Lazy Saturday ReadsPosted: December 1, 2018 Filed under: Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: George H. W. Bush, Jamal Kashoggi, Matthew Whitaker, Michael Cohen, Saudi Arabia 32 Comments
George Bush the elder died last night at age 94. I’m not going to lie and say I’m grieving.
During Watergate Bush was Nixon’s RNC chairman and supported him to the bitter end; but once the White House tapes came out, he urged Nixon to resign. Bush served about a year as CIA director under Gerald Ford. As Vice President, Bush famously claimed to have been “out of the loop” while Oliver North and the gang were running guns and drugs during the Iran-Contra affair. As president, Bush pardoned
…former National Security Adviser Robert C. McFarlane, former Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams, former CIA Central American Task Force Chief Alan D. Fiers, Jr., former CIA Deputy Director for Operations Clair E. George, and former CIA Counter-Terrorism Chief Duane R. Clarridge. The Weinberger pardon marked the first time a President ever pardoned someone in whose trial he might have been called as a witness, because the President was knowledgeable of factual events underlying the case.
He also refused to be interviewed by the special counsel. That quote is from the Walsh report on Iran-Contra.
In 1992, Walter Pincus wrote in The Washington Post:
Buried among 1,700 pages of notes written by then-Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger during the Iran-contra affair is one referring to a January 1986 meeting at which Weinberger voiced opposition to covert arms sales to Iran in the presence of George Bush, then the vice president.
The note, which appears to contradict Bush’s repeated assertion that he was never present when either Weinberger or then-Secretary of State George P. Shultz objected to the arms sales, is among classified documents being reviewed for possible use in Weinberger’s upcoming trial, according to informed sources. The note is important because it confirms earlier testimony by Shultz placing Bush at the January meeting.
Questioned again lately by reporters about Iran-contra, Bush sought to dismiss further discussion of his role in the worst political scandal of the Reagan administration. But new information emerging from court cases and congressional records since Bush last ran for president has cast fresh doubt on his assertions that he was “out of the loop,” generally uninvolved in and largely unaware of the most controversial Iran-contra operations.
There are numerous indications in the documentary record that Bush was at meetings where decisions were taken in the mid-1980s about both the secret sale of arms to Iran and some of the covert efforts to aid the contra rebels in Nicaragua.
Polls have shown that the public is skeptical of the president’s denials of involvement.
That was written before Bush issued the pardons.
As president, Bush started the Persian Gulf War in order to protect Saudi Arabia after Iraq took over Kuwait. He decided to leave Saddam Hussein in power in Iraq, and of course that led George Bush the younger to attack Iraq again in 2003, leaving us mired in the Middle East ever since.
As we watch Trump suck up to Saudi Arabia, we can forget that the Bushes also loved the Saudis and protected them after the 9/11 attacks. I could go on, but I won’t. Here are some obituaries of George H.W. Bush if you want to read the good stuff:
The New York Times: George Bush, 41st President, Dies at 94.
The Washington Post: George H.W. Bush, 41st president of the United States, dies at 94.
The Guardian: George HW Bush, former US president, dies aged 94.
One good thing I will say about Bush: he didn’t like Trump.
“I don’t like him. I don’t know much about him, but I know he’s a blowhard. And I’m not too excited about him being a leader.” – George H.W. Bush on Donald Trump After he voted for Hillary Clinton.
The Wall Street Journal has a scoop on the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Kashoggi: CIA Intercepts Underpin Assessment Saudi Crown Prince Targeted Khashoggi.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent at least 11 messages to his closest adviser, who oversaw the team that killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in the hours before and after the journalist’s death in October, according to a highly classified CIA assessment.
The Saudi leader also in August 2017 had told associates that if his efforts to persuade Mr. Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia weren’t successful, “we could possibly lure him outside Saudi Arabia and make arrangements,” according to the assessment, a communication that it states “seems to foreshadow the Saudi operation launched against Khashoggi.” [….]
