Posted: January 15, 2022 Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: Donald Trump, fascism, FBI, January 6, Merrick Garland, snowstorm, Tonga, tsunami, volcano eruption, winter weather
By German cartoonist Rudi Herzlmeier
The temperature here in the Boston area was 1 degree this morning. We had wind chill temperatures around -20 overnight and today will see -11 wind chills. Winter weather this year has been weird everywhere. For the past couple of weeks here, we have been alternating between freezing cold and unseasonably warm days.
Today a massive winter storm is moving from the upper Midwest into the South. Eventually the storm will move up the coast and into New England as a “southeaster.” So far it looks like my area will miss the heavy snow. I hope that prediction holds! I feel for those of you who live down south.
CNN: Where to expect snow in the days ahead as a massive storm system moves south.
A massive storm system that’s dumping several inches of snow on the central US is expected to move toward the southeast Saturday, prompting the governors of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia to declare states of emergency ahead of a crippling ice and snow event.
More than 65 million people in the affected areas are under winter weather alerts, the National Weather Service said.
“A strong developing storm over the Lower Mississippi Valley will move eastward to the Southeast by Sunday morning, then head northeastward to the northern mid-Atlantic by Monday,” the National Weather Service Prediction Center said early Saturday.
Rain, snow, sleet, and freezing rain — or a combination of all of those — will make travel difficult over the three-day holiday weekend across the Eastern US.
A swath of 8 to 12 inches of snow was recorded across portions of North Dakota on Friday.
From there, the system dove deeper south, heading into Missouri, Arkansas and Kansas where it delivered rain and snowfall.
“How fast surface temperatures fall below freezing, and therefore, how fast rain changes to snow will play a big role in determining just how much snow accumulates,” said the NWS office in Topeka, Kansas.
Throughout Saturday the storm system will bring heavy bands of snowfall to the Mid-South and Tennessee Valley.
Localized areas of Tennessee could see snow totals exceeding 6 inches as the storm continues its eastward track toward the Southern Appalachians.
There’s lots more winter weather news to read at that CNN link.
By Rudi Herzlmeier
Out on the West Coast, there’s another type of natural disaster warning. The New York Times: Tsunami Reported in Tonga After an Underwater Volcano Eruption.
A four-foot tsunami wave was reported to have hit Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, on Saturday, sending people rushing to higher ground. Witnesses said ash had fallen from the sky, after an underwater volcano erupted earlier near the remote Pacific nation.
The volcano, Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, is about 40 miles north of the Pacific archipelago’s main island, Tongatapu.
The Bureau of Meteorology in Australia reported the tsunami on Twitter. But communication with Tonga was disrupted, according to The Associated Press, so there were no immediate official reports of injuries or the extent of the damage.
The Tonga Meteorological Service issued a tsunami warning for the archipelago on Saturday evening. On their Facebook pages, the meteorological services for nearby Fiji and Samoa also issued alerts, advising people to stay away from low-lying coastal areas.
The National Tsunami WarninI g Center in the United States issued a tsunami advisory for the West Coast on Saturday morning Pacific time, including the Washington and Oregon coast, with the National Weather Service in Portland reporting possible one- to three-foot waves in Newport, Ore., Long Beach, Wash., and Seaside, Ore. “First wave may not be the highest,” and later waves may “be larger,” the tweet said.
I think I’d rather have a snowstorm.
Unfortunately, I guess I’ll have to get to the politics news now. I want to recommend three long reads and then I’ll list some links to other interesting stories.
First a piece by Yale philosophy professor and fascism expert Jason Stanley at The Guardian, published last month: America is now in fascism’s legal phase.
Let us be reminded that before there is a final solution, there must be a first solution, a second one, even a third. The move toward a final solution is not a jump. It takes one step, then another, then another.”
So began Toni Morrison’s 1995 address to Howard University, entitled Racism and Fascism, which delineated 10 step-by-step procedures to carry a society from first to last.
Morrison saw, in the history of US racism, fascist practices – ones that could enable a fascist social and political movement in the United States.
Cats out for a walk, Rudi Hurzlmeier
Writing in the era of the “super-predator” myth (a Newsweek headline the next year read, “Superpredators: Should we cage the new breed of vicious kids?”), Morrison unflinchingly read fascism into the practices of US racism. Twenty-five years later, those “forces interested in fascist solutions to national problems” are closer than ever to winning a multi-decade national fight.
The contemporary American fascist movement is led by oligarchical interests for whom the public good is an impediment, such as those in the hydrocarbon business, as well as a social, political, and religious movement with roots in the Confederacy. As in all fascist movements, these forces have found a popular leader unconstrained by the rules of democracy, this time in the figure of Donald Trump.
Morrison’s interest was not in fascist demagogues or fascist regimes. It was rather in “forces interested in fascist solutions to national problems”. The procedures she described were methods to normalize such solutions, to “construct an internal enemy”, isolate, demonize and criminalize it and sympathizers to its ideology and their allies, and, using the media, provide the illusion of power and influence to one’s supporters.
Philosophers have always been at the forefront in the analysis of fascist ideology and movements. In keeping with a tradition that includes the philosophers Hannah Arendt and Theodor Adorno, I have been writing for a decade on the way politicians and movement leaders employ propaganda, centrally including fascist propaganda, to win elections and gain power.
