Monday, September 30, 2019

Last Call For It's All About Revenge Now, Con't

Republican senators are signaling that if Trump goes down because of Ukraine, well then that awful harridan Hillary Clinton is too.  No, I don't know how that works, but with Bill Barr, actual evidence isn't necessary.

As President Donald Trump's presidency is threatened by an impeachment inquiry, the Republican chairmen of two Senate committees, Ron Johnson and Chuck Grassley, are asking Attorney General William Barr to investigate any ties between Ukraine and Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign. 
In a letter to Barr released on Monday, Johnson (R-Wis.) and Grassley (R-Iowa) pressed the Justice Department to probe any connection between Clinton and Ukrainian operatives. They said they have "concerns about foreign assistance in the 2016 election that have not been thoroughly addressed." 
Their letter comes as Trump faces an impeachment inquiry from the House amid revelations that he sought help from Ukraine's president to probe former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic nomination. But these two Republicans say there's another story about government corruption allegations the Justice Department should be pursuing. 
"The Justice Department has yet to inform Congress and the public whether it has begun an investigation into links and coordination between the Ukrainian government and individuals associated with the campaign of Hillary Clinton or the Democratic National Committee. Ukrainian efforts, abetted by a U.S. political party, to interfere in the 2016 election should not be ignored," the two senators wrote in a letter dated Sept. 27. "Are you investigating links and coordination between the Ukrainian government and individuals associated with the campaign of Hillary Clinton or the Democratic National Committee? If not, why not?"

So we're not only going with "but her emails!" we're going with "but the REAL collusion was Hillary argle bargle!" Seriously boys, why not open a Benghazi investigation too while you're at it and ring up the trifecta?

Again, this is Trump's plan, to keep writing HILLARY DID IT on the ground in his own poop until the media cover the "allegations" which literally don't exist. I hope they don't fall for it again but frankly there about a 110% chance they will.

Ahh, but our boy Bill Barr has been a busy man, it seems.

Attorney General William P. Barr has held private meetings overseas with foreign intelligence officials seeking their help in a Justice Department inquiry that President Trump hopes will discredit U.S. intelligence agencies’ examination of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the matter. 
Barr’s personal involvement is likely to stoke further criticism from Democrats pursuing impeachment that he is helping the Trump administration use executive branch powers to augment investigations aimed primarily at the president’s adversaries. 
But the high level Justice Department focus on intelligence operatives’ conduct will likely cheer Trump and other conservatives for whom “investigate the investigators” has become a rallying cry. 
The direct involvement of the nation’s top law enforcement official shows the priority Barr places on the investigation being conducted by John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, who has been assigned the sensitive task of reviewing U.S. intelligence work surrounding the 2016 election and its aftermath.

The attorney general’s active role also underscores the degree to which a nearly three-year old election still consumes significant resources and attention inside the federal government. Current and former intelligence and law enforcement officials expressed frustration and alarm Monday that the head of the Justice Department was taking such a direct role in re-examining what they view as conspiracy theories and baseless allegations of misconduct. 
Barr has already made overtures to British intelligence officials, and last week the attorney general traveled to Italy, where he and Durham met senior Italian government officials and Barr asked the Italians to assist Durham, according to one person familiar with the matter. It was not Barr’s first trip to Italy to meet intelligence officials, the person said. The Trump administration has made similar requests of Australia, these people said. 
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.

Oh yes.  Bill Barr has been very busy executing his orders from Trump, who doesn't want to be the asterisk president any longer.  He's 100% in on the efforts to come up with evidence by any means necessary from foreign governments, even if those governments are close allies.  And he's putting down the shoe leather himself in order to see it done.

Bill Barr went outside his own agency in order to destroy it.  An Attorney General who has declared war on the FBI, CIA, NSA and the entire intelligence apparatus.

You thought the leaks roasting Trump were bad now

Just wait.

Another One Bites The Dust, Con't

Embattled GOP Rep. Chris Collins of upstate NY is gone, resigning effective tomorrow in order to plead guilty to the insider trading charges he's been fighting for over a year.

Rep. Chris Collins resigned Monday, a day before he is expected to plead guilty Tuesday to federal charges stemming from an insider trading scheme that prosecutors first detailed in an indictment nearly 14 months ago. 
A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said her office received Collins' resignation letter Monday. The aide said Collins' resignation will become effective Tuesday. 
A new court filing in the case, filed in federal court in Manhattan, shows that U.S. District Court Judge Vernon S. Broderick scheduled a court hearing where Collins – who had pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him – will change his plea. 
A new entry on the docket in the case read: "As to Christopher Collins: Change of Plea Hearing scheduled for 10/1/2019 at 3 p.m." 
Moments after that docket entry was filed, a second appeared, indicating that Collins' co-defendants – his son Cameron Collins and Cameron Collins' prospective father-in-law, Stephen Zarsky – plan to change their not-guilty pleas as well. A hearing in their case is set for Thursday.

Details of the pending plea deals were not available. Collins' congressional office declined comment, and his lawyers did not return phone calls seeking comment. 
Collins, his son and Zarsky are charged with securities and wire fraud, conspiracy and lying to the FBI. They were arrested in August 2018 in connection with an alleged insider trading scheme involving Innate Immunotherapeutics, an Australian biotech. 
Collins, a Clarence Republican, served on Innate's board for years. Prosecutors said that while at a White House picnic in June 2017, he got inside information that the company's only product, an experimental drug for multiple sclerosis, had failed in clinical trials. 
Prosecutors say Collins then called his son, who started dumping his shares of Innate stock the next day. The indictment charges Cameron Collins with then sharing that inside information with Zarsky.

Collins held a press conference to proclaim his innocence not more than a few months ago.  Guess he was a lying sack of crap then, too.

Good riddance, Chris.

The Reach To Impeach, Con't

Things are moving quicksilver fast now, as a new CBS poll taken over Thursday and Friday finds a solid majority of Americans now support the House impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump.

More than half of Americans — and an overwhelming number of Democrats — say they approve of the fact that Congress has opened an impeachment inquiry into President Trump. But as the inquiry begins, there is no national consensus on how to assess the president's actions.

Partisans have immediately and predictably split: most Democrats call the president's handling of matters with Ukraine illegal, and deserving of impeachment.

Most Republicans call his actions proper — or, even if improper, then still legal — and feel they're an example of things that past presidents typically did, too. Most Americans think that because Congress is now taking up the matter, it will be unable to work on other issues.

Almost nine in 10 Democrats approve of the inquiry, and two-thirds strongly approve. Prior to the inquiry, some had wondered if taking up impeachment proceedings might divide a Democratic rank-and-file that has been long concerned with other policies like health care and guns. However, these findings suggest that it this is not the case: most moderate Democrats side with liberal Democrats in supporting impeachment proceedings. Of those who say they voted for a Democratic House candidate in 2018, nine in 10 feel this inquiry is necessary.

Characterizing the president's actions in particular, just under one-third of Americans say the president's handling of matters with Ukraine may have been improper but were nonetheless still legal. Just over a quarter, including most Republicans, says the president acted properly. Another four in 10, including most Democrats, feel he has acted illegally. 
There is division over whether the president's deserves to be impeached. Just slightly more feel he does than he doesn't, and almost a quarter feel it's too soon to say — most of them say they want to wait to see what the facts show. 

