New York prosecutors set the table for the criminal tax fraud trial against the Trump Organization Monday, telling jurors the case is about “greed and cheating.”
Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger laid out an alleged 15-year scheme within the Trump Org. to pay high-level executives in perks like luxury cars and apartments without paying taxes on them.
Two Trump Organization entities are charged with nine counts of tax fraud, grand larceny and falsifying business records in what prosecutors allege was a 15-year scheme to defraud tax authorities by failing to report and pay taxes on compensation provided to employees.
The scheme, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, was orchestrated by the company’s long-time Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, the top executive handling the books of the company. Prosecutors allege the companies benefited from the scheme by paying less taxes on the employee salaries while keeping their longtime employees happy.
“At the end of the day, keeping the trusted CFO happy by paying him more without him being taxed on that income, that was also a benefit to these companies,” Hoffinger said during her opening statement.
The jury will see portions of former President Donald Trump’s personal ledger and the checks he signed from his personal account to pay school tuition for Weisselberg’s grandchildren for years, the prosecutor said.
Trump is not a defendant in the case and is not expected to be implicated in any wrongdoing, but the charges against the real estate business he built from the ground up are the closest any prosecutor has gotten to Trump, and the political ramifications of the case has irritated the former president, people familiar with the matter say.
“Donald Trump didn’t know that Allen Weisselberg was cheating on Allen Weisselberg’s personal tax returns. The evidence will be crystal clear on that,” defense attorney Susan Necheles said.
She also cautioned the jurors to leave their political views out of their deliberations.
“You must not consider this case to be a referendum on President Trump or his policies. That type of thing has no place in our criminal justice system,” Necheles said.
Monday, October 31, 2022
Last Call For Orange Meltdown, Con't
Affirmative In The Negative
The end of affirmative action, at least on college campuses, is almost certainly near.
The big picture: The Supreme Court said in 2003 that colleges and universities could consider race as a factor when deciding which students to admit, for the sake of building a diverse student body. But now, the much more conservative court appears to be changing its mind.
Driving the news: The court is set to hear oral arguments this week over the admissions processes at Harvard and the University of North Carolina, both of which give a little extra weight to applicants who come from certain underrepresented groups.Life is full of surprises, but the court has sent just about every conceivable signal that it’s likely to put a stop to those sorts of policies.
Why it matters: Harvard and UNC — supported by a host of other schools, as well as business organizations — argue that diversity is essential to the educational experience and that the only effective way to ensure diversity is to make it an explicit part of the admissions process.But they’ll be making that argument to a court that is extremely skeptical of any sort of racial preference.
“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in a 2007 opinion about the use of race when assigning kids to public schools.
From voting rights to K-12 education to employment law and probably now college admissions, the court over the past several years has consistently knocked down programs that tried to correct racial inequities by explicitly taking race into account.
This is all largely one man’s doing. Conservative activist Ed Blum has organized and funded a slew of high-profile lawsuits explicitly designed to get the court to strike down affirmative action.He orchestrated a 2013 case in which a white student sued because she didn’t get into the University of Texas — and the sequel, in which the same student came back to the high court again in 2016.
This time around, the named plaintiffs are not only white students but also Asian Americans, who say they’ve been discriminated against because of the way Harvard and UNC give preference to applications from Black and Hispanic students.
This is not a particularly secretive endeavor. Blum is open about the fact that this is, effectively, a campaign, and that he is the campaign manager.
"I'm a one-trick pony," Blum recently told Reuters. "I hope and care about ending these racial classifications and preferences in our public policy."
Blum also had a hand in the landmark case that nullified a key section of the Voting Rights Act — another instance in which the conservative court said policies designed to offset a history of discrimination had outlived their usefulness.
Musk Rat Love, Con't
Now that he owns Twitter, Elon Musk has given employees their first ultimatum: Meet his deadline to introduce paid verification on Twitter or pack up and leave.
The directive is to change Twitter Blue, the company’s optional, $4.99 a month subscription that unlocks additional features, into a more expensive subscription that also verifies users, according to people familiar with the matter and internal correspondence seen by The Verge. Twitter is planning to charge $19.99 for the new Twitter Blue subscription, though that price is subject to change. Employees working on the project were told on Sunday that they need to meet a deadline of November 7th to launch the feature or they will be fired.
Musk has been clear in the months leading up to his acquisition that he wanted to revamp how Twitter verifies accounts and handles bots. He is also keen on growing subscriptions to become half of the company’s overall revenue. On Sunday, he tweeted: “The whole verification process is being revamped right now.”
Platformer’s Casey Newton first reported that Twitter was considering charging for verification. A spokesperson for Twitter didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.
Sunday, October 30, 2022
Last Call For Brazil, Nuts Con't
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is set to become the next president of Brazil, after defeating his rightwing rival, incumbent Jair Bolsonaro, by a razor-thin margin.
The leftist former leader, widely known as “Lula,” won 50.83% of the votes, with over 98% of the votes counted in a fiercely contested run-off election on Sunday.
Bolsonaro, who mustered 49.17% votes, will be denied a second term.
The two candidates had previously gone head to head in a first round of voting on October 2, but neither gained more than half of the votes, forcing Sunday’s runoff vote, which has become a referendum on two starkly different visions for Brazil.
Lula da Silva supporters thronged São Paulo Avenida Paulista on Sunday evening after polls closed. The mood was celebratory even before the results were called, with people setting off flares when he was declared winner by the country’s election authority.
Many had tears in their eyes, telling CNN that they were hopeful for the country, which has been struggling with high inflation, limited growth and rising poverty.
But others on Avenida Paulista expressed fears. Lula da Silva’s razor thin margin comes as fears mount that Bolsonaro will not accept defeat, having repeatedly claimed that Brazil’s electronic ballot system is susceptible to fraud. The entirely unfounded allegation has drawn comparisons to the false election claims of former US President Donald Trump.
Things could go very bad in Brazil this week.
Americans in particular should be paying very close attention.
