In the last few days, it seems everyone has become…what is the phrase, armchair quarterbacks?
I think some of these comments are becoming more like taunts, yelled over a castle wall. What I want to know, is when will the cow be sent via catapult to instigate the need for Nancy to build a large wooden badger. (Honey Badger of course.)
Here is George Conway giving his thoughts on the founding fathers interpretation of impeachment… and how they would have seen the situation regarding tRump.
That is the last two tweets of a longer thread, but KellyAnne Conway’s husband is poking a stick at a tiger.
Of course the case of tRump would have been an easy one for the founders of the country. They already said fuck you to a tyrannical despot king…tRump is nothing more than a tyrannical authoritarian dictator…have another fuck you tRump and take Benedict Arnold with you.
The point is, from my personal armchair…I can’t understand how this fucker is still getting away with this shit.
I’m totally disgusted.
This is an open thread.
On cable news and on Twitter, the main argument over the past few days is about whether Democrats will or should open impeachment hearings. Quite a few Democrats have attacked Nancy Pelosi, claiming she is refusing to allow impeachment of the fake “president” to go forward. Actually, that’s not true. She has argued for public oversight hearing that may well lead to impeachment. That is essentially what happened in the Watergate scandal.
The Watergate investigative hearings began in May, 1973, but articles of impeachment hearings did not begin until February, 1974, when Congress voted to empower the House Judiciary Committee to “investigate whether sufficient grounds existed to impeach Richard Nixon.” One year after Congressional investigation began, articles of impeachment were approved.
The only differences are that the Watergate investigation began with a select committee, before the appointment of a Special Counsel. Now we have the (redacted) Muller report, which lays out a clear road map for Congressional action. We also know that there is a counterintelligence investigation which was not included in the Mueller report. So I think it makes sense for the House Intelligence Committee to focus on counterintelligence issues while the Judiciary Committee examines the case for removing the “president.”
USA Today: Pelosi to Democrats: If facts support impeaching Trump, ‘that’s the place we have to go.’
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi left open the possibility Monday of impeachment of Donald Trump during a conference call with Democrats, saying “if that’s the place the facts take us, that’s the place we have to go.”
“We have to save our democracy. This isn’t about Democrats or Republicans. It’s about saving our democracy,” Pelosi said in a call with her colleagues, according to a source on the call. But Pelosi also urged Democrats to first focus on following the facts.
“Whether it’s articles of impeachment or investigations, it’s the same obtaining of facts. We don’t have to go to articles of impeachment to obtain the facts, the presentation of facts,” she said.
The nearly hour-and-a-half call was the first time Democrats had all spoken following the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the investigation into Russian election interference.
“There’s real consensus that we need to take this responsibility seriously and people are very sober about the implications about the work that lies ahead and committed to making sure that we hold the president accountable,” said Rep. David Cicilline, a member of the Judiciary Committee and the chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, which helps the party with messaging. [….]
“The speaker has been very clear that Congress will not shirk on its responsibility to hold the president accountable, but that we must proceed in a judicious responsible manner,” he said.
I think that makes sense. Pelosi has been very effective in dealing with Trump since she took over as House Speaker, but the press and many Democrats continue to attack her just because she doesn’t want to rush headlong into an official impeachment process. I have said many times that public hearings are needed in order to education Americans who haven’t followed the investigation minute by minute. I think that’s what Pelosi is hoping to do. If she didn’t want hearings, they wouldn’t happen; and they are going to happen.
In the meantime, the media and Democrats should be focusing on why Republicans don’t care if our democracy dies.
Paul Krugman at The New York Times: The Great Republican Abdication. A party that no longer believes in American values.
So all the “fake news” was true. A hostile foreign power intervened in the presidential election, hoping to install Donald Trump in the White House. The Trump campaign was aware of this intervention and welcomed it. And once in power, Trump tried to block any inquiry into what happened.
Never mind attempts to spin this story as somehow not meeting some definitions of collusion or obstruction of justice. The fact is that the occupant of the White House betrayed his country. And the question everyone is asking is, what will Democrats do about it?
But notice that the question is only about Democrats. Everyone (correctly) takes it as a given that Republicans will do nothing. Why?
Because the modern G.O.P. is perfectly willing to sell out America if that’s what it takes to get tax cuts for the wealthy. Republicans may not think of it in those terms, but that’s what their behavior amounts to.
The truth is that the G.O.P. faced its decisive test in 2016, when almost everyone in the Republican establishment lined up behind a man fully known to be a would-be authoritarian who was unfit morally, temperamentally and intellectually for high office.
Click on the link to read the rest.
The White House continues to obstruct Congress’s investigation. CNN on the latest attempt: White House tells official not to comply with Democratic subpoena over security clearances.
The White House has instructed a former official who was in charge of the security clearance process to not comply with a House subpoena demanding his appearance for an interview, the latest move by the Trump administration to thwart Democratic-led investigations into all aspects of the presidency.
After a day of tense negotiations, the White House late Monday told the former official, Carl Kline, who now works at the Defense Department, to not appear at Tuesday’s deposition, contending that Democrats were seeking access to confidential information that should be off limits.
The move raises the prospect that the House Oversight Committee could seek to hold Kline in contempt, a step that Chairman Elijah Cummings warned Monday he would take. And it’s the latest White House effort to stonewall Democratic investigations, coming the same day the Trump Organization filed a lawsuit to prevent an accounting firm from complying with Cummings’ subpoena for President Donald Trump’s past financial records.
Michael Purpura, deputy counsel to Trump, argued that Cummings’ subpoena of Kline “unconstitutionally encroaches on fundamental executive branch interests,” according to a letter obtained by CNN.
