Monday, November 20, 2017

We’ve Only Just Begun

Somehow the Trump folks think the Russia investigation is almost over.  People within the White House are going on TV and saying that Robert Mueller and his team will wrap it up “soon,” which to them means any time between next week and January.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and anyone who thinks a probe such as this will end soon is doing a lot of wishful thinking and doesn’t understand how federal investigations work.

Seth Abramson, a long-time criminal attorney, analyzes the facts via this Twitter feed.  The short version is that there are so many leads, threads, and people to interview that in terms of completion, they have only just begun.

But wait, there’s more.

Special CounselRobert Mueller‘s team investigating whether President Donald Trump sought to obstruct a federal inquiry into connections between his presidential campaign and Russian operatives has now directed the Justice Department to turn over a broad array of documents, ABC News has learned.

In particular, Mueller’s investigators are keen to obtain emails related to the firing of FBI Director James Comey and the earlier decision of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from the entire matter, according to a source who has not seen the specific request but was told about it.

Issued within the past month, the directive marks the special counsel’s first records request to the Justice Department, and it means Mueller is now demanding documents from the department overseeing his investigation.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein played key roles in Comey’s removal. And Sessions has since faced withering criticism from Trump over his recusal and Rosenstein’s subsequent appointment of Mueller.

Mueller’s investigators now seek not only communications between Justice Department officials themselves, but also any communications with White House counterparts, the source said. Before this request, investigators asked former senior Justice Department officials for information from their time at the department, ABC News was told.

The latest move suggests the Special Counsel is still actively digging into, among other matters, whether Trump or any other administration official improperly tried to influence an ongoing investigation.

So not only is the Mueller team looking into Russia’s role in the election and the Trump campaign’s involvement with their meddling, they are now looking into Trump’s attempt to kill the investigation itself, which could amount to federal charges of obstruction of justice.

A reminder for those of you too young to remember Watergate: That’s how they got Nixon.  It wasn’t the crimes themselves, but the attempt to cover up and kill the investigation.

HT to CLW.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The First Line Of Their Obituary

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III remembers that lying to Congress comes with a penalty phase.

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday denied, again, lying to Congress about the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. He said he had forgotten about a campaign round-table in which an aide played up his Russian connections and suggested arranging a meeting for Donald J. Trump in Moscow.

But even as Mr. Sessions remained hazy on the details, he was adamant that he had swiftly rejected the aide’s suggestion.

“I have always told the truth,” Mr. Sessions told the House Judiciary Committee, adding that he stood by his previous testimony because “I had no recollection of this meeting until I saw these news reports.”

Translation: “I wouldn’t have done it if I’d known I’d get caught.”

I seriously wonder if Mr. Sessions and the rest of the people who work for Trump have thought beyond next week and realize that the first line of their obituary is going to include the notation that they devoted a part of their life to working for a scandal-plagued authoritarian regime that will remain a stain not just on their lives but on the nation.  That these years, no matter how many, will be seen by historians as one of the darkest times in our democracy; where accused pedophiles have a real shot at being in the Senate because they’re a member of a political party.  That’s the stuff of tinpot dictatorships, not Western civilization.  (I was going to say “banana republics” but even they don’t want to be associated with a cut-rate narcissist.)

When this is all over, how many of them are going to tearfully beg for forgiveness for their gob-smacking attempts to normalize serial lying and demonization of entire populations and genders for the sake of winning an election and riding on a tricked-up 747?  And for what?  Trying to wipe out the memory of America’s first black president as if he was the aberration and what they seek is the real white straight Anglo-Saxon Christian nation that never existed in the first place?

Mr. Sessions and the rest know what they’re doing.  They know full well that they’re going to be remembered as part of this blatant attempt to obliterate the past.  And without any tinge of self-awareness, they will be proud of it.

Money Talks

Via Buzzfeed:

On Aug. 3 of last year, just as the US presidential election was entering its final, heated phase, the Russian foreign ministry sent nearly $30,000 to its embassy in Washington. The wire transfer, which came from a Kremlin-backed Russian bank, landed in one of the embassy’s Citibank accounts and contained a remarkable memo line: “to finance election campaign of 2016.”

That wire transfer is one of more than 60 now being scrutinized by the FBI and other federal agencies investigating Russian involvement in the US election. The transactions, which moved through Citibank accounts and totaled more than $380,000, each came from the Russian foreign ministry and most contained a memo line referencing the financing of the 2016 election.