Sunday Long Read: Voices Carry
Our Sunday Long Read this week is John Woodrow Cox's profile in the Washington Post of Caitlyne Gonzales, survivor of the deadly Uvalde, Texas school shooting, who at age 10 is doing more for gun safety issues in Texas than a generation of politicians.
She had clipped a white bow into her hair and slipped on a yellow shirt embellished with a butterfly, and now, an hour before meeting her fifth-grade teachers for the first time, Caitlyne Gonzales sat cross-legged on her living room couch, watching YouTube videos about other school shooting survivors.
Caitlyne, who is 10, listened to a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High graduate describe witnessing the killing of two classmates in Parkland, Fla. She already knew the names of the victims, because she’d spent weeks on her phone poring over accounts of what had happened to kids like her and her friends. She lingered on a video showing a map of Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut and skipped a story about the gunman, then tapped another segment on Parkland.
“He’s now in a wheelchair,” she said about a boy who was shot three times.
“She’s a cheerleader,” she said about a girl who had seen students dying in their own blood.
When she reached a video about the four teenagers gunned down at Oxford High in Michigan last year, she pointed at a picture of one victim smiling in a field of flowers: “She was 14. She was the youngest.”
It had been 100 days since Caitlyne hid in a classroom, listening to a stranger slaughter 19 fourth-graders and two teachers across the hallway at Robb Elementary. Caitlyne knew them all.
In the shooting’s aftermath, many of Uvalde’s children were plagued by post-traumatic stress, but, to most people, Caitlyne wasn’t one of them. By September, she had become Robb’s most public survivor, a voice for her friends who were dead and for those who were alive but too daunted to say anything. She had spoken at rallies in Uvalde and Austin and to U.S. senators in Washington. She’d demanded that the people in charge of her school district fire the police officers who failed to save her classmates. She wrote her own speeches in neat block letters and stood alone before the microphones, sometimes on her tippy-toes.
The father of a child killed at Robb tweeted a photo of Caitlyne addressing the school board along with an image of the “Fearless Girl” statue facing down the charging bull in New York.
“#TeamCaitlyne,” he added.
She was a portrait of resilience, a 4-foot-8, 75-pound embodiment of the maroon “Uvalde Strong” flags flying all over Texas. To an admiring public, she was also living evidence that the hundreds of thousands of children in the United States who have survived school shootings can recover, becoming some version of who they used to be.
But the girl Caitlyne had been before “that day,” as she’d started calling the May 24 massacre, was gone. In her place was a uniquely American amalgam, a child who didn’t know how to ride a bike without training wheels but did know about ballistic windows and bulletproof backpacks and the movement to ban assault weapons. Who spent as much time following the Instagram pages of her favorite gun safety champions as she did Bad Bunny’s TikTok account. Who was 10, but seldom acted her age, speaking in public about fear and death with the eloquence of an adult, while in private, enduring flashbacks so vivid that she needed bedtime lullabies meant for toddlers to soothe her.
Now, on the way to her new school for “Meet the Teacher” night, the apprehension Caitlyne worked hard to conceal bubbled up.
“There’s going to be so much people,” she told her mother, Gladys Gonzalez, when they neared Flores Elementary. “I’m scared.”
She used to adore school, because that was the place she made new friends, and Caitlyne liked to think she could make a friend out of anyone. Now, whether she would be able to go back at all, Gladys didn’t know.
Caitlyne couldn’t stand to be apart from her mother for more than a few minutes. The night of the shooting, she asked Gladys to lie at the foot of her bed, down by her toes. Then, as the weeks passed, she insisted that her mom sleep beside her, then facing her, then so close that Caitlyne could feel Gladys’s breath on her face.
Outside Flores, Caitlyne stepped out of the car, silent as she and her mom walked in. The school’s floor was brown, the walls a weathered beige, and the overhead lights so dim that faces at the end of the hallway were obscured in shadows. They had visited Flores a month prior, and Caitlyne had been too unnerved by the darkness to go to the restroom by herself. Twice after that, she pleaded with the school board to install better lighting, but nothing had changed.
On their way to her new classroom, they rounded a corner, and Caitlyne noticed an armed police officer. She veered to the opposite side of the hallway, glancing at him with disdain. Dozens of sheriff’s deputies, state troopers, U.S. Border Patrol officers and local police had taken 77 minutes to confront the gunman at Robb, and, like many people in Uvalde, Caitlyne deeply resented them for it.
Inside Room 302, she met her homeroom teacher, a young woman with a warm smile who called her “honey.” She escorted Caitlyne next door, where her new classmates were gathering. Caitlyne barely knew most of them, in part because dozens of Robb students had decided to take virtual classes or withdraw from the district and go elsewhere.
Caitlyne avoided eye contact with a boy who used to have a crush on her and hugged a girl she did know well, relieved to have at least one old friend in her class. The teachers handed out “About Me” forms to all their new fifth-graders, and Caitlyne filled hers out in the back. Favorite hobby: TikTok. Favorite animal: dog. Favorite food: pizza rolls. Favorite color: blue.
None of the staff mentioned the kids who weren’t there, but Caitlyne couldn’t stop thinking about their absence. Back in the car after they left, she turned to her mom.
“Can we go to the cemetery?”
Saturday, October 29, 2022
The Crime Spree That Wasn't
As MSNBC's Hayes Brown points out, the "major increase in crime under Biden" doesn't actually exist, except in the minds of Republican voters who are lying and being lied to by the right-wing noise machine.
A Gallup Poll released Friday morning found that 56% of Americans think crime has increased in their local area over the last year, the most in 50 years. But as I’ve said before, there’s often a disconnect between the perception of increased crime in an area and whether that purported increase can accurately be measured. That goes double for a climate like today’s, where the GOP is determined to frame cities as liberal-created hellscapes.
Gallup noted that “Americans have consistently been more likely to say crime is worsening in the U.S. than in their local area,” and that held true in its latest findings: 78% of respondents think that crime is up nationwide compared to 2021, versus the 56% who believe crime is up where they live. In other words, people are more likely to think that rising crime is a problem somewhere else than it is in their own community.
