Thursday, February 28, 2019

Last Call For Kim's Inconvenience

Donald Trump's dog and pony show in Vietnam collapsed completely as he walked away from the summit table with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un having earned nothing.

President Trump and Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, abruptly ended their second summit meeting on Thursday after talks collapsed with the two leaders failing to agree on any steps toward nuclear disarmament or measures to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

“Sometimes you have to walk,” Mr. Trump said at an afternoon news conference in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam.

He said Mr. Kim had offered to dismantle the North’s most important nuclear facility if the United States lifted the harsh sanctions imposed on his nation — but would not commit to do the same for other elements of its weapons program. That, Mr. Trump said, was a dealbreaker.

“It was about the sanctions,” Mr. Trump said. “Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, but we couldn’t do that.”

The premature end to the negotiations leaves the unusual rapprochement between the United States and North Korea that has unfolded for most of a year at a deadlock, with the North retaining both its nuclear arsenal and facilities believed to be producing additional fissile material for warheads.

It also represents a major setback at a difficult political moment for Mr. Trump, who has long presented himself as a tough negotiator capable of bringing adversaries into a deal and had made North Korea the signature diplomatic initiative of his presidency.

Even as the talks began, Mr. Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, was delivering dramatic and damaging testimony in Congress, accusing him of an expansive pattern of lies and criminality.

There's that.  Trump ran away because he had to get back to Washington and deal with the absolute disaster that the Cohen testimony was for him and his family.  They are all going to prison and for a very long time.

Trump will still spin this as a victory, his rabid fanbase will call him brilliant for being "brave" and walking away from a summit that he never could have made an agreement on, but even Trump appeared deflated on this.

He knows he has a much, much bigger problem to deal with back home.

Bibi Busted Big Time, Con't

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing three major bribery and corruption cases, and with early national elections that he called for just 40 days away, Bibi figured any possible indictments for a sitting PM would never come as he could say they were a direct effort to interfere in an election.  He figured he had another term as Prime Minister in the bag.

Today he found out just how wrong he was.

Israel's attorney general announced Thursday that his office had indicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on corruption charges after a two-year investigation.

The prime minister faces one count of bribery and two counts of fraud and breach of trust.

Police have previously recommended indicting Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three different cases.

Police recommended an indictment in the case based on evidence collected that confidants of Netanyahu promoted regulatory changes worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Bezeq. In exchange, they believe Netanyahu used his connections with Elovitch to receive positive press coverage on Bezeq's popular subsidiary news site, Walla. Police have said their investigation concluded that Netanyahu and Elovitch engaged in a "bribe-based relationship."

Police also recommended charges be brought against Elovitch, members of his family and members of his Bezeq management team.

Police have previously recommended indicting Netanyahu on corruption charges in two other cases. One involves accepting gifts from billionaire friends, and the second revolves around alleged offers of advantageous legislation for a major newspaper in return for favorable coverage.

Netanyahu, 69, who is serving his third consecutive term as prime minister and his fourth overall, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and called the various allegations against him a witch hunt aimed at removing him from office.

The attorney general's decision to publish his conclusions 39 days prior to the general election on April 9 is raising questions about what impact it can have on the outcome of the vote.

Israeli media reported Thursday that with just hours to go before Mandelblit's anticipated decision to indict Netanyahu, his Likud Party filed a petition to the Supreme Court to stop the announcement from happening before the election on the grounds that it would unfairly impact on Netanyahu's prospects of re-election. However, the court's spokesperson confirmed later in the afternoon that the petition was rejected.

The indictment marks the first time in Israeli history that a sitting prime minister has been charged with a crime

It'll be years before the case will be heard, of course.  But an indicted politician running for leader of Israel is probably not going to be very successful.  This puts the future of Israel very much up in the air.  There's no way Bibi resigns, he's too much of an ass.

Where does Israel go from here?  We'll see.  Uncharted territory for sure.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

The Michel Cohen show on Wednesday delivered all that was promised and then some, as Donald Trump's former fixer implicated him in multiple criminal activities while in the White House, activities that are definitely being investigated by the Southern District of New York federal investigation into the Trump Organization.

Even if those watching didn't believe anything else he said, Donald Trump's former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, left no doubt that he is working closely with prosecutors in Manhattan's Southern District in criminal investigations that could end up roiling the Trump presidency. Unlike the special counsel, those prosecutors have no specific mandate — they can investigate any crime that comes to their attention.

"Is there any other wrongdoing or illegal act that you are aware of regarding Donald Trump that we haven't yet discussed today?" Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois asked Cohen, in the middle of the seven-and-and-a-half hour hearing full of stunning, ugly allegations.

Cohen replied: "Yes and again those are a part of the investigation that's currently being looked at by the Southern District of New York." 
It wasn't even the day's biggest headline. Cohen, who once said he would take a bullet for Trump, attacked his former boss in deeply personal terms, painting a picture of racism, deceit and immorality. He spoke about hush money payments, lies about a real estate project in Russia, an overheard phone call between Trump and Roger Stone, and potential tax and bank fraud.

But Cohen's comments about the Southern District investigations may be what figure as the most important of the hearing a year from now.

In an answer sure to be seized on by the president and his allies, Cohen said he knew of no evidence that Trump or anyone around him colluded with the Russian election interference effort. He also testified he had never been to Prague or met with Russians in Europe, refuting a key allegation by a former British intelligence officer whose dossier sketched out a Trump-Russian conspiracy.

But even as Cohen poured water on the Russia collusion narrative, he fueled the idea that Trump's biggest legal problems have to do with his real estate business, his taxes, his bank statements, and the secret payments he made to women.

The disbarred lawyer, scheduled to report for a three-year prison sentence in May, came to the hearing with a $35,000 check written to him by Trump, dated Aug. 2017, seven months into the Trump presidency. That was part of the payback, Cohen said, for the illegal campaign contribution he made by paying $130,000 to the porn star known as Stormy Daniels.

Cohen had already testified Trump ordered him to commit a felony; now he was showing that Trump participated in the alleged scheme while occupying the Oval Office.

Asked after the hearing if he believed Cohen established that the president had committed a crime while in office, House oversight chairman Elijah Cummings answered, "It appears that he did

I don't know very much about Cohen in Prague, that seemed a bit too neat to me, but there still more than enough here to have Trump and his kids sweating.  They're going to prison.  It may not be Mueller that lowers the hammer, but the SDNY folks aren't screwing around and there's nothing Trump can do to stop them.


Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Last Call For A War On The Board

Meanwhile, events in Kashmir have gotten so tense that India and Pakistan are all but in an open shooting war.

Tensions between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan escalated sharply on Wednesday, following conflicting claims by both of having shot down each other’s fighter aircraft in aerial ‘dogfights’ in the disputed Kashmir region.

A day after Indian Air Force (IAF) fighters attacked an alleged terrorist camp deep inside Pakistan, Islamabad said it had captured one Indian pilot after his aircraft was shot down in the first air-to-air engagement between the two forces since their last major war in 1971.

Pakistan military spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had shot down two Indian fighters after they strayed into Pakistani air space and captured one pilot.

He told reporters in Islamabad that one of the IAF aircraft crashed in Pakistan-administered Kashmir while the second was hit and “limped” back to its base on the Indian side of the disputed principality.

He also displayed the seized pilot’s identity documents, in addition to publicising video clips of the trussed-up and bloodied pilot on social media outlets, in which he identifies himself and reveals only his service serial number.

