Kavanaugh Confirmation Standards of Nonsense

Okay, in case you have not already guessed, Marcy is away, mostly, for a couple of days. Even a prolific presence like her is entitled to that. So, you get me for today. Sorry!

Now, because I have been a little involved in trying to figure what is the “real standard of proof” for people in the shoes of, say, Susan Collins and Jeff Flake, I have been a tad predisposed this morning. But let us for now go back to Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh, Collins, Flake, Grassley and the “standard of proof”.

An executive branch nomination is NOT a criminal trial. Any talk about “presumed innocent” and “beyond a reasonable doubt” is asinine and duplicitous. There is no set standard for a nomination consideration, much less one for the Supreme Court. Senators, especially those on the screening Senate Judiciary Committee, get to make their own individual assessments. In a perverse kind of way, it is like impeachment’s “high crimes and misdemeanors”, it is easy for people to argue, but the net result is that it is whatever strikes Congress as being applicable.

Frankly, I think the argument over what Susan Collins’ standard was is kind of silly and diversionary. Collins stated on the record:

“This is not a criminal trial, and I do not believe that claims such as these need to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Nevertheless, fairness would dictate that the claims at least should meet a threshold of more likely than not as our standard.”

This is bullshit. As David Graham, again, pointed out:

Citing the lack of corroboration of Ford’s account as well as lacunas in Ford’s own recollection, Collins said she did not believe the “more likely than not” standard had been met.

Although she did not use the phrase, the standard that Collins offers appears to be the same as “the preponderance of the evidence,” which is the burden of proof required in civil trials—as opposed to the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard in criminal cases. This is also the standard that many colleges now use in evaluating sexual-violence claims under Title IX. Obama-era guidance required schools to use a preponderance-of-evidence standard, though the Trump Education Department has granted schools greater leeway, instructing that “findings of fact and conclusions should be reached by applying either a preponderance of the evidence standard or a clear and convincing evidence standard.”

So, what is the relevant standard? As propounded earlier, there is no set one in these circumstances. It certainly is not “beyond a reasonable doubt” as is in criminal trials. Anybody using that language, including most of the geriatric white geezers in the SJC, is lying.

“Clear and convincing evidence”? Nope, there is no precedent for that either. Preponderance of the evidence/more likely than not? Again, there is scant authority to establish that as a relevant standard. Bottom line is Susan Collins manufactured her own “standard” and then cynically applied it, all without any legitimate basis. And, maybe, that is the kind of intellectual malleability these SJC determinations engender, but, if so, people like Collins, and the journalists that cover her charade, should acknowledge it.

So, what is the real “standard”? Again, there is none I can find. But if the course and scope of “background investigations” conducted by the FBI at the behalf of an Article II Executive Branch request is any indication, it is far different than being duplicitously portrayed by both the White House and Senate Judiciary Republicans.

Here is a specialist in clearance and background investigation issues, Brad Moss:

Um, not totally true. It happens for high level national security operatives working for the NSC and related White House components. Those individuals have to hold TS/SCI access and often times can be subject to invasive polygraph screenings.

Actual vetting, not that Kushner BS.

Here is another, Kel McClanahan, of National Security Counselors:

The White House can’t order @FBI to just rummage through a random person’s life. They can definitely AUTHORIZE FBI to rummage through a person’s life who has agreed to be subjected to a background investigation.

If this is true, it was McGahn & not Trump who was playing games…

Yes. Exactly. And, as a Senator who was one of the maybe 115 American citizens able to actually read the “FBI Investigation” work product, for Susan Collins and Jeff Flake to blithely sign off on the limited, restricted and choked off nonsense, is beyond craven. It is straight up duplicitous. And the New York Times article is kind compared to the chicanery that was clearly afoot from Don McGahn, a close friend and Federalist Society gang member for decades with Brett Kavanaugh.

In short, it is NOT about the relative “standard of proof” used by Susan Collins. She used “more likely than not” standard (effectively a preponderance of evidence standard). When she said that was the standard, she was lying. It never has been, and never will be. That was manufactured bullshit.

People have also argued that the standard should have been “reasonable accusation” or “credible accusation”. And those are even lesser than than the preponderance/more likely than not” standard Collins artificially, self servingly and cynically utilized.

Is clearance on a Background Investigation warranted? Does anybody, including the high holy Brett Kavanaugh, have any god given right to have a clean BI and be elevated to the Supreme Court? Of course not (See Title 32 of the CFR), that is gibberish propounded by old white conservative and misogynistic demagogues, like Grassley, Hatch, Cornyn and Graham in the Senate Judiciary Committee. And it is pure rubbish.

And, so too is the manufactured “standard” Susan Collins magically announced in her drama queen dog and pony show yesterday that seemed to narcissistically go on forever.

The bottom line is that whether under Collins’ manufactured and elevated standard, or even lesser ones such as reasonable or credible allegations, Brett Kavanaugh was not fit for passage and subsequent confirmation.

As Mark J. Stern detailed in Slate, Susan Collins’ manifesto announced with all the drama of a royal wedding, was in incredible bad faith. Her “standard” was nonsense and nowhere close to any applicable standard. It was a joke.

But, even more so, under ANY standard Susan Collins could have cited, her “finding” thereunder was garbage. Even in criminal sex cases, not just occasionally, but often, finders of fact (usually juries), decisions come down to weighing the relative credibility of an accuser versus the accused. And, given the relentless series of outright lies Brett Kavanaugh stated under oath, there is no way that a sentient human could see his testimony as more credible than the measured, and admitting as to gaps, honesty of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. And, again, credibility of witnesses is what criminal trials, much less less than even civil litigation burdens, as here, are decided by every day.

