Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Has Trump Created A Praetorian Guard In Washington?

President Trump has already shown his Orwellian tendencies by giving a speech on Monday in the Rose Garden in which he dcclared his "respect" for peaceful protesters at the very moment that forces ultimately responding to an order by Trump violently attacked peaceful protesters in front of the White House to remove them from Lafayette Square, as well as priests and parishioners from the patio of their St. John's Church across from the White House.  This attack and removal of the protesters as well as church people allowed Trump to walk across the square fot photo op at the church, holding up a Bible backwards and upside down.  While it has been admitted that ultimately this attack reflected Trump wanting to have this photo op, it remains unclear precisely which federal forces were part of the attack and exactly who was immediately commanding them.  It seems at a minimum that this involved federal Park Police, but may have included DC National Guard, and maybe  Secret service personnel, as well as maybe others, although no DC police or officials, with Mayor Bowswe opposing this action.

Mosr seem to think that AG Barr gave the immediate order, but he does not seem to official authority over  several of these groups, notably the Secret Service.  SecDef Esper and Chief of Staff Gen. Milley were present during Trump's walk across the square, but are now apparently claiming not to have any responsibiliy for this.  Esper and Milley have since come under strong criticism by many people either in the GOP such as the Lincoln Project group as well as current and former high DOD officials, including James Miller who publicly resigned from the DOD Science Board in protest as well as a strong memo by former SecDef "Mad Dog" Mattis.

However, possibly the most disturbing development out of this has been the appearance of unidentified figures, some in uniforms of some sort, some not, who seem to be acting to control protestors and keep them out of various public areas.  These may have participated in the attack on Monday, but they would have been just part of groups that were identifiable, even if they were acting illegally and with unclear authority.  However, these people are much more mysterious, although when asked who they are, a few have said they are from the "Department of Justice," which is of course overseen by AG Barr.  Is he overseeing a new Praetorian Guard that is beyond the Secret Service to do Trump's will?

There are two clear actions these mysterious figures have been involved in.  One was to line up on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to keep the public out.  Why were they doing this?  Nobody seems to know.  But they were in camouflage and armed.  At least they do not seem to be militsry from the DOD.

The other place they have been seriously and obviously present, although they have been reported to be wandering around time harassing protesters, is around the White House itself, where they seem to have superseded the Secret Service more clearly.  They have been the agents expanding the perimeter around the WH within which even peaceful protesters are not allowed.  It is pretty clear they do not have the legal right to do this, but nobody is stopping them.  Here they are showing their potential Praetorian Guard role, personal protectors and agents of the president, operating anonymously without authority, but willing to do is direct bidding.  I am wondering if they will be disbanded when things quiet down, or will they still be around in November when the election comes.

There are various speculatons about who these are.  One theory is that they are federal prison guards.  Another is that they are from ICE, a specially trained force.  There is also a report today that Barr has just granted the DEA extraordinary authority to surveil protsters, although maybe these anonymous figures in the streets are not DEA.  A final even weirder theory is that they are a private group ultimately under EdSec De Vos or her brother, Eric Prince.  The idea that we might have private security group assuming law enforcement authority in Washington against the wishes of the mayor and hiding itss identity is most disturbing.

Addnda, 6/4:

This morning's Washington Post reports that apparently the unidentified forces include US Marshalls and some FBI personnel, all of these part of the Dept.of Justice. Apparently AG Barr has been commanding this Praetorian Guard from FBI HQ.  Meanwhile, Pres. Trump has been adding more layers of fences around the White House.

More Addenda: The new fences around the WH now enclose St. John's Church. When the Episcopal bishop of DC showed up with some folks to hold a vigil on the church grounds, the Praetorian Guard refused to let them in to do so. They ended up sitting on the ground nearby to hold their vigil.

More recently, AG Barr held a presser in which we learned that ATF agents are also involved in all this, although mostly "to enforce gun rights." It came out that a lot of these PGs with no IDs on them are indeed prison guards, with their chief saying "we mostly work inside prisons so do not need IDs.," to which Barr added something like "So they do not like to answer people asking who they are."  Right.  Also, apparently, the only "group" behind all the violence, is "antifa," something FBI Director Wray confirmed, even though a day or two ago the FBI itself said it found no evidence of this nonexistent group doing anythign.

Barkley Rosser

21 comments:

Fred C. Dobbs said...

(Reminiscent of Nixon's waning days in office.)

