Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Last Call For That Whole Saturday Night Massacre Thing, Con't

Looks like Mueller has another big fat Trump tweet for his files from this morning.

Obstruction of justice?  Never heard of it.

President Donald Trump called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions Wednesday to shut down special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. 
Sessions "should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further," Trump tweeted. "Bob Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 Angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to USA!" Trump also called the probe a "terrible situation." 
The demand comes at what looks to be a pivotal point in the probe: Mueller's team is prosecuting former Trump campaign manager Paul Manfort on financial allegations, and some Trump aides believe that Mueller will submit a report soon on his findings as they relate to the president. The Manafort trial began Tuesday.

I mean, wide open in public, "Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now" guys.

Democrats quickly defined the president's tweeted demand to the attorney general as another attempt at obstruction, one of the things Mueller is investigating. 
"This is an attempt to obstruct justice hiding in plain sight," tweeted Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

Yes.  Yes it is.  But Republicans in Congress and Trump supporters don't care and won't lift a finger. They won't when Trump eventually tweets that he's firing Sessions, Rosenstein, and Mueller either.  That day is coming sooner rather than later, judging by Trump's tantrum this morning.  It really won't be long now.

Stay tuned.

Steyer, the Buyer of Higher Ire Fire

It's unfair to compare California billionaire Tom Steyer to the Koch Brothers much deeper than on the surface.  Both are ridiculously rich, and both are spending tens, if not hundreds of millions, on the 2018 midterm elections.  But where the Kochs are investing in a GOP who will give them billions in returns on their business ventures, Steyer is spending on the Democrats to push his ideology, and that ideology is the impeachment and removal of Donald Trump from office.

Tom Steyer has set plans to spend at least $110 million in 2018, making the billionaire investor the largest single source of campaign cash on the left and placing him on a path to create a parallel party infrastructure with polling, analytics and staffing capabilities that stand to shape and define the issues the party runs on in November. 
Steyer is building out an operation that’s bigger than anyone other than the Koch Brothers — and the billionaire and his aides believe the reservoir of non-traditional voters he’s already activated could become the overriding factor in House and other races across the country.

Yet Steyer’s oversized role also stands to position him squarely against Democratic Party leadership, which has shown little appetite this fall for pursuing one of his signature causes: impeachment. 
Unlike the $80 million being spent by Mike Bloomberg, Steyer will put his cash toward building out NextGen America and Need to Impeach, his two growing political organizations, as well as funding clean energy ballot initiatives in Arizona and Nevada. Steyer has already doubled his initial $20 million investment in Need to Impeach to $40 million, and has not ruled out adding more. 
Steyer has also already dropped over $5 million into his For Our Future PAC, and is expecting more outlays on behalf of individual candidates like the $1 million he put behind Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, though likely not in any of the remaining primaries. 
Between the two organizations, he’ll have close to 1,000 people on staff, in addition to over 2,000 volunteers. The Need to Impeach email list alone has already topped 5.5 million, which their research — anyone who signs up with the effort has their information run through a series of voter files and other databases — shows includes a very exact 697,780 infrequent voters in the 63 most competitive House districts. 
“Our list is bigger than the NRA’s — and we’re going to make sure that it votes that way in 2018,” said Kevin Mack, lead strategist for Need to Impeach.

It's not just party leaders who are wary of Steyer, he has plenty of enemies among the DSA set, who see him as exactly the 0.00001% elite that the Democrats must avoid in order to not surrender their souls and actually do things for the people.  It's a fair and pragmatic criticism to say that Steyer could put his money towards fighting for Medicaid expansion at the state level, for instance, rather than impeachment.

In just the last decade, Steyer skyrocketed to become the Democratic Party’s biggest donor, only to leave that behind to invest instead in his own organizations and causes, to the irritation of party leaders — particularly those who worry that he’ll hurt them politically by talking up impeachment. That pushback seems to encourage him, while also encouraging talk that he’s interested in a 2020 presidential run, though he tends to push back on that by pointing out that many people first interpreted his spending in this cycle as the prelude to a 2018 campaign for California governor or senator. 
Most of those voters, based on their analyses, skew older and female, while the NextGen America effort is focused on younger voters in 11 states which are likely to be important both in 2018 and 2020. 
Those voters and others, according to new internal polling and focus group data commissioned by Steyer and described by people familiar with its findings, are very eager to hear Democratic candidates talking more about impeaching President Donald Trump: just 32 percent of Democrats said that they wanted their candidates to avoid the topic, while 59 percent said that they didn’t want Republicans dictating the terms of the campaign “so of course Democrats should talk about impeaching Trump if the Democrats win big in November.”

This however is also a very pragmatic point.  If talk of impeachment gets young Democrats out to vote who otherwise would have not voted, I'm 110% okay with the prospect.

And for the record, the impeachment and removal of Donald Trump is still not happening.  Impeachment is possible.  Removal will not happen...unless the GOP Senate takes a large enough hit in November that it becomes politically impossible not to.

So yes, motivating voters now on impeachment later is something I'm fine with Steyer doing.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

Two Russian collusion stories this evening to peruse at your pleasure, first up, Facebook has caught another network of trolls looking to influence the 2018 election with fake left-wing sites designed to go after Democrats for not being sufficiently pure enough, just like fake Black Lives Matter sites in 2016 were used to attack Hillary Clinton.