The money wound up at Russian embassies in almost 60 countries from Afghanistan to Nigeria between Aug. 3 and Sept. 20, 2016. It is not clear how the funds were used. At least one transaction that came into the US originated with VTB Bank, a financial institution that is majority-owned by the Kremlin.

Russia says that it was for the purpose of helping Russians living abroad vote in parliamentary elections in September 2016.

Yeah, right.  Hey, looking for some really cheap property in Florida?  I know a guy….

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Pressuring Sessions

It would appear that Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is giving in to Trump’s attempt to use the Department of Justice to go after his political enemies.

The department, in a letter sent to the House Judiciary Committee, said the prosecutors would examine allegations that donations to the Clinton Foundation were tied to a 2010 decision by the Obama administration to allow a Russian nuclear agency to buy Uranium One, a company that owned access to uranium in the United States, and other issues.

The letter appeared to be a direct response to Mr. Trump’s statement on Nov. 3, when he said he was disappointed with his beleaguered attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and that longstanding unproven allegations about the Clintons and the Obama administration should be investigated.

It has been demonstrably proven that Uranium One is another of those right-wing conspiracy theories on the level of the pizza parlor pedophile ring, but Sessions is going along either out of an attempt to be a complete toady to Trump or, and this is doubtful, to put to rest the bullshit.  I’d go with the former.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sunday Reading

Consciousness of Guilt — David Frum in The Atlantic.

“Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that.”—Donald Trump on Vladimir Putin, en route to Hanoi, November 11, 2017.

So, to put it bluntly: At this point in the proceedings, there can be no innocent explanation for Donald Trump’s rejection of the truth about Russian meddling in last year’s elections. Earlier, it may have been suggested, sympathetically, that the case had not yet been proven. That Trump’s vanity blocked him from acknowledging embarrassing facts. Or—more hopefully—that he was inspired by some Kissingerian grand design for a diplomatic breakthrough. Or that he was lazy. Or stubborn. Or uninformed. Or something, anything, other than … complicit. Not anymore.

As yet, it remains unproven whether Trump himself was personally complicit in Putin’s attack on U.S. democracy as it happened during last year’s presidential campaign. What is becoming ever-more undeniable is Trump’s complicity in the attack after the fact—and his willingness to smash the intelligence and counter-intelligence agencies in order to protect Putin, Russia, and evidently himself. Consider what the president said to reporters on Saturday: Then you hear it’s 17 agencies [who agree that Russia meddled in the elections], whoa, it’s three. And one is [former CIA Director John] Brennan, and one is whatever. I mean give me a break, they’re political hacks. … So you look at that and you have President Putin very strongly, vehemently says he had nothing to do with that.”

A year after the 2016 election, the Trump administration has done nothing to harden U.S. election systems against future interference. It refuses to implement the sanctions voted by Congress to punish Russia for election meddling. The president fired the director of the FBI, confessedly to halt an investigation into Russia’s actions—and his allies in Congress and the media malign the special counsel appointed to continue the investigation.  These are not the actions of an innocent man, however vain, stubborn, or uniformed.“Beyond a reasonable doubt” is the standard for criminal justice. It’s not the standard for counter-intelligence determinations. The preponderance of the evidence ever-more clearly indicates: In ways we cannot yet fully reckon—but can no longer safely deny—the man in the Oval Office has a guilty connection to the Russian government. That connection would bar him from literally any other job in national security except that of head of the executive branch and commander- in-chief of the armed forces of the United States.

At any time, this situation would be dire and ominous. It’s graver still at a time when this president seems determined to lead the United States into a preventive war in the Korean peninsula. President Trump may soon demand that this country incur terrible risks and accept heavy sacrifices—even as he leaves Americans in darkening doubt over whose interests he is serving, and why.

Roy Moore Is The GOP — Charles P. Pierce.

The fact is that Roy Moore is very much who the Republicans are. He is representative of a fanatical splinter of American Protestantism that has accounted for a great deal of the success enjoyed by modern conservatism and the Republican Party for over four decades, and there always has been dark sin at the heart of that success.

