Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Last Call For It's Mueller Time

Panic mode is now settling in at the White House as Mueller is closing in on Trump and his family, and Trump's people know damn well their necks are on the block too. Trump's legal eagles are in way over their heads.

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and his team of a dozen-plus lawyers and investigators have proven stealthy in their wide-ranging Russia probe. They have surprised the White House with one indictment after another, and summoned President Trump’s confidants for lengthy interviews. In the case of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort alone, court filings show, they have collected more than 400,000 documents and 36 electronic devices. 
Mueller and his deputies are, in the fearful word of some Trump loyalists, “killers.” 
Trump’s response, by contrast, is being directed by John M. Dowd, the president’s personal lawyer retired from a large firm who works essentially as a one-man band, and Ty Cobb, a White House lawyer who works out of a small office in the West Wing basement, near the cafeteria where staffers get lunch. 
Dowd and Cobb, along with attorney Jay Sekulow, serve not only as Trump’s lawyers but also as his strategists, publicists, therapists — and, based on Dowd’s claim that he wrote a controversial presidential tweet, ghostwriters. 
When Mueller requests documents, they provide them. When Trump reacts to new twists in the Russia saga, they seek to calm him down. When he has questions about the law, such as the Logan Act or Magnitsky Act, they explain it. And when the president frets that Mueller may be getting too close to him, they assure him he has done nothing wrong, urge him to resist attacking the special counsel and insist that the investigation is wrapping up — first, they said, by Thanksgiving, then by Christmas and now by early next year. 
As counsel for the world’s highest-profile client, every move and utterance by Dowd and Cobb has been scrutinized — and the criticism has been harsh. 
Many in the Washington legal community chide them as being indiscreet, error-prone and outmatched. They say public blunders — such as Dowd and Cobb casually chatting about their legal strategy on the patio of a downtown Washington steakhouse in September within earshot of a reporter — suggest a lack of discipline
Critics also question why, seven months into Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, they have not assembled a battalion of lawyers as former president Bill Clinton had when he was being investigated by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr. And some Trump loyalists, spoiling for a fight, say the president’s lawyers should be combative rather than cooperative with Mueller. 
“There certainly have been gaffes,” said Alan Dershowitz, a criminal defense attorney and Harvard Law School professor who has won praise from Trump for his television appearances defending a president’s constitutional prerogative to fire his FBI director.

“These are not the kinds of things that one would expect from the most powerful man in America, who has a choice of anybody to be his defense counsel,” Dershowitz said. “Well — almost anybody,” he added, saying that he is not interested in the job.

Nobody wants to come in to quarterback the 0-10 franchise, guys.   But Trump wants better lawyers, so he's going to get them from the Justice Department.

Not ready to fire Mueller outright just yet, Trump's lawyers are settling for the next best thing: a new special counsel appointed to investigate the Mueller probe...and Hillary Clinton. It looks like this will be Trump's move against Mueller, with GOP blessing. Politico 2.0's Mike Allen (also 2.0 revision):

Trump officials outlined their new line of thinking to me last night.

The new demand was prompted by a Fox News article last evening by James Rosen and Jake Gibson: "A senior Justice Department official [Bruce Ohr] demoted last week for concealing his meetings with the men behind the anti-Trump 'dossier' had even closer ties to Fusion GPS, the firm responsible for the incendiary document, than have been disclosed: ... The official's wife [Nellie Ohr] worked for Fusion GPS during the 2016 election." 
Jay Sekulow, a member of the President's legal team, tells me: "The Department of Justice and FBI cannot ignore the multiple problems that have been created by these obvious conflicts of interests. These new revelations require the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate." 
Unlike some other vocal Republicans, Trump's lawyers say they respect Mueller and trust him, and want to get to the finish line with him. 
In November, the WashPost reported: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions is entertaining the idea of appointing a second special counsel to investigate a host of Republican concerns — including alleged wrongdoing by the Clinton Foundation and the controversial sale of a uranium company to Russia." 
Trump lawyers' strategy: Cooperate with Mueller, and insist publicly they have nothing to hide, and expect the president to be fully cleared early in the new year. 
Behind the curtain: Trump's non-legal aides seem way more nervous, and some tell me that they assume the end will be neither near nor pleasant. 
Be smart: Among Republicans, the argument that the investigation is tainted is picking up steam, including comments by Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) on Friday: "I will be challenging Rs and Ds on Senate Judiciary Committee to support a Special Counsel to investigate ALL THINGS 2016 — not just Trump and Russia."

