Sunday Sum Up: Quo Vadis?

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

It’s Persian New Year!  Yesterday was National Puppy Day!  I’ve been looking at all kinds of things to find some distractions but I still fell empty and wanting from my nearly 2 year relationship with Robert Mueller.  I can’t help asking what does this break up mean?  Is it really over?  Where do we go from here?

I appear not to be alone in my search for clues and answers.  So, here it is … the morning list of reads of what’s next  or entering the next phase of throwing the entire Trump/Kushner family syndicate in jail and out of the White House.

 

!Oh, and this:

Plus, mmm this:

Continuing on ..

and, for your consideration …

Well, go read and get back to me …

JJ should be back this week.   And, this is an open thread, no, really it is …

Meanwhile, here are some puppies to celebrate National Puppy Day a day late!!!

And read all about Nowruz (Persian New Year) here.

 

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Lazy Caturday Reads: The Mueller Report So Far

A Girl with a Cat – Robert Braithwaite Martineau, 1860 British painter 1826-1869

Good Afternoon!!

I don’t know what to think this morning. I’m still suspicious that AG Bill Barr may have ended the Mueller investigation prematurely. I guess we’ll learn more over the weekend. Reportedly, Barr is in his office today and CNN says we could get an update sometime today.

I’m reserving judgment for now, but I can help but be disappointed that Mueller didn’t charge anyone in Trump’s inner circle. Of course there are still multiple other investigations going on, but it looks like the Russia probe will now have be pursued in the House committees.

Some media reactions to check out:

Natasha Bertrand: What Mueller Leaves Behind.

After one year, 10 months, and six days, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has submitted his final report to the attorney general, signaling the end of his investigation into a potential conspiracy between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Mueller’s pace has been breakneck, legal experts tell me—especially for a complicated criminal investigation that involves foreign nationals and the Kremlin, an adversarial government. The next-shortest special-counsel inquiry was the three-and-a-half-year investigation of the Plame affair, under President George W. Bush; the longest looked into the Iran-Contra scandal, under President Ronald Reagan, which lasted nearly seven years. Still, former FBI agents have expressed surprise that Mueller ended his probe without ever personally interviewing its central target: Donald Trump.

The content of the special counsel’s report is still unknown—Mueller delivered it to Attorney General William Barr on Friday, and now it’s up to Barr to write his own summary of the findings, which will then go to Congress.

While aspects of the central pieces of Mueller’s investigation—conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and kompromat, the Russians’ practice of collecting damaging information about public figures to blackmail them with—have been revealed publicly through indictments and press-friendly witnesses, the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency, and Mueller’s own legacy, still hang in the balance. Did Trump’s campaign knowingly work with Russia to undermine Hillary Clinton and win the election? And how much was Mueller actually able to uncover?

Bertrand breaks down the knowns and unknowns in each of the three categories above. Read it all at The Atlantic.

Arsen Kurbanov, man and cat

Marcy Wheeler at Emptywheel: After Mueller: An Off-Ramp on Russia for the Venal Fucks.

We don’t know what the Mueller report says, though given William Barr’s promise to brief the Judiciary Committee leaders this weekend and follow it with a public summary, it’s not likely to be that damning to Trump. But I can think of five mutually non-exclusive possibilities for the report:

  • Mueller ultimately found there was little fire behind the considerable amounts of smoke generated by Trump’s paranoia
  • The report will be very damning — showing a great deal of corruption — which nevertheless doesn’t amount to criminal behavior
  • Evidence that Manafort and Stone conspired with Russia to affect the election, but Mueller decided not to prosecute conspiracy itself because they’re both on the hook for the same prison sentence a conspiracy would net anyway, with far less evidentiary exposure
  • There’s evidence that others entered into a conspiracy with Russia to affect the election, but that couldn’t be charged because of evidentiary reasons that include classification concerns and presidential prerogatives over foreign policy, pardons, and firing employees
  • Mueller found strong evidence of a conspiracy with Russia, but Corsi, Manafort, and Stone’s lies (and Trump’s limited cooperation) prevented charging it

As many people have pointed out, this doesn’t mean Trump and his kin are out of jeopardy. This NYT piecesummarizes a breathtaking number of known investigations, spanning at least four US Attorneys offices plus New York state, but I believe even it is not comprehensive.

Read the rest at the link.

The New York Times: As Mueller Report Lands, Prosecutorial Focus Moves to New York.

Even as the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, submitted his confidential report to the Justice Department on Friday, federal and state prosecutors are pursuing about a dozen other investigations that largely grew out of his work, all but ensuring that a legal threat will continue to loom over the Trump presidency.

By Francsco Ubertini

Most of the investigations focus on President Trump or his family business or a cadre of his advisers and associates, according to court records and interviews with people briefed on the investigations. They are being conducted by officials from Los Angeles to Brooklyn, with about half of them being run by the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan.

Unlike Mr. Mueller, whose mandate was largely focused on any links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, the federal prosecutors in Manhattan take an expansive view of their jurisdiction. That authority has enabled them, along with F.B.I. agents, to scrutinize a broader orbit around the president, including his family business….

At this point, it is unclear whether anyone will be charged with a crime. Some of the investigations involve allegations that may be too old to be prosecuted. Yet taken together, the investigations show that the prosecutorial center of gravity has shifted from Mr. Mueller’s office in Washington to New York.

“The important thing to remember is that almost everything Donald Trump did was in the Southern District of New York,” said John S. Martin Jr., a retired federal judge who was the United States attorney in the Southern District during the Carter and Reagan administrations.

