Tuesday, October 30, 2018

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

Apparently a couple of right-wing smear job artists had a little October Surprise in store for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but he was wise to it last week and informed the FBI so that they could have a look.

A company that appears to be run by a pro-Trump conspiracy theorist offered to pay women to make false claims against Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the days leading up to the midterm elections—and the special counsel’s office has asked the FBI to weigh in. “When we learned last week of allegations that women were offered money to make false claims about the Special Counsel, we immediately referred the matter to the FBI for investigation,” the Mueller spokesman Peter Carr told me in an email on Tuesday.

The special-counsel office’s attention to this scheme and its decision to release a rare statement about it indicates the seriousness with which the team is taking the purported plot to discredit Mueller in the middle of an ongoing investigation. Carr confirmed that the allegations were brought to the office’s attention by several journalists, who were contacted by a woman who identified herself as Lorraine Parsons. Another woman, Jennifer Taub, contacted Mueller's office earlier this month with similar information.

The woman identifying herself as Parsons told journalists in an email, a copy of which I obtained, that she had been offered roughly $20,000 by a man claiming to work for a firm called Surefire Intelligence—which had been hired by a GOP activist named Jack Burkman—“to make accusations of sexual misconduct and workplace harassment against Robert Mueller.”

Parsons wrote in her letter that she had worked for Mueller as a paralegal at the Pillsbury, Madison, and Sutro law firm in 1974, but that she “didn’t see” him much. “When I did see him, he was always very polite to me, and was never inappropriate,” she said. The law firm told me on late Tuesday afternoon, however, that it has “no record of this individual working for our firm.” 
Parsons explained that she was contacted by a man “with a British accent” who wanted to ask her “a couple questions about Robert Mueller, whom I worked with when I was a paralegal for Pillsbury, Madison, and Sutro in 1974. I asked him who he was working for, and he told me his boss was some sort of politics guy in Washington named Jack Burkman. I reluctantly told [him] that I had only worked with Mr. Mueller for a short period of time, before leaving that firm to have my first son.”

She continued: “In more of an effort to get him to go away than anything else, I asked him what in the hell he wanted me to do. He said that we could not talk about it on the phone, and he asked me to download an app on my phone called Signal, which he said was more secure. Reluctantly, I downloaded the app and he called me on that app a few minutes later. He said (and I will never forget exactly what it was) ‘I want you to make accusations of sexual misconduct and workplace harassment against Robert Mueller, and I want you to sign a sworn affidavit to that effect.’” The man “offered to pay off all of my credit card debt, plus bring me a check for $20,000 if I would do” it, she wrote. “He knew exactly how much credit card debt I had, right down to the dollar, which sort of freaked me out.” 

So who are the clowns behind this conspiracy of dunces?  Let's take a look.

Surefire Intelligence describes itself as “a private intel agency that designs and executes bespoke solutions for businesses and individuals who face complex business and litigation challenges.” Surefire’s domain records list an email for another pro-Trump conspiracy theorist, Jacob Wohl, who began hyping a “scandalous” Mueller story on Tuesday morning. Wohl told The Daily Beast that Burkman had hired Surefire to assist with his investigation into Mueller’s past, but denied knowing anything about the firm’s involvement in an alleged plot to fabricate allegations against Mueller when asked why his email address appeared in the domain records. He did not respond when asked by NBC why a telephone number listed on Surefire’s website referred callers to another number that’s listed in public records as belonging to Wohl’s mother. 
Parsons was not willing to speak to the reporters by phone, according to Scott Stedman, one of the reporters who received the letter. So portions of her story have gone uncorroborated, and her identity has not been independently confirmed.

Jack Burkman is the right-wing operative and radio host who opened his "own investigation" into the Seth Rich murder case and then tried to stiff his investigator, a former military man who did not take kindly to Burkman trying to blame him when things went wrong.  For his trouble, Burkman was shot and ran over.

