Friday, January 25, 2019

Last Call For One Hell Of A Week

I have to say, between the Roger Stone indictment all but pointing the finger at Trump for ordering Stone to work with WikiLeaks to get more DNC hacked emails, and the collapse of his leverage on the government shutdown this afternoon, Friday has basically topped off the Worst Week For Trump So Far™.

I'm not going to go as far as to say Trump is broken, he's not, but he just took two right crosses to the jaw, and he's wobbling on his feet.  He's had an abysmal week, and it shows.

As far as the Roger Stone indictment and why it's important, we go back to two Washington Monthy pieces from November 2017, first, Martin Longman on WikiLeaks being a Russian intel clearing house.

But it’s the naked way that WikiLeaks was acting as a Kremlin front that I think is the most important news here. There’s an implied understanding in these messages between the two parties. There’s no sense of caution on the WikiLeaks end that they might be presumptuous about Donald Jr.’s willingness to push the Kremlin line or that Donald Sr. might be offended by the suggestion that he delegitimize the election for Russia’s benefit even though it would clearly hurt his own country. There’s a conspiracists’ bond between them as they discuss the desirability of throwing people off their scent by working together to leak damaging information in a preemptive way (the classic “limited hangout.”)

A limited hangout or partial hangout is, according to former special assistant to the Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Victor Marchetti, “spy jargon for a favorite and frequently used gimmick of the clandestine professionals. When their veil of secrecy is shredded and they can no longer rely on a phony cover story to misinform the public, they resort to admitting—sometimes even volunteering—some of the truth while still managing to withhold the key and damaging facts in the case. The public, however, is usually so intrigued by the new information that it never thinks to pursue the matter further.”

Admittedly, there’s no direct admission in these communications that the leaked emails were obtained by Russian hackers, nor do they come right out and say that they’re discussing a Russian agenda. But, collectively, these messages are incredibly strong evidence of Wikileaks being a Russian front organization, or at least that they have been so strongly coopted that they might as well be run from Moscow.
The evidence of Russian hacking has been coming in from other sources, including George Papadopoulos, who was informed that Russia had obtained hacked material long before any of it was actually released. What remained a question was whether Wikileaks was a witting or unwitting participant in Russia’s game. In my opinion, these Twitter messages remove any doubt about that. Wikileaks was acting in a way that was completely indistinguishable from how a Russian intelligence agency would act. And they weren’t making any effort to disguise this from the Trump campaign.

This completes the case, in a sense, because it not only connects the dots between Russia and Wikileaks, but it makes clear that the Trump campaign knew how closely the two were working together. The only remaining defense relies on the stupidity and naivety of the Trump team, but they’ve been caught in so many lies now that it will be hard for them to be believed if they try to argue that they just didn’t know who they were dealing with.

The other piece is from Nancy LaTourneau on Stone and Assange's connection to Randy Credico...and Bernie Sanders.

It could be that Credico was like other extremist liberals who continue to support Wikileaks and are simply consumed with a rabid hatred of anyone named Clinton. But it is also worth keeping in mind something that was reported in the Steele dossier.

Unlike with Jill Stein, I see nothing that suggests that Bernie Sanders or anyone in his campaign knew about, much less condoned any of this. But it remains an open question whether Credico was simply one of those activists that the Russians hoped to target, or if his association with the likes of Roger Stone and Julian Assange—combined with what Steele uncovered—suggests a lot more than that.

The Stone indictment is absolute bad news for Trump, for certain.

What I'm afraid of though is that this becomes the point where Trump decides that if he's going to go down, he's taking America with him, and earlier this afternoon Secretary of State Mike Pompeo showed his cards on what Trump could do to throw the country and the world into chaos.

Elliott Abrams, a controversial neoconservative figure who was entangled in the Iran-Contra affair, has been named as a Trump administration special envoy overseeing policy toward Venezuela, which has been rocked by a leadership crisis.

Abrams’ appointment, announced Friday by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is something of a surprise — President Donald Trump nixed his 2017 bid to be deputy secretary of state after learning that Abrams had criticized him.

Abrams will now be one of several special envoys Pompeo has brought on board to tackle thorny issues. He takes on his role at an unusually volatile time in U.S.-Venezuelan relations.

Earlier this week, Trump announced he no longer recognized the legitimacy of the Venezuelan regime of Nicolas Maduro and said the U.S. now considers opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s “Interim president.” But Maduro is refusing to leave power and has declared that Venezuela will cut off diplomatic ties with the United States.

