Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Last Call For Tim Murphy's Law

GOP Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania is the Republican congressman who recently got busted for not only having an affair on his wife, but suggesting to his mistress that she needed to get an abortion.  

Considering Murphy easily won the district in November as part of the new breed of Trump Rust Belt "Economic Anxiety" Republicans, his hypocritical stance on abortion may actually be far more damaging than the affair to his Republican constituents.  But as Martin "BooMan" Longman points out, Murphy's district is exactly the kind of race Democrats must win in 2018 if they want any shot of taking the House back.

There’s even a second extramarital affair disclosed in the leaked documents that dates back about a decade. But it’s Murphy’s hypocrisy in being a staunch anti-choice politician who asked his mistress to get an abortion that is getting most of the headlines. When that is taken in combination with the even more troubling information about his erratic and abusive behavior toward his staff and on the roadways, Murphy is definitely getting into Freezer Cash territory. 
If he actually decides to run for reelection, a Democratic challenger should have a shot at beating him. Most likely, even a victorious challenger would vote with the Republicans a lot of the time in a (probably vain) effort to retain the seat. It wouldn’t necessarily add a lot of political value unless it became the deciding seat to determine control of the House of Representatives. 
But, unlike New Orleans, the areas contained in the 18th Congressional District were competitive not too long ago. It’s actually vitally important that future Democrats do considerably better in the district than Clinton did, because as I’ve already mentioned, it made up more than half of Trump’s statewide margin of victory. For me, this is practically Ground Zero for the 9/11-style devastation of the 2016 presidential election
The Democrats have plenty of reasons to want to take advantage of Murphy’s implosion here.

 And Martin is right.  Democrats didn't even bother to run anyone against Murphy in the district in 2016.  They gave the House seat away and Murphy has owned the seat for almost 15 years.

Now Democrats have a real shot here, and as far as I know, nobody's lined up to challenge Murphy yet, but at least some Democrats are willing to try, so that's better than "No candidate at all".

Russian To Judgment, Con't

The plot thickens on the Russian propaganda side of the Trump/Russia story as Facebook has turned over evidence to Congress that political ads on the social network bought by Russian front companies were targeting voters in Michigan and Wisconsin.

A number of Russian-linked Facebook ads specifically targeted Michigan and Wisconsin, two states crucial to Donald Trump's victory last November, according to four sources with direct knowledge of the situation. 
Some of the Russian ads appeared highly sophisticated in their targeting of key demographic groups in areas of the states that turned out to be pivotal, two of the sources said. The ads employed a series of divisive messages aimed at breaking through the clutter of campaign ads online, including promoting anti-Muslim messages, sources said. 
It has been unclear until now exactly which regions of the country were targeted by the ads. And while one source said that a large number of ads appeared in areas of the country that were not heavily contested in the elections, some clearly were geared at swaying public opinion in the most heavily contested battlegrounds. 
Michigan saw the closest presidential contest in the country -- Trump beat Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by about 10,700 votes out of nearly 4.8 million ballots cast. Wisconsin was also one of the tightest states, and Trump won there by only about 22,700 votes. Both states, which Trump carried by less than 1%, were key to his victory in the Electoral College
The sources did not specify when in 2016 the ads ran in Michigan and Wisconsin.

Those two states aren't enough to have given Clinton the win, but if this included Pennsylvania, then yes, that would have been her win in the electoral college.

The focus on Michigan and Wisconsin also adds more evidence that the Russian group tied to the effort was employing a wide range of tactics potentially aimed at interfering in the election
Facebook previously has acknowledged that about one quarter of the 3,000 Russian-bought ads were targeted to specific geographic locations, without detailing the locations. The company said of the ads that were geographically targeted "more ran in 2015 than 2016." In all, Facebook estimates the entire Russian effort was seen by 10 million people.

The Russians knew exactly where to hit us.  I'm thinking that would have been much more difficult without some assistance from the Trump campaign.

It's looking more and more like our worst fears about the 2016 election are true. No wonder then that Trump's allies are now pushing Republicans in the House and Senate to end their investigations. Greg Sargent:

The bipartisan leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a news conference on Wednesday afternoon to provide a “progress report” on its investigation into Russian sabotage of the 2016 election and possible Trump campaign collusion with it, CNN reports. According to the committee’s Republican chairman, Richard Burr of North Carolina, the presser is intended to brief the public on “the things we are either close to closing the book on or have closed the book on.”

But I have learned new details about why this presser is actually happening, and they do not exactly inspire confidence in the future of this investigation, or at least in how Republicans are going to handle it going forward. 
According to a senior aide to a Democratic senator on the committee, the reason this presser is happening is that Burr had initially moved to issue an interim report on the progress made by the probe.

But Democrats on the committee balked at this, the aide tells me. They worried that releasing a report would be premature and that Burr’s desire to do so might be rooted in political pressure he is feeling to wrap up the probe faster. 
So after Democrats objected, a compromise was reached to hold this presser instead. 
The reason this is worrisome is that Republicans are turning up the volume on their efforts to scuttle the probes. In a good piece this morning, Politico reports that pro-Trump Republicans are angry with the GOP leadership for allegedly allowing these probes to get out of hand. Some Trump allies are even claiming that this is happening because the GOP leadership allegedly opposes Trump. As one put it: “Of course, the Republican leadership is behind these probes. The Republicans cannot get over the fact that Trump won and is our president.”

Remarkably, these Trump-allied Republicans are explicitly asserting that GOP leaders are betraying Trump by failing to squelch ongoing efforts to get to the bottom of a hostile foreign power’s apparent sabotage of our democracy, in addition to the possibility of Trump campaign collusion with it. These probes are also designed to establish whether there was Russian interference, and if so, how it happened.

