Sunday, March 31, 2019

Last Call For Border Line Insanity, Con't

Donald Trump has threatened to close the southern border with Mexico several times in the last year over what he sees as President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's "failure" to stop undocumented immigration, but this time he really really means it you guys.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Sunday that President Donald Trump is serious about possibly closing the U.S.-Mexico border this week.

“It certainly isn’t a bluff. You can take the president seriously," she said on "Fox News Sunday," adding, Congress "can fix this."

"Congress can fix the problem of immigration that they’ve failed to fix. This president is looking at the metrics," she said, adding the U.S. has "never seen a surge" in immigration "like this."

On Friday, Trump said “there’s a very good likelihood” he would close the southern border this week.

"Mexico is going to have to do something, otherwise I’m closing the border," Trump said.
"I’ll just close the border," he added. "When you close the border, also you will stop a lot of the drugs from coming in."

She also defended the president's decision to cut off aid to the Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Trump has claimed the governments of those countries had "set up" migrant caravans for entry into the United States.

"We need to send a message," Conway said.

It's a bluff and everyone knows it.  Closing the border with Mexico would cost the country billions in trade dollars a day and Republicans in Congress aren't about to put up with that.  Trump has already blown a hole in the side of the US economy with his tariffs.  Closing the border with Mexico would only make things worse.

And speaking of making things worse...

Taking drastic action over illegal immigration, President Donald Trump moved Saturday to cut direct aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, whose citizens are fleeing north and overwhelming U.S. resources at the southern border.

The State Department notified Congress that it would look to suspend 2017 and 2018 payments to the trio of nations, which have been home to some of the migrant caravans that have marched through Mexico to the U.S. border.

Amplified by conservative media, Trump has turned the caravans into the symbol of what he says are the dangers of illegal immigration — a central theme of his midterm campaigning last fall. With the special counsel’s Russia probe seemingly behind him, Trump has revived his warnings of the caravans’ presence.

Trump also has returned to a previous threat he never carried out — closing the border with Mexico. He brought up that possibility on Friday and revisited it in tweets Saturday, blaming Democrats and Mexico for problems at the border and beyond despite warnings that a closed border could create economic havoc on both sides.

“It would be so easy to fix our weak and very stupid Democrat inspired immigration laws,” Trump tweeted Saturday. “In less than one hour, and then a vote, the problem would be solved. But the Dems don’t care about the crime, they don’t want any victory for Trump and the Republicans, even if good for USA!′

If Republicans wanted to fix immigration, they could have done it at any time when they controlled the House, Senate, and White House in 2017 and 2018.  They chose not to.

But it's the Democrats' fault?


The Crown Prince, The King Of Amazon, And The Orange Jester

So it turns out that Jeff Bezos's affair wasn't just blabbed by his mistress's brother to the National Enquirer after all, but instead it was all part of a Saudi operation to destroy Bezos for the Washington Post's coverage of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman's ordering of the murder of Post reporter and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi. This information comes directly from Bezos's lead investigator on the matter, Gavin de Becker, who took to The Daily Beast to spill the beans.

I’m writing this today because it’s exactly what the Enquirer scheme was intended to prevent me from doing. Their contract also contained terms that would have inhibited both me and Bezos from initiating a report to law enforcement.

Things didn’t work out as they hoped.

When the terms for avoiding publication of personal photos were presented to Jeff Bezos, he responded immediately: “No thank you.” Within hours, he wrote an essay describing his reasons for rejecting AMI’s threatening proposal. Then he posted it all on Medium, including AMI’s actual emails and their salacious descriptions of private photos. (After the Medium post, AMI put out a limp statement saying it “believed fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos.”)

The issues Bezos raised in his Medium post have nothing whatsoever to do with Michael Sanchez, any more than revealing the name of a low-level Watergate burglar sheds light on the architects of the Watergate cover-up. Bezos was not expressing concerns about the Enquirer’s original story; he was focused on what he called “extortion and blackmail.”

Next, Bezos directed me to “spend whatever is needed” to learn who may have been complicit in the scheme, and why they did it.

