And Marie Masferrer, a board member of the Florida Association for Media in Education and a school librarian who used to work in the Manatee County system and remains in close touch with former colleagues in that district, said they have told her that students are struggling.
We can all agree that the right-wingers on the Supreme Court have created problems not only for women, but for all of American society. They seem determined to turn this country into a theocracy dominated by so-called “christians” who don’t follow Jesus’s teachings. In fact, they don’t seem interested in the New Testament at all. They prefer the fire and brimstone god of the Old Testament.
Linda Greenhouse, who reported on the Court for The New York Times for many years before leaving in 2021, has returned with an important op-ed.
The New York Times: The Latest Crusade to Place Religion Over the Rest of Civil Society.
Federal civil rights law requires employers to accommodate their employees’ religious needs unless the request would impose “undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business.” Congress didn’t bother to define “undue hardship,” so 46 years ago the Supreme Court came up with a definition of its own.
An accommodation requiring an employer “to bear more than a de minimis cost” — meaning a small or trifling cost — need not be granted, the court said in Trans World Airlines v. Hardison. In that case, an airline maintenance worker claimed a legal right to avoid Saturday shifts so he could observe the tenets of the Worldwide Church of God, which he had recently joined. Ruling for the airline, the court noted that if one worker got Saturdays off for religion reasons, the burden would fall on other workers who might have nonreligious reasons for wanting to have the weekend off.
“We will not readily construe the statute to require an employer to discriminate against some employees in order to enable others to observe their Sabbath,” the court said.
Treating religion as nothing particularly special, the decision reflected the spirit of the times but was deeply unpopular in religious circles. There have been many attempts over many years to persuade Congress to amend the law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to shift the balance explicitly in favor of religiously observant employees. Between 1994 and 2019, more than a dozen such bills were introduced. None emerged from Congress.
And so now, a very different court from the one that ruled 46 years ago is about to do the work itself.
Now the Court has agreed to hear a case that may move us further away from the separation of church and state.
The appeal was brought by a conservative Christian litigating group, First Liberty Institute, on behalf of a former postal worker, Gerald Groff, described as a Christian who regards Sunday as a day for “worship and rest.”
Mr. Groff claimed a legal right to avoid the Sunday shifts required during peak season at the post office where he worked. Facing discipline for failing to show up for his assigned shifts, he quit and filed a lawsuit. The lower courts ruled against him, with the Philadelphia-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit expressing no doubt that the disruption and loss of morale Mr. Groff’s absences caused in the small rural post office where he worked exceeded the de minimis threshold that the Supreme Court’s 1977 precedent requires an employer to demonstrate.
The decision to hear his appeal brings the Supreme Court to a juncture both predictable and remarkable. It is predictable because Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch have all called for a case that would provide a vehicle for overturning a precedent that is clearly in tension with the current court’s privileging of religious claims above all others, whether in the context of public health measures during the Covid-19 pandemic or anti-discrimination claims brought by employees of religious organizations.
The court in 1977 worried about the burden on nonreligious workers from accommodations granted to their religious colleagues. To today’s court, as Justice Alito has repeatedly expressed it, the real victims of discrimination are those who take religion seriously.
Read the rest at the NYT link.
The wingnuts on the Supreme Court have already dealt a terrible blow to women’s rights by giving “christian” evangelicals what they long dreamed of–overturning nearly 50 years of women’s rights to make their own reproductive choices. The reversal of Roe v. Wade also drove a truck through the wall of separation between church and state, since the anti-abortion movement is largely based on “christian” evangelical “values.” Ever since that decision, republicans in state legislatures have worked to make getting an abortion more difficult than ever–in some ways more difficult than before Roe.
Abigail Tracy at Vanity Fair: Republicans Are Only Getting Sneakier With Their Antiabortion Proposals.
Kansans may have resoundingly rejected an antiabortion referendum last year, by a striking double-digit margin, to ensure reproductive rights remain enshrined in the state constitution, but that wasn’t deterrence enough for the state’s Republican legislators. Nor was, apparently, the Republican Party’s relatively poor performance this past midterm cycle—one largely defined by the fall of Roe v. Wade. “I’m hearing a lot from my constituents who believe we should continue to do more to help the unborn,” Wichita state senator Chase Blasi told reporters earlier this month, proposing a law that would allow cities and counties to regulate abortions, in spite of state protections.
These first few weeks of 2023 suggest it’s not that Republican lawmakers missed the abortion memo—they simply don’t seem to care. In Washington, a newly empowered Republican House passed an antiabortion bill during its first full week in the majority. And across the country, Republican state lawmakers continue the crusade against reproductive rights, attempting to find ways to circumvent popular opinion, and even statutory protections.
“We knew all along that they weren’t going to be satisfied with overturning Roe v. Wade,” Abby Ledoux, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Action Fund, says of antiabortion lawmakers and activists in an interview with Vanity Fair. Reflecting on the slew of legislation that has been introduced in state houses across the country so far this year, Ledoux adds, “They’re not done and they’re coming for more rights.”
Since the start of the year, across 27 states, more than 105 bills that would restrict abortion have been filed or prefiled—(meaning, not all of them have been formally introduced), according to Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Many of these bills would ban abortion—some at fertilization; six bills—filed in Kansas, Missouri, New Hampshire, Texas, Wyoming, and West Virginia—would specifically target medication abortions, according to the fund; others would impose harsh criminal penalties for doctors and abortion-seekers. Of course, not all of these bills are expected to pass, but they do lay bare the ever changing legal and political landscape in post-Roe America.
It isn’t just the overt attempts at restricting abortion access that concern reproductive rights activists. But also what Ledoux refers to as “underhanded attempts” and “work-arounds” that have the potential to “subvert democracy, to thwart the will of the people, and to really rig the game” in pursuit of unpopular political agendas. For instance, in Ohio, Republican lawmakers introduced a bill that would require a supermajority threshold of 60%, as opposed to a simple majority of voters, to pass ballot measures to amend the state constitution. Similar legislation was also introduced in Arizona.
According to Axios, the Biden administration is considering fighting back with actions they previously shied away from: Biden administration mulls public health emergency declaration on abortion.
The Biden administration is weighing a plan to declare a public health emergency that would free up resources to help people access abortions.
….Both abortion rights advocates and Democratic lawmakers have urged the Department of Health and Human Services and President Biden to take such a step in response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which they say has created a “full-scale reproductive health crisis” across the U.S.
The lawmakers argued that such a move would allow the administration to help support states that protect abortion, deploy Public Health Services Corps teams and give the government “the ability to accelerate access to new medications authorized for abortion.”
….”There are discussions on a wide range of measures … that we can take to try to protect people’s rights,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra told Axios during a pair of Monday public events that touched on reproductive health access.
