Friday, November 30, 2018

Last Call For It's About Suppression, Con't

For all the talk of Republicans repeatedly accusing Democrats of "voter fraud" and "fixing close elections", the one clear example of election fraud this year is from Republicans, cheating in North Carolina.  The NC GOP is quickly moving to get the nation's strictest voter ID measure in place, all while it looks like Democrat Dan McCready may have had victory stolen by election officials in Bladen County, to the point where it now looks like the House race for NC-9 may get a new election.

North Carolina officials voted Friday to continue investigating fraud in the 9th Congressional District election, potentially delaying certification of the results for weeks and leaving open the possibility that a new election could be called.

The decision cast new uncertainty on the race between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready, who are separated by only 905 votes out of 283,317 ballots cast, according to unofficial returns. The Associated Press on Friday announced it was revoking its projection that Harris won the southeastern North Carolina seat. The inquiry further roiled a state already divided over issues of voting rights, voter suppression and fraud.

Republicans spent the week in Raleigh drafting legislation to implement a new voter-approved requirement to present identification at the polls — an effort that the GOP has said is necessary to combat voter fraud. But they were mostly mum as evidence mounted that a different kind of election fraud may have taken place 100 miles south, other than to demand that the state board quickly certify Harris’s narrow lead.

“It’s a big juxtaposition to focus on a non-problem and ignore a huge problem,” said Gerry Cohen, a former counsel to the state legislature and an expert on election law. He noted that voter ID laws can’t prevent the kind of absentee ballot fraud alleged in the 9th District.

Harris of course wants his victory certified ASAP.

In a statement Friday, Harris accused the election board of a lack of transparency and called for the results to be immediately certified.

“Make no mistake, I support any efforts to investigate allegations of irregularities and/or voter fraud, as long as it is fair and focuses on all political parties,” Harris said. “But to date, there is absolutely no public evidence that there are enough ballots in question to affect the outcome of this race. Accordingly, the Board should act immediately to certify the race while continuing to conduct their investigation. Anything else is a disservice to the people of the Ninth District.”

The problem is it looks like there was a major GOP vote-stealing operation in Bladen County involving scamming black voters specifically out of their absentee ballots, and Harris's campaign looks like it was involved.

The State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement has collected at least six sworn statements from voters in rural Bladen County, near the South Carolina border, who described people coming to their doors and urging them to hand over their absentee ballots, sometimes without filling them out. Others described receiving absentee ballots by mail that they had not requested.

Among the allegations is that an individual who worked for the Harris campaign coordinated an effort to collect and fill in, or discard, the ballots of Democratic voters who might have otherwise voted for McCready. Several of the affidavits come from elderly African American voters. It is illegal to take someone else’s ballot, whether to turn it in or discard it.

Officials are also examining unusually high numbers of absentee ballots cast in some precincts in the 9th District — and unusually high numbers of ballots requested but never returned. Harris’s narrow victory over incumbent Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.) in the Republican primary is also under scrutiny, with new attention on the in­cred­ibly high proportion of absentee ballots — 96 percent — that Harris won in Bladen County.

The nine-person state board, which includes four Democrats, four Republicans and one unaffiliated member, voted 7 to 2 in favor of holding a hearing by Dec. 21 “to assure that the election is determined without taint of fraud or corruption and without irregularities that may have changed the result.”

If these allegations are true, then Mark Harris stole an election, period.  He should be going to jail, not the House.

Stay tuned.  This one's not over by a long shot.

The Whole Saturday Night Massacre Thing, Con't

As the Mueller probe reaches the endgame stages it's important to note that so far, we haven't seen Acting AG Matt Whitaker play too much of a role.  He hasn't issued any directives about the Mueller investigation specifically, and if Trump is saving Whitaker for a strike against Mueller, it's already looking like Mueller has already made arrangements that Whitaker can't really stop.

But that doesn't mean Whitaker's surprise appointment isn't in real trouble, and we're learning now just how much of a problem he may end up being for the Trump regime.

New documents released by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission suggest that acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker misled the agency’s investigators as he was stepping into his role last year as Justice Department chief of staff.

After several attempts to reach Whitaker about the Miami company where he was on the advisory board, the FTC investigator emailed his colleagues to relay that he finally reached Whitaker, who was willing to cooperate and asserted that he “never emailed or wrote to consumers” in his consulting role.

That statement to James Evans of the FTC appears to be inaccurate. Whitaker had written a letter in 2015 to a disgruntled customer who planned to report the company, World Patent Marketing, to the Better Business Bureau. In the letter, which was included in the FTC’s disclosure and reported previously by the news media, Whitaker threatened the customer, writing: “I am assuming you understand there could be serious civil and criminal consequences for you if that is in fact what you and your ’group’ are doing.”

In the letter, Whitaker noted that he was a former U.S. attorney in Iowa and that he was aware that the customer had complained to the company’s chief executive officer, Scott Cooper, in the past. “I am familiar with your background and your history with Scott,” Whitaker wrote. “Understand that we take threats like this quite seriously.”

President Donald Trump appointed Whitaker acting attorney general after asking Jeff Sessions to step down. That appointment, outside the usual chain of succession, is now being challenged in several court cases.

The documents, produced Friday in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, contain internal correspondence among FTC investigators, who are frustrated at being unable to reach Whitaker at several points during 2017.