Murkowski backs criticism of Trump’s leadership.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/04/us/george-floyd-protests.html

Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, said on Thursday that she endorsed scathing criticism of President Trump’s leadership by James Mattis, the former secretary of defense, and was grappling with whether to support the president in the coming election.

(https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/03/us/politics/jim-mattis-trump-protests.html )

Ms. Murkowski said the critique by General Mattis, in which he said that Mr. Trump had divided the nation and failed to lead, was overdue and might be a tipping point that would cause Republicans to air concerns about the president that they had only spoken about privately.

“I was really thankful,” Ms. Murkowski told reporters on Capitol Hill. “I thought General Mattis’s words were true and honest and necessary and overdue.” ...

Anonymous said...

The question I would like to have addressed is, just how much control over domestic police power does or should a president have?

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Fred,

Glad to hear about Murkowski. Maybe some of these other cowards will speak up.

A.,

I think the president does not have authority directly over local police. The National Guard are kind of a borderline case, with them supposedly under the command of governors, but I think presidents can commandeer them by command to do his bidding. However, for the moment Trump has not removed gubernatorial control of them. The DC National Guard requested of Gov. Northam of VA to send VA national Guard to DC to help with all this, but Northam said no, they are needed in Richmond and, furthermore, he was not going to send VA NG to DC to "support a photo op."

Lying behind much of this is the 1807 Insurrection Act, which has not been invoked and which various DOD people, including SecDef Esper, have said should not be now, only at the "last extreme." But that would allow the president to send regular military, not just National Guard, into local communities against local leaders' will, in order to put down an "insurrection." But, I do not think even that allows a president to take direct command of local police forces.

Anonymous said...

Aside:

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/04/us/politics/trump-environment-coronavirus.html

June 4, 2020

Trump, Citing Pandemic, Plans Two Moves to Weaken Key Environmental Protections
The twin environmental actions underscored the president’s push to roll back regulations as the virus crisis continues.
By Coral Davenport and Lisa Friedman

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration, in twin actions to curb environmental regulations, will move on Thursday to temporarily speed the construction of energy projects and to permanently weaken federal authority to issue stringent clean air and climate change rules....

Anonymous said...

Barkley Rosser:

Nice and appreciated response.

Anonymous said...

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/04/opinion/trump-nixon.html

June 4, 2020

Donald Trump Is No Richard Nixon
He — and his party — are much, much worse.
By Paul Krugman

On May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on student protesters, killing four. The 50th anniversary of the Kent State massacre passed with little notice in a nation preoccupied with Covid-19 — but now, suddenly, echoes of the Nixon era are everywhere. And Donald Trump seems to be deliberately invoking Nixon’s legacy, tweeting out “LAW & ORDER!” in the apparent hope that it will magically rescue his political fortunes.

And given Trump’s determination to put troops in the streets of America’s cities, it’s quite likely that innocent civilians will be shot at some point.

But Donald Trump isn’t Richard Nixon — he’s much, much worse. And America 2020 isn’t America 1970: We’re a better nation in many ways, but our democracy is far more fragile thanks to the utter corruption of the Republican Party.

The Trump-Nixon comparisons are obvious. Like Nixon, Trump has exploited white backlash for political gain. Like Nixon, Trump evidently believes that laws apply only to the little people.

Nixon, however, doesn’t seem to have been a coward. Amid mass demonstrations, he didn’t cower in the MAGAbunker, venturing out only after his minions had gassed peaceful protesters and driven them out of Lafayette Park. Instead, he went out to talk to protesters at the Lincoln Memorial. His behavior was a bit weird, but it wasn’t craven.

And while his political strategy was cynical and ruthless, Nixon was a smart, hard-working man who took the job of being president seriously.

His policy legacy was surprisingly positive — in particular, he did more than any other president, before or since, to protect the environment. Before Watergate took him down he was working on a plan to expand health insurance coverage that in many ways anticipated Obamacare.

Trump, by contrast, appears to spend his days tweeting and watching Fox News. His administration’s only major policy achievement so far has been the 2017 tax cut, which was supposed to lead to surging business investment, but didn’t.

He responded to the Covid-19 threat first with denial, then with frantic efforts, not to control the pandemic, but to shift the blame for shambolic, ineffective policies to other people.

So Trump is no Nixon. And the country he’s trying to dominate — his favorite word — is very different, too....

Fred C. Dobbs said...

In small Maine town, anticipation high for Trump’s visit https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/06/04/metro/small-maine-town-anticipation-high-trumps-visit/?event=event25

GUILFORD, Maine — Dozens of workers streamed out of Puritan Medical Products for an early afternoon break Thursday, a brief respite in work weeks that can run to 70 hours at the only US company that makes the nasal swabs used for coronavirus testing.

