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Three Things: Goodbye, Good, Buy? Good – Bye!

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

Given the quantity of news today worth discussing but not necessarily worth an entire dedicated post, I’m going to pull together three topics under this umbrella.

Consider this an open thread.

~ 3 ~

Goodbye – Mitch McConnell will step down as Senate minority leader, three years ahead of his retirement from the Senate.

I didn’t see this coming today, but then it probably should have been expected given the bullshit going on with the federal budget negotiations.

Hapless House Leader Mike Johnson has screwed up the negotiations in a whole bunch of ways, allowing the GOP’s vulnerabilities to be exposed each time a new sticking point surfaces to halt progress.

This past week, as one example, it was a poison pill amendment to halt prescriptions of abortion drugs like Plan B for dispensing through pharmacies and by mail. Oh, we can work with that – just look at what happened in Kansas post-Dobbs, when voters turned out in August 2022 to defeat a GOP effort to pass a state constitutional amendment banning abortion.

Not to mention the hassle of an evidence-free impeachment by the House of Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas which the Senate must now consider for conviction and removal. Way to make GOP senators look both absurd and racist at the same time thanks to Johnson’s leadership in the House.

McConnell says the recent death of his wife’s family member reminded him of his mortality, which encouraged him to step down and take a seat in the back.

I think at 82 years of age, in iffy health, McConnell simply doesn’t want to have to sweep up after the rogue elephants in his party any longer.

~ 2 ~

Good, buy? – President Biden signed an executive order prohibiting the sale of Americans’ personal data to politically-adversarial countries like China and Russia.

This is an important measure which Congress should take up and write into legislation so that future expansions of privacy protections can be added as amendments.

It’s bothered me that so much personal data is freely available – your driver’s license or state ID and your property taxes are just a couple examples of data anyone can locate and use without any real friction like fees or documented requests kept on file.

But pair that data with purchasing habits acquired by data brokers and the accrued data is highly weaponizable.

It’s not a little thing for persons who are politically active, or even prone to exercising their First Amendment right of free speech.

The Department of Justice has deterred at least four assassination plots targeting persons in the U.S., stopping them before someone died as ordered by a foreign government. Imagine how easy it is to find a target and profile them to make the assassination fast and easy using personal data acquired from data brokers for mere pennies. No more assigning teams of personnel for surveillance – just buy the data, hack a few local area internet-connected cameras, and dispatch a killer.

Or send a drone, like Trump did to Iran’s General Soleimani, likely breaking norms against such assassinations.

Knowing that personal data is less likely to be acquired by hostile foreign governments might make some Americans more comfortable with making purchases which might create data sold by brokers.

Or, maybe not.

~ 1 ~

Good – Bye! – Trump could only post a $100 million bond today against the $454 million he owes in the E. Jean Carroll defamation NY state business fraud case.

It’s a pretty solid indication he’s broke. It should be a familiar feeling because he’s declared six business bankruptcies before.

Heck, given that many bankruptcies under his belt, this one he should be able to file on his own in his sleep. Maybe he’ll be able to save on attorneys’ fees by doing much of the work himself.

~ 0 ~

Bonus: Michigan’s primary results = so many bad hot takes.

I mentioned this in the wee hours this morning on Mastodon; the first take I saw in Washington Post missed a critical point about the way Michigan’s primaries are conducted, and how that affects the poll results.

RayneToday @[email protected]

There’s a critical problem with this analysis of the Michigan primary results: there are crossover voters who voted for Nikki Haley who will vote for Biden in November. The “uncommitted” vote may actually be a smaller percentage of total Democratic voters because of this practice of crossing over during the primary.

Unlike neighboring Ohio, voters aren’t locked into a party and can cross back in November. See 2000 primary when McCain won the Michigan primary. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/02/27/4-takeaways-michigan-primary/

Feb 28, 2024, 01:14

Union members are encouraged to do this though it may depend on circumstances surrounding the candidates.

The percentage of Democratic votes are not as they appear; there will have been Democratic voters who threw behind Nikki Haley, making Trump’s win margin look smaller than it is, while also making the “uncommitted” Democratic vote numbers appear larger as a percentage of the total vote.

I am absolutely certain this took place; I was asked by Democratic voters who planned to crossover which not-Trump GOP candidate would optimize this approach.

Of course in my opinion the best fuck-you to Trump is voting for a woman of color.

With regard to the “uncommitted” vote, what should be noted is where the most votes occurred in highest concentrations. Dearborn, where the largest number of Muslim and Arab-heritage voters live in Michigan, would obviously be expected as the location of the largest number of “uncommitted” votes.

For large news outlets to trumpet as a headline the protest vote sent a message is rather misleading, especially when most of these outlets couldn’t be bothered to report on the crossover vote.

Again, this is an open thread.

2024 Presidential Election: New Hampshire Primary Results

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

Others have done a better job with an economy of words explaining situations. The New Hampshire primary held yesterday is such an occasion.

In this case not only are fewer words better but the adage a picture is worth a thousand words also holds true.

