December 3, 2021 / by 

 

Three Things: A Three-Ring Circus

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

Under the enormous canvas tent of the United States, come see the mightiest extant amusement organization, superior in character, regal in appointment, magnificent in conception, omnipotent in strength, with hundreds of witnesses, a plethora of attorneys and paralegals, the promise of the wild beast-like Chansley, multiple frustrated judges…

And one orange-tinted slack-bottomed kack-handed clown unseen off the stage entantrumed in the wings.

Ladies, Gentlemen, and those of pronouns without and within, welcome to the American circus.

I can’t even begin to imagine what all of this looks like from abroad.

~ 3 ~

Arguments just wrapped up in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit regarding former president Trump’s claim of executive privilege over testimony and materials subpoenaed by the House January 6 Committee. Twitter threads covering the hearing’s progress:

For BuzzFeed:


For DailyKos:

Stream the audio of the arguments on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/DcMnkpZOpxo

I have to admit this hearing is making me grit my teeth. No one is above the law; the executive’s job is to execute what Congress legislates, and Congress cannot do its job effectively without oversight of the executive’s work when its work product is not related to classified national security issues. There’s zero executive privilege for testimony and materials related to campaigning if performed in and by the White House.

~ 2 ~

Convicted shaman insurrectionist perp Jacob Chansley filed an appeal today.

Good luck with that, buddy. What a waste of a lengthy mea culpa in court.

Chansley wasn’t the only lower level perp on the agenda today — check Scott MacFarlane’s Twitter feed for more including another perp charged and another arraigned today.

~ 1 ~

Washington Post published an article today about Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows, who until now has completely resisted compliance with a House January 6 Committee subpoena. Here’s the timeline of related events:

September 23, 2021 — House January 6 Committee issued a subpoena to Meadows;
October 7, 2021 — Due date for records subpoenaed;
October 15, 2021 — Deposition deadline;
November 11, 2021 — White House Deputy Counsel sent a letter to Meadow’s attorney advising that President Biden would not exert executive privilege over any testimony or records the House January 6 Committee subpoenaed;
November 11, 2021 — U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit blocked handover of National Archives’ presidential records responsive to a January 6 committee’s subpoena;
November 12, 2021 — Meadow’s attorney issued a statement which said Meadows would not cooperate with the committee until after the legality of the subpoenas was settled in court;
November 30, 2021 — See Thing 3 above, Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit hearing today regarding subpoena of testimony and records over which Trump claims executive privilege.

Hed and subhed of WaPo’s article today:

Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows cooperating with Jan. 6 committee
Meadows has provided records to the committee investigating the attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob and will give a deposition.

“Cooperating” is rather broadly used. Committee chair Bennie Thompson issued a statement today about Meadows:

“Mr. Meadows has been engaging with the Select Committee through his attorney. He has produced records to the committee and will soon appear for an initial deposition. The Select Committee expects all witnesses, including Mr. Meadows, to provide all information requested and that the Select Committee is lawfully entitled to receive. The committee will continue to assess his degree of compliance with our subpoena after the deposition.”

“has been engaging” isn’t the same as cooperating; an “initial” deposition doesn’t mean anything until Meadows has actually answered questions put to him without prevarication.

As Marcy tweeted, “Meadows could invoke a bunch of things and avoid testifying and avoid contempt that way.

Betting this “cooperating” is a stall tactic which won’t end until the Department of Justice indicts Meadows for contempt of Congress as they did Steve Bannon.

But perhaps there will be more than two charges if Meadows “has been engaging” in a little light obstruction.

Sure hope for his own sake Meadows turned information related to his phone records.

~ 0 ~

What other hearing(s) did I miss? Share in comments.


Burners, Burning: The Heat’s Turned up on Mark Meadows [UPDATE-1]

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

Well, well, well. According to Hunter Walker in a fresh report at Rolling Stone, Kremer the Younger bought burner phones to use when communicating with key persons attached to the White House.

In the thread attached to my last post, a community member commented about the Kremers saying,

… Only if they knew Trump’s plans, the Kremers might be guilty of conspiracy. …

They didn’t need to know Trump’s plans, though. They only needed to understand part of one or more of the conspiracies and then take some action to further that conspiracy.

Like this:

… Kylie Kremer, a top official in the “March for Trump” group that helped plan the Ellipse rally, directed an aide to pick up three burner phones days before Jan. 6, according to three sources who were involved in the event. One of the sources, a member of the “March for Trump” team, says Kremer insisted the phones be purchased using cash and described this as being “of the utmost importance.”

The three sources said Kylie Kremer took one of the phones and used it to communicate with top White House and Trump campaign officials, including Eric Trump, the president’s second-oldest son, who leads the family’s real-estate business; Lara Trump, Eric’s wife and a former senior Trump campaign consultant; Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff; and Katrina Pierson, a Trump surrogate and campaign consultant. …

Sending someone who isn’t a Kremer to buy a burner phone with cash to evade tracing suggests Kylie Kremer knew exactly what the role of her organization, Women to Save America First, was within the framework of the insurrection.

If this was a legitimate effort to work with the Trump campaign using dedicated communications for easier access, why the skulkery of a third person using cash buying a burner? Why not use a dedicated VoIP number to contact a communications person in the Trump campaign?

