DOJ’s Ukraine Fire Sale: The Jerry Nadler Questions Bill Barr Didn’t Answer

Yesterday, Natasha Bertrand posted a January 17, 2020 memo issued by Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, which was cited in a response DOJ sent to a letter Jerry Nadler sent on February 10. In it, Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs Stephen Boyd explained that — in addition to asking Scott Brady to manage intake of any disinformation Rudy Giuliani provides DOJ, Rosen “assigned Richard Donoghue, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, to assist in coordinating … several open matters being handled by different U.S. Attorney’s Offices and Department components that in some way potentially relate to Ukraine.”

Add Donoghue to the list of US Attorneys that Attorney General Barr has deployed in his effort to politicize the Department.

Because the Donoghue Ukraine news (and the suggestion that Donoghue may be overseeing an investigation into the Bidens) got so much attention, there has been little attention to the questions Nadler originally asked, most of which Boyd did not answer.

But those questions are perhaps more telling.

For starters, Bill Barr did not answer whether he intends to recuse himself from the Ukrainian grifter case.

In light of the allegations by Mr. Parnas against the Department and you personally, do you intend to recuse yourself from any and all communications relating to Ukraine? Have you done so already?

In addition, Barr did not answer several questions about communications between DOJ, Rudy, and the White House:

(8) Please state the dates of any communications between the Department and Mr. Giuliani regarding information relating to Ukraine or investigations of the Bidens. Please state who else, if anyone, participated in those communications.

(9) Has the Department shared any information it has received from Mr. Giuliani with President Trump or any other White House official? If so, please state the dates of any such communications, the participants in any such communications, and the nature of the information conveyed to the White House.

(10) Have you discussed the intake process with President Trump or any other White House official? If so, please state the dates of any such communications, the participants in any such communications, and the nature of the discussion.

The only answer Boyd gives to any of these questions effectively repeats DOJ’s September 25, 2019 press answer.

Finally, your letter poses questions regarding a September 25, 2019 press statement by the Department. That statement remains accurate. As Attorney General Barr has repeatedly affirmed, he has not discussed matters relating to Ukraine with Rudolph Giuliani.

In short, Bill Barr refused to answer a specific question about whether he should recuse from an investigation into which he has been personally implicated. And DOJ refused to explain precisely what kind of communications there have been between Rudy, DOJ, and the White House.

The Size of Bill Barr’s Cover-Up Hints at the Magnitude of What He’s Covering Up

After the Tuesday Afternoon Massacre — where four prosecutors withdrew from the Roger Stone case rather than be party to Bill Barr interfering in the prosecution of Trump’s rat-fucker — we learned on Friday that Bill Barr had deployed a third US Attorney — Saint Louis’ Jeffrey Jensen — to the DC US Attorney’s office as part of an elaborate cover-up for Trump’s crimes. I’m going to attempt to lay out the full scope of Barr’s attempted cover-up. This post will serve as an overview and I will update it with links to the known or suspected evidence and crimes that Barr is covering up. I’m not including efforts to launch or sustain investigations into those Trump perceives to be his enemies.

The cover-up has the following aspects:

Interim US Attorneys oversee investigations implicating Trump’s actions

Geoffrey Berman, Southern District of New York: For the most part, Berman seems to have operated independently after his appointment as US Attorney for SDNY, but there are recent concerns that investigations implicating Trump have been stymied:

  • Hush payments: After getting Michael Cohen to plead guilty to covering up Trump’s past sex partners during the election and obtaining testimony from National Enquirer, the investigation closed with no further charges on or before July 17, 2019.
  • Ukrainian grifters: There are conflicting stories about the scope of the investigation into Ukrainian grifters Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, particularly with regards to how seriously SDNY is considering charges against Rudy Giuliani. WaPo reported steps taken implicating Rudy’s activities on February 14, 2020. But Parnas has insinuated that his sudden arrest on October 9 was an attempt to keep him silent; Barr visited SDNY that day and subsequently visited Rupert Murdoch at his home. SDNY showed unusual concern for the privacy of third parties as Parnas tried to share more information with the House Intelligence Committee. And Bill Barr has not recused in spite of a clear conflict and a request from Parnas.
  • Halkbank: Barr tried to pre-empt an indictment of Turkey’s Halkbank with a settlement.

Timothy Shea, District of Columbia: While Berman worked for several years without any show of corruption, that’s not true of Timothy Shea, a trusted Barr aide. The very first day he started work — having been installed by Barr with just a day’s notice — he started questioning the guidelines sentence of Roger Stone, who has promised to remain silent about details of Trump’s involvement in his efforts to optimize the release of emails stolen by Russian. Then, Shea worked with Bill Barr to reverse the guidelines sentence recommended by career prosecutors. In addition, Shea’s appointment coincided with the start of a “review” of other prosecutions and investigations of Trump associates in DC including, but not limited to, Mike Flynn and Erik Prince.

Confirmed US Attorneys “review” investigations into Trump and his associates

John Durham, Connecticut: In May 2019, Barr ordered John Durham to conduct an investigation into the origins of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation of Trump associates’ ties to Russia. He predicated the investigation, explicitly, on the absence of evidence. In clear contrast to the Mueller investigation, DOJ has produced no documentation regarding the scope of the investigation (including whether Durham could pursue crimes by Trump’s associates or even Barr himself if he found evidence of a crime), and Barr has remained personally involved, completely negating the entire point of appointing a US Attorney to conduct the investigation. Republicans have described the point of this investigation as an effort to discredit the Mueller investigation. It has included the following:

  • Bill Barr’s worldwide tour chasing the hoaxes rolled out through George Papadopoulos via the right wing echo chamber
  • Some disinformation likely fed via Rudy
  • The legitimate criminal investigation of FBI Attorney Kevin Clinesmith, the actual venue for which should be Washington DC
  • CIA’s 2016 determination — confirmed by more recent intelligence collection and reviewed approvingly by the Senate Intelligence Committee — that Russia not only wanted to hurt Hillary, but help Trump in the 2016 election
  • Communications between John Brennan and Jim Comey and Andrew McCabe

Jeffrey Jensen, Eastern District of Missouri: The “review” Jeffrey Jensen is conducting of DC US Attorney cases seems to couple with Durham’s investigation. It reportedly is second-guessing decisions made by prosecutors on the Mike Flynn and Erik Prince investigation, as well as other non-public investigations. The review is almost certainly assessing rumors started by known propagandists that have already been investigated three times, including by FBI’s Inspection Division, rumors already reviewed and dismissed in a meticulous 92-page opinion from Emmet Sullivan. This “review” seems to have been part of the installment of Shea at DC and may amount to an attempt to thwart investigations that Jessie Liu let proceed without political interference.

