Saturday, October 19, 2019

The Reach To Impeach, Con't

Lawrence Hogan, Sr., the late father of current Maryland GOP Gov. Larry Hogan, was the House Judiciary's only Republican who voted to advance all three articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon out of committee.  It essentially cost him his House seat and his political career. He famously said about Nixon:

The thing that's so appalling to me is that the President, when this whole idea was suggested to him, didn't, in righteous indignation, rise up and say, 'Get out of here, you're in the office of the President of the United States. How can you talk about blackmail and bribery and keeping witnesses silent? This is the Presidency of the United States.' But my President didn't do that. He sat there and he worked and worked to try to cover this thing up so it wouldn't come to light.

I bring up Hogan, who died in 2017, because the Republican party needs a person like him right now to say the same about Trump. It might...might...have found one.

Rep. Francis Rooney is one of the few Republicans in the House of Representatives who seems open to the impeachment of President Donald Trump
Rooney, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee at the center of the inquiry, said Friday that he had not yet come to a conclusion on whether the President committed a crime that compels his removal from office, a striking view among House Republicans defensive of Trump. 
The Florida Republican said that Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, confirmed Thursday what Trump had denied, that the President engaged in a quid pro quo with Ukraine. Rooney also said he was eager to learn from the witnesses coming in next week. 
"Every time one of these ambassadors comes and talks, we learn a lot more," the congressman said. 
Rooney is not a typical rank-and-file House Republican. Before winning his first election in 2016, the 65-year-old wealthy businessman's company oversaw construction projects including not only the presidential libraries for both George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, and the stadiums for the Texas Rangers, Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans, but the Capitol Visitor's Center, where the witnesses of the investigation dash to enter a secure facility and give their testimonies. He is on now at least his third career, after serving as the US ambassador to the Holy See under the last GOP president. 
He knows that speaking out against Trump may end his career as a Republican in Congress, but he wants to see where the investigation leads. The President has gone after other critics from his own party, including Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, whom Trump in one Twitter post called "a pompous 'ass.'" He added "#IMPEACHMITTROMNEY" on another. But Rooney doesn't seem to be concerned. 
"What's he going to do to me? He can say bad things but it's -- it just is what it is," said the congressman. "Let's just let the facts speak." 
Rooney did acknowledge that some Republicans might be afraid of being rebuked by the party if they expressed skepticism about the President, saying "it might be the end of things for me...depending on how things go." 
"I didn't take this job to keep it," he said. 

Rooney's still a lifelong Republican and a terrible human being because of it, but in order to get rid of Trump, some Republicans have to come along.  The more who toss him overboard, whether through a cynical redemption arc or enlightened self-interest, the more Trump is in trouble.  To make this all the more interesting, Rooney now says he's retiring.

Expecting Republicans, any Republicans, to do the right thing at this point after enabling Trump's crimes for three years is too much to ask.  But at some point, these bastards are going to want to save themselves at the very least.

We'll see.

It's All About Revenge Now, Con't

Attorney General William Barr has been nearly invisible for the last month or so, except for a speech last week at Notre Dame in which he railed against "secularists" and all but promised that the Justice Department's top priority was to transform America into a white supremacist Christian Dominionist theocracy.

In a speech at University of Notre Dame’s law school Friday, Barr blamed “secularists” and “so-called progressives” for wreaking havoc on American society. Barr’s depiction of a war between the non-religious and people of faith shocked legal experts, who saw Barr’s defense of religious freedom as an assault on the First Amendment’s protection against the government’s establishment of any religion.

This is not decay,” Barr said. “This is organized destruction. Secularists and their allies have marshaled all the forces of mass communication, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and academia in an unremitting assault on religion & traditional values.” (Barr spent years profiting off of these same industries he is attacking. He served as general counsel at Verizon for eight years, held a had a paid position on the board of Time Warner for nine, and represented telecoms giant GTE in the 1990s.) 
In his address Friday, Barr thundered against what he described as a “moral upheaval.” “Virtually every measure of social pathology continues to gain ground,” he said. “Along with the wreckage of the family we are seeing record levels of depression and mental illness, dispirited young people, soaring suicide rates, increasing numbers of alienated young males, an increase in senseless violence and the deadly drug epidemic.” 
Barr pointed particularly to public schools, according to an account of the speech from the Indianapolis Star. “Ground zero for these attacks on religion are the schools,” Barr said. “To me this is the most serious challenge to religious liberty today.” There is decades of Supreme Court caselaw removing religion from public schools because the First Amendment bans the government from establishing or giving primacy to a religion.

It's terrifying enough for America's top legal officer to spout nonsense about religion in schools and declare separation of church and state to be all but dead.  But first, it seems his investigation into the Mueller probe is much further along than previously thought.

Federal prosecutors reviewing the origins of the Russia investigation have asked witnesses pointed questions about any anti-Trump bias among former F.B.I. officials who are frequent targets of President Trump and about the earliest steps they took in the Russia inquiry, according to former officials and other people familiar with the review.

The prosecutors, led by John H. Durham, the United States attorney in Connecticut, have interviewed about two dozen former and current F.B.I. officials, the people said. Two former senior F.B.I. agents are assisting with the review, the people said.

