Saturday, February 11, 2017

Meanwhile, these things happened this week

Whether it's Trump's strategy to keep us from looking too deeply into any of his more serious violations of law and presidential tradition  (what power does Russia hold over him? for example) -- or whether it's simply that a chaotic mind produces chaos, the fact is that every day of the Trump presidency so far has produced more news than I can keep up with, much less summarize and analyze.  Just to sum up this week, here's some of what happened:

1.  The Appeals Court handed Trump a major defeat in rejecting his request to lift the stay on his immigration ban.   He called it a "political" decision, as usual maligning the judges.

2.  Trump's National Security Adviser, Gen. Flynn is in hot water, having been caught lying, when he earlier denied that he had had any discussion about sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador during the transition.   Now he says, he doesn't remember, but it could have come up.  The difference is that they have his conversations on tape, and nine different security officials have been leaking information talking with investigative journalists about them.

Evidence reportedly shows that Flynn clearly suggested that Russia not retaliate, because things will be different when Trump is president.  If it is proved that he did, that was a violation of the Logan Act and therefore illegal, because at the time he was an ordinary citizen negotiating with a foreign government to undermine the authority of the U.S. government.  Further evidence shows that Flynn's contacts with the Russian government actually began before the election, suggesting collusion with the Russian efforts to influence our election.

The best evidence that Flynn did convey this:   Putin did not respond to the sanctions in his usual tit for tat manner.  That is unheard of for this cold-bloodedformer KGB officer.  He did nothing but express sadness that the children of his expelled diplomats would have to be traveling home during the Christmas holidays.   He even went as far as inviting the children of American diplomats in Moscow to come to the Kremlin for their Christmas celebration.  Why would Putin respond so uncharacteristically unless he had reason to believe it was to his advantage

3.  With a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Pence, Betsy DeVos was confirmed by the Senate as the Education Secretary.  And by a party-line vote, Jeff Sessions was confirmed as Attorney General.

4.  Kellyanne Conway also clearly broke the law when, in her appearance on Fox News, she was asked about Nordstrom Department Store's announcement that they will no longer carry the Ivanka Trump brand items because of declining sales.   Kellyanne turned it into a commercial -- even saying "I'm going to give a little commercial.  Go buy Ivanka's stuff.  It's a wonderful line.  I own some of it."  And telling the television audience that "you can get it online."    That is clearly illegal for a government official to advocate for a particular product.  But look at the example the president himself sets.   

5.  The president then took it upon himself to send out a tweet trashing Nordstrom, saying that they were treating his daughter unfairly.   If that's not illegal, it should be.   But it's worse than that, as pointed out by Rachel Maddow.   It shows that Trump is not living up to his assurance that he will keep his business interests and being president separate.  In fact, it shows that even his staff seem to think that it's part of their job to bolster the business interests of the family.

6.  Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), chair of the House Oversight Committee -- yes, the one who has been such a scourge at investigating the Obama administration -- said of Conway's comment that it was "wrong . . . wrong . . . wrong."   And he cosigned a request to the Office of Government Ethics for an ethics investigation.

7.  The same Rep. Chaffetz held a town hall meeting in his home district in Utah.  He was booed as he came onstage and faced chants of "Do Your Job!"   This was apparently not about the Conway thing (where he did do his job);   but, from the questioning, they were upset that he wasn't investigating Trump and his many violations.

8.  New Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch created quite a stir by telling Democratic senators, in his confirmation hearings, that he found the attacks on the judiciary "disheartening and demoralizing."   It was clear to the senators that he was referring directly to Trump's comments about the Appeals Court judges, because that's what they were asking him to respond to.  But he later tried to say that it was not meant as criticism of the president;  he was speaking in general about lack of respect for the judiciary.   Well, of course he would have to say that, wouldn't he?   But so what if he did mean it generally?   The president did it, so it also includes him, doesn't it?

9.  Oh, yes.   I almost forgot;  so much has happened in the three days since then.   The senate rebuked Sen. Elizabeth Warren for her lack of comity in speaking against the confirmation of Sen. Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.   The Republicans did not seem to understand the difference in ordinary debate among senators and the debate over whether to confirm one of their number as the top legal officer in the nation.

