Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday announced a government-wide crackdown on leakers, which will include a review of the Justice Department’s policies on subpoenas for media outlets that publish sensitive information.
At a press conference with Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Sessions announced that the Justice Department, FBI and government intelligence agencies will direct more resources into the investigations of government leaks and would prioritize prosecuting those that pass sensitive information along to the press or foreign officials
Sessions said he had empowered his deputy director Rod Rosenstein and incoming FBI director Christopher Wray to oversee the classified leaks investigations and to monitor the progress of each case.
The national security division of the Justice Department will prioritize cases involving unauthorized disclosures, Sessions said, and the departments “will not hesitate to bring lawful and appropriate criminal charges against those who abuse the public trust.
Friday Reads whilst my bed turns into the Family ArkPosted: August 4, 2017
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
I’m a little late going at this because it’s rained 3 times since about 3 in the morning and the ceiling in my bedroom came down with a thud on my bed yesterday afternoon. We had a deluge Thursday Morning and water basically poured out of one of the late drywall seams that’s now in a bundle with its drywall in a big black trash sack ready for internment in the Crescent City Dump. It poured for like 15 minutes filling up three separate bowls and two turkey roasters with water while sitting on my bed.
It’s almost continually raining here and it’s Friday so you can imagine how much luck I’m having getting any one to do anything. My back wall is now the “weeping wall” and my turkey roaster has a semi-permanent place atop a thick black trash bag on my bed. I’m sleeping on the other side because I don’t want to not be there if it overtops or leaks someplace other than its current choice. It’s a mess. I’m a mess. Actually, the water is backing up the streets and it’s not looking like it’s going to stop. The animals aren’t very happy with the chime sound the emptied turkey roaster makes when it meet the first drip of a drop either.
So, the news would be comical if it wasn’t related to this disaster of an administration. I’m just going to start link dumping and leave the heavy sighs to you. The clank of drops against a thick aluminum turkey roaster is just the right accompaniment to the cacophony of US news today.
First something about John Oliver and King Coal’s Bob Murray. You want a good laugh reading an amicus brief? Try this one from the West Virginia ACLU on the lawsuit Murray has filed against mean John Oliver. Here’s the ACLU Brief on behalf of John Oliver. Total Spew alert!!!
This case is about Plaintiff Robert E. (“Bob”) Murray not liking a television program and somehow believing that is a legally actionable offense. On June 18, 2017, Defendant Home Box Office, Inc. aired an episode of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” a satirical news program about current events. The main topic discussed in the episode was coal. Apparently because Plaintiffs’ delicate sensibilities were offended, they clutched their pearls and filed this suit. Although this brief pokes fun at the absurdity of this case, the legal issues raised by it are anything but comical. This lawsuit, and Plaintiffs’ frequent attempts to use our legal system to chill speech, threaten the fundamental right of the media to criticize public figures and speak candidly on matters of public concern. Speech on a matter of public concern “occupies the highest 2 rung of the hierarchy of First Amendment values, and is entitled to speech protection.”
The next section lists the various media outlets that have been sued by Bob and it’s pretty extensive. Then here’s Bob list of all the ways the bad Brit hury his whiddle fee fees. Tell us where HBO touched you Bob?
Defendants attempted “to advance their biases against the coal industry and their disdain for the coal-related policies of the Trump Administration.”
Defendants “employed techniques designed solely to . . . embarrass Plaintiffs[.]”
“Defendants childishly demeaned and disparaged Bob Murray and his companies, made jokes about Bob Murray’s age, health, and appearance, [and] made light of a tragic mining accident[.]”
“Defendants are persons and organizations fundamentally opposed to any revitalization of the coal industry, having described coal as ‘environmentally catastrophic.”
Defendant Time Warner “is widely reported as a top ten donor of Hillary Clinton[.]”
“As a presidential candidate, Mrs. Clinton’s agenda was to ‘put a lotta [sic] coal miners and coal companies outta [sic] business.’”
“Defendants’ broadcasts have vigorously supported and advanced Mrs. Clinton’s agenda.”
Instead of focusing on what Plaintiffs wanted him to talk about, Defendants “ignored them and ‘doubled-down’ . . . , ending their recorded broadcast with the phrases ‘Eat Shit, Bob’ and ‘Kiss my ass, Bob.’”
