Friday, December 4, 2020

Last Call For The Coup-Coup Birds Take Flight, Con't

At this point we now have Trump regime Pentagon officials openly calling for Trump to implement martial law in order to steal the election, folks. The alarm bells don't get much louder than this.

President Donald Trump's nominee to become a senior Pentagon official spread debunked conspiracies on Twitter that called Trump's election loss to Joe Biden a "coup" attempt and shared tweets that suggest Trump should declare martial law. 
Scott O'Grady, a former fighter pilot and Trump loyalist, repeatedly retweeted tweets that falsely stated Trump won the election in "landslide fashion" and that millions of votes were stolen from the President. 
On November 25, O'Grady retweeted a tweet that said, "Trump won & Biden & his Comrades will now attempt a coup," next to a photoshopped image of Biden beside Xi Jinping, the President of China. 
On December 2, he retweeted an account that shared an article that said former national security adviser Michael Flynn had shared a petition that called for martial law. He then retweeted the same account which suggested that Trump should declare martial law. 
"I don't know who needs to hear this," the account said, "But calling for martial law is not a bad idea when there is an attempted coup against the president and this country happening right now." 
The tweet references a petition Flynn shared on Twitter calling for Trump to declare martial law and order a new presidential election. The petition falsely called November's presidential election "fraudulent" and called on Trump to have the military oversee a new election. Attorney General William Barr said in an interview published Tuesday that there is no evidence that widespread fraud occurred during the election. 
In the aftermath of the election, Trump himself has spread numerous conspiracies and falsehoods alleging that Democrats and other outside forces have stolen the election from him. He has also upended management in the Defense Department by making wholesale changes in the Pentagon's civilian leadership since firing Defense Secretary Mark Esper by tweet November 9, ousting at least three other officials and replacing them with perceived loyalists. 
CNN's KFile reviewed O'Grady's tweets and media appearances and found that O'Grady shared other debunked election conspiracies and that he also degraded top military and intelligence officials. In a radio interview, he called former President Barack Obama and military generals "sworn socialists," and advocated that the military justice system should bring back treason charges. He retweeted a tweet that called former Defense Secretary James Mattis a "traitor." 
He tweeted that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a star witness during the Trump impeachment hearings, should be charged "for insurrection because he is a biased liberal political operative" and said on a radio show that it was "disgusting" for Vindman to testify against Trump. He also spread a baseless claim that the whistleblower in the impeachment saga dated the daughter of House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff. 
O'Grady was nominated by the White House to become an assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs at the Pentagon, a key position within the Department of Defense's policy shop overseeing operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The position is a political appointment, and if O'Grady is confirmed, he would only fill the role until the start of the Biden administration. 
His nomination, which was sent to the Senate on Monday, comes as the Pentagon's top civilian officials have been hastily replaced with perceived Trump loyalists and conspiracy theorists despite some lacking credentials -- and in some cases, lacking Senate confirmation -- for the positions. 
Folks, I know it's fashionable to ignore this as more Trump nonsense and bullshit, that this is all bluster, and that the odds of Trump actually putting together a coup given his demonstrated choices of incompetent toadies and lickspittles at every turn is near zero, have a good darkly comic laugh at the whole, thing, and to go about our business. Never forget that Donald Trump is a profoundly ignorant and cowardly bully who is nothing without his enablers, and his enablers no longer have any reason to get themselves destroyed while Trump self-immolates. They are already heading for the lifeboats.

Having said all that, yes, we should be kind of moderately concerned with Trump replacing Pentagon staff with people who are proclaiming he should implement martial law to take a second term by force. We've spent the last five years saying "Trump wouldn't dare do that, he'd be finished" and yet 95% of the time he's done it anyway and gotten away with it, up to and including skating on impeachment.
And O'Grady is the least of the problems in the civilian leadership of the Pentagon under Trump.

The White House removed nine members of the Pentagon's Defense Business Board on Friday and installed people loyal to President Donald Trump in their place, including presidential allies Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie.

The firings marked the latest effort by the Trump administration to clean out the Defense Department in the final weeks of the president's term.

Members of the board received a brief email from Joshua Whitehouse, the White House liaison to the Department of Defense, that simply said, “if you are receiving this e-mail, your membership on the Defense Business Board has expired or is coming to an end.”

"A number of board members have been terminated with a form letter. In my experience, I was very surprised that the White House would, at the eleventh hour, adjust an advisory board that for 19 years has had a record of nonpartisan support with the department," Michael Bayer, who until today was board chair, told POLITICO.

"This kind of a move really will weigh heavily on people in the future and their willingness to serve on these outside advisory boards if they're going to be subjected to political loyalty tests. It's unprecedented. I'm just saddened," he added.

