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Saturday, September 21, 2019

Elizabeth Warren Lost Her Dream Job but Gained a Path to 2020 - The New York Times

She had a plan to take on big banks. In the fight to get it done, she honed the approach to politics that defines her presidential campaign.

Elizabeth Warren did not want a goodbye party. She told her aides there would be no grand send-off, no celebration of a mission accomplished.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau had been her idea from the start: a new arm of the government, uniquely empowered to police the kinds of loans and financial schemes that led to the Great Recession. Ms. Warren had detailed the idea in a journal article, then cajoled and pressured Congress to make it law. She was tasked by President Barack Obama in 2010 with setting up the bureau, and spent a year recruiting investigators and enforcers for an office they saw as an exhilarating cause.
But as spring turned to summer in 2011, Ms. Warren faced a wrenching separation. The White House had decided not to nominate her to lead the bureau permanently. So she gathered the staff for an “all hands” meeting and told them her work there was over.
“She told us that we were ready to sail the ship, that we did not need her there, and that we would be able to do it on our own,” said Patricia McCoy, a Boston College law professor who was a senior official at the bureau.
Ms. Warren was right. Under her successor, Richard A. Cordray, the bureau would recover $12 billion for consumers from financial institutions by 2017. It would become, to supporters, a prized example of the government taking on big banks after the 2008 financial crisis. To opponents — Republican lawmakers, business associations and a few conservative Democrats — it would become an example of “runaway government,” an agency to be curbed at the first opportunity.
To Ms. Warren, the bureau is something else as well: a formative lesson in how an idea — a plan — can become reality. For it was through creating a new financial regulator that Ms. Warren developed the approach to government that now guides her presidential campaign. And it was in losing the chance to lead her bureau that Ms. Warren came to see the value of asking voters, rather than a president, to give her power.
A review of Ms. Warren’s role in creating the consumer bureau, including interviews with more than 30 people involved in the process, revealed an approach to politics that joins imaginative policy ideas with a keen instinct for mass communication and a willingness to negotiate. On one hand, she marshaled support from progressive activists and helped build public demand for her idea; on the other, she haggled with members of Congress to earn their backing.
David Axelrod, who was Mr. Obama’s top political adviser during the battle to create the C.F.P.B., called Ms. Warren’s role a “bona fide credential” for the presidency.
“There aren’t that many people who can say they had an idea, wrote about it and ended up bringing it to fruition, in terms of the creation of a whole new government agency with a very focused mission,” Mr. Axelrod said.
If some of Ms. Warren’s rivals — and more than a few Democratic voters — question whether her ideas are realistic, she and her supporters answer by pointing to the consumer bureau. At the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s convention this month, supporters of Ms. Warren broke out in chants of, “C-F-P-B! She fights for you, she fights for me!”
In a recent interview, Ms. Warren described the creation of the bureau as a “model” for how she would seek to deploy her plans as president. At a September rally in Washington Square Park in New York, Ms. Warren likened herself to Frances Perkins, the first secretary of labor — a woman, she said, “who worked the political system relentlessly from the inside, while a sustained movement applied pressure from the outside.”
But if the bureau has been an enduring victory for Ms. Warren, it culminated in a painful disappointment.
In the interview, Ms. Warren — an upbeat presence on the campaign trail — became somber when the conversation turned to her exit from the bureau. Asked about her insistence against having a farewell party, her eyes began to glisten.
“I couldn’t say goodbye to all those people I’d hired and all those people I’d brought in to fight,” Ms. Warren said, speaking slowly and quietly. “I’d made an implicit promise to lead the charge, and I would’ve stayed and led it if I could have. But I couldn’t. And I did not want to say goodbye to all of them.”
Ms. Warren’s band of advisers, lawyers, researchers and technicians devised a more discreet send-off. Elizabeth Vale, a former White House official who was among Ms. Warren’s close counselors, said an immense farewell card was made from a “big, big, big piece of cardboard,” stamped with the electric-green logo of the C.F.P.B. and signed by scores of staff members. Still, Ms. Warren, then 62, declined to receive it before a throng of colleagues.
“I remember two of us brought it to her,” Ms. Vale said, “and then I remember when she walked out, she just walked out quietly, by herself.”
Ms. Warren in her office at Harvard Law School in 2008. It was while she was at Harvard that she began considering the idea of a new government regulator.
Ms. Warren in her office at Harvard Law School in 2008. It was while she was at Harvard that she began considering the idea of a new government regulator.