Small wonder when the GOP is spending so heavily on hammering home that message. “Since July 1, the National Republican Congressional Committee has run at least $4 million in general-election ads with police or crime themes, with the House GOP’s main super PAC running $12.1 million over that period,” Politico reported this week, using data from nonpartisan research firm AdImpact.
And, surprise surprise, it’s Republicans who are most convinced in Gallup’s polling that crime is coming for us all. “Currently, 73% of Republicans say crime in their area has risen, while 51% of independents and 42% of Democrats say the same,” the polling firm found. That’s a 6-point increase compared to last year, which in turn was a massive leap from the 38% of Republicans who said crime was up when asked in 2020. More impressively, a full 95% of Republicans in this most recent poll believe that crime is up nationally, “the highest ever for any party group,” as Gallup put it.
But that belief doesn’t square with what we know so far this year about crime across the nation — which admittedly is not a lot. Crime statistics are not collected uniformly nationwide, leaving us with large gaps in our understanding. In the absence of accurate and current data, we’re left with anecdotes or perceptions, as Gallup has measured.
One useful source is the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, which last month released its 2021 data on criminal victimization nationwide. When it comes to “violent victimization” — aka people who are the victims of violent crimes like rape, robbery and aggravated assault, but not murder — it found that the estimated rate had declined from 2012 through last year and that the rate “did not change” between 2020 and 2021. As for property crimes, the rate also had not significantly increased from the previous year.
The Justice Department numbers are pretty well-documented. Crime is down significantly from, say, the "superpredator" 90's. But it's not like being a Republican in 2022 has anything to do with reality, after all. When the vast majority of your party believes in conspiracy theories and unfounded idiocy, why should the perception of crime have any factual truth to it?
When Republican tell you to your face that larges sections of liberal cities have been completely destroyed in "Antifa riots" in 2020, that the election was stolen, and the JFK Jr is still alive, why wouldn't they say that crime is out of control?
They lie and are lied to about everything else, after all.
These Disunited States, Con't
Less than two weeks before the 2022 elections, the U.S. government is warning of a "heightened threat" to the midterm contests, fueled by a rise in domestic violent extremism, or DVE, and driven by ideological grievances and access to potential targets, according to a joint intelligence bulletin obtained by CBS News.
"Potential targets of DVE violence include candidates running for public office, elected officials, election workers, political rallies, political party representatives, racial and religious minorities, or perceived ideological opponents," the bulletin, published Friday, stated.
The bulletin was issued on the same day that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband was violently attacked by a man who broke into their home and demanded, "Where's Nancy? Where's Nancy?"
According to the memo distributed to law enforcement partners nationwide Friday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), FBI, National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) and U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) predict that "violence will largely be dependent on drivers such as personalized ideological grievances and the accessibility of potential targets throughout the election cycle." Intelligence analysts assess that the "most plausible" threat ahead of Election Day comes from "lone offenders who leverage election-related issues to justify violence," with many individuals still amplifying false narratives of fraud that date back to the 2020 general election.
Analysts cautioned that government officials and personnel, "including candidates in the midterm election and officials involved in administering elections," will likely remain "attractive targets" to those motivated by debunked claims of election fraud that have spread online. U.S. Capitol Police have reported a "sharp increase" of threats against members of Congress in recent years and notably documented 9,600 direct or indirect threats in 2021 alone.
"We assess some [domestic violent extremists] motivated by election-related grievances would likely view election-related infrastructure, personnel, and voters involved in the election process as attractive targets — including at publicly accessible locations like polling places, ballot drop-box locations, voter registration sites, campaign events, and political party offices," the bulletin warns.
Their aim, the bulletin suggests, would be to try to discredit the elections: "DVEs could target components of the election infrastructure in hopes of swaying voting habits, undermining perceptions of the legitimacy of the voting process, or prompting a particular government reaction."
And it goes on to note that the places where people vote could be targeted for attacks "because they prioritize accessibility to maximize exposure to potential voters, making them vulnerable to simple, easy-to-use weapons, like firearms, vehicles, edged weapons, and incendiary devices, which DVEs have used in the past."
"Some [domestic violent extremists], particularly anti-government and anti-authority violent extremists and racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists motivated by differing perceptions of issues like government overreach, firearms regulation, and immigration policy, will potentially view social and political tensions during the upcoming midterm election as an opportunity to use or promote violence in furtherance of their ideological goals," the bulletin noted.
Friday, October 28, 2022
Our Little White Supremacist Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't
Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was attacked and severely beaten by an assailant with a hammer who broke into their San Francisco home early Friday, according to people familiar with the investigation.
Pelosi, 82, suffered blunt force injuries to his head and body, according to two people who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing probe.
The attack was not random; the assailant specifically targeted the home, the people said. The assailant was in custody.
Pelosi was being treated by doctors for bruising, severe swelling and other injuries. Nancy Pelosi’s spokesman Drew Hammill said he was expected to make a full recovery.
“The Speaker and her family are grateful to the first responders and medical professionals involved, and request privacy at this time,” Hammill said in a statement.
While the circumstances of the attack are unclear, the attack raises questions about the safety of members of Congress and their families as threats to lawmakers are at an all-time high almost two years after the deadly Capitol insurrection. The attack also comes just 11 days ahead of midterm elections in which crime and public safety have emerged as top concerns among Americans.
Musk Rat Love
Elon Musk became Twitter’s owner late Thursday as his $44 billion deal to take over the company officially closed, marking a new era for one of the world’s most influential social media platforms.
As one of his first moves, he fired several longtime top Twitter executives, according to three people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters. One of those confirmed the deal was complete.
Chief executive Parag Agrawal, chief financial officer Ned Segal and Vijaya Gadde, head of legal policy, trust, and safety, were let go, according to the people. Sean Edgett, the company’s general counsel, was also pushed out, one of the people said. The top executives were hastily escorted out of the company’s San Francisco headquarters.
