Friday Reads: Fishing for Presidential Pardons

Good Day Sky Dancers! 

We have 46 more days of the Trumpist Regime. Get ready for the Bronco Chases.

I’ve been on pardon watch especially since we’ve learned there’s been a bribery for pardons investigation. Watching Trump’s first batch of corrupt crony pardon recipients while they suggesting we become a dictatorship with specific suggestions has been pretty  appalling too!  It’s going to be fun watching Club Pardoneer grow its membership!  I’m personally watching my Pardoneer Bingo card for anything with the last name of Trump.

This first read is from The Nation and is written by Sasha Abramksy.  Here’s the headline and lede: “Why the Trumpists’ Calls for Dictatorship Should Worry Us. It may sound laughable, but it’s no joke—the GOP leadership and the right-wing media machine are colluding with Trump’s assault on democratic institutions.  The names in this article who are not current Pardoneers are likely an open space on the bingo card somewhere.

Trump campaign attorney Joe DiGenova said that Chris Krebs, the election security official whom Trump fired by tweet last month after he defended the integrity of the election, should be “drawn and quartered” and “taken out at dawn and shot.” Stalin couldn’t have said it better himself when talking about his perceived enemies in the Soviet bureaucracy.

Former Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell—who was dismissed last month after pushing conspiracy theories (including that the long-deceased Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez intervened to help Joe Biden) that were recognized as deranged even by the conspiracy-mongerers surrounding Trump—retweeted a call to invoke the Insurrection Act, suspend the meeting of the Electoral College, and set up military tribunals to deal with Trump’s enemies.

The following day, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, coming off a recent presidential pardon from Trump, urged his erstwhile boss to declare martial law, suspend the Constitution, and order new presidential elections under the supervision of the military.

Far-right media personalities have joined the fascist clamor. Lou Dobbs of Fox Business recently called for Trump to take unspecified “drastic action” against his enemies. The One America News Network has also suggested that Trump should invoke the Insurrection Act as a way to remain in office.

And Trump himself—America’s isolated, mad, lonely king—seems increasingly besotted by a version of his story in which he rides in as the knight in shining armor to save America from a “rigged” electoral disaster. On Wednesday, Trump posted on Facebook a bizarre 46-minute video in which he regurgitated a myriad of conspiracy theories. He said it may be the “most important” speech he has ever given. Critics were less impressed. The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker interpreted the rambling speech as a call to arms and wrote that it called into question the peaceful transfer of power.

Politico reports that 20 cronies  (aides and associates) are on Trump’s buddy list to become a Merry Pardoneer!  But wait! I thought no one did anything wrong!

Roughly 20 top aides and associates are on tap for a potential pardon, though the list is evolving, according to one of the people. The list includes Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, who run the family’s namesake business, and Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, a husband-and-wife duo who are both senior aides at the White House. All four were involved in Trump’s reelection campaign.

Trump has even mused on Twitter that he has “the absolute right to PARDON” myself — a legally contested (but untested) claim.

Still, Trump is hesitant to pardon any of them, particularly Giuliani, because it may appear that members of his inner circle are criminals, said one of the three people, who spoke to Trump this week. The Giuliani pardon has been discussed more seriously, the person added.

A Republican who speaks to Trump and supports his potential 2024 bid predicted the pardons would not hurt the president. “It’s a big deal to Beltway types but not regular Americans,” the person said.

The pardons would be designed to prevent Trump’s allies from being ensnared in any more federal investigations.

Trump Jr. had been investigated for contacts that he had during the 2016 with Russians offering damaging information on his father’s 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton. Later, congressional investigators told the Justice Department that Trump Jr. may have lied to them during their examination of Russia’s 2016 election interference.

Kushner similarly received scrutiny for providing inaccurate information to federal authorities about his contacts with foreigners when he applied for his security clearance.

Neither was charged.

But the clemency would not extend to any state charges, congressional investigations or lawsuits — of which there are plenty.

The New York attorney general and the Manhattan district attorney, for example, have been investigating the Trump Organization for possible financial fraud. D.C. authorities also sued the Trump Organization and Trump’s inaugural committee, alleging the committee misused funds and funneled money back to Trump’s company. Ivanka Trump gave a deposition in that suit earlier this week.

Roger Stone was not to be outdone by others’ batshittery demonstrating the chutzpah required to be one of the original Pardoneers!  “Roger Stone, Who Had His Ass Saved by Barr, Turns on ‘Deep State’ Attorney General”  is the headline at The Daily Beast this week.

Remember in February when Attorney General Bill Barr trashed his department’s reputation to override the recommended prison term for Roger Stone and push for a much shorter sentence? Because, apparently, Stone has forgotten—and has gone on the attack against the AG. Trumpworld has reacted with fury to Barr’s statement Tuesday that there’s no evidence of voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election, and Donald Trump’s loss to Joe Biden. Stone, one of Trump’s longest standing allies, is particularly angry, even though Barr did him a huge favor earlier this year. In a video posted to Parler, Stone said he’s not surprised that Barr has “suddenly determined” there is no voter fraud, adding: “Bill Barr’s job is to block for the ‘deep state.’” Stone, who had his prison sentence commuted by Trump in July, also complained of a “two-tiered justice system.”

And his theory of election fraud is way out there in la la land. From Newsweek: “Roger Stone Says North Korean Boats Delivered Ballots Through Maine Harbor As Trump Boosts Fraud Claims.”

Former Trump adviser Roger Stone claimed without evidence on Wednesday that North Korea had interfered in the U.S. presidential election. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump continued to assert that fraudulent activity was prevalent during the November election.

Stone, who has previously spoken of his respect for some members of the QAnon conspiracy theory movement, was sentenced to 40 months in prison for lying to investigators in connection with the Mueller probe into Russian election meddling during Trump’s 2016 campaign. Trump commuted Stone’s sentence in July.

Stone never fails to disappoint those riding the Trump Crazy Train.

A presidential preemptive pardon sounds unusual, but it has been done before, most famously when President Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon, who resigned because of the Watergate scandal in 1973 but had not been charged with any crimes.

“A preemptive pardon is a presidential pardon granted before any formal legal process has begun,” American University professor Jeffrey Crouch tells NPR.

In an email, Crouch, author of The Presidential Pardon Power, says that “someone must have committed a federal offense, but as soon as that happens, the president can grant them clemency. He does not need to wait until the alleged offender is charged, stands trial, and so on.”

Crouch continues: “These pardons are not common, but they do happen occasionally.”

