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The Hole in the Senate January 6 Report Created by DOJ’s Non-Cooperation

The Senate Rules/Homeland Security Report on January 6 is as helpful for the holes it identifies as it is for the questions it answers.

The most amazing hole pertains to the actions of the Secret Service. The report notes that the Secret Service attended a preparatory meeting on January 5, and like the FBI, Secret Service raised no warnings about the violent mob that their primary protectee was convening in DC.

He has stated that in a January 5 meeting with USCP leadership, members of the Capitol Police Board, and officials from the FBI, U.S. Secret Service, and DCNG, no entity “provided any intelligence indicating that there would be a coordinated violent attack on the United States Capitol by thousands of well-equipped armed insurrectionists.”153

The Report notes that then-Capitol Police Chief Steve Sund called Secret Service and asked for help on the day of the riot.

At 1:01 p.m., Mr. Sund also requested assistance from the United States Secret Service.79

[snip]

Mr. Sund testified that he first contacted MPD, followed closely by the U.S. Secret Service Uniformed Division.457

But the language about the agencies that did come to help does not mention Secret Service.

After 3:00 p.m., additional reinforcements from federal agencies began to arrive, and USCP turned to extracting and securing congressional staff.111 A number of agencies and entities provided assistance, including DHS; the FBI; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Montgomery County Police Department; the Arlington County Police Department; the Fairfax Police Department; and Virginia State Troopers.112 With this help, USCP secured the Senate and House chambers, along with the basement, subways, first floor, and crypts by 4:28 p.m. 113 DCNG personnel began arriving at the Capitol at approximately 5:20 p.m.114 By 6:14 p.m., USCP, DCNG, and MPD successfully established a security perimeter on the west side of the Capitol building.115

We’ve been focusing for months on the delayed response from DOD, but all this time Secret Service’s role has gone little noticed (and I’m still interested in Park Police’s absence). The silence here suggests that Secret Service blew off an explicit call for help as a mob threatened both Mike Pence and Kamala Harris.

As the report notes, Secret Service’s lead agency, DHS, has not yet fully complied with the Senate’s information requests.

Most entities cooperated with the Committees’ requests. There were notable exceptions, however: the Department of Justice and DHS have yet to fully comply with the Committees’ requests for information, the Office of the House of Representatives Sergeant at Arms did not comply with the Committees’ information requests, and a USCP Deputy Chief of Police declined to be interviewed by the Committees.

As to DOD’s slow response in deploying the Guard on the day of the attack, the report suggests that Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy had a key role in it.

There are multiple conflicting stories about what happened at DOD. It was clear from his testimony that former Acting Secretary Christopher Miller genuinely didn’t understand how much of a delay there was with the deployment of the National Guard. An important detail included in the report is that Miller believed the Guard had his okay to deploy by 3:04, but McCarthy dawdled until after 4:32, after other law enforcement had secured much of the Capitol.

By 4:32 p.m., Mr. McCarthy and his D.C. counterparts had agreed upon a “task and purpose” for DCNG, “identif[ied] link-up locations, and confirm[ed] key leaders at each site.”656 Accounts differ as to who within DOD needed to approve the final plan in order to deploy DCNG troops to the Capitol. Mr. McCarthy briefed Mr. Miller on the plan, who raised no objections.657 But Mr. Miller informed the Committees that he did not need to approve the plan—in his view, his 3:04 p.m. authorization was all encompassing and as soon as Mr. McCarthy and General Walker finished their mission analysis, DCNG had all necessary authorizations to deploy.658 General McConville informed the Committees that, although he did not know for sure, he believed Mr. Miller did need to approve the deployment plan.659

The reason why McCarthy dawdled is important, though.

After a bunch of conflicting excuses about the delay itself, there’s a section addressing why the Quick Reaction Force wasn’t deployed (ironically, given that the Oath Keepers seemed more prepared to release theirs than the entire DOD). After yet more conflicting excuses, McCarthy said that one reason the QRF couldn’t be deployed was because DOD needed to “link up with an organization and contact.”

