Sunday, July 28, 2019

Last Call For Sugar Coats-ing The Problem, Con't

President Trump is expected to nominate Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) to replace Dan Coats as director of national intelligence
, according to three sources familiar with the president's deliberations.

Behind the scenes: Trump was thrilled by Ratcliffe's admonishment of former special counsel Robert Mueller in last week's House Judiciary Committee hearing. "The special counsel's job, nowhere does it say that you were to conclusively determine Donald Trump's innocence or that the special counsel report should determine whether or not to exonerate him," Ratcliffe, a former prosecutor, said to Mueller.

"I agree with Chairman Nadler this morning when he said Donald Trump is not above the law," Ratcliffe added. "But he damn sure should not be below the law which is where Volume II of this report puts him." 
But while Ratcliffe's performance in the Mueller hearing helped his chances for the DNI appointment, it wasn't what put him on the president's radar. Advisers to Trump said the president was already seriously considering Ratcliffe to replace Coats. Trump had previously shortlisted Ratcliffe to replace Jeff Sessions as attorney general before he ultimately chose William Barr. 
The New York Times' Maggie Haberman was the first to report that Ratcliffe was in the mix to replace Coats as DNI. And CNN reported that Ratcliffe was under consideration for an unspecified job in the administration.

As with all of Trump's decisions, his advisers caution that the president could still change his mind at the last minute, but senior administration officials familiar with the president's deliberations say Ratcliffe is the favorite.

The big picture: Trump has been mulling replacing Coats since at least February, as Axios recently reported. The director of national intelligence serves as an overseer of the U.S. intelligence community and a close adviser to the president and National Security Council, producing each day's top-secret Presidential Daily Brief.

Ratcliffe is loyal to Trump, not the country or the Constitution.  This is why he's getting the job.

Ratcliffe, who has served in Congress since 2015, argued during Mueller's hearing before the House Judiciary Committee that in the second volume of the report, Mueller offered "extra-prosecutorial analysis about crimes that weren't charged" and accused the former special counsel of breaking Justice Department regulations by doing so. 
Ratcliffe has been under consideration for a job within the Trump administration, sources told CNN, including an intelligence or national security role. The congressman speaks with the President often, and Trump is a big fan of his, the sources said. 
The congressman's name was floated last year as a possible replacement for former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was eventually succeeded by William Barr. 
Ratcliffe, a former federal prosecutor, has been critical of the way the Democrats on the committee have approached Mueller's investigation after it ended, arguing in April against the panel authoring a subpoenafor an underacted version of the report. 
"Let Bob Mueller come, and let's ask Bob Mueller to come and whether or not he thinks the report he created should be disclosed without considerations of redactions for classified national security information, or without redactions for grand jury information or other information related to ongoing investigations," he said at the time.

Remember, Coats is being fired because he's not sufficiently loyal enough to the idea of protecting Dear Leader.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats has installed a new czar to oversee election security efforts across the spy world, he announced on Friday.
A veteran agency leader, Shelby Pierson, has been appointed to serve as the first election threats executive within the intelligence community, or IC, Coats said.

"Election security is an enduring challenge and a top priority for the IC," said Coats.

"In order to build on our successful approach to the 2018 elections, the IC must properly align its resources to bring the strongest level of support to this critical issue. There is no one more qualified to serve as the very first election threats executive than Shelby Pierson, whose knowledge and experience make her the right person to lead this critical mission."

Pierson has served within the intelligence world for more than 20 years. She was "crisis manager" for election security for the 2018 election within the office of the DNI and also has served in top roles in the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, according to one official biography.

Her appointment isn't the only change Coats announced on Friday. He also is directing other agencies within the extended family of spy services to appoint their own executives responsible for election security efforts.

"These agency leads will work with the [election threats executive] to help ensure IC efforts on election security are coordinated and prioritized across all IC elements," Coats said.