DOJ diverts disinformation from Rudy Giuliani to another confirmed US Attorneys

In recent weeks, Barr has appointed Scott Brady, US Attorney for Western District of Pennsylvania, to vet incoming information from Rudy’s foreign influence peddling in Ukraine. It’s unclear whether Barr did this to try to make something out of that disinformation, or to prevent evidence that might support foreign influence peddling charges against Rudy from getting to prosecutors in SDNY.

Richard Donoghue, Eastern District of New York: Donoghue is apparently “handling certain Ukraine-related matters.” In connection to that, Jeffrey Rosen put Donoghue in charge of coordinating all investigations that pertain to Ukraine,

to avoid duplication of efforts across Offices and components, to obviate the need for deconfliction at a later stage of potentially overlapping investigations, and to efficiently marshal the resources of the Department to address the appropriate handling of potentially relevant new information.

That in and of itself is not problematic. But by putting Jensen in charge of intake, presumably before it gets to Donoghue, Rosen has ensured that information that — because it is disinformation — would be incriminating to Rudy, not Joe Biden (or anyone else).

DOJ prevents full investigation of Ukraine complaint

Barr and his DOJ engaged in multiple acts of obstruction of the Ukraine complaint. First, Barr did not recuse from a complaint mentioning him by name. Then (knowing that Barr was personally implicated), DOJ did not conduct a full assessment of the whistleblower complaint, which would have identified a tie to the SDNY investigation of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. Then OLC invented an excuse not to share whistleblower complaint with Congress, which resulted in a significant delay and almost led Ukraine to make concessions to obtain aid. Then, DOJ did not share whistleblower complaint with FEC as required by Memorandum of Notification. Finally, DOJ made a comment claiming Trump was exonerated, precisely the abuse — speaking about ongoing investigations — that Jim Comey got fired for.

The Slow Firing of Robert Mueller[‘s Replacement]

On December 5, I suggested that Speaker Pelosi delay the full House vote on impeachment until early February. I intimated there were public reasons — the possibility of a ruling on the Don McGahn subpoena and superseding charges for Lev Parnas — I thought so and private ones. One of the ones I did not share was the Stone sentencing, which at that point was scheduled for February 6. Had Pelosi listened to me (!!!) and had events proceeded as scheduled, Stone would have been sentenced before the final vote on Trump’s impeachment.

But things didn’t work out that way. Not only didn’t Pelosi heed my suggestion (unsurprisingly), but two things happened in the interim.

First, Stone invented a bullshit reason for delay on December 19, the day after the full House voted on impeachment. The prosecutors who all resigned from the case yesterday objected to the delay, to no avail, which is how sentencing got scheduled for February 20 rather than the day after the Senate voted to acquit.

Then, on January 6, Trump nominated Jessie Liu, then the US Attorney for DC, to be Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Crimes, basically the person who oversees the process of tracking criminal flows of finance. She won’t get that position — her nomination was pulled yesterday in advance of a Thursday confirmation hearing. But her nomination gave Barr the excuse to install a trusted aide, Timothy Shea, at US Attorney for DC last Thursday, the day after the impeachment vote and in advance of the now-delayed Stone sentencing.

Liu, who is very conservative and a true Trump supporter, had been nominated for a more obvious promotion before. On March 5, Trump nominated her to be Associate Attorney General, the number 3 ranking person at DOJ. But then she pulled her nomination on March 28 because Senators objected to her views on choice.

But let’s go back, to late August 2018. Michael Cohen and Sam Patten had just pled guilty, and Cohen was trying to find a way to sort of cooperate. Rudy Giuliani was talking about how Robert Mueller would need to shut down his investigation starting on September 1, because of the election. I wrote a post noting that, while Randy Credico’s imminent grand jury appearance suggested Mueller might be close to finishing an indictment of Stone, they still had to wait for Andrew Miller’s testimony.

Even as a I wrote it, Jay Sekulow was reaching out to Jerome Corsi to include him in the Joint Defense Agreement.

During the entire election season, both Paul Manafort and Jerome Corsi were stalling, lying to prosecutors while reporting back to Trump what they were doing.

Then, the day after the election, Trump fired Jeff Sessions and installed Matt Whitaker. Whitaker, not Rosenstein, became the nominal supervisor of the Mueller investigation. Not long after, both Manafort and Corsi made their game clear. They hadn’t been cooperating, they had been stalling to get past the time when Trump could start the process of ending the Mueller investigation.

But Whitaker only reactively kept Mueller in check. After Michael Cohen’s December sentencing made it clear that Trump was an unindicted co-conspirator in a plot to cheat to win, Whitaker started policing any statement that implicated Trump. By the time Roger Stone was indicted on January 24, 2019 — after Trump’s plan to replace Whitaker with the expert in cover ups, Bill Barr — Mueller no longer noted when Trump was personally involved, as he was in Stone’s efforts to optimize the WikiLeaks releases.

But then, when Barr came in, everything started to shut down. Mueller moved ongoing prosecutions to other offices, largely to DC, under Jessie Liu’s supervision. As Barr came to understand where the investigation might head, he tried to promote Liu out of that position, only to have GOP ideology prevent it.

Barr successfully dampened the impeach of the Mueller Report, pretending that it didn’t provide clear basis for impeaching the President. It was immediately clear, when he did that, that Barr was spinning the Stone charges to minimize the damage on Trump. But Barr did not remove Mueller right away, and the Special Counsel remained up until literally the moment when he secured Andrew Miller’s testimony on May 29.

The next day, I noted the import of raising the stakes for Trump on any Roger Stone pardon, because Stone implicated him personally. That was more important, I argued, than impeaching Trump for past actions to try to fire Mueller, which Democrats were focused on with their attempt to obtain Don McGahn’s testimony.

