Lazy Caturday Reads

By Emi Sato, Japan and Canada

By Emi Sato, Japan and Canada

Happy Caturday!!

Yesterday Dakinikat posted that DOJ prosecutors had urged District Judge Beryl Howell to hold Trump’s office in contempt for refusal to certify that all classified documents had been returned to the government. Prosecutors met with the judge and three Trump lawyers. The upshot was that Howell refused to the DOJ request.

The Washington Post: U.S. judge won’t hold Trump’s office in contempt, people familiar say.

A federal judge on Friday declined to hold former president Donald Trump’s office in contempt for not fully complying with a May subpoena to return all classified documents in his possession, according to people familiar with the proceedings.

U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell told Justice Department lawyers and Trump’s legal team to come to an agreement themselves over what actions or assurances by Trump’s office would satisfy the government, according to these people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sealed court proceedings….

The hearing punctuated months of mounting Justice Department frustration with Trump’s legal team after attorneys provided assurances that a diligent search had been conducted for classified documents at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago residence and private club.

They made that claim when handing over 38 documents to the Justice Department in response to the grand jury subpoena. But the FBI later amassed evidence suggesting that more classified material remained at Mar-a-Lago.

The Justice Department secured a warrant, and FBI agents searched Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8, retrieving some 13,000 additional documents, about 100 of them classified. The department is investigating the potential mishandling of classified material, destruction of government property or obstruction of the investigation.

One of the central areas of disagreement between the two sides has centered on the Trump legal team’s repeated refusal to designate a custodian of records to sign a document attesting that all classified materials have been returned to the federal government, The Post first reported earlier this week.

The standoff led to the Justice Department’s request to hold Trump’s office in contempt.

So what happens next? From Raw Story: New court ruling has opened the door for the DOJ to get another Trump search warrant: legal expert.

During an appearance on MSNBC’s “The Katie Phang Show,” former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade suggested that a judge’s decision on Friday to not hold Donald Trump and his lawyers in contempt of court could compel the Department of Justice to seek another search warrant for the former president’s properties….

McQuade stated the DOJ has grown increasingly frustrated with the former president and his legal team since they can’t get anyone to sign off on a declaration affirming that all government documents have been turned over to the FBI.

Dmitry Lisichenko

By Dmitry Lisichenko

According to McQuade, the failure to get a contempt of court ruling could lead the DOJ to ask for a search warrant to check for themselves….

“I don’t know that you can ever say they’ve all been returned because there is the possibility that some scrap of paper went undetected,” McQuade replied. “You can ask what is frequently attested to in one of these record custodian documents, which is to say that after a diligent search, to the best of my knowledge, they have all been returned.”

“I think that’s all they are asking for here — they will not even sign that,” she continued. “What does that say? Yes, I think the judge could force someone to do that, but I think that the failure to do that could be a bit of evidence that prosecutors could use as probable cause to obtain a search warrant.”

Republicans, including Donald Trump, are complaining about Biden’s failure to convince Russia to release Paul Whelan, even though Trump and Congressional Republicans did nothing to bring him home during the two years of Trump’s presidency. Elon Musk chimed in of course, saying you should never leave a Marine behind. But Whelan wasn’t a Marine he was captured. He was drummed out of the service with bad conduct discharge.

The Washington Post: Who is Paul Whelan, the former U.S. Marine held in Russia?

The release of Brittney Griner, the American basketball star imprisoned in Russia who was exchanged Thursday for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, shed light on the case of another American prisoner, Paul Whelan….

Paul Whelan, 52, is a Marine turned corporate security executive who was convicted of espionage and is serving a 16-year sentence in a Russian prison.

A citizen of four countries — the United States, Canada, Britain and Ireland, Whelan was a former sheriff’s deputy and served several tours in Iraq as an active-duty reservist. He was discharged from the Marines for bad conduct in 2008 after being convicted of charges related to larceny, according to military and court records.

Whelan then spent over a decade working as a corporate security expert. At the time of his arrest, he was corporate security director at BorgWarner, a Michigan-based automotive parts supplier.

