Aspiring Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe Does Not Want DOJ’s Mob Experts Exchanging Information with Mob Experts

Last night, President Trump announced that Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats is resigning, effective August 15, and will be replaced by Congressman John Ratcliffe, who is totally unqualified for the job, but who said mean things to Robert Mueller the other day, which makes him the perfect Trump pick.

There will be many controversial steps in installing Ratcliffe (not least that Sue Gordon, currently the Principal Deputy, should take over as Acting DNI when Coats leaves, but Trump seems to have a plan to ignore the law that mandates that).

But I also think Ratcliffe’s confirmation process will be troubled, and not just because he’s totally unqualified for the job. Because he has been one of the key players into the Republican investigation into the Trump investigation, there are a bunch of transcripts of him acting really stupid in depositions, even more stupid than he acted in public in the Mueller hearing. As I noted in this post, in Michael Cohen’s second interview with HPSCI, for example, Ratcliffe got his ass handed to him by Cooley Law graduate Cohen.

The Republican conspiracy theory about Bruce Ohr depends on a series of misunderstandings

One of the most alarming examples involves the joint Oversight/Judiciary interview of Bruce Ohr.

The Republicans at the time (and still, I assume) believed that Bruce Ohr served as some secret back channel to keep feeding dossier tidbits to the FBI even after Christopher Steele had been fired as an informant for sharing details of his investigation with the press, part of a nefarious plot by Hillary to keep Steele’s intelligence reports flowing at the FBI. The evidence at least suggests that, instead, FBI was using Ohr as a way to monitor what Steele was doing while keeping the Brit completely firewalled from the actual investigation. In spite of being an expert on the topics implicated by the Russian investigation, Ohr was not read into the investigation or the Mueller probe, and had a relationship with Steele going back years. So he was a good way to get informed updates from Steele without risking Steele might learn more about the investigation.

Mr. Ohr. No. I think they just say thank you for the information, and then it disappears into the FBI.

Republicans also believe that Ohr should not have shared information with DOJ and FBI because his wife, Nellie, was doing contract work with Fusion GPS at the time. Virtually every time the Republicans talk about her role, however, they exhibit rank ignorance of the full scope of Fusion’s work for Democrats and Nellie’s role in that, as well as the way that Steele’s work was largely independent of those other efforts (though did respond to questions posed as part of it).

Mr. Ratcliffe. And if you did, then they would have known that your wife was being compensated in part for contributions to what we’ve referred to as the Steele dossier?

Mr. Ohr. Well, just to be careful about that, my wife was researching various entities who are some of the same people mentioned in the dossier.

My understanding of the dossier, and I didn’t look at it that carefully, but it seems to be reports from Chris Steele to Fusion GPS.

So I don’t think my wife’s information, as far as I knew, was reported in those specific reports. It was certainly provided to Fusion, which had both Chris Steele’s reports and my wife’s research.

Nellie did research that didn’t get published (though likely fed a few stories) that probably proved more accurate than Steele’s HUMINT and as such should have been the focus of the oppo campaign. But the public record (and Ohr’s impression knowing Steele’s past work) is that what is known as the dossier was entirely Steele’s work, not edited by Fusion or integrated with information otherwise obtained by them.

Some Republicans (though not Ratcliffe) also seemed to assume in the hearing that it is remarkable that a women qualified to do research on Russia would get hired to do research on Russia, and instead assume there’s some secret plot that got her hired. But as Bruce Ohr made clear several times in the hearing, he alerted the FBI of his wife’s tie to the contractor paying Steele from the very beginning.

Mr. Meadows. So you gave no commentary on the validity of what the source told you or what you thought? You gave no commentary?

Mr. Ohr. I —

Mr. Meadows. Your 302s don’t suggest that.

Mr. Ohr. No. I warned them that my wife work for Fusion GPS.

Mr. Meadows. When did you do that?

Mr. Ohr. When I first spoke with Mr. McCabe

But the core of the frothy Republican conspiracy about Ohr is an effort to shift the timeline of when Steele started feeding information to the FBI back before the investigation into Trump’s associates got opened, so as to be able to claim that Steele’s information predicated not just Carter Page’s FISA application, but the investigation as a whole.

The information Christopher Steele shared in the July 30 meeting is not the same information that appears in the dossier

An early attempt to do this was to point to communications between Steele and Ohr — who had been sharing information on Russian organized crime since 2007 — and claim a Steele reference to Oleg Deripaska was really proof of an early obsession between the two about Trump.

When that conspiracy was debunked, the frothy right then turned to a meeting Ohr and his wife had with Christopher Steele on July 30, 2016, at which Steele provided some information on Russia, including (but not limited to) some information that would eventually show up in the dossier. After the meeting, Ohr, of his own accord,  passed the information onto someone else he had worked organized crime matters with going back years, Andrew McCabe, whose counselor, Lisa Page, happened to be in the room when that meeting took place. That, in turn, led to a meeting with Peter Strzok. But both those meetings (and certainly the Strzok one) took place after the investigation into Trump’s associates had already gotten opened. Nevertheless, Republicans use that Ohr meeting to claim that Steele was trying to gin up an investigation into Trump even before he first formally shared his dossier with the FBI.

There are a few problems with this theory.

First, as noted, what Steele shared with Ohr on July 30, 2016 was not, precisely, what made it into the dossier. Over the course of his testimony, Ohr described four things that Steele shared with him that day.

Mr. Ohr. In the July 30th conversation, one of the items of information that Chris Steele gave to me was that he had information that a former head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, the SVR, had stated to someone — I didn’t know who — that they had Donald Trump over a barrel.


Mr. Ohr. So Chris Steele provided me with basically three items of information. One of them I’ve described to you already, the comment that information supposedly stated and made by the head, former head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service.

He also mentioned that Carter Page had met with certain high-level Russian officials when he was in Moscow. My recollection is at that time, the name Carter Page had already been in the press, and there had been some kind of statement about who he had met with when he went to Moscow. And so the first item that I recall Chris Steele telling me was he had information that Carter Page met with higher-level Russian officials, not just whoever was mentioned in the press article. So that was one item.