Still, those ongoing investigations continued under Jessie Liu, and Stone inched along towards trial, even as Trump leveraged taxpayer dollars to try to establish an excuse to pardon Manafort (and, possibly, to pay off the debts Manafort incurred during the 2016 election). As Stone’s trial laid out evidence that the President was personally involved in optimizing the release of emails Russia had stolen from Trump’s opponent, attention was instead focused on impeachment, his more recent effort to cheat.

In Stone’s trial, he invented a new lie: both Randy Credico and Jerome Corsi had falsely led him to believe they had a tie to WikiLeaks. That didn’t help Stone avoid conviction: Stone was found guilty on all counts. But it gave Stone yet another cover story to avoid revealing what his ties to WikiLeaks actually were and what he did — probably with Trump’s assent — to get it. For some reason, prosecutors decided not to reveal what they were otherwise prepared to: what Stone had really done.

Immediately after his conviction, Stone spent the weekend lobbying for a pardon. His wife appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show and someone got inside White House gates to make the case.

But, as impeachment proceeded, nothing happened, as the Probation Office started collecting information to argue that Stone should go to prison for a long while. The day Democrats finished their case against Donald Trump, though, Bill Barr made his move, replacing Liu before she was confirmed, removing a very conservative Senate confirmed US Attorney to install his flunkie, Timothy Shea. But even that wasn’t enough. Prosecutors successfully convinced Shea that they should stick to the probation office guidelines recommending a stiff sentence. When Timothy Shea didn’t do what Barr expected him to, Barr intervened and very publicly ordered up the cover up he had promised.

Effectively, Bill Barr is micro-managing the DC US Attorney’s office now, overseeing the sentencing of the man who could explain just how involved Trump was in the effort to maximize the advantage Trump got from Russia’s interference in 2016, as well as all the other prosecutions that we don’t know about.

Trump has, finally, succeeded in firing the person who oversaw the investigations into his role in the Russian operation in 2016. Just as Stone was about to have reason to explain what that role was.

Timeline

August 21, 2018: Michael Cohen pleads guilty

August 31, 2018: Sam Patten pleads guilty

September 5, 2018: Jay Sekulow reaches out to Corsi lawyer to enter into Joint Defense Agreement

September 6, 2018: In first Mueller interview, Corsi lies

September 17, 2018: In second interview, Corsi invents story about how he learned of Podesta emails

September 21, 2018: In third interview, Corsi confesses to establishing a cover story about Podesta’s emails with Roger Stone starting on August 30, 2016; NYT publishes irresponsible story that almost leads to Rod Rosenstein’s firing

October 25, 2018: Rick Gates interviewed about the campaign knowledge of Podesta emails

October 26, 2018: Steve Bannon admits he spoke with Stone about WikiLeaks

October 31, 2018: Prosecutors probably show Corsi evidence proving he lied about source of knowledge on Podesta emails

November 1 and 2, 2018: Corsi continues to spew bullshit in interviews

November 6, 2018: Election day

November 7, 2018: Jeff Sessions is fired; Matt Whitaker named Acting Attorney General

November 9, 2018: Corsi appears before grand jury but gives a false story about how he learned of Podesta emails; Mueller threatens to charge him with perjury

November 15, 2018: Trump tweets bullshit about Corsi’s testimony being coerced

November 23, 2018: Corsi tells the world he is in plea negotiations

November 26, 2018: Corsi rejects plea

December 7, 2018: Trump nominates Bill Barr Attorney General

January 18, 2019: Steve Bannon testifies to the grand jury (and for the first time enters into a proffer)

January 24, 2019: Roger Stone indicted for covering up what really happened with WikiLeaks

February 14, 2019: Bill Barr confirmed as Attorney General

March 5, 2019: Jessie Liu nominated to AAG; Bill Barr briefed on Mueller investigation

March 22, 2019: Mueller announces the end of his investigation

March 24, 2019: Bill Barr releases totally misleading version of Mueller results, downplaying Stone role

March 28, 2019: Liu pulls her nomination from AAG

April 19, 2019: Mueller Report released with Stone details redacted

May 29, 2019: As Mueller gives final press conference, Andrew Miller testifies before grand jury

November 12, 2019: Prosecutors apparently change Stone trial strategy, withhold details of Stone’s actual back channel

November 15, 2019: Roger Stone convicted on all counts

January 6, 2020: Jessie Liu nominated to Treasury

January 16, 2020: Probation Office issues Presentence Report calling for 7-9 years

January 30, 2020: Bill Barr replaces Liu with Timothy Barr, effective February 3; DOJ submits objection to Presentence Report

February 3, 2020: Timothy Shea becomes acting US Attorney

February 5, 2020 : Senate votes to acquit Trump

February 6, 2020: Initial sentencing date for Roger Stone

February 10, 2020: Stone sentencing memoranda submitted

February 11, 2020: DOJ overrules DC on Stone sentencing memorandum, all four prosecutors resign from case

February 20, 2020: Current sentencing date for Roger Stone

Three Things: When the Hangover Ends

I debated about writing and publishing this but after last week Republicans are too relaxed and smug.

The not-a-trial of Donald J. Trump is off their backs and they can go back to whatever slacking off they were doing last year as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell continues to sit atop a stack of more than 400 bills the House passed, waiting for this prospective legislation to suffocate and die.

They have a couple handy whipping boys — well, a boy and a girl — in Mitt Romney and Nancy Pelosi. Morons like Kevin McCarthy can make videos on the taxpayers’ dime, poking fun at Pelosi while celebrating the failure to convict Trump.

To Congress’s GOP caucus: Get a fucking grip on yourselves. We can see your emperor has no clothes and your asses are showing, too.

~ 3 ~

Trump was a whiny wretch at the National Prayer Breakfast on Friday, complaining about how he was treated during the not-trial.

He was a jackass during a speech about impeachment during which he was equally obnoxious, admitting to obstructing justice.

Here’s the thing: in these public performances voters see a malignant narcissist with some form of undiagnosed neurological disorder — likely a form of progressive dementia. The Republicans KNOW he’s ill but they are too afraid of him calling them names to do anything about it.