The extra work and its economic windfall, generated by a $75.5 million contract under the Defense Production Act to help battle the virus, have reinvigorated this aging mill-town in north-central Maine.

“Everybody’s excited,” said Russell Hasting, 39, a Puritan employee.

The exclamation point will come Friday when President Trump tours the century-old company. The visit will be his latest to a manufacturing facility connected to the coronavirus fight, but will mark a rare trip for him outside Washington, D.C., since nationwide protests erupted over George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police. ...

(In other news...)

Portland Press Herald calls for Trump to resign as he prepares to visit Maine https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/06/05/nation/portland-press-herald-calls-trump-resign-ahead-his-visit-maine/?event=event25

Ahead of his visit to the state on Friday, the editorial board of one of Maine’s largest newspapers has called on President Trump to resign.

( https://www.pressherald.com/2020/06/05/our-view-to-president-trump-you-should-resign-now/ )

The Portland Press Herald cited Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and accused him of fanning the flames of the civil unrest sweeping the nation in the wake of the killings of George Floyd and other Black people at the hands of police.

“You have never been a good president, but today your shortcomings are unleashing historic levels of suffering on the American people,” the editorial said.

The editorial, published on the paper’s website and in its print edition on Friday, came the same day Trump was scheduled to make a visit to a manufacturing facility in the Maine town of Guilford that is producing swabs needed for testing of possible coronavirus patients. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

The editorial, published on the paper’s website and in its print edition on Friday, came the same day Trump was scheduled to make a visit to a manufacturing facility in the Maine town of Guilford that is producing swabs needed for testing of possible coronavirus patients.

“We’re sorry that you decided to come to Maine, but since you are here, could you do us a favor? Resign,” the paper’s editorial board wrote. ...

In the context of the unrest and death caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the editorial called on Trump to follow the example set by President Nixon, who, facing impeachment, said he would resign to allow the country to begin healing.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Why a Praetorian Guard is needed.

What Is Antifa, the Movement Trump Wants to Declare a Terror Group? https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/02/us/what-antifa-trump.html?smid=tw-share

... Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a professor of history at New York University who studies fascism, said she was worried that antifa’s methods could feed into what she said were false equivalencies that seek to lump violence on the left with attacks by the right, such as the killing of a protester in Charlottesville by a man who had expressed white supremacist views.

“Throwing a milkshake (*) is not equivalent to killing someone, but because the people in power are allied with the right, any provocation, any dissent against right-wing violence, backfires,” Professor Ben-Ghiat said in an interview last year.

Between 2010 and 2016, 53 percent of terrorist attacks in the United States were carried out by religious extremists — 35 percent by right-wing extremists and 12 percent by left-wing or environmentalist extremists, according to a University of Maryland-led consortium that studies terrorism.

Militancy on the left can “become a justification for those in power and allies on the right to crack down,” Professor Ben-Ghiat said. “In these situations, the left, or antifa, are historically placed in impossible situations.” ...

* How to Make the Perfect Milkshake for Throwing at Fascists https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/xwn4zd/how-to-make-the-perfect-milkshake-for-throwing-at-fascists?utm_campaign=sharebutton

ilsm said...

Correlations The most of the US cities where thugs run amok [lovely term describes how Muslim swordsmen attacked peaceful people in 1900 Philippines] are mayored by democrats and in mostly in red states.

Local democrats organized a walk for Minneapolis, a thousand miles away, in Southern NH. As far as I know antifa is more interested in Boston, no damage!

I was wondering who burned Bishop Budde's church, aka St John's?

"The protests that began peacefully grew to something more, and eventually a fire was lit in the nursery, in the basement of Ashburton House," [Rector] Fisher said in an email to worshippers. "Protestors easily could have done a lot worse to our buildings, but they chose not to do that."

https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/historic-church-near-white-house-damaged-amid-unrest-leaders-pray-for-healing/2318673/

Well, the benevolent "protesters" are heroes; they could have burned the whole place to the ground.

Last night 4 June a "protest" stopped traffic flow on Southern Pkwy in Nassau county. My grandkids live less than a mile from the Pkwy.

I am not like the rector I find the democrats' phony protesters to be violent thugs, who trash any cause they might start out to present.

Whether antifa or egged on by deplorables; these criminals must be put down!

