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House January 6 Committee: Public Hearings – Day 1 [UPDATE-1]

[NB: Any updates will be published at the bottom of this post. /~Rayne]

This post and comment thread are dedicated to the House January 6 Committee hearings scheduled to begin Thursday June 9, 2022, at 8:00 p.m. ET.

Please take all comments unrelated to the hearings to a different thread.

The hearings will stream on:

House J6 Committee’s website: https://january6th.house.gov/news/watch-live

House J6 Committee’s YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZ0yNe3cFx4

C-SPAN’s House J6 hearing page: https://www.c-span.org/video/?520282-1/open-testimony-january-6-committee

C-SPAN’s YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/c/C-SPAN/featured

Check PBS for your local affiliate’s stream: https://www.pbs.org/ (see upper right corner)

Twitter is carrying multiple live streams (NBC, PBS, Washington Post, Reuters, CSPAN, Bloomberg): https://twitter.com/i/events/1533876297926991877

MSNBC will carry coverage on their cable network with coverage beginning at 7:00 p.m. ET as well as on MSNBC’s Maddow Show podcast feed. Details at this link.

ABC, NBC, CBS will carry the hearings live on broadcast and CNN will carry on its cable network.

Fox News is not carrying this on their main network. Their weeknight programming including Tucker Carlson’s screed will continue as usual and will likely carry counterprogramming.

Twitter accounts live tweeting the hearing tonight:

Brandi Buchman-DailyKos: https://twitter.com/Brandi_Buchman/status/1535034512639512576

Scott MacFarlane-CBS: https://twitter.com/MacFarlaneNews/status/1535050143879266306

Chris Geidner-Grid News: https://twitter.com/chrisgeidner/status/1535052708922937345

JustSecurity’s team live tweeting: https://twitter.com/just_security/status/1534955708881457154

If you know of any other credible source tweeting the coverage, please share a link in comments.

Marcy will not be live tweeting as the hearing begins 2:00 a.m. IST/1:00 a.m. UTC/GMT. She’ll have a post Friday morning Eastern Time. Do make sure to read her hearing prep post, though.

An agenda for this evening’s hearing has not been published on the committee’s website.

~ ~ ~

Any updates will appear at the bottom of this post; please bear with any content burps as this page may be edited as the evening progresses.

Again, this post is dedicated to the House January 6 Committee  and topics addressed in testimony and evidence produced during the hearing.

All other discussion should be in threads under the appropriate post with open discussion under the most recent Trash Talk.

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~ ~ ~

UPDATE-1 — 7:30 P.M. ET 10-JUN-2022 —

According to Scott MacFarlane-CBS there will be a total of six House J6 Committee hearings this month.

House J6 Committee hearing schedule (as of eve 6/10/2022):

Monday June 13 — Hearing: On the January 6th Investigation
10:00 AM | 390 Canon HOB
Host: Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack

Wednesday June 15 — Hearing: On the January 6th Investigation
10:00 AM | 390 Canon HOB
Host: Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack

Thursday June 16 — Hearing: On the January 6th Investigation
1:00 PM | 390 Canon HOB
Host: Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack

Tuesday June 21 — Hearing: On the January 6th Investigation
**10:00 AM ET | Date-Time-Place Subject to Confirmation**
Host: Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack

Thursday June 23 — Hearing: On the January 6th Investigation
**8:00 PM ET | Date-Time-Place Subject to Confirmation**
Host: Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack

Date, time, and location of the next three hearings have been published on the U.S. House of Representatives’ calendar. The last two have not yet been confirmed and published.

Peril: What’s Epilogue to Prologue?

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

Guess what book came in the mail last weekend?

PROLOGUE
Two days after the January 6, 2021, violent assault on the United States Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump, General Mark Milley, the nation’s senior military officer and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, placed an urgent call on a top secret, back-channel line at 7:03 a.m. to his Chinese counterpart, General Li Zuocheng, chief of the Joint Staff of the People’s Liberation Army.

Milley knew from extensive reports that Li and the Chinese leadership were stunned and disoriented by the televised images of the unprecedented attack on the American Legislature.

Li fired off questions to Milley. Was the American superpower unstable? Collapsing? What was going on? Was the U.S. military going to do something?

“Things may look unsteady,” Milley said, trying to calm Li, whom he had known for five years. “But that’s the nature of democracy, General Li. We are 100 percent steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.”

It took an hour and a half—45 minutes of substance due to the necessary use of interpreters—to try to assure him.

When Milley hung up, he was convinced the situation was grave. Li remained unusually rattled, putting the two nations on the knife-edge of disaster.

That’s the first six paragraphs of the book Peril‘s fucking prologue.

Prologues are typically use to establish a frame or perspective, providing additional exposition for the reader before they enter the main narrative. They’re far more common in fiction than nonfiction.