India has called on Islamabad to treat the officer humanely and in accordance with the Geneva Convention. In a demarche to a senior Pakistani diplomat from its embassy in Delhi, India’s foreign ministry has demanded the pilot’s swift return.

An Indian foreign ministry official provided a different account of the events that led to the pilot’s capture. Raveesh Kumar claimed that Pakistan had responded to Tuesday’s attack by the IAF on a terrorist camp deep inside its territory by launching a retaliatory strike early the following morning against Indian military installations in Kashmir.

There's every indication that this is only going to get worse, and may I remind everyone, India and Pakistan are both nuclear powers.  Commercial flights to Pakistan have been suspended and Indian PM Modi has effective slipped the leash on India's military.

It's going to get bad most likely, and quickly.

Ohio Gets The Gas Face

Over at the Cincinnati Enquirer, politics writer Jason Williams argues that the incoming 18 cents-per-gallon gas tax increase is the result of eight years of John Kasich's funding neglect as governor, and not current GOP governor Mike DeWine's fault.

The next time you hear John Kasich on CNN or on a campaign trail bragging about how he was such a budget hawk during his time as Ohio governor, remember this:

His parting gift to Ohioans was leaving the transportation budget in shambles. The fallout: The cost of your commute is likely going to increase beginning in July.

Kasich kicked the can for years on a long-term budget fix in order to help preserve his political future – leaving the state facing a projected shortfall of $1 billion a year for roads over the next decade.

As the legislature mulls new Gov. Mike DeWine's whopping 18-cents-per-gallon gas tax increase, don't forget this: This tax hike is very much a part of Kasich's legacy.

If the legislature approves DeWine's plan, Ohio's gas tax would increase to 46 cents per gallon – fifth-highest in the U.S.

Don't blame DeWine, who has the political capital to do this because he's in his job before retirement. His options are limited, especially considering the Kasich administration strapped the state with hundreds of millions in debt to fix roads and bridges.

I don't blame either of them...I blame Ohio's GOP state lawmakers who spent years cutting taxes for the rich and for fracking companies (the latter something Kasich actually tried to stop) and didn't give a damn about the state's roads or bridges.  Republicans had a supermajroity in both the Ohio House and Senate for years and did nothing to alleviate the problem then.

Now DeWine is stuck holding the bag, but he still has the same GOP majorities to get this past, and odds are they won't pass it, while Ohio's infrastructure continues to fall apart.

Williams goes on to say Kasich was too much of a coward to fix the budget and raise taxes in order to maintain his business-friendly image heading into 2020 and that's correct, but the tax issue isn't his problem, it's the Ohio State House, and it always has been.

Kids Are Still In Cages

And these kids in Trump™ Brand Immigrant Youth Detention Facilities are being sexually abused by the thousands, because the regime cares so very much about the sanctity of human life.

The Department of Health and Human Services received more than 4,500 complaints of sexual abuse against unaccompanied minors from 2014-2018, according to internal agency documents released Tuesday by Florida Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch. 
In addition,1,303 complaints were reported to the Justice Department during that same time frame, according to the documents. 
Deutch addressed the documents during a high-profile House hearing Tuesday on the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy that resulted in thousands of immigrant children being separated from their parents. 
He said that the documents "demonstrate over the past three years, there have been 154 staff on unaccompanied minor, let me repeat that, staff on unaccompanied minor allegations of sexual assault." 
"This works out on average to one sexual assault by HHS staff on unaccompanied minor per week," he added. 
Axios first reported the documents. 
"I am deeply concerned with documents that have been turned over by HHS that record a high number of sexual assaults on unaccompanied children in the custody of the Office of Refugee and Resettlement," Deutch said. "Together, these documents detail an environment of systemic sexual assaults by staff on unaccompanied children."

This should be a massive story leading to mass resignations from the Trump regime, but nobody cares.  And yes, I know that 2014-2018 means that this happened during the Obama administration too, but they're already all resigned, yes?  Sylvia Burwell has some questions to answer, certainly.

But current HHS secretary Alex Azar however has far more, as does Azar's predecessor, Tom Price.  In fact, Azar is already the fifth person to hold this position, acting or otherwise, in the Trump regime.  I'd like to hope that Rep. Deutch will be calling on them to elaborate.


Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Last Call For How To Steal An Election

Mark Harris, the Republican election fraudster who essentially stole his 2018 House election in NC before being caught, exposed, and tossed under the bus by his own family in testimony last week resulting in the state Board of Elections calling for a new election to be held, now says he will not run for the seat after all, citing health reasons.

In a statement, Republican Mark Harris cited ongoing issues with his health, including surgery scheduled for late March, as a main factor in his decision not to run again.

“While few things in my life have brought me more joy than getting to meet and know the people of this incredible part of North Carolina, and while I have been overwhelmed by the honor of their support for me as the Congressman-elect of NC-9, I owe it to Beth, my children and my six grandchildren to make the wisest decision for my health,” Harris said in the statement. “I also owe it to the citizens of the Ninth District to have someone at full strength during the new campaign. It is my hope that in the upcoming primary, a solid conservative leader will emerge to articulate the critical issues that face our nation.”

Harris led Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes after November’s election, but the NC Board of Elections decided not to certify the race due to challenges and questions about absentee ballots in Bladen County.

Harris is endorsing Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing for the seat, Rushing has been a major supporter of Harris and got the County Board to pass a resolution demanding Harris be seated.
Who is Stony Rushing?  Well...

Rushing will have a number of competitors though.

Former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour confirmed to Channel 9 he is seriously considering a run for the seat. Ridenhour, who, like McCready, is a former U.S. Marine, said he hopes to make a decision soon.

Former Gov. Pat McCrory said he is not making any announcements about future elections. Former U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger declined to comment. McCrory and Pittenger previously ruled out runs.

Former Charlotte mayoral candidate and City Councilman Kenny Smith could not be reached for comment. Union County GOP Chair Dan Barry declined to comment on if he will run.

Former state Rep. Andy Dulin said he would not rule out a run, but he is not seriously considering one. Former state Rep. Scott Stone said he will not run for the 9th District and will instead likely announce his candidacy for another seat in the coming weeks.

The Democrats though want McCready in that seat and argue if Harris is now out, another primary only means that it could be October before anyone represents the district, and means another immediate campaign for 2020.

No matter who runs, McCready has an immediate cash advantage. McCready has been fundraising for months and recently raised more than $500,000 for a new election.

"We are going to knock on every door and talk to people about putting country over party," McCready said. "We are going to talk to people about sending a new generation of leaders to Washington and fixing the mess up there."

In his news conference Friday, McCready said his team has not decided whether they will try to mount a legal challenge to prevent another primary. McCready said his team hopes to make a decision next week.

We'll see where this goes, but just because Harris is not running again doesn't mean McCready will win.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

Michael Cohen faces the music this week with three days of planned testimony before various House and Senate committees, starting with closed-door testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee today, but the real fun comes at the House Oversight Committee hearing tomorrow, which will be public.  Cohen plans to unload on his former boss and Republicans and their various mouthpieces are already moving to discredit him.

Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, is planning on portraying his onetime client in starkly negative terms when he testifies Wednesday before a House committee, and on describing what he says was Mr. Trump’s use of racist language, lies about his wealth and possible criminal conduct.

Mr. Cohen’s plans were laid out in broad strokes by a person familiar with what he intends to say in his testimony. And they indicate that Mr. Cohen will use documents and his personal experiences to support his statements.