An Idea About Exploding Toasters

It all began with Ms. Warren’s decision to write an article in the winter of 2007. She had endured one unhappy brush with Washington, testifying against a bill to tighten the bankruptcy code in a way she feared would burden low-income debtors. The proposal became law in 2005, with Joseph R. Biden Jr., then a senator, as its leading Democratic supporter.
Back at Harvard, where she was teaching law, Ms. Warren began considering a new idea: a proposal for a government regulator to address the issue on which Congress had spurned her advice — the problem of consumer credit and the often-deceptive financial products being offered to ordinary people.
She outlined the concept to Kenneth Baer, then 34, a former Clinton administration aide who with several like-minded Democrats had founded a publication, Democracy, to stir an ambitious policy debate among liberals. He was skeptical at first of Ms. Warren’s regulatory proposal, wondering if forming a new government agency represented an “old Democratic way of thinking.”
But Mr. Baer and his colleagues were hungry for big ideas to fill what they saw as an intellectual void in the Democratic Party, and he encouraged her to make the case for a new regulator.
In a February email to Mr. Baer, Ms. Warren agreed to write it. As she tells it now, she was bursting for the chance.
“The idea was ripe,” she said. “I was ready.”
A draft of the piece followed in late March. Ms. Warren urged her collaborators to “edit aggressively,” an instruction that proved unnecessary. A copy of her first version reviewed by a reporter shows its now-famous opening was scarcely changed.
“In the U.S. today it is not possible to buy a toaster that has a 1-in-5 chance of bursting into flames and burning down a customer’s house,” Ms. Warren wrote in her draft. “But it is possible to refinance an existing home with a mortgage that has the same 1-in-5 chance of putting the family out on the street — without ever disclosing that fact to the homeowner.”
At the end of 2008, a global financial catastrophe sent unemployment soaring and threw millions of homeowners into foreclosure.
At the end of 2008, a global financial catastrophe sent unemployment soaring and threw millions of homeowners into foreclosure.
When Democracy published Ms. Warren’s article in the summer of 2007, Mr. Baer and his colleagues promoted it — and its author — vigorously, booking Ms. Warren on CNN and winning coverage for her idea in national newspapers. And they promoted it to presidential campaigns, too. A breakthrough came in June when Heather McGhee, a policy adviser to Senator John Edwards, emailed Ms. Warren to say her candidate was about to endorse a new regulator for financial products.
By early 2008, Ms. Warren and her sometime editors were musing over email that the proposal could really become law. When Ms. Warren noted praise for her idea in Newsweek, Andrei Cherny, a co-founder of Democracy, wrote back, “Next stop: law of the land!”
“I’m working on it!” Ms. Warren replied, signing off with her initials, EW, in lowercase.
It had been decades since either political party had tried seriously to impose tougher financial regulations. Even sympathetic Democrats, like Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, questioned the feasibility. Ms. McGhee, who stayed in touch with Ms. Warren after the Edwards campaign ended, said she saw the professor straining to discern what to do and whom to turn to in Washington.
“She really was trying to figure out how to have all the right conversations,” Ms. McGhee said. “And then the financial crisis happened.”
Ms. Warren presiding over a Congressional Oversight Panel hearing in 2010.
Ms. Warren presiding over a Congressional Oversight Panel hearing in 2010.