Jacob Wohl is the Wall Street "whiz kid" who managed to get himself banned from the financial industry for good last year at the age of 19 for massive hedge fund fraud. And Wohl currently works for...you guessed it...the only man on earth stupid enough to hire him: Jim Hoft, the Gateway Pundit, aka the Stupidiest Man On The Internet, who dropped this conspiracy story on his site only to retract things when it turned out that Wohl and Burkman are almost certainly headed for some time with the FBI.

And yes, Mueller has an alibi for the date that Burkman and Wohl claim he was in NYC...because he was in DC serving jury duty.

In other words, this is going to make a great comedy movie in a couple of years.

The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

With a week to go until midterm elections, Republicans are in full and total panic mode as they move to try to hold increasingly vulnerable House districts in Southern states. Paul Ryan is headed here to try to save Republican Andy Barr's Lexington House seat from Democratic retired Marine pilot Amy McGrath, and if Republicans are relegated to defending states like Kentucky in the final week of the campaign, all bets are off as to how many dozens of seats they now expect to lose.

Ryan will be in Kentucky on Tuesday to campaign for Rep. Garland “Andy” Barr, whose 6th District stretches from Lexington to more rural areas. Former fighter pilot Amy McGrath has given Democrats hope of flipping the seat, despite the district’s naturally conservative tilt.

Meanwhile, the NRCC plans to launch ads Tuesday in South Carolina’s 1st District, an area along the coast including Charleston that has leaned conservative in recent federal elections. But Republican nominee Katie Arrington has had trouble putting away her Democratic opponent, Joe Cunningham.

Arrington, who defeated Rep. Mark Sanford in a primary defined by her support for Trump and the incumbent’s criticism of the president, has lost some GOP support to Cunningham, whose slogan is “Lowcountry over party” and who casts himself as a moderate.

C'mon, Republicans are now on defense in Kentucky and South Carolina?  It's going to be a bloodbath when we're done.

In Virginia’s 7th District, which Trump also carried, a new poll released Monday showed more possible trouble. The survey from the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University showed 46 percent of likely voters picking Democrat Abigail Spanberger and 45 percent choosing Republican Rep. Dave Brat.

The NRCC also hit the airwaves for the first time last week in Georgia’s 6th District in the Atlanta suburbs, where Democrat Lucy McBath has received help from well-funded gun control groups. Trump narrowly won the district.

“We’re not trying to cover the spread,” said NRCC communications director Matt Gorman. “We’re looking at victories.” He added: “The name of the game is volatility. And we’ve seen it on both sides.” 
Democrats have raised huge sums of money, prompting Republicans to warn about a “green wave” of Democratic dollars, even in districts where the GOP has established a strong presence.

McBath started the final weeks of the campaign with $565,000 in her account; her Republican opponent, Rep. Karen Handel, had $402,000 left to spend.

The NRCC hit the airwaves for the first time last week in Washington’s 3rd District in the southwest corner of the state. Trump won there by seven points. Democrat Carolyn Long capitalized on a strong primary vote by outraising Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler by nearly $1 million.

Even in Florida’s 18th District, where Trump won by nine points and Rep. Brian Mast outraised his Democratic challenger, former diplomat Lauren Baer, Republicans are not taking any chances. The NRCC went up with an ad in the district that stretches north from Palm Beach County last week.

KY-6 and VA-7 are knife-edge toss-ups and have contested for months.  But if Republicans are only now worried about SC-1, GA-6, FL-18, and WA-3 (and you can add Utah's 4th to this list as GOP Rep. Mia Love is now behind to Democratic Salt Lake City Mayor Ben McAdams) enough to commit an 11th hour defense to these districts, the GOP is now reduced to trying to stop a blue wave from becoming a total 2010-style wipeout.

I don't think they'll succeed.  With a week to go, we're still seeing the smart money on 35-45 Dem House pickups as an average and 55-60 if they overperform.

Five Thirty Eight now has Dems at 216 of the 218 they need to gain a House majority with more than 20 toss-ups left to fight over, another 16 "Lean R" seats in play and a whopping 49 "Likely R" seats that could fall, and it's these seats that the GOP is now moving to defend.  If the Dems get 80% of the toss-ups breaking their way, half the leaners and a quarter of the likely seats, that's 62 seats.  That's 2010 in reverse.