So that's 55% for an impeachment inquiry, along with 42% of Americans saying Trump deserves to be impeached.  Those are huge jumps in numbers in just a few days.  Democrats are going to have to deliver on hearings to convince a majority of Americans to go along, but as with Nixon's situation 45 years ago, the more evidence that comes out of these hearings, the worse things are going to get for Trump.

However, the specter of "both sides" lives on.  43% want further investigation into Hunter Biden, with 29% saying it's too soon to say whether to dismiss the allegations.  As I've pointed out before, the allegations are 100% junk.

Still, the speed and momentum at which this is moving is definitely well into "runaway train" territory.  The next big test will be later this week when the deadline for the Democratic subpoena of Ukraine documents from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives on Friday, but I'm betting a lot will happen between now and then.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Last Call For Trump's Race To The Bottom

Donald Trump is in the White House not in spite of his contributions to white supremacy and institutionalized racism, but precisely because of it.

A former New Jersey police chief standing trial on charges he slammed a black teenager’s head into a doorjamb reportedly called President Trump “the last hope for white people” before the 2016 election.

“I’m telling you, you know what, Donald Trump is the last hope for white people, cause Hillary (Clinton) will give it to all the minorities to get a vote,” said Frank Nucera Jr., former chief of Bordentown Township, according to’s reporting of a transcript displayed at trial this week. “That’s the truth! I’m telling you.”

Nucera, 62, is charged with a hate crime, deprivation of the suspect’s rights and making false statements to the FBI in connection with the September 2016 arrest of an 18-year-old black man.

Two officers were escorting the handcuffed teenager from a hotel into a police car when Nucera approached the teen from behind and slammed his head into a metal doorjamb, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in New Jersey.

The incident was part of what prosecutors alleged to be a “significant history” of racist behavior in which Nucera referred to African Americans with the n-word, compared them with the Islamic State, said he’d like to shoot them on a firing squad and tried to use police dogs to intimidate them. Bordentown, located outside the state capital of Trenton, is 77 percent white and 13 percent black.

The allegations represent striking racism from a jurisdiction’s top law enforcement officer and nod at the racial tensions underlying the 2016 presidential election. Trump’s campaign rallies were overwhelmingly white, while Clinton, the Democratic nominee, emphasized racial issues during some of the biggest speeches of her campaign.

Nucera’s comment about Trump came after a sergeant brought up the teenager’s arrest as he covertly recorded the chief, according to Sgt. Nathan Roohr and the FBI decided to tell Nucera a falsehood that the teenager’s family planned to sue the police department.

There's so much to go through here

  • A cop, supposedly a respected peace officer,
  • who assaulted a black suspect, 
  • who had a long history of assaulting black suspects
  • who basically made an entire career out of being a black-hating racist,
  • who rose to chief of police of a township
  • a town in New Jersey, and not in the South
  • a town in a blue state and not a red one
  • who thought Clinton was a race traitor
  • who feared most of all "the minorities" getting a "vote" in how America was run
  • who saw Trump as his last hope to maintain systemic racism
  • that he himself was an integral part of.
Oh, and Nucera is currently collecting a six-figure pension.


Ukraine In The Membrane, Con't

As Josh Marshall reports, we're now starting to see the full picture on Rudy Giuliani's efforts to manufacture a Ukraine scandal to try to sink Joe Biden.  FOX News contributors, the husband and wife team of Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, are apprently working with Rudy on Ukraine and they are two of the best ratfuckery agents the GOP has.

As I noted yesterday, material that has been surfacing from The Hill’s ‘opinion’ reporter John Solomon and then echoed by Giuliani seems to originate with one of Ukraine’s richest and most powerful oligarchs who is a former business partner of Paul Manafort and had to flee Ukraine after the overthrow of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014. He is in Austria, fighting extradition to the United States to face bribery charges.

His name is Dimtry Firtash.
Viktor Shokin is the ‘fired prosecutor’ at the center of all these stories. As part of Firtash’s effort to avoid extradition from Austria to the United States, he asked Shokin to swear out the affidavit in which Shokin accuses Biden of getting him fired to protect his son Hunter. (There is no evidence any of this happened. There was no investigation of Hunter Biden or the company on whose board he sat at the time Shokin was fired.) 
So to review, former Manafort business partner Firtash asks Shokin to swear out an affidavit in which he accuses Biden. The affidavit quickly gets into the hands of Giuliani and Solomon. And who just recently went to work for Firtash’s legal team? None other than diGenova and Toensing, as reported just this week by the Kyiv Post and other publications
So the duo who we now learned has been working on behalf of the President with Rudy Giuliani to extort the Ukrainian government just signed on to represent the oligarch behind the affidavit in which the disgraced prosecutor says Joe Biden got him fired. And yes, the oligarch who got booted from Ukraine in 2014 and is a former business partner of Paul Manafort.

And this is the scheme to literally fabricate evidence against Joe Biden.

Trump directed Giuliani, diGenova and Toensing to try to bring down Biden, with Paul Manafort's former business partner las the inside man in Ukraine giving a false affidavit against Biden in exchange for legal help from Trump's personal lawyers.

And let's recall, we know for a fact Joe Biden didn't get Shokin fired.

Ukraine’s top law enforcement official repeatedly rebuffed President Trump’s personal lawyer’s demands to investigate Joe Biden and his son, insisting he had seen no evidence of wrongdoing that he could pursue despite Trump’s allegations. 
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Yuri Lutsenko, former Ukraine prosecutor general, said he told Rudolph Giuliani that he would be happy to cooperate if the FBI or other U.S. authorities began their own investigation of the former vice president and his son Hunter but insisted they had not broken any Ukrainian laws to his knowledge
Lutsenko, who was fired as prosecutor general last month, said he had urged Giuliani to launch a U.S. inquiry and go to court if he had any evidence but not to use Ukraine to conduct a political vendetta that could affect the U.S. election. 
”I said, ‘Let’s put this through prosecutors, not through presidents,’ ” Lutsenko told The Times.

“I told him I could not start an investigation just for the interests of an American official,” he said. 
The revelations are at the heart of the House impeachment probe into whether Trump improperly delayed congressionally mandated military aid to Ukraine while urging leaders there to help find dirt on his political opponents to boost his 2020 reelection bid.

Do we understand just how screwed Trump is right now?

Sunday Long Read: The Reach To Impeach

Sue Glassner at the New Yorker recaps the week and the timeline on how quickly Donald Trump went from "getting away with it once again" to  "dead in the water", and the tipping point was Wednesday.

President Trump began Wednesday in a dark place. “There has been no President in the history of our Country who has been treated so badly as I have,” he lamented on Twitter, before 8 a.m. The night before, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her party had made a momentous political shift and launched a full-scale impeachment investigation of the President. The move was triggered by a new scandal, the details of which have emerged in recent days: Trump, having escaped impeachment over the Mueller investigation, turns out to have asked Ukraine’s new President to investigate the former Vice-President Joe Biden, at the same time that he was holding up more than three hundred million dollars in U.S. military aid to Ukraine. The disclosure had proved to be too much, even for the cautious Pelosi. Now Trump faces the very real possibility that he will become only the fourth President in U.S. history to confront a House majority ready to impeach him.