And then the third item he mentioned was that Paul Hauser, who was an attorney working for Oleg Deripaska, had information about Paul Manafort, that Paul Manafort had entered into some kind of business deal with Oleg Deripaska, had stolen a large amount of money from Oleg Deripaska, and that Paul Hauser was trying to gather information that would show that, you know, or give more detail about what Paul Manafort had done with respect to Deripaska.


Q Were there any other topics that were discussed during your July 30, 2016, meeting?

A Yes, there were. Based on my sketchy notes from the time, I think there was some information relating to the Russian doping scandal, but I don’t recall the substance of that.

Those four things are:

  1. A former head of SVR (other Steele dossier notes make it clear that this is Vyacheslav Trubnikov) told someone else who told a Steele source that Russia had Trump “over a barrel.” (Note, Ohr’s telling of this adds to the evidence that the frothy right misread Kathleen Kavalec’s notes about Steele’s intelligence to understand Trubnikov as a source for Steele rather than as someone his source was reporting on.)
  2. Carter Page met with some high ranking Russians when he was on his publicized trip to Moscow in July.
  3. Oleg Deripaska was trying to expose details of Paul Manafort’s “theft” from him.
  4. Something about the Russian doping scandal.

Just item 1 and 2 on this list appear in any form in the dossier. But item 1 — which Ohr repeatedly describes, based off his notes, as stating just that Russia had Trump “over a barrel,” doesn’t mention the pee tape at all. (Remember, the allegations that Russia had a compromising video from Trump’s 2013 trip had been out there since shortly after the trip, and both Hope Hicks and Michael Cohen were aware of and responding to those allegations during the campaign.) Moreover, the general allegation that Russia had some means of embarrassing Trump was already true by that point: he had shown a willingness to work with a former GRU officer, sanctioned banks, and the Russian government to chase an improbably lucrative real estate deal in Moscow, and he had lied about having ongoing business projects with Russia just days before Ohr’s July 30 meeting with Steele.

And while the reference to Page meeting with top Russian officials was used in his FISA application, what appears in the application goes well beyond what Steele appears to have shared in the meeting, to include the apparent promise of kompromat before the DNC emails got released. Notably, Page’s actions in Moscow were one of the things the Mueller Report concludes remain unexplained.

Item 3 — that Trump’s campaign manager was at risk of being hit with damning new accusations by a very powerful Russian oligarch — doesn’t show up in the dossier, but was actually true and serves as crucial background to Manafort’s ongoing efforts, just days later, to share campaign information with Deripaska not just to stave off such disclosures, but also to restore his old role installing leaders who would be favorable to Deripaska business interests.

And item 4 has nothing to do with Trump at all, but was a subject of real interest to the FBI, not least because the same GRU officers who conducted the hack of the DNC were — at precisely the time this meeting took place — beginning a similar campaign against international anti-doping agencies.

In other words, none of the things Steele shared with Ohr at that first meeting have proven untrue (though the allegations about Page probably are not true). And the two details that go beyond the dossier — that Manafort was under pressure from Deripaska and that Russian continued to engage with its doping scandal — are not just true, but were unequivocally issues of urgent interest to the FBI.

John Ratcliffe thinks the FBI should remain ignorant about Russian organized crime

And John Ratcliffe, the guy who wants to oversee the entire intelligence community, didn’t think that one of DOJ’s foremost experts in Russian organized crime, Ohr, should learn what he could from another recognized expert in Russian organized crime, Steele, and pass on what he learned to another government expert in Russian organized crime, McCabe.

He grilled Ohr at length, suggesting that it was improper for him to share information with another expert in Russian organized crime, and improper for him to pass on information he obtained to the agents who could vet and, if credible. use the information.

Mr. Ratcliffe. And one of those was shortly after you met with Christopher Steele. On July 30, you had a meeting with Andy McCabe and Lisa Page.

Mr. Ohr. Yes.


Mr. Ratcliffe. And it was sometime, you believe, in August, because it was shortly after the meeting with Christopher Steele?

Mr. Ohr. Probably, yes.

Mr. Ratcliffe. And that was because, at that point in time, you wanted the FBI to have that information and be aware of your contact with Christopher Steele?

Mr. Ohr. Yes.

Mr. Ratcliffe. Did anyone prompt that call to Andy McCabe?

Mr. Ohr. No, I don’t think so. I think that was me. Just me.

Mr. Ratcliffe. You, out of just an idea that that was the appropriate thing to do?

Mr. Ohr. Yes.

Mr. Ratcliffe. Okay. But you also thought it was appropriate to be communicating with Christopher Steele.

Mr. Ohr. Yes.

Mr. Ratcliffe. Okay. Even though you don’t have any authority, apparently.

Mr. Ohr. He is just calling me or meeting with me, as we had done on and off for many years. So if he tells me something that is of interest or concern, I pass that to the FBI.

Mr. Ratcliffe. And you said something about you thought that was your job.

Mr. Ohr. Yes. Part of my job, as I saw it, as having been for a long time responsible for organized crime at the Department, was to try to gather as much information or introduce the FBI to possible sources of information, whatever ways to further the program’s goals.

In fact, as Ohr explained in his interview, he had been sharing information with Steele going back almost a decade.

A I believe I met Chris Steele for the first time around 2007. That was an official meeting. At that time, he was still employed by the British Government. I went to London to talk with British Government officials about Russian organized crime and what they were doing to look at the threat, and the FBI office at the U.S. Embassy in London set up a meeting. That was with Chris Steele. And there were other members of different British Government agencies there. And we met and had a discussion. And afterwards, I believe the agent and I spoke with Chris Steele further over lunch. That was, I think, the first time I met him.

Q And you said that Mr. Steele worked for the British Government at the time. Was that at MI-6?

A Yes.

Q And you said in this meeting that he was one of several British Government employees at the meeting?

A Yes.

Q So, based on that introduction, is it fair to say that your contacts with Christopher Steele began as a, you know, shared professional specialization?

A Yes.

Q And that specialization would be Russian organized crime?

A Yes.

In other words, John Ratcliffe wants to make a big deal out of the fact that DOJ’s top person on organized crime was trying to combat organized crime by collecting and sharing information on organized crime. This is the guy Trump wants to be be in charge of the entire intelligence community.

