Open Thread: Russia, Russia, Russia! and Everything Else

This is an open thread launched while current events still unfold. It may offer an overview for folks still acquainting themselves with the news about Rex Tillerson, Russia, and the UK.

By now you likely know Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by tweet. Like Sally Yates on the travel ban and James Comey about his firing, Tillerson was blindsided; he found out he was terminated from a Trump tweet. Take note of Marcy’s post on Tillerson’s replacement, Mike Pompeo, and his sketchy replacement, deputy CIA director Gina Haspel.

Trump may have fired Tillerson because of this response to the poisoning in the UK of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter this past week.

Notice the response attributes the poisoning to Russia but makes no mention of the U.S. role as a NATO member and any response required by that membership. The response doesn’t even name Skripal.

Tillerson’s statement followed UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s demand before Parliament yesterday that Russia explain the poisoning of Skripal, setting a two-day deadline.

The poison used is believed to be an extremely powerful nerve agent Novichok developed by the former USSR.

Russia’s point persons, Sergei Lavrov as Russia’s foreign minister, and Maria Zakharova, his spokesperson, as well as Russian parliament member Andrei Lugovoi have pushed back on May’s attribution and demands while demanding samples of the nerve agent found in Skripal’s poisoning.

NATO’s Article 5 obligates member nations to defend other NATO members in the attack on any NATO member:

Article 5

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.

On May 25 last year at a visit NATO’s new headquarters during Trump’s first trip to Europe, Trump avoided continuing U.S. commitment to Article 5. It wasn’t until five weeks later during a speech in Poland that Trump reaffirmed Article 5, saying,

… To those who would criticize our tough stance, I would point out that the United States has demonstrated — not merely with its words but with its actions — that we stand firmly behind Article 5, the mutual defense commitment …

Many articles speculate Tillerson’s firing is the culmination of more than a year of tensions between Tillerson and Trump, including at least one episode during which Tillerson is said to have called Trump a moron (a “fucking moron” according to some). However the immediacy of the termination suggests Trump wanted to remove Tillerson before he could support Theresa May once the two-day deadline has passed.

It’s worth noting that Trump has yet to enforce sanctions on Russia established by bipartisan legislation on a nearly unanimous basis.

It’s also worth noting the GOP majority of the House Permanent Subcommittee on Intelligence abruptly terminated its investigation of Trump-Russia only yesterday afternoon, without providing any notice to the Democratic minority members.

Do read Marcy’s post about Pompeo; bring anything non-Russia comments here to this thread.

104 replies
  1. Bay State Librul says:

    A fuckin den of thieves? Serious financial crimes…

    “Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to comment on McEntee’s exit, saying the White House does not “comment on personnel issues.” McEntee told his colleagues his departure related to “an issue in his background,” according to the Journal. CNN reported Tuesday that McEntee was fired “because he is currently under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security for serious financial crimes,” per sources.

    • TheraP says:

      Fired for “serious finanancial crimes” and I also read “for national security reasons”

      So, as a possible criminal and traitor, he’s being rewarded with a job at Trump’s 2020 campaign.

      This is America! (Good Lord…)

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Fired because McEntee is allegedly being investigated by the super secret, unaccountable-as-the-Pentagon DHS for “serious financial crimes”, which could lead to national security problems, given how frequently Trump’s valet would be in Mr. Trump’s presence.

        Nice catch, observing that hiring him for the Trump 2020 campaign makes as little sense, given the supposed criminal investigation, as would keeping him in the White House.  Except that it probably binds him to one of those Michael Cohen NDAs.  Which would mean his rapid departure is all about protecting Trump the individual, not national security.

        • TheraP says:

          Question is whether he’s already been interviewed by Mueller. If there are financial improprieties, that leaves open a lot of room to get him to plead to a lesser offense and give up all he knows.

      • Rayne says:

        Remember that in spite of Manafort’s abrupt exit from the campaign, Rick Gates moved directly from the Trump campaign to its transition team, establishing the America First Policies nonprofit (funded by the Mercers) to which other so-helpful new entities will be subordinate. Gates, of course, had a lot of experience by November 2016 with using shell companies for bank and tax fraud (and Robert Mercer’s hedge fund also had a little problem with financial reporting…).