Guess who'a s also in trouble now?  GOP Rep. Steve King in IA-4.  Cook Political report has now shifted his race from "Likely R" to "Lean R".  King won in 2016 over Kim Weaver by 22 points, Trump won this district by 27 points two years ago.

Let's overperform.  Get out there and vote if you haven't already, and get somebody besides yourself to the polls while you're at it.

Deportation Nation, Con't

As I mentioned on Friday, Donald Trump is indeed going all in on militarizing America's southern border with Mexico.  Trump is putting more than 5,000 troops on the border this week, and these aren't National Guard call-ups either, these are military combat battalions.

Senior U.S. officials said Monday that some 5,200 additional U.S. troops will deploy to the border with Mexico by the end of the week, as President Trump likened a caravan of Central American migrants who are heading north to “an invasion.” 
The deployments, occurring under an operation known as Faithful Patriot, already are underway, said Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, the chief of U.S. Northern Command. He said the military, working alongside U.S. Customs and Border Protection, will focus first on hardening the border in Texas, followed by Arizona and California. 
The deployments will include three combat engineer battalions, members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and troops who specialize in aviation, medical treatment and logistics, O’Shaughnessy said. He highlighted the deployment of helicopters, which will have night-vision capabilities and sensors.

“We’ll be able to spot and identify groups and rapidly deploy CBP personnel where they are needed,” he said. 
O’Shaughnessy said the Pentagon also will deploy military police units and cargo aircraft, including three C-130s and one C-17. Combined command posts will be established to integrate U.S. military and CBP efforts. 
“As we sit right here today, we have about 800 soldiers who are on their way to Texas right now,” the general said. “They’re coming from Fort Campbell. They’re coming from Fort Knox. They’re moving closer to the border. They’re going to continue their training, and they’re ready to deploy to actually be employed on the border.”

Ahh, but we're only beginning this mess.  Last week I figured Trump would pick a legal fight for the last week of the midterm campaign by bypassing the Refugee Act and international law by sealing the border and refusing all refugees.  What he's actually planning is far, far worse.

President Trump said he was preparing an executive order to end birthright citizenship in the United States, his latest attention-grabbing maneuver days before midterm congressional elections, during which he has sought to activate his base by vowing to clamp down on immigrants and immigration.

“We’re the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years, with all of those benefits,” Mr. Trump told Axios during an interview that was released in part on Tuesday. “It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.”

In fact, dozens of other countries, including Canada, Mexico and many others in the Western Hemisphere, grant automatic birthright citizenship, according to a study by the Center for Immigration Studies, an organization that supports restricting immigration and whose work Mr. Trump’s advisers often cite.

Doing away with birthright citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants was an idea Mr. Trump pitched as a presidential candidate, but there is no clear indication that he would be able to do so unilaterally, and attempting to would be certain to prompt legal challenges.

It is likewise unknown how serious Mr. Trump is about taking the action. In recent days, with the approach of the midterm balloting in which Republican control of Congress is at risk, he has sought to appeal to voters by making other dramatic claims that appear to have no chance of materializing, such as imminent action to grant a 10 percent tax cut for the middle class.

To accomplish the idea he floated on Tuesday, Mr. Trump would have to find a way around the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

Maybe he tries it, maybe not, but the message sent to his white supremacist base with a week to go before elections is 100% clear.  Remember that both MAGAbomber Cesar Sayoc and synagogue shooter Robert Bowers thought Trump wasn't sufficiently racist enough (especially Bowers, who railed against Trump being a "globalist").  This little hate-filled trial balloon is something white nationalists have wanted for years and they're cheering in the streets right now.  If there was any wavering from the purity slimebags about how maybe Trump was too soft on "illegals" or "globalists" all that just got put to rest with this stunt.

Red meat by the tractor-trailer load.


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