Jeff Stein: What’s your take on the press coverage of Trump, starting with the first allegations about his associates’ contacts with the Russians, up to the Mueller report? How has the press been doing?
Barry Sussman: The problem is the media have allowed Trump to set the agenda. When he changes the subject, they change the subject. They follow him wherever he goes. He leads the press around by the nose. That was even true on the Russia investigation. How many weeks did we go, months, where there were front-page stories questioning whether Trump would even testify? Imbeciles like Giuliani were getting press attention as though they had something to say, when all they were doing was trying to stretch things out and humiliate the press. That’s my main difficulty, not only with the Russia investigation but with everything else.
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
It’s no wonder that Mitch McConnell is stacking the judiciary with the likes of dingbat Wendy Vitter who is probably one of the most uniquely unqualified Federal judges to ever sit on the bench. It appears to be the only way they can get their conspiracy theories and pet religious fantasies into law.
This is from Vanity Fair and the keyboard of Bess Levin: “TRUMP JUDGE WHO ENDORSED THEORY ABORTION CAUSES CANCER CONFIRMED BY SENATE. Wendy Vitter, who promoted a brochure that links birth control to “violent death,” just got a lifetime seat on the federal bench,.”
The president has installed a whopping 106 judges since his inauguration, and, on Thursday, the Senate confirmed what might be his craziest nominee yet.
That would be Wendy Vitter. Trump nominated her nearly a year and a half ago, and on Thursday, the Senate officially voted to give her a lifetime seat on the federal bench. So, what’s so bad about Vitter that Susan “This Kavanaugh guy totally deserves a seat on the Supreme Court” Collins broke ranks to oppose her? Where to start?
Probably with the fact that Vitter, who has been general counsel for the Archdiocese of New Orleans since 2012, seemingly believes that abortion causes breast cancer. At a conference in 2013, Vitter referred to a brochure that linked abortions to breast cancer, and told the audience, “Go to Dr. Angela’s Web site, Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, download it, and, at your next physical, you walk into your pro-life doctor and say, ‘Have you thought about putting these facts or this brochure in your waiting room?’ Each one of you can be the pro-life advocate to take that next step. That’s what you do with it.” That same brochure that Vitter appeared to endorse claimed that taking birth control can lead to cervical and liver cancers, and “violent death,” because “women who take oral contraceptives prefer men with similar DNA, and that women in these partnerships have fewer sexual relations, leading to more adultery, and ‘understandably . . . violence.’” Separately, Vitter appeared at an anti-Planned Parenthood rally, where she accused the group of “kill[ing] over 150,000 females a year.” Naturally, she left these activities off her disclosure form to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The latest conspiracy theory concerns Trump’s and apparently AG Barr’s concept that Trump was ‘spied on’ by his political enemies. This enters the conversation while we find out the FBI is telling Governors that their election databases were hacked by Russians in 2016 while swearing them to secrecy that prevents them from doing anything about it in 2020. I’m beginning to think more and more that Trump knows his election is illegitimate and that his campaign knows which swing states the Russians flipped for him. Well, one of the two hacked counties in Florida has been revealed.
The voter registration database of a small county in the Florida panhandle was breached by Russian government hackers in 2016, according to two U.S. officials.
The Russian military spy agency, the GRU, was responsible for the penetration of Washington County’s database, according to the two officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter. The county has a population of about 25,000.
Carol F. Rudd, county elections supervisor, declined to comment on the breach but said it’s important for federal, state and local officials to be able to communicate confidentially. “If each agency gets suspicious of the other’s ability to follow the rules of confidentiality, then those tenuous lines of communication quickly break down,” she said in an email. “That would set our security capabilities back years and severely compromise our ability to protect our elections. THAT would be a big win for the Russians going into 2020.”
I’m still not convinced that the Russians didn’t play around with things while they were in there. So which Florida County was the second? And what about the other states?
Lawmakers confirmed on Wednesday, however, that the Russian hackers did gain adequate access to be able to change voter registration data if they’d wanted, although there is no evidence that they did so.
The systems used to tabulate results are not connected to the registration systems.
“What the FBI has come forward with is that they have no evidence that the voter database was tampered with,” Waltz said. “But their level of confidence was unclear.”
This isn’t a conspiracy theory since we’ve got some facts here to show there was an actual hack. The damned spying thing however …
In his first television interview, Attorney General William Barr said his initial review of the origins of the Russia probe has produced more questions than adequate answers.
“It wasn’t handled in the ordinary way that investigations or counter intelligence activities are conducted. It was sort of an ad hoc small group. Most of these people are no longer with the FBI or the CIA, or the other agencies involved,” Barr told Fox News’ Bill Hemmer in the interview that aired Friday morning.
Notice Barr appeared on the State Propaganda Chanel.
Barr told Congress last month he believed “spying did occur.”
“I don’t want to speculate,” Barr said. “What I will say is I’ve been trying to get answers to questions and I found that a lot of the answers have been inadequate and I have also found that some of the explanations I’ve gotten don’t hang together. In a sense I have more questions today than I did when I first started,” he continued.
