Thursday, August 3, 2017

Last Call For It's Mueller Time

Well now.  Today just got real interesting.

Here at Mueller Brewing Company, if you've got the time, we've got the grand jury.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in Washington to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, a sign that his inquiry is growing in intensity and entering a new phase, according to people familiar with the matter. 
The grand jury, which began its work in recent weeks, is a sign that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry is ramping up and that it will likely continue for months. Mr. Mueller is investigating Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election and whether President Donald Trump’s campaign or associates colluded with the Kremlin as part of that effort.
A spokesman for Mr. Mueller, Joshua Stueve, declined to comment. Moscow has denied seeking to influence the election, and Mr. Trump has vigorously disputed allegations of collusion. The president has called Mr. Mueller’s inquiry a “witch hunt.”

Ty Cobb, special counsel to the president, said he wasn’t aware that Mr. Mueller had started using a new grand jury. “Grand jury matters are typically secret,” Mr. Cobb said. “The White House favors anything that accelerates the conclusion of his work fairly.…The White House is committed to fully cooperating with Mr. Mueller.” 
Before Mr. Mueller was tapped in May to be special counsel, federal prosecutors had been using at least one other grand jury, located in Alexandria, Va., to assist in their criminal investigation of Michael Flynn, a former national security adviser. That probe, which has been taken over by Mr. Mueller’s team, focuses on Mr. Flynn’s work in the private sector on behalf of foreign interests. 
Grand juries are powerful investigative tools that allow prosecutors to subpoena documents, put witnesses under oath and seek indictments, if there is evidence of a crime. Legal experts said that the decision by Mr. Mueller to impanel a grand jury suggests he believes he will need to subpoena records and take testimony from witnesses. 
A grand jury in Washington is also more convenient for Mr. Mueller and his 16 attorneys—they work just a few blocks from the U.S. federal courthouse where grand juries meet—than one that is 10 traffic-clogged miles away in Virginia. 
This is yet a further sign that there is a long-term, large-scale series of prosecutions being contemplated and being pursued by the special counsel,” said Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas. “If there was already a grand jury in Alexandria looking at Flynn, there would be no need to reinvent the wheel for the same guy. This suggests that the investigation is bigger and wider than Flynn, perhaps substantially so.” 
Thomas Zeno, a federal prosecutor for 29 years before becoming a lawyer at the Squire Patton Boggs law firm, said the grand jury is “confirmation that this is a very vigorous investigation going on.”

“This doesn’t mean he is going to bring charges,” Mr. Zeno cautioned. “But it shows he is very serious. He wouldn’t do this if it were winding down.”

The table is being set, folks.  The feast is being prepared.

And I'm betting a big platter of spatchcocked orange chicken is on the menu in the months ahead.

In Order To Form A More Perfect Union

The United Auto Workers are still trying to unionize auto plants in at-will employment Southern states, and they've been trying for over a decade now with basically zero success even as the Great Recession mangled the industry and then the recovery under Obama.

But in the age of Trump, where auto sales are starting to slump again after several solid years, the push to unionize may become far more important in states where the focus on getting good high-paying jobs.  The problem is nobody locally thinks unions are the answer anymore,.

For nearly a decade, the United Auto Workers union has tried to organize workers at Nissan Motor Co Ltd's (7201.T) assembly plant here, challenging the company's wages, safety record and commitment to treating African-American workers fairly. 
Starting Thursday, the roughly 4,000 workers at one of Mississippi's largest industrial employers will cast their votes, affecting not only their own futures but the union's as well. 
Another failure to organize a southern auto factory would leave the UAW weakened ahead of contract negotiations with the Detroit Three automakers in 2019, when many analysts forecast U.S. auto sales will be in a cyclical slump. 
The organizing vote, which the UAW called for last month, has divided workers at the Canton plant, which builds Nissan Murano sport utility vehicles, commercial vans and Titan and Frontier pickup trucks. 
Pro-union workers said the plant has a record of poor safety and complain that the company moved to a 401(k) defined contribution plan from a traditional plan. 
"This is not about wages, I'm concerned about safety issues at the plant and about my pension," says Patricia Ruffian, 51. "They say if we vote for the union we're going to have nothing, we have to start from scratch, and that's not true." 
The UAW also claims Nissan has illegally threatened workers that if they vote for the union, the plant will close. Based on those claims, the U.S. National Labor Relations Board has issued a number of complaints that Nissan has made that threat a number of times in recent years. The automaker denies the allegations. The outcome of the election could be contested, leading to a test of how the Trump-era NLRB will handle contentious labor issues. 
Rodney Francis, director of Human Resources at Nissan's Canton plant, said, "Labor rights are about the right to organize, or not to organize. All we've been doing is providing employees with the facts so they can make an informed decision and at the end of the day this is about what they choose." 
Nissan has strong supporters on the factory floor, who point to the history of problems at Detroit's unionized automakers and reject the UAW's arguments that black workers are not treated fairly. 
"Black people are doing much better here since Nissan came," said Tony Jacobson, 52, who is black. He has worked at the plant since it opened in 2003 and makes $28 per hour - comparable to the top rate for unionized workers at General Motors Co (GM.N) or Ford Motor Co (F.N). "I'm trying to save our livelihoods, I don't want Canton to be like Detroit."