That investigation is now complete. As has been reported elsewhere, my results have been turned over to federal officials. Since it is now out of my hands, I intend today’s writing to be my last public statement on the matter. Further, to respect officials pursuing this case, I won’t disclose details from our investigation. I am, however, comfortable confirming one key fact:

Our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos’ phone, and gained private information. As of today, it is unclear to what degree, if any, AMI was aware of the details.
We did not reach our conclusions lightly. The inquiry included a broad array of resources: investigative interviews with current and former AMI executives and sources, extensive discussions with top Middle East experts in the intelligence community, leading cyber security experts who have tracked Saudi spyware, discussions with current and former advisers to President Trump, Saudi whistleblowers, people who personally know the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (also known as MBS), people who work with his close associate Saud al-Qahtani, Saudi dissidents, and other targets of Saudi action, including writer/activist Iyad el-Baghdadi.

Experts with whom we consulted confirmed New York Times reports on the Saudi capability to “collect vast amounts of previously inaccessible data from smartphones in the air without leaving a trace—including phone calls, texts, emails”—and confirmed that hacking was a key part of the Saudi’s “extensive surveillance efforts that ultimately led to the killing of [Washington Post] journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”

Some Americans will be surprised to learn that the Saudi government has been very intent on harming Jeff Bezos since last October, when the Post began its relentless coverage of Khashoggi’s murder. The Saudi campaign against Bezos has already been reported by CNN International, Bloomberg, The Daily Beast, and others.

Saudi Arabia attacks people in many ways, obviously, including through their elaborate social media program that uses sophisticated technology and paid surrogates to create artificially trending hashtags. To give you an idea of how this program has infected the U.S., the New York Times reported that the Saudis even had an operative inside Twitter, which fired the suspect employee, and later advised select activists and others that “your Twitter account is one of a small group of accounts that may have been targeted by state-sponsored actors.”

In October, the Saudi government unleashed its cyber army on Bezos (and later me). Their multi-pronged campaign included public calls for boycotts against and its Saudi subsidiary, Just three examples among thousands:

“We as Saudis will never accept to be attacked by the Washington Post in the morning, only to buy products from Amazon and by night! Strange that all three companies are owned by the same Jew who attacks us by day, and sells us products by night!”
“Our weapon is to boycott… because the owner of the newspaper is the same as their owner.”

We're after you - the Jew, worshipper of money, will go bankrupt by the will of God at the hands of Saudi Arabia... the owner of Amazon and Souq is the owner of the Washington Post is the spiteful Jew who insults us every day.”

Bezos is not Jewish, but you get the point.

We studied the well-documented and close relationship between MBS and AMI chairman, David Pecker. That alliance includes David Pecker bringing MBS intermediary Kacy Grine to a private White House meeting with President Trump and Jared Kushner. Mr. Pecker has also traveled to Saudi Arabia to meet with the Crown Prince. Though we don’t know what was discussed in those private meetings, AMI’s actions afterwards are telling. To coincide with MBS’ March 2018 U.S. tour, AMI created a 100-page, ad-free, glossy magazine called The New Kingdom. Since MBS wasn’t yet a notorious figure in the West (this was before the murder of Jamal Khashoggi), AMI’s magazine introduced him to Americans as “the most influential Arab leader—transforming the world at 32,” and “improving lives of his people & hopes for peace.”

The Associated Press reported that AMI sent an advance digital copy of their laudatory magazine to the Saudi Embassy three weeks before printing and distributing 200,000 issues. (Despite AP’s substantial forensic evidence, the kingdom denied it received the magazine’s content in advance. While we’re on denials, the kingdom says Saudi Arabia had nothing to with the Bezos matter. The kingdom also says MBS had nothing whatsoever to do with the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.)

When AMI publicly insisted that nobody outside of their executives and editors “had any influence on this publication or its content,” I guess they meant other than Kacy Grine, the very same MBS-intermediary Pecker had brought to The White House. I say that because AMI soon had to disclose to the Department of Justice National Security Division that their mystery magazine included content written by Grine, and that they also gave him the whole working draft for advance review, and that he suggested changes, and that they implemented his changes, and that he provided better photographs of MBS. With friends like AMI, you don’t need… publicists.

My firm has done many investigations into Enquirer misconduct, including one that became the subject of a 60 Minutesinvestigative piece way back in 1990. Before then, tabloids had been seen as almost funny publications, mixing celebrity gossip with space aliens and Elvis sightings. But when the Enquirer’s on-again-off-again relationship with the truth percolated into politics, it wasn’t so funny anymore.

