Grif­fin says in the record­ed speech, to cheers and applause.”

    Those were the words Grif­fin speaks ear­ly on in the video Trump decid­ed to retweet Thurs­day morn­ing. And while Grif­fin goes on to clar­i­fy that he was­n’t talk­ing about dead “in the phys­i­cal sense”, we have to keep in mind how this entire move­ment to stoke a civ­il con­flict is root­ed in code words and trolling. That’s how it’s done in plain sight. Just say you were jok­ing or did­n’t real­ly mean you want to kill peo­ple to dis­tract the pub­lic from all of the pre­vi­ous com­ments that are very explic­it about killing peo­ple while the tar­get audi­ence goes on to hear those explic­it mes­sages. That’s the tac­tic at work here and it was just mas­sive­ly ampli­fied by the pres­i­dent yes­ter­day:

    ...
    After the cheers die down, Grif­fin then adds that he does not mean that “in the phys­i­cal sense.”

    “I don’t say that in the phys­i­cal sense, and I can already see the videos get­ting edit­ed where it says I wan­na go mur­der Democ­rats,” Grif­fin says. “No, I say that in the polit­i­cal sense, because the Demo­c­ra­t­ic agen­da and pol­i­cy is anti-Amer­i­can right now.”

    ...

    But Grif­fin also said he would not rule out vio­lence as a tac­tic for the reopen­ing protests.

    “I’ll tell you what, part­ner, as far as I’m con­cerned, there’s not an option that’s not on the table,” Grif­fin said.

    He also repeat­ed to the Dai­ly Beast that “the only good Demo­c­rat is a dead Demo­c­ra­t­ic,” and said he thinks some Democ­rats, includ­ing Vir­ginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Michi­gan Gov. Gretchen Whit­mer, could be guilty of trea­son and even sug­gest­ed they be pun­ished by exe­cu­tion for it.

    “You get to pick your poi­son: You either go before a fir­ing squad, or you get the end of the rope,” Grif­fin said.
    ...

    And now here’s that KRWG arti­cle with more Couy Grif­f­en quotes, all from the past cou­ple of months. Quotes call­ing for local police to go to war with state pol­i­cy if COVID-lock­down orders are enforced. And quotes ask­ing for the local police to dep­u­tize Grif­fin and his fel­low mili­tia mem­bers to help wage that war:

    KRWG

    Com­men­tary: Com­mis­sion­er Couy Grif­fin Has A Long His­to­ry of Vio­lent Speech Against Democ­rats

    By DPNM • May 20, 2020

    Com­men­tary: Otero Coun­ty Com­mis­sion­er Couy Grif­fin on Sun­day claimed that “the only good Demo­c­rat is a dead Demo­c­rat” dur­ing an event in Truth or Con­se­quences. His com­ments have been wide­ly con­demned by elect­ed offi­cials, can­di­dates, and polit­i­cal groups, who have called on him to apol­o­gize and resign. GOP lead­ers, how­ev­er, have remained silent on the inci­dent.

    Com­mis­sion­er Grif­fin is resist­ing calls for his res­ig­na­tion, but this threat­en­ing lan­guage is the lat­est in a long his­to­ry of vio­lent polit­i­cal speech.

    ...

    BACKGROUND ON OTERO COUNTY COMMISSIONER COUY GRIFFIN’S HISTORY OF INCITING POLITICAL VIOLENCE:

    GRIFFIN HAS REPEATEDLY ENCOURAGED HANGING OR EXECUTION FOR “TRAITORS” SUCH AS DEMOCRATIC LEADERS AND POLITICIANS

    Grif­fin: “I Don’t Care If You Are A Gov­er­nor, You Can Still Swing At The End Of A Rope.” If there’s polit­i­cal lead­ers such as governors...y’all bet­ter start pay­ing real close atten­tion, because we’re mov­ing to you. And you bet­ter make sure that you haven’t been doing any­thing where you would be guilty of the charge of trea­son, because I don’t care if you are a gov­er­nor, you can still swing at the end of a rope.” 4/20/20

    Grif­fin Con­tin­ued To Call For The Death Penal­ty For “Trea­so­nous” Politi­cians Who Are Under­min­ing The Pres­i­dent. “If we have polit­i­cal lead­ers in our coun­try today... that are guilty of trea­son, which is to direct­ly under­mine the Unit­ed States of America...such things like the Mueller Report… all this fake stuff that was con­struct­ed to try to destroy our pres­i­dent and in turn bring our nation down in my opin­ion is trea­son in its truest form. Trea­son is pun­ish­able by death.” 4/20/20

    Grif­fin Said Democ­rats Are Guilty Of Trea­son, Which He Referred To As “A Hang­ing Offense.” “They’re gonna milk this coro­n­avirus deal as long as they pos­si­bly can...Maybe they’re doing it because some of them might be guilty of trea­son, and trea­sons a hang­ing offense. I don’t know why they’re doing it, but they’re doing it, and we can’t let them win. We’ve got­ta fight back; we’ve got­ta push back.” 4/26/20

    Grif­fin On Twit­ter: “There Will Come A Day When Pol­i­tics Won’t Be Able To Hide Trea­so­nous Acts. Hang Em High Mr. Pres­i­dent!” 5/10/20

    GRIFFIN HAS SPOKEN ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF CIVIL WAR AND THE NEED FOR POSSES AND MILITIAS IN ORDER TO ADDRESS POLITICAL CONFLICTS

    Grif­fin Called On NM Coun­ty Sher­iffs To “Hold The Line” Against Red Flag Laws And Vol­un­teered Him­self And Oth­ers For Any “Poss­es” That Were Nec­es­sary For Upcom­ing “Bat­tles.” “Draw the hard line, hold it, God bless you. And if you need any patri­ots all you got­ta to do is call and we’ll come run­ning. We’ll sign up for what­ev­er poss­es you want us to sign up for. We’ll stand in any bat­tles that you want to lead us into...We will stand with you. We will stand shoul­der to shoul­der with you through any bat­tle that you choose to lead us into.” 5/8/20

    Grif­fin Told State Police Offi­cers Gov­er­nor Lujan Grisham Not To “Start A War” By Enforc­ing Stay At Home Orders. “I ask you state police offi­cers — I hope you watch this video; I hope it’s shared with the gov­er­nor — don’t start a war. Don’t come out and think you’re gong to shut busi­ness­es down...because if you do, I’d be will­ing to bet the rent that Sher­iff Tony Mace and his deputies are going to make sure that doesn’t hap­pen.4/26/20

    Grif­fin Called For For­ma­tion Of “An Army” Through NM Fish And Game Email Lists. “If a man wants to put an army togeth­er, that’s where you would put it togeth­er at, through all of our hunters. Y’all are the guys that can pro­tect our bor­ders and get our Coun­try back. That’s why that email list is so crit­i­cal. That’s why it does­nt need to get in the hands of some glob­al­ist.” 3/28/20

    Grif­fin Called For A “Sheriff’s Posse” To Push Back Against New Mex­i­co State Police. “Don’t allow the state police to oper­ate inside of your coun­ty uncon­sti­tu­tion­al­ly. And if y’all don’t have enough deputies to get the job done, call on us, because there’s a lot of us ready. Form a sheriff’s posse. We’re ready. I’d rather push back now than lat­er.5/3/20

    GRIFFIN HAS USED THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC TO ENCOURAGE FURTHER POLITICAL VIOLENCE AND CONFLICT

    Grif­fin Claimed That Vio­lence And Loot­ing Was Com­ing As A Con­se­quence Of COVID-19. “As we see our nation sit at rest I believe that we could see a huge unrest in our nation soon. My biggest fear is riot­ing and loot­ing in our big cities. If it does, that could be much more of a threat than the coro­n­avirus.” 3/31/20

    Grif­fin Pro­mot­ed A Pos­si­ble Civ­il War Between Mask Wear­ers And Non-mask Wear­ers. “It might be a lead up to a civ­il war and if we do have a civ­il war over this, maybe that’s gonna be the uni­forms. Maybe one of the uni­forms will have masks on and the oth­er ones won’t.” 5/3/20

    Grif­fin Pro­mot­ed on Face­book a Poten­tial Civ­il War Between the NM State Police And Coun­ty Sher­iffs. “This “pan­dem­ic” could lead us to a civ­il war! We must stand behind our Coun­ty Sher­iffs and guard our Con­sti­tu­tion at any cost! The State Police and his admin­is­tra­tion are appoint­ed. Our Coun­ty Sher­iffs are elect­ed. Our Found­ing Fathers were bril­liant vision­ar­ies! They gave us a thresh­old to stand on. It is time to stand!” 4/30/20

    Grif­fin Said On Twit­ter That Con­flict Over Stay At Home Orders “Can End Peace­ful Or Stronger Stands Can Be Tak­en.” Please pray for our Coun­ty Sher­iffs. They are need­ed to stand strong in their oath to the Con­sti­tu­tion. This can end peace­ful or stronger stands can be tak­en. But Amer­i­ca can­not nor will not allow our Con­sti­tu­tion to be tak­en from us. And our Sher­iffs are still “LawOfThe­Land” 4/30/20

    ———-

    “Com­men­tary: Com­mis­sion­er Couy Grif­fin Has A Long His­to­ry of Vio­lent Speech Against Democ­rats” by DPNM; KRWG; 05/20/2020

    Grif­fin Called On NM Coun­ty Sher­iffs To “Hold The Line” Against Red Flag Laws And Vol­un­teered Him­self And Oth­ers For Any “Poss­es” That Were Nec­es­sary For Upcom­ing “Bat­tles.” “Draw the hard line, hold it, God bless you. And if you need any patri­ots all you got­ta to do is call and we’ll come run­ning. We’ll sign up for what­ev­er poss­es you want us to sign up for. We’ll stand in any bat­tles that you want to lead us into...We will stand with you. We will stand shoul­der to shoul­der with you through any bat­tle that you choose to lead us into.” 5/8/20

    Vol­un­teer­ing him­self and oth­ers to form a poss­es to help fight upcom­ing “bat­tles”. Bat­tles appar­ent­ly with New Mex­i­co state police try­ing to enforce COVID lock­down orders. That’s what Couy Grif­f­en has been call­ing for, which is clas­sic sov­er­eign cit­i­zen ide­ol­o­gy:

    ...
    Grif­fin Told State Police Offi­cers Gov­er­nor Lujan Grisham Not To “Start A War” By Enforc­ing Stay At Home Orders. “I ask you state police offi­cers — I hope you watch this video; I hope it’s shared with the gov­er­nor — don’t start a war. Don’t come out and think you’re gong to shut busi­ness­es down...because if you do, I’d be will­ing to bet the rent that Sher­iff Tony Mace and his deputies are going to make sure that doesn’t hap­pen.4/26/20

    Grif­fin Called For For­ma­tion Of “An Army” Through NM Fish And Game Email Lists. “If a man wants to put an army togeth­er, that’s where you would put it togeth­er at, through all of our hunters. Y’all are the guys that can pro­tect our bor­ders and get our Coun­try back. That’s why that email list is so crit­i­cal. That’s why it does­nt need to get in the hands of some glob­al­ist.” 3/28/20

    Grif­fin Called For A “Sheriff’s Posse” To Push Back Against New Mex­i­co State Police. “Don’t allow the state police to oper­ate inside of your coun­ty uncon­sti­tu­tion­al­ly. And if y’all don’t have enough deputies to get the job done, call on us, because there’s a lot of us ready. Form a sheriff’s posse. We’re ready. I’d rather push back now than lat­er.5/3/20

    ...

    Grif­fin Pro­mot­ed on Face­book a Poten­tial Civ­il War Between the NM State Police And Coun­ty Sher­iffs. “This “pan­dem­ic” could lead us to a civ­il war! We must stand behind our Coun­ty Sher­iffs and guard our Con­sti­tu­tion at any cost! The State Police and his admin­is­tra­tion are appoint­ed. Our Coun­ty Sher­iffs are elect­ed. Our Found­ing Fathers were bril­liant vision­ar­ies! They gave us a thresh­old to stand on. It is time to stand!” 4/30/20
    ...

    As we can see, on the same day Trump threat­ened to send in the Nation­al Guard to shoot pro­tes­tors, he was retweet­ing and ampli­fy­ing a sov­er­eign cit­i­zen call for war between state and local author­i­ties and a broad­er call for civ­il war. And this is all hap­pen­ing as the Trump-aligned ‘booga­loo’ move­ment infil­trates these protests over police vio­lence with the inten­tion of stok­ing vio­lence and, sure enough, those protests explode. And that gives us a gen­er­al idea of Trumps 2020 reelec­tion strat­e­gy: Hel­ter Skel­ter. Because the accel­er­a­tionist neo-Nazis clear­ly aren’t the only ones tak­ing a page from Charles Man­son in 2020.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 29, 2020, 1:49 pm
  3. Well this is odd, although not real­ly unex­pect­ed sto­ry that poten­tial­ly relates to the reports of far right ‘booga­loo’ fig­ures infil­trat­ing the protests over the death of George Floyd: There are videos and reports of a Min­neapo­lis pro­tes­tor dress in all black wear­ing a pink gas mask and hold­ing an umbrel­la who was con­spic­u­ous­ly walk­ing around with a ham­mer and smash­ing the win­dows of Auto­zone store. It does­n’t appear to have been rain­ing at the time. This was sev­er­al hours before that Auto­zone build­ing went up in flames lat­er Wednes­day evening, which was the first build­ing to burn down dur­ing the protests of George Floy­d’s killing by a Min­neapo­lis police offi­cer.

    The iden­ti­ty of the man is unclear although there’s already sus­pi­cions that he’s a Min­neapo­lis police offi­cer. While there are claims that the offi­cer’s ex-wife has come out to say she believes the man in the videos is her ex-hus­band the police depart­ment has for­mal­ly denied its one of their offi­cers. Part of what added to the sus­pi­cion that the man was a police offi­cer is that idea that hold­ing an umbrel­la is a tac­tic to allow police heli­copters to iden­ti­fy under­cov­er offi­cers in the crowd. But as the fol­low­ing arti­cle notes, umbrel­las were also found to be use­ful in the face of tear gas and used wide­ly by pro­tes­tors in Hong Kong.

    Adding to the mys­tery is peo­ple point­ing out the odd “umbrel­la man” chap­ter of the JFK assas­si­na­tion, where a man unfurled an umbrel­la right at the moment and spot where JFK was shot in Dal­las and lat­er claimed it was part of a sym­bol­ic protest of the Kennedy fam­i­ly’s sup­port of Neville Cham­ber­lain’s appease­ment of Adolf Hitler. So there’s quite a range of pos­si­ble rea­sons some­one might have an umbrel­la at protest appar­ent­ly, from tac­ti­cal pur­pos­es to JFK assas­si­na­tion sym­bol­ism.

    But as the fol­low­ing Insid­er arti­cle points out, there’s anoth­er part of this that has almost like a play-act­ing the­atri­cal dimen­sion: In the videos where the man is casu­al­ly smash­ing the Auto­zone win­dows, a man in a pink shirt comes up to seem­ing­ly con­front the man before a sec­ond pro­tes­tor also comes up to con­front him. At point point they appear to be exchang­ing taunts with each oth­er, with the man in the pink shirt fol­low­ing the umbrel­la man after a crowd of pro­tes­tors starts fol­low­ing him. The umbrel­la man tells the man in the pink shirt some­thing like, “If you keep fol­low­ing me I’ll fight you right now”, and the guy in the pink shirt says, “you wan­na go? What’s up?”. But that man in the pink shirt is also pre­vi­ous­ly filmed walk­ing right along­side the umbrel­la man ear­li­er on in the protests so it seems like they’re togeth­er the whole time. That’s what gives their lat­er con­fronta­tion almost a the­atri­cal feel. At the same time, the man in the pink shirt isn’t was­n’t hid­ing his face at all and spoke on video to pro­tes­tors about the need for sus­tained reform efforts that go beyond imme­di­ate protests. So while it’s unclear if we’ll ever learn the iden­ti­ty of the umbrel­la man, we’ll prob­a­bly learn the iden­ti­ty of the guy in the pink shirt at some point. That should be inter­est­ing:

    Insid­er

    Rumors are swirling over footage show­ing a shad­owy fig­ure dubbed ‘umbrel­la man’ break­ing win­dows dur­ing the Min­neapo­lis protests

    Isaac Sch­er
    May 29, 2020, 12:08 PM

    * A viral video of a man break­ing win­dows in Min­neapo­lis, Min­neso­ta, has stirred up a fren­zy online.
    * The “umbrel­la man” took a ham­mer to sev­er­al Auto Zone win­dows on Wednes­day, hours before the store went up in flames.
    * Some users spec­u­late he is an “agent provo­ca­teur,” or under­cov­er police offi­cer.
    * “The per­son in the video is not our offi­cer,” the St. Paul Police Depart­ment said in a social media state­ment.

    The man was wear­ing a gas mask. In one hand he held an umbrel­la, black like his cloth­ing. In the oth­er, a ham­mer.

    The man took the ham­mer to sev­er­al win­dows of an Auto­Zone store in Min­neapo­lis, Min­neso­ta, on Wednes­day, video footage shows. That was before the store was set on fire, and before flames engulfed much of the city dur­ing demon­stra­tions protest­ing the police killing of George Floyd.

    The footage went viral, and now the man is the sub­ject of scruti­ny on social media. Some peo­ple spec­u­late that he was not a pro­test­er, but a police offi­cer from neigh­bor­ing St. Paul.

    The St. Paul Police Depart­ment reject­ed the spec­u­la­tion: “The per­son in the video is not our offi­cer.” The Min­neapo­lis Police Depart­ment did not imme­di­ate­ly respond to a request for com­ment.

    The man was seen break­ing four win­dows before a pro­test­er, wear­ing a pink T‑shirt, inter­vened, step­ping between the man and the store­front. He broke anoth­er win­dow as a sec­ond per­son inter­vened.

    “Those cops will come for you if you’re pulling that crap,” Brad Sven­son, a Min­neapo­lis man who caught the inci­dent on video, said while record­ing. “That’s garbage, pulling that s—.”

    Anoth­er video on social media shows the pink T‑shirted man chas­ing the man away. “Guy just came with a ham­mer and smashed the win­dows,” said the woman who record­ed the scene.

    “Are you a f—ing cop?” some­one can be heard ask­ing the man.

    —mol­ly (@molllygurl) May 28, 2020

    But in anoth­er video, filmed the same day, the two men appear to be walk­ing and talk­ing togeth­er.

    —Thomas C. Lang (@ThomasCLang1) May 29, 2020

    The inci­dent has whipped up a social media fren­zy. Some users called the man an “agent provo­ca­teur.”

    Oth­ers claimed — with­out evi­dence — that the man’s umbrel­la is “a known tac­tic to let police heli­copters ID cops under­cov­er.” (That notion seems unlike­ly, giv­en that the umbrel­la would also iden­ti­fy a per­son just as eas­i­ly to pro­tes­tors.)

    Also, amid social unrest, umbrel­las are com­mon­ly used to ward off tear gas — notably in Hong Kong, dur­ing the 2014 “Umbrel­la Move­ment” and dur­ing protests over the past year.

    ...

    ———–

    “Rumors are swirling over footage show­ing a shad­owy fig­ure dubbed ‘umbrel­la man’ break­ing win­dows dur­ing the Min­neapo­lis protests” by Isaac Sch­er; Insid­er; 05/29/2020

    The man took the ham­mer to sev­er­al win­dows of an Auto­Zone store in Min­neapo­lis, Min­neso­ta, on Wednes­day, video footage shows. That was before the store was set on fire, and before flames engulfed much of the city dur­ing demon­stra­tions protest­ing the police killing of George Floyd

    It’s pret­ty unam­bigu­ous from the videos: no one at the protest appeared to rec­og­nize the umbrel­la man and sus­pi­cious about him were imme­di­ate. Except for one pro­tes­tor who did seem to have some sort of con­nec­tion to him: the man in the pink shirt who was filmed ear­li­er in the day walk­ing and talk­ing with him. And it’s the man in the pink shirt who is the first to con­front the umbrel­la man after pro­tes­tors turn on him for break­ing the Auto­zone win­dows. It’s all quite odd:

    ...
    Anoth­er video on social media shows the pink T‑shirted man chas­ing the man away. “Guy just came with a ham­mer and smashed the win­dows,” said the woman who record­ed the scene.

    “Are you a f—ing cop?” some­one can be heard ask­ing the man.

    —mol­ly (@molllygurl) May 28, 2020

    But in anoth­er video, filmed the same day, the two men appear to be walk­ing and talk­ing togeth­er.

    —Thomas C. Lang (@ThomasCLang1) May 29, 2020
    ...

    And now here’s a Forbes piece that men­tions the ‘Umbrel­la Man’ sym­bol­ism in rela­tion to the JFK assas­si­na­tion:

    Forbes

    Who Is ‘Umbrel­la Man’? Mys­tery Van­dal At Min­neapo­lis Riot Spurs Con­spir­a­cies

    Car­lie Porter­field Forbes Staff
    Busi­ness
    May 30, 2020,02:45pm EDT
    Updat­ed May 30, 2020, 04:54pm EDT

    KEY FACTS
    * The man first drew atten­tion Wednes­day, when he was filmed break­ing the win­dows of an Auto­Zone near the Min­neapo­lis Third Precinct as pro­test­ers appeared to look on in con­fu­sion before inter­ven­ing and ask­ing him if he was a police offi­cer.

    * The white man—decked out in an all-black out­fit, includ­ing a gas mask and hood­ie, and a black umbrella—stood out from pro­test­ers on the scene.

    * Even Min­neso­ta Attor­ney Gen­er­al Kei­th Elli­son post­ed the video and asked if any of his fol­low­ers could iden­ti­fy the man, adding he “doesn’t look like any civ­il rights [pro­test­er] I have ever seen.”

    * Rumors soon began to swirl that the man was actu­al­ly a police offi­cer from a neigh­bor­ing com­mu­ni­ty sent in as an “agent provo­ca­teur,” or even a mem­ber of the white suprema­cist move­ment look­ing to spark wide­spread vio­lence.

    * The police depart­ments in Saint Paul and Eagan, both com­mu­ni­ties near Min­neapo­lis, have put out state­ments deny­ing that one of their offi­cers was the per­son caught on video break­ing win­dows in Min­neapo­lis.

    * The spec­u­la­tion into Umbrel­la Man’s iden­ti­ty comes as Min­neapo­lis offi­cials sug­gest that grow­ing num­bers of people—including pos­si­ble white supremacists—on the streets show­ing destruc­tive behav­ior are not mem­bers of the com­mu­ni­ty and are com­ing to the city from out of state.

    This man doesn’t look like any civ­il rights pro­tes­tor I have ever seen. Looks like a provo­ca­teur. Can any­one ID him? “Sus­pi­cious Man Breaks Win­dow & Starts Min­neapo­lis Riots” — YouTube https://t.co/e1lNAabWcb— Kei­th Elli­son (@keithellison) May 28, 2020

    KEY BACKGROUND

    Min­neapo­lis offi­cials sug­gest that an increas­ing num­ber of peo­ple rioting—perhaps as many as 80%—are com­ing from out­side the city in what Min­neso­ta Gov. Tim Walz said was “an orga­nized attempt to desta­bi­lize civ­il soci­ety.” Walz has sug­gest­ed that white suprema­cists and drug car­tels were pos­si­bly involved in the chaos. Accord­ing to The Star Tri­bune, about 40 peo­ple were arrest­ed over Fri­day night, and that Hen­nepin Coun­ty jail records showed detainees hailed from states like Flori­da, Michi­gan, Mis­souri, Illi­nois and Alas­ka on charges like destroy­ing prop­er­ty, break­ing cur­few and bur­glary. On Sat­ur­day morn­ing, Saint Paul May­or Melvin Carter said he was told that every per­son arrest­ed in the city over Fri­day night was from out of state.

    TANGENT

    This isn’t the first time the mys­te­ri­ous iden­ti­ty of an Umbrel­la Man has whipped up spec­u­la­tion. In the wake of Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy’s 1963 assas­si­na­tion in Dal­las, a man seen hold­ing an umbrel­la as he stood near Dealey Plaza became the sub­ject of con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries. Some spec­u­lat­ed he act­ed as a look­out and that his umbrel­la was a sig­nal to start shoot­ing, or that it con­tained some kind of weapon. But in 1978, the Umbrel­la Man came for­ward as Dal­las res­i­dent Louie Steven Witt, who tes­ti­fied he brought the umbrel­la to protest what he said was Nazi appease­ment on the part of the Kennedy fam­i­ly pri­or to World War II. Kennedy’s father and fam­i­ly patri­arch Joseph P Kennedy aligned him­self with British Prime Min­is­ter Neville Cham­ber­lain, who was known for car­ry­ing an umbrel­la. Umbrel­las were used as a sym­bol of crit­i­cism against Cham­ber­lain in the 1930’s for his appease­ment pol­i­cy toward Adolf Hitler.

    ————-

    “Who Is ‘Umbrel­la Man’? Mys­tery Van­dal At Min­neapo­lis Riot Spurs Con­spir­a­cies” by Car­lie Porter­field; Forbes; 05/30/2020

    “This isn’t the first time the mys­te­ri­ous iden­ti­ty of an Umbrel­la Man has whipped up spec­u­la­tion. In the wake of Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy’s 1963 assas­si­na­tion in Dal­las, a man seen hold­ing an umbrel­la as he stood near Dealey Plaza became the sub­ject of con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries. Some spec­u­lat­ed he act­ed as a look­out and that his umbrel­la was a sig­nal to start shoot­ing, or that it con­tained some kind of weapon. But in 1978, the Umbrel­la Man came for­ward as Dal­las res­i­dent Louie Steven Witt, who tes­ti­fied he brought the umbrel­la to protest what he said was Nazi appease­ment on the part of the Kennedy fam­i­ly pri­or to World War II. Kennedy’s father and fam­i­ly patri­arch Joseph P Kennedy aligned him­self with British Prime Min­is­ter Neville Cham­ber­lain, who was known for car­ry­ing an umbrel­la. Umbrel­las were used as a sym­bol of crit­i­cism against Cham­ber­lain in the 1930’s for his appease­ment pol­i­cy toward Adolf Hitler.”

    As we can see, umbrel­las are high­ly use­ful props if send­ing high­ly con­fus­ing and con­tra­dic­to­ry sym­bol­ic mes­sag­ing is one of your protest goals. Maybe you have that umbrel­la to ward off the tear gas. Maybe it’s to noti­fy the pol­i­cy not to attack you. Or per­haps there’s some sort of con­fus­ing JFK-assas­si­na­tion-relat­ed sym­bol­ism at work. It’s worth keep­ing in mind that deploy­ing sym­bol­ism with high­ly con­tra­dic­to­ry inter­pre­ta­tions is a core aspect of the clas­sic trolling tac­tics that are now ubiq­ui­tous on the far right and at the core of Trumpian pol­i­tics and the main­stream­ing of far right memes and ideas.

    At the same time, when we hear Attor­ney Gen­er­al Kei­th Elli­son say:

    This man doesn’t look like any civ­il rights pro­tes­tor I have ever seen. Looks like a provo­ca­teur. Can any­one ID him? “Sus­pi­cious Man Breaks Win­dow & Starts Min­neapo­lis Riots” — YouTube https://t.co/e1lNAabWcb— Kei­th Elli­son (@keithellison) May 28, 2020

    We have to acknowl­edge that the umbrel­la man real­ly does look a lot a very typ­i­cal pro­tes­tor we’ve seen over and over at civ­il rights protests for decades now: He’s dressed exact­ly like Black Bloc anar­chists who rou­tine­ly show up at vir­tu­al­ly any left-lean­ing protest pre­cise­ly in order to break stuff, start fires, and spark vio­lence. And Black Bloc is, of course, one of those move­ments that’s absolute­ly per­fect for infil­tra­tors of all stripes. It’s a reminder of how wild­ly unhelp­ful the Black Bloc anar­chists are: if you want to dress up like a bad actor to just dress up like a Black Bloc anar­chist because if there’s a protest in the Unit­ed States you can be sure Black Bloc will show up even­tu­al­ly with their sig­na­ture black out­fits and masks. And that’s not even count­ing the very real far right influ­ences in the black com­mu­ni­ty via groups like the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood or the Nation of Islam, although in the case of the white ‘umbrel­la man’ he seems like an unlike­ly affil­i­ate with those groups. The point is that deal­ing with bad actors ped­dling awful coun­ter­pro­duc­tive advice has been one of the pri­ma­ry chal­lenges of the left in the US for a long time now and that leaves us with quite a long sus­pect list for the ori­gins of ‘umbrel­la man’.

    And that rais­es the ques­tion regard­ing the asser­tion by Min­neso­ta gov­er­nor Tim Walz that 80 per­cent of the peo­ple arrest­ed for prop­er­ty dam­age came from out of state: so how many of them were Black Bloc? How about far right ‘booga­loo’ move­ment mem­bers? Are author­i­ties going to be able to deter­mine the affil­i­a­tions of the arrestees and will that infor­ma­tion even­tu­al­ly be released? We’ll see, but with the Nation­al Guard now being called in to there could be a lot more arrests com­ing up so it’s going to be inter­est­ing to see if we even­tu­al­ly get to learn about the ide­o­log­i­cal make­up of those arrest­ed for arson and oth­er sig­nif­i­cant crimes of that nature:

    Star Tri­bune

    Gov. Tim Walz: We’re ‘under assault’ from out­side agi­ta­tors
    The gov­er­nor cites the pres­ence out­side agi­ta­tors “to desta­bi­lize civ­il soci­ety.”

    By Patrick Con­don
    MAY 30, 2020 — 4:13PM

    Shak­en by anoth­er night of chaos that over­whelmed law enforce­ment, Gov. Tim Walz said Sat­ur­day he will ful­ly mobi­lize the Nation­al Guard to com­bat what he called a “tight­ly con­trolled” group of out­side agi­ta­tors, some of them from out of state, who have turned city streets into scenes of loot­ing and arson.

    The strug­gle to con­trol the may­hem could bring anoth­er 1,000 Nation­al Guard sol­diers into the cities, sup­ple­ment­ing a force of 700, already the largest civ­il polic­ing author­i­ty in the state’s his­to­ry. Law enforce­ment offi­cials said it would be the first full mobi­liza­tion of the Guard in Min­neso­ta since World War II.

    “Our cities of Min­neapo­lis and St. Paul are under assault,” Walz said, sug­gest­ing that a grow­ing num­ber of riot­ers are com­ing from out­side the city, and pos­si­bly out­side the state, in what he called “an orga­nized attempt to desta­bi­lize civ­il soci­ety.”

    Walz said as many as 80% of the peo­ple caus­ing destruc­tion and fire in the cities could be from else­where. He dis­tin­guished the wan­ton loot­ing and van­dal­ism from the legit­i­mate and most­ly peace­ful protests that began Tues­day, the day after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died at the hands of Min­neapo­lis police.

    It was not clear if the out­side groups sus­pect­ed to be play­ing a part in the may­hem are made up of white suprema­cist agi­ta­tors, left wing anar­chists, or both.

    At a news con­fer­ence just after noon Sat­ur­day, Min­neso­ta elect­ed offi­cials and faith lead­ers urged peo­ple to abide by the cur­few. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D‑Minn., asked peo­ple to stay home tonight instead of tak­ing to the streets: “We can­not move for­ward when peo­ple are burn­ing down our city, burn­ing down our state. That’s what we are unit­ed behind here today.”

    Emil­ia Gon­za­lez Ava­l­os, exec­u­tive direc­tor of Nav­i­gate MN, said the peo­ple from the out­side who burned down more build­ings around Lake Street last night came to “cause more harm and pain in places where there’s already harm and pain.”

    Said U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, D‑Minn.: “I stand here with anger at the evil that is destroy­ing, burn­ing and des­e­crat­ing the com­mu­ni­ty we love so much.”

    Author­i­ties said they made about 40 arrests overnight in Min­neapo­lis and St. Paul, most­ly for bur­glary, cur­few vio­la­tions and destruc­tion of prop­er­ty. Hen­nepin Coun­ty jail logs showed detainees from Flori­da, Michi­gan, Mis­souri, Illi­nois and Alas­ka.

    Walz said that while the agi­ta­tors have got­ten the atten­tion they want, he vowed that by Sat­ur­day night “they are going to get an over­whelm­ing force of safe­ty, secu­ri­ty and peace.”

    Walz ordered anoth­er tem­po­rary cur­few start­ing at 8 p.m. Sat­ur­day and said peace­ful pro­test­ers and oth­ers who remained out­side after that would be “aid­ing and abet­ting” van­dals who use the crowds as cov­er.

    Walz’s announce­ment came after a third night of vio­lent protests and loot­ing, despite an overnight cur­few fol­low­ing the arrest of Min­neapo­lis police offi­cer Derek Chau­vin, who faces mur­der charges in Floyd’s death, cap­tured on video beamed around the world.

    The vio­lence spread rapid­ly until just before mid­night and into ear­ly Sat­ur­day, when hun­dreds of police offi­cers, state troop­ers and armed Nation­al Guard troops fanned out into areas of van­dal­ism and arson, con­fronting riot­ers with tear gas and orders to dis­perse.

    The con­tin­u­ing hav­oc, which has spread to cities across Amer­i­ca, has prompt­ed rounds of recrim­i­na­tion and fin­ger-point­ing among state and local lead­ers about the law enforce­ment response, which in many parts of Min­neapo­lis had seemed all but unde­tectable ear­li­er Fri­day night.

    Walz sought to calm the pro­test­ers ear­li­er in a 1:30 a.m. news con­fer­ence with Min­neapo­lis May­or Jacob Frey, both mak­ing emo­tion­al appeals to end the vio­lence.

    “The absolute chaos — this is not griev­ing, and this is not mak­ing a state­ment [about an injus­tice] that we ful­ly acknowl­edge needs to be fixed — this is dan­ger­ous,” Walz said. “You need to go home.”

    Walz said he had talked to Floyd’s fam­i­ly and that they agreed what was hap­pen­ing in Min­neapo­lis was hor­rif­ic and coun­ter­pro­duc­tive.

    The DFL gov­er­nor has come under fire from Repub­li­cans in the Leg­is­la­ture call­ing for a more robust response. “They need to show the force, not have every­thing hid­den behind the scenes,” said Sen­ate Minor­i­ty Leader Paul Gazel­ka, R‑East Gull Lake. “I’m glad that they called the cur­few, but when peo­ple vio­late the cur­few you have to arrest them.”

    Walz and the may­ors of Min­neapo­lis and St. Paul acknowl­edged that police, state patrol and Nation­al Guard sol­diers were over­whelmed the past two nights by the extent of the riot­ing and van­dal­ism, which State Pub­lic Safe­ty Com­mis­sion­er John Har­ring­ton esti­mat­ed to involve “tens of thou­sands” of peo­ple.

    Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen, adju­tant gen­er­al of the Min­neso­ta Nation­al Guard, said that despite the largest show of force in state his­to­ry Fri­day night, “it was not enough.” He said the governor’s full deploy­ment order would mean “the Min­neso­ta Nation­al Guard is all in.”

    Walz said he also has been in touch with mil­i­tary author­i­ties in Wash­ing­ton to dis­cuss logis­ti­cal and intel­li­gence sup­port as author­i­ties work to regain con­trol of the streets in Min­neapo­lis and St. Paul.

    ...

    ———–

    “Gov. Tim Walz: We’re ‘under assault’ from out­side agi­ta­tors” by Patrick Con­don; Star Tri­bune; 05/30/2020

    “The strug­gle to con­trol the may­hem could bring anoth­er 1,000 Nation­al Guard sol­diers into the cities, sup­ple­ment­ing a force of 700, already the largest civ­il polic­ing author­i­ty in the state’s his­to­ry. Law enforce­ment offi­cials said it would be the first full mobi­liza­tion of the Guard in Min­neso­ta since World War II.

    The first full mobi­liza­tion of the Guard in Min­neso­ta since World War II. That’s what is now under­way. And accord­ing to Gov­er­nor Walz, as many as 80% of the peo­ple caus­ing destruc­tion and fire in the cities could be from else­where:

    ...
    “Our cities of Min­neapo­lis and St. Paul are under assault,” Walz said, sug­gest­ing that a grow­ing num­ber of riot­ers are com­ing from out­side the city, and pos­si­bly out­side the state, in what he called “an orga­nized attempt to desta­bi­lize civ­il soci­ety.”

    Walz said as many as 80% of the peo­ple caus­ing destruc­tion and fire in the cities could be from else­where. He dis­tin­guished the wan­ton loot­ing and van­dal­ism from the legit­i­mate and most­ly peace­ful protests that began Tues­day, the day after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died at the hands of Min­neapo­lis police.

    It was not clear if the out­side groups sus­pect­ed to be play­ing a part in the may­hem are made up of white suprema­cist agi­ta­tors, left wing anar­chists, or both.

    ...

    Author­i­ties said they made about 40 arrests overnight in Min­neapo­lis and St. Paul, most­ly for bur­glary, cur­few vio­la­tions and destruc­tion of prop­er­ty. Hen­nepin Coun­ty jail logs showed detainees from Flori­da, Michi­gan, Mis­souri, Illi­nois and Alas­ka.
    ...

