‘Bullets of Truth’: Julian Assange and the Politics of Transparency (Feb. 8, 2019) by Mark Fenster “updates (to early 2019) earlier work on the WikiLeaks story in order to consider what more recent developments reveal about the theoretical promise that Assange articulated at the time of the website’s emergence. Assange has characterized secrecy as both a form and symptom of corruption, and ultimately as the foundation of a “conspiracy” of governance that states like the U.S. inflict on their subjects and the world. He advocates a non-political, vigilante form of transparency in which WikiLeaks serves as a neutral entity that will save the public and free the world with information. He predicted that corrupt political orders would fall as the threat of exposure forces the collapse of their conspiratorial communication networks. But WikiLeaks has failed not only to save the world but to save itself from politics — and in the process has itself become a bit player in the larger geo-political drama that it had hoped to disrupt. Assange’s theory of information disclosure, as well as his assumptions about the state and governing institutions, have proven far too descriptively and normatively simple. More prominent, less radical theories of transparency should take note of these failures to the extent that they share many of his assumptions.”

The New York Times reported on Monday that Cliff Sims, author of “Team of Vipers,” is “suing the president in his official capacity, alleging that he used his campaign organization as a ‘cutout’ to improperly seek retribution against former employees and keep them from invoking their First Amendment rights.” Sims’ lawsuit comes after the Trump campaign filed an arbitration claim against the White House aide turned author. The campaign is claiming that Sims violated a non-disclosure agreement, but Sims is reportedly not entirely sure he signed an NDA at all. Read the complaint here.

A White House source has leaked nearly every day of President Trump’s private schedule for the past three months. Since Nov. 7, the day after the midterm elections, Trump has spent around 297 hours in Executive Time, according to the 51 private schedules obtained by Axios. For those same schedules, Trump has had about 77 hours scheduled for meetings.

Under the National Emergencies Act the president has complete discretion to issue an emergency declaration—but he must specify in the declaration which powers he intends to use, issue public updates if he decides to invoke additional powers, and report to Congress on the government’s emergency-related expenditures every six months. The state of emergency expires after a year unless the president renews it, and the Senate and the House must meet every six months while the emergency is in effect “to consider a vote” on termination.

At the moment President Donald Trump threatens to bypass Congress and secure funding for a wall along the border with Mexico by declaring a national emergency. With that in mind, here are three national emergency backgrounders:

From the blurb for Mar-a-Lago: Inside the Gates of Power at Donald Trump’s Presidential Palace (Flatiron Books, Jan. 29, 2019) by Laurence Leamer:

To know Donald J. Trump it is best to start in his natural habitat: Palm Beach, Florida. It is here he learned the techniques that took him all the way to the White House. Painstakingly, over decades, he has created a world in this exclusive tropical enclave and favorite haunt of billionaires where he is not just president but a king. The vehicle for his triumph is Mar-A-Lago, one of the greatest mansions ever built in the United States. The inside story of how he became King of Palm Beach―and how Palm Beach continues to be his spiritual home even as president―is rollicking, troubling, and told with unrivaled access and understanding by Laurence Leamer.

In Mar-A-Lago, the reader will learn:

  • How Donald Trump bought a property now valued by some at as much as $500,000,000 for less than three thousand dollars of his own money.
  • Why Trump was blackballed by the WASP grandees of the island and how he got his revenge.
  • How Trump joined forces with the National Enquirer, which was headquartered nearby, and engineered his own divorce.
  • How by turning Mar-A-Lago into a private club, Trump was the unlikely man to integrate Palm Beach’s restricted country club scene, and what his real motives were.
  • What transpires behind the gates of today’s Mar-A-Lago during “the season,” when President Trump and assorted D.C. power players fly down each weekend.

In addition to copious interviews and reporting from inside Mar-A-Lago, Laurence Leamer brings an acute and unparalleled understanding of the society of Palm Beach, where he has lived for twenty-five years. He has written an essential book for understanding Donald Trump’s inner character.

From the blurb for Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House, (Thomas Dunne Books,  Jan. 29, 2019) by Cliff Sims:

After standing at Donald Trump’s side on Election Night, Cliff Sims joined him in the West Wing as Special Assistant to the President and Director of White House Message Strategy.

He soon found himself pulled into the President’s inner circle as a confidante, an errand boy, an advisor, a punching bag, and a friend. Sometimes all in the same conversation.

As a result, Sims gained unprecedented access to the President, sitting in on private meetings with key Congressional officials, world leaders, and top White House advisors. He saw how Trump handled the challenges of the office, and he learned from Trump himself how he saw the world.

For five hundred days, Sims also witnessed first-hand the infighting and leaking, the anger, joy, and recriminations. He had a role in some of the President’s biggest successes, and he shared the blame for some of his administration’s worst disasters. He gained key, often surprising insights into the players of the Trump West Wing, from Jared Kushner and John Kelly to Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway.

He even helped Trump craft his enemies list, knowing who was loyal and who was not.

And he took notes. Hundreds of pages of notes. In real-time.

Sims stood with the President in the eye of the storm raging around him, and now he tells the story that no one else has written―because no one else could. The story of what it was really like in the West Wing as a member of the President’s team. The story of power and palace intrigue, backstabbing and bold victories, as well as painful moral compromises, occasionally with yourself.

Former CPA, writer and teacher Ken Boyd provides readers with an explanation of tax fraud that is clearly presented, instructive and relevant to the ongoing Mueller investigation on LLRX. Boyd uses the extensive New York Times investigative report of November 2018 that documented a history of tax fraud allegedly committed by Donald Trump, his father and siblings, as the foundation for his lesson on various types of tax fraud. The allegations documented by the Times are under review by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance.

