Friday, November 30, 2018

Last Call For It's About Suppression, Con't

For all the talk of Republicans repeatedly accusing Democrats of "voter fraud" and "fixing close elections", the one clear example of election fraud this year is from Republicans, cheating in North Carolina.  The NC GOP is quickly moving to get the nation's strictest voter ID measure in place, all while it looks like Democrat Dan McCready may have had victory stolen by election officials in Bladen County, to the point where it now looks like the House race for NC-9 may get a new election.

North Carolina officials voted Friday to continue investigating fraud in the 9th Congressional District election, potentially delaying certification of the results for weeks and leaving open the possibility that a new election could be called.

The decision cast new uncertainty on the race between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready, who are separated by only 905 votes out of 283,317 ballots cast, according to unofficial returns. The Associated Press on Friday announced it was revoking its projection that Harris won the southeastern North Carolina seat. The inquiry further roiled a state already divided over issues of voting rights, voter suppression and fraud.

Republicans spent the week in Raleigh drafting legislation to implement a new voter-approved requirement to present identification at the polls — an effort that the GOP has said is necessary to combat voter fraud. But they were mostly mum as evidence mounted that a different kind of election fraud may have taken place 100 miles south, other than to demand that the state board quickly certify Harris’s narrow lead.

“It’s a big juxtaposition to focus on a non-problem and ignore a huge problem,” said Gerry Cohen, a former counsel to the state legislature and an expert on election law. He noted that voter ID laws can’t prevent the kind of absentee ballot fraud alleged in the 9th District.

Harris of course wants his victory certified ASAP.

In a statement Friday, Harris accused the election board of a lack of transparency and called for the results to be immediately certified.

“Make no mistake, I support any efforts to investigate allegations of irregularities and/or voter fraud, as long as it is fair and focuses on all political parties,” Harris said. “But to date, there is absolutely no public evidence that there are enough ballots in question to affect the outcome of this race. Accordingly, the Board should act immediately to certify the race while continuing to conduct their investigation. Anything else is a disservice to the people of the Ninth District.”

The problem is it looks like there was a major GOP vote-stealing operation in Bladen County involving scamming black voters specifically out of their absentee ballots, and Harris's campaign looks like it was involved.

The State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement has collected at least six sworn statements from voters in rural Bladen County, near the South Carolina border, who described people coming to their doors and urging them to hand over their absentee ballots, sometimes without filling them out. Others described receiving absentee ballots by mail that they had not requested.

Among the allegations is that an individual who worked for the Harris campaign coordinated an effort to collect and fill in, or discard, the ballots of Democratic voters who might have otherwise voted for McCready. Several of the affidavits come from elderly African American voters. It is illegal to take someone else’s ballot, whether to turn it in or discard it.

Officials are also examining unusually high numbers of absentee ballots cast in some precincts in the 9th District — and unusually high numbers of ballots requested but never returned. Harris’s narrow victory over incumbent Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.) in the Republican primary is also under scrutiny, with new attention on the in­cred­ibly high proportion of absentee ballots — 96 percent — that Harris won in Bladen County.

The nine-person state board, which includes four Democrats, four Republicans and one unaffiliated member, voted 7 to 2 in favor of holding a hearing by Dec. 21 “to assure that the election is determined without taint of fraud or corruption and without irregularities that may have changed the result.”

If these allegations are true, then Mark Harris stole an election, period.  He should be going to jail, not the House.

Stay tuned.  This one's not over by a long shot.

The Whole Saturday Night Massacre Thing, Con't

As the Mueller probe reaches the endgame stages it's important to note that so far, we haven't seen Acting AG Matt Whitaker play too much of a role.  He hasn't issued any directives about the Mueller investigation specifically, and if Trump is saving Whitaker for a strike against Mueller, it's already looking like Mueller has already made arrangements that Whitaker can't really stop.

But that doesn't mean Whitaker's surprise appointment isn't in real trouble, and we're learning now just how much of a problem he may end up being for the Trump regime.

New documents released by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission suggest that acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker misled the agency’s investigators as he was stepping into his role last year as Justice Department chief of staff.

After several attempts to reach Whitaker about the Miami company where he was on the advisory board, the FTC investigator emailed his colleagues to relay that he finally reached Whitaker, who was willing to cooperate and asserted that he “never emailed or wrote to consumers” in his consulting role.

That statement to James Evans of the FTC appears to be inaccurate. Whitaker had written a letter in 2015 to a disgruntled customer who planned to report the company, World Patent Marketing, to the Better Business Bureau. In the letter, which was included in the FTC’s disclosure and reported previously by the news media, Whitaker threatened the customer, writing: “I am assuming you understand there could be serious civil and criminal consequences for you if that is in fact what you and your ’group’ are doing.”

In the letter, Whitaker noted that he was a former U.S. attorney in Iowa and that he was aware that the customer had complained to the company’s chief executive officer, Scott Cooper, in the past. “I am familiar with your background and your history with Scott,” Whitaker wrote. “Understand that we take threats like this quite seriously.”

President Donald Trump appointed Whitaker acting attorney general after asking Jeff Sessions to step down. That appointment, outside the usual chain of succession, is now being challenged in several court cases.

The documents, produced Friday in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, contain internal correspondence among FTC investigators, who are frustrated at being unable to reach Whitaker at several points during 2017.

They show repeated attempts by the FTC to contact Whitaker during 2017, when the agency was investigating complaints about World Patent Marketing, which it described as an “invention promotion scheme” that it accused of “bilking millions of dollars from consumers.”

They also show how shocked the FTC investigators were in October 2017 when -- in the latter stages of their investigation -- Whitaker was suddenly named chief of staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

You’re not going to believe this,” Evans, who works for the agency’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, wrote on Oct. 24, 2017. "Matt Whitaker is now chief of staff to the Attorney General. Of the United States."

Whitaker has been on the FTC's hit list for a while thanks to his patent troll company that apparently bilked consumers out of millions.  He's dirty as hell, but he still ended up as Jeff Sessions's chief of staff, now Acting AG.  And now it seems he lied to investigators.

Whitaker too is going to jail at some point.  The whole Trump regime is crashing down.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

NY Times columnist Michelle Goldberg is correct: there's no longer any question about whether or not Vladimir Putin has something on Donald Trump, the question America will have to reckon with is how the information revealed in Michael Cohen's plea deal this week on Trump's Moscow Tower project directly influenced Trump's decisions and America's foreign policy towards Russia.

One of the chief questions in the Trump-Russia scandal has been whether Vladimir Putin has leverage over the president of the United States, and, if so, what that leverage looks like. The significance of the fabled “pee tape,” after all, is not that it would reveal Donald Trump to be a pervert bent on defiling the place where Barack Obama slept. Rather, the tape matters because, if real, it would show the president to be vulnerable to Russian blackmail.

That’s also why evidence of Trump’s business involvement with Russia would be significant, as Trump himself acknowledged shortly before his inauguration, when he tweeted, “Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA — NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!”

We still don’t know for certain if Russia has used leverage over Trump. But there should no longer be any doubt that Russia has leverage over him.