Kline’s attorney, Robert Driscoll, said his client would listen to his employer.
Lock him up!
We were repeatedly told that the White House had prepared a response to the Mueller report, but Rudy Giuliani now says it won’t be released. Bloomberg: Giuliani Puts Off Formal Rebuttal to Mueller as He Defends Trump.
Donald Trump’s legal team has decided to shelve a plan to issue a formal rebuttal to Robert Mueller’s report, said Rudy Giuliani, even as the president unleashes his own attempts on Twitter to discredit the special counsel and his findings.
The president’s lawyers will focus instead on knocking down specific accounts in Mueller’s report as they surface in news media, Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, said Monday in an interview.
Giuliani said Mueller misrepresented the facts multiple times in his 448-page report. He declined to cite specifics, other than to say former White House Counsel Don McGahn — who gave a damaging account of Trump’s efforts to influence the investigation into Russian election interference — was “confused.” [….]
“There are numerous areas that were mischaracterized and some where it is flat-out false,” Giuliani said of Mueller’s report. “But I can only take one or two at a time. It is hard to digest all at once. You have to wait for certain ones to come up and then show if they are false or inaccurate.”
Trump’s legal team had spent months putting together a lengthy counter-report that they planned to release challenging Mueller’s findings, which they assumed would be unfavorable to Trump. But lawyer Jay Sekulow said on Friday that nothing more would be coming.
I’ll end with two articles by close followers of the Russia investigation, who have been poring over the report pulling out interesting nuggets that others may have missed. Here are their latest revelations:
Darren Samuelson, Kyle Cheney, and Natasha Bertrand at Politico: What you missed in the Mueller report. An excerpt:
Who didn’t get prosecuted
The special counsel made some of his biggest headlines when he brought charges against the likes of Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort and Roger Stone. But Mueller’s report also showcases his under-the-radar decisions on potential indictments that were never brought.
Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions avoided a perjury prosecution over his Senate confirmation testimony when he memorably told lawmakers that he had no communications with the Russian government during the 2016 campaign. It later came out that he had met with the Russian ambassador to the United States on multiple occasions during the campaign.
Mueller’s team looked at that January 2017 exchange and a pair of follow-up written responses before determining that the election-year meetings that Sessions did have weren’t “sufficient to prove” he gave knowingly false answers to lawmakers. Most notably, Mueller informed Sessions’ lawyers in March 2018 that he was in the clear — eight months before Trump pushed Sessions out of his job.
Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort all escaped prosecution for their role in the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer promising dirt about Hillary Clinton. Mueller’s report said the office looked into whether the senior campaign leaders should face charges for violating laws banning foreign campaign contributions. But ultimately they opted against pushing for indictments out of concern a conviction wasn’t a sure thing. The special counsel acknowledged lacking evidence to prove any of the three men acted with general knowledge of the crime they’d be committing and said that the promised opposition research wouldn’t necessarily qualify as an illegal donation since it was unclear the information was “a thing of value.”
On the hacking front, Mueller’s team also considered charging Russians with trafficking in stolen property, a reveal buried in a footnote. Prosecutors were contemplating bringing the additional charges — they did indict the Russians on conspiracy and identity theft charges — under the Depression-era National Stolen Property Act. Ultimately, however, the special counsel’s office found that hacked emails in electronic form wouldn’t qualify under the law’s almost century-old definition of “goods, wares or merchandise.”
Read the rest at Politico.
Garrett M. Graff at Wired: 14 Mueller Report Takeaways You Might Have Missed.
Robert Mueller’s final 448-page report on Russian interference in the 2016 election—and Donald Trump’s apparent attempts to obstruct justice along the way—takes some time to read fully. On close examination, it turns out to be a deeply compelling document, full of tantalizing revelations and details.
Washington Post book critic Carlos Lozada called the Mueller Report “the best book by far on the workings of the Trump presidency.” New York Times columnist Ross Douthat said the report is “a more rigorous, capacious version” of Michael Wolff’s bestseller Fire and Fury. Its two volumes paint a picture of Donald Trump as deeply narcissistic and incompetent, alternately conned and ignored by everyone around him.
Nearly every page of the report contains fresh insights, even to those who have closely followed the ins and outs of this complex, multifaceted investigation. But assuming you didn’t spend your Easter and Passover holiday weekend plowing through it, here are some key tidbits that recent headlines have overlooked.
Two of Graff’s takeaways:
1. This was as much a counterintelligence investigation as a criminal one. One of the new details in the report is that the FBI “embedded” approximately 40 personnel in the Special Counsel’s Office. Their role was not to contribute to the criminal probe, but instead to pore over the collected materials and pass written summaries of key counterintelligence findings to FBI headquarters and other agencies across the country.
3. Anyone demanding the unredacted version of the report is stalling. Democrats have spent the last four days hemming and hawing about impeachment, saying they need to read the unredacted report before they make a decision. That’s baloney. For the most part, the redactions aren’t that material to the underlying narrative. Mueller establishes all the damning evidence he needs to point to a pattern of obstruction in unredacted portions of Volume II of the report. (The clear exception where redactions could shed substantial new light: the six-page Appendix D, where Mueller lists the 12 still-secret ongoing cases referred to other prosecutors.) Throughout the remainder of the document, many redactions clearly deal with either Roger Stone or Jerome Corsi. The bulk of the rest appear to focus on operational details of the GRU and the Internet Research Agency.
Two of the most intriguing redactions come on page 12, where the report outlines five (or maybe six) individuals Mueller was specifically authorized to investigate. Two (or maybe three) of those are redacted. Because of the alphabetical list and way the lines fall—there’s a tiny two-letter redaction that spills over to the next line—the final redacted name is almost certainly “Donald Trump Jr.” The other is still unknown, falling somewhere in the alphabet between “Gates” and “Stone.”