Musk’s moves late Thursday signal his intentions to firmly put his stamp on Twitter. Musk has publicly criticized the company’s outgoing management over product decisions and content moderation, as well as saying he would restore former president Donald Trump’s account.
Still, “Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!” Musk tweeted Thursday, in a post offering assurances to advertisers.
Late in the evening, he tweeted, “the bird is freed.”
Thursday, October 27, 2022
Last Call For Dispatches From Gunmerica
Tony Earls hung his head before a row of television cameras, staring down, his life upended. Days before, Mr. Earls had pulled out his handgun and opened fire, hoping to strike a man who had just robbed him and his wife at an A.T.M. in Houston.
Instead, he struck Arlene Alvarez, a 9-year-old girl seated in a passing pickup, killing her.
“Is Mr. Earls licensed to carry?” a reporter asked during the February news conference, in which his lawyer spoke for him.
He didn’t need one, the lawyer replied. “Everything about that situation, we believe and contend, was justified under Texas law.” A grand jury later agreed, declining to indict Mr. Earls for any crime.
The shooting was part of what many sheriffs, police leaders and district attorneys in urban areas of Texas say has been an increase in people carrying weapons and in spur-of-the-moment gunfire in the year since the state began allowing most adults 21 or over to carry a handgun without a license.
At the same time, mainly in rural counties, other sheriffs said they had seen little change, and proponents of gun rights said more people lawfully carrying guns could be part of why shootings have declined in some parts of the state.
Far from an outlier, Texas, with its new law, joined what has been an expanding effort to remove nearly all restrictions on carrying handguns. When Alabama’s “permitless carry” law goes into effect in January, half of the states in the nation, from Maine to Arizona, will not require a license to carry a handgun.
The state-by-state legislative push has coincided with a federal judiciary that has increasingly ruled in favor of carrying guns and against state efforts to regulate them.
But Texas is the most populous state to do away with handgun permit requirements. Five of the nation’s 15 biggest cities are in Texas, making the permitless approach to handguns a new fact of life in urban areas to an extent not seen in other states.
In the border town of Eagle Pass, drunken arguments have flared into shootings. In El Paso, revelers who legally bring their guns to parties have opened fire to stop fights. In and around Houston, prosecutors have received a growing stream of cases involving guns brandished or fired over parking spots, bad driving, loud music and love triangles.
“It seems like now there’s been a tipping point where just everybody is armed,” said Sheriff Ed Gonzalez of Harris County, which includes Houston.
No statewide shooting statistics have been released since the law went into effect last September. After a particularly violent 2021 in many parts of the state, the picture of crime in Texas has been mixed this year, with homicides and assaults up in some places and down in others.
But what has been clear is that far fewer people are getting new licenses for handguns even as many in law enforcement say the number of guns they encounter on the street has been increasing.
Big city police departments and major law enforcement groups opposed the new handgun law when it came before the State Legislature last spring, worried in part about the loss of training requirements necessary for a permit and more dangers for officers.
But gun rights proponents prevailed in the Republican-dominated Capitol, arguing that Texans should not need the state’s permission to exercise their Second Amendment rights.
Recent debates over gun laws in Texas have not been limited to handgun licensing. After the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, gun control advocates have pushed to raise the age to purchase an AR-15-style rifle. And after the Supreme Court struck down New York’s restrictive licensing program, a federal court in Texas found that a state law barring adults under 21 from carrying a handgun was unconstitutional. Gov. Greg Abbott has suggested he agreed, even as the Texas Department of Public Safety, which oversees the state police, is appealing.
Ridin' With Biden, Con't
The U.S. economy grew at a 2.6% annual rate from July through September, snapping two straight quarters of contraction and overcoming high inflation and interest rates just as voting begins in midterm elections in which the economy’s health has emerged as a paramount issue.
Thursday’s better-than-expected estimate from the Commerce Department showed that the nation’s gross domestic product — the broadest gauge of economic output — grew in the third quarter after having shrunk in the first half of 2022. Stronger exports and consumer spending, backed by a healthy job market, helped restore growth to the world’s biggest economy at a time when worries about a possible recession are rising.
Consumer spending, which accounts for about 70% of U.S. economic activity, expanded at a 1.4% annual pace in the July-September quarter, down from a 2% rate from April through June. Last quarter’s growth got a major boost from exports, which shot up at an annual pace of 14.4%. Government spending also helped: It rose at a 2.4% annual pace, the first such increase since early last year, with sharply higher defense spending leading the way.
Housing investment, though, plunged at a 26% annual pace, hammered by surging mortgage rates as the Federal Reserve aggressively raises borrowing costs to combat chronic inflation. It was the sixth straight quarterly drop in residential investment.
Overall, the outlook for the overall economy has darkened. The Fed has raised interest rates five times this year and is set to do so again next week and in December. Chair Jerome Powell has warned that the Fed’s hikes will bring “pain” in the form of higher unemployment and possibly a recession.
“Looking ahead, risks are to the downside, to consumption in particular, as households continue to face challenges from high prices and likely slower job growth going forward,” Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, wrote in a research note.
With inflation still near a 40-year high, steady price spikes have been pressuring households across the country. At the same time, rising loan rates have derailed the housing market and are likely to inflict broader damage over time. The outlook for the world economy, too, grows bleaker the longer that Russia’s war against Ukraine drags on.
The latest GDP report comes as Americans, worried about inflation and the risk of a recession, have begun to vote in elections that will determine whether President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party retains control of Congress. Inflation has become a signature issue for Republican attacks on the Democrats’ stewardship of the economy.
Economists noted that the third-quarter gain in GDP can be traced entirely to the surge in exports, which added 2.7 percentage points to the economy’s expansion. Export growth will be difficult to sustain as the global economy weakens and a strong U.S. dollar makes American products pricier in foreign markets.