Democratic Party results:

(source: Ann Lipton on Mastodon)

As of 2:44 a.m. ET, Joe Biden has won the New Hampshire primary as a write-in candidate taking at least 51.3% of the vote. Only 15,354 unprocessed votes remain and may include those cast by a few doofuses who chose ineligible foreign-born Cenk Uygur who in a post on the dead bird app asked voters yesterday to write him in.

Republican Party results:

I wish there was a way to use a trigger or content warning here but I haven’t found one yet. I hope you had your barf bag or waste can handy.

(source: lolgop on Mastodon)

As of 1:35 a.m. ET, the reanimated orange-tinted wannabe-dictator corpse has won the New Hampshire GOP primary taking 54.7% of the votes counted so far compared to Nikki Haley’s 43.5%.

For ease of comparison, here are links to the 2020 and 2024 NH primary results via Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_New_Hampshire_Republican_presidential_primary
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2024_New_Hampshire_Republican_presidential_primary

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_New_Hampshire_Democratic_presidential_primary
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2024_New_Hampshire_Democratic_presidential_primary

This is an open thread.

Three Things: Fraud Trial Begins, Newsom’s Pick, Contingent Aid

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

It’s going to be a rather busy Monday. Grab your poison of choice — second LARGE cup of joe underway here — and let’s get at it.

~ 3 ~

It’s rather sad this needed to be said yet again in reference to Donald Trump:

“No matter how much money you think you may have, no one is above the law,” James told reporters before entering the courtroom. “The law is both powerful and fragile. And today in court will prove our case.”

But the wretched former guy apparently needs it as the civil fraud trial opens today in New York.

The Trump campaign’s post-debate stunt leaving a bird cage outside fellow GOP candidate Nikki Haley’s hotel room likely encouraged the reminder, on top of Trump’s other egregious behavior including insults about New York AG Letitia James.

The stunt, which followed Trump’s insult on social media saying Haley had a bird brain, didn’t go over well abroad. India’s media took note of this trashy behavior unbecoming a former U.S. president and a current presidential candidate.

One can only wonder if Trump would be both stupid and arrogant enough to pull such a gag on AG James as a dig at the prosecutor.

~ 2 ~

California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom will appoint Laphonza Butler to fill the Senate seat in the wake of Dianne Feinstein’s death.

Butler’s appointment is a statement none of the other possible appointees could make. She’s been president of political action committee EMILY’s List since 2021; the organization’s mission has been to get more women elected to office.

Butler has also been a superdelegate for California during the 2016 election when she supported Hillary Clinton. Originally from Mississippi, Butler has worked as a union organizer, last with SEIU where she worked toward raising the minimum wage and taxing the wealthiest Californians.

In 2018 Butler left the SEIU to join a Democratic communications firm, SCRB (now Bearstar Strategies) where she worked on Kamala Harris’ campaign.

Butler is gay and married; she and her partner have a daughter.

So many boxes checked off by one appointment, so many marginalized and suppressed groups now represented. Worth reading Philip Bump’s graphic-laden piece in WaPo to understand what this means.

~ 1 ~

Americans know Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR) this weekend establishing a 45-day extension on the budget. Omitted from the extension was financial aid to Ukraine at a time when Ukraine is preparing ahead of winter warfare against aggressor Russia.

The failure to provide aid in spite of efforts by Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is in part the result of ongoing influence operations by Russia targeting GOP members of Congress. Like Trump they have fallen prey to the idea that the US has no interest in Ukraine’s democratic sovereignty and that NATO and the EU likewise should play no role in rejecting Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

But the reasons why financial aid to Ukraine may not have passed with the CR isn’t solely due to hostile foreign influence. It’s also linked to ongoing corruption in Ukraine undermining the nation’s sovereignty while cannibalizing the resources needed to repel Russia and build back infrastructure destroyed by the last 19 months’ war.

Ukraine took a large move toward addressing corruption with its arrest of oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi on September 2. Kolomoyskyi, appointed Governor of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast in 2014 after the Euromaidan, had already been blacklisted and indicted by the U.S.

This arrest is only one step Ukraine must take. The Biden administration has continued to press the Zelenskyy administration for more measurable efforts on corruption. Without making more substantial headway, it would be difficult for Ukraine to join the EU let alone NATO. Ukraine can’t become a means to drain EU and NATO resources in peacetime.

Zelenskyy will have to make considerable progress over the next 45 days – for this reason alone the near-shutdown and CR have a beneficial effect since both the Biden’s State Department and Zelenskyy can point to a date toward which both will have to work on corruption together.

It’s all the more important that the U.S. at state and federal level also address domestic corruption. The U.S. can’t make a demand of other democracies to tackle corruption without setting an example.

All the more reason why we need to demonstrate and not merely say no person in this democracy is above the law.

~ 0 ~

This is an open thread.

Prosecutors in Georgia Still Abusing Their Over Broad RICO Law

You might remember me complaining that the way Fulton County Attorney’s Office was ridiculous with their application of their state’s RICO provisio. I said that it was absurd, abusive and would lead to further abuse of it.
Well further evidence of that abuse is now here, and it is very ugly. Via the Washington Post:

“A Georgia grand jury has indicted 61 people on racketeering charges connected to protests that seek to block the building of the planned police and firefighter training facility in Atlanta that has been referred by critics as “Cop City.”