Read more at Wired.
What stories are you following today?
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
Well, we made it to another Monday and the Preziditz still considers himself above the law and totally exonerated of all his obvious wrong doing. The headline that I’m reading about is about the Trump Family Crime syndicate and a wild lawsuit trying to stop or delay the investigation of the House Oversight Committee into their Financial Reports. He doesn’t seem to understand that the scrutiny comes with job.
Meanwhile, enjoy the artwork of Helen Stickler (@HelenSticker) as we plow through the headlines today.
I made dozens of memes from repurposed soviet era Russian matchbook cover art, made into
#GOTV and #Democratic ‘propaganda.’ Here’s a collage of them all, and I’m posting them individually several times a day.
President Trump and his business sued House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) in a bid to block a congressional subpoena of his financial records on Monday.
The lawsuit seeks a court order to prevent Trump’s accounting firm from complying with what his lawyers say is an improper use of subpoena power by congressional Democrats.
“Democrats are using their new control of congressional committees to investigate every aspect of President Trump’s personal finances, businesses, and even his family,” the filing by Trump claims. “Instead of working with the President to pass bipartisan legislation that would actually benefit Americans, House Democrats are singularly obsessed with finding something they can use to damage the President politically.”
The filing, in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, further escalates a clash between the White House and the Democratic-controlled House over congressional oversight.
Last week, Cummings subpoenaed Mazars USA, an accounting firm long used by Trump.
For more than a decade, Mazars and a predecessor firm signed off on financial statements for Trump that he used when seeking loans. Some of the statements include frequent exaggerations or inaccuracies and were accompanied by a note from the firm saying it was not responsible for the accuracy of the information.
The Oversight Committee on March 20 asked the company for copies of “statements of financial condition” and audits prepared for Trump and several of his companies, including the one that owns the Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington. The panel also requested supporting documents used to produce the reports and communications between the firm and Trump.
Politico explains the purpose of the information here. As usual, the White House has invented an imaginary term–presidential harassment–to try to smear legitimate checks on the executive branch by its coequal branch.
The committee is investigating allegations from Trump’s former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen that the president at times artificially inflated and deflated his assets for his personal benefit. Cummings requestedsimilar documents last month from financial giant Capital One, which also asked for a friendly subpoena.
Republicans have contended that the investigation is intended to embarrass Trump, and they said the subpoena to Mazars — which Cummings formally issued last week — amounts to an abuse of power. The White House has refused to comply with various congressional demands for documents and witness testimony on a host of subjects including Trump’s tax returns and the White House security clearance process.
Trump’s filing on Monday morning in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia reams Democrats for their myriad investigations targeting Trump, his presidential campaign and his business empire. The filing comes a week after attorneys William Consovoy and Stefan Passantino threatened legal action against Mazars’ outside counsel if the company complied with the subpoena.
Cummings’ request came after estranged Trump lawyer Michael Cohen raised questions about whether his former boss used to inflate or deflate the true value of his financial assets to help him carry out his business dealings.
The chairman specifically requested documents related to Trump and the Trump Organization that were used in a failed attempt by the president to purchase the Buffalo Bills NFL franchise.
“Mr. Cohen produced to the committee financial statements from 2011, 2012, and 2013 that raise questions about the president’s representations of his financial affairs on these forms and on other disclosures, particularly relating to the president’s debts,” his letter to Mazars stated. “Several of these documents appear to have been signed by your firm.”
Cummings later explained: “We are following up on specific allegations regarding the president’s actions based on corroborating documents obtained by the committee, and we will continue our efforts to conduct credible, robust, and independent oversight.”
During his testimony before the Oversight Committee, Cohen said that between 2011 and 2013, he gave Trump’s financial statements to Deutsche Bank with the aim of getting a loan to purchase the Bills franchise.
According to Cohen, Trump increased his net worth from $4.56 billion in 2012 to $8.66 billion in 2013, much of it based on the addition of “brand value.” Cohen said Trump would inflate his total assets to get friendlier treatment from banks.
The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer reported last month that in 2017, Mr. Trump ordered Gary Cohn, then the director of the National Economic Council, to persuade antitrust authorities to file against AT&T’s purchase of the cable television company, which includes CNN. “I’ve mentioned it 50 times. And nothing’s happened,” the president allegedly said to John Kelly, who was chief of staff at the time. “I want that deal blocked!” Mr. Cohn, Ms. Mayer writes, told Mr. Kelly not to comply — but the Justice Department did bring suit and eventually lost in court.
Lawmakers have rightly been seeking more information about Mr. Trump’s alleged attempted meddling in the Antitrust Division’s decision, whether it was to reward Fox News because the outlet has been favorable to him or to hurt CNN because it has not. If he did intercede, it was a grave offense to press freedom and the rule of law, and one the president ought to be held accountable for. Unfortunately, accountability is not this administration’s strong suit: This week, the White House rejected a House Judiciary Committee request for documents on related discussions with the Justice Department, claiming executive privilege. The Justice Department, similarly, has yet to respond to multiple requests.
Even the appearance of impropriety in antitrust enforcement is damaging to public trust. T-Mobile executives spent $195,000 at the Trump International Hotel in Washington after the carrier announced its plan to purchase competitor Sprint. Any decision the Justice Department makes on the merger will now be viewed through that lens: The company has at least given the appearance of believing it could exert influence over enforcers through the chief executive. Who could blame consumers for thinking the same thing?
