Thursday, February 20, 2020

Last Call For Russian To Judgment, Con't

As I said last night, the story that Julian Assange was offered a pardon by Trump if he would denounce the fact that Russia was behind the 2016 DNC email hack was a huge deal if it was true.  Supposedly former GOP Congressman Dana Rohrabacher was the intermediary who offered the deal to Assange in 2017.

It's looking more and more like it's true as Rohrabacher confirmed the story to Yahoo News.

Former California Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher confirmed in a new interview that during a three-hour meeting at the Ecuadorian Embassy in August 2017, he told Julian Assange he would get President Trump to give him a pardon if he turned over information proving the Russians had not been the source of internal Democratic National Committee emails published by WikiLeaks.
In a phone interview with Yahoo News, Rohrabacher said his goal during the meeting was to find proof for a widely debunked conspiracy theory: that WikiLeaks’ real source for the DNC emails was not Russian intelligence agents, as U.S. officials have since concluded, but former DNC staffer Seth Rich, who was murdered on the streets of Washington in July 2016 in what police believe was a botched robbery.

A lawyer for Assange in London on Wednesday cited the pardon offer from Rohrabacher during a court hearing on the U.S. government’s request to extradite the WikiLeaks founder.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham immediately denounced the claim about a pardon discussion with Assange as a “complete fabrication,” adding that the president “barely knows Dana Rohrabacher” and has “never spoken to him on this subject or almost any subject.”

Rohrabacher said that not only did talk of a Trump pardon take place during his meeting, but he also followed up by calling then White House chief of staff John Kelly to discuss the proposal. He did not, however, ever speak to Trump about it, he said.

“I spoke to Julian Assange and told him if he would provide evidence about who gave WikiLeaks the emails I would petition the president to give him a pardon,” Rohrabacher said. “He knew I could get to the president.”

When he spoke to Kelly, the then chief of staff was “courteous” but made no commitment that he would even raise the matter directly with the president. “He knew this had to be handled with care,” Rohrabacher said, and that it could be spun by the news media in ways that would be “harmful” to the president. In fact, Rohrabacher said he never heard anything further from Kelly about the matter, nor did he ever discuss the subject directly with Trump.

Rohrabacher, who was defeated when he ran for reelection in 2018 and is now a consultant to the cannabis industry, long had a reputation as one of the few members of Congress willing to defend Russian President Vladimir Putin.

So at least now the story looks like Rohrabacher, not Trump, was behind the effort to defend Putin by using Assange to advance the ridiculous and ghoulish Seth Rich conspiracy theory, he talked to then White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, and it never got any further than that.

This is completely in-line for Rorhabacher, who has long been Putin's best friend in the House until he lost his usefulness to him along with his House seat in 2018.

Of course, Rohrabacher could be lying and Trump absolutely had him make the offer.  That would be in-line for him too.  John Kelly would know for sure.  Maybe somebody should, I dunno, ask him.

And speaking of Russian operatives...

President Trump erupted at his acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, in the Oval Office last week over what he perceived as disloyalty by Maguire’s staff, which ruined Maguire’s chances of becoming the permanent intelligence chief, according to people familiar with the matter.

Trump announced on Wednesday that he was replacing Maguire with a vocal loyalist, Richard Grenell, who is the U.S. ambassador to Germany.

Maguire had been considered a leading candidate to be nominated for the post of DNI, White House aides had said. But Trump’s opinion shifted last week when he heard from a GOP ally that the intelligence official in charge of election security, who works for Maguire, gave a classified briefing last Thursday to the House Intelligence Committee on 2020 election security.
It is unclear what the official, Shelby Pierson, specifically said at the briefing that angered Trump, but the president erroneously believed that she had given information exclusively to Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the committee chairman, and that the information would be helpful to Democrats if it were released publicly, the people familiar with the matter said. Schiff was the lead impeachment manager, or prosecutor, during Trump’s Senate trial on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The president was furious with Maguire and blamed him for the supposed transgression involving Pierson when the two met the next day.

“There was a dressing down” of Maguire, said one individual, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter. “That was the catalyst” that led to the sidelining of Maguire in favor of Grenell, the person said.

What information could have set Trump off like that, pray tell?  Why, the fact that Russia is openly helping Trump in 2020.

