Saturday, November 25, 2017

Last Call For White Washing

I'm trying to figure out the whole "White Supremacist next door isn't so bad" genre of news since the Trump Era began, especially for those aforementioned white supremacists who live less than an hour from you.

Tony and Maria Hovater were married this fall. They registered at Target. On their list was a muffin pan, a four-drawer dresser and a pineapple slicer.

Ms. Hovater, 25, was worried about Antifa bashing up the ceremony. Weddings are hard enough to plan for when your fiancé is not an avowed white nationalist.

But Mr. Hovater, in the days leading up to the wedding, was somewhat less anxious. There are times when it can feel toxic to openly identify as a far-right extremist in the Ohio of 2017. But not always. He said the election of President Trump helped open a space for people like him, demonstrating that it is not the end of the world to be attacked as the bigot he surely is: “You can just say, ‘Yeah, so?’ And move on.”

It was a weeknight at Applebee’s in Huber Heights, a suburb of Dayton, a few weeks before the wedding. The couple, who live in nearby New Carlisle, were shoulder to shoulder at a table, young and in love. He was in a plain T-shirt, she in a sleeveless jean jacket. She ordered the boneless wings. Her parents had met him, she said, and approved of the match. The wedding would be small. Some of her best friends were going to be there. “A lot of girls are not really into politics,” she said.

In Ohio, amid the row crops and rolling hills, the Olive Gardens and Steak ’n Shakes, Mr. Hovater’s presence can make hardly a ripple. He is the Nazi sympathizer next door, polite and low-key at a time the old boundaries of accepted political activity can seem alarmingly in flux. Most Americans would be disgusted and baffled by his casually approving remarks about Hitler, disdain for democracy and belief that the races are better off separate. But his tattoos are innocuous pop-culture references: a slice of cherry pie adorns one arm, a homage to the TV show “Twin Peaks.” He says he prefers to spread the gospel of white nationalism with satire. He is a big “Seinfeld” fan.

“I guess it seems weird when talking about these type of things,” he says. “You know, I’m coming at it in a mid-90s, Jewish, New York, observational-humor way.”

Mr. Hovater, 29, is a welder by trade. He is not a star among the resurgent radical American right so much as a committed foot soldier — an organizer, an occasional podcast guest on a website called Radio Aryan, and a self-described “social media villain,” although, in person, his Midwestern manners would please anyone’s mother. In 2015, he helped start the Traditionalist Worker Party, one of the extreme right-wing groups that marched in Charlottesville, Va., in August, and again at a “White Lives Matter” rally last month in Tennessee. The group’s stated mission is to “fight for the interests of White Americans.’’

Its leaders claim to oppose racism, though the Anti-Defamation League says the group “has participated in white supremacist events all over the country.” On its website, a swastika armband goes for $20.

If the Charlottesville rally came as a shock, with hundreds of white Americans marching in support of ideologies many have long considered too vile, dangerous or stupid to enter the political mainstream, it obscured the fact that some in the small, loosely defined alt-right movement are hoping to make those ideas seem less than shocking for the “normies,” or normal people, that its sympathizers have tended to mock online.

And to go from mocking to wooing, the movement will be looking to make use of people like the Hovaters and their trappings of normie life — their fondness for National Public Radio, their four cats, their bridal registry.

“We need to have more families. We need to be able to just be normal,” said Matthew Heimbach, the leader of the Traditionalist Worker Party, in a podcast conversation with Mr. Hovater. Why, he asked self-mockingly, were so many followers “abnormal”?

Mr. Hovater replied: “I mean honestly, it takes people with, like, sort of an odd view of life, at first, to come this way. Because most people are pacified really easy, you know. Like, here’s some money, here’s a nice TV, go watch your sports, you know?”

He added: “The fact that we’re seeing more and more normal people come is because things have gotten so bad. And if they keep getting worse, we’ll keep getting more, just, normal people.”

