Finally Friday Reads: J6 Committee Finale

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I admit to needing my support dog Temple and her support Kitty Kristal to get through the last of the January 6 Committee’s hearings.  Cassiday Hutchinson’s testimony continues to frame the narrative of how Trump planned and carried out his attempted insurrection. Over 30 of Trump’s cronies testified simply by exercising their fifth amendment right.  That was one of two clips that really was irritating. The second was a series of statements made by Trump that made his weird cadence so obvious it hurt my ears worse than country music.   The scene stealer for the day was Leader Pelosi, whose daughter was filming a documentary and captured the senate and house leadership in their hidey-hole at Fort McNair.

BB pointed out the presence of Republican Louisiana Congressman Steve “Sleazy” Scalise because I was so fixated on watching Senate Minority Leader McConnell’s expression.  It’s significant for several reasons.  First, he was standing behind McConnell while Leader Pelosi was trying to figure out how to get the Virginian and Maryland National Guard to the Capitol. You could tell it was early in the insurrection because as she spoke to the Governor of Virginia, you could see the mob breaking windows to surge into the Capitol building on a TV screen in the room.

The second reason it’s very important is that Scalise and other Republicans insisted that Pelosi tried to slow down the call to get the Guard a little over a year later. At the same time, we know the only person ignoring that duty was Trump himself.

This is the same guy who once called himself David Duke without the baggage.  Steve appears to forget that Italians and Sicilians weren’t considered white in this country for a long time.  He even forgets they did field work alongside black Americans in Louisiana. They kept to themselves and spoke their native language for a long time.  One of the largest lynchings in New Orleans happened to eleven Italian men who were in the wrong place at the wrong time in 1891.  Every time I remember his self-appellation, I remember that not so long ago, the likes of David Duke would’ve been happy to lynch him.

Colored figures of the birds of the British Islands / issued by Lord Lilford.. London :R. H. Porter,1885-1897

Today’s Republicans are genuinely unable to speak the truth. Senator Liz Cheney of Wyoming is now telling everyone who will listen to vote a straight Democratic ticket rather than lose our democracy.  She didn’t make it through the republican congressional primary in Wyoming.  Cheney and Adam Kinzinger will be out of Congress after the elections.  Kinzinger and Cheney will no longer be able to sit on the Committee should it continue after the elections.

Trump had one of those days yesterday after the January 6 Committee unanimously issued a subpoena for his appearance at the end of that hearing.  Earlier in the morning, SCOTUS denied “Trump’s request to allow a special master in the Mar-a-Lago case to review classified documents.”   This op-ed is written by Jeff Greenfield for Politico.

It was essentially two-and-a-half hours of leadup to the final moment of the Jan. 6 hearing. Donald Trump, in the words of Vice Chair Liz Cheney, had a “premeditated plan to declare the election was fraudulent and stolen before Election Day”; he knew he had lost and fed his base endless lies about it; he welcomed a siege of the Capitol and did nothing to stop it. And because, in Cheney’s words, the “cause of Jan. 6th was one man… his state of mind, his intent, his motivations…,” his testimony was required.

With that, the committee unanimously voted to subpoena the former president, ensuring the day’s headline news.

It is almost surely a symbolic act. The odds that Trump will enthusiastically appear to make his case is roughly equivalent to Herschel Walker’s admittance into Mensa, and the committee’s writ will expire by year’s end, long before a court fight over the subpoena would be resolved. While it may make for full employment for cable news legal experts, it also has the potential to overshadow the most striking revelations from today’s hearing — that the Secret Service had days of advance knowledge about the potential for violence at the Capitol, as well as the steely resolve of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who reached out for help in combatting the violence as it was happening. (Her conduct also makes a strong case that age is not necessarily a disabling quality in a leader.)

I still believe the actions of Nancy Pelosi were a big deal in the hearing presentation. This is especially true given the events unfolding around her.  It truly should put down the old adage that women do not have the “steely resolve” to be leaders under pressure.

Still, the unsigned SCOTUS decision is likely a bigger blow to Trump in the long run.

… the U.S. Supreme Court turned down Trump’s request to allow a special master in the Mar-a-Lago case to review classified documents. The unsigned order involved a relatively narrow dispute, but the lack of any dissents suggests that the court may not give Trump the protection he will seek from the Justice Department, should it end up indicting Trump for violating one or more federal laws. For all of the legal landmines in Trump’s path — breaking Georgia’s laws on election interference, a possible contempt citation if he refuses to comply with today’s subpoena — the Mar-a-Lago case remains the most damaging to Trump, especially considering that at different times, he has more or less acknowledged breaking one or more of the laws regarding federal documents.