I'm all for comity (a fancy word for playing nice);  but, when it comes to choosing the one who will make decisions about racial matters and voting rights, criminal justice reform and immigration bans -- we should not just sip our mint juleps and wave our fans on the front veranda of the mansion, while rubber-stamping one of our own cherished.   Cherished by those who want to deny rights to a sizable portion of our citizens, that is.  To those, he was ol' massa personified, and Coretta Scott King was speaking for them in her letter that Sen. Warren was reading on the senate floor, when she was so rudely interrupted and told to sit down.

10.  Trump is still lying about voter fraud in NH, telling a roomful of senators that thousands of people came over the border and voted illegally.  As usual, he offers no evidence for the claim.  He also reportedly said that if Sen. Kelly Ayote had not spoken against him, they would both have won in New Hampshire.   Ayote was defeated for reelection by former governor Maggie Hassan.

What troubles me most about this, and some of his other lies, is that I think he actually believes some of them.  And you have to question a president who cannot tell the difference between verifiable facts and the loony stuff that circulates on the right-wing internet sites.  Or, equally bad:   He has the kind of thinking disorder that assumes "if he thinks it, it must be true."

So much for a busy third week of the Trump presidency.   Only 8,435 days to go.   At least, we're not at war yet.  Maybe that's because he saves his insults for our allies.   He praises Putin and has mostly remained silent about Kim Jung Un and the Supreme Leader of Iran.


PS:   Tomorrow, come back for some lighter, generally good news.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Appeals Court declines to reinstate Trump's ban

In a unanimous 3 to 0 ruling, the 9th Circuit Appeals Court has denied the Justice Department's appeal of Judge Robart's ruling that put President Trump's immigration ban on hold.   The next step is either:  (1)  the case goes back to Judge Robart's court for a hearing on the merits of the case;   or (2) the Department of Justice could ask for an expedited ruling on the stay from the Supreme Court.

However, it would require at least a 5 to 3 decision in Trump's favor for that to work, because a 4 to 4 tie would leave the appeals court decision in place.   So, it looks likely that the ban will probably not be reimposed any time soon.


Appeals court's reasoning on the immigration ban

I had planned some non-Trump posts for today, but then the appeals court gave its decision on the immigration ban appeal, and that just seems too important to ignore, even for another day.  So, I'll save the non-Trump good news for another day.

The unsigned, unanimous decision to deny the appeal seems clearly written and explanatory.   The crucial issue hinged on the Department of Justice, representing the president, claim that the president has sole authority over national defense, and that such decisions are not reviewable -- i.e., cannot be overruled -- by the court system.  In fact, the Dept. of Justice had claimed that, were the court to do that, it would violate the separation of powers.

This court does not accept that argument.   Rather it asserts that the judiciary does have a role in safeguarding people's rights, stating that:  "the Supreme Court has made clear that the Government’s authority and expertise in [such] matters do not automatically trump the Court’s own obligation to secure the protection that the Constitution grants to individuals, even in times of war."   The rights referred to here are the equal protection clause and the non-establishment clause of the Constitution, which forbid discrimination based on religion and which forbid the government's establishment of a particular religion.

Further, to the claim that the president's decisions on national security cannot be reviewed by the courts, they addressed the issue of classified information.   What they said, in effect, is that the president cannot just assert that he knows things that he can't tell the court that show that there is grave danger from these particular countries.   The court does not accept such claims without evidence, and judges at this level can be given sensitive evidence to review in secret and keep sealed.    So "we know stuff we can't tell you" is not a sufficient defense.   But they did not offer any such evidence.

Although this hearing and the decision were not on the merits of the case itself, only whether the court should uphold the temporary stay that had been put on the president's executive immigration order, the court did nevertheless address the question of what would be admissible as evidence in deciding whether rights had been violated when the case goes back for trial on the merits.