You have to wonder how many elderly parents these jerks have who are not in a safe place while suffering from dementia because the way they’ve treated Trump reflects who they are elsewhere.

The public has also seen this:

They’ve also seen this:

And this, because Trump’s neurological deficit has become a joke fit for television:

The Senate Republicans couldn’t convict him for this behavior BUT his behavior the House found impeachable — abusing office and obstructing Congress — in no small part arose from his increasing instability on top of his lifelong lawlessness.

After more of his suspicious sniffing, Trump admitted to obstruction of justice on camera, then swore at 4:44 in the above video clip. He’s not glued in and in need of constant narcissistic supply — Republicans surely must be able to see this.

He’s not going to get better. Trump’s not going to remain stable. Prescribed medications clearly couldn’t do much to stop his dystonic movements during the one annual speech a substantive number of Americans watch.

GOP attacks on Speaker Pelosi don’t redirect our attention. We can see through their maliciousness to their insecurity.

Republicans must start dealing with this. They must start talking about it — clearly the public already has. There’s been a group of health professionals publishing warnings for more than two years.

The GOP will have a lot more to fear than one failing old man with neurological problems if they don’t face this issue.

They’re chickenshit, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) was too nice to say in his NYT op-ed:

“…One journalist remarked to me, ‘How in the world can these senators walk around here upright when they have no backbone?’

[…]

For the stay-in-office-at-all-cost representatives and senators, fear is the motivator. They are afraid that Mr. Trump might give them a nickname like “Low Energy Jeb” and “Lyin’ Ted,” or that he might tweet about their disloyalty. Or — worst of all — that he might come to their state to campaign against them in the Republican primary. They worry:

‘Will the hosts on Fox attack me?’

‘Will the mouthpieces on talk radio go after me?’

‘Will the Twitter trolls turn their followers against me?’ …”

Except for Romney they’re pussies, letting Trump grab them by their short hairs.

They need to do the math. If more than 20 Senate Republicans had made a pact to stick together — say, all the Class II senators up for re-election in 2020, the two retiring senators and Mitt Romney — Trump and his horde would have a damned tough time overcoming that bloc slinging a few bad names at them. The public would have had a hard time accepting as legitimate the malignant narcissist’s harangue and his hideous family’s backup refrain.

Fox News would have a hard time coming up with a cohesive narrative to bat down this number. The right-wing Twitterati would likewise find themselves over their tiny heads. And Limbaugh isn’t in any condition to fight Trump’s fight, Medal of Freedom Fries or no.

If the Republican senators can’t organize a bloc they deserve what will eventually come for them — the utter dissolution of their power and authority, having already yielded both to a sick old man.

And they’d better get their shit together if he has a major meltdown and becomes incapacitated by Election Day. Or is that what they’re hoping for so they don’t have to expend any effort bucking the malignant-narcissist-in-chief?

~ 2 ~

Revenge. Retaliation. Retribution. That’s what the chickenshit GOP senate unleashed when they rolled over and voted to acquit Trump.

We knew it was coming because Trump’s fucking minions have huge mouths, no couth, and less smarts.

Ueland’s remarks suggest actions taken by the White House against witnesses and against states and federal services’ users has been premeditated. Given the number of White House staff and federal employees required to perform some of these retaliatory efforts there may be an ongoing conspiracy.

The firing of Lt. Col. Alex Vindman was bad enough, a retaliatory firing of a federal employee who testified on request before the House Intelligence Committee. But firing his brother who didn’t testify looks incredibly personal and punitive.

While I have no pity for hotelier and million-dollar Trump donor Gordon Sondland, his firing, too, was retaliatory — a reaction to his requested testimony before the House.

Donors will surely think twice about political appointments if not donations as Sondland’s business had already suffered a downturn once it became more widely known he was both a Trump supporter and a hotelier.

Four Republican senators — that’s all — tried to save Sondland’s job. They did nothing for the Vindmans, which looks utterly spineless:

But this is what looks really, really bad:


GOP senators applauding and laughing at Trump’s vengeful firing of federal employees.

They’re literally scoffing at their own laws.

The only reason why Republican senators are getting away with enabling behavior is their co-equal but separate status. Their true bosses may wish to have a word with them come November.

~ 1 ~

Trump’s unlawful solicitation of assistance from a foreign national to aid his 2020 re-election campaign may already have born fruit given Joe Biden’s flagging results in opinion polls and in the Iowa caucus.

But is Trump now using federal resources to interfere in his opponents’ campaigns, holding unnecessary rallies in states before the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary?

Rally on Thursday 30-JAN-2020 in Des Moines, IA, the largest city in the state
Caucus on Monday 03-FEB-2020 across Iowa

Rally on Monday 10-FEB-2020 in Manchester, NH, the largest city in the state
Primary on Tuesday 11-FEB-2020 across New Hampshire.

Why would Trump hold a rally in these states when he has a 94% approval rating with his own political party?

Isn’t this a waste of taxpayers’ resources?

Is he really threatening to cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security to pay down a deficit he created while making worse by spending more taxpayer money on his unnecessary rallies?

The kicker, though, is how bad he looks doing this:

~ 0 ~

This is an open thread. Bet you have a few things you want to get off your chest about our descent into autoritarianism — you can do it in comments.

Bill Barr Commits the Bruce Ohr “Crime”

Far be it for me to ever underestimate the possibility of Bill Barr nefariousness (and I’ll almost certainly have to eat these words), but I’m far less concerned about what Barr said the other day about a process to ingest Ukrainian bullshit from Rudy Giuliani than virtually everyone else. That’s because in his comments from the other day, he emphasized the import of vetting information from Ukraine, whether it comes from Rudy Giuliani or anyone else.

We have to be very careful with respect to any information coming from the [sic] Ukraine. There are a lot of agendas in the [sic] Ukraine, there are a lot of cross-currents, and we can’t take anything we receive from the [sic] Ukraine at face value. And for that reason we had established an intake process in the field so that any information coming in about Ukraine could be carefully scrutinized by the department and its intelligence community partners so that we could assess its provenance and its credibility. That is true for all information that comes to the Department relating to the [sic] Ukraine including anything Mr. Giuliani might provide.

This sounds like the kind of thing you’d do to placate your boss even while ensuring DOJ doesn’t accept a bunch of disinformation manufactured by mobbed up oligarchs to mess with America.