“He ran his business in the Southern District. He ran his campaign from the Southern District,” Judge Martin said. “He came home to New York every night.”

Newsweek: Robert Mueller’s Report is “Just the Beginning” of Donald Trump’s Legal Troubles, Experts Say.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has finally completed his nearly two-year investigation into Russian election interference, handing off his highly anticipated report to the attorney general on Friday. But legal experts warn that even though Mueller’s probe has stopped, there are still plenty more legal woes facing President Donald Trump.

Federico Andreotti (1847-1930, Italian) – The Great Cat

“The Mueller investigation is but a fraction of the president’s troubles. If anything, it’s just the beginning,” Bradley Moss, a national security lawyer and former federal prosecutor, told Newsweek….

“I think that [the Mueller report] certainly is not the end-all, be-all for legal problems and ethics problems for the president,” Noah Bookbinder, executive director at the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told Newsweek.

“There’s just a lot of really problematic conduct that is being investigated, and that’s not to say that what special counsel Mueller found is not going to be incredibly important…but there’s some danger to looking at whatever he produces as the definitive statement on whether or not this president did anything wrong,” he said.

Bookbinder added that Mueller has a “very narrow mandate” as the special counsel, but “there’s a whole lot more out there.”

Read more at Newsweek.

The Washington Post: At the center of Mueller’s inquiry, a campaign that appeared to welcome Russia’s help.

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has concluded his investigation without charging any Americans with conspiring with Russia to interfere in the 2016 campaign and help elect Donald Trump.

But hundreds of pages of legal filings and independent reporting since Mueller was appointed nearly two years ago have painted a striking portrayal of a presidential campaign that appeared untroubled by a foreign adversary’s attack on the U.S. political system — and eager to accept the help.

When Trump’s eldest son was offered dirt about Hillary Clinton that he was told was part of a Russian government effort to help his father, he responded, “I love it.”

Hans Asper (1499-1571) – Portrait of Cleophea Holzhalb, 1538

When longtime Trump friend Roger Stone was told a Russian national wanted to sell damaging information about Clinton, he took the meeting.

When the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks published documents that the Democratic National Committee said had been stolen by Russian operatives, Trump’s campaign quickly used the information to its advantage. Rather than condemn the Kremlin, Trump famously asked Russia to steal more.

Even after taking office, Trump has been hesitant to condemn Russia’s actions, instead calling the investigation a “witch hunt” and denouncing the work of federal investigators seeking to understand a Russian attack on the country he leads.

Neal Kumar Kaytal: I wrote the special counsel rules. The attorney general can — and should — release the Mueller report.

The public has every right to see Robert S. Mueller III’s conclusions. Absolutely nothing in the law or the regulations prevents the report from becoming public. Indeed, the relevant sources of law give Attorney General P. William Barr all the latitude in the world to make it public.

Those regulations, which I had the privilege of drafting in 1998 and 1999 as a young Justice Department lawyer, require three types of reports. First, the special counsel must give the attorney general “Urgent Reports” during the course of an investigation regarding things such as proposed indictments. Second, the special counsel must provide a report to the attorney general at the end of the investigation, which Mueller delivered on Friday. And third, the attorney general must furnish Congress with a report containing “an explanation for each action … upon conclusion of the Special Counsel’s investigation.”

Nikolai K Bodarevski (Rusia, 1850-1921). La petite fille au chat.

The regulations anticipated there would be differences among these three. Generally speaking, the final report the special counsel gives to the attorney general would be “confidential,” and the report the attorney general gives to Congress would be “brief.” We wanted to avoid another Starr report — a lurid document going unnecessarily into detail about someone’s intimate conduct and the like. A subject of such a report would have no mechanism to rebut those allegations or get his or her privacy back.

But the mentions of “brief” and “confidential” in the regulations and accompanying commentary were just general guidelines for each type of report. The text of the regulations never required the attorney general’s report to Congress to be short or nonpublic. Rather, that text expressly included a key provision saying the “Attorney General may determine that public release of these reports would be in the public interest,” even if the public release may deviate from ordinary Justice Department protocols.

Read the rest at The Washington Post.

That’s all I’ve got. I just hope we learn more soon, because I’m not feeling good about this sudden end to the investigation. I’ve heard that the report is extensive, so that may be a good sign. We’ll just have to wait for more information.

Have a nice weekend Sky Dancers! Hang in there. This is an open thread.


Lazy Caturday Reads: Weather and Russia Investigation Tidbits

By Didier Lourenço

Good Morning!!

It’s March 2, but winter is still hanging on. It’s snowing here in the Boston area, and we expect several more inches on top of what we got earlier this week. It’s also supposed to snow again tomorrow night. I guess that’s going to come from this major cross-country storm.

USA Today: Major weekend winter storm packing heavy snow begins 2,500-mile cross-country sprint.

A major, fast-moving winter storm is racing across the country this weekend, bringing forecasts of heavy snow from California to New England and threats of heavy rain and severe thunderstorms along the 2,500-mile path….

In parts of the Midwest, the snow — falling at up to 1 or 2 inches per hour — could pile up fast enough to strand motorists along major highways, AccuWeather warns.

Sections of Pennsylvania, New York and northern and western New England could see up to a foot of snow.

The National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings Saturday for parts of Colorado, northern New Mexico, southern Wyoming and much of Kansas.