Often, those who employ fascist tactics do so cynically – they do not really believe the enemies they target are so malign, or so powerful, as their rhetoric suggests. Nevertheless, there comes a tipping point, where rhetoric becomes policy. Donald Trump and the party that is now in thrall to him have long been exploiting fascist propaganda. They are now inscribing it into fascist policy.
The article is very long, but well worth reading. Remember, Hitler got many of his ideas from the Jim Crow South.
Here’s another long read by Jason Palidino at a new on-line news site, Grid: Why didn’t the FBI see the Capitol siege coming?
In the lead-up to the Capitol siege, the FBI received at least a dozen warnings about the possibility of violence that day (see timeline below.) When the day came and the Capitol barricades fell, it became evident the FBI largely ignored them all.
The warnings came from all sides: regional law enforcement, social media platforms, Congress (specifically the House and Senate intelligence committees), a top defense official, extremist watchdogs, right-wing experts, journalists and even three different components within the FBI itself.
By Rudi Herzlmeier
Grid reviewed every public statement FBI officials made about the bureau’s intelligence leading up to the siege to understand how the FBI explained its posture on Jan. 6. We read hundreds of pages of FBI briefings and press statements, FBI officials’ testimony before Congress and public comments in news reports.
We found that the FBI has given at least five different explanations for why it failed to heed these warnings and take steps to foil the Capitol attack or help other agencies prepare a sufficient response. Some of them support arguments the FBI should get more money and legal authorities. But given what we now know, none of them holds up.
“They’re following the same blueprint as 9/11,” said Mike German, a former undercover FBI agent and author of “Disrupt, Discredit and Divide: How the New FBI Damages Democracy.” He is a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice. “First they say, ‘We had no intelligence,’ then say, ‘Our authorities prevented us from getting the intelligence,’ which is not true.”
The institutional lack of introspection, while unsurprising, is deeply worrisome, German and others agree. The threat of political violence — particularly from the right, and targeting democratic institutions and political leaders — is higher than at any point in modern history. Many key indicators point in one direction: Extremist violence is reportedly surging, and threats against election officials and members of Congress are increasing. The threat of lethality from domestic violent extremist groups “is higher than it ever was,” Attorney General Merrick Garland told Congress last May.
If the FBI remains blinkered to the most serious and likely threats, Jan. 6 might not be its last major failure. American democracy has largely survived the violence of Jan. 6, and the Department of Justice has undertaken a historic effort to investigate, indict and prosecute hundreds of participants — who might never have stormed the Capitol in the first place if the FBI had heeded clear warnings and taken proper steps to prevent the attack.
Palidino goes on to refute the five main excuses the FBI has given for it’s failure to respond to the many warnings they received before January 6. It appears that the bureau is still focusing more on left wing protestors than on right wing violence, despite the public claims of director Chris Wray.
The final long read is by Jennifer Taub at The Washington Monthly: Merrick Garland’s Trump Problem—and Ours.
Timing is everything. When it comes to free and fair elections and ensuring that Donald Trump and fellow authoritarians do not pull off a successful coup, we are nearly out of time. At least 19 states have added laws that make it more difficult to vote, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, and 49 state legislatures are considering voting restrictions, including, most ominously, measures that would take election management out of the hands of secretaries of state and hand it over to GOP-controlled legislatures. We have until November 8to fix this.
Espresso by rudi Hurzlmeier
The prosecution of the former president is on a slower timeline. This includes not only the criminal investigations being pursued in Georgia by the Fulton County district attorney, and in New York by the state attorney general and the Manhattan district attorney, but also any investigations emanating from the U.S. Department of Justice. But that’s okay; Merrick Garland is no longer the problem or the solution.
I came to this conclusion after Attorney General Garland delivered a much-hyped speech commemorating the anniversary of the January 6 attack on the Capitol. After considering his words, I opened a calendar and did the math. We’ll get to that math in a moment. But first, let’s be clear about what Garland did and didn’t promise.
After watching his talk and then reading the prepared remarks published on the DOJ website, I have this take: I fully trust Garland to prosecute Trump in connection with the events directly leading up to and surrounding the certification of the electoral vote on January 6. But I’m less sure how much Trump mischief that will include.
Why do I believe DOJ is currently investigating the former president? Some doubt it. There have been no leaks to the press. By comparison, the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol has been less circumspect. Committee members, including Republican Representative Liz Cheney, have made it clear that they are examining Trump’s legal culpability on a number of grounds. Garland will have access to whatever the committee uncovers, including the report they plan to issue as early as this summer. And if the panel, chaired by Representative Bennie Thompson, makes criminal referrals to DOJ, committee staff will turn over the evidence they have gathered.
In such a referral, the committee might reference several statutes that DOJ can use to prosecute the former president and others, including obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy, and seditious conspiracy. They might also use the wire fraud statute to charge those who raised funds off the Big Lie.
Read the rest at The Washington Monthly link.
More stories to check out:
Yahoo News: Fake electoral documents under new scrutiny as Trump prepares for Arizona visit.
CNN: Oath Keepers leader spewed anti-government hate for more than a decade. Alex Jones gave him the audience.
Emptywheel: The Structure of the January 6 Assault: “I Will Settle With Seeing [Normies] Smash Some Pigs To Dust.
Greg Sargent at The Washington Post: Kevin McCarthy’s coverup for Trump may be hiding knowledge of possible crimes.
Aaron Blake at The Washington Post: The conservative knives come out for Brett Kavanaugh.
