Saturday, July 21, 2018

Last Call For Russian To Judgment

Charlie Savage at the New York Times dropped this piece tonight on Carter Page's FISA application, the basis of the investigation into the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The Trump administration disclosed on Saturday a previously top-secret set of documents related to the wiretapping of Carter Page, the onetime Trump campaign adviser who was at the center of highly contentious accusations by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee that the F.B.I. had abused its surveillance powers
[Read the documents here.] 
Democrats in February rejected the Republican claims that law enforcement officials had improperly obtained a warrant to monitor Mr. Page, accusing them of putting out misinformation to defend President Trump and sow doubts about the origin of the Russia investigation. But even as Republicans and Democrats issued dueling memos characterizing the materials underlying the surveillance of Mr. Page, the public had no access to the records. 
On Saturday evening, those materials — an October 2016 application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to wiretap Mr. Page, along with several renewal applications — were released to The New York Times and other news organizations that had filed Freedom of Information Act lawsuits to obtain them. Mr. Trump had declassified their existence earlier this year. 
“This application targets Carter Page,” the document said. “The F.B.I. believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government.” A line was then redacted, and then it picked up with “undermine and influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election in violation of U.S. criminal law. Mr. Page is a former foreign policy adviser to a candidate for U.S. president.”

Mr. Page has denied being a Russian agent and has not been charged with a crime in the nearly two years since the initial wiretap application was filed. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday. 
The spectacle of the release was itself noteworthy, given that wiretapping under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, is normally one of the government’s closest-guarded secrets. No such application materials had apparently become public in the 40 years since Congress enacted that law to regulate the interception of phone calls and other communications on domestic soil in search of spies and terrorists, as opposed to wiretapping for ordinary criminal investigations.

The contents of the documents were the source of the now infamous "Memogate" disaster in February as Republicans wanted to release "proof" that the Mueller investigation was somehow illegitimate because it was started by the "illegal" wiretap of Page.  Devin Nunes managed to screw that plan up royally.

It seems however that the Trump regime is trying the plan again by releasing redacted FISA documents, but I'm not sure what they're trying to sccomplish, as the documents make it clear Carter Page was a Russian agent working for the Trump Campaign.

I guess the plan is to try to undermine it, certainly the right-wing "legal eagles" at Power Line, Breitbart and The Federalist will be trying to do so, but the FISA documents are brutally damning.

Page has most certainly been flipped by Mueller already.  My guess is that we're about to find out very soon who Page has flipped on, and that the Trump crew wants to get away from Putin and kids in cages and get next week going on attacking the Mueller probe.

Put It On My Tabloid

One of the many side effects of the Cohen tapes are that people are starting to ask questions about what constitutes political news, and what constitutes political advocacy, even for a Trump-friendly tabloid like National Enquirer publisher AMI.

Federal authorities examining the work President Trump’s former lawyer did to squelch embarrassing stories before the 2016 election have come to believe that an important ally in that effort, the tabloid company American Media Inc., at times acted more as a political supporter than as a news organization, according to people briefed on the investigation. 
That determination has kept the publisher in the middle of an inquiry that could create legal and political challenges for the president as prosecutors investigate whether the lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, violated campaign finance law. 
It could also spell trouble for the company, which publishes The National Enquirer, raising thorny questions about when coverage that is favorable to a candidate strays into overt political activity, and when First Amendment protections should apply. 
A.M.I.’s role in the inquiry received new attention on Friday with news that federal authorities had seized a recording from Mr. Cohen in which he and Mr. Trump discussed a $150,000 deal A.M.I. struck before the election, effectively silencing a woman’s claims of an affair by buying the rights to her story and not publishing it. The men also discussed whether Mr. Trump should buy the rights away from the company, which he did not ultimately do, according to a lawyer for the president, Rudolph W. Giuliani.

The recording, from early September 2016, undercuts previous statements from Mr. Trump’s representatives that he did not know about the agreement between A.M.I. and the woman, the former Playboy model Karen McDougal. It also raises questions about the extent of Mr. Cohen’s involvement in the deal
From the beginning of the campaign, A.M.I. promoted Mr. Trump and savaged his opponents, sometimes with unsubstantiated stories alleging poor health, extramarital affairs and the use of prostitutes. A.M.I.’s chairman, David J. Pecker, is a close friend of the president and his former lawyer, and company leaders were in regular contact with Mr. Cohen, former employees have said in interviews.

By burying Ms. McDougal’s story during the campaign in a practice known in the tabloid industry as “catch and kill,” A.M.I. protected Mr. Trump from negative publicity that could have harmed his election chances, spending money to do so
The authorities believe that the company was not always operating in what campaign finance law calls a “legitimate press function,” according to the people briefed on the investigation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. That may explain why prosecutors did not follow typical Justice Department protocol to avoid subpoenaing news organizations when possible, and to give journalists advance warning when demanding documents or other information.

So the feds are happy to look into this, and when you've got a candidate on tape saying he's glad to pay $150,000 to kill a nasty story on you specifically, well, it becomes very troublesome.