General Walker also testified that the QRF was outfitted with all the equipment needed to go to the Capitol and was “ready to go” before 5:00 p.m.694 General McConville stated that “there was never an intent to have a quick reaction force going in to clear the Capitol.”695 Neither Mr. McCarthy nor Mr. Miller recalled whether the QRF had its civil disturbance gear available at Joint Base Andrews. Mr. McCarthy also noted that he was never informed that the QRF was at the Armory, equipped, and prepared to depart for the Capitol.696 When asked whether the QRF was properly equipped to respond to the Capitol, even if that was not the original intent, General McConville reiterated the importance of the assigned mission: “it depends on what the mission was.”697

Mr. McCarthy also acknowledged that, even if properly equipped, the QRF still needed to be briefed on the new mission.698 “I wanted to be clear of the concept for operations and how we were going to bring these [available DCNG personnel, including the QRF] together, make sure they ha[d] the right equipment, a clear understanding of their mission, and then link up with an organization and contact.

In other words, the reason the Pentagon couldn’t send a QRF to fight mobs prepared with their own QRF was because there was no lead agency to oversee them.

One of the most important sections of this report describes how Trump made DOJ — the same agency that had deployed even BOP officials during the summer — the lead agency on January 6. But DOJ did nothing. Miller explained that’s why he got so involved — because DOJ did nothing. “Somebody needed to do it,” he explained. And then McCarthy repeatedly used the lack of a lead federal agency as his excuse not to deploy the Guard. This discussion of DOJ’s disavowals of being the lead federal agency is one of the few areas where the report reiterates that an agency refused to cooperate with the Senate.

All DOD officials interviewed stressed the importance of the designation of a lead federal agency to support operations on January 6. The lead federal agency is “the nexus and locus for all information flow” and ensures that everything is coordinated and synchronized across federal agencies and departments.556 Mr. Miller noted that DOD “should never, ever be the lead federal agency for domestic law enforcement,” except for the establishment of martial law.557 Indeed, Mr. McCarthy required an agency to be designated before supporting the Mayor’s request for National Guard assistance. 558 According to Mr. McCarthy, on January 4, the White House designated DOJ as the lead federal agency for January 6: “Sunday evening, after Acting Secretary Miller and General Milley met with the President, they got the lead [f]ederal agency established, all of the pieces started coming together.”559 Mr. Miller also recalled that DOJ was designated as the lead federal agency at some point prior to January 6, but he did not know what role the White House played in the decision.560

Although DOD understood that DOJ was designated as the lead federal agency, there appears to have been no clearly established point of contact within the department, according to Mr. McCarthy, which he found “concerning.”561 Prior to January 6, Mr. McCarthy sent a letter to Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen outlining the Army’s operational plan in support of the Mayor’s request and reached out informally to David Bowdich, FBI Deputy Director, because the two had worked together previously.562 But Mr. McCarthy claimed, even during the attack, he was never provided an official point of contact at DOJ and had no contact with DOJ or FBI officials until approximately 4:00 p.m. 563 General McConville also stated that DOJ was designated as the lead federal agency; however, he noted that DOJ did not conduct any interagency rehearsals or have an integrated security plan, as DOJ did during the summer 2020 protests when it had also been designated as the lead federal agency.564 General McConville stressed the importance of integrated security plans and acknowledged that had there been one on January 6, DOD’s response time would have been quicker.565

In contrast, Mr. Miller stated Richard Donoghue, Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General, served as DOJ’s operational lead on January 6.566 Notably, however, Mr. Miller acknowledged that, during the attack, he convened calls with Cabinet members to share information and ensure everyone was on the same page.567 When asked why he convened the calls, as opposed to the lead federal agency, Mr. Miller responded, “somebody needed to do it.”568 Mr. Miller was not familiar with any actions DOJ took to coordinate the federal response on January 6.569

On May 12, 2021, Jeffrey Rosen, the Acting Attorney General on January 6, testified at a House Oversight hearing that it was “not accurate” that DOJ was the lead federal agency for security preparations on January 6. 570 He stated that DOJ’s responsibilities were specific to intelligence coordinating and information sharing.571 DOJ has not acknowledged that it was designated the lead federal agency for January 6 and has yet to fully comply with the Committees’ requests for information. 572

In this post, I suggested the January 6 investigation hypothetically could (which is no guarantee it will) reach far more of the potentially criminal behavior than virtually everyone not following closely believes.

But in addition to the two areas where I expressed doubt that could happen — members of Congress, and DOD itself — this report makes it clear that DOJ remains a key subject that should be investigated.

It’s not at all clear that the FBI can or would investigate DOJ’s former top leaders.