They show repeated attempts by the FTC to contact Whitaker during 2017, when the agency was investigating complaints about World Patent Marketing, which it described as an “invention promotion scheme” that it accused of “bilking millions of dollars from consumers.”

They also show how shocked the FTC investigators were in October 2017 when -- in the latter stages of their investigation -- Whitaker was suddenly named chief of staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

You’re not going to believe this,” Evans, who works for the agency’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, wrote on Oct. 24, 2017. "Matt Whitaker is now chief of staff to the Attorney General. Of the United States."

Whitaker has been on the FTC's hit list for a while thanks to his patent troll company that apparently bilked consumers out of millions.  He's dirty as hell, but he still ended up as Jeff Sessions's chief of staff, now Acting AG.  And now it seems he lied to investigators.

Whitaker too is going to jail at some point.  The whole Trump regime is crashing down.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

NY Times columnist Michelle Goldberg is correct: there's no longer any question about whether or not Vladimir Putin has something on Donald Trump, the question America will have to reckon with is how the information revealed in Michael Cohen's plea deal this week on Trump's Moscow Tower project directly influenced Trump's decisions and America's foreign policy towards Russia.

One of the chief questions in the Trump-Russia scandal has been whether Vladimir Putin has leverage over the president of the United States, and, if so, what that leverage looks like. The significance of the fabled “pee tape,” after all, is not that it would reveal Donald Trump to be a pervert bent on defiling the place where Barack Obama slept. Rather, the tape matters because, if real, it would show the president to be vulnerable to Russian blackmail.

That’s also why evidence of Trump’s business involvement with Russia would be significant, as Trump himself acknowledged shortly before his inauguration, when he tweeted, “Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA — NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!”

We still don’t know for certain if Russia has used leverage over Trump. But there should no longer be any doubt that Russia has leverage over him.

On Thursday morning, Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen — the former executive vice president of the Trump Organization — pleaded guilty to making false statements to Congress about efforts to build a Trump-branded property in Moscow that extended into the 2016 presidential campaign.

In an August 2017 letter to the House and Senate intelligence committees, Cohen said that the Moscow project ended in January 2016. He claimed not to recall contacts with Russian government officials about a potential deal. Cohen told Congress that he spoke about the project with Trump — identified as “Individual 1” in the criminal information document that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, filed on Thursday — only three times. He said he never briefed Trump’s family.

According to Mueller’s filing, all of this was false. Efforts to obtain Russian government approval for a Trump-branded development in Moscow went on until “approximately June 2016,” after Trump had effectively secured the Republican nomination for president. Cohen, Mueller’s document said, “discussed the status and progress of the Moscow project with Individual 1” more than three times. He also “briefed family members of Individual 1 within the company about the project.”

In January 2016, according to Mueller’s document, Cohen had a 20-minute conversation with the assistant to a Russian official in which he sought Russia’s help moving the project forward. The next day, Felix Sater, a Trump associate identified in the court filing as “Individual 2,” wrote Cohen to tell him he’d heard from Putin’s office. Cohen made plans to travel to Russia, calling them off only on June 14, which happened to be the day that The Washington Post first reported that Russian government hackers had penetrated Democratic National Committee computers. At one point, Cohen and Sater were also coordinating with figures in Moscow about a potential Trump visit in connection with the project.

So we now know that Trump lied to the American people about at least one part of his business relationship with Russia, a geopolitical foe that interfered in our election process on his behalf.

In a Jan. 11, 2017, news conference, Trump said that the “closest I came to Russia” was in selling a Palm Beach mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008. While we’re just learning precisely how dishonest this was, Putin has known it all along. That means that throughout Trump’s campaign and presidency, Putin has had the power to plunge him into political crisis.

Donald Trump is compromised on multiple levels by his financial relationship with Vladimir Putin, period.  That is unacceptable for an American leader.  The information in Cohen's plea alone should be the death knell for the the regime, leading to Trump's resignation and a growing demand by both parties until he does resign.  That won't happen of course, as Republicans have no honor, no morals, and no patriotism.

Everything past this point should be whistling past the graveyard of this disaster.  Trump's spiral into oblivion should take the GOP with it, permanently.  Let's understand here that Trump's plans to give Putin the penthouse of the Trump Tower Moscow as a $50 million gift is absolutely a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and he should be impeached and removed from office on that alone. Josh Marshall:

Small point in the rapidly unfolding batches of information about the Trump campaign’s dealing with Russia in the summer of 2016. There’s this thing called the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The gist of it is that American business people can’t bribe people abroad to do business overseas. There are some questions on the margins about what entails bribery or related corrupt practices. But offering a $50 million penthouse to the strongman of the state where you’re trying to build a luxury real estate development is definitely not legit.
As you probably saw yesterday, Michael Cohen and Felix Sater planned to do just that. They may even have made the offer. It clearly wasn’t finalized since the building was never built. But this suggests a line of criminal activity entirely separate from all the issues tied to conspiracy, collusion and the more outlandish activities we’re focused on.

There may be no criminal vulnerability on this front because they didn’t actually give Putin the Penthouse. Perhaps it was just Felix and Michael brainstorming between themselves. But the crime doesn’t need to be completed to be a crime. So it’s worth keeping an eye on this part of the equation.

There's no way Trump gets out of this one.  At the very least, the $50 million penthouse looked like a payoff to Putin for his help with Trump's campaign. 

It's only a question now of just how bad the final tally will be.


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