Accordingly, Trump could “pardon his children, his aides, his supporters, and so on for federal offenses and be on firm legal ground,” Crouch says. “The really unclear scenario would be if he attempted to pardon himself.”

Trump has asserted he has the power to pardon himself but has said he didn’t need to use it because he hasn’t done anything wrong. Not only might his denial about any lawbreaking be complicated by events following his departure from office, the merits of a self-pardon are controversial and have never been tested in court.

And although the potential legal problems facing Trump are thought to be well understood, at least in principle, it’s not clear what if any criminal offenses with which Trump’s children might be charged.

That’s also the kind’ve pardon Giuliani was allegedly asking about. Then, there’s this little investigation thingie going on about Campaign Donations for Pardons which was clarified by the NYT.

The Justice Department investigated as recently as this summer the roles of a top fund-raiser for President Trump and a lawyer for his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in a suspected scheme to offer a bribe in exchange for clemency for a tax crimes convict, according to two people familiar with the inquiry.

A federal judge in Washington unsealed heavily redacted court documents on Tuesday that disclosed the existence of the investigation into possible unregistered lobbying and bribery. The people said it concerned efforts by the lawyer for Mr. Kushner, Abbe Lowell, and the fund-raiser, Elliott Broidy, who pleaded guilty in October to a charge related to a different scheme to lobby the Trump administration.

A billionaire real estate developer from the San Francisco area, Sanford Diller, enlisted their help in securing clemency for a Berkeley psychologist, Hugh L. Baras, who had received a 30-month prison sentence on a conviction of tax evasion and improperly claiming Social Security benefits, according to the filing and the people familiar with the case. Under the suspected scheme, Mr. Diller would make “a substantial political contribution” to an unspecified recipient in exchange for the pardon. He died in February 2018, and there is no evidence that the effort continued after his death.

As part of the effort, someone approached the White House Counsel’s Office to “ensure” that the “clemency petition reached the targeted officials,” according to the court documents. They did not say who made the contact or how the White House responded.

There’s a lot of discussion about what exactly we should do when the Trump Family Crime Syndicate and all its high crimes and misdemeanors.  Here’s some things to read about prosecuting–or not–Trump and his cronies after they’re gone pecans.

From Politico: “The Right Way to Investigate Trump Once He Leaves Office. The Department of Justice can appoint a special counsel. It will help keep politics out of holding Trump accountable.”

This was always going to be a dilemma for Trump’s successor. After an openly self-dealing president like Trump, the nation needs to see that no American is above the law, and that there will be consequences for anyone—even a former president—who enriches himself at the nation’s expense or abuses his power.

But any prosecution of Trump, no matter how fair, will draw criticism from Trump’s supporters in an already-divided nation. Even non-partisan observers have reason to be concerned by the spectacle of the administration of a new president prosecuting the president who just left office. It’s essential for any stable democracy that elected leaders don’t use their new powers to punish their opponents after they’ve lost. No president has ever done it.

It’s possible that New York state may have the first go at him. This is from Business Insider. “Trump is worried that he may be prosecuted in New York after he leaves office”

The president faces a slew of legal issues on the federal and state levels once he’s out of office on January 20. New York Attorney General Letitia James is conducting a civil investigation into the Trump Organization’s business practices. And a federal court filing from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance suggested he was conducting an investigation into Trump and the Trump Organization on suspicion of bank and insurance fraud, The New York Times reported.

Trump was also named “Individual-1” in a filing by the Southern District of New York when his former attorney Michael Cohen was charged with making hush-money payments. And a lawsuit from two attorneys general alleged he violated the Constitution’s emoluments clause. His inaugural committee also faces a lawsuit alleging it schemed to funnel nonprofit money into the Trump family business.

The DOJ is beginning to look a little more like the professionals are back in charge as we approach January..  This is from the LA Times: “Trump aide banned from Justice Dept. after pressuring staffers for case information”.

The Trump aide serving as the president’s eyes and ears at the Justice Department has been banned from the building after trying to pressure staff members to give up sensitive information about election fraud and other matters that she could relay to the White House, three people familiar with the matter say.

Heidi Stirrup, an ally of top Trump advisor Stephen Miller, was quietly installed at the Justice Department as a White House liaison a few months ago. She was told within the last two weeks to vacate the building after top Justice officials learned of her efforts to collect inside information about ongoing cases and the department’s work on election fraud, the people told the Associated Press.

Stirrup is accused of approaching staffers in the department and demanding that they give her information about investigations, including election fraud matters, the people said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter.

The effort came as Trump continues to level baseless claims that he won the election and alleges without evidence that massive voting fraud was responsible for his defeat to President-elect Joe Biden.

I think this can be termed digging your own grave.  Biden has basically said he’d let the Justice Department be the Justice Department and stay out of it.  The DOJ appointment–including the AG–position  are forthcoming.  Biden and Harris discusses the operation of the Justice Department as well as dealing with the flurry of corrupt pardons with CNN‘s Jake Tapper.

Biden’s list of contenders for the job — from Sally Yates, former deputy attorney general, to Doug Jones, soon to be former senator from Alabama who was defeated in November — largely centers on former prosecutors whose history at the department could lend credibility with the public and career officials.

Others said to be in contention include Deval Patrick, former Massachusetts governor and former Justice Department civil rights chief; Jeh Johnson, the Homeland Security secretary under Obama; California Attorney General Xavier Becerra; and Lisa Monaco, a former Homeland Security adviser in the Obama White House and who previously worked at the FBI and as top national security prosecutor at Justice.

Biden, along with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, are interviewing contenders and weighing the decision. They are not expected to announce a decision until next week at the earliest, people familiar with the matter told CNN, but with a goal of doing so well before the holidays. The timing is also contingent on the nomination of a Secretary of Defense.

The job, for whomever Biden picks, will be a heavy lift. The pick will be stepping into a Justice Department damaged by the Trump administration and with low morale among career officials, many of whom have been publicly called out by President Donald Trump, Barr and other Republicans.

This is definitely going to be a long ride.  I’m wondering if it will involve at least one White Bronco at some point.  And, no we’re not there yet …

Have a good weekend!  Take care!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: Hi from Hurricane Central!!!

Good Day Sky Dancers!

It’s really a gorgeous morning here and last night was great but it’s the proverbial calm before the storm is here.  Temple and I had a great walk at 7:30 to beat the first of the rain bands.  It was in the 70s with a cool breeze.  But, like everything 2020, here comes the turbocharged change!

Fortunately for those of us in the central and western Gulf Coast, Little Hurricane Marco just never quite got going.  He is going to swipe us before puttering along towards Texas.  As long as he doesn’t slow down, he’ll have some water but only enough to dampen the day.