Or a no-contract phone purchased with a credit card? Or an additional number added to an existing cell phone contract?

Why was Meadows involved in any way given his role as the Chief of Staff, which should have been wholly separate from any campaign-related effort?

Whether Meadows interacted with Kremers or other members of the conspiracy as COS (a Hatch Act violation) or as a campaign member (not shielded as executive acts), he’s thoroughly shot through any claim to immunity or privilege.

The existence of burner phones used to contact persons in the White House certainly expands the import of this graf from the House January 6 Committee’s letter to Meadow’s attorney after Meadows’ refused to comply with the committee’s subpoena:

… In addition, Mr. Meadows has not produced even a single document in response to the Select Committee’s subpoena. Although you previously indicated that your firm was searching records that Mr. Meadows provided to you, more than enough time has passed for you to complete your review. Please immediately inform the Select Committee whether Mr. Meadows has any records responsive to the subpoena. Your search for responsive records should include (but not be limited to) any text messages, emails, or application-based messages associated with the cellular phone numbers and private email address the Select Committee has identified. If Mr. Meadows has records that you believe are protected by some form of privilege, you must provide the Select Committee a log describing each such record and the basis for the privilege asserted. …

Emphasis mine. Were any burner phones among those cellular phone numbers requested? Has geo-fencing been used to narrow down where those phones were during the lead up to and on January 6?

We don’t know yet. I suspect we’ll find out more in the not too distant future.

The purchase of the burner phones, though, look like an overt act to advance a conspiracy (18 USC 371).

Sure hope both of the Kremers as well as the aide who was asked to buy the burners, the third team member who received a burner phone, and Meadows all realize this is only getting worse for them.

Same for the Trump family members Eric and Lara who must be getting a little itchy after Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen resurfaced.

Especially for Meadows if he continues to blow off Congress with his refusal to comply with the January 6 Committee’s subpoena; it won’t be just contempt of Congress (two counts under 2 USC 192) with which he may be charged and prosecuted.

Hello, 18 USC 1505 otherwise known as Obstruction of proceedings before departments, agencies, and committees.

Perhaps with a domestic terror enhancement?

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-1 — 11:45 A.M. 25-NOV-2021 —

LOL Really? Eric’s going to try to SLAPP suit people in small outlets who don’t report the burner phones Kylie Kremer asked an aide to purchase may have been used to call him and Lara?

I love the smell of discovery in the morning!!


Mark, Mark, Mark!: No Wonder Meadows Balked at House Subpoena

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

This isn’t going to be everybody’s cup of tea, but I couldn’t help think of this dubstep mix by Massachusetts artist ZMcD titled Mark Mark Mark.

It popped into my head while reading Hunter Walker’s latest piece in Rolling Stone, Leaked Texts: Jan. 6 Organizers Say They Were ‘Following POTUS’ Lead’.

Apparently there are text messages from the rally organizers Amy Kremer, Women For America First’s chair, and Kylie Jane Kremer, WAF’s executive director, which are incriminating:

… Two sources who were involved in planning the Ellipse rally previously told Rolling Stone they had extensive interactions with members of Trump’s team, including former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. The text messages provide a deeper understanding of what that cooperation entailed, including an in-person meeting at the White House. Rally organizers also described working with Trump’s team to announce the event, promote it, and grant access to VIP guests. A spokesperson for the former president did not respond to a request for comment on the record. …

Oh Mark, Mark, Mark!

No wonder he’s dragging his butt submitting to the House January 6 Committee’s subpoena.

… Two days later, Kremer texted some of the organizers to let them know she was temporarily getting off the bus to travel to Washington for a White House meeting.

“For those of you that weren’t aware, I have jumped off the tour for the night and am headed to DC. I have a mtg at the WH tomorrow afternoon and then will be back tomorrow night,” wrote Kremer. “Rest well. I’ll make sure the President knows about the tour tomorrow!”

The message describing Kremer’s White House meeting is one of several where she and Kylie, indicated they were in communication with Trump’s team. …

Kremer sent that text on November 30, 2020 about a December 1 meeting at the White House.

Six weeks later Kremer would be ordering appetizers and dinner at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel while insurrectionists continued to riot inside the Capitol Building. Mark Meadows will likely know this if he was copied in a group message sent by March to Save America/Women for America First rally organizers.

No wonder the committee and the House hasn’t yet voted to hold Meadows in contempt, sending him a tautly worded letter when he refused to comply.

This is Meadow’s chance to save his behind by looking into immunity because these text messages can’t shed a good light on him.

Perhaps he should call former Nixon White House counsel John Dean about this (what a pity he can’t call Jeb Stuart Magruder who like Dean was granted limited immunity for his cooperation during the Watergate investigation).

No matter whether he calls Dean or not, I sure hope Meadows has lawyered up.

And I sure hope he’s thought good and hard whether that slack-bottomed chronic golf cheat is worth his time and effort.

I certainly wouldn’t put faith in the support of the Kremers, as text messages indicate one of them got sloshed the evening of January 6, locked herself in a bathroom and then begged to be rescued in the early morning January 7.


