Tag: trump appointees
Political Press Keeps Echoing Special Counsel's Partisan Smear Of Biden

Political Press Keeps Echoing Special Counsel's Partisan Smear Of Biden

A Trump-appointed prosecutor dropped an unfalsifiable partisan bomb on President Joe Biden Thursday, playing into a years-long right-wing media campaign — and U.S. political journalists decided to treat it as a valid and impartial charge.

Biden, who has a 40-year record of public service in the U.S. Senate, as vice president, and in the Oval Office, is a self-described “gaffe machine” with a well-documented stutter. He is also, at 81, the oldest president in U.S. history.

The right has dedicated substantial time and resources since Biden launched his 2020 presidential campaign to attributing his verbal miscues to his age. Republican political operatives surface out-of-context snippets of Biden’s misstatements and try to blow them up into national stories, and it is rarely-disputed canon in the right-wing media that the president is a mentally failing dementia patient.

This argument blew up in their faces when Biden performed so well in a debate against then-President Donald Trump that the GOP resorted to accusing him of taking performance-enhancing drugs, and again in 2023, when his canny dealings with then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy led McCarthy to describe him as “very smart” and Republicans to question how they’d been outmaneuvered by someone purportedly in mental decline. But undeterred by reality, the right has maintained the drumbeat over Biden’s mental status, driving up public concern over the president’s age.

Enter Robert Hur. Attorney General Merrick Garland presumably selected him as a special counsel to investigate Biden’s possible unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or other records because he thought he could quell potential complaints of political bias by putting in charge a former clerk to right-wing judges whom Trump appointed as a U.S. attorney with every incentive to do maximum political damage to the Democratic president. This is a regular pattern — Republican and Democratic administrations each appoint Republicans to investigate both Republicans and Democrats, though that never seems to halt the complaints from the right about the handling of those cases.

Last Thursday, after a year-long investigation, Hur issued a 345-page report in which he concluded that “no criminal charges are warranted in this matter” and that “the evidence does not establish Mr. Biden's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.” But rather than stop there, he also levied an incendiary and gratuitous attack on Biden’s mental status, claiming that, “at trial, Mr. Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview of him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.” Hur cited specific mental lapses he’d observed during their five hours of interviews — conducted at a time when Biden was responding to the international crisis caused by the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel — including that his “memory appeared hazy” when discussing the intricacies of 15-year-old White House policy debates.

Hur’s argument that lawyers for the sitting president of the United States would argue in court that he shouldn’t be convicted of a crime because he is a senile old man is facially absurd. Indeed, Biden forcefully pushed back on the critique during a White House appearance Thursday night.

The special counsel’s actions drew sharp criticism from the legal community. Biden’s lawyers blasted claims about Biden’s memory in a draft report, saying, “We do not believe that the report's treatment of President Biden's memory is accurate or appropriate. The report uses highly prejudicial language to describe a commonplace occurrence among witnesses: a lack of recall of years-old events.” On MSNBC, former FBI counsel Andrew Weissmann called the claims “wholly inappropriate,” “gratuitous,” and “exactly what you’re not supposed to do, which is putting your thumb on the scale that could have political repercussions.” Neal Katyal, the former acting U.S. solicitor general, likewise said that based on his tours in the Justice Department, Hur’s statements were “totally gratuitous” and a “too-clever-move-by-half by the special counsel to try and take some swipes at a sitting president.” And Ty Cobb, a former Trump lawyer, said on CNN that he had served on an independent counsel probe that declined to prosecute someone due to “health issues, but we didn’t tell the world that,” suggesting that such statements by Hur were inappropriate.

But by including those inappropriate and gratuitous statements, Hur put an official seal on a partisan attack.

The right jumped on Hur’s claims, with Republican politicians and right-wing commentators falsely claiming that the special counsel had found that Biden “is not competent to stand trial” and “has dementia.” Some called for the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and remove him from office.

The mainstream political press, meanwhile, turned Hur’s insinuations about Biden’s mental health — and not his declination to prosecute — into the report’s big takeaway. Here’s a sampling of top headlines from major newspapers, political tipsheets, and digital outlets on Thursday and Friday.

Stories about Biden’s mental state are clearly catnip for political journalists. They can demonstrate how “fair” they are by providing negative coverage of Biden to balance their treatment of his likely opponent Donald Trump, who is an unhinged authoritarian facing scores of federal and state criminal charges, including for attempting to subvert the 2020 presidential election. And they don’t need to bone up on policy nuances separating the candidates — “is the president addled” is an easy venue for hot takes.

