Friday, March 16, 2018

Last Call For A Late Deadline

The Trump regime has made its Friday Night News Dump™ and it's a major development: two days before his scheduled retirement with full benefits, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has fired former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions late Friday night fired former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, a little more than 24 hours before McCabe was set to retire.

Sessions announced the decision in a statement just before 10 p.m., noting that both the Justice Department Inspector General and the FBI office that handles discipline had found “that Mr. McCabe had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor — including under oath — on multiple occasions.”

He said based on those findings and the recommendation of the department’s senior career official, “I have terminated the employment of Andrew McCabe effective immediately.”

The move will likely cost McCabe a significant portion of his retirement benefits, though it is possible he could bring a legal challenge. McCabe has been fighting vigorously to keep his job, and on Thursday, he spent nearly four hours inside the Justice Department pleading his case.

Michael R. Bromwich, McCabe’s attorney, said in a lengthy statement responding to the allegations that he had “never before seen the type of rush to judgment — and rush to summary punishment — that we have witnessed in this case.” He cited in particular President Trump’s attacks on McCabe on Twitter and the White House press secretary’s comments about him on Thursday — which he said were “quite clearly designed to put inappropriate pressure on the Attorney General to act accordingly.”

Let's not forget the real reason McCabe was fired: obstruction of justice of Robert Mueller's investigation against Donald Trump.  Trump's multiple tweets taunting McCabe and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders calling McCabe a "bad actor" yesterday while openly admitting McCabe's termination before his retirement eligibility was now something Trump wanted to happen all but gives the game away here, but then somebody spotted a Fox News draft story announcing the move published several hours before McCabe was actually fired.

Surprise, it was real, just that it was published hours before it happened.  What a coincidence.

For his part, McCabe is firing back hard.

The dismissal from his decades-long home at the department marks an ignominious end to a once-storied career for McCabe, who stepped aside as FBI deputy director in January. That departure came ahead of an inspector general’s inquiry that’s expected to criticize his handling of an October 2016 media report on his wife’s failed run for the Virginia State Senate and his handling of investigations into Hillary Clinton.

But McCabe sees bigger forces at work in the Justice Department inspector general’s inquiry — which he views as part of a broader campaign to impugn him for his role in handling the FBI’s Russia investigation and his ties to special counsel Robert Mueller.

“Look, it’s personally devastating. It’s so tough on my family,” he told POLITICO during a wide-ranging interview conducted earlier this month, before his firing.

“But at some point, this has to be seen in the larger context,” said McCabe, 49, who says he has voted for every Republican presidential nominee until he sat out the 2016 contest entirely. “And I firmly believe that this is an ongoing effort to undermine my credibility because of the work that I did on the Russia case, because of the investigations that I oversaw and impacted that target this administration.”

“They have every reason to believe that I could end up being a significant witness in whatever the special counsel comes up with, and so they are trying to create this counter-narrative that I am not someone who can be believed or trusted
,” McCabe added. “And as someone who has been believed and trusted by really good people for 21 years, it’s just infuriating to me.”

What McCabe is describing there is obstruction of justice.  Period.

Russian To Judgment

Donald Trump may look the other way on Russian interference in US elections, while grudgingly admitting that having Putin's people bump off spies in broad daylight on British soil might be problematic, but it looks like not even Trump is willing to give Moscow a pass on the latest Russian cyberattack operation: hacking the US power grid so that Putin could shut off the lights at will.

The Trump administration accused Russia on Thursday of engineering a series of cyberattacks that targeted American and European nuclear power plants and water and electric systems, and could have sabotaged or shut power plants off at will.

United States officials and private security firms saw the attacks as a signal by Moscow that it could disrupt the West’s critical facilities in the event of a conflict.

They said the strikes accelerated in late 2015, at the same time the Russian interference in the American election was underway. The attackers had compromised some operators in North America and Europe by spring 2017, after President Trump was inaugurated.

In the following months, according to a Department of Homeland Security report issued on Thursday, Russian hackers made their way to machines with access to critical control systems at power plants that were not identified. The hackers never went so far as to sabotage or shut down the computer systems that guide the operations of the plants.

Still, new computer screenshots released by the Department of Homeland Security on Thursday made clear that Russian state hackers had the foothold they would have needed to manipulate or shut down power plants.

“We now have evidence they’re sitting on the machines, connected to industrial control infrastructure, that allow them to effectively turn the power off or effect sabotage,” said Eric Chien, a security technology director at Symantec, a digital security firm.

“From what we can see, they were there. They have the ability to shut the power off. All that’s missing is some political motivation,” Mr. Chien said.

American intelligence agencies were aware of the attacks for the past year and a half, and the Department of Homeland Security and the F.B.I. first issued urgent warnings to utility companies in June. On Thursday, both agencies offered new details as the Trump administration imposed sanctions against Russian individuals and organizations it accused of election meddling and “malicious cyberattacks.”