Three Things: Ugly Goes Clean to the Bone [UPDATE-1]

[NB: As always, check the byline. Updates will appear at the bottom. Thanks. /~Rayne]

Friday we got badly wanted news; we wanted it badly enough we didn’t blink at its arrival in the late Friday afternoon news dump zone.

But it wasn’t enough. It was only the start, a mere teaser.

~ 3 ~

At 3:53 p.m. last Friday, the Department of Justice tweeted the indictment news:

The internet was paying attention:

…even if Steve Bannon hadn’t been.

Rather hubristic to carry on as if he didn’t expect to be indicted, but then many of us were beginning to think it would never happen.

Bannon is supposed to surrender himself today, which may be a bit of a circus since Bannon now has a new attorney, David Schoen. Schoen was one of Trump’s impeachment attorneys in 2020.

~ 2 ~

The well-meaning sages who insisted things were under control — it was a good sign it was taking nearly a month to indict Bannon, don’t be like deplorables, blah-blah-blah — all had their say.

But which is it?

These things just need more time because DOJ must be cautious?

Or these things just needed this one person who wasn’t approved as DC-US Attorney until October 28 and sworn in more than a week later on November 5 to do the thing — which, by the way, took one week from oath to indictment?

Because it sure looks like the entirety of the House January 6 committee’s ability to wield its inherent powers on intransigent witnesses was completely dependent on the absence/presence of a single Biden appointee which some jerk like Sen. Ted Cruz could have held up the way he is currently holding our foreign policy hostage with holds on State Department nominees.

Are we supposed to accept with a pat on our heads that our democracy yet again depended on one person’s role?

If the DC-US Attorney were to become incapacitated at any time when the January 6 committee refers a contempt charge to DOJ, are we supposed to accept the platitudes “this takes time” or “don’t be a deplorable” when nothing happens?

What kind of government continuity is this?

~ 1 ~

Which brings us to the problem of former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows who received communications both Thursday and Friday from the chair of the January 6 committee about his lack of response to a subpoena issued by the committee on September 23.

Using false or misleading claims, Meadows had attempted to spur the DOJ to investigate election fraud claims including a bizarre theory that unknown persons located in Italy used military technology and satellites to remotely switch votes from Trump to Biden. These claims were sent to then-Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen between December and January — after the 2020 election but before the January 6 insurrection.

Meadows was supposed to appear before the committee on October 15 to answer questions about these claims and his role in pushing them toward the DOJ, a week after he was supposed to have furnished documents requested by the committee in relation to these false election fraud claims.

The committee’s chair sent a letter last Thursday to Meadow’s attorney:

And on Friday the committee emphasized it’s going to use the tools available to it to obtain compliance with the subpoena — or else.


Meadow’s attorney sent a massively ballsy op-ed to the Washington Post as a rebuttal to the committee’s subpoena:

Opinion: In abandoning executive privilege, Biden rejects 200 years of history

George J. Terwilliger III is a partner at McGuireWoods LLP in Washington and previously served as deputy attorney general.

As counsel for former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, I was surprised and disappointed to receive a letter Thursday informing me that the Biden administration will be the first in history not to resist a congressional subpoena for testimony from a senior White House aide. …

WaPo treated this like any other conservative’s op-ed; no caveat this op-ed may be tampering with an investigation.

Rather interesting how Terwilliger was able to get a 789-word op-ed published at 3:30 p.m. on the same day the January 6 committee issued its letter. This isn’t the first time Terwilliger has opined in WaPo about someone involved in the January 6 insurrection though Terwilliger’s last op-ed was a defense of former AG Bill Barr’s interference in Roger Stone’s sentencing. Can’t have the GOP’s senior ratfucker excessively punished during an election season after all.

Former Nixon White House counsel John Dean didn’t think much of Terwilliger’s op-ed:


I think I’d put my money behind Dean as to which of these two attorneys has a better grasp on the limits of executive privilege.

But it gets worse for Meadows since the soon-to-be-released book about the January 6 insurrection by reporter Jonathan Karl revealed yet another memo outlining steps to effect the autogolpe overthrowing the election.

Meadows had forwarded by email to then-VP Mike Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short a memo prepared by attorney Jennifer Ellis outlining the steps Pence needed to take to avoid certifying the election for Biden until a new alternate slate of electors for Trump could be introduced from just enough states to flip the election to Trump.

A rather pathetic carrot offered to Pence with the stick to follow on the day of the insurrection — a threat of violence and possible assassination by mob because Pence didn’t take the memo as a White House-approved order.

Looks like the number of questions Meadows must now answer has grown even longer.

~ 0 ~

The title of this post comes from an aphorism attributed to a favorite writer, Dorothy Parker: “Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone.” Meadows may be more physically attractive and better dressed than Bannon but they’re both deeply ugly people who represent an existential threat to American democracy.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-1 — 10:00 P.M. ET —

Yeesh.

For a guy who was simply asked to appear before a House committee to answer some questions about what happened leading up to and on the day of January 6, this guy sure wants his audience to believe he’s being uniquely singled out for harassment by a president who both believes in the equal but separate powers inherent to each branch of government, and who believes the DOJ should be independent of the White House. Perhaps Bannon’s projecting since he was just fine with Trump’s DOJ acting like his personal police force.