In fact, the judges noted the previous statements by Mr. Trump in which he had promised to impose "a Muslim ban," implying that such statements could be considered in deciding whether this was a rational executive order or whether it might have arisen from a wish to exclude Muslims, even though the executive order did not make such a statement.   That goes to whether the order violates rights.

The trial on merits will involve much more discovery and depositions, gathering evidence on who worked on writing the order, how it came to be decided, what was the evidence, why it was considered such an urgent matter, etc.   Washington State Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, who brought the case, was on Rachel Maddow's show last night.   He pointed out that, in issuing the original stay, Judge Robarts had to think it likely that the state would eventually prevail on the merits.   That, in itself, is encouraging.   And, in response to Rachel's question about his satisfaction with Thursday's ruling by the appeals court, he said:  "We couldn't have gotten a better ruling, from our perspective, if we had written it ourselves."

Frankly, I was surprised that it was unanimous.   I saw some of questioning of the attorneys by the three judges, and I thought one of them seemed troubled by saying this was religious discrimination when only about 15% of the world's Muslims are affected by ban on people only from seven countries.   Apparently he got answers that satisfied him.

Although this has been chaotic, in one sense it is fortunate that this showdown between Trump and the courts has come up this early.   Because this is going to be a continuing issue with this president and at least some of his top level staff:   whether the president is above the law.   This is a good test of that.    In fact, Washington AG Ferguson voiced his strong intention to push ahead on just this point:   whether we are a nations of laws that even the president must follow.


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Mitch McConnell is not stupid; so WHY did he do such a politically stupid thing, silence Eliz. Warren?

By now, the story is well known, having hit the news shows Tuesday night like a thunder-clap.   On the Senate floor, Senator Elizabeth Warren was speaking against the confirmation of Sen. Jeff Sessions for Attorney General.   As part of her evidence against him, she was reading a letter to the Senate from Coretta Scott King, which King had sent during the 1986 confirmation hearings for then Alabama prosecutor Jeff Session to become a federal judge.

The confirmation was voted down, with considerable Republican support, because of Sessions' alleged racist attitudes and actions.    Coretta Scott King's letter was thought to have been an important part of persuading bipartisan voters against Sessions in 1986.  It was supposed to have been entered in the Congressional Record;  but it now appears that Sen. Strom Thurmond, who should have done so, did not.    But a copy of the letter has recently been obtained.  And Sen. Warren was reading it aloud to the senators.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called her out of order under Senate Rule XIX, which says that, in debate, no senator shall impute to another senator any conduct unworthy of a senator.   King's letter certainly does allege that Session had engaged in conduct unworthy of a senator.   But this is a confirmation hearing, not ordinary senate debate.   If the confirmation process cannot include comments about past behavior of a now-senator, simply because he is now a senator -- then the confirmation process is a farce.

Sen. Warren was not only silenced and told by the presiding senator to sit down, she was also forbidden to speak further during the hearing on Sen. Sessions.

To be clear, the letter had been allowed as part of the senate debate in 1986, and it would have been part of the official Congressional Record, if Sen. Thurmond had done his job.  However, Sessions was not a senator in 1986 and was therefore not covered by Rule XIX.  But he is now.

It's generally assumed that Sen. Sessions will be confirmed, given that it takes only a simple majority. [Note:  he was, later Wed. evening.]  If McConnell had just kept quiet, few would have noticed, or cared, that this letter was read.   It's unlikely to have changed any Republican senators' votes, since they're so determined to gain the power to do what they want.   So why did he stir things up by silencing Sen. Warren?

He could not have picked a better moment to blow up the smooth confirmation of a controversial nominee.   Sessions does have an undeniable record of racist attitudes, actions, including attempts to limit the voting rights of African-Americans.   In addition, he has consistently voted against the Violence Against Women bill.   Supporters claim that doesn't reflect the Jeff Sessions of today.