It was the first time the administration officially named Russia as the perpetrator of the assaults. And it marked the third time in recent months that the White House, departing from its usual reluctance to publicly reveal intelligence, blamed foreign government forces for attacks on infrastructure in the United States.

We're now seeing the fruits of Russia's two biggest counterintelligence coups: Edward Snowden's defection to Moscow with hundreds of thousands of classified NSA documents in 2013, and Thomas Martin, the NSA contractor who was arrested in October 2016 for what was an even larger mole operation.

You can bet your sweet bippy that the info Moscow gained from these treasure troves directly led to to our power and water systems being compromised by our good friends at the Kremlin over the last year or so.  US Cyber security firms have been warning that our power and water infrastructure have been compromised for months now, but only now is the Trump regime saying anything, pointing the deadly obvious finger at Putin's merry band of assholes.

The Russians gained the keys to the kingdom, and they've been raiding the pantry ever since.  Not even Trump can ignore Russia if they take over a nuclear plant or three.  The US sanctions in return are barely better than nothing, Putin doesn't care unless the US goes after his billions personally (which Trump won't do as Putin would use whatever leverage he had to end him politically) but at least we now know where the line is that actually gets Trump to take token action against Russia.

But it remains token action at best.  This week we've seen both the Secretary of State and now most likely the National Security Adviser fired, both men wanted real sanctions against Russia and Putin. Both men are now gone and odds are several more on the way out.  They will be replaced by folks who definitely want war with other nations, and who definitely will not do a thing about Russia's continued attacks on the country.

We're deep in the heart of darkness guys, and it's going to get a lot worse and soon.

Trump Cards, Con't

It looks like the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was only the beginning as Trump, increasingly cornered and with investigations now closing in on his businesses, has now decided that everyone else in the White House and Cabinet has failed him and is now ruthlessly culling those around him.

President Trump has decided to remove H.R. McMaster as his national security adviser and is actively discussing potential replacements, according to five people with knowledge of the plans, preparing to deliver yet another jolt to the senior ranks of his administration.

Trump is now comfortable with ousting McMaster, with whom he never personally gelled, but is willing to take time executing the move because he wants to ensure both that the three-star Army general is not humiliated and that there is a strong successor lined up, these people said.

The turbulence is part of a broader potential shake-up under consideration by Trump that is likely to include senior officials at the White House, where staffers are gripped by fear and un­certainty as they await the next move from an impulsive president who enjoys stoking conflict.

For all of the evident disorder, Trump feels emboldened, advisers said — buoyed by what he views as triumphant decisions last week to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum and to agree to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The president is enjoying the process of assessing his team and making changes, tightening his inner circle to those he considers survivors and who respect his unconventional style, one senior White House official said.

And yes, Trump is considering replacing McMaster with John Bolton's Mustache, which would be a dead solid indicator of war coming with somebody before Mueller can complete his work.  Mueller might not get to finish though if Trump goes full Saturday Night Massacre.

McMaster is not the only senior official on thin ice with the president. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin has attracted Trump’s ire for his spending decisions as well as for general disorder in the senior leadership of his agency.

Others considered at risk for being fired or reprimanded include Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, who has generated bad headlines for ordering a $31,000 dining room set for his office; Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who has been under fire for his first-class travel at taxpayer expense; and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, whose agency spent $139,000 to renovate his office doors.

Meanwhile, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos drew attention this week when she stumbled through a pair of high-profile television interviews. Kelly watched DeVos’s sit-down with Lesley Stahl of CBS’s “60 Minutes” with frustration and complained about the secretary’s apparent lack of preparation, officials said. Other Trump advisers mocked DeVos’s shaky appearance with Savannah Guthrie on NBC’s “Today” show.

Kelly’s own ouster has been widely speculated for weeks. But two top officials said Trump on Thursday morning expressed disbelief to Vice President Pence, senior advisers and Kelly himself that Kelly’s name was surfacing on media watch lists because his job is secure. Trump and Kelly then laughed about it, the officials said.

The widespread uncertainty has created power vacuums that could play to the advantage of some administration aides.

Pompeo, who carefully cultivated a personal relationship with the president, had positioned himself as the heir apparent to Tillerson, whom Trump had long disliked.

Similarly, Pruitt has made no secret inside the West Wing of his ambition to become attorney general should Trump decide to fire Jeff Sessions, who he frequently derides for his decision to recuse himself from the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

White House officials have grown agitated that Pruitt and his allies are privately pushing for the EPA chief to replace Sessions, a job Pruitt has told people he wants. On Wednesday night, Kelly called Pruitt and told him the president was happy with his performance at EPA and that he did not need to worry about the Justice Department, according to two people familiar with the conversation.

At this point Trump does whatever he wants, advisers and Cabinet be damned, and everyone's going to pay the price.  And I bet if Sessions won't fire Mueller, Scott Pruitt would in a heartbeat. 


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