And so in America, in Ohio, we have a friendly New York Times profile on a regular, everyday Millennial couple who just happens to think that the races need to be separated for their own good, that tens of millions of undocumented need to be immediately rounded up and deported, and that fascism is necessary in order to make all that happen.

They're convinced that they're on the side that will eventually win.

The problem is that in 2017, I can't definitively say that people like Tony Hovater are wrong about that assumption anymore.

Keeping Up With The Jonses

A depressing story from the Washington Post finds that Doug Jones's biggest vulnerability is getting black voters to turn out for the special election in less than three weeks, but this is Alabama, a state where Republicans have done everything they can to ensure permanent GOP power through suppressing the black vote, and it continues to work.

Jones’s campaign believes he can win only if he pieces together an unusually delicate coalition built on intense support from core Democrats and some crossover votes from Republicans disgusted with Moore. Crucial to that formula is a massive mobilization of African Americans, who make up about a quarter of Alabama’s electorate and tend to vote heavily Democratic.

Yet, in interviews in recent days, African American elected officials, community leaders and voters expressed concern that the Jones campaign’s turnout plan was at risk of falling short.

“Right now, many African Americans do not know there is an election on December 12,” said state Sen. Hank Sanders (D), who is black and supports Jones.

The challenge for Jones is clear. According to Democrats working on the race, Jones, who is white, must secure more than 90 percent of the black vote while boosting black turnout to account for between 25 and 30 percent of the electorate — similar to the levels that turned out for Barack Obama, the country’s first black president.

As a result, Jones and his allies are waging an aggressive outreach campaign. It includes targeted radio and online advertisements, billboards and phone calls. Campaign aides are debating whether to ask former first lady Michelle Obama to record a phone message for black voters.

The message emphasizes that Jones prosecuted two Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a black church in Birmingham in 1963.

The Jones campaign expects to intensify its black outreach in the final stretch. Among the messages under consideration for radio ads and already included in mailers that have been produced, according to campaign officials, are reminders that Moore once opposed removing segregationist language from the state constitution and expressed doubt that Obama was born in the United States.

The Moore campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

The real problem remains though that in Alabama, Jones will still need some white voters to win.

A key question for Jones’s campaign is how to balance a more partisan campaign message aimed at energizing core Democrats, particularly blacks, with the need to appeal to GOP voters with a more middle-of-the-road approach. Not only must Jones come close to matching Obama’s performance among blacks, but also he must far surpass the former president’s tallies among whites. Exit polls show that Obama won 15 percent of the white vote in Alabama in 2012 — and Jones, according to Democratic strategists working on the race, may have to win more than a third of white voters to beat Moore.

So it's not black voters who will be at fault if Jones loses.  The real issue is whether more than two-thirds of white voters in Alabama will still turn out for the racist pedophile thrown off the state's Supreme Court twice, and there's every indication that in the Trump era, they'll do just that.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

A couple of solid explainers on just how much trouble Donald Trump is in should former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn truly be cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller, and there's yet more evidence that Flynn has been in Mueller's sights for some time now.

Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Michael Flynn’s work on an unfinished Turkish propaganda film that attacked an exiled Muslim cleric who’s been accused of planning a coup attempt in Turkey, the Wall Street Journalreports.

As part of the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and collusion with the Trump campaign, Mueller’s team is reportedly probing a film targeting Fethullah Gulen, who Turkish officials say tried to orchestrate a takeover of the Turkish government.

Flynn worked on the film as part of his $530,000 contract through the now-defunct Flynn Intel Group. That consulting firm—and more broadly, Flynn’s failure to disclose his work on behalf of the Turkish government—is an integral part of Mueller’s investigation. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Mueller is also zeroing in on Flynn’s former business associate Bijan Kian.

So what makes people think Flynn is cooperating?  The Daily Beast's Margaret McQuade offers one theory as Flynn's lawyers withdrew from the joint defense agreement with the Trump regime earlier this week.