Now that the spotlight of McConnell's action is shining on this issue -- all the brighter because it was a letter from the widow of Martin Luther King, Jr. that he stopped Warren from reading  -- it only multiplies immensely the public scrutiny of Sessions' racism.  The content of the letter is no secret.   In fact, later in the night, it was read, without objection, on the senate floor by Sen. Jeff Merkeley.   After giving her reasons, including detailed examples, Coretta King's 1986 letter, in part, reached this conclusion:
“I do not believe Jefferson Sessions possesses the requisite judgment, competence and sensitivity to the rights guaranteed by the federal civil rights laws to qualify for appointment to the federal district court.”
Senator Warren further ensured wide attention to the whole incident by giving television interviews and by reading the letter on Facebook Livewhere reportedly 7 million people saw it.

So this has to take the prize for the most stupid political decision made by one of the most astute political strategists in the senate.   So, I come back to WHY?   I don't yet have a clue what McConnell hoped to gain.


PS:   Later "explanation" from a Republican congressman, whose name I didn't get but who was interviewed on MSNBC:    He said that Sen. McConnell was not on the Senate floor when Sen. Warren gave the first part of her dissent.   He objected to the tone she was using and came to the Senate chamber to invoke Rule XIX.  It just happened that, when he arrived, she was reading the King letter.   It was not the letter itself that he objected to but rather her overall denunciating tone about a fellow senator.

Now, if that is the case, why did they wait almost 24 hours to say so?   It sounds to me like a contrived explanation in an attempt to do damage control.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Recording turned off for Trump's call with Putin

It remains a serious question:   Just what is the relationship between the Trump team and Russia?   Do they hold some power over him that we don't know about?

It is undisputed that Trump's Secretary of State, his National Security Adviser, his former campaign manager, and others have close ties to Russia or to Putin himself.  Putin seems to be the only world leader that Trump has not insulted.  Even when reporters try to get him to be critical of something Putin has done or said, Trump always turns it around to his admiration for Putin.

Here is one more reason to be suspicious:  Trump's recent calls to heads of state have routinely been recorded and a summary written up, except for one:  Vladimir Putin.   Ilan Berman, VP of the American Foreign Policy Council, reported that the recording equipment was turned off during Trump's recent phone call with Putin.  The call summary was one sentence long.   We need to know why.   What did they discuss that they're keeping secret?


Plain talk about Trump from the business world

Some excerpts from "Trump Vs. The Rule Of Law" by Matt Levine in Bloomberg Businessweek, Feb. 6.   It shows that the business world is concerned, not just with his removing regulations and making credit easier, but also in more fundamental things like Trump's seeming contempt for the Rule of Law and the danger of his unchecked power.

*     *     *     *     *
"The problem is bigger than some disagreements over policy priorities.  The most troubling aspect of Trump's immigration order may be that it covered U.S. lawful permanent residents,  that is, green card holders who'd spent years building lives in the U.S. . .

"The upshot is that U.S. lawful permanent residents . . . are no longer protected by that law.  They can be deported at the whim of the president, or his advisers, or a border agent -- or they can be spared by a two-sentence statement from the secretary of Homeland Security.  There are no guarantees that the courts can protect them.  The nation of laws they immigrated to is gone, replaced by a nation of arbitrary rule.

"If the president can, without consulting the courts or Congress, banish U.S. lawful permanent residents, then he can do anything.  If there's no rule of law for some people, there's no rule of law for anyone.

"Business leaders are waking up to that reality.  Many grouse in private about the impact of Trump's actions but are afraid to speak out publicly.  'They are scared out of their minds about being attacked,' wrote Andrew Ross Sorkin in the New York Times, "and what that's going to do for their business.'

"When the president can damage your business with a tweet -- and will, if you disagree with him publicly -- then dissent is more difficult. . . . 

"The reason the U.S. is a good place to do business is that, for the past two centuries, it's built a firm foundation on the rule of law.   President Trump undid that in a weekend.  That's bad for business."

*     *     *     *     *

This is not a wild-eyed, paranoid, liberal opinion.   This is a mainstream voice in a moderately conservative business magazine.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Betsy DeVos confirmed 51 to 50

The highly controversial billionaire, school choice zealot Betsy DeVos has been confirmed as Trump's Education Secretary.   Two Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins joined the 49 Democrats to tie the vote at 50 to 50.   Vice President, acting as head of the senate, broke the tie making it 51 to 50.