The New York Times: Census Memo Cites ‘Unprecedented’ Meddling by Trump Administration.
What’s on your mind today? What stories are you following?
Posted: September 16, 2021 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, just because | Tags: Bret Kavanaugh, FBI, Larry Nassar, sexual abuse, USA Gymnastics
Today I’m going to focus on the FBI’s epic mishandling of sexual abuse in the USA Gymnastics/Larry Nassar case as well as the accusations against now Supreme Court Justice Bret Kavanaugh.
Yesterday some of the country’s most accomplished women gymnasts gave shocking and damning testimony to before the Senate Judiciary Committee. For background, here is the statement of DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz on his report: “Dereliction of Duty: Examining the Inspector General’s Report on the FBI’s Handling of the Larry Nassar Investigation.” This is a huge story, and all I can do is try to give you a sense of what happened to these women. Here are parts of their testimony.
Vice News: Gymnasts Slam FBI for Failing to Protect Them From Sexual Abuse.
Four of the top gymnasts in the United States told Congress that the FBI, USA Gymnastics, and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee had failed them, for years, in a Senate hearing Wednesday—and they want answers and accountability.
The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing centered on a Justice Department report, released this summer, that found the FBI had botched its investigation into Larry Nassar, a once-celebrated doctor who has since been jailed and accused of abusing hundreds of gymnasts while pretending he was providing medical treatment. The four gymnasts who testified Wednesday—Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols, and Aly Raisman—have all said that they were abused by Nassar.
“They had legal, legitimate evidence of child abuse and did nothing,” Maroney, an Olympic gold medalist, told the senators of the FBI. “If they’re not going to protect me, I want to know: Who are they trying to protect?”
Maroney, who is not named in the report, spoke with a FBI agent about her experience with Nassar, but that agent didn’t properly follow up, according to the report. More than a year after speaking with Maroney, the agent drafted a summary of her interview that included statements she did not make, per the report.
The FBI’s inaction, Maroney said, was beyond devastating. She recalled sitting on her bedroom floor and spending nearly three hours telling the agent about the abuse she endured. After recounting one particularly horrific memory, she began to cry; the agent, she said, only asked her, “Is that all?”
“By not taking immediate action from my report, they allowed a child molester to go free for more than a year and this inaction directly allowed Nassar’s abuse to continue,” Maroney said. “I am tired of waiting for people to do the right thing, because my abuse was enough.”
AP: Biles: FBI turned ‘blind eye’ to reports of gymnasts’ abuse.
Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles told Congress in forceful testimony Wednesday that federal law enforcement and gymnastics officials turned a “blind eye” to USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse of her and hundreds of other women.
Biles told the Senate Judiciary Committee that “enough is enough” as she and three other U.S. gymnasts spoke in stark emotional terms about the lasting toll Nassar’s crimes have taken on their lives….
The four-time Olympic gold medalist and five-time world champion — widely considered to be the greatest gymnast of all time — said she “can imagine no place that I would be less comfortable right now than sitting here in front of you.” She declared herself a survivor of sexual abuse.
“I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse,” Biles said through tears. In addition to failures of the FBI, she said USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee “knew that I was abused by their official team doctor long before I was ever made aware of their knowledge.”
Biles said a message needs to be sent: “If you allow a predator to harm children, the consequences will be swift and severe. Enough is enough.”
The hearing is part of a congressional effort to hold the FBI accountable after multiple missteps in investigating the case, including the delays that allowed the now-imprisoned Nassar to abuse other young gymnasts. All four witnesses said they knew girls or women who were molested by Nassar after the FBI had been made aware of allegations against him in 2015.
Yahoo News: Aly Raisman described the profound physical and mental impact Larry Nassar’s abuse has had on her health.
Aly Raisman has been extremely transparent about the significant emotional burden of Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse.
On Wednesday, the two-time Olympian detailed the profound physical impact the trauma has had on her health.
During a Senate Judiciary hearing about the FBI’s failings in the Nassar case, Raisman explained that she’d been sapped of all of her energy due to post-traumatic stress disorder and the lasting impact of Nassar’s abuse.
“Experiencing a type of abuse is not something one just suffers in the moment; it carries on with them sometimes for the rest of their lives,” Raisman said. “For example, being here today is taking everything I have.”
“I hope I have the energy even to just walk out of here,” she added.
She described feeling completely depleted after sharing her story publicly for the first time. She said she remembered struggling to find the energy to stand up in the shower and that she would have to sit on the floor to wash her hair.
She “couldn’t even go for a 10-minute walk outside” despite having been in the peak physical condition to compete in two Olympic Games just a few years prior. She often feels that her memory is impacted, too, and that her “mind isn’t working” adequately and that she has “no energy at all.”
The Oklahoman: At Larry Nassar hearing, former OU athlete Maggie Nichols says FBI, USA Gymnastics ‘betrayed’ her.
Nichols was the first to report Nassar’s abuse to USA Gymnastics in 2015. She was known for a time only as “Athlete A,” but before Congress she was quick to make clear that Nassar’s abuse “didn’t happen to Athlete A. It happened to me.”
“I reported my abuse to USA Gymnastics over six years ago and still, my family and I received few answers and have even more questions about how this was allowed to occur and why dozens of other little girls and women at Michigan State had to be abused after I reported,” Nichols said in an opening statement before Congress Wednesday.
Nassar served as team doctor for the 2016 US Olympic Gymnastics teams and continued his role at Michigan State University until later that year after an Indianapolis Star investigation was first published.