        Want to bet Entee has also learned similar skills useful to the next Trump campaign?

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The timing becomes hard to explain in any neutral way or in any way that does not suggest bad behavior on the part of Trump – notwithstanding the WH’s attempts at propaganda.  But it implies more organization than this administration normally shows.  That could be explained by pulling out all the stops to respond to Putin and to keep Trump in office.

    As for retaking the spotlight, that’s a constant problem.  There is the potential for needing to do that in the context of losing the special election in Pennsylvania, as well as the burgeoning problem in the UK and the whole Bob Mueller thing.

    That this is all about Tillerson’s poor management of the State Department assumes Trump did not want that outcome.  That this is all about Trump’s irritation at Tillerson for calling him [accurately] a “fucking moron” is about as informative as calling Ms. Clifford a porn star.  True and complete are two different things.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Regarding Gina Haspel’s nomination to head the CIA and her post-9/11 history of torture, Andrea Mitchell is resurrecting the long discredited, “She was following orders” defense.

    • TarheelDem says:

      Pray tell, whose orders?   Specifically!  Is the this the moment that Dick Cheney becomes radioactive or not?

    • Trip says:

      Andrea Mitchell should retire posthaste. Not because of her age, but because of the bootlicking, access-driven, ‘quality’ of her work and opinions.  This country does not need ‘tempered’ administration rationalizations, in order for these journalists to believe they maintain relevance,  power and connections. Judith Miller Redux.

  4. Alan says:

    I liked New Yorker writer John Cassidy’s tweet on the House Permanent Subcommittee on Intelligence finding no evidence of collusion: “Captain Renault concludes, after an exhaustive investigation, there was no gambling at Rick’s Cafe.”

  5. TheraP says:

    The Stormy Daniels “case” is becoming very interesting as the focus turns to the lawyers and even the notary who “witnessed” the NDAs for at least 1 (maybe 2?) of Trump’s dalliance payoffs.  According to multiple reports yesterday, the State of Texas is now investigating the Notary because at least in Stormy’s case, there is a notary stamp but no date or time and no paperwork which the State mandates be kept, proving the identities of the signees; the notary claims not to recall anything.  (A lie?  Or did she loan out her notary stamp?  Money under the table?  Many potential crimes here.)

    Since it’s now been stated that both Stormy and the Playboy woman who refused Trump’s advances (as I recall) used the same lawyer for the NDA’s they signed, I’m wondering if the same notary was used as well.  Also the NDA lawyer gave Trump’s lawyer, Cohen, as a reference at one point.)

    I know there’s a salacious side to all this, but it’s the potential crimes of the “professional” legal folk that make this so Trumpian.  And I can’t help but wonder if Mueller and his Crew won’t be looking into this new angle for getting information about how Trump operates.

    I haven’t given links here as all of this is pretty easily verified and I didn’t want it to get trapped in “moderation.”

    • SteveB says:

      Daniels lawyer on CNN disavowed any issue regarding the notary or the notarization of the NDA.

      Thr big issue for him is Trumps failure to sign.

      This matter has been treated with some skepticism by some lawyers, but i think it turns on the matter of the sideletter.

      The NDA is constructed using psuedonyms.  Most of the analysis has focussed on offer acceptance and consideration. However contract law (in the UK at least) also requires certainty as to the identity of the parties and an intention to create legal relations.

      1 if Trump did not properly execute the sideletter which confirmed his true identity beneath the psuedonym then it would seem to me to be a fundamental flaw  in the contract

      2 there is a clause in the NDA which purports to assert that the document is the entirety of the agreed terms, however the sideletter has a superceding version of that clause.  The NDA version of the clause was clearly misdrafted as failing to provide for the existence of the sideletter.

      Arguably the shambolic drafting, and nonexecution of the sideletter  were efforts to bamboozle Daniels into believing she was gagged, while attempting to keeping Trump at more than arms length away from any documents.  Bluff bluster and bullying seem to be Cohen’s stock in trade rather than meticulous draftsmanship.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        I agree that there are more problems with this NDA than the MSM’s talking head lawyers are conceding.  The dominance of the arbitration language is a recent issue.  It survives the purported end of a contract only if that contract first existed.