In June 2020, Whelan was sentenced to 16 years of hard labor in a Russian prison for espionage, in a trial that he has argued was politically motivated and heightened tensions between the United States and Russia.

So Russia sees Whelan as a spy, while Greiner was arrested for possession of CBD.

His attorney, Vladimir Zherebenkov, has said his client unwittingly received a flash drive containing “state secrets” while visiting Russia for a wedding in 2018. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Whelan was caught “red-handed,” during a spy mission.

Whelan, arrested Dec. 28, 2018, in a Moscow hotel, has said he thought the flash drive that he received from an acquaintance contained holiday photos. Whelan, his family and the U.S. government have repeatedly stated that the charges are baseless and that he was framed.

The day the verdict was announced, Whelan said he thought it was a foregone conclusion, and shouted from within a glass-enclosed area in the courtroom that Russia “feels impotent in the world, so they’re taking political hostages.”

Brahim Achir

By Brahim Achir

According to CNN, Germany would have to be involved in order to free Whelan: Russia demanded that a spy held in Germany be freed in exchange for Paul Whelan.

Russia refused to release Paul Whelan alongside Brittney Griner unless a former colonel from Russia’s domestic spy organization currently in German custody was also released as part of any prisoner swap, US officials told CNN, even as the US offered up the names of several other Russian prisoners in US custody that they would be willing to trade.

The US was unable to deliver on the request for the ex-colonel, Vadim Krasikov, because he is serving out a life sentence for murder in Germany….

US officials made quiet inquiries to the Germans about whether they might be willing to include Krasikov in the trade, a senior German government source told CNN earlier this year. But ultimately, the US was not able to secure Krasikov’s release. The German government was not willing to seriously consider including Krasikov –who assassinated a Georgian citizen in broad daylight in Berlin in 2019 – in a potential trade, the German source said.

The US made several other offers to the Russians, sources said, to try to get them to agree to include Whelan in the swap. Among the names floated by the US was Alexander Vinnik, a Russian national extradited to the US in August on allegations of money laundering, hacking and extortion. The US also offered to trade Roman Seleznev, a convicted Russian cyber-criminal currently serving a 14-year sentence in the US, sources said.

Read more at CNN.

Elon Musk has been restoring the Twitter accounts of numerous hate-spewing trolls, including Donald Trump. The guy who got his account back today is a real doozy.

Insider: Twitter reinstates the account of ‘Baked Alaska’ — the far-right troll who pleaded guilty to a Capitol riot charge.

Twitter has unsuspended the account of Baked Alaska, the far-right troll also known as Tim Gionet, who pleaded guilty in July to a misdemeanor of parading, demonstrating, or picketing inside a Capitol building on January 6.

Gionet, who live-streamed his participation in the Capitol riot, was permanently banned from Twitter in 2017 for violating the platform’s hateful conduct policy.

He had used the social media platform to make antisemitic remarks and to post white nationalist content.

Insider contacted the social media platform’s new owner Elon Musk for comment as Twitter no longer has a communications department.

The unsuspension of Baked Alaska’s account follows Musk’s decision to reinstate banned accounts which, according to Platformer, he is referring to as the “Big Bang.”

Shortly after reinstating former President Donald Trump’s Twitter account, Musk polled users on whether he should offer a “general amnesty” to suspended accounts “provided that they have not broken the law or engaged in egregious spam.” 

The last time I checked, participating in an insurrection against the government was breaking the law. In fact, Gionet pleaded guilty and will soon be in prison. 

Will Sommer at The Daily Beast, Nov. 21, 2022: Jan. 6 Troll ‘Baked Alaska’ Is Going to Jail in 2023 for Attacking Security Guard.

Notorious racist internet troll and Jan. 6 riot participant “Baked Alaska” is officially headed to prison—and not just for his involvement in the riot.

David Martiashvili

By David Martiashvili

Baked Alaska, whose real name is Anthime Gionet, was arrested shortly after the riot. The feds’ case was helped by Gionet himself, who livestreamed his crimes in the Capitol on the internet.