This isn’t a true prologue. It’s a chapter from an attempted autogolpe told out of chronological sequence to grab the reader’s attention and make them stay with the narrative.

I’ll admit right now I’ve only just cracked the book and I’m juggling it with other reading I’m doing, but Jesus fucking Christ no wonder the media sat up from its moribund position and covered General Milley’s preemptive diplomacy from Peril’s prologue before its commercial release date September 21.

No wonder, too, why the media immediately went on a tear about Milley’s call to China. Peril’s prologue ensured this would happen.

Sadly, I’m juggling more than other reading right now, so I haven’t been able to catch but snippets of the House Armed Services Committee hearings this past week during which some of the substance in Peril was addressed.

~ ~ ~

It’s surprising and yet unsurprising that the media blew up about General Milley’s defense-by-diplomacy immediately following the January 6 insurrection.

First, they bit on the lede with which Costa and Woodward baited them, which means the prologue worked as a hook, but it also reveals a massive hole in reporting following January 6.

Why did the public need to wait until Costa and Woodward published a book NINE MONTHS AFTER the insurrection to learn the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was compelled to engage in diplomacy with his Chinese counterpart?

Second, the media was surprised at the level of concern regarding a peaceful transition of power, but not until NINE MONTHS AFTER the insurrection.

Why weren’t they paying attention to the National Task Force on Election Crises five months before the election and seven months before the insurrection, especially after Trump refused to concede the election, called Georgia’s secretary of state to lean on the state to “find the votes” necessary for Trump to win, and after the January 6 insurrection?

And why did so many media outlets ignore or forget that only Congress has the power to declare war, and that any attack on another nation-state without authorization by Congress would be unlawful?

Lastly, why wasn’t Milley’s oath of office — the same oath taken by all members of the military, similar to the oath taken by federal employees and elected officials — taken into consideration by journalists covering Milley’s diplomatic outreach?

I [name], having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of Second Lieutenant, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter, so help me God.

Support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

So little examination of whether Milley was defending the Constitution and against which enemies.

~ ~ ~

I can’t say I’m fond of Bob Woodward. Some of his work is whitewashing, wallpapering — like Bush At War, which was little more than a massive beat sweetener published to assure ongoing access to the Bush White House.

But therein is the crux of the problem Peril presents us: access journalism has failed and continues to fail us.

There’s an article in The New York Times today which focuses on questionable conservative attorney John Eastman whose role in drafting the plan to overthrow the 2020 election was disclosed and thinly outlined in Peril.

Why after all of the NYT’s access reporting during the Trump administration did we have to hear about Eastman from Woodward and Costa and not from the NYT?

Most especially Maggie Haberman who shares the byline on today’s article with Michael Schmidt — why is she covering Eastman now after a book relying on access journalism was published by other journalists?

Was Haberman’s access journalism even worse than believed?

This graf from today’s NYT article just sets my teeth to grinding:

Then, after the November election, Mr. Eastman wrote the memo for which he is now best known, laying out steps that vice president Mike Pence could take to keep Mr. Trump in power — measures Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans have likened to a blueprint for a coup.

Wow, how did Eastman become “best known” for that How-to-Coup memo?

In a two-page memo written by Mr. Eastman that had been circulated to the White House in the days before the certification — revealed in the new book “Peril” by the Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa — Mr. Eastman said that Mr. Pence as vice president was “the ultimate arbiter” of the election, essentially saying he had the power to determine who won, and that “we should take all of our actions with that in mind.”

Oh. Huh.

~ ~ ~

There are a couple pod casts worth listening to which cover some of the topics addressed in Peril.

While some of the content of this conversation between Nordlinger and Costa appears in Peril, it’s not as obvious as having the author tell you about the subject matter.

Above The Law blog founder David Lat was the featured guest on KCRW’s All the Presidents’ Lawyers podcast hosted by Ken White (a.k.a. Popehat). While the topic is “Trump Derangement Syndrome” covering four lawyers who appear to have gone off the deep end in the service of Donald Trump, one of the lawyers discussed is John Eastman.

Of particular note: the exchange beginning about 9:00 minute mark into the 33:14 program in regards to the Brandenburg standard for incitement of violence.

It’s also worth following the Twitter account of Peril’s author Bob Costa (@costareports); he tweets more about the content and background of Peril as well as new related reporting.

This tweet is particularly important: the insurrection isn’t over. It’s ongoing until the conspirators are stopped — all of them.

It’s this challenge which really makes me angry about Peril and its questionable prologue: the focus became Milley who was one of a few people who prevented January 6th’s aftermath from being so much worse.

The real focus should be that U.S. democracy remains under steady attack with the January 6 insurrection potentially the Krystallnacht which organizes American fascists.

~ ~ ~

I may post more as I continue reading Peril.

If you’re reading Peril as well, feel free to share your takes in comments below.

