Saturday, December 29, 2018

House Of Pain

NY Times DC reporter Carl Hulse helpfully notes that the vast majority of returning House Republicans have never been the minority party, and that they're in for some wacky good times.

About two-thirds of Republicans returning to the House for the 116th Congress this week have never experienced the exquisite pain of being on the outs in an institution where the party in charge is totally in charge. Majority control runs the gamut from determining the floor agenda to determining access to the prime meeting space. It will be a rude awakening for many who have known only their exalted majority status.

“They say you will have a lot more time on your hands and will vote ‘no’ a lot more often,” said Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who was elected in the 2010 wave that handed control of the House to Republicans in President Barack Obama’s first midterm election.

The reign lasted eight years before the November midterms and the Democratic gain of 40 seats, a thorough beating that many Republicans did not anticipate. Mr. Kinzinger said the culture shift might be hardest on those colleagues who, unlike himself, believed the election was going to turn out quite differently.

“We have come to grips with the shock of the election,” he said, “but the shock of governing will still be a wake-up call for some people.”

Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma and a veteran of stints in both the minority and the majority, groaned when asked what advice he had for his House brethren who had tasted only life on top.

“Oh. Sheesh,” Mr. Cole said, hemming and hawing before advising, only half-jokingly, “Smoke a lot; drink a lot.”

“You are going to get some real disappointment,” he said of his colleagues. “They are going to find out how good they had it in the majority, particularly when we had a Republican Senate, as frustrating as that could be.”

Unlike the Senate, where individual members can exert some influence whether they are in the majority or not, those on the sidelines in the House have few options. After years of being in the know about the House agenda and majority strategy, Republican lawmakers will now struggle to even ascertain what the schedule is.

“You control nothing,” said Representative Peter T. King, the New York Republican who will be experiencing his fourth transition in House power — 1995 to Republican control, 2007 to Democratic supremacy, back to Republicans in 2011 and now another reassertion of Democratic might. “As far as calling the shots, we have nothing like the Senate where one guy can filibuster. You have no recourse.”

Mr. King, a former chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, remembers being shut out of conference rooms when Democrats regained the majority in 2007. Republicans anticipate finding the convenient meeting rooms they took for granted will be off limits.

It's petty, yes.  But it's also a metaphor for what Republicans are discovering is happening to their party of casual white supremacy.  When you decide that only white men matter, and you're outnumbered...

Well, you lose.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

According to TIME Magazine's major story this weekend, everything about Paul Manafort owing the Russian mob $20 million and then using his position as Trump's campaign chairman to cut a deal with them to pay back the debt is true.

When the U.S. government put out its latest sanctions list on Dec. 19, the man named at the top did not seem especially important. Described in the document as a former Russian intelligence officer, he was accused of handling money and negotiations on behalf of a powerful Russian oligarch. The document did not mention that the man, Victor Boyarkin, had links to the 2016 campaign of President Donald Trump.

A months-long investigation by TIME, however, found that Boyarkin, a former arms dealer with a high forehead and a very low profile, was a key link between a senior member of the Trump campaign and a powerful ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In his only interview with the media about those connections, Boyarkin told TIME this fall that he was in touch with Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in the heat of the presidential race on behalf of the Russian oligarch. “He owed us a lot of money,” Boyarkin says. “And he was offering ways to pay it back.”

The former Russian intelligence officer says he has been approached by the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Boyarkin’s response to those investigators? “I told them to go dig a ditch,” he says. Peter Carr, the spokesman for the Special Counsel’s Office, declined to comment. Through his spokesman, Manafort likewise declined to comment on his alleged connections with Boyarkin.

But those connections could be potentially important to the Special Counsel’s inquiry. They would mark some of the clearest evidence of the leverage that powerful Russians had over Trump’s campaign chairman. And they may shed light on why Manafort discussed going right back to work for pro-Russian interests in Eastern Europe after he crashed out of the Trump campaign in August 2016, according to numerous sources in the TIME investigation

Then of course after getting canned from the Trump campaign, Manafort went on to try to help Russia replace Montenegro's government with a pro-Russian cabal, only that went completely south when the Montenegin government arrested the coup leaders.

And then Manafort got arrested.

The funny part is Boyarkin basically acknowledged the entire story to TIME.

When he joined the campaign in the spring of 2016, Manafort was nearly broke. The veteran political consultant had racked up bills worth millions of dollars in luxury real estate, clothing, cars and antiques. According to allegations contained in court records filed in the U.S. and the Cayman Islands, he was also deeply in debt to Boyarkin’s boss, the Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who was demanding money from Manafort over a failed business deal in Ukraine and other ventures.

Boyarkin says it fell to him to collect the debt from Manafort. “I came down on him hard,” he says. But the American proved elusive. In a petition filed in the Cayman Islands in 2014, lawyers for Deripaska, a metals tycoon with close ties to the Kremlin, complain that Manafort and his then-partner had “simply disappeared” with around $19 million of the Russian’s money.

When he reappeared in the headlines around April 2016, Manafort was serving as an unpaid adviser to the Trump campaign. He wanted his long-time patron in Moscow to know all about it.

In a series of emails sent that spring and summer, Manafort tried to offer “private briefings” about the presidential race to Deripaska, apparently, as one of the emails puts it, to “get whole.” Reports in The Atlantic and the Washington Post revealed those emails in the fall of 2017. Among the questions that remained unanswered was the identity of Manafort’s contact in Moscow, the one referred to in one of the emails as “our friend V.”

Even after TIME learned his full name in April, he proved a difficult man to find. His online presence amounted to digital scraps: one photo of him at a conference in Moscow, a few benign quotes in the Russian media from his years selling arms for state-linked companies, and some vague references in U.S. government archives to someone by that name, “Commander Viktor A. Boyarkin,” serving in the 1990s as an assistant naval attaché at the Russian embassy in Washington, D.C. – a job sometimes used as cover for intelligence agents.

Only in early October was a TIME reporter able to track Boyarkin down. In the company of a senior Russian diplomat and two young assistants from Moscow, he attended a conference in Greece that was organized by one of Putin’s oldest friends, the former KGB agent and state railway boss Vladimir Yakunin. “How did you find me here,” was the question Boyarkin asked, repeatedly, when confronted about his ties to Manafort during a coffee break at that conference.

Once he agreed to discuss their relationship, it was mostly to confirm the basic facts, often with a curt, “Yes, so what.” (He did not respond to numerous requests for comment after his name appeared on the U.S sanctions list on Dec. 19.)

So, yeah.  Trump's campaign chairman was compromised and owed the Russian mob millions.  Yet he was hired anyway.  In fact, the man who suggested him to Trump was Mike Pence.

Probably worth keeping in mind.
Related Posts with Thumbnails