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr (R) announced the sweeping indictment Tuesday after a long-running state investigation that mainly focused on members of Defend the Atlanta Forest, which prosecutors called an “anti-government, anti-police, and anti-corporate extremist organization” that has supported a violent movement against law enforcement since the 2020 racial justice protests.The 109-page indictment was filed in Fulton County on Aug. 29, just weeks after the same grand jury charged former president Donald Trump with racketeering charges under the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law, in connection with efforts to overturn President Biden’s 2020 win in Georgia.”

Yes, you read that right, the same grand jury that rendered the sprawling Trump and friends indictment. At least this time the State of Georgia acted through its proper Attorney General, and not through a local county attorney who took it upon herself.

“Designed to prosecute a criminal enterprise, the law has also been used against gang leaders and human traffickers. The Georgia RICO law is one of the broadest in the country. It allows prosecutors to weave together a wide variety of alleged crimes, including violations of state and federal laws, and even activities in other states. The charges brought against the activists is the latest example of Georgia prosecutors bringing racketeering counts in prominent cases.”

Yeah, no kidding. Yes, RICO was gratuitous as to Trump. In fact, I think it made the Fulton County indictment weaker if cases go to trial. It is complex and confusing. And a jury may well find it so. Or not. We’ll see.
 
As to the protestors, keep in mind that the minimum sentence is 5 years prison. Same for Trump et. al. A judge can modify that, but what if a judge doesn’t? 

This is now going to spread outside of Georgia, and that is very much not a good thing. It was designed for mob bosses, and then drug cartels, and nobody cares about that use. But expansion like in GA to political speach and acts is really bad. It is more than bad, it is heinous. It is a stain and blight on the American criminal justice system.

I warned that what has, and was, being done in Georgia was dangerous. And this is just then tip of the iceberg coming because it will spread.

For anybody that has forgotten, here is Ken White, aka Popehat, on RICO.And, yeah, he pretty much maintains that as to the Trump et. al indictment in Fulton County:

“I am not a Georgia law expert. Federal RICO against Trump would be extremely implausible. Georgia RICO? Won’t speculate. I will say that Georgia RICO seems like a needlessly convoluted and performative approach, but DAs gonna DA.”

That was from Ken’s Mastodon account. He has also said:

“In my view, the Georgia RICO indictment is gratuitous, self-indulgent, and careless of the appearance of legitimacy.”

That is being kind, and the indictment of the protestors for RICO is even more absurd. The moral of the story is be careful of what you cheer for, because what Georgia is doing is truly egregious.

[Photo: Emily Morter via Unsplash]

Let’s Give ‘Em Something To Talk About: Cooked, Hooked, Mooked

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

Did something happen today? LOL

We need a fresh post and thread to talk about it.

~ 3 ~

Cooked: Donald Trump’s wallet

A jury in Manhattan awarded E. Jean Carroll $5 million in damages after finding the former president Donald Trump liable for defamation and sexual abuse.

Under New York State’s New York’s Adult Survivors Act which went into effect last November, Carroll filed a lawsuit against Trump for defamation based on his public denials after she accused him of raping her in 1996.

While the jury did not find Trump liable for rape – the challenge likely hanging on penetration as Teri Kanefield explained in an online thread – they did find credible Carroll’s accusation of sexual abuse and found Trump had defamed her with his repeated denials.

As revolting as it often is, Trump’s testimony is worth a scan as yet another example of classic abuser’s behavior called DARVO: Trump repeatedly Denied the accusation, Attacked his accuser, Reversed the Victim and Offense by claiming Carroll and the other women who supported her with their own sexual abuse accusations against Trump were lying about him. He minimized what he said about grabbing women by the pussy in the Access Hollywood tape and lied about his infidelities.

After reading Trump’s testimony one can only wonder what he might say under oath about the presidential records and classified documents he stole from the White House.

~ 2 ~

Hooked: Rep. George Santos charged by DOJ

Criminal charges were filed today under seal in the Eastern District of New York against Rep. Santos. Specifics about the charges are as yet unknown.

While the current GOP-led House Ethics Committee has been dragging its feet investigating – Santos, alias Anthony Dee – the representative for New York’s 3rd congressional district has been under pressure by House Democrats to resign due to his manifold lies and apparent frauds.

During his brief time in office, Santos has been accused of breaking campaign finance laws, violating federal conflict of interest laws, stealing cash meant for an Iraq War veteran’s dying dog, masterminding a credit card fraud scheme and lying about where he went to school and worked.

In response, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said, “I’ll look at the charges.”

Right. He’s only had nearly 6 months to look into Santos to prevent more embarrassment for the House GOP Caucus and NY-03’s constituents. You’d think Santos having at least one alias and settling criminal charges for fraud in another country would clue McCarthy.

As Marcy noted, Santos was useful to McCarthy:

His utility is done, isn’t it, Kevin? Or do you want to be personally embarrassed by what may emerge from DOJ’s prosecution of Santos?