Nichols became an OU gymnast that same year, earning All-American status during her time with the Sooners. She later served as a student assistant coach, too. On Wednesday, she said that USAG, the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee and the FBI have “betrayed her and those who have reported Larry Nassar.” She said the lack of action was a “coverup.”
“After I reported my abuse to USAG, my family and I were told by their former president, Steve Penny, to keep quiet and not say anything that could hurt the FBI investigation,” Nichols said. “We now know there was no real FBI investigation occurring.”
More articles to check out:
Sally Jenkins at The Washington Post: Larry Nassar is in jail. Why isn’t everyone who ignored his crimes?
The Washington Post: FBI fires agent who failed to pursue tips about sex abuse by USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.
Nancy Armour at USA Today Sports: Opinion: Gymnasts bare their souls in describing Larry Nassar abuse, but are lawmakers listening?
Dan Wetzel at Yahoo News: Pathetic lack of response to Larry Nassar’s reign of terror hits U.S. Senate.
The non-investigation of Larry Nassar’s abuse of young girls sheds light on what happened during the Senate confirmation hearings on Bret Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
The Guardian: FBI director faces new scrutiny over investigation of Brett Kavanaugh.
The FBI director, Chris Wray, is facing new scrutiny of the bureau’s handling of its 2018 background investigation of Brett Kavanaugh, including its claim that the FBI lacked the authority to conduct a further investigation into the then supreme court nominee.
At the heart of the new questions that Wray will face later this week, when he testifies before the Senate judiciary committee, is a 2010 Memorandum of Understanding that the FBI has recently said constrained the agency’s ability to conduct any further investigations of allegations of misconduct.
It is not clear whether that claim is accurate, based on a close reading of the MOU, which was released in court records following a Freedom of Information Act request.
The FBI was called to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh during his Senate confirmation process in 2018, after he was accused of assault by Christine Blasey Ford, a professor who knew Kavanaugh when they were both in high school. He also faced other accusations, including that he had exposed himself to a classmate at Yale called Deborah Ramirez. Kavanaugh denied both accusations.
The FBI closed its extended background check of Kavanaugh after four days and did not interview either Blasey Ford or Kavanaugh. The FBI also disclosed to the Senate this June – two years after questions were initially asked – that it had received 4,500 tips from the public during the background check and that it had shared all “relevant tips” with the White House counsel at that time. It is not clear whether those tips were ever investigated.
The FBI said in its letter to two senators – Sheldon Whitehouse and Christopher Coons – that the FBI did not have the authority under the 2010 MOU at the time to “unilaterally conduct further investigative activity absent instructions from the requesting entity”. In other words, the FBI has said it would have required explicit instructions from the Trump White House to conduct further investigation under the existing 2010 guidelines on how such investigations ought to be conducted.
But an examination by the Guardian of the 2010 MOU, which was signed by the then attorney general, Eric Holder, and then White House counsel, Robert Bauer, does not make explicitly clear that the FBI was restricted in terms of how it would conduct its investigation.
Read the rest at The Guardian.
Alternet: ‘Just as flawed’: Sen. Whitehouse questions FBI probe of Kavanaugh after failed Larry Nassar investigation.
Talk about perfect timing. During a hearing on the FBI’s mishandling of allegations against Larry Nassar, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse raised questions about whether the Nassar investigation was the only FBI case that was bungled. Whitehouse used the investigation of former USA Gymnastics team doctor and convicted pedophile Nassar to question the legitimacy of the FBI’s 2018 background check into Brett Kavanaugh, wondering if that investigation might have been “just as flawed.”
“It strikes me very strongly as we sit here today, and as we heard the powerful testimony earlier this morning, that the last time a woman came forward in this committee to testify to her allegations of sexual assault in her childhood, the witness was Christine Blasey Ford,” Whitehouse said.
“It appeared to me then, and it appears to me now that her testimony was swept under the rug in a confirmation stampede,” he added. “It is very possible that the FBI investigation of her allegations was just as flawed, just as constrained, just as inappropriate, as the investigation in this case.”
Whitehouse demanded answers regarding the non-investigation of then-Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh and called out FBI Director Christopher Wray over the bureau’s investigation of Ford’s allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers.
Whitehouse noted that he repeatedly requested more information about the FBI’s investigation into Ford’s allegations but had been ignored for two years before finally receiving a response yesterday.
“Not coincidentally, I suspect, on the eve of your appearance today,” Whitehouse said to Wray.
I know there is much more news out there today, but in my opinion the stories about the FBI failing women are vitally important. It’s obvious that the FBI is far too white and far too male. And don’t forget the non-investigation of Nassar happened under the leadership of James Comey.
Now a new white male FBI Director–Chris Wray–is similarly accused of failing to adequately investigation allegations of sexual abuse of women.
As always, this is an open thread.
Posted: April 1, 2021 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, just because, U.S. Politics | Tags: David McGee, DOJ, Don Gaetz, FBI, Fox News, iran, Joel Greenberg, Matt Gaetz, Robert Levinson, sex trafficking, Tucker Carlson
Saad Yagan, 2017
What on Earth is going on with Matt Gaetz? The story just keeps growing stranger by the day. It all began with this New York Times story published on Tuesday: Matt Gaetz Is Said to Face Justice Dept. Inquiry Over Sex With an Underage Girl.
Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida and a close ally of former President Donald J. Trump, is being investigated by the Justice Department over whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him, according to three people briefed on the matter.
Investigators are examining whether Mr. Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws, the people said. A variety of federal statutes make it illegal to induce someone under 18 to travel over state lines to engage in sex in exchange for money or something of value. The Justice Department regularly prosecutes such cases, and offenders often receive severe sentences.
It was not clear how Mr. Gaetz met the girl, believed to be 17 at the time of encounters about two years ago that investigators are scrutinizing, according to two of the people.
The investigation was opened in the final months of the Trump administration under Attorney General William P. Barr, the two people said. Given Mr. Gaetz’s national profile, senior Justice Department officials in Washington — including some appointed by Mr. Trump — were notified of the investigation, the people said.
Then Gaetz appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox and made everything worse for himself.
Aaron Rupar at Vox: Matt Gaetz’s disastrous Tucker Carlson interview, explained.
Hours after the New York Times broke the news that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) is under federal investigation for alleged sex trafficking, he was given a platform by Fox News host Tucker Carlson to tell his side of the story. But Gaetz ended up botching the softball interview so thoroughly that Carlson ended up telling his millions of viewers it was “one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever conducted.”
Pablo Picasso, 1939
At various points during the interview, Gaetz — who denies the allegations — volunteered the existence of criminal allegations against him that aren’t yet part of the public record, brought up sexual misconduct allegations against Carlson that most of his viewers probably weren’t aware of, and went out of his way to involve Carlson in stories about his personal life.
“I can say that actually you and I went to dinner about two years ago, your wife was there, and I brought a friend of mine — you’ll remember her — and she was actually threatened by the FBI, told that if she wouldn’t cop to the fact that somehow I was involved in some pay-for-play scheme, that could face trouble,” Gaetz said. “So I do believe there are people at the Department of Justice that are trying to smear me. Providing for flights and hotel rooms for people that you’re dating who are of legal age is not a crime.”
It sounds like he’s admitting he paid for travel and hotel rooms for a person he was dating, doesn’t it?
…more importantly than the bizarreness of the interview is the fact that Gaetz didn’t do a very convincing job trying to refute the very serious criminal allegations underpinning the federal investigation. His defense basically amounts to claims that he’s the victim of a vast conspiracy….
During the interview with Carlson, Gaetz denied improper conduct, but he did so in a very limited and specific way, using language that raised more questions than it answered.
Butterflies and Poppies, Vincent Van Gogh
“The New York Times is running a story that I have traveled with a 17-year-old woman, and that is verifiably false; people can look at my travel records and see that that is not the case,” Gaetz said — even though a 17-year-old is not a “woman,” the allegations go beyond mere “traveling,” and it’s unclear how “travel records” could disprove any of them.
Gaetz went on to allege that word of the investigation was leaked as part of an extortion plot, saying “what is happening is an extortion of me and my family involving a former Department of Justice official” who demanded $25 million in exchange for making the sex trafficking allegations go away.
But during an MSNBC interview a short time later, one of the Times reporters bylined on the Gaetz story, Katie Benner, debunked one of Gaetz’s central claims, saying unequivocally that the former official Gaetz accused by name of being part of an extortion plot isn’t even involved in the investigation.
I’m still very confused.
Washington Post fact checker Salvador Rizzo explains why travel records could not prove the allegations against Gaetz are false. Basically, these records aren’t available to the public.
Here’s the bottom line: House members’ personal travel and expenses are not subject to disclosure, so there would be no public records to check regarding Gaetz’s private life.“If this was just personal travel, and he wasn’t using campaign or official funds, there’s no disclosure,” said Jordan Libowitz, communications director for the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Airline flight manifests and personal credit card or bank statements would chart who went where with whom at what times and at whose expense, but those sensitive records are not public. Only law enforcement investigators could look through them by getting subpoenas.
Philip Bump at The Washington Post: The Matt Gaetz allegation, explained.
“The Justice Department is investigating Rep. Matt Gaetz — a Florida Republican considered a close political ally of former president Donald Trump — over an alleged sexual relationship with an underage girl,” The Washington Post’s Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett explain. That relationship allegedly included paying for the girl to travel, potentially across state lines, adding the complexity of potential federal charges related to sex trafficking, according to the Times. Both the Post and Times stories are constrained for fairly obvious reasons, including the limits of available information and the need to accurately convey the potential risk Gaetz faces.
Landscape with Butterflies, 1956, by Salvador Dali
The investigation apparently spun out of another sex-trafficking probe in Florida. That one focused on a former county official named Joel Greenberg, who was charged in the summer with a number of federal offenses, including sex trafficking of a minor.
“According to an indictment in the case, Greenberg abused his access to a statewide database, using it to look up the personal information of people with whom he was in ‘sugar daddy’ relationships, including the minor, and to help produce fake identification documents to ‘facilitate his efforts to engage in commercial sex acts,’ ” Zapotosky and Barrett report. “He was also accused of seeking to undermine a political opponent by surfacing fabricated evidence of racism and misconduct.”
It’s worth noting that questions about Gaetz’s relationships have emerged in the past. A Mother Jones article from 2019 documents concerns raised by a former member of Gaetz’s staff about a 21-year-old he was then dating and who was apparently posting photos of the two of them on Instagram alongside other photos showing not-conservative-politician-friendly activities.
There’s more explanation and confusion at the link. What is clear is that there are two different investigations that Gaetz is trying to combine in his defense. Other than that, I’m still confused.