The Justice Department might have made its decision on the merits, as antitrust chief Makan Delrahim has insisted. Or Mr. Trump might have managed to persuade an associate to strong-arm the department. Or he might otherwise have signaled to Mr. Delrahim — who was on the record saying he did not “see this [merger] as a major antitrust problem” before he became Mr. Trump’s pick — what position he was expected to take. Unless the White House changes course or the Justice Department decides to be much more forthcoming, Congress will have to do more than ask nicely to find answers.
Charles M Blow of the NYT discusses impeaching Trump which is something Peolosi and the House Dems will be discussing this week.
And finally, there was no President Trump in the 1990s producing a head-scratching number of headlines each day. Trump can’t ride a victory nor will he be crestfallen in defeat. There would likely be untold new outrages even after an impeachment.
As for me, I’m afraid of lawlessness and the horrible precedent it would set if Congress does nothing.
On Friday, Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote on Twitterthat “the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States.”
In another tweet she explained:
“To ignore a President’s repeated efforts to obstruct an investigation into his own disloyal behavior would inflict great and lasting damage on this country, and it would suggest that both the current and future Presidents would be free to abuse their power in similar ways.”
I worry that inaction enshrines that idea that the American president is above America’s laws. I worry that silent acquiescence bends our democracy toward monarchy, or dictatorship.
As Thomas Paine wrote in 1776, “In America the law is king.” He continued: “For as in absolute governments the king is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other.”
Who will we let be king in this country, the president or the law?
We’ve learned today that SCOTUS will take up a case involving LBGT discrimination. How will the Republican Tactics to stack the court with activist judges impact the current laws?]
The Supreme Court is taking on a major test of LGBT rights in cases that look at whether federal civil rights law bans job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The justices said Monday they will hear cases involving people who claim they were fired because of their sexual orientation and another that involves a funeral home employee who was fired after disclosing that she was transitioning from male to female and dressed as a woman.
The cases will be argued in the fall, with decisions likely by June 2020 in the middle of the presidential election campaign.
The issue is whether Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination, protects LGBT people from job discrimination. Title VII does not specifically mention sexual orientation or transgender status, but federal appeals courts in Chicago and New York have ruled recently that gay and lesbian employees are entitled to protection from discrimination. The federal appeals court in Cincinnati has extended similar protections for transgender people.
In Altitude Express v. Zarda, the justices will decide whether federal laws banning employment discrimination protect gay and lesbian employees. The petition for review was filed by a New York skydiving company, now known as Altitude Express. After the company fired Donald Zarda, who worked as an instructor for the company, Zarda went to federal court, where he contended that he was terminated because he was gay – a violation of (among other things) Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars discrimination “because of sex.”
The trial court threw out Zarda’s Title VII claim, reasoning that Title VII does not allow claims alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation. But the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit reversed that holding, concluding that Title VII does apply to discrimination based on sexual orientation because such discrimination “is a subset of sex discrimination.”
Altitude Express took its case to the Supreme Court last year, asking the justices to weigh in. In 2017, the justices had denied review of a similar case, filed by a woman who alleged that she had been harassed and passed over for a promotion at her job as a hospital security officer in Georgia because she was a lesbian. However, that case came to the court in a somewhat unusual posture: Neither the hospital nor the individual employees named in the lawsuit had participated in the proceedings in the lower courts, and they had told the Supreme Court that they would continue to stay out of the case even if review were granted, which may have made the justices wary about reviewing the case on the merits.
Altitude Express’ case will be consolidated for one hour of oral argument with the second case involving the rights of gay and lesbian employees: Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia. The petitioner in the case, Gerald Bostock, worked as a child-welfare-services coordinator in Clayton County, Georgia. Bostock argued that after the county learned that he was gay, it falsely accused him of mismanaging public money so that it could fire him – when it was in fact firing him because he was gay.
Bostock went to federal court, arguing that his firing violated Title VII. The county urged the court to dismiss the case, arguing that Title VII does not apply to discrimination based on sexual orientation. The district court agreed, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upheld that ruling.
In the third case granted today, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, the justices will consider whether Title VII’s protections apply to transgender employees. The petition for review was filed by a small funeral home in Michigan, owned by Thomas Rost, who describes himself as a devout Christian. In 2007, the funeral home hired Aimee Stephens, whose employment records identified Stephens as a man. Six years later, Stephens told Rost that Stephens identified as a woman and wanted to wear women’s clothing to work. Rost fired Stephens, because Rost believed both that allowing Stephens to wear women’s clothes would violate the funeral home’s dress code and that he would be “violating God’s commands” by allowing Stephens to dress in women’s clothing.
The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit on Stephens’ behalf, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled for the EEOC and Stephens. The funeral home went to the Supreme Court last summer, asking it to review the lower court’s ruling. Today the justices granted the funeral home’s petition for review, agreeing to consider whether Title VII bars discrimination against transgender people based on either their status as transgender or sex stereotyping under the Supreme Court’s 1989 decision in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, which indicates that a company can’t discriminate based on stereotypes of how a man or woman should appear or behave. The funeral home’s case will be argued separately from Bostock and Altitude Express.
The other news is with the Tenacious E. Elizabeth Warren is calling for vast forgiveness of student loan debt. This women releases a policy a week, I swear!
We got into this crisis because state governments and the federal government decided that instead of treating higher education like our public school system — free and accessible to all Americans — they’d rather cut taxes for billionaires and giant corporations and offload the cost of higher education onto students and their families. The student debt crisis is the direct result of this failed experiment.
It’s time to end that experiment, to clean up the mess it’s caused, and to do better — better for people who want to go (or go back) to college, better for current students, better for graduates, better for their families, and better for our entire economy.
