Saturday, May 16, 2020

Last Call For Our Little Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't

The fuses keep on being lit by white supremacist domestic terrorists, and eventually one of these powder kegs is going to explode into horrific violence.

A man accused of making credible death threats against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel has been charged on a terrorism count, the Wayne County prosecutor’s office said Friday.

Robert Tesh made the threats via a social media message to an acquaintance on April 14 and authorities concluded the message amounted to “credible threats to kill,” prosecutor Kym Worthy said Friday in a news release.

She didn’t provide any detail about the threats or how they were determined to be credible. Further details will be presented during court proceedings, she said.

Detroit police officers arrested the 32-year-old man the same day at his home. He was arraigned April 22 on a threat of terrorism charge. If convicted, Tesh could face up to 20 years in prison.

Worthy didn’t explain the delay in releasing information about the threats, arrest and arraignment.

“Emotions are heightened on all sides now,” she told The Associated Press Friday. “These threats ... they are not funny. They are not jokes. There is nothing humorous about it. Even if you don’t carry it out, we’re going to charge you criminally.”

The threats from Tesh were not specific to Whitmer’s stay-at-home order issued in March in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19 in the state, according to Maria Miller, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office. Whitmer has been the target of protests and rallies over her executive order which shut down most businesses in the state. The order is effective at least until May 28.

“The alleged facts in this case lay out a very disturbing scenario,” Worthy said. “We understand that these times can be stressful and upsetting for many people. But we will not and cannot tolerate threats like these against any public officials who are carrying out their duties as efficiently as they can. You can disagree with their positions or their methodology, but you absolutely cannot act as this defendant allegedly acted or you will be charged criminally.” 

One terrorist down.

A whole lot to go, especially when they openly ally with Republicans.

A Georgia state representative running for Congress is facing criticism from across the political spectrum for a photo showing him alongside a longtime white supremacist activist from Dahlonega.

The photo shows Rep. Matt Gurtler, R-Tiger, with Chester Doles, a Georgia man with longstanding ties to numerous white supremacist organizations, including the National Alliance and Hammerskins, a racist skinhead gang. It was taken earlier this year at a meeting of American Patriots USA, a group founded by Doles last year in an attempt to appeal to more mainstream conservatives in the region. Other candidates for office in Georgia also appeared in the photograph with Doles, though none as high profile as Gurtler.

The photo has been on the internet for weeks, circulated by a left-wing, anti-racist group based in Atlanta, among others. Now, Gurtler has been called out by a rival Republican also running for the 9th Congressional District seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. and GOP Senate candidate Doug Collins.

“As a Christian, I’m repulsed by bigotry and hatred in all forms, and racism has no place in our state or in the 9th District,” said State Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville. “North Georgians are decent, faithful and hard-working people. They deserve elected leaders who reflect that, not those who would embarrass us with their poor judgment.”

Gurtler declined to be interviewed about the photo, but in an email to the AJC he said the “context is straightforward.”

“I was asked by a voter to speak to a pro-gun, conservative group that supports President Trump. There was a group picture with all the candidates and speakers,” he wrote.

Gurtler's excuse is the much larger problem: the GOP is openly attracting vowed skinheads, neo-Nazis, and other violent white supremacist terrorists and has been for years now, well before Trump was elected.

The difference now is that they are doing it overtly.

The Actual President Weighs In

Barack Obama gave a virtual commencement speech to the nation's historically black colleges and universities today, and he didn't hold back on pointing out that the current administration is failing America's graduates and the nation as a whole.

Without the springtime rituals of traditional graduation ceremonies, former President Barack Obama delivered a virtual commencement address on Saturday, urging thousands of graduates at historically black colleges and universities “to seize the initiative” at a time when he says the nation’s leaders have fumbled the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The speech combined the inspirational advice given to graduates with pointed criticism of the handling of a public health crisis that has killed more than 87,000 Americans and crippled much of the economy.

“More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing,” Mr. Obama said in an address streamed online. “A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge.”
It was one of his few public addresses to a national audience during the outbreak, and he said a leadership void had created a clear mandate for the graduates: “If the world’s going to get better, it’s going to be up to you,” he said.

Mr. Obama’s remarks were billed as a commencement speech, but they also appeared to be an effort to comfort and assure an American public divided by President Trump’s handling of the crisis. The former president also used the moment to attempt to rally the nation in an election year around values historically championed by Democrats like universal health care, and environmental and economic justice.