Bannon could have just shown up, told the committee on a question by question basis, “I can’t answer that because my lawyer said it’s under executive privilege as Trump has claimed,” and simply gone about his day, coming off cool and collected like someone with nothing to hide.

But no, Bannon has to make a big scene because it’s a grift for more money; you know when he said “Stand by,” he will likely elaborate soon saying, “Stand by, because I’m going to ask you for help soon,” and then he’ll point to a link for donations for his legal fund.

Wow, he doesn’t even need to claim he’s building a border wall this time.


Three Things: North by East by Northeast on January 6

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

While Marcy has the prosecutions of January 6 perps admirably handled, there are a few things which have niggled at me as the investigations into the insurrection have progressed.

Maybe they’re something; maybe they’re nothing. What do you think?

~ 3 ~

In the early days after the insurrection, a few of the better pieces of reporting looked at the location and timing of the mob. I’d snapped screenshots from one report in particular but I should have done more since the original report no longer contains the key interactive feature without any note it was pulled/killed. I can’t pull up the video any longer from which I pulled this screenshot – here is the original as snapped and an enhanced version tweaked for color balance, gamma, and saturation.


In this snap from a representation of cell phone users moving toward the Capitol on January 6, note in particular at the northeast of the Capitol Building a dense cluster of cell phone signatures.

The cluster isn’t highlighted like the mass of rioters who moved from the Ellipse toward the Capitol, but the signatures are dense.

You’ll note the location is at/near Columbus Circle where people will catch transportation, but the cell phone traffic didn’t appear to move toward the circle after the speeches were done at the Ellipse; it was very focused on moving toward the Capitol.

Nor was there cell phone traffic moving toward the Capitol South Station for transportation though the area may have been closed to through traffic.

Who were these people and why were there so many in that one north-northeast location as the Capitol was assaulted? Is there a benign explanation like people waiting for rally/insurrection participants, or is there another explanation?

~ 2 ~

Dr. Jack Brown, who does body language analysis, performed an analysis of surveillance photos and video which captured the perp who left the improvised explosive devices near the Democratic National Committee building and the Capitol Hill Club on the evening of January 5. It’s worth your time to visit this threaded study.

I can’t help thinking after looking at images and video of the perp that this was a woman wearing shoes which may not have been hers, but perhaps my perception is off.

One really important detail came up in this analysis which I know I’d missed before and perhaps reporters did, too: earlier reporting by multiple media outlets said the second IED had been placed at the RNC building (located at 310 First St SE, Washington, DC), not the Capitol Hill Club (located at 300 First St SE, Washington, DC). What’s the story here? Is it important that the perp targeted the Capitol Hill Club and not the RNC?

One other detail which I don’t recall being reported before the Washington Post’s huge investigative spread was the existence of a third suspicious package which hasn’t been called an IED or bomb, located at the Supreme Court building which is located directly east of the Capitol Building.

The DNC offices are south of the Capitol while the Capitol Hill Club is to the southeast. Had the IEDs at these sites detonated, law enforcement (and National Guard if they were summoned) may have swarmed to the location of the IEDs. If the suspicious material at the Supreme Court building was an IED, that would also have drawn first response personnel away from the Capitol. All three combined would have left the east side of the Capitol even more lightly defended than it was.

Not to mention the chaos such blasts would have created among mob members who weren’t in on a possible conspiracy behind the bombs.

All of which makes the congregated cell phone signatures to the northeast of the Capitol Building off First Street more intriguing.

~ 1 ~

Long-time emptywheel community member harpie has done yeoman’s work pulling together timeline content related to January 6 events. In a comment last night she pointed to the parking place of Alabaman Lonnie Coffman who has accepted a plea agreement related to a 17-count indictment related to weapons and explosives found in his pickup truck on January 6.

You may recall the truck had guns and Molotov cocktails in it. Reporting mentioned that the truck was found during a search around the area where the IEDs had been found:

… According to charging papers, police spotted weapons in his red pickup while searching an area of Capitol Hill that had been sealed off because unexploded pipe bombs had been reported near the headquarters of the Republican and Democratic parties minutes before the mob assault began about 1 p.m. …

The curious thing about this truck which caught my eye was its parked location: 301 First Street SE. That’s between the DNC offices and the Capitol Hill Club as you’ll note on this map:

 

This parking address denoted by the red flag is next to the Capitol Hill Club.

It’s also directly south on First Street from whatever was going on with that cluster of cell phones to the northeast of the Capitol Building.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Coffman’s plea agreement was sealed, by the way:

… In a 24-page decision, Kollar-Kotelly found that sealed government filings and his cache of weapons “convincingly demonstrate[d]” his planned intentions to disrupt Congress in potential coordination with others. The judge did not say that coordination was realized. …

Coordination? Or conspiracy?

~ 0 ~

I can’t help wondering if there was a Quick Response Force waiting at Columbus Circle for some triggering event less than a mile south along First Street SE.

Were the Molotov cocktails not meant to be thrown but part of an in-place fiery signal in a sacrificed truck parked between the location of two IEDs? Or were they meant to be used on whomever responded to calls had the IEDs detonated?

It will be a long wait before we find out. Plenty of food for thought in the mean time.

Thanks to harpie for all the bits and pieces!