Besides Bayer, the other board members who were let go are Arnold Punaro, Atul Vashistha, John O'Connor, David Venlet, Paul Dolan, Scott Dorn, David Walker and David Van Slyke.

A statement by the Pentagon said the members' terms had expired. Yet three former board members who spoke to POLITICO said their tours were not close to ending.

The firings came as a shock to the board members, who had not received any negative feedback or warning prior to their termination. One former board member lamented the move, noting that the board “has never been political, ever.”

“You are talking about 15, 20 executives, business leaders, government leaders, who are giving their time to serve the nation and not even a thank you note,” said the person, who asked not to be named. “It’s just about simple gratitude and appreciation for people.”

"I had no indication this was coming. It was a form letter going to a large number of people," Bayer said.

Besides Lewandowski and Bossie, the other new members are Henry Dreifus, Robert McMahon, Cory Mills, Bill Bruner, Christopher Shank, Joseph Schmidt, Keary Miller, Allen Weh and Earl Matthews.

Lewandowski was Trump's first campaign manager in 2016 and this year was a senior adviser to the campaign, where he traveled to various states to promote its legal challenges to the election results; he also is president and CEO of Lewandowski Strategic Advisors.

Bossie, a longtime conservative operative, was Trump's deputy campaign manager in 2016 and more recently was tapped to lead the effort to contest the election. Mills is an Army veteran and on Twitter, calls himself a "Newsmax insider," a reference to one of Trump's preferred TV channels.

"These individuals have a proven track record of achievement within their respective fields and have demonstrated leadership that will serve our Department, and our nation well," acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller said in a statement.

So yes, I'm worried about Trump saying "screw it" and declaring martial law in the weeks ahead. The odds of that are extremely low.

But they are not zero.

Pardon My Destruction, Con't

No surprise that the people behind Trump's pay-for-pardon scandal are convicted GOP fundraising fraudster Elliott Broidy, and Jared Kushner's lawyer, Abbe Lowell.

The Justice Department investigated as recently as this past summer the roles of a top fund-raiser for President Trump and a lawyer for his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in a suspected scheme to offer a bribe in exchange for clemency for a tax crimes convict, according to two people familiar with the inquiry.

A federal judge in Washington unsealed heavily redacted court documents on Tuesday that disclosed the existence of the investigation into possible unregistered lobbying and bribery. The people said it concerned efforts by the lawyer for Mr. Kushner, Abbe Lowell, and the fund-raiser, Elliott Broidy, who pleaded guilty in October to a charge related to a different scheme to lobby the Trump administration.

A billionaire San Francisco real estate developer, Sanford Diller, enlisted their help in securing clemency for a Berkeley psychologist, Hugh L. Baras, who had received a 30-month prison sentence on a conviction of tax evasion and improperly claiming Social Security benefits, according to the filing and the people familiar with the case. Under the suspected scheme, Mr. Diller would make “a substantial political contribution” to an unspecified recipient in exchange for the pardon. He died in February 2018, and there is no evidence that the effort continued after his death.

As part of the effort, someone approached the White House Counsel’s Office to “ensure” that the “clemency petition reached the targeted officials,” according to the court documents. They did not say who made the contact or how the White House responded.

Mr. Baras did not receive clemency.

No bribe was paid, said Reid H. Weingarten, a friend of and lawyer for Mr. Lowell who confirmed his client had represented Mr. Baras in his unsuccessful efforts to avoid incarceration. Mr. Baras went to prison in June 2017 and was released in August 2019.

No one has been charged in the inquiry. No government officials are “currently a subject or target of the investigation disclosed in this filing,” a Justice Department official said. This summer, investigators sought communications related to the scheme to “confront” the people they were scrutinizing, the court documents showed.

That of course explains this happening yesterday as well.

The official serving as President Donald Trump’s eyes and ears at the Justice Department has been banned from the building after trying to pressure staffers to give up sensitive information about election fraud and other matters she could relay to the White House, three people familiar with the matter tell The Associated Press.

Heidi Stirrup, an ally of top Trump adviser Stephen Miller, was quietly installed at the Justice Department as a White House liaison a few months ago. She was told within the last two weeks to vacate the building after top Justice officials learned of her efforts to collect insider information about ongoing cases and the department’s work on election fraud, the people said.

Stirrup is accused of approaching staffers in the department demanding they give her information about investigations, including election fraud matters, the people said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter.

The effort came as Trump continues to level baseless claims that he won the election and alleges without evidence that massive voting fraud was responsible for his defeat to President-elect Joe Biden.