On Thursday morning, Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen — the former executive vice president of the Trump Organization — pleaded guilty to making false statements to Congress about efforts to build a Trump-branded property in Moscow that extended into the 2016 presidential campaign.

In an August 2017 letter to the House and Senate intelligence committees, Cohen said that the Moscow project ended in January 2016. He claimed not to recall contacts with Russian government officials about a potential deal. Cohen told Congress that he spoke about the project with Trump — identified as “Individual 1” in the criminal information document that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, filed on Thursday — only three times. He said he never briefed Trump’s family.

According to Mueller’s filing, all of this was false. Efforts to obtain Russian government approval for a Trump-branded development in Moscow went on until “approximately June 2016,” after Trump had effectively secured the Republican nomination for president. Cohen, Mueller’s document said, “discussed the status and progress of the Moscow project with Individual 1” more than three times. He also “briefed family members of Individual 1 within the company about the project.”

In January 2016, according to Mueller’s document, Cohen had a 20-minute conversation with the assistant to a Russian official in which he sought Russia’s help moving the project forward. The next day, Felix Sater, a Trump associate identified in the court filing as “Individual 2,” wrote Cohen to tell him he’d heard from Putin’s office. Cohen made plans to travel to Russia, calling them off only on June 14, which happened to be the day that The Washington Post first reported that Russian government hackers had penetrated Democratic National Committee computers. At one point, Cohen and Sater were also coordinating with figures in Moscow about a potential Trump visit in connection with the project.

So we now know that Trump lied to the American people about at least one part of his business relationship with Russia, a geopolitical foe that interfered in our election process on his behalf.

In a Jan. 11, 2017, news conference, Trump said that the “closest I came to Russia” was in selling a Palm Beach mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008. While we’re just learning precisely how dishonest this was, Putin has known it all along. That means that throughout Trump’s campaign and presidency, Putin has had the power to plunge him into political crisis.

Donald Trump is compromised on multiple levels by his financial relationship with Vladimir Putin, period.  That is unacceptable for an American leader.  The information in Cohen's plea alone should be the death knell for the the regime, leading to Trump's resignation and a growing demand by both parties until he does resign.  That won't happen of course, as Republicans have no honor, no morals, and no patriotism.

Everything past this point should be whistling past the graveyard of this disaster.  Trump's spiral into oblivion should take the GOP with it, permanently.  Let's understand here that Trump's plans to give Putin the penthouse of the Trump Tower Moscow as a $50 million gift is absolutely a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and he should be impeached and removed from office on that alone. Josh Marshall:

Small point in the rapidly unfolding batches of information about the Trump campaign’s dealing with Russia in the summer of 2016. There’s this thing called the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The gist of it is that American business people can’t bribe people abroad to do business overseas. There are some questions on the margins about what entails bribery or related corrupt practices. But offering a $50 million penthouse to the strongman of the state where you’re trying to build a luxury real estate development is definitely not legit.
As you probably saw yesterday, Michael Cohen and Felix Sater planned to do just that. They may even have made the offer. It clearly wasn’t finalized since the building was never built. But this suggests a line of criminal activity entirely separate from all the issues tied to conspiracy, collusion and the more outlandish activities we’re focused on.

There may be no criminal vulnerability on this front because they didn’t actually give Putin the Penthouse. Perhaps it was just Felix and Michael brainstorming between themselves. But the crime doesn’t need to be completed to be a crime. So it’s worth keeping an eye on this part of the equation.

There's no way Trump gets out of this one.  At the very least, the $50 million penthouse looked like a payoff to Putin for his help with Trump's campaign. 

It's only a question now of just how bad the final tally will be.


Thursday, November 29, 2018

Last Call For A Bridge Too Farr

It turns out that yes, there are federal judges that won't get rubber-stamped by the Senate GOP.  You actually can be too much of a racist asshole to get a lifetime federal judgeship, and former Jesse Helms campaign lawyer and NC judge Robert Farr was too much for South Carolina GOP Sen. Tim Scott and outgoing Arizona GOP Sen. Jeff Flake.

Sen. Tim Scott said Thursday he will oppose the nomination of Thomas Farr to the federal bench, assuring the controversial pick will not be confirmed.

The South Carolina Republican was the deciding vote in determining whether Farr, accused of efforts to disenfranchise black voters, would become a U.S. District Court judge in the Eastern District of North Carolina. The seat has been open since Jan. 1, 2006.

Scott’s decision comes after four days of intense drama and speculation about what the Senate’s only black Republican would do.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, made it clear earlier in the day he, too, would oppose Farr’s nomination. Senate Republicans could only afford to lose one vote and still confirm Farr. Senate Republicans control 51 seats, and all 49 Democratic caucus members announced they would oppose Farr.

In a brief statement explaining his decision, Scott cited a 1991 Department of Justice memo obtained by The Washington Post this week, just days before the Senate was set to vote on Farr’s confirmation. It detailed Farr’s involvement in “ballot security” activities by the 1984 and 1990 campaigns of then-Sen. Jesse Helms, R-North Carolina.

Farr worked for the campaign in 1984 and represented the 1990 campaign as a lawyer.

Helms’ 1990 re-election campaign against former Charlotte mayor Harvey Gantt, who is black, included charges of voter intimidation for postcards mailed to primarily black voters warning of possible arrest at the polls. The Department of Justice investigated the voter intimidation claims and settled with the Helms campaign in a consent decree.

“I am ready and willing to support strong candidates for our judicial vacancies that do not have lingering concerns about issues that could affect their decision-making process as a federal judge,” Scott said in his statement. “This week, a Department of Justice memo written under President George H.W. Bush was released that shed new light on Mr. Farr’s activities. This, in turn, created more concerns. Weighing these important factors, this afternoon I concluded that I could not support Mr. Farr’s nomination.”

The 1991 memo said that “Farr was the primary coordinator of the 1984 ‘ballot security’ program conducted by the NCGOP and 1984 Helms for Senate Committee. He coordinated several ‘ballot security’ activities in 1984, including a postcard mailing to voters in predominantly black precincts which was designed to serve as a basis to challenge voters on election day.”

Farr is an old school master of caging, a guy so racist that Poppy Bush's DoJ called him out on it. It's not going to make up for the decades of awfulness that will be caused by the Trump judges Scott and Flake have already rubber-stamped, but it's one slightly human thing to happen.

Farr should never have been considered, but at least one racist lost this week.  From a person who grew up in NC apologizing to people for the monster that Jesse Helms was as a Senator for years, it's something that is personally meaningful.

It's a victory we have to take.

Meat The Press, Con't

CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill is no longer a contributor, after absolutely stepping in it this time over Israel.

CNN severed ties with contributor Marc Lamont Hill on Thursday, following comments the university professor made in a speech at the United Nations.

“Marc Lamont Hill is no longer under contract with CNN,” a CNN spokesperson told Mediaite.

Hill urged countries to boycott Israel in a speech on Wednesday, calling for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea.” His comments sparked an immediate backlash, with many noting “from the river to the sea” is a phrase used by Hamas and other anti-Israel terror groups. Critics argue the phrase implies the replacement of Israel by a Palestine stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea — though Hill disputes this characterization of his comments.

