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This is NOT GOOD. This morning, ABC broke the news of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's imminent departure from the Justice Department.

Sources told ABC News Rosenstein wants to ensure a smooth transition to his successor and would accommodate the needs of [William] Barr, should he be confirmed.

Rosenstein apparently had long been thinking he would serve about two years, and there was no indication that he was being forced out at this moment by the president.

All the major news outlets have confirmed the story, so it's safe to assume that once the Senate rubberstamps Bill Barr for AG, Rosenstein is noping out of DOJ and heading back to Baltimore, where we will all pretend not to know who he is, in keeping with local custom. (Seriously, that's why they make movies here. Baltimoreans would rather die than acknowledge a celebrity.)

Bad enough that Barr, who expressed open hostility to the Special Counsel's investigation and called it "fatally misconceived," will be heading up DOJ. FFS, the guy was hired after "spontaneously" sending Trump's lawyers a memo theorizing that it is legally impossible for a president to obstruct justice by derailing a criminal investigation! Worse still, the GOP will now get to replace Rosenstein, giving direct supervisory authority over the Russia investigation to whichever craven hack kisses Trump's orange ass the hardest. Maybe Gregg Jarrett from Fox News to Deputy AG?

That said, let's not panic right away. Bill Barr may be willing to suck up to an authoritarian president to advance his own career, but he's no Meatball. Matthew Whitaker careens between debacles -- Big Dick Toilets, patent scams -- and only ever made serious money pimping himself out to conservative astroturf groups. Barr is an IRL respected attorney who isn't going to stumble into the sharp end of a congressional investigation by accident. He's smart enough to know that stomping in and shitcanning Mueller will likely net him hours and hours in front of Congress, in addition to millions of dollars in legal bills.


And indeed, those congressional investigations just got a whole lot sharper since Elijah Cummings, Jerry Nadler, and Adam Schiff took the gavels at the House Oversight, Judiciary, and Intelligence committees. Nadler has already threatened to subpoena Whitaker Friday if he doesn't arrange to testify, and Congressman Jerry did not come to play. Barr takes office knowing that he can't count on GOP cronies in the House to wipe his fingerprints off the knife if he murders the Mueller investigation.

Moreover, it's probably too late to put the Mueller genie back in the bottle. Prosecutors in New York have already indicted Michael Cohen, naming Trump as complicit in serious campaign finance violation. God only knows what's on those tapes the feds seized from Cohen's office, but we're assuming it isn't Trump debating what to buy for the Secret Santa pool at the office. Tentacles of the Russia investigation have spread to Virginia, California, New York, and DC -- and those are just the investigations we know about. Testimony from Manafort, Flynn, Cohen, Gates, Butina and the thousand other morons in this case don't disappear just because there's a new sheriff at the Justice Department. And even if Barr tries to suppress Mueller's final report, House Democrats will either subpoena it, or hold their own hearings to get that evidence into the congressional record.

GOP Senators will to continue to rubberstamp whatever bullshit Trumpland serves up, although it's darling that CNN pretends that Barr will face problems at his confirmation hearing because of the job application memo he sent to White House.

[Lindsey] Graham and North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis were among a bipartisan group of senators that reintroduced legislation that would protect Mueller from "inappropriate removal or political pressure." The bill passed the Judiciary Committee last Congress across party lines but was never brought up before the full Senate for a vote.

Asked about Barr's memo on Mueller, before news of Rosenstein's planned departure broke, Tillis shrugged off Democratic concerns.

"Not yet," he told reporters when asked if he has concerns. "I'll be talking to him before the hearing, and then we'll have the hearing and we'll see where it goes from there."

Other Republicans defended Barr. "He wrote that as a private citizen," [Chuck] Grassley said Tuesday. "What you do as a private citizen is one thing. What you do as a public citizen is another."

GOP gonna Gee Oh Pee. But it's too late for them to bury this now. Particularly in light of yesterday's redaction fail by Paul Manafort's attorneys, which revealed their client's communication of sensitive polling data to Kremlin cronies during the campaign. The train has already left the station, and there's no stopping it. Anyone who stands in front of this is going to get run over, although we cordially invite the GOP to take their places on the tracks.

ALL ABOARD.

[ABC / CNN]

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We want to say right here at the outset that we hate Julian Assange. Aside from the sexual assault allegations against him, and aside from the fact that he's just a generally stinky and loathsome person who reportedly smeared poop on the walls at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, while reportedly not taking care of his cat, an innocent creature, he acted as Russia's handmaiden during the 2016 election, in order to further Russia's campaign to steal it for Donald Trump. All signs point to his campaign being a success!

So we are justifiably happy when bad things happen to Julian Assange. We are happy his name is shit the world over, and that any reputation WikiLeaks used to have for being on the side of freedom and transparency has been stuffed down the toilet where it belongs. We are happy he looked like such a sad-ass loser when the Ecuadorian embassy finally kicked him out and he was arrested.

And quite frankly, we were OK with the initial charge against him recently unsealed in the Eastern District of Virginia. If you'll remember, he was charged with trying to help Chelsea Manning hack a password into the Defense Department, which is not what journalists do. Journalists do not drive the get-away car for sources. Journalists do not hold their sources' hair back while they're stealing classified intel. Assange is essentially accused of doing all that.

Now, put all that aside. Because -- and this is key -- journalists do publish secrets they are provided by sources. That's First Amendment, chapter and verse, American as fucking apple pie and fast-food-induced diabetes. And that is what much of the superseding indictment of Assange unsealed yesterday was about. (And nope, it wasn't about anything regarding Assange's ratfucking the 2016 election or Hillary's emails. Why would the Trump Justice Department prosecute anything about that? It's all about the older Chelsea Manning stuff, the stuff the Obama Justice Department considered charging Assange with, but ultimately declined, because of that little thing called the First Amendment.)

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The pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences, Inc. -- heck of a name for these times -- recently announced US sales of a generic version of its HIV prevention drug Truvada would begin a year earlier than originally planned. The stepped-up schedule for the generic was at least in part the result of pressure from activists, who have made a lot of noise about the fact that Gilead's huge revenues from Truvada -- about $3 billion annually -- came only after the basic research for the drug was done at taxpayer expense, largely through grants from the Centers for Disease Control, which holds the patent on the drug.

At a House Oversight Committee hearing last week, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez let one of the witnesses, Gilead CEO Daniel O'Day, know she wasn't personally blaming him or his greed for the high cost of the drug, which prevents the spread of HIV through "pre-exposure prophylaxis" (PrEP). No, that's all a result of the terrible incentives that come from the fact that the US, alone among developed countries, treats healthcare as a commodity, not a right for all. Which is why a monthly supply of Truvada costs nearly $1800 here, and roughly eight dollars in Australia.

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