In a statement on Tuesday morning, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, denounced Mr. Cohen.

“Disgraced felon Michael Cohen is going to prison for lying to Congress and making other false statements,” she said. “Sadly, he will go before Congress this week and we can expect more of the same. It’s laughable that anyone would take a convicted liar like Cohen at his word, and pathetic to see him given yet another opportunity to spread his lies.”

Mr. Trump and his allies have been preparing for days for Mr. Cohen’s testimony, which will take place over several hours while the president is in Vietnam for a summit meeting with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. The president’s aides have been anxious about the effect that the testimony might have on him.

They anticipate, though, that Republican allies on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform will aggressively question Mr. Cohen’s credibility, trying to paint him as a liar and accusing him of fabricating stories to help his cause.

Lanny J. Davis, a lawyer and adviser to Mr. Cohen, declined to discuss details of Mr. Cohen’s testimony, saying only that Mr. Cohen “worked very hard on this moment to not only tell the truth, but to back it up with documents.” Mr. Davis said Mr. Cohen’s response to questions about his truthfulness will be “I take full responsibility, I lied in the past; now you have to decide if I’m telling the truth.”

The testimony provides Mr. Cohen with the opportunity to tell his story under penalty of perjury before an audience of millions of people, about two months before he is scheduled to report to prison.

Among the most explosive and potentially damning aspects of Mr. Cohen’s testimony will be providing evidence of potential criminal conduct since Mr. Trump became president, according to the person familiar with the plans.

That potential conduct stems from reimbursements that were made to Mr. Cohen in 2017 for hush money payments that he made to Stormy Daniels, a pornographic film actress. In October 2016, during the height of the presidential campaign, Mr. Cohen paid Ms. Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about her claims of a previous affair with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Cohen will describe in what was called “granular detail” the plan to pay Ms. Daniels, which he will say was initiated by Mr. Trump, the person familiar with the testimony plans said. Mr. Cohen has pleaded guilty to a federal campaign finance-related charge in connection with that payment. Prosecutors have implicated Mr. Trump, identifying him as “Individual 1,” in connection with that charge in documents filed in the case.

He will also discuss how long Mr. Trump continued to ask about plans for a Trump Tower project in Moscow after the Iowa caucuses had taken place in February 2016. Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty last November to lying to Congress in testimony in 2017 about the duration of time over which the Moscow project discussions took place.

Indeed, the attacks against Cohen today have gone full-court press, the White House attacking him, House Republicans attacking him, and various right-wing outlets all laying into Cohen as a liar before he even opened his mouth.  That should tell you how scared they are of tomorrow's testimony.

When It Rains, It Floods in Bevinstan

Here in Kentucky, Gov. Matt Bevin has authorized a state of emergency declaration for an actual emergency.  Days of heavy rains have led to flooding, particularly in the western and central parts of the Bluegrass State.

The Kentucky Division of Emergency Management has received state of emergency declarations from 36 county and 11 cities. KYEM activated the State of Emergency Operations Center on Friday.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is helping combat record-level water releases at Wolf Creek Dam and flooding in Smithland.

The prolonged rain has reportedly led to increased water levels at major dams in central and western Kentucky, which have required record levels of discharge and led to flooding conditions.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released the following statement on Kentucky's flooding:

"I’d like to turn attention to the severe weather that is afflicting communities throughout Kentucky. Many counties—from one end of my state to the other—have declared states of emergency in response to historically high water levels. And just moments ago, Governor Matt Bevin put the entire Commonwealth under a state of emergency to mobilize resources where they’re needed most.

“Many families are evacuating toward safety. Approximately 2,400 people in Eastern and Southern Kentucky are still without power. Mudslides have closed roads, bridges are flooded, and emergency personnel have been deployed to rescue stranded drivers and others in danger.

“I’m grateful to the first responders working around the clock to keep their communities safe. It may be a difficult road to recovery, but Kentuckians are already pitching in to help their neighbors in need. My staff and I are ready to work with emergency management officials and will continue to monitor this situation closely.”

Much of that is south of here, but it still means the state is in bad shape.  Bevin declaring the entire state a disaster area means everyone can at least start getting help.  The rains have been pretty bad over the last couple of weeks.  Now contrast with the fact that at the same time, Kentucky Republicans are moving ahead with a massive austerity bill that will cut billions in benefits from people who need them the most.

Top House Republicans have filed a bill that would enact sweeping changes in Kentucky's system of public benefits — including Medicaid, food stamps and temporary cash aid for the poor — adding work requirements, drug tests and benefit cuts that opponents say would be disastrous.

"This is the most severe attack on Kentucky's safety net in our state's history," said Dustin Pugel, a policy analyst with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy. "I've never seen anything like this.

"This is the war on the poor," he said.

House Speaker David Osborne, a Prospect Republican and primary sponsor of House Bill 3, filed Feb. 20 — the deadline for House bills this legislative session — described it as a bill meant to encourage more Kentuckians to work.

"I do believe it helps transition people off public assistance and back into the workforce," said Osborne, who is joined as sponsor of HB 3 by Rep. David Meade, a Stanford Republican and House speaker pro tem.

But advocates familiar with the bill disagree, saying it's a compilation of conservative talking points meant to cut public aid to the poor.

"It's designed to cut people off from assistance," said Jason Dunn, with the advocacy group Kentucky Voices for Health. "This pulls all the bad ideas from past years and adds a couple of news ones and rolls them into one bill."

The bill would cut direct aid to the poorest families by more than 80%, from $171 million to $40 million, and add work requirements, photo ID requirements, and drug testing (already ruled unconstitutional in other states) to SNAP, Medicaid, and TANF.

It's horrific.

And there's basically no way Kentucky Democrats can stop it.  I'm not sure why this bill would come up in an election year for Matt Bevin, but if this passes and he signs this, he's toast.

He'll sign it anyway.


Monday, February 25, 2019

Last Call For The Money Men

After the 2018 midterms, major GOP donors no longer believe Donald Trump can win in 2020, and they want his campaign people to start answering questions before they'll fork over another dime. It's all kabuki though.

Late last month, more than 100 major Republican donors gathered at the Trump International Hotel for a presentation from the president’s campaign manager Brad Parscale and other top political hands on their plans to keep the White House in 2020 after a brutal midterm election.

But several of the GOP contributors left the two-day retreat in Washington dissatisfied, dogged by essentially the same concern: The president doesn’t really have a strategy to win reelection.

They are chiefly worried about how he intends to prevail again in the Rust Belt states that voted for Trump in 2016, but where Democrats performed strongly in last year's midterms. But there are also concerns about whether the president's fundraising apparatus is up to the task, and whether Trump will trample on any strategy or message the campaign does develop, as he frequently does.

This account is based on interviews with nearly a dozen people connected to Trump’s reelection, including two donors who attended the retreat and other Republican contributors who’ve given to Trump in the past. Several campaign aides, who say they have spoken with anxious donors, also spoke to POLITICO. Most of the sources spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid upsetting Trump.

Some level of nervousness is not uncommon at the outset of a presidential reelection effort. Trump's campaign manager said the team is confident in its game plan and that any fears are misplaced.

But based on the interviews, the campaign plainly has work to do to assuage at least some of the Republican donor class, which he will need to finance a massive campaign infrastructure that he lacked in 2016. Several donors who regularly contribute to Republican presidential candidates and the political groups supporting Trump said his campaign didn’t learn from its mistakes during the 2018 midterm elections, when Republicans lost control of the House and suffered other defeats nationwide.

