Lazy Caturday Reads

Raining-cats-and-dogs

Good Morning!!

It’s raining cats and dogs outside my windows this morning, so I decided to illustrate this post with cats in and out of the rain. 

In just four days, Trump will be out of the White House and headed to Florida; and, according to the Wall Street Journal (via Raw Story), even the people working in the White House can’t wait until he’s gone.

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, the last days of Donald Trump’s tenure as president have found him still looking for any chance of remaining in office as demoralized staffers look forward to Inauguration Day bringing the era to a close.

The Journal notes that the president has asked for information on the Republicans in the House who voted for his impeachment last week and whether they are susceptible to being primaried in 2022 while still fuming about his election loss.

d62d3ff684ba7a48945811f5a8b94d56As regarding the ongoing articles of impeachment passed by the House, Trump is still searching for attorneys to defend him if it comes to a trial after White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and attorneys who represented him during his last impeachment have let it be known they won’t take part….

According to one aide close to the president, they just want it to be over.

“It’s complete shellshock,” they explained. “People are praying for the inauguration to come and to get Trump the hell out of there.”

So much winning.

Trump’s future business prospects aren’t looking so good either. Bloomberg: Trump’s Shambolic Empire Faces Long Odds for One More Comeback.

On the day Donald Trump was getting impeached in Washington, the lobby of his New York tower at 40 Wall St. was almost silent. Few footsteps smudged the shiny marble.

But up the dark and golden elevators, trouble was stirring in one of the billionaire’s most valuable properties. Inside one law office, two partners had clashed over whether to keep paying rent to a landlord who encouraged the Capitol’s deadly riot. On the 24th floor, a nonprofit that fights tuberculosis was exploring options for leaving. On the seventh, the Girl Scouts were figuring out how to break their lease.

And in the basement, vintage bank-vault doors that weigh more than 10 tons stood wide open. There, in a club room that Trump renovated, the news was playing on a jumbo television to an audience of empty armchairs just as Congress voted against him….

thumb-1920-709311The Trump Organization, run by sons Eric and Don Jr., was struggling with the devastating consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic even before their father incited a raid on Congress. Efforts to sell his Washington hotel were shelved, his office buildings were losing value amid a glut of space in Manhattan, and his golf courses were facing the reality that younger generations aren’t so interested.

Trump entered office worth $3 billion. Despite soaring stock prices and his own tax cuts, he will leave about $500 million poorer, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

His buildings are saddled with more than $1 billion in debt, most of it coming due in the next three years and more than a third of it personally guaranteed. Refinancing would mean finding lenders and corporations willing to work with history’s only twice-impeached ex-president.

Prosecutors in New York are salivating over the chances to prosecute the disgraced “president.” AP: NY prosecutors interview Michael Cohen about Trump finances.

New York prosecutors conducted an hourslong interview Thursday of Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, asking a range of questions about Trump’s business dealings, according to three people familiar with the meeting.

The interview focused in part on Trump’s relationship with Deutsche Bank, his biggest and longest standing creditor, according to the three people, who weren’t authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.

The interview, at least the second of Cohen by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, comes amid a long-running grand jury investigation into Trump’s business dealings. District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. has been waging a protracted legal battle to get access to the president’s tax records.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on Trump’s request for a stay and a further appeal after he leaves office Jan. 20.

Top-10-Images-of-Cats-Avoiding-The-Rain-1-510x384-1The New York investigation is one of several legal entanglements that are likely to intensify as Trump loses power — and any immunity from prosecution he might have as a sitting president — as he departs the White House….

The Republican president also faces a civil investigation, led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, into whether Trump’s company lied about the value of its assets to get loans or tax benefits. Cohen also is cooperating with that inquiry.

He previously told Congress that Trump often inflated the value of his assets when dealing with lenders or potential business partners, but deflated them when it benefited him for tax purposes.

Even in Scotland, people are looking for ways to investigate Trump. Read about it at The Scotsman: Leading QC says Scottish ministers can seek ‘McMafia’ order into Donald Trump’s finances.

Meanwhile, every day we learn more about the violent insurrection that Trump incited last week. One of the  most disturbing facts is how many law enforcement and active and former military people were involved. These are brief excerpts; I recommend following the links to read the full articles.

The Washington Post: Conspiracy theories and a call for patriots entice veterans at the Capitol.

A Washington Post analysis of individuals who breached the Capitol or were in the vicinity of the riots identified 21 people with some prior military service background. Of the 72 arrested or charged by state and federal authorities through Thursday morning, 11 have military backgrounds.

The military personnel and veterans involved in the demonstrations and riot at the Capitol range in age from 33 to 62. A handful of the veterans served in combat or with front-line infantry units in the Army and Marine Corps and spoke regularly of a coming revolution or the need for violent action to purge their country of unspecified enemies. Other veterans at the Capitol on Jan. 6 served for only short stints in the military or were focused more on clerical tasks than preparing for combat. Like many at the riots, they were swept up in conspiracy theories that have taken hold among some of Trump’s most fervent supporters and felt called to action by the president’s repeated insistence without evidence that the election had been stolen.

unnamedThe Pentagon hasn’t said how many active-duty troops or reservists are under investigation for any role in the protest or the riots, but homegrown militants and white supremacist groups have long targeted veterans for recruitment.

And some analysts who track extremist groups warn that the military has been slow to recognize the problem.

“They are behind in having the capacity to investigate these issues,” said Michael Edison Hayden, a spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups. “They don’t have the proper tools to identify symbols and tattoos and that kind of thing, so it has allowed it to fester for a really long time.”

The Los Angeles Times: Why veterans of the military and law enforcement joined the Capitol insurrection.