“The fact of the matter is [special counsel] Bob Mueller did not look at the government’s activities. He was looking t whether or not the Trump campaign had conspired with the Russians. He was not going back and looking at the counter intelligence program.,” Barr said. “And we have a number of investigations underway that touch upon it. The main one being the office of inspector general that’s looking at the FISA warrants. But as far as I’m aware, no one has really looked across the whole waterfront,” he continued.
Where that investigation stands now, though, is a mystery — even to congressional leaders. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) spoke with The Washington Post by phone Tuesday and explained how he and his colleagues have been stymied in their efforts to learn how and if the probe is moving forward. The interview has been edited for clarity.
The Post: What, as you understand it, is the current status of that investigation into the president?
Schiff: The short answer is: We don’t know. Just as a reminder, this all began as an FBI counterintelligence investigation into whether people around then-candidate Trump were acting as witting or unwitting agents of a foreign power. So it began as a counterintelligence investigation, not as a criminal investigation. Now obviously a criminal case — many criminal cases — were spun off of this but we don’t know what happened to the counterintelligence investigation that James Comey opened.
We would get briefed, predominantly at a Gang of Eight level, up until Comey was fired. And, after that point, while we continued to get quarterly — although often they missed the quarterly nature of it — counterintelligence briefings, they excluded the most important counterintelligence investigation then going on, that involving Donald Trump.
There is a reference in the Mueller report to counterintelligence FBI personnel who were embedded in Mueller’s team [Volume One, p. 13] which then reports back to headquarters, although those reports may have dealt with counterintelligence issues that the special counsel felt were beyond his scope. But we don’t know whether the Mueller team itself or others in the Mueller team or others outside the Mueller team continued the counterintelligence investigation after the criminal probe was opened or whether at some point it was closed.
The Post: Is there any reason to believe that the counterintelligence investigation has been closed?
Schiff: You know, I have not been able to get clarity on that. We have been seeking to get it, to get an answer from the Justice Department, from the counterintelligence division at the FBI, and we don’t have clarity, which is concerning.
So, the news of the day relates to Judge Emmet Sullivan ordering the DOJ to unredact portions of the Mueller Report. The Flynn part is truly amazing. This is also from WAPO.
A federal judge on Thursday ordered that prosecutors make public a transcript of a phone call that former national security adviser Michael Flynn tried hard to hide with a lie: his conversation with a Russian ambassador in late 2016.
U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan in Washington ordered the government also to provide a public transcript of a November 2017 voice mail involving Flynn. In that sensitive call, President Trump’s attorney left a message for Flynn’s attorney reminding him of the president’s fondness for Flynn at a time when Flynn was considering cooperating with federal investigators.
The transcripts, which the judge ordered be posted on a court website by May 31, would reveal conversations at the center of two major avenues of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. So far they have been disclosed to the public only in fragments in court filings and the Mueller report.
Sullivan also ordered that still-redacted portions of the Mueller report that relate to Flynn be given to the court and made public.
Sullivan’s orders came very shortly after government prosecutors agreed to release some sealed records in Flynn’s case. The release was in response to a motion filed with the court earlier this year by The Washington Post, which argued that the public deserved to know more about Flynn’s role in key events and cooperation with investigators.
A long read you may want to check out at The Atlantic as Jeff Stein interviews a Watergate figure: “The Watergate Editor on How Trump “Leads the Press Around by the Nose”. Barry Sussman, who edited Woodward and Bernstein at The Washington Post, discusses the president, Putin, and what the media must fix.”
Grumpy Cat — the blue-eyed cat with the withering stare and permafrown that suggested perpetual irritation — has died, her family announced early Friday. She was 7.
The scowling kitty died of complications from a urinary tract infection, her owners said.
“Some days are grumpier than others,” Tabatha Bundesen wrote, announcing her cat’s death.
Born in 2012, Grumpy Cat became a darling of memes, cat fanciers and anyone who needed to be reminded that somewhere out there, there was a cat who looked as grumpy as they felt.
“Besides being our baby and a cherished member of the family, Grumpy Cat has helped millions of people smile all around the world — even when times were tough,” Bundesen wrote, in a note from her and the rest of Grumpy Cat’s family.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Last night on Lawrence O’Donnell, Neal Katyal (@neal_katyal) / Twitter started his conversation about all this Barr shit hitting the Mueller fan last night by saying the phrase….¡Ay, Dios mío!
It made me laugh like hell.
This is an open thread…let’s see what happens later today?
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
Another day! Another Constitutional Crisis! It’s Groundhog Day KKKrelim Caligula Style!
Ezra Klein of VOX has written an extensive article based on How Democracies Die. His basis is the book and an interview with the authors available in podcast.
Where Levitsky and Ziblatt make their mark is in weaving together political science and historical analysis of both domestic and international democratic crises; in doing so, they expand the conversation beyond Trump and before him, to other countries and to the deep structure of American democracy and politics.