“There are certain criteria that you look for to be able to declare a public health emergency. That’s typically done by scientists and those that are professionals in those fields who will tell us whether we are in a state of emergency and based on that, I have the ability to make a declaration,” Becerra added, when asked about a public health emergency declaration on abortion.
He said that there hasn’t been a “full assessment” on what a declaration on abortion would look like and whether conditions merit it, but there’s still “an evaluation” on the topic.
More details at the Axios link.
Speaking of politicians trying to take away our rights, Ron DeSantis is going further than almost any other governor. He really doesn’t want school children to learn anything about LGBT issues or about the history of African Americans in the U.S.; and he’s banning so many books that the library shelves in schools are nearly empty.
This is from a guest essay at The New York Times by Janai Nelson, president and director-counsel of the Legal Defense Fund: Ron DeSantis Wants to Erase Black History. Why?
An unrelenting assault on truth and freedom of expression in the form of laws that censor and suppress the viewpoints, histories and experiences of historically marginalized groups, especially Black and L.G.B.T.Q. communities, is underway throughout the country, most clearly in Florida. The state’s Department of Education recently rejected a pilot Advanced Placement African American studies course from being offered in Florida’s public high schools.
Under Gov. Ron DeSantis’s “Stop WOKE” law — which would limit students and teachers from learning and talking about issues related to race and gender — Florida is at the forefront of a nationwide campaign to silence Black voices and erase the full and accurate history and contemporary experiences of Black people. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc., the American Civil Liberties Union, the A.C.L.U. of Florida and Ballard Spahr filed a lawsuit on behalf of university professors and a college student opposing the “Stop WOKE” law and, along with a second lawsuit, won a preliminary injunction blocking Florida’s Board of Governors from enforcing its unconstitutional and racially discriminatory provisions at public universities.
Florida’s rejection of the A.P. course and Mr. DeSantis’s demand to excise specific subject areas from the curriculum stand in stark opposition to the state-issued mandate that all students be taught “the history of African Americans, including the history of African peoples before the political conflicts that led to the development of slavery, the passage to America, the enslavement experience, abolition and the contributions of African Americans to society.” [….]
Mr. DeSantis’s “Stop WOKE” law relegates the study of the experiences of Black people to a prohibited category. The canceling of any students’ access to accurate, truthful education that reflects their diverse identities and that of their country should chill every American. Not only do these laws offend First Amendment freedoms of speech and expression; to the extent they harm certain groups on the basis of race, gender or other protected status, they also violate principles of equal protection. And they are a chilling precursor to state-sponsored dehumanization of an entire race of people.
This disturbing pattern of silencing Black voices and aggressive attempts to erase Black history are one of the most visible examples of performative white supremacy since the presidency of Donald Trump.
There’s much more at the NYT link.
On DeSantis’s book banning project:
Hannah Natanson at The Washington Post: Hide your books to avoid felony charges, Fla. schools tell teachers.
Students arrived in some Florida public school classrooms this month to find their teachers’ bookshelves wrapped in paper — or entirely barren of books — after district officials launched a review of the texts’ appropriateness under a new state law.
School officials in at least two counties, Manatee and Duval, have directed teachers this month to remove or wrap up their classroom libraries, according to records obtained by The Washington Post. The removals come in response to fresh guidance issued by the Florida Department of Education in mid-January, after the State Board of Education ruled that a law restricting the books a district may possess applies not only to schoolwide libraries but to teachers’ classroom collections, too.
House Bill 1467, which took effect as law in July, mandates that schools’ books be age-appropriate, free from pornography and “suited to student needs.” Books must be approved by a qualified school media specialist, who must undergo a state retraining on book collection. The Education Department did not publish that training until January, leaving school librarians across Florida unable to order books for more than a year.
Breaking the law is a third-degree felony, meaning that a teacher could face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine for displaying or giving students a disallowed book.
I can just imagine the kinds of people who would take one of those “media specialist” jobs and then undergo “state retraining.”
The efforts to conceal titles in Manatee and Duval have stirred outrage from educators and parents, many of whom shared images of bare wooden shelves or books veiled behind sheets of colored paper. Teachers wrote in Facebook posts and text messages that they are angry and disheartened. District officials in both counties have emphasized that the removals are temporary and will last only until staff can determine whether the titles meet the standards imposed by Florida law.
Michelle Jarrett, president of the Florida Association of Supervisors of Media, which assists school library administrators and programs statewide, said that “closing and covering up classroom libraries does nothing to ensure Florida’s students remain on track for reading success.” [….]
At one school, “the kids began crying and writing letters to the principal, saying, ‘Please don’t take my books, please don’t do this,’” Masferrer said.
If DeSantis runs for president in 2024 against Trump, we are going to witness a Republican shit show that will be far worse than 2016 and 2020. DeSantis may be pandering to the crazies, but Trump has truly gone over the edge.
Former President Donald Trump in 2018 had an infamous press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Finnish capital of Helsinki in which he signaled that believed Putin’s denials about having interfered in the 2016 election despite assessments to the contrary from American intelligence agencies.
Four-and-a-half years later, Trump is now touting his trust of Putin over American intelligence agencies as a source of pride.
In a post on his Truth Social account, the former president attacked former officials at the FBI and CIA whom he accused of trying to undermine his presidency by investigating his campaign’s multiple contacts with Russian agents during the 2016 presidential race.
“Remember in Helsinki when a 3rd rate reporter asked me, essentially, who I trusted more, President Putin of Russia, or our ‘Intelligence’ lowlifes,” he wrote. “My instinct at the time was that we had really bad people in the form of James Comey, McCabe (whose wife was being helped out by Crooked Hillary while Crooked was under investigation!), Brennan, Peter Strzok (whose wife is at the SEC) & his lover, Lisa Page. Now add McGonigal & other slime to the list. Who would you choose, Putin or these Misfits?”
I’m getting a headache just reading all this stuff. I hope I’m not giving you one too.
Last Friday, Dakinikat wrote about the New York Times article on the failure of the Barr/Durham so-called investigation of the origins of Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian influences on the 2016 Trump campaign. This is a reaction from Greg Sargent at The Washington Post: Awful new details about the Durham probe demand a serious response.
The New York Times disclosed extraordinary new revelations this past week about prosecutor John Durham’s years-long quest to delegitimize the FBI investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. In 2019, this obsession of President Donald Trump was initiated by his attorney general, William P. Barr, but as the Times found, Durham’s effort was itself profoundly tainted.
Now, because Democrats have 51 Senate seats after gaining one in the midterm elections, they have subpoena power on Senate committees that were previously divided. That means the Judiciary Committee is in a position to investigate the Barr-Durham escapades.
Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), the Judiciary Committee chair, is signaling such an intent. In an emailed statement, Durbin said that reports of Durham’s “abuses” are “outrageous,” and “one of many instances” in which Trump and Barr “weaponized the Justice Department.”
Durbin added that his committee “will do its part and take a hard look at those repeated episodes, and the regulations and policies that enabled them, to ensure such abuses of power cannot happen again.”
That’s encouraging, but how far will this investigation go? The Times report finds that Barr relentlessly pushed Durham to substantiate Trump’s theory that the Russia investigation was a conspiracy by intelligence and law enforcement against him. But Durham’s effort petered out “without uncovering anything like the deep state plot” invented by Trump and Barr.
Worse, the Times also found bizarre irregularities. Durham relied on Russian intelligence memos to access emails of an adviser to financier George Soros, in hopes of finding evidence of improper collaboration between law enforcement and the Hillary Clinton campaign. It never materialized.
That, plus Barr’s habit of publicly hinting that Durham was on the trail of major wrongdoing — unscrupulously serving Trump’s political interests — were strongly opposed internally by Durham’s top deputy, the Times reports. Similarly, Durham leaned on the department’s inspector general to change his 2019 conclusion that the Russia probe was not politically motivated.
More at the WaPo.
And speaking of corruption, George Santos has decided to recuse himself from House committees. The Washington Post: Rep. George Santos is stepping down from committees amid fabrications about his biography.
Embattled Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) told House Republicans on Tuesday that he will step down temporarily from his committee assignments amid multiple investigations into his campaign finances after he lied about key aspects of his biography.
It sounds like it wasn’t really Santos’ decision, lol. I guess McCarthy was sick and tired of the press hounding him about Santos.
That’s all I have for you today. Have a great Tuesday, everyone!
I spent Saturday night with my neighbors watching the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus for my first Carnivale parade since the one that spread Covid-19 to the city at its onset. It’s entirely based on whatever fantasy, SF movie, or book tickles your fancy. It kicks off with the Dancing Leias and the psychedelic statue of Chewbacca! The actor that played the Star Wars character– Peter Mayhew–was the king of the Parade the last time I saw this parade coming down my street. It’s huge and quite diverse now! I guess everyone wants to be in an alternative reality these days!
Once I looked at this morning’s news, I realized the Congressional Republicans are dragging us into a dystopian nightmare of political beefs and conspiracy theories. It’s hard to know where to start but let’s try this as the first read of the week.
I saw a tweet last week from Matt Schlap that the CPAC shitshow would feature Steven Bannon. I keep wondering if either of them will stay out of jail long enough to be there. Today there was this analysis from Bryan Metzger at Insider. “Republicans are mostly ignoring a $9.4 million sexual assault lawsuit against the Trump-aligned head of CPAC.” This begs the question, whose grooming who?
In just over one month, the Conservative Political Action Coalition is set to hold a large gathering of influential Republicans at its annual conference near Washington, DC.
Dozens of GOP members of Congress are likely to attend, if previous years offer any indication, and the conference’s chief organizer — American Conservative Union Chair Matt Schlapp — has already begun to roll out scheduled speakers.
That’s despite Schlapp being the subject of a $9.4 million lawsuit: a man who worked as a mid-level staffer on Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign has accused Schlapp of sexually assaulting him after a night of drinking in October, as first reported by The Daily Beast.
“I will never forget the look on Matt’s face as he did what he did,” the staffer told Insider in a recent interview, describing Schlapp’s “smug look of satisfaction” as he allegedly groped and fondled the man’s genital area at length. “That’s something that will be burned into my mind for the rest of my days.”
As with other media outlets, Insider is maintaining the anonymity of the accuser, who’s worked in Republican politics for over 10 years, in order to protect his livelihood.
The staffer’s complaint filing, a copy of which was obtained by Insider, also includes defamation and conspiracy charges that implicate Schlapp’s wife and fellow CPAC employee, Mercedes Schlapp. And it threatens to cast a shadow over what is typically a marquee event in conservative politics.
Sexual assault is a pastime of the super-religious. We’re still waiting to hear about the many complaints filed against Southern Baptists around the country, including these two from the Duck Dicks part of Louisiana.
A nearly 300-page report detailing years of sexual abuse and its cover-up within the Southern Baptist Convention from ministers was released in May.
The report, a result of a seven-month investigation by Guidepost Solutions, detailed a credible allegation of sexual assault against former SBC President Johnny Hunt one month after his term ended in 2010 and how high-ranking staff maintained a list with the names of ministers accused of sexual misconduct but did nothing about it.
SBC published a list of accused abusive ministers on May 26. The listed included Jason Cooper, former pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church in Rayville and Victor Mitchell, former pastor of Old Mount Olive Baptist Church in Oak Ridge. Both were convicted in August 2009 of indecent behavior with a juvenile and oral sexual battery.
Michael Wood, lead pastor of the First West Church, referred to the report as “heartbreaking” and “infuriating” in a prepared statement.
First West Church is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention. The church has campuses in West Monroe, Fairbanks and Calhoun, and was not named in the report.
“Seeing former senior leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention place the protection of an institution over the protection of children and the care for survivors is maddening,” Wood said in the statement. “Our hope and expectation is with heartfelt repentance, new senior leadership, and the strong resolve of the people of the SBC who are willing to do what’s right regardless of the cost, the SBC will adopt the provided recommendations for necessary change.”
The Catholic church is still dealing with the fallout of its scandal, uncovered decades ago. Wherever there is an uneven balance of power, there is sexual battery.
Then, there are the scandals we’re still dealing with from the past few years of Trump. The state of Georgia may be the first to bring him to reckoning. Some in the Republican party are hoping that it happens. This is from The Atlantic. This analysis is from McKay Coppins. It’s about how badly many Republicans want to be rid of him. “Republicans’ 2024 Magical Thinking. Lots of Republicans want Donald Trump to disappear from politics. Their main strategy is hope.” The weird thing is, why is it that all they appear to be concerned with is the “three abysmal election cycles” and not the insurrection, the major grifting, the international embarrassment, and the Russian connections?
Press them hard enough, and most Republican officials—even the ones with MAGA hats in their closets and Mar-a-Lago selfies in their Twitter avatar—will privately admit that Donald Trump has become a problem. He’s presided over three abysmal election cycles since he took office, he is more unstable than ever, and yet he returned to the campaign trail this past weekend, declaring that he is “angry” and determined to win the GOP presidential nomination again in 2024. Aside from his most blinkered loyalists, virtually everyone in the party agrees: It’s time to move on from Trump.
But ask them how they plan to do that, and the discussion quickly veers into the realm of hopeful hypotheticals. Maybe he’ll get indicted and his legal problems will overwhelm him. Maybe he’ll flame out early in the primaries, or just get bored with politics and wander away. Maybe the situation will resolve itself naturally: He’s old, after all—how many years can he have left?