Clearly unqualified and embarrassingly uninformed as to laws governing education, DeVos will nevertheless take her place in the Trump cabinet.   Although federal regulations do have a significant effect on public education, in fact the federal government contributes only about 6% of the overall educational budget of local schools.    State and local taxes provide the rest.


Trump not welcome to address U.K. Parliament

The United Kingdom's Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, has voiced strong opposition to President Trump speaking before Parliament.    On her recent U.S. visit, Prime Minister Theresa May invited him to visit;  but no date has been set.

Bercow said:  “I would not wish to issue an invitation to President Trump to speak. . . .  An address by a foreign leader to both houses of Parliament is not an automatic right.  It is an earned honor. . . .  I feel very strongly that our opposition to racism and to sexism and our support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations in the House of Commons.”   His speech was loudly applauded by other members of Parliament.

Powerful experts warn court on Trump's travel ban

Here are some of the national security experts who have signed an amicus brief in the case against Trump's immigration ban:

Former Secretaries of State Madeline Albright and John Kerry;  former head of Homeland Security, Janet Nepolitano;  former CIA Director Michael Hayden and former CIA officials Avril Haines, Michael Morell and John McLaughlin;   former Sec. of Defense and former head of the CIA Leon Panetta;  and former National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

Their brief is a forceful case that undercuts the lead argument presented by the Trump Justice Department.   They state:  “We view the Order as one that ultimately undermines the national security of the United States, rather than making us safer. . . .In our professional opinion, this Order cannot be justified on national security or foreign policy grounds.”

They further state that Trump's order “could do long-term damage to our national security and foreign policy interests, endangering U.S. troops in the field and disrupting counterterrorism and national security partnerships. It will aid [the Islamic State’s] propaganda effort and serve its recruitment message by feeding into the narrative that the United States is at war with Islam.

“It will hinder relationships with the very communities that law enforcement professionals need to address the threat. It will have a damaging humanitarian and economic impact on the lives and jobs of American citizens and residents. And apart from all of these concerns, the Order offends our nation’s laws and values.”

Several of these national security officials served in the Obama administration up until shortly before the Trump administration took over on Jan. 20th;  the brief includes this:  

“We know of no interagency process underway before January 20, 2017 to change current vetting procedures, and the repeated need for the Administration to clarify confusion after the Order issued suggest that that Order received little, if any advance scrutiny by the Departments of State, Justice, Homeland Security or the Intelligence Community."

Law professor Steven Vladeck, who submitted his own brief against the travel ban, wrote that "it's just not the case that 'many very bad dangerous people' were 'pouring into our country' prior to Trump's order.   "If anything, it's the Executive Order itself, and not preexisting immigration laws and policies, that poses a threat to our national security."

In other amicus briefs, almost 100 tech CEO's have mounted legal opposition to the ban, stating that it will be damaging to the U.S. economy.  Signed by Apple, Facebook, Netflix, Twitter, and Microsoft, their brief emphasized that the executive order makes it more difficult for them to "recruit, hire, and retain the world's best employees. . . .  American workers and the economy will suffer as as result."

A hearing on the government's request for reinstitution of the ban will be held today, Tuesday;  and a decision is expected by Friday.   For Judge Robarts, who was obviously skeptical of the government's claims -- pointing out that there had been zero arrests of terrorists from these countries in the U.S. since 9/11 -- this strong argument from these experienced national security professionals should be persuasive.

The Trump-Department of Justice argument is that the president has the power to make decisions about immigration and national security issues.   The counter to that is:  (1) that the Bill of Rights trumps that power.  This ban essentially applies a religious test to be allowed into our country, even though the order does not mention Muslims.   But, as shown in yesterday's blog, there is ample evidence that was Trump's motivation.  And (2) the Trump Department of Justice has failed to show any compelling reason why that right should be abrogated.  This brief from the former national security officials is the evidence needed to bolster that lack of evidence.


Monday, February 6, 2017

Bernie Sanders says Trump is "a fraud."