“Occupy the Capitol, let’s go!” Gionet declared at one point during the riot. “We ain’t leaving this bitch!”

But Gionet is also facing charges for macing a security guard in an unrelated incident in Scottsdale, Arizona, in late 2020. The attack came as the security guard tried to escort Gionet and his friends, who were livestreaming their boorish behavior to their online audiences, out of a bar.

Gionet was initially sentenced to 30 days in jail on the mace charges back in January, but the sentence was on hold pending his appeal. On Friday, though, a downbeat Gionet broke the news to his fans: his appeal had been rejected, and he would be headed to jail on the mace charge in the new year….

Gionet expressed sadness that he would soon be serving his sentence, which starts on Jan. 2, 2023. Making matters worse, Gionet said, his prison sentence for his Jan. 6 actions is still ahead of him.

Meanwhile, Elmo and his new pals Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss are still tweeting nonsense “Twitter files” about how the pre-Musk platform somehow censored right wing accounts and favored liberals, which is completely false. Musk is even getting pushback from former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who just recently was singing Musk’s praises.

But Musk, Taibbi, and Weiss refuse to release the emails. I wonder why?

Eric Levitz at New York Magazine: The ‘Twitter Files’ Is What It Claims to Expose.

Twitter is not what it seems. The social media platform poses as a neutral marketplace for the exchange of ideas and information; an agora where journalists, politicians, academics, cultural icons, business titans, and ordinary citizens can engage in a dialogue unbounded by gatekeeping elites.

But it is actually a tool of progressive power. While you were hypnotized by viral memes, a cabal of social-justice STEM majors seized the commanding heights of the attention economy. And they have been using it to bend the mass public to their will. By subtly manipulating which forms of speech do and do not gain prominence — and/or, simply banishing wrongthink from its platform — Twitter imposes woke orthodoxy on the nation’s youth while insulating the liberal elite from popular rebuke. This information warfare hasn’t merely cost conservative commentators followers or retweets; it cost a Republican president the White House.

Emi Sato2

By Emi Sato

That’s the story that conservatives want to tell about what Twitter used to be, in the bad old days before Elon Musk begrudgingly bought it. Fortunately, Twitter’s new CEO has a deep-seated objection to social media companies using their power over discourse to promote partisan causes. Therefore, Musk is using his newfound power over discourse to promote the conservative movement’s demagogic narratives about Twitter and the Democratic president’s son.

Specifically, Musk delivered a vast trove of internal Twitter documents to two independent journalists, Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss, who have long endorsed aspects of the GOP’s indictment of the platform. Taibbi and Weiss proceeded to publish a pair of exposés on Twitter’s inner workings. Dubbed “the Twitter Files,” these reports featured a couple genuinely concerning findings about pre-Musk Twitter’s operations. But they were also saturated in hyperbole, marred by omissions of context, and discredited by instances of outright mendacity. Musk’s commentary on the Twitter Files, meanwhile, proved even more demagogic and deceptive than the exposés themselves.

For these reasons, the Twitter Files are best understood as an egregious example of the very phenomenon it purports to condemn — that of social media managers leveraging their platforms for partisan ends.

The point of the “Twitter Files” is to once again try to turn “Hunter Biden’s laptop” into a scandal about Joe Biden. The claim is that Twitter hushed this up right before the 2020 election.

There is little question that Hunter Biden was an influence peddler who sought to monetize his access to the American vice president. Burisma was not paying Hunter $50,000 a month for his expertise on the Eastern European natural gas market. It was paying to be one-degree of separation away from Hunter’s father.

This is sordid. But it’s also mundane. If influence peddling were illegal, K Street would house a sprawling penitentiary. Hunter monetizing his last name is not a noteworthy scandal. Joe Biden changing U.S. policy to aid that monetization effort would be. Thus, the key claim in the right’s narrative about the “laptop from Hell” is that Joe Biden pressured the Ukrainian government to oust its prosecutor general, so as to protect Burisma from legal scrutiny.

More details at the link. It’s a long article.

Or as Josh Marshall wrote:

 

One more maddening story from The Washington Post: Leaders Back Away From Raising Debt Ceiling, Punting Clash to New Congress.