This is because there are usually zero other witnesses to such kidnapping, molestation and attempted rape cases as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford credibly alleged, but also because time and reticence of victims is often a factor. And, yet, cases are filed and determinations made on just such “he said/she said” allegations every day. The implication by Susan Collins, Chuck Grassley, the other wrinkled old entitled white men like Hatch in the SJC, not to mention their cynically hired criminal prosecutor, Rachel Mitchell, are complete baloney.

Somebody go ask Rachel Mitchell, and the sad old men that hired her before they fired her, how many times she has operated off of an accuser’s words. The answer will be a lie, because it happens all the time. And, yeah, that is enough to generate a full and meaningful “background investigation” despite the bullshit being proffered by the White House, Don McGahn and the SJC.

Photo: Pavan Trikutam via Unsplash

Three URGENT Things: POTUS’ Alert Text, Facebonked, Kavanuh-uh

Let’s get right to it, no time for preamble (and don’t forget to check the byline above).

~ 3 ~

There will be an unblockable nationwide test of the Presidential Alert system on all cell phones today at 2:18 p.m. ET.

This infuriates me to no end, especially after Trump’s insulting bullshit at his fan club rally last night in which he denigrated assault survivor Dr. Blasey Ford. It’s as if he’s going to grab us all by the privates at the same time today without our consent.

Think about it: so much of your private personal life goes through your phone and now Trump’s FEMA has decided it will inject itself into your phone?

Lifehacker has a decent article suggesting some methods for mitigating or avoiding the text if not blocking it — you can read about it at this link.

Make sure you tell friends and family ASAP about this alert so they don’t freak out and aren’t in the middle of something important when this alert shows up.

Pity the poor residents of Hawaii, having to face this crap first thing this morning.

Time zone conversion for the alert:

Eastern: 2:18 p.m. ET
Central: 1:18 p.m. CT
Mountain: 12:18 p.m. MT
Pacific: 11:18 a.m. PT
Alaska: 10:18 a.m.
Hawaii: 08:18 a.m.

Check time conversion at this link. I’m going to shut my phone off at 2:00 p.m. ET and take an hour-long break.

~ 2 ~

The half-assed FBI investigation will likely be finished today; don’t expect to see the Swiss cheese-y results riddled with holes where testimony wasn’t collected. It’s unlikely the public will see this report.

This means McConnell will likely pursue a vote on cloture today to end debate in order for the full Senate to vote on Kavanaugh before the end of the week.

Which in turn means CALL YOUR SENATORS. Yes, even the steadfast Democrats who are unlikely to sway because their offices are being flooded with right-wing calls demanding their poor rich white frat boy judge be seated for a lifetime on the Supreme Court.

Screw that. Just MAKE THE CALLS.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

Need a script for your call? @Celeste_pewter has them broken into four categories:

– The Democrats who have already said yes, and won’t flip no matter what.
– The red state Democrats.
– The potential GOP flips.
– The GOP senators who will vote yes, no matter what.

And a universal, all-senators script.

Pick the appropriate script and have at it. (Thanks, Celeste!)

HOOSIERS: Make a special effort to thank Joe Donnelly who came out last night as a NO on Kavanaugh. He is surely being pummeled today by Indiana’s finest red staters.

NORTH DAKOTANS: Heitkamp is down but within margin of error of her Republican opponent. Make sure you call so that she doesn’t feel pressure to backslide.

Trouble getting through switchboard or full mailbox? Try contacting your senators’ local offices. Look them up at:

Contacting Congress: https://www.contactingcongress.org
Ballotpedia: https://ballotpedia.org/Who_represents_me%3F

~ 1 ~

Facebook’s massive breach exposes what a bad, BAD idea it was to allow a Facebook login to become a universal login for other applications. Let’s not forget Facebook has also appropriated users’ phone numbers for advertising without users’ consent. It’s a security cataclysm and Facebook is once again flat-footed.

NEVER LOG INTO SITES WITH FACEBOOK USERID.

Never use the same password for more than one site.

Use a password manager.

Read up here about the problem.

What did I do? I gave up Facebook years ago when it was clear to me they were a security cesspool.

~ 0 ~

Now get going. Run!

Treat this as an open thread.

Jeff Flake’s “Investigation” Is A Predicable Trumpian Sham

This was about the easiest thing in the world to predict. Jeff Flake issues some hollow self indulgent bullshit to make himself look like the last great reasonable man, and it is all garbage being run as cover for a complicit Trump White House and weak Senate Republicans (and at least one faux Democrat) desperately and cowardly seeking any fig leaf possible to allow them to put a craven, partisan, angry and drunkard historical sex offender on the United States Supreme Court for the next three to four decades.

If you thought that was just hyperbole previously, read this from NBC News and chew on it:

Instead of investigating Swetnick’s claims, the White House counsel’s office has given the FBI a list of witnesses they are permitted to interview, according to several people who discussed the parameters on the condition of anonymity. They characterized the White House instructions as a significant constraint on the FBI investigation and caution that such a limited scope, while not unusual in normal circumstances, may make it difficult to pursue additional leads in a case in which a Supreme Court nominee has been accused of sexual assault.

The limited scope seems to be at odds with what some members of the Senate judiciary seemed to expect when they agreed to give the FBI as much as a week to investigate allegations against Kavanaugh, a federal judge who grew up in the Washington DC area and attended an elite all-boys high school before going on to Yale.