With Trump's lawyers now calling for that second special counsel, I expect it will be appointed soon in order to try to muddy the waters.  It was one thing for rumors about another special counsel and for Lindsey Graham to grouse about it on Twitter, but for the President's lawyers to officially take that legal position means that this will most likely be going forward, and Republicans will applaud it. Lord knows Trump's current legal team is headed for destruction.

Luckily for Trump, if he does go through with this, he can rely on allies he can easily manipulate. Expect "both sides are now under investigation" stories and screaming by Trump that the FAKE NEWS isn't covering the second special counsel enough.  "Lock her up!" will be back in a big way in 2018 if what I suspect will happen does indeed materialize.

Most importantly, Republicans will say that Congress cannot act on Mueller's coming recommendations involving Trump/Russia until the second special counsel investigation is complete, and that will of course be long after the 2018 midterms next year.  It may not be done until after the 2020 election, even.  That's the best-case scenario for Trump under this.

It's very easy to imagine the Mueller probe relegated to political irrelevance in this fashion, especially if Trump manages to get his shooting war in Iran or North Korea next year, too.

Mueller doesn't have to be fired for the investigation to essentially disappear into the BOTH SIDES DO IT void of history.  Our press will most likely do it for us.

The Pope Of Kentucky

If you haven't heard the name Dan Johnson, you'd be forgiven.  But around Kentucky, the long-time preacher, self-promoter, political activist, avowed racist and now State Representative is in a lot of trouble.

Disavowed from the state GOP last year after making comically racist Facebook campaign posts, the people of Bullitt County south of Louisville elected him to the General Assembly anyway from the 49th state House district.  Johnson immediately filed legislation to outlaw abortion in the state and recently a bill to require pornography filters for all internet capable devices in the state that would require a $20 state fee to deactivate.  He's been a giant pain in the ass on the state since the word go.

But now Johnson is facing calls from both parties to resign after a new bombshell story that he molested a 17-year-old girl in 2012.

The Republican Party of Kentucky is calling on a GOP member of the Kentucky House of Representatives to resign from office following a news report Monday that revealed he was accused of molesting a 17-year-old girl in 2012. 
“Last October, after local media reports about reprehensible and racist posts on his Facebook page, we asked then-candidate Dan Johnson to drop out of the race for State Representative,” said Mac Brown, the chairman of the Republican Party of Kentucky. “Following today’s extensively sourced and documented story from the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, we once again find ourselves in a position where we must call for him to resign, this time, from the Kentucky General Assembly.” 
The Kentucky Democratic Party also called on Johnson to resign, saying “Kentucky families deserve better.” 
“Given the seriousness of these allegations, Rep. Johnson should step down immediately,” said Mary Nishimuta, executive director for the Kentucky Democratic Party. “This is indicative of a corrupt culture in Frankfort that the Republican party continues to accept.”
On New Year’s Eve in 2012, Dan Johnson, who was elected to the state House in 2016, allegedly forcibly kissed and digitally penetrated then 17-year-old Maranda Richmond, despite her asking him to stop, according to a report by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting
Johnson, who goes by the nickname “Pope,” is the “bishop” of the Heart of Fire Baptist Church in Louisville. He now represents the 49th House District in a portion of Bullitt County. 
Richmond, who belonged to the church at the time, told the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting that she saw Johnson as a “second Dad.” 
Richmond went to police about the allegations in April 2013, according to KyCIR. After Richmond and her father Cliff failed to get Johnson to confess on tape, the Louisville Metro Police Department closed its case without ever interviewing Johnson, KyCIR reported. 
The LMPD has since reopened the case, according to KyCIR. 
Richmond and Johnson could not be immediately reached Monday for comment.