Admittedly, DOJ — along with DOD, DHS, and Interior — is conducting a review of DOJ’s role that day and in weeks leading up to it (it’s not clear DHS’ review will include Secret Service, which has its own IG).

Review Examining the Role and Activity of DOJ and its Components in Preparing for and Responding to the Events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021

The DOJ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is initiating a review to examine the role and activity of DOJ and its components in preparing for and responding to the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. The DOJ OIG will coordinate its review with reviews also being conducted by the Offices of Inspector General of the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of the Interior. The DOJ OIG review will include examining information relevant to the January 6 events that was available to DOJ and its components in advance of January 6; the extent to which such information was shared by DOJ and its components with the U.S. Capitol Police and other federal, state, and local agencies; and the role of DOJ personnel in responding to the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. The DOJ OIG also will assess whether there are any weaknesses in DOJ protocols, policies, or procedures that adversely affected the ability of DOJ or its components to prepare effectively for and respond to the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. If circumstances warrant, the DOJ OIG will consider examining other issues that may arise during the review.

The DOJ OIG is mindful of the sensitive nature of the ongoing criminal investigations and prosecutions related to the events of January 6. Consistent with long-standing OIG practice, in conducting this review, the DOJ OIG will take care to ensure that the review does not interfere with these investigations or prosecutions.

DOJ IG has suggested that it is looking into the late Trump term shenanigans. But it’s not clear that it would look at why DOJ let a violent mob assault the Capitol.

Which, given the Senate report, is an issue that needs far more scrutiny.

Crowdsourced Timeline: Torching the USPS [Work in Progress, UPDATE-2]

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. Updates appear at the bottom of this post. /~Rayne]

Well now. This has been a day to beat all days, hasn’t it?

Who would ever have guessed — during the middle of a scandal in which a Trump donor+appointee engaged in dismantling the U.S. Postal Service to obstruct a general election and a Census — that U.S. Postal Agents with U.S. Coast Guard assistance would arrest a Trump advisor on a boat with a Chinese dissident business person?

It’s mind boggling and delicious at the same time.

Also today: the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Public Citizen filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Postal Service and current Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, arguing changes made to the USPS system violate federal law, disrupting mail delivery and may cause voter disenfranchisement this November.

I wrote that DeJoy’s “equipment reductions” and staffing changes may have violated 18 U.S. Code § 1701.Obstruction of mails generally, as well as 18 U.S. Code § 371 Conspiracy to Defraud the U.S., and possibly 18 U.S. Code § 1346 Honest Services Fraud.

NAACP and Public Citizen argue DeJoy’s changes violate 39 U.S. Code § 3661 – Postal services by failing to obtain public comment first before finalizing and implementing changes, as well as 39 U.S. Code § 101(e) – Postal policy by failing to “give the highest consideration to the requirement for the most expeditious collection, transportation, and delivery of important letter mail.”

There’s a tidbit in the complaint which I hope the court addresses when it addresses relief:

17. The PAEA in 2006 established the Postal Regulatory Commission as “an independent establishment of the executive branch.” Id. § 501. “The Postal Regulatory Commission is composed of 5 Commissioners, appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Commissioners shall be chosen solely on the basis of their technical qualifications, professional standing, and demonstrated expertise in economics, accounting, law, or public administration, and may be removed by the President only for cause. Each individual appointed to the Commission shall have the qualifications and expertise necessary to carry out the enhanced responsibilities accorded Commissioners under the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act.” Id. § 502(a). “No Commissioner shall be financially interested in any enterprise in the private sector of the economy engaged in the delivery of mail matter.” Id. § 502(b).

Emphasis mine. DeJoy isn’t qualified to be a commissioner and should be removed.

And more today: nonprofit organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) also filed a complaint with the Department of Justice against DeJoy today, asking for an investigation into DeJoy’s actions which will undermine voting by mail for Trump’s political benefit. CREW’s concerned that DeJoy did more than violate the Hatch Act:

Criminal law (18 U.S.C. § 610) [Hatch Act] prohibits anyone from commanding any employee of the federal government to engage in political activity. Another provision (18 U.S.C § 595) bars anyone “employed in any administrative position by the United States” from using, in connection with any federally-funded activity, their “official authority for the purpose of interfering with, or affecting, the nomination or the election of any candidate for the office of President.”