The rise of what used to be known as “the religious right” did not begin with the legalization of abortion. That’s a nice story that the various Bible-banging charlatans would like you to believe. No, the institutions that would nurture and produce the religious right were the white-only Christian academies and universities that sprang up in the South as part of the massive resistance to desegregation—the churchgoing end of that strategy. The religious right was not born out of opposition to Roe v. Wade. It was born out of opposition to Brown v. Board.

There was always something wretched in its founding that invariably asserted itself in our politics. Dishonesty and camouflage were its primary sacraments. As part of their bargain with these people, Republicans and conservatives agreed tacitly to overlook these things, and so they became accustomed to overlooking everything until, today, alleged pedophilia of the most grotesque sort is the latest thing to be overlooked in the cause of tax-cuts and the restriction of women’s reproductive rights.

Without fastening itself to the enthusiastic remnants of American apartheid, modern conservatism and the modern Republican party never would have become the juggernaut they became, and the religious right was one of the more enthusiastic of those remnants. Small wonder, then, that so many Good Christian Men are either lining up behind Roy Moore, or if-then’ing themselves into incoherence trying not to talk about him. He has all the right positions on all the right issues that discomfort all the right people, and, given that, these people would vote for Satan himself.

He is you. He is all of you. Another monster out of the lab.

Fighting Deportation — Kanyakrit Vongkiatkajorn in Mother Jones.

Eleven cities and counties across the United States announced on Thursday that they will provide free legal representation to immigrants facing deportation, part of a new initiative called the Safety and Fairness for Everyone (SAFE) Cities Network. The initiative, launched in collaboration with the Vera Institute of Justice, a national nonprofit and research organization, helps cities with funding and resources to help train legal service providers and share best practices.

Unlike in criminal court cases, immigrants generally do not have the right to a free court-appointed attorney during removal proceedings, and often have to bear the costs on their own.  Nationally, only 37 percent of immigrants facing deportation proceedings get access to a lawyer, and only 14 percent of immigrants in detention do, according to a report from the American Immigration Council, a nonprofit and advocacy group. As Mother Jones has reported previously, studies have shown that access to legal representation can drastically improve an immigrant’s chances of winning relief from deportation or release from detention. Without it, often immigrants and families are quickly deported.

Vera started soliciting competitive applications from cities and counties to be part of the network earlier this summer. Local governments had to commit some public cash, which Vera would then supplement with additional funding. Atlanta, GA, Austin and San Antonio, TX, Baltimore and Prince George’s County, MD; Chicago, IL; Columbus, OH; Dane County, WI, and Oakland/Alameda County, Sacramento, and Santa Ana, CA were selected.

Vera’s project comes at a time when cities and states are ramping up their efforts to protect undocumented immigrants against a potential crackdown. A Reutersanalysis found that arrests of undocumented immigrants with no criminal history increased by more than 200 percent in the first half of the year. Though deportations have slowed, ICE agents have made 43 percent more arrests since Trump has been in office, compared to the same time last year, according to the Washington PostAttorney General Jeff Sessions has also attempted to speed up deportations and reduce immigration court backlogs, though to seemingly little effect.

For cities like Atlanta, it will be the first time the city has ever provided legal defense for those facing deportation. “This support is needed now more than ever,” Mayor Kasim Reed said.

“Immigrants are our friends, neighbors, and co-workers, but new enforcement tactics are breaking up families and weakening our neighborhoods and our city,” Elizabeth Brown, council member for the City of Columbus, stated in a press release. The city will provide $185,000 to three groups, and received $100,000 in additional funding from Vera.

Providing universal representation is an approach that Vera has tested before. In 2013, the group helped start a pilot project called the New York Immigrant Family Unit Project (NYIFUP) that provided free legal defense services to immigrants detained at the Varick Street Immigration Court. A new report evaluating the program found that immigrants who participated were able to able improve their chances of remaining in the US. Before the project began, only 4 percent of immigrants who had no legal representation at the court were able to win their cases. With the help of the free legal defense, NYIFUP estimates that 48 percent of its cases will end successfully. The program has represented more than 1,770 people and also helped reunite more than 750 people with their families, according to the report.

Outside of the SAFE Cities Network, other cities have taken on their own efforts to provide funds for legal defense. In April, Seattle’s city council unanimously passed a resolution to allocate $1 million to a defense fund for immigrants and refugees, and increased that fund to $1.5 million with the inclusion of King County in August. Earlier this summer, Los Angeles city and county officials also approved an L.A. Justice Fund that, with help from outside donors, would provide up to $10 million for legal defense to immigrants.