A Two-Sided Game

The Congressional Oversight Panel, a body set up to scrutinize Washington’s bailout of the financial system, did not mention toasters in its “special report” on financial regulation.
But the document, issued days after Mr. Obama’s inauguration in 2009, was unmistakable in its suggestion. The report recommended creating a financial regulator that could gather up the fragmented enforcement tools of the federal government and seek to avert another financial crisis.
It was a natural suggestion for the oversight body, since Ms. Warren was its chairwoman.
Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader at the time, had named her to the post at the end of 2008, in the throes of a global financial catastrophe that sent unemployment soaring and threw millions of homeowners into foreclosure. From this perch, Ms. Warren began a campaign for her bureau.
It was no longer a lonely effort. Mr. Frank, a powerful committee chairman, was now an ally. So was an emerging coalition of progressive groups, labor unions and consumer advocates, known as Americans for Financial Reform. Ms. Warren sought out its leader, Heather Booth, for insight into political organizing.
“She knew many of the players on the policy side,” Ms. Booth said. “What she hadn’t been experienced with were the politics.”
Ms. Warren also built alliances inside government, finding friends in people like Mr. Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett, one of Mr. Obama’s closest advisers. Mr. Axelrod saw the bureau as a political necessity, the one part of financial reform ordinary voters might understand.
At times, Ms. Warren’s appeals were strikingly personal: Over dinner in Cambridge, Mass., Ms. Warren told Ms. Jarrett much of the life story that is now familiar to voters who follow her campaign, a tale of deep economic adversity for her family in Oklahoma. “It put in context why this policy was so important to her,” Ms. Jarrett said.
Mr. Obama embraced the proposal, putting a consumer bureau in his blueprint for financial reform in the spring of 2009 and talking on late-night television about exploding toasters.
Ms. Warren was elated but uneasy. The financial industry was mobilizing, warning that a new regulator would damage the economic recovery. And Ms. Warren was concerned about two of Mr. Obama’s lieutenants: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Lawrence H. Summers, who helmed the National Economic Council. She had profound philosophical disagreements with both men, who believed that her savage criticism of the bank bailouts revealed a misunderstanding of the role of Wall Street in the fragile economic recovery.
“Tim and Larry were not fans of this agency,” Ms. Warren said. “I heard more than once from Senate and House staffers that they had proposed scrapping it in return for some other concession that they cared more about.”
Of Mr. Obama, she said: “I never worried about the president. I was worried about his advisers.”
Lawrence H. Summers, left, the National Economic Council director, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner were at odds with Ms. Warren.
Lawrence H. Summers, left, the National Economic Council director, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner were at odds with Ms. Warren.
Mr. Obama remained forcefully supportive and senior officials at the Treasury Department helped negotiate the shape of the bureau at every stage.
In the House, Ms. Warren blessed deals struck by Mr. Frank, including one exempting banks with less than $10 billion in assets from certain new regulatory requirements. The concession was intended to win over an influential trade group, the Independent Community Bankers of America, and its chief lobbyist, Cam Fine. The arrangement dismayed the left — until Ms. Warren endorsed it.
“She was very realistic,” Mr. Frank said. “She was deeply engaged in talking to members and she did acquire her own sense of what was politically doable.”
Ms. Warren had less influence in the Senate, where Democrats held the majority but their ability to break a filibuster hinged on centrist legislators. So Ms. Warren turned her attention beyond the chamber, rallying activists and talking to the media. In her most provocative move, she told HuffPost that the Senate must either create a “strong consumer agency” or have “no agency at all and plenty of blood and teeth left on the floor.”
“That,” Ms. Warren said recently, “is the outsider’s game.”
The Senate ultimately approved a bureau that was stronger in some ways than Ms. Warren’s 2007 proposal. Instead of a Financial Products Safety Commission, led by committee, it would be the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, headed by a single director. And it would draw funding from the Federal Reserve, putting its budget beyond reach of adversaries in Congress.
Ms. Warren attended the July 2010 ceremony where Mr. Obama signed the Dodd-Frank bill into law, and with it a consumer bureau that he asked her to help set up. He designated her an aide to himself and to Mr. Geithner, with a mandate to build the regulator she had devised on paper in 2007.
There was no promise she would become the permanent director.
If Ms. Warren had won a landmark policy victory, it came at the cost of making enemies in Congress and the administration. While Mr. Geithner would criticize business groups for opposing the consumer bureau in a 2014 book, he also cast Ms. Warren as an implacable critic of the bank rescue, more focused on “made-for-YouTube” grandstanding than on crafting practical ideas. He and Mr. Summers described her in White House meetings as unreasonably hostile to financial institutions, and as simply unreasonable.
“You cannot play the role she was playing without making people mad at you,” said former Representative Brad Miller, a North Carolina Democrat involved in drafting Dodd-Frank. He said of the Obama economic team, “Those were folks who were used to getting their own way and not having to deal with critics at all.”
Mr. Geithner, now president of the private equity firm Warburg Pincus, declined through a spokeswoman to be interviewed. Mr. Summers, who has criticized some of Ms. Warren’s 2020 campaign proposals, did not respond to interview requests.
But Ms. Warren at times unnerved others in the administration. In a 2015 memoir, Mr. Axelrod wrote that Mr. Obama grew frustrated in 2010 with Ms. Warren’s assertive efforts to position herself to become director — a possibility he feared would enrage banks and doom the Dodd-Frank bill.
“Tell her to keep her mouth shut,” Mr. Obama said, according to Mr. Axelrod’s book. “She may well be the choice, but we can’t surface that now.”
President Barack Obama introducing Richard Cordray, right, as his nominee for director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, in 2011. There was strong Republican opposition to Ms. Warren becoming the permanent director.
President Barack Obama introducing Richard Cordray, right, as his nominee for director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, in 2011. There was strong Republican opposition to Ms. Warren becoming the permanent director.