As to Trump's leadership..... the on going rage is fostered by the same plot that sustained Russiagate and the impeachment, a plot to deny the results of 2016 election. The new tactic: democratic party, who run nothing-burger social programs, encouraging destructive thugs!

How can Trump lead when the insurgents are praised by the corrupt opposition party?

2007 National Defense Act authorizes the president to activate the National Guard in such cases as he decides a national emergency exists, etc.

Running a preatorium has some merit when the political opposition resorts to violent insurrection.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

ilsm,

Are you aware that there is no "antifa"? It is a slogan some people have adopted in some demos. But there is no organization, in contrast to various white supremacist groups whose members have been caught attempting to set off bombs at some preotests.

As for St. Johns' the bishop is no longer allowed to enter it or even approach it, nor any other people associated with it. I believe this is the first time in US history we have seen such a thing, with the government under order of POTUS seizing control of a church (and by violently removing its leaders from the church grounds on Monday). But, hey, even though he has apparently attended there only once (just before his inauguration like every president from FDR on), it is the "President's Church," so maybe he has a special right to seize control of it and forbid the proper owners of it from visiting it.

Anonymous said...

I believe that the President can federalize DC police precisely because DC is not a state. It is perhaps the first argument for DC statehood that I've found convincing.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

A.,

Trump made a m ove to do so, but was blocked by Mayor Bowser.

One signe of DC not being a state is that its National Guard is under the direct control of the Secretarry of the Army rather than Mayor Bowser, with there being no governor.

Anonymous said...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonus_Army

The Bonus Army was a group of 43,000 demonstrators – made up of 17,000 U.S. World War I veterans, together with their families and affiliated groups – who gathered in Washington, D.C. in mid-1932 to demand early cash redemption of their service certificates. Organizers called the demonstrators the "Bonus Expeditionary Force", to echo the name of World War I's American Expeditionary Forces, while the media referred to them as the "Bonus Army" or "Bonus Marchers". The demonstrators were led by Walter W. Waters, a former sergeant.

Many of the war veterans had been out of work since the beginning of the Great Depression. The World War Adjusted Compensation Act of 1924 had awarded them bonuses in the form of certificates they could not redeem until 1948. Each certificate, issued to a qualified veteran soldier, bore a face value equal to the soldier's promised payment with compound interest. The principal demand of the Bonus Army was the immediate cash payment of their certificates.

On July 28, U.S. Attorney General William D. Mitchell ordered the veterans removed from all government property. Washington police met with resistance, shot at the protestors, and two veterans were wounded and later died. President Herbert Hoover then ordered the U.S. Army to clear the marchers' campsite. Army Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArthur commanded a contingent of infantry and cavalry, supported by six tanks. The Bonus Army marchers with their wives and children were driven out, and their shelters and belongings burned.

Anonymous said...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonus_Army

A second, smaller Bonus March in 1933 at the start of the Roosevelt administration was defused in May with an offer of jobs with the Civilian Conservation Corps at Fort Hunt, Virginia, which most of the group accepted. Those who chose not to work for the CCC by the May 22 deadline were given transportation home.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Yes, the Bonus Army matter was a ppecusrsor to the recent situation. Genl. Douglas MacArthur apparently really got in to getting them out of D.C., much to the disgust of then major Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Apparently the National Guard units from the 11 states that sent them to D.C. at Trump's request are being sent home. No word on the special units attached to the DOJ and not wearing insignia, however. DOD wants out, but Barr is still defending the actions, and the far out fence at the White House is still there (and Trump is lying about numbers of demonstraters over the weekend, but if this lets him OK removing most of the National Guard, well, let him lie, which he does 22 times a day on average now anyway).

Anonymous said...

This is a president prone to abuse power, but then presidential power might need to be more tightly constrained by Congress:

Besides being reminded of the use of American soldiers in Washington by Herbert Hoover, I have for some time been disturbed by the use of the president of American soldiers abroad when there is no regard shown to the War Powers Resolution of 1973. President Obama explicitly ignored the Resolution in deciding to depose the government of Libya, but the actions and subsequent problems in Libya and Europe created by the military action in Libya were never criticized as an overstepping of power.

Fred C. Dobbs said...


Wave of New Polling Suggests an Erosion of Trump’s Support

NYT - Nate Cohn - June 9

The coronavirus pandemic, a severe economic downturn and the widespread demonstrations in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in police custody would pose a serious political challenge to any president seeking re-election. They are certainly posing one to President Trump.

His approval rating has fallen to negative 12.7 percentage points among registered or likely voters, down from negative 6.7 points on April 15, according to FiveThirtyEight estimates. And now a wave of new polls shows Joe Biden with a significant national lead ...

