Monday, February 24, 2020

Last Call For Russian To Judgment, Con't

Oh the Richard Grenell story just keeps getting better, because now there's the claim he's tied to Julian Assange and the DNC email hack in 2016 and I just cannot.

Attorneys for Julian Assange, who is fighting a U.S. extradition request on espionage and computer hacking charges, plan to introduce evidence in the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition hearing involving President Donald Trump’s new intel chief Richard Grenell.
Gareth Peirce, a lawyer representing Assange in his extradition proceedings in London, plans to argue this week that the process to try to extradite her client was abused from early on. Representatives for Assange’s defense team say they expect to introduce recordings and screenshots of communications of a close Grenell associate, including a secondhand claim that Grenell was acting on the president’s orders.

Grenell’s sudden embroilment in Assange’s extradition fight comes at an inconvenient time, as Democrats and national security veterans criticize him as ill-suited and unqualified to be the acting director of national intelligence. And it threatens to spotlight his close relationship with President Trump, feeding the widespread perception that the president is politicizing intelligence work for partisan ends.

At the heart of the Assange team’s argument is an ABC News report from last April alleging that, while serving as Trump’s ambassador to Germany, Grenell told Assange’s Ecuadorean hosts that the U.S. government would not pursue the death penalty for Assange if Ecuador allowed British officials to enter its embassy in London and arrest him.
Assange’s legal team will claim that Grenell’s role was more extensive than previously known, and that it corrupted the extradition process early on. The suggestion will be that the U.S. was so desperate to get Assange in its custody that American officials, via Grenell, agreed in advance to take a particular sentence off the table before even allowing a trial and sentencing to play out.

The WikiLeaks founder’s attorneys are also expected to present evidence that they believe shows Trump explicitly tasked Grenell with making the offer, thereby politicizing the process.
One of Assange’s lawyers, Edward Fitzgerald, hinted at this argument in his opening statement on Monday, when he said that Assange’s prosecution was “not motivated by genuine concerns for criminal justice but politics.”

The evidence submitted this week will include new materials submitted to Assange’s legal team by political activist and journalist Cassandra Fairbanks, a staunch defender of Assange who has worked for the Russian state-run news site Sputnik and the far-right outlet Gateway Pundit. She is expected to be listed as a formal witness in the case.

I swear to god if Assange blows open the whole DNC email hack by calling a network of paid operatives as witnesses to connect Trump to Russia through his new acting DNI crony in order to save his own ass, I may expire from uncontrollable laughter.

This is a fight where everyone involved should be going to prison and I can't wait to watch.

Spies Like Us, Con't

Last weekend I told you about how Trump's new pick for Acting Director of National Intelligence, former Trump Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, was neck deep in unregistered foreign agent work for Moldova's right-wing government, and failed to disclose the work under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA), the same thing Manafort got busted for.

But since this is the Trump regime, Moldova was just the tip of the iceberg, as Grenell has also done undisclosed FARA work for Hungary's far-right government of Viktor Orban.

An investigation by Responsible Statecraft has found that President Trump’s newly installed acting Director of National Intelligence, Richard Grenell, knowingly provided public relations services directed at U.S. media on behalf of a project funded by Hungary’s far-right government. Grenell didn’t register as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA), which is a requirement applying to individuals and entities operating inside the U.S. as an “agent” of a “foreign principal.”

Grenell’s appointment as acting Director of National Intelligence, which was announced last week, was met with widespread ridicule and disbelief.

“President Trump selected an unqualified loyalist as his top spy,” said International Institute for Strategic Studies senior fellow Jonathan Stevenson in a New York Times op-ed.

“Mr. Grenell, who currently serves as ambassador to Germany, is manifestly unqualified for the job, even in an acting capacity,” the Washington Post editorial board said. “He has no experience in intelligence or in managing large organizations – like the 17 agencies that will now report to him.”

Craig Engle, Grenell’s attorney, told Responsible Statecraft that Grenell “knew that the Hungarian government was the sponsor” of work he undertook, but claimed that Grenell’s activities did not require him to file under FARA.

According to the Justice Department, activities requiring registration as an “agent” to a “foreign principal” includes engaging in “acts within the United States as a public relations counsel, publicity agent, information-service employee or political consultant for or in the interests of such foreign principal.”

The bigger issue than the FARA registration is the fact that this means the current DNI is compromised by yet another foreign government.  We've talked about Viktor Orban's "illberal democracy" government before.

Over the course of his eight years in power, Prime Minister Orbán has chipped away at the foundations of Hungarian democracy. It has been replaced with an authoritarian regime that wields a cynical interpretation of the law as a weapon; the country is governed by rules like the border journalism permits, regulations that can seem reasonable on their face but actually serve to undermine essential democratic freedoms.

Elections there are free, in the sense that the vote counts aren’t nakedly rigged. But they are unfair: The government controls the airwaves and media companies to such a degree that the opposition can’t get a fair hearing. Orbán’s party, Fidesz, stands up bogus opposition parties during parliamentary elections as a means of dividing the anti-Fidesz vote. In April 2018, Fidesz won the national elections, cementing Orbán’s hold on power; international monitors concluded that the opposition never really had a fair chance.

Hungary’s civil society looks free and vibrant on paper, but a patchwork of nonsensical regulations makes it nearly impossible for pro-democracy organizations to do their work. The economy seems to be growing, but a significant number of corporations are controlled by Orbán’s cronies.