Since leaving office three years ago, Mr. Obama generally has avoided publicly criticizing Mr. Trump. But his jabs at the pandemic response could further inflame tensions between the two most recent occupants of the White House.

Mr. Obama called the current administration’s response to the pandemic “anemic and spotty” in a private call last week with thousands of supporters who had worked for him.

“It would have been bad even with the best of governments,” Mr. Obama said on the call. “It has been an absolute chaotic disaster when that mind-set — of ‘what’s in it for me’ and ‘to heck with everybody else’ — when that mind-set is operationalized in our government.”

And in recent days Mr. Trump has unleashed tirades against Mr. Obama on Twitter and on television, resurrecting unfounded claims that his predecessor tried to bring him down by manufacturing the Russia investigation.

Mr. Obama’s address to more than 27,000 students at 78 participating historically black colleges and universities was the first of two commencement speeches by the former president on Saturday.

He's right of course.  I'm glad he took such an opportunity to make it clear.

His full speech is here.

Making A Mess Of Unmasking

Just Security's Ryan Goodman games out where the Trump regime goes next on the totally worthless "Obamagate" attacks, because of course the Hunter Biden/Ukraine and the Tara Reade allegations both fell through.

President Donald Trump insists, against all evidence, that there is something called “Obamagate”: some crime, or perhaps series of crimes, that the preceding administration committed against him, or against his adviser Michael Flynn, or maybe against even more of the Trump team. Yet the president fails to say what the crime(s) might be. Instead, he seizes on the language, alludes to improprieties, and—increasingly—wields it all to tar his rival for the presidency, Joe Biden. Countering Trumpian disinformation campaigns like this one demands disentangling the threads that Trump has weaved into “Obamagate,” debunking the falsehoods that Trump is propagating—and, at the same time, acknowledging where there may in fact have been serious missteps during the previous administration.

That means acknowledging that there may well be a lurking truth to a serious allegation against former government officials in how they handled the counterintelligence file involving Michael Flynn. However, there is no evidence that those actions implicate President Barack Obama or Vice President Biden personally, or discredit the legitimacy of the investigations of Russia’s 2016 election interference, the investigation of Trump campaign associates’ support for the Kremlin’s effort, officials’ requests to “unmask” a U.S. person appearing in intelligence reports who turned out to be Flynn, the FBI’s decision to interview Flynn, or the Justice Department’s charging Flynn for lying to the FBI.

That said, there has been a rush by many to say that no crime has been credibly alleged, and that no serious wrongdoing by former administration officials has been identified. That’s an oversight, and fails to grapple with a potential outcome: the prospect of well-founded criminal indictments against one or more former officials who leaked the content of the classified intercept of the Dec. 29, 2016 phone call between Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Flynn’s identity in that communication.

As I’ll explain, the issue here is not limited to the initial leak by a senior government official to the journalist David Ignatius who revealed the Flynn-Kislyak phone call in the pages of the Washington Post on the evening of Jan. 12, 2017.

Independent observers and analysts should understand the strength of the allegations of misconduct, which could trigger criminal liability. Indeed, it is valuable to identify any credible complaints of official wrongdoing, and separate those from Trump’s deceptive and deliberately false accusations.

As for practitioners who are engaged in countering disinformation, they should consider how this foreseeable outcome of one or more criminal indictments will be used by Trump, his Attorney General Bill Barr, and the Director of National Intelligence (whether Rick Grenell or John Ratcliffe) to conflate truth and falsehoods. Indeed, the failure to have appreciated the seriousness of the allegations will bolster Trump and his surrogates’ disinformation campaign. It will be used to discredit analysts. They will be accused of dishonesty and bias, not just of an analytic oversight. More Americans will be encouraged to think of Trump and his political loyalists as validated sources of information. And the public will be left with even less ability to sort fact from fiction.

Indeed, a well-orchestrated disinformation tactic, pioneered by Soviet intelligence, would involve the following steps:

Phase One: Make grossly unfounded claims of misconduct by former and current US officials (such as a Deep State conspiracy to undercut the Trump 2016 campaign and the Trump presidency), anticipating a reaction among experts and partisans to challenge those claims;

Phase Two: Reveal true official misconduct that has some, even if limited, connection to the original conspiracy theory, with experts and partisans failing to adequately anticipate or recognize the true misconduct, and some even quick to dismiss it.