Trump, however, had one play left. On Wednesday morning, he released the full White House account of his July 25th phone call with the Ukrainian leader, Volodymyr Zelensky. Trump, his allies, and his advisers promised that it would be less than meets the eye. Releasing the call summary, they insisted, would undercut the impeachment inquiry into the Ukraine matter before it even started. On Fox, the reporter Ed Henry quoted a Trump source who warned Democrats: “There’s no ‘there’ there.” The new editor of the conservative Washington Free Beacon tweeted, “Told reliably by source who has seen a transcript of the call that it isn’t likely to live up to the high expectations many have.” Trump himself got into the pre-spin game. “Will the Democrats apologize after seeing what was said on the call with the Ukrainian President?” he tweeted at 9:17 a.m. Wednesday. “They should, a perfect call—got them by surprise!”

Then, at precisely 10 a.m., the White House released its version of the call, which was based on notes taken at the time. It did not say what President Trump and his advisers had suggested it would say. Not at all. Usually in American politics, the goal in the expectations game is to tamp them down; in this case, Trump had succeeded at the opposite, promoting the notion that his phone call with Zelensky would be proved innocuous, with nary a whiff of impropriety. Instead, the document released by his own staff added new information to the scandal, revealing that Trump had not only requested an investigation of Biden and his son Hunter but had specifically asked Zelensky to co√∂perate with his private lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, and the Attorney General, William Barr, on it. The President’s language was hardly subtle. Trump mentioned the Attorney General four times. “The United States has been very good to Ukraine,” Trump said early in the call, before quickly adding, “I wouldn’t say that it’s reciprocal necessarily.” After Zelensky responded by requesting approval to buy more U.S. anti-tank Javelin missiles, to aid his fight against Russia, Trump replied by explaining the reciprocity he really wanted: investigations of the Bidens and also of Ukraine’s role in the 2016 U.S. elections.

“I would like you to do us a favor though,” the President said, in a line that seems destined to land in the history books. “Whatever you can do,” Trump added later in the conversation, “it’s very important that you do it.” This was not the exculpatory moment that Trump had claimed it would be. Impeachment may have been an uncertain outcome before 10 a.m. on Wednesday. Afterward, it was a near-certainty

Trump blew it.

If he had shut up, if he had not released the transcript, he would have gotten away with it.  Everyone would be screaming at how Pelosi had messed up.  By the time Adam Schiff had gotten to the bottom of the mess, it would have been too late, the media would have moved on from "Pelosi's failed impeachment attempt" to something else.

But then Trump impeached himself.

Orange Implosion, Con't

Donald Trump has finally found somebody to blame for his imminent impeachment, and of course it's Acting WH Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, the guy whose job it is to protect Trump from himself.

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney is on shaky ground in the wake of a bad week for President Trump, according to multiple sources with knowledge of discussions surrounding the whistleblower fallout. 
The sources say the President is not upset with Mulvaney for the White House releasing the summary of his July 25 call with Ukraine's leader or the whistleblower complaint because he had been convinced that it was necessary. 
What Trump and other aides are frustrated with, according to the sources, is that Mulvaney did not have a strategy for defending and explaining the contents of those documents as soon as they were publicly released. 
One of the sources says it's not just the President, but also widespread frustration in the White House about the lack of a response plan to deal with the fallout after the release of the whistleblower complaint ignited more controversy surrounding the President. The sources say Mulvaney is taking the heat for that. 
The White House did not immediately provide a comment when reached by CNN on Saturday. 
The feeling among some working to contain the controversy is that some aides who pushed for a response felt Mulvaney was getting in the way of allowing it. 
The frustration over a lack of a response plan poured over into a series of meetings at the White House Friday between the President and top aides, including his personal counsel and White House lawyers, to figure out a strategy moving forward. 
Sources caution that despite Mulvaney not being in a good place right now, the President may not be eager to fire Mulvaney anytime soon given the amount of tumult, even for a White House used to that.

Would you want Mick Mulvaney's job?

Nobody wants Mick Mulvaney's job.

Least of all, well, Mick Mulvaney.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Last Call For It's All About Revenge Now, Con't

You didn't honestly think the most corrupt regime in American history, led by a man whose entire life revolves around getting revenge on those who have wronged him, was simply going to let impeachment happen, did you?

The Trump administration is investigating the email records of dozens of current and former senior State Department officials who sent messages to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email, reviving a politically toxic matter that overshadowed the 2016 election, current and former officials said. 
As many as 130 officials have been contacted in recent weeks by State Department investigators — a list that includes senior officials who reported directly to Clinton as well as others in lower-level jobs whose emails were at some point relayed to her inbox, said current and former State Department officials. Those targeted were notified that emails they sent years ago have been retroactively classified and now constitute potential security violations, according to letters reviewed by The Washington Post. 
State Department investigators began contacting the former officials about 18 months ago, after President Trump’s election, and then seemed to drop the effort before picking it up in August, officials said
Senior State Department officials said that they are following standard protocol in an investigation that began during the latter days of the Obama administration and is nearing completion. 
“This has nothing to do with who is in the White House,” said a senior State Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about an ongoing probe. “This is about the time it took to go through millions of emails, which is about 3 1/2 years.” 
To many of those under scrutiny, including some of the Democratic Party’s top foreign policy experts, the recent flurry of activity surrounding the Clinton email case represents a new front on which the Trump administration could be accused of employing the powers of the executive branch against perceived political adversaries. 
The existence of the probe follows revelations that the president used multiple levers of his office to pressure the leader of Ukraine to pursue investigations that Trump hoped would produce damaging information about Democrats, including potential presidential rival Joe Biden.

This "everyone but Hillary's e-mails!", along with the long-rumored completion of the Justice Department IG report investigating Mueller and the investigators, apparently due out next month, was always going to be the 2020 strategy.

Impeachment kicked this plan B into overdrive.  The story makes it clear that this effort was brought back to the table about the same time as when the White House originally got word of the whistleblower complaint, which was last month.  It also goes on to say that the State Department really isn't happy doing this, and morale is basically worse than under Rex Tillerson.

Those targeted began receiving letters in August, saying, “You have been identified as possibly bearing some culpability” in supposedly newly uncovered “security incidents,” according to a copy of one letter obtained by The Washington Post. 
In many cases, the incidents appear to center on the sending of information attributed to foreign officials, including summaries of phone conversations with foreign diplomats — a routine occurrence among State Department employees. 
There is no indication in any of the materials reviewed by The Post that the emails under scrutiny contained sensitive information about classified U.S. initiatives or programs. In one case, a former official was asked to explain dozens of messages dating back to 2009 that contained messages that foreign officials wanted relayed rapidly to Washington at a time when U.S. Foreign Service officers were equipped with BlackBerrys and other devices that were not capable of sending classified transmissions. The messages came in through “regular email” and then were forwarded through official — though unclassified — State Department channels.

In other wods, this is a massive effort to make the whistleblower look like part of a huge conspiracy against Trump, while making it very clear what will happen to anyone who might be thinking of joining the whistleblower in ratting out Trump.

And on top of that, it gets Hillary Clinton's emails back into the news along with dozens of targets to harass and maybe even arrest. Impeachment then becomes "the corrupt Democrat effort to end the investigation into evil Hillary and her flunkies!"

Now the real fight begins...

Scaring The Scardey Cats

David Atkins sums up very well what I think of the pants-on-head idiocy of the latest threat from the Right-Wing Noise Machine, that the next Democratic president will be impeached on day one of office.