Yes, of course Trump and McGahn are limiting the scope and time of this “investigation”. It was always going to be a sham, and that is why it was always so absurd that the SJC Minority, and other Dems, not to mention the ridiculously ever gullible national press, bought off on this idiocy. It was an own goal that they set themselves up for and are now being collared by.

This is a fraud being perpetrated on the American public. The media needs to take the time and do their own investigation, the “FBI” one is a sham being manipulated by the sex criminal led and protecting, White House.

I honestly don’t know who is more clueless in what was up with this ruse….the national media as to the forever sucker play of “the last honest Republican, Jeff Flake”….or the Democratic cheerleaders that thought this was anything other than a sham fig leaf cover play. Both are pathetic. This was obvious from the first second Flake uttered the words “limited” and “one week or less”.

PT Barnum said that a sucker is born even minute. A LOT of them were born yesterday. Didn’t have to be that way, but that is the stupidity of DC politics, and press coverage thereof.

Can Senator Feinstein Block The Appointment of Rachel Mitchell?

As you know by now, Maricopa County (Arizona) sex crimes unit chief Rachel Mitchell has been deemed by Chuck Grassley and the Senate Judiciary Republicans as their front person to examine Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. From NBC News:

The woman chosen by Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans to question Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser will be in an unusual position when she goes face-to-face with Christine Blasey Ford on Thursday.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley announced Tuesday that he hired Rachel Mitchell, an outside attorney to question Kavanaugh and Ford, on behalf of the 11 male Republicans on the committee — despite Ford’s wishes to be questioned by the senators themselves about her accusation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when the two were teenagers.

So, the eleven old white men of the SJC want a female stand in to make their evisceration and shining on of putative kidnapping, sexual assault and attempted rape victim Dr. Ford. Because the optics the GOP men, and men are the only sex that has ever served for Republicans on SJC, looked too ugly for even them.

But is this unprecedented move, clearly designed with public optics and maximal humiliation of Dr. Ford even appropriate? Maybe not!

Now, I am not a Senate Rules expert, but a comment made me go do a little digging. Here is the text of the the most recent version of the United States Senate Standing Rules, Orders, Laws, And Resolutions. Here, specifically, is the section, contained in Chapter 43 thereof, in §4301(i)(3) relating to committee retention of consultants:

(3) With respect to the standing committees of the Senate, any such consultant or organization shall be selected by the chairman and ranking minority member of the committee, acting jointly. With respect to the standing committees of the House of Representatives, the standing com- mittee concerned shall select any such consultant or organization. The committee shall submit to the Committee on Rules and Administration in the case of standing committees of the Senate, and the Committee on House Oversight in the case of standing committees of the House of Representatives, information bearing on the qualifications of each consultant whose services are procured pursuant to this subsection, including organizations, and such information shall be retained by that committee and shall be made available for public inspection upon request. (Emphasis added)

So, Senator Feinstein, is this indeed the case? If so, why would you assent to appointment of a prosecutorial thug like Rachel Mitchell to examine the putative victim here, Dr. Ford?

Rachel Mitchell is currently head of the Sex Crimes Unit in the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office (MCAO). She has served under three heads of the MCAO, but she was elevated to her current position because she was an extremist who fit the desired bill by the notorious former MCAO head, Andrew Thomas. As you may recall, Andy Thomas not only had to leave the MCAO in disgrace, but subsequently was disbarred for his zealotry. And that kind of craven zealot is exactly who Rachel Mitchell identified with and was promoted by back in January of 2005. And is Mitchell always hard on sex criminals? No, in fact her past also includes sweetheart deals to abusive clergy members in politically charged cases.

Rachel Mitchell is one of the worst choices imaginable for the current task. It is a heinous move by Chuck Grassley and a direct and complete screw you to Dr. Ford and sexual abuse and rape victims across the United States and world.

And the “screw you” to victims is especially salient with the existence of additional putative victims of Brett Kavanaugh’s drunken debauchery. Not only is there Debbie Ramirez, who did not seek to come forward, but was located because friends and classmates of hers and Kavanaugh, while Kavanaugh was at Yale, started recalling her victimization and talking about it. Jane Mayer has more on that, not to mention her and Ronan Farrow’s original reporting on Ramirez.

And, just as of an hour or two ago, yet another troubling story of Brett Kavanaugh’s misogyny and conduct has been made public by her lawyer Michael Avenatti. Julie Swetnick has issued a sworn affidavit that is chilling. Swetnick is a A 1980 graduate of Gaithersburg High School in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and has has held multiple security clearances for work done at the Treasury Department, U.S. Mint, IRS, State Department and Justice Department. In short, she is a more than credible person who has put her statement under oath and penalty of perjury.

Here is her affidavit, and it is chilling. It describes what now seems obvious, Brett Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge were part of a group of a private boys school wilding gang that drank to excess regularly mistreated women. Judge and Kavanaugh were “joined at the hip” according to Swetnick. She further states:

There is more, much more, including descriptions of girls, including Ms. Swetnick herself, being knocked out with spiked punch and gang raped.

And that is where we find ourselves today. It appears that Senator Feinstein can put the kibosh on the craven hiring of a zealot prosecutorial thug like Rachel Mitchell and, further, can with the help of any and all Republican Senators of conscience, slow down this train wreck and investigate the claims and give a real hearing. That means someone among Jeff Flake, Lisa Murlowski, Susan Collins, or another, needs to step up and do the right thing. Will they? Will Senator Feinstein?

