Friday, September 21, 2018

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

As I have long predicted, and as many of you have feared, the Trump Regime is now making its move to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, starting with a clever and calculated leak to the NY Times.

The deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, suggested last year that he secretly record President Trump in the White House to expose the chaos consuming the administration, and he discussed recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office for being unfit.

Mr. Rosenstein made these suggestions in the spring of 2017 when Mr. Trump’s firing of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director plunged the White House into turmoil. Over the ensuing days, the president divulgedclassified intelligence to Russians in the Oval Office, and revelations emerged that Mr. Trump had asked Mr. Comey to pledge loyalty and end an investigation into a senior aide.

Mr. Rosenstein was just two weeks into his job. He had begun overseeing the Russia investigation and played a key role in the president’s dismissal of Mr. Comey by writing a memo critical of his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. But Mr. Rosenstein was caught off guard when Mr. Trump cited the memo in the firing, and he began telling people that hefeared he had been used.

Mr. Rosenstein made the remarks about secretly recording Mr. Trump and about the 25th Amendment in meetings and conversations with other Justice Department and F.B.I. officials. Several people described the episodes, insisting on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. The people were briefed either on the events themselves or on memos written by F.B.I. officials, including Andrew G. McCabe, then the acting bureau director, that documented Mr. Rosenstein’s actions and comments.

None of Mr. Rosenstein’s proposals apparently came to fruition
. It is not clear how determined he was about seeing them through, though he did tell Mr. McCabe that he might be able to persuade Attorney General Jeff Sessions and John F. Kelly, then the secretary of homeland security and now the White House chief of staff, to mount an effort to invoke the 25th Amendment.

The extreme suggestions show Mr. Rosenstein’s state of mind in the disorienting days that followed Mr. Comey’s dismissal. Sitting in on Mr. Trump’s interviews with prospective F.B.I. directors and facing attacks for his own role in Mr. Comey’s firing, Mr. Rosenstein had an up-close view of the tumult. Mr. Rosenstein appeared conflicted, regretful and emotional, according to people who spoke with him at the time.

Understand that this story was leaked to set up Rosenstein as the "Deep State" mastermind behind the "coup" against Trump, with the time period of course suggesting that the Mueller probe was part of Rosenstein's "plot".  They are not trying to just undermine the Mueller probe, they are trying to end it.

The Saturday Night Massacre plan is happening. The fate of our country is now in the balance.  And yes, this is definitely to save the drowning Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination.  They are now that desperate.

Be ready, guys.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

All sorts of news in our Friday Mueller News Dump™ this week, starting with a complete 180 on Donald Trump's plans to declassify information pertaining to the ongoing Mueller probe.

President Donald Trump on Friday abandoned plans to quickly declassify and release sensitive documents connected to the FBI's Russia investigation, citing a "perceived negative impact" on the probe and concerns raised by "key allies" about dumping the materials.

Trump instead announced that he would defer to a Justice Department watchdog — Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who he once derided as an "Obama guy" — to finish a review of whether anti-Trump bias affected the FBI's handling of its 2016 Russia probe.

"Therefore, the Inspector General ... has been asked to review these documents on an expedited basis," Trump tweeted Friday morning. "I believe he will move quickly on this (and hopefully other things which he is looking at). In the end I can always declassify if it proves necessary. Speed is very important to me — and everyone!"

Trump had sought the release of classified portions of a surveillance warrant application used to track former campaign adviser Carter Page. He also said he wanted to publish the interview notes of a top Justice Department official and the text messages sent by former FBI Director James Comey and other senior bureau officials.

The FBI's early investigation into the Trump campaign's ties with Russia eventually led to special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into whether Trump's aides assisted Moscow in its efforts to influence the 2016 election.

Trump's Friday tweet likely staves off a confrontation between the president and his own intelligence officials, who have publicly and privately warned of the dangers of revealing classified intelligence. Democrats have attacked the initial decision to release the documents as reckless, arguing it could endanger international intelligence partnerships and sources. Trump told the Hill in an interview earlier this week that he had decided to release the documents in part at the urging of conservative Fox News TV hosts.

Gosh, I don't understand, clearly Mighty God-Emperor Trump could destroy the Evil Deep State by doing this but...backed down completely?

It's almost like he hasn't read any of the classified material, and that declassifying it would have been the end of his regime.  Who knew?

Well, Mueller knew. And speaking of what Mueller knows, that brings us to Story #2: BuzzFeed News is reporting that Robert Mueller's team is now looking into millions in suspicious money transfers just days before that now-infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting.

Documents reviewed by BuzzFeed News show that $3.3 million began moving on June 3 between two of the men who orchestrated the meeting: Aras Agalarov, a billionaire real estate developer close to both Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump, and Irakly “Ike” Kaveladze, a longtime Agalarov employee once investigated for money laundering.

That money is on top of the more than $20 million that was flagged as suspicious, BuzzFeed News revealed earlier this month, after the money ricocheted among the planners and participants of the Trump Tower meeting. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, which has been investigating whether any individuals colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election, is examining the suspicious transactions, four federal law enforcement officials said. A spokesperson for Mueller’s office declined to comment.

Although the documents do not directly link the $3.3 million to the meeting, they show that officials at three separate banks raised red flags about the funds. Many of the transfers seemed to have no legitimate purpose, bankers noted. Kaveladze quickly moved money to other accounts he controlled, and appeared to use some of it to make payments on Agalarov’s behalf — including more than $700,000 to pay off American Express charges.