“It’s inhumane for people to go to court with no lawyer,” Omar Siagha, a green card holder who was able to win his case through the NYIFP, said in a press release. “Everyone deserves a chance to explain their case to the judge.”

Doonesbury — Humor me.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Short Takes

U.S. imposes new travel restrictions to Cuba.

Chinese gas deal raises ethical questions for Commerce Secretary Ross.

Justice Department has new demands on AT&T/Time Warner merger.

Germany to recognize third gender.

Obama reports for jury duty.  (Bet he didn’t have to watch “The Proposal” again.)

Monday, November 6, 2017

Charging Ahead

From NBC News:

Federal investigators have gathered enough evidence to bring charges in their investigation of President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser and his son as part of the probe into Russia’s intervention in the 2016 election, according to multiple sources familiar with the investigation.

Michael T. Flynn, who was fired after just 24 days on the job, was one of the first Trump associates to come under scrutiny in the federal probe now led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into possible collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign.

Mueller is applying renewed pressure on Flynn following his indictment of Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, three sources familiar with the investigation told NBC News.

The investigators are speaking to multiple witnesses in coming days to gain more information surrounding Flynn’s lobbying work, including whether he laundered money or lied to federal agents about his overseas contacts, according to three sources familiar with the investigation.

It may have already happened — the Mueller investigation has been amazingly leak-proof — but someone’s going to flip on Trump and this whole house of cards will replace the one on Netflix.  (How convenient now that Kevin Spacey is no longer available.  It’s like something Frank Underwood would pull.)

Friday, November 3, 2017

“You Failed To Tell The Truth”

Just how many Trump people were trying to hook up with the Russians, and did Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III know about it?  When he testified before the Senate for his confirmation hearing in January, he claimed he had no knowledge of any meetings between Trump aides and any Russians.  But now it comes out that campaign minion Carter Page testified that he told the then-Senator of his upcoming trip to the Motherland in 2016.

During more than six hours of closed-door testimony, Page said that he informed Sessions about his coming July 2016 trip to Russia, which Page told CNN was unconnected to his campaign role. Page described the conversation to CNN after he finished talking to the House intelligence committee.

Sessions’ discussion with Page will fuel further scrutiny about what the attorney general knew about connections between the Trump campaign and Russia — and communications about Russia that he did not disclose despite a persistent line of questioning in three separate hearings this year.

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) dropped Sessions a note.

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), whose questioning of Attorney General Jeff Sessions in his January confirmation hearing kicked off a chain of events that ultimately led to the appointment of a special counsel, on Thursday had some more pointed questions for Sessions.

Franken included his questions in a scathing letter to Sessions after court documents unsealed Monday revealed that President Donald Trump’s former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos in March 2016 floated the idea of setting up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

According to several reports, Sessions was present at the meeting when Papadopoulos made the suggestion, though Sessions previously denied being aware of any communications between members of Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. Papadopoulos claimed he had “connections” that could help arrange the meeting between Trump and Putin.

“Once again, developments in the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election have brought to light evidence that you failed to tell the truth about your interactions with Russian operatives during the campaign, as well as your awareness of Russian contacts by other members of the Trump campaign team,” Franken wrote.

It’s never the crime, it’s always the cover-up.  Or, in this case, perjury.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Who Is This Guy?

Yesterday before the indictments were made public, I speculated who would be the first to be arrested.

My guess is that it will be minions; those on the fringe who Mueller can offer immunity in exchange for testimony.

At that time, I didn’t know about George Papadopoulos.  But then, neither did the rest of the outside world.  So, who is he?

  • He graduated in 2009 from DePaul University in Chicago, where he studied international political economy, before moving to the University College London to earn a master’s degree in security studies, according to his LinkedIn page. There, he wrote a dissertation “focused on the deleterious effects of low governance and state capacity levels in the Middle East,” his page states. “My research allowed me to safely infer that the rise of pacified and violent Islamist groups was directly correlated with the aforementioned indicators and the paramount reason that the ‘Arab Spring’ currently reverberates throughout the entire Middle East.”
  • From 2011 to 2015, he said he worked as a research associate for the Hudson Institute, a well-known conservative think tank in Washington.
  • He briefly served as an adviser to then-Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson before joining the Trump campaign in March 2016. Barry Bennett, who had served as Carson’s campaign manager, told The Post in May that Papadopoulos “was someone who worked for me at the Carson campaign for, like, 15 minutes” and then somehow ended up on Trump’s list of foreign policy advisers. “I was, like, how in the hell did that happen?”
  • In a 2016 interview with The Washington Post editorial board, Trump said Papadopoulos, an “energy and oil consultant,” was an “excellent guy.”
  • As The Washington Post reported in August, days after Trump claimed Papadopoulos as one of his youngest advisers, Papadopoulos sent an email to Trump campaign officials with the subject line: “Meeting with Russian Leadership — Including Putin.” According to an internal campaign email, which was read to The Post, he volunteered to broker “a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss U.S.-Russia ties under President Trump.”