An Air Force veteran from Southern California and ardent conspiracy theorist bent on war against the government. An Army psychological operations officer at Ft. Bragg, N.C. A decorated, retired Air Force officer of 18 years from Texas who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The deadly riot in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 attracted a variety of far-right extremists who shared a devotion to President Trump and his insistence on a false belief that the November election had been stolen from him through fraud.

Many rioters also had something else in common as they sought to upend the government in an insurrection that bristled with Confederate flags, racist symbols and conspiracy theories: They were ex-members of the military and police or actively employed by the armed services and law enforcement.

“It’s an incredibly disturbing trend,” retired U.S. Army Col. Jeffrey D. McCausland, a professor of national security at Dickinson College and former dean at the U.S. Army War College, said in an interview. “These are people who are supposed to uphold the Constitution and the law, yet they were doing the exact opposite.”

Top-10-Images-of-Cats-Avoiding-The-Rain-9-510x395-1Gizmodo: Leaked Parler Data Points to Users at Police Stations, U.S. Military Bases.

Location data gleaned from thousands of videos posted on the social network Parler and extracted in the days before Amazon restricted access to app this week, reveal its users included police officers around the U.S. and service members stationed on bases at home and abroad.

The presence on Parler of active military and police raises concerns, experts said, about their potential exposure to far-right conspiracy theories and extremist ideologies enabled by the platform’s practically nonexistent moderation and its stated openness to hate speech. Military officials have long considered infiltration and recruitment by white supremacist groups a threat. Groups that endorsed a wide range of racist beliefs appear to have been operating openly on Parler, the experts said, with the de facto permission of its owners. The FBI has likewise raised concerns over law enforcement agents adopting radical views and being recruited—viewing their access to secured buildings, elected officials, and other VIPs as a singular threat.

Slate: Sheriffs Helped Lead This Insurrection.

On Jan. 6, Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb made a promise. Delivering a speech in Phoenix during the ongoing mob attack on the nation’s Capitol, Lamb accused former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton of unnamed crimes and repeated President Donald Trump’s false claims about election fraud. “Now I’m limited to what I can do as the sheriff, but if you live in Pinal County, I assure you I can fight for your freedom,” he said before exhorting his followers to “be vigilant” and to “fight for the Constitution, freedom, and the American way of life.” (The video has since been deleted from social media.)

In the past week, it’s become clear that many members of law enforcement from across the country participated in the siege on the Capitol. That includes former and current sheriffs and their deputies. Ex–Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway was at the Trump rally but says he didn’t march to the Capitol. He described the crowd as “a cross between tailgating at a football game and a NASCAR race—families, dogs, children. Everyone being nice. I mean, it was like a family reunion without some of the hatefulness you can find at family reunions. It was a very good crowd.”

Top-10-Images-of-Cats-Avoiding-The-Rain-10-510x334-1At least one current sheriff admits he was at the riot: Sheriff Chris West of Canadian County, Oklahoma, says he marched toward the Capitol building but did not enter. But long before Jan. 6, sheriffs have been helping to lay the groundwork for violence by the far-right movement. As political leaders in their communities, they have been sowing dissent at home, encouraging their own armed militias to prepare themselves to take back the government just as Lamb suggested.

Ninety percent of American sheriffs are white men, and in recent years they’ve become strongly affiliated with white supremacist groups. Across the country, sheriffs have declared that they will not enforce laws they deem “unconstitutional,” like COVID-19 public health orders or gun laws limiting weapons possession and permits. Their influence has only grown since the pandemic began, as mask wearing became affiliated with progressive liberals and a bare face was a sign of Trump support.

A few more reads about the Capitol attack:

David Graham at The Atlantic: We’re Just Finding Out How Bad the Riot Really Was.

The New York Times: Capitol Attack Could Fuel Extremist Recruitment For Years, Experts Warn.

Politico: Top FEMA official attended Trump’s ‘Stop the Steal’ rally.

NBC News: Online far-right movements fracture in wake of Capitol riot.

That’s all I have for you today. Have a nice long weekend, and please stop by and leave a comment if you have the time and inclination.


Sunday Reads: Whitelash

This attempted coup is disgusting…here are a few thoughts on the violence this past week.

I think it all stems from the fact that a black man was elected President some years ago….tRump supporters have something in common. They are white supremacist, bigoted assholes.

This thread:

Just waiting for…

This is an open thread.


Lazy Caturday Reads: The Final Days

ArtScans CMYK

By Marion Peck

Good Morning!!

The images in today’s post are examples of lowbrow art aka pop surrealism. You can read about this movement here: Widewalls: What Is the Lowbrow Art Movement? When Surrealism Took Over Pop.

After the horrifying events of the past week, we still have to get through 11 more days of Trump insanity. That’s one Scarimucci.

Democrats plan to introduce an article of impeachment on Monday. The New York Times: Democrats Ready Impeachment Charge Against Trump for Inciting Capitol Mob.

House Democrats laid the groundwork on Friday for impeaching President Trump a second time, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California threatened to bring him up on formal charges if he did not resign “immediately” over his role in inciting a violent mob attack on the Capitol this week.

Tiki Cat by Brad Parker

Tiki Cat by Brad Parker

The threat was part of an all-out effort by furious Democrats, backed by a handful of Republicans, to pressure Mr. Trump to leave office in disgrace after the hourslong siege by his supporters on Wednesday on Capitol Hill. Although he has only 12 days left in the White House, they argued he was a direct danger to the nation.