The transfers happened the same day Donald Trump Jr. supposedly signed off on the meeting, June 3, 2016. I've always said that the Russian money laundering angle of this story was connected to the Russian election interference angle, and Mueller is following both.

And speaking of suspicious money trails, that leads us to story #3:  Former Trump lawyer John Dowd apparently directed White House legal defense funds to help Paul Manafort and Rick Gates.

A top lawyer for President Trump this year sought to help pay legal fees for Paul Manafort and Richard Gates, initially trying to divert money from the White House legal defense fund and later soliciting donors and pledging $25,000 of his own.

In both cases, the president’s advisers objected to the lawyer’s actions over concerns it could appear aimed at stopping the two former aides from cooperating with investigators.

John Dowd, who at the time was heading Mr. Trump’s legal team, at the start of the year told associates of the president he wanted to direct money from the legal defense fund set up for White House officials and campaign aides to the lawyers for Messrs. Manafort and Gates, according to people familiar with the matter. The pair had pleaded not guilty to charges of tax, bank and lobbying violations in the fall of 2017.

That idea was rebuffed by ethics advisers in the White House, the people said. The fund had been set up specifically to aid those who faced legal fees stemming from their involvement with the president. While the charges facing Messrs. Manafort and Gates had stemmed from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, they pertained to activities that predated the Trump campaign, making the two aides ineligible for those funds.

On Feb. 22, Mr. Dowd told associates of the president in an email that Messrs. Manafort and Gates needed funds immediately, according to people familiar with the matter. He said he planned to donate $25,000 to Mr. Manafort’s legal defense fund the next day.

The next day, Mr. Gates pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with investigators

Oops.  Guess they didn't need the "defense money" after all, huh.  Totally doesn't look like a last-ditch effort to pay off Gates before he flipped, either.

But Mueller knows.

Mueller knows it all.

And that report is coming.

The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

The latest Cook Political Report predictions for the Senate are good news for the Democrats, which is good because frankly, there are so many structural obstacles for Democrats to take back the Senate right now that the Republicans have a significantly better chance of holding the House than the Dems do getting the Senate.

It was a long, long shot earlier this month.  Now, it's just a long shot.

As the political environment continues to favor Democrats and likely to rob Republicans of their majority in the U.S. House and a handful of gubernatorial seats, the conventional wisdom is that the fate of the GOP’s Senate majority will rest more on political geography than the way the partisan winds are blowing. Maybe.

The map continues to favor Republicans as Democrats are defending 10 seats in states that President Trump carried, four of which are in the Toss Up column, while two others are in Lean Democratic. In keeping with the notion that geography is destiny this cycle, the one Republican-held seat (Nevada) that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016 is in the Toss Up column. But, Democrats have managed to put three more Republican seats in play: the open seats in Arizona (Trump +4) and Tennessee (Trump +26), and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas (Trump +9) into play. This raises the question as to whether political geography really will dictate the fate of the Senate majority.

Generally, races in the Toss Up column don’t break down the middle; one party tends to win a majority of them. Over the past 10 cycles, no party has won less than 67 percent of all Toss Up races. In 2004, 2006 and 2014, one party won 89 percent of the races in the Toss Up column. The working theory for this cycle has been that if Democrats end up winning a majority of the Toss Up races, then the political environment proved to be the factor driving the election. If, on the other hand, Republicans wind up carrying a majority of the Toss Up contests, then political geography is indeed destiny. But, what if for the first time since we’ve been keeping tabs on the outcome of Toss Up contests, they did break down the middle? Usually, it’s easy to dismiss such an idea. It’s just not as simple this cycle. And, what would it say if the Toss Up races do break down the middle?

At this point, the overall political environment is not likely to change. The President’s approval rating, voter intensity, and the generic congressional ballot test are baked into the proverbial cake. The only real unknown factor is the fate of the Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. The allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted a teenage girl in the 1980s have stalled the nomination process. There are about a dozen scenarios as to how this will play out and the situation seems to change with each day. Suffice it to say that both parties have made mistakes in their handling of the allegations and both sides are walking a bit of a tightrope.

The parties have very different views of how it will play out at the polls. Democrats believe that it will further energize their base. Republicans say that it is firing up their supporters. They may both be right, but Democrats are already energized, which raises the question of how much more the base can expand. It’s unlikely that Democratic voters can be more enraged than they already are. But, Republican voters haven’t been as energized, largely because many don’t believe that the party is really in danger of losing their majorities in the House and/or Senate, according to a survey Public Opinion Strategies conducted for the Republican National Committee. The fate of the Supreme Court is a huge issue for Republican voters, and they will go to the polls if they feel that Democrats have politicized the allegations against Kavanaugh, even if they believe Christine Blasey Ford's story. Some Democratic strategists say the allegations against Kavanaugh make it easier for most Democrats to vote against his nomination. At the same time, they are concerned about the fallout if the nomination drags on through October.

Which side has the larger obstacles, the Dems and the map, or the GOP and Trump?  We'll find out.  My gut tells me the most likely outcome is Dems pick up one net seat by winning Arizona and Nevada, but losing Indiana or North Dakota.  It could be much better, in that scenario if Dems win Tennessee, they control the Senate.

But to do that and hold on in the half-dozen seats they are in real trouble in, that won't be easy.



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