Intelligence officials warned House lawmakers last week that Russia was interfering in the 2020 campaign to try to get President Trump re-elected, five people familiar with the matter said, a disclosure to Congress that angered Mr. Trump, who complained that Democrats would use it against him.

The day after the Feb. 13 briefing to lawmakers, Mr. Trump berated Joseph Maguire, the outgoing acting director of national intelligence, for allowing it to take place, people familiar with the exchange said. Mr. Trump cited the presence in the briefing of Representative Adam B. Schiff, the California Democrat who led the impeachment proceedings against him, as a particular irritant.

During the briefing to the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Trump’s allies challenged the conclusions, arguing that he has been tough on Russia and strengthened European security. Some intelligence officials viewed the briefing as a tactical error, saying that had the official who delivered the conclusion spoken less pointedly or left it out, they would have avoided angering the Republicans.

That intelligence official, Shelby Pierson, is an aide to Mr. Maguire who has a reputation of delivering intelligence in somewhat blunt terms. The president announced on Wednesday that he was replacing Mr. Maguire with Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany and long an aggressively vocal Trump supporter.
Though some current and former officials speculated that the briefing may have played a role in the removal of Mr. Maguire, who had told people in recent days that he believed he would remain in the job, two administration officials said the timing was coincidental. Mr. Grenell had been in discussions with the administration about taking on new roles, they said, and Mr. Trump had never felt a kinship with Mr. Maguire.

Spokeswomen for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and its election security office declined to comment. A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

So yes, as I said earlier today, Maguire is being ousted because he was actually doing his job.  Trump will never allow that, as he wants an intelligence apparatus that is to be used exclusively against his political enemies.  And under Grenell and Barr, it will be.

Lowering The Barr, Con't

As I said yesterday, the notion that Attorney General William Barr is going to resign is absolute nonsense, and the bogus reports that Barr would even consider stepping down was in response to defuse the hastily-called meeting of the Federal Judges Association.  The plan worked beautifully as the meeting scheduled for Wednesday has been postponed until further notice.

A group of federal judges hastily postponed an emergency meeting that was scheduled to take place Wednesday to discuss concerns about President Donald Trump and the Justice Department's intervention in politically charged cases. 
Megan Cruz, the executive director of the Federal Judges Association, said the meeting was set to occur Wednesday afternoon and the group was considering whether to issue a statement afterwards. But later in the day, Cruz said that the conference call between the 14 judges who serve as officers on the Executive Committee had been postponed. 
Cruz offered no further details and did not respond to questions asking whether the group had been asked to reschedule the meeting. 
The fact that the little known independent group -- originally established in the 1980s to respond to issues concerning judicial compensation -- was having the meeting in the first place drew the attention in Washington on Tuesday and Trump made it the subject of one of his tweets. 
"I hope the Federal Judges Association will discuss the tremendous FISA Court abuse that has taken place with respect to the Mueller Investigation Scam, including the forging of documents and knowingly using the fake and totally discredited Dossier before the Court. Thank you!" the President tweeted. 
Judge Cynthia Rufe, the group's president, told USA Today that there were "plenty of issues we are concerned about." Her comments drew some criticism as judges are barred from commenting on pending controversies. 
The cancellation came after a source told CNN's Kaitlan Collins Tuesday night that Attorney General William Barr had considered resigning over Trump's tweets discussing ongoing controversies and attacking the judge hearing the case. 

Mission accomplished.  The meeting will now most likely never happen, as I said yesterday, Trump has already appointed nearly a quarter of all serving federal judges in the last three years.  Some of those judges are in the FJA, and there's got to be influence among the executive committee there.

The rumors around Barr were enough to stop the meeting.  Barr couldn't have asked for a better outcome.

Meanwhile, all indications are that the Trump regime pardon machine is becoming the new normal.

President Donald Trump is considering issuing additional pardons and commutations and has assembled a team of advisers to recommend and vet candidates for clemency, a White House official confirmed Thursday.

The process is normally handled by the Department of Justice, but the White House has taken the lead, with Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, heading the effort, and is joined by White House counsel Pat Cipollone.

The Washington Post first reported Wednesday night that Trump had put together this team, which the report said is basically an informal task force of at least a half-dozen allies of the president. According to the report, the group has been meeting since late last year.