“This crisis in Venezuela is deep and difficult and dangerous, and I can’t wait to get to work on it,” Abrams said in brief remarks to reporters.

Abrams, who served in the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, is a well-known and somewhat controversial figure in U.S. foreign policy circles.

He has often expressed hawkish views and is fiercely pro-Israel, but he also has written and spoken eloquently about the need to support human rights around the world.

If there are two people who can get un into a shooting war in Venezuela, it's John Bolton's Mustache and Elliott Goddamn Abrams.

And they can absolutely do that.

Just a thought.

Shutdown Meltdown, Con't

As the Trump Shutdown reaches the 35-day mark, we've finally reached a major tipping point as several major US airports are now in "ground stop" mode, causing massive flight delays due to lack of air traffic controller staff.

Federal officials temporarily restricted flights Friday into and out of New York’s LaGuardia Airport, another example of the toll that the partial government shutdown — in its 35th day — is taking on the nation’s airports.

“We have experienced a slight increase in sick leave at two facilities,” a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement. “We’ve mitigated the impact by augmenting staffing, rerouting traffic and increasing spacing between aircraft when needed. The results have been minimal impacts to efficiency while maintaining consistent levels of safety in the national airspace system."

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Friday that President Trump had been briefed on the situation.

"We are in regular contact with officials at the Department of Transportation and the FAA,” she said.

The FAA fiasco immediately turned into a deal to temporarily reopen the government as Trump realized he has to reopen the government, and that Pelosi has won this round.

President Trump on Friday announced a deal with congressional leaders to temporarily reopen the government while talks continue on his demand for border wall money, a move expected to bring an end to the longest shutdown in U.S. history.

The pact, announced by Trump from the Rose Garden at the White House, would reopen shuttered government departments for three weeks while leaving the issue of $5.7 billion for the U.S.-Mexico border wall to further talks.

The outcome was a win for Democrats and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who had insisted on no negotiations until the government was reopened.

Trump said that a congressional conference committee would spent the next three weeks working in a bipartisan fashion to come up with a border security package. He made it clear that he expects wall funding to be a prominent part of that.

“No border security plan can never work without a physical barrier. It just doesn’t happen,” Trump said in his remarks.

Trump said he was asking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to put legislation on the floor immediately to implement the deal.

If approved by Congress, the deal would allow federal employees to return to work. But it sets up another fight in coming weeks over the same issues at the heart of the impasse.

No wall funding, and no leverage to get it, but it does mean this comes as the Trump regime is now apparently preparing to go ahead and break the self-created Feb. 15 impasse with an emergency powers declaration and skipping Congress entirely.

The White House is preparing a draft proclamation for President Donald Trump to declare a national emergency along the southern border and has identified more than $7 billion in potential funds for his signature border wall should he go that route, according to internal documents reviewed by CNN. 
Trump has not ruled out using his authority to declare a national emergency and direct the Defense Department to construct a border wall as Congress and the White House fight over a deal to end the government shutdown. But while Trump's advisers remain divided on the issue, the White House has been moving forward with alternative plans that would bypass Congress. 
"The massive amount of aliens who unlawfully enter the United States each day is a direct threat to the safety and security of our nation and constitutes a national emergency," a draft of a presidential proclamation reads. 
"Now, therefore, I, Donald J. Trump, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C 1601, et seq.), hereby declare that a national emergency exists at the southern border of the United States," the draft adds
The draft was updated as recently as last week, a US government official told CNN.

According to options being considered, the administration could pull: $681 million from Treasury forfeiture funds, $3.6 billion in military construction, $3 billion in Pentagon civil works funds, and $200 million in Department of Homeland Security funds, the official said. 
As lawmakers discussed a short-term measure to fund the government Thursday, Trump again raised the prospect of other ways to fund a border wall without congressional approval. 
"I have other alternatives if I have to and I'll use those alternatives if I have to," he told reporters. 
"A lot of people who wants this to happen. The military wants this to happen. This is a virtual invasion of our country," Trump said. 
The Defense Department referred a request for comment from CNN to the White House.

So the emergency declaration has reached the leakable draft document stage at least.  What this means isn't clear, Congress does have to sign off on any emergency declaration eventually, but Trump figures he can move the money, declare victory, and then...we don't know, does he shut down the government again then?  Does he militarize the border?  It all gets really crazy after that point.