“We took a shellacking in the midterms,” said Dan Eberhart, a major Republican donor and energy company executive who did not attend the conference but speaks frequently with other Trump givers. “Donors are concerned that the Trump reelect might draw the wrong conclusions from the Republicans' defeat in the 2018 midterms and are stressing to administration sources and the nascent campaign that a more inclusive ... strategy is needed" that reaches beyond the president's core supporters.

Trump’s strategy in the midterms was mostly confined to rallying his base at raucous rallies in states that backed him for president, while largely ignoring moderates and independents.

“There’s a lot of anxiety,” said a longtime Republican donor and friend of Trump. “There isn’t a lot of confidence ... among the donor group, the broader Republican group important to the reelection.”

Trump will say he doesn't need them, but he does.  And the GOP donors will pretend they haven't already bought a one-way ticket to hell on the Trump Train, but they don't have a choice. Unless anyone honestly thinks the slavering horde of MAGA-heads are going to stand for Trump being primaried, all this is kayfabe, a dog and pony show, and it's ultimately useless.

Trump will make promises the donors want to hear and they will back him.

Trump Cards, Con't

Another day, another lawsuit against Donald Trump alleging sexual assault, this time we add former Trump 2016 campaign staffer Alva Johnson to the long, long list of women Trump has been accused of assaulting.

A staffer on Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign says he kissed her without her consent at a small gathering of supporters before a Florida rally, an interaction that she alleges in a new lawsuit still causes her anguish.

In interviews with The Washington Post, and in the lawsuit, Alva Johnson said Trump grabbed her hand and leaned in to kiss her on the lips as he exited an RV outside the rally in Tampa on Aug. 24, 2016. Johnson said she turned her head and the unwanted kiss landed on the side of her mouth, which she called “super-creepy and inappropriate.”

“I immediately felt violated because I wasn’t expecting it or wanting it,” she said. “I can still see his lips coming straight for my face.”

Johnson said she told her boyfriend, mother and stepfather about the incident later that day, an account all three confirmed to The Post. Two months later, Johnson consulted a Florida attorney about the unwanted kiss; he gave The Post text messages showing that he considered her “credible” but did not take her case for business reasons. The attorney gave Johnson the name of a therapist, whose notes, which The Post reviewed, reference an unspecified event during the campaign that had left her distraught.

In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders dismissed Johnson’s allegation as “absurd on its face.”

“This never happened and is directly contradicted by multiple highly credible eye witness accounts,” she wrote.

Two Trump supporters that Johnson identified as witnesses — a campaign official and Pam Bondi, then the Florida attorney general — denied seeing the alleged kiss in interviews with The Post.

While more than a dozen other women have publicly accused Trump of touching them in some inappropriate way, Johnson is the only accuser to come forward since he took office and the only one to allege unwanted contact during the campaign. Trump faces a defamation lawsuit in New York brought by Summer Zervos, a former “Apprentice” reality TV contestant, who claims he forcibly kissed and groped her in 2007.

The wheels of justice turn slowly but grind exceedingly fine, as they say.  Of course, Trump being in the Oval Office and all, well he can slow those wheels to an imperceptible crawl.  Republicans impeached Clinton for less, after all.  Meanwhile, New Yorker investigative reporter Ronan Farrow reminds us that the real outcome of Johnson's lawsuit is proving Trump's nondisclosure agreements are unenforceable, and that they are finally being challenged in court.

The most legally significant aspect of Johnson’s suit may ultimately be something the complaint does not explicitly address: the pervasive use of nondisclosure agreements by Trump during his campaign and in his Administration. Johnson’s suit is at least the sixth legal case in which Trump campaign or Administration employees have defied their nondisclosure agreements. Three of those actions, including Johnson’s, were filed this month. Johnson, who was the campaign’s administrative field-operations director in Florida, signed a nondisclosure agreement that bars her from revealing any information “in any way detrimental to the Company, Mr. Trump, any Family Member, any Trump Company or any Family Member company.” Johnson’s attorney, Hassan Zavareei, said, “We expect that Trump will try to use the unconscionable N.D.A. and forced arbitration agreement to silence Ms. Johnson. We will fight this strong-arm tactic.”

The White House referred questions about the nondisclosure agreements to Michael Glassner, the chief operating officer of Trump’s reëlection campaign. He said in a statement, “The campaign takes our NDA agreements very seriously, and will enforce them aggressively if they are breached.” Johnson said that she considers the issues raised by her suit important enough to merit breaching the contract. “I am suing because my work holds the same value as the work of my white male counterparts,” Johnson said, in an interview. “I am suing because this predatory behavior should not be minimized, especially when committed by the most powerful man in the world.”

Nondisclosure agreements are routinely employed in the business world, but experts say that there is little comprehensive data on how they are used by Presidential campaigns. Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign reportedly required paid staff to sign such agreements, but Trump’s campaign seemed to use the agreements more widely, and even required unpaid volunteers to sign them. The practice has carried over to the Trump White House. The Washington Post reported last year that dozens of White House aides had signed N.D.A.s, a break in tradition from previous Administrations, which used the contracts more sparingly. White House interns have also reportedly been asked to sign the agreements as part of their mandatory “ethics training.”

We'll see where this goes, but remember that Trump's greatest weakness is the people around him talking, and he knows it.

One For The Ladies

It's 2019, and with the Pentagon allowing women in combat roles up to an including Special Operations, a federal judge has declared the draft being male-only to be unconstitutional, ordering the Selective Service to start registering men and women at age 18.

A military draft that applies only to men is unconstitutional, a federal judge in Houston has ruled, saying that excluding women is no longer justified because they can now serve in combat roles just as men do.

Judge Gray H. Miller of Federal District Court in the Southern District of Texas took note of the Supreme Court’s 1981 ruling that the exclusion of women from the draft was “fully justified” because women then were not allowed to serve in combat. But the Pentagon abolished those restrictions in 2015, opening the way for women to serve in any military role for which they could qualify.

“While historical restrictions on women in the military may have justified past discrimination, men and women are now ‘similarly situated for purposes of a draft or registration for a draft,’” Judge Miller wrote in his ruling. “If there ever was a time to discuss ‘the place of women in the Armed Services,’ that time has passed.”

Though no one has been conscripted into the United States military in more than 40 years, the Military Selective Service Act requires all American men to register when they turn 18, in case a draft is reinstated; they remain eligible through age 25. Men who do not register can be fined, imprisoned and denied services like federal student loans.

The ruling came in a case brought by the National Coalition for Men, a men’s rights group, which argued that drafting men exclusively violates the 14th Amendment’s equal-protection clause.

Kate Germano, a retired Marine who served for 20 years, said on Sunday that the ruling was a natural progression from the lifting of the ban on women in combat roles.

“It would be an advantage to the country, and also for men, who have bore the preponderance of the burden since the draft was established,” Ms. Germano said of registering women. Noting that women make up slightly more than half the adult population, she said, “Why not leverage all of the talent pool?”

David R. Segal, the founding director of the Center for Research on Military Organization at the University of Maryland, said he supports retaining draft registration, and that as a matter of equality, both men and women should be part of it.

“Since registration for selective service is one of the indicators of citizenship, I think we should at least say publicly that women and men have the same rights and responsibilities of citizenship,” said Mr. Segal, who has been studying military organization for more than 50 years.