This magical thinking pervaded my recent conversations with more than a dozen current and former elected GOP officials and party strategists. Faced with the prospect of another election cycle dominated by Trump and uncertain that he can actually be beaten in the primaries, many Republicans are quietly rooting for something to happen that will make him go away. And they would strongly prefer not to make it happen themselves.
“There is a desire for deus ex machina,” said one GOP consultant, who, like others I interviewed, requested anonymity to characterize private conversations taking place inside the party. “It’s like 2016 all over again, only more fatalistic.”
The scenarios Republicans find themselves fantasizing about range from the far-fetched to the morbid. In his recent book Thank You for Your Servitude, my colleague Mark Leibovich quoted a former Republican representative who bluntly summarized his party’s plan for dealing with Trump: “We’re just waiting for him to die.” As it turns out, this is not an uncommon sentiment. In my conversations with Republicans, I heard repeatedly that the least disruptive path to getting rid of Trump, grim as it sounds, might be to wait for his expiration.
Aren’t we all just waiting for him to die? The AP has an update on the possible upcoming indictments coming from Georgia.
Former President Donald Trump and his allies have been put on notice by a prosecutor, but the warning didn’t come from anyone at the Justice Department.
It was from a Georgia prosecutor who indicated she was likely to seek criminal charges soon in a two-year election subversion probe. In trying to block the release of a special grand jury’s report, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis argued in court last week that decisions in the case were “imminent” and that the report’s publication could jeopardize the rights of “future defendants.”
Though Willis, a Democrat, didn’t mention Trump by name, her comments marked the first time a prosecutor in any of several current investigations tied to the Republican former president has hinted that charges could be forthcoming. The remarks ratcheted anticipation that an investigation focused, in part, on Trump’s call with Georgia’s secretary of state could conclude before ongoing federal probes.
“I expect to see indictments in Fulton County before I see any federal indictments,” said Clark Cunningham, a Georgia State University law professor.
I want to see a photo of Trump in an orange jumpsuit that isn’t photoshopped and wishful. The Feds are taking a long time to time dissect the Insurrection. Here’s an interesting OpEd read from the New York Times. “Donald Trump Isn’t the Only One to Blame for the Capitol Riot. I’d Know.” This is written by served as senior investigative counsel for the Jan. 6 committee and worked on drafting its final report.”
As an investigative counsel for the Jan. 6 Committee’s “Red” Team, which investigated the people who planned and attended the riot, as well as the domestic extremist groups responsible for much of the violence, I tracked more than 900 individuals charged by the Department of Justice with everything from parading in the Capitol to seditious conspiracy. We interviewed roughly 30 of those defendants about their motives. What my team and I learned, and what we did not have the capacity to detail with specificity in the report, is how distrust of the political establishment led many of the rioters to believe that only revolution could save America.
It wasn’t just that they wanted to contest a supposedly stolen election as Mr. Trump called them to do, they wanted to punish the judges, members of Congress, and law enforcement agencies — the so-called political elites — who had discredited Mr. Trump’s claims. One rioter wondered why he should trust anything the F.B.I., D.O.J., or any other federal entity said about the results. The federal government had worked against everyday Americans for years, the rioters told us, favoring entrenched elites with its policies. For many defendants — both those awash in conspiracy theories, as well as some of the more reasonable Trump supporters at the Capitol that day — a stolen election was simply the logical conclusion of years of federal malfeasance.
With the legitimacy of democracy so degraded, revolution appeared logical. As Russell James Peterson, a rioter who pleaded guilty to “parading, demonstrating, or picketing” in the Capitol, said on Dec. 4, 2020, “the only way to restore balance and peace is through war. Too much trust has been lost in our great nation.” Guy Reffitt, who earned seven years in prison for leading the charge up the Capitol steps while carrying a firearm, made a similar case later that month: “The government has spent decades committing treason.” The following week, he drove 20 hours to “do what needs to be done” because there were “bad people,” “disgusting people,” in the Capitol. Oath Keepers convicted of seditious conspiracy and other crimes, like their leader Stewart Rhodes, had long believed that a corrupt group of left-wing elites were preparing to upend American freedoms and that only militias like themselves could save the Constitution. Their loss of faith in the federal government had led them to the delusion that their seditious behavior to keep Mr. Trump in power was patriotic.
Strikingly, these comments came not only from domestic violent extremists; some came from people who appeared to be ordinary Americans. Dona Sue Bissey, a grandmother and hair salon owner from Indiana, said shortly after the attack that she was “very glad” to have been a part of the insurrection; Anthony Robert Williams, a painter from Michigan, called Jan. 6 the “proudest day of my life.”
Frankly, I cross the street to avoid anyone remotely appearing to be a MAGA sort. They scare the shit out of me.
And, of course, we’re still following the Great Classified Documents heist! This is from The Daily Beast. “How the Trump Document Scandal Became a Congressional Pissing Match. “Lawmakers wanted a briefing assessing the damage of former President Donald Trump mishandling classified documents. Then politics happened.”
When classified documents were found at former President Donald Trump’s mansion in September, the chairmen of Congress’s Intelligence Committees wanted a “damage assessment” about how Trump hoarding those documents may have hindered national security. The assessment never happened. And according to two sources familiar with internal conversations, party politics is to blame.
For a variety of reasons, congressional leaders delayed what one source called a “hot potato” just long enough to turn it into a messy, partisan debacle. And in recent weeks, when improperly stored classified documents were found at the homes of President Joe Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence, what was supposed to be a secret and sober exercise in oversight quickly became a fountain of false equivalencies, according to former intelligence officials.
“Let’s do it individually, because there’s a difference,” said retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden. “Trump was lying for more than a year… but he didn’t go and talk to the archives. Biden immediately [did], and so did the vice president.”
Hayden, who led the NSA and CIA for a decade, stressed that top legislators should have been quickly looped into any potential fallout from Trump’s decision to hoard some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets.
“It’s important to know the truth. Sooner or later, they’ve got to do that,” he told The Daily Beast.
David Dayen has this to say at American Prospect. “Presidential Document Scandals Should Take Down America’s Secrecy Industry. We classify way too many documents. Unfortunately, that will probably not be the takeaway from recent events.”
Somewhere in Plains, Georgia, an aide or 98-year-old Jimmy Carter himself is rifling through old boxes, searching for any document from the late 1970s marked “classified.” I’m not sure what threats there are to the Republic from high-level information about Rhodesia or the Warsaw Pact slowly decomposing in a filing cabinet, but the National Archives is on the case, directing former presidents and vice presidents to scour their properties for any official secrets. (Carter has found classified documents “on at least one occasion” and returned them quietly to the Archives, according to the Associated Press.)