Stirrup had also extended job offers to political allies for positions at some of the highest levels of the Justice Department without consulting any senior department officials or the White House counsel’s office and also attempted to interfere in the hiring process for career staffers, a violation of the government’s human resources policies, one of the people said.
In fact, Trump is considering a score of preemptive pardons to shield his criminal family and closest minions from ever being charged with the crimes they committed  over the last four years.

President Donald Trump is considering preemptively pardoning as many as 20 aides and associates before leaving office, frustrating Republicans who believe offering legal reprieves to his friends and family members could backfire.

Trump’s strategy, like much of his presidency, is nontraditional. He is eschewing the typical protocol of processing cases through the Justice Department. And he may argue that such preemptive pardons for his friends and family members are necessary to spare them from paying millions in legal fees to fight what he describes as witch hunts. Those up for clemency include everyone from Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to several members of his family — all people who haven’t been charged with a crime. Weighing on Trump’s mind is whether these pardons would look like an admission of guilt.

Republicans, as they often have when Trump appears about to bulldoze through another norm, are expressing some initial hesitation — but they’re not telling him to stop.

“That is in a category that I think you’d probably run into a lot of static,” said Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.). “That’s charting new territory, I’m guessing. I don’t think that’s ever been attempted before.”

The result is yet another looming showdown between Trump and the broader Republican Party.

And the potential squabble has taken on added significance as Trump prepares to leave the White House next month. The GOP is grappling with how closely it wants to remain aligned with Trump after his presidency. While the president has turned off voters with his controversial actions — including his past use of the pardon power to spare allies — he retains a loyal following and is mulling a 2024 presidential run. More imminently, Republicans need Trump’s base to turn out in the Jan. 5 Georgia Senate runoff elections, which will decide which party controls the Senate.

GOP senators said Trump would be stepping on political landmines if he grants clemency to his family and associates, even as they noted presidents have broad pardon authority. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), a Trump ally and a former state attorney general, acknowledged that such a move by the president would be unprecedented.

“I’m not sure what form it would take. It’s kind of an interesting legal question,” he said. “I’m not aware of analog.”

Trump has not made any decisions about pardons as he and his team contemplate both the legal considerations and political consequences, according to three people familiar with the discussions, all of whom speak to the president. Some around Trump are worried the president could tarnish his legacy or harm a future campaign if he’s too expansive with his 11th-hour pardons.

Roughly 20 top aides and associates are on tap for a potential pardon, though the list is evolving, according to one of the people. The list includes Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, who run the family’s namesake business, and Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, a husband-and-wife duo who are both senior aides at the White House. All four were involved in Trump’s reelection campaign.

Trump has even mused on Twitter that he has “the absolute right to PARDON” myself — a legally contested (but untested) claim.
No wonder Trump is considering firing Barr in the remaining weeks of his lame duck disaster movie. And remember, there's more damage he can -- and will -- do.

LA Goes Viral, Con't

All residents within the city of Los Angeles should continue to remain in their homes and follow the city’s “safer-at-home” order, which mirrors guidance from L.A. County, according to the mayor’s office.

A public order posted on the mayor’s website Wednesday detailed many of the restrictions, including a ban on some travel with a variety of exemptions.

Email and text alerts from the city’s NotifyLA System also went out Wednesday, although the mayor’s deputy press secretary, Harrison Wollman, said the guidance has been in place for days.

“The city uploaded the most recent version of its safer-at-home order today to match the county’s current order that was enacted earlier this week,” Wollman said. “The two orders are identical, and the process of publishing the official document on our website is a formality that occurs each time the order is revised.”

The order, first issued in March, was revised one other time, in June.

Many residents were notified with an email and text alert from the city’s NotifyLA System Wednesday night, and a tweet went out from the NotifyLA Twitter account for the first time in more than three weeks, using the “new restrictions” language similar to the alerts.

A spokesman for the mayor’s office said although the NotifyLA System alerts were accurate, they did not include any new restrictions.

Non-exempt businesses in the city have been ordered to cease operations that require in-person attendance of staff. There is a broad list of exceptions for various businesses and workers deemed essential or exempt.

People may lawfully leave their residences only to engage in defined essential activities.

Those experiencing homelessness are exempt from the requirement to stay inside.

Mirroring the county’s order, all public and private gatherings with people from more than one household are prohibited, except for outdoor faith-based services and protests.
 As I said before, runaway community spread since October was going to necessitate lockdowns, and politically they were impossible until after the election, so like February, we wasted an entire month dicking around before doing the right thing six weeks later.

We'll see if this slows down the avalanche, but unless Biden is able to implement a national emergency with this SCOTUS, and somehow enforce it again with this SCOTUS, something that I think has a very small chance of working, we're just going to have to watch people die because of "freedom".

And that's if we even make it to January 20.

Which a half-million Americans will not.


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