Friday, August 4, 2017

Last Call For The General Gets A Head

Let's not mince words here: White House Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly is still a right-wing racist Islamophobic lunatic and getting him out of Homeland Security (while a good idea) still means he's there working for Trump.

But if anything, Kelly seems to be good at collecting pelts of Trump's worst hires because Trump himself won't do it.  Kelly has already cashiered Tony Scaramucci and along with an alliance with National Security Council head Gen. H.R. McMaster, the notion is that Kelly will start taking out the garbage.

Looks like Kelly may have found his first head in actual card-carrying Bannon flunkie Seb Gorka, a man whom nobody can explain why he is still there and eating all the office snacks.

A senior administration official says Sebastian Gorka, a former counterterrorism analyst for Fox News who joined the administration as a counterterrorism adviser, will be leaving the White House in the coming days.

The official says that Gorka had initially been hired to play a key role on the Strategic Initiatives Group, an advisory panel created by Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon to run parallel to the National Security Council.

But that group fizzled out in the early months of the administration. Gorka was unable to get clearance for the National Security Council after he was charged last year with carrying a weapon at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

The official spoke anonymously to discuss private personnel matters. Attempts to reach Gorka by email for comment were not immediately successful.

Kelly is still a jackass, but Gorka was a no-fooling Nazi white supremacist fascist, so if Gorka's out, that's a small point in Kelly's favor that's still completely overshadowed by the fact he's still working for Trump.

Israeli Serious Charges For Bibi

With all the news this week on the Mueller grand jury, it's important to remember there's a lot going on in the realm of political scandal outside the US as well.  In Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro will today convene the first meeting of his 545-member constituent assembly on the way to what will almost assuredly be a full dictatorship.  In Brazil, President Michel Temer has narrowly escaped impeachment on corruption charges but his presidency is in tatters.  But the big one is in Israel, where PM Benjamin Netanyahu is now facing a major bribery and fraud scandal as his former chief of staff has turned state's evidence against him.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's former chief of staff Ari Harow has reached an agreement with the prosecution to turn state's witness in two corruption cases against Netanyahu.

Under the deal, Harow will be convicted of fraud and breach of trust in a separate case, but will avoid jail time. Instead, he will do community service as pay a 700,000-shekel ($193,000) fine. 
The Israel Police confirmed on Thursday that the prime minister is suspected of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Netanyahu's bureau rejected the allegations on Thursday, calling them "unfounded claims." 
Harow served for two terms in key positions in the Prime Minister’s Office. In 2009 he was appointed bureau chief, but left after a year to pursue private business interests before coming back in 2014, this time as chief of staff. In between he maintained “friendly contact” with the prime minister, as he attested in the past in an official document. 
In 2015, Harow was arrested by the national fraud squad, on suspicions he was continuing to secretly operate a private lobbying and consulting business while he was the premier’s chief of staff. Last year, when the police began to examine matters pertaining to the prime minister, Harow landed in Israel and was immediately taken for questioning under warning, which meant he might be accused of a crime. The moves toward a state’s witness deal began at that time.

And those bribery charges are pretty serious.  Netanyahu is in a lot of trouble because Harow was nailed dead to rights on some pretty nasty stuff, and he has flipped on his boss as a result:

The two cases mentioned in the police request are known as Case 1000, which involves Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, who was asked to purchase luxury items for Netanyahu and his wife; and Case 2000, in which Netanyahu tried to concoct a deal with Arnon Mozes, the publisher of the mass-circulation daily Yedioth Ahronoth.

Harow, who is suspected of bribery, fraud, breach of trust, aggravated fraud and money laundering, was also a key figure in a case that the police did not pursue. He headed the American Friends of Likud, which allegedly paid the salary of Odelia Karmon, an adviser to Netanyahu when the prime minister, who heads the Likud party, was opposition leader.

During the investigation of Harow, police confiscated his cell phone, and found recordings documenting the Netanyahu-Mozes conversations that are the basis of the Case 2000 probe. In the Karmon case, the attorney general did not believe that investigators would be able to produce evidence justifying a criminal indictment for alleged offenses that are subject in any event to a 10-year statute of limitations. Senior law enforcement officials believed, however, that the investigation should have been pursued, especially in light of recordings of Karmon that were obtained by police in which she described the sequence of events after she received her salary. 
“Bibi became insanely hysterical, all of a sudden. I don’t know who whispered to him, after all, you can light him up like a flame ... and then he said to me: Odelia, give back the money.” In the recording, Karmon also mentioned Harow: “He plied Netanyahu with many things. Flight tickets or whenever Netanyahu was in a bind. But not in exchange for anything. He was honest and sweet. He was simply helpless.”