The men’s rights group that brought the suit welcomed the ruling. “We think it’s about time since women are allowed in combat,” Marc E. Angelucci, a lawyer for the National Coalition for Men, said. “If we have draft registration, both sexes should have to register. There’s really no more excuse to require only men to register.”

The Pentagon declined to comment on Sunday.

Of course, the men's rights geniuses figure if women start getting registered for the draft, and killed in combat missions, the country will immediately recoil in horror and put an end to it, proving once and for all that men are superior to women.  At least that's how it goes if you have a soiled jockstrap for a brain.

This will be proof, conservatives say, that women should want and need separation from men, the price of that being admission that they are the weaker sex, and need protection from burly alphas As God Above Intended.  They expect a massive outcry that women shouldn't have to register, and it's checkmate for the men, proving women are weak after all.

Considering none of these idiots would want their sons to go to war either, my guess is that all this will do is prevent the draft from happening again, ever. Not a bad outcome, but a stupid way to get it.  Meanwhile, the Pentagon will continue to have women in combat roles like several of our allies do, without drafts or conscription.

(Not talking to you, Israel.)


Sunday, February 24, 2019

Climate Of Uncertainty, Con't

The Trump regime is now in the process of choosing climate denier scientists for a "new assessment" of climate science, because apparently the one the entire rest of the world agreed on is flawed or something and we really need new rong biased climate science.

The White House plans to create an ad hoc group of select federal scientists to reassess the government’s analysis of climate science and counter its conclusions that the continued burning of fossil fuels is harming the planet, according to three administration officials.

The National Security Council initiative would include scientists who question the severity of climate impacts and the extent to which humans contribute to the problem, according to these individuals, who asked for anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. The group would not be subject to the same level of public disclosure as a formal advisory committee.

The move would represent the Trump administration’s most forceful effort to date to challenge the scientific consensus that greenhouse gas emissions are helping drive global warming and that the world could face dire consequences unless countries curb their carbon output over the next few decades.

The idea of a new working group, which top administration officials discussed Friday in the White House Situation Room, represents a modified version of an earlier plan to establish a federal advisory panel on climate and national security. That plan — championed by William Happer, NSC’s senior director and a physicist who has challenged the idea that carbon dioxide could damage the planet — would have created an independent federal advisory committee.

The Federal Advisory Committee Act imposes several ground rules for such panels, including that they meet in public, are subject to public records requests and include a representative membership.

While the plan is not finalized, NSC officials said they would take steps to assemble a group of researchers within the government. The group will not be tasked with scrutinizing recent intelligence community assessments of climate change, according to officials familiar with the plan.

The National Security Council declined requests to comment on the matter.

Josh Marshall wonders why the Trump regime is bothering to do this.

The world and basically everyone in the United States, regardless of which side of the equation they’re on, realizes that the US government is officially indifferent to climate change and against the range of policy actions virtually every other government in the world, at least in principle if not always in practice, supports. It’s hard to see how this changes that or even strengthens that position. It seems more like just a rightwing hobbyhorse, an act on principle, a sort of global owning the libs.

Good question.

Bottom line, John Bolton and the NSC is now in charge of Trump regime climate denial, and refuting it will become a "national security" issue.  It will become the official position of the United States that climate change doesn't exist, more importantly I expect that we'll see US corporations be told in no uncertain terms that climate mitigation efforts will become a threat to US security.

If you thought the Trump regime was hostile to climare science before, wait until climate change denial becomes the official government policy of the US and its people, in education, and in science.

That's the point.

Whether we like it or not.

The Drums Of War, Con't

The Trump regime's move for "regime change" in Venezuela is moving into high gear as humanitarian aid convoys being sent to the border are being opposed by Nicholas Maduro's forces.  Maduro knows the aid convoys contain US military troops with missions to destabilize his government, so either he lets them in and rolls the dice, or blocks them with force for the world to put on TV.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's "days are numbered" after deadly clashes over humanitarian aid.

"Picking exact days is difficult. I'm confident that the Venezuelan people will ensure that Maduro's days are numbered," Mr Pompeo told CNN.

Two people died in Saturday's clashes between civilians and troops loyal to Mr Maduro, who blocks aid deliveries.

Self-declared interim President Juan Guaidó said Mr Maduro must resign.

Mr Guaidó also called on other nations to consider "all measures" to oust Mr Maduro after opposition-led efforts to bring in aid descended in the clashes.

Mr Guaidó marshalled volunteers to collect and transport the aid from Brazil and Colombia - but this set off fierce border clashes with soldiers, who opened fire using a mixture of live ammunition and rubber bullets.

US President Donald Trump says he has not ruled out an armed response.

On Sunday, the European Union joined the condemnation.

"We reject the use of irregular armed groups to intimidate civilians and lawmakers who have mobilised to distribute aid," said EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini

We're not too far, months, maybe weeks, from that Trump regime armed response in Venezuela, and Trump knows an ongoing US war in South America will shield him from the Mueller report.  Republicans will simply say "We're at war right now, we don't have time for this" and we'll remain there as long as it takes.

It's ridiculous that we're having this conversation again, but here we are.

Sunday Long Read: A Study In Teaching

Our Sunday Long Read is a series of three articles on where the future of public school education is going in red state Trump's America, and it's going straight to hell.  First, things are so bad in red states trying to starve black kids of education that Mississippi is putting uncertified teachers in classrooms just to have adult bodies in classrooms.

Not long after Cortez Moss accepted the job as principal of Quitman County Middle School in 2016, he realized that his first months would be devoted nearly entirely to teacher recruitment. He was studying an Excel hiring tracker at home one March afternoon when the reality sunk in: Only four of the school’s 24 teachers would be returning in the fall.

The 26-year-old had to find 20 replacement teachers — as well as a custodian, two secretaries and a guidance counselor — all by the time school reopened in early August.

“I was like, I think I just took the wrong job,” he recalled.

In a state that has been battling teacher shortages for decades, Moss’ struggle is commonplace, especially in the Mississippi Delta.

In over 20 years, the problem has escalated, according to data from the Mississippi Department of Education. The teacher shortage is actually six times worse than it was in 1997, shortly before the Legislature addressed the issue with the passage of the Critical Teacher Shortage Act.

The state’s attempt to address the crisis so far has fallen short, leaving local leaders like Moss struggling to solve a problem that some say is out of their control. Cuts to education funding, low teacher pay, and a dwindling supply of teachers interested in working in the rural, predominantly low-income and African-American Delta all contribute to the dilemma.

Indeed, a recent study in the 2017 Mississippi Economic Review found that districts with the worst teacher shortages have a weak local property tax base, a high percentage of black students and are disproportionately located in the Delta.

And in counties with multiple districts, the shortages tend to be far worse in the districts with the highest populations of black students.

For example, in North Panola School District, where 97 percent of the students are African-American, 9 percent of the teachers lacked proper certification in the 2017-18 school year. Meanwhile, in neighboring South Panola School District, where 55 percent of students are African-American, only 2 percent of the teachers weren’t certified.

Without teachers, more and more schools in Mississippi are turning to unproven computer learning programs too. 

On most afternoons, Jeremiah Smith, founder of an after-school and summer program called the Rosedale Freedom Project, can be found sitting side-by-side with his students as they peer at laptops, trying to get through their assignments. Posters with uplifting quotes by Henry David Thoreau, Maya Angelou and Mahatma Gandhi decorate the room, but sometimes those positive messages aren’t enough: Smith can spot the exact moment when his students begin to despair.

