If you missed Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, his Main Story was on immigration, but specifically about asylum. It was an extremely interesting show -- much more angry than most, even his shows about the pandemic, and with less humor, though there is definitely its share of funny off-handed comments blended throughout. But I think many will find what Oliver and his staff present to be teeth-gnashing infuriating.
On this week’s Al Franken podcast, his guest is Brian Fallon of Demand Justice, and they discuss the Amy Coney Barrett hearing. As he writes, the two “weren’t happy with any part of the damn thing.”
By the way, speaking of which -- after initially saying she would not vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett, but then yesterday announcing yes, she would -- it turns out that this year for Halloween, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) will be dressing up and going as Susan Collins.
On many, if not most of Al Franken’s podcasts he begins by saying, “Well, folks, we’ve got a great one for a change.” This week he starts with, “We’ve got an odd one.” And so it is. Not at first. At first, he has one of his favorite guests, Dahlia Lithwick of whom he writes, “The great Dahlia Lithwick discusses RBG, SCOTUS, the Election. Depressing? Yes. But then the exciting world premiere of The Day the President Laughed!” And that’s the odd part. Thinking that, as he says, you’ll need to laugh after that, this is a 35-minute allegory Franken wrote and performs, with the assistance of some guest stars. It’s about when Don Jr., Ivanka, Eric and Jared all realize that they never have seen Trump laugh, and so have a contest to see who can make him laugh – and the winner gets title to one of the family’s high-rises in mid-town Manhattan.
I'll let this passage from an article in Tuesday's Washington Post speak for itself. It's titled, "Courts view GOP fraud claims skeptically as Democrats score key legal victories over mail voting."
In the third paragraph, they write --
"A review by The Washington Post of nearly 90 state and federal voting lawsuits found that judges have been broadly skeptical as Republicans use claims of voter fraud to argue against such changes, declining to endorse the GOP’s arguments or dismissing them as they examined limits on mail voting. In no case did a judge back President Trump’s view — refuted by experts — that fraud is a problem significant enough to sway a presidential election."
You can read the full piece here.
This seems to comport with an excellent article last week in Slate, written by Joshua A. Geltzer and the always-wonderful Dalia Lithwick, who is not remotely a rose-colored glasses kind of person, but laser-focused objective. It was titled, "The Biggest Battle for a Safe, Fair Election Is in Our Heads." Their point is that the legal system is pretty-well set-up to deal with any attacks on the electoral process, and that the larger hurdle will be Trump trying to play with people's minds to get them to think the results aren't fair and have been rigged.
You can read that piece here.
Okay, so Lindsey Graham -- not totally shockingly (though a touch surprisingly for the risk it puts to his election and any last remnant of honor) -- is going back on his pledge of two years ago to not let a nomination go forward. He is saying the situations are different from with Merrick Garland. Though of course, that's beside the point, since what he said between the Garland debacle and now is that the if there is an opening in Trump's last year and if Graham becomes chairman of the Judiciary Committee -- which he is now -- there would be no confirmation of a Supreme Court Justice until after the next inauguration. And then to make the point stronger, he tells everyone that they can use the video of him saying that against him.
I have every confidence that everyone will be using the video of him saying that against him. And it's my hope that Mike Bloomberg takes him up on on that pledge and buys ad time to relentlessly play the ad on TV in South Carolina and on social media.
I also suspect it's a hypocritical lie that could back to haunt him big time since the most recent Quinnipiac Poll has him tied with Jaime Harrison, 48-48%. And any undecided voters there aren't undecided because they wonder if he's loyal enough to Trump -- but rather too much a sycophant lap dog who's given up his spine...and honor, like going back on his pledge that he says to use against him.
On so many obvious levels it was so disheartening to hear about the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Near the top is that she deserved the opportunity to retire and enjoy that retirement, especially with her health issues, and had intended to after the 2016 elections. But those election results changed her plans, so she held on even more, to her everlasting credit.
This is a pure guess. But I sense that Lisa Murkowski and Chuck Grassley (who've already said so in August, and Sen. Murkowski reiterated it yesterday) and Mitt Romney and Susan Collins -- *AND* GOP senators in tight races -- won't go along with a Supreme Court vote before a new president is sworn in. And only four are needed. And no, I don't have a clue if I'm right. Nor do I rely on what Republican senator says.
But I note two of those "GOP senators in tight races." One is incumbent Martha McSally in the Arizona Senate race against Democrat challenger Mark Kelly. What's overlooked is that that race is actually a Special Election, since she was appointed to temporarily replace John McCain. At the moment, polls show Kelly with a solid lead, though it's a competitive race. On the one hand, she might know she can't afford to offend independents. On the other hand, because this is a Special Election, election experts say that if Kelly wins he could be sworn in to the Senate as early as November 30. That would create an additional tightening if Mitch McConnell tries to push for a confirmation vote during a possible lame duck session.
But I note, too, that most notably among those "GOP senators in tight races" is Lindsey Graham, who is also chair of the Judiciary Committee.
I know full well that he'll sycophantically do most anything for Trump. But I also know he's aware that he risks his own reelection (in a race now 48-48%) if he pushes a nomination forward, most especially with a video of him on C-SPAN saying in October, 2018 that he won't.
In fact, he goes further. In yet another video Graham says, "“I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination."
While I don't trust him keeping his word in the slightest, I do put weight on political self-interest. And I suspect that the C-SPAN video (posted at the very bottom of the page here) will run A LOT in South Carolina ads. What would be nice is if Mike Bloomberg bought some ads that relentlessly played this in the state....