Within the last minute, Senator Feinstein has issued the following statement:

Washington—Following the release of a sworn affidavit from Julie Swetnick detailing new allegations of sexual assault by Brett Kavanaugh, all 10 Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee today urged President Trump to immediately withdraw the nomination or order an FBI investigation into all allegations.

The senators wrote: “We are writing to request that you immediately withdraw the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to be an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court or direct the FBI to re-open its background investigation and thoroughly examine the multiple allegations of sexual assault.

“Judge Kavanaugh is being considered for a promotion. He is asking for a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court where he will have the opportunity to rule on matters that will impact Americans for decades. The standard of character and fitness for a position on the nation’s highest court must be higher than this. Judge Kavanaugh has staunchly declared his respect for women and issued blanket denials of any possible misconduct, but those declarations are in serious doubt.”

That is a nice statement, but there appears to be so much more that Senator Feinstein can do Jeff Flake just took to the Senate Floor and, despite some words of empathy, wholeheartedly accepted that tomorrow’s sham hearing in SJC is all that there will ever be. While Flake appeared close to tears, he, as usual, said and intends to do nothing admirable and/or heroic.

It is a sad show we are watching. The hallowed halls of the Supreme Court deserve better, and so too do the American people.

Three Things: CRC—What? An Indictment, Plus Shut Downs Ahead

[NB: As always, check the byline. / ~Rayne]

Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination and confirmation process is an 800-pound gorilla in the media, as is the potential for the obstructive removal of Rod Rosenstein as Deputy Attorney General. They suck up enormous amounts of mental wattage, sitting wherever they want to sit.

Here are three things which are in some way related and worth more of our attention, whatever is left after the gorillas are done with it.

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CRC: One degree from Manafort

Thomas Fine went prowling around FARA filings, landing this juicy find (pdf):

Yes, Creative Response Concepts, Inc., the same firm for which Ed Whelan has worked, registered in 2005 as a foreign agent for Viktor Yanukovych — the same Yanukovych for which Paul Manafort also worked as an illegal foreign agent. CRC was paid $10,000 by Potomac Communications Group, for which Aleksei Kiselev worked. Kiselev also worked for Paul Manafort to assist Yanukovych.

What a small, small world.

Should note CRC’s registration was after the fact — they were contracted for April-October 2003. Why so late?

(Thanks to @JamesFourM for the PCG-Kiselev-Manafort link.)

~ 2 ~

Indictment yesterday related to Trump Towers…in Azerbaijan

Didn’t see this until late last night: DOJ indicted Kemal “Kevin” Oksuz (pdf) on one count of hiding or falsifying material facts and four counts of making false statements to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ethics. The filings were related to a Congressional trip to Azerbaijan ultimately paid for by State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR), the wholly state-owned national oil and gas company of Azerbaijan.

Oksuz is now a fugitive.

Ten members of Congress and 32 staffers traveled in 2013 to attend a U.S.-Azerbaijan convention in Baku after Azerbaijan had asked Congress for an exemption from sanctions on Iran for a $28 billion natural gas pipeline project. The members and staffers were later cleared as it appeared they believed the trip’s funding was provided by Oksuz’s nonprofit organization.

Personally, I think those members and staffers needed a rebuke. Nonprofits don’t print money; they rely on money from donors. Follow the money to the donors before accepting a trip and incidentals. It’s not rocket science.

Worth keeping in mind the Trump International Hotel & Tower built in Baku, overseen by Ivanka Trump, which burned in late April this year — an amazing two fires, same day. What are the odds?

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Shutdowns Ahead: U.S.-Canada and U.S. Government?

Doesn’t look like negotiations between the U.S. and Canada are going to make this Saturday’s deadline. No idea what will happen after that. We all know the Trump administration has been at fault; how could anybody screw up a long-term peaceful relationship like U.S.-Canada, our second largest trading partner after China, without deliberate bad faith? Without the intent to screw over another NATO member’s economy?

And the U.S. government itself faces a budget deadline. If the “minibus” budget bill isn’t signed by midnight this coming Sunday we’re looking at a shutdown and it appears the bottleneck may be Trump. The jerks at Breitbart are fomenting to encourage a shutdown by insisting Trump refuse to sign the bill — they’re just plain malicious, thinking not at all about the impact on fellow Americans or the economy.

Putin must be laughing his ass off at how easily the GOP’s white nationalist base has subverted U.S. and NATO stability by giving up control to a mobbed-up, golf-addicted, attention-deficient wig.

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Don’t miss Marcy’s interview on Democracy Now in which she talks about Rod Rosenstein’s status and the Kavanaugh confirmation process.

Treat this like an open thread — have at it.

p.s. A note on site operations: Please be sure to use the same username and email address each time you log into the site. It makes it easier for community members to get to know you. Deliberate sockpuppeting is not permitted.

The Committee Playing Games with Perjury Referrals Swears They Can Make Mark Judge Tell the Truth without Testifying

Chuck Grassley and the other Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee are still trying to push Christine Blasey Ford testimony through in time to vote Kavanaugh out of the committee next week. As part of that, a Grassley Counsel who asserted, “Unfazed and determined. We will confirm Judge Kavanaugh,” is also boasting about his tough questioning in lieu of a formal investigation. As part of that, SJC Republicans are asserting that they “obtained a statement under penalty of perjury” from Mark Judge, who really doesn’t want to testify, in part because he has written extensively about his own misogyny and alcohol abuse.

Right.

This is the committee, remember that referred Christopher Steele to the FBI for lying to the FBI, but that refuses to make Don Jr testify a second time to clarify problems with his testimony, much less refer him to FBI for lying about a second meeting at which he accepted election assistance from a foreign government (actually two: the Saudis and the Emirates).

