Monday, August 6, 2018

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

The Paul Manafort trial officially got to the good part today, where two career criminals turn on each other like pit bulls when it became clear that the tax evasion and bank fraud is the chump change compared to the whole "party to treason against the United States" thing.

Rick Gates, a longtime business associate of U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, on Monday testified at trial that he helped Manafort file false tax returns and did not disclose foreign bank accounts.

Gates was expected to be a star witness in the government’s case against Manafort having pleaded guilty in February and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors under a deal that could lead to a reduced sentence.

“We did not submit the required form designating he had control over an offshore account,” Gates told the jury in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, on the fifth day of the trial. 
When prosecutor Greg Andres asked why, Gates replied: “At Mr. Manafort’s direction.” 
Gates also testified he and Manafort knew it was a crime because they had been notified by Manafort’s accountants in emails.

Manafort’s attorneys have signaled they will seek to blame Gates and have accused him of embezzling millions of dollars from Manafort. Gates and Manafort have known each other for two decades and ran a multimillion-dollar political consulting business. Gates also worked for the Trump election campaign. 
Manafort has pleaded not guilty to 18 counts of bank and tax fraud and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts. The charges largely predate his five months on the Trump campaign but were the first to go to trial arising from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

There is no chance that Manafort gets acquitted.  The only question now is how much he tells Mueller about Trump.  But the clock on that offer only will last as long as Manafort's next trial date.

To understand how far Manafort is willing to go for Trump, look at the far more interesting court activity happening across the Potomac. In Washington, D.C., Manafort stands accused of conspiring to defraud the U.S. government, of failure to register as a foreign lobbyist, and of obstruction of justice, among other charges — and that alongside a mysterious co-defendant, Konstantin Kilimnik. Earlier this year, Mueller disclosed in court documents that this wingman possessed “ties to Russian intelligence service,” which persisted during the presidential campaign. That case is still on schedule to go to trial in September, despite Manafort’s best efforts to delay it.

But there’s more. Just as jury selection was underway in Alexandria on Tuesday, the chief judge of the federal courthouse in Washington issued a 92-page ruling ordering an aide for Roger Stone, the irreverent Trump confidant and longtime Manafort pal, to testify before a grand jury. The decision was categorical, the third affirming the authority and legality of the special counsel investigation. But this one came with a bit of extra oomph. U.S. Chief Judge Beryl Howell, its author, may also be overseeing the secret grand-jury proceedings unfolding in the nation’s capital — a task that would place her at the center of nearly every pre-prosecution aspect of every public case so far initiated by the special counsel. More than anyone, she’d know that the Mueller probe is no hoax.

“The scope of the Special Counsel’s power falls well within the boundaries the Constitution permits, as the Special Counsel is supervised by an official who is himself accountable to the elected President,” wrote Howell. She also gave Mueller a boost last year in a similar, pre-indictment dispute with a Manafort lawyer who was wanted for testimony before the grand jury.

This is all tough news for Manafort. For months now, he has mounted similar Hail Marys attempting to delegitimize the Mueller probe. Both Ellis and U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson have rejected separate motions to dismiss the two active cases against him. So far, all Manafort’s efforts have been for naught, as has his bid to stand trial at liberty rather than behind bars. On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit affirmed Jackson’s order to revoke Manafort’s home detention over allegations that he was tampering with witnesses — a new crime that, if proved, would only add to his legal woes. So there’s little doubt he’ll sit in jail through the duration of both trials.

We’re not done. Jackson this week sided with a special counsel request to not allow Manafort’s lawyers to game the clock on the Washington trial involving Kilimnik, which for months has been set for September. All along, Mueller’s team has been doing its due diligence — turning over certain pretrial materials to the defense in good faith, hoping the other side will do the same as the two adversaries prepare their cases-in-chief. But Manafort’s side hasn’t turned over anything. “The defense has made no showing whatsoever for its requested four-week extension, and to grant it would unfairly prejudice the government,” Mueller’s lawyers charged in a court filing that accused Manafort’s legal team of “gamesmanship.” Jackson ruled later that same day that she’s “opposed” to any attempts to delay the Washington trial.

That’s where the real action will be, and where talk of election interference and Russian conspiracy may be inevitable. With Manafort hanging on by the skin of his teeth, and Mueller refusing to make it any easier for him, patience through all these trials and tribulations may just be the price he has to pay as he hopes that maybe, just maybe, President Trump will throw him a lifeline.

But Trump pardoning Manafort comes with a clock of its own, and that one goes off the first week of November.

The War On Fake News

Finally, the major social media tech players have taken conspiracy theorist and lunatic asshole Alex Jones off the air for good, and are permanently banning him from their platforms after all.