And so it came to pass that Steve Bannen was indicted for fraud today, along with two others that Trump, of course, says he didn't know. Who'd have thought it?? A fraud related to Trump's "Wall." Say it ain't so.
And maybe this time Trump doesn't actually know them. Although not indicted with Steve Bannen (yet or, to be fair, likely not --,though who knows for certain at the moment), members of the "We Build the Wall" advisory board include current Republican candidate Kris Kobach(who headed Trump's failed voter fraud inquiry), Trump mercenary Erik Prince, Trump-supporter former-sheriff David Clarke (who Trump interviewed for a job in the administration. and would-be GOP candidate, former pitcher Curt Schilling.
And again, Trump did tell the press that other than Bannen, he "didn't know" (of course) any of the others indicted today. And none of those four may have had any real involvement in the organization other than lending their name to something run by three people inducted for fraud -- which has raised $25 million from cultist suckers. But Trump does knows at least three of their advisory board members well. And the fourth, Trump has said it would be "great" if Schilling ran for Congress. So, clearly Trump associates run throughout the organization to substantiate it.
Including, almost best of all, this testimonial for the indicated swindle on their homepage --
And not just that but a testimonial from Don Jr's, girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle. And this from Trump's former campaign manager --
Not to mention, just for the heck of it, we'll add one more testimonial for the scam from a currently quarantining -- at least I assume (and hope) -- Congressman from Texas, who needs all the luck with his asparagus that he can get.
Sorry about this meaning delayed, but as I mentioned on Monday, the Raindy Rainbow video popped up and took precedence for me. And then yesterday, I thought John Prine was too timely. But we finally made it do Wednesday, and so here we are at last, we Last Week Tonight with John Oliver..
If you didn't see the show on Sunday, the Main Story was on juries. And it was excellent. Very funny in many parts, but full of terrific research on how deeply unfair the system is to minorities.
This also gives me the opportunity to bring back my own perspective on the subject, a three-part tale that I wrote back in March, 2016 about my experience sitting on the jury of a physical disability injury trial. The experience was interesting and ultimately made me pretty angry.
I got a nice reaction for some of attorneys afterwards who said that for all their years doing trial work, they never really knew in such detail what went on inside the jury room, and they were fascinated by much of what took place. This is not at all what John Oliver's report is about, but consider it a sort of addendum. If you're interested and want to stick around for a little After the Show reading, I've got the whole thing linked.
Part One here.
Pat Two here.
And the exciting conclusion in Part Three here.
Mainly though, in the main part, John Oliver is here --
On this week’s Al Franken podcast, Al has a conversation about police reform with the co-chair of President Obama’s police reform commission, former Philadelphia and Washington, DC Police Chief Charles Ramsey.
So, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office has said that it’s investigating the Trump Organization for for possible fraud and for bank fraud. I have no idea if they have the evidence or can prove the case. I do feel near-certain that from the first this has been Trump's biggest nightmare, as I've written about here for a while.
This isn't even New York State, but a city D.A. (which must be even mortifying to Trump -- the most powerful man in the world). It means that he can't be protected by his consigliere Attorney General William Barr, or by the Department of Justice. It also means that if that if others in his organization -- especially his children -- are under threat, he can't dangle a pardon in front of them. Worse, it means that if he himself is found guilty, he can't be pardoned.
Also, not knowing whether there is evidence here, or whether it can be proven, I would suggest that it is believably likely that the charge Trump exaggerated his assets to qualify for high loans at lower rates and diminished his assets on his IRS tax returns to pay lower taxes. Why do I think it's believably likely? Because his former lawyer Michael Cohen said so under oath. Because we've seen how Trump operates for the past 3-1/2 years (actually decades longer). Because Trump has judgments against him for fraud. And because he's been fighting like a wounded lion to keep from releasing his tax returns ever since promising in 2015 that he'd release them soon, when his supposed "audit" was finished, even though it's perfectly fine to release the information at any time. No, none of this is proof that he did lie about those two things. But it's why presuming so is believably likely.
And this doesn't include all the other charges the Manhattan D.A. might be persuing.
Even better, what a lawyer friend said is that oral arguments have to be completed by mid-August, and documents that are needed to support their positions should all be public. Whether the deadline for those documents are the oral arguments in two weeks, or written arguments that are later, I don’t recall. But I’m pretty sure he said the oral arguments.
In the Be Careful What You Wish For Department, Trump’s lawyers had complained that the Manhattan A.D. subpoena several weeks back wasn’t specific enough. So…oops, okay -- they got specific.
Also important news yesterday– Deutsche Bank announced that it was starting an internal investigation into Trump's the longtime personal banker and his son-in-law Jared Kushner.. The bank is looking into their own employee Rosemary Vrablic after she and two colleagues bought an $1.5 million apartment in 2013 from the same company that Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump have a partial ownership in.
Further, Kusher and Trump were both clients of Ms. Vrablic and got $190 million in loans from Deutsche Bank the same year she bought the $1.5 million condo -- and later got several hundred million in loans from the bank.
None of this may be illegal. The apartment purchase could have totally above board. Jared Kushner could have nothing to do with decisions made by the company. But Trump family history seems that's a thin wire to dance on, and it seems reasonable to think that if a bank employee was facing jail time, that person might be willing provide evidence to prosecutors that would be helpful in this and in other cases. Or not. Who knows?
But it certainly is the wrong time to overlap with the Manhattan D.A. if you're the one dancing on the wire.
Which, it only follows, brings us to Rodgers & Hart, and a few updated lyrics for Ella Fitzgerald.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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