Chuck Grassley has already demonstrated his view of lying to the committee: He’s perfectly okay with it, so long as helps Republicans.

So that statement from Mark Judge, without public testimony, is absolutely worthless.

Graphic: Quino Al via Unsplash (mod by Rayne)

Whip It, Whip It Good: Krunchtime on Kavanaugh

[NB: AS ALWAYS, check the byline. This post is by moi, Rayne.]

On this last day of Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings, witnesses spoke regarding Brett Kavanaugh’s fitness (or lack thereof) to serve a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.

The last three days have been both grueling and enlightening. It looks more than ever like a concerted effort between interested parties selected and nominated Kavanaugh — not in a manner typically of previous nominees, but in the interest of those whose personal fortunes and legal status hinge directly on the existence of a conservative on the court who will decide in their favor.

Parties like Trump’s administration, his campaign donors, his personal business circle; parties like war criminals who served in previous administrations; and parties like Trump supporters, who expect their quid pro quo delivered in the form of religious freedom to deny others’ civil rights.

One could argue this is business as usual but it’s not, when the president himself is already implicated as an unindicted co-conspirator who may directly benefit from a swing justice who believes in unrestrained executive power.

How could a reasonable person not come to the conclusion that the collaborative, collective, concerted effort behind Kavanaugh is a conspiracy to obstruct justice?

Let’s fight fire with fire, get in ‘good trouble‘ as Rep. John Lewis calls it; let’s collaborate and collectively lay out before the public who is willing to support this obstruction and who is not before Kavanaugh’s nomination goes to the entire Senate for a vote. Are you ready to whip the people’s Senate? Are you willing to make phone calls and ask your senators where they stand on Kavanaugh?

I’ll go first; I’ll fill in your responses from your senators in the table below as you collect them and share them in comments below.

Congressional switchboard number: (202) 224-3121

Whip List

State

Party

Name

Seat up

Vote Y/N

Alabama

R

Richard Shelby

2022

Yes [1]
Alabama

D

Doug Jones

2020

WAFFLING
Alaska

R

Lisa Murkowski

2022

WAFFLING
Alaska

R

Dan Sullivan

2020

Yes [1]
Arizona

R

Jeff Flake

2018

LEAN YES [1]