Ratcliffe objects that Ohr shared information with career employees and not his political appointee boss

Ratcliffe didn’t just object that Bruce Ohr compared notes with other experts on Russian organized crime, he also objected to the fact that Ohr passed that information along not to political appointees — who according to the conspiracy theories could then use the information as part of an ultimately unsuccessful Deep State plot to undermine Trump — but instead to career people who could actually decide what to do with the information.

Mr. Ratcliffe. Okay. But yet Sally Yates — she was your boss, right?

Mr. Ohr. Yes.

Mr. Ratcliffe. You said she didn’t know that you were talking to Steele or Simpson?

Mr. Ohr. Correct.

Mr. Ratcliffe. How do you know she didn’t know?

Mr. Ohr. Well, I didn’t tell her.


Mr. Ratcliffe. Okay. So, again, going back to the Sally Yates issue, is it your testimony that at some point in time as you were sitting down with the FBI for the purpose of talking to them about information that you were helping to coordinate from Christopher Steele that you shouldn’t have advised or didn’t advise Sally Yates about the fact that you were being interviewed for that purpose?

Mr. Ohr. I did not inform Sally Yates that I was talking to the FBI and that I was receiving information from Chris Steele. That’s correct.

Mr. Ratcliffe. My question is, did you have the thought that it might be a good idea to let my boss know that I’m being interviewed by the FBI?

Mr. Ohr. It was — my thought at the time was I should get this to the career people who would work on it, but that was my thought.

This is ultimately something that Ohr got disciplined for — not revealing the extent of his contacts with Steele earlier. But it was also the opposite of what he would do if he wanted to politicize the information, and precisely what he would do if he considered it the course of normal information exchange. By keeping this information within career channels, Ohr took the most appropriate step to avoid politicizing it.

It’s also true that, absent some proof that Yates found out about some of the details of Steele’s conversations with Ohr (in particular, how concerned Steele was about the possibility of Trump being elected) before she approved the FISA order on Carter Page, this conspiracy theory doesn’t make any sense. Which may be the real reason Ratcliffe is so infuriated that Ohr claims he didn’t inform Yates about what, to Ohr, was ordinary information sharing.

The echo chamber Ratcliffe occupies would prevent him from keeping America safe

Again, Ratcliffe’s own questioning of one of DOJ’s top experts on organized crime makes it appear that he affirmatively objects to the fact that that expert received true and timely information from another recognized expert and passed it on to another expert.

I actually don’t believe John Ratcliffe really is affirmatively opposed to the FBI receiving as much information about Russian Oligarchs threatening to expose top campaign managers or ongoing Russian efforts to retaliate for having been caught cheating in sports, even though that’s what his questioning of Ohr necessarily presumes. I think, instead, he is stuck so deep inside a Republican echo chamber looking for conspiracy theories even in events that can be easily explained that he is incapable of seeing how dangerous his assumptions really are: including the assumption that the FBI should reject information from credible sources about ongoing threats.

That he is so deeply ensconced in the frothy right is why Trump picked him for the job — because, to those who are equally ensconced in the echo chamber, he could appear to have damaged Robert Mueller last week. And of course, Trump will be perfectly happy to have someone who sees not what is, but what needs to be true to feed Trump’s own false claims.

But having picked Ratcliffe, Trump has given Democrats the perfect opportunity to turn frothy conspiracies on their head, to demonstrate the danger of them. Both before Ratcliffe’s eventual confirmation hearing and during it, Democrats will have abundant evidence — from Ratcliffe’s own performance in interviews where he repeatedly gets exposed as a fool — to demonstrate the dangers of appointing someone so deep inside an echo chamber he doesn’t even realize the entire premise of his questioning is that the US should not pursue as much information about threats as possible.

Sure, he’s likely to be confirmed anyway. But Democrats have the opportunity to lay out the costs of Republicans casting such a vote, to install someone who affirmatively objects to FBI getting information on urgent threats to oversee the intelligence community. And when Ratcliffe’s echo chamber beliefs serve to blow up — whether by feeding Trump what he wants to hear about North Korea or Iran or Russia — Democrats will then have the record that Republicans chose to put someone with a clear record arguing that the FBI should have less information about credible threats and not more.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

119 replies
  1. Puzzled Scottish Person says:

    First post and sorry to have nothing very substantial to say but Ratcliffe’s approach really confuses me:

    If Ratcliffe is correct (and INAL so I won’t stick my oar in there; I’m just puzzled by Ratcliffe’s own illogic) that Mueller was legally unable to exonerate the president, doesn’t that undermine the president’s own claims of being ‘totally exonerated’? In which case, why does the Orange Blob want this guy defending him?

    • bmaz says:

      Welcome to Emptywheel, and join in often. As to Ratcliffe, no he was not right. His spiel was basically gibberish.

      • bmaz says:

        It was serious gibberish. He was so worked up, I thought his head might swivel all the way around while spitting green vomit, like the girl on The Exorcist.

        • I am sam says:

          Hannity: “Mr. President, I think that a great replacement for Coats would be Congressman Ratcliffe.”
          Orange Tinted Clown: “Who is Ratcliffe?”
          Hannity: “He’s that guy from Texas on the House Intelligence Committee.”
          Orange Tinted Clown: “Never heard about him. Is he the one asking Mueller what exonerated means?”
          Hannity: “Yes.”
          Orange Tinted Clown: “If you say so, I’ll just do it. Coates was never a team man.”
          Hannity: “Thank you, Mr. President.”
          Orange Tinted Clown: “Glad I could help, Sean.”

          • PR says:

            “Adam Driver is THE BEST actor” said no one.

            He’s like a rock. He’s consistent, never-changing, and full of suck.

            Ah, we like that in our appointments (GOP)

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      He’s acceptable to the small circle around Trump because he’s white male, good looking, very conservative, very modestly talented, and likes to say yes.

      I suspect that Trump doesn’t pick these people – he’s the only one he pays attention to – but acquiesces as others pick objects he might find attractive.

      Odds are others in the Trump camp want to be the alpha dog when it comes to national security. They chose a character like Ratcliffe because he presents little threat to their control, unlike Coats.

      No one knows where Ratcliffe came up with his line of questioning. It is a gibberish of doubt, intended to make Mueller and his report seem unreliable. That’s a major case of the pot calling the kettle black.