Hurricane Bahamas, Homer Winslow 1937

Hurricane Laura, however, is going to pack a punch!  She is strengthening and likely to cause some problems.  My only solace is that this is a big news event which is likely to somewhat drown out the four nights of Klanfest. The RNC is evidently in disarray because of all Trump’s interference including 4 nights of him giving speeches which is irregular to say the least.  From Vox’s Aaron Rupar: “The RNC disarray is a microcosm of everything Trump did wrong with the coronavirus.  He had no plan. The result is chaos.”

The day it’s set to begin, there is still much we don’t know about what will be happening at the 2020 Republican National Convention. But what we do indicates it’ll have a circus-like quality.

Confirmed speakers include Patricia and Mark McCloskey, the St. Louis couple best known for brandishing firearms at protesters earlier this year, and former Covington Catholic student Nick Sandmann, who became a symbol of white grievance last year after he was filmed in a viral video of a confrontation with Native American demonstrators. President Trump will likely deliver his convention-closing speech from the White House, flouting ethical concerns and laws prohibiting the use of government property for political gain, with other events set to take place on government property located conveniently near the downtown DC hotel he still owns and profits from. On Sunday, the RNC released a speaker list — with Trump scheduled to appear every day.

My TV will be firmly tuned to the Weather Channel if we have power through the week.  It’s generally on mute but on constantly during hurricane times here.

The disaster of a Post Office General is also on full display today.

After the Hurricane, Winslow Homer 1899

We also know that Trump handpicked folks for the UPS positions that evidently have a habit of supporting voter suppression. This from Mary Redden writing for HuffPo: ” Trump’s Handpicked Postal Service Chair Has A Long History Of Voter Suppression. Robert Duncan chaired the RNC during the party’s unprecedented escalation of voter disenfranchisement efforts in swing states.” 

President Donald Trump’s selection for a key Postal Service position, Robert M. Duncan, once had a very different job: steering the Republican Party while it undertook some of its most brazen voter suppression schemes.

Duncan is now the chair of the Postal Service board of governors, but he previously served as general counsel and then chair of the Republican National Committee from 2002 to 2009, a time when the committee and its state counterparts oversaw an unprecedented escalation of voter disenfranchisement efforts in swing states.

From 2004 to 2006, when Duncan was the committee’s general counsel, party officials challenged the eligibility of at least 77,000 voters, a 2007 report by the nonpartisan group Project Vote found.

As it happens, one of the party’s favored tactics relied on the U.S. mail. In 2004, Republicans in Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania sent thousands of nonforwardable letters and postcards to select voters — particularly minority voters — and used the mail returned as undeliverable to come up with voter registration challenge lists.

Duncan’s history is the latest alarm bell for those fearful that Trump is attempting to undermine the U.S. Postal Service in order to win reelection.

We’ve had yet another senseless shooting of an unarmed black man by the police.  This time it is in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The man is in serious condition.

This is from the Kenosha News: “State DOJ will probe officer-involved shooting; man in serious condition”.

Dozens of squad cars from the Kenosha Police and Kenosha County Sheriff’s department and Wisconsin State Patrol converged in the Wilson Heights neighborhood, lining the streets approaching the scene.

The incident was being turned over to the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation, which will be investigating the officer involved shooting.

At least a half dozen witnesses said that the man had tried to break up a fight between the two women outside a home at 2805 40th St. and that police had attempted to use a Taser on the man prior to the shooting. Then, they heard at least seven gunshots ring out.

Witnesses said he was unarmed and shot in the back.

A video that has since gone viral on social media shows the man walking away from officers and going around the vehicle to get inside. While the man is entering the vehicle the video shows an officer firing a gun at the man inside the vehicle. A woman in the video is screaming as he is being shot.

It was not immediately known whether the man had a weapon.

Residents who live across the street from the residence said while they have heard gunfire in the neighborhood before, never that close until Sunday.

“We’ve never had anything like this happen before,” said Juventino Camputano who has lived in the neighborhood for 40 years.

Annie Louise Hurst, a 50-year resident of the neighborhood, just shook her head.

Fear Of Hurricane Painting by Peter Kallai

So, it continues to be a week where we find out more about the Trump/Kushner family crime syndicate activities too.  This is from The Daily Beast: “Revealed: Jared Kushner’s Private Channel With Putin’s Money Man”.

On a late afternoon in March, a large military aircraft bearing the Russian Federation insignia descended into John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. Its mission: to deliver personal protective equipment and ventilators to nearby hospitals scrambling to treat patients during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo had pleaded for weeks with the federal government for additional resources, particularly ventilators, to treat the thousands of COVID-19 patients across the state. Yet news of the Russian delivery surprised those in the governor’s office working to obtain additional medical equipment. They’d thought the ventilator support would come from the U.S. stockpile or from an American company.

Officials in the U.S. State Department were surprised, too. Despite a department press release announcing the delivery, several senior officials working on the Russia portfolio in the department and elsewhere in the national security apparatus were unaware exactly how the 45 ventilators had ended up on American soil. Half of the shipment was paid for by the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), one of the country’s sovereign wealth funds, which is under U.S. sanctions. (The sanctions do not prohibit all transactions between U.S. entities and the firm, but they have limited the fund’s interactions with American businesses.) And the fund’s CEO, Kirill Dmitriev, had been scrutinized by Congress and former special counsel Robert Mueller for his communications with Trump transition officials shortly after Moscow had meddled in the 2016 election.

For years, the Trump administration had attempted to find ways to cooperate with Russia on the world stage but largely failed in those efforts because Moscow has continued to engage in activity that threatens U.S. national security, from hacking operations to reportedly offering bounties on American soldiers in Afghanistan. A public display of Russian supplies being offloaded caught some officials in the Trump administration off guard.

But there was a simple answer to the whodunit. The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) told The Daily Beast it had assigned the State Department “to represent the U.S. in the transaction with the Government of Russia.” But it was President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who helped facilitate the ventilator delivery, according to two senior administration officials. During the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, Kushner headed “Project Airbridge”—the medical supply delivery program that worked to fast-track the delivery of personal protective equipment and other medical supplies by using federal funding to underwrite the cost of shipping. In an effort to supply New York City hospitals with the medical equipment they needed, Kushner looked in multiple places for the equipment and found a safe bet in Moscow, those officials said. While the State Department had been involved in the logistics of the onboarding and offloading, it was Kushner who helped strike the deal.