I’m waiting for an entity to sue the U.S. Postal Service and current Postmaster General Louis DeJoy for interfering with the delivery of Census forms which may yet be in circulation.

Senator Gary Peters has requested DeJoy appear before a Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee tomorrow. Let’s hope both ballots and Census forms come up in the hearing.

What might be helpful to both persons following the hearing tomorrow and the House Oversight Committee hearing on Monday, August 24, is a timeline of relevant events related to Louis DeJoy’s installment as U.S. Postmaster General, the appointments of the current USPS Board of Governors, and the changes DeJoy as ordered.

Here’s a partially constructed timeline. If there’s an event or item you believe is key, please share it in comments and I’ll insert it in chronological order.

~ ~ ~

October 16, 2016 — DeJoy donation: $25,000 to to American Crossroads, pro-Trump super PAC run by Robert Duncan, chair of USPS Board of Governors which appointed DeJoy. DeJoy was the Republican National Committee’s national deputy chairman and was North Carolina State Chair for Trump Victory during the 2016 campaign.

Early January 2017 — According to The Charlotte Observer, “DeJoy was one of Trump’s biggest N.C. donors and fundraisers. Records show he gave $111,000 to the Trump Victory Fund, a joint committee that split money between the campaign and party groups. He gave the Republican National Committee another $273,000 to help elect Trump.”

October 7, 2017 — DeJoy hosted a $25,000 minimum donation fundraising dinner for Trump at his home in Greensboro, NC.

October 2019 — Then-Postmaster General Marge Brennan announced her impending retirement.

December 10, 2019 — Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin met with David Abney, chairman and CEO of UPS, a competitor of USPS.

March 27, 2020 — Before COVID-19, a fundraising event was scheduled. The event hosted by DeJoy in Greenboro NC was intended to benefit Trump’s re-election campaign, the RNC and several state Republican parties, including North Carolina’s.

April 9, 2020 — Then-Postmaster General Brennan warned of a $13 billion revenue shortfall due “directly to COVID-19” and an additional $54.3 billion in losses over 10 years. USPS could “run out of cash this fiscal year” on September 30 if it did not receive federal funding.

May 23, 2020 — On or about this date, DeJoy was named national finance chairman for CLT Host 2020, the local organizing committee for the Republican National Convention. At the time the convention was scheduled to be held in Charlotte, NC.

January 15, 2020 — DeJoy donation: $150,000 to Trump’s campaign; $217,800 to the Republican National Committee.

January 16, 2020 — DeJoy donation: $10,000 to the North Carolina Republican Party.

February 7, 2020 — AG Bill Barr freezes campaign finance investigations.

February 12, 2020 — DeJoy donation: $35,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

February 19, 2020 — DeJoy donation: $210,600 to Trump’s campaign.

April 1, 2020 — USPS Board of Governors adopts new mission statement.

April 2020 (date TBD) — DeJoy’s and spouse Wos’ joint charity helped found the Burr Center at Wake Forest University

April 9, 2020 — DeJoy donations: $35,000 to help re-elect Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), in November; $27,200 to the National Republican Congressional Committee; $5,000 to the Majority Committee PAC, which says on Facebook its goal is “holding Nancy Pelosi accountable and helping Republicans take back the House of Representatives.”

May 6, 2020 — DeJoy sworn in as Postmaster General and CEO.

May 14, 2020 — NC Senator Burr steps down as SSCI chair due to FBI investigation of his trade.

May 15, 2020 — House passed the HEROES Act containing $25 billion in funding for the USPS.

May 15, 2020 — USPS presentation, “Equipment Reduction” proposed plan.

June 15, 2020 — First day on the job at USPS according to DeJoy.

June 15, 2020 — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent a letter to the USPS Board of Governors asking them for their communication with the White House about DeJoy’s appointment.

June 17, 2020 — American Postal Workers Union was told of plans to remove 671 automated mail sorters — more than 10 percent of the total — from operation throughout the country.

July 10, 2020 — USPS circulated to employees a document entitled “PMGs expectations and plan” outlining changes DeJoy would order, including elimination of overtime, letter carriers would limit the time and scope of their delivery routes, and certain customer service windows would close during lunchtime. A document also circulated reviewing the changes, entitled, “Mandatory Stand-Up Talk: All Employees,” subtitled, “Pivoting For Our Future” (Pivot Instructions).