“We have an opportunity to not just offer solidarity in words but to commit to political action, grass-roots action, local action and international action that will give us what justice requires and that is a free Palestine from the river to the sea,” Hill said in his speech.

Israel is not above criticism. lord knows I've laid into Netanyahu's Trump-level corruption and Israel's multiple war crimes of collective punishment.  But Hill should have damn well known better to say something his critics would twist into him "wanting to eliminate Israel" in a world where the right wants any excuse to turn anti-Semitic charges and full-fledged neo-Nazi dealings back on the left.

Besides, the whole point of being a pundit is choosing your words carefully to make your argument (or at least on any non-FOX station).  Hill failed at that both miserably and spectacularly, and it's far from the fist time he's completely screwed up.

He makes bad choices often, especially when it comes to Israel.

It's Mueller (On German) Time

The headquarters of Germany's largest bank, Deutsche Bank, was raided today by scores of German police in connection with a massive international money laundering scheme.

One hundred seventy officers searched the headquarters of Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt and five other sites in the area early Thursday as part of a money-laundering investigation involving hundreds of millions of euros, prosecutors in Frankfurt said.

Two employees, who were not publicly identified but whose ages were given as 50 and 46, and other “unidentified people in positions of authority” are suspected of failing to report possible money laundering for transactions worth 311 million euros, or more than $350 million.

The money flowed to organizations in the British Virgin Islands before spring 2016, prosecutors said in an emailed statement.

The German bank confirmed in a statement that the police were investigating several of its offices in Germany and said the investigation related to the Panama Papers, a trove of files that put a spotlight on global money laundering. “We are cooperating fully with the authorities,” Deutsche said in the statement.

In April 2016, news organizations in cooperation with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists released the Panama Papers, which revealed how some of the world’s wealthiest individuals, including more than 900 customers of Deutsche Bank, dodged taxes in their home countries by transferring money to offshore accounts.

Prosecutors said the documents indicated “that Deutsche Bank helped customers found offshore organizations in tax havens by transferring illegally acquired money without alerting authorities to suspected money laundering.”

Paper and electronic documents were gathered during Thursday’s raid, they said.

The prosecutor’s office said two bank employees were suspected of helping Deutsche Bank clients set up offshore accounts and the bank had failed to report the suspected money laundering

A lot of people are going to jail over this one, but my guess is that the client list of laundered cash may involve one or more members of the Trump Organization.   Remember, Donald Trump and his kids have a long-standing relationship with the bank including a $285 million loan for Jared Kushner that happened just before Election Day 2016 and Trump still owes them $175 million or so.

You'd better believe that this raid and Mueller shifting to the endgame are related.  Mueller has documents from the bank and that trail leads to the Russian mob.  And if you think Trump is having a bad just got infinitely worse for him.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has reached a tentative deal with Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney and long-time fixer for President Donald Trump, sources told ABC News.

Cohen is scheduled to appear in federal court in Manhattan on Thursday where he is expected to enter a guilty plea for misstatements to Congress in closed-door testimony last year about his contacts with Russians during the presidential campaign.

Once among the president’s most loyal and zealous defenders in business and politics, Cohen has now promised to “put family and country first” by cooperating with prosecutors, becoming perhaps the most pivotal public witness against his former boss.

Cohen’s earlier plea deal with federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York implicated President Trump in campaign finance felonies. Since then, Cohen has spent more than 70 hours in interviews with Mueller's team. The questioning has focused on contacts with Russians by Trump associates during the campaign, Trump’s business ties to Russia, obstruction of justice and talk of possible pardons, sources familiar with the discussions have told ABC News.

“The potential significance of Cohen’s cooperation is immense,” said Kendall Coffey, a former United States Attorney in Florida.

Cohen now giving testimony to Mueller on Trump's failed Moscow Trump Tower scheme and this bank raid on Trump's largest loan partner for money laundering are, as they say, a hell of a coincidence.

Things are moving very quickly now on the Mueller front as Trump jets to Argentina for the G20 summit and of course a meeting with his boss, Putin.  Stay tuned.


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Last Call For It's Mueller Time, Con't

We've got a lot to cover, ranging into the "absolute crapton" of information on the Mueller investigation front today, it was a busy day indeed.  First, fomer Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos reported to prison this week to serve out his two-week prison sentence, but as The Atlantic's Natasha Bertrand and Scott Stedman report, his troubles are far from over.

George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about his interactions with a Russia-linked professor in 2016, went to jail on Monday after fighting, and failing, to delay the start of his two-week prison sentence. But a letter now being investigated by the House Intelligence Committee and the FBI indicates that Papadopoulos is still in the crosshairs of investigators probing a potential conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The letter, obtained last week by The Atlantic, was sent to Democratic Representative Adam Schiff’s office on November 19 by an individual who claims to have been close to Papadopoulos in late 2016 and early 2017. The letter was brought to the attention of Schiff and House Intelligence Committee staff, according to an aide who requested anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. The letter was also obtained by federal authorities, who are taking its claims “very seriously,” said two U.S. officials who also requested anonymity due to the sensitivities of the probe.

The statement makes a series of explosive but uncorroborated claims about Papadopoulos’s alleged coordination with Russians in the weeks following Trump’s election in November 2016, including that Papadopoulos said he was “doing a business deal with Russians which would result in large financial gains for himself and Mr. Trump.” The confidant said they were willing to take a polygraph test “to prove that I am being truthful” and had come forward now after seeing Papadopoulos “become increasingly hostile towards those who are investigating him and his associates.” A lawyer for Papadopoulos declined to comment.

If corroborated, the claims in the letter would add to an emerging portrait of Trump and his associates’ eagerness to strike backdoor deals with Russia even after the intelligence community concluded that Moscow had interfered in the 2016 election. (Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, tried to set up a “backchannel” to Russia in the weeks after the election and met with the CEO of a sanctioned Russian bank during the transition period. Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, meanwhile, negotiated with the Russian ambassador about U.S. sanctions before Trump was inaugurated.)

Again, if the FBI and Schiff are looking into this, then there must be some evidence backing this up.  But again, we know that the Russians like to plant fake stories in order to get journalists to bite, and it's very possible that this is one of them, along with yesterday's Manafort/WikiLeaks story.

Luke Harding and Dan Collyns, the reporters behind the Guardian story, do not name their sources, although they claim to have multiple, and they write that they have seen an internal document from Ecuador’s intelligence service listing “Paul Manaford [sic]” as a visitor to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Manafort, for his part, has called the Guardian’s report “totally false and deliberately libelous.” And White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “Certainly I remain confident in the White House’s assertion that the president was involved in no wrongdoing, was not involved in any collusion.”

While the immediate reaction to the story was a collective “Wow!”, it is fair to take a step back and remain wary. Rather than being the bombshell smoking gun that directly connects the Trump campaign to WikiLeaks, perhaps the report is something else entirely: a disinformation campaign. Is it possible someone planted this story as a means to discredit the journalists?

A number of parties in the Trump-Russia circus have an interest in discrediting the media. Russia President Vladimir Putin has solidified his power in Russia by systematically quashing the free press and controlling the message through friendly media outlets, including the likes of RT and Sputnik. Trump, too, has consistently shouted “Fake News!” at any story he doesn’t like and has made it a theme of late to refer to the media as “the enemy of the people,” a term that has been used by dictators throughout time, including to devastating effect by Joseph Stalin.