The WaPo’s report that Barr is sending all this to the US Attorney in Pittsburgh suggests Barr neither wants this stuff in Main DOJ but also is not sending it to either of the two places — John Durham’s inquiry or the SDNY prosecution of the Ukrainian grifters — where it might be used in an ongoing investigation.

A Justice Department official said Giuliani had “recently” shared information with federal law enforcement officials through the process described by Barr. Two people familiar with the matter said the information is being routed to the U.S. attorney’s office in Pittsburgh.

[snip]

It is not clear whether Scott W. Brady, the U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh, will play a similar role, or why his office was chosen. A spokeswoman for Brady’s office declined to comment.

So while I hope (again, probably over-optimistically) that this is just a convenient way to deal with a difficult boss and his criminal subject attorney, I also worry that it’s not being shared with the people investigating such information sharing as illegal foreign influence peddling.

Plus, it strikes me as a unbelievably hypocritical for Bill Barr to continue to ingest dodgy information probably sourced to corrupt oligarchs after the entire frothy right has demonized Bruce Ohr for continuing to accept information — some but not all of it sourced to Oleg Deripaska — from Christopher Steele.

Admittedly, no one can complain about the basis for which DOJ’s Inspector General relied on to make a completely irresponsible attack on Ohr — that he didn’t inform his superiors (even though they had, in fact, been informed). Barr is the boss! He has chosen who should deal with this information, in a way that Sally Yates and Rod Rosenstein did not.

But Barr is, nevertheless, doing what the frothy right complains that Ohr did: continue to accept problematic information — deemed partisan (inaccurately in the case of Ohr, because his information sharing with Steele long preceded the DNC project and much of what he shared during and after that involved entirely unrelated topics) — after it had been discredited.

Perhaps, along with issuing orders that suggest Trump can commit any crime he wants between now and November 2020, Barr should issue an order explaining how DOJ should accept such information — including manufactured dirt from Steve Bannon — as a rule, so we can stop working under different rules for different parties.

Midnight in Washington: Today’s Senate Vote [UPDATE-2]

[NB: Updates will appear at the bottom of this post. /~Rayne]

This post is dedicated to today’s U.S. Senate’s proceedings with regard to the trial of Donald J. Trump under articles of impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The Senate is scheduled to convene at 4:00 p.m. ET* for the vote. Debate is underway already.

Senate live video link

C-SPAN live video via YouTube

C-SPAN’s live feed at their site

Eleven Films made a video in which House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff’s closing arguments are the centerpiece.

There’s a weak chance that GOP members of Congress could prove me wrong and do impartial justice. There might be a few who vote to convict Trump.

But I doubt it, not when they have proven time and again to be weak and craven, like Sen. Susan Collins who could be persuaded with a little cash to claim Trump has learned a lesson from impeachment.

What a pathetic fool. Mainers deserve so much better.

The worst part of what’s to come? Just as Trump made his “perfect call” the day after Robert Mueller’s testimony before Congress, Trump will feel vindicated if he is not removed from office today.

His vile minions will manipulate him in his addled state into wreaking revenge.

And every one of the GOP members of Congress who did not vote to impeach and did not vote to convict and remove Trump will own what’s to come.

You’ll note I’m not holding my breath for impartial justice.

* Note the time change from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Debate speeches are still underway as of 3:25 p.m.

~ | ~ | ~

UPDATE-1 — 2:15 P.M. ET —

Give it up for Mitt Romney. I’m still in doubt this will persuade any other GOP senators to do the right thing and vote to convict.

ADDER: Oh gads Mitt’s splitting the baby. He’s going with one vote to convict on abuse of power, one vote to acquit on obstruction of Congress. I don’t even know how he could imagine ordering people not to comply with requests and subpoenas from the House isn’t obstruction.

UPDATE-2 — 4:50 P.M. ET —

As expected, the GOP senators voted along party line to acquit Trump. Mitt Romney was the exception, voting to convict on abuse of power but acquitting on obstruction of Congress.

You own all of this, GOP. Everything up to now, everything that follows now that you’ve turned your back on the rule of law. You are tied with a cord of steel to this forever.

The GOP senators who are up for re-election this year are:

Capito, Shelley Moore (R-WV)
Cassidy, Bill (R-LA)
Collins, Susan M. (R-ME)
Cornyn, John (R-TX)
Cotton, Tom (R-AR)
Daines, Steve (R-MT)
Enzi, Michael B. (R-WY)
Ernst, Joni (R-IA)
Gardner, Cory (R-CO)
Graham, Lindsey (R-SC)
Hyde-Smith, Cindy (R-MS)
Inhofe, James M. (R-OK)
McConnell, Mitch (R-KY)
Perdue, David (R-GA)
Risch, James E. (R-ID)
Rounds, Mike (R-SD)
Sasse, Ben (R-NE)
Sullivan, Dan (R-AK)
Tillis, Thom (R-NC)

Alexander, Lamar (R-TN) – retiring, seat is open.
Roberts, Pat (R-KS) – retiring, seat is open.

McSally, Martha (R-AZ) — is up for election; she’s an appointee who replaced a previous short-term appointee, Jon Kyl.

Find their opponents and give them a hand. Vote everyone of these scofflaws out of office.

Three Things: Day After Night Before Day of Disaster [UPDATE-2]

[NB: Updates will appear at bottom of post. /~Rayne]

What a flaming mess.

Bet you can’t really tell which mess I’m referring to — the Iowa caucuses, the State of the Union Address, or the rolling not-trial of Donald J. Trump.

But there they are, the three things this post will address.

~ 3 ~

What can I say that you don’t already know about Iowa?

You already know right-wing assholes began a negative influence operation before the caucuses began, spreading from the Epoch Times to Judicial Watch, Charlie Kirk to the Trump boys, amplified by Hannity and Twitter accounts.

And you already know that for some stupid reason badly-designed, poorly-tested mobile technology was pushed into production after too little time in beta. Just too many variables not reduced in advance of the crunch-time roll-out.

The fallout was and is messy, made worse by a commercial media model based on hyper-competitionwho ever gets and publishes the story first wins is completely diametric to democracy’s need for accurate reporting for an informed electorate.