Ms. Pelosi and other top Democratic leaders continued to press Vice President Mike Pence and the cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to wrest power from Mr. Trump, though Mr. Pence was said to be against it. The speaker urged Republican lawmakers to pressure the president to resign immediately. And she took the unusual step of calling Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to discuss how to limit Mr. Trump’s access to the nation’s nuclear codes and then publicized it.

“If the president does not leave office imminently and willingly, the Congress will proceed with our action,” Ms. Pelosi wrote in a letter to colleagues.

Reuters: Majority of Americans want Trump removed immediately after U.S. Capitol violence – Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Fifty-seven percent of Americans want Republican President Donald Trump to be immediately removed from office after he encouraged a protest this week that escalated into a deadly riot inside the U.S. Capitol, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Most of them were Democrats, however, with Republicans apparently much more supportive of Trump serving out the final days of his term, which ends on Jan. 20.

The national public opinion survey, conducted Thursday and Friday, also showed that seven out of 10 of those who voted for Trump in November opposed the action of the hardcore supporters who broke into the Capitol while lawmakers were meeting to certify the election victory of Democrat Joe Biden.

Nearly 70% of Americans surveyed also said they disapprove of Trump’s actions in the run-up to Wednesday’s assault. At a rally earlier in the day, Trump had exhorted thousands of his followers to march to the Capitol.

Princess with a ragdoll cat, Jasmine Ann Becket-Griffith

Princess with a ragdoll cat, Jasmine Ann Becket-Griffith

Of course Trump did much more than “encourage a protest.” He literally told a mob of conspiracy nuts and white supremacist thugs to march to the Capital and disrupt the counting of electoral votes by the House and Senate. Aaron Rupar at Vox: How Trump’s speech led to the Capitol riot.

Just before a MAGA mob descended on the US Capitol on Wednesday and caused a riot that killed five people, including a Capitol police officer who was beaten to death, President Donald Trump delivered a speech to his supporters in which he used the words “fight” or “fighting” at least 20 times.

“We’re going to have to fight much harder and Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us,” Trump said at one point, alluding to Pence’s ultimate refusal to attempt to steal the election for him during that day’s hearing where the Electoral College made his loss official.

“You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength. You have to be strong,” he added during the speech in which he pushed long-debunked lies about Joe Biden’s convincing victory over him being the product of fraud….

Trump began his speech by urging the media to “show what’s really happening out here because these people are not going to take it any longer. They’re not going to take it any longer.”

“You don’t concede when there’s theft involved,” he said. “Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore and that’s what this is all about.”

Trump encouraged his listeners to march to the Capitol following his speech “to see whether or not we have great and courageous leaders or whether or not we have leaders that should be ashamed of themselves throughout history, throughout eternity.” He did mention in passion that he was confident they would march “peacefully,” but his fans seemed to hear a different message, at one point chanting “fight for Trump!” as Trump said, “We will not let them silence your voices. We’re not going to let it happen.” [….]

Indeed, shortly after Trump’s speech wrapped up, a mob of Trump supporters overran law enforcement officials and breached the Capitol, ransacking and looting and leaving the premises looking like a war zone. They succeeded in disrupting and delaying the proceedings that made Trump’s loss official but didn’t change the ultimate outcome — and if anything did damage to Trump by turning political sentiment sharply against him in the final days of his administration.

As chaotic scenes unfolded at the Capitol, Trump’s first move was to post a tweet attacking Pence for lacking the “courage” to help him steal the election (he later deleted it as a condition of getting Twitter to unlock his account). Meanwhile, rioters unsuccessfully hunted for Pence while others were photographed with zip-tie handcuffs, suggesting they hoped to take hostages.

Femke Hiemstra

By Femke Hiemstra

Were there plans to take hostages and even kill lawmakers? The Washington Post: FBI focuses on whether some Capitol rioters intended to harm lawmakers or take hostages.

FBI agents are trying to determine whether some who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday intended to do more than cause havoc and disrupt the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, and they are sifting through evidence to see whether anyone wanted to kill or capture lawmakers or their staffers, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Dozens have been arrested, and Friday, officials announced charges against an Arkansas man photographed in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office chair with a foot on her desk. But investigators also are working to determine the motivations and larger goals, if any, of those who had weapons or other gear suggesting they planned to do physical harm.

Some rioters, for instance, were photographed carrying zip ties, a plastic version of handcuffs, and one man was arrested allegedly carrying a pistol on the Capitol grounds.

“We’re not looking at this as a grand conspiracy, but we are interested in learning what people would do with things like zip ties,” said a law enforcement official, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation….

Many of the initial charges have been for unlawful entry, but authorities also found suspected pipe bombs outside the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee, and they arrested the owner of a truck they said was spotted nearby with 11 molotov cocktails inside. The FBI is still searching for the person who left the suspected pipe bombs.

Adding to the investigation’s urgency, Twitter on Friday noted that plans for future armed protests have begun circulating online, including a proposed second attack on the U.S. Capitol and assaults on state government buildings Jan. 17. Officials cautioned that there may be a variety of motives among those who broke into Congress, and they said that a key part of their investigation is determining whether any individuals or groups had planned in advance or were coordinating in the moment to commit violence against individual politicians. Others may simply have been caught up in the moment and committed rash, unplanned crimes, officials said.

Harlekin Cat by Catrin Welz-Stein

Harlekin Cat by Catrin Welz-Stein

CNN: Feds say police found a pickup truck full of bombs and guns near Capitol insurrection as wide-ranging investigation unfurls.

An Alabama man allegedly parked a pickup truck packed with 11 homemade bombs, an assault rifle and a handgun two blocks from the US Capitol building on Wednesday for hours before authorities ever noticed, according to federal prosecutors.

Another man allegedly showed up in the nation’s capital with an assault rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition and told acquaintances that he wanted to shoot or run over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, prosecutors said.