Excerpts of the Central Intelligence Agency’s assessment, which cites electronic intercepts and other clandestine information, were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
The previously unreported excerpts reviewed by the Journal state that the CIA has “medium-to-high confidence” that Prince Mohammed “personally targeted” Khashoggi and “probably ordered his death.” It added: “To be clear, we lack direct reporting of the Crown Prince issuing a kill order.”
The electronic messages sent by Prince Mohammed were to Saud al-Qahtani, according to the CIA. Mr. Qahtani supervised the 15-man team that killed Mr. Khashoggi and, during the same period, was also in direct communication with the team’s leader in Istanbul, the assessment says. The content of the messages between Prince Mohammed and Mr. Qahtani isn’t known, the document says. It doesn’t say in what form the messages were sent.
No wonder Trump refused let CIA director Gina Haspel report to Congress.
There are lots of stories about former Trump fixer Michael Cohen today. Cohen’s attorneys released his full sentencing memo (pdf) last night. For a summary, check out this Twitter thread from Adam Klasfeld.
CNN reports that if Trump had been nicer to his former lawyer, Cohen might not have flipped: Cohen believed Trump would pardon him, but then things changed.
After a March 2018 visit to Mar-a-Lago, the President’s private club in Florida, Cohen returned to New York believing that his former boss would protect him if he faced any charges for sticking to his story about the 2016 payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, according to one source with knowledge. Trump was also at Mar-a-Lago at the time of Cohen’s visit.
Another source said that after the April 2018 FBI raid on Cohen’s office and home, people close to the President assured Cohen that Trump would take care of him. And Cohen believed that meant that the President would offer him a pardon if he stayed on message. It is unclear who specifically reached out to Cohen….
Following the raid on Cohen’s home and office, Cohen’s attorneys had a legal defense agreement with Trump and his attorneys. During this time, there was a steady flow of communication between the two sides, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
At first, publicly, Trump seemed very supportive of his former attorney. On the day of the raid, Trump said Cohen was “a good man” and that the investigation reached “a whole new level of unfairness.” He unloaded on law enforcement, calling the raids “a disgraceful situation.”
But in the days that followed the raid, one source says, things started heading south with the President.
Trump started to distance himself from Cohen. And when Trump appeared on “Fox and Friends” two weeks after the raids and said that Cohen only did a “tiny, tiny little fraction” of his legal work, Cohen knew the game had changed. According to one source, Cohen knew that things had changed and he acted to protect his family — and himself.
Politico: Cohen claims ‘regular contact’ with Trump legal team when crafting false statement to Congress.
…Michael Cohen said Friday he was in “close and regular contact” with Trump’s White House staff and legal team when he prepared a statement for Congress that he now says falsely downplayed Trump’s effort to land a Trump Tower Moscow deal during the 2016 presidential campaign.
In a filing seeking a lenient sentence, Cohen’s attorneys say his false statement to Congress — which Cohen pleaded guilty to on Thursday — was based on Trump and his team’s efforts to “portray contact with Russian representatives” by Trump, his campaign or his company “as having effectively terminated before the Iowa caucuses of February 1, 2016.”
“Seeking to stay in line with this message, Michael told Congress that his communications and efforts to finalize a building project in Moscow on behalf of the Trump Organization, which he began pursuing in 2015, had come to an end in January 2016, when a general inquiry he made to the Kremlin went unanswered,” Cohen’s lawyers Guy Petrillo and Amy Lester write.
But “Michael had a lengthy substantive conversation with the personal assistant to a Kremlin official following his outreach in January 2016, engaged in additional communications concerning the project as late as June 2016, and kept [Trump] apprised of these communications,” they wrote. “He and [Trump] also discussed possible travel to Russia in the summer of 2016, and Michael took steps to clear dates for such travel.”
The Daily Beast: Cohen: Trump Knew I Called Kremlin for Help With Trump Tower Moscow.