There May Well Have Been an Intelligence Failure in Afghanistan

Almost as quickly as Republicans and Democrats rushed to blame the other for the humiliating fall of Afghanistan, and as quickly as bipartisan NeoCons and bipartisan anti-Imperialists blamed the other for victory of the Taliban, the Intelligence Community and DOD have rushed to blame each other.

This story is just one example, but there are many.

In 2019, U.S. spy agencies delivered a sweeping assessment known as a National Intelligence Estimate of the conflict that warned many of America’s often-stated objectives were in jeopardy even with a continued U.S. military presence, and without direct American backing all but destined to collapse.

“We would run into really serious battles with the Pentagon, which would say, ‘We’ve got boots on the ground, we know the truth,’ ” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official.

The diverging views on the war were a reflection of the institutional predispositions of military planners groomed to accept even the most daunting missions and find ways to deliver results.

In Afghanistan, “you had good people who tried mightily believing they could do it,” the former intelligence official said. “And in the end are forced to face the reality that they couldn’t.”

One thing all these parties are fighting over is whether there was an intelligence failure.

Mike Morell, like many of the spooks being interviewed, says it wasn’t his fault.

Michael Morell, the former acting and deputy director of the CIA wrote on Twitter: “What is happening in Afghanistan is not the result of an intelligence failure. It is the result of numerous policy failures by multiple administrations. Of all the players over the years, the Intelligence Community by far has seen the situation in Afghanistan most accurately.”

And he’s right: Anyone who didn’t know, going back well over a decade, that an Afghan regime would collapse without US backing simply wasn’t paying attention.

That said, just days ago the most dire intelligence predicting that the Afghan government would fall to the Taliban spoke in terms of a month, not a weekend.

The Biden administration is preparing for Afghanistan’s capital to fall far sooner than feared only weeks ago, as a rapid disintegration of security has prompted the revision of an already stark intelligence assessment predicting Kabul could be overrun within six to 12 months of the U.S. military departing, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

One official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the issue’s sensitivity, said Tuesday that the U.S. military now assesses a collapse could occur within 90 days. Others said it could happen within a month. Some officials said that although they were not authorized to discuss the assessment, they see the situation in Afghanistan as more dire than it was in June, when intelligence officials assessed a fall could come as soon as six months after the withdrawal of the U.S. military.

At the same time, spooks saying that they didn’t know the effect that a quick withdrawal would have on the timing, even though others note the timing has always been known — including by the Taliban and our regional adversaries. That is, the IC didn’t fail to warn about how fragile the Afghan government was, but they seem to have been surprised by the snowball effect.

There are discrete decisions that do require accountability, such as the decision — apparently made by Mark Milley — that keeping Bagram running until we exited was not “tactically necessary.”

[Congressman Doug] Lamborn asks if it is “at all possible” for the United States to keep open Bagram Airfield. Gen. Milley responds that it is not tactically necessary.

If things get really bad in the days ahead, it will be because US armed forces rushed in to maintain order while the US evacuates are working at the airport rather than Bagram, which is far easier to secure.

But I do wonder whether there was not, in fact, a really dire intelligence failure having largely to do with how Ashraf Ghani and other Afghan leaders were paid off to cede power.

On top of weakened morale and lack of air support, the best explanation for the Taliban’s quick success has to do with “surrenders” that became the only viable option for Afghan soldiers after Trump’s deal with the Taliban last year.

The spectacular collapse of Afghanistan’s military that allowed Taliban fighters to walk into the Afghan capital Sunday despite 20 years of training and billions of dollars in American aid began with a series of deals brokered in rural villages between the militant group and some of the Afghan government’s lowest-ranking officials.

The deals, initially offered early last year, were often described by Afghan officials as cease-fires, but Taliban leaders were in fact offering money in exchange for government forces to hand over their weapons, according to an Afghan officer and a U.S. official.

Over the next year and a half, the meetings advanced to the district level and then rapidly on to provincial capitals, culminating in a breathtaking series of negotiated surrenders by government forces, according to interviews with more than a dozen Afghan officers, police, special operations troops and other soldiers.

[snip]

The negotiated surrenders to the Taliban slowly gained pace in the months following the Doha deal, according to a U.S. official and an Afghan officer. Then, after President Biden announced in April that U.S. forces would withdraw from Afghanistan this summer without conditions, the capitulations began to snowball.

As the militants expanded their control, government-held districts increasingly fell without a fight. Kunduz, the first key city overrun by the militants, was captured a week ago. Days of negotiations mediated by tribal elders resulted in a surrender deal that handed over the last government-controlled base to the Taliban.

Soon after, negotiations in the western province of Herat yielded the resignation of the governor, top Interior Ministry and intelligence officials and hundreds of troops. The deal was concluded in a single night.

This, too, was obviously known and knowable.

What I wonder is how far up in the Afghan government such discussions went, and if that was also known.

A really worthwhile thread from Afghanistan’s former Central Bank Governor, Ajmal Ahmady, describes rumors that the decision came from higher up.