‘That Was Her Job’

In the spring of 2011, Mr. Fine, the lobbyist for community banks, got a call from Ms. Jarrett. If the White House selected Ms. Warren to lead the consumer bureau, she asked, would he fight for her confirmation?
Mr. Fine said he would.
A few days later, Ms. Warren told Mr. Fine over lunch in downtown Washington that the White House had decided against nominating her.
“I said: ‘That’s just not right. Do you want me to start a campaign? Do you want me to demand a meeting over at the White House?’” said Mr. Fine, whose offers Ms. Warren declined. “She put on a brave face.”
For Ms. Warren, this setback came at the end of a whirlwind year setting up the bureau. Since Dodd-Frank became law, Ms. Warren had traveled widely and hired aggressively. Eager to show her organization was at work, she demanded swift, visible actions, like the creation of a complaint hotline with a public catalog of Americans’ grievances against banks and other lenders.
Her recruitment efforts had established the bureau as a political force, as well as a legal one. The staff swelled, and weekly meetings shifted from a modest conference room to an elevator-studded lobby. In a pair of public-relations coups, Ms. Warren asked Holly Petraeus, a Better Business Bureau official married to a renowned general, to lead the Office of Servicemember Affairs, and enlisted Mr. Cordray, the outgoing attorney general of Ohio, to lead her enforcement division.
“As she put it to me: It’s a chance to do on a nationwide basis what you’re doing in Ohio, with more tools, more authority to pursue the banks,” Mr. Cordray said, recalling Ms. Warren’s pitch.
It was a chance, in other words, to wield great power.
But Ms. Warren would soon learn that hers was borrowed power — power delegated by the president, and for only a year. By the spring of 2011, the opposition to Ms. Warren becoming permanent director was unbending. Republican senators said they would never confirm her; so did Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, a conservative Democrat.
Mr. Nelson, who is supporting Mr. Biden in the Democratic primary, said in an interview that he worried about empowering someone he saw as a champion of “runaway government.”
“I was very concerned about somebody who had been such a strong advocate for a government bureau that had virtually no control,” Mr. Nelson said.
Mr. Reid said Republican opposition sealed Ms. Warren’s fate.
“The Republicans stopped her from getting that job,” he said. “That was her job.”
Among some of Ms. Warren’s allies, frustration lingers about what happened in 2011. They blame not just Republicans, but also her rivals in the Obama administration and a harsh strain of sexism directed at her by political opponents and the media.
“Men never get this adjective, ‘strident.’ That bothers me, because I don’t think she is,” Ms. Petraeus said. “Yes, she’s passionate. She doesn’t hesitate to call somebody out, especially on the Hill, if they’re trying to serve up a bunch of double-dealing nonsense.”
Sheila Bair, a Warren ally who was then at the head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, said she had been angry to learn the White House was leaning against nominating Ms. Warren. Her detractors in the administration, Ms. Bair said, had been “whispering behind the scenes that she couldn’t get confirmed.”
“Even if that is true, fight it out,” Ms. Bair said.
In the end, Mr. Obama concluded Mr. Cordray stood a better chance of clearing the Senate. Republicans would stonewall his nomination until 2013.
It was Ms. Jarrett who called to inform Ms. Warren. She also suggested an alternative path forward: running for Senate.
“She was not overly enthusiastic in our first call, because she never saw herself as a politician,” Ms. Jarrett said, “and I said I thought that’s the reason she’d be perfect for the job.”
Ms. Warren’s presidential campaign is guided by the process that led to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s creation.
Ms. Warren’s presidential campaign is guided by the process that led to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s creation.
Others in the administration, including Mr. Geithner’s aides, saw the Senate race as a way to get Ms. Warren out of the executive branch. Mr. Miller, the former congressman, said he emailed Ms. Warren to warn that her critics might be trying to lure her “into a race that she could not win.”
But in September 2011, Ms. Warren entered the race against Senator Scott P. Brown of Massachusetts, starting down a path that has led with improbable speed to a presidential campaign.
Her candidacy today resembles a vastly enlarged version of the movement that gave rise to the consumer bureau. In a campaign framed as a crusade of ideas, Ms. Warren has vowed to restructure the economy as president using the same methods that helped make her imagined agency a real structure of concrete and glass.
It is not lost on Ms. Warren that, had she become the director, it is unlikely she would be a leading presidential candidate now.
“I would have stayed,” she said, “and done it forever.”