An unending drumbeat of propaganda, from both official state outlets and the private media empires of Orbán allies, demonizes refugees and Muslims, warning of an existential threat to Hungarian society and culture — and touting the Orbán regime as the only thing protecting the country from an Islamic takeover. This trumped-up crisis serves as a legitimation tool for Fidesz’s authoritarianism, a pretext for the government to pass laws undermining its opponents.

Call it “soft fascism”: a political system that aims to stamp out dissent and seize control of every major aspect of a country’s political and social life, without needing to resort to “hard” measures like banning elections and building up a police state.

One of the most disconcerting parts of observing Hungarian soft fascism up close is that it’s easy to imagine the model being exported. While the Orbán regime grew out of Hungary’s unique history and political culture, its playbook for subtle repression could in theory be run in any democratic country whose leaders have had enough of the political opposition.

It’s not for nothing that Steve Bannon, who has called Orbán “the most significant guy on the scene right now,” is currently in Europe building an organization — called “the Movement” — aimed at spreading Orbán’s populist politics across the continent

A second Trump regime term will be exactly like this. There's no coincidence that Trump keeps hiring the front men for autocratic dictators.

BREAKING: Harvey Weinstein Found Guilty

In the biggest #MeToo moment so far, former Hollywood mega-producer Harvey Weinstein has been found guilty on two of the five charges connected to sexual assault of women, and faces decades in prison.

Harvey Weinstein, the once-powerful Hollywood mogul, was found guilty of rape in the third degree on Monday, capping a landmark trial of the #MeToo era.

The jury in New York convicted Weinstein, 67, of third-degree rape against former aspiring actress Jessica Mann, as well as a count of criminal sexual act in the first-degree against former production assistant Mimi Haley. But the jury found him not guilty on the two most serious counts, predatory sexual assault, as well as a count of first-degree rape against Mann.

The jury of seven men and five women deliberated for five days, causing anxiety among his accusers.

In all, more than 80 women have accused the Oscar-winning producer behind "Pulp Fiction" and "The King's Speech" of sexual assault and harassment going back decades, though the charges were based primarily on allegations from former production assistant Mimi Haley and former aspiring actress Jessica Mann.

But in more than a month inside a Manhattan court, prosecutors called four other accusers as witnesses who could testify about Weinstein's alleged pattern of serial abuse, including "The Sopranos" actress Annabella Sciorra, who has accused him of raping her in the early 1990s.

Weinstein pleaded not guilty in the case and denies all allegations of nonconsensual sex. His lawyers argued the trial was an example of the #MeToo movement having run amok, and repeatedly attempted to raise doubts about his accusers' credibility and motivations in coming forward.

The two guilty charges could see Weinstein imprisoned for a total of 29 years, and there are still pending charges against him in Los Angeles County as well.  This is far from over, but the bottom line is this dude is going to prison today as the judge has ordered him jailed without bail.

Bye, Harvey.

Not-So-Great Expectations

Roughly two-thirds of Americans expect Trump to win in November, and that includes a healthy chunk of people who have no intention of voting for him, in a new CBS News/YouGov poll.  The poll also finds Sanders in the lead in national polling with 27% of the vote, but also sees Elizabeth Warren rocketing into second at 19% past Joe Biden, now at 17% heading into South Carolina on Saturday.

Whether or not they're voting for him, 65% of registered voters nationwide think President Trump will definitely or probably be reelected, including more than a third of Democrats who think so. Republicans are especially optimistic: more than 9 in 10 expect him to win.

Still, potential head to head matchups with all the major Democratic candidates against Mr. Trump show a tight race no matter who the Democratic nominee is, with no more than three percentage points separating the Democratic candidates from Mr. Trump in any matchup with the six top polling Democratic contenders.

Most voters have dug in. When it comes to who they will vote for in November, 6 in 10 voters say it doesn't matter who the Democratic nominee is, or what Mr. Trump might do over the next year.

Despite these close matchups, no Democratic candidate gets more than about a quarter of voters who thinks they would probably beat Mr. Trump (Bernie Sanders does best at 27%). Republicans are particularly confident of Mr. Trump's chances: large majorities think each of these potential Democratic opponents would be long shots to beat him in November. Democrats are less sure of their party's chances. They express the most confidence in Joe Biden and Sanders, but fewer than half of Democrats think any of the candidates is above a "maybe" to win.

This is a big indication that Trump won't get 50% of the popular vote in November, but with the electoral college as it is now, he doesn't need to.  A 47%-45% or 47%-44% result with the Democrat winning the popular vote is almost certainly going to turn out the same way as things did in 2016.

The big wild card is Florida, with the fight over disenfranchising the 1.5 million felons in the state (the vast majority who are black) who still may not be able to vote in November thanks to the GOP's Poll Tax 2.0 project, and how many of them who can get registered will turn out.  Don't expect every felon to flock to the Democrats, either.  The truth is I don't know how all that will play out in the state.

Democrats can win without Florida, but Trump will have a tremendously difficult time winning without it...unless he wins every other state he won in 2016.  If he does that, he still ends up with 277 without Florida, and he wins. It remains the ultimate battleground state, but we're actually in a situation where both candidates can win without it.  PA, WI, and MI combined are 46 electoral votes compared to Florida's 29, so the race is still going to come down to the those three Rust Belt states.

Here's what the 2016 map would look like with all four of those states as toss-ups:

Click the map to create your own at

As you can see, it's basically even elsewhere in the US.  The killer is if Trump wins Wisconsin and the Democratic candidate wins Pennsylvania and Michigan, it would be Dems 268-Trump 241, and Florida decides the whole ball of wax.  If Florida then went for Trump, it would be a 270-268 victory.

That should be keeping everyone up at night.


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