There were multiple rumors that directions to not fight were somehow coming from above. This has been repeated by Atta Noor and Ismael Khan. Seems difficult to believe, but there remains a suspicion as to why ANSF left posts so quickly. There is something left unexplained

It describes how he kept going to work even while learning that Ghani had fled. 

On Saturday night, my family called to say that most government had already left. I was dumbfounded. A security assessment accurately forecast Taliban arrival to Kabul within 36 hours and its fall within 56 hours I got worried & purchased tickets for Monday as a precaution

[snip]

Saw VP Danish leaving – reportedly for Qatar. By then it was rumored that VP Saleh had left. Ministers + others were waiting for a Fly Dubai & Emirates flights. Both were cancelled I secured a Kam Air flight Sunday 7pm. Then the floor fell: the President had already left

Almost immediately after Ghani fled, Russian news sources reported that he had taken mountains of cash with him.

Russia’s embassy in Kabul said on Monday that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had fled the country with four cars and a helicopter full of cash and had to leave some money behind as it would not all fit in, the RIA news agency reported.

That’s not unlikely — it’s just rather curious that Russia was the first to know of it.

Even as and because that happened, a diplomatic effort to negotiate a transitional government failed.

The weeks leading up to Kabul’s collapse saw a flurry of diplomatic activity by the U.S. and its allies in Qatar aimed at heading off exactly the chaotic scenes in the Afghan capital that have so horrified the world and put Joe Biden’s presidency on the defensive.

Among those efforts was a tantalizing agreement that could have guaranteed calm. Afghan and Taliban negotiators tentatively reached a deal in which all sides would declare a two-week cease-fire in exchange for President Ashraf Ghani’s resignation and the start of talks on setting up a transitional government, according to two people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations.

That opportunity, which hasn’t been previously reported, was lost when Ghani fled the country, according to the people. Ghani’s decision to leave Afghanistan — he said he did so to avoid a bloodbath — surprised his negotiating team in Doha, American diplomats and even his chief of staff and other top aides, said the people.

This, it seems to me, is where the real intelligence failure begins. Not even Ghani’s own ministers, according to current reports, knew he was going to flee, possibly with a chunk of cash.

And that has repercussions that may explain the rest. In his speech on Afghanistan last night, Biden described Ghani refusing to do any of the things Biden asked for in June and July. Of particular interest, Ghani seems to have refused to engage with the diplomatic effort that was undermined by Ghani’s capitulation.

I always promised the American people that I will be straight with you. The truth is: This did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.

So what’s happened? Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight.

[snip]

When I hosted President Ghani and Chairman Abdullah at the White House in June and again when I spoke by phone to Ghani in July, we had very frank conversations.  We talked about how Afghanistan should prepare to fight their civil wars after the U.S. military departed, to clean up the corruption in government so the government could function for the Afghan people.  We talked extensively about the need for Afghan leaders to unite politically.

They failed to do any of that.

I also urged them to engage in diplomacy, to seek a political settlement with the Taliban.  This advice was flatly refused.  Mr. Ghani insisted the Afghan forces would fight, but obviously he was wrong.

No one can claim to be surprised that the Afghan military folded. That it would has been clear for over a decade.

There are real questions, though, about whether the intelligence community knew how far up the Afghan government the plans to capitulate in exchange for payment went. And that question drives further intelligence questions. Ashraf Ghani has been privy to our Afghan intelligence collection. Hamid Karzai, who is playing a clear broker role but it’s not yet clear with and for whom, likewise was privy to a lot of our intelligence collection. The Taliban have had twenty years to learn how to evade our surveillance. Russia has been stealing key technical data for the last decade, focusing closely on our Afghan operations, and they seem quite chuffed with recent events.

If some or all those people have been working in concert, and may well have been since Trump acceded to this plan last year, it would be child’s play for them to hide from US intelligence how far up the chain of command would cede to the Taliban, if not actively disinform US intelligence. And that, in turn, would make it far easier to take over the country so quickly that the Taliban were even shocked.

If that happened, then it was a real intelligence failure that explains why the US wasn’t better prepared for the collapse of the Afghan government, even without excusing self-serving claims that the Afghan military might have lasted a week or a month or a year longer than they did.

Two One-Time Devin Nunes Flunkies Under Investigation for Leaks

Michael Ellis, the Devin Nunes flunky who had been installed as NSA General Counsel over more qualified people, resigned from NSA after being placed on leave since Inauguration Day. I hadn’t realized until I read Ellen Nakashima’s report on Ellis’ resignation that he was being investigated for leaking classified information, though Catherine Herridge reported that investigation in real time, the very same day that Ellis’ attorney wrote NSA inquiring about the investigation.

Meanwhile, a long David Ignatius profile of another Nunes flunky, Kash Patel, mentions that he, too, is under investigation for leaking classified information.