July 13, 2020 — DeJoy announced a prohibition to overtime and any other measures local postmasters use to alleviate shortages of staff hours.

Mid-July 2020 — USPS Board of Governors responded to Sen. Schumer’s request; Schumer said they told him “much of the information I requested was confidential.” The board had used an executive search firm which refused to waive a nondisclosure agreement.

July 27, 2020 — Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced HEALS Act as counter to House bill HEROES Act; the senate bill contains no funding for the USPS.

July 29, 2020 — The Washington Post reported that in consideration for a $10 billion loan, DeJoy gave Mnuchin proprietary information about USPS’s private-sector contracts including Amazon, FedEx and UPS.

Late July, 2020 — Thomas J. Marshall, USPS’s general counsel and executive vice president, sent a letter to 46 states “warning that it cannot guarantee all ballots cast by mail for the November election will arrive in time to be counted,” according to a report by the Washington Post on August 14.

August 4, 2020 — U.S. mail delays contributed to ballots arriving too late to be completed or mailed back in
time to be counted Missouri’s August 4, 2020 primary election.

August 4, 2020 — Trump lied about speaking with DeJoy about the USPS.

August 5, 2020 — Sen. Schumer and Rep. Pelosi met DeJoy, along with Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to negotiate both funding and the Pivot changes implemented by DeJoy.

August 6, 2020 — Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) launched investigation into USPS delivery delays.

August 7, 2020 — First meeting of  USPS Board of Governors DeJoy attended; results of third quarter, ended June 30, released. DeJoy also announced he had reassigned or displaced 23 senior USPS officials.

August 9, 2020 — Trump lied again about speaking with DeJoy about the USPS.

August 10, 2020 — DeJoy acknowledged in a USPS-wide memo that the Pivot Instructions “impacted our overall service levels.”

August 12, 2020 — Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced the Delivering for America Act.

August 13, 2020 — Photos of removed postal equipment appeared online.

August 13, 2020 — DeJoy sent a memo acknowledging recent changes have “unintended consequences that impacted our overall service levels.” No effort was made to halt or reverse the changes set in motion, however.

August 13, 2020 — Trump admitted in an interview that “he opposes a $25 billion emergency injection sought by the U.S. Postal Service, as well as a Democratic proposal to provide $3.6 billion in additional election funding to the states,” according to the Washington Post. “They need that money in order to make the post office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” said Trump.

August 16, 2020 — Speaker Pelosi called for an emergency session of House to address the USPS crisis.

August 16, 2020 — Senator Gary Peters, ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee, called for an emergency hearing.

~ ~ ~

One thing that bothers me which hasn’t gotten much attention is DeJoy’s continuing relationship with XPO Logistics. Yes, it’s a conflict of interest that he continues to own a chunk of XPO’s stock while he is Postmaster and CEO of USPS since XPO is a USPS contractor and a competitor since it also carries shipments for USPS competitors.

CREW’s complaint is in no small part focused on this conflict as well as DeJoy’s marital assets tied up in hundreds of thousands of dollars in UPS and J.B. Hunt trucking company in addition to the tens of millions in XPO Logistics from which DeJoy had not divested.

But logistics services, especially freight haulers, have long been prone to corruption.

Take for example an indictment last October:

According to court documents, Leonid Teyf, 57, was part of a scheme where several trucking companies paid more than $1 million in bribes to the Utah FedEx ground hub manager.

Teyf, you’ll recall, is a Russian national and a business crony of Yevgeny “Putin’s Chef” Prigozhin; he was arrested in late 2018 because of a murder-for-hire plot. He had two homes in the Raleigh, NC area which were raided by the feds.

At the time of Teyf’s original arrest there was no indication in local news reporting there was anything more to Teyf’s offenses besides the murder-for-hire accusation and immigration law violations.

How did Teyf end up involved in logistics in Utah, connected with USPS competitor FedEx?

DeJoy may have zero relationship with Teyf, but DeJoy had been the CEO of New Breed Logistics (NBL) for decades. NBL customers included USPS.

DeJoy’s company was acquired by XPO Logistics in 2014 for $600 million; DeJoy continued after the acquisition on NBL’s executive management and board of directors until May 2018. XPO Logistics’ competitors included DHL, FedEx, UPS, and J.B. Hunt Transport Services — and surely must have included USPS to some extent, considering the expedited package handling companies are USPS’s competitors.