Sen. Bernie Sanders said to Jake Tapper on CNN: 

"“This guy ran for president of the United States saying, ‘I’m going to take on Wall Street. These guys are getting away with murder.'   And then, suddenly, he appoints all these billionaires. His major financial adviser comes from Goldman Sachs. And now he is going to dismantle legislation that protects consumers. . .  

"This is a guy who ran for president saying, ‘I’m . . . not going to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  And then he appoints all of these guys who are precisely going to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. . . .  I have to say this, Jake. And I don’t mean to be disrespectful . . . [but] this guy is a fraud."

Apparently in Trump's lexicon, there are two meanings to "take on."    We naively thought he meant "take them on in a fight."   But he "took them on" as members of his cabinet.


Appeals Court says No to Trump. What if he defies?

The Justice Department appealed Judge Robart's order that put a nationwide hold on Trump's Muslim ban, asking the court to immediately restore Trump's immigration order.    The Appeals Court said No.

There's one more step, of course, the U.S. Supreme Court.   If they split 4 to 4, then the Appeals Court decision stands -- and that would be the end of the judicial line for Trump, at least as far as immediate restoration of the ban.   It could of course go to a trial, which would be a lengthy process.

Beyond a trial court's consideration of the legality of Trump's ban, Trump has probably poisoned his own case on the issue of context and motivation for the ban.   First, he cannot show that these seven countries are the source of previous terrorist activity in the U.S.   And they've said nothing publicly about having intelligence of plots or plans for future attacks.

There is video footage of Rudy Giuliani saying that Trump wanted "a Muslim ban" and asked him to help devise a way to make it legal.  Big-mouth Rudy spilled the beans (or is he getting revenge on Trump for not appointing him AG?).   Playing that video would be devastating in a courtroom where you're trying to prove it is not "a Muslim ban."  In addition, there are multiple videos from the campaign with Trump himself proclaiming that he would put in a Muslim ban.

Add to that pile of incriminating evidence are Trump's tweets since becoming president in which he denounces Judge Robarts as "this so-called judge" and refers to his "ridiculous" decision.   It shows a disturbing lack of respect for the judiciary and the rule of law.  

So the ultimate question becomes:   What if Trump then decides to defy the court order?   Unquestionably, this would be a constitutional crisis.    How is that handled?

Apparently the only recourse is impeachment, unless some member of his close inner circle (perhaps Ivanka and Jared) could persuade him to resign.    Remaining adamant in refusing to obey a court order would constitute an impeachable offense.

It would be up to the House to bring the indictment, which is what impeachment is;  then the Senate would hold a trial presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.   The Senate vote would determines whether he is removed from office.   

My guess is that it won't come to impeachment;  that, if Trump ever comes to believe that impeachment and conviction are inevitable, he will resign.   Then it should be relatively easy to come up with face-saving rationalizations for a resignation, such as:    the restrictions on his ability to be involved in his business are endangering the survival of the Trump Organization.

Remember, of course, that I have always been wrong on every prediction I've made about Donald Trump.  If he believes that he could be impeached by the House but then acquitted by the Senate, as was Bill Clinton, Trump might relish the fight, thinking he would win -- and he might.


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Inside White House-Cabinet battle on border order

The Departments of Homeland Security and State are following the Seattle judge's order that put a nationwide hold on President Trump's immigration and refugee ban.   A furious Trump sent out this tweet:   "The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!"

So we have Cabinet Secretaries pushing back against the president's unconstitutional wishes,  Trump doesn't have much of an argument to force them to disobey a court order, rather than the constitutional process of appeal.   It will probably go all the way to the Supreme Court.   So far, all but one of the judicial decisions have put a delay on implementation. but this is the first 0ne to apply nationwide, which makes it more significant.

But there's also another aspect of the conflict brewing in this new administration that Josh Rogin wrote the following about for the Washington Post.  It's titled "Inside the White House-Cabinet Battle Over Trump's Immigration Order," and it essentially points at the showdown looming already between Steve Bannon and the Secretaries of Defense, State, and Homeland Security.