Let's be clear why Ratliffe is being hired: His first job is to fire or neutralize Shelby Pierson and put an end to the election security efforts in the intelligence community.  Trump needs somebody willing to do that and take the slings and arrows for such an obvious political move that casts suspicion on the Trump regime.

Trump can't have increased security on election matters, especially coming from the intelligence community. Ratliffe's job will then be to clear the way for neutering our counterintelligence, just what Putin wants.

How To Steal An Election, Con't

The lawsuit, filed by the Coalition for Good Governance, argues that state officials "almost immediately" began destroying evidence after a 2017 lawsuit alleged Georgia's voting machines were outdated and vulnerable to hacking.  
"The evidence strongly suggests that the State's amateurish protection of critical election infrastructure placed Georgia's election system at risk, and the State Defendants now appear to be desperate to cover-up the effects of their misfeasance — to the point of destroying evidence," the lawsuit reads. 
Georgia's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger rebuffed the accusations in a statement -- pointing to a US Senate Intelligence Committee report, which concluded that no machines were manipulated and no votes were changed. 
Raffensperger went onto say, "The office is also in the process of replacing the state's current voter machines with machines that print a paper ballot for an added layer of security. Those new machines will be in place by the March 24, 2020 Presidential Preference Primary". 
The current machines however, are still planned to be used for special and municipal elections this year. 
Thursday's lawsuit alleges a broad effort from state officials to "intentionally" destroy "fundamental" evidence. 
"This type of evidence is not merely relevant and unique, it is fundamental, and it is forever gone. After abundant notice of their well-known duty to preserve evidence, the State Defendants did not simply neglect to disable some automated purge function in their IT systems. Rather, they intentionally and calculatingly destroyed evidence," the lawsuit states. "Such conspicuously outrageous conduct can only raise the question: What were the State Defendants trying to hide?"

I don't know what else to say, other than if state election officials destroyed evidence deliberately in order to protect Brian Kemp being the Secretary of State in charge of monitoring his own 2018 gubernatorial race against Stacey Abrams, then Kemp should be removed from office.

But we all know that this isn't going to happen, and that the voting machines with the paper ballots are still manufactured by companies that donate heavily to the GOP.

Sunday Long Read: Up In The Air

This week's Sunday Long Read comes to us from Narratively, where Caroline Rothstein writes about her father Steven, one of the few people on the planet who was in the right place at the right time and with the right resources to purchase a lifetime, first-class pass on American Airlines.  Steven Rothstein used that pass for two decades, and then in 2008, the airline revoked it, setting off a major court battle and, as Caroline recounts, the loss of her father's lifeline to the friends he had made around the world.

On March 10, 2009, a case was filed in the U.S. Circuit Court for the Northern District of Illinois, where I grew up. Rothstein v. American Airlines, Inc. starred my father, Plaintiff Steven Rothstein, and the Defendant, then the world’s third-largest airline. With $23 billion in annual revenue, American Airlines had nothing to lose. For my father, it was a last-ditch effort to save his life.

Here’s how it all took off. In the early 1980s, American rolled out AAirpass, a prepaid membership program that let very frequent flyers purchase discounted tickets by locking in a certain number of annual miles they presumed they might fly in advance. My 30-something-year-old father, having been a frequent flyer for his entire life, purchased one. Then, a few years later, American introduced something straight out an avid traveler’s fantasy: an unlimited ticket.

In 1987, amidst a lucrative year as a Bear Stearns stockbroker, my father became one of only a few dozen people on earth to purchase an unlimited, lifetime AAirpass. A quarter of a million dollars gave him access to fly first class anywhere in the world on American for the rest of his life. He flew so much it paid for itself. Often he’d leave in the morning for a business trip, fly back, and I hadn’t even known he’d left. Other times, I remember calling his office to find out what country he was in. He (and our whole family) was featured on NBC’s Today Showin 2003, and then on MSNBC in 2006. For 20 years, he was one of American’s top fliers, accumulating more than 30 million miles, which he acquired every time he flew, even with the AAirpass.