Not-So-Casual Water: Insurance Fraud Alleged at Trump-Westchester

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

Hope you were able to get out on the links this weekend if you’re a golfer and your local weather was good. The season here in Michigan is wrapping up this week or next from the looks of things.

Wonder when the course will close at Trump National Golf Club Westchester this year, if it hasn’t already?

Rolling Stone published another piece about the course; this time ex-employees dished about insurance claims made related to flooding at the course in 2011.

Recall that Trump reported in FEC financial filings that Westchester was worth an estimated $50 million.

Trump org fought with the local tax authority, insisting the course should have an assessed value of $1.4 million — much lower than the fire sale price of $7.5 million Trump paid for the course in 1996 when it went into foreclosure.

But the former insiders said Trump org claimed a loss of $1.3 million due to flooding in 2011.

There’s no indication at all that the golf course’s business was disrupted by the flooding, which one might think was likely if half or more of the course had been so badly damaged.

The local municipality sued Trump because of damage caused by changes to his course which disturbed water flows. It’s pretty obvious from a Google Maps terrain view that the water flows toward the municipality of Briarcliff from the Trump course so Trump and his organization can’t say they couldn’t have anticipated a problem in the event of heavy rains.

That top red arrow points to the area nearest the intersection of Pleasantville Road (Nw to SE, east side of course) and State Road (ends at Pleasantville Road, runs NE to SW). Google Streetview images show the street surface on State Road near the intersection has been repaired and worked over at some point since 2009.

If you’re just Joe Duffer out on the course, you can see the manufactured water features — specifically two waterfalls denoted by red arrows — which must rely on water level being artificially maintained along with drainage in case of overflow. The creek and wash area have two feature cart bridges over them under which excess water should flow east in the direction of the red arrow. The waterfalls aren’t attractive unless the water is kept up high which means any extra water from surfaces like parking lots and fairways draining toward the pond will overflow rapidly into a wash which ends…????


Somewhere under Pleasantville Road I hope there’s a big drain.

On the east side of Pleasantville Road is the Walter M. Law Park and the Briarcliff Manor Public Library. The park includes tennis courts, a swimming pool, a baseball diamond, and a pond which looks like it might be fed from water coming from under Pleasantville Road.

In 2011, floodwaters damaged the park area, causing heartburn for the local municipality:

The dispute began not long after a series of storms on June 23, 2011, dumped 5 inches of rain on the region. Waters swamped the village’s Law Memorial Park swimming pool and deposited silt about a third of a mile from the course, next to the Briarcliff Manor Public Library. Also flooded were the playing fields behind the swimming pool, where a geyser gushed from a manhole whose cover popped up from the drainage system blockage.

Briarcliff Manor met with Trump org several times about the damage and reparation. After hashing over the problem fruitlessly it billed Trump org $238,000 for the damage done because Trump’s course had made “unauthorized alterations” to the watercourse which elevated the waterfall ponds’ levels by up to six feet. Trump org denied doing anything to cause the problem, leaning into the argument that the rain was an unanticipated 300-year flood event.

Neighbors of the golf course were further upset by Trump’s balking at the property value assessment when Trump org argued the course owed only $47,000 and not $470,000 based on the much lower property value of less than $2 million.

That lower property tax amount is audacious considering Trump’s financial henchman Alan Garten claimed the flooding of the public park occurred because “…a drainage pipe under the village fields was clogged. It was clogged because the village [Briarcliff Manor] was too cheap to put up a grate to prevent rocks and boulders from coming in.”

(Where would the money come from, Garten? Tax revenues?)

What was it, then, the Trump org claimed against its insurance coverage compared to what they paid? Were the claims under investigation in relation to the 2011 flooding? Were they also in relation to more recent flooding due to high water levels from Hurricane Ida in August this year?

Or were there other claims we don’t know about yet?

What were the real terms of the settlement Trump org made with the local taxing authority, the Ossining Board of Assessment Review, when the Rolling Stone said,

The Trump Organization ultimately paid the town $50,000 to settle the lawsuit but, under the terms of the settlement, did not admit any wrongdoing, according to a copy of the settlement obtained in a request made under New York’s Freedom of Information Law. The settlement came on July 12, 2016, a few days before Trump accepted the Republican nomination for president.

50 grand seems suspiciously light when the engineering analysis to assess the problem and determine a solution likely cost the municipality more than that amount.

The timing is even more suspicious — how convenient the problem was resolved right then, before Trump’s campaign began in earnest.

The specifics of the agreement remain a mystery which seems to be par for this course and Trump’s organization.


3 Things: Memory, Memory, the 6th of January

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

Next week the UK observes another Guy Fawkes Day, the anniversary of the failed assassination in 1605 of King James I, his privy council, and the House of Lords. Children used to recite a rhyme to commemorate the day:

Remember, Remember the 5th of November, Gunpowder, Treason and Plot

The U.S. has now survived its own Guy Fawkes Day; members of Congress, the Vice President and Vice President-elect were sheltered from a mob of insurrectionists who had been incited to rebel and obstruct congressional proceedings.

Unlike Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators, the conspirators and insurrectionists who temporarily disrupted Congress on January 6 and who continue their seditionist schemes will not be hung, drawn, and quartered if prosecuted and found guilty.