The Republicans are trying to make hay with the bad news on inflation.  This inflation is due to the Saudi manipulation of the oil market and the Putin invasion of Ukraine.  The worst inflation resides in the core elements of oil, gas, and food.  This is a worldwide problem, meaning none came from us or any policy. This was the third thing that Greenfield spoke to if you’re interested.

Meanwhile, Trump only appears to have one condition to testify before the Committee.  This is via The Daily Beast’s  Zachary Petrizzo.

After the Jan. 6 committee unanimously voted in favor of subpoenaing former President Donald Trump, he’s been telling those in his orbit he’s not opposed to the idea. “The former president has been telling aides he favors doing so, so long as he gets to do so live, according to a person familiar with his discussions,” The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman reported on Thursday evening. “However, it is unclear whether the committee would accept such a demand.” Not everyone in Trump’s circle is convinced that him testifying would be a wise idea, however. “He should not,” a Trump adviser who speaks regularly with the former president told The Daily Beast on Thursday evening. A Trump spokesperson didn’t immediately return The Daily Beast’s request for comment. Taking to Truth Social, Trump said he will share his response to the subpoena Friday morning, while claiming the committee is “a giant scam, presided over by a group of Radical Left losers, and two failed Republicans.”

Trump did “lash out” this morning.  This is from The Hill.

Former President Trump on Thursday dismissed a House committee’s vote to subpoena him for testimony about the events of Jan. 6, 2021, as a publicity stunt.

“Why didn’t the Unselect Committee ask me to testify months ago?” Trump posted on Truth Social shortly after the House panel investigating the Capitol riots on Jan. 6 voted to subpoena him.

“Why did they wait until the very end, the final moments of their last meeting? Because the Committee is a total ‘BUST’ that has only served to further divide our Country which, by the way, is doing very badly – A laughing stock all over the World?” Trump continued.

He’s so predictable!

An illustration of the largest flower in the world.   Its name is Rafflesia Arnoldii, and it grows in the rainforests of the Philippines.

This is the other story that was big news for me.  NBC News reports, “FBI official was warned after Jan. 6 that some in the bureau were ‘sympathetic’ to the Capitol rioters. “There are definitely varying degrees of enthusiasm from agents across the country,” a source told NBC News.”

A week after the Jan. 6 attack, an email landed in a top FBI official’s inbox expressing concern that some bureau employees might not be particularly motivated to help bring to justice the rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol and threatened lawmakers’ lives.

“There’s no good way to say it, so I’ll just be direct: from my first-hand and second-hand information from conversations since January 6th there is, at best, a sizable percentage of the employee population that felt sympathetic to the group that stormed the Capitol,” and that it was no different than the Black Lives Matter protests of the summer of 2020, the person wrote in an email to Paul Abbate, who is now the No. 2 official at the bureau. “Several also lamented that the only reason this violent activity is getting more attention is because of ‘political correctness.’”

The email, recently disclosed publicly in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, reflects an issue that’s been hanging over the Jan. 6 investigation since it began: the notion that there are some in the bureau who weren’t, and aren’t, particularly driven to bring cases against the Capitol rioters.

The content of the full email, which includes a reference to “my first unit,” coupled with the fact that Abbate replied suggests that the sender, whose name is redacted, was likely someone plugged into the bureau or a former agent. The email was labeled external, indicating it was not sent from an active bureau account.

“I literally had to explain to an agent from a ‘blue state’ office the difference between opportunists burning and looting during protests that stemmed legitimate grievance to police brutality vs. an insurgent mob whose purpose was to prevent the execution of democratic processes at the behest of a sitting president,” the person wrote to Abbate. “One is a smattering of criminals, the other is an organized group of domestic terrorists.”

The person also wrote that an official in one FBI office in a “red state” said that more than 70% of that office’s counterterrorism squad and about three-quarters of its agent population disagreed with the violence, “but could understand where the frustration was coming from.”

In his response, Abbate wrote: “Thank you [redacted] for sharing everything below.”

Chrysanthemes Dautomne flower, Charles Antoine Lemaire
Illustrations extracted from Illustration horticole
Published 1854-1896

Christopher Wray has some explaining to do.  And so does the Secret Service, according to this article in The Daily Beast. David Rothkopf writes, “ The Jan. 6 Committee Gave Us Some Bad News About the Secret ServiceRather than presiding over an intelligence failure, they actually actively enabled the insurrection to take place, with some among their ranks content to look the other way.”

The Secret Service has too many secrets. The Federal Bureau of Investigation requires a thorough investigation.