The revelations are some of the most unsettling details federal prosecutors have made public this week as they detail the extent of the arsenal available to aid pro-Trump rioters who stormed the Capitol. Other individuals have been accused of taking guns and ammunition onto Capitol grounds and more charges are expected to come as a wide-ranging investigation unfurls.

The details about the weapons cache in the pickup truck were contained in federal documents charging Lonnie Leroy Coffman of Falkville, Alabama, with federal offenses. A bomb squad detected the arsenal during the scramble to secure the federal complex after it was overrun by pro-Trump rioters and other bombs around Washington, D.C., were found.

More on Coffman:

Coffman, 70, told police he had mason jars filled with “melted Styrofoam and gasoline.” Federal investigators believe that combination, if exploded, would have the effect of napalm “insofar as it causes the flammable liquid to better stick to objects that it hits upon detonation,” according to the court record.

Police also found cloth rags and lighters. The court documents said that those items and the explosive-filled mason jars “in close proximity to one another constitute a combination of parts” that could be used as a “destructive device.”

Coffman had parked his pickup truck at 9:15 a.m. ET on First St SE on the Hill, near the National Republican Club, commonly called the Capitol Hill Club. That building is within a block of a large US House office building and the Library of Congress, according to the complaint. The truck also had a handgun on the passenger seat and an M4 Carbine assault rifle, along with rifle magazines loaded with ammunition, police said.

When police found and searched him about a block away after dusk, Coffman was also carrying a 9mm handgun and a .22-caliber handgun in each of his front pockets, the police complaint said. None of the weapons found in his truck or on his person were registered to him.

Read more details about those who have been arrested at the CNN link.

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Jean Pierre Arboleda, Playtime

Ronan Farrow on one of the men who carried zip-ties into the Capital: An Air Force Combat Veteran Breached the Senate.

As insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol this week, a few figures stood out. One man, clad in a combat helmet, body armor, and other tactical gear, was among the group that made it to the inner reaches of the building. Carrying zip-tie handcuffs, he was captured in photographs and videos on the Senate floor and with a group that descended on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office suite. In a video shot by ITV News, he is seen standing against a wall adjacent to Pelosi’s office, his face covered by a bandana. At another point, he appears to exit the suite, face exposed, pushing his way through the crowds of demonstrators.

A day after the riots, John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at Citizen Lab, at the University of Toronto’s Munk School, notified the F.B.I. that he suspected the man was retired Lieutenant Colonel Larry Rendall Brock, Jr., a Texas-based Air Force Academy graduate and combat veteran. Scott-Railton had been trying to identify various people involved in the attack. “I used a number of techniques to hone in on his identity, including facial recognition and image enhancement, as well as seeking contextual clues from his military paraphernalia,” Scott-Railton told me. Brock was wearing several patches on his combat helmet and body armor, including one bearing a yellow fleur de lis, the insignia of the 706th Fighter Squadron. He also wore several symbols suggesting that he lived in Texas, including a vinyl tag of the Texas flag overlaid on the skull logo of the Punisher, the Marvel comic-book character. The Punisher has been adopted by police and Army groups and, more recently, by white supremacists and followers of QAnon. Scott-Railton also found a recently deleted Twitter account associated with Brock, with a Crusader as its avatar. “All those things together, it’s like looking at a person’s C.V.,” Scott-Railton said.

Two family members and a longtime friend said that Brock’s political views had grown increasingly radical in recent years. Bill Leake, who flew with Brock in the Air Force for a decade, said that he had distanced himself from Brock. “I don’t contact him anymore ’cause he’s gotten extreme,” Leake told me. In recent years, Brock had become an increasingly committed supporter of Donald Trump, frequently wearing a Make America Great Again hat. In the days leading up to the siege of the Capitol, Brock had posted to social media about his plans to travel to Washington, D.C., to participate in Trump’s “Save America” rally. Brock’s family members said that he called himself a patriot, and that his expressions of that identity had become increasingly strident. One recalled “weird rage talk, basically, saying he’s willing to get in trouble to defend what he thinks is right, which is Trump being the President, I guess.” Both family members said that Brock had made racist remarks in their presence and that they believed white-supremacist views may have contributed to his motivations.

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Artist unknown

Brock claims to be completely innocent of any malign intent.

In an interview, Brock confirmed that he was the man in the photos and videos. He denied that he held racist views and echoed Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud, saying that he derived his understanding of the matter principally from social media. He told me that he had gone to Washington, D.C., to demonstrate peacefully. “The President asked for his supporters to be there to attend, and I felt like it was important, because of how much I love this country, to actually be there,” he said. Brock added that he did not identify as part of any organized group and claimed that, despite the scenes of destruction that day, he had seen no violence. When he arrived at the Capitol, he said, he assumed he was welcome to enter the building.

Brock denied that he had entered Pelosi’s office suite, saying that he “stopped five to ten feet ahead of the sign” bearing her title that insurrectionists later tore down and brandished. However, in the ITV video, he appears to emerge from the suite. Brock said that he had worn tactical gear because “I didn’t want to get stabbed or hurt,” citing “B.L.M. and Antifa” as potential aggressors. He claimed that he had found the zip-tie handcuffs on the floor. “I wish I had not picked those up,” he told me. “My thought process there was I would pick them up and give them to an officer when I see one. . . . I didn’t do that because I had put them in my coat, and I honestly forgot about them.” He also said that he was opposed to vandalizing the building, and was dismayed when he learned of the extent of the destruction. “I know it looks menacing,” he told me. “That was not my intent.”

Yeah, right. Read more about Brock at The New Yorker.