~ 3 ~

Marcy’s crunching away on some January 6-related posts right now, but we could use some fresh thread to tide us over to discuss recent developments related to the insurrection.

Let’s start with the unexpected heroics of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) which disclosed in a very early Saturday morning court filing that Donald Trump was trying to block release of 750 documents out of 1600 identified and requested by the House’s January 6 commission during its investigation — documents over which Joe Biden as the current president chose not to exert privilege.

The commission also filed a brief supporting its position that Trump as the former president does not have the authority to claim executive privilege over Trump administration documents sought by the commission.

You’ve likely read POLITICO’s report — the tl;dr version is Kyle Cheney’s Twitter thread describing NARA’s filing.

What boggles the mind is how Trump has tipped his hand as to which documents are most damning.

The cherry on top is NARA’s filing which details Steve Bannon’s role in the seditious conspiracy to incite rebellion and insurrection. Ryan Goodlaw at Lawfare wielded a highlighter for us:

Oh my. That’s just so good. It’s payback by NARA for all the crappy additional work they’ve had to do to archive the history of the Trump administration — all those tedious reconstructions of papers Trump had a nasty habit of shredding into confetti now coming home to roost.

~ 2 ~

Now add the claim reported today in Salon that Michael Flynn may have conspired to extort performance from Pennsylvania GOP elected officials in order to reseat Trump in the White House. U.S. Senate candidate for Pennsylvania, Everett Stern, who owns and operates a private intelligence company, had been contacted by persons associated with Flynn’s effort.

Stern says he’s shared information about the approach and related communications with the feds.

What’s deeply concerning about this plot is the possible involvement of foreign entities:

… Because of his intelligence background, Stern claims at least two people representing a Flynn-linked group called “Patriot Caucus” approached him earlier this year after a speech with an offer to hire his firm to gather “dirt” on officials and recruit others to assist in the plot. At one point, one of the men allegedly told Stern that they had retained the services of active intelligence officials “both domestic and foreign.” …

This sounds very much like something Flynn would do based on his past record of involvement with foreign agents.

Stern was also encouraged to achieve the ends desired using violence if necessary — “accomplish the mission even if you have to use domestic terrorism” — which he found very disturbing.

He’s recorded a YouTube video statement which sounds awkward and uncomfortable, and yet he sounds wholly legitimate in his concerns about the situation, including the lawyer for one of the intelligence targets.

Assuming Stern’s claims all check out, one might wonder if it was Bannon who set Flynn on this plot given Bannon’s relationships in PA.

UPDATE: Scott Stedman at ForensicNews tweeted Stern’s a serial fabricator. I guess we’ll let the feds sort that out. Have to ask yourself why a GOP candidate would commit political suicide with their own party and trash the cred of their private intelligence business at the same time while potentially risking federal charges for false statements.

~ 1 ~

Bannon appears to have played a more direct role in lead-up to the January 6 insurrection, along with working relationships to state-level contacts; Flynn may have been/may still be pressuring states’ elected officials using extortive tactics…

Does John Eastman’s ongoing involvement with state legislators complement their efforts?

It already looks like Eastman’s activities on and before January 6 complemented the activities Bannon and Flynn set in motion with their incitement intended to terrorize both Congress and VP Pence:

Sure would be nice to know if Bannon, Flynn, and Eastman had some overlapping communications.

Oh, and Rudy Giuliani.

Same, Jim Bourg, same. Good on you getting this photo.

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ADDER: If you haven’t already read the Washington Post’s investigative expose examining the run-up to, the day of, and the aftermath of January 6, you should do so. It’s worth your time even if you’ve been following along closely as both the House January 6 commission and the DOJ investigations have unfolded. You may see things which spawn more questions than the reporting answers.

I still don’t buy the benign spin put on former acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller’s role, for example. There’s a reason Trump wanted him in that role after Esper resigned; the multiple times Miller failed to respond to requests for National Guard support on January 6 looks like a particular reason.

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I wonder if in the future children will have a rhyme to recall Trump’s January 6th autogolpe plot.

Memory, Memory, the 6th of January, Sedition, Insurrection, and Trump…

I certainly hope we have a few bonfires each January 6 to keep our memories fresh.


What Lies Beneath the Turf

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

We learned this past week that the Westchester County, NY district attorney is investigating the Trump National Golf Club Westchester.

… The full scope of the investigation could not be determined, but the district attorney, Mimi E. Rocah, appears to be focused at least in part on whether Mr. Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, misled local officials about the property’s value to reduce its taxes, one of the people said. …

While in the White House Trump declared on mandatory financial disclosure statements the Westchester golf course was worth $50 million; however the Trump org claimed the 140-acre property with its 75,000 square foot clubhouse was worth only $1.4 million for local tax purposes.

For comparison, nearby residential homes (currently listed for sale) are assessed at much higher rates:

Home A, 1.12 acres, listed at $1.5M, assessed at $1.03M ($2543/month taxes)
Home B, 2.75 acres, listed at $2.3M, assessed at $1.4M ($3768/month taxes)
Home C, 3.52 acres, listed at $2.7M, assessed at $2.5M ($4,400/month taxes)

While there may be some rationale for a commercial property assessed at such ridiculously low value compared to these residential properties within walking distance, it doesn’t make sense when golf courses are being converted to residential property during a contraction of the golf industry, and when the municipality and neighbors have had a history of sewer and drainage problems caused by the golf course, resulting in damage to individual and community property.