The caucus app developer, Shadow Inc. — yeah, you’d think this would be an over-the-top name for a software business which keeps its ownership opaque — has apologized today, explaining,


Let’s assume IDP = Iowa Democratic Party. This was not the DNC’s work, which more right-wing trolls tried to claim last night along with blaming former Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook for the app failure although Mook is NOT a software developer.

A lot of character assassination by the right-wing over the last 24 hours bears a strong resemblance to the character assassination of former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. Trump-friendly mouthpiece makes egregious false accusation, picked up by Trump-friendly media, repeated by Trump’s family members, propelled even further by Trumpists and trollbots. What a coincidence.

Of course everybody has completely forgotten it took the Republicans more than two weeks — from January 3 to January 21 — to sort out who won their caucuses in 2012. How convenient the right-wing horde has something else they can bloviate about instead of their own failings. How convenient they were able to set up and complain about “rigged elections” laying the ground for their approach to November’s general election.

Once again we hear complaints about how grossly unfair Iowa caucuses are — they prevent disabled and working people from participation, and the state is the first to select winning primary candidates although it’s a small (31st in population) and non-diverse (90.7% white), unrepresentative of the rest of this country.

There’s also head scratching about apparent low turn-out. Can’t imagine why voters (who may have accessibility issues, lack transportation, work afternoons/evenings, can’t afford or find childcare) won’t turn out to caucus and sort through a large field of candidates even though they may already lean toward voting Democratic no matter which candidate wins the primary.

One piece worth reading and pondering, published in the aftermath of this year’s Iowa caucus, is this three-year-old article by David Auerbach, Confirmation Bias: Did big data sink the Clinton campaign? Auerbach thinks the Ada data analysis program was screwed up and both the Clinton campaign and DNC were prone to confirmation bias, failing to suspect the app could be bad.

But what if like Iowa’s IDP-organized caucuses relying on a mobile app which had not been adequately stress tested the big data program was simply too new and untried for its intended purposes?

One thing also bothered me re-reading Auerbach’s piece, given that he also wrote an essay in 2012, The Stupidity of Computers. Are folks designing and implementing these apps for politics failing because they’re like other software-based platforms? Have they “created their own set of inferred metadata, the categories propagate, and so more of the world is shoehorned into an ontology reflecting ad hoc biases and received ideas,” to the point where threats and risks outside of their imagination easily destroy their aims?

Is it at all possible that the same kind of lack of foresight and imagination that led to last night’s failure cascade also underpinned a big data analysis program which couldn’t see new foreign-born influences manipulating output?

Do read Auerbach, but with your eyes wide open; even Auerbach didn’t anticipate his own credibility being undermined by right-wing provocateurs. Yet another lesson about the impact of technology on human relations.

And yet another lesson about the difference between the chronically underfunded Democratic Party and the wealthy fascistic GOP. How much did the collapse of Obama for America after the 2008 election combined with Tim Kaine’s tepid DNC leadership contribute to the conditions which set up Iowa’s application meltdown — the absence of an adequately-funded national party-wide technology platform?

~ 2 ~

House impeachment managers made closing arguments in the Senate’s not-a-trial yesterday. Rep. Adam Schiff’s speech will be remembered well into the future for its excellence as American oratory.

The Senate debated the charges today. Michigan’s Sen. Gary Peters may have redeemed himself:

West Virginia’s Sen. Joe Manchin was his craven self again, introducing the alternative of censure rather than conviction.

No. Hell no. Manchin isn’t up for re-election this year; he has no good excuse for offering the possibility Trump could crow about a bipartisan acquittal if any Democrat votes for something other than conviction and removal.

Further, Manchin’s sucking up to Trump won’t do a thing for his state. If he thinks this will sway the MAGA base in any way he’s unmoored from data showing Trumpists will not be moved. They believe what Fox News’ talking heads like Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson tell them and that’s enough.

Nor will GOP senators vote for censure. They’re simply too bought, owned, corrupt, and spineless.

And of course both senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins have played their roles as drama queens, vacillating on whether to vote for or against acquittal. Murkowski blamed partisanship while making the partisan decision to vote with her party for acquittal.

Collins was bought. For the right price — $150,000 laundered through a front corporation in Hawaii — she will play stupid and give women a bad name in general.


Do get a load of the name of the front corporation. Sure. Like women suddenly forgot that Collins approved Justice Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

Tomorrow’s vote will be unpleasant — brace yourselves.

~ 1 ~

In about an hour the tangerine hellbeast will shake off his sundowning and step up to the podium in the House to deliver what should be his last State of the Union message.

I refuse to watch that lying malignant narcissist. I’ll check for observations by people watchers like Dr. Jack Brown who will monitor Trump’s body language and Tom Joseph who follows Trump’s mental and physical decline.

I will not enjoy being reminded the dementia-addled wretch has the nuclear codes. Nor will I enjoy knowing Trump may use the podium of the people’s house not to communicate the progress made in governance but to campaign for his re-election.

What are the odds he has the moxie to ask another nation-state for help in his re-election right under our noses tonight?

~ 0 ~

This is an open thread. Begin kvetching below.

~ | ~ | ~

UPDATE-1 — 05-FEB-2020 12:45 P.M. —

Yeah, yeah, yeah…Jesus Christ, Jonathan Turley, let it go.

Since last night Turley’s posted ten tweets and an op-ed in The Hill bitching about the Speaker of the House not behaving like a compliant little Handmaid. He makes me wonder if he doesn’t have enough work and he’s bucking for a new paying gig.

By all means ignore the pussygrabber-in-chief’s multitude of disgusting behaviors, wretched political acts, and his slide into dementia, focusing instead on an effective female leader who doesn’t lick your reality TV narcissist’s toes.

Speaking of paying gigs, it occurred to me well after Turley appeared in December as an expert witness in front of the House Intelligence Committee that we don’t know if HIC asked Turley if he was a fact witness.

In his written statement Turley never mentions he wrote an article for The Hill, Could Robert Mueller actually be investigating Ukrainian collusion?

Nor did he mention the same piece was published the very same day in Kyivpost.