Harding is likely a major target for anyone wrapped up in Russia’s intelligence operation against the West’s democratic institutions. He has written a book about the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia—literally titled Collusion, as well as numerous articles related to the case, including about the Steele Dossier, Russia’s plans to help rescue Assange from London and spirit him away to Moscow, Russia’s novichok poisoning operation against Sergei Skripal, and a slew of other “Russia-is-up-to-no-good” stories.

If this latest story about Manafort and Assange is false, that is, if, for example, the sources lied to Harding and Collyns (or if the sources themselves were lied to and thus thought they were being truthful in their statements to the journalists), or if the Ecuadorian intelligence document is a fake, the most logical explanation is that it is an attempt to make Harding look bad. This, in turn, would put into question any of Harding’s past reporting and could be raised any time someone mentions his reporting as evidence of wrongdoing. Any mention of Harding going forward would include the caveat, “according to a reporter who was once duped.” The underlying question would always be: How can anything he writes be trusted?

Still, if this is true, then that's only the beginning of Trump's troubles this week.  Not that anybody doubted it, but now we know for sure that Paul Manafort was feeding information about his cooperation with Special Counsel Robert Mueller directly to Trump's lawyers in an attempt to serve as a mole for Trump and to undermine the investigation.

A lawyer for Paul Manafort, the president’s onetime campaign chairman, repeatedly briefed President Trump’s lawyers on his client’s discussions with federal investigators after Mr. Manafort agreed to cooperate with the special counsel, according to one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers and two other people familiar with the conversations.

The arrangement was highly unusual and inflamed tensions with the special counsel’s office when prosecutors discovered it after Mr. Manafort began cooperating two months ago, the people said. Some legal experts speculated that it was a bid by Mr. Manafort for a presidential pardon even as he worked with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, in hopes of a lighter sentence.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of the president’s personal lawyers, acknowledged the arrangement on Tuesday and defended it as a source of valuable insights into the special counsel’s inquiry and where it was headed. Such information could help shape a legal defense strategy, and it also appeared to give Mr. Trump and his legal advisers ammunition in their public relations campaign against Mr. Mueller’s office.

For example, Mr. Giuliani said, Mr. Manafort’s lawyer Kevin M. Downing told him that prosecutors hammered away at whether the president knew about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting where Russians promised to deliver damaging information on Hillary Clinton to his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. The president has long denied knowing about the meeting in advance. “He wants Manafort to incriminate Trump,” Mr. Giuliani declared of Mr. Mueller.

While Mr. Downing’s discussions with the president’s team violated no laws, they helped contribute to a deteriorating relationship between lawyers for Mr. Manafort and Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors, who accused Mr. Manafort of holding out on them despite his pledge to assist them in any matter they deemed relevant, according to the people. That conflict spilled into public view on Monday when the prosecutors took the rare step of declaring that Mr. Manafort had breached his plea agreement by lying to them about a variety of subjects.

Mr. Manafort’s lawyers insisted that their client had been truthful but acknowledged that the two sides were at an impasse. Mr. Manafort will now face sentencing on two conspiracy charges and eight counts of financial fraud — crimes that could put him behind bars for at least 10 years.

Of course as I mentioned yesterday, the reality is that now Donald Trump knows the end is near as Mueller knew all along that Manafort was feeding Trump information from the probe, and he knew Manafort was lying to him straight up.

Paul Manafort’s alleged misstatements to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators include comments about his personal business dealings and about his contacts with a former associate in Ukraine, say people familiar with the matter.

Those statements—among those described by Mr. Mueller as “lies” and Mr. Manafort as “truthful information” in a court filing Monday—are what led the special counsel this week to take the unusual step of ending the former Trump campaign chairman’s plea agreement 2½ months after it was reached, the people said.

The content of those statements don’t appear to be central to the allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election that Mr. Mueller is investigating. It is unclear if prosecutors plan to accuse Mr. Manafort of additional lies.

But Mr. Mueller’s move to end the cooperation deal reflects more broadly a combative relationship that has developed between Mr. Manafort and Mr. Mueller’s investigators, as well as the special counsel’s conclusion that Mr. Manafort fell short of his cooperation agreement, court filings show.

In interviews with Mr. Mueller’s team, Mr. Manafort allegedly made inaccurate statements about his communications with Konstantin Kilimnik, said the people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Kilimnik, who Mr. Mueller charged earlier this year along with Mr. Manafort with trying to influence the testimony of two witnesses against Mr. Manafort, had worked for Mr. Manafort’s lobbying firm in Ukraine. Messrs. Manafort and Kilimnik communicated earlier this year about contacting others who worked with them in an alleged effort to coordinate their stories, according to an indictment Mr. Mueller filed against them.

Mr. Kilimnik, whom the FBI has assessed to have ties to Russian intelligence, according to a filing by the special counsel’s office, isn’t in custody and hasn’t responded to the charges in court.

SO it's a pretty safe bet that if Manafort was lying all along, the information Mueller's people gave to Manafort was a test that both Manafort and Trump failed and that Trump almost certainly lied on his questionnaire to Mueller

President Donald Trump told special counsel Robert Mueller in writing that Roger Stone did not tell him about WikiLeaks, nor was he told about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his son, campaign officials and a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, according to two sources familiar with the matter. 
One source described the President's answers without providing any direct quotes and said the President made clear he was answering to the best of his recollection. 
This is the first insight into how the President responded to the Mueller team's written questions -- a key unknown as Mueller aims to wrap up his investigation and prepare his final report. 
These two points -- WikiLeaks and the Trump Tower meeting -- are critical to Mueller's central mission: investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russians during the 2016 campaign. 
The President's lawyers previously told CNN the answers would match his public statements. Still, these written answers could be subject to criminal charges if false
A spokesman for the special counsel declined to comment. CNN did not get a full readout of all of the President's answers to Mueller's questions.

Again, if Mueller has evidence to prove these answers wrong, then that's lying to federal investigators, and that's not going to be good for Trump.  He's toast, he knows it, and he's doing everything to rally his cult for war.

President Donald Trump appeared to accuse his own deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, of treason on Wednesday, posting a meme to his twitter feed that shows an image of Rosenstein and a slew of Trump critics behind bars.

The image also included special counsel Robert Mueller, former FBI Director James Comey, former national intelligence director James Clapper, and Bill and Hillary Clinton. Their picture was overlaid with the words, “Now that Russia collusion is a proven lie, when do the trials for treason begin?”

Trump retweeted the image after separately ripping Mueller, whose investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election appears to be closing in on several Trump associates, including longtime ally Roger Stone and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi.

Trump has ramped up his attacks on Mueller in recent days, after a quiet few weeks ahead of the November midterm elections.

It's far from the first time Trump has tweeted nonsense from one of his follower accounts, and as Steve M. tells us, Trump has been preparing his base for war against reality for two years now.  Tens of millions of Trump fans will go to their graves thinking Trump never did anything wrong.  But when the person in the Oval Office tweets about putting his critics and his Deputy AG behind bars for treason, well, that's a whole new level of authoritarianism.