UPDATE — 10-MAY-2023 10:15 A.M. ET —
The indictment has been released to the public. Here it is: https://www.justice.gov/d9/2023-05/santos.indictment.pdf

See also Marcy’s latest post on McCarthy’s ability to count votes.

~ 1 ~

Mooked: Kevin McCarthy and his out-of-control caucus are feckless mooks

Speaking of McCarthy, he’s allowing his caucus to threaten tanking the entire global economy by way of a potential default on U.S. debt.

Never mind the entire problem began when the GOP-led 115th Congress passed Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The GOP’s bill relied on trickle-down economics to pay for itself, yet trickle-down economics don’t work, hurting those at the bottom of the economy the most. It left the country ill prepared for an effective and timely pandemic response, yet now the GOP wants to double down on its stupidity.

(Do not forget the House Speaker at that time was Paul Ryan. Don’t let him whitewash his way out of the blame for his role in the impending economic crisis. Ditto Mitch McConnell, former Senate Majority Leader.)

The same corporations and their wealthy owners which benefited from the Trump tax cuts are now raking in money hand over fist through price-flation for profits. They’re expecting their GOP minions to deliver even more benefits by starving the public which has yet to recover from the worst of the pandemic.

The complicit corporate media enables them by trotting out its tired “Dems in Disarray” bullshit, blaming Biden for the impending economic crisis when the problem is of the GOP’s making, just as it was when that idiot Senator from Texas Ted Cruz held the government’s operations and the economy hostage in 2013.

This is yet another kind of coup attempt; this time the mooks are seated inside Congress wielding a blunt economic weapon. If McCarthy and his minions aren’t willing to repeal part of Trump’s misbegotten tax cuts and raise taxes on the wealthy who can well afford to pay more, they’re acting in bad faith and against the needs of the American public.

~ 0 ~

What else is there to talk about? Share in this open thread.

On Conspiracy

In comments, Harpie went back to Elizabeth de la Vega’s summary of conspiracy.

Since Eureka brought this up above, I figured it might be timely to post it again:

Conspiracy Law – Eight Things You Need to Know.
One: Co-conspirators don’t have to explicitly agree to conspire & there doesn’t need to be a written agreement; in fact, they almost never explicitly agree to conspire & it would be nuts to have a written agreement!
Two: Conspiracies can have more than one object- i.e. conspiracy to defraud U.S. and to obstruct justice. The object is the goal. Members could have completely different reasons (motives) for wanting to achieve that goal.
Three: All co-conspirators have to agree on at least one object of the conspiracy.
Four: Co-conspirators can use multiple means to carry out the conspiracy, i.e., releasing stolen emails, collaborating on fraudulent social media ops, laundering campaign contributions.
Five: Co-conspirators don’t have to know precisely what the others are doing, and, in large conspiracies, they rarely do.
Six: Once someone is found to have knowingly joined a conspiracy, he/she is responsible for all acts of other co-conspirators.
Seven: Statements of any co-conspirator made to further the conspiracy may be introduced into evidence against any other co-conspirator.
Eight: Overt Acts taken in furtherance of a conspiracy need not be illegal. A POTUS’ public statement that “Russia is a hoax,” e.g., might not be illegal (or even make any sense), but it could be an overt act in furtherance of a conspiracy to obstruct justice.

de la Vega has been consistently good on conspiracy going back to the first failed impeachment effort and the lead up to it. I posted this at least once before, think on a post I penned, but not sure, so am going to put this out here again.

At any rate, here are a set of model jury instructions (that I have previously patterned off of for real trials) for a conspiracy case. They are for a drug case, but conspiracy is conspiracy, and the law is pretty much the same, and has long been. What Harpie cited from de la Vega is correct. But to give you a look at how it actually goes down in a court, check out actual pattern jury instructions, because real instructions are always the guide in a real criminal trial. Substitute in the elements for 18 USC §373 and 18 USC §2101, or any of the other various putative crimes being discussed ad nauseam and you will get the picture.

As you read through them, keep in mind the question of “what holes could a competent criminal defense attorney drive a truck through here given a beyond a reasonable doubt burden?”

Now would Trump acquire an actually competent criminal defense attorney were, in the unlikely event he is really charged? Now there is a great question! But, if he were to, there are currently still a LOT of holes. People are getting ahead of themselves. Read the instructions, they scan pretty fast. But keep in mind that once you charge and put a defendant, any defendant, on trial, things are not as easy as they are here or on social media.

Flashbacks to the 2015 Campaign

Katy Tur at SXSW
[h/t nrkbeta Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) ]

Several years ago, I got Mrs Dr Peterr Katy Tur’s book Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History. Tur had been the NBC reporter assigned to the Trump campaign in 2015 and 2016, and listening to the impeachment coverage yesterday and the coverage this morning, one episode she recounted in the book came flashing back . . .

In Dec 2015, three days before Trump announced his pledge to institute a Muslim travel ban, Trump got rattled at a rally in Raleigh NC where protesters coordinated their efforts and threw him off his game, interrupting his speech every couple of minutes from different parts of the arena. Disgusted, Trump abruptly left the podium and started shaking hands offstage, and Tur sent out a simple tweet describing what had happened.