        The SCt and California court precedents the talking heads have offered deal with contracts that clearly existed between named parties.  It is through those valid contracts that an agreement to arbitrate – usually described as exclusive and binding, and governing the formation, interpretation, enforcement and termination of the contract – comes into force. (Cohen’s NDA left out the exclusive part, which can sometimes be fatal in avoiding the courts.)

        That’s not true here.  There is a reasonable dispute about whether this NDA came into force and, if so, between which parties.  Only EC and Clifford signed the NDA and side letter.  Trump did not sign either.  Normally, not signing means you reject the deal.  If Trump intended to be only a third-party beneficiary, he had to have knowledge and intent of the contract and that it benefited him.  He has repeatedly denied such knowledge, which should prevent his having any benefits under it.

        Does a contract between only EC and Clifford survive Trump’s failure to sign or to be a beneficiary?  Many of the provisions require Trump to make choices.  He is also obligated to give a mutual release to Clifford, which she could enforce against him.  A beneficiary normally reaps only benefits and avoids obligations of a contract.  That would deprive Clifford of an important part of her agreement, which she void the contract.

        Moreover, if there is a preliminary issue about whether a contract was ever validly entered into and between whom, that should be for the California courts, not the arbiter.  That opens Cohen and EC and possibly Trump to discovery.  Not a pretty picture.

      • TheraP says:

        Daniels has had two lawyers. The first was involved in the NDA. The second is the brilliant guy who has now trapped Trump in a classic Double Bind.

      • SpaceLifeForm says:

        “The NDA version of the clause was clearly misdrafted as failing to provide for the existence of the sideletter.”

        Maybe because the NDA was created before the sideletter?

    • Rayne says:

      The bit I found most fascinating, likely due to Trump’s legal team’s sloppiness, is the appearance of the name DAVID DELUCIA in the paperwork, possibly in an early iteration.

      Do they have these buy-out NDAs set up as a template with a pseudonym name generator used to pop in a fresh identity as each new risk pops up? Is DAVID DENNISON simply the next name in the alphabetic pseudonym generator?

      And where might the risk bought off by DAVID DELUCIA be at this moment?

      For that matter, what happened to the original entity, RCI (Resolutions Consultants, LLC)?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      That Cohen used a Texas notary never seemed to fit.  He operated out of NYC, where he apparently formed EC.  There is no apparent Texas connection and none on the face of the documents.  If not signed by a Texas notary in Texas, then ordinarily the signature is legally irrelevant.  It is a potential abuse in that it appears to do something it does not.  Was Cohen traveling or does he normally operate in NYC this haphazardly.

      In the Clifford NDA, the notary attests to the signature of Cohen as a representative of EC, acting in a business capacity.  (Cohen signs separately as lawyer for EC.)  In the incorporated side letter, the notarial stamp does not have a signature or date connected to it, or an indication of whose signature it was supposed to relate to.  It is legally irrelevant.

      FYI, in the US, notaries are authorized in their home state to attest to the apparent validity of the person signing a document.  It can be done under oath or as an affirmation.  A notary checks a driver’s license or passport, for example, for facial conformity – it’s not an obvious fake.  The notary says only that a person signed this document and that that person appears to be the person they claim.

      (For comparison, a notary in Europe functions differently.  There, the notary is legally qualified.  She examines the whole document and its execution.  When she signs, she is giving an opinion that the document is legal, binding and enforceable in accordance with its terms.  A much different, higher standard.)

      • Rayne says:

        Color me totally unsurprised by this questionable notary business.

        It would take nothing to buy a notary seal here made to order. I’ve been a notary, only had to verify signatories’ identities, didn’t have to keep a log, and the company I bought my seal and stamp from required only my legal name.

        • SpaceLifeForm says:

          But, it was your duty as notary to verify that all dates on the documents were that day or recent, correct?

          In this instance, I could allege fraud.

          • Rayne says:

            I had to note the date the document was executed was the same as indicated in writing, especially since I had to date my own attestation. As to the contents of the document? Not the notary’s function — only that the persons signing were who they swore to be in front of me on that date.

            I did have to be bonded, though — that’s the kicker. If I participated in fraud, my bond was useless and I was on the hook.

        • SpaceLifeForm says:

          So, with a bit of identity theft, one could get a notary seal in the name of a real notary.

          And the real notary could be surprised in court.