When John Oliver tore into coal baron Bob Murray back in June, he knew a lawsuit was likely; he even prepared for the possibility by bringing out someone in a squirrel costume, who pre-emptively told Murray to “eat shit.” And like Oliver predicted, the mogul did sue HBO, Time Warner, Oliver, and his writers—but he might live to regret his decision. The West Virginia A.C.L.U. has filed an amicus brief in Oliver’s defense—and it might actually be a harsher takedown than Oliver’s original segment.
The brief, filed on Monday, is well worth reading in full, as it features some truly colorful writing. Consider, for example, the section headings, which include “Anyone Can Legally Say, ‘Eat Shit, Bob!’” and “All of John Oliver’s Speech Was Protected by the First Amendment. You Can’t Sue People for Being Mean to You, Bob.”
“It is a basic concept of free speech that you do not get to sue media organizations because you don’t like their coverage,” Jamie Lynn Crofts writes in the brief. “However, this is apparently a difficult concept for Plaintiffs to grasp. It appears that Bob Murray’s favorite hobby is suing and/or threatening to sue people for making political statements he disagrees with.”
Another perfectly brilliant and funny read is in Newsweek where the headline declares “Trump is Lazy!!!”. There’s a lecture the lede too! “TRUMP, AMERICA’S BOY KING: GOLF AND TELEVISION WON’T MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN”
Were he to reach the White House, Trump said, he wouldn’t make the same mistake for which he’d been lambasting Obama since 2011. “I’m going to be working for you,” he told supporters in August 2016. “I’m not going to have time to go play golf.”
Now that he’s president, Trump frequently departs the White House and spends the weekend golfing at either his South Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, or his country club in the New Jersey suburb of Bedminster. The promise he’d made a year before was discarded so quickly, you have to wonder if he even remembers making it. Politico did the legwork: George W. Bush didn’t golf for the first five months of his presidency, while Obama stayed away from his beloved links for four months following his inauguration. Trump held out for all of two weeks. He has visited a golf club 40 times since taking office in January, according to the self-explanatory site Trump Golf Count, which estimates the forays have cost American taxpayers $55 million. Another Trump tracker, this one by The New York Times, finds that his visits to Trump-branded properties total 56 days, nearly a third of his time in office.
Trump’s friends say golf is important to his well-being, just as cycling and rock climbing are de rigueur for the younger titans of Silicon Valley. “He is always working,” longtime confidant Roger J. Stone Jr. tells me, “even while socializing, playing golf or traveling. He is constantly asking questions, taking notes and placing phone calls.
“A better question would be, Does he ever really relax?”
The Boston Globe has a hilarious bit up about the Orange one’s plan to vacation in the land of Spray Tans. It’s to hot for Tacky Largo so why not just vacation in the state that pretty much exists to represent tacky?
President Trump, who delights in thumbing his nose at the country’s cosmopolitan class, is using his first presidential break, starting Friday, to send a fresh version of that message: He’s spending his 17-day summer holiday in New Jersey.
You heard that right: New Jersey.
It’s no Martha’s Vineyard or Kennebunkport. It can’t compare to Hyannis Port, to name the prominent New England playgrounds where modern presidents have gone to unwind. The closest competition for unlikeliest vacation spot is Crawford, Texas, a dusty, brush-generating ranchland where George W. Bush at least evoked the romance and rigor of the American West.
In selecting New Jersey, Trump, a billionaire homebody despite his jet-setting reputation, will settle for the thwack of golf balls and the chirping of birds on his own golf course in a state that conjures spray tans, Snooki, muscle shirts, “The Sopranos,” traffic slowdowns, and toll plazas.
Oh, and those eponymous concrete barriers on the interstate.
Trump will even be able to hear the tractor-trailers from his chosen venue: the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. The seventh hole on one of the club’s two courses is a pitching wedge shot from I-78, a.k.a. the Phillipsburg-Newark Expressway
Remember, all those visits to Trump properties cost the American Taxpayers millions of dollars.
The NJ getaway won’t be cheap either. Lucky for the Dumpster, it’s all income to the Kremlin Caligula Family Crime Syndicate.
According to The New York Times, Trump’s New Jersey getaway will technically be “his first extended vacation from Washington” as president, and Trump’s White House spokesperson claimed that the president was only leaving due to HVAC system repairs at the West Wing, and that Trump will be continuing to work while he’s away. It certainly won’t be the first time, though, that the president has taken time away from the White House: according to The Washington Post, Trump has made 11 visits to his properties in Palm Beach, Florida and New Jersey since taking office, as well as a weekend at Camp David in June. And of the 28 weekends he’s spent in office, Trump has spent 13 of them away from the White House, according to The New York Times.