Did DeJoy’s business ever cross with Teyf’s, considering they were both in logistics, were both living in North Carolina less than two hours apart (DeJoy in Greenboro and Teyf in Raleigh)?

Are there other possible corrupt entities which have their fingers in the mix with DeJoy’s wrecking crew management style? Can you think of ways in which corrupt entities could manipulate this situation for their benefit?

~ ~ ~

Let’s try to keep this thread focused on the USPS.

.
UPDATE-1 — 9:05 A.M. ET —

The Senate hearing was scheduled for 9:00 am but the start appears to be running late. You can watch the video conference at:

CSPAN https://www.c-span.org/video/?474940-1/senate-hearing-us-postal-service#

NPR (embedded video at this link, scroll down) https://www.npr.org/2020/08/21/904366258/postmaster-general-faces-senate-as-controversy-persists-over-usps-cuts

It’s also being carried on some broadcast and cable networks.

A couple new items related to NC’s Senator Richard Burr have been added to the timeline. Was his vote for approval persuaded by contributions or contributions-in-kind?

UPDATE-2 — 10:30 A.M. ET —

One of our community members, Vicks, shared a link to an article in Supply Chain News about XPO Logistics. As I noted in comments, this company in which DeJoy retains a substantive investment interest had suffered from a downturn in business in late 2018-early 2019. The loss of business volume was sizable enough to warrant evaluating restructuring of the firm into smaller entities for divestment.

This may suggest why Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is involved in the USPS scandal:

… XPO said it has hired high powered investment and legal firms to execute the processes. Those include Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase as financial advisers and Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz as its legal adviser in the review process. …

Amazon’s own logistics company cut into XPO’s business at the same time Trump’s tariffs increased retail prices, reducing consumer demand. Rather than cutting costs and riding it out, or trying to find ways to spin off to Amazon, or trying to partner with Amazon’s competitors Target/Walmart/other, XPO looked at breaking up, thereby getting investment bankers involved.

Investment banks want to shake more cash out of XPO and its subs; they need to improve its prospects to do so. They want to find more business for XPO or its future spinoffs so they lean on Mnuchin to get dirt on competitor USPS which is a vendor to Amazon. UPS is involved because it wants to maintain its share of the market and it’s willing to help lean on USPS by providing its own take on expense allocation.

It’s corrupt as fuck. Mnuchin is favoring Wall Street investment banks and a Trump donor over a Constitutionally-mandated service. Fuck him.

Another question comes to mind about the drivers behind XPO’s fortunes: were companies which were adversely affected by the tariffs “picked off” by investment banks, possibly with Mnuchin’s help, to increase short selling opportunities and other forms of vulture capitalism?

Chuck Grassley and His Two Republican Friends

After spending several days hemming and hawing about it, Chuck Grassley has sent a letter to President Trump, asking that he “provide more detailed reasoning for the removal of Inspector General Atkinson no later than April 13, 2020.”

The letter cites the basis for which Congress can make such demands: Inspector Generals work for both Congress and the Executive.

Further, the IC IG and indeed all inspectors general (IG) are designed to fulfill a dual role, reporting to both the President and Congress, to secure efficient, robust, and independent agency oversight. To ensure inspectors general are fully capable of performing their critical duties, and in recognition of their importance both to efficient administration and to the legislative function, Congress set clear, statutory notice requirements for their potential removal.

And it lays out how Trump’s move — not just putting Michael Atkinson on 30-day administrative leave (something Obama did , but also naming Thomas Monheim as Atkinson’s replacement immediately, something without precedent that Adam Schiff also raised concerns about.

Further, according to public reports, Mr. Atkinson already was placed on administrative leave, effectively removing him from his position prior to the completion of the statutorily required notice period.

[snip]

Please also provide your views on how the appointment of an acting official prior to the end of the 30 day notice period comports with statutory requirements.

The letter is precisely the kind of Congressional pushback on a removal that laws governing the appointments of Inspectors General envision. This is not just a show; Grassley has a long history of caring deeply about this stuff (and twice defended Schiff’s efforts to keep the identity of the Ukraine whistleblower secret).