Gaetz’s father chimed in at Politico yesterday: Matt Gaetz’s dad says he wore a wire for FBI probe into DOJ extortion claims.
Rep. Matt Gaetz’s father, Don, a former Florida Senate president, said he is working with the FBI, including wearing a wire on more than one occasion as part of an investigation into an alleged extortion plot that the pair said was organized by former federal prosecutor David McGee.
Herons and Lilies, 1934, by Frank W. Benson
“The FBI asked me to try and get that information for Matt and an indication we would transfer money to Mr. David McGee,” Don Gaetz said in an interview late Tuesday, without specifying what information he was referring to.
McGee, who is now in private practice with a Pensacola, Fla.-based law firm, did not respond to a POLITICO request seeking comment, but told other media outlets there is no truth to the alleged extortion plot.
Don Gaetz said in the interview he wore a wire during a meeting earlier this month with McGee and said he was set to meet Wednesday with Stephen Alford, a local developer who he said is also part of the alleged extortion scheme. During that meeting, Don Gaetz said, he was again set to wear a wire and try to get Alford to talk about payments he allegedly was to make to McGee, but the meeting fell apart when news broke that his son was being investigated by the Justice Department. Alford did not respond to text messages seeking comment.
In separate interviews, Don and Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) acknowledged a Justice Department probe involving the younger Gaetz, 38, into whether he had improper involvement with a 17-year-old girl. The Gaetzes say they are the target of an extortion plot seeking money to keep the DOJ investigation quiet.
Today The Washington Post reported that the scandal involves Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who went missing in Iran and is believed to be dead. Here’s a summary at The Week: The Matt Gaetz case now involves a missing FBI agent last seen in Iran.
When Rep. Matt Gaetz’s (R-Fla.) father received a message that referred to a Justice Department investigation into his son and asked for help funding the search for Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who went missing in Iran 14 years ago, he thought the request was suspicious and went to the FBI, people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post on Wednesday.
On Tuesday night, The New York Times reported that in the waning months of the Trump administration, the DOJ launched an investigation into whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel with him out of state. Gaetz, who denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with any crimes, released a statement saying his family had been targeted by extortionists, and his father wore a wire at the insistence of the FBI.
Boy with butterfly net, by Henri Mattisse, 1907
People familiar with the matter told the Post that Gaetz’s wealthy father, Don Gaetz, received a text message and document from two men who said if he gave them money to help with the search for Levinson, Matt Gaetz would be seen as a hero and his legal troubles would likely go away. Levinson disappeared from Iran’s Kish Island in 2007 while trying to get information on the country’s nuclear program, and was last seen alive in a 2010 hostage video. His family has said the U.S. government told them they believe Levinson is dead.
When Don Gaetz received these messages, the DOJ investigation into his son was not known publicly. It isn’t clear how the men learned about the investigation, and they do not appear to have any direct connection with the investigation. People with knowledge of the matter told the Post it will be hard to prove this was an extortion attempt because the men did not threaten to expose Gaetz’s DOJ investigation if the family did not give them money.
Matt Gaetz appeared on Fox News Tuesday night and accused a lawyer named David McGee of being involved in this effort. McGee has represented the Levinson family for years, and on Tuesday night he said Don Gaetz called him and they had a “pleasant conversation” about “the trouble his son was in.” McGee denied being involved in any extortion attempt, and his law firm on Wednesday called the allegation “false and defamatory.” Catherine Garcia
One more Gaetz story from ABC News: In investigation of Rep. Gaetz’s alleged sexual relationship with minor, feds looking beyond Florida, sources say.
Sources told ABC News the investigation has been going on for months and began during the Trump administration. Former Attorney General Bill Barr was briefed on the investigation’s progress several times, the sources said.
One source told ABC News that federal authorities have already interviewed multiple witnesses as part of their probe.
Morning Bird Dance, Edvard Munch
Gaetz has reportedly told confidants he is considering retiring from Congress and possibly joining the right-wing media outlet Newsmax, according to an Axios report earlier Tuesday.
Yet within the last several weeks Gaetz started reaching out to prominent attorneys, according to one source. The source said that one of the attorneys Gaetz asked to represent him was Washington attorney Bill Burck, who represented Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus and Don McGahn during the Mueller probe. Burck turned down the case, according to a person familiar with the decision.
So this story keeps getting curiouser and curiouser. One interesting point is that apparently Gaetz is very unpopular with Republicans and they are rooting for him to go down in flames. A few more links to check out:
Jeff Stein at Spy Talk: Gaetz ‘Extortion’ Figure’s Levinson Obsession.
The Daily Beast: The Creepy, Disturbing Case That Ensnared Matt Gaetz.
Ben Jacobs at New York Magazine: Matt Gaetz Gets a Scandal As Wild As Him.
Raw Story: Here are 7 new bombshell details from the complex and unraveling Matt Gaetz investigation story.
The Daily Beast: Republicans Have Been Waiting for a Matt Gaetz Scandal to Break.
The Hill: Fox has no interest in hiring Matt Gaetz.
I’ll be keeping an eye on this story, because it’s still so confusing to me. I guess we’ll be learning more soon. So what’s on your mind today? As always, this is an open thread.