America has a problem with classified information. But this problem isn’t the one you’ve been hearing about for the past few weeks, with the revelations of President Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence turning up documents improperly stored in their homes and offices. It’s also different from the problem of Donald Trump hoarding classified information at Mar-a-Lago—though the circumstances of Trump asserting the right to take the documents and obstructing the efforts of the Archives to take them back make what he did qualitatively different, and far worse.
No, the problem with classified information is that there’s so much of it, so much useless, meritless, groundless classified information. Tens of millions of pieces of paper are so labeled, millions of people can see them, and yet the vast majority of such material would not remotely endanger the nation if it entered the wrong hands. In fact, much of it is just plain embarrassing to the government, or worse, a cover-up of illegal acts.
I’ll end with this from the Washington Post. A serious discussion of Critical Race theory is basically on the front page. Good for the country! ” Black Memphis police spark dialogue on systemic racism in the U.S.”
For the mother of Tyre Nichols, the fact that five Memphis police officers charged with beating her son are also Black has compounded her sorrow as she tries to cope with his violent death at age 29.
“It makes it even harder to swallow,” RowVaughn Wells said in an interview last week, “because they are Black and they know what we have to go through.”
The race of the five officers charged in the Nichols killing has prompted a complex grappling among Black activists and advocates for police reform about the pervasiveness of institutional racism in policing. Nichols died three days after he was pulled out of his car Jan. 7, kicked, punched and struck with a baton on a quiet neighborhood street by Black officers, whose aggressive assault was captured on body-camera videos released Friday.
The widely viewed videos of the Nichols beating provided fodder for right-wing media ecosystems that routinely blame Black America’s maladies on Black America, and spawned nuanced conversations among Black activists about how systemic racism can manifest in the actions of non-White people.
The Memphis Police Department, which has nearly 2,000 officers, is 58 percent Black, the result of a decades-long effort to field a police force that resembles the city’s 64 percent Black population. Unlike in several recent high-profile police brutality cases, Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis, who is Black, and other officials acted swiftly in firing, arresting and charging the Memphis officers in advance of the release of video footage.
Though some studies have shown that police officers of color use force less frequently against Black civilians than their White counterparts, analysts say the improvement is marginal.
“Diversifying law enforcement is certainly not going to solve this problem,” said Samuel Sinyangwe, president of Mapping Police Violence.
He pointed to many factors in the policing system that lead to a disproportionate response against people of color: directives to work in neighborhoods where more people of color live and a system that relies on the discretion of the officer to enforce things like traffic stops, opening the door for internal biases to play a role.
Watching that video was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. In some ways, watching a parade of my neighbors dressed up, playing make-believe, enjoying the entire experience with their kids, and seeing smiles everywhere seemed more real than the dystopian headlines of today’s Monday Reads. Don’t even get me started on the Republican-imposed Debt Crisis.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Cartoons are from the Cagle website:
Have a safe day, this is an open thread.
Last night the Memphis Police released video of the brutal beating of Tyre Nichols–a young man who weighed 140 pounds–by five police officers after a routine traffic stop. It is horrific and inexplicable. At one point one of the officers lifted Nichols’ limp body up so the others could more easily punch and kick him. Nichols never got any explanation of why he had been stopped. Toward the end of the beating he called out for his mother.
The New York Times provides a brief analysis the video in a series of live updates of the coverage: Video Captures Brutal Beating of Tyre Nichols.
America was shocked anew on Friday by a display of police violence caught on video, as Memphis released body camera and surveillance footage of police officers kicking and punching a 29-year-old Black man who later died. The man, Tyre Nichols, ran after being pepper sprayed by officers, but shows no signs of fighting back as the police beat him with a baton. “To me, that’s worse than Rodney King,” said Ed Obayashi, a police training expert and use-of-force expert, after watching the video.
Here are the details:
A New York Times analysis of the video footage found that police officers deployed an escalating spiral of physical force and gave conflicting orders, repeatedly demanding that Mr. Nichols show his hands, even as other officers held his arms behind his back while another punched him. After officers pepper sprayed and beat Mr. Nichols, they left him sitting on the ground unattended and handcuffed, and once the medics were on the scene, they stood by for more than 16 minutes without administering treatment.
- Mr. Nichols, who was pulled out of his car by officers, can be heard saying, “I’m just trying to go home,” and at one point repeatedly screams, “Mom, Mom, Mom” as he is clubbed. Lawyers have said that his mother’s home was about 100 yards away from where he was beaten. Here is what we know about Mr. Nichols.
Five Memphis police officers accused of causing Mr. Nichols’s death — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith — were fired last week and charged on Thursday with murder and other crimes. The officers, who are all Black, posted bail on Friday and were released from jail. Here are the charges they face.
The sheriff of Shelby County, which includes Memphis, said that two of his deputies who were on the scene after the beating had been “relieved of duty” on Friday night, pending an investigation, after he watched the video. Earlier this week, the Memphis Fire Department said two of its employees had been relieved of duty pending an internal investigation.
The Times also created A Timeline of Tyre Nichols’s Lethal Police Encounter. Read it at the link.
Also from The New York Times live update page, an analysis by experts on police violence: ‘The definition of excessive force’: Policing experts assess the beating of Tyre Nichols.
Experts in police training who reviewed videos released on Friday of the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols in Memphis said they believed there was no justification for the actions of the police officers involved, who have been charged with crimes including second-degree murder in his death….
“In my career, I’ve never seen — I mean, you see it in the movies — but I’ve never seen an individual deliberately being propped up to be beaten,” said Ed Obayashi, a police training expert and lawyer who conducts use-of-force investigations for state law enforcement across the country.
“To me, that’s worse than Rodney King,” added Mr. Obayashi, who is also a deputy sheriff and policy adviser in the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office in California.
In police training, it is emphasized repeatedly to officers that they need to be aware of their physical surroundings, Mr. Obayashi said, but the same stress should be placed on awareness of their own emotions. If officers’ tempers run high, he said, they are bound to make mistakes.
In the Nichols confrontation, it is possible the officers felt disrespected when their directions weren’t followed, he said.
“This appears to be a case of classic contempt of cop,” he said, “for them to catch up with him later and then exact their revenge on the poor individual.”
Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, an organization of current and former law enforcement officials that studies the improvement of policing, said the officers’ behavior also fell short in other ways….
The beating is “the definition of excessive force,” Mr. Wexler said. In his view, Mr. Nichols did not present a danger that matched the force the officers used, beyond appearing to not want to be arrested.
Even when Mr. Nichols was lying on the ground, none of the officers attempted to help him, which Mr. Wexler said was a violation of their duty to render aid.
“This person was not treated as a human being,” he said.