The teenagers attend high schools and middle schools in the lowest-scoring school district in the state of Mississippi, West Bolivar Consolidated.

Smith can also pinpoint one of the main reasons for his students’ frustration: “The problem is the program.”

The program he’s referring to is an online learning platform, Edgenuity. An increasing number of school districts, including West Bolivar, have turned to Edgenuity and programs like it as they face a critical shortage of certified teachers. During the 2016-17 school year, 71 schools in the state used online learning platforms, according to the Mississippi Department of Education. The following school year, the number grew to 106 schools. Last fall, 91 schools across the state had students signed up to take courses online, a number that could rise if schools add classes this spring.

In the West Bolivar Consolidated school district, 22 percent of teachers weren’t properly certified last year, about 27 out of 124 total. West Bolivar High School had only four certified teachers.

That’s why West Bolivar adopted Edgenuity, said district superintendent Beverly Culley, who began the job last year.

She knew recruiting would be difficult in the ways that it’s typically difficult in the Delta: Her schools are located in isolated rural communities with high levels of poverty, and the pay is low. When she realized that only two of West Bolivar High’s four certified teachers were certified in core subject areas, she said she was shocked.

“I was very concerned about that. It was too late to recruit teachers. We’re tried to find retired teachers to come in. We couldn’t,” she said. The district eventually found one retiree to teach science, in January.

And finally, one of the big problems is teacher certification itself: requiring a four-year degree for a job that pays $30,000.

Cleveland native Toni McWilliams didn’t feel like she was putting her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration to good use working as an administrative secretary for a middle school in her hometown. The job, which paid around $19,000, barely brought in enough money to support her two young daughters. So McWilliams decided to try teaching. “My mom had always encouraged me to teach,” she said.

But there was one big obstacle standing in the way: the Praxis exams. Consisting of four to five different tests, Praxis exams measure would-be teachers’ content knowledge in subjects that include math and reading.

When McWilliams first took the Praxis in March of 2015, she easily passed the reading portion but failed the math and writing sections. On her next try, she passed writing, but still failed math.

Over the next three years, McWilliams failed the math portion of the Praxis eight times — often by just two or three points. Her eyes welled with tears as she recalled the struggle.

Then, in May 2017, a friend told her about a new Delta-based nonprofit, Regional Initiatives for Sustainable Education (RISE), which offered tutoring for the Praxis. It proved to be an academic lifeline. McWilliams said she felt convinced that God was answering her prayers.

Mississippi is dealing with a dire teaching shortage. In seven Delta districts last year, at least 19 percent of teachers were uncertified to teach and in some cases the rate of teachers lacking certification was as high as 34 percent. In several districts, the percentage of uncertified teachers has doubled since 2013-14. The struggles McWilliams faced to become a certified teacher help illustrate why the problem is so severe.

To become certified in Mississippi, teachers must meet three requirements: Earn a bachelor’s degree; complete a traditional or alternate teacher training program; and pass the Praxis. The specific Praxis tests required vary. Teacher candidates with a score of 21 or higher on the ACT (the average in Mississippi is 18) can opt out of taking the Praxis Core, which includes the reading, writing and math tests. After passing the core tests, most educators then take one or more of the Praxis II exams, which are focused on various subject specialties (so a would-be high school history teacher would take a Praxis II history test, for example). 

The core problem is the teacher shortage, and more and more red states are looking at teachers as the enemy, with Republican lawmakers in states across the country going "We could save millions if we got rid of teachers."

And so they are.  Mississippi is the direct result of this.


Saturday, February 23, 2019

How To Steal An Election, Con't

National Republicans are silent on the fact Rep. Mark Harris stole an election through fraudulent absentee ballots, they're counting on Harris to win the new election anyway and making all of it go away.  But the real problem is that Republicans have all but accused Democrats of stealing elections over the last decades, and when finally shown proof that it's Republicans committing election fraud, they don't care.

Republican politicians across the country have for years railed against the threat of voter fraud. Some have made unproven claims about how rampant it has become in order to pass voter ID laws and open sweeping investigations. The sanctity of the vote, they have said, must be protected at all costs.

But when a hard-fought congressional election in North Carolina — in which a Republican candidate appeared to narrowly beat his Democratic opponent — was overturned this week because of election fraud by a Republican political operative, the party was measured, and largely muted, in its response.

The state party chairman, Robin Hayes, issued a statement after officials ordered a new election calling the affair “a tremendously difficult situation for all involved.” National Republicans have been mostly mum. President Trump, who has made election fraud one of the hallmarks of his administration, was quiet on Twitter, although on Friday, facing reporters at the Oval Office, he condemned fraud — “all of it, and that includes North Carolina.”

Mark Harris, the Republican nominee, had eked out a 905-vote lead over Dan McCready. But the North Carolina Board of Elections refused to certify Mr. Harris as the winner and opened an investigation into irregularities. This week, the five-member board, made up of Republicans and Democrats, convened an evidentiary hearing in Raleigh at which witnesses described a voter-turnout effort that relied on the rogue collection of absentee ballots.

In several hours of testimony on Thursday, after his campaign acknowledged that it had withheld damning records from the board, Mr. Harris denied wrongdoing but also appeared to mislead regulators. He then surprised everyone by abandoning his claim to the Ninth Congressional District seat, which covers part of Charlotte and much of southeastern North Carolina.

Witnesses detailed how people working for a Harris campaign operative, L. McCrae Dowless Jr., had filled out parts of some absentee ballots and improperly collected others. On Friday, Lorrin Freeman, the district attorney in Wake County, said she could seek charges within weeks against Mr. Dowless and some of the people he hired.

“Obviously, it’s within the province of the grand jury as to whether they will return indictments,” Ms. Freeman said. “But do I anticipate there will be a criminal prosecution going forward? I do.”

State Republicans, who over the past few years have tightened voting laws and had fought to preserve Mr. Harris’s victory, were far less vociferous in denouncing voter fraud than they have been in the past.

That stands in marked contrast to 2016, when the state’s Republicans filed many complaints and claimed for a month that Roy Cooper, the Democrat who was elected governor that year, should not be seatedbecause rampant fraud had enabled his victory. The charge proved baseless.

Again, the GOP plan here is that Harris dodges charges, is quickly re-elected with some cash help from the national party screaming about SOCIALIST DEMOCRATS, and that once in office, he's shielded from attack.  After all, it worked for Duncan Hunter in California.  Hunter is still facing federal indictment for campaign embezzlement, but easily won reelection by calling his Democratic opponent a Muslim terrorist, and it worked.

There isn't any real reason to make me think NC Democrats have their act together enough for Dan McCready to win the seat in a special election, especially since I fully expect a gag order very soon from a Republican-friendly judge barring McCready's campaign from being able to mention the reason why there's a new election in the first place in any debates or campaign commercials.

It's entirely possible that Harris will win by an even larger margin...

The Second Civil War, Con't

One of the big moves by the right is to casually imply that allowing Mueller and/or the other investigations to complete and find criminal action is the right vowing that such an "illegal coup" justifies deadly mass violence against liberals, and those calls are now getting much louder.

On a disturbing episode of Fox News host Laura Ingraham’s “The Laura Ingraham Show Podcast” Thursday, guest Joe diGenova echoed the calls of some of the darkest parts of the far-right movement in the United States.

