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.
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