Arizona

R

Jon Kyl

2020

Yes [1]
Arkansas

R

John Boozman

2022

Yes [1]
Arkansas

R

Tom Cotton

2020

Yes [1]
California

D

Dianne Feinstein

2018

No*
California

D

Kamala Harris

2022

No
Colorado

D

Michael Bennet

2022

No [1]
Colorado

R

Cory Gardner

2020

LEAN YES [1]
Connecticut

D

Richard Blumenthal

2022

No [1]
Connecticut

D

Chris Murphy

2018

No [1]
Delaware

D

Tom Carper

2018

No [1]
Delaware

D

Chris Coons

2020

LEAN NO [1]
Florida

D

Bill Nelson

2018

LEAN NO [1]
Florida

R

Marco Rubio

2022

Yes [1]
Georgia

R

Johnny Isakson

2022

Yes [1]
Georgia

R

David Perdue

2020

Yes [1]
Hawaii

D

Brian Schatz

2022

No [1]
Hawaii

D

Mazie Hirono

2018

No
Idaho

R

Mike Crapo

2022

Yes [1]
Idaho

R

Jim Risch

2020

Yes [1]
Illinois

D

Dick Durbin

2020

LEAN NO [1]
Illinois

D

Tammy Duckworth

2022

No
Indiana

D

Joe Donnelly

2018

WAFFLING
Indiana

R

Todd Young

2022

Yes [1]
Iowa

R

Chuck Grassley

2022

LEAN YES [1]
Iowa

R

Joni Ernst

2020

Yes [1]
Kansas

R

Pat Roberts

2020

Yes [1]
Kansas

R

Jerry Moran

2022

Yes [1]
Kentucky

R

Mitch McConnell

2020

Yes [1]
Kentucky

R

Rand Paul

2022

Yes [1]
Louisiana

R

Bill Cassidy

2020

Yes [1]
Louisiana

R

John Kennedy

2022

Yes [1]
Maine

R

Susan Collins

2020

WAFFLING
Maine

I

Angus King

2018

No
Maryland

D

Ben Cardin

2018

No
Maryland

D

Chris Van Hollen

2022

No
Massachusetts

D

Elizabeth Warren

2018

No
Massachusetts

D

Ed Markey

2020

No
Michigan

D

Debbie Stabenow

2018

No
Michigan

D

Gary Peters

2020

No
Minnesota

D

Amy Klobuchar

2018

No [1]
Minnesota

D

Tina Smith

2018

No [1]
Mississippi

R

Roger Wicker

2018

Yes
Mississippi

R

Cindy Hyde-Smith

2018

Yes
Missouri

D

Claire McCaskill

2018

WAFFLING
Missouri

R

Roy Blunt

2022

Yes
Montana

D

Jon Tester

2018

LEAN NO [1]
Montana

R

Steve Daines

2020

Yes [1]
Nebraska

R

Deb Fischer

2018

LEAN YES [1]
Nebraska

R

Ben Sasse

2020

LEAN YES [1]
Nevada

R

Dean Heller

2018

Yes [1]
Nevada

D

Catherine Cortez Masto

2022

LEAN NO [1]
New Hampshire

D

Jeanne Shaheen

2020

No
New Hampshire

D

Maggie Hassan

2022

No
New Jersey

D

Bob Menendez

2018

No [1]
New Jersey

D

Cory Booker

2020

No
New Mexico

D

Tom Udall

2020

No [1]
New Mexico

D

Martin Heinrich

2018

No
New York

D

Chuck Schumer

2022

No
New York

D

Kirsten Gillibrand

2018

No
North Carolina

R

Richard Burr

2022

Yes [1]
North Carolina

R

Thom Tillis

2020

Yes
North Dakota

R

John Hoeven

2022

Yes
North Dakota

D

Heidi Heitkamp

2018

WAFFLING
Ohio

D

Sherrod Brown

2018

No [1]
Ohio

R

Rob Portman

2022

Yes [1]
Oklahoma

R

Jim Inhofe

2020

Yes [1]
Oklahoma

R

James Lankford

2022

LEAN YES [1]
Oregon

D

Ron Wyden

2022

No
Oregon

D

Jeff Merkley

2020

No
Pennsylvania

D

Bob Casey Jr.

2018

No [1]
Pennsylvania

R

Pat Toomey

2022

Yes [1]
Rhode Island

D

Jack Reed

2020

No [1]
Rhode Island

D

Sheldon Whitehouse

2018

No [1]
South Carolina

R

Lindsey Graham

2020

Yes [1]
South Carolina

R

Tim Scott

2022

Yes [1]
South Dakota

R

John Thune

2022

Yes [1]
South Dakota

R

Mike Rounds

2020

Yes [1]
Tennessee

R

Lamar Alexander

2020

Yes [1]
Tennessee

R

Bob Corker

2018

Yes*
Texas

R

John Cornyn

2020

Yes [1]
Texas

R

Ted Cruz

2018

Yes [1]
Utah

R

Orrin Hatch

2018

Yes [1]
Utah

R

Mike Lee

2022

Yes [1]
Vermont

D

Patrick Leahy

2022

LEAN NO [1]
Vermont

I

Bernie Sanders

2018

No
Virginia

D

Mark Warner

2020

No [1]
Virginia

D

Tim Kaine

2018

No
Washington

D

Patty Murray

2022

No
Washington

D

Maria Cantwell

2018

No
West Virginia

D

Joe Manchin

2018

WAFFLING
West Virginia

R

Shelley Moore Capito

2020

Yes [1]
Wisconsin

R

Ron Johnson

2022

Yes [1]
Wisconsin

D

Tammy Baldwin

2018

No [1]
Wyoming

R

Mike Enzi

2020

LEAN YES [1]
Wyoming

R

John Barrasso

2018

Yes [1]

*  Qualified response, subject to final confirmation.

[1]  Firm Yes votes based on WhipTheVote.org‘s tally.

Latest  update: 12 September 2018 7:30 pm EDT

This is NOT an open thread. Please stay on on topic — the Kavanaugh confirmation — to make tracking votes easier. Thanks!

Open Thread: Take the Ride

Let’s acknowledge it: we’re in limbo vacillating between shock and cynical recognition. We can’t believe we’re reading/watching/hearing this escalating chaos and yet we’ve known and expected it since before Inauguration Day.

In the background there’s a clock ticking loudly, a countdown to mid-term election day. Many windows begin to close between now and then.

We’re pulling into Crazytown.

I’ve thought of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson too many times these past few weeks, wondering what he might have said about increasingly weird events unfolding. Would he have said once again,

I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.

I think we’ve doubled down on insanity and it’s clearly not working.

Nor can I subscribe to his philosophy,

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

Somebody has taken this to heart and it’s cost the rest of us dearly — literally thousands of American lives lost, taken negligently by leadership living to their own extremes. This philosophy cares too little for others who are entitled to the same freedom to live fully.
But HST had a grasp on truth.

“In a closed society where everybody’s guilty, the only crime is getting caught. In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity.”

Those who have taken control of our country don’t really care about others; they don’t care about the social contract. They only worry about getting their well-paved road to their personal oblivion and not getting caught along the way.

HST did leave us a helpful hint, though, in spite of his go-out-guns-blazing approach to life:

“We cannot expect people to have respect for law and order until we teach respect to those we have entrusted to enforce those laws.”

We may be pulling into Crazytown but we can teach the occupants a thing or two. Don’t shilly-shally about, either.

“A man who procrastinates in his choosing will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.”

Buckle up and begin.

“Buy the ticket, take the ride.”

This is an open thread. Bring it.

Reality Gets A Harsh Sentence

With Update Below!

As many of you may already know, this morning was the sentencing for Reality Winner. She was sentenced to 63 months of incarceration and three years of supervised release upon completion of her term. The supervised release term is rather standard. She will be housed at the Federal Medical Center, Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas. The stated reason was because she is bulimic, but it seems more like a nod to her, and her family, who requested a Texas posting so they would be near. There is no pecuniary fine. I have not seen the official sentencing order yet, but have little to no doubt she will be credited with the time served in pre-trial detention since her arrest on June 3, 2017; i.e. nearly 15 months. So, assuming that, she should be released in about 4 years.

Okay, that is the hard nuts and bolts of Ms. Winner’s sentencing. If you want some more background, please see our old friend Kevin Gosztola at Shadowproof, who has been covering all the Reality Winner court appearances.

All that said, let me address a couple of things. First, the sentence was not unexpected, indeed it was stipulated to in the plea agreement Ms. Winner both signed and allocuted to in open court. While the court technically “could” have deviated downward, there was little to no chance it would given the plea language. Anybody shocked by today’s sentencing has not been paying attention.