Dan Kois at Slate: They Were Out For Blood.

I can’t stop thinking about the zip-tie guys.

Amid the photos that flooded social media during Wednesday’s riot at the Capitol—shirtless jokers in horned helmets, dudes pointing at their nuts, dumbasses carrying away souvenirs—the images of the zip-tie guys were quieter, less exuberant, more chilling. And we’d better not forget what they almost managed to do.

It’s easy to think of the siege of the U.S. Capitol as a clown show with accidentally deadly consequences. A bunch of cosplaying self-styled patriots show up, overwhelm the incomprehensibly unprepared Capitol Police, and then throw a frat party in the rotunda. The miscreants smear shit on the walls and steal laptops and smoke weed in conference rooms. Someone gets shot; someone else has a heart attack, possibly under ludicrous circumstances. When they finally get rousted, they cry to the cameras about getting maced….

Marion Peck3

By Marion Peck

But there were other rioters inside the Capitol, if you look at the images. And once you see them, it’s impossible to look away. The zip-tie guys.

Call the zip ties by their correct name: The guys were carrying flex cuffs, the plastic double restraints often used by police in mass arrest situations. They walked through the Senate chamber with a sense of purpose. They were not dressed in silly costumes but kitted out in full paramilitary regalia: helmets, armor, camo, holsters with sidearms. At least one had a semi-automatic rifle and 11 Molotov cocktails. At least one, unlike nearly every other right-wing rioter photographed that day, wore a mask that obscured his face.

These are the same guys who, when the windows of the Capitol were broken and entry secured, went in first with what I’d call military-ish precision. They moved with purpose, to the offices of major figures like Nancy Pelosi and then to the Senate floor. What was that purpose? It wasn’t to pose for photos. It was to use those flex cuffs on someone.

Kois goes on to compare these men to the terrorists who plotted to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in October. Read the rest at Slate.

This post has gotten way too long, so I’d better wrap this up. As you can well imagine, there is much more to read out there today. I’ll post more links in the comment thread, and I hope you’ll do the same.


Tuesday Reads: Last Words on Kobe Bryant

Good Morning!!

Two days after the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, there has been almost no attention paid to the other 7 people who died in the tragic accident. Read about them at Buzzfeed News: Teenage Girls And Beloved Coaches Were Among The 9 Victims Of The Helicopter Crash That Killed Kobe Bryant.

John Altobelli, a 56-year-old head baseball coach at Orange Coast College, along with his wife, Keri, and youngest daughter, Alyssa, 13, were among those who died.

Alyssa and Gianna were teammates at Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy. The team was set to play against a Fresno youth team on Sunday afternoon, the Fresno Bee reported.

John Altobelli had been a coach and mentor at Orange Coast College (OCC) for 27 years, helping many student-athletes earn scholarships so they could play at the four-year level, the college said in a statement.

“Coach Alto,” the college said, helped lead the Pirates to more than 700 wins and four state championships. He was named the National Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association in 2019.

Altobelli family

The Altobelli’s are survived by two other children, a son JJ and daughter Lexi, now orphans.

Christina Mauser, 38, was the assistant coach for the Mamba Academy basketball team.

“My kids and I are devastated,” her husband, Matt Mauser, wrote in a Facebook post. “We lost our beautiful wife and mom today in a helicopter crash.”

The couple has three children, ages 11, 9, and 3….

Sarah Chester and her 13-year-old daughter, Payton, also died in the crash. Payton was a basketball player, NBC News reported.

Todd Schmidt, the former principal at Harbor View Elementary School, wrote a heartfelt tribute to Payton, his former student, and her mother, calling them “two gorgeous human beings.”

“While the world mourns the loss of a dynamic athlete and humanitarian, I mourn the loss of two people just as important…their impact was just as meaningful, their loss will be just as keenly felt, and our hearts are just as broken,” Schmidt wrote in a Facebook post.

Christina Mauser

Chester leaves behind a husband Chris and two 16-year-old sons Hayden and Riley.

Ara Zobayan, the pilot of the helicopter, was a beloved figure in the aviation community. He was “instrument-rated” which meant he was able to fly in fog and clouds, KTLA reporter Christina Pascucci said.

Zobayan was Bryant’s private pilot, according to one of his flight students, Darren Kemp.

So many people–including young children–are devastated by these deaths, but all the attention has gone to the former basketball player. I still can’t get past my anger at the lionizing of Bryant, who was credibly accused of rape and never publicly dealt with the damage he did to the life of a 19-year-old woman. Ever since I saw the way the basketball stars were treated as if they could do no wrong in my high school, I’ve resented the way athletes are allowed to get away with almost anything, especially violence against women.

Sarah and Payton Chester

Somewhere the woman that Bryant raped is watching the coverage of his death and most likely reliving the trauma she experienced as she sees so much praise heaped upon her abuser.

On Sunday, Jill Filipovic wrote that Bryant has a “complicated legacy.” No, it’s not really complicated. He was a huge basketball star with a giant ego and he got away with rape. He’s certainly not alone in that. Gavin Polone at the Hollywood Reporter:

I guess our society thinks that certain transgressions by celebrities can be forgiven. What’s perplexing is the con­trast between which wrongs are and aren’t forgivable. Based on what I’ve read, I believe Kobe most probably raped a woman and still was paid $26 million in 2015 by Nike, Hublot, Panini Authentic, Turkish Airlines and others to endorse their products; Ben Roethlisberger was accused of raping two women and still made more than $35 million for one year as an NFL quarterback; Greg Hardy certainly beat the shit out of his ex-girlfriend and was signed to play defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys; Jameis Winston was sued for the rape of a student at FSU and didn’t even break stride to the NFL (having watched the victim’s recounting of events, I believe her). Both R. Kelly and Michael Jackson were accused of sexual misconduct, yet the former still is performing and the latter practically has been deified.