          Seems like logs should be legally mandatory, no?

          And cross-signed.

          • Rayne says:

            Yup. When was the last time you went and validated the notary and their logs on a contract? Do you know of anyone who has, apart from this Trump case? I don’t know of any personally, and I worked for a Fortune 100 legal dept which notarized the hell out of documents all day long. Fraud is a piece of cake.

            • LB says:

              Its interesting the notary’s address per the Texas registry is that of a UPS store which advertises notary services. Perhaps someone had easy access to the stamp.

            • SpaceLifeForm says:

              I do not think it ever occurs enough.

              (thinking of a notary seal being used but the notary was recently deceased)

              Any Notary should keep logs, and require cross-signing, just for their own protection, even if legally it is not required.

      • TheraP says:

        The TX notary in the Daniels NDA did not keep or perhaps not even generate the required certificate indicating the authenticity of the signature(s). TX requires that a notary do more than some other states. And the notary could not provide the “required certificate”:

        Re Europe: It is often a very onerous process to get the required notarizations and stamps on any document. (As you say, very different from most US states.)

      • bmaz says:

        Yeah, this is not right. Unless and until properly challenged (and it has not been by a relevant party or court), Avenatti is quite correct the notary is currently an irrelevant sideshow red herring.

        Also, I have things notarized for out of state uses all the time. that is even further from the issue.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          I’m not saying the notary issue is helpful to Cohen or Trump.  A notary does not seem needed for either document; if not, it would be irrelevant.  If so, from Avenatti’s perspective, it’s a distraction.

          I suspect that when you have things notarized for use out of state, your notary is in her home state and attesting to the signature of a person who signed in front of her in that state.

            • earlofhuntingdon says:

              I got that part, finally, but the Texas notary attested only to Cohen signing for EC in the NDA, and the choice of law provisions were limited to California, Nevada and, um, Arizona. The named arbitrators are principally in California, where Cohen, presumably acting for EC, commenced arbitration.

              • bmaz says:

                Yeah, I dunno. But I could easily see Cohen going to TX to sell the deal. I would, were I him. No clue if he did, but Avenatti I know of. Don’t know him, but know people who do and am aware of his history. I trust him when,especially given what I see, he says the notary is not the deal.

  6. Dev Null says:

    Apologies if this has been noted in comment threads elsewhere (in particular, I don’t see the link at emptywheel’s post on Roger Stone yesterday):

    Money quote:

    In the spring of 2016, longtime political operative Roger Stone had a phone conversation that would later seem prophetic, according to the person on the other end of the line.

    Stone, an informal adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump, said he had learned from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that his organization had obtained emails that would torment senior Democrats such as John Podesta, then campaign chairman for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

    Also, too:

    (Aaron Blake’s parsing of the report.)

  7. mark says:

    Russian Exile With Ties to Boris Berezovsky Found Dead in U.K.

    Yet another one:  Nikolai Glushkov, a Russian exile who was close friends with the late oligarch Boris Berezovsky, was found dead in his London home Monday night. His body was discovered by family and friends, and the cause of death is not yet clear.

    Yes could have been a heart attack by coincidence.

    But, with all the news happening regarding what is going on, Tillerson, Pompeo, and Britain’s May, it is really not far fetched to see this as the end for NATO.  Putin and Trumpski both want US influence and commitments in Europe to end.

    Pay attention because what is happening is historic and I might add cannot end well.

    • NorskieFlamethrower says:

      “…it is really not far fetched to see this as the end for NATO.”

      Thank you!! I have been waiting for someone in the corporate media to notice.  In the words of David Cay Johnston: “It Is Worse Than You Think.”

      • TheraP says:

        Here’s an excellent review of this at Lawfare – in terms of the meaning of May’s speech in Parliament about the poisoning:

        And it buttresses the speculation here, as it indicates that Britain has its highest level of confidence in who did the poisoning as well as taking it as an “unlawful use of force” (legal terms concerning conflict, that is here directed especially to NATO nations).

        Helpful info and points to the dilemma discussed above.  Especially the fact that the US seems to be ignoring the direct message.  Worrisome!

  8. jon says:

    fascinating article about Felix sater. I think that once an informant for the FBI…always an informant..with his intimate knowledge of money laundering and trump real estate deals, Is he the smoking gun?

