Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Beaver Goes Home, Con't

Last month we found out GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz wasn't too happy being chair of the House Oversight Committee when he didn't have Hillary Clinton as President to harass on a daily basis, so unhappy in fact he that he was not going to run in 2018.  But now that Chaffetz's job involves actually having to deal with Donald Trump's Russia connections, money laundering, obstruction of justice and you know, possible treason it seems that Chaffetz is now bailing completely and hanging it up at the end of next month.

The chairman of the House oversight and government reform committee, Jason Chaffetz, is leaving Congress on June 30, the Utah Republican announced Thursday
"As you know, after careful consideration and long discussion with my wife, Julie, we agree the time has come for us to move on from this part of our life," Chaffetz wrote in a letter posted on his social media. "This week I sent a letter to Governor (Gary) Herbert indicating my intention to resign from Congress effective June 30, 2017." 
Chaffetz said last month he was not running for reelection, and then later said he might not finish out his term. He's reportedly eying a position at Fox News after leaving the House.

Chaffetz is head of a committee that is the House's investigatory arm into the Executive Branch. He has started digging into President Donald Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey and the former director's memo saying Trump asked him to drop the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. 
This week, Chaffetz sent a letter from FBI Director Andrew McCabe seeking all FBI notes and information on Comey's communications with Trump, and he announced a hearing next week where he's invited Comey to testify. 
There's no indication yet, however, that the former FBI director plans to attend -- and Chaffetz had trouble reaching Comey. 
Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the panel, has repeatedly clashed with Chaffetz during several investigations, but told CNN that he was "going to miss him" and that he brought a "breath of fresh air" to the committee after it went through some tumultuous times under prior Republican leadership.

Funny how after subpoenaing Comey's memos earlier this week, Chaffetz is now heading home back to Utah and getting as far away from DC as he can.  A nice cushy job as a FOX News pundit seems like the perfect position for him.

My guess is that Chaffetz knows quite a bit about what's coming and doesn't have the guts to handle the coming storm.  He doesn't want to deal with Trump, and definitely doesn't want to deal with Trump voters either.  After all, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert might now want to run in 2018, and Chaffetz might want a career after 2017.  Who knows?

Either way, for Chaffetz to bail now is 100% suspicious...and 100% cowardly.  Never forget that when real government oversight was needed, Jason Chaffetz turned into a chickenshit and ran home.

Most Republicans are cowards though, so no surprise there.

The problem with that is this means our old friend Trey "Benghazi" Gowdy would be chair of the Oversight Committee again.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) could be the next chairman of the House Oversight Committee — if he wants the job. 
The popular South Carolina Republican and former Select Committee on Benghazi chairman has emerged as the front-runner to replace Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who made it official Thursday that he would resign from Congress on June 30.

Gowdy, a prominent leadership ally, has been racking up endorsements from colleagues on the Oversight panel and the influential Steering Committee, which will choose the next chairman. The 52-year-old former prosecutor is one of a handful of senior Oversight members who has been calling and texting Steering members about the gavel.

“If Trey runs, he’ll get it,” one Steering Committee member told The Hill.

But Gowdy’s office said the congressman has made no final decision about whether he’ll run. 
“Rep. Gowdy is talking to members in the conference about the qualities they believe are most important for the next Chairman to possess,” said Gowdy spokeswoman Amanda Gonzalez. 
At least two other Oversight members — Reps. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) and Steve Russell (R-Okla.) — have been reaching out to the 32-member Steering panel. 
The Oversight Committee is stacked with members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, and several of them said they favored former Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) to be the next chairman.

But even Jordan conceded Thursday that it’d be an uphill battle for him to win the gavel given that the Steering group is largely comprised of loyalists to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Jordan had been one of the Freedom ringleaders who pressured then-Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to resign in 2015, making Jordan persona non grata to some GOP colleagues.

So Gowdy is the frontrunner, but he actually may not get the job.  We'll see.  Hell, who knows where this will all be when June 30 rolls around.

Mortal Coil Shufflling Department Comes For Roger Ailes

Serial abuser of women (and of news) Roger Ailes, former FOX News Channel head and founder, was found dead this morning at age 77.

The death was announced by his family and reported on Fox News Channel. There was no immediate information on a cause of death. 
"I am profoundly sad and heartbroken to report that my husband, Roger Ailes, passed away this morning," his wife, Elizabeth, said in a statement. "Roger was a loving husband to me, to his son Zachary, and a loyal friend to many. He was also a patriot, profoundly grateful to live in a country that gave him so much opportunity to work hard, to rise -- and to give back." 
Sean Hannity, a prime time host and longtime face of the network, said on Twitter: "Today America lost one of its great patriotic warriors." 
Ailes started Fox News almost from scratch in 1996. With its slogan "Fair & Balanced," the network grew into not just the cable news ratings leader but a profound influence on the right wing of American politics. 
Fox News promoted Republican candidates and causes and relentlessly attacked what it perceived to be liberal bias in the mainstream media and the entertainment industry. 
Ailes was arguably the most powerful man in American media when he suddenly lost his job last summer. Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox anchor, sued him for sexual harassment, and other women came forward to support her claims. Carlson settled with 21st Century Fox, the network's parent company, for $20 million.