Thursday’s report offered some encouraging news on inflation. A price index in the GDP data rose at a 4.1% annual rate from July through September, down from 9% in the April-June period — less than economists had expected and the smallest increase since the final three months of 2020. That figure could raise hopes that the Fed might decide it can soon slow its rate hikes.
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Con't
Arizona Democratic Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs's office was broken into and ransacked this week as police continue to search for the burglar.
The Phoenix campaign headquarters of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs was burglarized earlier this week, Phoenix police and a campaign official said Wednesday.
Police responded to a commercial burglary call at the office in midtown Phoenix on Tuesday afternoon.
"Information was learned that items were taken from the property sometime during the night," a police statement said. "No suspects have been identified. This is still an active investigation with detectives checking all security cameras in attempts to identify and locate the subject involved."
The campaign released photographs of a person it said was identified as the suspect by the Phoenix Police Department after police reviewed the surveillance footage. The images show a younger man wearing shorts, a short-sleeved T-shirt and a backpack.
The Phoenix Police Department said it "has not released any images or video relating to this investigation and cannot confirm any suspects or investigative leads."
Nicole DeMont, campaign manager for Hobbs, said, "We continue to cooperate with law enforcement as they investigate, and we are thankful to the men and women of the Phoenix Police Department for their work to keep us safe."
“Secretary Hobbs and her staff have faced hundreds of death threats and threats of violence over the course of this campaign. Throughout this race, we have been clear that the safety of our staff and of the secretary is our No. 1 priority."
No one was at the office at the time of the break-in and several items were taken, said Sarah Robinson, spokeswoman for the Hobbs campaign.
Wednesday, October 26, 2022
Last Call For Unimpeachable Facts
epublican leaders in Pennsylvania's GOP-controlled legislature says it will proceed with impeachment and removal of Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner for the heinous crime of executing prosecutorial discretion while being a progressive Democrat.
Pennsylvania Republicans announced Wednesday plans to impeach and potentially remove from office Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, a national leader among progressive prosecutors who was overwhelmingly re-elected last year.
Krasner is not accused of committing a crime. Nor do his critics allege corruption. Instead, they accuse him of dereliction of duty for what they say is a failure to adequately enforce criminal laws, leading to rising crime rates and declining quality of life for Philadelphians.
The extraordinary move — the state Legislature has impeached only two officials in its entire history, in 1994 and 1811 — comes just two weeks before a midterm election in which Republicans have focused on crime while Democrats have highlighted threats to democracy from politicians willing to defy elections.
It also comes as progressive prosecutors and recent criminal justice reforms have faced blowback due to rising crime.
“I recognize the unprecedented nature of what must be done and am confident our members are up to the task,” Republican Rep. Martina White said at a news conference Wednesday announcing articles of impeachment at the state Capitol in Harrisburg.
Republicans control both chambers of the Legislature, but White is the only GOP member from Philadelphia, which is on pace to break last year’s record-setting homicide rate.
The rest hail from other, largely rural parts of the state.
“There should be a war on crime. But due to the failed vision and his idea of criminal justice, crime is allowed to wage war on the good people and the great beautiful city of Philadelphia," Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff said of Krasner at the news conference.
Pennsylvania’s Constitution gives the Legislature broad power to impeach “all civil officers” for “any misbehavior in office,” though it has almost never exercised that authority.
“It’s clear under the Constitution that 'misbehavior in office' is the standard,” said Republican Rep. Torren Ecker, when asked by reporters what impeachable offense Krasner had committed. “Failing to do his duty and uphold the law — that is the very definition of misbehavior.”
The Legislature is scheduled to recess the Wednesday before the Nob. 8 election, but Republican leaders said they will add extra days to the calendar if necessary to make sure an impeachment vote happens as soon as possible.
They insisted the move against Krasner and its timing is not about politics, but about the need to offer some relief to Philadelphians struggling against crime every day.
“Our caucus has been constantly concerned with crime. It has nothing to do with the election,” Benninghoff said.
Krasner traveled to Harrisburg Friday to try to meet with GOP leaders and protest the anticipated impeachment articles.
"This is an effort to impeach someone for political purposes who has done nothing corrupt and nothing illegal because they want to erase Philadelphia’s votes, straight up," he said. "They want to impeach our ideas."
Krasner noted that the state Legislature has taken no action against a Republican district attorney in western Pennsylvania's Somerset County who was arrested last year on rape charges (he has pleaded not guilty and a trial is expected in January) and then again this year in an alleged road rage incident targeting a witness in the first incident (he pleaded guilty to lesser charges).
"There is no effort whatsoever to even look at the possibility of an impeachment of this man," Krasner said of the Somerset prosecutor, who was suspended last year but is now suing the county for back pay because his lawyer argues he can only be terminated by impeachment.
Our Little White Supremacist Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't
Three men have been found guilty by a Jackson County jury of materially aiding a terrorist and being a member of a gang as part of a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
This verdict comes after a three-week trial where the Michigan Attorney General's Office had to prove that Paul Bellar, Joseph Morrison and Pete Musico provided aid to Adam Fox or Barry Croft, both of whom were convicted in an August federal trial of being ringleaders in the Whitmer kidnapping plot. Jurors spent two weeks listening to each side present testimony in the largest domestic terrorism case in a generation that has shed light on political extremism in Michigan.
It also was the first state trial connected to the Whitmer kidnapping plot allegations. Croft and Fox are appealing their convictions.
The jury spent about five hours deliberating before coming back with the verdict. They found Musico, 43; his son-in-law, Morrison, 27; and acquaintance Bellar, 22, guilty of providing material support to a terrorist, being a member of a gang and a felony weapons charge.
The men each face up to 42 years in prison — 20 years for the charges of providing material support and gang membership and an additional two years for a felony weapons charge. The gang membership sentence may run consecutively to other sentences. Sentencing for all three men is scheduled for Dec. 15.
Bellar looked down at the table as the verdict was read but had no visible response. His attorney, Andrew Kirkpatrick, said he was very nervous in the period leading up to the verdict and was practically hyperventilating in the elevator on the way up to the courtroom.