He was arrested in July and pleaded out in early October.  He’s been cooperating with the Mueller team all along.Yesterday was Day One.  There’s a lot more to come.

Backstage at the White House, they’re freaking out.

Away from the podium, Trump staffers fretted privately over whether Manafort or Gates might share with Mueller’s team damaging information about other colleagues. They expressed concern in particular about Gates because he has a young family, may be more stretched financially than Manafort, and continued to be involved in Trump’s political operation and had access to the White House, including attending West Wing meetings after Trump was sworn in.

Some White House advisers are unhappy with Thomas J. Barrack Jr., Trump’s longtime friend and chair of his inauguration, whom they hold responsible for keeping Gates in the Trump orbit long after Manafort resigned as campaign chairman in August 2016, according to people familiar with the situation. Barrack has been Gates’s patron of late, steering political work to him and, until Monday, employing him as director of the Washington office of his real estate investment company.

If you remember Watergate, you remember John Dean.  Among Papadopoulos, Gates, and Barrack, I think we’ve got Trump’s Dean.

Bonus Track:  Here’s a Guy who knows Robert Mueller and can testify to both his integrity and the seriousness of the charges against Manafort and Gates.

Monday, October 30, 2017

12 Counts

Here we go.

Former Donald Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his longtime business associate Rick Gates were indicted by a federal grand jury on 12 charges, including conspiracy against the U.S., Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office announced Monday.

Other charges against Manafort and Gates include money laundering, being an unregistered foreign agent and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.

The indictment was unsealed Monday after Manafort and Gates were told to surrender to law enforcement.

It says, “In total, more than $75 million flowed through offshore accounts” and it refers to Manafort’s “hidden overseas wealth to enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States.”

Here are the actual counts.

My instinct is that this will never get to trial.  One of them will either flip or work out a plea deal and there’s every likelihood that Trump will pardon at least one of them even before this gets to that.

Deflection and Jack McCoy

From the New York Times:

Pushing back against the accelerating criminal investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia, President Trump argued on Sunday that its focus should instead be on his 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton, even as the special counsel’s inquiry was reportedly poised to produce its first indictment.

In a series of tweets, Mr. Trump said Republicans were now fighting the Russia allegations by looking into Mrs. Clinton, apparently referring to new House investigations into her email practices and an Obama-era uranium deal with Russia. But the president made it clear he believed that Mrs. Clinton should be pursued more forcefully, writing, “DO SOMETHING!”

He did not say who should take action or what it should be, though critics have accused him of trying to sway the congressional and special counsel inquiries into Russian ties. Still, the outburst suggested that Mr. Trump, increasingly angry and frustrated about the investigations, is waging a concerted campaign to shift the focus to Mrs. Clinton and other Democrats.

After long expressing anger that his allies have not done enough to protect him from the inquiries, he is now enlisting White House and administration officials, employing his vast social media presence, and putting pressure on the Republican-led Congress to deflect any potentially damaging reports.

We’re moving from “Oh, lookit the kitty!” to “Behold, a flaming meteor of catastrophic proportions is passing by!”

Meanwhile the speculation is running rampant as to who the first up on the indictment list will be; everyone from Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort to Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III.  My guess is that it will be minions; those on the fringe who Mueller can offer immunity in exchange for testimony.  This is based on years of watching District Attorney Jack McCoy use that tactic throughout nearly twenty seasons of “Law & Order.”

Okay, so it’s a TV show, but it’s grounded in just as much fact and inside knowledge of what’s going on inside the Mueller investigation as those folks out there in Twitterland.

Proudly powered by WordPress
Theme based on Toolbox by Automattic.
Designed and Implemented for BBWW by CLWill