Patel repeatedly pressed intelligence agencies to release secrets that, in his view, showed that the president was being persecuted unfairly by critics. Ironically, he is now facing Justice Department investigation for possible improper disclosure of classified information, according to two knowledgeable sources who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the probe. The sources said the investigation resulted from a complaint made this year by an intelligence agency, but wouldn’t provide additional details.

Both of these men (along with a third Nunes flunky, Derek Harvey) have been a real threat to national security and both have a history of writing crappy reports for Nunes (recent reporting reminds that Ellis was the author of an unnecessarily shitty Edward Snowden report, for example). There’s little doubt they have released the kinds of material that have never before been released, but much of that would either be legal and/or protected by Speech and Debate.

But the fact that both are being investigated for leaking classified information raises questions whether leak investigations are just being used as an easy way to take out intelligence community critics, whether they’re both suspected of leaking the same information, or whether there’s more there.

The Ignatius story, in particular, is of interest, not least because he’s the guy who first reported Mike Flynn’s conversation with Sergey Kislyak in a seemingly sanctioned leak, making this report a kind of book-end to the Trump Administration. All the more so given that Ignatius not only notes the sensitivity of the probe into Patel, but then tells a story that likely relies on classified information of how Patel’s incompetence almost blew up a SEAL rescue mission in Niger.

Anger toward Patel within the national security bureaucracy mounted after an Oct. 31, 2020, hostage rescue mission in Nigeria. The incident, never previously reported in detail, was described by four high-level sources.

It was a rescue mission that was nearly aborted partly because of inadequate coordination by Patel. SEAL Team Six had been assigned to rescue 27-year-old Philip Walton, a missionary’s son who had been kidnapped by gunmen in Niger, near the border with Nigeria. Patel, as a senior counterterrorism adviser, had assured colleagues that the mission had a green light, according to several sources. The SEALs were ready to parachute into the rescue site from high altitude (one source estimated 30,000 feet) when there was a last-minute hitch.

But as the SEALs were about to jump, military commanders and State Department officials realized that one necessary item hadn’t been completed: The Nigerian government hadn’t been informed prior to the operation inside their country, as required.

A frantic last-minute effort to obtain the necessary permission ensued. The SEAL team’s aircraft held over the target, flying in a racetrack pattern, for about 45 minutes while the State Department tried to locate a Nigerian national security official who could receive the official notice. Finally, just 15 minutes before the operational window closed, the Nigerians were given word, the SEALs parachuted down, and the hostage was rescued.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were angry that, in their view, Patel had prematurely said the operation was fully cleared, according to knowledgeable officials. One senior Pentagon official said he was “incensed” at Patel. A second senior Pentagon official described Patel’s actions as potentially “dangerous” for the SEALs.

The attack on Patel’s role in the hostage rescue may be a signal about what Patel is suspected of leaking.

While Ignatius provides no indication of what Patel is suspected of leaking, the WaPo columnist does link to an interview Patel did with Aaron Maté. The interview is about what you’d expect from a propagandist interviewing a propagandist.  Patel makes a slew of false claims that Maté encourages: the purpose of FISA, what normally goes in FISA applications, the intelligence against Carter Page, what servers the FBI obtained as part of its investigation into the hack (Maté still ascribes the single server fallacy!), what Crowdstrike actually had access to, what Bruce Ohr’s FBI interviews actually showed. Perhaps the most hysterical part of the interview is where Patel claimed that the way to conduct an investigation is to follow the money, but Maté never asked him why HPSCI didn’t follow the money on a single Trump associate, to say nothing of Trump’s role in money laundering for Russian oligarchs.

Nevertheless, in their discussion about the Russian investigation, Patel was quite careful to avoid revealing non-public information, not even for a report he authored claiming poor tradecraft on the Intelligence Community Assessment of the Russian attack that both SSCI and John Durham have investigated and dismissed.

Maté similarly let Patel dodge really answering questions about his conduct on January 6, even though some of the biggest questions about that day pertain to why DOD delayed for three hours before reinforcing the Capitol, including why it took over 30 minutes for an order to deploy to get from Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller to Guard Commander General William Walker who had been waiting on stand-by. In response to Maté’s question, Patel first repeated his selective breach of Executive Privilege to claim that Trump had already authorized Guard deployments, then answered a totally different question than the one Maté asked — not why DOD let the attack continue for 3 hours, long after it had gotten repeated requests for help, but how quickly DOD deployed the Guard after they had allowed an attack to happen across town while they watched.

We activated, from a start, the fastest augmentation and mobilization of uniformed military troops in the DC area since World War II, and we put 24,000 boots on the ground in less than 48 hours. I don’t know who’s saying we slow-rolled anything, because these are Guardsmen, they’re not active duty military.

While Patel violated Executive Privilege, there’s nothing classified about the belated Guard deployment.