The gap between the local tax assessment and the financial report valuation has been known for years now, noted well before Election Day 2016.

The possibility of tax and insurance fraud by the Trump organization has been clear for years now as well, in no small part because of testimony before the House Oversight Committee in February 2019 by Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen (beginning at 4:43:30):

Transcript:

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez: OK. Thank you.
Second, I want to ask a little bit about your conversation with my colleague from Missouri about asset inflation. To your knowledge, did the President ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?
Mr. Cohen: Yes.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez: Who else knows that the President did this?
Mr. Cohen: Allen Weisselberg, Ron Lieberman, and Matthew Calamari.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez: And where would the committee find more information on this? Do you think we need to review his financial statements and his tax returns in order to compare them?
Mr. Cohen: Yes, and you would find it at The Trump Org.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez: Thank you very much.
The last thing here. The Trump Golf organization currently has a golf course in my home borough of the Bronx, Trump Links. I drive past it every day going between The Bronx and Queens. In fact, The Washington Post reported on the Trump Links Bronx course in an article entitled “Taxpayers Built This New York Golf Course and Trump Reaps the Rewards.”
That article is where many New Yorkers and people in the country learned that taxpayers spent $127 million to build Trump Links in a, quote, “generous deal allowing President Trump to keep almost every dollar that flows in on a golf course built with public funds.” And this doesn’t seem to be the only time the President has benefited at the expense of the public.
Mr. Cohen, I want to ask you about your assertion that the President may have improperly devalued his assets to avoid paying taxes. According to an August 21, 2016, report by The Washington Post, while the President claimed in financial disclosure forms that Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida, was worth more than $50 million, he had reported otherwise to local tax authorities that the course was worth, quote, “no more than $5 million.”
Mr. Cohen, do you know whether this specific report is accurate?
Mr. Cohen: It’s identical to what he did at Trump National Golf Club at Briar Cliff Manor.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez: To your knowledge, was the President interested in reducing his local real estate bills, tax bills?
Mr. Cohen: Yes.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez: And how did he do that?
Mr. Cohen: What you do is you deflate the value of the asset, and then you put in a request to the tax department for a deduction.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez: Thank you.
Now, in October 2018, The New York Times revealed that, quote, “President Trump participated in dubious tax schemes during the 1990’s, including instances of outright fraud that greatly increased the fortune he received from his parents.” It further stated for Mr. Trump, quote,  “He also helped formulate a strategy to undervalue his parents’ real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars on tax returns, sharply reducing his tax bill when those properties were transferred to him and his siblings.”
Mr. Cohen, do you know whether that specific report is accurate?
Mr. Cohen: I don’t. I wasn’t there in the 1990’s.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez: Who would know the answer to those questions?
Mr. Cohen: Allen Weisselberg.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez: And would it help for the committee to obtain Federal and State tax returns from the President and his company to address that discrepancy?
Mr. Cohen: I believe so.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez: Thank you very much. I yield the rest of my time to the chair.

Here’s the rub: Trump’s dispute with local tax authorities in Westchester County, NY and the disparity in its property valuation goes back more than five years; this is publicly known, amply reported, even discussed here at emptywheel.

Why is it only after the August 2021 election of a new district attorney, Mimi Rocah, took office was the possibility of tax and insurance fraud finally investigated?

The Westchester course is only one of 11 in the U.S., though. They include:

Trump National Golf Club, Bedminster, NJ
Trump National Golf Club, Charlotte, NC
Trump National Golf Club, Colts Neck, NJ
Trump National Golf Club, Hudson Valley, NY
Trump National Golf Club, Jupiter, FL
Trump National Golf Club, Los Angeles, CA
Trump National Doral Golf Club, Miami, FL
Trump International Golf Club, West Palm Beach, FL
Trump National Golf Club, Pine Hill, NJ
Trump National Golf Club, Washington, DC

In reports to the Federal Election Commission, Trump reported more than half of these were worth $50 million or more while regularly suing the snot out of local tax authorities who dared to assess Trump golf courses for values higher than a million or two.

Again, this has been known and reported for years. Trump has and continues to treat every real estate asset as it were the reason for a SLAPP-type suit to cow government to his demands. It’s a pattern.

Why have the local, state, or federal governments failed to investigate these courses in the same way Westchester County is now investigating Trump National Golf Club Westchester?

Especially after Michael Cohen not only testified that golf courses came up as a means to launder payments to Stormy Daniels, and that asset valuations were skewed artificially to reduce Trump’s insurance premiums? It’s not as if there hasn’t been adequate reason to investigate this pattern of deflated asset valuations.

It’s been more than two and a half years since Michael Cohen testified before the House Oversight Committee that the Trump org reported deflated assets to reduce tax exposure while making false statements to the FEC and the public about golf course market value.

How many more years will pass before another domestic Trump golf course is investigated?


