Sunday, January 17, 2021

Last Call For Pardon The Destruction, Con't

Donald Trump is now openly selling pardons to the highest bidder, because he's basically the most corrupt human on earth right now and he believes nobody will try to stop him. And if they do, he'll pardon everyone involved, including himself.

As President Trump prepares to leave office in days, a lucrative market for pardons is coming to a head, with some of his allies collecting fees from wealthy felons or their associates to push the White House for clemency, according to documents and interviews with more than three dozen lobbyists and lawyers.

The brisk market for pardons reflects the access peddling that has defined Mr. Trump’s presidency as well as his unorthodox approach to exercising unchecked presidential clemency powers. Pardons and commutations are intended to show mercy to deserving recipients, but Mr. Trump has used many of them to reward personal or political allies.

The pardon lobbying heated up as it became clear that Mr. Trump had no recourse for challenging his election defeat, lobbyists and lawyers say. One lobbyist, Brett Tolman, a former federal prosecutor who has been advising the White House on pardons and commutations, has monetized his clemency work, collecting tens of thousands of dollars, and possibly more, in recent weeks to lobby the White House for clemency for the son of a former Arkansas senator; the founder of the notorious online drug marketplace Silk Road; and a Manhattan socialite who pleaded guilty in a fraud scheme.

Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer John M. Dowd has marketed himself to convicted felons as someone who could secure pardons because of his close relationship with the president, accepting tens of thousands of dollars from a wealthy felon and advising him and other potential clients to leverage Mr. Trump’s grievances about the justice system.

A onetime top adviser to the Trump campaign was paid $50,000 to help seek a pardon for John Kiriakou, a former C.I.A. officer convicted of illegally disclosing classified information, and agreed to a $50,000 bonus if the president granted it, according to a copy of an agreement.

And Mr. Kiriakou was separately told that Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani could help him secure a pardon for $2 million. Mr. Kiriakou rejected the offer, but an associate, fearing that Mr. Giuliani was illegally selling pardons, alerted the F.B.I. Mr. Giuliani challenged this characterization.

After Mr. Trump’s impeachment for inciting his supporters before the deadly riot at the Capitol, and with Republican leaders turning on him, the pardon power remains one of the last and most likely outlets for quick unilateral action by an increasingly isolated, erratic president. He has suggested to aides he wants to take the extraordinary and unprecedented step of pardoning himself, though it was not clear whether he had broached the topic since the rampage.

He has also discussed issuing pre-emptive pardons to his children, his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and Mr. Giuliani.

A White House spokesman declined to comment.

Legal scholars and some pardon lawyers shudder at the prospect of such moves, as well as the specter of Mr. Trump’s friends and allies offering to pursue pardons for others in exchange for cash.

“This kind of off-books influence peddling, special-privilege system denies consideration to the hundreds of ordinary people who have obediently lined up as required by Justice Department rules, and is a basic violation of the longstanding effort to make this process at least look fair,” said Margaret Love, who ran the Justice Department’s clemency process from 1990 until 1997 as the United States pardon attorney

The good news is it appears Trump is finally headed for the exits this week, dragging himself back to Florida in disgrace where he plans to build a $2 billion presidential library. In reality, I hope New York, Georgia, California, and other state's process servers will be waiting to serve him dozens, if not hundreds, of lawsuits.
We'll see.

[UPDATE] CNN is reporting late tonight that Trump will unleash scores of "controversial" pardons on Tuesday.

Will they include his family or even himself?

Our Little White Supremacist Domestic Terrorist Problem, Con't

Again, we're nowhere near out of the woods yet after the US Capitol attack. We have a long way to go, and the country is filled with terrorists.
The U.S. Capitol Police arrested a man at a security checkpoint in Washington on Friday after he flashed what an officer described as an “unauthorized” inauguration credential and a search of his truck found an unregistered handgun and more than 500 rounds of ammunition, the authorities said.

A federal law enforcement official said that the man, Wesley A. Beeler, 31, worked as a contractor, and that his credential was not fake, but was not recognized by the police officer. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the arrest.

Mr. Beeler’s father, Paul Beeler, said in an interview that his son was part of a security team working alongside the Capitol Police and the National Guard, and that his son must have simply left his personal gun in his truck. Wesley Beeler has an active private security license in Virginia and was approved to have a handgun, shotgun or patrol rifle while on assignments, according to a state website.