  9. tryggth says:

    Woohoo. Open thread.

    Now that Nunes has declared it over, what justification will he and Paul Ryan use to rifle through the FBI’s newly collected evidence?

  10. SteveB says:

    British Channel 4 news reports that Trump said in a call to May that ” Russia must give unambiguous answers to the questions May posed in Parliament”

      • SteveB says:

        Seems a typical Trumpian micro effort at being on the right side of an issue before walking back on it after his self regard leads him elsewhere.

      • Rugger9 says:

        I concur, given that the WH has already said that because Putin’s trying really really hard to be nice on ratf$%king elections there is no need for implementing the overwhelmingly bipartisan (and necessary) sanctions signed by the Kaiser.  At least Obama vetoed JASTA which was its own bipartisan fiasco brought on by Faux News, who then blamed Obama for not “stopping” the legislation.

        The question is what the UK will do about it, between Brexit issues and the tepid support for NATO Article 5 protection.  I think the collapse of NATO is not likely at all, but the fact it is “out there” in accordance with the Cokie Roberts rule is sufficient for Vlad’s purposes.  I can’t see the EU agreeing to an embargo on Russian gas, they’re too dependent on it (although it would explain the push on green power), and they aren’t as likely to have their turncoats turning up dead in dachas, so I guess it will be another 100 or so “diplomats” expelled in the standard Cold War kabuki.

        • Dev Null says:

          Posted at an earlier comment thread (bay state LIE-brul->bmaz&rayne):

          From the AP via NPR:

          “It is now clear that Mr. Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia,” May told lawmakers in a statement on Monday. She said the agent has been identified as one of a group of nerve agents called Novichok, which Russia has previously produced.

          She added that there are just two explanations for the apparent poisoning — either Russia directly carried out the attack or it lost control of its supply of the deadly nerve agent. The Russian ambassador has been summoned to explain how this happened, May added, and has been asked to give a formal response by Tuesday.

          And if that response is not credible, May said, “we will conclude that this action amounts to an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom. And I will come back to this house and set out the full range of measures that we will take in response.”

          “[U]nlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom” sounds, er, a lot like “an act of war”, but as said IANAL.

          @Rayne, in an earlier comment thread today on an earlier emptywheel post, you said that you think that Putin is pushing his advantage as far as he can get away with.

          S’pose he goes too far for Theresa May (I know, I know …), and she invokes NATO Article 5.

          Trying to understand what your highlighted “war” and “enemies” mean in the current era. [reference to Rayne’s post in that thread]

          • Rayne says:

            IMO, May has been painted into a corner between her party’s position on UK sovereignty and Trump’s intransigence and stupidity about NATO. I think she will first have to call for UK-based sanctions against Russia first, and they are going to have to sting — asset seizure might be a first crack. But Skripal’s poisoning wasn’t like 9/11; they didn’t have mass casualties, and the perp is an easily identified and located hostile power (more specifically a single person and not the country). It might be more difficult to get EU-based NATO countries to agree Article 5 is warranted now. If there are more deaths and EU is similarly affected, NATO’s EU nations may be forced to go it alone without the U.S. This should cause Congress to take action, but as long as GOP holds majority, I don’t see it happening; they are pwned by Putin and/or other corrupt interests. If May is stupid, she’ll demand Article 5 out of the gate and NATO might collapse if nominal countries don’t concur.

  11. cfost says:

    I don’t know… seems to me that the boys and girls (pick one: Nunes, Tillerson, Lavrov, Trump, Putin) are all sticking pretty close to the script. Trying to sow fear, anger, distrust, uncertainty. In my working days we had a saying, “chaos creates cash.” Because chaos creates confusion. Yeah, it’s true that some egos are involved and that some “statement murders” have been ordered. Probably also true that Trump can’t really see past his own nose (has never in his spoiled rotten life ever been able to do that), and so is being led around by it. Smells like the mob to me. Maybe organized crime has their own version of NATO. Legal minds will want to see evidence and facts, but given the players involved, I’m not holding my breath. I’ve seen enough.