Trump is committing obstruction of justice out in the open now, he's priming his base to take to the streets to defend him, and he's preparing to pardon Paul Manafort to start with.

President Donald Trump declined in a new interview to rule out the possibility that he could pardon Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman. 
"It was never discussed, but I wouldn't take it off the table. Why would I take it off the table?" Trump told the New York Post. 
The President's comments come following special counsel Robert Mueller's accusation that Manafort violated his plea agreement and lied to Mueller's team after being found guilty on eight counts of financial crimes in August. 
On Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said there had been no conversations about a potential presidential pardon for Manafort. 
Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani told CNN on Tuesday that he and Trump had discussed a Manafort pardon in the spring and decided it was not a proper move at this time, he added. 
"The last time we talked pardon was April or May, when I first came on," Giuliani said. "We decided it should be off the boards -- not exercised now and no one should make a decision based on any expectation."

It's clearly not "off the boards" there Rudy.  Trump clearly wants to pardon Manafort and start putting his enemies in jail. It's only a matter of time before he calls for mass arrests of his enemies.  The only question is whether he'll actually start doing it as Mueller closes in.

Donald Trump's behavior isn't doing much to bolster White House assurances that he's got nothing to worry about from Robert Mueller's probe, after a series of potentially ominous turns in the Russia investigation. 
The President's recent barrage of tweets and comments and testimony from sources close to him -- coinciding with thickening intrigue around the special counsel -- hint instead at deep concern on Trump's part. 
"While the disgusting Fake News is doing everything within their power not to report it that way, at least 3 major players are intimating that the Angry Mueller Gang of Dems is viciously telling witnesses to lie about facts & they will get relief. This is our Joseph McCarthy Era!" Trump tweeted Wednesday, a day after blasting the special counsel as a "conflicted prosecutor gone rogue." 
Despite this outburst of fury, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders painted a portrait of a President who was serenely awaiting Mueller's findings.
"I don't think the President has any concerns about the report because he knows that there was no wrongdoing by him and that there was no collusion," Sanders told reporters at her first daily briefing in a month. 
The explanation for Trump's angst over his predicament seems to lie in a flurry of startling and potentially significant developments and reports swirling around his jailed ex-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and other associates. 
Trump, the most powerful man in the world who crafted a self-flattering image as the ultimate strongman boss, is in a deeply vulnerable spot and appears to feel cornered and in increasing peril. 
He has no choice but to watch as Mueller, an adversary whose discrete public profile makes him an elusive target, grinds away, apparently getting ever closer to Trump's inner circle and perhaps even to the President himself. 

We're deep into "Nixon in the bunker" mode now.  What Trump's response will be remains to be seen, but if you think he's going to go quietly, that's never going to happen.

When he starts giving orders to have people arrested or worse -- and he will -- there will be some willing to follow those orders.

Stay tuned.

Deportation Nation, Con't

As Greg Sargent notes, incoming Democratic House committee chairs means actual oversight of the Trump regime, and the chair with one of the biggest piles of garbage to pick through is Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, who will be taking over the House Homeland Security Committee.

In an interview with me, the incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee vowed that when Democrats take over in January, they will undertake thorough and wide-ranging scrutiny of the justifications behind — and executions of — the top items in Trump’s immigration agenda, from the family separations, to the thinly veiled Muslim ban, to the handling of the current turmoil involving migrants at the border.

“We will visit the border,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who is expected to chair the committee, which has jurisdiction over the Department of Homeland Security, told me. “We will hold hearings in committee on any and all aspects of DHS. … We will not back off of this issue.”

This oversight — which could result in calling for testimony from Stephen Miller, the architect of Trump’s immigration agenda — will include scrutiny of the administration’s justifications for its policies. Importantly, Thompson tells me Democrats will seek to grill officials on what went into Trump’s public statements on various aspects of the issue, many of which are falsehoods.

On asylum seekers, for instance, Trump’s public rationale for his various efforts to restrict their ability to apply (which is their legal right), is based on lies about the criminal threat they supposedly pose and absurd exaggerations about the rates at which they don’t show up for hearings.

To be clear, Trump has used these rationales to justify actual policies with real-world impact, such as the effort to cruelly restrict asylum-applications to only official points of entry. Trump has also threatened a total border shutdown. Hearings could reveal that the justifications are nonsense, and spotlight their true arbitrary and cruel nature (putting aside for now that their real motive is ethno-nationalism).

“All this innuendo we hear about criminals coming in the caravan, we just want to know, how did you validate this?” Thompson told me, adding that DHS officials would be called on in hearings to account for Trump’s claims. “Policy has to be backed up with evidence. So we will do rigorous oversight.”

This will also include a look at the recent tear-gassing of migrants, and the administration’s public statements about it and justifications, Thompson said. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has defended the fact that tear gas appears to have impacted children by claiming they were used as “human shields.”

I'm not sure how much Johnson will be able to do as far as actually stopping Trump from splitting up families, blocking asylum-seekers, putting troops on the border in violation of Posse Comitatus, and tear gassing toddlers (after all, the cruelty here is the point) but it's going to be ugly press for him worldwide.

I think of course by next year Trump will have far larger problems, of course.

Rock The Trumpbah

Trump may think he's immune to any repercussions from continuing to pretend Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's war machine in Yemen isn't a major issue, but for the first time during this regime, it looks like there's enough support in the Senate to rein Trump in.

Senators are planning to vote this week on a measure to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, shortly after two Cabinet officials head to Capitol Hill to brief them on the situation — a briefing House members say they are being denied.

The expected vote on a measure to invoke the War Powers Resolution — likely to take place Wednesday or Thursday — will be the first test of whether the slaying of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi has broken Congress’s long-standing pattern of prioritizing the sanctity of the U.S.-Saudi alliance through weapons sales and other cooperative military ventures over repeated, documented human rights violations.

Key senators are hinting they are done turning a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s transgressions, even if President Trump is still sticking by Saudi leaders.

“I’ve laid in the railroad tracks in the past to keep us from blocking arms to Saudi Arabia,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Monday. “I’m in a real different place right now as it relates to Saudi Arabia.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis are scheduled to speak to senators Wednesday about Saudi Arabia’s continued engagement in Yemen’s civil war, as well as last month’s killing of Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. But many senators, including Corker, are dissatisfied that CIA Director Gina Haspel will not be present at the briefing.

Thus far the White House has also refused to schedule a similar session with the House, according to Republican and Democratic aides in that chamber. A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi is apparently a bridge too far, and as Republicans found out the hard way earlier this month, Trump can't shield the rest of the GOP from the fallout from his unpopularity.

The CIA recently assessed that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman almost certainly directed Khashoggi’s killing — an assessment Trump has repeatedly sought to downplay as he has defended the crown prince’s denials.

Lawmakers of both parties have been growing increasingly angry with Trump for siding with Saudi leaders over his own intelligence officials. For a group of senators, that frustration presents an opportunity to end U.S. military, intelligence and air support for Saudi Arabia until it ceases military activities in Yemen amid the worsening humanitarian crisis there.

