Monday, June 29, 2020

-Justice Elena Kagan, citing the work of, well, Kagan

Pour one out for President Trump, whose peaceful weekend of golfing and ignoring record-setting coronavirus numbers was interrupted by the revelation that he also ignored Russia paying cash rewards for dead American soldiers. 

  • The New York Times reported on Friday night that a Russian spy unit has secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan—including American troops. U.S. intelligence officials believe the bounties have led to the deaths of several Americans. The intelligence community has been tracking this for months, and Trump was reportedly briefed and offered a menu of policy options back in March, but the White House has yet to authorize any response. Trump has, however, proposed inviting Russia to this year’s G-7 summit in the meantime. 
  • On Saturday the White House denied that Trump or Vice President Mike Pence had ever been briefed on the matter. That’s either an outright lie (most likely), a dumb technicality (it was in Trump’s written Presidential Daily Brief but officials didn’t brief him orally, for example), or an admission of a different, huge problem: If the core of the Times story is true, the White House’s "best" excuse is that intelligence officials under the leadership of Trump-loyal hacks didn’t brief the president on a serious Russian intelligence threat because Trump had made clear he wouldn’t want to hear it. It’s not a great look.
  • Trump denied having been briefed in several tweets, and late Sunday claimed that the intelligence community told him he hadn’t been informed because it didn’t find the reports credible. Notably, everyone else from White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany to former-interim spy chief Richard Grennell has hewed to proclaiming Trump’s ignorance of the allegations, without denying their substance, which has been corroborated by multiple news outlets through domestic and foreign intelligence sources.
  • Lawmakers from both parties have issued a resounding “what the fuck,” calling for immediate briefings from the Defense Department and intelligence community. Today the White House held a briefing for House Republicans only, reaffirming the Trump administration’s unflagging commitment to getting his party coordinated on whatever lie he thinks will serve his interests. 

Undeterred by the conversation about his unacceptable deference to Russia, Trump seamlessly pivoted to flagrant racism. 

  • On Sunday the president of the United States retweeted a video of one of his Florida supporters yelling “White power!” Trump deleted the retweet hours later, and a White House spokesman claimed that he had not heard the white-supremacist slogan, which is repeated multiple times just seconds into the video. Neither Trump nor anyone from the White House have condemned the hateful comments that he so unintentionally amplified. Anyway, that big speech on race and unity (ft. Stephen Miller) seems to be coming along well. 
  • Joe Biden quickly condemned Trump’s racism, and summed up the Russian bounty scandal at a virtual town hall on Saturday:  “Not only has he failed to sanction or impose any kind of consequences on Russia for this egregious violation of international law, Donald Trump has continued his embarrassing campaign of deference and debasing himself before Vladimir Putin.” 

The Russian military intelligence unit offering bounties in Afghanistan, GRU, was also the unit implicated in election interference in 2016. Trump deferred to Putin over U.S. intelligence when that interference came to light, and Russia’s subsequent targeting of American troops has done nothing to change his stance. 

The final episode of Wind of Change has dropped on all platforms! If you haven't yet gone on this international journey of espionage and hair metal, you're truly in for a treat. Binge the full series now on Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts 


The Supreme Court has struck down a Louisiana abortion law that would have closed nearly every clinic in the state, in the first abortion ruling since two Trump appointees joined the court. Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the four liberal justices, but gave future litigants a roadmap for rolling back abortion rights: The Louisiana law was almost identical to a Texas law that the Court struck down four years ago. Roberts emphasized that his decision today was bound by that precedent, while signaling that he’s totally open to gutting or even overturning Roe v. Wade on other grounds. So, a huge relief for abortion access advocates, but a temporary one. 

In another major decision, the Court ruled that the president can fire the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for any reason. The good news: The justices rejected the Trump administration’s argument that the bureau should be shut down altogether, and the ruling will allow Joe Biden, if he wins, to replace the current director with someone committed to protecting consumers. The bad news: The CFPB will now be less independent, and it’s not immediately clear if the decision is a first step towards freeing up an array of independent agencies for Trump to politicize.

The Chinese government has forced birth control on Uighurs and other minorities in an effort to suppress the country’s Muslim population. An Associated Press investigation found that China regularly subjects minority women to pregnancy checks, and forces IUDs, sterilization, and abortion on hundreds of thousands. The government uses mass detention to enforce those population control measures, both as a threat and a punishment for those who don’t comply. Having too many children is one of the major reasons ethnic minorities are sent to detention camps. The result of those policies is a climate of terror around having children, and birth rates in predominantly Uighur regions plunged by more than 60 percent from 2015 to 2018. President Trump is complicit here: He endorsed China’s detention camps, as John Bolton’s book revealed, and his policies have created a global leadership vacuum that an increasingly genocidal regime is all too happy to fill. 

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Mississippi lawmakers voted to change the state flag, the last one in the nation to feature the Confederate battle emblem.

Starbucks, Coca Cola, and Hershey’s, among other companies, have joined the Facebook advertiser boycott.

Eleven mayors have formed a coalition committed to advocating for guaranteed-income programs. 

The Stonewall Inn will remain open thanks to a $250,000 donation from the Gill Foundation.
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