POLITICS

Trump’s Fed pick: ‘I’m going to be on a steep learning curve’

Partisan hack Stephen Moore, Donald Trump's pick to be the next U.S. Federal Reserve governor, is the latest in a string of massively unqualified nominees that are just there because they show unthinking loyalty to Trump. The difference with Moore is that he's upfront about his utter lack of qualifications, not that that's making him hesitate at all in accepting.

"I'm kind of new to this game, frankly, so I'm going to be on a steep learning curve myself about how the Fed operates, how the Federal Reserve makes its decisions," Moore said on Bloomberg Television right after Trump announced his nomination, which is already a problem. Serious people, legitimate nominees, refrain from going out and blabbing about their nominations on TV out of respect for the process. But Moore is a Trump nominee. "It's hard for me to say even what my role will be there, assuming I get confirmed," he admitted. Moore's only qualifications are having been an economic adviser on the Trump campaign and being at the Heritage Foundation and founding the Club for Growth. And telling the New York Times that the "one guy who gets" that the Fed is creating deflation "is Trump. […] He told me in a meeting last month that the Fed is preventing us from staying on a 3 to 4 percent growth path."

The assumption shouldn't be that he does get confirmed, however. Even fellow Republicans are panning the nomination and urging the Senate to block his appointment. For example: Greg Mankiw, a Harvard professor who was chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush, who wrote an open memo to the Senate saying Moore "does not have the intellectual gravitas for this important job. […] It is time for senators to do their job. Mr. Moore should not be confirmed."

Here's a preview of what Moore's confirmation hearing could look like, should he get that far. In it, economics expert and Washington Post and CNN columnist and commentator Catherine Rampell humiliates him on national television when he tries to spout off again about his deflation theory. Watch it in all its glory below.

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The Barr letter is not the Mueller report—it’s a gift to Donald Trump

On Friday afternoon, Attorney General William Barr announced that he was in receipt of the concluding document from special counsel Robert Mueller. After 40 hours of tense silence and speculation, Barr delivered a letter to Congress on Sunday providing a “summary” of the contents of Mueller’s statement. In his letter, Barr states that Mueller concluded that, while Russia deliberately interfered in the 2016 election both by planting false stories in social media and by hacking into computers to “obtain” emails, the special counsel “did not find that any U.S. person or Trump campaign official or associate conspired or knowingly coordinated” with the Russian effort. On the topic of obstruction, the letter states that Mueller did something unusual: He laid out a number of actions that possibly represented obstruction, but did not provide indictments. As a result, Barr, in consultation with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, concluded that the “evidence was not sufficient to conclude the President committed an obstruction of justice offense.”

All indications are that there are to be no more indictments, including no sealed indictments, resulting from the special counsel investigation. No further actions will result. 

As might be expected, the contents of the letter have resulted in both wild celebration—and wild accusations—from the Right, with Trump claiming “total exoneration,” and multiple Republicans in both the Senate and the House accusing both Democrats and the media of “lying” and leading the public on a two-year, what else, “witch hunt.” On the other hand, it’s immediately notable that Barr’s fewer-than-four-page letter contains not a single full sentence from the document produced by Mueller, and one of the few fragments that is provided states that, “while this report does not conclude the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him”—in stark disagreement with Trump’s claims. 

The letter from Barr provides a list of hefty statistics about the number of documents examined, subpoenas deployed, and witnesses questioned in the course of the investigation, all of which only makes Barr’s highly abbreviated summary even less satisfying. On the issue of obstruction, Barr’s letter does not say that Mueller left it to the attorney general to determine charges, no matter how it’s being framed in reports. It says only that Mueller “determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgement,” and then Barr and Rosenstein “determined that the evidence developed … was not sufficient to establish” a crime. That is a very different thing. The description of “collusion” in the letter is very tightly prescribed, leaving off the table entire areas of possible cooperation with Russia, and describing the situation in very black-and-white terms that may not reflect the findings from the special counsel.

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