    “It was not clear if the out­side groups sus­pect­ed to be play­ing a part in the may­hem are made up of white suprema­cist agi­ta­tors, left wing anar­chists, or both.”

    Don’t for­get: a big part of what makes the left wing anar­chists so trou­ble­some is half of them are prob­a­bly under­cov­er agents or far right infil­tra­tors. That’s just the nature of these groups. Plus, being gen­uine anar­chists just makes them unhelp­ful in gen­er­al whether they’re left wing or right wing anar­chists. It’s one of those schools of pol­i­tics that’s just not ground­ed in real­i­ty whether it’s well-inten­tioned or not.

    And that points towards one of the major chal­lenges this round of protest move­ments are clear­ly going to have going for­ward: stay­ing ground­ed in the real­i­ty of the orig­i­nal pur­pose of the protests. What start­ed off as a high­ly sym­pa­thet­ic protest over a man being unam­bigu­ous­ly and casu­al­ly mur­dered on the streets by police is in the process of being suc­cess­ful­ly rede­fined as a cri­sis over chaot­ic destruc­tion and arson. A repeat­ing cycle of protest root­ed in rage and des­per­a­tion, inci­dents of vio­lence and destruc­tion fol­lowed by a police response(often over-response), more rage and des­per­a­tion, and now the Nation­al Guard is being called him. And there are so many pos­si­ble bad actors influ­enc­ing or try­ing to speak for these protests we have no idea who is actu­al­ly doing what. It’s a big reminder that the bad actors oper­at­ing in bad faith — whether they are fake pro­tes­tors, mis­guid­ed anar­chists, ‘boola­gloo’ neo-Nazis, or the kind of bad cops who mur­der cit­i­zens in cold blood — are one group we all should be protest­ing against.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 30, 2020, 4:02 pm
  4. @Pterrafractyl–

    Again, great work!

    In my fifth decade on the air, one gets a bit of a sixth sense about such things.

    In addi­tion to the grow­ing con­vic­tion that we are see­ing a man­i­fes­ta­tion of “Ass­holes for Trump,” I have a lit­tle bird whis­per­ing in my ear that some of these out-of-state ele­ments may have done some train­ing with Azov or some sim­i­lar ele­ments.

    In any event, this will cer­tain­ly ben­e­fit Trump and the far right.

    I close with the reminder that, before the trou­ble began, Al Sharp­ton (FBI and CIA links) and Jive Jesse (Jack­son), whose piv­otal role in mur­der­ing Mar­tin Luther King is high­light­ed in both FTR #46 and FTR #1005, decamped for Min­neapo­lis.

    http://spitfirelist.com/for-the-record/ftr-46-orders-to-kill/

    http://spitfirelist.com/for-the-record/ftr-1005-what-the-hell-does-dave-emory-mean-by-the-so-called-progressive-sector/

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | May 30, 2020, 8:07 pm
  5. @Everybody–

    The footage of the Floyd arrest/death speaks for itself.

    What may be more dif­fi­cult for peo­ple to grasp is why I have termed the Covid-19 “op” a “bio-psy-op apoc­a­lypse.”

    What you are see­ing is why.

    Get peo­ple ter­ri­fied for their eco­nom­ic future (jus­ti­fi­ably), ter­ri­fied of some­thing they can’t see but that can kill them (a virus), social­ly iso­late them from nec­es­sary human con­tact (includ­ing sex­u­al inter­ac­tion), then infu­ri­ate them and–watch the fire­works!

    Sad­ly, peo­ple don’t seem to be able to learn from the past. It does­n’t sur­prise me that there are report­ed white suprema­cists, along with agents prova­ca­teurs and the usu­al cast of Black Bloc morons, along with infu­ri­at­ed black folks.

    One can only won­der if the riot­ers can grasp that this is going to ben­e­fit Trump?

    It is a sure bet that the Booga­loo neo-Nazis et al do.

    THAT is why they are doing what they are doing.

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | May 31, 2020, 7:20 pm
  6. @Dave-

    Yes the zom­bie apoc­a­lypse stag­gers on with those who sim­ply do not die. Jack­son, who moved MLK to the upstairs bal­cony room at the Lor­raine
    Motel to be assas­si­nat­ed, and FBI infor­mant Sharp­ton whose doomed 2004 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign was fund­ed by Nixon acolyte (and Trump advi­sor)
    Roger Stone still walk the earth.

    But oth­er old hands have sud­den­ly been maneu­vered into place as well.

    Kei­th Elli­son, AG of Min­neso­ta, has just been appoint­ed by the gov­er­nor to lead the pros­e­cu­tion in George Floy­d’s mur­der. Elli­son used to belong to
    the Nation of Islam and was an orga­niz­er for the vile racist and anti-semi­te Louis Far­rakhan’s 1995 Mil­lion Man March. Far­rakhan has long been viewed
    as a per­son of inter­est in the assas­si­na­tion of Mal­colm X yet Elli­son once described Far­rakhan as a role mod­el for black youth.

    And War­ren Com­mis­sion defend­er Michael Baden per­formed a sec­ond autop­sy at the request of the Floyd fam­i­ly attor­ney con­clud­ing that Floyd died
    of homi­cide by asphyx­ia. This con­clu­sion con­tra­dicts the Min­neapo­lis med­ical exam­in­er’s report which found no trau­mat­ic asphyx­ia or stran­gu­la­tion.
    Defence coun­sel for any police offi­cers charged will nat­u­ral­ly exploit these two con­tra­dic­to­ry reports at tri­al. Are Elli­son and Baden capa­ble of bring­ing
    jus­tice for Floyd or will they fum­ble this police mur­der bad­ly lead­ing to more despair and dis­gust with Amer­i­ca’s bro­ken legal sys­tem?

    Time will tell but I’m not hope­ful and if they blow it that will just mean more vio­lence and more oppres­sion.

    The Kennedys, KIng, Mal­colm are long gone but zom­bies like Jack­son, Sharp­ton, Far­rakhan, Stone, Elli­son and Baden stag­ger on.

    Posted by Dennis | June 1, 2020, 6:26 pm
  7. I omit­ted anoth­er impor­tant detail in Min­neso­ta AG Kei­th Ellison’s resume. He’s been a Bernie Sanders sup­port­er. Sanders endorsed Elli­son to become
    DNC chair over the even­tu­al win­ner Tom Perez. And from his posi­tion as AG Elli­son in turn sup­port­ed Sanders’ bid for the pres­i­den­cy. So he appears
    to have moved from a Mus­lim African-Amer­i­can social polit­i­cal focus, when he used the name Kei­th Elli­son-Muhammed, over to the so-called
    pro­gres­sive wing of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty and now back to state pol­i­tics as the top law­man in Min­neso­ta. He gets around and seems to eas­i­ly shift
    iden­ti­ty and pur­pose, almost as though he has some unseen spon­sors man­ag­ing his career.

    Posted by Dennis | June 1, 2020, 9:00 pm
  8. Posted by Dave Emory | June 1, 2020, 9:31 pm
  9. Here’s a few arti­cles that high­light one of the aspects of the glob­al finan­cial mar­ket tur­moil that could end up being a big­ger and big­ger deal as the pan­dem­ic con­tin­ues to cre­ate unprece­dent­ed mar­ket extremes like the neg­a­tive spot price of oil hit back in April: the mas­sive sov­er­eign wealth funds of the world using these mar­ket plunges to go on equi­ty buy­ing sprees.

    First, here’s a Bloomberg arti­cle from the end of May talk­ing about an unusu­al move by the Sau­di cen­tral bank dur­ing March and April: an over­all injec­tion of $40 bil­lion from the cen­tral bank into the coun­try’s Pub­lic Invest­ment Fund (PIF) sov­er­eign wealth fund so it could cap­i­tal­ize on the his­toric mar­ket drops to buy stock in com­pa­nies like BP, Boe­ing, Cit­i­group and Face­book:

    Bloomberg

    Sau­di Ara­bia Moved $40 Bil­lion in Reserves to Sov­er­eign Fund

    * Move sup­port­ed stock buy­ing spree by Pub­lic Invest­ment Fund
    * Trans­fer came as king­dom faced fis­cal pres­sure from oil crash

    By Vivian Nereim
    05/29/2020 Updat­ed

    Sau­di Ara­bia trans­ferred 150 bil­lion riyals ($40 bil­lion) from its cen­tral bank to its sov­er­eign wealth fund as it went on an invest­ment spree seek­ing to take advan­tage of recent mar­ket tur­moil.

    The trans­fers from the kingdom’s for­eign-cur­ren­cy reserves to its Pub­lic Invest­ment Fund were made in March and April on an “excep­tion­al” basis, and will “strength­en the invest­ment capac­i­ty of the fund,” Finance Min­is­ter Mohammed Al-Jadaan said in a state­ment pub­lished by the offi­cial Sau­di Press Agency on Fri­day.

    The move comes as the world’s largest crude exporter faces excep­tion­al fis­cal pres­sure from a crash in glob­al oil mar­kets. Al-Jadaan said the cen­tral bank trans­fer con­tributed to a his­toric drop in Sau­di Arabia’s net for­eign assets, which fell at the fastest rate in two decades in March, and will also have an impact on April’s cen­tral bank data, expect­ed to be released on Sun­day.

    “This pro­ce­dure was tak­en after com­pre­hen­sive study and tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion the suf­fi­cient lev­el for for­eign-cur­ren­cy reserves,” Al-Jadaan said. The PIF has an “impor­tant role in diver­si­fy­ing and strength­en­ing eco­nom­ic growth,” he said, not­ing that the fund’s invest­ment returns “will be avail­able to sup­port pub­lic finances if need­ed.”

    A reg­u­la­to­ry fil­ing ear­li­er this month showed that the sov­er­eign fund has spent bil­lions of dol­lars this year buy­ing equi­ties, includ­ing stakes in cruise oper­a­tor Car­ni­val as well as BP Plc, Boe­ing Co., Cit­i­group Inc and Face­book Inc.

    In his state­ment on Fri­day, Al-Jadaan said the fund was cap­i­tal­iz­ing on “a range of invest­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties that pre­sent­ed them­selves in light of the cur­rent cir­cum­stances glob­al finan­cial mar­kets are pass­ing through.”

    The news of the fund’s buy­ing spree abroad coin­cid­ed with the gov­ern­ment cut­ting back on spend­ing at home. Al-Jadaan has said that the king­dom will need to trim expens­es this year to redi­rect resources to health care and sup­port­ing busi­ness­es as the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic hob­bles eco­nom­ic growth.

    ...

    ———–

    “Sau­di Ara­bia Moved $40 Bil­lion in Reserves to Sov­er­eign Fund” by Vivian Nereim; Bloomberg; 05/29/2020

    “In his state­ment on Fri­day, Al-Jadaan said the fund was cap­i­tal­iz­ing on “a range of invest­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties that pre­sent­ed them­selves in light of the cur­rent cir­cum­stances glob­al finan­cial mar­kets are pass­ing through.””

    Yes, even his­toric eco­nom­ic crises are an opportunity...as long as you have a giant pile of cash. And the Sau­di PIF clear­ly need­ed a cash injec­tion to ful­ly take advan­tage of the oppor­tu­ni­ty.

    And as the fol­low­ing Bloomberg arti­cle from mid-May describes, this move into for­eign equi­ties by the PIF is actu­al­ly a rel­a­tive­ly new phe­nom­e­na for the $320 (now $360?) bil­lion sov­er­eign wealth fund. Five years ago it was hold­ing com­pa­ny for gov­ern­ment stakes in domes­tic busi­ness­es. But its man­date was broad­ened in 2015 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to include inter­na­tion­al invest­ments to sup­port eco­nom­ic diver­si­fi­ca­tion and today it’s hold­ing $10 bil­lion in US equi­ties alone includ­ing a $2 bil­lion stake in Uber:

    Bloomberg

    Sau­di Ara­bia Wealth Fund Buys Boe­ing, Citi, Dis­ney Stakes

    * Mas­sive fund also describes bets on BP, Face­book and Mar­riott
    * The bar­gain-hunt­ing amounts to wager on rebound in com­merce

    By Pierre Paulden
    05/15/2020 Updat­ed

    Sau­di Arabia’s sov­er­eign wealth fund said in April that it was look­ing into “any oppor­tu­ni­ty” aris­ing from the eco­nom­ic wreck­age of the coro­n­avirus cri­sis. A reg­u­la­to­ry fil­ing Fri­day shows how the fund spent bil­lions of dol­lars this year on stocks.

    The $320 bil­lion Pub­lic Invest­ment Fund, which until five years ago was a hold­ing com­pa­ny for gov­ern­ment stakes in domes­tic busi­ness­es, dis­closed an $827.8 mil­lion stake in BP Plc, a $713.7 mil­lion invest­ment in Boe­ing Co. and $522 mil­lion posi­tions in both Cit­i­group Inc. and Face­book Inc. at the end of the first quar­ter. Oth­er bets include $495.8 mil­lion on Walt Dis­ney Co. and $487.6 mil­lion on Bank of Amer­i­ca Corp.

    The PIF is look­ing into “any oppor­tu­ni­ty” aris­ing from the eco­nom­ic wreck­age of the cri­sis, the fund’s gov­er­nor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, said at a vir­tu­al event in April. The fund expects to see “lots of oppor­tu­ni­ties,” he pre­dict­ed at the time, cit­ing air­lines, ener­gy and enter­tain­ment com­pa­nies as exam­ples.

    Behind the scenes, as coro­n­avirus out­breaks dis­rupt­ed com­merce and drove stock prices to their low­est lev­els in years, the fund reas­signed staff to find bar­gains to broad­en its glob­al port­fo­lio, peo­ple famil­iar with the plan have said. The invest­ments dis­closed in a quar­ter­ly fil­ing Fri­day amount to a bet that mar­quee names of the cor­po­rate world will rebound as many facets of life return to nor­mal.

    ...

    Oth­er hold­ings described by the fund include a $513.9 mil­lion invest­ment in hotel own­er Mar­riott Inter­na­tion­al Inc. that’s even greater than the PIF’s pre­vi­ous­ly dis­closed wager on cruise oper­a­tor Car­ni­val Corp. Both com­pa­nies are con­tend­ing with a vir­tu­al shut­down in glob­al trav­el. Sim­i­lar­ly, the fund gath­ered a $416.1 mil­lion stake in con­cert pro­mot­er Live Nation Enter­tain­ment Inc., which faces bans on large gath­er­ings.

    The fund also amassed shares of Cana­di­an oil sands play­ers Sun­cor Ener­gy Inc. and Cana­di­an Nat­ur­al Resources Ltd., on top of invest­ments that pre­vi­ous­ly emerged in Equinor ASA, Roy­al Dutch Shell Plc, Total SA and Eni SpA. The reg­u­la­to­ry fil­ing dis­closed the fund held almost $10 bil­lion of U.S. equi­ties, includ­ing an approx­i­mate­ly $2 bil­lion posi­tion in Uber Tech­nolo­gies Inc.

    The bar­gain-hunt­ing con­trast­ed with retreats by the likes of War­ren Buffett’s Berk­shire Hath­away Inc., which pre­vi­ous­ly announced a full exit from invest­ments in four major U.S. air­lines. On Fri­day, Berk­shire also dis­closed that it sold off most of a long­time invest­ment in Gold­man Sachs Group Inc. and trimmed stakes in com­pa­nies includ­ing JPMor­gan Chase & Co.

    Coin­ci­den­tal­ly, the fund bought a $78.4 mil­lion stake in Berk­shire as well.

    The PIF’s man­date was broad­ened in 2015 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to include inter­na­tion­al invest­ments to sup­port eco­nom­ic diver­si­fi­ca­tion.

    ———–

    “Sau­di Ara­bia Wealth Fund Buys Boe­ing, Citi, Dis­ney Stakes” by Pierre Paulden; Bloomberg; 05/15/2020

    “The fund also amassed shares of Cana­di­an oil sands play­ers Sun­cor Ener­gy Inc. and Cana­di­an Nat­ur­al Resources Ltd., on top of invest­ments that pre­vi­ous­ly emerged in Equinor ASA, Roy­al Dutch Shell Plc, Total SA and Eni SpA. The reg­u­la­to­ry fil­ing dis­closed the fund held almost $10 bil­lion of U.S. equi­ties, includ­ing an approx­i­mate­ly $2 bil­lion posi­tion in Uber Tech­nolo­gies Inc.”

    $10 bil­lion in US equi­ty hold­ings out of a $320 bil­lion fund that was only acquired in the last five years after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman changed the fund’s man­date to include inter­na­tion­al invest­ments. So it sounds like that $10 bil­lion is just the begin­ning of a longer-term agen­da of turn­ing the PIF into a glob­al invest­ment firm. In oth­er words, we should prob­a­bly expect that $10 bil­lion to grow pret­ty sub­stan­tial­ly in com­ing years, espe­cial­ly since the PIF will clear­ly have plen­ty of cash on hand for these COVID-induced buy­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties. If the cash runs low while buy­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties still abound the Sau­di cen­tral bank can just hand over some more cash.

    Final­ly, here’s a Reuters arti­cle from the end of March about the heavy sell­ing of stocks by sov­er­eign wealth funds that month that gives us a sense of size of the role sov­er­eign wealth funds play in glob­al equi­ty mar­kets: with over $8 tril­lion in net hold­ings, sov­er­eign wealth funds hold around 5–10 per­cent of glob­al stocks. Sov­er­eign wealth funds were esti­mat­ed to have expe­ri­enced around $1 tril­lion in equi­ty loss­es from the coro­n­avirus-induced down­turn. So that’s going be inter­est­ing to see how that share of glob­al stock hold­ings by sov­er­eign wealth funds ris­es or falls as the coro­n­avirus eco­nom­ic shock con­tin­ues to play out.

    As the arti­cle describes, sov­er­eign wealth funds from oil-pro­duc­ing nations (exclud­ing Nor­way) had actu­al­ly been rapid­ly sell­ing stocks in the last weeks of March, $100–150 bil­lion in total, in response to the col­lapse in both the mar­kets and oil prices. These oil-state sov­er­eign wealth funds are also man­dat­ed to keep large cash reserves on hand as a poten­tial reserve for their gov­ern­ments to draw upon in the case of a drop in oil prices so if there’s a fall in the stock mar­kets that coin­cides with a drop in oil prices there’s going to be extra sell­ing pres­sure from for the sov­er­eign funds...at least until a bot­tom is reach at which point the funds will have plen­ty of cash on hand to repur­chase the sold shares. It points to the pow­er­ful role sov­er­eign funds play in glob­al stock mar­kets that’s going to be worth keep­ing in mind as the pan­dem­ic plays out: they have stock posi­tions large enough to trig­ger a mar­ket sell off and cash reserves large enough to swoop in and pick up the pieces:

    Reuters

    Oil-rich wealth funds seen shed­ding upto $225 bil­lion in stocks

    Tom Arnold
    March 29, 2020 / 12:13 AM

    LONDON (Reuters) — Sov­er­eign wealth funds from oil-pro­duc­ing coun­tries main­ly in the Mid­dle East and Africa are on course to dump up to $225 bil­lion in equi­ties, a senior banker esti­mates, as plum­met­ing oil prices and the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic hit state finances.

    The rapid spread of the virus has rav­aged the glob­al econ­o­my, send­ing mar­kets into a tail­spin and cost­ing both oil and non-oil based sov­er­eign wealth funds around $1 tril­lion in equi­ty loss­es, accord­ing to JPMor­gan strate­gist Niko­laos Pani­girt­zoglou.

    His esti­mates are based on data from sov­er­eign wealth funds and fig­ures from the Sov­er­eign Wealth Fund Insti­tute, a research group.

    Stick­ing with equi­ty invest­ments and risk­ing more loss­es is not an option for some funds from oil pro­duc­ing nations. Their gov­ern­ments are fac­ing a finan­cial dou­ble-wham­my – falling rev­enues due to the spi­ral­ing oil price and rock­et­ing spend­ing as admin­is­tra­tions rush out emer­gency bud­gets.

    Around $100-$150 bil­lion in stocks have like­ly been offloaded by oil-pro­duc­er sov­er­eign wealth funds, exclud­ing Norway’s fund, in recent weeks, Pani­girt­zoglou said, and a fur­ther $50-$75 bil­lion will like­ly be sold in the com­ing months.

    “It makes sense for sov­er­eign funds to front­load their sell­ing, as you don’t want to be sell­ing your assets at a lat­er stage when it is more like­ly to have dis­tressed val­u­a­tions,” he said.

    Most oil-based funds are required to keep sub­stan­tial cash-buffers in place in case a col­lapse in oil prices trig­gers a request from the gov­ern­ment for fund­ing.

    A source at an oil-based sov­er­eign fund said it had been grad­u­al­ly rais­ing its liq­uid­i­ty posi­tion since oil prices began drift­ing low­er from their most recent peak above $70 a bar­rel in Octo­ber 2018.

    In addi­tion to the cash reserves, addi­tion­al liq­uid­i­ty was typ­i­cal­ly drawn first­ly from short-term mon­ey mar­ket instru­ments like trea­sury bills and then from pas­sive­ly invest­ed equi­ty as a last resort, the source said.

    It’s gen­er­al­ly a sim­i­lar trend for oth­er funds.

    ...

    The sov­er­eign fund source said the fund had made adjust­ments to its active­ly-man­aged equi­ty invest­ments due to the mar­ket rout, both to stem loss­es and posi­tion for the recov­ery, when it comes.

    Exact­ly how much sov­er­eign wealth funds invest and with whom remain undis­closed. Many don’t even report the val­ue of the assets they man­age.

    On Thurs­day, the Nor­we­gian sov­er­eign wealth fund said it had lost $124 bil­lion so far this year as equi­ty mar­kets sunk but its out­go­ing CEO Yngve Slyn­gstad said it would, at some point, start buy­ing stocks to get its port­fo­lio back to its tar­get equi­ty allo­ca­tion of 70% from 65% cur­rent­ly.

    Slyn­gstad also said that any fis­cal spend­ing by the gov­ern­ment this year would be financed by sell­ing bonds in its port­fo­lio.

    DEFENDING THE CURRENCY

    State-backed, ener­gy-rich funds account for a sig­nif­i­cant chunk of the rough­ly $8.40 tril­lion in total sov­er­eign wealth assets, funds they’ve built up as a bul­wark for when oil rev­enues dry up.

    Sov­er­eign funds have become major play­ers on glob­al stock mar­kets, account­ing for rough­ly 5–10% of total hold­ings, and an impor­tant source of income for Wall Street asset man­agers.

    While they have been hit hard by the approx­i­mate 20% slide in glob­al equi­ty prices, the oil-based funds’ gov­ern­ments in Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Sau­di Ara­bia, Nige­ria and Ango­la have also seen their finances strained by a near­ly two thirds drop in oil prices this year.

    Gulf sov­er­eign wealth funds could see their assets decline by $296 bil­lion by the end of this year, accord­ing to Gar­bis Ira­di­an, chief Mid­dle East and North Africa econ­o­mist at the Insti­tute of Inter­na­tion­al Finance (IIF).

    Around $216 bil­lion of that fall would be from stock mar­ket loss­es and a fur­ther $80 bil­lion from draw­downs tak­en by cash-squeezed gov­ern­ments.

    The cen­tral banks of Sau­di Ara­bia, the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates and Qatar have offered a total $60 bil­lion in stim­u­lus, although expec­ta­tions of tighter liq­uid­i­ty have already pres­sured Gulf cur­ren­cies, pegged for decades to the U.S. dol­lar.

    “There’s a ques­tion of whether some of these funds are going to be used to sup­port cur­ren­cies, as some legal frame­works allow this,” said Danae Kyr­i­akopoulou, chief econ­o­mist of the Offi­cial Mon­e­tary and Finan­cial Insti­tu­tions Forum (OMFIF), a think tank.

    “In the pre­vi­ous 10 years some coun­tries moved reserves from their cen­tral banks to sov­er­eign funds, allow­ing them to invest in more risky assets as they have greater flex­i­bil­i­ty.”

    “Now, that may be a prob­lem, because you have more reserves in the sov­er­eign fund than the cen­tral bank when you may need the reserves to defend the cur­ren­cy.”

    Sau­di Ara­bia is among coun­tries that have in recent years moved reserves from its cen­tral bank to beef up its sov­er­eign invest­ment vehi­cle, Pub­lic Invest­ment Fund, which holds stakes in Uber and elec­tric car firm Lucid Motors, and had around $300 bil­lion in assets under man­age­ment in 2019.

    In 2015, the last time crude prices col­lapsed, Sau­di Arabia’s cen­tral bank, which then over­saw a larg­er chunk of the kingdom’s invest­ments, main­ly in secu­ri­ties such as U.S. Trea­sury bonds, ran down its for­eign assets by over $100 bil­lion to cov­er a huge state bud­get deficit.

    This month, Sau­di Arabia’s Finance Min­is­ter Mohammed al-Jadaan said the coun­try would look to bor­row to finance its deficit after announc­ing an eco­nom­ic sup­port pack­age worth more than $32 bil­lion.

    ———–

    “Oil-rich wealth funds seen shed­ding upto $225 bil­lion in stocks” by Tom Arnold; Reuters; 03/29/2020

    “The rapid spread of the virus has rav­aged the glob­al econ­o­my, send­ing mar­kets into a tail­spin and cost­ing both oil and non-oil based sov­er­eign wealth funds around $1 tril­lion in equi­ty loss­es, accord­ing to JPMor­gan strate­gist Niko­laos Pani­girt­zoglou.”

    Around a $1 tril­lion in equi­ty loss­es for the globe’s sov­er­eign wealth funds by the end of March. Loss­es that coin­cid­ed with sub­stan­tial equi­ty sell­offs by the funds that were effec­tive­ly man­dat­ed by the coro­n­avirus-induced drop in oil prices. But with over $8 tril­lion in assets held by these funds and large manda­to­ry cash reserves there’s going to be plen­ty of cash avail­able to buy up cheap stocks:

    ...
    Stick­ing with equi­ty invest­ments and risk­ing more loss­es is not an option for some funds from oil pro­duc­ing nations. Their gov­ern­ments are fac­ing a finan­cial dou­ble-wham­my – falling rev­enues due to the spi­ral­ing oil price and rock­et­ing spend­ing as admin­is­tra­tions rush out emer­gency bud­gets.

    Around $100-$150 bil­lion in stocks have like­ly been offloaded by oil-pro­duc­er sov­er­eign wealth funds, exclud­ing Norway’s fund, in recent weeks, Pani­girt­zoglou said, and a fur­ther $50-$75 bil­lion will like­ly be sold in the com­ing months.

    “It makes sense for sov­er­eign funds to front­load their sell­ing, as you don’t want to be sell­ing your assets at a lat­er stage when it is more like­ly to have dis­tressed val­u­a­tions,” he 5–10said.

    Most oil-based funds are required to keep sub­stan­tial cash-buffers in place in case a col­lapse in oil prices trig­gers a request from the gov­ern­ment for fund­ing.

    A source at an oil-based sov­er­eign fund said it had been grad­u­al­ly rais­ing its liq­uid­i­ty posi­tion since oil prices began drift­ing low­er from their most recent peak above $70 a bar­rel in Octo­ber 2018.

    ...

    Exact­ly how much sov­er­eign wealth funds invest and with whom remain undis­closed. Many don’t even report the val­ue of the assets they man­age.

    ...

    State-backed, ener­gy-rich funds account for a sig­nif­i­cant chunk of the rough­ly $8.40 tril­lion in total sov­er­eign wealth assets, funds they’ve built up as a bul­wark for when oil rev­enues dry up.

    Sov­er­eign funds have become major play­ers on glob­al stock mar­kets, account­ing for rough­ly 5–10% of total hold­ings, and an impor­tant source of income for Wall Street asset man­agers.
    ...

    So with sov­er­eign wealth funds account­ing for rough­ly 5–10 per­cent of total glob­al equi­ty hold­ings going into this cri­sis it’s going to be quite inter­est­ing to see what their total per­cent of hold­ings is at the end up it. Espe­cial­ly since, as we saw with Sau­di Ara­bi­a’s PIF, there’s cash injec­tions from cen­tral banks poten­tial­ly avail­able to take advan­tage of his­toric buy­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties.

    Still, a sov­er­eign wealth fund is at least osten­si­bly oper­at­ed for the ben­e­fit of the cit­i­zens of a nation and that makes these large con­cen­tra­tions of wealth poised to get even more con­cen­trat­ed a lot less con­cern­ing than the pri­vate­ly owned mas­sive invest­ment funds that are also poised to ben­e­fit the most from this cri­sis. Or at least it would be less con­cern­ing if coun­tries like Sau­di Ara­bia weren’t basi­cal­ly pri­vate­ly owned by roy­al fam­i­lies nations. And that’s what makes the pos­si­ble mar­ket manip­u­la­tion gains by these Gulf monar­chy-owned funds extra con­cern­ing: these mas­sive funds that rep­re­sent the con­tin­ued abil­i­ty of roy­al fam­i­lies to basi­cal­ly own a nation are the same enti­ties per­haps best posi­tioned to come out big­ger than ever at the end of this if they play their cards right. It’s nev­er a pret­ty pic­ture when the hyper-con­cen­tra­tion of wealth com­pounds itself.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 4, 2020, 4:16 pm
  10. And there it is: Min­utes after the US Bureau of Eco­nom­ic Analy­sis announced a record-break­ing drop of 32.9% for the GDP in the sec­ond quar­ter, anoth­er record was bro­ken. For the first time ever a sit­ting pres­i­dent sug­gest­ed he might post­pone the elec­tion, cit­ing calls for the wide­spread use of mail-in vot­ing to deal with the pan­dem­ic this year and his fan­ta­sy fears of mas­sive mail-in vote fraud:

    With Uni­ver­sal Mail-In Vot­ing (not Absen­tee Vot­ing, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Elec­tion in his­to­ry. It will be a great embar­rass­ment to the USA. Delay the Elec­tion until peo­ple can prop­er­ly, secure­ly and safe­ly vote???— Don­ald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 30, 2020

    And as the fol­low­ing piece notes, this tweet also hap­pened to fol­low the con­gres­sion­al tes­ti­mo­ny of Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bill Barr two days ago dur­ing which Barr refused to plain­ly state that the pres­i­dent does­n’t actu­al­ly have the con­sti­tu­tion­al pow­er to change the date of the elec­tion (which is set by con­gress). Instead, Barr said he had­n’t ever thought about it before and would look into it. This is two months after Barr made a strange warn­ing about for­eign gov­ern­ments inter­fer­ing with mail-in votes elec­tions. And then there’s the fact that Jared Kush­n­er float­ed the pos­si­bil­i­ty dur­ing an inter­view back in May of Trump decid­ing him­self to post­pone the elec­tion due to the pan­dem­ic. So this tweet that’s unprece­dent­ed for a sit­ting pres­i­dent actu­al­ly has quite a bit of prece­dent in terms of sig­nals being sent from Trump’s team that they’re seri­ous­ly plan­ning on post­pon­ing the elec­tion:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    What Trump has said about delay­ing the elec­tion or not accept­ing its results
    The president’s rhetoric about vot­ing has got­ten more extreme the low­er he sinks in the polls.

    By Amber Phillips
    July 30, 2020 at 11:10 AM EDT

    No, Pres­i­dent Trump can’t delay the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion like he float­ed doing Thurs­day. The date is set by Con­gress, not him, and the Con­sti­tu­tion says pret­ty clear­ly the win­ner of the elec­tion will be in office by Jan. 20. If that’s Demo­c­rat Joe Biden, he has said he would have the U.S. mil­i­tary escort Trump out.

    But Trump is talk­ing more about this any­way, as his chance of win­ning dimin­ish­es with every week that the coro­n­avirus rages and the econ­o­my strug­gles.

    Here’s what he and his top advis­ers have said about delay­ing the elec­tion and not accept­ing the results.

    In April, the idea of delay­ing the elec­tion was far-fetched even to Trump. Actu­al­ly Biden brought it up first, say­ing at a fundrais­er: “Mark my words: I think he is going to try to kick back the elec­tion some­how, come up with some ratio­nale why it can’t be held.”

    When reporters asked Trump about this, he brushed it off quick­ly — and incor­rect­ly indi­cat­ed he has the pow­er to change it.

    Around that time, Trump was polling about six points behind the pre­sump­tive Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee nation­al­ly, accord­ing to a Wash­ing­ton Post aver­age of high-qual­i­ty polls. Trump and the nation were still hop­ing that the worst of the coro­n­avirus was behind them, or soon to be behind them.

    In May, Trump’s advis­er and son-in-law, Jared Kush­n­er, sud­den­ly gave a dif­fer­ent answer. In an inter­view with Time mag­a­zine, Kush­n­er was asked if there was a chance the elec­tion could be delayed.

    “Right now that’s the plan,” Kush­n­er said when asked if the elec­tion would go for­ward Nov. 3. He added that it wasn’t up to him, but his com­ments indi­cat­ed he thought it was in his father-in-law’s pow­er to change it.

    Kush­n­er quick­ly issued a fol­low-up state­ment say­ing he knows it’s set by fed­er­al law (i.e. Con­gress and not the White House). “I have not been involved in, nor am I aware of, any dis­cus­sions about try­ing to change the date of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion,” he said.

    In May, Biden was polling an aver­age of eight points ahead of Trump.

    In June, Biden made clear that he didn’t believe Trump or Kushner’s com­ments. In an inter­view on “The Dai­ly Show,” he said he has thought about what would hap­pen if Trump doesn’t leave office. “This pres­i­dent is going to try to steal this elec­tion,” Biden said.

    Trump’s cam­paign pro­ject­ed out­rage at the alle­ga­tion. Tim Mur­taugh, the com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor for Trump’s cam­paign, called it a “brain­less con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry” and said: “Pres­i­dent Trump has been clear that he will accept the results of the 2020 elec­tion.” Sim­i­lar respons­es from Trump’s cam­paign were recir­cu­lat­ed Thurs­day.

    In June, Biden was polling an aver­age of 11 points ahead of Trump, and the coro­n­avirus was spik­ing in Repub­li­can and Repub­li­can-lean­ing states in the South and South­west.

    In mid-July, Trump was still polling an aver­age of 11 points behind Biden, and was polling behind Biden in every sin­gle swing state, and big states were set­ting records for coro­n­avirus cas­es. Trump had spent months cast­ing base­less doubts on mail-in vot­ing, which most states are expand­ing because of the pan­dem­ic. His attor­ney gen­er­al, William P. Barr, was back­ing him up with unsub­stan­ti­at­ed claims that for­eign pow­ers could some­how take advan­tage of mail-in vot­ing. (Elec­tion experts say that would be very dif­fi­cult to impos­si­ble to do with­out get­ting caught.)

    It’s around this time that Trump start­ed tak­ing a dif­fer­ent tone on the elec­tion. In an inter­view with Fox News’s Chris Wal­lace, the pres­i­dent twice said he would con­sid­er not accept­ing the results of the elec­tion. Wal­lace asked him if he was a gra­cious los­er.

    TRUMP: It depends. I think mail-in vot­ing is going to rig the elec­tion. I real­ly do.
    WALLACE: Are you sug­gest­ing that you might not accept the results of the elec­tion?
    TRUMP: No. I have to see.

    Lat­er, Trump repeat­ed: “I have to see. Look, you — I have to see. No, I’m not going to just say ‘yes.’ I’m not going to say ‘no.’ And I didn’t last time, either.”

    In a con­gres­sion­al hear­ing Tues­day, Barr was asked by Rep. Cedric L. Rich­mond (D‑La.) whether he thought there was any way Trump could get around the fact that the elec­tion date is writ­ten in law, such as through an exec­u­tive order. Instead of an unequiv­o­cal no, Barr wouldn’t say — leav­ing open the pos­si­bil­i­ty that he, as the nation’s top law enforce­ment offi­cer, thought it might be pos­si­ble.

    RICHMOND: Well, 2 U.S. Code Sec­tion 7 says fed­er­al Elec­tion Day is the Tues­day after the first Mon­day in Novem­ber. So, if you take that as the cor­rect statute, is there any exec­u­tive action by a pres­i­dent to over­ride it?
    BARR: I’ve nev­er been asked the ques­tion before. I’ve nev­er looked into it.
    RICHMOND: As attor­ney gen­er­al of the Unit­ed States, do you believe that this 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion will be rigged?
    BARR: I have no rea­son to think it will be.

    Barr did say that if a pres­i­dent clear­ly lost the elec­tion, he wasn’t “aware of” any rem­e­dy to con­test it.

    Two days lat­er, the pres­i­dent float­ed the idea of delay­ing the elec­tion for the first time.

    The Unit­ed States had just hit 150,000 deaths — a toll Trump pre­dict­ed the coun­try might nev­er see — and large states were still set­ting records for coro­n­avirus cas­es, as Trump leaned hard into con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries about how to end the cri­sis. Min­utes before his tweet, the gov­ern­ment released data that showed the U.S. econ­o­my had shrunk this quar­ter at its fastest rate because of the virus.