Right before lunch the next day, Hope Hicks wrote her to say “Katy, Mr. Trump thought your tweets from last night were disgraceful. Not nice! Best, Hope.” Shortly thereafter, the media gets the word about the travel ban Trump intended to announce that night, and that becomes the big story of the day with Katy doing liveshots all afternoon. That evening, before a rally inside the USS Yorktown (an aircraft carrier-turned-museum in Charleston harbor), Trump blasted her with four attack tweets in the span of four minutes.

Tur says the rally’s specific location was a surprise, in that it wasn’t held on the carrier deck but inside the belly of the ship, with the media crowded into a pen.

Yes, we are in a pen: a makeshift enclosure made of bicycle racks and jammed full of desks, reporters, and camera equipment. We’re in the middle of the carrier, slammed against the right side wall. As usual, almost all of Trump’s supporters are white and a lot of them are looking at us, not exactly kindly. The campaign and Secret Service force us to stay inside the pen while Trump is onstage. They even discourage bathroom breaks. None of them have a good explanation for why we’re kept separate from the supporters. Are we the threat or are they?

Trump starts his rambling speech, and the crowd eats it up. Then Trump opens up on the media.

“The mainstream media,” Trump says. “These people back here, they’re the worst. They are so dishonest.”

Hoots and hollers.

And then I hear my name.

“She’s back there, little Katy. She’s back there.”

Trump then calls her a liar several times, and a third rate reporter several times as well, before pivoting to a more general attack on the media. Finally, once he’s got the crowd sufficiently whipped up, he formally announces the Muslim ban, and the crowd which she described earlier as looking at her like “a large animal, angry and unchained” went nuts.

She goes live with Chris Matthews as Trump leaves the stage, and when she’s done with that, Chris Hayes takes over and wants to keep her on the air for the lead story on his show that followed Matthews’.

[Trump] supporters are taking their time to leave. They’re still whipped up. I know someone is going to start yelling at me as soon as I start talking. So I do what I always do. I find the pinhole deep in the back of the lens and I tune everything else out.

A couple of minutes later, I’m done. The crowd that had gathered behind my live shot is gone except for a few stragglers, yelling at me. They’re five feet away, held back by those lousy bicycle racks. A Trump staffer shoos them away. MSNBC has cleared me and my bosses want [her cameraman/sound tech] Anthony and me to get out of there as quickly as we can. I don’t quite understand why until we pack up and start to head out. A Trump staffer stops me and says “These guys are going to walk you out.”

I look over and see two Secret Service agents. Thank goodness. They walk Anthony and me along the gangway back to our car. It’s pitch black and I’m nervous. We’re parked with the crowd.

Once we’re moving, I take a look at my phone. My mom has called. And called. And called. I dial her back. “Are you okay? Where are you staying? Can someone stay with you? You need security!? She is crying. And it hits me.

I’m a target.

On that day in December 2015, the security professionals of the US Secret Service recognized that Trump was dangerously inciting a mob, and stepped in to protect the target he had singled out.

On January 6, 2021, Trump again incited a mob, and this time there was no one to stop them.

Maybe Trump Really Is Never Going To Leave

Now that Rayne has you all festive for the holidays, I am gonna leave you with one more little nugget of joy. Trump really is planning on not leaving even if he loses badly to Biden. I have kind of poo poohed this kind of talk, but this morning on Morning Joe, there was a discussion with former Colorado Senator Tim Wirth and Tom Rogers, a journalist and original founder of both CNBC and MSNBC. These are two very smart and credible people, and they are pretty convincing. If you can find a video clip of their appearance, post the link and I’ll add it in to the post, it is harrowing.

But they have an article out together now in Newsweek entitled “How Trump Could Lose the Election—And Still Remain President”. Also harrowing, and they are convinced that this is really Trump’s plan.

Wirth and Rogers lay out two paths they expect Trump to take. The first is the obvious one pretty much everybody is aware of, severe voter suppression and goon poll watchers challenging voters pretty much anywhere and everywhere, along with claiming fraud as to the vote by mail. But it is the second path that is truly frightening.

This spring, HBO aired The Plot Against America, based on the Philip Roth novel of how an authoritarian president could grab control of the United States government using emergency powers that no one could foresee. Recent press reports have revealed the compilation by the Brennan Center at New York University of an extensive list of presidential emergency powers that might be inappropriately invoked in a national security crisis. Attorney General William Barr, known for his extremist view of the expanse of presidential power, is widely believed to be developing a Justice Department opinion arguing that the president can exercise emergency powers in certain national security situations, while stating that the courts, being extremely reluctant to intervene in the sphere of a national security emergency, would allow the president to proceed unchecked.

With this, Trump has begun to lay the groundwork for the step-by-step process by which he holds on to the presidency after he has clearly lost the election:

1. Biden wins the popular vote, and carries the key swing states of Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania by decent but not overwhelming margins.

2. Trump immediately declares that the voting was rigged, that there was mail-in ballot fraud and that the Chinese were behind a plan to provide fraudulent mail-in ballots and other “election hacking” throughout the four key swing states that gave Biden his victory.

