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.


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