Roger Ailes was one of the chief architects of the rise of the current GOP, and of Trump.  He has done incalculable damage to the country and the planet, and his passing is quite literally the least he could accomplish in the wake of his decades-long reign of presiding of his empire of cable news diarrhea.

I'm going to spend the rest of my life believing that his final words yesterday were something along the lines that a special counsel for Trump and Russia would only be appointed "over his dead body" and that his body dutifully complied.

Good job, Roger Ailes's body.  Were that you could have only saved us earlier.

Three Strikes For Mike, Overnight

If all the massive news stories that happened yesterday involving Trump and Russia weren't enough for you, with the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel and GOP House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy caught on tape saying he thought Trump was getting paid off by Putin, this morning we have three more separate stories on former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn on the docket, and none of them are good news for the Trump regime in any way.  

First up: from the NY Times that Mike Flynn told the Trump team he was under FBI investigation before he was hired, and Trump hired him anyway.

Michael T. Flynn told President Trump’s transition team weeks before the inauguration that he was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign, according to two people familiar with the case.

Despite this warning, which came about a month after the Justice Department notified Mr. Flynn of the inquiry, Mr. Trump made Mr. Flynn his national security adviser. The job gave Mr. Flynn access to the president and nearly every secret held by American intelligence agencies.

Mr. Flynn’s disclosure, on Jan. 4, was first made to the transition team’s chief lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, who is now the White House counsel. That conversation, and another one two days later between Mr. Flynn’s lawyer and transition lawyers, shows that the Trump team knew about the investigation of Mr. Flynn far earlier than has been previously reported.

This means that White House Counsel Don McGahn knew full well that Flynn was dirty, and most of all it makes a giant liar out of the person that Trump had to head hiring for his transition team: VP Mike Pence, who in February said he found out more than two weeks after Trump did that Flynn was under investigation, and that Flynn mislead them on his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak.  Flynn should have never been hired in the first place, and Pence, as transition head, would have had to have known what Flynn told McGahn about Turkey.

Oh, but it gets worse, specifically on Flynn''s relationship as a paid agent of Turkey and President Erdogan, as McClatchy News dropped this story late last night on Flynn.

One of the Trump administration’s first decisions about the fight against the Islamic State was made by Michael Flynn weeks before he was fired – and it conformed to the wishes of Turkey, whose interests, unbeknownst to anyone in Washington, he’d been paid more than $500,000 to represent.

The decision came 10 days before Donald Trump had been sworn in as president, in a conversation with President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, who had explained the Pentagon’s plan to retake the Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa with Syrian Kurdish forces whom the Pentagon considered the U.S.’s most effective military partners. Obama’s national security team had decided to ask for Trump’s sign-off, since the plan would all but certainly be executed after Trump had become president.

Flynn didn’t hesitate. According to timelines distributed by members of Congress in the weeks since, Flynn told Rice to hold off, a move that would delay the military operation for months.

If Flynn explained his answer, that’s not recorded, and it’s not known whether he consulted anyone else on the transition team before rendering his verdict. But his position was consistent with the wishes of Turkey, which had long opposed the United States partnering with the Kurdish forces – and which was his undeclared client.

Trump eventually would approve the Raqqa plan, but not until weeks after Flynn had been fired.

Ahh, but this story about the Raqqa operation coupled with the NY Times story means that the Trump team knew Flynn was under investigation for his ties to Turkey, and was still allowed to make decisions about anti-ISIS operations involving Turkey anyway.  And that folks, is a serious, serious problem for McGahn and Pence, oh and Trump too.

But what about Russia?  Ahh dear reader, that brings us to Strike Number Three as it turns out Flynn's undisclosed contacts with Ambassador Kislyak happened quite often as Reuters dropped this gem this morning:

Michael Flynn and other advisers to Donald Trump’s campaign were in contact with Russian officials and others with Kremlin ties in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the 2016 presidential race
, current and former U.S. officials familiar with the exchanges told Reuters.

The previously undisclosed interactions form part of the record now being reviewed by FBI and congressional investigators probing Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election and contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Six of the previously undisclosed contacts described to Reuters were phone calls between Sergei Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to the United States, and Trump advisers, including Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, three current and former officials said.

Conversations between Flynn and Kislyak accelerated after the Nov. 8 vote as the two discussed establishing a back channel for communication between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin that could bypass the U.S. national security bureaucracy, which both sides considered hostile to improved relations, four current U.S. officials said.

In January, the Trump White House initially denied any contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign. The White House and advisers to the campaign have since confirmed four meetings between Kislyak and Trump advisers during that time.

And this is now the starting point of the Mueller special counsel probe into Trump and Russia.  Flynn is the keystone, looks like.  It's why he was the first thrown overboard.  Cracking him wide open leads to Trump, Pence, and possibly Paul Ryan.  Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein will brief the entire US Senate today on the probe, and folks, I'm betting this is going to start moving quickly here, as if this week's breakneck pace was somehow pokey.

Stay tuned, folks.


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