This March, 44 senators voted in favor of an effort to invoke the War Powers Resolution to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition. Sponsors of that legislation said over the weekend that they were sure that this time they could amass enough support to clear the 50-vote hurdle to pass such a resolution on the Senate floor.

Getting it through the Senate is one thing, but a House vote will never happen.  At least...not until the new management takes over in January.

We'll see.


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Last Call For Meat The Press, Con't

FOX News continues to audition for the role of Trump regime state media organ, and that includes softball "interviews" with all of Trump's cabinet members.

Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt was clearly taken aback last year when occasional Fox & Friends fill-in host Ed Henry grilled him about a number of ethical scandals facing his administration.

And Pruitt had a good reason to be surprised. In past interviews with President Trump’s favorite cable-news show, the then-EPA chief’s team chose the topics for interviews, and knew the questions in advance.

In one instance, according to emails revealed in a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the Sierra Club and reviewed by The Daily Beast, Pruitt’s team even approved part of the show’s script.

Fox & Friends has long been a friendly venue for Trump and his allies, but the emails demonstrate how the show has pushed standard cable-news practices to the extreme in order to make interviews a comfortable, non-confrontational experience for favored government officials.

Cable-news veterans told The Daily Beast that it is common for television producers to discuss topics in advance with their subjects; and, on occasion, producers will ask pre-interview questions to understand what a subject has to offer, and why their information is relevant.

However, it is widely frowned upon to offer public officials pre-interviews, as this can help the official avoid difficult questions.

And providing and seeking approval scripts is even more of a taboo.

“Every American journalist knows that to provide scripts or articles to the government for review before publication or broadcast is a cardinal sin. It’s Journalism 101,” said David Hawkins, a CBS News and CNN veteran who teaches journalism at Fordham University. “This is worse than that. It would and should get you fired from any news organization with integrity.”

“I can’t imagine why a high-level newsmaker—like a White House official—would ever receive a formal pre-interview,” added Sid Bedingfield, a former CNN executive who now teaches journalism at the University of Minnesota.

“Those are designed to ensure that the interview subject has something relevant to add to the story—that it is worth spending time and resources to conduct the interview. A top White House official who has the power to shape public policy around a particular issue would obviously be relevant. In those interviews, the journalist should force the newsmaker to defend policy decisions, not help sell them.”

But that's not what FOX News is for.  It's for advancing the agenda of the people who run FOX News, and that means the agenda of the Trump regime.  It's state media in all but name.

In fact, it's much worse, because FOX still pretends it's not a wholly owned subsidiary of the GOP, when everyone else knows differently.  Trump may give up on them at some point, but right now I'd consider them as corrupt as Russia Today is for Putin.

Compare that to say, MSNBC, which is now taking steps to no longer fall into the Trump propaganda trap

It had been nearly a month since Sarah Sanders had held what was once known as a “daily” briefing. So when the White House press secretary — along with White House officials Larry Kudlow and John Bolton — took the podium on Tuesday afternoon, cable-news channels jumped right on the proceedings. Well, most of them, anyway.

While CNN and Fox News carried the tripartite briefing from the very beginning, MSNBC stayed away — until it had blown off the entire session.

In doing so, it had missed a chance to beam a live presentation of Kudlow saying, “We’ll see what happens. … Our economy’s in very good shape right now”; of Bolton saying he hadn’t listened to the audio recording of the killing of Jamal Khashoggi (“I guess I should ask you, why do you think I should, what do you think I’ll learn from it?”); of Sanders saying this about Trump and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation: “I don’t think the president has any concerns about the [Mueller] report because he knows that there was no wrongdoing by him and that there was no collusion.”

Instead of all that, MSNBC carried segments on the following topics: Trump’s trade wars; the state of the auto industry, in light of GM’s announced plant closings; the stock market and the welfare of the U.S. worker; a deadly attack on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan; a Guardian report that Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, had met with Julian Assange; and the U.S. Senate election in Mississippi. After the press briefing concluded, MSNBC plowed ahead with more on GM, including an interview with Hamtramck, Mich., Mayor Karen Majewski, a segment on the Mueller investigation, a politics roundup, a mention of “giving Tuesday.”

Look what you can accomplish when you decline to hand over your airwaves to unreliable narrators.

When there's nothing coming out of the Trump regime but propaganda, news outlets aren't beholden to cover it as news.  MSNBC chose not to play the game, which was the correct choice.  Here's hoping they do more of that in the future.

No Labels, No Honor

It seems our old centrist friends at No Labels, the triangulating anti-Democrat group disguised as "moderate bipartisans", were behind the sad plan to get rid of Nancy Pelosi as Speaker.

Before saying that its opposition to Nancy Pelosi’s House speaker campaign had nothing to do with her record, the nonpartisan group No Labels was exploring a primary challenge to her back home in San Francisco.

And she wasn’t the only Democrat the centrist nonprofit wanted to go after.

No Labels bills itself as “a movement for the tens of millions of Americans who are fed up with the dysfunction and will no longer put up with a government that does not represent the interests of most Americans.” Among the group’s past co-chairs are the former Republican presidential candidate and current ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman and the former Democratic and independent Senator Joe Lieberman, who oversaw the presentation of No Labels’ “problem solver’s award” to Donald Trump during the 2016 Republican primaries.

The nonprofit’s super pac supports the Problem Solvers Caucus, which has 44 equally divided Democratic and Republican members in the House and purports to be working on real solutions to issues that divide Congress.

But over the past year, No Labels’ leaders considered primary challenges to at least three incumbent House Democrats—starting with Pelosi, in January 2017. They also discussed running a primary challenge to freshman Darren Soto, a Florida Democrat. He had been elected with No Labels’ support but had in early 2017 accepted a mostly honorific position as an assistant whip for the House Democrats.

Now Soto is one of the nine Democrats from the Problem Solvers Caucus who is among the holdouts in Pelosi’s bid to win another term as speaker. Those nine currently have considerable influence as she works to reach the number of votes she needs to be elected speaker. Soto and his fellow Democrats in the caucus announced last week that they would not support Pelosi unless she agreed to rule changes that they argue would “break the gridlock.” Pelosi is scheduled to meet with its members on Tuesday, though she preempted the conversation by having an aide put out a statement arguing that she’s already agreed to many of their proposals and gone further.

Getting rid of Pelosi and weakening the Democrats was always the point of No Labels, and it always will be.  These guys are bad news, and Pelosi should kick them all to the curb.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

Special Counsel Robert Mueller laid down the law late Monday in a court filing that will pretty much guarantee the beginning of the endgame to the whole mess. It seems our boy Paulie Walnuts has been a naughty, naughty boy.

Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, repeatedly lied to federal investigators in breach of a plea agreement he signed two months ago, the special counsel’s office said in a court filing late on Monday.

Prosecutors working for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, said Mr. Manafort’s “crimes and lies” about “a variety of subject matters” relieve them of all promises they made to him in the plea agreement. But under the terms of the agreement, Mr. Manafort cannot withdraw his guilty plea.

Defense lawyers disagreed that Mr. Manafort has violated the deal. In the same filing, they said that Mr. Manafort has met repeatedly with the special counsel’s office and “believes he has provided truthful information.”