Earlier this year, former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that Trump’s visits to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach are “where he goes to see his family,” and that they should be considered “part of being president,” according to NBC News. But they also come at a high cost to taxpayers: according to Fortune, the Air Force One flight alone costs roughly $200,000 an hour, and when he arrives, the city is required to cover the cost involved with providing adequate security. In Bedminister, that totals approximately $12,000 per day, while in Palm Beach, the amount is closer to $60,000 per day. Yet the fact that the president chooses to stay at his own private resorts may have created an additional financial benefit for the Trump family: according to NBC News, the membership rates at Trump-owned Mar-a-Lago doubled after Trump took office, and now costs new members $200,000.
Feel adequately milked yet?
Well, here’s some more interesting things about deals and cheating the American Taxpayer via the Kremlin Caligula Family Crime Syndicate. “This Trump real estate deal looks awfully like criminal tax fraud” via WAPO and some very good accountants/tax lawyers.
According to a recent story by ProPublica and the Real Deal, in April 2016 a limited liability company managed by Trump sold two condominium apartments to a limited liability company managed by Eric Trump. They were on the 13th and 14th floors of a 14-story, full-service, doorman building at 100 Central Park South in Manhattan. This is a prime Midtown neighborhood, yet the sale price for each condo was just $350,000. Although the condition and square footage of apartments 13G and 14G are not readily known, a popular real estate website shows that G-line apartments on both the fifth and eighth floors are one-bedroom, one-bath units of just over 500 square feet. Two years before the Trump transaction, apartment 5G sold for $690,000. Maybe the two units in question were in terrible shape, but two months before the sale to Eric Trump’s LLC, they were advertisedfor $790,000 (on the 13th floor) and $800,000 (on the 14th floor), according to ProPublica.
If a sale between a parent and child is for fair market value, it does not trigger a gift tax. But if a parent sells two expensive condominiums to his son at a highly discounted price, for example, then the parent makes a taxable gift in part. In that case, the seller must pay a gift tax of up to 40 percent. (In this case, that might have run the president somewhere in the neighborhood of $350,000.)
Each taxpayer has a $5.49 million lifetime exemption (a married couple has a combined $10.98 million exemption), meaning you can give away that much money without incurring the tax. To claim that a transaction is covered by the exemption, though, you must file a gift tax return. Well-advised wealthy individuals typically fully use their $5.49 million exemption by making gifts to family members as soon as they have the assets to do so.
So if Donald Trump sold the apartments to his son’s company for less than fair market value, he needed to file a gift tax return, even if he wanted to claim that the sale was not taxable because of the exemption. The government wants to know what gifts people make, because gifts are taken into account when determining the value of a person’s taxable estate at death. If Trump had already used his exemption, he would owe gift tax on the difference between the fair market value of the apartments and the amount paid by Eric Trump.
Yeah, no wonder he doesn’t want to show us the taxes. But something tells me the Special Council and a few lucky grand jurors have seen them. The original story is deep behind a WSJ pay wall but here’s The Guardian’s analysis. Wonder if Bob went to the rally?
Donald Trump has sought to rally thousands of diehard supporters against the investigation into his campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia – on the same day news emerged that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, has convened a grand jury in the case.
“They’re trying to cheat you out of the leadership that you want with a fake story,” Trump told a rally in Huntington, West Virginia.
The concerted effort could be a sign that the White House is realising the full gravity of the situation. Mueller, appointed special counsel in May following the dismissal of the former FBI director James Comey, has recruited more than a dozen investigators, including current and former justice department prosecutors with experience in international bribery, organised crime and financial fraud.
On Thursday, it was reported – first by the Wall Street Journal, but later by other outlets including the Associated Press – that Mueller is using a grand jury in Washington, meaning he could subpoena witnesses and records in the coming weeks and months.
The use of a grand jury, a standard prosecution tool in criminal investigations, suggests that Mueller and his team of investigators are likely to hear from witnesses and demand documents in the coming weeks and months.
In what might be seen as a bid to weaponise his populist base, Trump told the crowd in Huntington, a coal country stronghold where he beat Hillary Clinton by 42 percentage points: “Most people know there were no Russians in our campaign; there never were. We didn’t win because of Russia. We won because of you.”
The crowd, many with “Make America great again” hats or signs, erupted in vociferous cheers. Trump continued: “We won because we totally outworked the other side. We won because of millions of patriotic Americans voted to take back their country.”