YouTube has removed Alex Jones' page, following bans earlier Monday from Apple and Facebook
The Alex Jones Channel, which counts 2.4 million subscribers, still appeared in YouTube search results by midday Monday, but presented only a take-down notice when users clicked in. 
"This account has been terminated for violating YouTube's Community Guidelines," the notice says. 
Google had previously declined to comment on the InfoWars host's standing, but said in a statement to CNBC in response to the removal of the page: "All users agree to comply with our Terms of Service and Community Guidelines when they sign up to use YouTube. When users violate these policies repeatedly, like our policies against hate speech and harassment or our terms prohibiting circumvention of our enforcement measures, we terminate their accounts." 
YouTube counts "strikes" against pages for posts that violate the company's policies. Jones received a strike in July when he posted four videos that violated YouTube policies against child endangerment and hate speech, the company said in a statement to CNBC.
A page with one strike against it is suspended from live streaming for 90 days, YouTube said, but Jones attempted to circumvent the suspension by live streaming on other channels. As a result, his page was terminated, the company said. 
The InfoWars YouTube page, which has significantly fewer subscribers, was still live as of noon ET. 
Jones and his controversial radio show have for several weeks been at the center of a debate around fake news and misinformation on digital platforms. Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg drew criticism last month for declining to remove the InfoWars page.
Music streaming service Spotify removed InfoWars podcasts last week, and Apple and Facebook each cited violations of company policies regarding hate speech in banning Jones on Monday.

And it's that 2.4 million subscribers figure that YouTube and Twitter and Facebook didn't want to antagonize.  Like it or no, that is a big chunk of ad revenue to lose, not to mention the backlash from Jones's followers.

But Jones was the guy yelling fire in a crowded theater every day.  He is one of the major reasons why Russian attacks on democracy in 2016 worked, because of the pervasive rot that Jones brought to our democracy.  He is the fake news we need to get rid of.

And it looks like he's taken a major hit.  It's something that should have happened years ago, frankly.  Looking the other way on their own terms of service violations is what tech companies specialize in when you get enough followers.

See ya, Alex.

The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

The final special House election before the 2018 midterms is upon us in OH-12 as Democratic candidate Danny O'Connor takes on Republican Troy Balderson for GOP Rep. Pat Tiberi's old seat.  

This has long been Columbus's reddest suburban area, after 17 years, Tiberi left Congress in January to cash in the GOP tax bill he helped write, and it was John Kasich's House seat for another 18 years before that.  In fact, outside Bob Shamansky's two years in the Reagan era (he got gerrymandered out in '82) this seat has been blood red since FDR.

That could come to an end tomorrow as panicking Republicans now face a dead heat race in an R+7 district.

The entire Republican Party machinery has converged on this suburban Columbus district for a furious eleventh-hour campaign aimed at saving a conservative House seat and averting another special election disaster.

But in the final days ahead of Tuesday's election, signs were everywhere that Democrats are surging — from recent polling to the private and public statements of many Republicans, including the GOP candidate himself. The district has been reliably red for more than three decades, but the sheer size of the Republican cavalry made clear how worried the party is about losing it.

At a Saturday evening rally, President Donald Trump tried to juice conservative excitement for mild-mannered Republican candidate Troy Balderson while foisting a Trumpian nickname upon 31-year-old Democratic hopeful Danny O’Connor: “Danny boy.” Earlier in the week, Vice President Mike Pence made the trek, while Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. recorded a robocall, and Gov. John Kasich endorsed Balderson in a TV ad.

The Republican National Committee has opened two offices in the district, launched a $500,000-plus get-out-the-vote effort, and dispatched one of its top officials, Bob Paduchik, who ran Trump’s 2016 Ohio campaign. And outside conservative groups, led by a super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan, have dumped more than $3.5 million onto the TV airwaves, far outpacing Democrats.

The all-out push underscores the GOP’s trepidation about the final special election before the midterms. A loss, following startling Republican defeats in Pennsylvania and Alabama, would offer more evidence that a blue wave is on the horizon. And it would further fuel fears of what’s becoming evident: that Democrats are simply more amped up, even in areas that have long been safely Republican.

As he addressed volunteers gathered in a campaign office on Friday afternoon, Balderson, a 56-year-old state legislator, hinted at the enthusiasm deficit that was plaguing his party. A Monmouth University poll last week had him ahead of O'Connor by a single percentage point, 44 to 43.

“You all know, it’s a tight race. And everybody wants to know, why is it tight? Why is it tight?” he said. “Because this race is all about turnout.”

He's not wrong, but the fact that the entire Trump regime machine is coming to Balderson's defense is very telling.  Republicans know they are in dire trouble.  They know the clock is ticking on the midterms and the reckoning for Trump's collusion, which he all but admitted to yesterday

We'll see what happens tomorrow, but my gut tells me O'Connor wins by 3 or 4.  If you're a ZVTS reader in OH-12, let's make that happen.


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