The storyline is particularly toxic because no matter how many times it is repudiated by Biden’s public actions or the statements of people who have spoken to him privately, it cannot be falsified. The White House physician can release health summaries calling him “fit to successfully execute the duties of the Presidency.” Democrats who have recently spoken to the president, like Rep. Dan Goldman (D-NY), and reporters who have recently interviewed him, like John Harwood, can attest to his mental acuity at the time of his special counsel interview. But Biden is still Biden, so he’s going to keep making gaffes, as he did Thursday night when he referred to Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as “the president of Mexico,” leading journalists to downplay his newsmaking statements about the Israel-Hamas war and fixate instead on what the statement says about his mental health.

The choice for reporters is how they respond to such misstatements. On NPR, Mara Liasson said that the White House is pushing back by pointing out that Biden’s foes, like Fox’s Sean Hannity and Trump, have had similar mix-ups.

“But the difference is that one of these missteps, one of these guys who forgets things, Biden, has become a viral meme, and it's become a big problem for him,” she said. “Trump's misstatements, for some reason, have not risen to that level.”

It’s true that Trump’s own verbal missteps have not coalesced into an overarching narrative about his mental fitness for office. But the reason why is obvious: Political journalists decided to treat Biden’s missteps as a big problem, and Trump’s as a small one. They’re setting the agenda, following the lead of the Republican Party, the right-wing media, and now, Hur.

Update (2/12/24): Popular Information’s Judd Legum reviewed the output of three major newspapers and found a “deluge of negative media coverage based on Hur's conjecture” which treated “Hur's amateur medical judgments as a political crisis for Biden and an existential threat to his reelection campaign.”

“A Popular Information analysis found that just three major papers — the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal — collectively published 81 articles about Hur's assessment of Biden's memory in the four days following the release of Hur's report,” Legum wrote. “Incidents that raised questions about former President Trump's mental state received far less coverage by the same outlets.”


Legum also found that the papers provided significantly less coverage of Trump’s recent mix-up of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley.


    Former Trump Appointee Charged With Assaulting Officer On Jan. 6

    Former Trump Appointee Charged With Assaulting Officer On Jan. 6

    Federico Klein, a former Trump appointee to the State Department, was charged Thursday with allegedly assaulting a Metropolitan Police Officer using a deadly weapon during the riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

    According to an expanded indictment, Klein, "using a deadly or dangerous weapon, that is, a shield, did forcibly assault, resist, oppose, impede, intimidate, and interfere with an officer and employee of the United States."

    Though Klein was first charged individually on March 19 for his actions on January 6, the Justice Department combined his case with that of six other defendants, and two individuals yet to be charged, on July 29.

    The superseding indictment alleged that Klein was part of a wave of rioters who engaged in a violent conflict with police officers in the Lower West Terrace of the Capitol and a nearby tunnel between 2:40 p.m. and 3:18 p.m. ET. In videos released by the Justice Department, rioters, including Klein, allegedly engaged in fierce coordinated assaults against the line of police officers attempting to block off the tunnel, using metal poles, riot shields, and other makeshift weapons.

    During the first hearing of the House Select Committee to Investigate January 6 — assembled by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after an initial bipartisan commission failed to come together amid GOP pushback — Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) said that she and another member of Congress were sheltering in an office "40 paces" from the tunnel where rioters, including Klein, were fighting police officers attempting to hold them off from progressing farther.

    She credited law enforcement from keeping her alive.

    "I listened to you struggle," she told officers testifying during that hearing, who had been present at the Capitol and had pushed back the mob. "I listened to you yelling out to one another. I listened to you care for one another… I listened to people coughing, having difficulty breathing. And then I listened to you getting back into the fight."

    She added, "The reason I was able to hug [my children] again was because of the courage you and other officers showed that day."

    A video released by the Justice Department indeed appears to show Klein allegedly pushing his way to the front of a group of rioters attempting to break through a police line in that tunnel.

    According to D.C. CBS affiliate WUSA9, in the footage, Klein appears to grab at a riot shield in the hands of an MPD officer before ultimately picking up a large metal pole, all while urging on the other rioters and allegedly calling for mob reinforcements.