Also not mentioned is that this piece ran on February 21, 2019 — the date is roughly one week after Rudy Giuliani met with then-prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko in Warsaw, Poland, and almost one month to the day before John Solomon conducted a character-assassinating interview with Lutsenko for Hill.TV.

Turley’s piece furthers the idea that Ukraine was involved in collusion rather than Russia.

… But what is remarkable is how all investigative roads seem to lead to Kiev, not Moscow, in terms of key figures. It raises the question of whether Russian hacking efforts in the American election in 2016 were little more than what they seem as a clumsy leak and trolling operation. …

How did Turley end up fitting so neatly into the timeline?

UPDATE-2 — 05-FEB-2020 1:00 P.M. —

Though I linked to it in my previous update, I should probably share this here more overtly. This is very troubling; this man has the nuclear football within reach.


Today GOP Senators will likely acquit this person who can barely get through a speech and certainly not without lying repeatedly.

As mentioned before, this is an open thread. I’ll put up another post shortly dedicated to the vote today in the Senate.

Hitting the Oscillator: Today’s Senate Vote on Witnesses [UPDATE-5]

[NB: Check the byline, thanks!/~Rayne]

At 1:00 p.m. the U.S. Senate convenes and resumes consideration of the articles of impeachment as a Court of Impeachment.

A vote is expected on whether to call for/subpoena witnesses to appear before the Senate as part of this trial.

Last night Sen. Susan Collins said she would vote for witnesses:

But the timing of her statement was only minutes before retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander announced he wouldn’t vote for witnesses.

How convenient.

We don’t know yet where Sen. Murkowski (R-AK) stands on the matter of witnesses, only that as of last night she was “going to go reflect and decide whether she needs to hear more”.

Mitt Romney (R-UT) says he wants to hear from John Bolton.

And now the stakes have been raised yet again with a fresh report in The New York Times that Trump “directed” John Bolton to help him with what Bolton has called a “drug deal.”

I’m not linking to NYT. You’ll have to hunt this down if you want it because I’m not driving traffic to that outlet.

More to come very soon, I’m sure.

UPDATE-1 — 1:31 P.M. ET —

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, chickenshit.

She fell back on partisanship as an excuse even though she was elected because she wasn’t partisan. Alaskans, you can do better.

It’s not partisanship when nearly an entire party turns its back on the rule of law.

Murkowski and her staff were too chickenshit to put this statement on her Twitter account.

It wasn’t going to be a fair trial — or really, a trial at all — if witnesses were never going to be called. Murkowski owns this lack of fairness.

UPDATE-2 — 1:40 P.M. ET —

Of extremely important concern is the possibility any Democrats may vote to acquit Trump.

I am FURIOUS about Sen. Gary Peters’ name coming up here. I know he’s sweating his re-election race here in Michigan, but if he votes to acquit he will give Trump the ability to say this was a bipartisan acquittal.

Absolutely NO Democrat should vote to acquit. None. There’s more than enough evidence on hand already to prove Trump abused his office and obstructed Congress, including Trump’s own on-camera words.

Call your senators and tell them to vote NO on acquittal: (202) 224-3121 or use Resistbot.

And Peters, I’m looking at you. You won’t win Republican votes by voting to acquit because a Republican votes for a Republican.

UPDATE-3 — 1:52 P.M. ET —

At 12:59 p.m. Lev Parnas’ attorney tweeted,

in response to Trump’s denial about the NYT’s story today.

Sure would like to know what the story was behind the timing of NYT’s publication. How snug all of this is.

UPDATE-4 — 2:05 P.M. ET —

Sen. Collins has no good reason to smile.

Collins would do well to consider why she is the most unpopular senator next to Chief Obstructionist Mitch McConnell. No amount of laundered Russian money pumped in her campaign through PACs and other entities can make her popular.

UPDATE-5 — 2:30 P.M. ET —

Looks like it’ll be a wrap on this abortion of governance next Wednesday.


Read Caldwell’s Twitter thread for more on the negotiation.

Can’t even begin to imagine what kind of autocratic megalomaniacal bullshit Trump will pull as soon as the votes have been tallied.

This post will be updated periodically; new content will appear at the bottom.

The Manafort Link Sets the Fruman-Parnas Timeline Back — But the Manafort Timeline Is Earlier Too

The Daily Beast reports that Lev Parnas has linked Igor Fruman and Paul Manafort going back years.

Rudy Giuliani ally Igor Fruman and ex-Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort have been friendly for years, two sources familiar with their relationship tell The Daily Beast.

And that relationship — stretching from New York to London to Kyiv — long predated Rudy Giuliani’s wide-ranging attempts to discredit the evidence that played a key role in kicking off Manafort’s political downfall and eventual incarceration.

Joseph Bondy, the lawyer for Fruman associate Lev Parnas, said Manafort and Fruman were friendly for years before their respective indictments.

A friend of Manafort’s, who spoke anonymously to discuss non-public matters, confirmed that Fruman and Manafort have known each other for years. He said Fruman invited Manafort to the opening party for Buddha-Bar in Kyiv many years ago, and that the two men have discussed business. Buddha-Bar opened in the summer of 2008. Bondy said the pair also spent time together in London and New York.

It suggests, but does not say outright, that the Ukrainian grifters’ initial work served to put together the counter-report that Rudy Giuliani planned to release to combat the Mueller Report.

In late 2018, as the Mueller investigation was drawing to a close, Giuliani and his allies worked to draft a counter-report that would rebut Mueller’s work. (Manafort was one of the first targets of Mueller’s probe, and was convicted of multiple charges related to work he did in Ukraine for a Russia-friendly political party.) Giuliani never released that report. But he also didn’t toss it; he told The Daily Beast in October that materials he gave the State Department came from his effort to find information in Ukraine that could exonerate Trump.

[snip]

In other words, Giuliani’s efforts to undermine the Mueller probe—and stand up for Manafort—led directly to his Biden dirt-digging endeavors. Parnas has said he and Fruman were right there to help.

This report explains a great deal about the story we’ve got. It explains why Lev Parnas was badmouthing Marie Yovanovitch long before (he claims) Trump flunkies’ attacks on her led him to adopt that line. It explains why Kevin Downing was on the Joint Defense team for the Ukrainian grifters. It basically extends the narrative about the grifters back to 2018, when SDNY started it.