First, what we already know of Trump’s behavior alone puts him in an unprecedented category of presidential criminality. We have a president who is openly profiting from his office, including and especially from foreign powers, in violation of the emoluments clause; who openly lied about violating campaign finance laws in secretly paying off an adult film actress so as not to embarrass his campaign; who admitted to firing James Comey to take pressure off him in the Russia investigation in a cut-and-dried case of obstruction on national television; and who has now been caught abusing the classification system to hide records of calls with foreign governments in which he is alleged to have engaged in a variety of high crimes and misdemeanors for personal and partisan gain. And that’s just what we know of explicitly so far just from a corruption standpoint: it doesn’t touch on what might be lurking in his tax returns, or more policy-oriented issues like abuse of asylum seekers and potential violations of their human rights under international law. If you don’t impeach a president for this, there is no circumstance in which impeachment would be warranted. These high crimes and misdemeanors far outstrip those of Andrew Johnson or Richard Nixon, to say nothing of Bill Clinton.

Moreover, Democrats would be fools to base their own actions on potential retribution and recrimination from Republicans. The GOP has already shown itself willing to steal a Supreme Court justice and dozens of other federal justices, to shut down the federal government in an effort to take away the healthcare of millions, and much more. The level of partisan gamesmanship and acrimony from the Republicans in the McConnell era is unprecedented in the modern era. And, of course, it was Republicans who only two decades ago chose to impeach a Democratic president over lying about sex. The only reason they didn’t impeach Obama is that he ran a literally unimpeachable presidency where the biggest scandals the GOP could concoct were wild misrepresentations on Solyndra and Benghazi.

If the current ideological incarnation of the Republican Party ever does regain control of the House of Representatives–and there are reasons to suspect that it may not–will it impeach the next Democratic president over trivialities? Probably. But the moral bankruptcy and tactical desperation of the Republican Party should not guide Democratic policy.

If there is one lesson to be learned from the Trump era, it is that one of America’s political parties, however imperfect, is acting at least somewhat responsibly to solve the country’s problems. The other is not. And the responsible party should not be taking its behavioral cues from its dissolute counterpart.

Democrats should never be afraid of these clowns again.

The Reach To Impeach, Con't

Democrats are doing silly things during this impeachment inquiry phase, things like "following up on threats with subpoenas" and other actual use of powers granted to them.

Democrats hit the gas on their impeachment inquiry Friday, subpoenaing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for documents they demanded weeks earlier that describe a pattern of interactions between President Donald Trump, his lawyer Rudy Giuliani and senior Ukrainian officials who they pressured to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

Rep Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued the subpoena in consultation with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, who have been probing Trump's solicitation of foreign help in the 2020 election.

"The subpoenaed documents shall be part of the impeachment inquiry and shared among the Committees. Your failure or refusal to comply with the subpoena shall constitute evidence of obstruction of the House’s impeachment inquiry,” the three chairmen wrote in a letter to Pompeo.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The move by the chairmen, however, suggests the House is moving rapidly to advance its fledgling efforts to investigate and draw up articles of impeachment related to Trump's conduct toward Ukraine.

The House subpoena was accompanied by a schedule of depositions for senior State Department officials who have been identified as important players in the Ukraine episode — which was first brought to Congress' attention by an intelligence community whistleblower. The whistleblower, whose story was deemed "urgent" and "credible" by an agency watchdog, indicated that Trump had abused his power to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to help his reelection chances during a phone call -- and then the transcript of the call was inappropriately hidden on a highly classified server.

This is the first real big fight for impeachment.  If Pompeo refuses both the documents and the depositions, Democrats are going to have to start playing real hardball.

Meanwhile, Trump still can't keep his mouth shut over this, and keeps incriminating himself further on a near daily basis.

President Trump, who has alleged that Hunter Biden got the Chinese to put $1.5 billion into an investment fund, said during private remarks this week that he raised the matter with a U.S. executive who has served as his intermediary on trade talks with Beijing. 
Trump’s comments could attract interest in light of the impeachment inquiry underway by House Democrats. That investigation is focused on the president’s effort to extract information about Hunter Biden’s job on the board of a Ukrainian gas company at a time when his father was overseeing U.S. policy in that country. Given Trump’s comments, investigators may want to try to learn whether the president similarly sought information about the Bidens in China.

In remarks to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations on Thursday morning, Trump said he discussed Biden’s China work with Stephen Schwarzman, the chief executive of the investment company Blackstone. 
“I was with the head of Blackstone . . . Steve Schwarzman,” Trump said, according to a video of the remarks obtained by The Washington Post. After alleging that Hunter Biden got $1.5 billion from the Chinese, Trump said he asked Schwarzman, “ ‘Steve, is that possible?’ ” Trump said Schwarzman asked, “Who got that?” and Trump responded, “Biden’s son.” 
Trump said he asked Schwarzman how that could happen, and the executive responded: “Maybe I shouldn’t get involved, you know it’s very political.” 
Schwarzman declined to comment. His spokeswoman, Jennifer Friedman, said in a statement that “Steve never spoke to the President about Joe Biden or his family, nor has he had any conversations with the Chinese about Biden or his family.”

Schwarzman wrote in his just-published autobiography “What It Takes” that he traveled to Beijing eight times in 2018 “on behalf” of the Trump administration during trade negotiations. He is unofficially known as Trump’s “China whisperer.” 
Schwarzman for years has declined to comment about his many conversations with Trump, so it is unusual for him to dispute Trump’s description of the supposed exchange.

Now maybe this is Trump having a senior moment, but it sounds like to me that Steve Schwartzman just earned himself a House subpoena in this growing impeachment mess.

And the impeachment mess is definitely growing.  One of the biggest reveals from the whistleblower complaint is the fact the White House had a separate, classified information system for Trump's most politically sensitive and potentially damaging transcripts of calls with world leaders, and that Trump's National Security Council directed the Ukraine call with President Zelensky on that server almost immediately after it happened.

The White House acknowledged Friday that administration officials directed a now-infamous Ukraine call transcript be filed in a highly classified system, confirming allegations contained in a whistleblower complaint that have roiled Washington. 
In a statement provided to CNN, a senior White House official said the move to place the transcript in the system came at the direction of National Security Council attorneys. 
"NSC lawyers directed that the classified document be handled appropriately," the senior White House official said. 
White House officials say the transcript was already classified so it did nothing wrong by moving it to another system.
The admission lends further credibility to the whistleblower complaint description of how the July 25 transcript with the Ukrainian president, among others, were kept out of wider circulation by using a system for highly sensitive documents. 
But the statement did not explain whether anyone else in the White House was part of the decision to put the the Ukraine transcript in the more restrictive system. 
Nor did it delve into an accusation in the complaint that other phone call transcripts were handled in a similar fashion.

Other phone call transcripts.

Now, why would other phone call transcripts be on that classified server?  Who would Donald Trump be talking to that he would want those conversations to be hidden oh my god It's Putin and the Saudi crown prince isn't it...

White House efforts to limit access to President Donald Trump's conversations with foreign leaders extended to phone calls with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, according to people familiar with the matter. 
Those calls -- both with leaders who maintain controversial relationships with Trump -- were among the presidential conversations that aides took remarkable steps to keep from becoming public. 
In the case of Trump's call with Prince Mohammed, officials who ordinarily would have been given access to a rough transcript of the conversation never saw one, according to one of the sources. Instead, a transcript was never circulated at all, which the source said was highly unusual, particularly after a high-profile conversation. 
The call - which the person said contained no especially sensitive national security secrets -- came as the White House was confronting the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which US intelligence assessments said came at the hand of the Saudi government. 
With Putin, access to the transcript of at least one of Trump's conversations was also tightly restricted, according to a former Trump administration official. 
It's not clear if aides took the additional step of placing the Saudi Arabia and Russia phone calls in the same highly secured electronic system that held a now-infamous phone call with Ukraine's president and which helped spark a whistleblower complaint made public this week, though officials confirmed calls aside from the Ukraine conversation were placed there. 
But the attempts to conceal information about Trump's discussions with Prince Mohammed and Putin further illustrate the extraordinary efforts taken by Trump's aides to strictly limit the number of people with access to his conversations with foreign leaders.