Who was Tyre Nichols? This is from the AP via ABC7 in Los Angeles: Tyre Nichols was NorCal native with ‘beautiful soul’ and creative eye. He was born in Sacramento and had a website dedicated to his photography.
On most weekends, Tyre Nichols would head to the city park, train his camera on the sky and wait for the sun to set.
“Photography helps me look at the world in a more creative way. It expresses me in ways I cannot write down for people,” he wrote on his website. He preferred landscapes and loved the glow of sunsets most, his family has said.
“My vision is to bring my viewers deep into what I am seeing through my eye and out through my lens,” Nichols wrote. “People have a story to tell, why not capture it.”
Nichols, a 29-year-old father, was on his way home from taking pictures of the sky on Jan. 7, when police pulled him over. He was just a few minutes from the home he shared with his mother and stepfather, when he was brutally attacked by five Memphis police officers…
He was the baby of their family, born 12 years after his closest siblings. He had a 4-year-old son and worked hard to better himself as a father, his family said. He was an avid skateboarder from Sacramento, California, and came to Memphis just before the coronavirus pandemic and got stuck. But he was fine with it because he was with his mother, and they were incredibly close, Wells said. He had her name tattooed on his arm.
Friends at a memorial service this week described him as joyful and lovable.
“This man walked into a room, and everyone loved him,” said Angelina Paxton, a friend who traveled to Memphis from California for the service.
There’s more at that link about Nichols’ life in Sacramento. Here is Nichols’ photography website. Read more about Nichols:
The New York Times: From Sacramento to Memphis, Tyre Nichols Cut His Own Path.
In other news, we are getting more information about the case of former top FBI agent Charles McGonigle, who has been charged with secretly taking money to help Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska evade sanctions and from an Albanian intelligence operative and former FBI informant.
It appears that McGonigle was turned in by former girlfriend. Here’s a Daily Beast summary of a long Insider article about it. The Daily Beast: Enraged Ex-Lover Tipped Off FBI to Top Official Accused of Helping Russia.
The angry ex-lover of the FBI’s former New York counterintelligence chief claims she tipped the feds off to some of his misdeeds before his arrest last week. Charles McGonigal, who was part of the FBI probe of the Trump campaign’s Russia ties, has been charged with money laundering, lying to the FBI, and taking money to help a sanctioned Russian oligarch, among others. In an interview with Insider, Allison Guerriero said she dated McGonigal for a year, unaware he was married. He spent far more lavishly than an FBI salary would typically allow, she recalled, and she once found a bag of cash in his apartment. But after their fling ended, he revealed he was married and had no plans to leave his wife. She said she was so angry that, after a bout of drinking, she emailed his boss to disclose the affair as well as extensive dealings she’d noticed McGonigal had in Albania. It’s unclear what came of the email but the feds turned up on her doorstep three years later to ask her about McGonigal and some of her allegations regarding Albania appeared in last week’s indictment.
Here’s the story at The Insider: Exclusive: Inside the extramarital affair and cash-fueled double life of Charles McGonigal, the FBI spy hunter charged with taking Russian money. Here’s the introductory section:
One morning in October 2017, Allison Guerriero noticed something unusual on the floor of her boyfriend’s Park Slope, Brooklyn, apartment: a bag full of cash. There it was, lying next to his shoes, near the futon, the kind of bag that liquor stores give out. Inside were bundles of bills, big denominations bound up with rubber bands. It didn’t seem like something he should be carrying around. After all, her boyfriend, Charles F. McGonigal, held one of the most senior and sensitive positions in the FBI.
“Where the fuck is this from?” she asked.
“Oh, you remember that baseball game?” McGonigal replied, according to Guerriero’s recollection. “I made a bet and won.”
McGonigal had two high-school-age children and a wife — or “ex-wife” as he sometimes referred to her — back at home in Chevy Chase, Maryland. He would return there once or twice a month. But McGonigal had led Guerriero to believe that he was either divorced or soon would be. She didn’t question his story, nor did she question the story about the bag full of cash.
A few days before, Guerriero had sat on the couch with McGonigal in the one-room garden sublet to watch McGonigal’s Cleveland Indians beat the Yankees. Much later — after Guerriero’s cancer diagnosis, their breakup, and McGonigal’s retirement from the FBI — McGonigal would be indicted on suspicion of, among other things, accepting $225,000 in cash from a former employee of Albania’s intelligence agency. That total includes one $80,000 chunk that was allegedly handed over in a parked car, outside a restaurant, on October 5, 2017. October 5 and 6 also happened to be the days when the Indians beat the Yankees in the first two games of the American League Division Series. Today, Guerriero no longer believes the bag of cash contained winnings from a sports bet.
Read the rest at the Insider link.
This is a scoop from Josh Kovensky at Talking Points Memo: Albanian Firm Ties Indicted Former FBI Official To Yet Another Disgraced Former Agent.
Indicted former top FBI official Charles McGonigal is a partner in an Albanian firm along with another disgraced former FBI agent, records obtained by TPM show.
An Albanian corporate filing ties McGonigal to Mark Rossini, a flamboyant figure who left the FBI amid scandalous 2008 charges and who currently faces separate bribery-related charges in an August 2022 federal indictment in Puerto Rico.
The previously unreported business connection links McGonigal to another former agent with a similar profile: a high-flier at the bureau with experience in counterterrorism and counterintelligence, and one who appears to have engaged in business with an eyebrow-raising array of foreign clients after leaving federal law enforcement.
The nature of the Albanian company — called Lawoffice & Investigation — remains unclear. Why and how McGonigal apparently got involved with the firm, and how he may have met Rossini, are also unknown.
Albanian journalists have published a series of articles since September 2022 highlighting McGonigal’s presence at the company, which they tie to the country’s oil industry.
Prosecutors accused McGonigal this week in separate federal indictments in D.C. and Manhattan of concealing cash he received from a former Albanian intelligence employee totaling $225,000, and of evading sanctions for work he performed for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a paymaster of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.
But the Albanian corporate document connects McGonigal to the murky world that led Rossini to not just one, but two run-ins with federal law enforcement. Federal prosecutors charged Rossini in August 2022 over his alleged involvement in a bribery scheme involving the former governor of Puerto Rico. That came 14 years after Rossini’s first scandal, which involved actress Linda Fiorentino and notorious Hollywood fixer Anthony Pellicano, and quickly became tabloid fodder.
“It just violates the basic precepts of why you sign up to take these kinds of jobs, or your focus on the mission and serving the U.S. government and the American public,” Javed Ali, a retired FBI senior analyst and former senior counterterrorism director at the National Security Council, told TPM of the allegations. “These are the kind of things that, at a really idealistic level, should be motivating you to do the work. … But what we’re seeing is one of the worst case examples of someone abusing their position and trying to leverage it for a different purpose.”