By Galina Kim

Snow was expected to move into the Central Rockies on Saturday and develop over parts of the Northern and Central Plains by Saturday evening, the NWS says. The snow will expand into parts of the Southern Plains and Middle Mississippi Valley overnight as it rolls eastward.

We didn’t get any new indictments from Robert Mueller yesterday, but there’s still quite a bit of Russia investigation news.

Roger Stone apparently failed to tell Judge Amy Berman Jackson that he has a book coming out that may violate his gag order. Late last night she ordered him to explain WTF is going on.

The Washington Post: Judge orders Roger Stone to explain imminent release of book that may violate gag order.

Republican operative and longtime Trump friend Roger Stone faced fresh legal trouble Friday after a federal judge ordered his attorneys to explain why they failed to tell her before now about the imminent publication of a book that could violate his gag order by potentially criticizing the judge or prosecutors with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

The order by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the District of Columbia late Friday came barely eight days after Jackson barred Stone from speaking publicly about his case, prompted by a photo posted on Stone’s Instagram account that placed a crosshairs next to a photo of Jackson’s head….

By Adrie Martens

In the new controversy, Jackson, in a brief order posted on the court’s electronic docket after office hours Friday, said she was allowing Stone’s defense team to file under seal a motion apparently to clarify the court’s gag order and an unspecified accompanying exhibit, and ordered a court clerk to make public Stone’s request.

But Jackson also ordered Stone’s attorneys to explain by Monday why they waited until now in making that request to disclose the “imminent general rel[e]ase” of a book, which Jackson said “was known to the defendant.” [….]

On Jan. 16, Stone announced via Instagram that he would be publishing a book titled “The Myth of Russian Collusion: The Inside Story of How Trump Really Won.” He included an image of the book cover. At the time, a source familiar with the publication plans told The Washington Post that the book consisted of a new introduction attached to a previous book that Stone had written about the 2016 presidential campaign. On Feb. 15, he announced via Instagram that the book would be published March 1, and he accompanied the post with hashtags such as #noconspiracy and #norussiancollusion.

According to Bloomberg, this may be an updated version of a 2017 Stone book.

At Buzzfeed News, Zoe Tillman writes about Paul Manafort’s latest sentencing memo: Paul Manafort Didn’t Just Ask For Less Prison Time In His Latest Court Filings — He’s Attacking Mueller Too.

Former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort on Friday continued to attack special counsel Robert Mueller, accusing Mueller’s office of not only vilifying him, but also of “spreading misinformation.”

Manafort and his lawyers have used pre-sentencing memos not only to lobby for a lower prison sentence, but also to criticize the special counsel’s office — something they’ve had limited opportunities to do, given a gag order imposed early on. In a sentencing memo filed Friday in Manafort’s case in federal court in Virginia, his lawyers wrote that Mueller had unfairly impugned Manafort’s character.

By Catriona Millar

“The Special Counsel’s attempt to vilify Mr. Manafort as a lifelong and irredeemable felon is beyond the pale and grossly overstates the facts before this Court,” Manafort’s lawyers wrote. “The Special Counsel’s conduct comes as no surprise, and falls within the government’s pattern of spreading misinformation about Mr. Manafort to impugn his character in a manner that this country has not experienced in decades.”

Manafort’s lawyers repeated their claim that Mueller pursued Manafort for crimes largely unrelated to his work on President Donald Trump’s campaign in order to pressure Manafort to flip on the president. Political and legal pundits have speculated that Manafort is angling for a pardon; Trump in November told the New York Post that a pardon for Manafort was not “off the table.”

“The Special Counsel’s strategy in bringing charges against Mr. Manafort had nothing to do with the Special Counsel’s core mandate — Russian collusion — but was instead designed to ‘tighten the screws’ in an effort to compel Mr. Manafort to cooperate and provide incriminating information about others,” his lawyers wrote, quoting language Manafort’s judge in Virginia, US District Judge T.S. Ellis III, had previously used to question the special counsel’s office’s motivations.

Manafort is due for sentencing in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on March 7. Earlier this month, Mueller’s office said in a sentencing memo that it believed Manafort should face a sentencing range of between 19.5 to 24 years in prison. It also wrote that Manafort’s penalty could include a fine of up to $24 million.

Lock him up!

At The New York Times, John Dean has suggestions for Michael Cohen: John Dean: I Testified Against Nixon. Here’s My Advice for Michael Cohen.

There are several parallels between my testimony before Congress in 1973, about President Richard Nixon and his White House, and Michael Cohen’s testimony this week about President Trump and his business practices. Setting aside the differences regarding how we got there, we both found ourselves speaking before Congress, in multiple open and closed venues, about criminal conduct of a sitting president of the United States. This is not a pleasant place to be, particularly given the presidents involved.

The field cat, by Isabella Bryer

There are some differences: Unlike Mr. Cohen, who testified in public for a day, I testified for five days. His prepared statement was about 4,000 words; mine was some 60,000 words. Nielsen reports over 16 million people watched his testimony. I am told over 80 million people watched all or part of mine….

Mr. Cohen should understand that if Mr. Trump is removed from office, or defeated in 2020, in part because of his testimony, he will be reminded of it for the rest of his life. He will be blamed by Republicans but appreciated by Democrats. If he achieves anything short of discovering the cure for cancer, he will always live in this pigeonhole. How do I know this? I am still dealing with it.