Morrison tested positive for COVID-19 Sunday and Musico showed symptoms, so neither was in the courtroom while the verdict was read. Over Zoom, both Musico and Morrison closed their eyes, and Morrison appeared to cry.
The Big Lie, Con't
New polling from NBC News shows just 22% of registered Republican voters believe in the legitimacy of Biden's election, with 65% viewing his election illegitimate.
That makes Republicans an outlier — overall, 60% of registered voters believe Biden's election was legitimate and 33% do not. One-hundred percent of Democrats and 74% of independents view his election as legitimate, along with a majority of white voters, voters of colors, independents, voters in cities and suburbs, as well as voters across all regions and age groups.
The only subgroups in the new poll that don't believe in the legitimacy of Biden's election are those who are correlated with stronger support for Republicans.
Just 19% of those who voted for former President Trump in 2020 believe that election was legitimate, along with 22% who want the GOP to win control of Congress this fall, 22% of white evangelicals, 34% of rural voters and 43% of white working-class voters.
Overall, confidence in Biden's election has stayed virtually stagnant since the Jan. 2021 poll. Democratic belief in the election's legitimacy rose 4% points from 96% to 100%, as the share of independents rose from 62% to 74%.
But Republicans remained steady — just 21% said in Jan. 2021 that Biden's election was legitimate, and 22% said so in the Oct. 2022 poll.
Tuesday, October 25, 2022
Last Call For Seven Nutjob Army
Military planes dropping bombs, battleships at the ready, scores of soldiers marching in the streets -- and across the screen flashes the words, "Your country needs you once again."
"Beat the cheat," the video urges viewers.
The footage is from a new recruitment video released by The America Project, an organization led by prominent election deniers Patrick Byrne, the former Overstock.com CEO, and retired general Michael Flynn, a former Trump national security adviser, who have joined forces in the final weeks leading up to the midterm elections to recruit ex-military and first responders to staff polling locations around the country.
The operation, fueled by false election claims and using recruitment material featuring images of war, has been dubbed "One Last Mission" by Byrne and Flynn, who emerged as leading figures in the effort to overturn the 2020 election.
"The America Project has spun up the coup de grâce on the enemy," Byrne said in a separate video announcing the campaign, telling viewers he believes the "bad guys are going to come at us with another rig"-- despite there being no evidence that the 2020 election was rigged or stolen.
Poll workers, who set up voting equipment, sign-in and process voters, and report results, are typically apolitical positions for which applicants must affirm that they won't act for the benefit of any candidate or party.
"AMERICA NEEDS YOU NOW MORE THAN EVER," read an October post on the group's Instagram account. "You took an oath to preserve and protect the Constitution. And defending it means ensuring election integrity."
"This is the most important thing I think going on in America right now," Byrne said in a recent interview promoting the effort on a conservative internet show. "We're asking you to save the country again."
He said in another interview that the recruiting campaign has been "going like gangbusters" after launching in September.
The "One Last Mission" campaign is the latest effort launched by The America Project, which has announced a slate of programs aimed at impacting future elections, many fueled by baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen.
The group has also conducted poll worker "training" around the county, called "Operation Eagle's Wings," which is targeting key battleground states including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
The America Project has so far trained almost 6,000 poll workers in just Pennsylvania alone, according to Flynn's brother Michael Flynn, who is the group's president. The training is separate and additional to training from election officials.
"They won't be able to steal this election the same way they stole 2020!" he tweeted.
Ukraine In The Membrane, Brainless Edition
Yesterday thirty members of the House Progressive Caucus signed a letter urging President Biden to pursue direct negotiations with Russia and a diplomatic settlement to the Russo-Ukraine war. Given the fairly united support for Ukraine in the US political class and fairly broad support among the public in general, the letter was bound to spur some controversy. But the letter itself was an incoherent mass of contradictions. It pressed for immediate negotiations and a ceasefire while also insisting on defending Ukraine and not taking any steps without Ukraine’s support. For the moment at least these are irreconcilable positions. Ukraine’s war aim is to drive Russia from most and likely all of its territory. Russia’s position is to annex large parts of Ukraine and force it into a permanently subordinate position to Russia. One side or another has to substantially shift its demands or there’s little to talk about. The letter could have said, ‘The threat of escalation and the danger to the global economy is so great that US needs to make Ukraine shift its goals.’ But it didn’t. It stated two irreconcilable positions at once.
Then things got weird.
Soon the leader of the Progressive Caucus Pramila Jayapal put out a statement “reaffirming support for Ukraine and clarifying the position of a letter to President Biden. Her clarification amounted to a recantation of the initial letter: “We are united as Democrats in our unequivocal commitment to supporting Ukraine in their fight for their democracy and freedom in the face of the illegal and outrageous Russian invasion, and nothing in the letter advocates for a change in that support.” Another signer, Rep. Mark Takano, put out a statement again basically recanting or disavowing the letter.
Next Rep. Mark Pocan went on Twitter and said that the letter was being misinterpreted and wasn’t sure why it was dated 10/24 “as it was July.” What? Responding to criticism he said told one person on Twitter, Pocan said “I agree the timing makes little sense. It was from July.” In other comment he appeared to suggest that he wasn’t even aware in advance that the letter was being released.
Clearly the whole episode had become something of a debacle as at least three of the signers, including the head of the Progressive Caucus, were distancing themselves from it or recanting its contents within hours of its appearance. But Pocan’s comments raised real questions about whether the signatories had actually read the letter or even knew in advance that it was going to be released. Again, Pocan suggested it was something he and his colleagues had done in July – in other words, three or four months ago.
Rep. Ro Khanna defended the letter and suggested that the reaction to the letter was an effort to “silence or shout down debate.”