The first step in addressing this crisis is to deal head-on with the outstanding debt that is weighing down millions of families and should never have been required in the first place. That’s why I’m calling for something truly transformational — the cancellation of up to $50,000 in student loan debt for 42 million Americans.
My plan for broad student debt cancellation will:
Cancel debt for more than 95% of the nearly 45 million Americans with student loan debt;
Wipe out student loan debt entirely for more than 75% of the Americans with that debt;
Substantially increase wealth for Black and Latinx families and reduce both the Black-White and Latinx-White wealth gaps; and
Provide an enormous middle-class stimulus that will boost economic growth, increase home purchases, and fuel a new wave of small business formation.
Once we’ve cleared out the debt that’s holding down an entire generation of Americans, we must ensure that we never have another student debt crisis again. We can do that by recognizing that a public college education is like a public K-12 education — a basic public good that should be available to everyone with free tuition and zero debt at graduation. My plan for universal free college will:
Give every American the opportunity to attend a two-year or four-year public college without paying a dime in tuition or fees;
Make free college truly universal — not just in theory, but in practice — by making higher education of all kinds more inclusive and available to every single American, especially lower-income, Black, and Latinx students, without the need to take on debt to cover costs.
And, yet another white guy enters into the race. This time its MA Congressman Seth Moulton. Well, at least he is a registered Democrat and isn’t on Social Security and Medicare yet.
We need to keep the oxygen going for the alternatives!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
It is Easter, so I hope it is a happy one…I also want to wish those a Happy Passover!
A quick make-up for Wednesday….
And, take a look at this Twitter thread starting here:
This is an open thread.
Cover-Up General Barr’s redacted version of the Mueller Report is out; and despite Barr’s attempts to soften the blow it make Trump look really bad. Interestingly, there is nothing in the report about the counterintelligence investigation that was begun after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. It appears that investigation is ongoing.
Ken Dilanian of NBC News reports this morning: The counterintelligence investigation of the Trump team and Russia hasn’t stopped.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s criminal investigation may be over, but the FBI’s efforts to assess and counter Russian efforts to influence the U.S. political system — including the Trump administration — is continuing, current and former U.S. officials say.
The FBI and other intelligence agencies are pursuing a counterintelligence effort to thwart Russian influence operations in the U.S. and stymie an anticipated Russian effort to interfere in the 2020 election, the officials tell NBC News.
The FBI and other intelligence agencies are pursuing a counterintelligence effort to thwart Russian influence operations in the U.S. and stymie an anticipated Russian effort to interfere in the 2020 election, the officials tell NBC News.
As part of that mission, analysts will continue to drill down on exactly how the Russians interfered in the 2016 election, whether any Americans helped them unwittingly, and whether any American continues to be compromised by Russia, experts say.
These are different questions than whether crimes were committed, which is what Mueller explored in his 448-page report. Mueller’s report is silent on some of the key counterintelligence issues raised in his probe. It doesn’t mention, for example, the counterintelligence investigation the FBI opened into the president — an inquiry former acting director Andrew McCabe said was designed to examine whether he was compromised by Russia. Nor does the report cite the counterintelligence briefing the Trump campaign is said to have received from the FBI, warning that Russia and other adversaries would seek to infiltrate the campaign.
“The fact that it’s not present in the report tells me the ball is now and remains in the court of the FBI and the intelligence community,” said Frank Figliuzzi, an NBC News contributor and former head of counterintelligence at the FBI.
It’s unclear whether the counterintelligence investigation into Trump remains open. An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment.
Read the rest at the link. It’s long and interesting. I’d be willing to bet that they are still looking at whether Trump is compromised. I hope the House Intelligence Committee will request a briefing on this matter ASAP. They have apparently offered to brief the Gang of Eight at least.
Yesterday The New York Times published an important op-ed about this by Joshua Geltzer and Ryan Goodman: Mueller Hints at a National-Security Nightmare.
The Mueller report isn’t actually close to a full account of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert Mueller. That’s not just because of the redactions. When he was hired, Mr. Mueller inherited supervision of an F.B.I. counterintelligence investigation. That is the missing piece of the Mueller report.
President Trump may claim “exoneration” on a narrowly defined criminal coordination charge. But a counterintelligence investigation can yield something even more important: an intelligence assessment of how likely it is that someone — in this case, the president — is acting, wittingly or unwittingly, under the influence of or in collaboration with a foreign power. Was Donald Trump a knowing or unknowing Russian asset, used in some capacity to undermine our democracy and national security?
The public Mueller report alone provides enough evidence to worry that America’s own national security interests may not be guiding American foreign policy.
The counterintelligence investigation is not necessarily complete, but from the glimpses we see in the Mueller report, it should set off very serious national security alarm bells.
What would this counterintelligence investigation look like?
An intelligence assessment makes two determinations: a conclusion about the type of influence a foreign power may have over an individual and the degree of confidence in that conclusion. For example, when Mr. Trump boasted to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in the Oval Office that he had fired the F.B.I. director, it raised only the possibility — a “circumstantial inference,” as it’s called in counterintelligence — that the president was wittingly working on behalf of the Russians.
This apparent desire to please these officials indicates a high level of Russian influence and, in the context of other actions that pleased Mr. Putin, like his sudden decision to withdraw American troops from Syria — could support a modest to high level of confidence in that conclusion.
The authors explain that we don’t have a “smoking gun” that would indicate “high confidence,” because that “would require something we don’t have and would not expect to have, like an email from Vladimir Putin ordering Mr. Trump to fire the F.B.I. director James Comey.” But we do have many indications that Trump and his associates are working against U.S. national interests. Examples from the article:
— The former Trump adviser Roger Stone directly communicates with the Russia-linked actor Guccifer 2.0 and coordinates with WikiLeaks to get Mr. Trump elected — and he is likely aware that one is a Russian front organization and the other is working with the Russians.