On Wednesday, President Trump informed Speaker Pelosi that he was accepting the Speaker’s Jan. 3 invitation to address the nation on January 29th as to the State of the Union. [Trump letter here]. Soon thereafter Speaker Pelosi responded in writing. The Speaker wrote “I am writing to inform you that the House of Representatives will not consider a concurrent resolution authorizing the President’s State of the Union address in the House Chamber until government has opened.” [Pelosi letter here]

According to a finalized letter of intent signed by Donald Trump on Oct. 28, 2015, the tower would have “approximately 250 first class, luxury residential condominiums.” It would be located in Moscow City, a former industrial complex outside of the city center that has since been converted into an ambitious commercial district clustered with several of the tallest skyscrapers in Europe. Its hotel portion would feature “approximately 15 floors” and contain “not fewer than 150 hotel rooms,” the letter of intent stated.

H/T beSpacific.

Voices from the Field (Jan. 2019), published by the FBI Agents Association, provides illustrations of how the government shutdown is affecting FBI work and identifies the risks that may emerge as it continues. “FBIAA is releasing ‘Voices from the Field’ to ensure that Congress, the Administration, and the public are aware of the real and daily challenges faced by FBI Agents and the risks to national security posed by a prolonged shutdown.”

Bob Bauer, who served as White House Counsel to President Obama, writes in Can the Senate Decline to Try an Impeachment Case? Lawfare, Jan. 21, 2019:

The Constitution does not by its express terms direct the Senate to try an impeachment. In fact, it confers on the Senate “the sole power to try,” which is a conferral of exclusive constitutional authority and not a procedural command. The Constitution couches the power to impeach in the same terms: it is the House’s “sole power.” The House may choose to impeach or not, and one can imagine an argument that the Senate is just as free, in the exercise of its own “sole power,” to decline try any impeachment that the House elects to vote.

The Senate has options for scuttling the impeachment process beyond a simple refusal to heed the House vote. The Constitution does not specify what constitutes a “trial,” and in a 1993 case involving a judicial impeachment, the Supreme Court affirmed that the Senate’s “sole power” to “try” means that it is not subject to any limitations on how it could conduct a proceeding.

See also Rules of Procedure and Practice in the Senate When Sitting on Impeachment Trials.

From the blurb for Prosecuting the President: How Special Prosecutors Hold Presidents Accountable and Protect the Rule of Law (Oxford UP, Jan. 15, 2019) by Andrew Coan:

The first special prosecutor was appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1875, to investigate a bribery scandal involving his close friends and associates. Ever since, presidents of both parties have appointed special prosecutors and empowered them to operate with unusual independence. Also called special counsels and independent counsels, such appointments became a standard method for neutralizing political scandals and demonstrating the President’s commitment to the rule of law. Special counsel Robert Mueller is the latest example.

In Prosecuting the President, Andrew Coan offers a highly engaging look at the long, mostly forgotten history of special prosecutors in American politics. For more than a century, special prosecutors have struck fear into the hearts of Presidents, who have the power to fire them at any time. How could this be, Coan asks? And how could the nation entrust such a high responsibility to such subordinate officials? With vivid storytelling and historical examples, Coan demonstrates that special prosecutors can do much to protect the rule of law under the right circumstances.

Many have been thwarted by the formidable challenges of investigating a sitting President and his close associates; a few have abused the powers entrusted to them. But at their best, special prosecutors function as catalysts of democracy, channeling an unfocused popular will to safeguard the rule of law. By raising the visibility of high-level misconduct, they enable the American people to hold the President accountable. Yet, if a President thinks he can fire a special prosecutor without incurring serious political damage, he has the power to do so. Ultimately, Coan concludes, only the American people can decide whether the President is above the law.

From the blurb for The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power (PublicAffairs, Jan. 15, 2019) by Shoshana Zuboff:

Shoshana Zuboff’s interdisciplinary breadth and depth enable her to come to grips with the social, political, business, and technological meaning of the changes taking place in our time. We are at a critical juncture in the confrontation between the vast power of giant high-tech companies and government, the hidden economic logic of surveillance capitalism, and the propaganda of machine supremacy that threaten to shape and control human life. Will the brazen new methods of social engineering and behavior modification threaten individual autonomy and democratic rights and introduce extreme new forms of social inequality? Or will the promise of the digital age be one of individual empowerment and democratization?

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism is neither a hand-wringing narrative of danger and decline nor a digital fairy tale. Rather, it offers a deeply reasoned and evocative examination of the contests over the next chapter of capitalism that will decide the meaning of information civilization in the twenty-first century. The stark issue at hand is whether we will be the masters of information and machines or its slaves.

H/T beSpacific.

From the abstract for The Monarchy of Fear: A Philosopher Looks at Our Political Crisis (Simon & Schuster, 2018):

For decades Martha C. Nussbaum has been an acclaimed scholar and humanist, earning dozens of honors for her books and essays. In The Monarchy of Fear she turns her attention to the current political crisis that has polarized American since the 2016 election.

Although today’s atmosphere is marked by partisanship, divisive rhetoric, and the inability of two halves of the country to communicate with one another, Nussbaum focuses on what so many pollsters and pundits have overlooked. She sees a simple truth at the heart of the problem: the political is always emotional. Globalization has produced feelings of powerlessness in millions of people in the West. That sense of powerlessness bubbles into resentment and blame. Blame of immigrants. Blame of Muslims. Blame of other races. Blame of cultural elites. While this politics of blame is exemplified by the election of Donald Trump and the vote for Brexit, Nussbaum argues it can be found on all sides of the political spectrum, left or right.

In Presidential Profiteering: Trump’s Conflicts Got Worse in Year Two, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) estimates that President Trump had more than 1,400 conflicts of interests during his first two years in office with more than 900 interactions between the Trump administration and the Trump Organization last year.