Another bombshell lobbed by Michael Cohen exploded late Friday night: He says he told Donald Trump about a phone call to the Kremlin asking for the Russian government’s help to build a Trump Tower in Moscow in 2016.
And Cohen also claims he was talking to Trump’s lawyers and White House staff in 2017 while he crafted a misleading statement to Congress seeking to cover up the truth about the Moscow project and the level of Trump’s involvement.
If this is true, former White House Counsel Don McGahn could be in trouble for witness tampering. I wonder what his talked with Mueller’s team have been like?
There are quite a few stories on fake AG Matthew Whitaker too. Some links to check out:
The Washington Post: Trump’s acting attorney general once referred to the president’s behavior as ‘a little dangerous’ and ‘a little outlandish.’
Yahoo News: How one accountant links Whitaker’s nonprofit to network of dark money groups.
The New York Times: Whitaker’s Ascent at Justice Dept. Surprised Investigators of Firm Accused of Fraud.
Jonathan Chait: Trump’s Crooked Attorney General Stonewalled Probe Into His Crooked Firm.
Above the Law: Let’s Take A Closer Look At Purported Attorney General Matthew Whitaker’s Super Sketchy Finances.
I’ll put a few more links in the comment thread. What stories are you following today?
A few more links:
Raw Story: Trump defender Alan Dershowitz is deeply involved in the sordid Jeffrey Epstein scandal.
Miami Herald: Alex Acosta, you made a mockery of Florida’s sex offender laws. It’s time to resign.
NYT: Trump Fund-Raiser Received Laundered Foreign Money, Prosecutors Say.
Happy Birthday, Ann!
Happy, happy to you!
They can’t even get a presidential obit right …
All you said about Bush is true. Still I feel like there is a qualitative difference between his generation of conservative and what we have today.
Two things I hope are not lost in the fog of nostalgia: The October Surprise collusion with Iran in 1980 and the decades of grabass “David Cop-a-Feel.” If we are being accountable let’s be accountable.
The Repubs stepped over the line from political party to band of thugs when Nixon decided it would be clever to use racism to win elections. That was long before Watergate. They, and the US, have been spiralling down ever since until now we’re at the point where the Speaker of the House doesn’t seem to know that they way you decide elections is by counting the votes. (Ryan’s comments re weird California way of figuring out who won.)
So, yeah, there are steps on the way down, and Bush Sr. was several levels above the cesspit we have now. But he did nothing to change the direction away from down. And he was the one who staffed his clueless son’s White House when he suddenly “won” in 2000. With people like Cheney, for instance.
And, yes, there’s the whole cop-a-feel grossness.
None of these people would be getting the benefit of nostalgia if we weren’t hip-deep in the Big Muddy with the crazy fools marching on.
See Willie Horton ad, for example.
Oh hell. I’d managed to paper over in my mind the memory that the Horton campaign ad depravity happened on Bush I’s watch.
His campaign manager was Lee Atwater.
Vox: Eight women say George HW Bush groped them. Their claims deserve to be remembered as we assess his legacy.
Happy Birthday, bb! Along with many, many more!
Thank you Pat!
The WSJ article wasn’t behind a paywall. I was able to read the whole thing. See in post.
Thanks, I could get to it . I was afraid I couldnt
Sheesh, those evangelicals will do anything to get their agenda through the political system.
Insufferably self-righteous every last one. They’re on a crusade against zygote murder.
And child deprivation.
Happy birthday BB! Hope its a good one!
H.W.’s getting us into the Gulf war was one of the worst things we have ever done. That is his legacy. We are still dealing with the results of that decision. That is worse than anything going on now by today’s leaders.
G. H. W. Bush didn’t invade further into the Middle East because he had no good escape or exit plan. In that he was smarter than his son. He would never have cozied up with Russia, but he seems like a good guy only in comparison with each later Republican president*.
His language and manners were much better than Trumps. Bush was a grabber of bottoms. Trump is a face kisser. Which is worse from a moral point of view.