Except the story TDB tells still starts the narrative too late in time.

It suggests that the reason Rudy started chasing propaganda in Ukraine is because Paul Manafort’s life started falling apart after news of his inclusion in the Black Ledger got published on August 14, 2016.

Relations with Ukraine have shadowed Trump and his allies even before he was elected president. On August 14, 2016, The New York Times reported that Manafort may have received millions of dollars in “illegal, off-the-books” cash from the pro-Russia political party he worked for. The story was a body blow to Manafort, who left Trump’s campaign five days after it was published. Serhiy Leshchenko, then a Ukrainian parliamentarian, played an instrumental role in the black ledger.

In the years after the publication of the story, Manafort’s life fell apart. Nine months after Trump’s inauguration, he was arrested and charged with a host of crimes. By March 2019, he had been sentenced to a seven-year prison term. He and his allies blamed the black ledger for starting the calamity. And given that Leshchenko was a government official when he shared the documents, Trump’s allies have said their release was an example of election meddling by Kyiv. Parnas told The Daily Beast that Giuliani tried to push Leshchenko away from Zelensky; Giuliani himself has called him an enemy of the United States.

Giuliani has said his scrutiny of the black ledger fed directly into his focus on the Bidens.

That’s certainly the story that Manafort would like to tell — and one that likely is palatable for Parnas. In that story, his grift is exclusively about finding propaganda that is useful to the President, and he can point back to the President as the agent behind his actions.

Except Manafort’s life was going to shit before that, and the grifters were active before they could have been writing a counter-report.

Manafort’s life started going to shit when Viktor Yanukovych was ousted from Ukraine. He lost his main clients and had both the debt from his own lavish lifestyle but also the $20 million that Oleg Deripaska said Manafort had bilked him out of. By January 2016, DOJ was already investigating him for money laundering. By March, according to Rick Gates, he was effectively broke.

That’s when he signed up to work for Donald Trump for “free.”

During the entire time he worked for Trump, Deripaska was using Christopher Steele to encourage the criminal investigation into Manafort, even while enticing Manafort with the hope of “making him whole” by performing some unspecified services — effectively making Manafort (and by association, Trump) more vulnerable for the moment he’d move in for the kill. Two months before the Black Ledger was publicly released, Manafort knew he was on it. And before the Black Ledger story broke, Manafort took a meeting with Konstantin Kilimnik, who had promised a scheme to return Yanukovych to a position where he could turn on Manafort’s gravy train again. It’s still unclear what happened at the meeting, but it’s clear winning the Rust Belt, carving up Ukraine, and getting paid all came up. Eight days later, Manafort booked $2.4 million — deliverable in November — suggesting he believed that that meeting did lead to him getting paid. And until the time Manafort landed in prison, he took actions in accordance with the plan to carve up Ukraine in that August 2, 2016 meeting.

That’s the background to the Black Ledger release. And that’s the reason Manafort needs some story, however bogus, to justify a pardon.

Moreover, the grifters’ timing dates to April 2018, about the time Ukraine purchased some Javelins and stopped cooperating with Mueller, which probably explains why a guy working for Raytheon’s lobbyist, Kurt Voker, was perceived to be working on Manafort’s defense.

Manafort doesn’t (just) need a story that can justify a Trump pardon. He needs a way to prevent the rest of this story from coming out.

Pat Cipollone Believes the Golden Rule Is for Chumps

The question and answer phrase of the Senate trial is far more interesting than the presentation of the cases. Both parties are obviously feeding their own side questions to rebut the other, or posing questions they think will make the other stumble (Chief Justice John Roberts has reportedly censored only one kind of question: any question that probes for the whistleblower’s name).

Later last night, the questioning became interesting for the whip count. There were a couple of questions posed by large numbers of Senators on record supporting Trump, including vulnerable swing state Senators like Martha McSally, Thom Tillis, and Cory Gardner, and it was interesting to see who else jumped on questions that obviously served only to suck up to Trump.

Over the course of several questions, there was a discussion on whether Roberts could rule on the appropriateness of witnesses or Executive Privilege. Pat Philbin argued that he could not, on EP (contrary to the rules), in response to which Schiff came back and said he could. Schiff argued that the Democrats would accept Roberts’ views without challenge. Jay Sekulow piped in to say Republicans would not. I keep thinking about how Roberts will be ruling on some of these issues on other appeals, and I think Schiff is playing to him on some questions as much as to the Senate.

Questions being asked by leaners (people like Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, who have asked a number together, though it seems like Mitt Romney went from leaning to supporting questions) are of particular interest. At one point, Collins asked why the House didn’t include bribery in its articles. Hakeem Jeffries gave an answer that Collins visibly responded to by saying, “he didn’t answer my question,” but Schiff came in shortly after and did answer it, pointing out that all the elements of bribery are included in the abuse of power article. Collins also asked the President’s lawyers what Trump had done on corruption in Ukraine prior to last year, which Philbin didn’t answer and then, when the question was re-asked by Democrats, said he couldn’t answer because it’s not in the record (though he has relied on non-public information elsewhere).

Then there are the alarming answers. Alan Dershowitz was asked, after he argued that if the President thought something that benefitted him personally was good for the country, whether that extended to nuking democratic states because he believed his reelection was good for the country and he agreed in theory.

Pat Philbin answered a question about whether it was okay to accept dirt to win an election. He said it was.

I was most interested, however, in a response Sekulow gave to a question offered by Marco Rubio and others, people who presumably were just feeding softballs to strengthen the President’s argument. They referenced a claimed principle espoused by Dersh and Sekulow, wherein you should always imagine how it would feel if the other party were impeaching a president of your party on the same fact set, which was originally a way to excuse Dersh’s flip-flop on abuse of power and impeachment. Rubio and others asked where the limiting factors on this would be — basically an invitation to repeat what Trump’s lawyers have said in the past, that you shouldn’t impeach within a year of an election or some such thing. Except Sekulow would not offer general principles. Instead of referencing the election — the right answer to the softball question — he focused on the claimed uniqueness of this impeachment (which is bullshit in any case). In other words, given an opportunity to answer a question about principles that would adhere beyond this impeachment, Sekulow answered that his Golden Rule only applies ot this impeachment.

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