Harow in other words had the evidence on him to burn Bibi and cashed it in for immunity.  Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

Bye bye Bibi?  We'll see, but it definitely doesn't look good for him.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

More on last night's Mueller grand jury investigation news, last night of course the WSJ confirmed that the special counsel investigating the Trump campaign had empaneled a grand jury to look at a wide range of evidence related to the Russian collusion investigation.  Other news outlets running after this story have released additional information now, and together it paints a pretty grim picture for Trump and company.  First, CNN confirms that the grand jury is looking into Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with Russian nationals in June of 2016 and has issued subpoenas.

Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller has issued grand jury subpoenas related to Donald Trump Jr.'s 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower, according to a person familiar with the matter. 
The subpoena seeks both documents and testimony from people involved in the meeting, CNN has learned. That meeting has drawn scrutiny since an email exchange beforehand indicated the Russians offered damaging information on Hillary Clinton. 
Mueller's grand jury activity was first reported by The Wall Street Journal and Reuters
Mueller's team of investigators continue to look into whether President Donald Trump or any of his campaign associates colluded with Russia during the presidential contest.

Ahh, but there's more from CNN.

In the summer of 2016, US intelligence agencies noticed a spate of curious contacts between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian intelligence, according to current and former US officials briefed on the investigation. James Comey, in his Senate testimony, said the FBI opened an investigation into Trump campaign-Russia connections in July 2016. The strands of the two investigations began to merge. 
In the months that followed, investigators turned up intercepted communications appearing to show efforts by Russian operatives to coordinate with Trump associates on damaging Hillary Clinton's election prospects, officials said. CNN has learned those communications included references to campaign chairman Paul Manafort

That's a big one, folks.  Manafort again was Trump's campaign chairman in 2016.

Even before Mueller was appointed, FBI investigators focused on four Trump associates: Paul Manafort, former campaign chairman, Michael Flynn, former national security adviser, Carter Page, cited by Trump as a national security adviser, and Roger Stone, a Trump friend and supporter who openly engaged with hackers calling themselves Guccifer 2.0, which US intelligence says was an online persona created as a cover for Russian intelligence agents. 
The approach to the Manafort and Flynn probes may offer a template for how investigators' focus on possible financial crimes could help gain leverage and cooperation in the investigation. 
CNN has learned that investigators became more suspicious when they turned up intercepted communications that US intelligence agencies collected among suspected Russian operatives discussing their efforts to work with Manafort, who served as campaign chairman for three months, to coordinate information that could damage Hillary Clinton's election prospects, the US officials say. The suspected operatives relayed what they claimed were conversations with Manafort, encouraging help from the Russians. 
Manafort faces potential real troubles in the probe, according to current and former officials. Decades of doing business with foreign regimes with reputations for corruption, from the Philippines to Ukraine, had led to messy finances
The focus now for investigators is whether Manafort was involved in money laundering or tax violations in his business dealings with pro-Russia parties in Ukraine. He's also been drawn into a related investigation of his son-in-law's real estate business dealings, some of which he invested in. 

The Trumpies will no doubt tell you that the focus on finances means that the collusion case can't be proven.  As I say, the Feds eventually got Al Capone on tax evasion.

Oh, and the CNN story ends thusly:

Page had been the subject of a secret intelligence surveillance warrant since 2014, earlier than had been previously reported, US officials briefed on the probe told CNN.

No big deal.  The government had a FISA warrant on Carter Page for two years before the Trump campaign hired him, nice.

And that brings us to this: The bigger point is that grand juries don't happen if there's no charges to be brought.  The Mueller investigation is moving inexorably forward, and they are issuing subpoenas (Reuters too backs up the CNN subpoena story.)

Again though this case will take months, if not years.  There's a lot here, there's a lot of evidence to examine that we don't know about yet, but the grand jury will have access to it all.  But the train is moving forward and somewhere down the line will be the decision to seek indictments against Trump campaign officials.  We're most likely very far from that point. 

But just six months into this administration and we're already at the grand jury stage.  Things may not be moving as fast as we'd like, but they are moving, deliberately, inexorably, and inevitably forward, towards one Donald J. Trump.

Count on it.


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