These are among the most striking conclusions that emerged Thursday from the last public meeting of Congress’s Jan. 6 committee. Laying out its meticulously crafted case against former President Donald Trump for leading an insurrection against the government he had sworn an oath to protect, the committee made it clear that there were many targets that warranted further investigation. Not least of these were the two law enforcement agencies that had long prided themselves on being among the U.S. government’s most shining examples of integrity and service.

The real culmination of the inquiry must be left to the Sphinx-like Department of Justice, whose silence might reveal its commitment to the secrecy that should surround an historically significant investigation. Or that silence might be followed by inaction. We just cannot know at this point, even though the Jan. 6 committee’s revelations made it clear that inaction in the face of the evidence that exists would be one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in U.S. history and would set a dangerous precedent, leaving our entire system at risk.

But there were other disturbing threads that emerged from the congressional inquiry that themselves appeared to require their own independent inquiry. Several of these concern the seeming existence of what might be called the “dark state.” This is not the conspiracy theory fantasy spun by the far right about a “deep state” permanent government that was foiling the will of the people: That was always such a stalking horse, a concept that would enable MAGA officials to root out public servants who placed fealty to the Constitution ahead of loyalty to a political party. Rather it was a real loose alliance among Trump allies in the government who were willing to set aside the rule of law in the service of Trump himself.

At the core of this movement were officials within key government agencies—including the Department of Homeland Security and within it the Secret Service, the FBI, the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice and the intelligence community—who had been placed in positions of responsibility because they could be counted upon to bend the rules for Trump.

That’s a lot to read and think about, so I’ll leave BB to pick up what breaks as the day goes on tomorrow.  You can also share articles and thoughts below.  I found it a very emotionally exhausting day.  What have they done to our democracy based on diversity and rights?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Lazy Caturday Reads

By Emanuele Cavalli (1904-1981)

By Emanuele Cavalli (1904-1981)

Happy Caturday!!

Even though we are heading into a 3-day weekend, there is a surprising amount of news today. I’m going to focus on the following stories: Ukraine’s destruction of a bridge that is vital to Russian supply routes;  New developments in the Trump stolen documents saga; and someshocking news on that Russian-speaking Ukrainian woman who infiltrated Mar-a-Lago awhile back.

Ukraine War News

CNN: Massive blast cripples parts of Crimea-Russia bridge, in blow to Putin’s war effort.

In a major blow for Russian President Vladimir Putin, a huge explosion has severely damaged the only bridge connecting the annexed Crimean peninsula with the Russian mainland, paralyzing a key supply route for Moscow’s faltering war in Ukraine.

The blast early Saturday caused parts of the Kerch Strait road and rail bridge – opened by Putin himself in 2018 – to collapse, images and video from the scene showed. At least three people were killed in the explosion, Russian officials said, citing preliminary information.

The exact cause of the blast at Europe’s longest bridge is yet to be confirmed. Russian officials said a truck exploded, causing Crimea-bound sections ofthe bridge’s road portion to collapse. A subsequent fire engulfed a train of fuel tanks on a separate, adjacent rail portion of the bridge.

Putin ordered a “government commission” to examine the Kerch bridge “emergency” in Crimea, Russian state media TASS reported.

An official in Crimea blamed “Ukrainian vandals” for the explosion. Some Ukrainian officials gloated over the incident without directly claiming responsibility – even announcing commemorative stamps will be made. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that “the reaction of the Kyiv regime to the destruction of civilian infrastructure testifies to its terrorist nature.”

On the strategic importance of the bridge:

Kees van Dongen, The Concierge de la Villa Said, 1917

Kees van Dongen, The Concierge de la Villa Said, 1917

The damage to the road bridge appears to be severe, with the part of the bridge that carries westbound road traffic crippled in at least two places. The damage to the rail link where fuel tanks caught fire is unclear.

The bridge is strategically important because it links Russia’s Krasnodar region with the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014 in a move condemned by the international community.

It is a critical artery for supplying Crimea with both its daily needs and supplies for the military. Over the last few months, dozens of Russian military convoys have used the bridge, carrying vehicles, armor and fuel.

If the Russian military can’t use the bridge, its supply lines to forces in southern Ukraine would become more tenuous, especially when combined with Ukrainian advances southwards into Kherson region, north of Crimea.

Trump Stolen Documents News

Rolling Stone: Justice Department Asking if Trump Stashed Documents in Trump Tower.

FEDERAL INVESTIGATORS HAVE asked multiple witnesses if they knew whether Donald Trump had stashed any highly sensitive government documents at Trump Tower in Manhattan or at his private club in Bedminster, New Jersey, a person familiar with the matter and another source briefed on the situation tell Rolling Stone.