Women were supposed to carry the first female major-party nominee to victory four years ago, as many assumed that Mr. Trump’s treatment of women... But women might be his undoing this time. He trails Mr. Biden by 25 points among them, far worse than his 14-point deficit four years ago. He still leads among men by six points in the most recent polls, about the same margin as he led by in the final polls of registered voters in 2016. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

The global economy faces the worst downturn in a century, the O.E.C.D. says

NY Times - June 10

The world economy is facing the most severe recession in a century and could experience a halting recovery as policymakers brace for a potential second wave of the coronavirus and as countries embrace protectionist policies, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned in a new report. ( http://www.oecd.org/economic-outlook/june-2020/ )

A grim economic outlook released by the O.E.C.D. on Wednesday depicted a world economy that is walking on a “tightrope” as countries seek to reopen after three months of lockdowns. Considerable uncertainty remains, however, as the prospects and timing of a vaccine remain unknown. Health experts fear that the spread of the virus could accelerate again later this year.

“Extraordinary policies will be needed to walk the tightrope towards recovery,” said Laurence Boone, the O.E.C.D.’s chief economist.

The O.E.C.D., which comprises 37 of the world’s leading economies, predicts that the global economy will contract 6 percent this year if a second wave of the virus is avoided. If a second wave does occur, world economic output would fall 7.6 percent, before rebounding by 2.8 percent in 2021. The two scenarios are viewed as equally plausible.

Barring a second wave, the O.E.C.D. expects the United States economy to shrink 7.3 percent and the euro area to shrink 9 percent. Among developed countries, Britain’s predicted fall was the steepest, at 11.5 percent. Emerging economies like Brazil, Russia and South Africa, will be hit hard given the strain on their already fragile health systems.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

‘The direct result of racism’: Covid-19 lays bare how discrimination drives health disparities among Black people

Stat News - June 9

The disparities have long been documented. Black people are more likely than white people to die from cancer. They are more likely to suffer from chronic pain, diabetes, and depression. Black children report higher levels of stress. Black mothers are more likely to die in childbirth.

Those findings are part of a mountain of research cataloguing the complex and widespread effects that racism has on the health — and the medical care — of Black people in the U.S. Those effects stretch back centuries and take different forms, from discriminatory diagnostics to institutional barriers to care, all of which affect a person’s health.

But while the problem has been studied for decades and improvements have been made, many disparities persist unchecked.

The demonstrations sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis have prompted a reckoning over racism and police brutality. But, among those in the medical communities, there have also been calls for urgent action to address the role that systemic racism plays in health disparities among Black people.

“Health disparities still exist because nothing has truly changed,” said Ashley McMullen, an assistant professor of internal medicine at University of California, San Francisco.

The Covid-19 pandemic has only made those disparities — and the structural discrimination they are rooted in — all the more apparent. Black Americans have been dying at about 2.4 times the rate of white Americans. As medical anthropologist Clarence Gravlee put it in Scientific American: “If Black people were dying at the same rate as white Americans, at least 13,000 mothers, fathers, daughters, sons and other loved ones would still be alive.”

“People of color right now are more likely to be infected, and we’re more likely to die. What we’re seeing here is the direct result of racism,” said Camara Phyllis Jones, an epidemiologist who recently served as president of the American Public Health Association. “That’s the thing that is slapping us in the face. Actually, it’s lashing us like whips.”

The systemic discrimination that has impacted Black health so inordinately dates back to the first ships carrying enslaved Africans that crossed the Atlantic. The colonial narrative of hierarchy and supremacy exists to this day, Jones said, and has translated, centuries later, into gaping health disparities.

Today, Black people in the U.S. are more likely than white people to live in food deserts, with limited access to fresh fruit or vegetables. They are less likely to be able to access green spaces, and more likely to live in areas without clean water or air. Black children are more likely to grow up in high-poverty areas. Black adults are more frequently exposed to greater occupational hazards, often working in frontline jobs across many fields.

The list goes on. All of these factors shape health, and all are shaped by structural racism.

“The air you breathe, the food you eat, the visual representations of what your future could look like — all are distorted by structural racism,” said Jessica Isom, a community psychiatrist in Boston who studies health disparities in the Black community. “Other kids have internalized ideas of white supremacy — and that will have deep effects on a Black child’s psyche and body.” ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Racism, Not Genetics, Explains Why Black Americans Are Dying of COVID-19

@sciam - June 7, 2020