Posted: March 6, 2021 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Covid relief bill, FBI, Filibuster, January 6 Capitol insurrection, Joe Biden, Joe Manchin, Proud Boys, Rep. Paul Gosar, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, Robert Scott Palmer, Senate, stimulus, Trump White House
Dona i gat, Myrtille Henrion-Pico
It looks like the Covid relief bill could finally pass the Senate after an all-nighter in which Biden himself was finally brought in to get Joe Manchin on board.
Politico: Senate reaches unemployment benefits deal, ending logjam on Covid aid bill.
Senate Democrats clinched a deal on Friday night over unemployment benefits that will smooth the upper chamber’s passage of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill this weekend.
After about a nine-hour delay following Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) resistance to an earlier agreement on jobless payments, party leaders announced a new accord with Manchin. The latest deal would provide $300 a week in extra unemployment benefits through Sept. 6, and up to $10,200 in tax relief for unemployed workers.
Democratic leaders also agreed to limit eligibility for that tax relief, restricting the tax-free status of the benefits to households with incomes under $150,000 a year.
By Ophelia Redpath, 1965
The White House quickly announced its support after endorsing the earlier compromise.
“The President supports the compromise agreement, and is grateful to all the senators who worked so hard to reach this outcome,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement on Friday night.
With Manchin’s objections eased, Democrats plowed forward with a marathon “vote-a-rama” — an all-night ordeal in which any senator can offer an amendment to Biden’s bill. The Senate is now on track to pass the package on Saturday….
After Senate passage, the bill will go back to the House, where lawmakers must approve the changes before it reaches Biden’s desk.
At The New York Times, Glenn Thrush reports: More Democrats join the effort to kill the filibuster as a way of saving Biden’s agenda.
A growing number of Senate Democrats are warming to the idea of eliminating the filibuster as they encounter Republican resistance to President Biden’s legislative agenda, forcing the White House to cut deals on issues like the minimum wage and pandemic relief payments.
If the founders envisioned the upper chamber as a “cooling bowl” to moderate more extreme bills passed by the House, the filibuster has often been a deep freezer, infamously deployed by Southern racists to quash reforms during the civil rights era….
Two Senate Democrats — Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — have said they will oppose any effort to do away with the rule, making any rollback a long shot. Mr. Biden and Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, have been noncommittal about eliminating the filibuster.
Two Senate Democrats — Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — have said they will oppose any effort to do away with the rule, making any rollback a long shot. Mr. Biden and Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, have been noncommittal about eliminating the filibuster….
By Tatyana Struchkova
On Thursday, Senator Tina Smith of Minnesota took to Twitter to declare her support for ending the filibuster. “The Senate needs to abolish the filibuster. It’s undemocratic,” she wrote, adding, “We need to move this country forward.”
A day earlier, Senator Amy Klobuchar, the state’s senior senator and a standard-bearer for her party’s moderate wing in 2020, said the likely demise in the Senate of a House voting rights bill had flipped her from a “maybe” to a “yes.” [….]
Another centrist, Jon Tester of Montana, has taken a wait-and-see approach, but signaled recently that he too might be open to killing the rule.
The investigations into the January 6 insurrection continue. Recent news:
The New York Times: F.B.I. Finds Contact Between Proud Boys Member and Trump Associate Before Riot.
A member of the far-right nationalist Proud Boys was in communication with a person associated with the White House in the days just before the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation.
Location, cellular and call record data revealed a call tying a Proud Boys member to the Trump White House, the official said. The F.B.I. has not determined what they discussed, and the official would not reveal the names of either party.
The connection revealed by the communications data comes as the F.B.I. intensifies its investigation of contacts among far-right extremists, Trump White House associates and conservative members of Congress in the days before the attack….
By Christilla Germain
Separately, Enrique Tarrio, a leader of the far-right nationalist Proud Boys, told The New York Times on Friday that he called Roger J. Stone Jr., a close associate of former President Donald J. Trump’s, while at a protest in front of the home of Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida. During the protest, which occurred in the days before the Capitol assault, he put Mr. Stone on speaker phone to address the gathering.
A law enforcement official said that it was not Mr. Tarrio’s communication with Mr. Stone that was being scrutinized, and that the call made in front of Mr. Rubio’s home was a different matter. That two members of the group were in communication with people associated with the White House underscores the access that violent extremist groups like the Proud Boys had to the White House and to people close to the former president.
In response to this story, attorney Luppe B. Luppen (@Southpaw on Twitter) was reminded of an interesting January 6 tweet by CNN’s Jim Acosta:
This is interesting, from CNN: Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren quietly releases massive social media report on GOP colleagues who voted to overturn the election.
HuffPost reports that the FBI still haven’t arrested this guy who attacked police with a fire extinguisher: Revealed: The Star-Spangled Trumper Filmed Attacking Cops At The Capitol.
With bright red and white stripes across his body and stars down his sleeves, the man in the American flag jacket and “FLORIDA FOR TRUMP” hat wielded a fire extinguisher while charging the U.S. Capitol on the afternoon of Jan. 6. He shoved his way through the crowd of rioters to the police line, then sprayed officers at close range before chucking the emptied canister at them. By nightfall he himself had been lightly harmed, apparently by a police crowd control munition. He held up his shirt to show off his bruised gut during an interview with a female journalist filming him live as cops pushed the mob back from Capitol grounds. Then he looked straight into her livestreaming device and identified himself as Robert Palmer from Clearwater, Florida.
By Andrie Martens
At this point, the man had not only assaulted federal officers before a sea of smartphones while wearing highly distinctive attire, he’d also willingly revealed his own name and hometown on video at the scene of the crime — while still in the same outfit.