Of course I fully expect this to end up in front of Trump's Supreme Court some day with a 5-4 ruling finding that AMI's free speech rights were violated.  That'll be a fight for another year, I suspect.

Trump Cards, Con't

The Donald lost his marbles on the tweeting machine this morning after yesterday's Cohen tape story broke, and if you're wondering just how damaging the information on those tapes is, Trump is once again using his office and FOX News state media to call for the arrest of a private American citizen.

President Trump on Saturday described former lawyer Michael Cohen’s taping of a private conversation between them as “totally unheard of & perhaps illegal,” but he reassured supporters that he has done nothing wrong. 
Trump did not mention Cohen by name but appeared to be responding to reports that Cohen recorded a conversation with him in September 2016 in which they discussed possible payments to former Playboy model Karen McDougal -- who claimed she had an affair with Trump in 2006. 
The New York Times first reported that the FBI seized the recording during the raid earlier this year on Cohen’s office as part of an investigation into the former Trump lawyer's payments to women to shut down stories about his client leading up to the 2016 election -- a practice known as “catch-and-kill.” Fox News has confirmed the details of the tape. 
On Saturday, Trump appeared to slam both the FBI raid and Cohen’s behavior as “inconceivable.” 
“Inconceivable that the government would break into a lawyer’s office (early in the morning) - almost unheard of,” he tweeted. “Even more inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client - totally unheard of & perhaps illegal.”

It's not, at least not in New York state, which has one-party consent laws for recording conversations (unlike California, which is two-party consent).   Trump knows that, it's one of the many reasons why he's based his business in NYC and not LA.

Again, the closer the various federal and state investigations get to pay dirt, the more Trump's words now will become his vile actions later.  So far, America is definitely flunking this test.

Race To The Bottom, Con't

Republicans haven't stopped being the Southern Strategy Dxiecrat party of Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms, even as they became the Reagan/Bush party of "young bucks and Cadillac queens" and obsessed with the "soft bigotry of low expectations".  We've just come right back around full circle to the days of Jesse and Strom again, where good ol' Southern white supremacy is on full display with Midwest Republicans like Minnesota's Jason Lewis.

Republican Rep. Jason Lewis has a long history of racist rhetoric about African-Americans, pushing claims of a "racial war" by blacks on whites and arguing that violence regularly occurs at black gatherings. He also frequently claimed that black people have an "entitlement mentality" and viewed themselves as victims
Lewis made those comments on "The Jason Lewis Show," a syndicated radio program Lewis hosted from 2009 until 2014 with the tagline "America's Mr. Right." CNN's KFile obtained five months of audio from Michael Brodkorb, the former deputy chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota. Brodkorb, who is currently a columnist for the MinnPost and works in public affairs, initially reported on several comments from Lewis in 2016. KFile contacted Brodkorb to request the raw audio files of Lewis' show, which he provided. 
CNN's KFile reported on Wednesday that Lewis made a large number of deeply misogynistic comments on the show, including one monologue in which he lamented not being able to call women "sluts" anymore
Narrowly elected to represent Minnesota's 2nd District in 2016, Lewis is now considered one of the most endangered House Republicans in the midterm election. CNN rates the race as a "toss up," the most competitive designation. 
In a statement to CNN on Friday, Lewis' office said highlighting the congressman's past statements amounted to "an orchestrated attempt at making anyone who supports reducing illegitimacy or crime in minority communities, Voter ID laws and work requirements for public assistance back off their public policy positions." 
On his radio show in 2012, Lewis, who has described himself as libertarian Republican, regularly expressed a belief that African-Americans had an "entitlement mentality," leading to violence in the community. 
"There's a cultural problem in the African-American community that is leading to this. The entitlement mentality," Lewis said in December 2012. "You're a victim. It's OK to hate women, beat up women. It's OK to hate gays. All this, we're just sort of feeding this to people who are very lost because of the breakdown of society to begin with."

There's so much to unpack here about Lewis and his screaming hatred for black folks.  I used to live in Minnesota and there's not a hell of a lot of us in the state outside the Twin Cities, believe me.  In the Ohio Valley and the Midwest, there's still a lot of states with 90%+ white populations.  Republicans in these states absolutely believe this nonsense about us because it's been programmed into them for 30 or 40 years.

I'll be the first to admit that there's a toxic masculinity problem in America too, and it affect the black community for sure, but pretending it's just the province of black neighborhoods (or of Latino machismo) and somehow not an issue in men of all races in America is just blithe projection, especially when you're lamenting not being able to call women "sluts".

And the racism, the smug condescension, the need to control black America and to "civilize" us that Lewis displays, that we're all "criminals and savages" and that justifies us being treated as obstinate beasts of burden, well that's definitely a product of the FOX News generation of Southern Strategy Republicans taking a 50-state approach.

Lewis's opponent is Democrat Angie Craig, and I hope she wins by twenty points.  We need to get rid of these guys and their baggage.  Vote like it matters, folks.  It does.
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