Monday, November 13, 2017

Last Call For Thirty-Eight, Twenty, And Zero

Don't look now kids, but Republicans are getting closer to their goal of a Constitutional Convention to rewrite the laws of the land and institute a balanced budget requirement that would cripple the country's economy for good.  Wisconsin now makes the 28th state to do this, and should the GOP get to 38, the game ends...and so does America.

Wisconsin became the 28th state to call for a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution, with a 19-14 vote Tuesday in the Republican-led state Senate.

Lawmakers also approved measures to limit the scope of the convention to the passage of an amendment requiring a balanced federal budget and to determine who would represent the state at such a convention. The first two resolutions do not require Gov. Scott Walker's signature to take effect; the third does.

Walker tweeted Tuesday morning that he supports the measures, which were approved by the Assembly in June.

Senate President Roger Roth, R-Appleton, joined Democrats in opposing the proposals. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, had previously voiced hesitations about the effort, but said the members of his caucus ultimately lined up to support it.

Supporters say they would use the opportunity only to get the federal government's finances in order — in particular, the country's $20 trillion national debt.

"The founders put this in place specifically for times when the federal government was not taking action when there is severe risk," said Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, the bill's Senate author.

Ahh, but of course those restrictions to limit the proceedings to "just a balanced budget" amendment would be unenforceable hogwash.

Critics of the effort fear a convention would open the door to major constitutional revisions in a "runaway convention," since delegates would not be required to abide by proposed limitations.

"To turn around and open that document up to a convention of people, I think, is extremely risky and dangerous," said Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, cited the current political climate, rife with disagreements between political parties and within them, as he argued the time is not right to open the Constitution.

"Do you want to leave the fate of our country in the hands of people on both sides right now who are more full of rage than they are of acceptance?" Erpenbach asked.

Asked later whether he believes restrictions on the scope of the convention can be enforced, Fitzgerald said "it should be a concern."

"It always should be a concern when you have something that could be wide open," Fitzgerald said. "It's just hard to really forecast that right now."

So Republicans need just six more states to agree in order to rewrite the Constitution as they see fit.  Trump, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell all aside, the very, very real threat to America at this point remains Republicans at the state level.  Republicans now have more than a majority of states on record calling for the Constitution to be rewritten.  Should they get to that three-fourths super-majority, all bets are off on America's continued existence.

This is why we need to take states back in 2018.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

With all indications that Robert Mueller is closing in on former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and his son Michael Jr. and that either indictments could be handed down very soon or that Flynn is already cooperating with Mueller in his investigation, the guesswork goes to where Mueller may be headed next by looking at what his all-star team of prosecutors is doing.

His most experienced attorneys have discrete targets, such as former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and current White House aides. Mueller’s longtime chief of staff is coordinating all the lawyers, including some who cover multiple topics. Select FBI special agents have been tapped to question witnesses. 
Spearheading the criminal case against Manafort and his longtime deputy Rick Gates are three prosecutors schooled in money laundering, fraud, foreign bribery and organized crime: Andrew Weissmann, Greg Andres and Kyle Freeny. 
And at the center of the investigation into Flynn is Jeannie Rhee, a former Obama-era deputy assistant attorney general who most recently worked with Mueller at the WilmerHale law firm — and whose name has so far appeared only on publicly available court documents relating to the guilty plea of former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos. Assisting Rhee on the Flynn case is Zainab Ahmad, an assistant U.S. attorney from New York with a specialty in prosecuting and collecting evidence in international criminal and terrorism cases — and whose name hasn’t yet appeared in Russia-related court filings at all. 
Mueller’s org chart pulls back the curtain on how the special counsel’s relatively small team is handling an array of investigative targets ranging from campaign contacts with Russian operatives to possibly Trump himself. 
“Division of labor is essential here,” said Samuel Buell, a Duke University law professor and former assistant U.S. attorney who worked with Weissmann in the prosecution of Enron executives in the early 2000s. “There’s got to be some carving up of this thing into nests of facts.” 
Mueller’s investigation began with a focus on Russia’s role in the 2016 election, but he’s free to pursue any crimes he finds. Former Justice officials said the special counsel’s team needs to be flexible as it scrutinizes Trump aides’ contacts with Russians, Manafort’s overseas lobbying, Flynn’s firing due to his failure to disclose conversations with Russian officials, and the president’s decision to oust FBI Director James Comey. They could cast a still wider net; Trump and his lawyers have warned Mueller to stay away from the president’s real estate deals
One lawyer in Mueller’s office has indicated publicly that the different parts of the special counsel’s work are interconnected. During Papadopoulos’ plea agreement hearing in October, Mueller prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky urged the federal judge to restrict Freedom of Information Act access to the court files because “there’s a large-scale ongoing investigation of which this case is a small part.”

Flynn is a keystone to this whole mess, as was made clear over the weekend as reports that consulting firm Cambridge Analytica sought out stolen DNC emails from WikiLeaks after joining the Trump campaign as data analysts in 2016.