Just as Mr. Nixon had his admirers and apologists, so it is with Mr. Trump. Some of these people will forever be rewriting history, and they will try to rewrite it at Mr. Cohen’s expense. They will put words in his mouth that he never spoke. They will place him at events at which he wasn’t present and locations where he has never been. Some have tried rewriting my life, and they will rewrite his, too.

There’s much more at the link.

This isn’t a Mueller case, but it could be related: Chelsea Manning has been subpoenaed. Politico: Chelsea Manning fights grand jury subpoena seen as linked to Assange.

Lawyers for convicted WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning are asking a federal court to block a grand jury subpoena she received in what her supporters believe is a federal investigation into WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Manning’s attorneys filed the motion Friday morning in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., a spokesperson for Manning said. The motion was put under seal and no information about it was immediately available from the court clerk’s office.

By Peter Mitchev, Bulgarian painter

The subpoena sent to Manning in January does not specify any crimes or particular investigation, but it was issued at the request of a federal prosecutor assigned to handle the fallout from an error that led to the disclosure late last year of the strongest indication so far that Assange is the subject of sealed criminal charges in the U.S.

In a statement Friday, Manning blasted the process and said she plans to fight the subpoena, which was first reported by The New York Times.

The rest of the article is mostly whining from Manning and her attorneys. Frankly, I don’t see why should shouldn’t be willing to testify. Another former Julian Assange associate has done so.

Kevin Poulsen at The Daily Beast: WikiLeaks Veteran: I ‘Cooperated’ With Feds ‘in Exchange for Immunity.’

Chelsea Manning isn’t alone.

Late Thursday, Manning revealed that she’s fighting a subpoena to testify before a grand jury that’s been investigating Julian Assange for nearly nine years. But Manning isn’t the only one being dragged into the aging probe of WikiLeaks’ first big haul. A former WikiLeaks volunteer who was also personal friends with Manning was subpoenaed last May. But unlike Manning, he did not fight the subpoena. He accepted an immunity deal offered by prosecutors….

Manning’s subpoena is the latest surge of action in an old case given new life under the Trump administration. Though the paperwork doesn’t specify what she’s expected to testify about, a case number is visible at the top of the page. It’s the known case number for a grand jury probe into WikiLeaks that began nine years ago in the middle of Assange’s dump of the hundreds of thousand of diplomatic cables and Army field reports leaked to him by Manning.

Friends, by Ljudmila Vasina

The existence of case 10GJ3793 first became public in early 2011 when prosecutors were papering companies like Google and Twitter with demands for records of key WikiLeaks activists. With the government’s consent, Twitter notified five users that the feds were after their records, and three of them went to court to challenge the lawfulness of the search, backed by the ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Paulsen expends quite a bit of verbiage on the history of the government’s pursuit of this case (I get the feeling he thinks it’s terrible) before he gets around to telling us who the cooperating witness is. His name is David House.

The Daily Beast has learned that David House, the former WikiLeaks volunteer and Manning friend, was subpoenaed last May for an encore appearance before the Alexandria grand jury. This time he didn’t take the Fifth. “I decided to cooperate in exchange for immunity,” said House, who provided a copy of the subpoena. “You know, I’m walking around on the street out here. I’m not in an embassy.”

House spoke briefly with prosecutors and then testified for about 90 minutes in front of the grand jury, he said. “They wanted to know about my meetings with Assange, they wanted to know broadly about what we talked about,” he recalled. Prosecutors seemed particularly interested in the potential for collateral damage in some of Assange’s leaks. The identities of some American collaborators were exposed in Assange’s release of State Department cables and Army field reports from Afghanistan, which triggered internal debate and led to the departure of some of WikiLeaks’ key staffers early on.

“They showed me chat logs in which I was arguing vehemently with him about releasing documents that would leave people vulnerable and put people’s lives at risk,” said House, a computer science graduate and political activist now working on a centrist movement called the Pilot Party. “That was the only thing they put in front of my face that made me think, ‘This may be what they’re going after him for.’”

That’s all I’ve got for you today. What stories are you following?


Wednesday Cartoons

 

Let’s take a look at some tweets before we get to the cartoons:

Fuck yeah!

Uh…another, Fuck Yeah!

Yes dammit? Who will fucking step up and prosecute?

And then…

Here are the cartoons.

Vatican summit: 02/25/2019 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - Vatican summit

 

Guidebook: 02/26/2019 Cartoon by Ed Hall

02/25/2019 Cartoon by Joe Heller

Cartoon by Joe Heller -

 

 

02/26/2019 Cartoon by Jimmy Margulies

Cartoon by Jimmy Margulies -

The Mueller Report: 02/26/2019 Cartoon by Tim Campbell

Cartoon by Tim Campbell - The Mueller Report

Bennett editorial cartoon: 02/26/2019 Cartoon by Clay Bennett

Cartoon by Clay Bennett - Bennett editorial cartoon

NK prep: 02/26/2019 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - NK prep

Nice Language: 02/24/2019 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - Nice Language

Bennett editorial cartoon: 02/24/2019 Cartoon by Clay Bennett

Cartoon by Clay Bennett - Bennett editorial cartoon

Trust: 02/25/2019 Cartoon by Ed Hall

Cartoon by Ed Hall - Trust

02/25/2019 Cartoon by John Cole

Cartoon by John Cole -

I am putting this next cartoon up, strictly because it has historical overtones…

This is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads: Trump’s In Vietnam, But Investigations Continue Unabated

Building A House in the Woods, Inga Moore

Good Afternoon!!