Of course those records were moved to the separate system.  Of course the phone calls with Putin and MBS were that bad or worse than the Zelensky calls.

The inn-person meetings?  Those were even more awful.

Of course Donald Trump is screwed.

President Trump told two senior Russian officials in a 2017 Oval Office meeting that he was unconcerned about Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election because the United States did the same in other countries,
an assertion that prompted alarmed White House officials to limit access to the remarks to an unusually small number of people, according to three former officials with knowledge of the matter. 
The comments, which have not been previously reported, were part of a now-infamous meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, in which Trump revealed highly classified information that exposed a source of intelligence on the Islamic State. He also said during the meeting that firing FBI Director James B. Comey the previous day had relieved “great pressure” on him.

A memorandum summarizing the meeting was limited to all but a few officials with the highest security clearances in an attempt to keep the president’s comments from being disclosed publicly, according to the former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters. 
The White House’s classification of records about Trump’s communications with foreign officials is now a central part of the impeachment inquiry launched this week by House Democrats. An intelligence community whistleblower has alleged that the White House placed a record of Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president, in which he offered U.S. assistance investigating his political opponents, into a code-word classified system reserved for the most sensitive intelligence information. 
The White House did not provide a comment Friday.

It is not clear whether a memo documenting the May 10, 2017, meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak was placed into that system, but the three former officials said it was restricted to a very small number of people. The White House had recently begun limiting the records of Trump’s calls after remarks he made to the leaders of Mexico and Australia appeared in news reports. The Lavrov memo was restricted to an even smaller group, the former officials said.

This just got blown to hell, guys.  Absolute hell.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Last Call For Out Of Ammo

The NRA is already thrashing in a death spiral of legal recriminations after a leadership battle over possible fraud and misconduct detonated on the front page of the news, all that following the fact that Russian intelligence agent Maria Butina had thoroughly compromised the NRA leadership in order to help Trump in 2016.

And now we find out things get worse for both the NRA and Donald Trump as the Senate Finance Committee's report on the organization flat out calls them a foreign asset for Russia.

The National Rifle Association acted as a "foreign asset" for Russia in the period leading up to the 2016 election, according to a new investigation unveiled Friday by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

Drawing on contemporaneous emails and private interviews, an 18-month probe by the Senate Finance Committee's Democratic staff found that the NRA underwrote political access for Russian nationals Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin more than previously known — even though the two had declared their ties to the Kremlin.
The report, available here, also describes how closely the gun rights group was involved with organizing a 2015 visit by some of its leaders to Moscow.

Then-NRA vice president Pete Brownell, who would later become NRA president, was enticed to visit Russia with the promise of personal business opportunities — and the NRA covered a portion of the trip's costs.

The conclusions of the Senate investigation could have legal implications for the NRA, Wyden says.

Tax-exempt organizations are barred from using funds for the personal benefit of its officials or for actions significantly outside their stated missions. The revelations in the Senate report raise questions about whether the NRA could face civil penalties or lose its tax-exempt status.

Attorneys general in the state of New York and the District of Columbia are conducting separate probes into alleged wrongdoing at the gun rights organization. These probes have a broader scope than the Senate report, which focuses on Russia. 

Senate Republicans quickly attacked the report as "innuendo" and suggested the NRA shouldn't face any penalties, even if they did anything wrong.  But Wyden's report is absolutely brutal.

The report indicates that top NRA officials were aware of Butina's and Torshin's links with the Kremlin even as they sought to work more closely together under the banner of gun rights.

In an email later circulated to two senior NRA staff members, Butina wrote that a purpose of the 2015 Moscow trip was that "many powerful figures in the Kremlin are counting on Torshin to prove his American connections" by showing he could bring prominent NRA officials to Russia.

At another point, Butina suggested to participants on the 2015 NRA trip to Russia that she might be able to set up a meeting between them and President Vladimir Putin, referring to him as "Russia's highest leader."

Despite these declarations about their ties to the Russian government, NRA officials paid for and facilitated Torshin and Butina's introduction into American political organizations.

Butina and Torshin received access to Republican Party officials at NRA events.

It was a explicit interest expressed by Butina: In one 2015 email to an NRA employee, Butina wrote, "is there a list of U.S. governors or members of Congress that might be present at some time during the [NRA] annual meeting?"

The employee responded with a list.

The NRA also helped them forge connections with groups such as the Council for National Policy, the National Prayer Breakfast, the National Sporting Goods Wholesalers Association and Safari Club International.

"NRA resources appear to have been used to pay for membership and registration fees to third party events for [Torshin and Butina] as well as to arrange for transit to and lodging for many of those events throughout 2015 and 2016," the report states

Let's recap this here, folks.

The NRA knew they had Russia intelligence assets in their midst.

They wanted the NRA to help the Republican party and Donald Trump, along with several other GOP candidates and politicians and offered them Russian business contacts for donations to the NRA, which is flamingly illegal.

In return, the NRA paid for the Russians to attend events and gave them access to sitting members of Congress and US governors, again, super, super illegal.

The Senate report concludes the NRA did all this knowingly.

And the best part?

Donald Trump still has no problem working with them.

The Reach To Impeach, Con't

We're starting to see the first post-Pelosi announcement impeachment polls, and the needle has definitely moved towards getting rid of Trump.

Voter support for impeachment matched its highest point of Donald Trump’s presidency as he faced a whistleblower allegation that he pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, with more impeachment supporters than ever before saying he committed an impeachable offense, according to Morning Consult/Politico polling.

The new Sept. 24-26 poll of 1,640 registered voters — conducted as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) endorsed an impeachment inquiry and details emerged about the president’s pressure on Ukraine — found the public divided at 43 percent on the question of whether Congress should begin proceedings to remove Trump from office, a net swing of 13 percentage points in favor of impeachment since a poll conducted over the weekend. The figure for support rose 7 points, while opposition dropped 6 points.

As Zandardad would say, "That's a 13-point swing in four days.  He''s in trouble."

A big shift among Democrats certainly (+13 and -5%)  but a significant net shift among independents (+6 and -9) and yes, even the GOP (+5 and -4).

"Trump asked a foreign leader to interfere in the 2020 election" is really simple to understand.  "Then they tried to cover it up" is also easy to understand.  Trump's already admitted to both.

The longer he keeps running his mouth and doing things like threatening whistleblowers and melting down on national TV, the easier this is going to get.

Ukraine In The Membrane, Con't

The whistleblower complaint story has, if that's even imaginable, actually gotten worse for Trump in the last 24 hours.  Despite legal protections that are supposed to exist, the Justice Department and White House knew the identity of the whistleblower well before the complaint was even filed.  In fact, the White House absolutely knew the identity of the whistleblower just a week after the July 25 call, because the CIA's deputy counsel went to the National Security Council about the issue.

The White House learned that a C.I.A. officer had lodged allegations against President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine even as the officer’s whistle-blower complaint was moving through a process meant to protect him against reprisals
, people familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The officer first shared information about potential abuse of power and a White House cover-up with the C.I.A.’s top lawyer through an anonymous process, some of the people said. She shared the officer’s concerns with White House and Justice Department officials, following policy. Around the same time, he also separately filed the whistle-blower complaint.