== A Trump campaign national security adviser is informed by a Russian intelligence operative that the Kremlin has stolen Hillary Clinton-related emails and could assist the Trump campaign through “anonymous release” of derogatory information; the campaign then works on setting up backdoor meetings with senior Russian government officials (though the meetings do not materialize).
— Members of the Trump transition team conduct secretive, back channel meetings with Putin operatives.
— Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin speak alone in Helsinki, then Mr. Trump accepts Mr. Putin’s claim that he didn’t meddle in the 2016 election and repudiates the intelligence community’s assessments to the contrary.
Those incidents raise the possibility that Mr. Trump has wittingly sought to advance Russian interests, but the evidence is merely circumstantial and consequently suggests low to moderate confidence in that assessment….
But unwitting assets pose their own dangers. They have significant vulnerabilities that can be exploited with minimal actual coordination. In other words, they look and act more like puppets.
Read more by Geltzer and Goodman on the counterintelligence investigation at Just Security: The Missing Piece of the Mueller Investigation.
Another New York Times op-ed by former FBI counterintelligance agent Asha Rangappa: How Barr and Trump Use a Russian Disinformation Tactic.
On Nov. 9, 2016, according to the Mueller report, some redacted figure wrote to a Russian regime crony, “Putin has won.” Based on the assessment of the intelligence community and the findings of Robert Mueller, President Vladimir Putin of Russia did indeed succeed in his efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Donald Trump.
But Mr. Putin’s ultimate victory may have come on Thursday morning, during Attorney General Bill Barr’s news conference. By seamlessly conflating the terms “collusion” and “conspiracy,” and absolving President Trump of both, Mr. Barr revealed that the Russian information warfare technique of “reflexive control” has officially entered American public discourse — and threatens, with his recent allegations of campaign “spying,” to stay there for a while.
Reflexive control is a “uniquely Russian” technique of psychological manipulation through disinformation. The idea is to feed your adversary a set of assumptions that will produce a predictable response: That response, in turn, furthers a goal that advances your interests. By luring your opponent into agreeing with your initial assumptions, you can control the narrative, and ultimate outcome, in your favor. Best of all, the outcome is one in which your adversary has voluntarily acceded. This is exactly what has happened with much of the American public in the course of Mueller’s investigation.
The assumptions that culminated in Mr. Barr’s conclusions began almost two years ago, when the White House, Trump supporters and the media characterized the focus of the special counsel’s investigation as “collusion.” The word “collusion” does not appear anywhere in Mr. Mueller’s appointment letter: His mandate was to investigate any “links and/or coordination” between the Trump campaign and Russia. There is a good reason for this: “Collusion” is the legal equivalent of Jell-O. Outside of specific factual contexts — such as price fixing in antitrust law — the word “collusion” has no legal meaning or significance. In fact, in his report, Mr. Mueller explicitly stated that his conclusions were not about collusion, “which is not a specific offense or theory of liability found in the United States code.”
Read more at the link. It’s fascinating.
Here’s an interesting take on the Mueller Report from The Washington Post’s book critic: The Mueller report isn’t just a legal document. It’s also the best book on the Trump White House so far.
Sure, it is a little longer than necessary. Too many footnotes and distracting redactions. The writing is often flat, and the first half of the book drags, covering plenty of terrain that has been described elsewhere. The story shifts abruptly between riveting insider tales and dense legalisms. Its protagonist doesn’t really come alive until halfway through, once Volume I (on Russian interference) gives way to Volume II (on obstruction of justice). The title — far too prosaic, really — feels like a missed opportunity. And it hardly helps that the book’s earliest reviewer, Attorney General William Barr, seems to have willfully misunderstood the point of it; he probably should not have been assigned to review it at all.
Yet as an authoritative account, the Mueller report is the best book by far on the workings of the Trump presidency. It was delivered to the attorney general but is also written for history. The book reveals the president in all his impulsiveness, insecurity and growing disregard for rules and norms; White House aides alternating between deference to the man and defiance of his “crazy s—” requests; and a campaign team too inept to realize, or too reckless to care, when they might have been bending the law. And special counsel Robert Mueller has it all under oath, on the record, along with interviews and contemporaneous notes backing it up. No need for a “Note on Use of Anonymous Sources” disclaimer. Mueller doesn’t just have receipts — he seems to know what almost everyone wanted to buy.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
What else is happening? What stories have you been following?
It’s another whirlwind of a Friday and I’m just going to put some odds and ends up before we get started on the Penultimate Mueller Friday
HBO and The Game of Thrones folks told Preziditz Kkkremlin Caligulia to stop using GOT memes (via The Verge).
I have an apt one for him
Fucked is coming.
HBO is asking President Donald Trump, again, to not use Game of Thrones memes on Twitter as a way of sending political messages.
Trump tweeted a meme about the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on his investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. The main font featured in the image below is lifted directly from HBO’s most popular series. This isn’t the first time Trump has used a Game of Thrones meme to address a controversy he’s involved in, but HBO has issued a statement essentially asking the president to stop.
“Though we can understand the enthusiasm for Game of Thrones now that the final season has arrived, we still prefer our intellectual property not be used for political purposes,” an HBO spokesperson told Bloomberg.
Some brief good news from the roof top of Notre Dame de Paris:“Bees Kept on Notre Dame’s Roof Have SURVIVED The Fire!” This is from Bee Keeping Basics.
200.000 bees that were living on the roof of Notre Dame have survived the fire blaze! These three hives were put on the cathedral’s rooftop in 2013 for a biodiversity project by Nicolas Géant. He said that the bees were going in and out of their homes this morning. Each hive produces approximately 25 kg of honey each year which is sold to the Notre Dame staff.