If you haven't noticed, the fearmongering from FOX and Friends (and friends) are that Detroit's economy was destroyed by unions, and that if places unionize in 2017, they'll simply go to another plant in another state without them and leave the community destroyed.  Unfortunately, a lot of automakers and other large multinational corporations are big enough to do just that with their North American operations.

But unions have to start somewhere and grow membership or perish.  We'll see what the vote turns out to be, but if it's anything like Volkswagen's plant in Tennessee a few years back, I wouldn't hold out for too much hope.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

John Sipher and Steve Hall, two former career CIA men (one a station chief, one a Russia analyst) give their opinion in the NY Times on the Trump regime's growing collusion troubles and the Mueller investigation, and come up with a very plausible scenario of how things could have possibly went down.

Did the Trump campaign collude with Russian agents trying to manipulate the course of the 2016 election? Some analysts have argued that the media has made too much of the collusion narrative; that Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Kremlin-linked Russians last year was probably innocent (if ill-advised); or that Russian operatives probably meant for the meeting to be discovered because they were not trying to recruit Mr. Kushner and Mr. Trump as agents, but mainly trying to undermine the American political system. 
We disagree with these arguments. We like to think of ourselves as fair-minded and knowledgeable, having between us many years of experience with the C.I.A. dealing with Russian intelligence services. It is our view not only that the Russian government was running some sort of intelligence operation involving the Trump campaign, but also that it is impossible to rule out the possibility of collusion between the two
The original plan drawn up by the Russian intelligence services was probably multilayered. They could have begun an operation intended to disrupt the presidential campaign, as well as an effort to recruit insiders to help them over time — the two are not mutually exclusive. It is the nature of Russian covert actions (or as the Russians would call them, “active measures”) to adapt over time, providing opportunities for other actions that extend beyond the original intent. 
It is entirely plausible, for example, that the original Russian hack of the Democratic National Committee’s computer servers was an effort simply to collect intelligence and get an idea of the plans of the Democratic Party and its presidential candidate. Once derogatory information emerged from that operation, the Russians might then have seen an opportunity for a campaign to influence or disrupt the election. When Donald Trump Jr. responded “I love it” to proffers from a Kremlin-linked intermediary to provide derogatory information obtained by Russia on Hillary Clinton, the Russians might well have thought that they had found an inside source, an ally, a potential agent of influence on the election. 
The goal of the Russian spy game is to nudge a person to step over the line into an increasingly conspiratorial relationship. First, for a Russian intelligence recruitment operation to work, they would have had some sense that Donald Trump Jr. was a promising target. Next, as the Russians often do, they made a “soft” approach, setting the bait for their target via the June email sent by Rob Goldstone, a British publicist, on behalf of a Russian pop star, Emin Agalarov.

They then employed a cover story — adoptions — to make it believable to the outside world that there was nothing amiss with the proposed meetings. They bolstered this idea by using cutouts, nonofficial Russians, for the actual meeting, enabling the Trump team to claim — truthfully — that there were no Russian government employees at the meeting and that it was just former business contacts of the Trump empire who were present. 
When the Trump associates failed to do the right thing by informing the F.B.I., the Russians probably understood that they could take the next step toward a more conspiratorial relationship. They knew what bait to use and had a plan to reel in the fish once it bit.

Again, the Russians have been dealing with Trump for decades, he's a known quantity to them.  They knew how he worked, they know how he played, and everything in between.  They simply took the person they knew and played the game from there.  It was far, far more successful than they could have dreamed and the damage done to our country will ne generation as a result.  They know they've scored a massive victory, and as both Sipher and Hall have pointed out, finding the evidence of collusion should be considered somewhat inevitable.

The goal wasn't to get Trump into the White House, although that was secondary and arguably the best outcome for Moscow.  The goal was to damage the US political system to the point where it could no longer function and interact reliably with allies or interfere with enemies.

The last six months have proven to be the greatest success of Russian spycraft in history in that regard.


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