Among several surreal moments at the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, one of the strangest was an encounter Wednesday evening between Sen. Kamala Harris and the nominee.
In full prosecutorial mode, Harris asked Kavanaugh: “Have you discussed [Robert S.] Mueller or his investigation with anyone at Kasowitz Benson Torres, the law firm founded by Marc Kasowitz, President Trump’s personal lawyer?” She added the portentous warning: “Be sure about your answer, sir.”
Like most people watching, I assumed Harris was about to confront Kavanaugh with evidence that there had been such a potentially problematic conversation, and name the lawyer with whom Kavanaugh supposedly communicated.
The president is not amused. In fact, the one-two punch this week from Bob Woodward’s book detailing the dysfunction in the White House, and Wednesday’s unsigned New York Times op-ed that seemed to verify Woodward’s work even as the White House slammed it, has the administration writhing and reeling.
Company executives hauled in front of Congress to explain why they haven’t solved this or that problem know that lawmakers are likely to threaten them with new regulations or other sanctions.
And sure enough, that’s what happened when top executives from Facebook and Twitter appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee to answer questions about their platforms’ vulnerabilities to manipulation and abuse.
What’s unusual was the response from the Trump administration. Just as the hearing was ending, the Justice Department issued a statement saying Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions will meet this month with several state attorneys general “to discuss a growing concern” that social media companies “may be hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms.”
For a lot of viewers of Day 2 of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, it was the main event: Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s questioning of the Supreme Court nominee about his attitude toward Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 decision legalizing abortion that Feinstein fears Kavanaugh might vote to overturn.
She’s not alone. In an editorial on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times editorial board, noting that Kavanaugh had told another senator that Roe was “settled law,” suggested that he should be asked to explain what he meant by that term.
So was Kavanaugh reassuring about whether he would leave Roe alone?
A New York Times op-ed allegedly written by a senior Trump administration official has set the internet ablaze. Its headline: "I am part of the resistance inside the Trump administration." Its premise: A group of Trump appointees is working from the inside to stop the president from fulfilling the parts of his agenda they disagree with.
Obviously, the writer and other like-minded higher-ups are not part of the "resistance" that's marching in the streets protesting.
The piece suggests America is currently under a "two-track presidency." If President Trump wants to do something the people in his administration think is good, they go along with it. If he wants to do something they think is bad, they find ways around it. This is in keeping with what the Bob Woodward book excerpt revealed: Senior officials are taking things off Trump's desk to keep him from seeing them.
In its insatiable quest to rid the U.S. of immigrants, the Trump administration has been rounding up Vietnamese refugees who have been in the country for more than a quarter of a century and trying to send them back to Vietnam — despite a formal bilateral agreement that refugees who arrived here prior to the 1995 normalization of relations between the two countries would not be sent home.
In a number of cases, the refugees have been held in detention centers for months as the government sought to obtain travel documents from the Vietnamese government, and despite a Supreme Court decision that said the government could not detain someone for an extended period of time if it was unlikely the home country would accept the deportee.
The first day of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court mostly lived down to expectations, though there were some unexpected theatrics.
Indignant over a last-minute document dump, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee made a doomed, but dramatic, effort to delay the hearing. Code Pink-style demonstrators punctuated the proceedings with often unintelligible outbursts, leading Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) to complain, hyperbolically, about “mob rule.”
There was no questioning of the nominee on Tuesday, just a series of speeches by senators, followed in the afternoon by Kavanaugh’s prepared statement. Predictably, Democrats viewed the nomination with various degrees of alarm, and the president who chose Kavanaugh cast a long shadow.
As top officials at Facebook and Twitter prepare for another round of grilling by congressional committees this week, Americans — in fact, people around the world — should be worrying about the enormous clout that a handful of giant online companies wield. But I don’t need to hear that particular warning from the guy who dismantled the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules.
Ajit Pai, who took over as chairman of the FCC after Republicans took control of the commission in January 2017, blogged Tuesday that he wanted more transparency, openness and respect for personal privacy from the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Google. Funny, but these are the same qualities that the FCC tried to protect in 2015 with its net neutrality rules, only to have Pai and his GOP colleagues repeal them. Sauce for the gander, Mr. Chairman.
To help justify dumping net neutrality, Pai and other Republicans argued that dominant online platforms from the likes of Facebook and Apple were a bigger threat to openness than ISPs. Democrats, meanwhile, focused their fire on ISPs, noting that “edge providers” like Facebook got to where they are today based on choices made by consumers themselves. ISPs, by contrast, succeed because their businesses have enormous up-front costs and capital expenses that have minimized competition.
Regardless of whether you agree with Colin Kaepernick, you have to admit that he’s made a real financial sacrifice for his beliefs. And by featuring the former San Francisco 49er quarterback in a new round of promotions, Nike is risking a real financial sacrifice for Kaepernick’s beliefs too.
The question now is whether Nike’s support will do anything to clear up the widespread misunderstanding about what Kaepernick’s beliefs actually are.
The early signs are not good.
First the @NFL forces me to choose between my favorite sport and my country. I chose country. Then @Nike forces me to choose between my favorite shoes and my country. Since when did the American Flag and the National Anthem become offensive? pic.twitter.com/4CVQdTHUH4
On Monday President Trump tweeted out yet another attack on Jeff Sessions, this one suggesting that the attorney general was being disloyal by permitting the prosecution of two Republican House members in an election year:
Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff......
As in: “Good job Jeff, not using the Justice Department to settle political scores”? That was the meaning Trump’s critics took from the sarcasm-laced tweet, and it’s hard to come up with a more benign interpretation.