They also offer a lesson that should ring in our minds as we watch congressional Republicans agitate to release a memo designed to smear the FBI — setting up a confrontation between a president with authoritarian impulses and the FBI that’s investigating him — and cheer lustily as Trump delivers his State of the Union address.
Demagogues and authoritarians do not destroy democracies. It’s established political parties, and the choices they make when faced with demagogues and authoritarians, that decide whether democracies survive.
“2017 was the best year for conservatives in the 30 years that I’ve been here,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said this week. “The best year on all fronts. And a lot of people were shocked because we didn’t know what we were getting with Donald Trump.”
The best year on all fronts. Think about that for a moment. If you want to know why congressional Republicans are opening an assault on the FBI in order to protect Trump, it can be found in that comment. This was a year in which Trump undermined the press, fired the director of the FBI, cozied up to Russia, baselessly alleged he was wiretapped, threatened to jail his political opponents, publicly humiliated his attorney general for recusing himself from an investigation, repeatedly claimed massive voter fraud against him, appointed a raft of unqualified and occasionally ridiculous candidates to key positions, mishandled the aftermath of the Puerto Rico hurricane, and threatened to use antitrust and libel laws against his enemies.
And yet McConnell surveyed the tax cuts he passed and the regulations he repealed and called this not a mixed year for his political movement, not a good year for his political movement, but the best year he’d ever seen.
Speaking of Republicans who have completely sold out our country, you may read Rep. Devin Nunes (R- RUSSIA) at this link at WAPO.
The Nunes memo is a document created by the staff of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) that alleges the FBI abused its surveillance authority, particularly when it sought a secret court order to monitor a former Trump campaign adviser. The FBI and the Justice Department had lobbied strenuously against its release. On Wednesday, the FBI had said it was “gravely concerned” that key facts were missing from the memo. President approves release of GOP memo criticizing FBI surveillance
The White House released the memo with no redactions but a lot of stern tweet lying and shaming.
The White House transmitted the president’s opinion to the committee in a letter this morning, the official said.
As ABC News has previously reported, the memo is critical of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for his role in renewing a surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page after Trump took office.
Trump’s Republican allies have suggested that Rosenstein — who is also overseeing the Mueller investigation — is guilty of political bias toward the president because he supported surveillance on Page based in part on information from a Democrat-funded dossier.
“Does it make you more likely to fire Rosenstein? Do you still have confidence in him after reading the memo?” a reporter asked the president in the Oval Office.
“You figure that one out,” Trump responded.
Here’s some VOX analysis of why the Republicans (RUSSIA) think the memo will destroy the credibility of Mueller and his team.9
1) A FISA court judge reviewed evidence and approved a warrant to wiretap a Trump associate
In fall 2016, FBI investigators applied for a warrant with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) to wiretap Carter Page, a former Trump adviser. They presented evidence that Page may be acting as a Russian agent and the judge approved the warrant.
There isn’t much disagreement up to this point.
2) The core of the Nunes argument
But the Nunes memo implies the case was primarily built on the Steele dossier — and points out that it was funded partially by a law firm on behalf of the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
And here’s the important part: Nunes says investigators misled the judge by not saying they were relying on the Steele dossier.
3) Rod Rosenstein is dragged into this as well
The Nunes memo points out that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein approved the application for a renewal of the warrant knowing they were relying heavily on the DNC-funded Steele dossier.
This part is crucial because it is saying Rosenstein knew about the warrant and approved of it. And since Nunes believes the warrant application was mostly from a DNC- and Clinton-funded report, he is trying to imply Rosenstein has an anti-Trump bias.
This is clearly a move to remove Rosenstein and replace him with some one that will fire Mueller. It’s also beyond Nixonian.
It’s always been held–but not determined by the Supreme Court–that a sitting President cannot be indicted. This is being challenged by two lawyers with connections to lawyers familiar with the investigation.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation has gathered enough steam that some lawyers representing key Donald Trump associates are considering the possibility of a historic first: an indictment against a sitting president.
While many legal experts contend that Mueller lacks the standing to bring criminal charges against Trump, at least two attorneys working with clients swept up in the Russia probe told POLITICO they consider it possible that Mueller could indict the president for obstruction of justice.
Neither attorney claimed to have specific knowledge of Mueller’s plans. Both based their opinions on their understanding of the law; one also cited his interactions with the special counsel’s team, whose interviews have recently examined whether Trump tried to derail the probe into his campaign’s Russia ties.
“If I were a betting man, I’d bet against the president,” said one of the lawyers.
The second attorney, who represents a senior Trump official, speculated that Mueller could try to bring an indictment against Trump even if he expects the move to draw fierce procedural challenges from the president’s lawyers – if only to demonstrate the gravity of his findings.
“It’s entirely possible that Mueller may go that route on the theory that, as an open question, it should be for the courts to decide,” the attorney said. “Even if the indictment is dismissed, it puts maximum pressure on Congress to treat this with the independence and intellectual honesty that it will never, ever get.”
I’m sure will hear all about this on news today. Meanwhile, share what you think and what you’re hearing!