      • Jenny says:

        Earl I agree, Ratcliff is a “yes” man, an attractive attacker to Herr Drumpf.

        Herr Drumpf liked Ratcliff’s mean attack questioning Mueller. Ratcliff’s audition exposed his fangs and fury for a new position in the attack pack administration. Apparently, no one from Fox was available.

        Thanks Marcy good post.

      • e.a.f. says:

        good looking????? surely you jest. the guy looks like some sort of piece of wood poorly carved. During the Mueller inquiry he looked like he needed to go to a mental health facility or back to grade school. he of course won’t be opposing any of trump’s opinions like Coates did. Wonder if they’ll give Vlad the American nuclear codes, if he doesn’t already have them……you couldn’t make this stuff up for a comedy about idiots running a country.

        • Tom says:

          I think you’re confusing him with Governor John Ratcliffe from the Disney film “Pocahontas”. Maybe Trump is too.

          • Tom says:

            Ratcliffe appeals to Trump because he looks like what the President thinks a Director of National Intelligence should look like. Plus, he has that retro 1950s American Caucasian male look about him that probably reminds Trump of the good ol’ days when white men were indisputably in charge of things.

  2. viget says:

    Great article Marcy! I see what you’re saying, but I still think he is carefully chosen for a reason.

    Not so sure he’s such a doofus, more like someone who is willing to look the other way, if it curries favor with Trump. And depending on how compromised he might be, he perhaps does want organized crime experts left in the dark about what their peers are working on. Do we know who his top political donors are?

    I think his primary role is to be an information gatherer on what the IC is up to, and then launder his info through folks such as Nunes to the people who need to know (Trump’s inner circle, primarily), who can then pass it on to foreign interests. Nunes would have been too much of an obvious and controversial choice for that, so they go with one degree of separation. Already, some GOP senators are indicating that they’re uncomfortable with Ratcliffe, so this strategy may not work.

    • Njrun says:

      I agree Sutcliffe is basically a spy for the administration against the intelligence community. My question is: when is the IC going to do something about being ratfinked?

      I’ve always assumed these guys are quite savvy and have the ability to stick up for themselves. But trump seems to be running roughshod over them. Are they really that weak and passive or is there some card they are going to play?

      For a long time, I had confidence that they were going to fight back — Trump is on the side of their enemies, they wouldn’t let him get away with that, right? But it all seems to be going to hell.

      • e.a.f. says:

        they’ll all be fired so it won’t really matter. no one will object to what the new boss says or does. might even have a few Russians, Saudis, N.K.s in to show them around, too see how great the American system is…………….

  3. orionATL says:

    “…Item 3 — that Trump’s campaign manager was at risk of being hit with damning new accusations by a very powerful Russian oligarch — doesn’t show up in the dossier, but was actually true and serves as crucial background to Manafort’s ongoing efforts, just days later, to share campaign information with Deripaska not just to stave off such disclosures, but also to restore his old role installing leaders who would be favorable to Deripaska business interests…”

    this is interesting. it provides a more solid personal motive for manafort to hand over polling data and discuss sanctions with kilimnik (at an aug 2 meeting) than the more vague motive of trying to pay back a loan (or an embezzelment) to deripaksa, if indeed the deripaksa lawyer’s assertions about manafort owing deripaksa are true. i have never seen the details of that deripaksa-manafort communications deal described.

    nonetheless, i don’t think this fleshed-out motive rules out the possibility that trump authorized or ordered manafort to conduct whatever discussions he thought useful with the russians. after all, giving the Russians polling data in august about what would prove to be the three critical states in november seems to be an act of great value to trump and his campaign as well as manafort personally.

    • Vicks says:

      Gates still hasn’t been sentenced.
      There is a good chance that those questions and a whole lot more have already been answered and are being worked into ongoing investigations.
      Unless he pulls a stunt like Flynn or Manafort, having more information to help fill in some of the blanks may just be a matter of time.

  4. Vicks says:

    These are people at the very top of the information chain.
    They are like scientists who get raw data and manipulate it before passing it down to other’s working on the study.
    In their own way both are equally dangerous.
    I’m not sure why both aren’t crimes?

  5. dwfreeman says:

    It turns out that Ohr was more forthcoming about his political and patriotic intentions than anyone connected with the Trump campaign regarding the details of information he learned and shared with the FBI from Steele.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Marcy’s take that at this point the Republicans are merely running interference on whatever Trump is pushing as his take on the startup of the FBI’s ongoing counter intelligence probe of the campaign’s relations and coordination with the Russian government to support his election.

    This looks like a repeat of the Whittaker move, with a less-than capable Barr coverup artist in tow, though this one obviously allows the Democrats to expose Ratcliffe as Trey Gowdy-lite. He clearly aced the DNI audition during the Mueller hearing with his meandering pontificating of the special counsel about exoneration, confusing even deplorable Trumpites in the process — about the point of such questioning.

    Didn’t Barr and Rosenstein affirm his exoneration only after claiming there wasn’t sufficient grounding to charge obstruction allegations, even though the special counsel argued Trump is still subject to possible prosecution for crimes in office after he leaves, which was the point of pointing out the obstruction case in his report and documenting the circumstances that might warrant its future consideration by some avenging prosecutor. Not that that will ever happen.

    But Ratcliff also came up lame in getting Mueller to acknowledge that his confessional referral to Congress on obstruction was impeachment-related, which Mueller admitted as part of his larger report he never thought would become public, chiefly because his grandstanding speech went too long. But, of course, for Trump the point was made, because for him it’s all about the deflection.

    I have never understood the Republican motive to drum up this original sin conspiracy as a way to defend against Trump’s own obstruction and coverup efforts. If anything, the exposure of the startup of the case makes them look even more guilty. And, of course, from Trump’s gaslighting perspective this is merely an effort to play the victim card and deflect from ongoing exposure as a White House impostor.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I think Barr and Rosenstein casually confused compliance with the OLC guideline that the DoJ not indict a sitting president with there being insufficient evidence to indict on any potential charge. I think there are about 1000 former federal prosecutors who disagree with both positions.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        I meant “casually confused.” The art of purposely confusing while seeming to do no such thing.