    ...

    ————-

    “What Trump has said about delay­ing the elec­tion or not accept­ing its results” by Amber Phillips; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 07/30/2020

    “The Unit­ed States had just hit 150,000 deaths — a toll Trump pre­dict­ed the coun­try might nev­er see — and large states were still set­ting records for coro­n­avirus cas­es, as Trump leaned hard into con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries about how to end the cri­sis. Min­utes before his tweet, the gov­ern­ment released data that showed the U.S. econ­o­my had shrunk this quar­ter at its fastest rate because of the virus.

    The worse Trump’s reelec­tion prospects get the greater the chances he tries to pull some sort of stunt like this. That’s the pic­ture that’s emerg­ing but it won’t just be Trump pulling the stunt. His inner cir­cle is clear­ly on board includ­ing the most impor­tant per­son in that cir­cle Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bill Barr:

    ...
    In mid-July, Trump was still polling an aver­age of 11 points behind Biden, and was polling behind Biden in every sin­gle swing state, and big states were set­ting records for coro­n­avirus cas­es. Trump had spent months cast­ing base­less doubts on mail-in vot­ing, which most states are expand­ing because of the pan­dem­ic. His attor­ney gen­er­al, William P. Barr, was back­ing him up with unsub­stan­ti­at­ed claims that for­eign pow­ers could some­how take advan­tage of mail-in vot­ing. (Elec­tion experts say that would be very dif­fi­cult to impos­si­ble to do with­out get­ting caught.)

    It’s around this time that Trump start­ed tak­ing a dif­fer­ent tone on the elec­tion. In an inter­view with Fox News’s Chris Wal­lace, the pres­i­dent twice said he would con­sid­er not accept­ing the results of the elec­tion. Wal­lace asked him if he was a gra­cious los­er.

    ...

    In a con­gres­sion­al hear­ing Tues­day, Barr was asked by Rep. Cedric L. Rich­mond (D‑La.) whether he thought there was any way Trump could get around the fact that the elec­tion date is writ­ten in law, such as through an exec­u­tive order. Instead of an unequiv­o­cal no, Barr wouldn’t say — leav­ing open the pos­si­bil­i­ty that he, as the nation’s top law enforce­ment offi­cer, thought it might be pos­si­ble.

    RICHMOND: Well, 2 U.S. Code Sec­tion 7 says fed­er­al Elec­tion Day is the Tues­day after the first Mon­day in Novem­ber. So, if you take that as the cor­rect statute, is there any exec­u­tive action by a pres­i­dent to over­ride it?
    BARR: I’ve nev­er been asked the ques­tion before. I’ve nev­er looked into it.
    RICHMOND: As attor­ney gen­er­al of the Unit­ed States, do you believe that this 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion will be rigged?
    BARR: I have no rea­son to think it will be.

    Barr did say that if a pres­i­dent clear­ly lost the elec­tion, he wasn’t “aware of” any rem­e­dy to con­test it.

    Two days lat­er, the pres­i­dent float­ed the idea of delay­ing the elec­tion for the first time.
    ...

    It’s also worth keep­ing in mind that while the Trump team may be test­ing the waters about the fea­si­ble of such a scheme with all of these pub­lic tri­al bal­loons about post­pon­ing the elec­tion, it’s also pos­si­ble this is actu­al­ly intend­ed to set up a sort of Plan B cheat­ing sce­nario to be used in case some sort of Plan A cheat­ing scheme does­n’t work. Like, say, first try to hack the elec­tron­ic vot­ing machines wher­ev­er pos­si­ble and if that does­n’t work float rapid­ly declare the elec­tion results can­celled and then declare the elec­tion ‘post­poned’ with the ‘real’ elec­tion to be be held at a lat­er date. In oth­er words, if we don’t see Trump try to pull this post­pone­ment stunt before elec­tion day we should­n’t assume they still aren’t plan­ning on it.

    It’s also worth keep­ing in mind that a major rea­son the Trump team is so opposed to mail-in vot­ing is that it poten­tial­ly robs them of the abil­i­ty to use all their elec­tron­ic vot­ing machine back­doors on all those mailed-in votes. It rais­es an inter­est­ing offer Con­gress to could make to the pres­i­dent: since fed­er­al law deter­mines the date of elec­tions, if Democ­rats in Con­gress offered to have the elec­tion post­poned for, say, a month in order to give every state time and resources to set up safe pro­ce­dures for com­plete­ly get­ting rid of elec­tron­ic vot­ing machines and replac­ing them with hand-marked paper bal­lots that are to be count­ed by hand — the way most elec­tions for done for the entire his­to­ry of the US before the 2000 Flori­da ‘chad’ deba­cle led Con­gress to push elec­tron­ic vot­ing machines on states — would Repub­li­cans take the offer?

    Final­ly, don’t for­get that if an out of con­trol pan­dem­ic is the excuse the Trump team is plan­ning on using to post­pone the elec­tion that also implies the Trump team is plan­ning on hav­ing a rag­ing out of con­trol pan­dem­ic on elec­tion day. And for as long as pos­si­ble after that.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 30, 2020, 12:39 pm
  11. With the 2020 US elec­tion fast approach and mail-in vot­ing like­ly to play a major role dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, the ques­tion of how the US postal sys­tem (USPS) will pre­pare for this surge in mail vol­ume is only grow­ing more urgent. So of course that urgency is only grow­ing now that we’re see­ing the Trump-appoint­ed new Post­mas­ter Gen­er­al, Louis DeJoy, ini­tia­tive his plan for the post sys­tem. A plan to sab­o­tage the postal sys­tem and bring it to a grind­ing halt right in time for the elec­tion. And even­tu­al­ly pri­va­tize it, although that’s more long-term.

    And as we’ll see, it’s a remark­ably com­pre­hen­sive sab­o­tage plan, done under the aus­pices of a gen­er­al USPS over­haul. Yep, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion decid­ed that now, right before a pan­dem­ic elec­tion when mail-in vot­ing is going to play a cru­cial role, to enact a major USPS sys­temic over­haul. An over­haul that, again, appears to be designed to actu­al­ly sab­o­tage the oper­a­tions of the post office. For starters, a large amount of insti­tu­tion­al knowl­edge was just tossed away after 23 expe­ri­enced offi­cials were either dis­placed or trans­ferred to new posi­tions. In addi­tion, a hir­ing freeze has been imple­ment­ed and postal work­ers are banned from work­ing over­time or mak­ing extra trips to fin­ish deliv­er­ing the mail. So the big Trump over­haul of the USPS appears to be focused on cur­tail­ing its capac­i­ty, just in time for the elec­tion.

    As we’ll see in the sec­ond arti­cle below, there’s anoth­er major aspect of this over­haul: the USPS just took out a loan from the Trea­sury Depart­ment. And as part of the terms of the loan the Trea­sury depart­ment is get­ting access to a large amount of infor­ma­tion on inter­nal work­ings of the USPS. Keep in mind that these are major rev­enue sources for the the USPS and there­fore infor­ma­tion about those con­tracts is exact­ly the kinds of infor­ma­tion we would expect those inter­est­ed in pri­va­tiz­ing the USPS would be keen on obtain­ing. And since the Repub­li­can Par­ty has long called from the pri­va­ti­za­tion of the USPS there are grow­ing con­cerns that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is plan­ning on using this cri­sis to final­ly break the USPS and pri­va­tize it like the GOP has want­ed to do for years. The fact the new new Post Mas­ter Gen­er­al who is imple­ment­ing all of these reforms, Louis DeJoy, is a long-time Repub­li­can mega-donor AND some­one with major invest­ments in the mail pro­cess­ing pri­vate con­trac­tor XPO Logis­tics has­n’t helped to assuage those con­cerns. Espe­cial­ly after DeJoy refused to divest from those hold­ings despite obvi­ous con­flict-of-inter­est con­cerns.

    And that’s all why it’s impor­tant to keep in mind that the GOP’s 2020 mail-in vote sab­o­tage scheme is prob­a­bly going to dou­ble as a fur­ther attempt to pri­va­tize the postal sys­tem. Ok, first, here’s an arti­cle about the grow­ing alarm around Post­mas­ter Gen­er­al Louis DeJoy’s sweep­ing orga­ni­za­tion­al over­haul that was just announced last week. Grow­ing alarm over the fact that the ‘over­haul’ lit­er­al­ly appears to be a sweep­ing sab­o­tage of the post office’s abil­i­ty to deal with an increase in vol­ume just in time for mail-in vot­ing:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Postal Ser­vice over­hauls lead­er­ship as Democ­rats press for inves­ti­ga­tion of mail delays
    Law­mak­ers want the inspec­tor gen­er­al to exam­ine Post­mas­ter Gen­er­al Louis DeJoy’s cost-cut­ting mea­sures and invest­ments

    By Jacob Bogage
    August 7, 2020 at 6:10 p.m. CDT

    Post­mas­ter Gen­er­al Louis DeJoy unveiled a sweep­ing over­haul of the nation’s mail ser­vice, dis­plac­ing the two top exec­u­tives over­see­ing day-to-day oper­a­tions, accord­ing to a reor­ga­ni­za­tion memo released Fri­day. The shake-up came as con­gres­sion­al Democ­rats called for an inves­ti­ga­tion of DeJoy and the cost-cut­ting mea­sures that have slowed mail deliv­ery and ensnared bal­lots in recent pri­ma­ry elec­tions.

    Twen­ty-three postal exec­u­tives were reas­signed or dis­placed, the new orga­ni­za­tion­al chart shows. Ana­lysts say the struc­ture cen­tral­izes pow­er around DeJoy, a for­mer logis­tics exec­u­tive and major ally of Pres­i­dent Trump, and de-empha­sizes decades of insti­tu­tion­al postal knowl­edge. All told, 33 staffers includ­ed in the old postal hier­ar­chy either kept their jobs or were reas­signed in the restruc­tur­ing, with five more staffers join­ing the lead­er­ship from oth­er roles.

    The reshuf­fling threat­ens to height­en ten­sions between postal offi­cials and law­mak­ers, who are trou­bled by deliv­ery delays — the Postal Ser­vice banned employ­ees from work­ing over­time and mak­ing extra trips to deliv­er mail — and wary of the Trump administration’s influ­ence on the Postal Ser­vice as the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic rages and November’s elec­tion draws near.

    It also adds anoth­er lay­er to DeJoy’s dis­putes with Demo­c­ra­t­ic lead­ers, who have pushed him to rescind the cost-cut­ting direc­tives that have caused days-long back­logs and steady the Postal Ser­vice in the run-up to the elec­tion. DeJoy clashed with House Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi (D‑Calif.) and Sen­ate Minor­i­ty Leader Charles E. Schumer (D‑N.Y.), in a meet­ing on the issue ear­li­er this week.

    Rep. Ger­ald E. Con­nol­ly (D‑Va.), chair of the House sub­com­mit­tee respon­si­ble for postal over­sight, called the reor­ga­ni­za­tion “a delib­er­ate sab­o­tage” to the nation’s mail ser­vice and a “Tro­jan Horse.”

    David E. Williams, for­mer­ly chief oper­at­ing offi­cer and exec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent, will take the role of chief logis­tics and pro­cess­ing oper­a­tions offi­cer, a new posi­tion for a trust­ed advis­er to for­mer post­mas­ter gen­er­al Megan Bren­nan and mem­bers of the agency’s gov­ern­ing board. A new orga­ni­za­tion­al chart also gives Williams the title “exec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent,” though that role was not includ­ed in the inter­nal restruc­tur­ing announce­ment obtained by The Wash­ing­ton Post. The Postal Service’s Kevin L. McAdams, the vice pres­i­dent of deliv­ery and retail oper­a­tions and a 40-year USPS vet­er­an, was not list­ed on the chart.

    It’s not clear what the impact of all the changes will be. DeJoy wrote in an inter­nal memo to employ­ees obtained by The Post that the new struc­ture would cre­ate “clear lines of author­i­ty and account­abil­i­ty,” but oth­ers are more skep­ti­cal. The USPS pub­licly released a short­er descrip­tion of the changes that did not include DeJoy’s remarks to postal work­ers. The agency declined to com­ment fur­ther on the staffing changes.

    “One of the things that’s led to a lot of head scratch­ing is how some of these folks have been reas­signed. We’re not sure he put the right play­ers in the right spots, but maybe he sees some­thing we don’t,” said one per­son with deep knowl­edge of the lead­er­ship team, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to give a can­did assess­ment. “We’re all going to wait and see and hope he’s done the right things, but who knows? It looks as if most of the peo­ple we’ve all worked with for years and years are still there, just moved around.”

    The Postal Ser­vice will imple­ment a hir­ing freeze, accord­ing to the reor­ga­ni­za­tion announce­ment, and will ask for vol­un­tary ear­ly retire­ments. It also will realign into three “oper­at­ing units” — retail and deliv­ery, logis­tics and pro­cess­ing, and com­merce and busi­ness solu­tions — and scale down from sev­en regions to four.

    The struc­ture dis­places postal exec­u­tives with decades of expe­ri­ence, mov­ing some to new posi­tions and oth­ers out of lead­er­ship roles entire­ly, includ­ing McAdams, Williams and chief com­merce and busi­ness solu­tions offi­cer Jacque­line Krage Strako, who pre­vi­ous­ly held the title of exec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent and chief cus­tomer and mar­ket­ing offi­cer.

    “As I said in the video remarks released on my first day, ‘I am deci­sive, and … when I see prob­lems, I work to solve them.’ Ear­ly on, I con­clud­ed that our orga­ni­za­tion­al struc­ture was just such a prob­lem to solve,” DeJoy wrote in his memo to employ­ees. “I have decid­ed we need to realign the orga­ni­za­tion to pro­vide greater focus on the core aspects of our busi­ness and to give us a bet­ter chance for future suc­cess.”

    But the changes wor­ried postal ana­lysts, who say the tone of DeJoy’s first eight weeks and his restruc­tur­ing have recast the nation’s mail ser­vice as a for-prof­it arm of the gov­ern­ment, rather than an essen­tial ser­vice.

    “He keeps refer­ring to the USPS as ‘our busi­ness.’ But he’s been appoint­ed post­mas­ter gen­er­al. You don’t run a busi­ness,” said Philip Rubio, a his­to­ry pro­fes­sor at North Car­oli­na A&T State Uni­ver­si­ty and a for­mer postal work­er. “He’s not account­able to share­hold­ers. He’s account­able to the Amer­i­can peo­ple and Con­gress.”

    Ear­li­er Fri­day, con­gres­sion­al Democ­rats demand­ed an inves­ti­ga­tion of DeJoy’s cost-cut­ting ini­tia­tives, which postal work­ers blame for deliv­ery slow­downs.

    A let­ter signed by Sen. Eliz­a­beth War­ren (D‑Mass.), House Over­sight Com­mit­tee Chair Car­olyn B. Mal­oney (D‑N.Y.) and sev­en oth­er Democ­rats, includ­ing Con­nol­ly, urged Postal Ser­vice Inspec­tor Gen­er­al Tam­my L. Whit­comb to exam­ine how DeJoy came to imple­ment poli­cies that pro­hib­it postal work­ers from tak­ing over­time or mak­ing extra trips to deliv­er mail on time, and how such delays specif­i­cal­ly affect elec­tion mail.

    “Giv­en the ongo­ing con­cerns about the adverse impacts of Trump Admin­is­tra­tion poli­cies on the qual­i­ty and effi­cien­cy of the Postal Ser­vice, we ask that you con­duct an audit of all oper­a­tional changes put in place by Mr. DeJoy and oth­er Trump Admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials in 2020,” the let­ter states.

    It also asks Whit­comb to review the finances of DeJoy and his wife, Aldona Wos, the nom­i­nee for ambas­sador to Cana­da. The couple’s hold­ings include between $30.1 mil­lion and $75.3 mil­lion in assets in USPS com­peti­tors or con­trac­tors, accord­ing to a finan­cial dis­clo­sure Wos filed with the Office of Gov­ern­ment Ethics when she was nom­i­nat­ed. Postal Ser­vice mail pro­cess­ing con­trac­tor XPO Logis­tics — which acquired DeJoy’s com­pa­ny New Breed Logis­tics in 2014 — rep­re­sents the vast major­i­ty of those hold­ings. Their com­bined stake in com­peti­tors UPS and truck­ing com­pa­ny J.B. Hunt is rough­ly $265,000.

    DeJoy had 30 days from tak­ing over the agency to dis­close any assets that present a con­flict of inter­est, accord­ing to the Postal Ser­vice. DeJoy in a state­ment said he had “done what is nec­es­sary to ensure that I am and will remain in com­pli­ance with those oblig­a­tions.”

    “We would wel­come the Inspec­tor Gen­er­al to look into the steps we are tak­ing to make the Postal Ser­vice more effi­cient,” Postal Ser­vice spokesman David Parten­heimer said. “She will find that much of what we are doing is designed to address rec­om­men­da­tions that her office has made in recent years.”

    Agapi Doulaveris, a spokesper­son for the Office of Inspec­tor Gen­er­al, said the depart­ment had received the let­ter, but could not com­ment on ongo­ing work.

    ...

    DeJoy met Wednes­day with Pelosi, Schumer, Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Mead­ows to dis­cuss the new mail-han­dling pro­ce­dures and the Postal Service’s ten­u­ous finan­cial posi­tion. The agency is pro­ject­ed to run out of mon­ey between March and Octo­ber 2021, though it just accessed a $10 bil­lion Trea­sury loan autho­rized last week in an ear­ly coro­n­avirus relief pack­age.

    Dur­ing the USPS’s quar­ter­ly board of gov­er­nors meet­ing Fri­day, DeJoy said he nego­ti­at­ed the loan terms with Mnuchin. Upon access­ing the loan, the Postal Ser­vice, sub­ject to con­fi­den­tial­i­ty restric­tions, will hand over pro­pri­etary con­tracts for its 10 largest ser­vice agree­ments with pri­vate sec­tor ship­pers. Those busi­ness­es use the mail ser­vice for “last mile” pack­age deliv­ery from dis­tri­b­u­tion cen­ters to con­sumers’ homes or busi­ness­es.

    Mnuchin had sought sweep­ing oper­a­tional con­trol of the Postal Ser­vice in pre­vi­ous loan terms, includ­ing pro­vi­sions that would allow the Trump admin­is­tra­tion to approve senior postal per­son­nel deci­sions, ser­vice con­tracts with third-par­ty ship­pers, col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing nego­ti­a­tion strate­gies and high pack­age prices.

    In April, short­ly after Con­gress autho­rized the loan, Trump called the Postal Ser­vice “a joke” and said he would not approve any emer­gency fund­ing unless the USPS quadru­pled pack­age deliv­ery prices, a move ana­lysts said would quick­ly bank­rupt the agency by chas­ing away cus­tomers to pri­vate-sec­tor com­peti­tors.

    DeJoy, at the gov­er­nors meet­ing Fri­day, said that though he has a “good rela­tion­ship” with Trump — he’s donat­ed more than $2 mil­lion to the Trump cam­paign or Repub­li­can caus­es since 2016, and chaired the finance com­mit­tee for the 2020 GOP con­ven­tion — he does not take direc­tion from Trump on postal issues.

    “While I cer­tain­ly have a good rela­tion­ship with the Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States, the notion that I would ever make deci­sions con­cern­ing the Postal Ser­vice at the direc­tion of the Pres­i­dent, or any­one else in the admin­is­tra­tion, is whol­ly off-base,” he said. “I serve at the plea­sure of the gov­er­nors of the Postal Ser­vice, a group that is bipar­ti­san by statute and that will eval­u­ate my per­for­mance in a non­par­ti­san fash­ion.”

    Coro­n­avirus fund­ing for the Postal Ser­vice — and Schumer and Pelosi’s demand that DeJoy roll back the cost-cut­ting poli­cies — emerged as a stick­ing point between Democ­rats and the White House in nego­ti­a­tions on a “Phase IV” relief pack­age. The House passed a pack­age with $25 bil­lion for the Postal Ser­vice that does not need to be repaid to replace the Trea­sury loan. The Trump admin­is­tra­tion has object­ed to any direct aid to the Postal Ser­vice.

    ————

    “Postal Ser­vice over­hauls lead­er­ship as Democ­rats press for inves­ti­ga­tion of mail delays” by Jacob Bogage; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 08/07/2020

    Twen­ty-three postal exec­u­tives were reas­signed or dis­placed, the new orga­ni­za­tion­al chart shows. Ana­lysts say the struc­ture cen­tral­izes pow­er around DeJoy, a for­mer logis­tics exec­u­tive and major ally of Pres­i­dent Trump, and de-empha­sizes decades of insti­tu­tion­al postal knowl­edge. All told, 33 staffers includ­ed in the old postal hier­ar­chy either kept their jobs or were reas­signed in the restruc­tur­ing, with five more staffers join­ing the lead­er­ship from oth­er roles.”

    A lead­er­ship over­haul that cen­tral­ized pow­er around the Louis DeJoy, the major Trump donor who just got the posi­tion back in May, while the expe­ri­enced employ­ees who had been in lead­er­ship posi­tions get shuf­fled around. And then there’s the moves to freeze hir­ing and pre­vent over­time. It real­ly is very direct sab­o­tage right out in the open months before a pan­dem­ic elec­tion when mail-in vot­ing will play a cru­cial role:

    ...
    The reshuf­fling threat­ens to height­en ten­sions between postal offi­cials and law­mak­ers, who are trou­bled by deliv­ery delays — the Postal Ser­vice banned employ­ees from work­ing over­time and mak­ing extra trips to deliv­er mail — and wary of the Trump administration’s influ­ence on the Postal Ser­vice as the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic rages and November’s elec­tion draws near.

    It also adds anoth­er lay­er to DeJoy’s dis­putes with Demo­c­ra­t­ic lead­ers, who have pushed him to rescind the cost-cut­ting direc­tives that have caused days-long back­logs and steady the Postal Ser­vice in the run-up to the elec­tion. DeJoy clashed with House Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi (D‑Calif.) and Sen­ate Minor­i­ty Leader Charles E. Schumer (D‑N.Y.), in a meet­ing on the issue ear­li­er this week.

    ...

    The Postal Ser­vice will imple­ment a hir­ing freeze, accord­ing to the reor­ga­ni­za­tion announce­ment, and will ask for vol­un­tary ear­ly retire­ments. It also will realign into three “oper­at­ing units” — retail and deliv­ery, logis­tics and pro­cess­ing, and com­merce and busi­ness solu­tions — and scale down from sev­en regions to four.

    ...

    DeJoy, at the gov­er­nors meet­ing Fri­day, said that though he has a “good rela­tion­ship” with Trump — he’s donat­ed more than $2 mil­lion to the Trump cam­paign or Repub­li­can caus­es since 2016, and chaired the finance com­mit­tee for the 2020 GOP con­ven­tion — he does not take direc­tion from Trump on postal issues.

    “While I cer­tain­ly have a good rela­tion­ship with the Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States, the notion that I would ever make deci­sions con­cern­ing the Postal Ser­vice at the direc­tion of the Pres­i­dent, or any­one else in the admin­is­tra­tion, is whol­ly off-base,” he said. “I serve at the plea­sure of the gov­er­nors of the Postal Ser­vice, a group that is bipar­ti­san by statute and that will eval­u­ate my per­for­mance in a non­par­ti­san fash­ion.”
    ...

    And what is the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for this ‘reform’? DeJoy keeps refer­ring to the USPS as ‘our busi­ness ’ so the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion is pre­sum­ably that these moves are intend­ed to help the USPS make a prof­it (it’s not actu­al­ly a for-prof­it agency). But it’s hard to ignore the real­i­ty that DeJoy has major hold­ing in pri­vate mail deliv­ery com­pa­nies that are direct com­peti­tors with the USPS, mak­ing him some­one who would ben­e­fit mas­sive­ly from a sab­o­taged USPS. And yet he refused to divest from those hold­ings before tak­ing this job:

    ...
    But the changes wor­ried postal ana­lysts, who say the tone of DeJoy’s first eight weeks and his restruc­tur­ing have recast the nation’s mail ser­vice as a for-prof­it arm of the gov­ern­ment, rather than an essen­tial ser­vice.

    “He keeps refer­ring to the USPS as ‘our busi­ness.’ But he’s been appoint­ed post­mas­ter gen­er­al. You don’t run a busi­ness,” said Philip Rubio, a his­to­ry pro­fes­sor at North Car­oli­na A&T State Uni­ver­si­ty and a for­mer postal work­er. “He’s not account­able to share­hold­ers. He’s account­able to the Amer­i­can peo­ple and Con­gress.”

    ...

    A let­ter signed by Sen. Eliz­a­beth War­ren (D‑Mass.), House Over­sight Com­mit­tee Chair Car­olyn B. Mal­oney (D‑N.Y.) and sev­en oth­er Democ­rats, includ­ing Con­nol­ly, urged Postal Ser­vice Inspec­tor Gen­er­al Tam­my L. Whit­comb to exam­ine how DeJoy came to imple­ment poli­cies that pro­hib­it postal work­ers from tak­ing over­time or mak­ing extra trips to deliv­er mail on time, and how such delays specif­i­cal­ly affect elec­tion mail.

    ...

    It also asks Whit­comb to review the finances of DeJoy and his wife, Aldona Wos, the nom­i­nee for ambas­sador to Cana­da. The couple’s hold­ings include between $30.1 mil­lion and $75.3 mil­lion in assets in USPS com­peti­tors or con­trac­tors, accord­ing to a finan­cial dis­clo­sure Wos filed with the Office of Gov­ern­ment Ethics when she was nom­i­nat­ed. Postal Ser­vice mail pro­cess­ing con­trac­tor XPO Logis­tics — which acquired DeJoy’s com­pa­ny New Breed Logis­tics in 2014 — rep­re­sents the vast major­i­ty of those hold­ings. Their com­bined stake in com­peti­tors UPS and truck­ing com­pa­ny J.B. Hunt is rough­ly $265,000.

    DeJoy had 30 days from tak­ing over the agency to dis­close any assets that present a con­flict of inter­est, accord­ing to the Postal Ser­vice. DeJoy in a state­ment said he had “done what is nec­es­sary to ensure that I am and will remain in com­pli­ance with those oblig­a­tions.”
    ...

    Final­ly, there’s the con­di­tions of the $10 bil­lion loan the Trea­sure Depart­ment made to the USPS. And as part of the loan con­di­tions the USPS has to hand over to the Trea­sure depart­ment infor­ma­tion on pro­pri­etary con­tracts for its 10 largest ser­vice agree­ments with pri­vate sec­tor ship­pers. So the Trea­sury Depart­ment is now in pos­ses­sion of infor­ma­tion on exact­ly the kind of con­tracts the USPS pri­vate com­peti­tors would pre­fer go to them instead, giv­ing the Trump admin­is­tra­tion key infor­ma­tion and lever­age is needs to force the USPS to drop those con­tracts and hand them over to pri­vate for-prof­it com­peti­tors:

    ...
    DeJoy met Wednes­day with Pelosi, Schumer, Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Mead­ows to dis­cuss the new mail-han­dling pro­ce­dures and the Postal Service’s ten­u­ous finan­cial posi­tion. The agency is pro­ject­ed to run out of mon­ey between March and Octo­ber 2021, though it just accessed a $10 bil­lion Trea­sury loan autho­rized last week in an ear­ly coro­n­avirus relief pack­age.

    Dur­ing the USPS’s quar­ter­ly board of gov­er­nors meet­ing Fri­day, DeJoy said he nego­ti­at­ed the loan terms with Mnuchin. Upon access­ing the loan, the Postal Ser­vice, sub­ject to con­fi­den­tial­i­ty restric­tions, will hand over pro­pri­etary con­tracts for its 10 largest ser­vice agree­ments with pri­vate sec­tor ship­pers. Those busi­ness­es use the mail ser­vice for “last mile” pack­age deliv­ery from dis­tri­b­u­tion cen­ters to con­sumers’ homes or busi­ness­es.

    Mnuchin had sought sweep­ing oper­a­tional con­trol of the Postal Ser­vice in pre­vi­ous loan terms, includ­ing pro­vi­sions that would allow the Trump admin­is­tra­tion to approve senior postal per­son­nel deci­sions, ser­vice con­tracts with third-par­ty ship­pers, col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing nego­ti­a­tion strate­gies and high pack­age prices.
    ...

    And now here’s more infor­ma­tion on the nature of that Trea­sury Depart­ment loan to the USPS and the dis­turb­ing terms of the loan that effec­tive­ly inserts the Trea­sury Depart­ment into the oper­a­tions of the USPS. In oth­er words, while part of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s sab­o­tage of the USPS has involved plac­ing a crony like Louis DeJoy in the posi­tion of Post­mas­ter Gen­er­al, get­ting the Trea­sury insert­ed into the USP­S’s oper­a­tions rep­re­sents anoth­er clear oppor­tu­ni­ty for sab­o­tage. Espe­cial­ly the kind of long-term sab­o­tage that could effec­tive­ly pri­va­tize the ser­vice:

    Com­mon Dreams

    Law­mak­ers Warn ‘Oner­ous’ New USPS Loan Terms Imposed by Mnuchin ‘Could Accel­er­ate Demise of Postal Ser­vice’

    “Mnuchin and the lead­er­ship of the U.S. Postal Ser­vice appear to be exploit­ing this pub­lic health pan­dem­ic to hold the Postal Ser­vice to unrea­son­able loan terms with­out even con­sult­ing Con­gress.”

    by Jake John­son, staff writer
    Pub­lished on Thurs­day, July 30, 2020

    Lead­ing con­gres­sion­al Democ­rats are warn­ing that an emer­gency loan agree­ment announced Wednes­day by Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steve Mnuchin and new Post­mas­ter Gen­er­al Louis DeJoy—a major donor to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and the GOP—could “accel­er­ate the demise of the Postal Ser­vice” by giv­ing the admin­is­tra­tion unprece­dent­ed access to the pop­u­lar agen­cy’s inter­nal oper­a­tions.

    “Sec­re­tary Mnuchin and the lead­er­ship of the U.S. Postal Ser­vice appear to be exploit­ing this pub­lic health pan­dem­ic to hold the Postal Ser­vice to unrea­son­able loan terms with­out even con­sult­ing Con­gress,” said Rep. Car­olyn Mal­oney (D‑N.Y.), Sen. Gary Peters (D‑Mich.), Rep. Ger­ry Con­nol­ly (D‑Va.), and Sen. Tom Carp­er (D‑Del.) in a joint state­ment Wednes­day evening.

    Accord­ing to a loan term sheet (pdf) made pub­lic by the law­mak­ers, the USPS will gain access to $10 bil­lion in emer­gency fund­ing approved by Con­gress back in March pro­vid­ed that the agency adheres to a num­ber of require­ments, includ­ing pro­vid­ing the Trump admin­is­tra­tion with “his­tor­i­cal and pro­tect­ed busi­ness, finan­cial, oper­a­tional, con­trac­tu­al, and plan­ning data that Trea­sury may deter­mine is nec­es­sary to eval­u­ate USP­S’s cur­rent and future finan­cial con­di­tion.”

    The agree­ment also requires USPS to give the Trea­sury Depart­ment access to pro­pri­etary infor­ma­tion about the Postal Ser­vice’s pri­vate-sec­tor ship­ping con­tracts and bars the agency from access­ing the emer­gency funds if its “cash bal­ance exceeds $8 bil­lion.”

    In a state­ment, Mnuchin hailed the deal as a step in the direc­tion of “the pres­i­den­t’s goal of estab­lish­ing a sus­tain­able busi­ness mod­el under which USPS can con­tin­ue to pro­vide nec­es­sary mail ser­vice for all Amer­i­cans, with­out shift­ing costs to tax­pay­ers.” In April, Trump called the USPS a “joke” and demand­ed that it dra­mat­i­cal­ly hike pack­age prices amid the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic, which caused a sharp decline in mail vol­ume.

    Mal­oney, Peters, Con­nol­ly, and Carp­er said Wednes­day that the terms agreed upon by Mnuchin and DeJoy—who took over as head of the USPS just last month—“would inap­pro­pri­ate­ly insert the Trea­sury into the inter­nal oper­a­tions of the Postal Ser­vice.”

    “These terms would severe­ly lim­it the Postal Ser­vice’s access to cap­i­tal and could accel­er­ate the demise of the Postal Ser­vice that all Amer­i­cans, espe­cial­ly seniors, small busi­ness­es, vet­er­ans, and those liv­ing in rur­al com­mu­ni­ties, rely upon every day, espe­cial­ly dur­ing the pan­dem­ic,” the law­mak­ers said. “We will not stop fight­ing to pro­tect this crit­i­cal ser­vice that com­mu­ni­ties depend on and to ensure that every Amer­i­can can safe­ly par­tic­i­pate in the Novem­ber elec­tions.”

    The new loan agree­ment comes as DeJoy con­tin­ues to rush ahead with sweep­ing oper­a­tional changes at the USPS that postal work­ers believe are part of a delib­er­ate effort to sab­o­tage the beloved gov­ern­ment insti­tu­tion and put it on a path toward privatization—a long­time goal of the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment.

    Last week, as Com­mon Dreams report­ed, USPS lead­er­ship launched a pilot pro­gram that could result in sig­nif­i­cant delays in mail deliv­ery by bar­ring postal work­ers from sort­ing pack­ages dur­ing their morn­ing oper­a­tions. In Port­land, Maine, let­ter car­ri­ers allege they are being instruct­ed to delay first-class parcels in order to pri­or­i­tize Ama­zon pack­ages.

    “Under­min­ing and degrad­ing the Postal Ser­vice helps frus­trate the cus­tomer, which sets the stage to pri­va­tiz­ing it,” Mark Dimond­stein, pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Postal Work­ers Union, told The Inter­cept. “The Trump admin­is­tra­tion is on record for rais­ing prices, reduc­ing ser­vice, and reduc­ing work­ers’ rights and ben­e­fits.”

    Moth­er­board report­ed Mon­day that “post offices around the coun­try are slash­ing their hours—including dur­ing the busiest times of day—with lit­tle notice as yet anoth­er abrupt cost-sav­ing mea­sure” imple­ment­ed by DeJoy, pre­vi­ous­ly the CEO of New Breed Logis­tics, a pri­vate firm with a his­to­ry of union-bust­ing activ­i­ty.

    “In addi­tion to West Vir­ginia and New Jer­sey, post offices in Berke­ley, Cal­i­for­nia; Peters­burg, Alas­ka, Youngstown, Ohio, and Knoxville, Ten­nessee have announced sim­i­lar plans to reduce hours,” Moth­er­board report­ed. “All of the changes Moth­er­board has reviewed were announced only by signs hang­ing on the post office doors.”

    In addi­tion to harm­ing the cred­i­bil­i­ty of the USPS—which ranks as the most pop­u­lar gov­ern­ment agency in the Unit­ed States—DeJoy’s cost-cut­ting mea­sures also threat­en to dis­rupt upcom­ing elec­tions as an record num­ber of Amer­i­cans turn to vote-by-mail as the safest way to cast their bal­lots amid the pan­dem­ic.

    “The Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s attempts to politi­cize, pri­va­tize, and gut USPS in the mid­dle of a pan­dem­ic and unprece­dent­ed vote-by-mail is one of the biggest scan­dals in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics right now,” Moth­er Jones reporter Ari Berman tweet­ed Wednes­day.

    ...

    ————-

    “Law­mak­ers Warn ‘Oner­ous’ New USPS Loan Terms Imposed by Mnuchin ‘Could Accel­er­ate Demise of Postal Ser­vice’ ” by Jake John­son; Com­mon Dreams; 07/30/2020

    ““Under­min­ing and degrad­ing the Postal Ser­vice helps frus­trate the cus­tomer, which sets the stage to pri­va­tiz­ing it,” Mark Dimond­stein, pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Postal Work­ers Union, told The Inter­cept. “The Trump admin­is­tra­tion is on record for rais­ing prices, reduc­ing ser­vice, and reduc­ing work­ers’ rights and ben­e­fits.””

    Raise prices while reduc­ing ser­vice and work­er pay, set­ting it up for pri­va­ti­za­tion. Again, that’s the long-term GOP agen­da for the USPS. A long-term agen­da that’s on the cusp of suc­ceed­ing. All Trump needs to do to suc­ceed with that agen­da is to utter­ly crip­ple the post office’s oper­a­tions in time for this elec­tion. That’s clear­ly the plan:

    ...
    Moth­er­board report­ed Mon­day that “post offices around the coun­try are slash­ing their hours—including dur­ing the busiest times of day—with lit­tle notice as yet anoth­er abrupt cost-sav­ing mea­sure” imple­ment­ed by DeJoy, pre­vi­ous­ly the CEO of New Breed Logis­tics, a pri­vate firm with a his­to­ry of union-bust­ing activ­i­ty.

    “In addi­tion to West Vir­ginia and New Jer­sey, post offices in Berke­ley, Cal­i­for­nia; Peters­burg, Alas­ka, Youngstown, Ohio, and Knoxville, Ten­nessee have announced sim­i­lar plans to reduce hours,” Moth­er­board report­ed. “All of the changes Moth­er­board has reviewed were announced only by signs hang­ing on the post office doors.”