The ventilators turned out to be faulty and were cast aside by officials in New York and New Jersey, according to local officials who spoke with The Daily Beast. During that same time period, the city of Los Angeles was told by representatives of the federal government that it had lost a bid for N95 masks to a Russian entity, according to two people familiar with the matter. The L.A. officials were never told the Russian outfit’s name.

Kushner held the details of the New York shipment closely and accelerated the order by leaning on his personal relationship with Dmitriev, a confidant of President Vladimir Putin who’d been dispatched to make inroads with the inexperienced 2016 Trump transition team.

Collusion continues.

So, I’m off to try to get some more things cooked just in case the heat goes off.  Don’t want any perishables lying around in a powerless refrigerator and at least the cooked stuff lasts a bit longer.

Take care!  Be safe!  Be kind and gentle with yourself!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: A Slow start to a Long Week

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

I’m hoping we get good news this week on Mueller Friday. I am certainly wishfully thinking we’ll get more perp walks with all those sealed indictments out there.  There’s something making the Twitter Troll in Chief nervous because he’s sure been active today.  It takes a lot of asshole to rage at a dying old man just because he says he misses the last republican president.  He has said worse before.

Plus, there’s some news about more of Trump sexual assault exploits during his campaign–err Russian based usurpation–during 2016. He’s also called Spike Lee a racist for his Oscar Speech of all things.  Doesn’t he have a country to actually run or something?  Or a North Korea play date to plan for?

One of the most serious and largely ignored issues so far this century has been the rise of white nationalism and terror.  Donald the white nationalist has certainly brought them out from their hidey holes.  An FBI report showed that many of the adherents came from military backgrounds.  We had a serious issue this month with a Coast Guard member. Will we finally see policy and laws to keep track and route these racists out of the military once and for all?  Dan Lamothe reports for WAPO with this hopeful headline: “House Democrats press the U.S. military about how it is screening for white nationalism and other extremism in the ranks”. The last thing we need to do is provide weapons training to potential domestic terrorists.

“Our hope is that these incidents are isolated events and are not indicative of a larger, systemic issue within the United States Armed Services,” the lawmakers wrote. “Beyond the extremes of domestic terrorism, we are additionally concerned with low level racism and other identity-based harassment that disrupts unit cohesion, impacts readiness, and degrades the ability of our servicemembers to protect our nation. Servicemembers who experience or witness racist or hateful behavior must be able to report such behavior without fear of repercussions.”

Hasson, 49, was arrested Feb. 15 in Silver Spring, Md., after an investigation that began last fall when a computer program the Coast Guard uses to search for insider threats identified suspicious behavior allegedly tied to him. He was charged with possession of firearms and ammunition by an unlawful user of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of Tramadol, an opioid painkiller.

On Thursday, a judge ordered that he be held for 14 days while federal authorities consider bringing additional charges. Hasson’s attorney, Julie Stelzig, has argued that there was no indication he planned to carry out any violence and that it is not a crime to have negative thoughts.

Hasson had previously served in the Marine Corps and Army National Guard in the late 1980s and 1990s. In a letter to a neo-Nazi quoted in his court filing, authorities said he wrote that he was a “long time White Nationalist” and had “been a skinhead 30 plus years ago before my time in the military.”

A Coast Guard spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Scott McBride, said Monday that Hasson’s secret security clearance was suspended Feb. 19, the day that news of his arrest became public.

“The Coast Guard takes active measures to prevent, detect, respond, and mitigate insider threats,” he said.

In their letter Monday, the lawmakers also noted that service members participated in the “Unite the Right” rally in August 2017 in Charlottesville, Va., in which white nationalists, neo-Nazis, members of the Ku Klux Klan and other extremists gathered. Several were later identified as U.S. service members. In one case, a Marine — Lance Cpl. Vasillios G. Pistolis — was court-martialed and separated from the military.

A Crew report details multiple crimes committed by Trump during his campaign and first year in office.

In a new report, A Campaign to Defraud, CREW combs through the facts behind these apparent crimes, based on admissions by two of President Trump’s likely co-conspirators and news reports, detailing how criminal law can already be applied to publicly known facts. Most of President Trump’s potential violations are related to illegal campaign contributions meant to cover up evidence of Trump’s affairs with two women, preventing voters from learning the truth about his behavior ahead of the election, though at least one continued well into his first year in office. The eight criminal offenses, including seven felonies, potentially committed by Trump include:

  • Causing American Media Inc. (AMI) to make and/or accepting (or causing his then lawyer Michael Cohen to accept) an unlawful corporate contribution related to Karen McDougal.
  • Two instances of causing Cohen to make and/or accepting an unlawful individual contributions related to Stephanie Clifford and February 2015 online polling.
  • Two instances of causing Donald J. Trump for President LLC’s failure to report contributions from AMI and Cohen related to McDougal and Clifford.
  • Causing Donald J. Trump for President LLC to file false reports with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
  • Making a false statement by failing to disclose liability to Cohen for the Clifford payment on his 2017 public financial disclosure form.
  • Conspiracy to defraud the United States by undermining the lawful function of the FEC and/or violating federal campaign finance law related to “hush money” payments, false statements, and cover-ups of reimbursement payments to Cohen made by the Trump Organization.

“There has already been significant attention to the President’s possible exposure for obstruction of justice, but it is deeply troubling to discover that he also may have been personally involved in a whole other set of criminal offenses for causing or accepting illegal campaign contributions and then covering up those payments,” said CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder. “These potential offenses highlight a concerted effort by the President and those around him to deprive the American people of information relevant to making informed election decisions, severely eroding public trust.”

A lawsuit filed by a former campaign staffer details sexual assault and battery committed by Candidate Trump during the 2016 campaign. His life as a sexual predator undoubtedly continues. This is by Ronan Farrow writing for The New Yorker.

A staff member of Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign filed a lawsuit in federal court in Florida on Monday, alleging that she experienced “racial and gender discrimination” while working for the campaign, that she was paid less than male and white colleagues, and that Trump once kissed her partially on the mouth, without her consent. The claim related to the kiss may prove difficult to verify. Four people said that the campaign worker, Alva Johnson, told them about the incident afterward, but two other people, who Johnson said were present at the time of the kiss, told me that they did not see it. In a statement, Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, denied that it had taken place.