3. Having railed against the Chinese throughout the campaign, calling Biden “soft on China,” Trump delivers his narrative claiming the Chinese have interfered in the U.S. election.

4. Trump indicates this is a major national security issue, and he invokes emergency powers, directing the Justice Department to investigate the alleged activity in the swing states. The legal justification for the presidential powers he invokes has already been developed and issued by Barr.

5. The investigation is intended to tick down the clock toward December 14, the deadline when each state’s Electoral College electors must be appointed. This is the very issue that the Supreme Court harped on in Bush v. Gore in ruling that the election process had to be brought to a close, thus forbidding the further counting of Florida ballots.

6. All four swing states have Republican control of both their upper and lower houses of their state legislatures. Those state legislatures refuse to allow any Electoral College slate to be certified until the “national security” investigation is complete.

7. The Democrats will have begun a legal action to certify the results in those four states, and the appointment of the Biden slate of electors, arguing that Trump has manufactured a national security emergency in order to create the ensuing chaos.

8. The issue goes up to the Supreme Court, which unlike the 2000 election does not decide the election in favor of the Republicans. However, it indicates again that the December 14 Electoral College deadline must be met; that the president’s national security powers legally authorize him to investigate potential foreign country intrusion into the national election; and if no Electoral College slate can be certified by any state by December 14, the Electoral College must meet anyway and cast its votes.

9. The Electoral College meets, and without the electors from those four states being represented, neither Biden nor Trump has sufficient votes to get an Electoral College majority.

10. The election is thrown into the House of Representatives, pursuant to the Constitution. Under the relevant constitutional process, the vote in the House is by state delegation, where each delegation casts one vote, which is determined by the majority of the representatives in that state.

11. Currently, there are 26 states that have a majority Republican House delegation. 23 states have a majority Democratic delegation. There is one state, Pennsylvania, that has an evenly split delegation. Even if the Democrats were to pick up seats in Pennsylvania and hold all their 2018 House gains, the Republicans would have a 26 to 24 delegation majority.

12. This vote would enable Trump to retain the presidency.

Is this nuts? Sure. Is it possible? Yes, given who and what Trump and Barr are, it may well be.

Was Facebook Biased or Was It Manipulated?

[Notez bien: Cet essai n’a pas été écrit par Marcy ou bmaz mais par moi. Merci. Oh, and some this is speculative. /~Rayne]

Facebook has been in the news a lot this last two weeks with regard to its sneaky surveillance of competitors and users by paying teens for their data as well as its 15th anniversary.

But that’s not what this essay is about.

This is about the 2016 election and in particular a claim I thought was peculiar when it was first reported.

Gizmodo, a former Gawker Media outlet, published two stories claiming that Facebook’s news feed was biased against conservative news based on feedback from contract editors.

It struck me as odd at the time because

  • the first story was published within the week that Trump became the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party;
  • conservative news outlets weren’t complaining about being suppressed by Facebook;
  • the story broke at a troubled outlet via a relatively new technology editor at a lesser technology outlet.

It’d already struck me as bizarre that Trump wasn’t using traditional campaign media practices to reach his base. He wasn’t spending money on ad buys and other media like a new-to-politics candidate would. The commercial media was all over him providing him enough coverage that he didn’t have to buy more. Media coverage of Trump suffocated the rest of the GOP field in addition to swamping coverage of Democrats’ primary race.

So why were these contract editors/curators complaining about Facebook’s bias if so much of the media was focused on a Republican candidate?

Gawker, as you may recall, had been under siege by billionaire Peter Thiel after its founder Nick Denton had allowed Thiel’s sexuality to be outed in an Valleywag article. Thiel helped former professional wrestler and celebrity Terry Bollea, a.k.a. Hulk Hogan, sue Gawker for invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, publication of private matter, and violation of the right to publicity. Gawker ultimately lost the case in March 2016 in a Florida court; it filed bankruptcy on June 10.

When Gawker lost to Bollea it was clear the media outlet suffered a mortal blow. Bollea won $115 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages and Gawker didn’t have that much in cash or assets. It was only a matter of time before Denton would either fold or sell Gawker.

In that nebulous period when Gawker’s fate hung in the balance, Gizmodo ran two stories about Facebook’s alleged anti-conservative bias within six days’ time.

Why would Facebook’s contract editors reach out to an affiliate of troubled outlet Gawker? Facebook was the largest social media platform in the U.S.; why wouldn’t they have gone to a major U.S. newspaper instead of beleaguered Gawker?

One reason could have been Gawker’s financial vulnerability. A hungry outlet might publish any clickbait-y story when they have little to lose but paychecks.

Another reason might be inexperience. The reporter/editor whose byline appears on the Facebook stories didn’t have years-deep experience in technology reporting, unlike folks at competing dedicated technology journalism outlets. The journalist joined the organization in January 2016 and stayed with Gizmodo through Gawker’s subsequent acquisition; they left for another technology outlet mid-2017. Were they approached by sources because they were relatively inexperienced and working at a distressed outlet?