        It’s a transatlantic attribute among ruling elites and one of the things old Etonians like Boris Johnson – Trump Lite – and Jacob Rees-Mogg do with “the apparent effortlessness of gods.”

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    In confirming Ratcliffe, Senate,

    Republicans chose to put someone with a clear record arguing that the FBI should have less information about credible threats and not more.

    I thought making all those information silos talk to each other was the big takeaway from the 9/11 Commission report. You know, ounce of prevention and all that.

    For a Republican Party that spent nearly two decades shouting “9/11” at every opportunity, that choice should be made to haunt them. Is there anyone working for the Dems who still knows how to make that happen?

    • Savage Librarian says:

      Exactly. And that is what Mueller specifically reiterated at the hearing. Sounds like there is a major outbreak of attention deficit disorder among the Republicans (and some Dems, too.)

        • Savage Librarian says:

          Hey, Willis! Let’s hope their anger turns to anxiety and results in a marked change in strategy as outlined in this article:

          “How ‘dead-enders’ could finally turn against Donald Trump — according to neuroscience”

          “Journalist and historian Rick Shenkman thinks President Donald Trump’s supporters may eventually turn on him, just as he finally stopped backing Richard Nixon.”
          “If the researchers are right that populists are mostly angry, not anxious, their remarkable stubbornness immediately becomes explicable,” Shenkman said. “One of the findings of social scientists who study anger is that it makes people close-minded. After reading an article that expresses a view contrary to their own, people decline to follow links to find out more information. The angrier you become, the less likely are to welcome alternative points of view.”
          “But eventually that anger gave way to anxiety, he said, after Nixon’s attacks grew tiresome, and defending him became harder than abandoning him.”
          “If I am right about the circuitous path I took from Nixon supporter to Nixon-basher,” Shenkman said, “there’s hope that Trump supporters will have their own Road to Damascus epiphany.”

    • viget says:

      This makes him all the more dangerous. He would know how the Kremlin (and Russian organized crime) operates and where the bodies are likely to be buried. Thus, he could easily ask analysts for exactly the type of intel he would need to undermine the ongoing CI investigation, such that he could launder it through intermediaries (cough.. Nunes…cough) to Trump and his ilk.

      I’m surprised McConnell isn’t enthusiastically for him.

  7. Ed Walker says:

    The questioning of Ohr seems to me to be pretty good lawyering. The questions are clear. They each add a tiny bit of data. They are yes/no for the most part. If the point weren’t stupid he might have gotten somewhere. I wonder if he was reading them off a legal pad.

    He only looks stupid because his premises are stupid. That argues for the bubble theory.

    • emptywheel says:

      Thanks. I think that’s it: Good lawyer in a bubble. Probably in real personal conflict bc he knows he’s being stupid. Thus blocking me on Twitter.
      They picked him to replace Gowdy as the “competent prosecutor,” and will miss him. But he’s not as sentient as Gowdy, remarkable as that may seem.

  8. Molly Pitcher says:

    When the movie version of this whole sordid affair is made, Ratcliffe will be played by Steve Carell.

    • viget says:


      OK… so this has been on my radar since the first interim report came out in February. THIS is what Judge Sullivan was so hopping mad about with Flynn.

      Basically, Flynn and IP3 were trying to do an end around the NSC and DOE to get US nuclear tech to the Saudis and make them a bunch of money. The servicing of said reactors and provisioning of uranium was going to be done by Russian firms, but that would have required lifting of the sanctions. There’s your bargain there.

      INSTEAD… Brookfield Asset management (which is like 8% owned by the Qatari Investment Authority), bought Westinghouse (who they were going to use for the reactors) and bailed out Kushner, so he got his payday. They are still trying to get Westinghouse to build the reactors. Also, QIA “financed” (read: laundered) the 19% privatization stake of Rosneft back in Dec 2016, and then promptly sold back a portion to Russian banks a few months later. So I bet the money from this deal all came from Russia, and was to be the payday to the Trump clan.

      Also, related, but not sure how it fits in: Westinghouse was one of the hacking targets of the GRU detailed in the Western District of PA indictment, and was spearfished. Not sure what data they exfiltrated from Westinghouse.

      I suspect all of the above is the “info” that Rep Cummings had way back in 2017 that he alluded to would really shock everyone.

      @emptywheel– Any thoughts?

      • Savage Librarian says:

        Thanks, viget. I appreciate you working the threads together. Disparate facts have been noodling around in my head for awhile. But this provides much greater clarity. Don’t know if it is correct. It makes sense to me, though.

    • Savage Librarian says:

      Thanks, klynn. Especially for the list of specific names involved: “President Trump, Jared Kushner, Gary Cohn, KT McFarland, and Cabinet Secretaries Rick Perry, Steven Mnuchin, Mike Pompeo, Rex Tillerson, James Mattis, and Wilbur Ross.”

      • Vicks says:

        Add Tom Barrack to your list.
        The dude has been on my short list since Trump’s lame inauguration.
        It’s like a game of “Where’s Waldo?”
        Just like in the books, when you peer closely at the picture if you’re looking for him T. Barrack will pop out on multiple pages.

  9. Democritus says:

    So I figured a potty mouth may enjoy two new nickname combos I spotted on Reddit.

    Moscow Mitch, and his wife Cocaine Elaine

    I’d seen Moscow Mitch around, but not the addition before and I enjoy tracking some of these for shits n giggles. Plus I also enjoy a good cursing.

    For Trump, Dirty Dicked Don

    It had “the con” at the end, but I think shorter version is, well not sweeter 🤭, but better rhythm when used in political patter

    Courtesy of this thread:

      • Tom says:

        I kind of like “Dumb Donald”. Also, didn’t Stormy Daniels call him “Mushroom Dick”? Or was that Bill Maher?

  10. e.a.f. says:

    doesn’t matter how much of an idiot he is. doesn’t matter if he is caught on the nightly news handing over American state secrets to Putin or whomever. he can be the biggest racist in town next to trump and he will still be appointed to the position. the republicans have the majority. the candidate is a white male who supports trump, that is all the qualifications he needs. at that point expect other countries to stop sharing information with the u.s.a.

    the U.S.A simply is no longer a country which can be trusted on the international stage. the last adult in the room is leaving. the racist in chief runs concentration camps, he loves dictators, what could possibly go wrong here…….