The president asked mockingly: “Have you seen any Russians in West Virginia or Ohio or Pennsylvania? Are there any Russians here tonight, any Russians? They can’t beat us at the voting booths so they’re trying to cheat you out of the future and the future that you want. They’re trying to cheat you out of the leadership that you want with a fake story that is demeaning to all of us and most importantly demeaning to our country and demeaning to our constitution.”
Well, something demeans all that and that something is talking out its ass. I personally recommending this as your go to Cliff Notes.
The Oldest Living Confederate Widow who currently serves as the country’s AG is also cracking down on free speech. Bet he could get some hints on how to win against the ACLU from Bob. Feeling a bit like you’re living in Vichy France yet?
The Justice Department is considering making changes to its policies on subpoenaing news organizations as part of its crackdown on government leaks, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Friday.
At a news conference, Sessions said the Justice Department is cracking down on leaks coming out of the government. The department “has more than tripled the number of active leak investigations” since the end of the Obama administration in January, he said.
Much of the effort involves investigating and prosecuting leak suspects, he said, but another aspect is “reviewing policies affecting media subpoenas.” That review, he said, came at the suggestion of FBI agents, career investigators and prosecutors who have weighed in on the leak problem.
“We respect the important role that the press plays, and we’ll give them respect, but it is not unlimited,” Sessions said. “They cannot place lives at risk with impunity. We must balance the press’s role with protecting our national security and the lives of those who serve in the intelligence community, the armed forces and all law-abiding Americans.”
At the news conference, Sessions described the nation as having a problematic “culture of leaks” that must be stamped out. And he issued a blunt warning to “would-be leakers” of classified information: “Don’t do it,” or risk prosecution.
Most of the leaks kinda look like they are coming from Jared and Ivanka who should consider skedaddling back to NYC. It would be a nice break for the kids before the jail terms start. This is actually Joe Scarborough. Don’t faint. Nobody attacks Joe’s squeeze and gets away with it! Damn it!
Much has changed in the five years since Trump delivered that self-aware confession. The Manhattan developer is now the least popular first-year president in the history of presidential polling. His oldest son is caught up in a federal investigation involving attempts by Russia to undermine American democracy. Federal prosecutors are also reportedly investigating the finance and business dealings of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who has repeatedly been forced to amend federal disclosure forms to add omitted information on his financial assets and contacts with foreign nationals, including from Russia. Even Trump’s daughter Ivanka, despite her concerted efforts to keep a low profile during the campaign and to round off her father’s roughest edges inside the White House, has become the subject of controversy.
Her decision to sit alongside foreign leaders at the recent Group of 20 summit in Hamburg was slammed as “grotesque” and “banana-republicky.” In a recent tweet, she declared that she would be “serving alongside John Kelly,” just as the retired four-star Marine general let it be known that all access to the Oval Office would go through him. The real estate heiress not only appeared to be claiming the West Wing as her territory, but she also betrayed a troubling sense of entitlement that one might expect from other billionaires’ daughters but not this one. Kelly and White House insiders know that Ivanka Trump is as ill-prepared to face the brutish realities of Washington as her father. And tragically, neither seems to know what they do not know.
Which brings us back to Kushner.
Though Donald Trump might be loath to admit it, Kushner did much to elect his father-in-law. By quietly building a successful online fundraising and targeting operation far beyond his candidate’s comprehension, Kushner gave Trump a fighting chance to keep the 2016 presidential race close, in the hope that lightning would strike at the right time. It did. And that’s when Kushner’s problems began.
The quiet diplomacy Kushner employed so effectively during the campaign gave way to the sort of stubborn arrogance that often infects the winning side of presidential campaigns. Trump’s shocking victory led his son-in-law to believe he could reinvent government like Al Gore, micromanage the White House like James Baker and restructure the Middle East like Moses. Kushner’s confidence seemed to reach its apex whenever the subject turned to Middle East peace. His bizarre belief that the world began anew the day Trump was inaugurated was exposed again this week when a leaked audiotape caught Kushner telling White House interns: “We don’t want a history lesson. We’ve read enough books.”
Americans have seen enough headlines over the past six months to better understand why nepotism does not work in the White House.
Well, the sound of rain pouring into a turkey roaster is less annoying than listening to anything coming from the (it’s a dump!) White House these days. Would you like some ketchup on that overcooked cut of expensive meat?
Have a great weekend. Pray the rain goes where it’s needed. That’s definitely not in my bedroom on my bed.