    In addi­tion to harm­ing the cred­i­bil­i­ty of the USPS—which ranks as the most pop­u­lar gov­ern­ment agency in the Unit­ed States—DeJoy’s cost-cut­ting mea­sures also threat­en to dis­rupt upcom­ing elec­tions as an record num­ber of Amer­i­cans turn to vote-by-mail as the safest way to cast their bal­lots amid the pan­dem­ic.
    ...

    And yet it’s a sab­o­tage plan that also clear­ly draws immense atten­tion to the sab­o­tage. That’s part of what makes this scheme such a gam­ble for Trump and the GOP. It’s not hard to imag­ine that qui­et­ly sab­o­tag­ing the USPS in ways that reduce the qual­i­ty of its ser­vice would lead to a drop off in pub­lic sup­port for the sys­tem. The Repub­li­cans have been doing that for years now with lit­tle pub­lic notice. But open­ly sab­o­tag­ing the USPS right before an elec­tion in the mid­dle of a pan­dem­ic when mail-in vot­ing is seen as a pub­lic health neces­si­ty is kind of a huge risk in terms of what impact its going to have on pub­lic’s sup­port for the postal sys­tem. After all, the last thing the Repub­li­cans push­ing for the pri­va­ti­za­tion of the postal sys­tem are going to want to see is pub­lic fund­ing for the postal sys­tem becom­ing a sig­nif­i­cant polit­i­cal issue but it’s hard to see how open­ly and aggres­sive­ly sab­o­tag­ing the postal sys­tem in the mid­dle of pan­dem­ic in order to win an elec­tion by clog­ging the sys­tem and ruin­ing the elec­tion isn’t going to turn this into a polit­i­cal issue.

    Of course, if sab­o­tag­ing the vote is being done with the intent of cre­at­ing an elec­tion emer­gency so Trump can hold onto pow­er no mat­ter what then it’s not real­ly going to mat­ter what the pub­lic’s atti­tude towards the USPS is since the pub­lic’s atti­tude about any top­ic won’t real­ly mat­ter at that point. And that’s per­haps the most dis­turb­ing aspect of this whole mail sab­o­tage sto­ry: it’s a sign that the GOP isn’t just plan­ning on steal­ing this elec­tion. It’s plan­ning on open­ly and aggres­sive­ly steal­ing this elec­tion and not even both­er­ing to try to hide it.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 10, 2020, 4:03 pm
  12. Pres­i­dent Trump’s abil­i­ty to toy with the media via strate­gic trolling has long been one of the more dis­turb­ing fea­tures of the Trump pres­i­den­cy. Espe­cial­ly when Trump comes out and open­ly says some­thing high­ly con­tro­ver­sial that occu­pies the media cov­er­age for sev­er­al days right when there’s often an even more con­tro­ver­sial Trump sto­ry emerg­ing that gets ignored. So when­ev­er Trump comes out and says some­thing wild­ly con­tro­ver­sial or down­right insane we are forced to ask our­selves whether or not this was anoth­er acci­den­tal Trumpian moment where he says the qui­et part out loud or if this was an inten­tion­al dis­trac­tion.

    That’s part of the con­text — strate­gic trolling deployed by some­one who seems gen­uine­ly men­tal­ly ill — we are forced to con­sid­er when assess­ing Trump’s lat­est seem­ing­ly spon­ta­neous insane out­burst that has now, under­stand­ably, cap­ture the medi­a’s atten­tion: Trump just said the qui­et part out loud again. This time it’s about his admin­is­tra­tion’s ongo­ing sab­o­tag­ing of the US postal sys­tem that coin­cides with his scare­mon­ger­ing over mail-in vot­ing dur­ing the upcom­ing 2020 elec­tion.

    As we’ve seen, Trump has been pre­emp­tive­ly warn­ing about mas­sive mail-in vot­er fraud for months, seem­ing­ly in antic­i­pa­tion of lock­ing up the elec­tion results in courts after the elec­tion in a bid to declare the results invalid and hold onto office. At the same time, the new Post­mas­ter Gen­er­al — major Trump donor Louis DeJoy — has enact­ed an over­haul of the US postal sys­tem that is already lead­ing to major delays in the mail and is seem­ing­ly designed to ensure mail-in votes can’t be han­dled by the post office in time.

    So this sab­o­tage of the postal sys­tem is already basi­cal­ly hap­pen­ing in plain site, with only our col­lec­tive delu­sions obscur­ing what’s hap­pen­ing. Still, one would­n’t expect Trump to come out and open­ly say he’s sab­o­tag­ing the postal sys­tem in order to block the abil­i­ty of mail-in vot­ing to take place. And yet that’s exact­ly what he did dur­ing an inter­view on Fox Busi­ness Net­work Thurs­day morn­ing.

    But it’s worse than admit­ting that his admin­is­tra­tion is active­ly sab­o­tag­ing the postal sys­tem in order to block the abil­i­ty of states to car­ry out mail-in vot­ing. He actu­al­ly admit­ted to sup­port­ing the ongo­ing block­ing of the cur­rent COVID relief bill that’s being nego­ti­at­ed in Con­gress because that relief bill con­tains $3.5 bil­lion addi­tion­al funds for the postal sys­tem intend­ed to pro­vide the addi­tion­al resources required to han­dle a surge of mail-in vot­ing in the com­ing months. So Trump came out in sup­port of sab­o­tag­ing the broad­er COVID relief bill in order to sab­o­tage the postal sys­tem and upcom­ing elec­tion. Specif­i­cal­ly, Trump told Fox Busi­ness, “The items are the post office and the $3.5 bil­lion for mail-in voting...If we don’t make the deal, that means they can’t have the mon­ey, that means they can’t have uni­ver­sal mail-in vot­ing.”

    So we have to ask, was this an inten­tion­al state­ment made by Trump? Does he want the wall-to-wall cov­er­age about how the pres­i­dent is sab­o­tag­ing the postal sys­tem? Is there a sto­ry that’s some­how even more con­tro­ver­sial that’s being missed at this moment because of these state­ments by Trump? Or is this anoth­er indi­ca­tion that the guy isn’t all ‘there’? These are the awful ques­tions we’re forced to ask.

    Ok, first, here’s an arti­cle from Wednes­day, just a day before this inter­view, about how the postal work­er union is now warn­ing that the by sys­temic over­haul imple­ment­ed by Trump’s new Post­mas­ter Gen­er­al — changes like forc­ing deliv­ery work­ers to leave in the morn­ing whether or not their trucks are loaded yet — is already lead­ing to not only sig­nif­i­cant delays but high­er costs too because the changes are mak­ing the oper­a­tions so inef­fi­cient it’s actu­al­ly tak­ing more man-hours to deliv­er the mail. Keep in mind that the osten­si­ble jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the over­haul is cut­ting costs:

    Reuters

    U.S. postal ser­vice reor­ga­ni­za­tion sparks delays, elec­tion ques­tions

    Andy Sul­li­van, Heather Tim­mons
    August 12, 2020 / 5:04 AM / Updat­ed

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) — A shake­up of the U.S. Postal Ser­vice is lead­ing to mail delays, union offi­cials said on Tues­day, height­en­ing con­cerns that an ally of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is desta­bi­liz­ing the ser­vice as mil­lions of Amer­i­cans con­sid­er whether to cast their bal­lots by mail in the Nov. 3 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

    New Post­mas­ter Gen­er­al Louis DeJoy, who has donat­ed $2.7 mil­lion to Trump and his fel­low Repub­li­cans since 2017, has ordered oper­a­tional changes and a clam­p­down on over­time in a bid to fix the finan­cial­ly trou­bled ser­vice, which report­ed a net loss of $2.2 bil­lion in the last quar­ter.

    The reor­ga­ni­za­tion, intro­duced in July, has result­ed in thou­sands of delayed let­ters in south­ern Maine, as deliv­ery dri­vers fol­low a new direc­tive to leave on time, even if the mail has not been loaded, said Scott Adams, who rep­re­sents about 550 work­ers as the pres­i­dent of Amer­i­can Postal Work­er Union Local 458.

    Anoth­er new direc­tive requires mail car­ri­ers to head out on their routes imme­di­ate­ly in the morn­ing, car­ry­ing only pack­ages and let­ters that were sort­ed the night before, accord­ing to an inter­nal memo seen by Reuters. That is requir­ing some car­ri­ers to dou­ble back to pick up a sec­ond batch lat­er in the day, said Kim­ber­ly Karol, pres­i­dent of the Iowa Postal Work­ers Union.

    “It is on the ground cost­ing more in man­pow­er and man-hours than it is sav­ing,” Karol said.

    Deliv­er­ies from online shop­ping dur­ing the pan­dem­ic had already stretched the post office to its lim­its. Delays have also been report­ed in at least 18 oth­er states, accord­ing to media reports.

    Inter­nal Postal Ser­vice doc­u­ments seen by Reuters acknowl­edge that the changes may lead to delays.

    “One aspect of these changes that may be dif­fi­cult for employ­ees is that — tem­porar­i­ly — we may see mail left behind or mail on the work­room floor or docks,” says one memo, dat­ed July 10. The plan hopes to elim­i­nate 64 mil­lion work­ing hours nation­al­ly to reduce per­son­nel costs, accord­ing to anoth­er memo.

    The Postal Ser­vice has faced finan­cial woes with the rise of email and social media, and a mea­sure passed in 2006 requir­ing it to pre­fund 75 years of retiree health ben­e­fits over the span of 10 years at a cost of more than $100 bil­lion.

    MAIL-IN VOTING

    In a speech on Fri­day, DeJoy said man­agers would try to quick­ly fix prob­lems when they arise. “We will aggres­sive­ly mon­i­tor and quick­ly address ser­vice issues,” he told the Postal Ser­vice Board of Gov­er­nors.

    The dis­rup­tions have stirred con­cerns that DeJoy may be seek­ing to under­mine con­fi­dence in the Postal Ser­vice before the Nov. 3 elec­tion, when coro­n­avirus con­cerns may prompt up to half of all U.S. vot­ers to cast their bal­lots by mail.

    “You’ve got the cus­tomer look­ing and say­ing, ‘Is the Postal Ser­vice reli­able, and now am I going to vote by mail?’” Adams of Local 458 said.

    Democ­rats in Con­gress are call­ing on the Postal Ser­vice to reverse the changes, say­ing they threat­ened to inter­rupt Amer­i­cans from receiv­ing pay­checks and absen­tee vot­ing.

    Karol said the USPS and its 600,000 employ­ees are still ready, will­ing, and able to han­dle the 2020 elec­tion. “We have a sys­tem in place that has served them for 200 years. That sys­tem isn’t bro­ken,” she said.

    Trump, who has vot­ed by mail him­self, has repeat­ed­ly said with­out evi­dence that the method could lead to wide­spread fraud. Elec­tion experts say it is as secure as any oth­er method.

    ...

    ————-

    “U.S. postal ser­vice reor­ga­ni­za­tion sparks delays, elec­tion ques­tions” by Andy Sul­li­van, Heather Tim­mons; Reuters; 08/12/2020

    “The reor­ga­ni­za­tion, intro­duced in July, has result­ed in thou­sands of delayed let­ters in south­ern Maine, as deliv­ery dri­vers fol­low a new direc­tive to leave on time, even if the mail has not been loaded, said Scott Adams, who rep­re­sents about 550 work­ers as the pres­i­dent of Amer­i­can Postal Work­er Union Local 458.”

    Send­ing the deliv­ery trucks on ‘on time’ even when they are loaded. That’s the nature of this ‘pro-effi­cien­cy reform’ plan. A plan that broke the func­tion­ing of the post office so thor­ough­ly that it isn’t actu­al­ly sav­ing mon­ey:

    ...
    Anoth­er new direc­tive requires mail car­ri­ers to head out on their routes imme­di­ate­ly in the morn­ing, car­ry­ing only pack­ages and let­ters that were sort­ed the night before, accord­ing to an inter­nal memo seen by Reuters. That is requir­ing some car­ri­ers to dou­ble back to pick up a sec­ond batch lat­er in the day, said Kim­ber­ly Karol, pres­i­dent of the Iowa Postal Work­ers Union.

    “It is on the ground cost­ing more in man­pow­er and man-hours than it is sav­ing,” Karol said.

    Deliv­er­ies from online shop­ping dur­ing the pan­dem­ic had already stretched the post office to its lim­its. Delays have also been report­ed in at least 18 oth­er states, accord­ing to media reports.

    Inter­nal Postal Ser­vice doc­u­ments seen by Reuters acknowl­edge that the changes may lead to delays.

    “One aspect of these changes that may be dif­fi­cult for employ­ees is that — tem­porar­i­ly — we may see mail left behind or mail on the work­room floor or docks,” says one memo, dat­ed July 10. The plan hopes to elim­i­nate 64 mil­lion work­ing hours nation­al­ly to reduce per­son­nel costs, accord­ing to anoth­er memo.
    ...

    So that’s what we were hear­ing from the postal work­er union offi­cials on Wednes­day. And then the next morn­ing Trump gives the inter­view where he appears to brag about how the fail­ure of the COVID relief bill is going to starve the post office of funds and pre­vent uni­ver­sal mail-in vot­ing in Novem­ber:

    Reuters

    Trump holds up coro­n­avirus aid to block fund­ing for mail-in vot­ing

    Patri­cia Zenger­le, David Mor­gan
    August 13, 2020 / 7:05 AM / Updat­ed

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said on Thurs­day he was block­ing Democ­rats’ effort to include funds for the U.S. Postal Ser­vice and elec­tion infra­struc­ture in a new coro­n­avirus relief bill, in a bid to block more Amer­i­cans from vot­ing by mail dur­ing the pan­dem­ic.

    Con­gres­sion­al Democ­rats accused Trump of try­ing to dam­age the strug­gling Postal Ser­vice to improve his chances of being re-elect­ed in Novem­ber, as opin­ion polls show the Repub­li­can fac­ing a tough fight from pre­sump­tive Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­nee Joe Biden.

    Trump has been rail­ing against mail-in bal­lots for months as a pos­si­ble source of fraud, although mil­lions of Amer­i­cans — includ­ing much of the mil­i­tary — have cast absen­tee bal­lots by mail for years with­out such prob­lems.

    Trump said his nego­tia­tors have resist­ed Democ­rats’ calls for addi­tion­al mon­ey to help pre­pare for pres­i­den­tial, con­gres­sion­al and local vot­ing dur­ing a pan­dem­ic that has killed more than 165,000 Amer­i­cans and pre­sent­ed severe logis­ti­cal chal­lenges to orga­niz­ing large events like the Nov. 3 elec­tion.

    “The items are the post office and the $3.5 bil­lion for mail-in vot­ing,” Trump told Fox Busi­ness Net­work, say­ing Democ­rats want to give the post office $25 bil­lion. “If we don’t make the deal, that means they can’t have the mon­ey, that means they can’t have uni­ver­sal mail-in vot­ing.”

    The amount of mon­ey in ques­tion is less than 1% of either party’s cur­rent pro­posed aid pack­age for Amer­i­cans strug­gling because of the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic. Sen­ate Repub­li­cans have float­ed a $1 tril­lion response while the Demo­c­ra­t­ic-con­trolled House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives passed a $3 tril­lion bill in May.

    The White House nego­ti­at­ing team of Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steve Mnuchin and Chief of Staff Mark Mead­ows has not met with House Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi and Sen­ate Minor­i­ty Leader Chuck Schumer in six days.

    Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Mitch McConnell on Thurs­day said the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Sen­ate was leav­ing Wash­ing­ton until Sep­tem­ber, unless there was a coro­n­avirus relief agree­ment that required a vote.

    “I’m still hop­ing that we’ll have some kind of bipar­ti­san agree­ment here some­time in the com­ing weeks,” he told reporters.

    ‘PURE TRUMP’

    Democ­rats have cried foul, accus­ing Trump and his par­ty of try­ing to make it hard­er for Amer­i­cans to vote, as experts said con­cern about catch­ing COVID-19 could keep up to half of the elec­torate away from the polls.

    “Pure Trump. He doesn’t want an elec­tion,” Biden said, when asked about Trump’s com­ments before a cam­paign appear­ance.

    Rough­ly one in four U.S. vot­ers cast bal­lots by mail in 2016, and Trump has vot­ed by mail. Trump has also crit­i­cized state efforts to make vot­ing by mail more wide­ly avail­able, say­ing with­out evi­dence it could lead to wide­spread fraud. Evi­dence shows mail vot­ing is as secure as any oth­er method.

    Pelosi said any coro­n­avirus relief bill should include bil­lions of dol­lars to pro­tect not just Amer­i­cans’ right to vote but also essen­tial ser­vices, such as mail­ing pre­scrip­tion med­i­cines, dur­ing the pan­dem­ic.

    “You would think they’d have a lit­tle sen­si­tiv­i­ty, but so obsessed are they to under­mine absen­tee vot­ing that this is their con­nec­tion there,” Pelosi told a news con­fer­ence. “So the pres­i­dent says he’s not putting up any mon­ey for absen­tee vot­ing and he’s not putting up any mon­ey for the Postal Ser­vice, under­min­ing the health of our democ­ra­cy.”

    White House spokes­woman Kayleigh McE­nany dou­bled down at a news brief­ing, say­ing the admin­is­tra­tion opposed any addi­tion­al fund­ing for elec­tion secu­ri­ty in a coro­n­avirus relief bill.

    A Reuters/Ipsos poll this week showed that Amer­i­cans blame both par­ties for the stand­off in nego­ti­a­tions, which has led to the expi­ra­tion of a $600-per-week life­line to unem­ployed peo­ple and the end of a mora­to­ri­um on evic­tions.

    ...

    ————-

    “Trump holds up coro­n­avirus aid to block fund­ing for mail-in vot­ing” by Patri­cia Zenger­le, David Mor­gan; Reuters; 08/13/2020

    ““The items are the post office and the $3.5 bil­lion for mail-in vot­ing,” Trump told Fox Busi­ness Net­work, say­ing Democ­rats want to give the post office $25 bil­lion. “If we don’t make the deal, that means they can’t have the mon­ey, that means they can’t have uni­ver­sal mail-in vot­ing.”

    If you’re an Amer­i­can hop­ing for anoth­er round of coro­n­avirus relief funds don’t hold your breath as that could be lethal. Per­haps not as lethal as forc­ing mil­lions of immuno­log­i­cal­ly vul­ner­a­ble vot­ers to the polls dur­ing a pan­dem­ic but still lethal. And note how the mon­ey for the post office is just a tiny frac­tion of what Con­gress is talk­ing about for the broad­er mul­ti-tril­lion dol­lar relief bill. And in response to the out­cry over the com­ments by Trump, the White House spokes­woman Kayleigh McE­nany dou­bled down on that sen­ti­ment by stat­ing that the admin­is­tra­tion opposed any addi­tion­al fund­ing for elec­tion secu­ri­ty in a coro­n­avirus relief bill:

    ...
    The amount of mon­ey in ques­tion is less than 1% of either party’s cur­rent pro­posed aid pack­age for Amer­i­cans strug­gling because of the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic. Sen­ate Repub­li­cans have float­ed a $1 tril­lion response while the Demo­c­ra­t­ic-con­trolled House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives passed a $3 tril­lion bill in May.

    The White House nego­ti­at­ing team of Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steve Mnuchin and Chief of Staff Mark Mead­ows has not met with House Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi and Sen­ate Minor­i­ty Leader Chuck Schumer in six days.

    Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Mitch McConnell on Thurs­day said the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Sen­ate was leav­ing Wash­ing­ton until Sep­tem­ber, unless there was a coro­n­avirus relief agree­ment that required a vote.

    ...

    White House spokes­woman Kayleigh McE­nany dou­bled down at a news brief­ing, say­ing the admin­is­tra­tion opposed any addi­tion­al fund­ing for elec­tion secu­ri­ty in a coro­n­avirus relief bill.
    ...

    It’s always nice when male­fac­tors con­nect the dots for you. But it’s still dis­turb­ing when they do it. It’s like the point in a movie where the vil­lain just can’t resist explain­ing their dia­bol­i­cal plan. And now we’re forced to ask: was this a pre­med­i­tate cal­cu­lat­ed admis­sion or just anoth­er ‘is he suf­fer­ing from demen­tia?’ Trumpian moment? Keep in mind that, while the whole world now gets to hear about this plan to sab­o­tage the elec­tion, that includes one very impor­tant group if such a plan to suc­ceed: Repub­li­can vot­ers and the larg­er Repub­li­can estab­lish­ment. And so far we haven’t heard any mean­ing­ful out­cry from them at all. It’s basi­cal­ly a non-sto­ry on the right-wing media today and like­ly will remain that way through the elec­tion.

    And that’s anoth­er part of what makes this sto­ry so dis­turb­ing: the plan has been now unam­bigu­ous­ly revealed and it appears to have been received with the whole­heart­ed approval of the broad­er GOP. In oth­er words, it’s not just Trump’s plan any­more. The whole GOP is now behind this which, trag­i­cal­ly, makes it more like­ly to suc­ceed. Don’t for­get that a plan to sab­o­tage the elec­tion to help Trump win will also help the rest of the Repub­li­cans up for elec­tion win their races too. Break­ing democ­ra­cy is a lot eas­i­er with the approval of a large chunk of the elec­torate and one of the major par­ty’s, after all, and as of now Trump’s plan and received that approval.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 13, 2020, 3:14 pm
  13. A num­ber of ques­tions remain about what’s going to be in the next US coro­n­avirus relief pack­age, includ­ing when it’s actu­al­ly going to be passed, now that the Sen­ate has left DC until Sep­tem­ber while con­gres­sion­al nego­ti­a­tions over the bill remain stalled, with Democ­rats demand­ing more relief funds and Repub­li­cans refus­ing. And since the upcom­ing coro­n­avirus relief bill was the like­li­est path towards inject­ing emer­gency mon­ey into the US postal sys­tem to get ready for nation­wide mail-in vot­ing for the Novem­ber 2020 elec­tion, the stalling of the coro­n­avirus relief bill also means the stalling of the postal sys­tem’s abil­i­ty to pre­pare for a pan­dem­ic elec­tion.

    Of course, now that Pres­i­dent Trump has open­ly stat­ed that he oppos­es any emer­gency fund­ing for the postal sys­tem and is hap­py at the prospect of the postal sys­tem nev­er receiv­ing those emer­gency funds because it will pre­vent states from enact­ing uni­ver­sal mail-in vot­ing, the ques­tion of whether or not the postal sys­tem is going to have the basic capac­i­ty to han­dle the mail — bal­lots and all oth­er mail, like mailed med­i­cines — is a very real and seri­ous ques­tion for the US over the next few months.

    So with all that in mind, here’s a pair of arti­cles from back in April that basi­cal­ly fore­shad­ow exact­ly what we’re see­ing play out today. As we’ll see, we already had Trump open­ly talk­ing about with­hold­ing funds from the post office in order thwart the abil­i­ty of states to car­ry out mail-in votes dur­ing the elec­tion and com­men­ta­tors writ­ing columns and warn­ing about this back in April:

    The Philadel­phia Inquir­er

    Destroy the Post Office and you destroy democ­ra­cy. Maybe that’s Trump’s plan?

    by Will Bunch
    April 16, 2020 — 1:44 PM

    When you think of democ­ra­cy in Amer­i­ca, you prob­a­bly think of those dudes in their pow­dered wigs strik­ing a pose at Inde­pen­dence Hall, or — more mod­ern­ly — peo­ple stand­ing on line for five hours just to cast a vote. You prob­a­bly don’t think of the U.S. Post Office — no, that’s Cliff on Cheers or Sein­feld’s New­man, avatars for what too many view as America’s odd­est job.

    Maybe you should think again. You know who got this bet­ter than we do? Alex­is de Toqueville, the French writer, thinker and trav­el­er who famous­ly came to Amer­i­ca in 1831 and chron­i­cled what at the time tru­ly was an excep­tion­al nation, which had van­quished the yoke of monar­chy as Europe strug­gled to do the same. The French­man under­stood the vital nature of the U.S. Post Office, call­ing it “a great link between minds” in a spread-out, fron­tier nation.

    De Toqueville was par­tic­u­lar­ly impressed with the role the Post Office played in spread­ing infor­ma­tion — so vital in Jack­son­ian Amer­i­ca, where vot­er turnout was explod­ing — through a vibrant news­pa­per scene that had no rival in any oth­er devel­oped nation. That was no acci­dent, but the result of good gov­ern­ment. The Post Office Act of 1792, an ini­tia­tive from Pres­i­dent George Wash­ing­ton and James Madi­son, the future pres­i­dent in his Cab­i­net, delib­er­ate­ly set a low­er postal rate for news­pa­pers so that a free press could thrive in the new nation — and, boy, did it.

    More than two cen­turies lat­er, the U.S. Postal Ser­vice needs good gov­ern­ment and an appre­ci­a­tion of its role in democ­ra­cy more than at any time in its his­to­ry. Already bleed­ing mon­ey for a vari­ety of rea­sons — yes, part­ly the rise of email and pri­vate deliv­ery ser­vices, but also a ridicu­lous cost bur­den cre­at­ed by an all-GOP gov­ern­ment in 2006 — the rapid drop in busi­ness activ­i­ty dur­ing the coro­n­avirus cri­sis brought the Post Office to the brink of extinc­tion.

    The sud­den dis­ap­pear­ance of about one-third of its busi­ness trans­lates to a whop­ping $13 bil­lion in lost rev­enue for the USPS, and at this pace — its lead­ers told Con­gress ear­li­er this month — the Post Office will be out of mon­ey by the end of Sep­tem­ber. Of course, in that sense the postal ser­vice — with its mas­sive work­force of 600,000 peo­ple — is lit­tle dif­fer­ent from restau­rants, bou­tiques, (cough, cough) news­pa­pers, or most oth­er busi­ness, but with the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment dol­ing out coro­n­avirus relief mon­ey, sure­ly a crit­i­cal ser­vice like the USPS gets to cut to the front of the line, right?

    Right?

    Well, so far, no. Like many of the oth­er pil­lars of a sup­pos­ed­ly func­tion­ing gov­ern­ment, the Post Office hasn’t been pop­u­lar with the dom­i­nant Repub­li­cans in Wash­ing­ton for a while, and that was before Don­ald Trump and his over­flow­ing bas­ket of grudges arrived in town. Pres­i­dent Trump hates the Post Office because he hates its biggest cus­tomer, Ama­zon, because he hates Amazon’s bil­lion­aire own­er, Jeff Bezos, because he hates a news­pa­per that Bezos also hap­pens to own, the Wash­ing­ton Post. Make sense? Of course it doesn’t. It’s 2020, Trump is the pres­i­dent, and you’re locked in your house with no toi­let paper. Noth­ing makes sense.

    Trump report­ed­ly gave orders to his duti­ful Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steve Mnuchin — he’d veto a relief pack­age that had so much as one dime for the postal ser­vice. Indeed, the most recent relief bill, which con­tained $2 trillion,including bailouts for a vari­ety of pri­vate firms, had no direct aid for the USPS, although law­mak­ers did squeeze in a $10 bil­lion loan to be paid back (and which Mnuchin still needs to sign off on.) Even though Post­mas­ter Gen­er­al Megan Bren­nan has asked anew for an $89 bil­lion pack­age of both direct aid and loans (a bit high, yes, but that’s how one starts a nego­ti­a­tion), there’s lit­tle sign that Trump intran­si­gence will let up for a fourth bailout bill that may not even come at all, with Democ­rats and the GOP very far apart.

    The irony is painful. For weeks as the glob­al pan­dem­ic has wors­ened, the pres­i­dent has either exag­ger­at­ed his pow­ers (to adjourn Con­gress, based on a sec­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion that he com­plete­ly mis­read) or made up pow­ers he doesn’t have, such as order­ing gov­er­nors to re-open their states’ busi­ness­es. But here’s what the Con­sti­tu­tion does lay out for the pres­i­dent and the Con­gress, in Arti­cle 1 (Trump’s favorite), Sec­tion 8, Clause 7: That it estab­lish a Post Office and build roads to car­ry the mail. Let­ting the USPS die or shrink to a lev­el where it would strug­gle to car­ry out its basic duties would be a severe dere­lic­tion of duty.

    Like most polit­i­cal debates, the fight over the future of the Post Office has tend­ed to dwell on the imme­di­ate, and the imme­di­ate prob­lems are indeed sig­nif­i­cant. For one thing, the cri­sis and the USPS cash crunch hit right in the mid­dle of the fed­er­al 2020 Cen­sus, so effi­cient and unin­ter­rupt­ed mail ser­vice is crit­i­cal right now for the gov­ern­ment to get an accu­rate head count, which, among oth­er things, will have a lot to say about the shape of Con­gress in the 2020s.

    Even more impor­tant, though, could be the impact on 2020’s elec­tions — both in the hand­ful of remain­ing state pri­maries and then the big gen­er­al elec­tion in Novem­ber. At the start of the year, five states (four of which vot­ed for Hillary Clin­ton over Trump, for what it’s worth) had gone to exclu­sive­ly vote-by-mail while oth­ers, includ­ing Penn­syl­va­nia, have been mov­ing toward an expan­sion of absen­tee bal­lots in which the Post Office plays a crit­i­cal role as well.

    With the pan­dem­ic, replac­ing in-per­son vot­ing with the mail option seems to be a crit­i­cal health mea­sure, but efforts both in the states and in Wash­ing­ton to both make it much eas­i­er to vote by mail in all 50 states and to allo­cate more dol­lars to hold­ing safe and fair elec­tions are fac­ing GOP head­winds. In fact, the push has so rat­tled Repub­li­cans that some of them are say­ing the qui­et part out loud: Elec­tions by mail would increase the turnout of eli­gi­ble vot­ers, and more democ­ra­cy is bad for the GOP. Said the pres­i­dent (who, iron­i­cal­ly, reg­u­lar­ly votes by mail): “[Demo­c­ra­t­ic pro­pos­als] had things — lev­els of vot­ing that, if you ever agreed to it, you’d nev­er have a Repub­li­can elect­ed in this coun­try again.”

    “Lev­els of vot­ing ...” Also known as democ­ra­cy. Trump hates it — and he’s shown this time and time again. But as many of us have been argu­ing since 2016, the 45th pres­i­dent is only bring­ing his dread­ful brand of nar­cis­sism and his author­i­tar­i­an instincts to a Repub­li­can Par­ty that was already doing it’s damnedest to destroy any notion that any fed­er­al agency — even a high­ly pop­u­lar one like the Post Office — could be a force for good. Team Trump is mere­ly ful­fill­ing the prophe­cy of GOP guru Grover Norquist, who said his goal for gov­ern­ment is “to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bath­tub.”

    The his­to­ry of the Post Office may seem arcane, but it’s impor­tant because the ser­vice it aims to pro­vide pret­ty much defines who we are as Americans...or at least what we once aspired to be. The era of dis­trib­ut­ing news­pa­pers and con­tro­ver­sial opin­ions by mail­ing news­pa­pers that cost only a pen­ny or two may seem quaint, but the idea of a pub­lic ser­vice that facil­i­tates the 1st Amend­ment by dis­trib­ut­ing a free press and free speech wide­ly should not be. Espe­cial­ly a ser­vice that sends that infor­ma­tion to every home — no mat­ter how remote, or what the resident’s sta­tion in life.

    ...

    Sim­ply put, if you hate the Post Office then you hate Amer­i­ca. It’s been heart­warm­ing over the past few days to see every­day folks buy­ing up books of stamps (black civ­il rights icons have been espe­cial­ly pop­u­lar) to help out the USPS, but it’s going to take much, much more. We need to all lean on our mem­bers of Con­gress — regard­less of par­ty — to lean on the White House to save our Post Office before Sep­tem­ber. With­out a lit­tle polit­i­cal com­mon sense, the cur­rent occu­pant of 1600 Penn­syl­va­nia Avenue will sure­ly be stamped “Return to Sender” on Novem­ber 3.

    ———–

    “Destroy the Post Office and you destroy democ­ra­cy. Maybe that’s Trump’s plan?” by Will Bunch; The Philadel­phia Inquir­er; 04/16/2020

    Trump report­ed­ly gave orders to his duti­ful Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steve Mnuchin — he’d veto a relief pack­age that had so much as one dime for the postal ser­vice. Indeed, the most recent relief bill, which con­tained $2 trillion,including bailouts for a vari­ety of pri­vate firms, had no direct aid for the USPS, although law­mak­ers did squeeze in a $10 bil­lion loan to be paid back (and which Mnuchin still needs to sign off on.) Even though Post­mas­ter Gen­er­al Megan Bren­nan has asked anew for an $89 bil­lion pack­age of both direct aid and loans (a bit high, yes, but that’s how one starts a nego­ti­a­tion), there’s lit­tle sign that Trump intran­si­gence will let up for a fourth bailout bill that may not even come at all, with Democ­rats and the GOP very far apart.”

    Yep, we were already get­ting reports that Trump was threat­en­ing to veto any coro­n­avirus relief pack­ages that had so much as one dime for the postal ser­vice back in April. Not one dime. As Trump open­ly warned at the end of March, when Democ­rats were already warn­ing about the pos­si­ble need for uni­ver­sal mail-in vot­ing this year, if the mail-in vot­ing was ever to hap­pen “you’d nev­er have a Repub­li­can elect­ed in this coun­try again.” So sab­o­tag­ing the post office has been a key part of the Trump reelec­tion strat­e­gy since at least back in March:

    ...
    With the pan­dem­ic, replac­ing in-per­son vot­ing with the mail option seems to be a crit­i­cal health mea­sure, but efforts both in the states and in Wash­ing­ton to both make it much eas­i­er to vote by mail in all 50 states and to allo­cate more dol­lars to hold­ing safe and fair elec­tions are fac­ing GOP head­winds. In fact, the push has so rat­tled Repub­li­cans that some of them are say­ing the qui­et part out loud: Elec­tions by mail would increase the turnout of eli­gi­ble vot­ers, and more democ­ra­cy is bad for the GOP. Said the pres­i­dent (who, iron­i­cal­ly, reg­u­lar­ly votes by mail): “[Demo­c­ra­t­ic pro­pos­als] had things — lev­els of vot­ing that, if you ever agreed to it, you’d nev­er have a Repub­li­can elect­ed in this coun­try again.”
    ...

    And as the arti­cle notes, the sab­o­tage of the postal sys­tem isn’t just threat­en­ing to dis­rupt the Novem­ber elec­tions. It also threat­ens the 2020 cen­sus which also relied heav­i­ly on the mail:

    ...
    Like most polit­i­cal debates, the fight over the future of the Post Office has tend­ed to dwell on the imme­di­ate, and the imme­di­ate prob­lems are indeed sig­nif­i­cant. For one thing, the cri­sis and the USPS cash crunch hit right in the mid­dle of the fed­er­al 2020 Cen­sus, so effi­cient and unin­ter­rupt­ed mail ser­vice is crit­i­cal right now for the gov­ern­ment to get an accu­rate head count, which, among oth­er things, will have a lot to say about the shape of Con­gress in the 2020s.
    ...

    And now here’s anoth­er arti­cle from April about Trump’s threats to veto any coro­n­avirus aid pack­age if any mon­ey was to be direct­ed at the post office. As the arti­cle describes, it was that veto threat that forced con­gress to instead issue that $10 bil­lion loan to the post office intend­ed to keep the postal sys­tem’s finances steady through the Spring of 2020. So that loan has already basi­cal­ly run its course which is why there are calls for fur­ther funds. Recall how the con­di­tions of that loan forced the Post Office to hand over to the Trea­sury Depart­ment valu­able infor­ma­tion about exact­ly the types of lucra­tive con­tracts the postal sys­tem has with pri­vate com­pa­nies like Ama­zon that Repub­li­cans have been try­ing to get pri­va­tized for years. Also recall how the new Post­mas­ter Gen­er­al Trump appoint in July — GOP mega-donor Louis DeJoy — is a major investor in exact­ly the types of com­pa­nies that are com­pet­ing for those types of con­tracts. So Trump’s veto threat forced a loan with loan con­di­tions that make it eas­i­er for the Trump admin­is­tra­tion to devise strate­gies to sab­o­tage the postal sys­tem and move those pri­vate con­tracts toward the Post­mas­ter Gen­er­al’s pri­vate com­pa­nies.

    The arti­cle also notes that then-Post­mas­ter Gen­er­al, Megan Bren­nan, who had been appoint­ed by Pres­i­dent Oba­ma in 2015, was request­ing anoth­er $50 bil­lion — $25 bil­lion to off­set lost rev­enue from declin­ing mail vol­ume due to the coro­n­avirus and $25 bil­lion for “mod­ern­iza­tion” — plus anoth­er $25 bil­lion Trea­sury loan and a mech­a­nism to pay down $14 bil­lion in exist­ing pub­lic debt. That’s how much a non-Trump-crony Post­mas­ter Gen­er­al was request­ing back in April: $50 bil­lion in funds plus anoth­er $25 bil­lion loan. And instead it got a $10 bil­lion loan with alarm­ing con­di­tions attached:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    White House rejects bailout for U.S. Postal Ser­vice bat­tered by coro­n­avirus
    The pan­dem­ic has pushed USPS to the brink, but Trump and Mnuchin shot down emer­gency aid

    By Jacob Bogage
    April 11, 2020 at 11:41 AM EDT

    Through rain, sleet, hail, and even a pan­dem­ic, mail car­ri­ers serve every address in the Unit­ed States, but the coro­n­avirus cri­sis is shak­ing the foun­da­tion of the U.S. Postal Ser­vice in new and dire ways.