It’s in-between those two conversations, though, where Patel may have succumbed to Maté’s persistent questioning about the very same topic about which Ignatius’ sources attack Patal: hostage rescues. Maté asked about a report that Patel had tried to negotiate the release of Austin Tice. Patel first responded to Maté by saying that he wouldn’t address whether Tice is alive or not. But then Maté followed up, and Patel told a self-serving story about his role in an attempt to free Tice. In it, Patel provided non-public details about his meeting with Assad representatives in Syria and may have confirmed an intercept on Bashar al-Assad.

Maté: Can you tell us anything about your discussions with Syrian officials, what they were asking from you, their level of openness to having talks with the US government?

Patel: Sure, I mean, look, that didn’t happen overnight. You know, one of President Trump’s priorities was, “go get American hostages home,” and I think we got over 50 — 53ish, hostages, detainees back — from 20-some countries maybe. Maybe a little less. But Austin Tice had been missing for, going on eight years, and we had made no headway, really, on it, so we made it a priority. We started working with our counterparts in the region. That trip was almost 18 months in the making. And we finally were able to land a meeting in Damascus because I told them, I said, “I’ll come see you. You send someone who can represent President Assad directly, because I can represent President Trump directly on this matter. And let’s go sit down.” And they said, “okay, come to Damascus.” And I don’t know if they thought we would show up or not. We did. And we were very clear. We said, “look, I understand I’m not getting Austin home on this trip, but I would like a proof of life. What would you like in return for that?” We had very frank conversations. They said, we want X amount of movement for the United States military. Troops stuff, and this and that. And I said, “look, all of that’s on the table. We can discuss all those things. I need a proof of life.” And they said they would take it back to Assad. Which they did. I know they did that. And then, I think shortly thereafter, I switched over to the Department of Defense, and tried to continue that mission, but, um, that one was one I just, unfortunately, didn’t succeed on. [my emphasis]

The most likely way that Patel would come to learn, with certainty, that whatever go-betweens he met with in Damascus actually did report back to Assad would be via an NSA or CIA intercept. If that is how he learned, then confirming that he knew Assad got a report back might have burned the intercept. Doing so with Maté at the Grayzone, which personally and as an outlet produce a lot of Assad apology, might be particularly sensitive. And the ease with which Maté appealed to Patel’s ego to get him to reveal these details would raise real questions about whether Patel played a role in the earlier WSJ story about the meeting, which was published on October 18, days before Patel almost fucked up the October 31 Niger mission.

That is, this Ignatius story seems like an effort to undermine Patel’s self-interested stories of heroism on hostage rescues, after he disclosed non-public details about one of them.

Which would also suggest that, whatever the merit of the investigation into Ellis (and I think GOP concerns about it have some merit), the investigation into Patel may be substantive.

Triage and Impeachment: Prioritize a Legitimate Criminal Investigation into the Wider Plot over Impeachment

I want to talk about triage in the wake of the terrorist attack on Wednesday as it affects consideration of how to hold Trump accountable for his role in it.

First, some dates:

If Mike Pence were to invoke the 25th Amendment (with the approval of a bunch of Trump’s cabinet members), it could go into effect immediately for at least four days. Trump can challenge his determination, but if the same cabinet members hold with Pence, then Trump’s disqualification remains in place for 21 more days, enough to get through Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Both the House and Senate are not in session, and can’t deviate from the existing schedule without unanimous consent, meaning Mo Brooks in the House or Josh Hawley in the Senate could single-handedly prevent any business.

Because of that, impeachment in the House can’t be started until tomorrow. Right now, Pelosi is using the threat of impeachment as leverage to try to get Pence to act (or Trump to resign, though he won’t). If that doesn’t work, then the House seems prepared to move on a single article of impeachment tied to Trump’s attempts to cheat and his incitement of the insurrection. Pelosi won’t move forward on it until she’s sure it has the votes to succeed.

Even assuming a majority of the House votes to impeach Trump, that will have no impact on his authority to pardon co-conspirators, and he’ll surely attempt to pardon himself, one way or another. Because of Wednesday’s events, he will be doing that without the assistance of Pat Cipollone, which means he’s much more likely to make his plight worse.

Impeaching this week would, however, force Republicans to cast votes before it is clear how the post-insurrection politics will work out (indeed, while Trump still has the power of the Presidency). Significantly, a number of incoming members are angry that Kevin McCarthy advised them to support the insurrection. The vote may be as much an attempt to undo complicity with Wednesday’s actions as it is anything else. Done right, impeachment may exacerbate the fractures in the GOP; done wrong, it could have the opposite effect.

If the House does impeach, then the Senate will not — barring a change of heart from Hawley and everyone else who was still willing to be part of this insurrection — take up the impeachment until January 19 (the parliamentarian has already ruled on this point). That means, the trial for impeachment either happens in Joe Biden’s first week in office, or the House holds off on sending the article of impeachment over to the Senate until Chuck Schumer deems it a worthwhile time. He can also opt to have a committee consider it, calling witnesses and accruing evidence, which will provide the Senate (where there are more Republicans aiming to distance from Trump) a way to further elaborate Trump’s role in the terrorism.