    Nothing in the U.S.A. is going to change. Hong Kong residents, 2 million of them, came out to protest, with a population of approx. 7 1/2 million. while the racist in chief has concentration camps, and fires the last adult in the room, doesn’t even look like they can fill a stadium to protest trump’s actions. Coates will leave and the vault will be opened for the Russians, china, n.k. and any one else who is willing to put up a trump tower.

  11. CD54 says:

    Silly question, but did anybody ask Manafort WHY he gave polling data to Russian agent?

    Seems fundamental.

    • Vicks says:

      Pretty sure the save the Trump team cleared this one with the handy dandy “immoral is not illegal” defense.
      Then someone said they smelled smoke, pointed and we moved on,

  12. jmac says:

    I’ve not seen anyone mention Trump doing a ‘recess appointment’. It seems to me that this is a distinct possibility as it would preclude any confirmation hearing (for now). Is this a possibility

  13. Jenny says:

    From Matthew Miller twitter:

    And @KenDilanianNBC has the goods. Ratcliffe never prosecuted a terrorism case, despite claiming he sent terrorists to jail and even lied about his role in the Holy Land Foundation case.

    Intel Officials Worry Trump’s Pick for Top Spy will Politicize the Job
    Although Ratcliffe’s website says he “put terrorists in prison,” there is no evidence he ever prosecuted a terrorism case.

    Will someone ask Ratcliff, “What is the name of the terrorist you put in prison?”

  14. Democritus says:

    I’ve been debating posting these, but this guy has been posting about his theory that Trump has mid stage dementia for a while. I go read them after bad days, like when he attacked Cummings. This clip from Rupar and his thread the other day though was persuasive, but again grains of salt especially wishful thinking.

    Anyway if you think this might be disinfo I’m falling for, please remove but I thought maybe it’s getting to be time to broach that topic again.

    Latest thread of threads

    • Tom says:

      Yes, that whole question about Trump’s mental capacity sort of rises to the surface of public discussion and then subsides again. One thing that I’ve been surprised about is that there have been no stories–at least, that I’ve heard–of Trump needing a nap in the afternoon, or falling asleep at meetings, or going to bed early, or any of those other habits that people his age usually start to acquire. The one exception was Kellyanne Conway’s comment a couple of weeks ago where she said the President was “tired” but then corrected herself to say the President was “sick and tired”.

      • Vicks says:

        The dude barely uses his brain for anything and feeds off hate.
        Why would he be tired?
        The simplistic crap that comes out of his mouth and his twitter machine runs on a loop that has probably been playing since he was a kid and Trump will more than likely die calling someone a puppet, racist, or maybe threatening to lock his nurse up because she is a senile old man.

  15. earlofhuntingdon says:

    CNN’s Zachary Cohen has some homework to do. It is not “going outside of protocol” for Trump to ignore NSA’s principal deputy Sue Gordon. It is illegal. Once the NSA no longer serves, then by statute, Sue Gordon “shall” become Acting NSA.

    Trump can nominate another permanent head, but his or her tenure would commence only after confirmation by the Senate. He can attempt to insert a recess appointment. He can fire Gordon, which puts her principal deputy in charge. But Trump cannot legally ignore a binding federal statute, no matter the pixie dust thrown around by Burr and Barr.

    Framing this selection process as a matter of protocol is incompetent or intentionally normalizing lawbreaking by the president. That an unnamed source might have used that framing is irrelevant. A qualified reporter would not repeat it without correcting the context or give the source anonymity to shill such an incorrect framing.


    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      One more knowing and intentional abuse of power to add to the impeachment inquiry, Mr. Nadler.

      The statute, like the one requiring the IRS to hand over taxpayer returns to the appropriate congressional representative, could not be clearer.

      Claiming to look for a “legal” way around it, while allowing the illegal conduct to proceed (in an attempt to make objections to an illegal process moot), is neither a legitimate excuse nor an adequate legal defense.

      • P J Evans says:

        The law designated the successor for the head of CFPB, and Tr*mp ignored that one, too. (The court, for some reason, decided that was okay.)

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Trump might tell himself the situations are the same. They aren’t.

          The succession for the NSA is clearer, without the hint of ambiguity that Trump used to drive a truck through to put Mulvaney in at the CFPB. But that was wrong, too.

          The warehouses seem to be groaning under the weight of unsold backbones harvested from Capitol Hill.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            My bad. I confused the titles of national security adviser with the director of national intelligence. Given that Bolton is one and Coats is still the other, my fingers should be flaming.

            • earlofhuntingdon says:

              Thanks. The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act specifies that Coats’ principal deputy, Sue Gordon, “shall” become the acting director if Coats is no longer director.

              If Trump fires Gordon, the next in line becomes acting director. That’s under the specific statute creating the DNI, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (IRTPA).

              Even if the earlier and more general Federal Vacancies Reform Act applied, highly doubtful, it names three classes of people who could fill Coats’ slot on an acting basis, that is, without Senate confirmation.

              Those three include Coats’ first assistant (Gordon). Anyone currently holding a Senate-confirmed appointment in the executive branch. And, any non-Senate-confirmed employee who has been with the same agency (the ODNI) for at least 90 out of the preceding 365 days.

              Ratcliffe fits none of those categories. He is not eligible to serve as acting DNI. Trump could still nominate him to serve as DNI. But Gordon would serve as acting DNI until the Senate confirmed Ratcliffe’s appointment.

              Is there no one in this administration willing to tell the God Emperor that the sun does not rise in the West and set in the East?

    • Democritus says:

      Hey! I was just reading another way Trump in his effort to politicize our nat emergency personnel, and thus it’s powers, here Ned Prices tweet

      “Actually, Senator, the law does require that–quite literally. It stipulates that anyone nominated as DNI shall have “extensive national security expertise.”

      The actual tweet has a link to the relevant US code

      My stomach lining is reverting back to how it was before Dems took back some power in 2018.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      “Nick,” in Cohen’s twtr feed, had the best snark response to Cohen and CNN’s exculpatory framing:

      A motorist was arrested after going outside the normal protocol of not being drunk.