But given the impasse between the two sides, they asked Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia to set a sentencing date for Mr. Manafort, who has been in solitary confinement in a detention center in Alexandria, Va.

The 11th-hour development in Mr. Manafort’s case is a fresh sign of the special counsel’s aggressive approach in investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential race and whether anyone in the Trump campaign knew about or assisted Moscow’s effort.

Striking a plea deal with Mr. Manafort in September potentially gave prosecutors access to information that could prove useful to their investigation. But their filing on Monday, a rare step in a plea deal, suggested that they think Mr. Manafort was withholding details that could be pertinent to the Russia inquiry or other cases.

Marcy Wheeler lays out Manafort's game and how Mueller just beat him at it.

Now, it is true that Trump can pardon Manafort (though that probably won’t happen right away). That’s the only sane explanation for Manafort doing what he did, that he is still certain he’ll be pardoned. But many of these charges can still be charged in state court.

Just about the only explanation for Manafort’s actions are that — as I suggested — Trump was happy to have Manafort serve as a mole in Mueller’s investigation.

But Mueller’s team appears to have no doubt that Manafort was lying to them. That means they didn’t really need his testimony, at all. It also means they had no need to keep secrets — they could keep giving Manafort the impression that he was pulling a fast one over the prosecutors, all while reporting misleading information to Trump that he could use to fill out his open book test. Which increases the likelihood that Trump just submitted sworn answers to those questions full of lies.

And that “detailed sentencing submission … sett[ing] forth the nature of the defendant’s crimes and lies” that Mueller mentions in the report?

There’s your Mueller report, which will be provided in a form that Matt Whitaker won’t be able to suppress. (Reminder: Mueller included 38 pages of evidence along with Manafort’s plea agreement, which I argued showed how what Manafort and Trump did to Hillary was the same thing that Manafort had done to Yulia Tymoshenko.)

So bottom line, Mueller knew all along that Manafort was going to renege on his plea deal.  He had every suspicion that Manafort was going to relay any information right back to Trump, and then after Trump used that information to answer his questions to submit to Mueller, Manafort was going to drop the deal and Trump was going to pardon him.

Only Mueller knew this the entire time, deliberately fed Manafort misinformation which went right back to Trump, and then beat Trump and Manafort to the punch and filed today that Manafort was lying.

It also means Mueller can, in a future open court filing, lay out exactly what Manafort was lying about, which will basically consist of a copy and paste text of Mueller's final report.

There's nothing Acting AG Matt Whitaker can do about it, either.  By lying, Manafort assured that the report can't be buried, because Trump and Manafort really are this stupid.

It's checkmate when the other guy was playing Go Fish.  It's hardly even fair.  And it's one of the greatest counter-cons in history if Wheeler is correct, and I'm pretty sure she is.

And today we already know one thing Manafort was lying about: he secretly met with Julian Assange months before the DNC email leaks.

Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort held secret talks with Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and visited around the time he joined Trump’s campaign, the Guardian has been told.

Sources have said Manafort went to see Assange in 2013, 2015 and in spring 2016 – during the period when he was made a key figure in Trump’s push for the White House.

It is unclear why Manafort wanted to see Assange and what was discussed. But the last meeting is likely to come under scrutiny and could interest Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor who is investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

A well-placed source has told the Guardian that Manafort went to see Assange around March 2016. Months later WikiLeaks released a stash of Democratic emails stolen by Russian intelligence officers.

Manafort, 69, denies involvement in the hack and says the claim is “100% false”. His lawyers declined to answer the Guardian’s questions about the visits.

Stay tuned.  Mueller knows all of this.  Manafort visited Assange in London as Trump's campaign chair in order to have him smear Clinton using Russian leaks.  The last piece of the puzzle, Manafort's visit to Assange before the DNC leak, while being part of Trump's campaign, just fell into place.  Assange's involvement as Putin's intelligence front was screamingly obvious, and it all was tied to Trump's campaign.  Manafort knew exactly what he was getting from Assange and Putin, and so did Trump.

The collusion happened.  Trump is toast.

It all will go down very soon.


Also guys, I have no tolerance for trolls.  The ban stick will be heavy and permanent.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Last Call For Meat The Press, Con't

In order to get rid of America's free press, we have to have an official state media.  Sure, you can just call it Fox News, but Donald Trump has always wanted his own media empire, and now he's thinking about making that official.

President Donald Trump suggested that the government would launch a network to rival CNN International, as a way “to show the world the way we really are, great!”

Trump broached the idea in an afternoon tweet that again attacked CNN, this time its highly successful global network.

“While CNN doesn’t do great in the United States based on ratings, outside of the U.S. they have very little competition. Throughout the world, CNN has a powerful voice portraying the United States in an unfair….and false way. Something has to be done, including the possibility of the United States starting our own Worldwide Network to show the World the way we really are, GREAT!”

But the U.S. government already funds international broadcast outlets, including Voice of America, which has a budget of about $235 million, employs more than 1,000, and programs in more than 40 languages. One of its shows is “Plugged in With Greta Van Susteren.”

Voice of America is run through the U.S. Agency for Global Media, whose CEO is John Lansing, the former president of Scripps Network. At the time that Trump took office, there was a significant amount of consternation that he would try to influence the content of the VOA news operation. But Lansing told NPR that such an action would be “illegal,” and VOA has compared its standards and structure to that of the BBC.

Expect that to change.  Trump wants his state media, and one way or another, he's going to get it.

No Love For Trump, Or Mia Culpa

Utah GOP Rep. Mia Love was handed a defeat by voters earlier this month, and in her concession speech she tore into Donald Trump's transactional nature.

“What did he have to gain by saying such a thing about a fellow Republican?” Love told a crowd of supporters on Monday. “Mr. President, we’ll have to chat about that. However, this gave me a clear vision of his world as it is. No real relationship just convenient transactions. That is an insufficient way to implement sincere service and policy.”

“This election experience and these comments [from Trump] shines a spotlight on the problems Washington politicians have with minorities and black Americans,” Love continued. “It’s transactional. It’s not personal. Politicians claim they know what’s best for us from a safe distance. Yet, they are never willing to take us home.”

“Because Republicans never take minorities communities into their home and citizens into their homes and into their hearts, they stay with Democrats and bureaucrats in Washington because they do take them home,” she added. “I’ve seen the cost to conservatives for not truly taking people into their hearts. Democrats saw newly-elected black members and women to Congress in this election. This is a matter of fact that Republicans lost in this regard.”

My response to Mia Love is very simple: You knew the devil when you shook his hand.

More specifically, any black Republican who gets in bed with Trump gets exactly what they deserve: a loss to a Democrat and relegation to political oblivion.  I have no sympathy or empathy for anyone who sold out to Trump in order to be his poster girl for "the blacks".  You fooled yourself if you thought there was a place in the party of white men for a black woman, no matter what her politics may be. 

Get.  Thee.  Hence.

Deportation Nation, Con't

Migrants approaching the U.S. border from Mexico were enveloped with tear gas Sunday after a few tried to breach the fence separating the two countries.

U.S. agents shot the gas, according to an Associated Press reporter on the scene. Children were screaming and coughing in the mayhem.