The most legally significant aspect of Johnson’s suit may ultimately be something the complaint does not explicitly address: the pervasive use of nondisclosure agreements by Trump during his campaign and in his Administration. Johnson’s suit is at least the sixth legal case in which Trump campaign or Administration employees have defied their nondisclosure agreements. Three of those actions, including Johnson’s, were filed this month. Johnson, who was the campaign’s administrative field-operations director in Florida, signed a nondisclosure agreement that bars her from revealing any information “in any way detrimental to the Company, Mr. Trump, any Family Member, any Trump Company or any Family Member company.” Johnson’s attorney, Hassan Zavareei, said, “We expect that Trump will try to use the unconscionable N.D.A. and forced arbitration agreement to silence Ms. Johnson. We will fight this strong-arm tactic.”

The White House referred questions about the nondisclosure agreements to Michael Glassner, the chief operating officer of Trump’s reëlection campaign. He said in a statement, “The campaign takes our NDA agreements very seriously, and will enforce them aggressively if they are breached.” Johnson said that she considers the issues raised by her suit important enough to merit breaching the contract. “I am suing because my work holds the same value as the work of my white male counterparts,” Johnson said, in an interview. “I am suing because this predatory behavior should not be minimized, especially when committed by the most powerful man in the world.”

The Daily Beast has some interesting scuttlebutt: “Trump Tells His Lawyers: Stay for the Coming Legal Hellscape. The president has made private admissions that federal investigations bedeviling his first term in office will be haunting him for possibly years to come.”  News Break ! Serial criminal under multiple investigations suddenly figures out that they have his number!

Donald Trump has signaled to his inner circle that even he knows Special Counsel Robert Mueller finishing his investigation will be a new beginning, not a dramatic end, for Trumpworld’s eclectic legal hellscape.

The president made clear to his outside legal team, which includes Rudy Giulianiand Jay Sekulow, that he didn’t want his lawyers going anywhere—even after the Mueller probe ends. The conversations served as a private admission that federal investigations bedeviling his first term in office will be haunting him for possibly years to come.

The president broached the topic of keeping his team together starting late last year, according to two sources familiar with the exchanges, by discussing other legal woes he might face after the Special Counsel’s Office submits its report to the Department of Justice

Trump’s focus at the time? The Southern District of New York. The jurisdiction, known as SDNY, is currently looking into matters involving the president. Those cases have long been considered by Trump’s close allies as a far graver potential threat than the Mueller investigation.

Details about Trump and his family business could be laid bare for public scrutiny as Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer and self-described fixer, heads to the Hill to testify this week. He is set to answer questions regarding Trump’s debts and payments, compliance with federal disclosure requirements, tax laws, campaign finance laws, and potentially fraudulent practices by the Trump foundation.

Meanwhile, Assholes have to be assholes.

Harry Reid gave an interview to CNN and minced no words.

Former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid has news he is eager to spread: He is feeling “very good.”

The former US Senator from Nevada was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year, and New York Times Magazine writer Mark Leibovich wrote last month after an interview with Reid that he “does not have long to live.”

But make no mistake: this Harry Reid is still the same former boxer and political street fighter I covered for decades in the US Senate.
A searing critic of President George W. Bush and his administration, Reid now says in the age of Trump, he wishes for Bush again “every day,” saying Bush would be “Babe Ruth” compared to the current president.

In an apparent reaction to the interview Monday morning, Trump returned the spars, tweeting that Reid got “thrown out” (he retired) and was working to “put a good swing on his failed career.”

Since the 2016 presidential election, Reid has been colorful in criticizing Trump. He called the now-President everything from a “con man” to a “human leech” to a “big fat guy.” He is especially proud of using the word “amoral” in his New York Times Magazine interview because he says it resulted in a boost of googling the dictionary definition of the word.

I asked him if he has anything nice to say about the President. He pondered that question hard, took time to look for an answer and after a pregnant pause, finally replied, “I just have trouble accepting him as a person, so frankly I don’t see anything he’s doing right.

Give ’em hell Harry!

So, yeah, he’s headed to Vietnam to embarrass us on the world stage yet again.  The BBC seems to show the level of diplomatic thought he displays in this lede: “Trump: North Korea ‘could be great power’ without nuclear weapons”.  Um, no, just NO.  So are your plans for the week watching Trump be duped there or keeping your eye on the mess that keeps emerging from his criminal acts here?   Nixon lite any one?

He reiterated that he was “in no rush” to press for North Korea’s denuclearisation. “I don’t want to rush anybody. I just don’t want testing. As long as there’s no testing, we’re happy,” he said.

The Singapore summit was historic as the first meeting between a sitting US president and a leader of North Korea, but the agreement the two men signed was vague on detail. Little has been done since about their stated goal – finding a way to get nuclear weapons off the Korean peninsula.

The president’s latest remarks come on the eve of his departure for Vietnam, and are being seen as a bid to manage expectations.

So, what exactly is he gambling on?  This is from The Atlantic and the keyboard of  Uri Friedman.

Trump’s negotiators have thus been left in a bind: The only way to make major progress under such circumstances is to get the U.S. and North Korean leaders in a room, but they can’t get them in a room without taking a high-risk gamble.

That’s what Trump’s meeting with Kim in Vietnam, on February 27–28, amounts to. At best, the two leaders will achieve a breakthrough on peace and denuclearization that has eluded their predecessors for decades. At worst, the United States will reward North Korea without reducing the danger it poses. Somewhere in the middle would be a repeat of the leaders’ first summit in Singapore last June: a spectacle with little of substance to show for it.

“Both leaders are free to put aside their briefing books—assuming they even look at them—and move according to their instincts and sense of the possible. Bureaucracies and advisors working with kings, emperors and presidents have known that for centuries,” wrote Stanford’s Robert Carlin, a North Korea scholar who recently held the most detailed discussion yet with Trump’s special representative for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, on the administration’s vision for diplomacy with Kim.

“Many experts would be more comfortable with the working-level process leading, possibly and eventually, to the summit,” he added. “But we have the reverse, and no one really knows what it will mean to ski downhill from the top of Mt. Everest.”

Well, that’s a metaphor for ya!

So, there’s no panic inducing news today.  Not yet any way!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Friday Reads: Iron Fist in Velvet Glove

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I figured it was apropos to use a phrase applicable at one point to Napoleon and at another to a mob boss in Galveston, Texas to start a discussion on today’s news. I also figured it’s about time to bring out the idea of the “hammer of justice” too. The walls are closing in on the Trump Family Syndicate and rumors about presidential pardons for convicted felon and possible “flipper” Paul Manafort and immunity for David Pecker must be keeping D’oh Hair Furor up at night.  Welcome to film noir in living color!

How bad does it have to be if one of Spiro Agnew’s lawyers tells you to resign?

Mueller can and likely will name Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator on any case he brings going forward, if he abides by Department of Justice guidelines and does not indict a sitting president. And Trump needs to worry about his criminal liability (and that of his son and son-in-law) when he leaves office.