    These are the times that test a person’s character, whether that person is president, member of Congress, or citizen.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Hunter at dailykos echoes EW’s observation:

      The summary firing of [Tillerson’s spokersperson, Steven] Goldstein, immediately after he contradicted White House spin, suggests that Trump is extremely invested in the notion that Rex Tillerson was fired for reasons other than Tillerson’s Russia comments. And for good reason: a president firing the nation’s top diplomatic official for refusing to avert his eyes from an act of Russian terrorism would be an enormous story.

      Goldstein had said that Tillerson found out about his firing the same way everyone else did, from reading Trump’s morning tweet.  Not, as the WH claimed, from some imaginary phone call last Friday.

      Twelve hours before Trump fired him, Tillerson had said that the poison used in the attempted murder of Sergei and Yulia Skripal “clearly came from Russia”.  A step short of saying Russia did it or that Putin knew about and intended it, but still too dangerous for Donald Trump to let lie.  Puty might not admire him if he did that.

    • Rayne says:

      Tariffs may be used just as any club at hand may be used, but the tariffs appear to both offer lip service to protecting American jobs while creating havoc in the market, punish importers who rely on sales to the U.S., and create opportunity for a particular country’s business which hasn’t sold much into the U.S. market.

      The natural counter to the GOP’s tariff claims is the tax bill and health care — tariffs might temporarily help steelworkers in PA-18 but the tax bill and health care as currently configured will punish all but the richest in PA-18.

      It’s kind of nice to see the GOP forced to spend like mad in PA-18, watching them lay out their game plan for November.

      • matt says:

        Connor Lamb is ahead by 755 votes with 98% votes in- 9:48 CST.  WW, you might be right on the tariffs- but what a cost that is for small manufacturers- I would know, my cost for steel doubled overnight.  Like everything else these days, steel production is highly automated… not sure in balance how many jobs will be created, when all the other industries that depend on steel/aluminum raw material will be squeezed.

        • Rayne says:

          Can’t recall where or the exact ratio I saw regarding tariff’s impact on jobs — something like 30K steelworkers’ jobs might be saved, but 650K-1M manufacturing-related jobs might be lost to cost cutting and slump in demand if finished goods’ prices rise. Tariffs simply aren’t for U.S. benefit.

  12. LowdenF23c says:

    It’s been reported that Trump’s severed bodyman, John McEntee, as CNN puts it, “is currently under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security for serious financial crimes.”
    Assuming for the moment that this report is accurate, could someone help me understand something?  Does DHS typically investigate financial crimes?  Doesn’t the FBI or Treasury (or the SEC for that matter) handle this type of thing?  Or is this a euphemism for something else?

    • SteveB says:

      Trip gave me link to Homeland security Investigations on another thread

      Seems it is mainly cross border investigations   including money laundering, bulk importations of cash, cybercrime etc.

      Mind boggles at what he might have been involved with.

      One would have imagined that such an investigation would rule him out of an honest politicians campaign team, but there may be an obvious fault in my reasoning here!

      • bmaz says:

        Well, also very involved within clearance issues. We shall see, but not enough info yet.

        It is bonkers so far though.

    • Rayne says:

      Secret Service was realigned from Treasury to DHS in 2003. Secret Service investigates a mess of fraud including counterfeiting. I didn’t realize they also investigated identity fraud as well as bank and wire fraud. Interesting, given the recent emphasis on security clearances. Certainly gives pause thinking this guy immediately had a gig with the Trump campaign after being escorted so abruptly off White House property.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Why let a little SS investigation get in the way of how the Trumps move money.

        Moving SS to DHS under Bush/Cheney came at the height of both post-9/11 hysteria and the “mission accomplished” claim regarding the Iraq War.  It was apparently meant to reinforce DHS’s reputation as a home to armed federal agencies.  That gave Bush/Cheney more excuse to try to crush the unions of the agencies consolidated into it, since they were apparently exempt.  DHS is also second only to the Pentagon in how little government oversight it has to contend with, unlike Treasury.