Though relatively benign at first (“Al Gore’s Diet Is Making Him Stupid”), the Trump/Pecker relationship has metastasized: In effect, the Enquirer became an enforcement arm of the Trump presidential campaign, and presidency, as the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York laid out in its case against Michael Cohen, who has pleaded guilty. The U.S. Attorney has done the country a service by levying extensive controls on AMI, David Pecker, and his deputy Dylan Howard, through a non-prosecution agreement that requires them to commit no other crimes for three years, and requires everyone at AMI to attend annual training on federal election laws. I’m guessing that’s not how they used to spend their time.

If de Becker's information is solid -- and there's every reason to believe it is -- then we have a foreign operation against a US citizen in order to wreck his life in revenge for his newspaper publishing the truth about the Saudi Crown Prince's murderous ways.

And if you think the Trump Justice Department is going to lift a finger to investigate this, I have my own newspaper to sell you.  Hell, there's even odds that Trump knew about this beforehand and tacitly gave his permission.  Trump despises Jeff Bezos for the same Washington Post that prints the truth about Trump.

Again, this is what autocrats do.  I think there may have even been a quid pro quo here, Trump covers MBS on Khashoggi's murder (and you notice that months later our relationship with the Saudis hasn't changed one bit) and in return, MBS exposes Bezos's affair, which did destroy his marriage and his soon-to-be ex-wife Mackenzie is walking away with $70 billion of Bezos's fortune.

You tell me who won in this mess, because it sure looks like to me that MBS and Trump are getting away with this.

Sunday Long Read: A Volunteer Detective

Barack Obama was arguably the best President in recent history when it came to Native issues.  He actually gave a damn about a section of America that is ignored to the point of criminal neglect under Donald Trump.  The death of Olivia Kerry Lone Bear rocked the Fort Berthold reservation in North Dakota, and it took an amateur sleuth named Lissa Yellowbird-Chase to find her body, when the police had completely given up.

On a blazing hot day in late July, Lissa Yellowbird-Chase drove her black SUV, license plate "SEARCH", to a muddy landing on Lake Sakakawea. It was a remote entrance to the water on the northern edge of the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota - not much more than a rickety dock at the end of an uneven gravel road.

Hitched to the back of Yellowbird-Chase's truck was a 14-foot boat with a half-broken motor and a set of fishing sonar. By her own admission, she was not a particularly skilled or experienced boater, nor an expert in sonar. But she had a plan.

Along with a couple of volunteers from her group, the Sahnish Scouts of North Dakota, they would motor along the shoreline of the bay, scanning the lakebed for anomalies, moving further and further away from the shore with each pass. They would keep going until Yellowbird-Chase satisfied the nagging feeling she'd had about this spot for months.

"I don't know what it was - I was drawn to that place," she recalled later. "I actually stood in that bay last fall."

Nine months earlier, in the autumn of 2017, a young mother of five named Olivia Kerri Lone Bear vanished from New Town, a tiny oil-boom city on the Fort Berthold Reservation. The 32-year-old was last seen on 24 October, at the wheel of a teal-coloured Chevy Silverado pick-up truck that she often borrowed from a friend. She was a caretaker for her father, and the following day, he found her wallet and mobile phone at his home.

Since then, the Lone Bear family had been searching for Olivia in vain. Yellowbird-Chase joined the effort along with the Sahnish Scouts, a group she founded in 2015 to search and recover missing people in Indian Country - though she had been doing the work on her own since about 2011.

"PLEASE SHARE," she posted on Facebook five days after Olivia disappeared, alongside a missing poster with telephone numbers for the Lone Bear family and her own personal mobile number. "You can remain anonymous."

In the weeks that followed, large groups of volunteers fanned out across the 1-million acre reservation on foot, and on all-terrain vehicles. Her family took over a tribal government building and established a search headquarters with a tipline, which they manned every day for months. Reported sightings came from as far away as California and Arizona.

But once the tundra-like North Dakota winter set in, all search efforts - aside from keeping the phone line open - had to be suspended until spring. The lake froze over, sealing itself under a thick crust of ice.