    The Postal Service’s decades-long finan­cial trou­bles have wors­ened dra­mat­i­cal­ly, as the vol­ume of the kind of mail that pays the agency’s bills — first-class and mar­ket­ing mail — has with­ered dur­ing the pan­dem­ic. The USPS needs an infu­sion of mon­ey, and Pres­i­dent Trump has blocked poten­tial emer­gency fund­ing for the agency that employs around 600,000 work­ers, repeat­ing instead the false claim that high­er rates for Inter­net ship­ping com­pa­nies Ama­zon, FedEx and UPS would right the service’s bud­get.

    Trump threat­ened to veto the $2 tril­lion Coro­n­avirus Aid, Relief, and Eco­nom­ic Secu­ri­ty Act, or Cares Act, if the leg­is­la­tion con­tained any mon­ey direct­ed to bail out the postal agency, accord­ing to a senior Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial and a con­gres­sion­al offi­cial who, like oth­ers in this report, spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty.

    “We told them very clear­ly that the pres­i­dent was not going to sign the bill if [mon­ey for the Postal Ser­vice] was in it,” the Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial said. “I don’t know if we used the v‑bomb, but the pres­i­dent was not going to sign it, and we told them that.”

    Instead, Sens. Gary Peters (D‑Mich.) and Ron John­son (R‑Wis.) added a last-minute $10 bil­lion Trea­sury Depart­ment loan to the Cares Act to keep the agency on firmer ground through the spring of 2020, accord­ing to a Demo­c­ra­t­ic com­mit­tee aide.

    Law­mak­ers orig­i­nal­ly agreed to a $13 bil­lion direct grant the Postal Ser­vice would not have to repay. That effort was blocked by Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin, who warned such a move could blow up the relief bill. A com­mit­tee aide said Mnuchin told law­mak­ers dur­ing nego­ti­a­tions: “You can have a loan, or you can have noth­ing at all.”

    Only the $10 bil­lion loan to the Postal Ser­vice made it into law, over Mnuchin’s objec­tions.

    With­out the loan, which awaits approval by the Trea­sury Depart­ment, the Postal Ser­vice would be “finan­cial­ly illiq­uid” by Sept. 30, accord­ing to esti­mates pro­vid­ed to law­mak­ers. Advo­cates for the Postal Ser­vice wor­ry the agency is in a vul­ner­a­ble posi­tion. As its main fund­ing source dwin­dles, the Postal Ser­vice could be seen as ripe for a makeover; con­ser­v­a­tives have long talked about pri­va­tiz­ing the mail deliv­ery in the Unit­ed States.

    The Postal Ser­vice projects it will lose $2 bil­lion each month through the coro­n­avirus reces­sion while postal work­ers main­tain the nation­wide ser­vice of deliv­er­ing essen­tial mail and parcels, such as pre­scrip­tions, food and house­hold neces­si­ties.

    That work often comes at great per­son­al risk. Near­ly 500 postal work­ers have test­ed pos­i­tive for the coro­n­avirus and 462 oth­ers are pre­sump­tive pos­i­tives, USPS lead­ers told law­mak­ers. Nine­teen have died; more than 6,000 are in self-quar­an­tine because of expo­sure.

    While the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion and Mnuchin pushed through pri­vate-sec­tor bailouts in the Cares Act — $350 bil­lion to the Small Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion loan pro­gram, $29 bil­lion to pas­sen­ger air­lines and air car­go car­ri­ers, and eco­nom­ic incen­tives for the con­struc­tion, ener­gy and life sci­ences indus­tries, among oth­ers — Mnuchin has sig­naled any postal relief funds in a “Phase IV” stim­u­lus pack­age under nego­ti­a­tion would amount to a poi­son pill.

    Post­mas­ter Gen­er­al Megan Bren­nan asked law­mak­ers Thurs­day for anoth­er $50 bil­lion — $25 bil­lion to off­set lost rev­enue from declin­ing mail vol­ume due to the coro­n­avirus and $25 bil­lion for “mod­ern­iza­tion” — plus anoth­er $25 bil­lion Trea­sury loan and a mech­a­nism to pay down $14 bil­lion in exist­ing pub­lic debt.

    House Democ­rats, led by Rep. Ger­ald E. Con­nol­ly (Va.), cau­tioned that with­out the fund­ing, the Postal Ser­vice may not make it past Sep­tem­ber with­out miss­ing pay­rolls or ser­vice inter­rup­tions. Sen­ate Repub­li­cans insist the $10 bil­lion loan from the Cares Act pro­vid­ed suf­fi­cient short-term liq­uid­i­ty, the staffer said, and the Sen­ate would not vote to extend more mon­ey to an agency unlike­ly to make good on its bor­row­ing.

    “I’m so frus­trat­ed at how dif­fi­cult it has been for a long time to gal­va­nize atten­tion and action around an essen­tial ser­vice,” Con­nol­ly said in a phone inter­view. “And maybe the pan­dem­ic forces us all to refo­cus on this ser­vice and how essen­tial it is and how we need to fix it while we can before it gets into crit­i­cal con­di­tion.”

    Trump has long been antag­o­nis­tic of the post office, call­ing it once in a tweet Amazon’s “deliv­ery boy.” The Postal Ser­vice often serves as a ven­dor for Ama­zon, UPS, FedEx and oth­er ship­ping com­pa­nies, deliv­er­ing the “last mile” ser­vice to often rur­al and remote areas. It is a cru­cial ser­vice for the Postal Ser­vice, for which pack­age deliv­ery is a grow­ing part of its busi­ness.

    Much of Trump’s invec­tive on the Postal Ser­vice is aimed at Ama­zon founder and chief exec­u­tive Jeff Bezos, who owns The Wash­ing­ton Post. Trump has advo­cat­ed for increas­ing the prices on Ama­zon deliv­er­ies, against the rec­om­men­da­tion of ship­ping experts and the agency’s own Board of Gov­er­nors, a major­i­ty of whom Trump appoint­ed.

    “They should raise, they have to raise the prices to these com­pa­nies that walk in and drop thou­sands of pack­ages on the floor of the post office and say, ‘Deliv­er it,’ ” Trump said at a news con­fer­ence Wednes­day. “And they make mon­ey, but the post office gets killed. Okay? So they ought to do that, and we are look­ing into it, and we’ve been push­ing them now for over a year.”

    Rais­ing rates too much would lead pri­vate-sec­tor com­peti­tors to devel­op their own cheap­er meth­ods to deliv­er pack­ages, said Lori Rectanus, direc­tor of phys­i­cal infra­struc­ture at the Gov­ern­ment Account­abil­i­ty Office. Even if a rate increase gen­er­ates rev­enue, that mon­ey would be mar­gin­al to the total Postal Ser­vice debt, almost all of which comes from a con­gres­sion­al require­ment to pre­pay pen­sion and retiree health care costs for all employ­ees, even those who haven’t yet retired.

    Under nor­mal mar­ket con­di­tions, the Postal Ser­vice near­ly breaks even, save for the pen­sion account debt, despite cra­ter­ing vol­ume on deliv­er­ies in recent years. In 2010, it deliv­ered 77.6 bil­lion items of first-class mail. In 2019, it deliv­ered only 54.9 bil­lion first-class items. The ser­vice han­dled 3.1 bil­lion pack­ages in 2010 and 6.2 bil­lion in 2019, although pro­cess­ing pack­ages doesn’t earn the agency as much rev­enue as first-class mail deliv­ery.

    The coro­n­avirus has com­plete­ly upend­ed con­sumer behav­ior and the quan­ti­ty of items in the mail. Vol­ume in the first week of March declined 30 per­cent, postal agency offi­cials told law­mak­ers. At the end of June, the agency projects vol­ume to be down 50 per­cent, and it could lose $23 bil­lion over the next 18 months.

    ...

    The Postal Ser­vice has faced finan­cial trou­bles for more than a decade, as dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tion mor­phed and took off, giv­ing law­mak­ers many oppor­tu­ni­ties to debate its future. The Postal Ser­vice is so foun­da­tion­al to the coun­try that it is enu­mer­at­ed in the Con­sti­tu­tion.

    The agency’s trou­bles have renewed con­ser­v­a­tive con­ver­sa­tions about struc­tur­al changes that would force the Postal Ser­vice to act more like a cor­po­ra­tion, with steps such as elim­i­nat­ing the pre­paid pen­sion require­ment and eas­ing its uni­ver­sal ser­vice oblig­a­tion to deliv­er to every address in the Unit­ed States, includ­ing ones so remote.

    “If we’re con­cerned about the Postal Ser­vice and its work­ers,” said Romi­na Boc­cia, an econ­o­mist at the right-lean­ing Her­itage Foun­da­tion, “the best thing we can do is to free up the Postal Ser­vice to oper­ate like a busi­ness so they can try to get back into the black.”

    ————

    “White House rejects bailout for U.S. Postal Ser­vice bat­tered by coro­n­avirus
    ” By Jacob Bogage; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 04/11/2020

    ““We told them very clear­ly that the pres­i­dent was not going to sign the bill if [mon­ey for the Postal Ser­vice] was in it,” the Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial said. “I don’t know if we used the v‑bomb, but the pres­i­dent was not going to sign it, and we told them that.””

    As we can see, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion was­n’t shy about their sab­o­tage. They were open­ly declar­ing that Trump will veto any coro­n­avirus relief bill with any mon­ey at all for the postal sys­tem. And this was right after Trump omi­nous warned that if mail-in vot­ing was actu­al­ly allowed, “you’d nev­er have a Repub­li­can elect­ed in this coun­try again.” As a result, the postal sys­tem got that $10 bil­lion loan — with those dis­turb­ing con­di­tions attached — instead, which was only intend­ed to shore up the sys­tem through the spring of 2020. Con­gress had want­ed to just grant the postal sys­tem $13 bil­lion but as Steve Mnuchin put it, “You can have a loan, or you can have noth­ing at all,” and any grants would result in a Trump veto:

    ...
    Instead, Sens. Gary Peters (D‑Mich.) and Ron John­son (R‑Wis.) added a last-minute $10 bil­lion Trea­sury Depart­ment loan to the Cares Act to keep the agency on firmer ground through the spring of 2020, accord­ing to a Demo­c­ra­t­ic com­mit­tee aide.

    Law­mak­ers orig­i­nal­ly agreed to a $13 bil­lion direct grant the Postal Ser­vice would not have to repay. That effort was blocked by Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin, who warned such a move could blow up the relief bill. A com­mit­tee aide said Mnuchin told law­mak­ers dur­ing nego­ti­a­tions: “You can have a loan, or you can have noth­ing at all.”

    Only the $10 bil­lion loan to the Postal Ser­vice made it into law, over Mnuchin’s objec­tions.

    With­out the loan, which awaits approval by the Trea­sury Depart­ment, the Postal Ser­vice would be “finan­cial­ly illiq­uid” by Sept. 30, accord­ing to esti­mates pro­vid­ed to law­mak­ers. Advo­cates for the Postal Ser­vice wor­ry the agency is in a vul­ner­a­ble posi­tion. As its main fund­ing source dwin­dles, the Postal Ser­vice could be seen as ripe for a makeover; con­ser­v­a­tives have long talked about pri­va­tiz­ing the mail deliv­ery in the Unit­ed States.
    ...

    Now com­pare that $10 bil­lion loan to what the non-crony Post­mas­ter Gen­er­al Megan Bren­nan was request­ing: $50 bil­lion in grants and anoth­er $25 bil­lion in loans:

    ...
    Post­mas­ter Gen­er­al Megan Bren­nan asked law­mak­ers Thurs­day for anoth­er $50 bil­lion — $25 bil­lion to off­set lost rev­enue from declin­ing mail vol­ume due to the coro­n­avirus and $25 bil­lion for “mod­ern­iza­tion” — plus anoth­er $25 bil­lion Trea­sury loan and a mech­a­nism to pay down $14 bil­lion in exist­ing pub­lic debt.

    House Democ­rats, led by Rep. Ger­ald E. Con­nol­ly (Va.), cau­tioned that with­out the fund­ing, the Postal Ser­vice may not make it past Sep­tem­ber with­out miss­ing pay­rolls or ser­vice inter­rup­tions. Sen­ate Repub­li­cans insist the $10 bil­lion loan from the Cares Act pro­vid­ed suf­fi­cient short-term liq­uid­i­ty, the staffer said, and the Sen­ate would not vote to extend more mon­ey to an agency unlike­ly to make good on its bor­row­ing.
    ...

    Final­ly, note the nature of the schemes right-wing think tanks like the Her­itage Foun­da­tion have in mind for the postal sys­tem: force it to act more like a cor­po­ra­tion, like get­ting rid of require­ments that it deliv­er to remote address­es. So the rur­al poor that rep­re­sent a large chunk of the Repub­li­can base would basi­cal­ly lose mean­ing­ful access to the postal sys­tem:

    ...
    The agency’s trou­bles have renewed con­ser­v­a­tive con­ver­sa­tions about struc­tur­al changes that would force the Postal Ser­vice to act more like a cor­po­ra­tion, with steps such as elim­i­nat­ing the pre­paid pen­sion require­ment and eas­ing its uni­ver­sal ser­vice oblig­a­tion to deliv­er to every address in the Unit­ed States, includ­ing ones so remote.

    “If we’re con­cerned about the Postal Ser­vice and its work­ers,” said Romi­na Boc­cia, an econ­o­mist at the right-lean­ing Her­itage Foun­da­tion, “the best thing we can do is to free up the Postal Ser­vice to oper­ate like a busi­ness so they can try to get back into the black.”
    ...

    Also note the Her­itage Foun­da­tion’s pro­posed elim­i­na­tion of the pre­paid pen­sion require­ment would be the elim­i­na­tion of one of the require­ments the Repub­li­can-led con­gress imposed on the postal sys­tem in 2006 when it forced the sys­tem to finance pen­sions up to 75 years into the future. Which hap­pened to be the move that has thrown the postal sys­tem’s finances into chaos ever since:

    ...
    Rais­ing rates too much would lead pri­vate-sec­tor com­peti­tors to devel­op their own cheap­er meth­ods to deliv­er pack­ages, said Lori Rectanus, direc­tor of phys­i­cal infra­struc­ture at the Gov­ern­ment Account­abil­i­ty Office. Even if a rate increase gen­er­ates rev­enue, that mon­ey would be mar­gin­al to the total Postal Ser­vice debt, almost all of which comes from a con­gres­sion­al require­ment to pre­pay pen­sion and retiree health care costs for all employ­ees, even those who haven’t yet retired.

    Under nor­mal mar­ket con­di­tions, the Postal Ser­vice near­ly breaks even, save for the pen­sion account debt, despite cra­ter­ing vol­ume on deliv­er­ies in recent years. In 2010, it deliv­ered 77.6 bil­lion items of first-class mail. In 2019, it deliv­ered only 54.9 bil­lion first-class items. The ser­vice han­dled 3.1 bil­lion pack­ages in 2010 and 6.2 bil­lion in 2019, although pro­cess­ing pack­ages doesn’t earn the agency as much rev­enue as first-class mail deliv­ery.
    ...

    That’s how gross­ly cyn­i­cal the right-wing schem­ing around the Postal Sys­tem has long been: impose out­ra­geous require­ments that throw the sys­tem into finan­cial chaos. Then use that chaos to demand that the sys­tem behave more like a reg­u­lar cor­po­ra­tion by get­ting rid of those pen­sion oblig­a­tions (and also get­ting rid of things like uni­ver­sal deliv­ery cov­er­age of remote address­es).

    Final­ly, it’s worth recall­ing one of the oth­er dia­bol­i­cal schemes ema­nat­ing from the Trump team around this time in March and April that direct­ly relates to the Postal Sys­tem sab­o­tage: the plan by Jared Kush­n­er to encour­age the spread of the virus under the the­o­ry that they could blame Demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­er­nors and use the pan­dem­ic to their elec­toral advan­tage. A plan that was actu­al­ly Plan B. Plan A was appar­ent­ly a real plan to use the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to help coor­di­nate the state respons­es to the pan­dem­ic and ensure lim­it­ed resources were effec­tive­ly shared. There was a real plan and all indi­ca­tions were that Trump would announce it in ear­ly April. But then Trump report­ed­ly got wor­ried about his reelec­tion prospects and Jared Kush­n­er fig­ured the pan­dem­ic might hit Demo­c­rat-run states hard­er and sud­den­ly that Plan A went up in smoke, leav­ing only Plan B, the plan to let each state to fend for itself. So right around the time we first heard the Trump team open­ly talk about sab­o­tag­ing the Postal Sys­tem for elec­toral gains in late March and ear­ly April is the same time Jared Kush­n­er’s fed­er­al plan to coor­di­nate a coro­n­avirus response sud­den­ly dis­ap­peared:

    Van­i­ty Fair

    How Jared Kushner’s Secret Test­ing Plan “Went Poof Into Thin Air”

    This spring, a team work­ing under the president’s son-in-law pro­duced a plan for an aggres­sive, coor­di­nat­ed nation­al COVID-19 response that could have brought the pan­dem­ic under con­trol. So why did the White House spike it in favor of a sham­bol­ic 50-state response?

    By Kather­ine Eban
    July 30, 2020

    On March 31, three weeks after the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion des­ig­nat­ed the coro­n­avirus out­break a glob­al pan­dem­ic, a DHL truck rat­tled up to the gray stone embassy of the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., deliv­er­ing pre­cious car­go: 1 mil­lion Chi­nese-made diag­nos­tic tests for COVID-19, ordered at the behest of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.

    Nor­mal­ly, fed­er­al gov­ern­ment pur­chas­es come with detailed con­tracts, replete with acronyms and iden­ti­fy­ing codes. They require sign-off from an autho­rized con­tract offi­cer and are typ­i­cal­ly made pub­lic in a U.S. gov­ern­ment pro­cure­ment data­base, under a sys­tem intend­ed as a hedge against waste, fraud, and abuse.

    This pur­chase did not appear in any gov­ern­ment data­base. Nor was there any con­tract offi­cer involved. Instead, it was doc­u­ment­ed in an invoice obtained by Van­i­ty Fair, from a com­pa­ny, Cogna Tech­nol­o­gy Solu­tions (its own name mis­spelled as “Tec­nol­o­gy” on the bill), which not­ed a total order of 3.5 mil­lion tests for an amount owed of $52 mil­lion. The “client name” sim­ply not­ed “WH.”

    Over the next three months, the tests’ mys­te­ri­ous prove­nance would spark con­fu­sion and fin­ger-point­ing. An Abu Dhabi–based arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence com­pa­ny, Group 42, with close ties to the UAE’s rul­ing fam­i­ly, iden­ti­fied itself as the sell­er of 3.5 mil­lion tests and demand­ed pay­ment. Its requests were rout­ed through var­i­ous divi­sions with­in Health and Human Ser­vices, whose lawyers sought in vain for a bona fide con­tract­ing offi­cer.

    Dur­ing that peri­od, more than 2.4 mil­lion Amer­i­cans con­tract­ed COVID-19 and 123,331 of them died of the ill­ness. First in New York, and then in states around the coun­try, gov­er­nors, pub­lic health experts, and fright­ened cit­i­zens sound­ed the alarm that a crit­i­cal short­age of tests, and the bal­loon­ing time to get results, were crip­pling the U.S. pan­dem­ic response.

    But the mil­lion tests, some of which were dis­trib­uted by the Fed­er­al Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency to sev­er­al states, were of no help. Accord­ing to doc­u­ments obtained by Van­i­ty Fair, they were exam­ined in two sep­a­rate gov­ern­ment lab­o­ra­to­ries and found to be “con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed and unus­able.”

    Group 42 rep­re­sen­ta­tives did not respond to repeat­ed requests for com­ment.

    TEAM JARED

    The secret, and legal­ly dubi­ous, acqui­si­tion of those test kits was the work of a task force at the White House, where Jared Kush­n­er, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s son-in-law and spe­cial advis­er, has assumed a sprawl­ing role in the pan­dem­ic response. That explains the “WH” on the invoice. While it’s unclear whether Kush­n­er him­self played a role in the acqui­si­tion, improp­er pro­cure­ment of sup­plies “is a seri­ous deal,” said a for­mer White House staffer. “That is appro­pri­a­tions 101. That would be not good.”

    Though Kushner’s out­sized role has been wide­ly report­ed, the pro­cure­ment of Chi­nese-made test kits is being dis­closed here for the first time. So is an even more extra­or­di­nary effort that Kush­n­er over­saw: a secret project to devise a com­pre­hen­sive plan that would have mas­sive­ly ramped up and coor­di­nat­ed test­ing for COVID-19 at the fed­er­al lev­el.

    Six months into the pan­dem­ic, the Unit­ed States con­tin­ues to suf­fer the worst out­break of COVID-19 in the devel­oped world. Con­sid­er­able blame belongs to a fed­er­al response that offloaded respon­si­bil­i­ty for the cru­cial task of test­ing to the states. The irony is that, after assem­bling the team that came up with an aggres­sive and ambi­tious nation­al test­ing plan, Kush­n­er then appears to have decid­ed, for rea­sons that remain murky, to scrap its pro­pos­al. Today, as gov­er­nors and may­ors scram­ble to stamp out epi­demics plagu­ing their pop­u­la­tions, phil­an­thropists at the Rock­e­feller Foun­da­tion are work­ing to fill the void and orga­nize enough test­ing to bring the nation­wide epi­dem­ic under con­trol.

    Inside the White House, over much of March and ear­ly April, Kushner’s hand­picked group of young busi­ness asso­ciates, which includ­ed a for­mer col­lege room­mate, teamed up with sev­er­al top experts from the diag­nos­tic-test­ing indus­try. Togeth­er, they ham­mered out the out­line of a nation­al test­ing strat­e­gy. The group—working night and day, using the encrypt­ed plat­form WhatsApp—emerged with a detailed plan obtained by Van­i­ty Fair.

    Rather than have states fight each oth­er for scarce diag­nos­tic tests and lim­it­ed lab capac­i­ty, the plan would have set up a sys­tem of nation­al over­sight and coor­di­na­tion to surge sup­plies, allo­cate test kits, lift reg­u­la­to­ry and con­trac­tu­al road­blocks, and estab­lish a wide­spread virus sur­veil­lance sys­tem by the fall, to help pin­point sub­se­quent out­breaks.

    The solu­tions it pro­posed weren’t rock­et science—or even com­pa­ra­ble to the daunt­ing­ly com­plex under­tak­ing of devel­op­ing a new vac­cine. Any nation­al plan to address test­ing deficits would like­ly be more on the lev­el of “repli­cat­ing UPS for an indus­try,” said Dr. Mike Pelli­ni, the man­ag­ing part­ner of Sec­tion 32, a tech­nol­o­gy and health care ven­ture cap­i­tal fund. “Imag­ine if UPS or FedEx didn’t have infra­struc­ture to con­nect all the dots. It would be com­plete chaos.”

    The plan craft­ed at the White House, then, set out to con­nect the dots. Some of those who worked on the plan were told that it would be pre­sent­ed to Pres­i­dent Trump and like­ly announced in the Rose Gar­den in ear­ly April. “I was beyond opti­mistic,” said one par­tic­i­pant. “My under­stand­ing was that the final doc­u­ment would make its way to the pres­i­dent over that week­end” and would result in a “sig­nif­i­cant announce­ment.”

    But no nation­al­ly coor­di­nat­ed test­ing strat­e­gy was ever announced. The plan, accord­ing to the par­tic­i­pant, “just went poof into thin air.”

    In a state­ment, White House press sec­re­tary Kayleigh McE­nany said, “The premise of this arti­cle is com­plete­ly false.”

    This sum­mer has illus­trat­ed in dev­as­tat­ing detail the human and eco­nom­ic cost of not launch­ing a sys­tem of nation­al test­ing, which most every oth­er indus­tri­al­ized nation has done. South Korea serves as the gold stan­dard, with inno­v­a­tive “phone booth” and dri­ve-through test­ing sites, results that get returned with­in 24 hours, and sup­port­ive iso­la­tion for those who test pos­i­tive, includ­ing food drop-offs.

    In the U.S., by con­trast, cable news and front pages have been dom­i­nat­ed by images of miles-long lines of cars in scorch­ing Ari­zona and Texas heat, their dri­vers wait­ing hours for scarce diag­nos­tic tests, and des­per­ate Sun­belt may­ors plead­ing in vain for fed­er­al help to expand test­ing capac­i­ty. In short, a “freak­ing deba­cle,” as one top pub­lic health expert put it.

    We are just weeks away from dan­ger­ous and con­tro­ver­sial school reopen­ings and the loom­ing fall flu sea­son, which the abort­ed plan had account­ed for as a crit­i­cal dead­line for estab­lish­ing a nation­al sys­tem for quick­ly iden­ti­fy­ing new out­breaks and hot spots.

    With­out sys­tem­at­ic test­ing, “We might as well put duct tape over our eyes, cot­ton in our ears, and hide under the bed,” said Dr. Mar­garet Bour­deaux, research direc­tor for the Har­vard Med­ical School Pro­gram in Glob­al Pub­lic Pol­i­cy.

    Though Pres­i­dent Trump likes to trum­pet America’s sheer num­ber of tests, that met­ric does not account for the speed of results or the response to them, said Dr. June-Ho Kim, a pub­lic health researcher at Ari­adne Labs, a col­lab­o­ra­tion between Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Pub­lic Health and Brigham and Women’s Hos­pi­tal, who leads a team study­ing out­lier coun­tries with suc­cess­ful COVID-19 respons­es. “If you’re ped­al­ing real­ly hard and not going any­where, it’s all for naught.”

    With no bank­able nation­al plan, the effort to cre­ate one has fall­en to a net­work of high-lev­el civil­ians and non­govern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions. The most vis­i­ble effort is led by the Rock­e­feller Foun­da­tion and its soft-spo­ken pres­i­dent, Dr. Rajiv Shah. Focused and deter­mined­ly apo­lit­i­cal, Shah, 47, is now steer­ing a widen­ing and bipar­ti­san coali­tion that includes three for­mer FDA com­mis­sion­ers, a Nobel Prize–winning econ­o­mist, a movie star, and 27 Amer­i­can cities, states, and trib­al nations, all toward the far-reach­ing goal of get­ting to 30 mil­lion COVID-19 tests a week by autumn, up from the cur­rent rate of rough­ly 5.5 mil­lion a week.

    “We know what has to be done: broad and ubiq­ui­tous test­ing tied to broad and effec­tive con­tact trac­ing,” until a vac­cine can be wide­ly admin­is­tered, Shah told Van­i­ty Fair. “It takes about five min­utes for any­one to under­stand that is the only path for­ward to reopen­ing and recov­er­ing.” With­out that, he said, “Our coun­try is going to be stuck fac­ing a series of rebound epi­demics that are high­ly con­se­quen­tial in a real­ly dele­te­ri­ous way.”

    AN ABORTED PLAN

    Coun­tries that have suc­cess­ful­ly con­tained their out­breaks have empow­ered sci­en­tists to lead the response. But when Jared Kush­n­er set out in March to solve the diag­nos­tic-test­ing cri­sis, his efforts began not with pub­lic health experts but with bankers and bil­lion­aires. They saw them­selves as the “A‑team of peo­ple who get shit done,” as one par­tic­i­pant pro­claimed in a March Politi­co arti­cle.

    Kushner’s brain trust includ­ed Adam Boehler, his sum­mer col­lege room­mate who now serves as chief exec­u­tive offi­cer of the new­ly cre­at­ed U.S. Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment Finance Cor­po­ra­tion, a gov­ern­ment devel­op­ment bank that makes loans over­seas. Oth­er group mem­bers includ­ed Nat Turn­er, the cofounder and CEO of Flat­iron Health, which works to improve can­cer treat­ment and research.

    A Mor­gan Stan­ley banker with no notable health care expe­ri­ence, Jason Yeung took a leave of absence to join the task force. Along the way, the group reached out for advice to bil­lion­aires, such as Sil­i­con Val­ley investor Marc Andreessen.

    The group’s col­lec­tive lack of rel­e­vant expe­ri­ence was far from the only chal­lenge it faced. The obsta­cles arrayed against any effec­tive nation­al test­ing effort includ­ed: lim­it­ed lab­o­ra­to­ry capac­i­ty, sup­ply short­ages, huge dis­crep­an­cies in employ­ers’ abil­i­ties to cov­er test­ing costs for their employ­ees, an enor­mous num­ber of unin­sured Amer­i­cans, and a frag­ment­ed diag­nos­tic-test­ing mar­ket­place.

    Accord­ing to one par­tic­i­pant, the group did not coor­di­nate its work with a diag­nos­tic-test­ing team at Health and Human Ser­vices, work­ing under Admi­ral Brett Giroir, who was appoint­ed as the nation’s “test­ing czar” on March 12. Kushner’s group was “in their own bub­ble,” said the par­tic­i­pant. “Oth­er agen­cies were in their own bub­bles. The cir­cles nev­er over­lapped.”

    In the White House state­ment, McE­nany respond­ed, “Jared and his team worked hand-in-hand with Admi­ral Giroir. The pub­lic-pri­vate teams were embed­ded with Giroir and rep­re­sent­ed a sin­gle and unit­ed admin­is­tra­tion effort that suc­ceed­ed in rapid­ly expand­ing our robust test­ing regime and mak­ing Amer­i­ca num­ber one in test­ing.”

    As it evolved, Kushner’s group called on the help of sev­er­al top diag­nos­tic-test­ing experts. Togeth­er, they worked around the clock, and through a for­est of What­sApp mes­sages. The effort of the White House team was “apo­lit­i­cal,” said the par­tic­i­pant, and under­tak­en “with the nation’s best inter­ests in mind.”

    Kushner’s team ham­mered out a detailed plan, which Van­i­ty Fair obtained. It stat­ed, “Cur­rent chal­lenges that need to be resolved include uneven test­ing capac­i­ty and sup­plies through­out the US, both between and with­in regions, sig­nif­i­cant delays in report­ing results (4–11 days), and nation­al sup­ply chain con­straints, such as PPE, swabs, and cer­tain test­ing reagents.”

    The plan called for the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to coor­di­nate dis­tri­b­u­tion of test kits, so they could be surged to heav­i­ly affect­ed areas, and over­see a nation­al con­tact-trac­ing infra­struc­ture. It also pro­posed lift­ing con­tract restric­tions on where doc­tors and hos­pi­tals send tests, allow­ing any lab­o­ra­to­ry with capac­i­ty to test any sam­ple. It pro­posed a mas­sive scale-up of anti­body test­ing to facil­i­tate a return to work. It called for man­dat­ing that all COVID-19 test results from any kind of test­ing, tak­en any­where, be report­ed to a nation­al repos­i­to­ry as well as to state and local health depart­ments.

    And it pro­posed estab­lish­ing “a nation­al Sen­tinel Sur­veil­lance Sys­tem” with “real-time intel­li­gence capa­bil­i­ties to under­stand lead­ing indi­ca­tors where hot spots are aris­ing and where the risks are high vs. where peo­ple can get back to work.”

    By ear­ly April, some who worked on the plan were giv­en the strong impres­sion that it would soon be shared with Pres­i­dent Trump and announced by the White House. The plan, though imper­fect, was a start­ing point. Sim­ply work­ing togeth­er as a nation on it “would have put us in a fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent place,” said the par­tic­i­pant.

    But the effort ran head­long into shift­ing sen­ti­ment at the White House. Trust­ing his vaunt­ed polit­i­cal instincts, Pres­i­dent Trump had been down­play­ing con­cerns about the virus and spread­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion about it—efforts that were soon ampli­fied by Repub­li­can elect­ed offi­cials and right-wing media fig­ures. Wor­ried about the stock mar­ket and his reelec­tion prospects, Trump also feared that more test­ing would only lead to high­er case counts and more bad pub­lic­i­ty. Mean­while, Dr. Deb­o­rah Birx, the White House’s coro­n­avirus response coor­di­na­tor, was report­ed­ly shar­ing mod­els with senior staff that optimistically—and erro­neous­ly, it would turn out—predicted the virus would soon fade away.

    Against that back­ground, the prospect of launch­ing a large-scale nation­al plan was los­ing favor, said one pub­lic health expert in fre­quent con­tact with the White House’s offi­cial coro­n­avirus task force.

    Most trou­bling of all, per­haps, was a sen­ti­ment the expert said a mem­ber of Kushner’s team expressed: that because the virus had hit blue states hard­est, a nation­al plan was unnec­es­sary and would not make sense polit­i­cal­ly. “The polit­i­cal folks believed that because it was going to be rel­e­gat­ed to Demo­c­ra­t­ic states, that they could blame those gov­er­nors, and that would be an effec­tive polit­i­cal strat­e­gy,” said the expert.

    That log­ic may have swayed Kush­n­er. “It was very clear that Jared was ulti­mate­ly the deci­sion mak­er as to what [plan] was going to come out,” the expert said.

    In her state­ment, McE­nany said, “The arti­cle is com­plete­ly incor­rect in its asser­tion that any plan was stopped for polit­i­cal or oth­er rea­sons. Our test­ing strat­e­gy has one goal in mind—delivering for the Amer­i­can people—and is being exe­cut­ed and mod­i­fied dai­ly to incor­po­rate new facts on the ground.”

    On April 27, Trump stepped to a podi­um in the Rose Gar­den, flanked by mem­bers of his coro­n­avirus task force and lead­ers of America’s big com­mer­cial test­ing lab­o­ra­to­ries, Quest Diag­nos­tics and Lab­Corp, and final­ly announced a test­ing plan: It bore almost no resem­blance to the one that had been forged in late March, and shift­ed the prob­lem of diag­nos­tic test­ing almost entire­ly to indi­vid­ual states.

    Under the plan released that day, the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment would act as a facil­i­ta­tor to help increase need­ed sup­plies and rapid­ly approve new ver­sions of diag­nos­tic-test­ing kits. But the bulk of the effort to oper­ate test­ing sites and find avail­able labs fell to the states.

    “I had this naive opti­mism: This is too impor­tant to be caught in a par­ti­san fil­ter of how we view truth and the world,” said Rick Klaus­ner, a Rock­e­feller Foun­da­tion advis­er and for­mer direc­tor of the Nation­al Can­cer Insti­tute. “But the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment has decid­ed to abro­gate respon­si­bil­i­ty, and basi­cal­ly throw 50 states onto their own.”

    ...

    ————

    “How Jared Kushner’s Secret Test­ing Plan “Went Poof Into Thin Air”” by Kather­ine Eban; Van­i­ty Fair; 07/30/2020

    “The plan craft­ed at the White House, then, set out to con­nect the dots. Some of those who worked on the plan were told that it would be pre­sent­ed to Pres­i­dent Trump and like­ly announced in the Rose Gar­den in ear­ly April. “I was beyond opti­mistic,” said one par­tic­i­pant. “My under­stand­ing was that the final doc­u­ment would make its way to the pres­i­dent over that week­end” and would result in a “sig­nif­i­cant announce­ment.””

    Ear­ly April was sup­posed to be the start of the fed­er­al coor­di­nat­ed coro­n­avirus response. They were all ready to go. The plan was in place. And then it was­n’t:

    ...
    But no nation­al­ly coor­di­nat­ed test­ing strat­e­gy was ever announced. The plan, accord­ing to the par­tic­i­pant, “just went poof into thin air.”

    ...

    Kushner’s team ham­mered out a detailed plan, which Van­i­ty Fair obtained. It stat­ed, “Cur­rent chal­lenges that need to be resolved include uneven test­ing capac­i­ty and sup­plies through­out the US, both between and with­in regions, sig­nif­i­cant delays in report­ing results (4–11 days), and nation­al sup­ply chain con­straints, such as PPE, swabs, and cer­tain test­ing reagents.”

    The plan called for the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to coor­di­nate dis­tri­b­u­tion of test kits, so they could be surged to heav­i­ly affect­ed areas, and over­see a nation­al con­tact-trac­ing infra­struc­ture. It also pro­posed lift­ing con­tract restric­tions on where doc­tors and hos­pi­tals send tests, allow­ing any lab­o­ra­to­ry with capac­i­ty to test any sam­ple. It pro­posed a mas­sive scale-up of anti­body test­ing to facil­i­tate a return to work. It called for man­dat­ing that all COVID-19 test results from any kind of test­ing, tak­en any­where, be report­ed to a nation­al repos­i­to­ry as well as to state and local health depart­ments.