“We are in a civil war in this country,” diGenova, as first pointed out by Media Matters for America. “There’s two standards of justice, one for Democrats one for Republicans. The press is all Democrat, all liberal, all progressive, all left — they hate Republicans, they hate Trump. So the suggestion that there’s ever going to be civil discourse in this country for the foreseeable future in this country is over. It’s not going to be. It’s going to be total war. And as I say to my friends, I do two things — I vote and I buy guns.
One particularly odd fact about his claims is that they seemed to come out of nowhere. Ingraham had just ended a diatribe about how liberals supposedly shifted attention away from discussions about the imperiled Democratic leadership in Virginia government to allegations of a hate crime made by actor Jussie Smollett, who has since been arrested on charges of filing a false police report. It was a bizarre and twisted theory, completely out of line with reality. but it had nothing to do with a supposed “civil war.”

But for many on the fringes of the far right, casual talk about political divisions in the United States easily slips into discussions of open warfare and violence.

President Donald Trump, it should be noted, once announced that he was hiring diGenova for his legal team, but he never came on board.

It's not a coincidence that this is being said just hours after a white nationalist Coast Guard lieutenant was busted by the feds with a stockpile of firearms and ammo and a list of Democratic politicians and journalists to be murdered.

We already had a newsroom shot up in Maryland in the last year.  More are definitely going to follow.  And that's what they want, a Left too scared to resist any longer.  It won't take too many deaths for that to happen, either.

The Road To Gilead, Con't

The Trump regime is ending Planned Parenthood funding using a Title X "gag rule" barring any federal funds to be used by anyone that provides abortion services, meaning Planned Parenthood is out $60 million a year.

The Trump administration took aim at Planned Parenthood Friday, issuing a rule barring groups that provide abortions or abortion referrals from participating in the $286 million federal family planning program — a move expected to redirect tens of millions of dollars from the women’s health provider to faith-based groups.

The change means federally funded family planning clinics can no longer refer a patient for abortion and must maintain a “clear physical and financial separation” between services funded by the government and any organization that provides abortions or abortion referrals. Groups receiving money under the Title X program, which serves an estimated 4 million low-income women, were already prohibited from performing abortions with those funds.

The changes, which opponents vowed to challenge, were celebrated by social conservatives who oppose abortion and helped elect President Trump. Health and Human Services Department officials have said they were necessary to ensure transparency and the legal and ethical use of taxpayer funds.

The move represents “decisive action to disentangle taxpayers from the big abortion industry led by Planned Parenthood,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, an antiabortion group, said in a statement.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said Planned Parenthood and other abortion centers now have to choose between shuttering their abortion services or moving them if they want to continue to receive federal funds. “Either way, this will loosen the group’s hold on tens of millions of tax dollars,” he said.

Critics, including 15 governors and the American Medical Association, decried the change as a “gag rule” that would undermine the physician-patient relationship and threatened legal action to block it from taking effect. They have also described it as an indirect way to defund Planned Parenthood, which has long been a target of antiabortion activists as the nation’s largest provider of reproductive care services.

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) tweeted that the new rule is “dangerous & unnecessary,” putting millions of Americans at risk, and that the state would take legal action.

So immediately this fight is going to happen, and an injunction sought.  But as with the ban on Muslims entering the country, the Supreme Court will get the final say.

I'm not sure at all this won't be the end of Planned Parenthood, and a fatal blow to the remaining abortion clinics in the country.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Last Call For 2016 All Over Again

With several Democratic Party candidates entering the race in the last month, the Russian social media disinformation machine is starting up once again to demoralize black and Latino voters and help Comrade Donald win reelection.

A wide-ranging disinformation campaign aimed at Democratic 2020 candidates is already under way on social media, with signs that foreign state actors are driving at least some of the activity.
The main targets appear to be Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), four of the most prominent announced or prospective candidates for president.

A POLITICO review of recent data extracted from Twitter and from other platforms, as well as interviews with data scientists and digital campaign strategists, suggests that the goal of the coordinated barrage appears to be undermining the nascent candidacies through the dissemination of memes, hashtags, misinformation, and distortions of their positions. But the divisive nature of many of the posts also hint at a broader effort to sow discord and chaos within the Democratic presidential primary.

The cyber propaganda — which frequently picks at the rawest, most sensitive issues in public discourse — is being pushed across a variety of platforms and with a more insidious approach than in the 2016 presidential election, when online attacks designed to polarize and mislead voters first surfaced on a massive scale.

Recent posts that have received widespread dissemination include racially inflammatory memes and messaging involving Harris, O’Rourke and Warren. In Warren’s case, a false narrative surfaced alleging that a blackface doll appeared on a kitchen cabinet in the background of the senator’s New Year’s Eve Instagram livestream.

Not all of the activity is organized. Much of it appears to be organic, a reflection of the politically polarizing nature of some of the candidates. But there are clear signs of a coordinated effort of undetermined size that shares similar characteristics with the computational propaganda attacks launched by online trolls at Russia’s Internet Research Agency in the 2016 presidential election, which special counsel Robert Mueller accused of aiming to undermine the political process and elevate Donald Trump.

“It looks like the 2020 presidential primary is going to be the next battleground to divide and confuse Americans,” said Brett Horvath, one of the founders of, a tech company that works with a consortium of data scientists, academics and technologists to disrupt cyberattacks and protect pro-democracy groups from information warfare. “As it relates to information warfare in the 2020 cycle, we’re not on the verge of it — we’re already in the third inning.”

An analysis conducted for POLITICO by found evidence that a relatively small cluster of accounts — and a broader group of accounts that amplify them — drove a disproportionate amount of the Twitter conversation about the four candidates over a recent 30-day period.

Using proprietary tools that measured the discussion surrounding the candidates in the Democratic field, identified a cohort of roughly 200 accounts — which includes both unwitting real accounts and other ‘suspicious’ and automated accounts that coordinate to spread their messages — pumped out negative or extreme themes designed to damage the candidates.

This is the same core group of accounts the company first identified last year in a study as anchoring a wide scale influence campaign in the 2018 elections.

Since the turn of the year, those accounts began specifically directing their output at Harris, O’Rourke, Sanders and Warren, and were amplified by an even wider grouping of accounts. Over a recent 30-day period, between 2 and 15 percent of all Twitter mentions of the four candidates emanated in some way from within that cluster of accounts, according to the findings. In that timeframe, all four candidates collectively had 6.8 million mentions on Twitter.

“We can conclusively state that a large group of suspicious accounts that were active in one of the largest influence operations of the 2018 cycle is now engaged in sustained and ongoing activity for the 2020 cycle,” Horvath said.

Twitter and Facebook have done precisely zero.  Trump has done precisely zero.  Once again Americans are being flooded with disinformation that only helps Donald Trump.  Another 21 months of this is guaranteed, and the goal is clear: a second term for Russia's favorite puppet.

We saw this before.  It's happening again now in real time.

All In All It's Just Another Trick With The Wall

Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent argues that Trump's national emergency scam plays great with his racist white evangelical base, but not so much with everyone else.

The new NPR poll finds that Americans disapprove of the national emergency declaration by 61 percent to 36 percent; that Americans do not think there is a national emergency at the border by 58 to 39; that Americans say he’s misusing his presidential powers by 57 to 39; and that 54 percent say this makes them less likely to vote for him in 2020.