Impeachment aside, given all that the President now faces, does anyone in his camp have the courage to discuss a so-far unmentionable strategy? Do what we did for Spiro Agnew, and the country. Negotiate a deal: You end the Mueller investigation, and I’ll send out of a tweet: “No collusion, I did nothing wrong, rigged witch hunt, but this is bad for the country, and I am a patriot. So I hereby resign. Sad.”

So will a Pecker and a pair of Porn Stars bring him down or will it be Tax Fraud that finally gets him? Catherine Rampell makes the case for Tax Fraud at WAPO.

President Trump’s touchstone mob boss, Al Capone, famously went down for tax evasion when the feds couldn’t nail him on more serious crimes. Has Trump stopped to consider whether he could be headed for the same fate?

Trump and surrogates have argued that his former lawyer’s and his campaign chairman’s near-simultaneous legal losses don’t imperil the president himself. After all, none of the charges that Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort were convicted of this week involved Russian connections to Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Quoth the president: “And what’s come out of Manafort? No collusion. What’s come out of Michael Cohen? No collusion.”

As for the Cohen crimes that did directly implicate Trump — the campaign finance violations — the president and his people have argued that these are not actually crimes. After all, they’re so rarely prosecuted!

What about tax crimes, though?

There’s plenty of precedent for prosecuting those. And the Cohen filings this week raise serious new questions about whether Trump has criminal tax-fraud exposure.

To be clear, we don’t know whether Trump has violated any tax laws. But there’s a red flag in prosecutors’ filings against Cohen regarding the fate of hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes one would expect to have been paid Uncle Sam.

It’s a little technical, so bear with me. The issue involves payments that the Trump Organization made to Cohen as part of an agreement silencing adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford (a.k.a. Stormy Daniels) and how the company accounted for them.

Cohen paid Clifford $130,000. Trump’s company ultimately reimbursed him for this payment to the tune of $420,000.

Why so much more than the original hush-money amount?

You can follow the money at the link.  Today would be a great day for Trump to release his taxes!

Trump is itching to keep on interfering with the Justice Department.  Why are key Senate Republicans enabling to remove Jeff Session who is a curse on the office but at least appears to want to keep politics out of the probe? I still will argue that Trump got some Kompromat on these guys.

Donald Trump, who’s long threatened to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions, may have received a crucial go-ahead signal from two Republican senators with a key condition attached: wait until after the November elections.

Confronted with the criminal convictions this week of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his former personal attorney Michael Cohen, the president has only reaffirmed his open resentment that Sessions recused himself from what’s become a wide-ranging investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

“The president’s entitled to an attorney general he has faith in, somebody that’s qualified for the job, and I think there will come a time, sooner rather than later, where it will be time to have a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice,” Graham told reporters.

But he added that forcing out Sessions before November “would create havoc” with efforts to confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, as well as with the midterm elections on Nov. 6 that will determine whether Republicans keep control of Congress.

Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the Judiciary Committee’s chairman, also changed his position on Thursday, saying in an interview that he’d be able to make time for hearings for a new attorney general after saying in the past that the panel was too busy to tackle that explosive possibility.

It wasn’t clear, though, whether the senators’ comments were intended to endorse a move on Sessions later, or to coax Trump out of taking precipitous action now. And some senior Republican senators strongly rejected Graham’s seemingly impromptu fire-him-later idea.

The pivotal message on Thursday came from Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who oscillates between criticizing many of the president’s policies and defending a president who sometimes invites him to go golfing at a Trump-branded resort.

Trump keeps playing the game of saying every one does it and the Dems are worse.  He’s actively asking Sessions why he doesn’t go after pet conspiracy theories instead of actually looking at evidence and finding a crime.  But, her EMAILS!  BUT Benghazi!  It should be evident by now with all those wastes of Congressional hearings that there is no there there. ABC reports on this.

President Donald Trump Friday morning urged Jeff Sessions to “look into all of the corruption on the ‘other side’’’ after the U.S. attorney general disputed Trump’s assertion a day earlier that Sessions had failed to take control of the Department of Justice.

Sessions defended his performance Thursday, saying he “took control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in, which is why we have had unprecedented success at effectuating the President’s agenda.”

“While I am Attorney General, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations,” Sessions said in a statement. “I demand the highest standards, and where they are not met, I take action.”

Trump tweeted this morning in response, “Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.” Jeff, this is GREAT, what everyone wants, so look into all of the corruption on the “other side” including deleted Emails, Comey lies & leaks, Mueller conflicts, McCabe, Strzok, Page, Ohr.”

Trump is convinced any one who criticizes him should be prosecuted for thought crimes and has a vendetta against him.  It’s getting to Nixon level paranoia.  Mark Landler, however, says Trumps verbal spews are straight out of “GoodFellas”.  He writes this at the NYT.

For much of the 1980s and 1990s, “the Dapper Don” and “the Donald” vied for supremacy on the front pages of New York’s tabloids. The don, John J. Gotti, died in a federal prison in 2002, while Donald J. Trump went on to be president of the United States.

Now, as Mr. Trump faces his own mushrooming legal troubles, he has taken to using a vocabulary that sounds uncannily like that of Mr. Gotti and his fellow mobsters in the waning days of organized crime, when ambitious prosecutors like Rudolph W. Giuliani tried to turn witnesses against their bosses to win racketeering convictions.

“I know all about flipping,” Mr. Trump told Fox News this week. “For 30, 40 years I’ve been watching flippers. Everything’s wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go.”

Mr. Trump was referring to the decision by his former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, to take a plea deal on fraud charges and admit to prosecutors that he paid off two women to clam up about the sexual affairs that they claimed to have had with Mr. Trump.

But the president was also evoking a bygone world — the outer boroughs of New York City, where he grew up — a place of leafy neighborhoods and working-class families, as well as its share of shady businessmen and mob-linked politicians. From an early age, Mr. Trump encountered these raffish types with their unscrupulous methods, unsavory connections and uncertain loyalties.

Mr. Trump is comfortable with the wiseguys-argot of that time and place, and he defaults to it whether he is describing his faithless lawyer or his fruitless efforts to discourage the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, from investigating one of his senior advisers, Michael T. Flynn, over his connections to Russia.

“When I first heard that Trump said to Comey, ‘Let this go,’ it just rang such a bell with me,” said Nicholas Pileggi, an author who has chronicled the Mafia in books and films like “Goodfellas” and “Casino.” “Trump was surrounded by these people. Being raised in that environment, it was normalized to him.”