Secondly, the government did not “block” Winner’s defenses. I had a discussion on this point with a good friend, Will Bunch, who has admirably written extensively on, and in favor of, Reality. Sadly, the law here is what it is, and not what Will and I would like it to be. Winner’s attorneys filed every motion they could, both to try to win and to protect the record. But those motions were never going to work, they never do, and they did not here.

Jeffrey Sterling also tried all of that. It did not work then, for him, either. Sterling got 42 months in prison. It is hard to compare disparate cases, but in the long run, I personally have a hard time seeing why Reality Winner was worse or more damaging than Jeff Sterling, and yet she got 1.5 times as much incarceration as Sterling. Different DOJ’s, different times and the Trump Administration was already on the record as head hunting for leakers when Winner fell into their lap. So, I guess it is not shocking. They were looking to make an example and there she was.

Now to the after show doings. The United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Bobby L. Christine (never trust a man with two first names), cravenly issued a pompous press release on the sentencing. This is just a taste of the Christine hyperbolic:

The document Winner compromised did, in fact, contain TOP SECRET information about the sources and methods used to acquire the intelligence described in the report. That means it revealed how U.S. Intelligence Agencies obtained information. U.S. Government subject matter experts have determined that Winner’s willful, purposeful disclosure caused exceptionally grave damage to U.S. national security. That harm included, but was not limited to, impairing the ability of the United States to acquire foreign intelligence information similar to the information the defendant disclosed. This was, by no means, a victimless crime.

What’s more, Winner’s exceptionally damaging disclosure was not a spontaneous, unplanned event, but was the calculated culmination of a series of acts. She researched whether it was possible to insert a thumb drive into a Top Secret computer without being detected, and then inserted a thumb drive, WHICH THE GOVERNMENT NEVER RECOVERED, into a Top Secret computer. She researched job opportunities that would provide her access to classified information. At the same time, she searched for information about anti-secrecy organizations, and she celebrated claimed compromises in U.S. classified information.

Note the Trump like raging capital letters? Ooof. It was an unnecessary and prickish public release by somebody that had won and driven the vanquished into the ground. And while Bobby L. Christine took all the glory, he did not do diddly squat himself, the matter was handled by a team of career AUSA’s that he did not even have the common courtesy to mention. Very Trump like.

Okay, so why did Ms. Winner end up here? There are a lot of reasons. First off, while Winner would have pretty clearly been discovered anyway, she disclosed her material to The Intercept, which was far from the only cause of her discovery, but did her no favors either. And the Government, especially the NSA, hates, with a capital H, The Intercept. But again, Reality’s discovery was inevitable even despite that, but it is a factor.

Secondly, the Government has thought all along that she had more material than what The Intercept and Matt Cole received and published. In its sentencing memorandum, the government addressed other areas of concern as to Winner including: her insertion of flash drive into a TS/SCI NSA computer at Fort Meade; her Internet history (which other filings make clear included details on Anonymous, Vault 7, Hal Martin, Assange, and Snowden); her download of Tor; her seeking out employment at Pluribus; and her screenshots of secure drop information.

These bases were generally also why she was detained without bail. That does not make it right, and it is, and remains true, that there is far too much secrecy and cheap classification in the face of the American public’s interest. This is a textbook example of just that. But Reality Winner tried to be a whistleblower and fell into the lurch where there are no such protections for the acts she did. She paid an overly, and draconian, price for what she did because the Trump Administration needed a head on a pike. They got hers. And this morning’s sentencing was the ugly culmination of that.

UPDATE: alright, Trevor Timm at The Intercept, has posted an interesting coda to the Reality Winner goings on today.

WHEN THE INTERCEPT first published the top-secret document, reporters and editors went to the government — as they do every time The Intercept publishes classified documents — to hear the NSA’s views about any information that might truly harm national security. After listening to the agency’s arguments, and out of an abundance of caution, The Intercept redacted a few pieces of information from the document before publishing it.

A key phrase that the government wanted withheld was the specific name of the Russian unit identified in the document. The government was particularly insistent on that point. Since it wasn’t vital to the story that the unit’s name be revealed, nor was it clear — at least at the time — that revealing the unit’s name was in the public interest, The Intercept agreed to withhold it.

But in the indictment of alleged Russian military intelligence operatives that Mueller’s office released last month, the Justice Department revealed the same name: GRU unit 74455. (The unit is also known as the Main Center for Special Technology or GTsST.) The indictment went on to reveal information almost identical to that contained in the document Winner admits to disclosing:

In or around June 2016, KOVALEV and his co-conspirators researched domains used by U.S. state boards of elections, secretaries of state, and other election-related entities for website vulnerabilities. KOVALEV and his co-conspirators also searched for state political party email addresses, including filtered queries for email addresses listed on state Republican Party websites.

In or around July 2016, KOVALEV and his co-conspirators hacked the website of a state board of elections (“SBOE 1”) and stole information related to approximately 500,000 voters, including names, addresses, partial social security numbers, dates of birth, and driver’s license numbers

In or around August 2016, KOVALEV and his co-conspirators hacked into the computers of a U.S. vendor (“Vendor 1”) that supplied software used to verify voter registration information for the 2016 U.S. elections. KOVALEV and his co-conspirators used some of the same infrastructure to hack into Vendor 1 that they had used to hack into SBOE 1.

The Justice Department is trying to have it both ways: It’s OK for Mueller to publicly release this information in an attempt to prosecute alleged Russian hackers because it’s in the public interest. But at the exact same time, the government is also claiming that a document including very similar information causes grave harm to national security when disclosed to the public by someone else.

