Lazy Saturday Reads: Another Wild Week In CrazytownPosted: September 15, 2018
We’ve reached the end of another stunning week in Trump world, culminating in the news that Paul Manafort has flipped and SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh may be a sexual predator. How much more of this can we take?
It’s difficult to believe that it was only this Tuesday the Bob Woodward’s book Fear was released. I’ve been reading it and, difficult as this is to believe, it is even more surreal than Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury. We are truly living on the edge of disaster every single day under this “president.”
The cable networks have been obsessed with Hurricane Florence for days now, to the point that there was little coverage of the Manafort plea deal and the shocking news that Trump’s SCOTUS nominee allegedly tried to rape a woman when he was in high school.
It’s really difficult to know what to focus on today, so I’m just going to offer some reads that have caught my attention this morning.
Harry Litman at USA Today: Manafort plea is new proof that Mueller is Trump’s worst nightmare. He’s on to him.
It’s tempting to view Paul Manafort’s guilty plea and cooperation agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe in gladiatorial terms: Manafort brought utterly to heel; Mueller in full triumph; and the vainglorious orange-haired Emperor sulking in the royal box, his chosen warrior having turned tail and abandoned him.
The actual story is even more exhilarating. In his all-out, morally bankrupt assault on the Mueller probe, the president had chosen Manafort as his poster child for justice. Manafort, the multi-million dollar tax cheat and mercenary servant of Russia’s interests, became Manafort, the stand-up guy. And the two men appeared to be enacting an obstruction of justice in plain view: Manafort keeping quiet and going to jail in the expectation of a corrupt pardon from Trump, which the president had shown himself very willing to give.
All that is blown to bits after the plea deal announcement, which is, more than anything, a triumph for the rule of law and the notion that, Rudy Giuliani’s buffoonish proclamations to the contrary, truth is truth.
What does the Manafort deal mean for Trump?
For the president, the plea agreement from his former campaign chair is at least a huge blow and potentially disastrous. It had been widely reported that Trump believed Manafort could incriminate him and took great relief from the thought that he would keep his lips sealed.
For starters, Manafort likely knows whether Trump had advance knowledge of the June 2016 meeting set up by Donald Trump Jr. to get dirt on Hillary Clinton, which would expose the president to co-conspirator liability. Manafort likewise was at the center of the manipulation of the Republican platform to favor Russian interests in the Ukraine.
More generally, Manafort’s shamed, mumbled court confession to all Mueller’s charges further makes more untenable Trump’s histrionic shrieks of “witch hunt,” which already had been losing purchase.
Manafort’s cooperation promise also may bode ill for Roger Stone, his former business partner, on whom Mueller already has been turning the vise, and possibly Jared Kushner, who worked closely with Manafort during the campaign and now is a senior adviser to his father-in-law at the White House.
Yes, there’s much more to come, and it seems clear now that Mueller isn’t worried about Rudy Giuliani’s threats about the investigation continuing as we approach the election. After all, Trump is not on any ballots.
I didn’t know that Manafort was involved in identity theft. The New York Times: How a Ukrainian Hairdresser Became a Front for Paul Manafort.
KIEV, Ukraine — At first glance, what happened to Yevgeny G. Kaseyev hardly seems like misfortune.
Without his knowledge, he says, unknown individuals set up multiple companies in his name and deposited tens of millions of dollars into those companies’ bank accounts.
“Sometimes it seems fun,” Mr. Kaseyev, a 34-year-old hairdresser, said with a shrug during an interview. “I’m a secret millionaire.”
Until the authorities came calling, that is, seeking $30 million in back taxes.
One of the people who did business with a company opened under Mr. Kaseyev’s stolen identity didn’t mean anything to him. But the name certainly caught the eye of investigators in the United States: Paul J. Manafort.
Mr. Manafort, who worked for a decade as a political consultant in Ukraine before becoming chairman of the Trump campaign in 2016, made a deal worth hundreds of thousands of dollars with the shell company under the hairdresser’s name. It was called Neocom Systems Limited, according to a Ukrainian lawmaker.
Read the rest of the twisted tale at the link.
On the Kavanaugh story, in July Sen. Diane Feinstein, the ranking member on on the Senate Judiciary Committee, received a letter from a woman who said that Brett Kavanaugh and a friend of his had sexually assaulted her at a party when they were high school students. From Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer’s New Yorker piece:
The allegation dates back to the early nineteen-eighties, when Kavanaugh was a high-school student at Georgetown Preparatory School, in Bethesda, Maryland, and the woman attended a nearby high school. In the letter, the woman alleged that, during an encounter at a party, Kavanaugh held her down, and that he attempted to force himself on her. She claimed in the letter that Kavanaugh and a classmate of his, both of whom had been drinking, turned up music that was playing in the room to conceal the sound of her protests, and that Kavanaugh covered her mouth with his hand. She was able to free herself. Although the alleged incident took place decades ago and the three individuals involved were minors, the woman said that the memory had been a source of ongoing distress for her, and that she had sought psychological treatment as a result.