Nicolas Géant was extremely happy to announce that his bees have survived the fire that was raging for over 12 hours on Monday. The fire destroyed the spire and almost all of the ornate centuries-old roof of Notre Dame.
He says: ‘Until this morning, I had had no news,’.
‘At first, I thought that the three hives had burned but I had no information after Monday’s fire. Then I saw from satellite images that this was not the case and then the cathedral spokesman told me that they were going in and out of the hives.’ – he adds.
Well, the Conway family are at it again:
I feel sorry for their kids. Dinner time conversations must be their own private hell realm.
So it turns out that, indeed, President Trump was not exonerated at all, and certainly not “totally” or “completely,” as he claimed. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III didn’t reach a conclusion about whether Trump committed crimes of obstruction of justice — in part because, while a sitting president, Trump can’t be prosecuted under long-standing Justice Department directives, and in part because of “difficult issues” raised by “the President’s actions and intent.” Those difficult issues involve, among other things, the potentially tricky interplay between the criminal obstruction laws and the president’s constitutional authority, and the difficulty in proving criminal intent beyond a reasonable doubt.
Still, the special counsel’s report is damning. Mueller couldn’t say, with any “confidence,” that the president of the United States is not a criminal. He said, stunningly, that “if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.” Mueller did not so state.
That’s especially damning because the ultimate issue shouldn’t be — and isn’t — whether the president committed a criminal act. As I wrote not long ago, Americans should expect far more than merely that their president not be provably a criminal. In fact, the Constitution demands it.
The Constitution commands the president to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” It requires him to affirm that he will “faithfully execute the Office of President” and to promise to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.” And as a result, by taking the presidential oath of office, a president assumes the duty not simply to obey the laws, civil and criminal, that all citizens must obey, but also to be subjected to higher duties — what some excellent recent legal scholarship has termed the “fiduciary obligations of the president.”
I’m not exactly sure what to say about the entire thing other than the Mueller Report appears to be a roadmap to Impeachment just like the report on Nixon. Will we make it there?
I do know there are always fascinating morality plays and narratives that come out of the inner turmoil that comes from being around a boss that knows nothing but personal ambition at any cost. Sean Spicer and the Huckabeast come off as individuals of bad moral character who lie for whatever purpose whenever asked. Don McGahn comes off as one of the most conflicted yet personally sure of where he has placed his boundaries. There are different narratives today about his role as White House Counsel with a POTUS demanding he behave like a consigliare and fixer. From CNN: “Don McGahn may have single-handedly saved Donald Trump’s presidency”. Trigger Warning: This is Chris Cillizza who frequently has specious opinions.
Here’s the delicious irony of Trump attacking his former top lawyer: McGahn’s refusal to heed the President’s directive to fire Mueller — or to tell the deputy attorney general to fire Mueller — very well may have saved Trump’s presidency.And, no, I am not exaggerating.Let’s go through this step-by-step — starting with how Mueller described Trump’s interaction with McGahn over the special counsel. Here’s the relevant passage (bolding is mine):“On June 17, 2017, the President called McGahn at home and directed him to call the Acting Attorney General and say that the Special Counsel had conflicts of interest and must be removed. McGahn did not carry out the direction, however, deciding that he would resign rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre.“The “Saturday Night Massacre” refers to then-President Richard Nixon’s order — in October 1973 amid the Watergate probe — that Attorney General Elliot Richardson fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Richardson resigned rather than carry out the order, as did deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus. Solicitor General Robert Bork, yes, that Robert Bork, then fired Cox.That moment was seen as the beginning of the end for Nixon — a sign that as the walls of the Watergate investigation were closing in, he was panicking. (The spark for Cox’s removal was that he had requested Nixon turn over tapes of private White House conversations — and Nixon refused.)Later in the Mueller report comes this episode when, following The New York Times report in January 2018 that Trump had ordered McGahn to remove Mueller, the President tries to force McGahn into a denial. Here’s that (and again boding is mine):“The President then met with McGahn in the Oval Office and again pressured him to deny the reports. In the same meeting, the President also asked McGahn why he had told the Special Counsel about the President’s effort to remove the Special Counsel and why McGahn took notes of his conversations with the President. McGahn refused to back away from what he remembered happening and perceived the President to be testing his mettle.”McGahn’s two moments of refusal to accede to Trump’s wishes are massive pivot points in the presidency. If McGahn had made different decisions than he did — especially on that day in June 2017 –Trump’s time in the White House might be looking very, very different today.
Late in Don McGahn’s tenure as White House counsel, President Trump became so suspicious that he wondered aloud whether McGahn was wearing a wire, a source familiar with the president’s private conversations told Axios.
Why it matters: We have no evidence that Trump’s suspicions have any basis in reality. But they reveal the depth of his paranoia about his former counsel, who sat for many hours with Robert Mueller’s team of prosecutors.
The episode raises the question of the obligations of a White House counsel when he realizes that he is the lawyer for a fundamentally dishonest president who is ready to violate the criminal law to achieve self-interested or political ends. The counsel in these circumstances may have to consider what it means for him to remain in this post for a president who considers him a “lying bastard” for refusing to follow an unlawful order.
Mr. McGahn perhaps stayed on in the belief that the larger objectives of the administration, like moving judicial nominations and achieving deregulation, were well worth pursuing. But that is a judgment more about the administration’s policy imperatives than the working conditions required for the maintenance of the rule of law in the presidency.