During that same time period, Republican operative Peter W. Smith tried to obtain the Clinton State Department emails. In his search for the emails, he said he was working on behalf of Michael Flynn, a Trump campaign adviser. One of the cyberexperts Smith met, a man named Matt Tait, told Smith that his mission would entail trafficking in stolen emails obtained by Russia. Smith made clear this didn’t bother him. “Smith and I talked several times about the DNC hack, and I expressed my view that the hack had likely been orchestrated by Russia and that the Kremlin was using the stolen documents as part of an influence campaign against the United States,” recounted Tait. Despite impressing upon them the ethical and legal dangers of cooperating with a probable Russian intelligence plot, “Smith, however, didn’t seem to care.” 
The Journal also reported last summer that American investigators “have examined reports from intelligence agencies that describe Russian hackers discussing how to obtain emails from Mrs. Clinton’s server and then transmit them to Mr. Flynn via an intermediary.” 
Flynn also worked as a consultant to Cambridge Analytica — a fact he failed to disclose until this last August. We don’t have proof that all these figures were acting together. But it certainly appears that Cambridge Analytica was heavily involved with trying to get Clinton’s stolen emails, and was aware that Russia had engineered their theft, and played an important role facilitating cooperation between Russia and the Trump campaign.

The road to Mueller recommending charges against Donald Trump will continue to be a long one, but Mueller has the right people for the job, and that road leads through Michael Flynn.  The issue has always been whether or not the GOP-led House would impeach, or that the Senate would conduct a trial and actually remove a chief executive, or if things would take a Nixonian path and Trump would resign before it got that far.

I'm sure Mueller will have those recommended charges at some point ready to go. I'm far, far less sanguine about believing that Trump or the GOP will actually give a damn, and that's where we get into the truly ugly scenarios.

Part of that remains whether or not the investigation is completed before the 2018 midterm elections come around.  I would suspect that we'll find out the answer to that next summer or sooner.  A GOP facing charges against Trump saying "we refuse to hold an impeachment vote" may run into some issue with the voters next November, just saying.

We'll see.

The Tale Of A Lesser More, Con't

One one hand, accused pedophile and GOP Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore is suddenly starting to fall behind in the polls to Democrat Doug Jones for next month's special election.

Democrat Doug Jones is leading Republican Roy Moore in Alabama's Senate race in the wake of explosive accusations of sexual misconduct against Moore, according to a new poll released Sunday.

Forty-six percent of likely voters polled said they would vote for Jones, while 42 percent said they would vote for Moore, according to the Louisiana-based JMC Analytics and Polling.

The survey was conducted on Nov. 9 and Nov. 11, after The Washington Post reported that a woman said Moore had initiated a sexual encounter with her in 1979, when she was 14 years old and he was 32.

In RealClearPolitics's average of polls, Moore was leading by 6 points prior to the Post report. A Friday poll, the first following the scandal, found Moore and Jones tied.

On the other hand, enthusiasm for the special election among Moore supporters is on the rise.

On Friday, Moore called the allegations "false, false, [and] misleading" and at a Veterans' Day event on Saturday, the Republican candidate said, "Everybody on this room, every person watching on these cameras, should ask theirselves, 'Isn't it strange that after 40 years of constant investigation people have waited until four weeks prior to the general election to bring their complaints?'"

Moore finds his defenders back home while the climate is less hospitable in Washington, where GOP senators, as well as the White House, have called on the conservative firebrand to drop out of the race if the report is true.

Of more than 15 Republican voters in Alabama interviewed by NBC News, none said their support for Moore would change.
Most said they didn't believe the allegations and some said even if they are true, that wouldn't sway their vote for him next month because they think Moore is a good man, should be forgiven and they could never bring themselves to vote for a Democrat anyway. Several attacked the media.

On the gripping hand, as Jerry Pournelle used to write, Steve Bannon's odious crew is now doing everything they can to victimize the women who came forward to denounce Moore a second time. Jon Swan at Politico 2.0:

Steve Bannon has sent two of Breitbart News' top reporters, Matt Boyle and Aaron Klein, to Alabama. Their mission: to discredit the Washington Post's reporting on Roy Moore's alleged sexual misconduct with teenagers.

Bottom line: This story is about to get even uglier, if that's imaginable. I expect more counter-attacks will play out in Breitbart News and other outlets over the coming days.

A story that popped today — splashed over the Breitbart homepage — contains what the website claims is a major hole in the account of Leigh Corfman, who says Alabama Senate candidate, Moore, made sexual advances on her when she was 14 years old.

Klein reports from Birmingham, Alabama: "Speaking by phone to Breitbart News on Saturday, Corfman's mother, Nancy Wells, 71, says that her daughter did not have a phone in her bedroom during the period that Moore is reported to have allegedly called Corfman – purportedly on Corfman's bedroom phone – to arrange at least one encounter."

Why this matters: It's quite a head-scratcher as to why Breitbart thinks this bedroom phone detail matters. As Corfman's mother told Breitbart "the phone in the house could get through to her easily." Wells stands by her daughter's allegations. But the fact Breitbart is running stories like this shows the extremes to which it may go to discredit Moore's accusers.
Another hard truth: Many Alabama voters hold the mainstream media in such low regard that they've dismissed the Washington Post's reporting entirely.

I still remained convinced that Bannon will be able to rally enough anger and hatred to put Moore in office.  Moore may not win by double digits, but he'll win.  It doesn't matter what you and I think, it matter what Alabama voters think.  "All politics is local" is hoary old saw for a good reason, and Alabama Republicans will elect Moore just to piss off the rest of the country.



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