Saturday, November 2, 2019

Last Call For Border Line Insanity, Con't

Mexican coyotes and drug cartels are sawing through Trump's stupid "impenetrable" billion-dollar border wall with power tools from Home Depot and I cannot stop laughing.

Smuggling gangs in Mexico have repeatedly sawed through new sections of President Trump’s border wall in recent months by using commercially available power tools, opening gaps large enough for people and drug loads to pass through, according to U.S. agents and officials with knowledge of the damage.

The breaches have been made using a popular cordless household tool known as a reciprocating saw that retails at hardware stores for as little as $100. When fitted with specialized blades, the saws can slice through one of the barrier’s steel-and-concrete bollards in a matter of minutes, according to the agents, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the barrier-defeating techniques.

After cutting through the base of a single bollard, smugglers can push the steel out of the way, allowing an adult to fit through the gap. Because the bollards are so tall — and are attached only to a panel at the very top — their length makes them easier to push aside once they have been cut and are left dangling, according to engineers consulted by The Washington Post.

The taxpayer-funded barrier — so far coming with a $10 billion price tag — was a central theme of Trump’s 2016 campaign, and he has made the project a physical symbol of his presidency, touting its construction progress in speeches, ads and tweets. Trump has increasingly boasted to crowds in recent weeks about the superlative properties of the barrier, calling it “virtually impenetrable” and likening the structure to a “Rolls-Royce” that border-crossers cannot get over, under or through.

The smuggling crews have been using other techniques, such as building makeshift ladders to scale and overtop the barriers, especially in the popular smuggling areas in and around San Diego, according to nearly a dozen U.S. agents and current and former administration officials.

Mexican criminal organizations, which generate billions of dollars in smuggling profits, have enormous incentive to adapt their operations at the border to new obstacles and enforcement methods, officials say.

The U.S. government has not disclosed the cutting incidents and breaches, and it is unclear how many times they have occurred. U.S. Customs and Border Protection declined to provide information about the number of breaches, the location of the incidents and the process for repairing them. Matt Leas, a spokesman for the agency, declined to comment, and CBP has not yet fulfilled a Freedom of Information Act request seeking data about the breaches and repairs. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees the private contractors building the barrier, referred inquires to CBP.

Only costing us billions and there's still thousands of miles of border without any barriers, but Trump's building the wall to protect America.  A ten billion dollar wall versus a $100 reciprocating saw, and the saw wins.

If that isn't the perfect metaphor for the Trump era, I don't know what is.

It's Mueller Time Once Again

BuzzFeed News reporter Jason Leopold and his team sued the Justice Department over Mueller probe documents, specifically the FBI note, search warrants, and subpoenas that the Mueller squad used, and a federal judge agreed, with the first set of 500 documents out today.

Beginning last April, BuzzFeed News has pursued five separate Freedom of Information Act lawsuits to pry loose all the subpoenas and search warrants that Mueller’s team executed, as well as all the emails, memos, letters, talking points, legal opinions, and interview transcripts it generated. In short, we asked for all the communications of any kind that passed through the special counsel’s office. We also requested all of the documents that would reveal the discussions among Attorney General Bill Barr, former deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, and other high-ranking officials about whether to charge President Donald Trump with obstruction.

Justice Department lawyers said the volume of records at issue could total 18 billion pages and could take centuries to produce.

At a hearing earlier this month, US District Court Judge Reggie Walton was not sympathetic. “It shouldn’t fall on the backs of the citizens to wait years to find out what the government is up to,” he said. If the Justice Department couldn’t handle the request in a more timely fashion, he added, it should ask Congress for money to hire more help.

Today, in response to a court order, the Justice Department has released the first installment of documents: 500 pages of summaries of FBI interviews with witnesses, available here for the first time. Another installment will be released every month for at least the next eight years.

Known as “302 reports,” these summaries of interviews — which have been conducted with people such as former White House counsel Don McGahn, former attorney general Jeff Sessions, and Trump’s former fixer and lawyer Michael Cohen — are some of the most important and highly sought-after documents from Mueller’s investigation. They reveal what key players in the campaign told FBI agents about Russia, Trump, his business dealings, and his attempts to impede the special counsel’s investigation.

Matt Topic, the lawyer who argued these cases for BuzzFeed News, said the controversies surrounding Mueller’s report made the fight for these documents particularly urgent. “The reason we have a Freedom of Information Act is to make sure that the government is accountable to the people,” he said. Without it, people are powerless “to determine whether the government is telling us the truth or lying to us, whether it is playing favorites or playing fair, whether, as the president claims, the Justice Department engaged in an illegal, treasonous witch hunt or, as others have claimed, the president engaged in obstruction of justice and was given a free pass by the attorney general.”