If only I could go live in a children’s book surrounded by bunnies and other wild creatures. Sadly, I have to be an adult living in the time of Trump. But I can still enjoy these illustrations and imagine being in a safe and sane world.

Trump has gone to Vietnam to meet the evil dictator he fell in love with. Instead of consulting with his intelligence community and national security advisers, Trump asked the Kremlin for advice before his meeting with Kim Jong Un. Newsweek reports:

As the Trump administration prepared for the upcoming summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, it reached out to the Kremlin for advice, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov told Interfax news.

Illustration by Brian Patterson

The Kremlin representative did not specify what guidance the Trump administration sought or whether the Russian government had offered the U.S. any specific advice. The White House did not respond to requests for comment in time for publication.

This would not be the first time that Russia had gotten involved in Trump’s ongoing negotiations with North Korea over the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Previous reports claimed that Russia had offered North Korea nuclear power plants in exchange for denuclearization. And in his recently published book The Threat, former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe said that Trump listened to Putin’s theories about North Korea’s development of intercontinental ballistic missiles over the assessments of the U.S. intelligence community.

“He thought that North Korea did not have the capability to launch such missiles. He said he knew this because Vladimir Putin had told him so,” McCabe wrote.

According to James Hohmann at The Washington Post Daily 202, Trump has embraced Nixon’s “madman theory” in his dealings with Kim, and Trump thinks it’s working.

Trump is not wrong that his threats have packed more of a punch because foreign leaders think he might go through with them. For example, no one would have believed Barack Obama or George W. Bush if either of them threatened to scuttle NATO or NAFTA to prod allies to spend more on defense or improve the terms of existing trade deals. People also wouldn’t have believed past presidents if they had tweeted they were going to impose stiff tariffs on all Chinese imports.

Yet many serious people really thought a year ago that there was some possibility Trump might actually go through with a preemptive strike on Pyongyang after all his charged rhetoric, despite American military commanders warning that such a move could lead to tens of thousands being killed. In other words, Trump’s intimidations have seemed more credible because he’s gladly encouraged the global perception that he’s quarrelsome.

The president has preached the virtue of strategic unpredictability as a lever to gain the upper hand in negotiations. “We must as a nation be more unpredictable,” Trump said as a candidate in 2016. “We have to be unpredictable!”

A bit more from Hohman:

Trump has even advised his own aides to tell people on the outside that he is “crazy” if they think it will help in negotiations. During an Oval Office meeting in September 2017, Trump told chief trade negotiator Bob Lighthizer that he should threaten to have the U.S. withdraw from its free trade agreement with South Korea. Axios reported this exchange at the time:

“You’ve got 30 days, and if you don’t get concessions, then I’m pulling out,” Trump told Lighthizer.

“Okay, well I’ll tell the Koreans they’ve got 30 days,” Lighthizer replied.

“No, no, no,” Trump interjected. “That’s not how you negotiate. You don’t tell them they’ve got 30 days. You tell them, ‘This guy’s so crazy he could pull out any minute!’”

“That’s what you tell them: Any minute,” Trump continued.

Of course, as Hohmann points out, the “madman theory” didn’t work for Nixon. I’m sorry, I don’t buy that Trump is even trying to protect American interests in this “summit.” He’s obviously doing Putin’s bidding.

Kim wasn’t happy when he found out that U.S. reporters were in his Hanoi hotel. The Washington Post: In Hanoi, Kim Jong Un and a culture clash with the White House press corps.

As Kim’s motorcade was barreling into Hanoi for the final leg of his nearly 70-hour journey from Pyongyang — which included a 65-hour train ride through China — authorities were scrambling behind the scenes to avert an all-out culture clash over the boundaries of free speech for a leader accustomed to an obedient state-controlled media.

Kim was staying at the Melia hotel tower in the heart of the city, but the hotel also happened to have been booked by the White House as the filing center for the traveling press corps to cover the summit.

Not long before Kim arrived, a notice was distributed to the press corps that the filing center would be moved to a separate site for the international press corps at the Cultural Friendship Palace.

tweet from the Vietnamese government, complete with three megaphone emojis, confirmed the switch.

Bunny rabbit and mouse, Lisi Martin

That left the U.S. press contingent scrambling to make the move. Television network producers had spent weeks setting up cameras, lights, monitors and other equipment shipped halfway across the world. A person with knowledge of the situation said the networks were told they could no longer do liveshots from the Melia, although the correspondents booked to stay in the hotel were not told they had to leave.

While Trump is on the other side of the world talking to his NK boyfriend, his former fixer Michael Cohen will be testifying in three Congressional committees over the next three days.

Aaron Blake at The Washington Post: Michael Cohen’s three days of Capitol Hill testimony, explained.

Cohen is testifying for three straight days, but only one of the hearings will be public. After testifying behind closed doors on Tuesday to the Senate Intelligence Committee, he has a public date Wednesday with the House Oversight and Governmental Reform Committee, and then will go back behind closed doors Thursday with the House Intelligence Committee….

Cohen is the first member of Trump’s inner circle to provide eyewitness testimony about alleged misdeeds by the president. While other former aides have flipped and spoken to prosecutors, Cohen has spoken publicly and indicated that he thinks it’s his duty to atone for his own wrongdoing. And now that Democrats control the House, he has been given a platform.

Illustration by Susan Wheeler

Even before testifying, Cohen has spoken out repeatedly about Trump, has helped prosecutors implicate him in campaign finance violations and has reached a key plea deal with Mueller in which he admitted to lying about the Trump Tower Moscow effort.