The FBI, according to these sources, had also asked in recent months whether the ex-president had a habit of transporting classified documents from his Florida estate Mar-a-Lago to the other Trump properties. The feds specifically discussed both the New York City and Bedminster locations with certain witnesses.

“It was obvious they wanted to know if this went beyond just Mar-a-Lago,” the first source says….

On Thursday, The New York Times reported that the Justice Department informed Trump’s legal team it believes the former president may have taken more documents than the ones the FBI returned to the National Archives after its August Mar-a-Lago search. Trump attorney Christopher Kise reportedly suggested that the former president voluntarily conduct a search for any further missing documents at another unnamed Trump property, according to the Times.

The FBI has been quietly interviewing a number of former Trump associates as part of its inquiry into his retention of classified documents….

The increased law enforcement scrutiny since the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago has prompted Trump to wonder aloud who in his circle could be helping the Justice Department’s investigation. In exchange with associates, Trump has asked whether anyone in MAGA world could be “wearing a wire” or if his phones are “tapped.” In private, associates of the former president told Rolling Stone that Trump remains focused on getting back “all” of the documents — even classified ones — taken by the FBI back, referring to them as “mine.”

Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt at The New York Times: How Trump Deflected Demands for Documents, Enmeshing Aides.

Late last year, as the National Archives ratcheted up the pressure on former President Donald J. Trump to return boxes of records he had taken from the White House to his Mar-a-Lago club, he came up with an idea to resolve the looming showdown: cut a deal.

By Li Gui Jun

By Li Gui Jun

Mr. Trump, still determined to show he had been wronged by the F.B.I. investigation into his 2016 campaign’s ties to Russia, was angry with the National Archives and Records Administration for its unwillingness to hand over a batch of sensitive documents that he thought proved his claims.

In exchange for those documents, Mr. Trump told advisers, he would return to the National Archives the boxes of material he had taken to Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Fla.

Mr. Trump’s aides never pursued the idea. But the episode is one in a series that demonstrates how Mr. Trump spent a year and a half deflecting, delaying and sometimes leading aides to dissemble when it came to demands from the National Archives and ultimately the Justice Department to return the material he had taken, interviews and documents show.

That pattern was strikingly similar to how Mr. Trump confronted inquiries into his conduct while in office: entertain or promote outlandish ideas, eschew the advice of lawyers and mislead them, then push lawyers and aides to impede investigators.

In the process, some of his lawyers have increased their own legal exposure and had to hire lawyers themselves. And Mr. Trump has ended up in the middle of an investigation into his handling of the documents that has led the Justice Department to seek evidence of obstruction.

Read the rest at the NYT.

Mike Levine and Kathrine Faulders at ABC News: On Trump’s last day in office, why were sensitive documents allegedly in such disarray?

At the end of Donald Trump’s presidency, his team returned a large batch of classified FBI documents and other government records to the Justice Department in such disarray that a year later — in a letter to lawmakers — the department said it still couldn’t tell which of the documents were the classified ones.

The documents came from the FBI’s controversial probe in 2016 looking at alleged links between Russia and Trump’s presidential campaign. Trump tried to make the documents public the night before he left office, issuing a “declassification” memo and secretly meeting with conservative writer John Solomon, who was allowed to review the documents, Solomon told ABC News this past week.

‘Tiptoes the Mischievous Kitten’, illustrated by P. B. Hickling

‘Tiptoes the Mischievous Kitten’, illustrated by P. B. Hickling

But for reasons that are still not clear – and to the great frustration of Trump and his political allies – none of the documents were ever officially released, and the Justice Department said Thursday it’s still working to determine which documents can be disclosed….

Much of what happened with the documents in those last days of the Trump administration — and ever since — remains shrouded in mystery because current and former government officials involved have refused to speak about it, especially now that the FBI is pursuing its investigation into Trump’s alleged mishandling of a separate cache of classified documents.

The story that still emerges, though, from pieces of public statements and Solomon’s own accounts is one that sheds further light on how Trump’s White House treated certain government secrets. And it helps explain how – in the midst of the FBI probe – Solomon became one of Trump’s official “representatives” to the National Archives.

There’s much more at the ABC link.

Yahoo News: A rift has opened in Trump’s legal team, with a lawyer frozen out for wanting to cooperate with the DOJ: NYT.

A rift has opened in Donald Trump’s legal team over how to respond to Mar-a-Lago classified documents case, The New York Times reported.