      Nick also gets points for using a photo of John Thaw from the Sweeney.

    • viget says:

      Yup, even for the strict “constitutionalists” on the Supreme Court this should be pretty straight forward.

      US Constitution Article II, Sec. 3: “…he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed…”

    • Democritus says:

      Fucking yeah! Speak the fucking truth Dr Wheeler, and thank you for your courage in doing so.

    • Geoff says:

      Respectfully – respectfully,” the WP disagrees : ;-)

      “She would normally become acting DNI with Coats’s departure, but Trump signaled that he planned to announce a new acting director. The DNI’s lawyers have concluded that Trump has that power, legally, but it wasn’t clear Monday who would take the post, and the situation appeared to be fluid.”

      Now, personally, I’m much more inclined to take Marcy’s word on it, but I AM curious how this got into the article. What exactly did the DNI’s lawyers say and who did they say it to? I havent read this anywhere else. Who are these lawyers? And what laws are they adhering to, seeing as we have fewer and fewer functional ones all the time.

      • bmaz says:

        David Ignatius does not know squat on this subject. And he is blithely citing hearsay some Administration stooge whispered in his ear. In this thread, I cited the analysis of Bobby Chesney. An actual expert on the record. Think I’ll trust Bobby over Ignatius.

        • harpie says:

          bmaz, this is o/t here, but I see you tweeting about California’s new legislation. Ted Boutrous just retweeted this:

          10:39 AM – 30 Jul 2019

          Cal law school school Dean Erwin Chemerinsky & litigators @BoutrousTed, David Boies back the legality of legislation just signed by Gov @GavinNewsom requiring presidential & gubernatorial candidates to disclose their tax returns to appear on CA ballot.

          • bmaz says:

            That was kind of my view. Rick Hasen, who is very smart and very good, is wrong on this one in my eye.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        The ODNI Office of General Counsel hierarchy seems to mirror the deptartment’s. Jason Klitenic has been GC since August 2018.

        Successful but not high-flying government lawyer: JD from Baltimore, employment with DoJ and as first deputy GC at Homeland Security. Former partner at Holland & Knight, a mid-level corporate law firm. All-American baseballer at Johns Hopkins.

        Klitenic seems to be a team player, who is unlikely to rock the boat of anyone higher up the chain of command. I would imagine Bill Barr or his staff are giving him a hand with parsing the applicable statutes so that there’s no confusion about their meaning.

  16. Terrapin says:

    Hi everyone. I think besides the fact John Ratcliffe, in his obvious blind ambition, is willing to serve as DNI in Trump’s personal interest, instead of the interests of the county, it is obvious that he is willing to maintain the lie that the GOP hasn’t effectively sold its soul to the Kremlin (which is why he wants the FBI to turn a blind eye to Russian organized crime, which is effectively an arm of Putin’s regime). It is becoming pretty obvious that the price of its betrayal of the nation is that Putin is willing to use his intelligence apparatus to swing U.S. elections to the GOP, especially presidential elections. That is why Moscow Mitch stands in the way of a bill to bolster defenses against cyber intrusions into U.S. elections infrastructure. The GOP evidently decided that gerrymandering, IDs to vote, and the like weren’t sufficient anymore to hold on to power in the face of a long-term demographic tsunami favoring the Democrats that grows more pronounced with every election. So they have enlisted the Russians’ help, because the Russians have demonstrated an established record from 2016 of success in bringing them victory when every legitimate pollster was saying otherwise. Of course, being the sociopaths they are, the Trump GOP dismisses the thought that Vladimir Putin doesn’t work for free. When you sell you soul to the devil you eventually have to pay the piper. Certainly Trump’s malign incompetence is already working in Putin’s favor internationally, but Vlad wants more concrete things from the GOP, like the end of sanctions, the Magnitsky Act, etc. GOP U.S. Senators abasing themselves in Moscow is nice (see the link below), but Putin is going to start making serious demands soon and he’ll demand results. No wonder it is time for Dan Coats to go.

  17. earlofhuntingdon says:

    This from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse deserves to reach a wide audience:

    Here’s Mitch’s problem: closing out foreign influence requires closing out anonymous influence (hope I don’t need to explain that): & closing out anonymous influence impedes the fossil fuel apparatus that is the political lifeblood of the Republican Party.


    I would extend that to corporate and billionaire lobbying in general. Shirley, what’s good for ExxonMobil is good for JPMorganChase, the Murdochs, Mercers, and others.

    It is relatively easy for those with money to set-up cutouts that evade modest disclosure requirements. (Similar methodologies enable money launderers to escape regulation.) Citizens United and its progeny simply make the problem worse.

    Such reforms would put the establishment wing of the Democratic Party at some risk. But it is an existential threat to the entire Republican Party as it currently exists. What does that say about the vulnerability of American democracy?

  18. harpie says:

    There is no new open thread, so I’ll continue to post Impeachment Calls here, if that’s OK?
    1] Eleanor Holmes-Norton DC Delegate
    There’s a screenshot of her statement here, but I haven’t found anything on her website, yet:
    11:37 AM – 30 Jul 2019

    Inbox: DC Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton says she supports launching a Trump impeachment inquiry. “An impeachment inquiry is necessary to obtain all the information required to make a responsible decision on filing Articles of Impeachment,” she says

    2] Rep. Grace Meng D-NY-06
    11:31 AM – 30 Jul 2019

    When I was sworn into Congress, I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. In this regard, I believe it is my duty to seek out truth for the sake of my constituents and our nation, and thereby call for an impeachment inquiry. 1/3 Here is my statement. 2/3 [screenshots]

    >>> 109 DEMS + 1 IND

    • harpie says:

      Rep. Jennifer Wexton D-VA-10
      1:35 PM – 30 Jul 2019

      I did not run for office with the purpose of impeaching the president, but I did take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. After much deliberation, it is time for the House of Representatives to assert our constitutional responsibility and begin an impeachment inquiry.

      >>>110 DEMS + 1 IND

      • Tom says:

        I wonder if the uptick in House Dems favoring an impeachment enquiry is partly motivated by a desire to demonstrate that, yes, having Mueller testify before Congress was a useful and necessary step, contrary to reviews that the “optics” were bad.