    Klein, along with the six other is currently facing at least eight charges, including multiple counts of assaulting a police officer.

    According to WUSA9, Klein was turned in by his former State Department colleagues who saw his photo on an FBI wanted poster following the attack.

    The January 6 insurrection ultimately resulted in several deaths, tens of millions of dollars in repairs, and more than 600 separate charges. At least 140 law enforcement officers, both Capitol and Metropolitan Police, were injured in the attack; several who guarded the Capitol that day have since died by suicide.

    Despite the damage, many Republican lawmakers, as well as former President Donald Trump, who was impeached for incitement of insurrection related to that attack, have attempted to rewrite what happened that day, insisting, among other things, that the incident was little more than a "tourist" visit, or that members of the mob were actually "antifa" activists dressed as Trump supporters, claims which are not rooted in reality and have been repeatedly debunked.

    The House committee's inquiry into the matter is ongoing, and separate investigations by federal law enforcement are also underway.

    Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

    Postmaster General Louis DeJoy

    DeJoy Hangs On At Post Office As His Company Reaps Huge Bonanza

    Reprinted with permission from Alternet

    U.S. lawmakers and ethics advocates on Friday reiterated calls for firing Postmaster General Louis DeJoy after The Washington Post revealed that the United States Postal Service awarded a $120 million contract to XPO Logistics, a company he helped run and "with which his family maintains financial ties."

    "Louis DeJoy is a walking conflict of interest," declared Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA). "He had no business being named postmaster general, and he has no business continuing to serve."

    "It's long past time to #FireDeJoy," added Connolly, chair of the House Subcommittee on Government Operations, which has legislative jurisdiction over the Postal Service.

    Connolly was far from alone in responding to the report by calling for DeJoy's removal.

    "How in the world is Louis DeJoy still the postmaster general?" asked Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO). "It is long past time to #FireDeJoy."

    DeJoy's personal spokesperson referred most of the newspaper's questions to USPS—whose spokesperson "said that DeJoy did not participate in the procurement process for the XPO contract, which was competitively bid." The company's spokesperson noted that XPO was not awarded some other contracts it sought.

    Under the contract that XPO got, it will take over two centers that organize and load mail. Dena Briscoe, president of the American Postal Workers Union branch for Washington and Southern Maryland, told the Post that the move felt like a "slap in the face" to workers.

    "This is the work that they've been doing for years and years and years," Briscoe said, "and you're going to segregate it away from them, put in another building, give it to a company that previously had a [top executive] that is now our postmaster general. A lot of our members are taking offense to that."

    As the Post detailed:

    The new contract will deepen the Postal Service's relationship with XPO Logistics, where DeJoy served as supply chain chief executive from 2014 to 2015 after the company purchased New Breed Logistics, the trucking firm he owned for more than 30 years. Since he became postmaster general, DeJoy, DeJoy-controlled companies, and his family foundation have divested between $65.4 million and $155.3 million worth of XPO shares, according to financial disclosures, foundation tax documents, and securities filings.

    But DeJoy's family businesses continue to lease four North Carolina office buildings to XPO, according to his financial disclosures and state property records.

    The leases could generate up to $23.7 million in rent payments for the DeJoy businesses over the next decade.

    Although the leases to XPO were cleared by government ethics officials before DeJoy took office last year, some experts are still critical—such as Virginia Canter, chief ethics counsel at watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

    "There's no question he's continuing to profit from a Postal Service contractor," Canter said. "He can comply with these technical legal requirements… but it does create an appearance issue about whether it's in his financial interest to continue to make policy that would benefit contractors like XPO."

    Friday's calls for the USPS Board of Governors to fire DeJoy are just the latest from the past year. He has been accused of slowing down mail service before the 2020 election and now faces a criminal probe over GOP political donations; DeJoy has denied any wrongdoing on both fronts.

    DeJoy's "14-month run as postmaster general has been a masterclass in cronyism and deception," Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) said in response to the Post reporting. "The amount of suspicion I had about him and his efforts to intentionally undermine delivery times at [USPS] could have filled the Grand Canyon. The Board of Governors should #FireDeJoy."

    Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), who led previous calls for the board to oust the postmaster general, said Friday that "Louis DeJoy should've been fired long ago for his sabotage of USPS. He is under federal criminal investigation and now may be using your post office to wet his beak. The postal governors protecting him need to be fired first. This is an outrage."