First, what is a joint defense agreement? A joint defense agreement is a pact among attorneys for multiple targets or subjects in a criminal case in which they agree to share information. The agreement may be written or unwritten. Any joint defense agreement will be defined by its explicit terms, but generally, under such an agreement, attorneys have a duty to keep the confidences of all of the clients covered by the agreement. The attorneys also have a duty to avoid conflicts of interest as to any of the clients. The attorneys can compare notes, allocate work efficiently by dividing tasks and avoiding duplication, and develop a unified strategy.

The main advantage of joint defense agreements is that the information that they share is protected by a form of the attorney-client privilege, known by some courts as a joint interest privilege. These agreements can help targets or subjects sidestep the so-called prisoner’s dilemma, in which they must decide in a vacuum whether to help each other by remaining silent or betray each other by cooperating with authorities. When subjects or targets form a unified defense strategy, it is more difficult for prosecutors to “flip” targets, and use them as cooperators against their co-conspirators.

In the special counsel’s investigation, it has been reported that members of the administration have entered into a joint defense agreement. This makes sense because as they field requests from Mueller and his team for documents and interviews, they can work together to share the work and develop a unified defense strategy.

But what does it mean if Flynn has decided to withdraw from the defense agreement? It could mean that he and his attorney have decided that his interests have diverged from the other members of the agreement. Perhaps Flynn and his attorney have decided to pursue a different strategy. For example, they may decide against voluntarily turning over documents and instead to litigate disclosure issues in court. But such details can usually be worked out within the defense team. For that reason, it seems more likely that Flynn has withdrawn from the agreement because he has decided to cooperate with Mueller to provide truthful information and possibly testimony in exchange for leniency for any crimes of which he is convicted.

Recent reports suggest that Flynn has significant exposure to criminal prosecution. Mueller effectively fired a shot against Flynn’s bow when he charged Paul Manafort with violating the Foreign Agent Registration Act, among other offenses. Similarly, reports say that Flynn belatedly filed notice with the Department of Justice regarding his own lobbying work for the government of Turkey. Even more concerning, other reports indicate that Flynn participated in meetings to discuss the kidnapping and rendition to Turkey of cleric Fethullah Gulen from his refuge in Pennsylvania. Gulen is a rival of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Martin "BooMan" Longman backs this up and takes a look a few moves ahead, but again, it depends solely on what Flynn can offer Mueller.  When you're in as much trouble as Flynn and his son Mike Jr. are right now, the only way out is to offer up the biggest fish possible.

Michael Flynn has so much criminal exposure it’s almost ridiculous, including things as potentially serious as conspiracy to kidnap, perjury, and obstruction of justice. He has to worry about those charges, plus a long list of problems with disclosure forms involving his lobbying work, background checks, and compliance with military rules and regulations. And he’s reportedly worried that his son will wind up with a lengthy jail term, as well. To significantly reduce all that exposure, he’s going to have to tell a pretty compelling story to Robert Mueller’s prosecutors.

It’s true that plea negotiations could still break down, but they’ve almost certainly begun. The chances are now very high that Flynn will be testifying against the president of the United States and that his testimony will be the basis for a criminal referral of some sort to Congress from the office of the special counsel.

This also has to be of concern to Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, because they’re missing the chance to be the first cooperating witnesses, and are therefore losing the opportunity to reduce the amount of time they’ll be spending in prison.

The floodgates could now open, but even if they don’t it’s beginning to look like a worst-case scenario for Trump. It would be hard enough to try to explain why he fired an FBI director for refusing to drop an investigation of a man now facing a dozen or more indictments. But if that man becomes the star witness against Trump, it will be impossible to defend against the central obstruction of justice charge.

Impeachment is by design a political process with a political definition of what constitutes a removable offense. For that reason, Trump can survive some pretty serious charges, just as Bill Clinton did in the late 1990s. But there are still limits, and a guilty Flynn presents a serious problem. A guilty testifying Flynn could be fatal.

Trump knows this.  Flynn could be the one that buries him.  We'll see what happens, but I'm guessing we'll know Flynn's fate before the end of the year...and possibly Trump's fate as well.

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