        • Vicks says:

          Perhaps they just needed to get out of the stank of Washington to clear their heads?
          Best case is they are hearing it from their constituents, but I will take not wanting to be the last rat to jump off the sinking sink.
          Time to pester my guy again

          • Tom says:

            Trump must be keeping score as well, of the steady, inexorable drip … drip … drip of Democrats asking to open an impeachment enquiry, step by step, inch by inch …

    • Eureka says:

      (Inserting a Senate sidecar; N=2)

      Sen. Patty Murray (WA) on July 28th

      Sen. Debbie Stabenow (MI) on July 29th

      Notable because they are the 3rd- and 4th- highest-ranking Senate dems, respectively, and also the highest ranking women afaik (others note they are the highest-ranking dems, period, to publicly support impeachment (inquiry)).

      POLITICO: “Sens. Patty Murray and Debbie Stabenow are now the highest ranking Democrats to throw their support behind the impeachment effort (link)”

      MLive: “U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow says she supports impeachment inquiry (link)”

      Senator Patty Murray:
      28th (additional reinforcing tweets on 29th):
      “As we have learned more about the gravity of the potential threats to our democracy identified in Special Counsel Mueller’s report, it has become clear the House should begin proceedings to determine whether the President’s actions necessitate impeachment.”

      • Eureka says:

        *meant since HJC filing (~Mueller testimony)– that is clear in the links, if not here.

        My point was to recognize those two major announcements (Markey-below-was also post-Mueller testimony).

        Summary from Politico:

        Senate Democrats have lagged behind their House counterparts’ on calling to begin impeachment proceedings. Including Murray and Stabenow, just 12 of the 47 Senate Democratic Caucus members have endorsed those proceedings compared to nearly half the 235 House Democrats, according to a Monday review of the caucus’s position. Six of those senators are running for president.
        They join Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and presidential candidate Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.). Warren, Klobuchar and Sanders all serve on Schumer’s leadership team

        • Eureka says:

          Blockquote ^ should have this in the middle of those two paras:

          Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Stabenow and Murray have all come out for an impeachment inquiry since, joining a torrent of House members now on the verge of garnering a majority of the Democratic majority. Markey said late last week that “Mueller’s testimony and the president’s obstruction of the congressional investigation compel us to immediately begin a formal impeachment inquiry.”

        • Vicks says:

          Please pester your representatives!
          We need to take advantage of whatever is going on that caused this momentum.
          All their contact info is on their their websites.
          Call and/or email.
          It doesn’t matter if they are Republican or Democrat you have a voice, use it to let them know how you feel.

      • Jenny says:

        Excellent. The Impeachment Train – gathering steam.

        FYI: Five House Republicans retiring:
        Martha Roby Alabama), Paul Mitchell (Michigan), Mike Conaway (Texas), Susan Brooks (Indiana) and Pete Olsen (Texas).

        Note: 2 of 13 Republican Congresswomen retiring. GOP will have to do some major recruiting in a short period of time.

        • harpie says:

          Thanks! How did we miss that a whole week ago? There are several people counting about 3 or 4 more than we have…They don’t list them, though, so I can’t see where we differ.
          On the 18th, Kyle D Cheney wrote:

          3:27 PM – 18 Jul 2019

          […] POLITICO reached out to all 27 Democrats who sided with Al Green on yesterday’s effort to debate articles of impeachment — but who hadn’t yet taken a public stand on an impeacment inquiry — and here’s what we found.
          There are 6 new Dems who say they’d support an inquiry if given a chance to vote: Reps. WELCH and LARSEN issued public statements. Reps. ROYBAL-ALLARD and PAYNE confirmed they’d back an inquiry. Reps. BASS and PALLONE said they would too. […] [link to Politico] / This has been clarified — and yes, in fact, Rep. Matsui favors an impeachment inquiry, making her the seventh Democrat of the day to take this position.

          Do you know if all of these people are on our list? I didn’t list Payne at the time, because I couldn’t find an actual statement from him…missed the tweet a week later.

    • harpie says:

      Thanks, PJ Evans!
      Rep. Donald Payne Jr. D-NJ-10
      4:58 PM – 24 Jul 2019

      Today within the halls of Congress, I witnessed my colleagues exercise our congressional oversight responsibility, by questioning the premier witness in our democracy’s most serious trial-and the verdict is in……we must immediately bring forth an INQUIRY FOR IMPEACHMENT!

      >>>114 DEMS + 1 IND

    • harpie says:

      Rep. Nita Lowey D-NY-17
      Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee


      […] The House Judiciary Committee should move forward with an impeachment inquiry. I will continue to strongly support the important efforts of Democrats on the House Judiciary, Intelligence, Oversight, and other committees who are working to hold President Trump accountable to the American people and believe an impeachment inquiry will strengthen our hand in uncovering the truth. As Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, I will also continue to work to ensure effective oversight of this administration.”

      >>> 115 DEMS + 1 IND

      • P J Evans says:

        Cory Booker just said at the debate that we need to impeach Tr*mp.

        “I believe the Congress should start impeachment proceedings immediately.” And Booker says “The politics of this be damned.”

        • harpie says:

          Kyle Cheney says Lowey is Dem #117, so that difference must be the two reps noted above at 3:48 pm.

          wrt: the Senators, do you know if anyone is keeping a list?

          • P J Evans says:

            I have one I started the other day, based on the stuff you’ve posted. (Excel – it’s a two-page sheet, one for the House, and one for the Senate.)
            I have Lowey and all the peeps from the 3:43. That’s 115 + 1.

            • P J Evans says:

              116, by my count, is Deutch, from Florida. So someone has a couple more we haven’t seen here.

              • bmaz says:

                I am glad Ted Deutch finally found the gumption to say something now. But he is absolutely batshit if he thinks an “impeachment inquiry” has been underway since March 4th.

                Frankly, I don’t think the cute insertion by Nadler of the impeachment word in the petition on the GJ materials a week ago is sufficient either. If I were a judge, I would straight up laugh at that. “Mr. Nadler, get back to me when you have, at a minimum, a Judiciary Committee resolution voted out”.

    • harpie says:

      I won’t be around much for a few days…hope the numbers keep going up. Don’t know if Ted Deutch should be listed as calling for an inquiry…

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