My own initial read of the letter was that one group of signatories had worked with the outside group Quincy Institute on a letter calling for a push for a ceasefire. Others among the signatories weren’t really prepared to do that and insisted on adding various commitments to Ukraine’s independence and no actions not supported by Ukraine. Unable to agree on these points they piled both conflicting positions into one letter and signed it. More generally, I think there are people in the Progressive Caucus who simply weren’t comfortable with a position indistinguishable from the rest of their party and indeed from many more mainstream Republicans. But the fallout from the release of the letter shows a clumsiness and obtuseness I would not have expected from members like Rep. Jayapal or Jamie Raskin or Ro Khanna. And here I want to distinguish between positions I might disagree with versus position statements that are simply logical contradictions or ones that need to be recanted or explained or abandoned within hours.
The truth is that Biden administration has and continues to pursue diplomacy. There are no public negotiations because the two sides are simply two far apart for them to make any sense. Taken on its face the letter calls on the administration to do what it’s actually already doing (using diplomacy to find a settlement) while not doing what the letter says it shouldn’t do (act without Ukraine’s support) and has actually not done.
The about-face comes as some Democratic lawmakers vent their fury that the letter backing talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin — originally drafted and signed in June — wasn’t recirculated before its public release on Monday. That release made it appear that the 30 House Democrats who signed on, all lawmakers in the roughly 100-member Congressional Progressive Caucus, were urging the Biden administration to push for diplomacy immediately despite Russia’s engagement in war crimes and indications of a military escalation against Ukraine.
Making the timing of the letter even more politically perilous: Ukraine is not ready for negotiations at this point, especially because its months-long counteroffensive has been successful to date, and there’s no indication Putin is ready to deal either.
“The Congressional Progressive Caucus hereby withdraws its recent letter to the White House regarding Ukraine,” the caucus’ chair, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), said in a statement after POLITICO first reported that the retraction was imminent. “The letter was drafted several months ago, but unfortunately was released by staff without vetting.”
Jayapal said she accepts “responsibility” for the embarrassing flub, adding that the timing of the letter caused a “distraction” and was “conflated” with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s recent suggestion that Republicans might pull back on Ukraine funding if they win control of the House.
“The proximity of these statements created the unfortunate appearance that Democrats, who have strongly and unanimously supported and voted for every package of military, strategic, and economic assistance to the Ukrainian people, are somehow aligned with Republicans who seek to pull the plug on American support for President [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian forces,” Jayapal added.
Sunak Sunak Fun
Rishi Sunak’s campaign had a simple slogan when he ran for prime minister of Britain earlier this year: “Ready for Rishi.”
The answer was: No, sorry.
He competed against Liz Truss to lead Britain’s Conservative Party after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his scandal-induced resignation in July.
With Truss out, it appears Britain’s Conservatives are indeed ready for Sunak — or at least any chance of a reprieve from the chaos at 10 Downing Street.
Sunak won the Conservative Party’s leadership contest Monday, making him the country’s third leader in less than two months and Britain’s first prime minister of South Asian descent.
The 42-year-old former finance minister is one of Britain’s wealthiest politicians. He was born in Southampton, England, to parents of Indian origin who had emigrated from East Africa.
Educated at one of Britain’s most prestigious private schools, as was his former boss Boris Johnson, he has a glittering résumé, with degrees from the University of Oxford and Stanford University and a stint at the Goldman Sachs investment bank. Sunak is married to the Indian tech heiress Akshata Murty, whose tax affairs caused the former finance minister some political discomfort during his leadership campaign in the summer.
A video clip from a 2007 BBC documentary, in which Sunak suggests he doesn’t have any “working-class friends,” is recirculating online as some Britons frown upon the array of upper-class Conservative contenders.
Nonetheless, he remains popular among politicians of his own party, although he fares less well among the Conservative Party’s national membership, who favored Truss in September by 57.4 percent to 42.6 percent.
Monday, October 24, 2022
Last Call For Defending Democracy, Con't
Top Biden national security officials are tracking multiple threats to the nation’s election security infrastructure ahead of the midterms and are set to issue warnings, including in an internal intelligence bulletin this week, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The bulletin will lay out details of cyber threats posed by China and Russia, as well as other non-state actors, and potential physical threats to election officials in jurisdictions across the country, the people said. The warnings come as the midterm elections near and amid increasing reports of intimidation at ballot drop boxes. The people requested anonymity to talk freely about sensitive national security and election matters.
Elsewhere on Monday, the Department of Justice addressed several malign influence schemes and alleged criminal activity by non-state actors. While those charges were unrelated to the intelligence bulletin warning, FBI Director Christopher Wray acknowledged during a press conference that foreign governments continue to pose a major threat to U.S. elections.
“Malign foreign influence — whether it’s from the Chinese government, the Russian government or other governments — is not just an election-cycle issue, but a 365-day-a-year problem,” Wray said.
The internal administration concerns about election threats come days after a call was held between federal officials and local law enforcement personnel about the midterms, according to one of the people familiar with the matter. Those on the call discussed the potential for violence in response to the spread of false narratives regarding the election process. Officials said election workers, including those working at polling stations, are likely to face threats and harassment from extrements both online and offline, the person familiar with the matter said.
“We are now hearing reports of people surrounding ballot drop boxes, some even wearing tactical gear, and questioning people,” said John Cohen, the former counterterrorism chief at DHS. “Are the police prepared for that? They need to be. All of this is being driven by the false narrative that the 2020 election was stolen.”
The FBI, DHS and DOJ did not respond to requests for comment.
Arizona officials on Saturday sounded alarms about voter safety after two armed individuals deemed “vigilantes” dressed in tactical gear were found outside a Maricopa County ballot drop box Friday evening.
“We are deeply concerned about the safety of individuals who are exercising their constitutional right to vote and who are lawfully taking their early ballot to a drop box. Uninformed vigilantes outside Maricopa County’s drop boxes are not increasing election integrity. Instead they are leading to voter intimidation complaints,” said Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates and Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer in a joint statement.
“Although monitoring and transparency in our elections is critical, voter intimidation is unlawful. For those who want to be involved in election integrity, become a poll worker or an official observer with your political party. Don’t dress in body armor to intimidate voters as they are legally returning their ballots,” the statement continued.