According to the Times, the rift was prompted by the Department of Justice telling Trump’s team it believes he still possesses government records, even after the FBI raid in August which seized hundreds of files from his home.

Two sources told The Times that attorney Christopher Kise put himself at odds wth Trump by advocating creating a “forensics team” of independent investigators to meticulously inspect whether Trump has any further records.

Per The Times, Trump was initially open to the idea, the report said, but was later persuaded by other attorneys to take a more aggressive approach, leading to Kise being sidelined.

Hugo Lowell at The Guardian: Donald Trump seeks to withhold two folders seized at Mar-a-Lago.

Donald Trump is seeking to withhold from the justice department two folders marked as containing correspondence with the National Archives and signing sheets that the FBI seized from his Mar-a-Lago resort, according to court filings in the special master review of the confiscated documents.

The former US president’s privilege assertions over the folders, which appear to have direct relevance to the criminal investigation into whether he retained national defense information and obstructed justice, are significant as they represent an effort to exclude the items from the inquiry and keep them confidential.

Barbara Perrine Chu Woman with Two Cats

Barbara Perrine Chu, Woman with Two Cats

Most notably, Trump asserted privilege over the contents of one red folder marked as containing “NARA letters and other copies” and a second, manilla folder marked as containing “NARA letters one top sheet + 3 signing sheets”, a review of the court filings indicated.

The former president also asserted privilege over 35 pages of documents titled “The President’s Calls” that included the presidential seal in the upper left corner and contained handwritten names, numbers, notes about messages and four blank pages of miscellaneous notes, the filings showed.

Trump additionally also did the same over an unsigned 2017 letter concerning former special counsel Robert Mueller, pages of an email about election fraud lawsuits in Fulton County, Georgia, and deliberations about clemency to a certain “MB”, Ted Suhl and former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich.

The documents the former president is attempting to withhold from the criminal investigation by asserting some sort of privilege – it was not clear whether he asserted executive or attorney-client privilege over the two folders, for instance – became clear after a Friday ruling by the special master.

Lowell figured out which documents Trump was claiming privilege on by comparing the document numbers in the latest filing with another filing that was briefly unsealed and obtained by Zoe Tillman of Bloomberg News.

News Related to Mysterious Woman Who Infiltrated Mar-a-Lago

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Valeriy Tarasenko, associate of fake heiress who wandered Mar-a-Lago and posed with Donald Trump, shot outside Canadian resort.

A close associate of a woman who posed as a member of a famous banking family and spent days at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home was shot Friday in a brazen attack outside a lakeside resort northwest of Montreal, the Canadian paper LaPresse reported.

Quebec provincial police have launched a search for the shooter and other accomplices behind the midday shooting of Valeriy Tarasenko, 44, in the upscale community of Esterel, according to LaPresse. Police said he suffered “significant injuries” but was expected to survive.

Mr. Tarasenko was a former business partner of Inna Yashchyshyn, a Russian-speaking Ukrainian immigrant who gained recent notoriety after an investigation by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project in August revealed that she masqueraded as a member of the Rothschild family and went to Mar-a-Lago, where she made inroads in the former president’s inner circle.

In prior interviews with the Post-Gazette, Mr. Tarasenko said that he met with the FBI and turned over a host of documents and photos tied to an investigation into Ms. Yashchyshyn, her trips to the former president’s estate, and businesses she formed – two with Mr. Tarasenko – over the past seven years.

A bit more:

Holly Warburton

By Holly Warburton

Quebec police said they were trying to “shed some light on the circumstances that led to the injuries of the victim.” But for now, “to protect the investigation, no other detail can be shared.”

Mr. Tarasenko, who was born in Ukraine and raised in Moscow, told the Post-Gazette and OCCRP that he had hired Ms. Yaschyshyn in 2014 to live in his Midtown Miami condo and watch his two daughters while he traveled on business.

But over the past year, the pair had a falling out, with Mr. Tarasenko accusing Ms. Yashchyshyn of abusing his children — allegations that she has vehemently denied.

The shooting is expected to widen the ongoing FBI investigation that includes several interviews with witnesses about a highly suspicious Miami charity, United Hearts of Mercy.

This seems like a significant story that isn’t getting that much attention in the U.S. media yet. Here are a two Canadian articles–rendered in English by Google Translate–and another at The New York Post.

Le Devoir: A man with a troubled past targeted by an armed attack in Estérel.

Radio Canada: One person injured in shooting at Estérel

The New York Post: Fake Ukrainian heiress: ‘My ex-lover forced me to become Anna de Rothschild’

Could this have anything to do with the stolen documents?

What are your thoughts? What other stories are you following today?