There is a lot more there at Trevor’s post. Without doubling the size of this post, I would like to second the expert opinions submitted by Bill Leonard that Trevor Timm describes and have been long a staple here. There literally is no greater expert on classification than Bill Leonard. That said, it is like the discussion in the main original post. The fight is against archaic, authoritarian and totalitarian laws and legal precedent. Until those are changed, there is reality, and then there is the regrettable case of Reality Winner.

[Photo: Emily Morter via Unsplash]

Get Carter, Redux

[Note the byline, please — this is Rayne, NOT Marcy.]

[Get Carter by MGM c. 1971]

By now you’ve probably heard, viewed, read a lot about the Justice Department’s release of the four FISA applications submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) requesting authorization to surveil U.S. citizen Carter Page.

All 412 pages of four applications.

Can I just say how much Carter Page annoys me? He’s perfected the art of acting like a complete doofus, which made reading his testimony to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) absolute torture to read; he even gave Russian spies Evgeny Buryakov, Igor Sporyshev, and Victor Podobnyy pause back in 2014-2015 when he was in contact with them here in the U.S. I’ve yet to find a searchable text version of his HPSCI testimony because no one apparently wanted to OCR his babbling.

He’s also appeared on television frequently, producing bizarre interviews which undermine the idea he is capable of damage.

Yet this “idiot,” as Russian spies have called him, pulled off meeting contacts only one and two degrees of separation from Vladimir Putin. He’s weaseled and lied about these repeated contacts when he hasn’t refused to answer questions altogether.

But his crazy-pants interviews and patchy statements combined with intelligence from other credible sources establish a snapshot of what a reasonable person would believe is an agent of a foreign power.

He was already quite iffy given his contacts in 2014-1015 with Buryakov, Sporyshev, and Podobnyy. But his actions during 2016 were a magnitude more questionable, particularly with additional intelligence not all of which was Christopher Steele’s.

Come on now, on the face of it Page was worth monitoring: the “idiot” ends up on the Trump campaign team, travels to Moscow smack in the middle of the election season, ends up hobnobbing with Putin’s circle while watching Europa football exactly one month after a U.S. diplomat was physically attacked in Moscow, then gives U.S. foreign policy-bashing speeches two successive days in a row in front of Russian dignitaries at a university funded in part by oligarch Len Blavatnik.

Two weeks later he praised Trump campaign team members for their efforts to change the RNC platform which softened the party’s position on arming Ukraine.

All the while holding an investment stake of ADRs in PJSC Gazprom.

Nothing to see here, no probable cause, move along — right? [insert boldface snark tag]

It’s very easy for the uninitiated to see how much more suspicious the level of Page’s contacts and activities appeared to the FBI without doing a lot of fine reading. Here is an excerpt from the October 2016 FISA app (pages 32-33 of 412), consisting of the FBI’s conclusion:

And here is the conclusion from the subsequent January 2017 FISA app, filed when the October 2016 application was about to lapse:

Each excerpted Conclusion above ends at section 4 Proposed Minimization Procedures. Though both conclusions are heavily redacted, the second conclusion exploded from not quite two pages to nearly six pages, suggesting that Page’s statements and actions combined with other additional and new intelligence provided the FBI with even more reason to suspect Page was an agent of a foreign state who should be surveilled.

Could some of the redacted material consist of Steele dossier intelligence? Sure. But as Marcy pointed out earlier today, the dossier’s use will likely prevent Page from being prosecuted. However the second application contains a half-page-long footnote about Steele and the dossier:

Note the boldface; the FBI made certain to qualify “Source #1” (Steele) and his material. It also appears the FBI had adequate additional sources without Source 1 including intelligence from the Buryakov spy case.

~ | ~

A troll infestation across the internet continues its work, insisting the FBI didn’t make adequate disclosures to the FISC about Steele’s intelligence. It’s funny, though, how their elected-yet-trollish counterparts Representatives Devin Nunes, Matt Gaetz, Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan look after the release of these applications.

The retweet at the top of Jordan’s feed as I draft this post:

Jordan sounds frantic in that embedded video. One could only wonder why a representative under pressure for ignoring sexual abuse claims might be so anxious about investigating the DOJ (denials about the sexual abuse scandal just happen to be the tweet preceding this one in Jordan’s timeline).

Meadows doubles down on stupid:

Does he really believe the declassification and unredacting any more of these FISA apps will make the HPSCI’s GOP members’ obstruction look any better?

Speaking of obstruction, Devin Nunes tweeted a little over 24 hours after the FISA apps were released that his memo was accurate:

So desperate and unhinged.

And Matt Gaetz appeared in denial with this tweet which remained at the top of his timeline for more than 24 hours, ignoring the FISA apps altogether; the retweet preceding it contains a Fox News video in which Florida’s Rep. Ron DeSantis blames Obama for Putin’s meddling:

Not a horse I’d bet money on.

~ | ~

Other takes on the FISA applications you’ll want to read:

David Kris at Lawfareblog: What to Make of the Carter Page FISA Applications

Julian Sanchez on Twitter 

Matt Tait (Pwnallthethings) on Twitter 

Leah McElrath on Twitter  noting changes in status to certain app signers

Charlie Savage on Twitter 

The Hoarse Whisperer on Twitter, who brings up an interesting point

and our good friend Cynthia Kouril via Twitter, bringing a prosecutor’s eye.

~ | ~

Now I have to go through the Carter Page timeline and see if anything in this 412 pages changes or adds to its content. Damn you, Page — as if I had nothing better to do this week.

Treat this as an open thread — leave comments in Marcy’s posts focused on topic.

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