I don't know if Trump will actually do it, he was scared off once before, but if it's gotten this far along in the draft process, my guess is that this is a trial balloon heading into the weekend and possible action on Monday.

But even if he does declare an emergency, why then would he agree to keep open the government?  He clearly doesn't care about people suffering given his past actions on policy, and he clearly doesn't care about the economic consequences given the same history of policy actions.  Since the cruelty is the point, why wouldn't he choose to continue it and demand more/different concessions from Pelosi?

We'll see what happens here, but anyone who believes Trump getting funding for his wall through this end run next month means he'll keep open the government is in for a surprise, should he go that route, and I actually think it makes an emergency declaration more likely as a result.  He's setting us up for Round 2 next month, but at least he gets his Super Bowl weekend in the meantime. Whether or not Pelosi wins that round, well, we'll see.  Hostage taking is much more effective when you're willing to shoot some hostages.

And of course an emergency declaration means he'll start claiming more and more executive power.  That how this always works.

It's Mueller Time, Stone Cold Edition

Long-time Trump adviser Roger Stone has been predicting his indictment by Robert Mueller for a while now, and in a glorious return to Mueller Fridays, the hammer finally dropped.

Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime informal adviser to President Trump, was charged as part of the special counsel investigation over his communications with WikiLeaks, the organization behind the release of thousands of stolen Democratic emails during the 2016 campaign, in an indictment unsealed Friday.

Mr. Stone was charged with seven counts, including obstruction of an official proceeding, making false statements and witness tampering, according to the special counsel’s office.

F.B.I. agents arrested Mr. Stone before dawn on Friday at his home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and he was expected to appear in a federal courthouse there later in the morning. F.B.I. agents were also seen carting hard drives and other evidence from Mr. Stone’s apartment in Harlem.

The indictment is the first in months by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and possible coordination with Trump campaign associates. Citing details in emails and other forms of communications, the indictment suggests Mr. Trump’s campaign knew about additional stolen emails before they were released and asked Mr. Stone to find out about them.

Mr. Stone’s lawyer, Grant Smith, dismissed the charges, calling them “ridiculous,” and said, “this is all about a minor charge about lying to Congress about something that was apparently found later.”

Mr. Stone, a self-described dirty trickster, began his career as a campaign aide for Richard M. Nixon and has a tattoo of Nixon on his back. He has spent decades plying the political dark arts including scandal-mongering to help influence American election campaigns, and has long maintained that he had no connection to Russia’s attempts to disrupt the 2016 presidential election. He sometimes seemed to taunt American law enforcement agencies, daring them to find hard evidence to link him to the Russian election interference.

According to the indictment, between June and July of 2016, Mr. Stone told “senior Trump campaign officials” about the stolen emails in WikiLeaks’ possession that could be damaging to Mrs. Clinton. On July 22, WikiLeaks released its first batch of Democratic emails. After that, according to the indictment, the Trump campaign sought more.

“A senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact Stone about any additional releases and what other damaging information Organization 1 had regarding the Clinton campaign,” the indictment said, referring to WikiLeaks. The indictment did not make clear who directed the senior campaign official to reach out to Mr. Stone, though it left open the possibility that it was Mr. Trump.

The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, sought to broadly distance Mr. Trump from the charges. The charges brought against Mr. Stone have nothing to do with the president,” she told CNN. Asked whether he directed a campaign aide to contact Mr. Stone about the WikiLeaks emails, she repeated that the charges did not involve the president.

The full indictment is here.

Needless to say, the indictment straight up accuses Stone of knowing WikiLeaks had the stolen DNC emails and was going to drop them online, Stone was Trump's contact to WikiLeaks to get more of them, and that Stone was directed to do so by the Trump campaign.  Marcy Wheeler reminds us the "high-ranking Trump campaign official" who asked Stone about more emails was Steve Bannon but for now, we don't know who ordered Stone to contact WikiLeaks in July 2016, although Manafort was Trump's campaign chairman then, so why not name him since he's already in the bag?  My guess is as with the NY Times article, the person is Trump himself, and that's deadly for him.

The bigger problem for Trump is that obstruction of justice charge, too.  This is as close as we've come to a case for impeachment against Trump yet.

Stay tuned.


Related Posts with Thumbnails