More at the linnk.
And of course there is news about scam artist and Republican Congressman George Santos, if that is in fact his name. Here’s the latest:
Noah Lanard and David Corn at Mother Jones: We Tried to Call the Top Donors To George Santos’ 2020 Campaign. Many Don’t Seem To Exist.
In September 2020, George Santos’ congressional campaign reported that Victoria and Jonathan Regor had each contributed $2,800—the maximum amount—to his first bid for a House seat. Their listed address was 45 New Mexico Street in Jackson Township, New Jersey.
A search of various databases reveals no one in the United States named Victoria or Jonathan Regor. Moreover, there is nobody by any name living at 45 New Mexico Street in Jackson. That address doesn’t exist. There is a New Mexico Street in Jackson, but the numbers end in the 20s, according to Google Maps and a resident of the street.
Santos’ 2020 campaign finance reports also list a donor named Stephen Berger as a $2,500 donor and said he was a retiree who lived on Brandt Road in Brawley, California. But a spokesperson for William Brandt, a prominent rancher and Republican donor, tells Mother Jones that Brandt has lived at that address for at least 20 years and “neither he or his wife (the only other occupant [at the Brandt Road home]) have made any donations to George Santos. He does not know Stephen Berger nor has Stephen Berger ever lived at…Brandt Road.”
The Regor and Berger contributions are among more than a dozen major donations to the 2020 Santos campaign for which the name or the address of the donor cannot be confirmed, a Mother Jones investigation found. A separate $2,800 donation was attributed in Santos’ reports filed with the Federal Election Commission to a friend of Santos who says he did not give the money.
Under federal campaign finance law, it is illegal to donate money using a false name or the name of someone else. “It’s called a contribution in the name of another,” says Saurav Ghosh, the director for federal campaign finance reform at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan watchdog group. “It’s something that is explicitly prohibited under federal law.”
These questionable donations, which account for more than $30,000 of the $338,000 the Santos campaign raised from individual donors in 2020, have not been previously cited in media reports. Mother Jones identified them by contacting (or trying to contact) dozens of the most generous donors to Santos’ 2020 campaign, which he ended up losing by 12 points.
There’s much more at the Mother Jones link.
It looks like Santos may be facing a criminal investigation by the DOJ. The Washington Post: Justice Department asks FEC to stand down as prosecutors probe Santos.
The Justice Department has asked the Federal Election Commission to hold off on any enforcement action against George Santos, the Republican congressman from New York who lied about key aspects of his biography, as prosecutors conduct a parallel criminal probe, according to two people familiar with the request.
Good Day Sky Dancers!
There’s one thing to say about the current Republican party that has so identified with Trump’s mash-up of severe personality disorders. It’s this. If they’re investigating something, it’s bound to be a projection of what they’ve been up to. House Republicans are gearing up a House Select Panel targeting “DOJ and FBI and their ‘ongoing criminal ‘investigations.’ One of the most disgusting things about this panel is that consideration is being given to Republican Representative Scott Perry, who is currently a target of a criminal investigation. This committee will be rife with the craziest of the crazy Freedom Party members and was probably one of the concessions Kevin McCarthy gave to get his very limp and floppy Speaker’s Gavel.
This comes precisely as we learn more about the Barr Department of Justice and the Russian Inquiry and the role of the FBI Agent that was a Russian Asset in the investigation into Trump’s Russian ties. We’ve already heard all the fishy business surrounding the Secret Service and the destruction of evidence during the Trump self-coup. All that stink you smell are fishes rotting at the head.
This astounding piece at the New York Times was covered extensively on the news last night. “How Barr’s Quest to Find Flaws in the Russia Inquiry Unraveled.” The review by John Durham at one point veered into a criminal investigation related to Donald Trump himself, even as it failed to find wrongdoing in the origins of the Russia inquiry.” The byline is shared by Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman, and Katie Benner. It’s a story of how John Durham fell down the Trump Rabbit hole only to find the rabbit was Barr, who took him on a visit to an Italian Wonderland where the only whiff of a crime was a financial one committed by Trump himself. It has become the giant nothing burger prepared since the Benghazi Committee and the Clinton Email debacle. This was another one of those projections of Trump’s bad-faith dealings onto Hillary Clinton and the people around her.
You may remember it led to the indictment and trial of two people at the bottom of the ladder that was quickly dismissed. The once esteemed Durham’s career is now one of those dead things killed by Trump.
But after almost four years — far longer than the Russia investigation itself — Mr. Durham’s work is coming to an end without uncovering anything like the deep state plot alleged by Mr. Trump and suspected by Mr. Barr.
Moreover, a monthslong review by The New York Times found that the main thrust of the Durham inquiry was marked by some of the very same flaws — including a strained justification for opening it and its role in fueling partisan conspiracy theories that would never be charged in court — that Trump allies claim characterized the Russia investigation.
The Times investigation uncovered these things about the Barr-Durham collaboration to appease Trump on the charges he colluded with Russia. Which, of course, he did. There was also a leak of the criminal investigation, which set the Fox News propaganda channel on fire. No mention was made that it was Trump who was the target of the investigation.
Interviews by The Times with more than a dozen current and former officials have revealed an array of previously unreported episodes that show how the Durham inquiry became roiled by internal dissent and ethical disputes as it went unsuccessfully down one path after another even as Mr. Trump and Mr. Barr promoted a misleading narrative of its progress.
Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham never disclosed that their inquiry expanded in the fall of 2019, based on a tip from Italian officials, to include a criminal investigation into suspicious financial dealings related to Mr. Trump. The specifics of the tip and how they handled the investigation remain unclear, but Mr. Durham brought no charges over it.
Mr. Durham used Russian intelligence memos — suspected by other U.S. officials of containing disinformation — to gain access to emails of an aide to George Soros, the financier and philanthropist who is a favorite target of the American right and Russian state media. Mr. Durham used grand jury powers to keep pursuing the emails even after a judge twice rejected his request for access to them. The emails yielded no evidence that Mr. Durham has cited in any case he pursued.
There were deeper internal fractures on the Durham team than previously known. The publicly unexplained resignation in 2020 of his No. 2 and longtime aide, Nora R. Dannehy, was the culmination of a series of disputes between them over prosecutorial ethics. A year later, two more prosecutors strongly objected to plans to indict a lawyer with ties to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign based on evidence they warned was too flimsy, and one left the team in protest of Mr. Durham’s decision to proceed anyway. (A jury swiftly acquitted the lawyer.)
Now, as Mr. Durham works on a final report, the interviews by The Times provide new details of how he and Mr. Barr sought to recast the scrutiny of the 2016 Trump campaign’s myriad if murky links to Russia as unjustified and itself a crime.