Cohen is not just a former campaign aide, but also someone who had been around Trump years before by serving as his personal lawyer and “fixer.” In other words, he is someone who could speak to many different facets of Trump. That combination and Cohen’s stated desire to hold Trump accountable makes him a one-of-a-kind witness. Although Cohen has spoken publicly, it has been infrequent, and we don’t know what celse he might be prepared to disclose or allege.

Click on the link to read Blake’s speculations about what Cohen will discuss.

The New York Times’s gossip girl Maggie Haberman’s take: Planned in Michael Cohen’s Testimony: A Litany of Accusations Against Trump.

Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, is planning on portraying his onetime client in starkly negative terms when he testifies Wednesday before a House committee, and on describing what he says was Mr. Trump’s use of racist language, lies about his wealth and possible criminal conduct.

Mr. Cohen’s plans were laid out in broad strokes by a person familiar with what he intends to say in his testimony. And they indicate that Mr. Cohen will use documents and his personal experiences to support his statements….

Among the most explosive and potentially damning aspects of Mr. Cohen’s testimony will be providing evidence of potential criminal conduct since Mr. Trump became president, according to the person familiar with the plans.

That potential conduct stems from reimbursements that were made to Mr. Cohen in 2017 for hush money payments that he made to Stormy Daniels, a pornographic film actress. In October 2016, during the height of the presidential campaign, Mr. Cohen paid Ms. Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about her claims of a previous affair with Mr. Trump….

He will also discuss how long Mr. Trump continued to ask about plans for a Trump Tower project in Moscow after the Iowa caucuses had taken place in February 2016. Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty last November to lying to Congress in testimony in 2017 about the duration of time over which the Moscow project discussions took place….

He is prepared to describe Mr. Trump making racist statements, as well as lying or cheating in business. Last fall, Mr. Cohen told Vanity Fair that Mr. Trump frequently used racist language, telling the magazine that his former boss said during the 2016 campaign that “black people are too stupid to vote for me.”

He will also describe the president inflating or devaluing his net worth, referring to a financial statement of Mr. Trump’s that Mr. Cohen has in his possession, the person said. Those financial statements cannot be independently verified without Mr. Trump’s tax returns, which he has never made public, the person said.

More gossipy details at the NYT link.

Yesterday a couple of stories broke that could be problematic for Trump’s DOJ mole Matthew Whitaker.

Buzzfeed’s Trump’s Memo Appointing Matthew Whitaker Raises Questions About When He Actually Took Over DOJ.

Carol of the Field Mice from The Wind in the Willows, by Inga Moore

A newly released document regarding former acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker’s appointment shows that, at the earliest, President Donald Trump authorized Whitaker to lead the Justice Department a day later than officials previously said was the case….

Then-attorney general Jeff Sessions, whose departure as the head of DOJ was forced by Trump, resigned by way of an undated letter made public Nov. 7, 2018. Trump tweeted that afternoon that Matthew Whitaker, Sessions’ chief of staff, would be taking over as the acting attorney general until a replacement was confirmed.

The obtained presidential memorandum, dated Nov. 8, does not make clear when Sessions’ resignation took effect or when Whitaker actually began serving as acting attorney general….

The memorandum signed by Trump appointing Whitaker to the role, however, was not dated until the next day, Nov. 8, and the DOJ’s Executive Secretariat — the office with the “responsibility for controlling and managing correspondence emanating to and from” top DOJ officials — did not mark its receipt of the memorandum until 11:59 p.m. Nov. 13.

Why that’s a problem: Whitaker was taking actions as if he were the official acting director.

Notably, on Nov. 8, Whitaker, along with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, issued the asylum rule that preceded Trump’s Nov. 9 move seeking to limit asylum applications from along the southern border.

Read the rest at Buzzfeed.

Even more problematic for Whitaker, The Wall Street Journal (behind the paywall) reported that House investigators are suggesting that Whitaker may have committed perjury when he claimed that Trump had not put pressure on him to interfere in investigations.

The Week: House committee thinks it has evidence Trump asked Whitaker to put an ally in charge of Cohen probe.

The House Judiciary Committee believes it has evidence that President Trump asked then-Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to put an ally in charge of an investigation into his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, The Wall Street Journal reports.

This follows a report from The New York Times that Trump made this request of Whitaker, asking him whether he could get attorney Geoffrey Berman to head the Southern District of New York’s ongoing investigation, even though Berman is a Trump supporter who donated to his campaign and used to work with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Berman had also previously recused himself from the probe, which has looked into Trump’s inaugural committee and has led to charges against Cohen, who implicated Trump in a crime.

The Judiciary Committee is also reportedly examining whether Whitaker may have committed perjury when he told Congress, “At no time has the White House asked for nor have I provided any promises or commitments concerning the special counsel’s investigation or any other investigation.” The Washington Post‘s Aaron Blake points out that Whitaker also said no one from the White House contacted him to express “dissatisfaction” with the SDNY probe.

Trump will have plenty to be nervous about while he’s out of the country.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread below.


Sunday

My mom got the report back from the lab, they found cancer cells in the fluid from the paracentesis. That fluid goes all through her body, so what ever doesn’t have cancer will have cancer soon. They say once the cancer has reached this point, life expectancy is at six months.

 

I have zero knowledge of what is going on in the real world…after spending days in a hospital …whose initials spell out UGH and which my mother’s hospital room window looked out onto a shithouse. No, seriously.