    DeJoy is spearheading a controversial 10-year reform plan for USPS that would involve cutting hours, slowing first-class delivery, and raising prices—an approach that has also provoked demands for his immediate ouster.

    The 10-year plan was a key focus of a Board of Governors meeting Friday—the first that included all three members appointed by President Joe Biden and confirmed by the Senate.

    "Ronald Stroman, the former deputy postmaster general and one of Biden's nominees, took the most aggressive approach in criticizing DeJoy's plan, saying the delivery slowdowns would hinder the agency's ability to provide prompt and reliable service without federal funding," reportedGovernment Executive.

    According to the outlet:

    He said the plan is "strategically-ill conceived, creates dangerous risks that are not justified by the relatively low financial return, and doesn't meet our responsibility as an essential part of America's critical infrastructure." USPS expects to save about $170 million annually from the changes, a small fraction of its operating budget.
    "There is no compelling financial reason to make this change," Stroman said. "The relatively minor savings associated with changing service standards, even if achieved, will have no significant impact on the Postal Service's financial future."

    Stroman accused DeJoy and the existing board members of abandoning the customers most loyal to and dependent on the Postal Service and said the plan would accelerate people and businesses turning away from the mailing system. He added that "rarely, if ever," has a USPS policy change received such widespread pushback.

    DeJoy, for his part, acknowledged to the board that the plan involves some "uncomfortable changes," while doubling down on it: "We are confident we are headed in the right direction."

    Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) disagrees. In a March letter urging DeJoy's firing, she wrote that his "pathetic 10-year plan to weaken USPS demonstrates that he is a clear and present threat to the future of the Postal Service and the well-being of millions of Americans, particularly small business owners, seniors, and veterans, who depend on an effective and reliable USPS to conduct daily business, safely participate in democracy, and receive vital medication."

    Former President Trump

    Trump Makes A Stunning Confession

    Reprinted with permission from DC Report

    In an astonishing admission, Donald Trump said Thursday that instead of hiring only "the best people," as he promised voters, he hired "garbage."

    He also complained Thursday that these former appointees didn't follow his version of omerta after a new book revealed that he wanted to execute an unidentified White House leaker. Omerta is the ancient Sicilian mob tradition of never talking outside their criminal gang, an offense punished by death.

    Each day America's beggar-in-chief issues "Save America" statements via email. Most are petty, many deranged, but now and then, truth inadvertently comes through because of his utter lack of self-awareness, his emotional immaturity and his rank incompetence as a leader. I've shown for three decades his failures to his furious denials.

    Now the people he chose for his White House team are telling their stories of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the White House years.

    Here is what Trump declared at 12:49 on Thursday afternoon:Let's dissect this unintended confession.

    First, many of the people Trump says are "all of a sudden" talking to reporters have been talking to them for months and years. Trump doesn't read books nor did he read his Presidential Daily Brief when he was president. Not reading more deeply than the cover of a book often leaves Trump badly, sadly — and when he was president — dangerously misinformed.

    If Trump cracks the spines of the bookshelf of tell-alls coming out now, he would know that the authors carefully cultivated these sources and won their trust while he was president.

    Second, notice that people who worked with Trump and now speak about him, other than as he wants, are "losers."

    The reason Trump made oh so many people sign nondisclosure agreements, even some 2016 campaign volunteers, was that anyone who gets inside could see the truth about Trump: He is and always has been a fraud.

    The reality: He's the self-made man who blew daddy's fortune. He's the Don Juan sued repeatedly for groping and allegedly raping women because he lacked the charm to seduce them. And now he's the beggar-in-chief, a faux billionaire reduced to pleading for alms from the people he says he loves, the "poorly educated" whom he hurt so badly while in office.

    Third, Trump is back to his "many say" device, as if that lends credence to what he says.

    The fact is that many say he is the worst president of all time. Many say he is a Kremlin stooge. If these documents published in The Guardianon Thursday are true, Vladimir Putin owned him. Many say he is a lousy businessman.

    I could go on here with enough examples to fill three books—oh, wait, Thursday I finished my third Trump book, The Big Cheat, out September 28.

    Fourth, who conflates stars and garbage? There are great metaphors, there are mediocre metaphors, and then there are Trumpian trash metaphors.

    But at least this one was honest trash in which Trump admitted, finally, that he didn't hire the best and the brightest, but a bunch of losers.