Elizabeth Warren Lost Her Dream Job but Gained a Path to 2020 - The New York Times

Friday, September 20, 2019

Bombshell Whistleblower Report: A 'Promise' By Trump? - The Day That Was...

Trump Pressed Ukraine’s Leader as Giuliani Pushed for Biden Inquiry - The New York Times

"Trump Pressed Ukraine’s Leader as Giuliani Pushed for Biden Inquiry

WASHINGTON — President Trump repeatedly pressed the Ukrainian president in a phone call to talk with his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, who had been urging the government in Kiev for months to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his family, according to people briefed on the call.
Mr. Trump’s request for a Ukrainian investigation of Mr. Biden, a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, is part of the secret whistle-blower complaint that is said to be about Mr. Trump and at least in part about his dealings with Ukraine, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The new revelations add to new scrutiny about Mr. Trump’s dealings with the Ukrainian government. He has made no secret that he wanted Kiev to investigate the Bidens, repeatedly raising it publicly.
But questions have emerged about whether Mr. Trump’s push for an inquiry into the Bidens was behind a weekslong White House hold on military aid for Ukraine. The United States suspended the military aid to Ukraine in early July, according to a former American official.
Mr. Trump did not discuss the aid in the July 25 call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, and Kiev did not learn of the suspension until August, according to people familiar with the call. The Wall Street Journal first reported details of it.
Mr. Trump dismissed earlier on Friday as a “partisan” attack the whistle-blower complaint said to involve his dealings with Ukraine amid mounting questions about his interactions with the country’s new government.
“It’s a ridiculous story. It’s a partisan whistle-blower,” Mr. Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, though he also acknowledged he did not know the person’s identity. “They shouldn’t even have information.”
When asked whether he had brought up Mr. Biden during the call with Mr. Zelensky, Mr. Trump waved away the question but added, “Someone ought to look into Joe Biden.”
Mr. Biden said on Friday that the allegations that he or his son did anything wrong in Ukraine are baseless.
“Not one single outlet has given any credibility to his assertion,” Mr. Biden told reporters after a campaign event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He said he had no more comment, but added: “The president should start to be president.”
The existence of the complaint, submitted by a member of the intelligence community to its inspector general, emerged late last week and exploded into the open late on Wednesday when The Washington Post reported that it concerned Mr. Trump. The administration has not shared the complaint with Congress, as is generally required by law, angering Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered a sharp warning to the Trump administration on Friday, saying in a statement that the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, was violating the law by refusing to disclose the complaint to Congress.
“If the president has done what has been alleged, then he is stepping into a dangerous minefield with serious repercussions for his administration and our democracy,” she said in a statement.
After the Ukraine link emerged in news reports late Thursday, Mr. Giuliani shed more light on it in a rambling CNN appearance, where he first denied, then admitted, to asking the government in Kiev to investigate the Bidens.
Mr. Giuliani has spearheaded a push for such an inquiry. He met with Mr. Zelensky’s emissaries this summer in hopes of encouraging his government to ramp up investigations into two matters regarding the Biden family: the question of any overlap with Mr. Biden’s diplomatic dealings with Ukraine, as well as the details of his son’s involvement in a gas company there.
Mr. Giuliani has said he was acting on his own, though his comments on Thursday seemed to draw a closer connection to Mr. Trump. “A President telling a Pres-elect of a well known corrupt country he better investigate corruption that affects US is doing his job,” Mr. Giuliani wrote on Twitter shortly after his appearance on CNN asserting the same thought.
Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky will meet next week on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, a senior administration official confirmed after Mr. Zelensky’s office announced the meeting on Friday.
In recent weeks, congressional aides and administration officials who work on Ukraine issues had become concerned that the White House was delaying the military assistance package for Kiev, according to people involved in an effort to free up the assistance.
Three Democratic House committee chairmen have requested the transcript of the president’s July call with Mr. Zelensky from the State Department and the White House as part of an investigation into whether Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani were misappropriating the American foreign policy apparatus for political gain.
Vice President Mike Pence, who recently met with Mr. Zelensky in Poland, denied bringing up Mr. Giuliani’s efforts to investigate Mr. Biden in their conversations, but said Mr. Trump was still making the decision on “the latest tranche of financial support.”
Mr. Trump also sought to allay concerns about his dealings with other foreign leaders. Part of the whistle-blower’s complaint deals with an unspecified commitment he made to an unnamed foreign leader, a person familiar with it has said. Mr. Trump also said on Friday that he did not know the leader in question.
“I had a great conversation with numerous people, numerous leaders, and I always look for the conversation that’s going to help the United States the most,” he said. Sitting alongside Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia, who had just arrived for a state visit, Mr. Trump called his communications with other leaders “always appropriate.”
Nicholas Fandos and Katie Rogers contributed reporting from Washington, and Lisa Lerer from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The historic moments, head-spinning developments and inside-the-White House intrigue."