The journalist’s departure doesn’t appear to be neutral based on the observation a Gizmodo sister outlet, io9, published on his exit (cached copy). Perhaps it was a grumbly “break a leg” farewell a la Larry Darrell’s character in The Razor’s Edge (1984), but this doesn’t appear to be a regular practice at Gizmodo or other Gawker affiliates.

Once Gizmodo published the story, other outlets picked it up and repackaged it as original content. The New York Times stepped in and did more digging, treating this almost like Clinton’s emails with five pieces on Facebook and political bias inside May alone:

09-MAY-2016 — Conservatives Accuse Facebook of Political Bias
10-MAY-2016 — Political Bias at Facebook?
10-MAY-2016 — Senator Demands Answers From Facebook on Claims of ‘Trending’ List Bias
11-MAY-2016 — Facebook’s Bias Is Built-In, and Bears Watching
19-MAY-2016 — Opinion | The Real Bias Built In at Facebook

The story of Facebook’s alleged anti-conservative bias in news editing exploded with a huge push by NYT. (It didn’t stop in May; NYT published at least four more pieces before the election focused on Facebook and political bias though not all reflected negatively on Facebook.)

One outlet published a story based on Gizmodo’s second story seven hours after Gizmodo: the Observer, formerly known as The New York Observer, a small print and online media outlet based in New York city.

At the time it ran its story on Facebook’s alleged bias, it was owned by Jared Kushner.

The media editor’s story at the Observer noted the Gizmodo story trended on Facebook.

Facebook ‘Supression of Conservative News’ Story Is Trending on Facebook‘ published at 5:15 p.m. (assume this was local time in NYC).

Was it possible the Gizmodo article had been elevated by conservative news outlets and blogs rather than normal Facebook users’ traffic from reading the article itself, especially if the contract editors on assignment that day were still applying anti-conservative filters as alleged?

The last update to the Gizmodo article included this excerpt from a statement by Vice President of Search at Facebook, Tom Stocky:

…There have been other anonymous allegations — for instance that we artificially forced ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ to trend. We looked into that charge and found that it is untrue. We do not insert stories artificially into trending topics, and do not instruct our reviewers to do so. …

If Facebook could not detect foreign interference at that time — and it was known by September 2017 the Black Lives Matter content on Facebook had been elevated by Russian troll bots — would Facebook have been able to detect any artificial elevation of the Gizmodo stories?

Was it possible pro-conservative contract editors set up this scenario in order to skew Facebook’s content so that it would be easier for the Russian Internet Research Agency to amplify what appeared to be conservative content?

Or were the Gizmodo articles used to identify conservative outlets based on their liking the article?

Or was this scenario a proof-of-concept revealing Facebook’s inability or unwillingness to detect artificial manipulation of content?

Was it possible the Observer’s media page had been prepared to cover this development long before other east coast and national news outlets?

The timing of the Gizmodo stories is awfully convenient:

26-APR-2016 — GOP primaries/caucuses in CT, DE, MD, PA, RI, all won by Trump.

03-MAY-2016 — GOP primary in IN won by Trump.

03-MAY-2016 — Gizmodo article published: Want to Know What Facebook Really Thinks of Journalists? Here’s What Happened When It Hired Some.

03-MAY-2016 — Ted Cruz withdrew from race.

04-MAY-2016 — Trump became presumptive GOP nominee.

04-MAY-2016 — John Kasich withdrew from race.

09-MAY-2016 — Gizmodo article published at 9:10 a.m.: Former Facebook Workers: We Routinely Suppressed Conservative News.

09-MAY-2016 — Gizmodo updated article noting the piece had begun to trend with pickup by conservative sites; time of update not specified.

09-MAY-2016 — Gizmodo posted a second update at 4:10 p.m., posting Facebook’s initial response to TechCrunch, BuzzFeed, other unnamed outlets inquiries; the social media company denied suppression of content by political ideology.

09-MAY-2016 — Observer article published at 5:15 p.m.: Facebook ‘Supression of Conservative News’ Story Is Trending on Facebook.

10-MAY-2016 — Gizmodo adds final update at 8:10 a.m. with a statement from Facebook denying again any suppression by political ideology.

10-MAY-2016 — GOP primaries in NE, WV won by Trump.

17-MAY-2016 — Guardian-US published an op-ed by a Facebook contract curator pushing back at earlier Gizmodo stories. The article does not stop a steady number of stories repeating the earlier claims of anti-conservative bias.

17-MAY-2016 — GOP primary in OR won by Trump.

24-MAY-2016 — GOP primary in WA won by Trump.

26-MAY-2016 — Trump attains 1,237 total delegates, minimum required to win nomination — after CO, ND, and PA unbound delegates pledged to support Trump.

And by the end of May the race for media coverage isn’t a fight on the right among a broad field of GOP candidates but just Trump against Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for the next 10 days.

The too-convenient timing creates so many questions. It’d be nice to know if Facebook traffic showed an uptick of troll or bot interest promoting the Gizmodo story but Facebook has been less than forthcoming about traffic even though its business integrity was questioned.

It’d also be nice to know if the Observer had been tipped off ahead of the Gizmodo story trending and if the Observer’s report had other connotations apart from being a random story about social media.