Congressional leaders have all but abandoned the idea of acting to raise the debt ceiling this month before Democrats lose control of the House, punting the issue to a new Congress when Republicans have vowed to fight the move, and setting up a clash next year that could bring the American economy to the brink of crisis.

Reynaldo Fonseca, Nonchalant

Reynaldo Fonseca, Nonchalant

Democrats had urged party leaders to act during their lame-duck postelection session to increase the legal borrowing limit, taking advantage of their party’s final months of unified control. Doing so, they argued, would avert a potentially catastrophic conflict over the issue next year, when Republicans have threatened to block the move unless it is accompanied by substantial cuts to domestic spending and social safety net programs.

Failure to raise the statutory cap on the nation’s borrowing power — expected to be reached at some point next year — would lead to a first-ever default, creating financial chaos in the United States and the global economy.

But a lack of political urgency and a shrinking window to act before the holidays appear to have squashed the effort to address the issue this month.

In an institution where action is driven largely by legislative and political deadlines, focus instead remains on avoiding a government shutdown Dec. 16, when a stopgap spending bill lapses. Negotiators are struggling to reach agreement on a sprawling government funding package, widely viewed as the last must-pass vehicle to carry unfinished legislative priorities.

Even if lawmakers reconcile their differences over how much money to split between military spending, a Republican priority, and domestic programs like health and education that Democrats have championed, top lawmakers and aides have acknowledged that it is unlikely Congress will take up a measure raising the debt ceiling.

So we are doomed to spend the “holidays” with the knowledge that Republicans are threatening to use the debt ceiling to end Social Security and Medicare. Thanks Democrats.

What else is happening? What stories have captured your interest today?

 

8 Comments on “Lazy Caturday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Have a nice weekend!!

    • dakinikat says:

      I returned from voting on 3 very weird constitutional amendments and one public service commissioner!

      Louisiana Public Service Commission runoff offers a chance to lead the state’s renewable transition

      https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2022/12/9/2127003/-Louisiana-Public-Service-Commission-runoff-offers-a-chance-to-lead-the-state-s-renewable-transition

      A coalition of groups gathered in support of Davante Lewis on Friday as the runoff election for Louisiana Public Services Commission (LPSC) 3rd District loomed closer. Election Day is on Saturday, and Lewis would be once again facing incumbent Lambert Bossiere, who received another late boost from Entergy Louisiana. As investigative journalist Sam Karlin reports, CEO Phillip May recently praised Bossiere in a company email for his coziness to the utility and slammed Lewis over his alleged “out of state interests.” Bossiere has been in office since 2005.

      It’s worth noting Lewis is endorsed by a cadre of in-state groups, including the Sierra Club Delta Chapter, Louisiana Democrats, and Sunrise New Orleans. Bossiere, meanwhile, has benefitted greatly from Entergy Louisiana’s largesse to the tune of more than $26,000 from the company’s political action committee and Entergy leaders like Entergy Corporation CEO Leo Denault. The Energy and Policy Institute notes that Bossiere received more than 70% of his campaign donations from groups like Entergy, which the LPSC seeks to regulate. But Friday wasn’t about Bossiere, but about the people who stand to benefit from a different type of leadership for the 3rd District.

      • dakinikat says:

  2. dakinikat says:

    I’m on Post now. @Dakinikat, Dr. Kat

  3. dakinikat says:

  4. quixote says:

    I can’t believe they let the debt ceiling slide. I can’t believe they codified gay marriage and didn’t bother codifying women’s right to their own damn bodies. I can’t believe they let that rider through in the Defense Authorization (I think that’s where it was) that lets Ginni (& therefore Clarence) Thomas off the hook for corruption of the Supreme Court. And they did that while letting the Repubs get away with sneaking in antivax crap edicts for the military. I’m sure I could go on if I could remember all the things I don’t believe.

    WHAT ARE THESE PEOPLE SMOKING?

    Meanwhile I see headlines about the Saudis toadying up to the Chinese because that’s “The New World Order.”

    /*endless screaming*/