The two armed individuals left the Mesa ballot drop box after Maricopa County law enforcement responded, according to the elections officials.
The incident comes after the Arizona secretary of state last week referred a case of possible voter intimidation to the Justice Department and the state’s attorney general after a voter attempting to cast their ballot in Maricopa County was reportedly “approached and followed by a group of individuals.”
The Clarence And Huckleberry Show
Justice Clarence Thomas on Monday agreed to temporarily freeze a lower court order requiring the testimony of Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham in front of an Atlanta-area special grand jury that is investigating efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in the state.
Thomas acted alone because he has jurisdiction of the lower court that issued the original order.
Thomas’ move is an administrative stay that was most likely issued Monday to give the Supreme Court justices more time to consider the dispute.
The court has asked for a response from the Georgia investigators by Thursday.
Angry Angry Voters
Less than three weeks before Election Day, voter interest has now reached an all-time high for a midterm election, with a majority of registered voters saying that this election is “more important” to them than past midterms.
What’s more, some 80% of Democrats and Republicans believe the political opposition poses a threat that, if not stopped, will destroy America as we know it.
And two-thirds of reliable Democratic and Republican voters say they’d still support their party’s political candidate, even if that person had a moral failing that wasn’t consistent with their own values.
These are some of the major findings of a brand-new national NBC News poll, which also shows a competitive contest for November and offers positive signs for both major political parties.
For Democrats, President Joe Biden’s approval rating remains steady at 45%; congressional preference continues to be relatively even (with 47% of registered voters preferring Democrats to control Congress, versus 46% who want Republicans in charge); and “threats to democracy” is voters’ No. 1 issue for the third-straight NBC News poll.
For Republicans, the positive signs are that Biden’s approval with independents and swing-state voters is in the 30s and low 40s; that the GOP once again holds the enthusiasm advantage; and that Republicans lead in congressional preference among the smaller set of likely voters, 48% to 47%, though that’s well within the survey’s margin of error.
Yet beyond the horserace numbers and the high interest in the upcoming election, what stands out in the NBC News poll is the bipartisan anger from Democratic and Republican voters when they were asked which one message they’d like to send with their vote.
“Tell Biden to resign,” said a Republican male respondent from Missouri.
“Save this country,” answered a Republican female from New York state.
“Democracy is in jeopardy,” replied a Democratic male from Massachusetts.
“Don’t mess with reproductive rights,” said a Democratic female from California
“We know that many voters will be casting ballots with anger on their minds,” said Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt of Hart Research Associates, who conducted this survey with Republican Bill McInturff and his team at Public Opinion Strategies.
“We just don’t know who which side will be angrier,” Horwitt added.
IN EARLY SEPTEMBER, Donald Trump welcomed a handful of Republican allies to Manhattan’s Trump Tower with an urgent message: He saw a “scam” happening with midterm election voting in Philadelphia and elsewhere in Pennsylvania, and he wanted conservatives to do something about it.
“During our briefing, he was concerned that 2020 is going to happen again in 2022,” says former senior Trump administration official Michael Caputo, referencing Trump’s debunked assertion that voter fraud in Philadelphia helped win Pennsylvania for Joe Biden. Caputo — who attended the meeting alongside Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko and retired CIA officer Sam Faddis — says they had a message back to the former president: “Our team encouraged him to be concerned … [Furthermore], I’m advising Republicans to recruit and train election observers and a team of attorneys to oversee historically problematic precincts.”
But it’s not just one meeting, and it’s not just Philly.
In recent months, Trump has convened a series of in-person meetings and conference calls to discuss laying the groundwork to challenge the 2022 midterm election results, four people familiar with the conversations tell Rolling Stone. In these conversations, pro-Trump groups, attorneys, Republican Party activists, and MAGA diehards often discuss the type of scorched-earth legal tactics they could deploy.
And they’ve gamed out scenarios for how to aggressively challenge elections, particularly ones in which a winner is not declared on Election Night. If there’s any hint of doubt about the winners, the teams plan to wage aggressive court campaigns and launch a media blitz. Trump himself set the blueprint for this on Election Night 2020, when — with the race far from decided — he went on national television to declare: “Frankly, we did win this election.”
Trump has been briefed on plans in multiple states and critical races — including in Georgia. But Pennsylvania has grabbed his interest most keenly, including in the Senate contest between Democrat John Fetterman and the Trump-endorsed GOP contender Mehmet Oz. If the Republican does not win by a wide enough margin to trigger a speedy concession from Fetterman — or if the vote tally is close on or after Election Night in November — Trump and other Republicans are already preparing to wage a legal and activist crusade against the “election integrity” of Democratic strongholds such as the Philly area.
Trump’s focus on Pennsylvania, however, seems to be more about his own political future than about party allegiance or fealty to his celebrity endorsee. As he hosts meetings on possible 2022 election challenges, he’s also been laying the groundwork for a run in 2024 — where Pennsylvania again promises to be critical and competitive. As one source who has spoken to Trump several times about a potential post-election-day legal battle over the Oz-Fetterman race puts it, Trump views a potential midterm challenge as a “dress rehearsal for Trump 2024.”
In an interview on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday, Arizona Republican gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake would not explicitly commit to accepting the outcome of her upcoming election if she loses to her Democratic opponent.
"Let me ask you why it is that you have not said -- or maybe you'll do it now -- you have not said that you will accept the certified results of this election, even if you lose this election?" ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl asked Lake in the interview.
"I will accept the results of this election if we have a fair, honest and transparent election. Absolutely, 100%," said Lake, a former TV anchor who has become one of the Republican Party's most prominent election deniers this cycle. "As long as it's fair, honest and transparent."
In a previous interview with CNN's Dana Bash, Lake only said she would accept the results if she won, after being asked three times whether she would accept the election's outcome.
"If you lose, will you accept that?" Bash ultimately asked, to which Lake replied again: "I'm going to win the election, and I will accept that result."