But just as the Gizmodo journalist/editor who wrote the May 3 and May 9 stories moved on, the Observer journalist left their job, departing in late July 2016.

And the names of the Facebook curators/editors never appeared in subsequent coverage. Non-disclosure agreements may be the reason.

The kicker is another interesting bit of timing bookending Gizmodo’s stories:

19-APR-2016 — A domain for DCLeaks was registered.

. . .

06-JUN-2016 — Clinton attained 2383 delegates, the minimum threshold needed to earn the Democratic nomination.

08-JUN-2016 — A fake American identity posted a link in Facebook to a Russian GRU-associated website, DCLeaks, sharing content stolen from American servers including the DNC. The site “had gone live a few days earlier,” sharing small amounts of hacked material.

10-JUN-2016 — Gawker filed for bankruptcy.

By the time DCLeaks’ content was promoted by a fake account, the conservative commentariat from news sites to blogs had been primed to watch Facebook for a change in their coverage and Gawker as we’d known it under Nick Denton was on life support.

One other oddity about the Gizmodo stories about Facebook’s biased curation and the Observer piece observing Gizmodo’s Facebook pieces?

Trump’s name isn’t mentioned once in any of the three articles though his name had swamped all other media.

Hmm.

 

Treat this as an open thread.

The SCO Statement and Why Cohen Should Not Testify Feb. 7

Marcy wrote a great post this morning titled “Peter Carr Speaks“. I agree with almost all of it, if not all of it, but feel compelled to add a couple of things.

As to what the motivation of Carr and Mueller was, it is, at this date, unclear, despite the high handed and dismissive sudden reactive reportage of Devlin Barrett, Zapotsky and Demerjian at WaPo and Ken Dilanian of NBC/MSNBC. They have shown even less sources and credibility than Buzzfeed that they now conveniently and eagerly dismiss. Maybe the Mueller statement is a tad more nuanced and unknown than that.

As to what the target of the Mueller/Carr statement was, when Marcy says:

But I suspect Carr took this step, even more, as a message to SDNY and any other Agents working tangents of this case. Because of the way Mueller is spinning off parts of this case, he has less control over some aspects of it, like Cohen’s plea. And in this specific case (again, presuming I’m right about the SDNY sourcing), Buzzfeed’s sources just jeopardized Mueller’s hard-earned reputation, built over 20 months, for not leaking. By emphasizing in his statement what happened in “the special counsel’s office,” “testimony obtained by this office,” Carr strongly suggests that the people who served as sources had nothing to do with the office.

Yes, this looks almost certain from where I stand. Wasn’t the only aim of Carr’s arrow on behalf of Mueller, but was a rather large one.

Secondly, and since many media outlets and commenters are clacking about how the proof of Trump directly telling Cohen to lie is the end all and be all as to necessity for discussion, that is just wrong.

The record before the Buzzfeed article already established, through signed and accepted court filings, that Cohen indeed lied to Congress with the express intent of supporting the lies Trump was fostering.

That is not in dispute at this point. As to whether Trump personally ordered Cohen to do so, face to face, (and there is still a decent shot of that being true, but we do not know), that is not the end of the discussion legally.

First off, if those around Trump, (think lawyers and family, if not Trump himself), discussed and encouraged Cohen to lie to Congress, that is a huge problem for Trump. Let me remind people of one of the most basic definitional provisions in the criminal code, 18 USC §2:

(a) Whoever commits an offense against the United States or aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures its commission, is punishable as a principal.

(b) Whoever willfully causes an act to be done which if directly performed by him or another would be an offense against the United States, is punishable as a principal.

So,  all of the nonsense by Rudy Guliliani is simply nonsense. That is without even considering conspiracy law and implications thereof.

So, sure, the SCO hit on Buzzfeed hurt the narrative in the press. Did it really hurt the narrative legally? No, not so much.

Lastly, I would like to address the upcoming House Oversight Committee hearing Cohen is scheduled for on February 7. He was voluntarily appearing after restrictions Cummings and the Committee agreed to, purportedly, with Mueller. The ground has changed. Frankly,  I think the hearing this quickly was ill considered and premature grandstanding to start with, but now strikes me as nuts given the changed circumstances after the Buzzfeed piece, SCO brushback and Trump’s direct threats to Cohen’s extended family.

Given the aggressive nature of Trump’s followers, there is a credible threat to Cohen and his family. But, more than that, there is a threat to his credibility and usability as a witness in the future. The ranking member on the House Oversight Committee is the odious Jim Jordan. His other GOP minority members will undoubtedly fall in line to attack Cohen, especially after the vague pushback comment of Carr/Mueller last night. It is set up now as a clown show.

The hearing should either be affirmatively postponed by Cummings or withdrawn from by Cohen personally. There is nowhere near enough good that can come from Cohen’s appearance, and a lot to lose for both him and Mueller given the shitshow that the GOP members will bring to the affair. Cancel that February 7 hearing and testimony. Just do not do it.

[For the record, I originally lodged this as a comment on Marcy’s post, but for unrelated reasons, thought the points about criminal liability and conspiracy needed to be included in a separate post, and did not wish to step on hers at the time.]