The number of interviews shows that Mr. Durham’s review is further along than previously known. It has served as a political flash point since Attorney General William P. Barr revealed in the spring that he planned to scrutinize the beginnings of the Russia investigation, which Mr. Trump and his allies have attacked without evidence as a plot by law enforcement and intelligence officials to prevent him from winning the 2016 election.

Closely overseen by Mr. Barr, Mr. Durham and his investigators have sought help from governments in countries that figure into right-wing attacks and unfounded conspiracy theories about the Russia investigation, stirring criticism that they are trying to deliver Mr. Trump a political victory rather than conducting an independent review.

This is the wild card in any impeachment inquiry by the Democrats.  Barr's counter-attack is this move to undermine the Mueller probe and the impeachment inquiry in one fell swoop.  Certainly Republican partisans have visions of dozens of FBI, CIA, and State Department "deep state" agents led off in cuffs for a "huge conspiracy against Donald Trump", arrests that would include former Obama administration officials and "evidence" that would fatally taint the House and Senate investigations as well.

It's a race to see which side can present their case the best, I fear.  So far the arrests haven't come, and they may never will, Barr may be defeated well before his plan can come to fruition, or maybe he's waiting for the Senate acquittal of Trump to make his move.

But it's definitely in motion.  Of all the Trump regime, Barr is definitely the most dangerous.

Ukraine In The Membrane

One Trump/Ukraine quid pro quo has led to another, it seems, and it's a big one: remember our old Russian fixer friend, Dmitri Firtash?  He's been hiding out in Vienna for years, trying to avoid extradition to the US on conspiracy charges.  He's also the guy behind all the fabricated dirt on Joe and Hunter Biden. Josh Marshall:

As I noted yesterday, material that has been surfacing from The Hill’s ‘opinion’ reporter John Solomon and then echoed by Giuliani seems to originate with one of Ukraine’s richest and most powerful oligarchs who is a former business partner of Paul Manafort and had to flee Ukraine after the overthrow of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014. He is in Austria, fighting extradition to the United States to face bribery charges.

His name is Dimtry Firtash.
Viktor Shokin is the ‘fired prosecutor’ at the center of all these stories. As part of Firtash’s effort to avoid extradition from Austria to the United States, he asked Shokin to swear out the affidavit in which Shokin accuses Biden of getting him fired to protect his son Hunter. (There is no evidence any of this happened. There was no investigation of Hunter Biden or the company on whose board he sat at the time Shokin was fired.) 
So to review, former Manafort business partner Firtash asks Shokin to swear out an affidavit in which he accuses Biden. The affidavit quickly gets into the hands of Giuliani and Solomon. And who just recently went to work for Firtash’s legal team? None other than diGenova and Toensing, as reported just this week by the Kyiv Post and other publications
So the duo who we now learned has been working on behalf of the President with Rudy Giuliani to extort the Ukrainian government just signed on to represent the oligarch behind the affidavit in which the disgraced prosecutor says Joe Biden got him fired. And yes, the oligarch who got booted from Ukraine in 2014 and is a former business partner of Paul Manafort.

So, bottom line Giuliani is working with Firtash, and has retained the services of Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, all to create stuff on the Bidens.

Got it?  Good, because it gets much worse.

Associates of a Ukrainian oligarch fighting extradition to the U.S. were working to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden last summer in an effort to get Rudy Giuliani’s help in the oligarch’s legal case, according to three people familiar with the exchanges.

Dmitry Firtash, charged with conspiracy by the U.S. and living in Vienna, shuffled lawyers in July to add Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, vocal supporters of President Donald Trump who had worked with Giuliani. Around that time, some of Firtash’s associates began to use his broad network of Ukraine contacts to get damaging information on Biden, the people said.

DiGenova and Toensing have billed Firtash about $1 million for their work, one of the people said. That includes costs for Lev Parnas, a Giuliani associate, as a translator and important contact, the person said. Parnas was arrested last week along with several associates and accused of conspiring to violate campaign-finance laws.

People working on Firtash’s behalf collected a witness statement from Viktor Shokin, a former Ukrainian prosecutor-general. The statement, dated early September, helped Giuliani renew an assertion that he’d been advancing for months -- that Biden had tried in 2016 to sway Ukrainian politics to help his son. U.S. and Ukrainian officials have disputed Shokin’s account.

Shokin, though, had been promised his statement wouldn’t be made public, according to the people. Giuliani went on to cite it repeatedly, waving it around on cable news as evidence of Biden’s alleged corruption. The Hill and other media outlets provided links to it, with Giuliani later suggesting he had a role in making it public. “This is the affidavit I put out,” he said during a Fox News interview this month.

As a result of the publicity Giuliani generated with Shokin’s statement, two of the people said they believe the odds of the Justice Department dropping the case against Firtash have plummeted, because it would look like a quid pro quo. Others connected to the case agreed.

U.S. lawmakers conducting a presidential impeachment inquiry are bearing down on whether favors were traded for influence. They are examining Giuliani’s efforts to turn up evidence in Ukraine and allegations that the Trump administration withheld crucial aid until the country’s president agreed to investigate the Bidens.

In other words, Firtash cooperated because he expected the Justice Department to drop the case...but then Giuliani double-crossed him by making his false statement public.  On top of that, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, the Giuliani associates that tried to flee the country last week when they were arrested, were headed to Vienna in order to meet with Firtash.

Along with Giuliani.

This is going to be fun.

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