Trump Pressed Ukraine’s Leader as Giuliani Pushed for Biden Inquiry - The New York Times

Speaker Nancy Pelosi On Indicting A Sitting President : NPR

Pelosi is playing a nasty game with the American people. She is not as ignorant as she pretends to be. She is trying to placate the public knowing full well the law she is proposing is unconstitutional. 
"In an exclusive interview with NPR, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she has not changed her mind on pursuing impeachment but is ready to change the law to restrain presidential power and make it clear that a sitting president can, in fact, be indicted.
"I do think that we will have to pass some laws that will have clarity for future presidents. [A] president should be indicted, if he's committed a wrongdoing — any president. There is nothing anyplace that says the president should not be indicted," Pelosi told All Things Considered host Ari Shapiro and NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis on Friday. "That's something cooked up by the president's lawyers. That's what that is. But so that people will feel 'OK, well, if he — if he does something wrong, [he] should be able to be indicted.' "

The California Democrat said that while it is Justice Department protocol not to pursue any charges against an incumbent — the reason former special counsel Robert Mueller said he couldn't charge President Trump with a crime no matter the outcome of his report — that should be changed.
"The Founders could never suspect that a president would be so abusive of the Constitution of the United States, that the separation of powers would be irrelevant to him and that he would continue, any president would continue, to withhold facts from the Congress, which are part of the constitutional right of inquiry," Pelosi said.
The constitutional recourse for a lawbreaking president per the Constitution is impeachment. Article II, Section 4 instructs that the president "shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."
But despite the growing chants among Democrats for an impeachment inquiry in the House, Pelosi has remained reluctant about recourse. She fears it could alienate swing voters ahead of next year's elections and imperil moderate Democrats who were critical to her party's taking back the House last November.
Pelosi did not shift her position on impeachment and said Congress would continue to follow "the facts and the law."
Speaker Nancy Pelosi On Indicting A Sitting President : NPR

Opinion | Roy Cohn Is How We Got Trump - The New York Times

"By Michelle Goldberg

Near the beginning of “Where’s My Roy Cohn?” the new documentary about the lawyer and power broker who mentored Donald Trump, an interviewee says, “Roy Cohn’s contempt for people, his contempt for the law, was so evident on his face that if you were in his presence, you knew you were in the presence of evil.” He wasn’t being hyperbolic.

The film, which opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, will likely be of wide interest because of how Cohn helps explain Trump. In the attorney’s life, you can see the strange ease with which a sybaritic con man fit in with crusading social reactionaries. You see the glee Cohn derived from being an exception to the rules he enforced on weaker people. From him, Trump learned how, when he was in trouble, to change the subject by acting outrageously, to never apologize and always stay on the offense. When the Justice Department claimed that apartment buildings owned by the Trump family were discriminating against black renters, it was Cohn’s idea to countersue the Justice Department for $100 million.

In the 1950s, as chief counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy, Cohn wasn’t just a key player in the anti-Communist witch hunts of the time. He also persecuted men in the State Department who were suspected of being gay, despite being a closeted gay man himself. Later, he became a consigliere to New York’s mafia families, some of whom also had ties to Trump, even as he ranted about law and order.

The film’s title comes from something Trump said when he was frustrated with then Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Cohn was Trump’s template for what a lawyer is supposed to be. (In Attorney General Bill Barr, he seems to have found someone who satisfies him.) “Roy was somebody that had no boundaries,” a lawyer in his firm says in the film. “And if you were on the right side of him, it was great. And if you were on the wrong side of him, it was terrible.”