Meanwhile, by losing all access to social media except Parler and with Amazon’s decision yesterday to stop hosting Parler (which will mean it’ll stay down at least a week, until January 17), Trump’s primary mouthpieces have been shut down. There’s reason to believe that the more sophisticated insurrectionists have moved onto more secure platforms like chat rooms and Signal. While that’ll pose some challenges for law enforcement trying to prevent follow-on attacks on January 17, 19, or 20, being on such less accessible platforms will limit their ability to mobilize the kinds of masses that came out on Wednesday. Trump has lost one of the most important weapons he can wield without demanding clearly criminal behavior from others. That said, the urgency of preventing those sophisticated plotters — and a good chunk of these people have military training — from engaging in more targeted strikes needs to be a priority.

But Trump is still President, with his hand on the nuclear codes, and in charge of the chain of command that goes through a bunch of Devin Nunes flunkies at DOD. Nancy Pelosi called Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley and come away with assurances that Trump won’t be able to deploy nukes.

Preventing an Unhinged President From Using the Nuclear Codes: This morning, I spoke to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley to discuss available precautions for preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike. The situation of this unhinged President could not be more dangerous, and we must do everything that we can to protect the American people from his unbalanced assault on our country and our democracy.

Nevertheless that still leaves Trump in charge of the vast federal bureaucracy, which has been emptied out and the filled back up with people who could pass Johnny McEntee’s loyalty oaths to Trump.

Because this is where we’re at, I have argued that there needs to be a higher priority on getting at least Biden’s operational nominees, along with Merrick Garland, confirmed over impeaching Trump — yet — in the Senate.

We have not yet heard why DOD and DHS and the FBI — on top of the Capitol Police — failed to prevent the terrorist attack on Wednesday (I’ll have more to say about this later). It will take a year to sort out all the conflicting claims. But as we attempt, via reporting, via oversight in Congress (including impeachment), and via a criminal investigation to figure that out, those same people who failed to prevent the attack remain in place. Indeed, most of these entities have offered little to no explanation for why they failed, which is a bad sign.

Because of that, I think Biden needs to prioritize getting at least Garland and Lisa Monaco confirmed as Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General at DOJ, along with a new Acting US Attorney for DC, as soon as possible. I have two specific concerns. First, while FBI has generally been good at policing white supremacists in recent months, they failed miserably here, when it mattered most. One effect of retaliating against anyone who investigated Trump for his “collusion” with Russia has been to install people who were either Trump loyalists or really skilled at avoiding any slight to Trump. Indeed, one of the most charitable possible excuses for FBI’s delayed response is that after years of badgering, otherwise reasonable people were loathe to get involved in something that Trump defined as an election issue.

I have more specific concerns about the DC US Attorney’s office. Michael Sherwin, who has been less awful as Acting US Attorney than Timothy Shea, originally said on the record all options in the investigation that will be led out of his office were on the table, including incitement by Trump. But then someone said off the record that Trump was not a focus of the investigation. I suspect that person is Ken Kohl, who as Acting First Assistant US Attorney is in charge of the investigation and has been cited in other announcements about the investigation.

Ken Kohl at least oversaw, if not participated in, the alteration of documents to help Trump get elected. I’ve been told he’s got a long history of being both corrupt and less than competent. The decisions he will oversee in upcoming weeks could have the effect of giving people the opportunity to destroy evidence that lays out a much broader conspiracy, all while rolling out showy charges against people who were so stupid they took selfies of themselves committing crimes. We want this investigation to go beyond a slew of trespassing charges to incorporate the actual plotting that made this attack possible. It’s not clear Kohl will do that.

Even assuming that people currently in DOJ are willing to collect evidence implicating Trump, short of having a confirmed Attorney General overseeing such decisions, we’re back in the same situation Andrew McCabe was in on May 10, 2017, an Acting official trying to decide what to do in the immediate aftermath of a Trump crime. Trump’s backers have exploited the fact that McCabe made the right choices albeit in urgent conditions, and they’ve done so with the willing participation of some of the people — notably, FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich — who are currently in charge of this investigation.

I’m happy to entertain a range of possible courses going forward, so long as all of them involve holding Trump accountable to the utmost degree possible. I assume Nancy Pelosi, whatever else she’ll be doing, will also be counting the votes to understand precisely what is possible, given the schedule.

But I also know that I’d far rather have Trump and those he directly conspired with criminally charged than have an impeachment delay the thorough fumigation of a government riddled with people who may have had a role in this plot. And that’s not going to happen if the investigation is scoped in such a way in the days ahead to rule out his involvement.