The revelations provide new insight about how the officer’s allegations moved through the bureaucracy of government. The Trump administration’s handling of the explosive accusations is certain to be scrutinized in the coming days and weeks, particularly by lawmakers weighing the impeachment of the president. 

The CIA counsel, Courtney Simmons Elwood, went to the head lawyer on the NSC, so immediately the White House knew everything by August 1.

And all that went to Bill Barr two weeks later.

The next day, Mr. Demers went to the White House to read the transcript of the call and assess whether to alert other senior law enforcement officials. The deputy attorney general, Jeffrey A. Rosen, and Brian A. Benczkowski, the head of the department’s criminal division, were looped in, according to two administration officials.

Department officials began to discuss the accusations and whether and how to follow up. Attorney General William P. Barr learned of the allegations around that time, according to a person familiar with the matter
. While Mr. Barr was briefed, he did not oversee the discussions about how to proceed, the person said.

But as White House, C.I.A., and Justice Department officials were examining the accusations, the C.I.A. officer who had lodged them anonymously grew concerned after learning that Ms. Elwood had contacted the White House, according to two people familiar with the matter. While it is not clear how the officer became aware that she shared the information, he concluded that the C.I.A. was not taking his allegations seriously.

That played a factor in his decision to become a whistle-blower, they said. And about two weeks after first submitting his anonymous accusations, he decided to file a whistle-blower complaint to Mr. Atkinson, a step that offers special legal protections, unlike going to a general counsel.

Too late, of course.  He had already been exposed.  The White House knows full well who he is and has known for weeks, if not months.

So who else knew?  John Bolton, maybe?  Dan Coats?  Mike Pompeo?  Rudy himself?  There's quite a list now.  And none of it looks good for Trump in the cold sunlight.


Thursday, September 26, 2019

Last Call For Orange Implosion

Morality and history aside, there are plenty of practical reasons to not impeach Trump: the main one being the near-guaranteed failure of a Senate trial to to garner 67 votes to convict him on any count, even if Mitch McConnell allows a Senate trial to even happen, which is no sure thing.

Does the Senate have an obligation to conduct a trial of the president if the House impeaches him? With the increased prospects for an impeachment inquiry now that the Democrats have taken control of the House of Representatives, most discussions of impeachment have assumed that, should the House vote to impeachment, the Senate will then hold a trial. This is the logical construction of the Constitution’s provisions setting out the impeachment process: If the House impeaches, then it would follow that the Senate tries the case. This is what the Senate did on the two occasions, in the cases of Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, that the House voted articles of impeachment.

The current Senate rules would further support this view. They contemplate that when the House has voted an impeachment, the Senate will be notified, the House managers will present their case and trial proceedings, which the rules prescribe in some detail, will begin.

But it is also possible that, in this time of disregard and erosion of established institutional practices and norms, the current leadership of the Senate could choose to abrogate them once more. The same Mitch McConnell who blocked the Senate’s exercise of its authority to advise and consent to the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland, could attempt to prevent the trial of a House impeachment of Donald Trump. And he would not have to look far to find the constitutional arguments and the flexibility to revise Senate rules and procedures to accomplish this purpose.

The Constitution does not by its express terms direct the Senate to try an impeachment. In fact, it confers on the Senate "the sole power to try,” which is a conferral of exclusive constitutional authority and not a procedural command. The Constitution couches the power to impeach in the same terms: it is the House’s “sole power.” The House may choose to impeach or not, and one can imagine an argument that the Senate is just as free, in the exercise of its own “sole power,” to decline to try any impeachment that the House elects to vote.

But the practical reason for moving forward with impeachment in order to force Trump out of office is that Donald Trump cannot keep his goddamn mouth shut and will certainly only make things worse for himself, in public, on a daily basis.

President Trump expressed disgust Thursday morning with the explosive whistleblower complaint, slamming the intelligence officer and the White House aides who helped him or her as “almost a spy” and suggested it was treason.
Speaking at a private breakfast in New York, Trump described reporters as “scum” and raged at the Democrats’ new impeachment proceedings, which were spurred by the whistleblower’s complaint alleging that Trump tried to strong-arm Ukraine’s leader to interfere in the 2020 election.

The still-unidentified whistleblower acknowledged that he did not listen to Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, but cited information from more than half a dozen U.S. officials over the past four months as part of “official interagency business.”

“Basically, that person never saw the report, never saw the call, he never saw the call — heard something and decided that he or she, or whoever the hell they saw — they’re almost a spy,” Trump said.

“I want to know who’s the person, who’s the person who gave the whistle-blower the information? Because that’s close to a spy,” he continued. “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”

Trump openly calling for harm to come to the whistleblower as a "traitor" is basically not going to help his case.  And again, there's a very good chance Trump will just blurt out evidence of guilt in his rage.

Having said that, the NY Times couldn't help themselves either and published a story on the whisteblower, a CIA officer assigned to the White House.

The whistle-blower who revealed that President Trump sought foreign help for his re-election and that the White House sought to cover it up is a C.I.A. officer who was detailed to work at the White House at one point
, according to three people familiar with his identity.

The man has since returned to the C.I.A., the people said. Little else is known about him. His complaint made public Thursday suggested he was an analyst by training and made clear he was steeped in details of American foreign policy toward Europe, demonstrating a sophisticated understanding of Ukrainian politics and at least some knowledge of the law.

The whistle-blower’s expertise will likely add to lawmakers’ confidence about the merits of his complaint, and tamp down allegations that he might have misunderstood what he learned about Mr. Trump. He did not listen directly to a July call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine that is at the center of the political firestorm over the president’s mixing of diplomacy with personal political gain.

Lawyers for the whistle-blower refused to confirm that he worked for the C.I.A. and said that publishing information about him was dangerous.

But we did it anyway!

Here Comes The Repo Man

Remember last week when the Fed had to step in with $53 billion in overnight lending to keep the money markets from imploding?  That problem is continuing, and the Fed has now poured in more than a quarter-trillion dollars last week to keep interest rates from going under and another $105 billion Tuesday.

The Federal Reserve added $105 billion to the nation's financial system on Tuesday in two transactions, seeking to calm money markets and keep interest rates in its intended range. 
The New York Fed continued its streak of market repurchase agreements, or repos, selling $75 billion of overnight repos and $30 billion of repos expiring in 14 days. Banks bid for $80.2 billion in overnight repos and $62 billion in 14-day repos, signaling strong demand in the government-backed investments. 
Last week marked the first time in a decade that the bank had taken such steps to relieve pressure on money markets. The bank offered a total of $278 billion in repos from Tuesday through Friday.

This is a massive economic system alarm bell, and it's happening while Trump is currently got his orange thumb up his ass over Ukraine.

Also last week, the Federal Open Market Committee cut its benchmark interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point, landing in a window of 1.75% to 2%. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell called the repo offerings a temporary action. 
"Funding pressures in money markets were elevated this week, and the effective federal funds rate rose above the top of its target range," he said. 
The Fed's schedule calls for another $75 billion of overnight repos to be sold every business day until October 10, with certain days also offering at least $30 billion worth of 14-day repos.

So the Fed will have added more than one trillion dollars to its asset sheets in four weeks.  The lender of last resort is currently doing just that, and it's the only thing keeping our economy from imploding into a mess right now.