Mr. Pileggi traced the president’s language to the Madison Club, a Democratic Party machine in Brooklyn that helped his father, Fred Trump, win his first real estate deals in the 1930s. In those smoke-filled circles, favors were traded like cases of whiskey and loyalty

It’s only fitting then that the Trump family crime syndicate may wind up defending themselves in Manhattan.  First, for the debacle that is their foundation and just for the Trump Organization period.  Trump cannot pardon any one for state crimes.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office is considering pursuing criminal charges against the Trump Organization and two senior company officials in connection with Michael D. Cohen’s hush money payment to an adult film actress, according to two officials with knowledge of the matter.

A state investigation would center on how the company accounted for its reimbursement to Mr. Cohen for the $130,000 he paid to the actress, Stephanie Clifford, who has said she had an affair with President Trump, the officials said.

Both officials stressed that the office’s review of the matter is in its earliest stages and prosecutors have not yet made a decision on whether to proceed.

State charges against the company or its executives could be significant because Mr. Trump has talked about pardoning some of his current or former aides who have faced federal charges. As president, he has no power to pardon people and corporate entities convicted of state crimes.

The Trump Organization recorded the reimbursement as a legal expense. But Mr. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s longtime fixer, said on Tuesday that he paid Ms. Clifford, better known as Stormy Daniels, to buy her silence during the 2016 campaign. Federal prosecutors have said the reimbursement payments were for sham legal invoices in connection with a nonexistent retainer agreement. Mr. Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal campaign finance charges, did no legal work in connection with the matter, prosecutors said.

“On its face, it certainly would be problematic,” said one of the officials familiar with the district attorney’s office review, noting that listing the reimbursement as a legal expense could be a felony under state law.

Michael Cohen is now helping New York State pursue the Foundation.  This via Fortune Magazine.

A day after President Donald Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight charges in federal court, New York’s state tax agency has subpoenaed Cohen for records relating to the Trump Foundation—at Cohen’s prodding, according to his attorney.

The Department of Taxation and Finance confirmed the subpoena to several news outlets, including CNN.

Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis, told CNN on Tuesday night that his client had information “of interest both in Washington as well as New York state.” The New York Daily News, citing an anonymous source with direct knowledge, reported that Cohen called the tax agency to speak after the subpoena was issued.

Since before the 2016 presidential election, reporters have tracked allegedly illegal and unethical behavior by the non-profit Trump Foundation, once run by Donald Trump and his older children, with David Fahrenthold of theWashington Post leading the pack. Accounts include cases that appear to involve self-dealing, or the act of using charitable funds for the benefit of one’s personal interest; political contributions; using charity money for personal use like allegedly paying Donald Trump, Jr.’s Boy Scout membership fee in 1989 and buying a 6-foot-tall portrait of Trump; and to pay settlements or judgments against the for-profit Trump Organization.

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood filed suit in June against the Trump Foundation and its officers—the president and three of his children, Donald Jr., Eric, and Ivanka—to dissolve the charity, disperse its $1 million in holdings, pay $2.8 million in restitution, and bar its officers from serving on a New York not-for-profit organization for 10 years. Underwood cited Trump campaign staff members directing donations from the foundation, among many other issues. Underwood said she lacks jurisdiction to pursue criminal charges, and sent letters to the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission about “possible violations.”

This should be interesting.  I don’t know if I should read a few law books or watch some gangster movies to figure out what may happen next.  But, as many in the media said, Mueller and the state of New York know how to unravel a crime family and despite what Republicans in Congress may do, they will likely win in the end.

And from the WSJ today:

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads: Ace G-Man Stories of the Trump Family Crime Syndicate

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

It’s going to be the usual chaos on steroids as former FBI Director Jim Comey’s tell all comes out.  The media began leaking excerpts yesterday of the book even as the official release date still looms on Tuesday.  KKKremlin Caligula is not a happy Mad King as Comey even appears to have taken  gratuitous pot shots at the size of his hands. Yes, De Hair Fury is in Teapot Tempest mode.  Hide that damn football!

President Donald Trump went into attack mode against James Comey on Friday morning, calling the former FBI director an “untruthful slime ball” and a “liar & leaker” after Comey suggested in an ABC News interview that it is “possible” that salacious allegations about the president and prostitutes in Moscow are true.

“James Comey is a proven LEAKER & LIAR. Virtually everyone in Washington thought he should be fired for the terrible job he did-until he was, in fact, fired. He leaked CLASSIFIED information, for which he should be prosecuted. He lied to Congress under OATH,” Trump wrote in a statement that stretched across two Twitter posts. “He is a weak and untruthful slime ball who was, as time has proven, a terrible Director of the FBI. His handling of the Crooked Hillary Clinton case, and the events surrounding it, will go down as one of the worst ‘botch jobs’ of history. It was my great honor to fire James Comey!”

Well, this is certainly an adult conversation!  These items are from Politico and the keyboard of Louis Nelson.

Recalling his first meeting with Trump, the former FBI director told Stephanopoulos that the January, 2017, briefing he gave the then-president elect about his alleged rendezvous with prostitutes inside a Moscow hotel was “really weird” and “almost an out-of-body experience.” During their one-on-one briefing in Trump Tower, the former FBI director said Trump responded “very defensively” and “started talking about, you know, ‘do I look like a guy who needs hookers?’”

Comey said that earlier, upon briefing Trump and his transition team about Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, the then-president elect’s first question was whether or not those efforts had affected the outcome and then discussion turned immediately to a conversation about messaging and drafting a press release. At no point did Trump or any member of his team ask Comey or the other intelligence chiefs present at the briefing what might come next from Russia or how to stop future cyberattacks from Moscow, the former FBI director said.

“The reason that was so striking to me is that that’s just not done, that the intelligence community does intelligence, the White House does PR and spin,” Comey said. “It was all, what can we say about what they did and how it affects the election that we just had.”

Folks that have read the book say that Comey found a President obsessed with getting the FBI to disprove the existence of the Pee Pee tape.  Evidently Cohen was busy fixing other Trump mishaps and couldn’t see to it.  Can you imagine how he saw the FBI as his personal clean up crew?

Trump did not stay quiet for long. Comey describes Trump as having been obsessed with the portion dealing with prostitutes in the infamous dossier compiled by British former intelligence officer Christopher Steele, raising it at least four times with the FBI director. The document claimed that Trump had watched the prostitutes urinate on themselves in the same Moscow suite that President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama had stayed in “as a way of soiling the bed,” Comey writes.