This comes as speculation swirls around whether Trump will pardon his longtime ally Roger Stone who is expected to be sentenced by a federal judge on Thursday. Early in the morning, Trump tweeted a video clip from a segment on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News that suggested the president is considering pardoning Stone.

Stone got 40 months, a far cry from the 7-9 years originally recommended.  It's important to note that all of this: the pardons from this week and the ones certainly coming later for Stone, Manafort and Flynn, the Justice Department prosecutors leaving high profile cases, the investigations into those cases by the DoJ, and the coming mass purge of everyone involved in the Mueller probe, all of this is going through Bill Barr.  He could stop this at any point, but he won't.

Trump isn't the problem.  It's the people who continue to enable his worst impulses, like Bill Barr, who are the real villains.

Retribution Execution, Con't

With Trump having a soulless toady as Attorney General, he now needs a soulless toady for Director of National Intelligence to continue his purge of anyone who might be able to inform America of his wrongdoing, and he's found the near-perfect scuzzball for the job.

President Trump was expected to name Richard Grenell, the American ambassador to Germany, to be the acting director of national intelligence, three people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

Mr. Grenell, whose outspokenness throughout his career as a political operative and then as ambassador has prompted criticism, is a vocal Trump loyalist who will lead a group of national security agencies often viewed skeptically by the White House.

He would take over from Joseph Maguire, who has served as the acting director of national intelligence since the resignation last summer of Dan Coats, a former Republican senator from Indiana. Mr. Grenell, who has pushed to advance gay rights in his current post, would apparently also be the first openly gay cabinet member.

Mr. Grenell did not respond to a request for comment, nor did a White House spokesman. The people familiar with the move cautioned that the president had a history of changing his mind on personnel decisions after they were revealed in the news media.

Under American law, Mr. Maguire had to give up his temporary role before March 12. He could return to his old job as director of the National Counterterrorism Center, but he might choose to step down from government.

Mr. Trump can choose any Senate-confirmed official to replace Mr. Maguire as the acting head of the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies.

Grenell is just about the worst-case scenario of people who would get the job.  It's possible that Trump will replace Grenell in nine months, but by then it'll be a moot point once the election happens.  There's no doubt on two things though: he is a Trump loyalist and that he has zero intelligence experience.

As ambassador to Germany, Grenell has been a loyal and outspoken support of the president, frequently with reporters on his voluble Twitter feed.

He is also the latest Trump loyalist to take on a new role in the aftermath of impeachment. Trump has long been a skeptic and even critic of U.S. intelligence agencies, especially in response to their shared conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

In 2016, Grenell dismissed Russia's meddling, which resulted in a special counsel investigation and multiple indictments, as nothing new. “Russian or Russian-approved tactics like cyber warfare and campaigns of misinformation have been happening for decades,” he wrote in an op-ed for Fox News.
Grenell has served as a Republican operative, commentator, national security aide and spokesperson for multiple high-profile Republicans, including former 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney. He served as communications director at the United Nations for eight years under President George W. Bush, making him the longest serving person in that role.

His predecessor, Maguire, was at the forefront of Trump’s impeachment drama and testified before Congress over a whistleblower's complaint about the president’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Democrats criticized Maguire for initially blocking Congress from obtaining the whistleblower’s complaint to the inspector general.

"In light of recent reporting on the whistleblower complaint, I want to make clear that I have upheld my responsibility to follow the law every step of the way,” Maguire said in a statement about his handling of the complaint.

During his testimony, Maguire defended the rights of the whistleblower but painstakingly avoided criticisms of the president.

"I believe that the whistleblower followed the steps every step of the way," Maguire said. “I think the whistleblower did the right thing.”

In his announcement of Grenell’s role, Trump thanked Maguire for his work as director of national intelligence and suggested he might be transferred to a different job.

“I would like to thank Joe Maguire for the wonderful job he has done, and we look forward to working with him closely, perhaps in another capacity within the administration!” Trump tweeted on Wednesday.

If Trump wanted to keep Maguire, he would have nominated him for the role full-time.  He didn't.  He's handing the position over to Grenell for a reason, and that reason is to make sure the entire US intelligence apparatus is working for Donald Trump personally.

Grenell can do a lot of damage in the next nine months, and I expect he will.


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