The problem with his letter is this:

Just two of the Senators who co-signed this letter, Susan Collins and Mitt Romney, are Republicans (Gary Peters, ranking member on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, also signed). Grassley unsurprisingly didn’t get the hackish Ron Johnson, who as the Chair of HGSAC should make a pretense of giving a damn about oversight, to sign on. He didn’t get the Senator with the biggest role in overseeing the ICIG, Senate Intelligence Chair Richard Burr, to sign on (though Mark Warner is Ranking Member on the committee). And he didn’t get any of the other Senators — like Lisa Murkowski or Lamar Alexander — who purportedly considered voting for impeachment to sign on.

And that means, without enough Republicans to be able to threaten that a majority of the Senate would back an effort to enforce this request, Trump can and might well just blow this request off.

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?

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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.

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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.

Will Gary Peters Help Mitch McConnell Expand Illegal Surveillance?

A year ago, Michigan Senator Gary Peters voted with 302 of his House colleagues for that version of USA Freedom Act (the incarnation I called USA Freedumb). He voted for a badly flawed bill (perhaps looking forward to his Senate campaign), but he did vote for a smushy compromise to get the government out of the business of holding all Americans’ phone records.

Also about a year ago, Peters voted for the Massie-Lofgren Amendment which would have defunded back door searches of data collected under Section 702. It was an easy vote; there was little chance then Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Barb Mikulski would have let that remain in the Defense Appropriations.

But Peters at least pretended he cared about abusive surveillance.

This week, however, Peters claims to be uncertain about whether he will support a short-term extension of sunsetting PATRIOT Act authorities. His office twice did not respond to a request for clarification on this front.

Let me be very clear: supporting Mitch McConnell’s short-term extension serves just one purpose: To make the already weak reform, USA F-ReDux worse. Peters’ claimed uncertainty about what he will do just enables McConnell’s stunt to expose innocent Americans to more spying.

If, like me, you’re a Peters constituent, please call his office and urge him to hold the line on the already weak USA F-ReDux. (202) 224-6221

 

Cox on Rogers: “Like he was J. Edgar Hoover”

Since Carl Levin announced he would retire, I’ve been hoping to see Justin Amash take on Mike Rogers in a Republican primary. This National Journal article captures the dynamics of that possibility well (though may overestimate how much money Amash could raise).

But before I get into why I’d be so fascinated about such a race, check out how former Republican  Attorney General Mike Cox describes Mike Rogers.

If Rogers were to run, he would have to give up his chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee, for which there are no term limits. Former GOP Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox downplayed that motivation, saying Rogers’ ambition for higher office trumps his desire to make a meaningful influence in foreign policy. “If [Rogers] lost, he could make a lot of money in D.C. as a lobbyist,” Cox said last week. “He’s so full of [expletive] to begin with. He tells all these stories about being an FBI agent, and he was in the FBI for two years. Like he was J. Edgar Hoover.”

“He’s so full of shit to begin with.”

This is the great hope of MI’s GOP to take over Levin’s seat.

Now, Gary Peters, who’ll run on the Democratic side, is one of MI’s rising Democratic stars. And as the article notes, he hails from Oakland County, which is critical not just because of the fundraising base there, but because it’s the second largest county and pretty evenly split; Peters has a proven ability to win that critical swing county’s votes.

Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that if Amash ran (whether or not he won), I’d probably end up represented by a GOP neanderthal rather than Amash (because Democrats are unlikely to win the district in an off year, and because there are tons of up-and-coming neanderthal GOPers in the Grand Rapids area), I’d still really like to see a Rogers-Amash race.

That’s because it’d serve as a nationally watched race between the GOP’s rising libertarian wing and one of the GOP’s most authoritarian leaders. Mike Rogers has championed CISPA and whatever other new surveillance efforts anyone wanted. Justin Amash led those few Republicans who opposed it. Amash even came out in favor of reading Dzhokhar Tsarnaev a Miranda warning this weekend.

In other words, in a battle between Rogers and Amash, civil liberties and the Constitution would be central.

Mike Cox was making fun of Rogers’ self-promotion when he drew the analogy with J. Edgar (and there’s an implicit respect for Hoover in his comment). But it’s high time someone started making the analogy between the fear-mongering and surveillance Rogers and others embrace and Hoover’s.

Gary Peters: Why Is It Okay to Abrogate UAW Contracts But Not Wall Street’s Contracts?

Gary Peters asks the question all Michiganders have been asking since September. Why are UAW’s line workers forced to renegotiate their contracts and GM’s engineers forced to forgo bonuses, but not the banksters who ruined the economy?