But what isn’t forgiven? Killing someone? Nope, Ray Lewis was accused of that, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and now is an NFL analyst for ESPN. Donte Stallworth killed a pedestrian while driving drunk and played the next year. So violence, especially against women, can be excused.

Ara Zobayan

Here’s a piece at Vice by Albert Berneko that counters Filipovic’s “complicated legacy” notion: Kobe Bryant Was No More Complicated Than Anyone Else.

Maybe the actual very last thing the world needs or ever will need, ever again, is for one more man’s power or fame or brilliance or death to be used as a reason to throw the word “complicated” over his abuses like an obscuring blanket. It’s a dishonest sidestep, anyway. Everyone is complicated. You can be a tortured mass of endless complications and still never sexually assault anyone.

What the fact of having committed, or having credibly been accused of committing, sexual assault complicates for an acclaimed celebrity is the feelings—or maybe, at most, the immediate social situation—of those who’d like to go right on celebrating him. Ironically, or maybe not ironically, nothing smooths this complication more easily than the word “complicated”: Be sure to include it in your hosannas. It is a way to skip past the discomfort and ambiguity of actually grappling with the acclaimed celebrity’s monstrousness straight to the part where you congratulate yourself for having done so. I have integrated the fullness of this imperfect person; when I now return to praising him, be sure that it is with the appropriate level of personal internal conflicted feeling.

It seems reasonable to guess that former Los Angeles Laker star Kobe Bryant was a complicated person, because he was a person and not the Archangel Gabriel. More relevant to a summation of his life, he was also a great and spectacular basketball player, one of the biggest stars in the history of the sport, and a powerful man who, in 2003 and at the height of his celebrity, was credibly accused of raping a 19-year-old hotel employee and then avoided a trial by leaking his accuser’s identity and shaming her into silence. I don’t think these things complicate each other, unless you happen to believe there’s a personal moral component to being good at making contested jump-shots.

Marty Baron

To top off the protect-Kobe hysteria, Marty Baron, editor of the Washington Post–who was editor of the Boston Globe when the Spotlight team exposed sexual abuse in the Catholic Church–publicly shamed one of his reporters, Felicia Sonmez who is a survivor of sexual assault.

Vanity Fair:  “There’s Incredible Outrage”: Washington Post Newsroom Revolts after Reporter Suspended for Kobe Bryant Tweets.

As the collective grief crested on Twitter following TMZ’s shocking scoop that Kobe Bryant had been killed in a helicopter crash, Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez had a different idea. She shared a 2016 Daily Beast story detailing a rape allegation made against the NBA legend more than a decade earlier. “Any public figure is worth remembering in their totality,” she tweeted Sunday, “even if that public figure is beloved and that totality unsettling.”

Vitriol and threats streamed into Sonmez’s inbox, which she relayed on Twitter, along with screenshots of the attacks. The Bryant-related tweets have since been deleted. By Sunday afternoon, Somnez had been suspended—placed on “administrative leave”—a move that’s prompted anger and confusion inside the Post newsroom. “There’s incredible outrage. The outrage is like nothing I’ve ever seen here,” one Post source told us. “People just feel like it was way over the top.”

The Daily Beast article was an exhaustive chronicle of the allegations against Bryant and his response to them. While far from flattering to Bryant, it described an inescapable part of his history, and, fraught as social media can be in the current world of journalism, it was difficult for many to see how posting it was out of bounds. Post staffers were looking for clarity Monday after managing editor Tracy Grant said in a statement that Sonmez violated the newsroom’s social media policy and “displayed poor judgment that undermined the work of her colleagues.”

Felicia Sonmez

I hope you’ll go read the rest. Sonmez spent the night in a hotel after her address was posted on-line by outraged Kobe fans. I’d also suggest reading this piece in the Post by Eric Wemple: The Post’s misguided suspension of Felicia Sonmez over Kobe Bryant tweets.

I’ll be quiet about this now, but I just had to get it off my chest. I can acknowledge that millions of people are sad about the death of their idol. I just think there should be some recognition that the way we treat (male) athletes in our culture means that the people who dare to say no to their desires are publicly shamed and punished.

Some other news stories to check out today:

On the Bolton revelations:

NYT: Bolton Was Concerned That Trump Did Favors for Autocratic Leaders, Book Says.

WaPo: Bolton book roils Washington as onetime allies turn on Trump’s former national security adviser.

Barbara McQuade at WaPo: Trump waived executive privilege when he called Bolton a liar.

Daily Beast: Top Ukraine Official: I Trusted Bolton More Than Anyone.

Other impeachment news and comment:

Axios: Republicans brace for domino effect on witnesses.

Impeachment expert Frank Bowman at The Atlantic: Trump’s Defense Against Subpoenas Makes No Legal Sense.

WaPo: Trump’s impeachment defense: Who is paying the president’s lawyers?

Jamelle Bouie at NYT: Mitch McConnell’s Complicity Has Deep Roots.

Vetting Bernie Sanders (finally)

NYT: Bernie Sanders and His Internet Army.

David Frum at the Atlantic: Bernie Can’t Win.

Richard North Patterson at the Bulwark: This Is How Trump Would Destroy Bernie Sanders.

Jonathan Chait at NY Mag: Running Bernie Sanders Against Trump Would Be an Act of Insanity.

Other campaign news:

NYT: How Some People of Color Feel Inside the Buttigieg Campaign.

Politico: Why Biden scaled back in New Hampshire.