Feinstein sat on the story until the Intercept published a report that she was keeping it secret, even from other Democrats on the committee.
Kavanaugh and the friend, Mark Judge, both deny that the events happened. But it turns out Judge has a colorful past. He wrote a book about being a teenage alcoholic, and wrote a bizarre 2012 piece for The Daily Caller claiming that a black person stole his bicycle, even though he actually had no idea who had done it: The End Of My White Guilt. Judge parked his car with his bike on the roof when he went to church; when he returned, the bike was gone.
But when I came back to my car after the stations, my bike, which had been locked to a bike rack on my car, was gone. I called the cops and filed a report. Then I walked around Brookland, the neighborhood around the Shrine, for an hour to see if I could spot it. I didn’t, but I did talk to some people who said there were a lot of kids around that day because the schools are out.
I went to college at Catholic University, which is right next to the National Shrine, and I know Brookland pretty well. It’s home to several Catholic religious orders (Brookland was once known as “Little Rome”). I could be pretty certain that on Good Friday a member of the Little Sisters of the Poor, which is across the street from where I was parked, had not nicked my bike. Neither had the monks at the Dominican House of Studies on the corner. The students at Catholic University were on Easter break. That left the neighborhoods around the university. Since the time I was an undergrad at Catholic University in the 1980s, most of the crime that has occurred on campus has come from those neighborhoods, which are predominately black. As sure as it took the D.C. cops forever to get to the parking lot to file a report, I knew that the odds were very high that a black person had taken my bike — maybe one of the kids that had been described.
I actually remember reading about this at the time, because Judge was roundly mocked on the internet. So this guy is Brett Kavanaugh’s alibi. Read more about him at Heavy: Mark Judge, Brett Kavanaugh’s Classmate: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know.
There’s at least one other rumor going around about Kavanaugh:
It’s also weird that Kavanaugh clerked for Alex Kosinki, the judge who was forced to resign over accusations of sexual harassment; yet Kavanaugh claims he had no knowledge of Kosinki’s blatantly abusive behavior. Slate: I Received Some of Kozinski’s Infamous Gag List Emails. I’m Baffled by Kavanaugh’s Responses to Questions About Them, by Heidi Bond
When I came forward in December about my experience in Judge Alex Kozinski’s chambers, I said that when he showed me pictures of naked people without my co-clerks present, I felt isolated. Had they been there, I explained, “it would have felt like I was being treated as one of the guys. Kozinski was not known for being terribly appropriate, but I could handle that. Inappropriateness directed solely at me felt very different than chambers-wide jokes.”
Those chamberswide jokes that I alluded to have now become an issue in Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings. Kavanaugh clerked for Kozinski in the early 1990s and has maintained a close personal relationship with the judge. When Kavanaugh was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2006, it was Kozinski who introduced him to the Senate.
For years, Kozinski maintained an email list known as the “Easy Rider Gag List,” to which he would send sexually explicit and otherwise raunchy jokes; the existence of the list was first publicized in 2008. In his hearings, Kavanaugh was asked by Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mazie Hirono if he was aware of the email list, and if he had received emails from Kozinski with sexually explicit content. In response to these questions, he said he couldn’t recall anything like that. And, in response to a written question for the record—“Has Judge Kozinski ever made comments about sexual matters to you, either in jest or otherwise?”—Kavanaugh responded, “I do not remember any such comments.”
This last response leaves me wondering whether Kavanaugh and I clerked for the same man. Kozinski’s sexual comments—to both men and women—were legendary.
Click on the link to read the rest.
I’m running out of time and space, so I’ll end with this strange story from The Washington Post: A solar observatory in New Mexico is evacuated for a week and the FBI is investigating. No one will say why.
SUNSPOT, N.M. — At a small solar observatory tucked away in the woods of a national forest here, scientists and other personnel were commanded last week to leave at once. A week later, the facility remains vacant, and no one is willing to say why.
The mysterious and lengthy evacuation, in a state known for secretive military testing and a suspected UFO crash, has spawned a wealth of speculation.
Did the researchers spot something extraterrestrial? Was the solar telescope hacked by a foreign power and deployed to spy on, say, the state’s missile testing range? Or is there an innocuous explanation, suppressed only because of corporate and government resistance to transparency?
On Friday, the entrance to the National Solar Observatory was blocked by yellow crime scene tape and two security guards, who said even they had been kept in the dark. The guards, from Red Rock Security & Patrol in Las Cruces, N.M., did not give their names but said it was the first day the company was guarding the entrance and that only the “director and an assistant” were allowed in. There was no obvious sign of law enforcement activity.
A spokeswoman for the nonprofit group that runs the facility said the organization was addressing a “security issue,” but offered no additional information, other than, “I can tell you it definitely wasn’t aliens.” She said Friday that the facility “will remain closed until further notice.” Neither the FBI — which was spotted on the premises around the time of the evacuation — nor those who worked at the facility would tell local law enforcement what had happened, said Otero County Sheriff Benny House.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
So . . . what stories are you following today?