Update: Here’s a much-cited interview with Michael Sherwin. He adopts all the right language (pointedly disavowing labels of sedition or coup, saying he’s just looking at crimes) and repeats his statement that if there’s evidence Trump is involved he’ll be investigated.

On Thursday you were quoted saying the conduct of “all actors” would be examined, which was interpreted to mean President Trump might face charges. Is that what you meant — the man who gave the speech at the start of the day could be looking at charges?

Look, I meant what I said before. In any criminal investigation, I don’t care if it’s a drug trafficking conspiracy case, a human trafficking case or the Capitol — all persons will be looked at, OK? If the evidence is there, great. If it’s not, you move on. But we follow the evidence. If the evidence leads to any actor that may have had a role in this and if that evidence meets the four corners of a federal charge or a local charge, we’re going to pursue it.

Update: This story describes how a senior McConnell aide called Bill Barr’s Chief of Staff who called David Bowdich who then deployed three quick reaction teams in response.

The senior McConnell adviser reached a former law firm colleague who had just left the Justice Department: Will Levi, who had served as Attorney General William P. Barr’s chief of staff.

They needed help — now, he told Levi.

From his home, Levi immediately called FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich, who was in the command center in the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

Capitol police had lost control of the building, Levi told Bowdich.

The FBI official had been hearing radio traffic of aggressive protesters pushing through the perimeter, but Levi said it had gone even further: The mob had already crashed the gates and lives were at risk.

Capitol police had said previously they didn’t need help, but Bowdich decided he couldn’t wait for a formal invitation.

He dispatched the first of three tactical teams, including one from the Washington field office to secure the safety of U.S. senators and provide whatever aid they could. He instructed two more SWAT teams to follow, including one that raced from Baltimore.

These teams typically gather at a staging area off-site to coordinate and plan, and then rush together to the area where they are needed. Bowdich told their commander there was no time.

“Get their asses over there. Go now,” he said to the first team’s commander. “We don’t have time to huddle.”

Not explained: why Bowdich was watching protestors get through the perimeter without deploying teams on his own. Again, I’m not saying he was complicit. I’m saying he has spent the last four years by letting Trump’s claims about politicization direct the Bureau, and can see how that habit might have led to a delayed response here.

Who Will Be Forced to Walk the Plank on November 4th?

Who will Trump force to walk the plank after the election?
(h/t Stacey Harvey for the image, [CC Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0) ]

Win or lose, Donald Trump will be looking for vengeance once the election is over. Either he will lose, and want to punish those he deems responsible, or he will win and want to punish the folks he’s had to put up with despite their failures to do what he wanted. One way or another, Trump will want to make certain people pay and pay dearly after the voting is over.

It might be to get rid of people who have angered him by not being sufficiently publicly loyal and submissive.

It might be to get rid of people who angered him by not being sufficiently good at making Trump look good before the election.

It might be to get rid of people who angered him by making him look bad, indecisive, or (gasp!) wrong.

It might be to get rid of people who stood up to him in private and made him back down on something, even if that backing down was only done in private.

It might be to get rid of people who stood up to him in public, and he had to simply take it at the time because Trump would have paid a price if he got rid of them when it happened.

Put me down for Trump demanding that the following people be forced to walk the plank:

  • Doctors Tony Fauci at NAIAD, Stephen Hahn at FDA, and Robert Redfield at CDC, along with HHS Secretary Alex Azar for not keeping these disloyal doctors in line;
  • Bill Barr for failing to deliver any indictments and convictions of any Bidens or Clintons, John Durham for dragging his feet on his reports that would have made that happen, Christopher Wray for being the FBI director and generally annoying, whoever approved letting Andrew Weissmann reveal that Manafort was breaking the gag order in his case by communicating with Sean Hannity, and a host of other US Attorneys who didn’t behave according to Trump’s rules;
  • General Mark Milley for publicly apologizing for taking part in the infamous Bible-waving photo op created by driving protesters out of Lafayette Park with chemical agents, various generals and admirals who refused to back Trump’s call to deploy US troops to American cities he didn’t like, and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper for not keeping these military folks in line;
  • Dr. Sean Conley, for not being more deceptive with the press around Trump’s COVID-19 status;
  • Mark Meadows for undermining Conley’s initial “he’s doing great” press remarks, as well as for more generally not keeping the WH functioning smoothly (as if that were possible, given his boss);
  • Mike Pompeo for failing to get Ukraine to do Trump’s bidding, as well as for not keeping folks like Fiona Hill in line.

But I must admit this is an incomplete list. Who else do you think might be on Trump’s Naughty List? Add your own thoughts in the comments.

Note: I also left off the list a bunch of folks like Mitch McConnell, Andrew Cuomo, Savannah Guthrie, and Cy Vance that Trump would demand walk the plank, but who remain outside his ability to make that happen. I also didn’t include Ivanka, Jared, Don Jr, or Eric, as he can’t fire his family. Though of course, he could disinherit them . . . for whatever that’s worth.