    And it pro­posed estab­lish­ing “a nation­al Sen­tinel Sur­veil­lance Sys­tem” with “real-time intel­li­gence capa­bil­i­ties to under­stand lead­ing indi­ca­tors where hot spots are aris­ing and where the risks are high vs. where peo­ple can get back to work.”

    ...

    But the effort ran head­long into shift­ing sen­ti­ment at the White House. Trust­ing his vaunt­ed polit­i­cal instincts, Pres­i­dent Trump had been down­play­ing con­cerns about the virus and spread­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion about it—efforts that were soon ampli­fied by Repub­li­can elect­ed offi­cials and right-wing media fig­ures. Wor­ried about the stock mar­ket and his reelec­tion prospects, Trump also feared that more test­ing would only lead to high­er case counts and more bad pub­lic­i­ty. Mean­while, Dr. Deb­o­rah Birx, the White House’s coro­n­avirus response coor­di­na­tor, was report­ed­ly shar­ing mod­els with senior staff that optimistically—and erro­neous­ly, it would turn out—predicted the virus would soon fade away.

    Against that back­ground, the prospect of launch­ing a large-scale nation­al plan was los­ing favor, said one pub­lic health expert in fre­quent con­tact with the White House’s offi­cial coro­n­avirus task force.

    Most trou­bling of all, per­haps, was a sen­ti­ment the expert said a mem­ber of Kushner’s team expressed: that because the virus had hit blue states hard­est, a nation­al plan was unnec­es­sary and would not make sense polit­i­cal­ly. “The polit­i­cal folks believed that because it was going to be rel­e­gat­ed to Demo­c­ra­t­ic states, that they could blame those gov­er­nors, and that would be an effec­tive polit­i­cal strat­e­gy,” said the expert.

    That log­ic may have swayed Kush­n­er. “It was very clear that Jared was ulti­mate­ly the deci­sion mak­er as to what [plan] was going to come out,” the expert said.

    ...

    On April 27, Trump stepped to a podi­um in the Rose Gar­den, flanked by mem­bers of his coro­n­avirus task force and lead­ers of America’s big com­mer­cial test­ing lab­o­ra­to­ries, Quest Diag­nos­tics and Lab­Corp, and final­ly announced a test­ing plan: It bore almost no resem­blance to the one that had been forged in late March, and shift­ed the prob­lem of diag­nos­tic test­ing almost entire­ly to indi­vid­ual states.

    Under the plan released that day, the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment would act as a facil­i­ta­tor to help increase need­ed sup­plies and rapid­ly approve new ver­sions of diag­nos­tic-test­ing kits. But the bulk of the effort to oper­ate test­ing sites and find avail­able labs fell to the states.

    “I had this naive opti­mism: This is too impor­tant to be caught in a par­ti­san fil­ter of how we view truth and the world,” said Rick Klaus­ner, a Rock­e­feller Foun­da­tion advis­er and for­mer direc­tor of the Nation­al Can­cer Insti­tute. “But the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment has decid­ed to abro­gate respon­si­bil­i­ty, and basi­cal­ly throw 50 states onto their own.”
    ...

    And as we saw in the pre­vi­ous two arti­cles, all of this was hap­pen­ing at exact­ly the same time the Trump team seemed to sud­den­ly dis­cov­er that sab­o­tag­ing the Postal Sys­tem might help him get reelect­ed. Late March and ear­ly April. The exact same two to three week peri­od.

    So as this Postal Sab­o­tage democ­ra­cy night­mare plays out, it’s going to be impor­tant to keep in mind that the Trump team was already open­ly threat­en­ing to sab­o­tage the Postal Sys­tem back in late March and ear­ly April. Which just hap­pens to coin­cide with the peri­od when the Trump team appar­ent­ly decid­ed to just let the pan­dem­ic run wild. At least run wild in Blue states. Yes, the pan­dem­ic has­n’t been lim­it­ed to the Blue states so that part of their plan obvi­ous­ly has­n’t worked out. The elec­toral sab­o­tage part, on the oth­er hand, appears to be going exact­ly as planned.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 14, 2020, 2:20 pm
  14. The grow­ing alarm over the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s open sab­o­tage of the US Postal Sys­tem in antic­i­pa­tion of the 2020 US elec­tion grew some more today thanks to Post­mas­ter Gen­er­al Louis DeJoy’s dis­turb­ing con­gres­sion­al tes­ti­mo­ny on Fri­day. A tes­ti­mo­ny that include DeJoy declar­ing that the more than 600 sort­ing machines that were removed from ser­vice under his orders — many in key swing states — will not be returned to ser­vice before the elec­tion. And while DeJoy did announce ear­li­er this week that he was halt­ing fur­ther imple­men­ta­tion of the planned removal of these sort­ing machines, it’s also the case that 90 per­cent of the planned removals had already tak­en place. So 90 per­cent of the sort­ing machines that were slat­ed for removal as part of a scheme clear­ly intend­ed to sab­o­tage the upcom­ing mail-in vote aren’t going to be avail­able for the elec­tion. Mis­sion 90 per­cent Accom­plished!:

    Moth­er Jones

    DeJoy Says USPS Won’t Rein­stall More Than 600 Removed Mail Sort­ing Machines
    “There’s no inten­tion to do that,” DeJoy tes­ti­fied. “They’re not need­ed.”

    Ari Berman
    Senior Reporter
    08/21/2020

    Embat­tled Post­mas­ter Gen­er­al Louis DeJoy tes­ti­fied before the US Sen­ate on Fri­day that he will not rein­stall more than 600 mail sort­ing machines that have been removed under his lead­er­ship. Postal work­ers say the removal of these machines has con­tributed to major mail delays that could affect whether mail bal­lots are count­ed in the 2020 elec­tion.

    Ear­li­er this week, DeJoy announced that he was halt­ing some planned changes to the USPS until after the elec­tion, fol­low­ing pub­lic out­cry. But he will not reverse steps that he has already tak­en.

    “Will you be bring­ing back any mail sort­ing machines that have been removed?” Sen. Gary Peters (D‑Mich.) asked DeJoy dur­ing a hear­ing of the Sen­ate Home­land Secu­ri­ty & Gov­ern­ment Affairs Com­mit­tee.

    “There is no inten­tion to do that,” DeJoy tes­ti­fied. “They are not need­ed.”

    USPS plants were ordered to remove 671 mail sort­ing machines that can effi­cient­ly process thou­sands of pieces of mail by the end of Sep­tem­ber. More than 90 per­cent of the machines have already been removed—and won’t be replaced.

    Many of the machines have been removed in crit­i­cal swing states: 59 in Flori­da, 58 in Texas, 34 in Ohio, 30 in Penn­syl­va­nia, 26 in Michi­gan, 15 in North Car­oli­na, 12 in Vir­ginia, 12 in Wis­con­sin, and 11 in Geor­gia. (This data was pro­vid­ed to Moth­er Jones by Jacob Bogage and Christo­pher Ingra­ham of the Wash­ing­ton Post, who have detailed removal of the machines.)

    While some of the removals have been described as rou­tine, many more machines have been removed this year com­pared to years past. “In 2018, for instance, the agency decom­mis­sioned about 3 per­cent of its Deliv­ery Bar Code Sorters, or 125 machines,” the Post report­ed. “In 2019, it was 5 per­cent, or 186 machines. The 671 on this year’s list amount­ed to about 13 per­cent.”

    ...

    This lat­est rev­e­la­tion sug­gests that DeJoy’s announce­ment that he is revers­ing efforts to under­cut USPS was more about pub­lic rela­tions than tan­gi­ble action—and rais­es ques­tions about whether USPS will be able to han­dle a huge increase in mail bal­lots in Novem­ber.

    ———–

    “DeJoy Says USPS Won’t Rein­stall More Than 600 Removed Mail Sort­ing Machines” by Ari Berman; Moth­er Jones; 08/21/2020

    Many of the machines have been removed in crit­i­cal swing states: 59 in Flori­da, 58 in Texas, 34 in Ohio, 30 in Penn­syl­va­nia, 26 in Michi­gan, 15 in North Car­oli­na, 12 in Vir­ginia, 12 in Wis­con­sin, and 11 in Geor­gia. (This data was pro­vid­ed to Moth­er Jones by Jacob Bogage and Christo­pher Ingra­ham of the Wash­ing­ton Post, who have detailed removal of the machines.)”

    59+58+34+30+26+15+12+12+11=257 out of the 600+ sort­ing machines slat­ed for removal. That’s over 40% of them in these 9 key swing states. What a coin­ci­dence. And they aren’t com­ing back before the fall. So DeJoy’s sab­o­tage plan is a fait accom­pli. That was his mes­sage to Con­gress on Fri­day.

    Except, of course, as we’ve seen, this was­n’t real­ly DeJoy’s plan. Trump him­self was open­ly threat­en­ing to veto any finan­cial assis­tance for the Post Office and rail­ing against mail-in vot­ing dur­ing the pan­dem­ic back in April. Recall how the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s adop­tion of this anti-mail-in vot­ing stance in April hap­pened to come short­ly after Jared Kush­n­er appar­ent had an epiphany in late March that if the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment neglect­ed to issue a nation­al­ly coor­di­nat­ed response to the pan­dem­ic and instead just let it run wild the coro­n­avirus was like­ly hit Demo­c­ra­t­ic-run states with large urban cen­ters the hard­est and this could become a polit­i­cal cud­gel used by Trump and the Repub­li­cans in the upcom­ing elec­tion.

    So it’s also worth not­ing that an inter­nal USPS doc­u­ment has been obtained by Vice out­lin­ing this exact sab­o­tage pol­i­cy of remov­ing sort­ing machines. The doc­u­ment, enti­tled “Equip­ment Reduc­tion,” is from in May, before DeJoy became Post­mas­ter Gen­er­al. As the doc­u­ment makes clear, the sort­ing machines weren’t to be sim­ply move around to oth­er parts of the coun­try. The plan was to take them out of ser­vice entire­ly and it pre-dat­ed DeJoy’s term.

    In addi­tion. And as mul­ti­ple sources with­in the Postal Ser­vice have told Vice, they have per­son­al­ly wit­nessed these machines being destroyed or thrown in the dump­ster. It’s a reminder that one of the rea­sons DeJoy could­n’t pledge to return the removed sort­ing machines to ser­vice is because they prob­a­bly already destroyed them:

    Vice
    Moth­er­board

    Inter­nal USPS Doc­u­ments Out­line Plans to Hob­ble Mail Sort­ing
    ‘This will slow mail pro­cess­ing,’ a union offi­cial wrote on one of the doc­u­ments announc­ing the machine removals.

    by Aaron Gor­don
    August 14, 2020, 8:22am

    The Unit­ed States Postal Ser­vice pro­posed remov­ing 20 per­cent of let­ter sort­ing machines it uses around the coun­try before revis­ing the plan weeks lat­er to clos­er to 15 per­cent of all machines, mean­ing 502 will be tak­en out of ser­vice, accord­ing to doc­u­ments obtained by Moth­er­board out­lin­ing the agency’s plans. USPS work­ers told Moth­er­board this will slow their abil­i­ty to sort mail.

    One of the doc­u­ments also sug­gests these changes were in the works before Louis DeJoy, a top Trump donor and Repub­li­can fundrais­er, became post­mas­ter gen­er­al, because it is dat­ed May 15, a month before DeJoy assumed office and only nine days after the Board of Gov­er­nors announced his selec­tion.

    The title of the pre­sen­ta­tion, as well as lan­guage used in the notice to union offi­cials, under­mines the Postal Service’s nar­ra­tive that the orga­ni­za­tion is sim­ply “mov[ing] equip­ment around its net­work” to opti­mize pro­cess­ing, as spokesper­son Dave Parten­heimer told Moth­er­board on Thurs­day. The May doc­u­ment clear­ly calls the ini­tia­tive an “equip­ment reduc­tion.” It makes no men­tion of the machines being moved to oth­er facil­i­ties. And the notice to union offi­cials repeat­ed­ly uses the same phrase. Mul­ti­ple sources with­in the postal ser­vice told Moth­er­board they have per­son­al­ly wit­nessed the machines, which cost mil­lions of dol­lars, being destroyed or thrown in the dump­ster. USPS did not respond to a request for com­ment.

    In May, the USPS planned to remove a total of 969 sort­ing machines out of the 4,926 it had in oper­a­tion as of Feb­ru­ary for all types of let­ters and flat mail. The vast major­i­ty of them—746 out of 3,765 in use—were deliv­ery bar code sorters (DBCS), the type that sort let­ters, post­cards, bal­lots, mar­ket­ing mail and oth­er sim­i­lar­ly sized pieces. But a sub­se­quent doc­u­ment dis­trib­uted to union offi­cials in mid-June said 502 of those machines would be removed from facil­i­ties.

    The May doc­u­ment, titled “Equip­ment Reduc­tion,” breaks down the exact num­ber of machines the USPS slat­ed to remove by region and facil­i­ty. Although the doc­u­ment uses terms like “pro­posed reduc­tion” and “reduc­tion plan” and does not reflect the USPS’s final plan, it pro­vides a gen­er­al pic­ture of the sweep­ing changes pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed by Moth­er­board about mail sort­ing machines being removed around the coun­try. It also shows that USPS man­age­ment is under­tak­ing a broad reduc­tion of the agency’s abil­i­ty to sort and process all types of mail, except for pack­ages which have been steadi­ly increas­ing in recent years before boom­ing dur­ing the pan­dem­ic.

    Fur­ther, the time­line of the May doc­u­ment did not come to pass. It pro­posed a plan result­ing in the machines being removed by the end of July, but that didn’t hap­pen. Inter­views with six postal work­ers and union offi­cials around the coun­try, who spoke to Moth­er­board on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty because they’re not autho­rized to speak to the media, revealed these machine removals are still occur­ring in Michi­gan, West Vir­ginia, Mass­a­chu­setts, Mary­land, and Texas.

    More machine removals are planned in the months ahead. The doc­u­ment sent to union offi­cials in June shows an updat­ed plan to extend the machine removal time­line through the first quar­ter of 2021.

    Moth­er­board also viewed doc­u­ments from the same region that laid out detailed plans to reroute mail to sort­ing facil­i­ties fur­ther away in order to cen­tral­ize mail pro­cess­ing even if it moves the mail across fur­ther dis­tances. To the union offi­cials, the result of these plans was clear: “This will slow mail pro­cess­ing,” one wrote in large font.

    ...

    ————–

    “Inter­nal USPS Doc­u­ments Out­line Plans to Hob­ble Mail Sort­ing” by Aaron Gor­don; Vice; 08/14/2020

    One of the doc­u­ments also sug­gests these changes were in the works before Louis DeJoy, a top Trump donor and Repub­li­can fundrais­er, became post­mas­ter gen­er­al, because it is dat­ed May 15, a month before DeJoy assumed office and only nine days after the Board of Gov­er­nors announced his selec­tion.”

    It’s anoth­er sig­nif­i­cant data point on this 2020 elec­tion sab­o­tage night­mare time­line: After learn­ing about the late March epiphany by Jared Kush­n­er that the pan­dem­ic could become a polit­i­cal tool if it’s allowed to rage out of con­trol and the ear­ly April pledges by Trump to veto any mean­ing­ful finan­cial assis­tance for the Post Office, we are now learn­ing these sort­ing machine sab­o­tage plans were already in the works by May, before DeJoy became Post­mas­ter Gen­er­al and days after he was select­ed for the posi­tion. So the ear­li­est known ver­sions of this sab­o­tage plan were cir­cu­lat­ing inside the USPS days after it was known DeJoy was going to be the next Post­mas­ter Gen­er­al, which rais­es the ques­tion of what role DeJoy may have infor­mal­ly played in devel­op­ing the plan before he was for­mal­ly Post­mas­ter Gen­er­al. And since this sab­o­tage plan is basi­cal­ly sab­o­tage out in the open it also rais­es the ques­tion of the extent to which DeJoy — some­one noto­ri­ous­ly unqual­i­fied for the job at the time — was essen­tial­ly select­ed specif­i­cal­ly for his will­ing­ness to be the pub­lic face of this open sab­o­tage of the upcom­ing elec­tion. Giv­en his dis­turb­ing con­gres­sion­al tes­ti­mo­ny it would appear he was the right man for the job.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 21, 2020, 3:31 pm
  15. As many com­men­ta­tors have not­ed in light of the fire and brim­stone-style 2020 Repub­li­can Nation­al Con­ven­tion — where one speak­er after anoth­er warns the audi­ence that far left rad­i­cals will burn down every town in Amer­i­ca — it appears to be focused deliv­er­ing as much ‘red meat’ to the Trump base as pos­si­ble with­out the tra­di­tion­al out­reach to swing vot­ers of past con­ven­tions. And while such tac­tics would be eye­brow-rais­ing in past elec­tions, hav­ing a cam­paign that is almost entire­ly devot­ed to com­mu­ni­cat­ing to an increas­ing­ly rad­i­cal­ized base dur­ing a year when the pres­i­dent is open­ly pre­emp­tive­ly try­ing to dis­cred­it and sab­o­tage the vote is the kind of tac­tic that should raise the ques­tion of whether or not the Trump team is intend­ing on using the RNC con­ven­tion to essen­tial­ly send a mes­sage to the hard core base that they should be prepar­ing to car­ry­ing some sort of insurrection/coup fol­low­ing the elec­tion.

    And then we get this sto­ry: one of the sched­uled Tues­day night speak­ers, Mary Ann Men­doza, had her slot can­celled after it was dis­cov­ered by the Dai­ly Beast that she had been pro­mot­ing on twit­ter a thread that was explic­it­ly and aggres­sive­ly pro­mot­ing both QAnon and clas­sic ‘Pro­to­cols of the Elders of Zion’ Jew­ish blood libel memes. But this was­n’t some old tweet from years ago. She had tweet­ed this out hours ear­li­er in the day. So on the day Men­doza, who is a mem­ber of the Trump campaign’s advi­so­ry board, was slat­ed to speak she decid­ed to direct her 40,000 twit­ter fol­low­ers to a vir­u­lent hard core class Nazi meme and it was only after the Dai­ly Beast point­ed this out that the RNC removed her speak­ing slot.

    After the Dai­ly Beast con­tact­ed Men­doza about the tweet she claimed it did­n’t rep­re­sent her views at all and that she had­n’t actu­al­ly read ithe entire thread and was­n’t aware of its con­tent. Keep in mind that the tweet explic­it­ly told peo­ple to “Do your­self a favor and read this thread.”

    Oh, but there’s more! We also learned on Tues­day that Mar­jorie Tay­lor Greene, the QAnon con­gres­sion­al can­di­date who recent­ly won her Geor­gia pri­ma­ry and one of a grow­ing num­ber of Repub­li­can QAnon can­di­dates this year, was invit­ed by Pres­i­dent Trump to attend his keynote con­ven­tion speech on Thurs­day night at the White House. Don’t for­get that QAnon is a move­ment that por­trays Trump as the sav­ior of human­i­ty in a bat­tle against Satan­ic lib­er­al elites who traf­fic and prey on chil­dren, and that hap­pens to basi­cal­ly be a mod­ern rehash­ing of the Pro­to­cols of the Elders of Zion where “the Jews!” get replaced by “the Democ­rats!”. So on the same day the RNC had to pull a speak­er for pro­mot­ing the clas­sic Pro­to­cols of the Elders of Zion hours before her sched­uled speech we also had Pres­i­dent Trump invite one of lead­ing advo­cates of mod­ern update of the Pro­to­cols invit­ed to Trump’s con­ven­tion keynote speech:

    The Dai­ly Beast

    RNC in Speak­er Can­celled After Boost­ing QAnon Con­spir­a­cy The­o­ry About Jew­ish Plot to Enslave the World

    Mary Ann Men­doza, an “angel mom,” was set to speak on Tues­day night. But then she took to Twit­ter to encour­age fol­low­ers to read a thread about the Roth­schilds.

    Will Som­mer
    Updat­ed Aug. 25, 2020 9:38PM ET
    Pub­lished Aug. 25, 2020 6:43PM ET

    One of the speak­ers for the sec­ond night of the Repub­li­can Nation­al Con­ven­tion was pulled from the pro­gram after The Dai­ly Beast sur­faced a tweet from her, ear­li­er in the day, urg­ing her fol­low­ers to inves­ti­gate a sup­posed Jew­ish plot to enslave the world.

    “Do your­self a favor and read this thread,” Mary Ann Men­doza, who is a mem­ber of the Trump campaign’s advi­so­ry board, tweet­ed to her more than 40,000 fol­low­ers Tues­day morn­ing.

    Do your­self a favor and read this thread. https://t.co/BfxVokBE3k
    — Angel Mom Mary Ann Mendoza??TEXT EMPOWER TO 88022 (@mamendoza480) August 25, 2020

    Men­doza, an “angel mom,” was sched­uled to speak Tues­day about her son’s 2014 death at the hands of a drunk dri­ver who was in the coun­try ille­gal­ly. But a Repub­li­can source famil­iar with the pro­gram­ming said the speech had been can­celled amid uproar over her tweet.

    Hours ear­li­er, Men­doza had linked to a lengthy thread from a QAnon con­spir­a­cy the­o­rist that laid out a fevered, anti-Semit­ic view of the world. In its telling, the Rothschilds—a famous Jew­ish bank­ing fam­i­ly from Germany—created a plot to ter­ror­ize non-Jew­ish “goy­im,” with pur­port­ed details of their scheme that includ­ed plans to “make the goy­im destroy each oth­er” and “rob the goy­im of their land­ed prop­er­ties.”

    Draw­ing on more than a century’s worth of anti-Semit­ic hoax­es and smears, the thread claimed that malev­o­lent Jew­ish forces in the bank­ing indus­try are out to enslave non-Jews and pro­mote world wars. Rid­dled with QAnon ref­er­ences, the thread from Twit­ter user @WarNuse claimed that the Titan­ic had been sunk to pro­tect the Fed­er­al Reserve, and that every pres­i­dent between John F. Kennedy and Don­ald Trump was a “slave pres­i­dent” in the thrall of a glob­al cabal.

    The thread also pro­mot­ed “The Pro­to­cols of the Elders of Zion,” an anti-Semit­ic hoax pop­u­lar in Nazi Ger­many, and claimed that its alle­ga­tions about a Jew­ish plot to con­trol the world are real.

    “The Pro­to­cols of the Elders of Zion is not a fab­ri­ca­tion,” the thread that Men­doza shared reads. “And, it cer­tain­ly is not anti-semet­ic (sic) to point out this fact.”

    After The Dai­ly Beast pub­lished this arti­cle, Men­doza delet­ed her tweet and tweet­ed an apol­o­gy “for not pay­ing atten­tion to the intent of the whole mes­sage.” While Men­doza had ini­tial­ly urged her fol­low­ers to read the thread, she claimed on Tues­day evening that she had not read all of the posts in the thread.

    “That does not reflect my feel­ings or per­son­al thoughts what­so­ev­er,” Men­doza tweet­ed.

    Though her speech was can­celled, the Men­doza episode is just the lat­est exam­ple of a con­ven­tion speak­er with a check­ered back­ground. As the Repub­li­can fes­tiv­i­ties enter their sec­ond night, sev­er­al sched­uled speak­ers have already been exposed for hold­ing bizarre beliefs.

    Pub­lic school teacher Rebec­ca Friedrichs, who spoke at the con­ven­tion on Mon­day, has claimed that pub­lic schools use their cur­ric­u­la to “groom” chil­dren for sex­u­al preda­tors like Jef­frey Epstein. On Tues­day, Vice report­ed that anti-abor­tion activist and con­ven­tion speak­er Abby John­son praised the idea of police racial­ly pro­fil­ing her bira­cial son as “smart.”

    “Sta­tis­ti­cal­ly, my brown son is more like­ly to com­mit a vio­lent offense over my white sons,” John­son said in a video.

    Mendoza’s tweet urg­ing her fol­low­ers to check out the anti-Semit­ic thread came on the eve of her Repub­li­can con­ven­tion appear­ance. While the thread includes exten­sive anti-Semi­tism and ref­er­ences to QAnon, it also alleges that Hillary Clin­ton is a “Satan­ic High Priest­ess” and that Barack Obama’s Wash­ing­ton home smells like sul­fur — a ref­er­ence to the idea, pop­u­lar with InfoWars host Alex Jones, that Oba­ma some­how smells like sul­fur because he’s con­nect­ed to the dev­il and Hell.

    The Trump cam­paign and Men­doza didn’t respond to requests for com­ment. But Demo­c­ra­t­ic super PAC Amer­i­can Bridge 21st Cen­tu­ry slammed Men­doza­’s one-time inclu­sion on the RNC sched­ule as “unac­cept­able.”

    “Mary Ann Men­doza­’s ini­tial inclu­sion speaks vol­umes about the rad­i­cal­iza­tion of the Repub­li­can Par­ty under Don­ald Trump and where we’re head­ed if he has four more years to spread hate and divi­sion from the White House,” Kyle Morse, a spokesman for Amer­i­can Bridge’s “Trump War Room” oppo­si­tion research group said. “Trump and his cam­paign refused to speak out against anti-Semi­tism and only pulled Men­doza because they got caught.”

    In addi­tion to the thread she encour­aged peo­ple to read, Men­doza also has post­ed her own tweets that push con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries about Demo­c­ra­t­ic bil­lion­aire George Soros. One tweet from June 2019 claimed that Soros was push­ing for more immi­gra­tion to install a “one world gov­ern­ment.”

    “These are the vio­lent types of peo­ple that SOROS, the ROTHCHILDS (sic) and the Unit­ed Nations have NO prob­lem using as pawns and uproot­ing them and bring­ing them to the USA to accom­plish their ONE WORLD GOVT!” Men­doza tweet­ed.

    Men­doza has alleged that pub­lic health advice advo­cat­ing for mask-wear­ing are using the “Soros play­book,” and claimed that Dr. Antho­ny Fau­ci, the government’s lead infec­tious dis­ease expert, is paid by Soros.

    ...

    ————

    “RNC Speak­er Can­celled After Boost­ing QAnon Con­spir­a­cy The­o­ry About Jew­ish Plot to Enslave the World” by Will Som­mer; The Dai­ly Beast; 08/25/2020

    Hours ear­li­er, Men­doza had linked to a lengthy thread from a QAnon con­spir­a­cy the­o­rist that laid out a fevered, anti-Semit­ic view of the world. In its telling, the Rothschilds—a famous Jew­ish bank­ing fam­i­ly from Germany—created a plot to ter­ror­ize non-Jew­ish “goy­im,” with pur­port­ed details of their scheme that includ­ed plans to “make the goy­im destroy each oth­er” and “rob the goy­im of their land­ed prop­er­ties.””

    Just hours before her speech Men­doza decides to tweet this out. The tim­ing sure is inter­est­ing!

    ...
    Draw­ing on more than a century’s worth of anti-Semit­ic hoax­es and smears, the thread claimed that malev­o­lent Jew­ish forces in the bank­ing indus­try are out to enslave non-Jews and pro­mote world wars. Rid­dled with QAnon ref­er­ences, the thread from Twit­ter user @WarNuse claimed that the Titan­ic had been sunk to pro­tect the Fed­er­al Reserve, and that every pres­i­dent between John F. Kennedy and Don­ald Trump was a “slave pres­i­dent” in the thrall of a glob­al cabal.

    The thread also pro­mot­ed “The Pro­to­cols of the Elders of Zion,” an anti-Semit­ic hoax pop­u­lar in Nazi Ger­many, and claimed that its alle­ga­tions about a Jew­ish plot to con­trol the world are real.

    “The Pro­to­cols of the Elders of Zion is not a fab­ri­ca­tion,” the thread that Men­doza shared reads. “And, it cer­tain­ly is not anti-semet­ic (sic) to point out this fact.”

    ...

    Mendoza’s tweet urg­ing her fol­low­ers to check out the anti-Semit­ic thread came on the eve of her Repub­li­can con­ven­tion appear­ance. While the thread includes exten­sive anti-Semi­tism and ref­er­ences to QAnon, it also alleges that Hillary Clin­ton is a “Satan­ic High Priest­ess” and that Barack Obama’s Wash­ing­ton home smells like sul­fur — a ref­er­ence to the idea, pop­u­lar with InfoWars host Alex Jones, that Oba­ma some­how smells like sul­fur because he’s con­nect­ed to the dev­il and Hell.
    ...

    And, of course, we have to note that Men­doza­’s tweet was far from the only allu­sion to QAnon from a con­ven­tion speak­er. Rebec­ca Friedrichs, a vir­u­lent oppo­nent of teach­ers unions, charged dur­ing her speech that pub­lic schools use their cur­ric­u­la to “groom” child for sex­u­al preda­tors like Jef­frey Epstein. It’s an exam­ple of how cur­rent right-wing memes aren’t just depict­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic ‘elites’ as Satan­ic pedophiles. Lib­er­als in gen­er­al are being por­trayed as secret Satan­ic pedophiles which is exact­ly the kind of wide­spread dehu­man­iza­tion pro­pa­gan­da we should expect from a polit­i­cal move­ment that appears to be prepar­ing for some sort of armed takeover and mass mur­der of lib­er­als if Trump los­es the elec­tion:

    ...
    Pub­lic school teacher Rebec­ca Friedrichs, who spoke at the con­ven­tion on Mon­day, has claimed that pub­lic schools use their cur­ric­u­la to “groom” chil­dren for sex­u­al preda­tors like Jef­frey Epstein. On Tues­day, Vice report­ed that anti-abor­tion activist and con­ven­tion speak­er Abby John­son praised the idea of police racial­ly pro­fil­ing her bira­cial son as “smart.”

    “Sta­tis­ti­cal­ly, my brown son is more like­ly to com­mit a vio­lent offense over my white sons,” John­son said in a video.
    ...

    And then there’s the oth­er Repub­li­can Nation­al Con­ven­tion sto­ry from Tues­day about the par­ty’s embrace of QAnon and its rehash­ing of clas­sic ‘Pro­to­cols’ pro­pa­gan­da: Mar­jorie Tay­lor Greene glee­ful­ly announced she got an invite from Pres­i­dent Trump:

    Talk­ing Points Memo
    News

    Mar­jorie Greene Says She Was Invit­ed To The WH For Trump’s Accep­tance Speech

    By Kate Riga
    August 25, 2020 5:54 p.m.

    Mar­jorie Greene, a QAnon sup­port­er who is like­ly head­ed to Con­gress this fall, tweet­ed Tues­day that she had been invit­ed to the White House for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s Repub­li­can Nation­al Con­ven­tion accep­tance speech.

    I’m hon­ored and thrilled to be invit­ed to attend Pres­i­dent Trump’s accep­tance speech Thurs­day evening at the White House.I’m also equal­ly excit­ed to vote for him again Novem­ber 3rd, and I’m work­ing hard all over Geor­gia to help him win.#gapol #sass pic.twitter.com/ADBTkXeEyH— Mar­jorie Tay­lor Greene For Con­gress???? (@mtgreenee) August 25, 2020

    The RNC, Trump’s cam­paign and the White House did not imme­di­ate­ly con­firm the invite.

    Trump has made no secret of his affec­tion for Greene, who along­side her extreme QAnon beliefs also has made racist, anti-semit­ic and Islam­o­pho­bic com­ments on her social media plat­forms.

    “Con­grat­u­la­tions to future Repub­li­can Star Mar­jorie Tay­lor Greene on a big Con­gres­sion­al pri­ma­ry win in Geor­gia against a very tough and smart oppo­nent,” he tweet­ed when she won the Repub­li­can runoff in Georgia’s deep-red 14th dis­trict. “Mar­jorie is strong on every­thing and nev­er gives up – a real WINNER!”

    The invite could put oth­er Repub­li­cans in a tough spot. Just last week, House Minor­i­ty Leader Kevin McCarthy (R‑CA) con­demned the con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry and its fol­low­ers on Fox News.

    “Let me be very clear,” McCarthy said Thurs­day night. “There is no place for QAnon in the Repub­li­can Par­ty. I do not sup­port it.”

    The dis­avow­al came after he said that he was “look­ing for­ward” to Greene’s almost inevitable win in her solid­ly Repub­li­can dis­trict in Novem­ber, and chose not to sig­nif­i­cant­ly boost her also-very-right-wing pri­ma­ry oppo­nent.

    ...

    On Tues­day, out­go­ing Rep. Den­ver Rig­gle­man (R‑VA) cospon­sored a res­o­lu­tion denounc­ing QAnon and the acts of vio­lence it has inspired.

    “QAnon and the con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries it pro­motes are a dan­ger and a threat that has no place in our country’s pol­i­tics,” he tweet­ed. “I con­demn this move­ment and urge all Amer­i­cans to join me in tak­ing this step to exclude them and oth­er extreme con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries from the nation­al dis­course.”

    Trump, how­ev­er, has con­sis­tent­ly expressed a wink­ing fond­ness for QAnon acolytes, who believe that he is a Mes­sian­ic fig­ure strug­gling against a cabal of Satanist and pedophilic Democ­rats and pop cul­ture fig­ures who are try­ing to take down his admin­is­tra­tion.

    “I don’t know much about the move­ment, oth­er than I under­stand they like me very much. Which I appre­ci­ate. But I don’t know much about the move­ment,” Trump said last week at a press con­fer­ence, adding that they “love our coun­try.”

    ———–

    “Mar­jorie Greene Says She Was Invit­ed To The WH For Trump’s Accep­tance Speech” by Kate Riga; Talk­ing Points Memo; 08/25/2020

    ““I don’t know much about the move­ment, oth­er than I under­stand they like me very much. Which I appre­ci­ate. But I don’t know much about the move­ment,” Trump said last week at a press con­fer­ence, adding that they “love our coun­try.”

    The far right cult that views Trump as the sav­ior who will mass arrest Satan­ic pedophile Democ­rats are the peo­ple that “love out coun­try” and that’s all Trump claims to know about them. It’s the same ‘play­ing dumb’ wink & nod approach Trump has been employ­ing the whole time. No mat­ter how many times Trump gets asked about QAnon and is told about their beliefs dur­ing press con­fer­ences he always acts like he just heard about them and they love it. They’re all in on the joke. A joke that dou­bles as a wink & nod call to pre­pare for the mass arrest and mur­der of Democ­rats if Trump los­es the elec­tion (and even­tu­al­ly too, if he wins).
    Giv­en the tim­ing of these two last-minute con­ven­tion announce­ments it rais­es the ques­tion: so did Trump invite a QAnon can­di­date like Greene specif­i­cal­ly because they real­ized Men­doza was going to have to be pulled? It’s clear that Trump is increas­ing­ly inter­est­ed in cul­ti­vat­ing a sense of mil­i­tant loy­al­ty from his base and uti­liz­ing their vio­lent­ly warped zeal­ous­ness to stay in office. He’s not even hid­ing it. So it would make sense that the White House would be par­tic­u­lar­ly sen­si­tive about the feel­ings of his QAnon fol­low­ers once it become clear that Men­doza was had to be dropped.

    Either way, it’s all a reminder that QAnon is by no means some iso­lat­ed phe­nom­e­na but instead a par­tic­u­lar­ly stu­pid ver­sion of the Alex Jones-style far right con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry that has been steadi­ly tak­ing over the con­ser­v­a­tive Amer­i­can cul­ture for years now and that Alex Jones-style world­view is itself just a mod­ern adap­ta­tion of clas­sic far right ‘the Jews!’ con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry world­view. Although, in fair­ness, it’s not like all Repub­li­can politi­cians and lead­ers are sup­port­ing QAnon. Forbes recent­ly had an arti­cle list­ing the Repub­li­cans who have come out against it: Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R‑Ill.), Sen. Ben Sasse (R‑Neb.), House Minor­i­ty Leader Kevin McCarthy (R‑Calif.), Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), Rep. Den­ver Rig­gle­man (R‑Va.), Karl Rove, Ari Fleis­ch­er, and Jeb Bush. That was their entire list. The rest of par­ty is pre­sum­ably just fine with it, or at least unwill­ing to pub­licly voice any oppo­si­tion to the movement...which might make sense giv­en that the QAnon is clear­ly being prepped by the White House to act as the new Brown Shirts who will mass arrest and/or kill its oppo­nents. Now may not be the time Repub­li­cans want to get on QAnon’s bad side, espe­cial­ly giv­en the con­tents of this week’s con­ven­tion.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 26, 2020, 3:21 pm
  16. The Dai­ly Beast had a piece on a series of sim­u­la­tions car­ried out by Demo­c­ra­t­ic-affil­i­at­ed groups on elec­tion out­come sce­nar­ios in light of the wide­spread expec­ta­tions that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion will do any­thing to keep Trump in office. And if the sim­u­la­tions are any indi­ca­tion of what to expect, all of those dire pre­dic­tions of post-elec­tion chaos are a near cer­tain­ty. Of the var­i­ous sce­nar­ios they gamed out only a clear Biden land­slide avoid one of the night­mare sce­nar­ios. Every oth­er out­come devolved into a strug­gle with a Trump admin­is­tra­tion that is will­ing to employ every dirty trick avail­able.