By July, when Yellowbird-Chase pushed out in her boat, summer was in its full height, and the waters were wide open.

She tried not to get excited when, a few hundred feet from the shore, her sonar picked up a rectangular object on what should have been the blank, featureless lakebed. In the early 1950s, the US Army Corps of Engineers dammed the Missouri River and created Lake Sakakawea, flooding farmland that belonged to the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara tribes, and swallowing towns whole. The anomaly she saw on the screen could be nothing more than an old building foundation or a chimney, she thought.

till, she took a photo and texted it to Keith Cormican, a technical diver and certified underwater sonar operator in Wisconsin. While Yellowbird-Chase was a sonar novice, she considered Cormican her "mentor" - his organisation Bruce's Legacy has located and recovered 27 drowning victims since 2013.

"I knew she had a vehicle," he recalled.

He texted back that she should keep taking scans at different times of day, to catch shadows coming off the object that would give it better definition.

After days of obsessively motoring back and forth over the same spot, and struggling with their broken motor, Yellowbird-Chase texted a new image to Corey Bristol, the then-chief deputy of the Mountrail County Sheriff's Office. It was a Saturday, and Bristol was 70 miles away, spending his day off with his father. But when he looked down at his phone and saw a pixellated image featuring what looked like a tiny Tonka truck at the centre, he jumped in his car and accelerated back towards New Town.

"We definitely wanted to find out what was down there," he said.

It was indeed Olivia Kerry Lone Bear's body.  The crime has not been solved, because the system in place absolutely favors non-Native suspects, who get regular police proceedings.  But when the victim is Native, a broken and overloaded system takes over and the gathering of evidence and even determining if there's a body can take years.

And the cases die.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

America's opinion on the Mueller probe has taken a stark partisan spin in the last few weeks, with Democrats nowhere near satisfied with Bill Barr's four-page summary.

Americans are split over whether House Democrats should continue to investigate President Trump after special counsel Robert S. Mueller III made no determination about whether he attempted to obstruct justice during the inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election, a Washington Post-Schar School poll finds.

The division marks a clear break from public support for Russia-related investigations at the start of the year, when an overall majority supported House Democrats’ efforts to examine whether Trump’s subordinates conspired with Russia as well as Trump’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Six House panels are digging into aspects of Trump’s campaign, his finances and his efforts to discredit Mueller’s inquiry as a “witch hunt,” while they wrestle with Attorney General William P. Barr for access to Mueller’s full report and the underlying evidence that informed his conclusions. Mueller did not find that Trump or his campaign conspired with Russia in 2016.

An overwhelming 83 percent say the Mueller report should be made public in its entirety, and 57 percent say Barr — who described some of Mueller’s principal findings in a letter to Congress this month — has not released enough details about the report.

The Post-Schar School national poll, conducted Tuesday through Friday, underscores how much the political dynamics surrounding Mueller’s report have changed between when it was a work in progress and its completion just over one week ago.

Nearly 8 in 10 Republicans say they feel “satisfied” with the investigation’s conclusions, a strikingly positive assessment for a group that widely disapproved of Mueller’s handling of the investigation just last month.

Among Democrats, who long expressed faith in Mueller during the inquiry, 53 percent now say they are disappointed with its conclusions. And while most still approve of Mueller’s efforts, more than 6 in 10 Democrats do not accept his finding on whether Trump conspired with Russia.

Over the course of Mueller’s 22-month investigation, and as the special counsel racked up indictments of individuals in Trump’s inner circle, many Democrats in public office had expressed confidence that the inquiry would reveal something crippling about Trump, and were as shocked as once-skeptical Republicans were elated when Barr delivered Mueller’s principal conclusions.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the end of the investigation has done little to shake partisans’ convictions about Trump’s guilt or innocence. A 76 percent majority of Democrats thinks Trump committed serious wrongdoing related to Russian election interference or the investigation that followed, including nearly two-thirds who say he committed a crime. Separately, 8 in 10 Democrats think Trump tried to hinder the Russia investigation and committed obstruction of justice in the process.

Barr is in the process of redacting and editing the Mueller report as we speak.  We will *never* get the full report in our lifetimes.  It's why he was appointed.

I wish people would understand that.

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