The arrest comes as law enforcement officials have tried to fortify Washington ahead of Inauguration Day on Wednesday, when they fear that extremists emboldened by the attack on the Capitol by President Trump’s supporters on Jan. 6 could seek to cause violence. A militarized “green zone” is being established downtown, National Guard members are flooding the city, and a metal fence has gone up around the Capitol grounds in advance of the swearing-in of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Mr. Beeler, of Front Royal, Va., had driven up to a security checkpoint less than half a mile from the Capitol grounds on Friday evening and presented “an unauthorized inauguration credential,” according to a statement from a Capitol Police officer filed in a District of Columbia court on Saturday. The officer, Roger Dupont, said that he had checked the credential against a list and found that it did not give Mr. Beeler authority to enter the restricted area.

A spokeswoman for the Capitol Police later described the credential that Mr. Beeler had shown as “nongovernment issued.”

Officers searched his truck, which had several gun-related bumper stickers, and found a loaded Glock pistol, 509 rounds for the pistol and 21 shotgun shells, the police said. Mr. Beeler had admitted having the Glock in the truck’s center console when he was asked if there were weapons in the car, they said.

Mr. Beeler, who could not be reached for comment, was charged with five crimes, including possessing a weapon and ammunition in Washington without having it registered as required. The documents filed in court and an incident report from the city’s Metropolitan Police Department do not shed light on why the man had tried to access a restricted area, nor do they provide more details about the credential the police say he presented.

Paul Beeler said his son, a father of four, had recently been working as a security guard on the Capitol grounds, and that he had held other security jobs over the years. “He was proud of the work he was doing with the police and the National Guard,” the father said.


So unauthorized credentials, a Glock, an a bunch of ammo. I can understand having a clip or a box of ammo in a Glock sidearm, but 500-plus rounds?  There's no way the guy was up to anything good. I hope the feds throw the entire library at him, forget the book.

And remember, the good guys have to catch or scare away or otherwise stop, dissuade, or delay every single terrorist threat.

The bad guys only have to get lucky once. And some of these guys have police, security, and/or military training and access to equipment.

Domestic extremists are using obscure and private corners of the internet to plot new attacks ahead of Inauguration Day. Their plans are also hidden in plain sight, buried in podcasts and online video platforms.

Why it matters: Because law enforcement was caught flat-footed during last week's Capitol siege, researchers and intelligence agencies are paying more attention to online threats that could turn into real-world violence.

Driving the news: Extremism researchers worry the threat is more diffuse than the openly plotted Jan. 6 attack in Washington, with far-right groups taking to non-mainstream channels to plan nationwide disruption and broadly whip up anger and calls to arms. 
The overwhelming response from the D.C. Metro Police, the National Guard and others to increase and change security plans is dissuading some fringe groups from moving on D.C. Instead, they may shift their focus to state capitals and other cities, says Bryce Webster-Jacobsen, Director of Intelligence at cyber intelligence firm GroupSense.

The Booglaloo movement, a fringe-right extremist group dedicated to instigating a second civil war, is one of the groups plotting these attacks. Even if promoted under the pretext of being peaceful pro-Trump marches, the Boogaloo groups have a track record of plotting events that become flashpoints for political violence. 
"We're seeing fliers on message boards for more localized events by Boogaloo groups in state capitals in Oregon and Washington," Webster-Jacobsen says, while local officials and law enforcement officials in Michigan and Minnesota warn the groups are planning similar events in those states' capitals on Sunday.

The chatter is increasingly taking place on platforms like Telegram, where extremists can congregate in closed, invite-only groups. QAnon and other far-right organizations are also moving to even tougher-to-monitor venues like, as NBC News reports, massive text message chains.

Yes, but: Organizers of far-right violence are also in some cases operating in broad daylight, taking to mediums like podcasts and streaming video. There, they'll often talk in more guarded and coded terms than they'll use in less public channels, with the aim of building a like-minded audience and recruiting new followers.

The pre-inauguration timing of the planned events comes as online extremists — at least in the semi-public channels that researchers have infiltrated — increasingly avoid plotting activity for Inauguration Day itself, convinced that's when law enforcement will expect them to strike
The threat these terrorists pose will be with us for a very, very long time. Keep in mind this is what we're up against.

Sunday Long Read: Cooking With Vlad

This week's Sunday Long Read comes from ProPublica's Abrahm Lustgarten, who correctly points out that in a rapidly warming world, no country stands to gain more valuable, arable land in a warming climate than Russia, and if that doesn't explain the last four years of Russian politics, I don't know what does.

IT WAS ONLY November, but the chill already cut to the bone in the small village of Dimitrovo, which sits just 35 miles north of the Chinese border in a remote part of eastern Russia’s Jewish Autonomous Region. Behind a row of sagging cabins and decades-old farm equipment, flat fields ran into the brambly branches of a leafless forest before fading into the oblivion of a dreary squall. Several villagers walked the single-lane dirt road, their shoulders rounded against the cold, their ghostly footprints marking the dry white snow.