Then, on December 13, 2008, American took the AAirpass away.

For several years, the revenues department at American had been monitoring my father and other AAirpass holders to see how much their golden tickets were costing the airline in lost revenue. After 20 years it seems, they’d decided the pass wasn’t such a good idea. My father was one of several lifetime, unlimited AAirpass holders American claimed had breached their contracts.

A few months later, my father sued American for breaking their deal, and more importantly, taking away something integral to who he was. They fought out of court for years. The story became front-page news. The LA Times. The New York Post. Fox News. A slew of online outlets. It’s even a perennially popular conversation topic on Reddit.

The obvious story is that my father was a decadent jet-setter who either screwed or got screwed by American; depends on your take. In the coverage, whether he’s mentioned by name or in off-handed attributions to ostentatious wealth, it’s always this: sensational. And I think — as does my whole family, including my dad — that at the very least, it doesn’t quite land.

What follows is a cracking good read, as my friend from college used to say.  For Steve Rothstein, it was a super-power of flight, and he used it around the planet for the kind of adventures that one can only dream of.  But most of all, he used it to teach a little girl how to fly.

A Taxing Explanation, Con't

Like his predecessor Jerry Brown, California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom is trapped between his base and reality as he considers vetoing legislation requiring Trump's tax returns before he'll be allowed on the ballot in 2020, a bill that Newsom fear will only piss off Republicans and get nuked by SCOTUS.

Gavin Newsom has spent the first six months of his governorship positioning himself as the West Coast anti-Trump while taking pains to distinguish himself from his legendary predecessor, Jerry Brown.

Those two strands intersect in a piece of legislation sitting on Newsom's desk that would compel President Donald Trump and other presidential candidates to release their tax returns if they want to appear on California ballots.

Although going after Trump is typically political gold for Newsom, the bill — which Brown vetoed in 2017 — poses a tricky balancing act for the rookie governor: Signing it would shore up Newsom’s base and boost his national profile within the Democratic Party, with other Democratic-led states following his lead. But doing so may rile up dormant California Republicans, and fray Sacramento’s relationship with the Trump administration, which Newsom has tried to keep functional despite bitter disputes over everything from immigration to auto emissions policy.

And while Brown was no fan of Trump, the former governor contended that compelling the release of tax returns could be unconstitutional, and cautioned that signing the bill would launch a political standoff into unknown territory, like requiring candidates’ birth certificates, health records or report cards.

“It’s really going to gin up the Trump base, which could affect congressional candidates and legislative candidates [in California],” said Dana Williamson, a former political adviser to Brown. “From a purely political standpoint, the benefits don’t outweigh the risks.”

Newsom rose to the governorship after spending two terms as California’s lieutenant governor — a position that’s elected independent of the governor, not appointed. While his office was mere feet from Brown’s, the wily veteran Brown and the ascendant young Newsom had a famously chilly relationship.

Newsom has until Tuesday to decide.

He is still weighing his next step, saying this week that he was “deeply analyzing” the bill. Speaking on the sidelines of a National Governors Association meeting in Salt Lake City, Newsom said the measure’s constitutionality was “an open-ended question.”

“Some may see it as symbolic. I think it now appears to be much more substantive,” Newsom told POLITICO. The legislation is focused on primaries, so, he said, “at the end of the day, the president will end up on the November ballot regardless, and the likelihood of the taxes being released is questionable.”

The fact is Trump can make millions of Californians suffer if he wants to, and Newsom passing this bill will only assure that Trump retaliates with real lives on the line who will be affected.  It's one thing to stand up to a bully and punch him in the mouth.  It's another entirely to telegraph a swing that will never land, so the bully can get in a free hit or three.

Besides, SCOTUS will have the bill struck down before California's primary season, I guarantee. This game is rigged, and Newsom is correct in choosing not to play.
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