The choice Mr. McGahn faced was unprecedented. He was not, for example, in the position of John Dean, White House counsel to Richard Nixon, who did testify against the president in the Watergate affair but who was an original party to the wrongdoing that ended that presidency. There has never been a suggestion that Mr. McGahn ever encouraged or participated in unlawful activities.
In fact, Mr. McGahn acted appropriately and admirably to resist involvement in the president’s scheme to commit obstruction and cooperated truthfully and at length with Mr. Mueller’s investigation. The special counsel declared him a “credible” witness with no discernible motive to lie or exaggerate, and accepted his account over the president’s denials.
But should a future White House counsel have a clear obligation to alert the Department of Justice when the president attempts to obstruct justice? Federal law mandates that department and agency employees alert the attorney general to “any information” that relates to “violations of federal criminal law” involving government officers and employees. The code of ethics for government service requires reporting of “corruption” to the authorities. The application of these requirements to the president’s White House counsel poses unique and difficult issues, but they need to be confronted.
So, we will be talking about this a long time. You may want to read this thread from Norm Ornstein on his thoughts about what the Dems need to do next.
I wonder how much time we will have before this all continues to escalate beyond how status quo works in a not the least bit status quo presidency. When I say Fucked is Coming I somewhat worry that it while be the country. Interviews today on TV and crazy friends from high school dropping shitbombs on Facebook convince me that Trump’s cult is unmoved by any of this. And, the Election is Coming with the news that Biden is entering the race. If Biden and Sanders are the front runners and are careening towards the Trump Cult, then, we are fucked. Remember, Dems can always snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
However, those hives of bees survived that catastrophic fire … so maybe that’s a lesson in there some where.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
The Barr cover-up report reportedly will go public sometime today. The schedule is vague. At 9:30, Cover-Up General Barr plans to give a “press conference” about a report that no one except unknown DOJ officials and White House lawyers have read.
Yes, according the NYT, the White House has been briefed and very likely has had the full report for some time. In addition, DOJ attorneys have been helping the White House prepare their counter-report!
The New York Times: White House and Justice Dept. Officials Discussed Mueller Report Before Release.
Not all of Robert S. Mueller III’s findings will be news to President Trump when they are released Thursday.
Justice Department officials have had numerous conversations with White House lawyers about the conclusions made by Mr. Mueller, the special counsel, in recent days, according to people with knowledge of the discussions. The talks have aided the president’s legal team as it prepares a rebuttal to the report and strategizes for the coming public war over its findings.
A sense of paranoia was taking hold among some of Mr. Trump’s aides, some of whom fear his backlash more than the findings themselves, the people said. The report might make clear which of Mr. Trump’s current and former advisers spoke to the special counsel, how much they said and how much damage they did to the president — providing a kind of road map for retaliation.
Reporters should use the “press conference” to ask Barr about his past cover-ups, his connections to Russia, his conflicts of interest, and his general corruption. They won’t, of course. They also should not refer to whatever redacted mess the Cover-Up General releases as the Mueller Report, but of course they will do just that.
We have to keep reminding ourselves that it’s not the Mueller report; it’s the Barr report. If Robert Mueller wanted to endorse Barr’s cover-up, he would be appearing at the “press conference.” But his isn’t going to be there. Mueller has been muzzled.
Tom Scocca at Hmm Daily: It’s the Barr Report, Not the Mueller Report.
What could inspire more hope and despair than a whole bunch of people who messed something up being granted a do-over? Tomorrow, all the reporters and publications who gave Donald Trump his “MUELLER FINDS NO COLLUSION” headlines, based on a few sentence fragments in a letter from attorney general William Barr, are supposed to get another document to analyze and quickly write headlines about.
Already, journalists are calling this document “the Mueller report.” It is not the Mueller report; that is, it will not be the report prepared by the special counsel investigating Russian election interference and the Trump campaign. It will be some other document. Its text, like the quotes used in the Barr letter, will be based on the text of the Mueller report, but it will have been edited down for release by William Barr, whose implicit and explicit theory of his job duties is that he is there to protect the president.
This isn’t speculation. It’s a description of what’s publicly known about the process, informed by Barr’s prior work with the Mueller report, his written record of his own thoughts on presidential immunity, and his history as a middleman in previous scandal coverage. Barr is a partisan, not a broker of facts, and it is a basic reporting error to treat material that’s passed through his control as definitive—a basic reporting error that major media outlets eagerly made, last time around.
The Daily Beast: Mueller Report Rollout Won’t Have Mueller.
The Justice Department will hold a press conference Thursday morning about the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report—but Mueller won’t be there and the document may not be released until after Attorney General William Barr speaks about the nearly 400 pages he went through to redact.
“They are making Al Capone look straight,” one committee member told The Daily Beast.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler ripped Barr’s plan to speak about the report before lawmakers, the media and public have a chance to review it.
“Rather than letting the facts of the report speak for themselves, the attorney general has taken unprecedented steps to spin Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation,” Nadler said at a press conference on Wednesday night.
“The Attorney General appears to be waging a media campaign on behalf of President Trump, the very subject of the investigation at the heart of the Mueller report,” he added.
If the report is heavily redacted, Nadler said, “we will most certainly issue the subpoenas in very short order.” He said they “will probably find it useful” to ask Mueller and members of his team to testify.
Just send out the subpoenas as soon as you get the report. No more fooling around.
Axios insists on calling the Barr Report “the Mueller Report.”
Mueller witnesses and their lawyers say that they expect the special counsel’s report to include a mass of detailed scenes in which President Trump lashed out about Mueller, Jeff Sessions, Rod Rosenstein and the FBI.
The big picture: They believe that if Mueller’s report presents the material in the same relentlessly detailed way as his prosecutors asked the questions, the accumulation could lead a casual observer to think that the president tried to obstruct justice.