One has to wonder:   who is leaking this stuff?   Rogin attributed it to "two administration officials."  My guess is that they're not Trump-Bannon fans.

*     *     *     *     *
"On the evening of Saturday, Jan. 28, as airport protests raged over President Trump’s executive order on immigration, the man charged with implementing the order, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, had a plan. He would issue a waiver for lawful permanent residents, a.k.a. green-card holders . . . .

"White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon wanted to stop Kelly in his tracks.  Bannon paid a personal and unscheduled visit to Kelly’s Department of Homeland Security office to deliver an order: Don’t issue the waiver. Kelly, according to two administration officials familiar with the confrontation, refused to comply with Bannon’s instruction. That was the beginning of a weekend of negotiations among senior Trump administration staffers that led, on Sunday, to a decision by Trump to temporarily freeze the issuance of executive orders.

"The confrontation between Bannon and Kelly pitted a political operator against a military disciplinarian. Respectfully but firmly, the retired general and longtime Marine told Bannon that despite his high position in the White House and close relationship with Trump, the former Breitbart chief was not in Kelly’s chain of command, two administration officials said. If the president wanted Kelly to back off from issuing the waiver, Kelly would have to hear it from the president directly, he told Bannon. . . ."

[Trump did not call to tell Kelly to back off.  Instead, there was a high level, 2 am conference call with the national security team, the White House Counsel, and Secs. Kelly, Mattis and Tillerson.]  Rogin writes further:

"One White House official and one administration official told me that Kelly, Mattis and Tillerson presented a united front and complained about the process that led to the issuance of the immigration executive order, focusing on their near-complete lack of consultation . . . .

"Bannon and Miller pushed back, defending the White House’s actions and explaining that the process and substance of the order had been kept to a close circle because the Trump administration had not yet installed its own officials in key government roles and other officials were still getting settled into place.

"Flynn, according to the White House official, partially sided with the Cabinet officials, arguing that they should be included in the process, even if the White House ultimately decided not to adopt their recommendations. . . . 

"Later on Sunday, a larger senior staff meeting was convened with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, senior adviser Jared Kushner and Trump himself, where all tried to make sense of the process and chart a path forward.

"The president made a decision at that meeting that . . . all other executive orders would be held up until a process was established that included the input of key officials outside the White House. . . . [i.e., the Cabinet secretaries and their staff]

"The weekend’s events were the first major dust-up between the White House political leadership and the powerful figures Trump has appointed to head the national security bureaucracies. The Cabinet members stood up for themselves and their agencies and successfully pushed for a policy tweak that the administration later embraced in a memorandum to “clarify” the executive order.

"The Cabinet members also demonstrated that they had something to offer the White House besides their policy input; they are the most credible spokespeople for controversial White House policies in the eyes of the public. . . .  White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters at the daily briefing that 'there was proper coordination . . .  between the White House and the DHS.

"If the White House is now serious about working with the Cabinet, that’s a positive sign and means that this series of events had a constructive impact on policymaking. But there’s a good chance that this won’t be the last time Kelly, Mattis and Tillerson will have to confront Bannon and Miller. Score their first battle as a tie."

*     *     *     *     *
I agree, it's very good for Bannon to get his wings clipped this soon and, by implication, Trump too.  But they are not going to just roll over this easily.   There will be more battles.   The other advantage is that it clarifies where the problem clearly lies.   Bannon plays into Trump's worst instincts, urges him on to rash action -- and now there are at least a few adults to say "not so fast."   Maybe in the future it will happen before, rather than after, implementation.


PS:   After this was written last night, it was reported that the White House had strongly challenged the veracity of Rogin's reporting, saying that there was no such confrontation between Bannon and Kelly, that Rogin had not sought to verify the facts with the White House.  The Post did append an editor's note to the published article, admitting some errors but reiterating that there was a conflict between the two about the green card orders.

Frankly, I'm much more inclined to believe the original story.   This sounds to me like vehement push-back from a beleagured White House and bullying demands from Bannon to change the narrative.  I'm sure we'll hear more about it.