A garden shed made to look like an outhouse. A hospital known as UGH… the sarcasm writes itself.

Anyway, let’s make this an open thread. I can’t do anything thing else.


Lazy Caturday Reads: Trump’s Corruption Is Everywhere

Good Afternoon!!

I’m in desperate need of cheering up this morning. Everything that is happening in the news is so depressing! I’m usually an optimist, but this morning everything feels hopeless. I do need to be concerned, because I have a lifelong history of severe depression. I’ll be trying to find ways back to equanimity this weekend.

Now here are some stories to check out today.

An opinion piece at The New York Times by Thomas T. Cullen, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia: The Grave Threats of White Supremacy and Far-Right Extremism.

Last week, federal agents in Maryland arrested a United States Coast Guard officer and said he was plotting to assassinate Democratic members of Congress, prominent television journalists and others. The officer, Lt. Christopher Hasson, apparently was inspired by a right-wing Norwegian terrorist who slaughtered 77 people in 2011, stockpiled firearms and ammunition and researched locations around Washington to launch his attacks, according to investigators. Fortunately, the F.B.I. arrested him before he could act.

Illustration by Colette Bruniliere

This frightening case is just one of several recent reminders that white supremacy and far-right extremism are among the greatest domestic-security threats facing the United States.

Regrettably, over the past 25 years, law enforcement, at both the federal and state levels, has been slow to respond. This is in part because of the limited number of enforcement tools available to prosecutors. But there are steps that can be taken to help the police and prosecutors address this growing threat — including, on the federal level, a domestic terrorism law.

In 2017, hate crimes, generally defined as criminal acts motivated by the victim’s race, ethnicity, religion, or gender,

Killings committed by individuals and groups associated with far-right extremist groups have risen significantly. Seventy-one percent of the 387 “extremist related fatalities in the United States” from 2008 to 2017 were committed by members of far-right and white-supremacist groups, according the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. Islamic extremists were responsible for 26 percent.

Read the rest at the NYT. Anyone who doesn’t see that the rise of right wing hate is linked to Trump willfully blind.

Of course Trump has spent his life wallowing in racism, misogyny, and criminality, and his corruption is reflected in the people he surrounds himself with. The most recent shocking story is about Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta.

Miami Herald investigative reporter Julie K. Brown laid bare the corrupt deal that Acosta cut with serial child sexual abuser and human trafficker Jeffrey Epstein: How a future Trump Cabinet member gave a serial sex abuser the deal of a lifetime.

On a muggy October morning in 2007, Miami’s top federal prosecutor, Alexander Acosta, had a breakfast appointment with a former colleague, Washington, D.C., attorney Jay Lefkowitz.

It was an unusual meeting for the then-38-year-old prosecutor, a rising Republican star who had served in several White House posts before being named U.S. attorney in Miami by President George W. Bush.

Instead of meeting at the prosecutor’s Miami headquarters, the two men — both with professional roots in the prestigious Washington law firm of Kirkland & Ellis — convened at the Marriott in West Palm Beach, about 70 miles away. For Lefkowitz, 44, a U.S. special envoy to North Korea and corporate lawyer, the meeting was critical.

His client, Palm Beach multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein, 54, was accused of assembling a large, cult-like network of underage girls — with the help of young female recruiters — to coerce into having sex acts behind the walls of his opulent waterfront mansion as often as three times a day, the Town of Palm Beach police found..

Facing a 53-page federal indictment, Epstein could have ended up in federal prison for the rest of his life.

But on the morning of the breakfast meeting, a deal was struck — an extraordinary plea agreement that would conceal the full extent of Epstein’s crimes and the number of people involved.

Not only would Epstein serve just 13 months in the county jail, but the deal — called a non-prosecution agreement— essentially shut down an ongoing FBI probe into whether there were more victims and other powerful people who took part in Epstein’s sex crimes, according to a Miami Herald examination of thousands of emails, court documents and FBI records.

Brown appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show Last Night. If you missed the interview, you can watch it here: Acosta deal for Epstein treated victims as ‘throw-away girls.’

This week a federal judge in Florida found that prosecutors in the Epstein case broke the law with the sweetheart deal. The New York Times: Prosecutors Broke Law in Agreement Not to Prosecute Jeffrey Epstein, Judge Rules.

Prosecutors led by Alexander R. Acosta, who is now the secretary of labor, violated federal law when they failed to tell victims about an agreement not to prosecute Jeffrey E. Epstein, a wealthy New York financier accused of molesting dozens of underage girls, a federal judge ruled on Thursday.

The agreement not to pursue federal sex trafficking charges, negotiated in secret while prosecutors told victims that a case against Mr. Epstein was still possible, violated the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act, ruled Judge Kenneth A. Marra of Federal District Court in West Palm Beach, Fla. He gave the government and the two victims who sued 15 days to discuss what remedy should apply in the case.

Federal prosecutors had initially drafted a 53-page indictment against Mr. Epstein, but under the deal negotiated in 2008, he pleaded guilty to lesser state charges of soliciting a minor for prostitution and served 13 months at the Palm Beach County Stockade. While there, Mr. Epstein was allowed to leave custody and work out of his office six days a week.

The court’s ruling on Thursday could nullify the non-prosecution agreement and subject Mr. Epstein and any co-conspirators in the case to new federal charges, said Jack Scarola, a lawyer for the two victims who challenged the agreement.