Facebook announced on Tuesday that it has identified a coordinated political influence campaign, with dozens of inauthentic accounts and pages that are believed to be engaging in political activity ahead of November’s midterm elections, according to three people briefed on the matter. 
In a series of briefings on Capitol Hill this week, the company told lawmakers that it detected the influence campaign on Facebook and Instagram as part of its investigations into election interference. It has been unable to tie the accounts to Russia, whose Internet Research Agency was at the center of an indictment earlier this year for interfering in the 2016 election, but company officials told Capitol Hill that Russia was possibly involved, according to two of the officials
“We’re still in the very early stages of our investigation and don’t have all the facts — including who may be behind this,” the company said in a statement. “But we are sharing what we know today given the connection between these bad actors and protests that are planned in Washington next week.” 
In its statement, Facebook said that it first discovered the accounts — eight Facebook pages, 17 Facebook profiles, and seven Instagram accounts — two weeks ago.
The company has been working with the F.B.I. to investigate the activity.
Like the Russian interference campaign in 2016, the recently detected campaign dealt with divisive social issues. Facebook discovered coordinated activity around issues like a sequel to last year’s deadly “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. Specifically, a page called “Resisters,” which interacted with one Internet Research Agency account in 2017, created an event called “No Unite the Right 2 — DC” to serve as a counterprotest to the white nationalist gathering, scheduled to take place in Washington in August. Facebook said it disabled the event. 
Coordinated activity was also detected around #AbolishICE, a left-wing campaign on social media that seeks to end the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, according to two people briefed on the findings. 
That echoed efforts in 2016 to fan division around the Black Lives Matter movement. 
After being caught flat-footed by the Internet Research Agency’s efforts to use social media to sow division ahead of the 2016 presidential election, Facebook is trying to avoid a repeat disaster in 2018. The company has expanded its security team, hiring counterterrorism experts and recruiting workers with government security clearances.

What a surprise, Abolish ICE is the new Black Lives Matter, guaranteed to rile up the right and depress Democratic turnout just like two years ago when social media blitzes like this were telling black Democratic voters to stay home because Obama and Clinton had "failed the black community".  It worked well enough when combined with existing GOP voter suppression tactics in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin to give Trump the Oval Office.  And he's been polluting it ever since.

That brings us to story two, from Murray Waas at the NY Review of Books, who is claiming that Mueller is planning to make the case that Donald Trump obstructed justice.

Previously undisclosed evidence in the possession of Special Counsel Robert Mueller—including highly confidential White House records and testimony by some of President Trump’s own top aides—provides some of the strongest evidence to date implicating the president of the United States in an obstruction of justice. Several people who have reviewed a portion of this evidence say that, based on what they know, they believe it is now all but inevitable that the special counsel will complete a confidential report presenting evidence that President Trump violated the law. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the special counsel’s work, would then decide on turning over that report to Congress for the House of Representatives to consider whether to instigate impeachment proceedings.

The central incident in the case that the president obstructed justice was provided by former FBI Director James B. Comey, who testified that Trump pressed Comey, in a private Oval Office meeting on February 14, 2017, to shut down an FBI criminal investigation of Trump’s former national security adviser, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Comey has testified the president told him.

In an effort to convince Mueller that President Trump did not obstruct justice, the president’s attorneys have argued that the president could not have broken the law because the president did not know that Flynn was under criminal investigation when he pressured Comey to go easy on Flynn. In a confidential January 29 letter to the special counsel first reported by The New York Times, two of the president’s attorneys, John Dowd (who no longer represents Trump) and Jay Sekulow, maintained that the president did not obstruct justice because, even though Flynn had been questioned by the FBI, Trump believed that the FBI investigation was over, and that Flynn had been told that he’d been cleared.

On its face, this is a counter-intuitive argument—for if Trump believed that Flynn had been cleared and was no longer under investigation, there would have been no reason for the president to lean on Comey to end the FBI’s investigation—telling Comey that Trump hoped that Comey would be able to “see your way clear to letting this go.” Yet Trump’s attorneys have pursued this line of argument with the special counsel because perjury and obstruction cases depend largely on whether a prosecutor can demonstrate the intent and motivation of the person they want to charge. It’s not enough to prove that the person under investigation attempted to impede an ongoing criminal investigation; the statute requires a prosecutor to prove that the person did so with the corrupt intent to protect either himself or someone else from prosecution.

If, therefore, Trump understood the legal jeopardy that Flynn faced, that would demonstrate such intent—and make for a much stronger case for obstruction against the president. Conversely, if Trump believed that Flynn was no longer under criminal investigation, or had been cleared, the president could not have had corrupt intent. But previously undisclosed evidence indicates just the opposite—that President Trump was fully informed that Flynn was the target of prosecutors.

I have learned that a confidential White House memorandum, which is in the special counsel’s possession, explicitly states that when Trump pressured Comey he had just been told by two of his top aides—his then chief of staff Reince Priebus and his White House counsel Don McGahn—that Flynn was under criminal investigation. This memo, the existence of which I first disclosed in December in Foreign Policy, was, as one source described it to me, “a timeline of events [in the White House] leading up to Flynn’s resignation.” It was dated February 15, 2017, and was prepared by McGahn two days after Flynn’s forced resignation and one day after Trump’s meeting with Comey. As I reported, research for the memo was “primarily conducted by John Eisenberg, the deputy counsel to the president and legal adviser to the National Security Council,” who, in turn, was “assisted by James Burnham, another White House counsel staff member.”

During my reporting, I was allowed to read the memo in its entirety, as well as other, underlying White House records quoted in the memo, such as notes and memos written by McGahn and other senior administration officials. My reporting for this story is also based on interviews with a dozen former and current White House officials, attorneys who have interacted with Mueller’s team of investigators, and witnesses questioned by Mueller’s investigators.

 So yes, Mueller is going after obstruction and will almost certainly recommend that Trump be impeached for it.  Whther or not anybody in America sees that report other than Rod Rosenstein and Jeff Sessions, or even if Mueller gets to finish that report, I don't know.


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