But what I found most striking about “Where’s My Roy Cohn?” wasn’t its insights into the thuggish president, whose particularly brand of malevolence has been theorized to death. It was its reminders of just how decadent, in every sense, New York society used to be. Cohn was manifestly despicable, but he was embraced, rather than shunned, by New York elites. For a time, he had a sham engagement to Barbara Walters. He hung out with the famed artist Andy Warhol and was a regular at the oft-mythologized nightclub Studio 54.

Warhol is only briefly mentioned in the film, but his diaries mention Cohn’s parties repeatedly. “And when you go to these Roy Cohn things all everybody says is, ‘It’s so amusing, it’s so interesting, because you never know who you’ll find at these things,’” Warhol wrote in 1982. In 1985, he described Cohn’s birthday party at the New York nightclub The Palladium. TV monitors showed Cohn’s anti-Communist speeches from the 1950s. “And that was exciting, it was the best thing,” wrote Warhol.

To understand the milieu Cohn moved in is, I think, to understand at least some of the generation gap among elites over what’s sometimes called “cancel culture” or “call-out culture” or even just “political correctness.” If you are under 35 or 40, it’s probably hard to grasp just how much depravity used to be tolerated in fancy circles, and, further, how tolerating it was itself taken as a sign of sophistication

[Listen to “The Argument” podcast every Thursday morning, with Ross Douthat, Michelle Goldberg and David Leonhardt.]

During Warhol’s heyday, the amoral celebration of fame was considered glamorous and edgy, and genuine outrage was deeply uncool. Similar values still predominated when I moved to New York almost 20 years ago, when figures like Harvey Weinstein seemed to rule the city.

It wasn’t until the intertwined ascents of social media and millennial progressives that the zeitgeist really turned, and jaded acceptance of the status quo fell from fashion. Younger people, scarred by the wreckage of the financial crisis, looked at the world they’d inherited and felt wide-ranging moral indignation. Unlike their elders, they hadn’t watched the radical promise of the late ’60s curdle into violence and farce, and so weren’t disillusioned with the left.

From left, Donald Trump, Mayor Ed Koch and Roy Cohn at the Trump Tower opening in 1983.

From left, Donald Trump, Mayor Ed Koch and Roy Cohn at the Trump Tower opening in 1983.Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images

Today, wealth and power can still buy horrible people a degree of social acceptance. Sean Spicer lied to the American people for a living and is now on “Dancing With the Stars.” Ivanka Trump is still reportedly invited to celebrity weddings. But the left has far more cultural power than in the past, and some on the left have used that power to re-moralize the public square. Sometimes that means ostracizing people, or, as they say on the internet, canceling them. A more decent society would have done that to Cohn.

Still, it’s easy see why the way the left deploys its influence feels, to some, inquisitorial. The religious right, of course, hates the new cultural mores because it wanted to re-moralize America on its terms. But plenty of liberals are nostalgic for a less sanctimonious era, where, at least in certain cosmopolitan precincts, being amusing and interesting were more important than being upright. Sometimes I feel this nostalgia myself; if you came of age in a culture that celebrated transgression, norms that demand sensitivity can feel restrictive.

But to see the way Cohn was accepted among artists, socialites and the demimonde of New York night life is to be reminded how warped the city’s values used to be. That’s why, for so long, Trump was able to thrive here.

In the end, the social world in which Cohn could be at once a right-wing dirty trickster and a celebrity bon vivant did have rules, and he ran afoul of them. In 1986, after a lifetime of skirting consequences for his corruption, Cohn was disbarred for cheating his clients. (At one point Cohn allegedly dressed up like a male nurse to get a dying multimillionaire client to sign a document making him a trustee of his estate.)

Unable to practice law, his power evanesced. In “Where’s My Roy Cohn,” an old friend explains how, every year, Cohn held a private dinner for his intimates. After the disbarment, the friend arrived at one such dinner. “When I get there, this long table was set, and nobody came,” he said. At the same time, Cohn was dying of AIDS, though he refused to admit it. Trump, his protégé, cut him off. New York wasn’t more forgiving back then. It was just more forgiving of certain people."