Phase One of this disinformation campaign is well underway.

How likely is a key step in Phase Two, namely, the genuine revelation of official misconduct? Barr’s handpicked federal prosecutor John Durham reportedly has in the crosshairs of his ongoing criminal investigation the leaks to the media. Attorney General Bill Barr has signaled confidence that Durham will find criminal wrongdoing (in gross defiance of long-standing Justice Department policy to refrain from any acknowledgement, let alone comments on the prospective outcome, of an ongoing investigation). What’s more, several former senior officials told Congress, under penalty of law, that they were not the source of the leak, either in closed testimony that the House Committee on Intelligence released last week or in prior public hearings. That may create another layer of legal vulnerability if a source of the leak denied it to Congress.

In other words:

Bill Barr finds somebody to prosecute for leaking things to the Washington Post, specifically that Michael Flynn's name was leaked to David Ignatius.

This is somehow proof of a massive conspiracy that must be investigated into the election season.

Targeted leaks from Barr and Trump will keep the "story" going, along with a trial almost certainly set for October. 

This doesn't change the fact Michael Flynn lied multiple times to FBI investigators, admitted that he did so twice, and was convicted for it.

That's it.

Repeat that to yourself daily for the rest of the year.

Retribution Execution, Con't

Yet another executive agency inspector general was fired late last night as Trump continues to try to make sure no one ever dares to question him in any way ever again, by purging all those in government who are not loyal.

President Donald Trump has removed State Department Inspector General Steve Linick and replaced him with an ally of Vice President Mike Pence — the latest in a series of moves against independent government watchdogs in recent months.

Trump informed Congress of his intent to oust Linick, a Justice Department veteran appointed to the role in 2013 by then President Barack Obama, in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday night.

The president said he "no longer" had the "fullest confidence" in Linick and promised to send the Senate a nominee "who has my confidence and who meets the appropriate qualifications." The executive branch is required to notify Congress 30 days ahead of time if it intends to remove an inspector general.

Linick played a minor role in the House of Representatives' impeachment proceedings against Trump, ferrying a trove of documents to lawmakers that had been provided to the State Department by Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer.

A State Department spokesperson said that Amb. Stephen Akard, a former career Foreign Service officer, "will now lead the Office of the Inspector General at the State Department" in an acting capacity, noting that Akard was previously confirmed by the Senate as head of the department's Office of Foreign Missions. Akard’s nomination for that job angered some State Department veterans, who grumbled that he lacked the long tenure of service traditionally required in the role.

Before joining the Trump administration, Akard was chief of staff for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation under then-governor Pence.

Linick is relatively well-respected at the State Department, and his office stays busy, regularly churning out a range of inspections, audits and other types of reports.

His departure is likely to further deepen morale problems that have festered at State since the start of the Trump administration, when many career diplomats found themselves shunted aside and cast as a “deep state” bent on undermining a Trump.

Two of Linick’s most-read reports over the past year involved alleged retaliation by Trump political appointees against career employees.

House Foreign Affair Committee chairman Eliot Engel made it very clear last night that he believes Litnick was fired because he was investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo himself.

This firing is the outrageous act of a President trying to protect one of his most loyal supporters, the Secretary of State, from accountability. I have learned that the Office of the Inspector General had opened an investigation into Secretary Pompeo. Mr. Linick’s firing amid such a probe strongly suggests that this is an unlawful act of retaliation. 
This President believes he is above the law. As he systematically removes the official independent watchdogs from the Executive Branch, the work of the Committee on Foreign Affairs becomes that much more critical. In the days ahead, I will be looking into this matter in greater detail, and I will press the State Department for answers.

If Pompeo was under investigation and Trump fired him, that's a gigantic red line crossed in a sea of crossed red lines. I'm not even sure it matters anymore at this point, that's how far gone we are down the road to autocratic rule. What will Engel and House Democrats do, impeach him again?

Again, Trump wouldn't be doing this if he didn't have the full support of 51 GOP senators, and all those senators care about is appointing as many federal judges as possible, so Trump can do whatever he wants as long as he keeps Mitch McConnell happy with conservative jurists who are puppets and who will hand down GOP-centric decisions for the next 40 years.

That means Trump can fire whoever he wants, including inspectors general who are openly investigating criminal wrongdoing by his own cabinet.

He will continue to purge the executive agencies until everyone is either loyal to him or too scared to act (or both!)
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