    • SteveB says:

      I’m rather hoping its a crypto-currency scam, that would be sooo nowwww its almost millenial : a Trumpian evolution before our very eyes

  13. cfost says:

    Recently Chris Hayes had a panel on his show to talk specifically about DeVos’ interview on 60 Minutes, and generally about the willful incompetence that seems typical of Trump’s cabinet secretaries. Randi Weingarten (American Federation of Teachers) made a comment about DeVos that has stuck with me. At about the 5:24 mark, she says, “She [DeVos] is trying to send a message that government doesn’t work.” She is doing that by systematically destroying the Department of Education. We don’t have to look hard to see the same strategy at work over at EPA, Interior, Commerce, HUD, and elsewhere. It doesn’t take much imagination to see that the overarching strategy is to take what is now public and put it into private hands. There is a large measure of deception in this strategy.

    Hence my question: How is this not also a “conspiracy to defraud the United States of America?”

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I agree with the observation.  The objective is straight out of the Neoliberal Bible and is generally seen as a precondition, not to the second coming, but to its nearest cousin, privatization.

      It is not a conspiracy to defraud in my view.  I see it is the barely disguised politics of class warfare.  Disguised in the hopes that one side, the only one Warren Buffett says is fighting it, will win.

      • NorskieFlamethrower says:

        “It is not a conspiracy to defraud in my view…it is the barely disguised politics of class warfare.”

        Yes but can’t policy actions comprise obstruction of the function of budgeted departments? It seems to me that the failure to carry out programs established by law could be the definition of conspiracy. In fact, the politics of class warfare can also be seen as conspiracy to defraud. Anyway I like the entire concept of “conspiracy to defraud the United States” because it includes everything in the larger universe of this rolling coup. There is a point at which anyone following this mess will be able to see everything that Trumpty has been doin’ for the Ruskies since 2005 as part of the fraud.

  14. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State for Koch.  He has been one of Charles and David’s top recipients since he left Williams & Connelly, four years after leaving Harvard, going first into business and then the House.

    Any chance American foreign policy will promote anything Chuck and Dave don’t like?

  15. punaise says:

    I think I’ve just about hit the wall on morbid Trump fascination. I’m as glued to the Mueller stuff as anybody, but I’m starting to yearn for the day when we can seek treatment for PTSD: Post Trump Stress Disorder. Emphasis on Post. Things will never be the same.

    Terry Gross yesterday was interviewing a war correspondent who reports from Syria; she (the reporter) was lamenting the fact that Trump coverage has sucked all the air out of the news environment, to the extent that an important story she worked on sat on an editor’s desk for five months and then got spiked. No room for it.

    We turn inward at our own peril.

  16. Willis Warren says:

    I know the left is morally repulsed by the CIA haspel hiring, but there is a bright side.  Haspel will not, in no way shape or form, back tRUmp’s Putin delusions.  She has to be responsible for the CIA’s Russia narrative that tRUmp hates so much.  She’s obviously going to butt heads with him over this.  If he fires her, which he probably will, he’ll lose women voters.  That’s probably going to happen sooner rather than later if he expects her to brief him daily like Punkeo did.  This is a politically stupid appointment and destroys the idea that Tillerson’s firing was planned out.

    • Trip says:

      I agree that Tillerson was fired because of his comments on Russia and the UK poisoning (as the last straw). That said, what makes you think Haspel won’t be in lockstep with Trump? You even have Dems excusing her past actions as “Only following orders”. If she is a good and obedient “order-follower”, what chance is there that she will defy the tenor or policy of Trump?

  17. Trip says:

    Britain Expels 23 Russian Diplomats Over Ex-Spy’s Poisoning
    “They have treated the use of a military-grade nerve agent in Europe with sarcasm, contempt and defiance,” Mrs. May said of Russia. “Their response has demonstrated complete disdain for the gravity of these events. They have provided no credible explanation.”…The country has tried to marshal support from international organizations, an effort potentially complicated by Britain’s impending exit from the European Union, disputes within NATO, and the reluctance of President Trump to denounce Mr. Putin. Despite those tensions, several of Britain’s European allies have been quick to express solidarity over the attack on the Skripals, who remain hospitalized in critical condition.

  18. Trip says:

    The Farmer in the Dell

    …and the cheese stands alone, the cheese stands alone, Hi-ho, the derry-o…The cheese stands alone

    A key Republican sided with the CIA on Tuesday about Russia’s intentions for Trump. In a statement, Rep. Trey Gowdy (S.C.) said it was “clear based on the evidence” that Russia wanted Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to lose. And Russia wanting Clinton to lose is the same thing as wanting Trump to win, a Gowdy aide clarified.