Opinion | Roy Cohn Is How We Got Trump - The New York Times

Opinion | ‘Urgent Concern’ About the President - The New York Times

By The Editorial Board

"A whistle-blower’s report has alarmed the intelligence agencies’ watchdog. Why won’t the administration share it with Congress? It’s not every day that a whistle-blower in the intelligence community files a complaint about the president of the United States. But it seems to have happened last month, when an unidentified intelligence employee alerted the inspector general of the intelligence community, Michael Atkinson, to multiple acts by President Trump, including a promise he is said to have made to a foreign leader during a phone call. 

The complaint alarmed Mr. Atkinson enough that he considered it a matter of “urgent concern” and alerted the acting director of national intelligence, or D.N.I., Joseph Maguire.
Under federal law, the D.N.I. “shall” deliver an inspector general’s report about an “urgent concern” to Congress within a week of receiving it. But Mr. Maguire has so far refused to. Taking his marching orders from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, he has claimed that the whistle-blower’s complaint did not involve an “intelligence activity,” and that it contained “potentially privileged matters.”
So Mr. Atkinson reached out to Congress himself. In a letter dated Sept. 9, he informed Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, of the existence of the complaint. On Tuesday, with the director of national intelligence still stonewalling, Mr. Atkinson followed up to say that the complaint “not only falls within the D.N.I.’s jurisdiction, but relates to one of the most significant and important of the D.N.I.’s responsibilities to the American people.”

On Thursday, Mr. Atkinson appeared before a meeting of the House Intelligence Committee that was closed to the public and the news media. Mr. Maguire is scheduled to appear before that committee in an open hearing next week. Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee said they expect him and Mr. Atkinson to brief them next week, too. 

Maybe there’s not that much to the complaint; we can’t know yet. What we do know is there is an important principle at stake: that Congress is supposed to have oversight — through confidential hearings — of complaints like this. There’s a solid case to be made that Mr. Maguire, who has not invoked executive privilege as a reason for withholding the complaint, is ignoring the plain language of the law. While the lawyers battle over who is authorized to withhold what from whom, it’s worth making two observations: first, that the intelligence community’s watchdog — not some disgruntled denizen of the “deep state,” but a man appointed by Mr. Trump — was alarmed enough that he thought it necessary to inform Congress. 

Second, that the administration is doing whatever it can to keep the complaint from becoming known, even behind closed doors.

Mr. Trump mocked the whole episode on Twitter, asking, “Is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader while on such a potentially ‘heavily populated’ call. I would only do what is right anyway, and only do good for the USA!” That’s a curious claim from a president who has gone to great lengths to hide from his own administration the details of his many conversations with President Vladimir Putin of Russia; who has casually revealed Israeli classified intelligence to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in the Oval Office; and whose defense secretary decided to quit after learning that Mr. Trump had told the president of Turkey over the phone that he was breaking with longstanding policy and withdrawing American troops from Syria. 
Three House committees are investigating whether Mr. Trump tried to get the Ukrainian government to investigate business dealings of the son of the former vice president and current presidential candidate Joseph Biden. They have asked for a transcript of a July 25 phone call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.

It may be no coincidence that Mr. Maguire, the man at the center of this particular storm, is serving in an acting capacity, having temporarily taken over the job of director of national intelligence after Dan Coats stepped down last month. That’s how Mr. Trump likes it. “Acting gives you great flexibility that you don’t have with permanent,” he said last month, referring to the acting director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, one of the many executive branch positions that have gone for months or longer without a Senate-confirmed leader. In other words, if the president can’t command abject loyalty, he’ll take temp workers who will depend on him moment to moment for their jobs.
The No. 1 task of America’s intelligence and law-enforcement communities is to identify and deal with threats to national security. The problem, as explained by Jack Goldsmith, who led the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel under President George W. Bush, is that Mr. Trump’s behavior has repeatedly revealed “the extent to which our constitutional system assumes and relies on a president with a modicum of national fidelity, and decent judgment and reasonableness.” 

In other words, the system isn’t designed to deal with a situation in which a hazard may come from the president himself."

Opinion | ‘Urgent Concern’ About the President - The New York Times

Younger Black Voters to Their Parents: Break Up With Joe Biden, I’m Bored - The New York Times

Tyler Smith, 19, is lobbying his grandmother to shift her support from Joe Biden to one of his more progressive rivals.

Younger Black Voters to Their Parents: Break Up With Joe Biden, I’m Bored - The New York Times

Chris Cuomo clashes with Rudy Giuliani over Ukraine