    Anoth­er very fea­si­ble sce­nario they gamed out is sim­ply what to do if there’s a repeat of 2000 and 2016, with the Repub­li­can los­ing the pop­u­lar vote but win­ning in the elec­toral col­lege again. It sounds like there’s a big inter­nal debate as to whether or not Biden should con­cede if that hap­pen and their sim­u­la­tions includ­ed the Biden Team encour­ag­ing the states of Cal­i­for­nia, Ore­gon, and Wash­ing­ton to threat­en to secede unless Repub­li­cans agree to amend the con­sti­tu­tion and aban­don the elec­toral col­lege for future elec­tion in exchange for Trump’s reelec­tion. So the sim­u­la­tions includ­ed the poten­tial breakup of the US.

    Worse, the only real effec­tive approach the Democ­rats could fore­see in win­ning out should Biden not secure a land­slide vic­to­ry is the mass mobi­liza­tion of protests on the streets and yet one of the dirty trick sce­nar­ios the group fore­sees is Trump invok­ing the Insur­rec­tion Act and call­ing in the mil­i­tary to ‘restore order’. And yet a clear Biden land­slide is also clear­ly impos­si­ble on elec­tion night when a large per­cent­age of the vote will be received by mail, espe­cial­ly when the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is open­ly sab­o­tag­ing the postal sys­tem for the explic­it pur­pose of slow­ing down mail-in vot­ing. So if we read between the lines of the sim­u­la­tion results there’s basi­cal­ly no fea­si­ble sce­nario for a nor­mal demo­c­ra­t­ic tran­si­tion of pow­er for Amer­i­ca going for­ward:

    The Dai­ly Beast

    The Left Secret­ly Preps for MAGA Vio­lence After Elec­tion Day

    The pro­gres­sive coali­tion Fight Back Table has been meet­ing to game out what hap­pens if Joe Biden doesn’t win by a land­slide. It’s not pret­ty.

    Sam Stein
    Pol­i­tics Edi­tor
    Updat­ed Sep. 08, 2020 11:22AM ET / Pub­lished Sep. 07, 2020 9:05PM ET

    Last week, a coali­tion of lead­ing pro­gres­sive groups gath­ered on Zoom to begin orga­niz­ing for what they envi­sion as the post-Elec­tion Day polit­i­cal apoc­a­lypse sce­nario.

    Put togeth­er by the Fight Back Table—an ini­tia­tive launched after the 2016 elec­tion to get a con­stel­la­tion of lefty orga­ni­za­tions to work more close­ly together—the meet­ing dealt with the oper­a­tional demands expect­ed if the Novem­ber elec­tion ends with­out a clear out­come or with a Joe Biden win that Don­ald Trump refus­es to rec­og­nize.

    Sources famil­iar with the dis­cus­sions described them as seri­ous with a mod­est­ly pan­icked under­tone. A small­er FBT ses­sion last fall had talked about post-elec­tion plan­ning, but those dis­cus­sions were tabled because of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic. This was the first time they were bring­ing the mat­ter to the 50-plus orga­ni­za­tions that make up the coali­tion. To for­mal­ize the effort, they gave it a name: the “Democ­ra­cy Defense Nerve Cen­ter.”

    Over the course of two hours, par­tic­i­pants broached the ques­tion of what the pro­gres­sive polit­i­cal ecosys­tem can func­tion­al­ly do in a series of elec­tion sce­nar­ios. They began chart­ing out what it would take to stand up a mul­ti-state com­mu­ni­ca­tions arm to fight dis­in­for­ma­tion, a train­ing pro­gram for non­vi­o­lent civ­il dis­obe­di­ence, and the under­pin­nings of what one offi­cial described as “mass pub­lic unrest.” And they pored over a report from the Tran­si­tion Integri­ty Project, a bipar­ti­san group formed in 2019, that ana­lyzed var­i­ous elec­tion-sea­son sce­nar­ios and made clear the type of rat­fuc kery, cor­rup­tion, and chaos that poten­tial­ly was ahead.

    “The poten­tial for vio­lent con­flict is high,” the report not­ed.

    Some of the hur­dles were straight­for­ward: how you “occu­py shit, hold space, and shut things down, not just on Elec­tion Day but for weeks,” explained one source famil­iar with the Democ­ra­cy Defense Nerve Cen­ter oper­a­tions. Oth­ers are more com­pli­cat­ed, like what quick trans­porta­tion options can be in place should poll loca­tions mys­te­ri­ous­ly close. Oth­ers have been sim­ply impos­si­ble to plan out.

    “I don’t know what the strat­e­gy is when armed right-wing mili­tia dudes show up in polling places,” the same source said. “This [Kyle] Rit­ten­house guy is being lion­ized on the right, right now. If it is being unleashed that you can shoot peo­ple and be a hero, I don’t know what prepa­ra­tion we can pos­si­bly do for that.”

    Those involved in the con­ver­sa­tion say this wide an array of groups has nev­er coor­di­nat­ed so close­ly on these mat­ters before. And the fact that they were sit­ting down some two months in advance of the elec­tion, was a tes­ta­ment to how seri­ous­ly they take the com­pli­ca­tions and threats Elec­tion Day pos­es.

    “It is very obvi­ous that Trump is lay­ing the ground­work for claim­ing vic­to­ry no mat­ter what,” said Rah­na Ept­ing, exec­u­tive direc­tor of MoveOn, and a par­tic­i­pant in the FBT call. “Pro­gres­sive groups at the end of the day believe in our democ­ra­cy and, while it is not per­fect, believe in build­ing upon it and strength­en­ing it. And we will fight to pro­tect it from what we tru­ly see as a pres­i­dent who has gone off the rails and tak­ing this coun­try down an author­i­tar­i­an fas­cist path.”

    And yet, for those who have spent con­sid­er­able time think­ing about the civ­il and polit­i­cal unrest that could come this fall, last week’s call did not pro­vide too much in the way of solace. The prep work, they wor­ry, is not hap­pen­ing fast enough.

    “I wish we were hav­ing these con­ver­sa­tions six months ago,” said Rosa Brooks, a law pro­fes­sor at George­town Uni­ver­si­ty. The co-founder of the Tran­si­tion Integri­ty Project, Brooks has con­duct­ed war games to play out the range of Elec­tion Day and post-Elec­tion Day sce­nar­ios. And vir­tu­al­ly all the out­comes, save one—a Biden landslide—have end­ed up facil­i­tat­ing a night­mar­ish fall­out.

    “My fear,” she said, “is we are still behind the eight ball.”

    With­in Fight Back Table, there is dis­agree­ment over how secre­tive they should be about these talks. Those on the side of keep­ing plans under wraps felt it would be wise not to adver­tise their prep work. Those in favor of dis­cussing it open­ly thought there was util­i­ty in the pub­lic know­ing how bad things could actu­al­ly get.

    The lat­ter camp was bol­stered in their belief by a white paper from Brooks’ Tran­si­tion Integri­ty Project titled “Pre­vent­ing a Dis­rupt­ed Pres­i­den­tial Elec­tion and Tran­si­tion.” The 22-page document—which Brooks sum­ma­rized in The Wash­ing­ton Post and which was obtained by The Dai­ly Beast—described four sim­u­la­tion exer­cis­es: a clear Biden win, a nar­row Biden win, a murky result, and a Trump Elec­toral Col­lege win with pop­u­lar vote loss. Those sim­u­la­tions were played out with 67 promi­nent pub­lic offi­cials and aca­d­e­mics role-play­ing on sev­en teams: the Trump cam­paign, the Biden cam­paign, Repub­li­can elect­ed offi­cials, Demo­c­ra­t­ic elect­ed offi­cials, career fed­er­al gov­ern­ment employ­ees, the media, and the pub­lic.

    The top line take­aways were red siren items. The elec­tion results would almost cer­tain­ly be con­test­ed, and the tran­si­tion process would like­ly be marred by tumult and cor­rup­tion. The word “vio­lence” was list­ed 15 times in the doc­u­ment; “chaos” nine times; and “cri­sis” a dozen times.

    Below the sur­face, it was even more har­row­ing. In the sim­u­la­tions, the Trump cam­paign was “con­sis­tent­ly more ruth­less than Team Biden,” the authors wrote. The options that Team Trump had to use or mis­use includ­ed manip­u­lat­ing clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion, selec­tive­ly releas­ing “clas­si­fied doc­u­ments for polit­i­cal pur­pos­es, fuel­ing man­u­fac­tured rumors,” freez­ing “assets of indi­vid­u­als and groups the pres­i­dent deter­mines to be a threat,” and restrict­ing “inter­net com­mu­ni­ca­tions in the name of nation­al secu­ri­ty.”

    That was just the begin­ning. The report’s authors not­ed that Trump could also “rely on sur­ro­gates to embed oper­a­tives inside protests to encour­age vio­lent action” as well as “mobi­lize a range of law enforce­ment actors… who might, with­out prop­er train­ing or if led by politi­cized actors, esca­late mat­ters.”

    In some sim­u­la­tions, the Trump team “suc­ceed­ed in invok­ing the Insur­rec­tion Act and send­ing active duty mil­i­tary troops into U.S. cities to ‘restore order,’ ‘pro­tect’ vot­ing places, or con­fis­cate ‘fraud­u­lent’ bal­lots.” In oth­ers, the team “had Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bill Barr order the seizure of mail-in bal­lots to ensure that vote count­ing would stop.” Those run­ning the sim­u­la­tions said there was “quite a bit of spec­u­la­tion that Trump might him­self ini­ti­ate a for­eign cri­sis short­ly after the elec­tion or dur­ing the tran­si­tion, per­haps to change the media nar­ra­tive.”

    Team Biden, for its part, had few­er tools with which to work. Under a sim­u­la­tion of a nar­row Biden win that Trump con­test­ed, the Tran­si­tion Integri­ty Project war game saw more than 4 mil­lion Amer­i­cans take to the streets for the Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­nee.

    “Vio­lent skir­mish­es and van­dal­ism took place dur­ing these demon­stra­tions,” the authors wrote.

    Beyond demon­stra­tions, Team Biden was also able to recruit 1,000 influ­encers, all liv­ing pres­i­dents, mod­er­ate Repub­li­can gov­er­nors, and, even­tu­al­ly, some Repub­li­can sen­a­tors to denounce Trump’s refusal to keep count­ing bal­lots or to leave office. From there, more hard­ball tac­tics fol­lowed. The sim­u­la­tion saw Team Biden work with “local Demo­c­ra­t­ic elect­ed offi­cials to call on the Adju­tant Gen­er­al of the Nation­al Guard, along with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the tech­nol­o­gy sec­tor, to mon­i­tor vote count­ing.” They also attempt­ed “a cap­i­tal strike and a work stop­page as part of an over­all effort to push cor­po­rate lead­ers to insist that all bal­lots be count­ed.”

    But hard­ball tac­tics would bring more aggres­sive respons­es from the right. The sim­u­la­tion for a nar­row Biden win saw a sce­nario in which “Infowars pub­lished a list of address­es, phone num­bers, and oth­er per­son­al infor­ma­tion of elec­tors pledged to vote for Joe Biden.” The announce­ment “includ­ed spu­ri­ous claims link­ing 88 of these elec­tors to [George] Soros and 14 to child sex traf­fick­ing.”

    In real life, for­mer (now aggriev­ed) asso­ciates of the pres­i­dent have warned that he will use extra­or­di­nary means to hold on to pow­er. And Biden him­self has open­ly wor­ried that Trump might move to con­test the elec­tion results if they don’t go his way. Beyond that, there has been very lit­tle said about what plans the Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­nee or his team have in store. Under law, Biden is restrict­ed from coor­di­nat­ing with out­side groups like those involved with the Democ­ra­cy Defense Nerve Cen­ter.

    ...

    But while Biden is keep­ing his plans coy, oth­er Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty lumi­nar­ies are begin­ning to make noise.

    Sen. Bernie Sanders (I‑VT) has become increas­ing­ly out­spo­ken about the need to pre­pare for the pos­si­bil­i­ty of Trump refus­ing to leave office even if he los­es. One senior Demo­c­ra­t­ic source said that the for­mer pres­i­den­tial can­di­date recent­ly had a dis­cus­sion with Brooks about the role he and his robust sup­port­er net­work could play if there is a need to mobi­lize.

    Brooks declined to talk about pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions. But the source said that Sanders “is cer­tain­ly think­ing about that role” and has also talked about it with Sen­ate Minor­i­ty Leader Chuck Schumer (D‑NY).

    There is no play­book for nav­i­gat­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ties that await this elec­tion sea­son. The Tran­si­tion Integri­ty Project’s paper said the clos­est anal­o­gy could be the ten­sions of the 1876 elec­tion that result­ed in the end of Recon­struc­tion. But the group stat­ed that the most relat­able par­al­lel would be what hap­pened in 2000, when the final results remained in lim­bo for weeks amid a recount of votes in Flori­da.

    What’s dif­fi­cult to remem­ber was just how ill-pre­pared every­one was for that moment. When Al Gore dis­patched top cam­paign aides to Tal­la­has­see, the pre­sump­tion was that elec­tion offi­cials would quick­ly find anoth­er box of bal­lots that would change the vote count in a way that left no ambi­gu­i­ty as to who won. Ron Klain, Gore’s top emis­sary in Flori­da, recalled telling his wife he’d be home by the com­ing Sat­ur­day.

    The ordeal end­ed up last­ing 36 days. And in look­ing back on it many years lat­er, Klain said that the fun­da­men­tal mis­take Democ­rats made was treat­ing it, pri­mar­i­ly, as a legal fight.

    “Vice Pres­i­dent Gore believed very strong­ly that this should be a legal process, not a polit­i­cal process,” Klain recalled in an inter­view with the pod­cast Can­di­date Con­fes­sion­al in 2016. “I also think there was a polit­i­cal cal­cu­lus that he just turned out to be wrong on, which was that if we played by a set of rules that elite opin­ion—The New York Times edi­to­r­i­al board, The Wash­ing­ton Post edi­to­r­i­al board—would weigh in against Bush and cre­ate a down­draft of Repub­li­cans then weigh­ing in against Bush... That obvi­ous­ly failed bad­ly.”

    The pro­gres­sive lead­ers help­ing spear­head the Democ­ra­cy Defense Nerve Cen­ter har­bor no such illu­sions. Though con­ver­sa­tions have just now begun deal­ing with the oper­a­tional details of how to nav­i­gate life after Elec­tion Day, few if any antic­i­pate a sce­nario in which Trump bends to elite opin­ion. Instead, the larg­er game plan is to apply pres­sure through mass mobi­liza­tion.

    “We are not the forces of orga­nized cap­i­tal,” said Mau­rice Mitchell, the nation­al direc­tor of the Work­ing Fam­i­lies Par­ty and a par­tic­i­pant in the FBT dis­cus­sions. “Ulti­mate­ly, the thing we rely on is orga­niz­ing peo­ple.”

    The nom­i­nal point per­son for the FBT on these and oth­er efforts, source say, is Deirdre Schifel­ing, a for­mer top offi­cial at Planned Par­ent­hood. Schifel­ing did not return a request for com­ment. The coali­tion includes labor groups, like SEIU and the Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Teach­ers, social jus­tice enti­ties like Col­or of Change, and pro­gres­sive move­ment out­fits like Indi­vis­i­ble and MoveOn. It is also col­lab­o­rat­ing with mis­sion ally Pro­tect the Results, a group of 80-plus left-of-cen­ter and some Nev­erTrump enti­ties that are also plan­ning mass mobi­liza­tion in more than 1,000 loca­tions across the coun­try.

    “There are a lot of scary sce­nar­ios,” said Sean Eldridge, the for­mer con­gres­sion­al can­di­date and Demo­c­ra­t­ic activist who is run­ning Pro­tect the Results. “We have to be pre­pared to mobi­lize in unprece­dent­ed ways.”

    While the sheer num­ber of groups and vol­un­teers involved in the effort has giv­en orga­niz­ers hope, there is some fear that they may not all be oper­at­ing from the same play­book. Two sources involved with the FBT dis­cus­sions said they wor­ry Biden would con­cede a con­test­ed elec­tion too ear­ly, with an eye toward ensur­ing a peace­ful tran­si­tion of pow­er. Inside the coali­tion, there is dis­pute over whether Biden should even con­cede if he wins the pop­u­lar vote but los­es the Elec­toral Col­lege, à la Clin­ton in 2016 and Gore in 2000.

    Under that sce­nario, Eldridge said, his orga­ni­za­tion would not sup­port mass mobi­liza­tion. “I sup­port the nation­al pop­u­lar vote,” he explained. “Our orga­ni­za­tion does advo­ca­cy for the pop­u­lar vote... Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the Elec­toral Col­lege is the sys­tem that we have.”

    But the Tran­si­tion Integri­ty Project not­ed that there would be immense pres­sure on Biden to fight it out if, for the third time in 20 years, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­date won the pop­u­lar vote but didn’t take office. In a sim­u­la­tion they ran, Team Biden “encour­aged West­ern states, par­tic­u­lar­ly Cal­i­for­nia but also Ore­gon and Wash­ing­ton, and col­lec­tive­ly known as ‘Cas­ca­dia,’ to secede from the Union” unless struc­tur­al reforms were made. In exchange for Trump get­ting the pres­i­den­cy, for instance, Repub­li­cans would need to agree to abol­ish the Elec­toral Col­lege, give Puer­to Rico and D.C. state­hood, and divide Cal­i­for­nia into five states for bet­ter Sen­ate rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

    A top offi­cial par­tic­i­pat­ing in the FBT dis­cus­sions said the pos­si­bil­i­ty of an Elec­toral Col­lege-pop­u­lar vote split did come up and that there were mixed opin­ions over what to do.

    “It’s the hard­est sce­nario,” the source said. “It’s 2016. But it’s that plus all Trump has done on vot­er sup­pres­sion. So I think there is a ques­tion but I think both sides are going to fight this till the very end.”

    And what, we asked, was the very end?

    “I don’t know,” the offi­cial replied.

    ———–

    “The Left Secret­ly Preps for MAGA Vio­lence After Elec­tion Day” by Sam Stein; The Dai­ly Beast; 09/08/2020

    ““I wish we were hav­ing these con­ver­sa­tions six months ago,” said Rosa Brooks, a law pro­fes­sor at George­town Uni­ver­si­ty. The co-founder of the Tran­si­tion Integri­ty Project, Brooks has con­duct­ed war games to play out the range of Elec­tion Day and post-Elec­tion Day sce­nar­ios. And vir­tu­al­ly all the out­comes, save one—a Biden landslide—have end­ed up facil­i­tat­ing a night­mar­ish fall­out.

    The only hope for avoid­ing a sce­nario that effec­tive­ly breaks democ­ra­cy is a clear cut Biden vic­to­ry. Any­thing less than that and we’re in store for one of the many night­mare sce­nar­ios. Sce­nar­ios that include Trump invok­ing the Insur­rec­tion Act in the face of large-scale street protests:

    ...
    Below the sur­face, it was even more har­row­ing. In the sim­u­la­tions, the Trump cam­paign was “con­sis­tent­ly more ruth­less than Team Biden,” the authors wrote. The options that Team Trump had to use or mis­use includ­ed manip­u­lat­ing clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion, selec­tive­ly releas­ing “clas­si­fied doc­u­ments for polit­i­cal pur­pos­es, fuel­ing man­u­fac­tured rumors,” freez­ing “assets of indi­vid­u­als and groups the pres­i­dent deter­mines to be a threat,” and restrict­ing “inter­net com­mu­ni­ca­tions in the name of nation­al secu­ri­ty.”

    That was just the begin­ning. The report’s authors not­ed that Trump could also “rely on sur­ro­gates to embed oper­a­tives inside protests to encour­age vio­lent action” as well as “mobi­lize a range of law enforce­ment actors… who might, with­out prop­er train­ing or if led by politi­cized actors, esca­late mat­ters.”

    In some sim­u­la­tions, the Trump team “suc­ceed­ed in invok­ing the Insur­rec­tion Act and send­ing active duty mil­i­tary troops into U.S. cities to ‘restore order,’ ‘pro­tect’ vot­ing places, or con­fis­cate ‘fraud­u­lent’ bal­lots.” In oth­ers, the team “had Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bill Barr order the seizure of mail-in bal­lots to ensure that vote count­ing would stop.” Those run­ning the sim­u­la­tions said there was “quite a bit of spec­u­la­tion that Trump might him­self ini­ti­ate a for­eign cri­sis short­ly after the elec­tion or dur­ing the tran­si­tion, per­haps to change the media nar­ra­tive.”

    ...

    The pro­gres­sive lead­ers help­ing spear­head the Democ­ra­cy Defense Nerve Cen­ter har­bor no such illu­sions. Though con­ver­sa­tions have just now begun deal­ing with the oper­a­tional details of how to nav­i­gate life after Elec­tion Day, few if any antic­i­pate a sce­nario in which Trump bends to elite opin­ion. Instead, the larg­er game plan is to apply pres­sure through mass mobi­liza­tion.

    “We are not the forces of orga­nized cap­i­tal,” said Mau­rice Mitchell, the nation­al direc­tor of the Work­ing Fam­i­lies Par­ty and a par­tic­i­pant in the FBT dis­cus­sions. “Ulti­mate­ly, the thing we rely on is orga­niz­ing peo­ple.”
    ...

    And then there’s the seces­sion-threat sce­nario they saw as pos­si­ble under the high­ly plau­si­ble even that Trump once again los­es the pop­u­lar vote but wins in the elec­toral col­lege. It rais­es the grim­ly fas­ci­nat­ing ques­tion of how the US con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment would respond if Cal­i­for­nia, Wash­ing­ton, and Ore­gon actu­al­ly did threat­en to secede, some­thing the US right-wing has for decades jok­ing­ly advo­cat­ed. How would a Demo­c­ra­t­ic ulti­ma­tum that ‘Cas­ca­dia’ will secede unless the Repub­li­cans agree to elim­i­nat­ing the elec­toral col­lege between received? With mild enthu­si­asm or over­whelm­ing enthu­si­asm? That’s one of the ques­tions that might be answered lat­er this year:

    ...
    While the sheer num­ber of groups and vol­un­teers involved in the effort has giv­en orga­niz­ers hope, there is some fear that they may not all be oper­at­ing from the same play­book. Two sources involved with the FBT dis­cus­sions said they wor­ry Biden would con­cede a con­test­ed elec­tion too ear­ly, with an eye toward ensur­ing a peace­ful tran­si­tion of pow­er. Inside the coali­tion, there is dis­pute over whether Biden should even con­cede if he wins the pop­u­lar vote but los­es the Elec­toral Col­lege, à la Clin­ton in 2016 and Gore in 2000.

    Under that sce­nario, Eldridge said, his orga­ni­za­tion would not sup­port mass mobi­liza­tion. “I sup­port the nation­al pop­u­lar vote,” he explained. “Our orga­ni­za­tion does advo­ca­cy for the pop­u­lar vote... Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the Elec­toral Col­lege is the sys­tem that we have.”

    But the Tran­si­tion Integri­ty Project not­ed that there would be immense pres­sure on Biden to fight it out if, for the third time in 20 years, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­date won the pop­u­lar vote but didn’t take office. In a sim­u­la­tion they ran, Team Biden “encour­aged West­ern states, par­tic­u­lar­ly Cal­i­for­nia but also Ore­gon and Wash­ing­ton, and col­lec­tive­ly known as ‘Cas­ca­dia,’ to secede from the Union” unless struc­tur­al reforms were made. In exchange for Trump get­ting the pres­i­den­cy, for instance, Repub­li­cans would need to agree to abol­ish the Elec­toral Col­lege, give Puer­to Rico and D.C. state­hood, and divide Cal­i­for­nia into five states for bet­ter Sen­ate rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

    A top offi­cial par­tic­i­pat­ing in the FBT dis­cus­sions said the pos­si­bil­i­ty of an Elec­toral Col­lege-pop­u­lar vote split did come up and that there were mixed opin­ions over what to do.
    ...

    And only a Biden land­slide can pre­vent these Dooms­day-USA sce­nar­ios. A land­slide that can plau­si­bly man­i­fest on elec­tion night because so much of the vote count­ing will be delayed due to mail-in vot­ing. They found no real­is­tic sce­nario that can avoid the start of giant nation­al cri­sis and the only sig­nif­i­cant response the Democ­rats can muster will be giant street protests, a sce­nario that hap­pens to fit nice­ly into Trump’s cur­rent strat­e­gy of demo­niz­ing the ongo­ing nation­wide police bru­tal­i­ty protest move­ment as some sort of domes­tic ter­ror­ist move­ment. And that gives us a hint of how this elec­tion will like­ly play out: Trump claims vic­to­ry on elec­tion night (whether he won or not) prompt­ing giant street protests that are sub­se­quent­ly labeled some sort of domes­tic ter­ror move­ment and maybe the West Coast will threat­en to secede, pos­si­bly pro­vid­ed a pre­text for some sort of civ­il war. So it’s basi­cal­ly the far right dream sce­nario. And all it took to make this far right dream sce­nario a near cer­tain­ty was decades of the right-wing media rad­i­cal­iz­ing US con­ser­v­a­tives, cul­mi­nat­ing in the elec­tion of an open aspir­ing fas­cist who warned us dur­ing his first elec­tion that he would­n’t accept elec­tion results if he lost. Imag­ine that. It’s one of those sto­ries that might make it tempt­ing to pause and reflect on the del­i­ca­cy of democ­ra­cy but should instead prompt some seri­ous reflec­tion on how democ­ra­cies should­n’t be treat­ed like they’re inde­struc­tible play­things.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 9, 2020, 3:01 pm
  17. In what is becom­ing a right-wing tic, the Insur­rec­tion Act was once again in the new over the week­end. Trump him­self casu­al­ly and enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly sug­gest­ed that he’ll invoke the Insur­rec­tion Act on elec­tion night if there are large scale protests against a Trump vic­to­ry. That was his response to a ques­tion dur­ing an inter­view on Jea­nine Pir­ro’s show on Fox News about what he would do if there are riots in cities on elec­tion night. Trump sim­ply state, “We’ll put them down very quick­ly if they do that. We have the right to do that, we have the pow­er to do that if we want...Look, it’s called ‘insur­rec­tion.’ We just send in and we do it, very easy. I mean, it’s very easy.” So protests on elec­tion night will be char­ac­ter­ized as ‘riots’ and an ‘insur­rec­tion’ that Trump has the pow­er to quick­ly and eas­i­ly ‘put down’, a clear allu­sion to invok­ing the Insur­rec­tion Act of 1807. Again. Putting down the Demo­c­ra­t­ic insur­rec­tion of Antifa and BLM domes­tic ter­ror­ists is now one of the the cen­tral emerg­ing themes of the Trump reelec­tion cam­paign so we should prob­a­bly expect a lot more allu­sions to it the clos­er we get to elec­tion day. Declar­ing mar­tial law is very ‘on brand’ for Trump, after all.

    And let’s not for­get the rest of the Repub­li­cans who have been open­ly call­ing for the invo­ca­tion of the Insur­rec­tion Act against pro­test­ers. When Trump was threat­en­ing to call in the mil­i­tary to put down protests back at the begin­ning of June, Sen­a­tor Tom Cot­ton wrote that op-ed in the New York Times back in June jus­ti­fy­ing invok­ing the Insur­rec­tion Act against pro­test­ers. And when Trump had pro­test­ers aggres­sive­ly dis­bursed with tear gas in front of the White House so Trump could walk across the street for a pho­to-op, Cot­ton jus­ti­fied the tear­gassing by declar­ing that “The only way to end this insur­rec­tion is the over­whelm­ing dis­play of force”. Cot­ton was just named as one of Trump’s poten­tial future Supreme Court picks.

    But as we’ll see below, there’s now a new voice call­ing for Trump to do mar­tial law...but only if he does­n’t win reelec­tion. It’s a par­tic­u­lar­ly omi­nous voice because it’s a voice that has long had Trump’s ear: Roger Stone, who issue this advice to Trump while he was being inter­view by Alex Jones on InfoWars. Stone also called for the mass jail­ing of jour­nal­ists — specif­i­cal­ly say­ing the entire staff of the Dai­ly Beast should be jailed — and also called for the jail­ing of pub­lic fig­ures like Bill and Hillary Clin­ton and Apple CEO Tim Cook. Stone then sug­gest­ed the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment should seize the bal­lots of Neva­da on elec­tion day from state offi­cials under the premise that they will be rid­dle with fraud and there­fore should­n’t be count­ed.

    And, again, this was dur­ing an inter­view on InfoWars, an out­let that has long laugh­ably brand­ed itself as anti-mar­tial law. InfoWars is now a plat­form for the advo­ca­cy of mar­tial law and mass arrests and its far right audi­ence appar­ent­ly has no prob­lem with this. If the InfoWars audi­ence has reached a point where they can back mar­tial law with­out bat­ting an eye the con­ser­v­a­tive base is ready to engage in some major crimes against human­i­ty. Don’t for­get that stok­ing the US right-wing into com­mit­ting some major crimes against human­i­ty against the rest of Amer­i­ca has long been a major goal of the far right media com­plex and here we are with the anti-mar­tial law crowd val­i­dat­ing a fig­ure like Roger Stone as he calls for mar­tial law.

    That’s part of what made Roger Stone’s advise to Trump so omi­nous. It’s not just who said it but where he said it. The voic­es in Trump’s head that he actu­al­ly lis­tens to — Roger Stone and Alex Jones — are telling him to essen­tial­ly declare Democ­rats an ene­my of the state and he’s clear­ly recep­tive to their mes­sage because keeps echo­ing it him­self:

    The Inde­pen­dent

    ‘We have the pow­er’: Trump vows to ‘put down’ any protests aris­ing from his re-elec­tion

    “Look, it’s called ‘insur­rec­tion.’ We just send in and we do it, very easy,” pres­i­dent said of 1807 law he opt­ed against using dur­ing George Floyd protests

    John T. Ben­nett
    Wash­ing­ton Bureau Chief
    Fri­day 11 Sep­tem­ber 2020 18:48

    Don­ald Trump is vow­ing to use fed­er­al force on US soil to turn back any “insur­rec­tion” on elec­tion night if Democ­rats or left­ist groups green-light mas­sive protests should vot­ers hand him a sec­ond term.

    “We’ll put them down very quick­ly if they do that. We have the right to do that, we have the pow­er to do that if we want,” the pres­i­dent told Fox News host Jea­nine Pir­ro in a sit-down inter­view taped on Thurs­day. She asked him about the pos­si­bil­i­ty of riots that night if he defeats Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­nee Joe Biden on 3 Novem­ber.

    “Look, it’s called ‘insur­rec­tion.’ We just send in and we do it, very easy. I mean, it’s very easy,” Mr Trump said.

    Those seem to be ref­er­ences to the 1807 Insur­rec­tion Act, a law that has been used sel­dom­ly but allows the com­man­der in chief to deploy troops on US soil in times of crises. Mr Trump float­ed the idea he would use it to put Amer­i­can mil­i­tary troops in the path of pro­test­ers after the killing of George Floyd, a black man, while being choked by the knee of a white police offi­cer.

    The pres­i­dent nev­er invoked the cen­turies-old law amid howl­ing from Democ­rats and tepid­ness from many Repub­li­can offi­cials about the like­li­hood active-duty troop­ers would essen­tial­ly be in an armed con­flict with Amer­i­can cit­i­zens on Amer­i­can soil.

    Mr Trump used parts of a Thurs­day night cam­paign ral­ly in key bat­tle­ground Michi­gan to warn Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Joe Biden, if elect­ed, would allow “anar­chists” and Antifa mem­bers to take over America’s sub­urbs.

    “If Biden wins, the mob wins. If Biden wins, the riot­ers, anar­chists, arson­ists, and flag-burn­ers win,” he said.

    “Biden and his par­ty tried to lock law-abid­ing Amer­i­cans into their homes while they encour­aged riot­ers and van­dals ram­pag­ing through all in all cas­es Demo­c­rat-run cities,” he said, allud­ing to local shut­downs due to the coro­n­avirus and Mr Biden’s pledge to order anoth­er one if the virus again spreads like wild­fire. (That com­ment, how­ev­er, ignores Mr Trump him­self call­ing on states to shut down their economies as the death toll was spik­ing in the spring.)

    ...

    ———-

    “‘We have the pow­er’: Trump vows to ‘put down’ any protests aris­ing from his re-elec­tion” by John T. Ben­nett; The Inde­pen­dent; 09/11/2020

    “Those seem to be ref­er­ences to the 1807 Insur­rec­tion Act, a law that has been used sel­dom­ly but allows the com­man­der in chief to deploy troops on US soil in times of crises. Mr Trump float­ed the idea he would use it to put Amer­i­can mil­i­tary troops in the path of pro­test­ers after the killing of George Floyd, a black man, while being choked by the knee of a white police offi­cer.

    He’s float­ed the idea before and he’ll float it again. Trump is clear­ly per­son­al­ly enthu­si­as­tic about the idea, along with Roger Stone, Alex Jones, and a large and grow­ing por­tion of the far right base. The long-stand­ing far right goal of whip­ping up the Amer­i­can con­ser­v­a­tives into such a fer­vor that they’re con­vinced they need to destroy the coun­try in order to save it has final­ly arrived:

    The Inde­pen­dent

    Roger Stone tells Trump to bring in mar­tial law if he los­es elec­tion

    Trump ally also rec­om­mends jail­ing the Clin­tons and Mark Zucker­berg

    Emi­ly God­dard
    Sun­day 13 Sep­tem­ber 2020 17:19

    Roger Stone, a for­mer polit­i­cal con­sul­tant for the Trump cam­paign and con­vict­ed felon, has said the pres­i­dent should impose mar­tial law if he los­es the elec­tion in Novem­ber.

    The vet­er­an Repub­li­can oper­a­tive said Don­ald Trump should invoke the Insur­rec­tion Act and arrest Mark Zucker­berg of Face­book, Tim Cook of Apple, Bill and Hillary Clin­ton and “any­body else who can be proven to be involved in ille­gal activ­i­ty”.

    “I do not advo­cate pre­ven­tive deten­tion, but peo­ple who com­mit crimes and think they can con­tin­ue to get away with it because we have two-tier jus­tice are just wrong,” he told con­spir­a­cy the­o­rist Alex Jones dur­ing a call to his online Infowars show.

    Stone repeat­ed uncor­rob­o­rat­ed claims of vot­er fraud in Flori­da and Neva­da, and said that votes from the lat­ter state, where the pres­i­dent held a cam­paign ral­ly on Sat­ur­day, should not be count­ed because “they are already flood­ed with ille­gals”.

    “The bal­lots in Neva­da on elec­tion night should be seized by fed­er­al mar­shals and tak­en from the state,” he said.

    “They are com­plete­ly cor­rupt­ed.

    “No votes should be count­ed from the state of Neva­da if that turns out to be the prov­able case.

    “Send fed­er­al mar­shals to the Clark coun­ty board of elec­tions, Mr Pres­i­dent.”

    Stone said he wants an hon­est, legal and trans­par­ent elec­tion in which the real win­ner takes office – but he ruled out Joe Biden as that real win­ner and said “force will be met with force” if Mr Trump is not re-elect­ed.

    He rec­om­mend­ed “form­ing an elec­tion day oper­a­tion using the FBI, fed­er­al mar­shals and Repub­li­can state offi­cials across the coun­try to be pre­pared to file legal objec­tions [to vot­ing results] and if nec­es­sary to phys­i­cal­ly stand in the way of crim­i­nal activ­i­ty”.

    Stone went on to sug­gest that jour­nal­ists, specif­i­cal­ly those from the Dai­ly Beast, be jailed if they are found to be involved in “sedi­tious and ille­gal activ­i­ty”, in response to a report on the web­site detail­ing what left-wing groups plan to do if Mr Trump los­es November’s elec­tion but refus­es to leave office.

    He said: “If the Dai­ly Beast is involved in prov­ably sedi­tious and ille­gal activ­i­ties, their entire staff can be tak­en into cus­tody and their office can be shut down. They want to play war, this is war.

    ...

    ———-

    “Roger Stone tells Trump to bring in mar­tial law if he los­es elec­tion” by Emi­ly God­dard; The Inde­pen­dent; 09/13/2020

    “Stone said he wants an hon­est, legal and trans­par­ent elec­tion in which the real win­ner takes office – but he ruled out Joe Biden as that real win­ner and said “force will be met with force” if Mr Trump is not re-elect­ed.

    Joe Biden has already been ruled out as a pos­si­ble real win­ner — a grow­ing meme on right-media — and there­fore any sce­nar­ios that involve Biden win­ning office will will be met with force. They’ve man­aged to push the Over­ton win­dow to “Heads I win, tails I shoot you in the head”.

    And now there’s talk of hav­ing entire states thrown out of the elec­tion due to fab­ri­cat­ed claims of mass ille­gal immi­grant fraud. The whole state of Neva­da should have its vote can­celed:

    ...
    Stone repeat­ed uncor­rob­o­rat­ed claims of vot­er fraud in Flori­da and Neva­da, and said that votes from the lat­ter state, where the pres­i­dent held a cam­paign ral­ly on Sat­ur­day, should not be count­ed because “they are already flood­ed with ille­gals”.