Honduran migrant Ana Zuniga, 23, said she saw migrants open a small hole in concertina wire at a gap on the Mexican side of a levee, at which point U.S. agents fired tear gas at them.

“We ran, but when you run the gas asphyxiates you more,” she told the AP while cradling her 3-year-old daughter Valery in her arms.

Mexico’s Milenio TV also showed images of several migrants at the border trying to jump over the fence. Yards away on the U.S. side, shoppers streamed in and out of an outlet mall.

U.S. Border Patrol helicopters flew overhead, while U.S. agents held vigil on foot beyond the wire fence in California. The Border Patrol office in San Diego said via Twitter that pedestrian crossings have been suspended at the San Ysidro port of entry at both the East and West facilities. All northbound and southbound traffic was halted.

Earlier Sunday, several hundred Central American migrants pushed past a blockade of Mexican police who were standing guard near the international border crossing. They appeared to easily pass through without using violence, and some of the migrants called on each other to remain peaceful.

They convened the demonstration to try to pressure the U.S to hear their asylum claims and carried hand-painted American and Honduran flags while chanting: “We are not criminals! We are international workers!”

A second line of Mexican police carrying plastic riot shields stood guard outside a Mexican customs and immigration plaza.

That line of police had installed tall steel panels behind them outside the Chaparral crossing on the Mexican side of the border

Going to be fun when that tear gas becomes something much more lethal.  After all, it's what we do to groups of black folk here inside the states, so why wouldn't we treat San Diego like Ferguson, Missouri?

International law, you say?

I'll get back to you after I stop laughing.


Sunday, November 25, 2018

Last Call For Collective Punishment, Inc.

The Trump regime is pulling out of its obligations to end aid to the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and will start by shutting down the USAID operations there in the next few months.

The United States Agency for International Development announced that half of its employees in the West Bank and Gaza will be let go in the coming weeks and by early 2019, the operations will be completely shut down.

The humanitarian agency is one of the largest and most important in the region.

The U.S. State Department informed USAID last week that by next month the agency would have to present a list of 60 percent of its employees to be dismissed as the first step in the shutdown that will be finalized by 2019.

The U.S. federal government agency handles civilian assistance to various countries around the world. The USAID chapter in the West Bank and Gaza began operating in 1994, focusing mainly on economic issues including water, infrastructure, education and health. USAID has invested about $5.5 billion in the West Bank and Gaza in the construction of roads, schools, clinics and community centers.

USAID also buys medical equipment, provides humanitarian assistance to those in need of medical care and teaches lifesaving techniques to doctors from Gaza and the West Bank via Israel and other countries. In recent years USAID has conducted in-service education for teachers, built schools and worked on projects to keep young Palestinians in the education system.

Last August, Israel approved the entry of containers with equipment needed for the completion of water projects into Gaza. USAID had been working on for the project for past year, including construction of a large desalination plant and eight large drinking water reservoirs. The project, whose cost was estimated at 60 million shekels ($16 million) was conducted USAID by American companies through a contractor in Gaza.

After U.S. President Donald Trump’s decided to freeze funding to various Palestinian relief organizations, USAID’s dozens of projects in the West Bank and Gaza were suspended, including those that had been partially completed. In the current budgetary year, the United States was projected to have transferred a total of $250 million in aid to various Palestinian organizations. $35 million of which was supposed to be allocated to the Palestinian Authority security forces and $215 million to economic development, humanitarian assistance and coexistence projects, some through USAID. Last August, the United States announced that the money would be diverted to matters were deemed higher priority to U.S. interests.

Some 180 employees working for the U.S. Embassy in Israel have yet to receive the budgeting for activities for either 2018 or 2019. The leftover money has been diverted to paying salaries and maintaining the organization. According to officials involved in the matter over the past few months, U.S. Ambassador David Friedman has shown no interest in USAID‘s needs and has not held meetings with USAID officials on projects.

USAID officials said that the policy of the ambassador and the Trump administration to stop funding aid is meant to put pressure on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to renew talks with the United States and Israel ahead of the peace plan the U.S. government is expected to present soon.

So what little medical aid is available in East Jerusalem will vanish, leaving nothing to take its place, and Palestinian suffering will increase, with more dying every day.  It's something that shouldn't come as a surprise, after all, Trump did the same thing here in the US to dozens of rural hospitals, cutting funding to them to shut them down by ending Obamacare programs and then blaming Obamacare in those areas.  It worked, as rural voters moved even more towards the GOP in 2018.

The guy's pretty good at causing human suffering as a negotiation tactic.

Facebook Gotta Face The Face

The British government has now grown tired of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's refusal to appear in front of Parliament, and it has grown tired of the Trump regime refusing to act to bring the tech giants to account, so our friends across the pond have taken matters into their own hands.

Parliament has used its legal powers to seize internal Facebook documents in an extraordinary attempt to hold the US social media giant to account after chief executive Mark Zuckerberg repeatedly refused to answer MPs’ questions.

The cache of documents is alleged to contain significant revelations about Facebook decisions on data and privacy controls that led to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It is claimed they include confidential emails between senior executives, and correspondence with Zuckerberg.

Damian Collins, the chair of the culture, media and sport select committee, invoked a rare parliamentary mechanism to compel the founder of a US software company, Six4Three, to hand over the documents during a business trip to London. In another exceptional move, parliament sent a serjeant at arms to his hotel with a final warning and a two-hour deadline to comply with its order. When the software firm founder failed to do so, it’s understood he was escorted to parliament. He was told he risked fines and even imprisonment if he didn’t hand over the documents.

We are in uncharted territory,” said Collins, who also chairs an inquiry into fake news. “This is an unprecedented move but it’s an unprecedented situation. We’ve failed to get answers from Facebook and we believe the documents contain information of very high public interest.”

Zuckerberg should be absolutely terrified and for a very, very good reason.

The seizure is the latest move in a bitter battle between the British parliament and the social media giant. The struggle to hold Facebook to account has raised concerns about limits of British authority over international companies that now play a key role in the democratic process.

Facebook, which has lost more than $100bn in value since March when the Observer exposed how Cambridge Analytica had harvested data from 87m US users, faces another potential PR crisis. It is believed the documents will lay out how user data decisions were made in the years before the Cambridge Analytica breach, including what Zuckerberg and senior executives knew.

MPs leading the inquiry into fake news have repeatedly tried to summon Zuckerberg to explain the company’s actions. He has repeatedly refused. Collins said this reluctance to testify, plus misleading testimony from an executive at a hearing in February, had forced MPs to explore other options for gathering information about Facebook operations.

“We have very serious questions for Facebook. It misled us about Russian involvement on the platform. And it has not answered our questions about who knew what, when with regards to the Cambridge Analytica scandal,” he said.

We have followed this court case in America and we believed these documents contained answers to some of the questions we have been seeking about the use of data, especially by external developers.”

At this point the Brits understand full well that the Trump regime will never investigate Facebook's ties to Russian propaganda and data misuse.  They are playing their own game of cricket now, and frankly they no longer care what the US thinks anymore.  Zuckerberg could end up in a UK prison at this rate.

Maybe the Brits will do us a favor and get rid of Google and Amazon too.
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