This is on top of impeachment, US troops in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the Brexit mess in the UK and Israel still unable to form a government.  September 2019 is the month where the wheels came off, guys. I don't know where we're headed from here, but it's not going to be a fun rest of the year, I guarantee it. It definitely feels like 2008 and 1974 had Rosemary's Baby.

I gotta baaaaaaaad feelin' about this...

Ukraine In The Membrane, Con't

The intelligence officer who filed a whistle-blower complaint about President Trump’s interactions with the leader of Ukraine raised alarms not only about what the two men said in a phone call, but also about how the White House handled records of the conversation, according to two people briefed on the complaint.

The whistle-blower, moreover, identified multiple White House officials as witnesses to potential presidential misconduct who could corroborate the complaint
, the people said — adding that the inspector general for the intelligence community, Michael Atkinson, interviewed witnesses.

Mr. Atkinson eventually concluded that there was reason to believe that the president might have illegally solicited a foreign campaign contribution — and that his potential misconduct created a national security risk, according to a newly disclosed Justice Department memo.

An early portrait of the intelligence officer began to take shape on Wednesday as the White House released a rough log of a July 25 phone call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, the latest extraordinary revelation set off by the whistle-blower’s complaint.

This account is based on interviews with the two people and with lawmakers who were permitted to read the complaint late in the day, as well as on details revealed in a Justice Department memo explaining the Trump administration’s legal rationale for withholding the whistle-blower’s allegations from Congress before Mr. Trump relented this week. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

In other words, it's not just Trump who will go down over this.  The report is expected to be declassified and released on Thursday because Team Crimer thinks it will actually save them.

Mr. Atkinson also found reason to believe that the whistle-blower might not support the re-election of Mr. Trump and made clear that the complainant was not in a position to directly listen to the call or see the memo that reconstructed it before it was made public, according to the Justice Department memo, which referred only to a single phone call between Mr. Trump and an unnamed foreign leader.

Instead, the officer heard about the call secondhand from unidentified White House officials who expressed concern that Mr. Trump had “abused his authority or acted unlawfully in connection with foreign diplomacy,” the memo said. Still, Mr. Atkinson concluded after an investigation that the information in the complaint was credible.
In their first public comments, lawyers for the whistle-blower said their client hoped to remain anonymous but wanted to continue to cooperate with lawmakers conducting oversight.

The "hearsay" and "biased" arguments will play on FOX News State TV all day, for sure.  But the reality is that the IG found Trump was a credible national security risk, and that the Justice Department agreed with him.

And like Watergate, it's the clumsy cover-up that's going to do these idiots in.

The complaint also alleges a pattern of obfuscation at the White House, in which officials moved the records of some of Trump’s communications with foreign officials onto a separate computer network from where they are normally stored, this person said. The whistleblower alleges that is what officials did with Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky, an action that alarmed the intelligence community inspector general and prompted him to request that the White House retain records of the Zelensky call, the person who read the complaint said.

And that brings us to more big news from last night, that the whistleblower complaint and IG investigation also turned up a second phone call to Zelensky, from April, where Trump also asked him to work with Giuliani on attacking Joe Biden.  So why did Trump have such a hard-on for working with the Ukraine to fabricate something he could use against Joe Biden and the Democrats?

So he'd have cover to pardon Paul Manafort.

The effort by President Trump to pressure the government of Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son had its origins in an earlier endeavor to obtain information that might provide a pretext and political cover for the president to pardon his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, according to previously undisclosed records.

These records indicate that attorneys representing Trump and Manafort respectively had at least nine conversations relating to this effort, beginning in the early days of the Trump administration, and lasting until as recently as May of this year. Through these deliberations carried on by his attorneys, Manafort exhorted the White House to press Ukrainian officials to investigate and discredit individuals, both in the US and in Ukraine, who he believed had published damning information about his political consulting work in the Ukraine. A person who participated in the joint defense agreement between President Trump and others under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, including Manafort, allowed me to review extensive handwritten notes that memorialized conversations relating to Manafort and Ukraine between Manafort’s and Trump’s legal teams, including Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

These new disclosures emerge as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Tuesday that the House would open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s conduct. What prompted her actions were the new allegations that surfaced last week that Trump had pressured Ukraine’s newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate Trump’s potential 2020 campaign rival, Biden, and his son Hunter, placing a freeze on a quarter of a billion dollars in military assistance to Ukraine as leverage. The impeachment inquiry will also examine whether President Trump obstructed justice by attempting to curtail investigations by the FBI and the special counsel into Russia’s covert interference in the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor.

New information in this story suggests that these two, seemingly unrelated scandals, in which the House will judge whether the president’s conduct in each case constituted extra-legal and extra-constitutional abuses of presidential power, are in fact inextricably linked: the Ukrainian initiative appears to have begun in service of formulating a rationale by which the president could pardon Manafort, as part of an effort to undermine the special counsel’s investigation.
From 2004 to 2014, Manafort had advised President Viktor Yanukovych, who advocated that his country sever ties with the United States and other Western nations, and align itself more closely with Vladimir Putin’s Russia. After Yanukovych fled the country in disgrace in 2014, a ledger was recovered from the burned-out ruins of his Party of Regions. Its records showed that Yanukovych and his political allies had made some $12.7 million in secret cash payments to Manafort. The disclosure led directly to Manafort’s resignation in August 2016 as chairman of the Trump presidential campaign.

The records I have reviewed also indicate that on at least three occasions, Rudy Giuliani was in communication with Manafort’s legal team to discuss how the White House was pushing a narrative that the Democratic National Committee, Democratic donors, and Ukrainian government officials had “colluded” to defeat Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential bid. (This story has since been debunked as baseless, though that has not prevented Trump, Giuliani, and other surrogates in conservative media from repeatedly pushing the story.)

In particular, the records show that Manafort’s camp provided Giuliani with information designed to smear two people: one was a Ukrainian journalist and political activist named Serhiy Leshchenko, whom Manafort believed, correctly, of helping to uncover Manafort’s secret payments from Yanukovych; another was Alexandra Chalupa, a Ukrainian-American political consultant and US citizen, whom Manafort suspected, mistakenly in this case, was also behind the expos√©. The records also show that Giuliani and attorneys for Manafort exchanged information about the then US ambassador to the Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, who Giuliani believed had attempted to undercut his covert Ukrainian diplomacy and fact-finding; the records are unclear as to whether it was Giuliani or Manafort’s attorney who first initiated their discussion about her.

After his arrest in 2017, Manafort continued to encourage President Trump and his lawyers to engage in this effort when they joined Manafort in a joint legal defense agreement. Attorneys are allowed to enter into such agreements in order share information and coordinate legal, public relations, and political strategies—in this case regarding the investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, including that of the special counsel. Federal courts have long ruled that joint defense agreements are legal to protect the due process rights of those under investigation, as long as they are not used by potential defendants to coordinate providing cover stories or false information to prosecutors.

And there's the game.  Create the narrative on Biden, and use it to pardon Manafort and sink Mueller.

Enjoy, folks.  This is going to be fun.


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Last Call For Spies Like Us, Con't

I'm shocked, but apparently the reason why the Trump regime allowed Acting DNI Joseph Maguire to testify to Congress this week is because he threatened to resign if they stopped him.