What stories are you following today?

 


Thursday Reads: The Proverbial Sh** Is Hitting The Fan

Good Morning!!

Lately I’ve been feeling as if I’m treading water, waiting to see what is going to happen with impeachment. I felt that way even before Nancy Pelosi finally decided the time was right to do it. In the past few weeks while she held off on transmitting the articles to the Senate, more evidence has become public, and even yesterday as the articles were delivered more shocking news broke. Now it feels as if the proverbial shit is finally hitting the fan.

Former Giuliani pal Lev Parnas turned over documents to the House and those documents were sent to the Senate along with the impeachment articles and then released to the public. The New York Times interviewed him yesterday: Lev Parnas, Key Player in Ukraine Affair, Completes Break With Trump and Giuliani.

Lev Parnas, the Soviet-born businessman who played a central role in the campaign to pressure Ukraine to investigate political rivals of President Trump, completed his break with the White House on Wednesday, asserting for the first time in public that the president was fully aware of the efforts to dig up damaging information on his behalf.

In an interview with The New York Times on the day the House transmitted articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump to the Senate, Mr. Parnas also expressed regret for having trusted Mr. Trump and Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer and the architect of the Ukraine pressure campaign. His lawyer said he was eager to cooperate with federal prosecutors investigating Mr. Giuliani.

Trump with Lev Parnas

Mr. Parnas made his remarks as House impeachment investigators released more material he had turned over to them. The material, including text messages, photos and calendar entries, underscored how deeply Mr. Parnas and others were involved in carrying out the pressure campaign and how new information continues to surface even as the Senate prepares to begin Mr. Trump’s trial next week. And it provided additional evidence that the effort to win political advantage for Mr. Trump was widely known among his allies, showing that Mr. Parnas communicated regularly with two top Republican fund-raisers about what he was up to.

Text messages and call logs show that Mr. Parnas was in contact with Tom Hicks Jr., a donor and Trump family friend, and Joseph Ahearn, who raised money for pro-Trump political groups, about developments in the Ukraine pressure campaign.

In the text messages, Mr. Parnas kept Mr. Hicks and Mr. Ahearn apprised of efforts to disseminate damaging information about targets of Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani, including the United States ambassador to Kyiv, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Ukrainians who spread information about Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman.

The records seem to expand the circle of people around Mr. Trump who were aware in real time of the pressure campaign. The campaign led to Mr. Trump’s impeachment in the House last month and a Senate trial that will start next week just as the 2020 presidential campaign is moving into high gear.

In the interview with The Times, Mr. Parnas said that although he did not speak with Mr. Trump directly about the efforts, he met with the president on several occasions and was told by Mr. Giuliani that Mr. Trump was kept in the loop.

Parnas also gave an interview to Rachel Maddow. Some of it aired on Maddow’s show last night with more to come tonight. Deadline: Rachel Maddow’s Bombshell Interview With Lev Parnas: Trump Was In The Loop, And So Were Many Others.

Rachel Maddow’s interview with Lev Parnas, the former associate of Rudy Giuliani, basically confirmed what House Democrats have been saying all along as they pursued impeachment against Donald Trump: He was very much in the loop.

In Parnas’s words, “President Trump knew exactly what was going on. He knew all of my movements.”

Given that Parnas described a scheme to shakedown the new Ukrainian government until they announced an investigation of Joe Biden, that means a lot, as he described in detail a pressure campaign that was placed on Ukrainian officials.

An early episode came last spring, when Parnas said that he was enlisted to warn an aide to incoming president Volodymyr Zelensky that if an investigation was not announced, Vice President Mike Pence’s visit for Zelensky’s inauguration would be cancelled. The aide refused, and Pence’s visit was canceled.

“I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president,” Parnas said to Maddow.

He also confirmed other claims made during the impeachment inquiry, including the serious charge that aid to Ukraine was withheld as government officials continued to hold off on announcing a Biden investigation. “It wasn’t just military aid; it was all aid” that was under threat of being withheld, Parnas said.

But Trump’s team is likely to spend the next few days trying to discredit Parnas, who, along with another associate, Igor Furman, was arrested in October on campaign finance charges. As Maddow was playing her interview with Parnas, her Fox News rival Sean Hannity was calling MSNBC the “state run, MSNBC conspiracy channel media.”

Lev Parnas, Kevin McCarthy, and Igor Fruman

More on Parnas documents from Politico: Democrats release more Parnas evidence, including voicemails with Trump associates.

House impeachment investigators released a new set of evidence that was obtained from Lev Parnas, an indicted former associate of President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani — including voicemails, photos, and text messages between Parnas and high-level figures within Trump’s orbit.

The material includes voicemail messages Parnas received from Giuliani and Victoria Toensing, a prominent Trump-aligned lawyer, both of whom have been identified as players in an effort to force the removal of the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, during the spring.

“Hey Lev. VT here. We’ve got a request to talk to the big one,” Toensing said in the April 23, 2019, voicemail message. “So I just wanted to get the latest from you, if I could. I know it’s late there. I’m sorry.”

The timing of the Toensing voicemail coincides with a flurry of activity involving Yovanovitch’s ouster. On April 23, Giuliani tweeted that Ukraine was investigating 2016 election interference, and Trump recalled Yovanovitch from Ukraine on April 24.

The previously undisclosed documents, released late Tuesday night but not publicly noticed, were posted ahead of the House formally sending its impeachment articles to the Senate, underscore the evolving nature of an investigation that House Democrats say is ongoing — and was stifled in its early stages by Trump’s refusal to allow his aides and associates to comply with congressional subpoenas.