What does the Trump administration have to say about Acosta? CBS News: Trump praises labor secretary accused of illegally concealing sex offender’s plea.

President Trump on Friday praised Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, whom a federal judge says broke the law when he concealed the plea agreement of a wealthy, well-connected sex offender during his days as a prosecutor….

Mr. Trump claimed he didn’t know much about the case specifically, but praised Acosta’s job as labor secretary.

“I really don’t know too much about it,” the president said. “I know he’s done a great job as labor secretary and that seems like a long time ago, but I know he’s been a fantastic labor secretary, but that’s all I can really tell you.”

I’ll bet that evil monster knows plenty about it.

Guess who else was on Epstein’s defense team? Ken Starr. Here’s Charles Pierce: Ken Starr Is Now the Biggest Fish in the Barrel of Mockery.

Somehow, in the ungodly mess that is the Jeffrey Epstein scandal—and I use ungodly in the fullest sense of the word—I somehow have missed one of the greatest proofs yet that the Deity has a whopping good sense of humor. And it’s right there in the latest filings, the one where the judge teed up the federal prosecutors for having broken the law in how they let this monster skate as smoothly as he did. And it’s not the fact that one of the law-breaking federal prosecutors is Alexander Acosta, the current Secretary of Labor and now perhaps moving up to being the fourth-worst cabinet official down at Camp Runamuck.

No, it’s not that. Seriously. From the Miami Herald:

Acosta, in 2011, would explain that he was unduly pressured by Epstein’s heavy-hitting lawyers—Lefkowitz, Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, Jack Goldberger, Roy Black, former U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis, Gerald Lefcourt, and Kenneth Starr, the former Whitewater special prosecutor who investigated Bill Clinton’s sexual liaisons with Monica Lewinsky.

Is the cosmos jerking my chain? One of Jeffrey Epstein’s lawyers was Ken Fcking Starr? The sanctimonious sheet-sniffing yahoo who presented to the Congress a soft-core porn novel in the hopes it would be enough to defenestrate a sitting president, who then went on to a career turning a blind eye to sexual assaults at Baylor University, and who now apparently took up working for a serial sex-maniac predatory pedophile?

And Alan Dershowitz. Gee, I wonder why that slimeball keeps defending Trump? And check this out:

That’s right, newly confirmed Attorney General William Barr and his prospective deputy AG were Alex Acosta’s colleagues.

One more good article on the Epstein/Acosta scandal by Virginia Heffernan at the LA Times: Uncovering the deal Trump’s Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta gave to a Florida sex abuser. Heffernan talked to the women who are now speaking out about the abuse they experienced. Please go read it.

Acosta is only the most recent Trump cabinet member to be engulfed in scandal. More from the annals of Trump corruption:

Bloomberg: Top Ethics Watchdog Rejects Ross’s Financial Disclosure Form.

The top federal ethics watchdog has rejected U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s 2017 financial disclosure form.

The Office of Government Ethics declined to certify Ross’s latest financial disclosure because after reporting that he had sold off his shares in BankUnited Inc. that year, he actually sold the stock in October 2018. According to a later filing, he said he mistakenly believed that the shares had been sold earlier.

In a letter sent to the Commerce Department’s top ethics officer, OGE Director Emory Rounds wrote that Ross’s 2017 report,“inaccurately reported that he sold all of his stock when in fact he had not done so.” Rounds also said that Ross was not in compliance with his ethics agreement when he filed the annual report in 2018.
The Washington Post: Grand jury is examining whether former interior secretary Ryan Zinke lied to federal investigators.
Prosecutors have begun presenting evidence to a grand jury in Washington in their probe of whether former interior Secretary Ryan Zinke lied to federal investigators, according to two individuals briefed on the matter.

The closed-door deliberations are focused on Zinke’s decision not to grant a petition by two Indian tribes to operate a commercial casino in Connecticut, according to these individuals, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because grand jury proceedings are not public.

The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes’ push to run a gambling facility in East Windsor, Conn., had sparked a lobbying campaign by MGM Resorts International, a competitor that opposed the planned casino. The proposal was the subject of intense scrutiny at Interior and the White House during President Trump’s first months in office.

The tribes allege that Zinke decided not to grant their application because of political pressure, and Interior’s Office of Inspector General opened an investigation into the matter a year ago.

Investigators with the Interior Department’s inspector general’s office came to believe Zinke had lied to them in the course of that inquiry and referred the matter to the Justice Department late last year.

NBC News: Hill Democrats say Education Dept. tried to interfere in probe, remove investigator.
House and Senate Democrats say they have obtained evidence that a senior official at the Department of Education tried to oust the department’s independent watchdog after she pushed back on an attempt to interfere in an active investigation of Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Lawmakers from four House and Senate committees who oversee the department sent a letter to DeVos on Tuesday, suggesting that the effort to replace the department’s acting inspector general, Sandra Bruce, had been related to her duties in overseeing the probe of DeVos’ decision to reinstate ACICS, an accreditor that had been stripped of its certification by the Obama administration.

“We have now received correspondence between the Department and the (Office of Inspector General) that reveals troubling efforts by the Department to influence the ACICS investigation,” House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott, D-Va., wrote to DeVos.

Scott was joined by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee; Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who serves on the House Appropriations Committee; Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., the ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee; and Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the Senate committee handling education.

That’s all I’ve got for you today. I know the cat illustrations are in sharp contrast to the content of this post, but I’m using them anyway. What stories are you following?