But his voters support him on this, so who cares, you’ll respond. Well, here’s where the poll gets particularly interesting. It’s true that the poll finds that Trump supporters and Republicans overwhelmingly side with him on these questions.

But those people aren’t enough to win reelection for Trump. The question is whether he can duplicate his 2016 electoral college hat trick by dramatically energizing noncollege whites again, and by winning independents and others who decide they don’t like either candidate (as Trump did in 2016).

And among those groups, the poll finds surprising levels of opposition. Large majorities of independents tilt against Trump on these questions. And non-college-educated whites disapprove of the national emergency declaration by 53 to 43; they lean slightly against the idea that there’s even any emergency (49-47); and even marginally say that it makes them less likely to vote for Trump (46-41).

But guess which group is overwhelmingly behind Trump on all of this? White evangelical Christians. They approve of the declaration by 67 to 26; think there is a national emergency on the border by 70 to 22; say he’s properly using his powers by 69-23; and say this makes them more likely to vote for him by 60 to 22.

All of this suggests that Trump’s national emergency mainly appeals to the hardest of hardcore Trump supporters

That of course is the point: get the base behind his white nationalism and the rest of the party will follow.  It's been working for years now.  Yes, there are plenty of Trump 2016 voters who think this national emergency on the wall is so much bull.

But they'll vote for him anyway.

Unlike Democratic voters, Republicans understand that a vote against Trump benefits the Democrats, regardless of the reason why, whereas Democratic voters who didn't like Clinton because they wanted Bernie still keep blathering on about their personal morals while Donald Trump burns the planet down.

Here's the killer though.

And for that, I will never forgive.

Justice Finally Served

It took 11 years, but a federal judge has finally nailed Trump Labor Secretary Alex Acosta for his role in crafting an illegal plea deal as a US attorney more than a decade ago for Miami hedge fund tycoon Jeffrey Epstein.

A judge ruled Thursday that federal prosecutors — among them, U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta — broke federal law when they signed a plea agreement with a wealthy, politically connected sex trafficker and concealed it from more than 30 of his underage victims.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra, in a 33-page opinion, said that the evidence he reviewed showed that Jeffrey Epstein had been operating an international sex operation in which he and others recruited underage girls — not only in Florida — but from overseas, in violation of federal law.

“Epstein used paid employees to find and bring minor girls to him.,’’ wrote Marra, who is based in Palm Beach County. “Epstein worked in concert with others to obtain minors not only for his own sexual gratification, but also for the sexual gratification of others.’’

Instead of prosecuting Epstein under federal sex trafficking laws, Acosta, then the U.S. attorney in Miami, helped negotiate a non-prosecution agreement that gave Epstein and his co-conspirators immunity from federal prosecution
. Epstein, who lived in a Palm Beach mansion, was allowed to quietly plead guilty in state court to two prostitution charges and served just 13 months in the county jail. His accomplices, some of whom have never been identified, were never charged.

Acosta agreed to seal the deal, which meant that none of Epstein’s victims, who were mostly 13 to 16 years old at the time of the abuse, were told about it until it was too late for them to appear at his sentencing and possibly reject the deal. Upon learning that Epstein had pleaded guilty without their knowledge, two of his victims filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of Florida in 2008, claiming that prosecutors violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, which grants victims of federal crimes a series of rights, including the ability to confer with prosecutors about a possible plea deal.

Marra agreed, saying that while prosecutors had the right to resolve the case in any way they saw fit, they violated the law by hiding the agreement from Epstein’s victims. Marra’s decision capped 11 years of litigation — which included the release of a trove of emails showing how Acosta and other prosecutors worked with Epstein’s high profile lawyers to conceal the deal — and the scope of Epstein’s crimes — from both his victims and the public.

“Particularly problematic was the Government’s decision to conceal the existence of the [agreement] and mislead the victims to believe that federal prosecution was still a possibility,’’ Marra wrote. “When the Government gives information to victims, it cannot be misleading. While the Government spent untold hours negotiating the terms and implications of the [agreement] with Epstein’s attorneys, scant information was shared with victims.’’

The U.S. attorney’s office in Miami declined to comment.

Acosta's goose should be cooked, but you never know with the Trump regime.

We'll see how things are going to go here, but at the very least Epstein should be spending the rest of his natural life in jail for starters.  As for the rest of his legal team, Acosta and Alan Dershowitz, I would be very nervous right now if I were them.

Again, the real issue here is that the Epstein plea deal was legal, Acosta deliberately hiding it from his victims was not.  The judge ruled that it was a clear violation of the Crime Victims Rights Act, a 2004 law that spells out the rights victims have in federal cases like this.

Considering Acosta oversees both child labor laws and human trafficking laws as Labor Secretary, his forced resignation should have come months ago when the Miami Herald made this slimy deal public.

But that's the brutally corrupt Trump regime for you.


Thursday, February 21, 2019

Last Call For How To Steal An Election, Con't

After several days of testimony in front of the North Carolina Board of Elections, it has become painfully clear that Republican Mark Harris stole the 2018 election for NC's 9th District and at the absolute minimum, a new election must be called...and apparently Mark Harris is now entirely on board with that plan.

After months of insisting he knew of no illegal activity being done on behalf of his campaign, Republican Mark Harris, who leads the race for North Carolina's 9th congressional district, called Thursday for the State Board of Elections to hold a new election.

"Through the testimony I've listened to over the past three days I believe a new election should be called. It's become clear to me that the public's confidence in the 9th District seat general election has been undermined to an extent that a new election is warranted," said Harris.

It was a dramatic and humbling reversal for Harris, a pastor who until now has insisted that the board of elections should certify his 905 vote lead in the unofficial tally so that he can go off to Congress.

Four days of hearings had left that position increasingly untenable as witnesses detailed how an operative hired by Harris illegally handled absentee ballots, a felony in North Carolina. One witness said she filled in unmarked sections of ballots. Harris' own son testified on Wednesday that he had warned his father that the operative's tactics were likely illegal.

An email first released to the public on Thursday shows that Harris requested to the operative, McRae Dowless, in March 2017 after losing a primary election in which one of his opponents had hired Dowless.

The disclosure by the Harris campaign frustrated investigators, who were presented with the evidence only on Wednesday, despite a subpoena from the North Carolina State Board of Elections for the relevant documents months ago.

Although Harris has now called for a new election, the board will have to decide whether to actually call one. After Election Day, Harris held a 905-vote lead over Democrat Dan McCready in the unofficial ballot tally. The board declined to certify those results pending its investigation into an absentee ballot scheme that investigators have been unspooling for months.

The investigation focuses on Dowless, who was hired by Harris to run get-out-the-vote efforts in Bladen and Robeson counties. Dowless was also investigated in 2016 for his tactics, which a number of witnesses have testified included illegally collecting absentee ballots and filling out some of those ballots.

Harris has said publicly since the investigation began in December that he was unaware of any illegal acts that may have been done on behalf of his campaign. He reiterated that in his testimony Thursday.

Harris is now reduced to lamely trying to pretend this all wasn't his idea now that his son, himself a lawyers in the US attorney's office for Eastern NC, threw his own dad under the bus in a glorious effort to keep from being disbarred, but the new election is happening regardless.  The Board voted unanimously that the election was tainted.

Harris believes he can walk away from this trainwreck and still be reelected.  Too bad part of the testimony this week showed Harris's wife Beth texting Harris those illegally-gained previews of the absentee ballot totals.

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