The most shocking information that came out of the Parnas documents was the possibility that Trump allies were stalking and perhaps even physically threatening then Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. Parnas told Maddow that he didn’t believe that had actually happened and it was just a fantasy created by a “loony” Trump ally Robert Hyde.

Marie Yovanovitch

Nonetheless, Ukraine has opened an investigation into the possible threat to Yovanovich. NBC News: Ukraine launches probe into alleged surveillance of former U.S. envoy.

Ukraine has launched criminal investigations into the possible illegal surveillance of former U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, and the reported hacking of Burisma Holdings, the natural gas company at the center of the Trump impeachment.

“Ukraine’s position is not to interfere in the domestic affairs of the United States of America,” the Interior Ministry, which runs the police forces, said in a statement.

However, recent reports pointed to the possible violation of Ukrainian and international law, it said.

“Ukraine cannot ignore such illegal activities on the territory of its own state,” the statement added….

“Our goal is to investigate whether there actually was a violation of Ukrainian and international law, which could be the subject for proper reaction. Or whether it is just bravado and fake information in the informal conversation between two U.S. citizens,” the ministry said.

Some background on Robert Hyde from The Washington Post: GOP figure who said he tracked U.S. ambassador was previously involuntarily committed, records show.

A Republican congressional candidate and former Marine who suggested last year that he was tracking a U.S. ambassador who had fallen out of favor with President Trump was once involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital after an incident at one of the president’s resorts and is the subject of a restraining order obtained by a political consultant, police and court records show.

On Tuesday, Robert F. Hyde became the latest figure to emerge in the drama surrounding the Trump administration’s recall last year of Marie Yovanovitch as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine when his 2019 messages were made public on the eve of Trump’s impeachment trial. His exchanges with an associate of Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, had been turned over to House Democrats in response to a subpoena.

In the messages to Lev Parnas, Hyde claimed to be in contact with a “private security” team near the embassy in Kyiv and suggested that he had the ambassador under physical and electronic surveillance. “It’s confirmed we have a person inside,” he wrote in March.

Robert Hyde with Trump

On Wednesday, Hyde claimed he had been “joking” in the messages he sent to Parnas.

On his social media accounts, Hyde, a long-shot candidate for Congress in Connecticut’s 5th District, has posted numerous photos of himself and Trump or members of the president’s family, many of them taken at Trump properties. He appeared grinning with Trump on Easter at the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla.

Among the photos and videos is a picture from a party to which, according to the post, Hyde had taken friends on May 7 at a bowling alley in the White House complex.

The bowling party occurred about a week before police were called to Trump’s Doral resort in Miami-Dade County for a “male in distress fearing for his life,” according to a police report from the incident.

Hyde told officers that he had been “set up and that a hit man was out to get him,” officers wrote. Hyde “spoke about emails he sent that may have placed his life in jeopardy” and said he believed that painters and landscape workers were trying to harm him and that the Secret Service was watching him.

Read more at the links I’ve provided.

I’ve only scratched the surface of today’s news. We have no idea what will happen with impeachment now, except that Mitch McConnell will do his best to protect Trump. He’s planning to shut the media out of the impeachment trial–will he get away with it? It’s beginning to look as if he will have a tough time, as more and more shit hits the media fan. I expect we’ll learn even more today. It’s all going to come out.

Dahlia Lithwick argues that McConnell’s cover-up plan is in big trouble: How Will the Senate Get Away With Its Sham Trial Now?

Interestingly, with an impeachment trial in the Senate raising the stakes perhaps even higher than those for a Supreme Court vacancy, McConnell committed a rare unforced error before Christmas: He proclaimed that Senate Republicans would “be working through this process hopefully in a fairly short period of time, in total coordination with the White House counsel’s office and the people who are representing the president.” This essentially amounts to a confession he’d be rigging up a show trial to acquit the president without hearing any material evidence—not exactly what that whole “trial” mechanism is meant to do, legally speaking. Perhaps as a result of that unfortunate admission, McConnell now has to contend with at least a handful of vulnerable Republicans in the Senate who are not perfectly cool with the “we’re coordinating with Trump to get him acquitted super fast” situation. And as such, we enter this historic week of Senate impeachment with at least the wisp of a hope that there might be a fairer trial ahead than anyone could have anticipated.

That slim hope nests in a variety of cozy places, including but not limited to the prospect that Chief Justice John Roberts has some institutional interests in avoiding a kangaroo trial, the fact that the American public has shown some bipartisan interest in hearing actual testimony from actual witnesses, and the fact that the president appears to continue to conflate his personal political ambitions with the national interest, even after being impeached for precisely that conduct in the House. (Maybe this will finally prove to be too much for even the most casual observer?) Plus, newly released documents from Rudy Giuliani’s indicted Ukraine-gate confederate, Lev Parnas, again confirm that the rough contours of the aid-for-oppo research scheme. But they go even further: The new documents (with more to come) add elements of actual threats to the welfare of a sitting U.S. ambassador, directed by the associates of Trump’s associates, which has implications for Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal lawyer. Senate Republicans will need to explain why none of this matters and why they want to know nothing more about the back deals and thuggery that, it is now clearer than ever, were conducted under the president’s directive. That means that there is at least a smidgen of hope wafting off senators like Mitt Romney of Utah, who says he’d like to hear testimony from John Bolton, and Susan Collins of Maine, who says she is possibly open to impeachment witnesses and documents, all of which makes it trickier for McConnell to magic up his dream trial of opening statements leading to closing statements leading to a brisk victory lap-slash-acquittal.

Read the rest at Slate.

I’ll post some more links in the comment thread; it’s so difficult to figure out what to highlight these days. I hope you’ll share the stories you are following too.