The acting Director of National Intelligence threatened to resign over concerns that the White House might attempt to force him to stonewall Congress when he testifies Thursday about an explosive whistleblower complaint about the president, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the matter.
The revelation reflects the extraordinary tensions between the White House and the nation’s highest-ranking intelligence official over a matter that has triggered impeachment proceedings against President Trump.

The officials said Joseph Maguire, who was thrust into the top intelligence post last month, warned the White House that he was not willing to withhold information from Congress, where he is scheduled to testify in open and closed hearings on Thursday.

Maguire denied that he had done so. In a statement, he said that “at no time have I considered resigning my position since assuming this role on Aug. 16, 2019. I have never quit anything in my life, and I am not going to start now. I am committed to leading the Intelligence Community to address the diverse and complex threats facing our nation.”

The White House also disputed the account. “This is actually not true,” White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a tweet.

After these statements were issued, Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron said, “We stand by the story.”

Somebody, maybe Maguire himself, wanted to make him look more sympathetic and honorable. We've had our fill of Trump regime employees who walked away from their train wrecks and refused to say anything about how Trump was hurting the country, previous DNI Dan Coats and previous Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis among them.

Meanwhile, Trump's new Ukrainian friends aren't exactly in a good place, and they can smell what's coming down the pike.

When Ukrainians voted to elect comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy as their next president in the spring of 2019, the fledgling administration was eager to coordinate a phone call with Kyiv’s most important benefactor -- the United States, according to an adviser to Zelenskiy.

But after weeks of discussions with American officials, Ukrainian officials came to recognize a precondition to any executive correspondence, the adviser said.

"It was clear that [President Donald] Trump will only have communications if they will discuss the Biden case," said Serhiy Leshchenko, an anti-corruption advocate and former member of Ukraine's Parliament, who now acts as an adviser to Zelenskiy. "This issue was raised many times. I know that Ukrainian officials understood."

The Trump administration’s alleged insistence that the two leaders discuss a prospective investigation into Biden, one of the president’s political opponents, casts his July 25 conversation with Zelenskiy in a new light.

During the call, a rough summary of which was released by the White House Wednesday, Trump repeatedly encouraged Zelenskiy to work with Attorney General William Barr and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to probe Biden’s role in the dismissal of the country’s prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, in 2016.

Why yes, the Ukrainians knew full goddamn well that before Trump would even talk to Zelensky that they had to agree to come up with something on Joe Biden's son.

That's it, guys.  That's the crime.

How It's Playing In Hillsboro

Just a reminder that nobody cares about Trump scandals in Trump country and they never will, so don't expect impeachment to move the needle, much less matter out here in red states one goddamn bit.

This time of year in bellwether rural Ohio, we go from the diner full of MAGA hats that always has FOX News playing on the TV to the county fair full of MAGA hats with FOX News on the radio.  Thirty miles east of Cincinnati in Highland County, Donald Trump will be their man forever.

The fair is not a political rally, and Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters commingled and fellowshipped throughout the week. But in a county Trump won with 76 percent of the vote, signs of continued support for the president were common. There were bumper stickers in the parking lots — “Trump 2020” and “Keep America Great” were new additions. Numerous MAGA hats and Trump T-shirts could be spotted. One teenage boy casually strolled across the midway with friends, a huge “TRUMP” flag draped around his shoulders. 
Even more prolific, but almost synonymous with Trump’s name on a banner, were sartorial declarations of Second Amendment adherence, such as “I’m a bitter gun owner clinging to my religion” and “Criminals Love Gun Control, It Gives Them A Safe Work Environment.” 
As fairgoers sat on bleachers inside the many barns to bid on champion livestock, or relaxed on benches dotting the fairgrounds enjoying a pulled pork or fish sandwich, conversations mostly centered on the fair exhibits and this year’s near-perfect weather. But also overheard were inevitable complaints about the constant attacks on Trump. 
“Russian collusion” failed, several noted, but critics moved seamlessly to “obstruction.” During the week of the fair came “Sharpiegate,” Trump’s alleged weather-map manipulation. In the media, it brought hyperbolic accusations of illegality, but as fair visitors waited in line at the ticket gate ($10 admission, rides included), a few were heard chuckling over how little it takes for Trump to drive the media nuts. And so it went among residents of this alternate reality far removed from the cascade of negative images and narratives about Trump beamed daily onto their TV and smartphone screens. 
The Highland County Fair has endured, rain or shine, for more than 70 years, despite occasions of drought, crop failure, trade wars and grain embargoes. “Like a tree that’s planted by the waters,” the old hymn declares, “I shall not be moved.”

Next year’s fair will be held just two months before the 2020 election. No matter the hardships that might befall farm families, livestock will be exhibited and blue ribbons will be awarded. Regardless of how hot or cold it might be or how much rain might fall, the tractor pulls will be held into the wee hours of the morning. And despite the outrages and scandals that will be relayed from that galaxy far, far away called Washington, for most fairgoers Trump will still be their man. They shall not be moved.

It's all one cosmic joke to them, the stupid liberals out in New York and California who don't get it and never will, that the Obama era was a mistake that will never be allowed to be repeated because of how ungrateful those people were, and the fairgoers knowingly laugh and smile and everything's great again and it's back to The Way Things Should Be™ and impeachment won't matter either.

I mean they'll be pissed off, but what are they gonna do other than Trump winning the county by 45 points like he did last time?  The one thing impeachment means is that Dems have finally stopped chasing rural red state white voters, because they're lost for good now.

They were lost for good before though.

Ukraine In The Membrane, Con't

I do believe the Trump regime has found their Michael Cohen for this particular act of "Who's going to jail for this one?"

President Trump’s attempt to pressure the leader of Ukraine followed a months-long fight inside the administration that sidelined national security officials and empowered political loyalists — including the president’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani — to exploit the U.S. relationship with Kiev, current and former U.S. officials said.

The sequence, which began early this year, involved the abrupt removal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, the circumvention of senior officials on the National Security Council, and the suspension of hundreds of millions of dollars of aid administered by the Defense and State departments — all as key officials from these agencies struggled to piece together Giuliani’s activities from news reports.

Several officials described tense meetings on Ukraine among national security officials at the White House leading up to the president’s phone call on July 25, sessions that led some participants to fear that Trump and those close to him appeared prepared to use U.S. leverage with the new leader of Ukraine for Trump’s political gain.

As those worries intensified, some senior officials worked behind the scenes to hold off a Trump meeting or call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky out of concern that Trump would use the conversation to press Kiev for damaging information on Trump’s potential rival in the 2020 race, former vice president Joe Biden, and Biden’s son, Hunter.

“An awful lot of people were trying to keep a meeting from happening for the reason that it would not be focused on Ukraine-U.S. relations,” one former official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter.

White House officials disputed these accounts, saying that no such concerns were raised in National Security Council meetings and that Trump’s focus was on urging Ukraine to root out corruption. A White House spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

But Trump admitted this week that he had done some of what his own advisers feared, using the call to raise the issue of Biden with Zelensky. And the wave of consternation triggered by that call led someone in the U.S. intelligence community to submit an extraordinary whistleblower complaint, setting in motion a sequence of events that now includes the start of an impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives.

Though the whistleblower report focuses on the Trump-Zelensky call, officials familiar with its contents said that it includes references to other developments tied to the president, including efforts by Giuliani to insert himself into U.S.-Ukrainian relations.

Today is going to be A Day in DC, I can tell you that.

Rudy, call your lawyer.  There are a whole hell of a lot of people in the Trump regime who are going to crucify you in order to escape this, up to and including Trump himself.
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