    Who’da thunk it, Benghazi Gowdy?  What’s your game now, can anybody play?

  19. chum'sfriend says:

    Considering the stakes involved just weeks before the 2016 election, it seems that Stormy Daniels’ attorney didn’t negotiate a very good deal if she only got $130k.  Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal didn’t get such a good deal either, when hoping for publicity, she sold her Donald Trump story to The National Enquirer for $150k only to have the story shelved.

    Over at TPM, Josh Marshall points out that both Stormy and Karen shared the same lawyer, Keith Davidson, when they negotiated their lousy deals with Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen.  Turns out Davidson specializes in cutting these crooked deals for rich guys… Deals that silence the girls while cheating them.

    So it appears that Keith Davidson misrepresented himself to Karen and Stormy when he took on the role of supposedly working for their best interests.   Davidson was actually working with Michael Cohen and Donald Trump to perpetrate a fraud

    What are Stormy and Karen’s best options now?

    • Rayne says:

      I think McCabe would have grounds to fight this. I recall a case where a guy was fired and died just days before he would have been vested in his pension — think GE was the employer, who denied it to his widow. She sued successfully. I suspect this is just just a bullshit form of torture intended to scare other FBI subordinates.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Trump is addicted to humiliation.  He wants to punish and humiliate McCabe along with the entire FBI for protecting Mueller and challenging his authority.  There’s no basis for this rush to punish before the full review process is complete, except to exact revenge and to make himself feel good.  Those are the actions of a sadist.

      A recommendation to fire McCabe is only part of a fuller process that has yet to run its course.  Punish first, try later, if at all, are the dystopian rules of an authoritarian regime.  The director of the FBI should demand that the fuller process be used.  Every employee is watching and gauging whether he is worthy of command.  They know that what this administration will do to McCabe, it will do to anybody.

      • TheraP says:

        I totally agree about Trump being a sadist. He enjoys humiliating people. Whether it’s while strutting in front of an audience or Tweeting (rather than facing someone in person) or the dressing down of anyone – especially in front of colleagues I would think – or the humiliation he can enjoy by bringing someone or something down.

        But what’s also interesting is that he seems to crave the flip side of this from a sexual point of view. Based on hints from his Porn Star dalliance, it seems he is turned on by sexual humiliation.

        As a rule of thumb, people internalize both sides of a relationship. So, S&M, for example. And for all we know, these sadistic interludes of his are arousing.

        Trump is a textbook case of both psychopathology and a legal treatise.

  20. Rapier says:

    The word on the street is Trump is going to fire Sessions.  Would that be after Sessions fires McCabe, or because he didn’t?

    • Rugger9 says:

      IF Session fires McCabe would be more like it, I think.  Given how he dined last week with some if the “uncool” kids at Camp Runamuck (h/t Charlie Pierce) I suspect he is just waiting to be fired like TRex was.  If Sessions is fired first, his replacement won’t be in place to deny McCabe his pension (He’d appeal it anyway given the blatantly political nature of this) by Sunday.

      That makes it “because he didn’t”, but Kremlinology like this only works if there is rational activity behind the scenes.

    • Trip says:

      No fan of Kristol and all of the ‘left’ attention he has been awarded, but he did tweet this:

      Bill Kristol‏Verified account @BillKristol

      This is RUMINT, but pretty credible RUMINT: Trump preparing to fire Sessions, name Pruitt Acting AG (which he can be since he already holds a Senate confirmed position), and Pruitt fires Mueller. And McMaster likely to be replaced by Bolton. Shulkin also on way out, FWIW.

      This is a horror show!

  21. Trip says:

    Marcy, what you retweeted:

    Zoe Tillman‏Verified account @ZoeTillman

    Veteran constitutional/appellate lawyer Gene Schaerr is representing an unnamed person “involved in the Trump presidential campaign and transition,” and filed a FOIA suit on that person’s behalf seeking info about “unmasking” by the Obama administration

    My guess is Carter Page. He promised to bring an eventual lawsuit, right? Oh wait, second thought, he wasn’t on transition.

    • rkilowatt says:

      FYI –If you were looking for the Senior Executive Service and found Fletcher Prouty’s The Secret Team,[ca  1972], it may well do.

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