Steve Benen of MSNBC writes, “Details expose Barr’s Durham probe as a law enforcement scandal. John Durham’s probe set out to uncover a scandal. New details help prove that Bill Barr’s partisan investigation actually became a scandal.”
The original investigation into Trump’s Russia scandal, led by then-special counsel Robert Mueller, led to a series of striking findings: The former president’s political operation in 2016 sought, embraced, capitalized on, and lied about Russian assistance — and then took steps to obstruct the investigation into the foreign interference.
The Trump White House wasn’t pleased with the conclusions, but the Justice Department’s inspector general conducted a lengthy probe of the Mueller investigation, and not surprisingly, the IG’s office found nothing improper.
This, of course, only outraged Trump further, so Barr directed Durham, a federal prosecutor to conduct his own investigation into the investigation. That was more than three years ago.
At this point, Durham’s investigation into the Russia scandal investigation has lasted longer than Mueller’s original probe of the Russia scandal. Indeed, as of this morning, is still ongoing.
On the surface, what matters most is the conclusion: Barr told Durham to prove that the investigation into the Russia scandal was an outrageous abuse. We now know that this aspect of the endeavor was a spectacular failure: Durham apparently found no such evidence, and his prosecutorial efforts were an embarrassing debacle.
In other words, Trump is still the source of each “Crime of the Century”, not Hillary Clinton. Details from the Times investigation continue to stun.
But just below the surface, the details uncovered by the Times paint an even uglier portrait. Instead of allowing the U.S. attorney to conduct an independent probe, Barr effectively oversaw the details of Durham’s probe, as the two met in the attorney general’s office “for at times weekly updates and consultations about his day-to-day work.”
The same article uncovered a series of related and dramatic revelations — too many to reference here — including Durham pressuring the Justice Department’s inspector general, Barr pressuring Durham to release an anti-Clinton memo ahead of Election Day, and internal dissent among members of Durham’s team about the integrity of the investigation, including the resignation of the prosecutor’s top aide.
There was also this amazing tidbit of information:
Mr. Durham used Russian intelligence memos — suspected by other U.S. officials of containing disinformation — to gain access to emails of an aide to George Soros, the financier and philanthropist who is a favorite target of the American right and Russian state media. Mr. Durham used grand jury powers to keep pursuing the emails even after a judge twice rejected his request for access to them. The emails yielded no evidence that Mr. Durham has cited in any case he pursued.
The Times also noted that Durham was ultimately forced to investigate suspected criminal wrongdoing from Trump — a detail that was hidden from the public — which we’ll explore in more detail a little later this morning.
But reading this amazing reporting, I found myself thinking, not of Main Justice, but of Capitol Hill. Among the first priorities of the new House Republican majority was the creation of a special committee that would investigate the political “weaponization” of the federal government.
I’m sure the Republican clown show will continue with their crazy conspiracy theories and not the real thing. Then, there’s the FBI agent that took money from Oleg Deripaska. This is the same Russian oligarch connected with Paul Manafort. This is from Insider. “Exclusive: Inside the extramarital affair and cash-fueled double life of Charles McGonigal, the FBI spy hunter charged with taking Russian money”. Mattathias Schwartz has the byline.
Federal prosecutors charged McGonigal with money laundering and making false statements in his mandatory employee disclosures to the FBI. He was also charged with taking money from a representative of Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who McGonigal had once himself investigated, in violation of US economic sanctions against Russia; the indictment alleges that Deripaska paid him to investigate a rival oligarch. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
McGonigal was not an ordinary FBI agent. He led the WikiLeaks investigation into Chelsea Manning as well as a search for a Chinese mole inside the CIA. While working at FBI headquarters in Washington, he played a role in opening the investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russia contacts that was later dubbed Operation Crossfire Hurricane.
But it was McGonigal’s final FBI job, special agent in charge of the counterintelligence division at the FBI’s New York field office, that was his most important assignment at the bureau. It was his job to find enemy spies and recruit his own.
“New York City is a global center for espionage and counterespionage,” says one senior law-enforcement insider who was closely familiar with the specifics of McGonigal’s role. “You have visits from foreign business elites and politicians. You have the United Nations. You have ethnic populations. Who runs the pitches to recruit spies from all those other countries? The FBI. So the access you get in that job is extraordinary. It’s almost bottomless. So if you’re running FBI counterintelligence in New York, you can get your hands on almost anything you want, and you don’t always have to make excuses for why you’re asking for it.”
The impact of the McGonigal indictments is still rippling out through the law-enforcement world. The charges accuse an official at the heart of the Trump-Russia investigation of secretly selling his own access, accepting bundles of cash in surreptitious meetings with someone who had ties to Albanian intelligence. McGonigal, a top-tier member of the city’s law-enforcement community, a man who had fully integrated himself into a powerful circle of trust where favors get swapped and sensitive intelligence gets circulated, is accused of himself being on the take. If the indictments are correct, McGonigal was leading a dangerous double life, right under the noses of some of the sharpest cops in America.
But what might be most striking about the case against McGonigal is how cheaply he is alleged to have rented out his law-enforcement powers. One indictment suggests that for $225,000, McGonigal’s associates got him to lobby the Albanian prime minister about the awarding of oil-field drilling licenses and then open an FBI investigation connected to a US citizen who had lobbied for one of the prime minister’s political opponents. Arranging a meeting for an executive from a Bosnian pharmaceutical company with a US official at the United Nations was said to be a pricier item — $500,000, one indictment claims. It is unclear whether that money ever materialized.
You can read more at the link. And of course, the fall out from the Secret Service and the Trump Supporters in their ranks continues to gather headlines. This is from a month ago. “Joe Biden Reportedly Struggled to ‘Trust’ Some of His Secret Service Detail Who Were Donald Trump Supporters.”
A new book, The Fight of His Life: Inside Joe Biden’s White House by Chris Whipple, is alleging that Joe Biden has “trust” issues with several members of his security detail. “A bigger problem was Biden’s discomfort with his Secret Service detail; some of them were MAGA sympathizers. He didn’t trust them,” Whipple wrote in an excerpt obtained by The Hill.
Joe Biden was used to a smaller group of Secret Service agents when he was vice president under Barack Obama’s administration and suddenly felt like he was surrounded by people on the Trump train, according to Whipple. The feeling was that “the Secret Service is full of white ex-cops from the South who tend to be deeply conservative.” The author wrote, “Surrounded by a new phalanx of strangers, Biden couldn’t help but wonder, Do these people really want me here?”
I can only imagine what the next few years will be like. This is especially true now that Trump has been let back on to major Social Media Sites. I’ll be really surprised if CSPAN doesn’t have trouble getting the righ access to these hearings too. Welcome to Surreal Dystopia Story Time. I’ll take Drag queens any time over Fish Tales.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?