    “The bal­lots in Neva­da on elec­tion night should be seized by fed­er­al mar­shals and tak­en from the state,” he said.

    “They are com­plete­ly cor­rupt­ed.

    “No votes should be count­ed from the state of Neva­da if that turns out to be the prov­able case.

    “Send fed­er­al mar­shals to the Clark coun­ty board of elec­tions, Mr Pres­i­dent.”
    ...

    Can­cel­ing the vote of entire states. And since Roger Stone is a guid­ing light for the far right this is pre­sum­ably the GOP’s vot­er sup­pres­sion efforts are head­ed. That and all the mass arrests he’s call­ing for. This must be what push­ing the enve­lope looks when calls for mar­tial law are already in the air:

    ...
    The vet­er­an Repub­li­can oper­a­tive said Don­ald Trump should invoke the Insur­rec­tion Act and arrest Mark Zucker­berg of Face­book, Tim Cook of Apple, Bill and Hillary Clin­ton and “any­body else who can be proven to be involved in ille­gal activ­i­ty”.

    “I do not advo­cate pre­ven­tive deten­tion, but peo­ple who com­mit crimes and think they can con­tin­ue to get away with it because we have two-tier jus­tice are just wrong,” he told con­spir­a­cy the­o­rist Alex Jones dur­ing a call to his online Infowars show.

    ...

    Stone went on to sug­gest that jour­nal­ists, specif­i­cal­ly those from the Dai­ly Beast, be jailed if they are found to be involved in “sedi­tious and ille­gal activ­i­ty”, in response to a report on the web­site detail­ing what left-wing groups plan to do if Mr Trump los­es November’s elec­tion but refus­es to leave office.

    He said: “If the Dai­ly Beast is involved in prov­ably sedi­tious and ille­gal activ­i­ties, their entire staff can be tak­en into cus­tody and their office can be shut down. They want to play war, this is war.
    ...

    So this all rais­es the ques­tion: giv­en that insur­rec­tion is defined as a vio­lent upris­ing against an author­i­ty or gov­ern­ment, and giv­en that Stone and Trump are much of the rest of the right-wing media pun­di­toc­ra­cy are advo­cat­ing a vio­lent repres­sion of the nor­mal demo­c­ra­t­ic process, does this all qual­i­fy as attempt­ed insur­rec­tion?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 14, 2020, 3:40 pm
  18. Here’s a dis­turb­ing set of updates on the death of Michael Rei­noehl, the “100% ANTIFA” Port­land pro­test­er who shot and killed a far right Patri­ot Prayer mem­ber days before being gunned down by law enforce­ment him­self. First, recall how Rei­noehl was shot and killed in Wash­ing­ton state hours after he gave an inter­view to Vice News where he admit­ted to the shoot­ing and Port­land but por­trayed it as an act of self defense and went on to char­ac­ter­ize it as the open­ing shots of a new civ­il war. Ini­tial reports from eye­wit­ness­es indi­cat­ed that when Rei­noehl’s killing took place he had pulled an assault rifle out and fired it at offi­cers before they returned fire.

    Here’s the update: Fol­low­ing some ini­tial con­tra­dic­to­ry report­ing on whether or not Rei­noehl was bran­dished a gun when he was shot, we are now learn­ing of an eye­wit­ness who has come for­ward assert­ing that he saw the shoot­ing and Rinoehl did NOT have a gun. In addi­tion, one of the eye wit­ness­es who was pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed as claim­ing he saw Rein­hoehl pull out and fire an assault rifle at offi­cers before they returned fire is now say­ing his ini­tial state­ments to the press were mis­char­ac­ter­ized and that he nev­er actu­al­ly saw Rein­hoehl with an assault rifle. Instead he heard what sound­ed like a burst of rounds from an assault rifle. Police are also con­firm­ing that Rei­noehl did not have an assault rifle. Police are con­tin­u­ing to state that he did pos­sess a firearm at the time of this shoot­ing and they are con­tin­u­ing to inves­ti­gate what role, if any, the firearm may have played in the shoot­ing. In oth­er words, the police are NOT con­firm­ing that Rei­noehl fired first.

    The sec­ond update is that Pres­i­dent Trump seemed to not just be cel­e­brat­ing Rei­noehl’s death but actu­al­ly tak­ing cred­it for it. This was dur­ing his inter­view with Jea­nine Pir­ro this week­end when Trump tout­ed the killing, exclaim­ing, “I put out, ‘When are you going to go get him?’ ...And the U.S. Mar­shals went in to get him. And, in a short peri­od of time, it end­ed in a gun fight. This guy was a vio­lent crim­i­nal. And the U.S. Mar­shals killed him...I will tell you some­thing, that’s the way it has to be. There has to be ret­ri­bu­tion when you have crime like this.” There has to be ret­ri­bu­tion so Trump called for police to “get him” and they “got him”. A swift sum­ma­ry exe­cu­tion with­out a tri­al.

    The third update is more of a bizarre tan­gen­tial-relat­ed sto­ry to all this that cap­tures the zeit­geist of the GOP. It’s about long-time Roger Stone ally Michael Caputo. Recall the odd sto­ry of Stone and Caputo that came up in the Mueller inves­ti­ga­tion, where Stone and Caputo both ‘for­got’ about in inci­dent where a Russ­ian man liv­ing in Amer­i­ca, Hen­ry Green­berg, approached them with offer to sell them stolen emails from the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion. The emails were appar­ent­ly tak­en by a Ukrain­ian who was alleged­ly a dis­grun­tled for­mer employ­ee of the foun­da­tion. But there was a twist: it turns out Green­berg claims to have been an FBI infor­mant from 1996–2013. Plus he has a num­ber of ties to Hol­ly­wood. It’s anoth­er one of the many unre­solved threads from the entire #TrumpRus­sia fias­co and the kind of sto­ry that gives us a sense of Caputo’s fel­low trav­el­ers.

    So why is Caputo in the news now? Well, for starters, he got a new job back in April with the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. He’s now the assis­tant sec­re­tary of pub­lic affairs at the Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices despite hav­ing no obvi­ous qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the posi­tion, oth­er than being rapid­ly loy­al to Trump. Then, over the week­end, both Politi­co then The New York Times ran sto­ries about how Caputo and a top aide had rou­tine­ly worked to revise, delay or even scut­tle the CDC’s core health bul­letins of the to paint the administration’s pan­dem­ic response in a more pos­i­tive light. The CDC’s Mor­bid­i­ty and Mor­tal­i­ty Week­ly Reports had pre­vi­ous­ly been so thor­ough­ly shield­ed from polit­i­cal inter­fer­ence that polit­i­cal appointees only saw them just before they were pub­lished but that’s clear­ly changed.

    Then, pre­sum­ably in response to these sto­ries, Caputo cre­at­ed a 26 minute video on Face­book where he rant­ed about the “deep state” and accused the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol (CDC) of har­bor­ing a “resis­tance unit” that’s deter­mined to under­mine Pres­i­dent Trump. Caputo charged that sci­en­tists “deep in the bow­els of the C.D.C.” walked “around like they are monks” and “holy men” but engaged in “rot­ten sci­ence” and inten­tion­al­ly mak­ing the pan­dem­ic worse in order to polit­i­cal­ly harm Trump.

    Caputo also pre­dicts dur­ing the video that Trump will win re-elec­tion in Novem­ber but he goes on to pre­dict that Joe Biden will refuse to con­cede which will lead to vio­lence and warns, “when Don­ald Trump refus­es to stand down at the inau­gu­ra­tion, the shoot­ing will begin...The drills that you’ve seen are noth­ing.” He goes on to warn that “there are hit squads being trained all over this coun­try” to mount armed oppo­si­tion to a sec­ond term for Mr. Trump and that “You under­stand that they’re going to have to kill me, and unfor­tu­nate­ly, I think that’s where this is going.”

    And what is the evi­dence Caputo cites for this grand vio­lent left­ist plot? The shoot­ing by Michael Rei­noehl. “Remem­ber the Trump sup­port­er who was shot and killed?” Mr. Caputo said. “That was a drill.” Keep in mind that Caputo went on this rant just days after his long-time asso­ciate Roger Stone went on InfoWars and implored Pres­i­dent Trump to invoke the Insur­rec­tion Act and refuse to step down if he los­es the elec­tion.

    So at this point the updates on Michael Rei­noehl’s case is that it looks like he was killed in an extra­ju­di­cial exe­cu­tion that Trump him­self is cel­e­brat­ing and tak­ing par­tial cred­it for at the same time Rei­noehl’s shoot­ing of Patri­ot Prayer mem­ber is being used as a pre­text for civ­il war.

    Ok, first, here’s an update on what’s known about Rei­noehl’s death: eye­wit­ness­es and police now dis­pute that he had an assault rifle while one wit­ness claims he had no gun at all:

    The Oregonian/OregonLive

    Pres­i­dent Trump on fatal police shoot­ing of Port­land homi­cide sus­pect Michael Rei­noehl: ‘That’s the way it has to be. There has to be ret­ri­bu­tion’

    By Max­ine Bern­stein |
    Updat­ed Sep 13 2020, 12:42 PM; Post­ed Sep 13 2020, 12:36 PM

    Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump dur­ing a Fox TV inter­view praised the fatal police shoot­ing of Michael Rei­noehl, the self-described Port­land antifas­cist accused of killing a right-wing Trump sup­port­er, call­ing it appro­pri­ate “ret­ri­bu­tion.”

    Trump char­ac­ter­ized Reinoehl’s alleged shoot­ing of Aaron “Jay” Daniel­son in down­town Port­land on Aug. 29 as a “cold-blood­ed” killing and said he pushed two and a half days lat­er for Reinoehl’s arrest.

    I put out, ‘When are you going to go get him?’ ” Trump said Sat­ur­day on the “Jus­tice With Judge Jea­nine” show.

    “And the U.S. Mar­shals went in to get him. And, in a short peri­od of time, it end­ed in a gun fight. This guy was a vio­lent crim­i­nal. And the U.S. Mar­shals killed him,” Trump said. “I will tell you some­thing, that’s the way it has to be. There has to be ret­ri­bu­tion when you have crime like this.”

    The pres­i­dent went on to say: “There can’t be guys stand­ing up that want to fight. They want to fight. You can’t throw bricks at peo­ple with shields on.”

    On Sept. 3, four offi­cers from three dif­fer­ent Wash­ing­ton law enforce­ment agen­cies fired at Rei­noehl after con­fronting him out­side an apart­ment near Lacey, Wash­ing­ton. The offi­cers were part of the U.S. Mar­shals Pacif­ic North­west Vio­lent Offend­er Task Force.

    The task force was try­ing to arrest Rei­noehl on a war­rant signed ear­li­er that after­noon by a Mult­nom­ah Coun­ty judge that charged Rei­noehl with sec­ond-degree mur­der with a firearm and unlaw­ful use of a firearm in the shoot­ing of Daniel­son after a pro-Trump car car­a­van wound through down­town Port­land.

    Rei­noehl was a self-described anti-fas­cist who said he pro­vid­ed secu­ri­ty for demon­stra­tors at ongo­ing protests in Port­land against police vio­lence and racial injus­tice after George Floyd’s death in Min­neapo­lis. Daniel­son had par­tic­i­pat­ed in the Trump car­a­van and was a backer of Patri­ot Prayer, a right-wing group based in Van­cou­ver known for clash­ing with antifa sup­port­ers in Port­land.

    In response to Trump’s remarks, Sher­ri­lyn Ifill, pres­i­dent and direc­tor of the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Edu­ca­tion­al Fund, wrote Sun­day on Twit­ter: “So the Pres­i­dent is admit­ting that fed­er­al author­i­ties killed Michael Rei­noehl for ‘ret­ri­bu­tion’? We are on our way to nor­mal­iz­ing the exe­cu­tion of crim­i­nal sus­pects before arrest, tri­al or con­vic­tion. It’s that seri­ous.”

    So the Pres­i­dent is admit­ting that fed­er­al author­i­ties killed Michael Rei­noehl for “ret­ri­bu­tion”? We are on our way to nor­mal­iz­ing the exe­cu­tion of crim­i­nal sus­pects before arrest, tri­al or con­vic­tion. It’s that seri­ous. https://t.co/E5DiwwjSwj

    — Sher­ri­lyn Ifill (@Sifill_LDF) Sep­tem­ber 13, 2020

    In Wash­ing­ton, Rei­noehl was armed with a hand­gun when police spot­ted him walk­ing out of an apart­ment, but inves­ti­ga­tors haven’t said whether he fired any shots at offi­cers, accord­ing to Thurston Coun­ty Sheriff’s Lt. Ray Brady.

    Rei­noehl, 48, died at the scene. An autop­sy showed he died from gun­shot wounds to the head and upper tor­so.

    A day after Rei­noehl was killed, U.S. Attor­ney Gen­er­al William P. Barr issued a writ­ten state­ment, call­ing the “track­ing down of Rei­noehl” a sig­nif­i­cant accom­plish­ment and that the streets are safer “with this vio­lent agi­ta­tor removed.”

    Wit­ness­es have pro­vid­ed con­flict­ing accounts of what occurred.

    Nate Din­guss, a man who lives at the apart­ment com­plex and has obtained a lawyer, put out a state­ment last week, say­ing he didn’t see Rei­noehl pull a gun when offi­cers began fir­ing at him. He said offi­cers didn’t appear to issue any com­mands or orders to Rei­noehl.

    Rei­noehl was head­ing to his car while eat­ing can­dy and hold­ing a cell­phone, Din­guss said.

    The night of the shoot­ing, the U.S. Mar­shals Ser­vice issued a state­ment that said “ini­tial reports indi­cate the sus­pect pro­duced a firearm, threat­en­ing the lives of law enforce­ment offi­cers. Task force mem­bers respond­ed to the threat and struck the sus­pect who was pro­nounced dead at the scene.”

    In the Port­land killing, inves­ti­ga­tors said in court doc­u­ments that it appears Rei­noehl tar­get­ed Daniel­son, who wore a Patri­ot Prayer cap. Rei­noehl emerged from an alcove of a park­ing garage before fir­ing two gun­shots, one that hit Danielson’s bear spray can and the oth­er that hit him in the chest, accord­ing to police affi­davits. Daniel­son was walk­ing south on South­west Third Avenue at the time.

    In Trump’s inter­view with Fox’s Jea­nine Pir­ro Sat­ur­day, he also called Port­land May­or Ted Wheel­er “a dis­as­ter, a laugh­ing­stock,” claim­ing that if he sent fed­er­al offi­cers back to Port­land, “with­in a half an hour the whole thing would be solved.”

    ...

    ———–

    “Pres­i­dent Trump on fatal police shoot­ing of Port­land homi­cide sus­pect Michael Rei­noehl: ‘That’s the way it has to be. There has to be ret­ri­bu­tion’” by Max­ine Bern­stein; The Oregonian/OregonLive; 09/13/2020

    “In Trump’s inter­view with Fox’s Jea­nine Pir­ro Sat­ur­day, he also called Port­land May­or Ted Wheel­er “a dis­as­ter, a laugh­ing­stock,” claim­ing that if he sent fed­er­al offi­cers back to Port­land, “with­in a half an hour the whole thing would be solved.”

    Yes, the inter­view where Trump cel­e­brat­ed Rei­noehl’s death is of course the same inter­view where he also cel­e­brat­ed the idea of invok­ing the Insur­rec­tion Act against pro­test­ers and declar­ing mar­tial law. At which point extra­ju­di­cial ret­ri­bu­tion killings would pre­sum­ably be wide­spread:

    ...
    Trump char­ac­ter­ized Reinoehl’s alleged shoot­ing of Aaron “Jay” Daniel­son in down­town Port­land on Aug. 29 as a “cold-blood­ed” killing and said he pushed two and a half days lat­er for Reinoehl’s arrest.

    I put out, ‘When are you going to go get him?’ ” Trump said Sat­ur­day on the “Jus­tice With Judge Jea­nine” show.

    “And the U.S. Mar­shals went in to get him. And, in a short peri­od of time, it end­ed in a gun fight. This guy was a vio­lent crim­i­nal. And the U.S. Mar­shals killed him,” Trump said. “I will tell you some­thing, that’s the way it has to be. There has to be ret­ri­bu­tion when you have crime like this.”

    The pres­i­dent went on to say: “There can’t be guys stand­ing up that want to fight. They want to fight. You can’t throw bricks at peo­ple with shields on.”
    ...

    And the more we’re learn­ing from eye wit­ness­es of Rei­noehl’s killing the more it’s sound­ing like an extra­ju­di­cial killing of a man who was­n’t active­ly threat­en­ing offi­cers and per­haps some­one who nev­er even got a chance to sur­ren­der:

    ...
    In Wash­ing­ton, Rei­noehl was armed with a hand­gun when police spot­ted him walk­ing out of an apart­ment, but inves­ti­ga­tors haven’t said whether he fired any shots at offi­cers, accord­ing to Thurston Coun­ty Sheriff’s Lt. Ray Brady.

    Rei­noehl, 48, died at the scene. An autop­sy showed he died from gun­shot wounds to the head and upper tor­so.

    A day after Rei­noehl was killed, U.S. Attor­ney Gen­er­al William P. Barr issued a writ­ten state­ment, call­ing the “track­ing down of Rei­noehl” a sig­nif­i­cant accom­plish­ment and that the streets are safer “with this vio­lent agi­ta­tor removed.”

    Wit­ness­es have pro­vid­ed con­flict­ing accounts of what occurred.

    Nate Din­guss, a man who lives at the apart­ment com­plex and has obtained a lawyer, put out a state­ment last week, say­ing he didn’t see Rei­noehl pull a gun when offi­cers began fir­ing at him. He said offi­cers didn’t appear to issue any com­mands or orders to Rei­noehl.

    Rei­noehl was head­ing to his car while eat­ing can­dy and hold­ing a cell­phone, Din­guss said.

    The night of the shoot­ing, the U.S. Mar­shals Ser­vice issued a state­ment that said “ini­tial reports indi­cate the sus­pect pro­duced a firearm, threat­en­ing the lives of law enforce­ment offi­cers. Task force mem­bers respond­ed to the threat and struck the sus­pect who was pro­nounced dead at the scene.”
    ...

    Keep in mind that one of the mys­ter­ies around Rei­noehl and his claims of being “100% ANTIFA!” is the ques­tions of how long the guy has actu­al­ly been polit­i­cal active at all and who may have influ­enced him because based on his social media post­ings he had almost no inter­est in pol­i­tics until this sum­mer. Ques­tions that are a lot hard­er to answer now that he’s dead.

    And now here’s a piece on Michael Caputo’s 26-minute Face­book rant about the “deep state” con­spir­a­cy inside the CDC against Trump. As the arti­cle notes, this rant came a day after both Politi­co and the New York Times pub­lished pieces about how Caputo had been direct­ly inter­fer­ing with the CDC’s coro­n­avirus pub­lic reports in order to make the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s response look bet­ter. So it was a rant pre­sum­ably root­ed in part in a sense of des­per­a­tion but part of what made it so dis­turb­ing is the much broad­er sense of des­per­a­tion expressed by Caputo. A sense that the left is plot­ting mass vio­lence and that he and his fam­i­ly is in dan­ger. And what does Caputo cite as a source of these intense des­per­ate (and cer­tain­ly fraud­u­lent) fears? Michael Rei­noehl’s shoot­ing of the Patri­ot Prayer mem­ber which is describes as “a drill”:

    The New York Times

    Trump Health Aide Push­es Bizarre Con­spir­a­cies and Warns of Armed Revolt

    Michael R. Caputo told a Face­book audi­ence with­out evi­dence that left-wing hit squads were being trained for insur­rec­tion and accused C.D.C. sci­en­tists of “sedi­tion.”

    By Sharon LaFraniere

    Sept. 14, 2020

    WASHINGTON — The top com­mu­ni­ca­tions offi­cial at the pow­er­ful cab­i­net depart­ment in charge of com­bat­ing the coro­n­avirus made out­landish and false accu­sa­tions on Sun­day that career gov­ern­ment sci­en­tists were engag­ing in “sedi­tion” in their han­dling of the pan­dem­ic and that left-wing hit squads were prepar­ing for armed insur­rec­tion after the elec­tion.

    Michael R. Caputo, the assis­tant sec­re­tary of pub­lic affairs at the Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices, accused the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion of har­bor­ing a “resis­tance unit” deter­mined to under­mine Pres­i­dent Trump, even if that oppo­si­tion bol­sters the Covid-19 death toll.

    Mr. Caputo, who has faced intense crit­i­cism for lead­ing efforts to warp C.D.C. week­ly bul­letins to fit Mr. Trump’s pan­dem­ic nar­ra­tive, sug­gest­ed that he per­son­al­ly could be in dan­ger from oppo­nents of the admin­is­tra­tion. “If you car­ry guns, buy ammu­ni­tion, ladies and gen­tle­men, because it’s going to be hard to get,” he urged his fol­low­ers.

    He went fur­ther, say­ing his phys­i­cal health was in ques­tion, and his “men­tal health has def­i­nite­ly failed.”

    “I don’t like being alone in Wash­ing­ton,” Mr. Caputo said, describ­ing “shad­ows on the ceil­ing in my apart­ment, there alone, shad­ows are so long.” He also said the mount­ing num­ber of Covid-19 deaths was tak­ing a toll on him, telling his view­ers, “You are not wak­ing up every morn­ing and talk­ing about dead Amer­i­cans.” The Unit­ed States has lost more than 194,200 peo­ple to the virus. Mr. Caputo urged peo­ple to attend Trump ral­lies, but only with masks.

    To a cer­tain extent, Mr. Caputo’s com­ments in a video he host­ed live on his per­son­al Face­book page were sim­ply an ampli­fied ver­sion of remarks that the pres­i­dent him­self has made. Both men have sin­gled out gov­ern­ment sci­en­tists and health offi­cials as dis­loy­al, sug­gest­ed that the elec­tion will not be fair­ly decid­ed, and insin­u­at­ed that left-wing groups are secret­ly plot­ting to incite vio­lence across the Unit­ed States.

    But Mr. Caputo’s attacks were more direct, and they came from one of the offi­cials most respon­si­ble for shap­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions around the coro­n­avirus.

    C.D.C. sci­en­tists “haven’t got­ten out of their sweat­pants except for meet­ings at cof­fee shops” to plot “how they’re going to attack Don­ald Trump next,” Mr. Caputo said. “There are sci­en­tists who work for this gov­ern­ment who do not want Amer­i­ca to get well, not until after Joe Biden is pres­i­dent.”

    A long­time Trump loy­al­ist with no back­ground in health care, Mr. Caputo, 58, was appoint­ed by the White House to his post in April, at a time when the president’s aides sus­pect­ed the health sec­re­tary, Alex M. Azar II, of pro­tect­ing his pub­lic image instead of Mr. Trump’s. Mr. Caputo coor­di­nates the mes­sag­ing of an 80,000-employee depart­ment that is at the cen­ter of the pan­dem­ic response, over­see­ing the Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion, the C.D.C. and the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health.

    “Mr. Caputo is a crit­i­cal, inte­gral part of the president’s coro­n­avirus response, lead­ing on pub­lic mes­sag­ing as Amer­i­cans need pub­lic health infor­ma­tion to defeat the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic,” the Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices said in a state­ment.

    ...

    This week­end, first Politi­co, then The New York Times and oth­er news media orga­ni­za­tions pub­lished accounts of how Mr. Caputo and a top aide had rou­tine­ly worked to revise, delay or even scut­tle the core health bul­letins of the C.D.C. to paint the administration’s pan­dem­ic response in a more pos­i­tive light. The C.D.C.’s Mor­bid­i­ty and Mor­tal­i­ty Week­ly Reports had pre­vi­ous­ly been so thor­ough­ly shield­ed from polit­i­cal inter­fer­ence that polit­i­cal appointees only saw them just before they were pub­lished.

    Mr. Caputo’s 26-minute broad­side on Face­book against sci­en­tists, the news media and Democ­rats was also anoth­er exam­ple of a senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial stok­ing pub­lic anx­i­ety about the elec­tion and con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries about the “deep state” — the label Mr. Trump often attach­es to the fed­er­al Civ­il Ser­vice bureau­cra­cy.

    Mr. Caputo pre­dict­ed that the pres­i­dent would win re-elec­tion in Novem­ber, but that his Demo­c­ra­t­ic oppo­nent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., would refuse to con­cede, lead­ing to vio­lence. “And when Don­ald Trump refus­es to stand down at the inau­gu­ra­tion, the shoot­ing will begin,” he said. “The drills that you’ve seen are noth­ing.”

    There were no obvi­ous signs from admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials on Mon­day that Mr. Caputo’s job was in dan­ger. On the con­trary, Mr. Trump again added his voice to the administration’s sci­ence denial­ism. As the pres­i­dent vis­it­ed Cal­i­for­nia to show sol­i­dar­i­ty with the fire-rav­aged West, he chal­lenged the estab­lished sci­ence of cli­mate change, declar­ing, “It will start get­ting cool­er.” He added: “Just watch. I don’t think sci­ence knows, actu­al­ly.”

    Mr. Caputo’s remarks also dove­tailed in part with those of Roger J. Stone Jr., a long­time con­fi­dant of both Mr. Caputo and Mr. Trump. Mr. Stone, whose 40-month prison sen­tence for lying to Con­gress was com­mut­ed by the pres­i­dent in July, told the con­spir­a­cy web­site Infowars on Fri­day that Mr. Trump should con­sid­er declar­ing mar­tial law if he lost re-elec­tion.

    Grant Smith, a lawyer for Mr. Stone, was among the fol­low­ers who had joined Mr. Caputo’s talk on Sun­day. Mr. Caputo has 5,000 Face­book friends, and his video was viewed more than 850 times. He has now shut down his account.

    Over all, his tone was deeply omi­nous: He warned, again with­out evi­dence, that “there are hit squads being trained all over this coun­try” to mount armed oppo­si­tion to a sec­ond term for Mr. Trump. “You under­stand that they’re going to have to kill me, and unfor­tu­nate­ly, I think that’s where this is going,” Mr. Caputo added.

    In a state­ment on Mon­day, Mr. Caputo told The Times: “Since join­ing the admin­is­tra­tion, my fam­i­ly and I have been con­tin­u­al­ly threat­ened” and harassed by peo­ple who have lat­er been pros­e­cut­ed. “This weighs heav­i­ly on us, and we deeply appre­ci­ate the friend­ship and sup­port of Pres­i­dent Trump as we address these mat­ters and keep our chil­dren safe.”

    He insist­ed on Face­book that he would weath­er the con­tro­ver­sies, say­ing, “I’m not going any­where.” And he boast­ed of the impor­tance of his role, stat­ing that the pres­i­dent had per­son­al­ly put him in charge of a $250 mil­lion pub­lic ser­vice adver­tis­ing cam­paign intend­ed to help the Unit­ed States return to nor­mal.

    The Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices is try­ing to use that cam­paign to attract more minor­i­ty vol­un­teers for clin­i­cal tri­als of poten­tial Covid-19 vac­cines and to ask peo­ple who have recov­ered to donate their blood plas­ma to help oth­er infect­ed patients. Depart­ment offi­cials have com­plained that con­gres­sion­al Democ­rats are obstruct­ing the effort.

    While Mr. Caputo char­ac­ter­ized C.D.C. sci­en­tists in with­er­ing terms, he said the agency’s direc­tor, Dr. Robert R. Red­field, was “one of my clos­est friends in Wash­ing­ton,” adding, “He is such a good man.” Mr. Caputo is part­ly cred­it­ed with help­ing choose Dr. Redfield’s new inter­im chief of staff.

    Crit­ics say Dr. Red­field has left the Atlanta-based agency open to so much polit­i­cal inter­fer­ence that career sci­en­tists are the verge of resign­ing. The agency was pre­vi­ous­ly seen as most­ly apo­lit­i­cal; its reports were inter­na­tion­al­ly respect­ed for their impor­tance and exper­tise.

    Mr. Caputo charged that sci­en­tists “deep in the bow­els of the C.D.C.” walked “around like they are monks” and “holy men” but engaged in “rot­ten sci­ence.”

    He fierce­ly defend­ed his sci­en­tif­ic advis­er, Dr. Paul Alexan­der, who was heav­i­ly involved in the effort to reshape the C.D.C.’s Mor­bid­i­ty and Mor­tal­i­ty Week­ly Reports. Mr. Caputo described Dr. Alexan­der, an assis­tant pro­fes­sor at McMas­ter Uni­ver­si­ty in Cana­da, as “a genius.”

    “To allow peo­ple to die so that you can replace the pres­i­dent” is a “griev­ous sin,” Mr. Caputo said. “And these peo­ple are all going to hell.”

    A pub­lic rela­tions spe­cial­ist, Mr. Caputo has repeat­ed­ly claimed that his fam­i­ly and his busi­ness suf­fered huge­ly because of the inves­ti­ga­tion by the spe­cial coun­sel, Robert S. Mueller III, into Russ­ian inter­fer­ence in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Mr. Caputo was a minor fig­ure in that inquiry, but he was of inter­est part­ly because he had once lived in Rus­sia, had worked for Russ­ian politi­cians and was con­tact­ed in 2016 by a Russ­ian who claimed to have dam­ag­ing infor­ma­tion about Hillary Clin­ton.

    Mr. Caputo referred that per­son to Mr. Stone and was nev­er charged with any wrong­do­ing. Mr. Caputo lat­er wrote a book and pro­duced a doc­u­men­tary, both enti­tled “The Ukraine Hoax,” to under­mine the case for Mr. Trump’s impeach­ment.

    Mr. Caputo worked on Mr. Trump’s 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign for a time but was passed over for a job ear­ly in the admin­is­tra­tion. He remained friend­ly with Dan Scav­i­no, the for­mer cam­paign aide who is now the deputy chief of staff for White House com­mu­ni­ca­tions and played a role in recon­nect­ing Mr. Trump and Mr. Caputo.

    Some of Mr. Caputo’s most dis­turb­ing com­ments were cen­tered on what he described as a left-wing plot to harm the administration’s sup­port­ers. He claimed base­less­ly that the killing of a Trump sup­port­er in Port­land, Ore., in August by an avowed sup­port­er of the left-wing col­lec­tive was mere­ly a prac­tice run for more vio­lence.

    “Remem­ber the Trump sup­port­er who was shot and killed?” Mr. Caputo said. “That was a drill.”

    The man sus­pect­ed in the shoot­ing, Michael For­est Rei­noehl, was shot dead this month by offi­cers from a fed­er­al­ly led fugi­tive task force in Wash­ing­ton State. He “went down fight­ing,” Mr. Caputo said. “Why? Because he couldn’t say what he had inside him.”

    ————–

    “Trump Health Aide Push­es Bizarre Con­spir­a­cies and Warns of Armed Revolt” by Sharon LaFraniere; The New York Times; 09/14/2020

    This week­end, first Politi­co, then The New York Times and oth­er news media orga­ni­za­tions pub­lished accounts of how Mr. Caputo and a top aide had rou­tine­ly worked to revise, delay or even scut­tle the core health bul­letins of the C.D.C. to paint the administration’s pan­dem­ic response in a more pos­i­tive light. The C.D.C.’s Mor­bid­i­ty and Mor­tal­i­ty Week­ly Reports had pre­vi­ous­ly been so thor­ough­ly shield­ed from polit­i­cal inter­fer­ence that polit­i­cal appointees only saw them just before they were pub­lished.”

    What a coin­ci­dence. Just after the New York Times and Politi­co pub­lish pieces on his unprece­dent­ed polit­i­cal med­dling of the CDC’s pan­dem­ic reports, Michael Caputo issue a 26-minute Face­book rant charg­ing a “deep state” con­spir­a­cy inside the CDC against him and against Trump. But that con­spir­a­cy is just part of a large left-wing con­spir­a­cy of armed squads plan­ning on dis­rupt­ing Trump’s re-elec­tion. And this con­spir­a­cy has been threat­en­ing Caputo and his fam­i­ly. But he let them know that they’re going to have to kill him to stop him. This rant, of course, took place days after Roger Stone goes on InfoWars call­ing for Trump to declare mar­tial law if he los­es re-elec­tion:

    ...
    Mr. Caputo’s 26-minute broad­side on Face­book against sci­en­tists, the news media and Democ­rats was also anoth­er exam­ple of a senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial stok­ing pub­lic anx­i­ety about the elec­tion and con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries about the “deep state” — the label Mr. Trump often attach­es to the fed­er­al Civ­il Ser­vice bureau­cra­cy.

    Mr. Caputo pre­dict­ed that the pres­i­dent would win re-elec­tion in Novem­ber, but that his Demo­c­ra­t­ic oppo­nent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., would refuse to con­cede, lead­ing to vio­lence. “And when Don­ald Trump refus­es to stand down at the inau­gu­ra­tion, the shoot­ing will begin,” he said. “The drills that you’ve seen are noth­ing.”

    ...

    Mr. Caputo’s remarks also dove­tailed in part with those of Roger J. Stone Jr., a long­time con­fi­dant of both Mr. Caputo and Mr. Trump. Mr. Stone, whose 40-month prison sen­tence for lying to Con­gress was com­mut­ed by the pres­i­dent in July, told the con­spir­a­cy web­site Infowars on Fri­day that Mr. Trump should con­sid­er declar­ing mar­tial law if he lost re-elec­tion.

    Grant Smith, a lawyer for Mr. Stone, was among the fol­low­ers who had joined Mr. Caputo’s talk on Sun­day. Mr. Caputo has 5,000 Face­book friends, and his video was viewed more than 850 times. He has now shut down his account.

    Over all, his tone was deeply omi­nous: He warned, again with­out evi­dence, that “there are hit squads being trained all over this coun­try” to mount armed oppo­si­tion to a sec­ond term for Mr. Trump. “You under­stand that they’re going to have to kill me, and unfor­tu­nate­ly, I think that’s where this is going,” Mr. Caputo added.

    In a state­ment on Mon­day, Mr. Caputo told The Times: “Since join­ing the admin­is­tra­tion, my fam­i­ly and I have been con­tin­u­al­ly threat­ened” and harassed by peo­ple who have lat­er been pros­e­cut­ed. “This weighs heav­i­ly on us, and we deeply appre­ci­ate the friend­ship and sup­port of Pres­i­dent Trump as we address these mat­ters and keep our chil­dren safe.”

    ...

    Mr. Caputo charged that sci­en­tists “deep in the bow­els of the C.D.C.” walked “around like they are monks” and “holy men” but engaged in “rot­ten sci­ence.”

    He fierce­ly defend­ed his sci­en­tif­ic advis­er, Dr. Paul Alexan­der, who was heav­i­ly involved in the effort to reshape the C.D.C.’s Mor­bid­i­ty and Mor­tal­i­ty Week­ly Reports. Mr. Caputo described Dr. Alexan­der, an assis­tant pro­fes­sor at McMas­ter Uni­ver­si­ty in Cana­da, as “a genius.”

    “To allow peo­ple to die so that you can replace the pres­i­dent” is a “griev­ous sin,” Mr. Caputo said. “And these peo­ple are all going to hell.”
    ...

    The evi­dence for this dia­bol­i­cal left-wing plot to mur­der Trump sup­port­ers? Michael Rei­noehl’s shoot­ing of the Patri­ot Prayer mem­ber. That was all just a drill:

    ...
    Some of Mr. Caputo’s most dis­turb­ing com­ments were cen­tered on what he described as a left-wing plot to harm the administration’s sup­port­ers. He claimed base­less­ly that the killing of a Trump sup­port­er in Port­land, Ore., in August by an avowed sup­port­er of the left-wing col­lec­tive was mere­ly a prac­tice run for more vio­lence.

    “Remem­ber the Trump sup­port­er who was shot and killed?” Mr. Caputo said. “That was a drill.”

    The man sus­pect­ed in the shoot­ing, Michael For­est Rei­noehl, was shot dead this month by offi­cers from a fed­er­al­ly led fugi­tive task force in Wash­ing­ton State. He “went down fight­ing,” Mr. Caputo said. “Why? Because he couldn’t say what he had inside him.”
    ...

    It’s worth recall­ing that Rei­noehl him­self expressed a sen­ti­ment that when he shot that guy in Port­land it was the open­ing shots of new war. It was one of those over-the-top state­ments that raised ques­tions about Rei­noehl’s actu­al polit­i­cal back­ground. And then we had the Oath Keep­ers also call the shoot­ing in Port­land the first shot a new civ­il war. Then Pres­i­dent Trump got involved by call­ing for Rei­noehl’s appre­hen­sion which was quick­ly fol­lowed by a shoot­ing by law enforce­ment that is look­ing more and more like an inten­tion­al extra­ju­di­cial killing. And now Michael Caputo is cit­ing Rei­noehl is as evi­dence of a vast left-wing plot to orches­trate post-elec­tion mil­i­tant squads. It’s all a reminder that a key step in foment­ing civ­il con­flict is the foment­ing of delu­sion and mad­ness. Yes, some vio­lence is required too, but just a spark. The delu­sion and mad­ness will take care of it from there.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 15, 2020, 3:18 pm

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