Considering sexual misconduct allegations have already cost the Kentucky GOP the job of former House Speaker Jeff Hoover just a few weeks ago, I can't imagine how Johnson survives this.  Racism is acceptable here in Kentucky.  Assaulting a 17-year-old girl, not so much.

By the way that Kentucky Center for Investigating Reporting story on Johnson is one of the most impressive pieces of journalism that I've read in a long time.  It's also very graphic, and Dan Johnson is extremely repugnant as a human being, so you've been warned.

Johnson said earlier today that he has no intention of resigning and plans on running for re-election in 2018, and that only God can judge him or something, so good luck with your pet racist pedophile there, Kentucky GOP.

Tales Of A Lesser Moore, Con't

If Roy Moore wins today in Alabama, he will do so in large part because of black voter suppression by the GOP in the state.  I talked about this two years ago, where Alabama required strict voter identification starting in 2012 and then closed all the drivers' license offices in the state's Black Belt in 2015.  Voting rights activist Scott Douglas details Alabama's plan to rob thousands of black voters of their voices and votes.

In 2011, Alabama lawmakers passed a photo ID law, ostensibly to combat voter fraud. But “voter impersonation” at polling places virtually never happens. The truth is that the lawmakers wanted to keep black and Latino voters from the ballot box. We know this because they’ve always been clear about their intentions
A state senator who had tried for over a decade to get the bill into law, told The Huntsville Times that a photo ID law would undermine Alabama’s “black power structure.” In The Montgomery Advertiser, he said that the absence of an ID law “benefits black elected leaders.” 
The bill’s sponsors were even caught on tape devising a plan to depress the turnout of black voters — whom they called “aborigines” and “illiterates” who would ride “H.U.D.-financed buses” to the polls — in the 2010 midterm election by keeping a gambling referendum off the ballot. Gambling is popular among black voters in Alabama, so they thought if it had remained on the ballot, black voters would show up to vote in droves. 
Photo ID laws may seem innocuous. For many of us, it might be easy to take a few hours off from work, drive to the nearest department of motor vehicles office, wait in line, take some tests, hand over $40 and leave with a driver’s license that we can use to vote. But this requires resources that many rural, low-income people around the country simply do not have.

I work with poor, black Alabamians. Many of them don’t have cars or driver’s licenses and make under $10,000 a year. They cannot afford to pay someone to drive them to the motor vehicles or registrar’s office, which is often miles away. 
Photo ID laws are written to make it difficult for people like them to vote. And that’s exactly what happens. A study by Zoltan Hajnal, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego, comparing the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, found that the voter ID law kept black voters from the polls. After Alabama implemented its strict voter ID law, turnout in its most racially diverse counties declined by almost 5 percentage points, which is even more than the drop in diverse counties in other states
The study controls for numerous factors that might otherwise affect an election: how much money was spent on the races; the state’s partisan makeup; changes in electoral laws like early voting and day-of registration; and shifts in incentives to vote, like which party controls the state legislature. 
In Alabama, an estimated 118,000 registered voters do not have a photo ID they can use to vote. Black and Latino voters are nearly twice as likely as white voters to lack such documentation. 
In other words, Alabama’s law is nothing but a naked attempt to suppress the voting rights of people of color. That’s why my organization, Greater Birmingham Ministries, with the help of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, has sued the state to block the photo ID law. The case will go to trial in February. 
When the law was passed in 2011, it so reeked of discrimination that state politicians didn’t bother to submit it to the federal government for approval, as Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act required. For decades, Section 5 had acted as a crucial prophylactic, stopping discriminatory voting laws before any election. Instead the ID law remained dormant until June 2013, when the Supreme Court’s devastating ruling in Shelby County v. Holder suspended Section 5’s preclearance requirement.

It's all well and good to blame low black turnout for a Moore victory because that's going to be a factor in a spacial election like this, but people doing that without asking why that turnout is low are also part of the problem.

Moore's going to win, no doubt there, and GOP voter suppression laws were manufactured to keep just such a race from slipping to the Democrats.  It won't be the last, either.


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