Comey writes that Trump asked him to have the FBI investigate the allegations to prove they were not true, and offered varying explanations to convince him why. “I’m a germaphobe,” Trump told him in a follow-up call on Jan. 11, 2017, according to Comey’s account. “There’s no way I would let people pee on each other around me. No way.” Later, the president asked what could be done to “lift the cloud” because it was so painful for first lady Melania Trump.

Phillip Rucker of WAPO additionally unveils Comey’s real thoughts about Trump’s lack of ethics. This is a description of a sociopath.

In his memoir, Comey paints a devastating portrait of a president who built “a cocoon of alternative reality that he was busily wrapping around all of us.” Comey describes Trump as a congenital liar and unethical leader, devoid of human emotion and driven by personal ego.

Comey narrates in vivid detail, based on his contemporaneous notes, instances in which Trump violated the norms protecting the FBI’s independence in attempts to coerce Comey into being loyal to him — such as during a one-on-one dinner in the White House residence.

Interacting with Trump, Comey writes, gave him “flashbacks to my earlier career as a prosecutor against the Mob. The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth.”

The result, in Comey’s telling, is “the forest fire that is the Trump presidency.”

“What is happening now is not normal,” he writes. “It is not fake news. It is not okay.”

But again, Comey makes quite personal remarks.  From David Moye at HuffPo:

You have to hand it to former FBI Director James Comey: He knows a good way to troll Donald Trump is to bring up the president’s reportedly small hands.

Comey touches on Trump’s hands in his new book, A Higher Loyalty, and admits the president’s mitts did appear smaller than he expected when they first met.

According to excerpts from the book posted by ABC News, the 6-foot-8-inch Comey said the 6-foot-3-inch Trump “appeared shorter than he seemed on a debate stage.”

Comey also wrote that when Trump reached out for a handshake, he couldn’t help but notice that the president’s hand “was smaller than mine” but added, it “did not seem unusually so.”

This is the type of comment liable to inspire a Trump tweet tantrum, as the president has long been sensitive to any suggestion his hands aren’t anything but “yuge.”

Steve Goldstein–DC Bureau Chief for Market Watch–argues that this puts both Mueller and Comey squarely on Trump’s turf.

If there’s any strategy in the world of President Donald Trump, it’s a simple one: Play on my field.

And the Trump playing field is a salacious one. The scandals and affairs are literally too numerous to be chronicled in a single article. Large and small, Trump University to Trump Steaks, bankruptcies and legal judgements, all manner of infidelity and aberrant behavior, real or imagined.

Former FBI Director James Comey and Special Counsel Robert Mueller were each charged with looking into an allegation of the most serious variety — colluding with a foreign hostile power to alter the presidential election.

This week the headlines emanating from Mueller’s investigation, and Comey’s book, involve a porn stara Playboy bunnya pee tapethe size of Trump’s hands and a doorman with a history of fibbing apparently alleging the existence of an illegitimate child.

That is playing on Trump’s field.

But wait. Isn’t it a violation of campaign law if Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen paid off Stormy Daniels just ahead of the election? If Cohen used a home-equity loan to fund the payment, did he lie to the bank? Doesn’t it speak to Trump’s truthfulness on a variety of a matters — including alleged collusion with Russia — whether his persistent denials of engaging with prostitutes in Moscow are truthful? Doesn’t it have relevance to the question of whether payoffs were legal if Trump bought off a doorman? And didn’t Mueller actually hand off the investigation on Daniels?

Yeah, sure, all of that.

Those are all on the level of the Ken Starr investigation into Bill Clinton’s perjury — legal matters, yes, that aren’t really the stuff of high crimes and misdemeanors. They’re all gotchas reinforcing what we basically knew about Trump and his behavior before the election.

By contrast, the consequences of playing on Trump’s field are enormous.

For Comey, baiting Trump into a reaction, which sure as water is wet came on Friday morning, will result in better book sales. But it will come at the expense of holding any future higher office. His legacy as FBI director — already tarnished for the ridiculous, torturous inconsistencies in how he handled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails — is forever tarnished. Who in Washington could hire this guy? “Untruthful,” as Trump called him? No. “Slime ball?” Hmm.

Mueller, too, looks set to emerge damaged, if perhaps not as fatally. The question of whether Trump can, or should, fire him has returned. Mueller, also a former FBI director, does still have the support of both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to finish his investigation, and a few key Republicans, including Sen. Chuck Grassley, have expressed willingness to support legislation to protect him. But the idea of his dismissal is definitely more plausible — and, for that matter, the outrage it would generate a good bit lessened.

It is clear is that Trump and his band of slimy hucksters in the West Wing have made for the low ground.   Comey has revealed some eye poppers on many of them.  However, he’s teary eyed about Obama.

Comey apologizes to Hillary Clinton, nodding to her own takedown of him in her book What Happened. “I have read she has felt anger toward me personally, and I’m sorry for that,” he writes. “I’m sorry that I couldn’t do a better job explaining to her and her supporters why I made the decisions I made.”

Comey also says President Barack Obama reassured him after the election about his decision to send the letter about Clinton, according to the Post:

Comey writes that Obama sat alone with him in the Oval Office in late November and told him, “I picked you to be FBI director because of your integrity and your ability. I want you to know that nothing — nothing — has happened in the last year to change my view.”

On the verge of tears, Comey told Obama, “Boy, were those words I needed to hear . . . I’m just trying to do the right thing.”

“I know,” Obama said. “I know.”

You surely know that I am no Comey fan after this particular interlude that undoubtedly helped brought us the Orange plague.  I just hope Trump doesn’t wag any dogs to relieve his marital problems. his popularity problems, and his multiple personality disorders.  He still may be plotting to fire Rosenstein or Mueller and who knows what else?

So, one more Trump’s latest weirdness: “President Trump poised to pardon Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, sources say.”

President Donald Trump is poised to pardon Scooter J. Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, according to sources familiar with the president’s thinking.

The president has already signed off on the pardon, which is something he has been considering for several months, sources told ABC News.

The move would mark another controversial pardon for Trump and could raise questions as an increasing number of the president’s political allies have landed themselves in legal jeopardy. The White House has repeatedly said that no pardons are currently on the table for people caught up in the Russia investigation.

Early in his term, Trump pardoned controversial former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio after he was found guilty in July on criminal contempt charges stemming from his refusal to stop imprisoning suspected undocumented immigrants.

Unlike your average Presidential Pardon, Trump’s pardons focus on pardoning law breaking white government officials.  Is this a harbinger of more mercy for predatory slime balls?

So, now I need a shower.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?