This isn’t your typical “Florida Man” story, despite its absurdity. This is the story of a violent insurrectionist who’s still at large — nearly two months later — and one woman who joined the online sleuthing communities crowdsourcing their efforts to bring a Capitol attacker to justice.
Robert Scott Palmer is a white 53-year-old husband and father who runs Son Bright Systems, a cleaning and restoration business. His criminal record includes being sentenced on charges of battery and felony fraud.
HuffPost verified his identity through a search of public records and social media accounts associated with Palmer, after receiving a tip from Amy, a woman living in a rural area out west who in her free time joined the #SeditionHunters network, an online sleuthing community seeking to identify the hundreds of Trump supporters who rioted at the Capitol. (Amy is a pseudonym she chose to protect her privacy.)
Reached by phone late Thursday afternoon, Palmer confirmed he was at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and gave the livestream interview. He claimed that he’d done nothing to justify being struck with the police munition, and that the Biden administration was trying to “vilify the patriots” who were involved in the riot.
Read more about Palmer at the HuffPo link. I wonder why he’s still at large?
More stories to check out today:
Sandra Bierman, Yin Yang
Politico: Prominent retired generals aided Honoré review of Capitol security.
Raw Story: WATCH: QAnon-loving Capitol rioter thought JFK Jr would be ‘sworn in’ as Trump’s vice president on Jan 6
NBC News: Federico Klein, former Trump appointee charged in Capitol riot, wants jail cell without cockroaches.
Politico: Capitol riot shaman’s TV interview irks judge.
Newsweek: Rachel Powell, Capitol Rioter Known as ‘Bullhorn Lady,’ Indicted by Grand Jury.
The New York Times: Cuomo Is Told to Preserve Records at Issue in Sexual Harassment Inquiry.
CBS Evening News: Cuomo accuser alleges a staffer took sexual harassment training for the governor.
Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: How Never Trumpers Are Becoming Pro-Democracy Republicans.
Madison.com: Ron Johnson: No decision on 2022 run, but leaving office is ‘probably my preference now.’
The New York Times: Democrats Want a Stronger Edge in the Senate. Ohio Could Be Crucial.
Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers!! This is an open thread.
Posted: December 30, 2020 Filed under: 2020 Elections, Congress, Domestic terrorism, morning reads | Tags: Covid-19, Donald Trump, FBI, open thread
Aren’t we all getting physically ill lately over the tRumpian attempts to overthrow the election results. I’m so sick of hearing the word “overturn” in the news media…you know, call it what it is, a fucking coup. Repeated attempted coups…to overthrow the country’s election.
I’ve got some news to share:
tRump only got 18% of the vote but…damn this is not the kind of support you want to see when there are other articles at Politco discussing things like this:
In other news:
This little incident made the local news…. but even in my own town, the lack of mask wearing is so blatant. It is disgusting.
A girlfriend of the man who the authorities say set off a bomb in downtown Nashville on Christmas had called police officers to his home last year, claiming that he had been making bombs in the R.V. parked there, according to a police incident report.
A lawyer for the girlfriend, according to the document filed with the Metro Nashville Police Department, told police officers that her boyfriend, Anthony Warner, “frequently talks about the military and bomb making.” The call to the police was reported on Tuesday by The Tennessean and WTVF-TV, a Nashville station.
The girlfriend met with the officers at her home on Aug. 21, 2019, according to the report and a later statement from the police. Officers then went to Mr. Warner’s home, a two-bedroom duplex in the Antioch area of Nashville.
The officers knocked on the door but “did not receive an answer,” according to the report, which was obtained by The New York Times. The R.V., which has been identified by state and federal officials as the one that exploded in downtown Nashville, injuring three and disrupting telecommunications in the region, was parked behind a fence. Officers wrote that they observed “several security cameras and wires attached to an alarm sign on the front door.”
A spokesman for the Police Department, Don Aaron, said in a statement that the police “saw no evidence of a crime and had no authority to enter his home or fenced property.” The girlfriend’s lawyer also represented Mr. Warner, according to the police, and told officers later that he would “not allow his client to permit a visual inspection of the R.V.”
According to the article, the FBI was also involved…I think there is more to this than what is being released. A terrorist doesn’t build a bomb to blow up a city block in a vacuum.
In the aftermath, The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said Warner was “not on our radar”prior to the bombing. But a Metro Nashville Police Department report from August 2019 shows that local and federal authorities were aware of alleged threats he had made.
No actions appear to have been taken to stop Warner, a slender 5-foot-8, 135-pound man who died in the explosion, which injured three others.
On Aug. 21, 2019, the girlfriend told Nashville police that Warner “was building bombs in the RV trailer at his residence,” the MNPD report states. Nashville police then forwarded the information to the FBI.
[…] Throckmorton, who served as the woman’s attorney, told officers Warner “frequently talks about the military and bomb making,” the document said.
Warner “knows what he is doing and is capable of making a bomb,” the attorney said to the officers, according to the report.
The attorney urged police to look into her claim, saying he feared for her safety. Police did go to Warner’s home, but he didn’t answer the door after they knocked.
He was making threats to his girlfriend, he was reportedly making bombs — and they let it go after he didn’t answer the door.
Now, just imagine his name was Breonna Taylor.
Now for some cartoons:
Here’s to 2021… stay safe, and wear your fucking masks!