A few miles down the road, a rusting old John Deere combine growled on through the flurries, its blade churning through dead-brown stalks of soybeans. The tractor lurched to a halt, and a good-humored man named Dima climbed down from the cockpit. Dima, an entrepreneur who farms nearly 6,500 acres of these fields, was born in the Liaoning Province of northeastern China — his birth name is Xin Jie — one of a wave of Chinese to migrate north in pursuit of opportunity in recent years. After Dima’s mostly Chinese laborers returned home this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he has been forced to do much of the work himself. Bundled against the wind in a camouflage parka, he bent to pick a handful of slender pods from the ground, opening one to reveal a glimpse at Russia’s future.

A great transformation is underway in the eastern half of Russia. For centuries the vast majority of the land has been impossible to farm; only the southernmost stretches along the Chinese and Mongolian borders, including around Dimitrovo, have been temperate enough to offer workable soil. But as the climate has begun to warm, the land — and the prospect for cultivating it — has begun to improve. Twenty years ago, Dima says, the spring thaw came in May, but now the ground is bare by April; rainstorms now come stronger and wetter. Across Eastern Russia, wild forests, swamps and grasslands are slowly being transformed into orderly grids of soybeans, corn and wheat. It’s a process that is likely to accelerate: Russia hopes to seize on the warming temperatures and longer growing seasons brought by climate change to refashion itself as one of the planet’s largest producers of food.

Around the world, climate change is becoming an epochal crisis, a nightmare of drought, desertification, flooding and unbearable heat, threatening to make vast regions less habitable and drive the greatest migration of refugees in history. But for a few nations, climate change will present an unparalleled opportunity, as the planet’s coldest regions become more temperate. There is plenty of reason to think that those places will also receive an extraordinary influx of people displaced from the hottest parts of the world as the climate warms. Human migration, historically, has been driven by the pursuit of prosperity even more so than it has by environmental strife. With climate change, prosperity and habitability — haven and economic opportunity — will soon become one and the same.

And no country may be better positioned to capitalize on climate change than Russia. Russia has the largest land mass by far of any northern nation. It is positioned farther north than all of its South Asian neighbors, which collectively are home to the largest global population fending off displacement from rising seas, drought and an overheating climate. Like Canada, Russia is rich in resources and land, with room to grow. Its crop production is expected to be boosted by warming temperatures over the coming decades even as farm yields in the United States, Europe and India are all forecast to decrease. And whether by accident or cunning strategy or, most likely, some combination of the two, the steps its leaders have steadily taken — planting flags in the Arctic and propping up domestic grain production among them — have increasingly positioned Russia to regain its superpower mantle in a warmer world
And no country has worked harder to accelerate global climate change than Russia. There's a reason behind it, and a method to the madness. The hints are there now, where India, China, and the US are all suffering, Russia becomes the new land superpower, dominating both Europe and Asia.

Sure explains Russia, Trump, the EU, and everything, right?

America Goes Viral, Con't

Outgoing CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield is finally copping to the truth: the next several months ahead will be the worst so far as the COVID-19 death toll skyrockets.
Next week marks one year since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first coronavirus case in the United States.

Dr. Robert Redfield, the outgoing CDC director, has been heading the federal public health agency's response to the pandemic from the start.

Redfield's departure on Wednesday, when President-elect Joe Biden will usher in a new administration, comes as a record surge in COVID-19 cases is sweeping across the country. The U.S. has far surpassed all other nations with more than 23 million virus-related cases and more than 391,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

But, even as the pandemic enters its deadliest stage yet, Redfield told NPR on Friday that the country is "about to be in the worst" months of the crisis.

As his tenure winds down, the CDC director said in an interview with All Things Considered that he stands by his federal health agency's response to the pandemic despite what he characterized as an early "learning curve" and conflicting public health guidance from President Trump.

If he has one criticism for the federal government's handling of the crisis, it's a failure of "consistency and unity of message" between the agency and the administration as it related to virus risk factors and public health measures such as the importance of masks to prevent the spread of infection.

When asked if the White House interfered with the CDC's work, Redfield said no.

"There was review and comments by different agencies within the White House," he said. "But at the end of the day, the CDC published the guidance that we believe is the most important for the American public."
Redfield's outgoing interview with NPR's Mary Louise Kelly is eye-opening for sure, but it's not just a reminder that the worst is still ahead, it's a reminder that the worst is still ahead because of the ongoing incompetence and cruelty of the Trump regime

Redfield failed America, and we'll be paying the price for a long time to come.
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