After years of speculation and accusation, these documents offer a chance for everyone to view a key function of American democracy. That opportunity — hard-won, but enshrined anew with each additional FOIA release — commences today. It will last long after all the players have departed.

The first batch of documents are posted here online, and while there's no bombshell level stuff yet, there are some very interesting new wrinkles, such as Bannon though Manafort should be "avoided like the plague" and that he though Michael Cohen was "the kind of guy who thought it was a good idea to send $130,000 to Stormy Daniels".

It's the gift that keeps on giving...

The Reach To Impeach, Con't

Before hearing a single word of information presented at a Senate trial, Republican senators are of course already signaling that Donald Trump will be acquitted.

A growing number of Senate Republicans are ready to acknowledge that President Trump used U.S. military aid as leverage to force Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his family as the president repeatedly denies a quid pro quo.

In this shift in strategy to defend Trump, these Republicans are insisting that the president’s action was not illegal and does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense as the Democratic-led House moves forward with the open phase of its probe.

But the shift among Senate Republicans could complicate the message coming from Trump as he furiously fights the claim that he had withheld U.S. aid from Ukraine to pressure it to dig up dirt on a political rival, even as an increasing number of Republicans wonder how long they can continue to argue that no quid pro quo was at play in the matter.

The pivot was the main topic during a private Senate GOP lunch on Wednesday, according to multiple people familiar with the session who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the meeting. Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) argued that there may have been a quid pro quo but said that the U.S. government often attaches conditions to foreign aid and that nothing was amiss in Trump’s doing so in the case of aid to Ukraine, these individuals said.

Inside the lunch, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who ran against Trump in 2016, said a quid pro quo is not illegal unless there is “corrupt intent” and echoed Kennedy’s argument that such conditions are a tool of foreign policy.

“To me, this entire issue is gonna come down to, why did the president ask for an investigation,” Kennedy, who worked as a lawyer, said in an interview. “To me, it all turns on intent, motive. ... Did the president have a culpable state of mind? … Based on the evidence that I see, that I’ve been allowed to see, the president does not have a culpable state of mind.”

The discussion underscores the dilemma for congressional Republicans as a cadre of current and former Trump administration officials paint a consistent picture of a president wiling to use foreign policy to undercut a potential domestic political adversary. On Thursday, Trump appointee and longtime Republican aide-turned-National Security Council adviser Tim Morrison became the latest official to testify that nearly $400 million of congressionally appropriated military aid for Ukraine was frozen to increase pressure on President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden, a 2020 presidential contender.

And with the House Democrats voting Thursday to open the closed-door impeachment investigation, undermining the GOP’s complaints about a secretive process, Republicans are frantically seeking a new strategy and talking points to defend the president.

The talking points are now "He did it, he's guilty, but so what?"

That's it, guys.  That's the entire GOP strategy, the talking points, the framing, the unified message.

He did it, but it doesn't matter one bit.

Another Hat Leaves The Ring, Con't

Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke dropped out of the 2020 presidential race on Friday after a disappointing campaign that failed to build off the momentum generated from his longshot Texas Senate run.

"Though today we are suspending this campaign, let us each continue our commitment to the country in whatever capacity we can," he wrote in an email to supporters.

Lagging in the polls and with fundraising, O'Rourke had yet to qualify for the Nov. 20 debate sponsored by MSNBC and The Washington Post.

O'Rourke's Iowa state director Norm Strzenbach told NBC News he he did not know the campaign would be ending Friday and in fact the campaign had just announced a big push in the first-in-the-nation voting state.

President Donald Trump quickly mocked O'Rourke on Twitter.

O’Rourke, who represented El Paso in Congress, entered the race as one of the most talked-about candidates following his narrow loss to Sen. Ted Cruz in deeply conservative Texas in 2018. After that defeat, Democratic activists in states that hold early presidential voting contests, including Iowa, Nevada and South Carolina, formed "Draft Beto" groups, which raised money and tried to line up supporters for a potential 2020 bid.

Despite the initial jolt of interest from voters and the media, his campaign failed to find footing following debate performances that were highly critiqued and consistent struggles to crack double digits in polls.

O'Rourke repeatedly rejected pleas — including from The Houston Chronicle's editorial board — for him to drop out of the presidential race and run again for the Senate in Texas against Sen. John Cornyn. His aides have said he does not intend to run for the Senate.

Beto I'm sure will have no problem keeping his House district for another term or two, but it'll be 2024 before he gets a second shot at Ted Cruz's seat.  By then, he might be able to win.   WHat I'm mad about is him wasting everyone's time with a quixotic 2020 run for the WHite House when he could have tried for Sen. John Cornyn's seat instead.

But you know what?  There's an even better Democrat running for Cornyn's seat, and that's MJ Hegar.

Still, Beto will continue to be a much-needed voice in the House.  If that's all he chooses to be, that's still a bonus for Democrats as long as he can do the job.

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