The bottom line is that Roy Moore's primary win in Alabama last week just gave Trump's friends on Capitol Hill significant ammunition to fire back at the House and especially the Senate committees investigating the Trump/Russia story.  The threats are now promises: if you don't pull the plug, we will primary you and nobody will be able to save your career.

It's about to get ugly, folks.  Stay tuned.

Trump's Kids Are Just As Corrupt

Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump, Jr are just as corrupt, as greedy, and as odious as their father is, and in a 2012 real estate deal gone bad, the siblings were facing almost certain indictment for fraud.  That is until they bought off the Manhattan DA's office for the relatively cheap sum of $50k.

In the spring of 2012, Donald Trump’s two eldest children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump, Jr., found themselves in a precarious legal position. For two years, prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office had been building a criminal case against them for misleading prospective buyers of units in the Trump SoHo, a hotel and condo development that was failing to sell. Despite the best efforts of the siblings’ defense team, the case had not gone away. An indictment seemed like a real possibility. The evidence included e-mails from the Trumps making clear that they were aware they were using inflated figures about how well the condos were selling to lure buyers.

In one e-mail, according to four people who have seen it, the Trumps discussed how to coƶrdinate false information they had given to prospective buyers. In another, according to a person who read the e-mails, they worried that a reporter might be on to them. In yet another, Donald, Jr., spoke reassuringly to a broker who was concerned about the false statements, saying that nobody would ever find out, because only people on the e-mail chain or in the Trump Organization knew about the deception, according to a person who saw the e-mail. There was “no doubt” that the Trump children “approved, knew of, agreed to, and intentionally inflated the numbers to make more sales,” one person who saw the e-mails told us. “They knew it was wrong.”

In 2010, when the Major Economic Crimes Bureau of the D.A.’s office opened an investigation of the siblings, the Trump Organization had hired several top New York criminal-defense lawyers to represent Donald, Jr., and Ivanka. These attorneys had met with prosecutors in the bureau several times. They conceded that their clients had made exaggerated claims, but argued that the overstatements didn’t amount to criminal misconduct. Still, the case dragged on. In a meeting with the defense team, Donald Trump, Sr., expressed frustration that the investigation had not been closed. Soon after, his longtime personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, entered the case.

Kasowitz, who by then had been the elder Donald Trump’s attorney for a decade, is primarily a civil litigator, with little experience in criminal matters. But, in 2012, Kasowitz donated twenty-five thousand dollars to the reĆ«lection campaign of the Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, Jr., making Kasowitz one of Vance’s largest donors. Kasowitz decided to bypass the lower-level prosecutors and went directly to Vance to ask that the investigation be dropped.

On May 16, 2012, Kasowitz visited Vance’s office at One Hogan Place, in downtown Manhattan—a faded edifice made famous by the television show “Law & Order.” Dan Alonso, the Chief Assistant District Attorney, and Adam Kaufmann, the chief of the investigative division, were also at the meeting, but no one from the Major Economic Crimes Bureau attended. Kasowitz did not introduce any new arguments or facts during his session. He simply repeated the arguments that the other defense lawyers had been making for months.

Ultimately, Vance overruled his own prosecutors. Three months after the meeting, he told them to drop the case
. Kasowitz subsequently boasted to colleagues about representing the Trump children, according to two people. He said that the case was “really dangerous,” one person said, and that it was “amazing I got them off.” (Kasowitz denied making such a statement.)

Vance defended his decision. “I did not at the time believe beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime had been committed,” he told us. “I had to make a call and I made the call, and I think I made the right call.”

Just before the 2012 meeting, Vance’s campaign had returned Kasowitz’s twenty-five-thousand-dollar contribution, in keeping with what Vance describes as standard practice when a donor has a case before his office. Kasowitz “had no influence, and his contributions had no influence whatsoever on my decision-making in the case,” Vance said.

But, less than six months after the D.A.’s office dropped the case, Kasowitz made an even larger donation to Vance’s campaign, and helped raise more from others—eventually, a total of more than fifty thousand dollars. After being asked about these donations as part of the reporting for this article—more than four years after the fact—Vance said he now plans to give back Kasowitz’s second contribution, too. “I don’t want the money to be a millstone around anybody’s neck, including the office’s,” he said.

Kasowitz told us that his donations to Vance were unrelated to the case. “I donated to Cy Vance’s campaign because I was and remain extremely impressed by him as a person of impeccable integrity, as a brilliant lawyer and as a public servant with creative ideas and tremendous ability,” Kasowitz wrote in an e-mailed statement. “I have never made a contribution to anyone’s campaign, including Cy Vance’s, as a ‘quid-pro-quo’ for anything.”
Last year, the Times reported the existence of the criminal investigation into the Trump SoHo project. But the prosecutor’s focus on Ivanka and Donald, Jr., and the e-mail evidence against them, as well as Kasowitz’s involvement, and Vance’s decision to overrule his prosecutors, had not previously been made public. This account is based on interviews with twenty sources familiar with the investigation, court records, and other public documents. We were not able to review copies of the e-mails that were the focal point of the inquiry. We are relying on the accounts of multiple individuals who have seen them. 

Sure, this wasn't a quid pro quo situation, and I'm really Captain America in a really convincing disguise that nobody would suspect.

If this is even remotely true, the Trump kids should have been jailed years ago and their father's burgeoning political career ruined as a result, not to mention the elder Trump going to the clink for his involvement in this giant fraud of a building too.

If Cyrus Vance had done his job, America wouldn't be in the lucid nightmare it's in today, and that really pisses me off.  They got away with it before.

They can't be allowed to get away with it again.


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