Mirriam Seddiq, Dulles Justice and New Effort For Afghan Evacuees

Woke up to see that one of our favorite commenters, Eureka, noted Marcy’s retweet of MirriamZary from late last night. There are so many new folks here, and such a hurricane of strife, in the four and a half years since Trump set the first Muslim Travel ban that I thought a little backstory would be good about now. So, here we go.

@MirriamZary is her Twitter handle, but her real name is Mirriam Seddiq, and she is totally kick ass. I’ve twitter known her forever, there are a certain group of criminal defense attorneys that have long known and interacted with each other, on and off of twitter, and she has very long been one.

The day Trump instituted the Muslim ban in 2017, Mirriam, her partner at Seddiq Law, Justin Eisele, and some local attorney colleagues founded Dulles Justice and camped out at Dulles airport protesting the way Muslims were being detained and denied legal immigration assistance. They gave advice to families concerned, and laid a lot of the initial basis that soon got the Muslim ban set aside. Also inspired similar efforts in international airports all over the country, including here.

It was so inspiring that, after getting some tips from her work, I got off my butt and went and joined some other friends at our local Sky Harbor airport to do the same. That occurred all over the country. Thankfully, it was not that much of a legal problem here, and most of our time went into protesting (and it was a pretty big one) for news cameras and reporters, and not into having to address legal issues and problems. Soon the travel ban was set aside, and a lot of the impetus on the ground started with Mirriam and Dulles Justice. She is a hero, and is clearly now back at it. By necessity, yet again.

So, that is the back story of MirriamZary. Updates will likely be necessary as events are unfolding quite fast. How the Afghan evacuees are treated in the US, and elsewhere, will be an ongoing story and concern for quite some time.

As a coda, for now anyway, I’d like to point out how awesome women criminal defense attorneys are. You may remember me mentioning it here at EW. I took after Kathleen Walsh almost immediately on Twitter because I was so outraged and disgusted by her demeaning article. That was just the start, I kept on for a bit, because Walsh deserved it. Another one of the evil criminal defense attorneys, my pal Scott Greenfield, did a fantastic post on Walsh’s uninformed nonsense. What Kathleen Walsh doesn’t understand is what defense attorneys, and women are a core part of them, really do. They kick ass and take names, and Mirriam Seddiq is a prime example of that.


Minority Report: Putin’s Programma Destabilizatsii Began Much Earlier

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

By now you should have read Marcy’s post, The Guardian “Scoop” Would Shift the Timeline and Bureaucracy of the Known 2016 Russian Operation which compares much of The Guardian’s article to known details leading up and into 2016 election.

The primary problem with the material journalists Harding, Borger and Sabbagh obtained is the new timeline it offers as well as its attempt to limit Russian interference in the election to a narrow window. In my opinion there are at least two more critical problem.

The reported description of Trump as “impulsive, mentally unstable and unbalanced individual who suffers from an inferiority complex” is problematic. This implies with treatment — like ADD medications and psychotherapy — Trump might be able overcome this challenge. But far too many professionals in psychology and psychiatry have already indicated Trump is a narcissist; this is not a treatable mental illness but a personality disorder. There’s limited treatment for this which may or may not work, including talk therapy. Such therapy poses an inherent national security risk.

Should Trump suffer from dementia worsening with age, his disorder will only worsen, his increasing boldness, meanness, and disinhibition making him even more unfit for any public office. He should never have access to the power of the executive office again.

But that’s one reason why the subtle disinformation has been planted. If Putin’s goal is to destabilize the U.S. and make it both ungovernable and unable to focus its collective will, encouraging the U.S.’s right-wing to reseat Trump under the misguided belief he will improve over time serves his purpose.

The second problem with The Guardian’s report and the underlying materials is that it treats the 2016 election interference to seat Trump as discrete, an end in itself, when the truth is that it was a single project inside a larger framework — a program of destabilization which predates Trump’s candidacy for presidency in 2015.

You’ll recall the case of three Russian spies arrested in January 2015, a date which in itself may not suggest there was a longer destabilization program, only spying. Even the role of former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page in the three spies case is not a solid indicator of a longer program.

In the indictment of the spies, however, there was a bit of recorded conversation which has troubled me since I first read it, which I noted in early 2017 when revisiting the three spies case:

“And then Putin even tried to justify that they weren’t even tasked to work, they were sleeper cells in case of martial law,” Victor Podobnyy remarked in a conversation about the Illegals Program sleeper cells. What did he mean by, “in case of martial law”? Is this a continuing concern with regard to any remaining undetected sleeper cells?

Emphasis mine, and on the part which has haunted me.

Was the January 6 insurrection always part of the end goal along with the continuing obstruction by the now thoroughly compromised Republican Party? Was Trump supposed to have invoked the Insurrection Act and martial law with it as part of a longer destabilization program?

That same program, then, would have extended beyond 2015, before the FBI began surveillance of the three spies, before one of the three spies, Evgeny Buryakov, began work in New York City.

The program would have predated the expulsion of the identified Illegals Program sleeper cells in June 2010, if the intent was to use them during civil strife in the U.S. resulting in martial law.

The presence of some of the Illegals Program spies pre-dated Putin’s ascension to Russia’s presidency in December 1999 and his role as Director of the Federal Security Service from 1998-1999, but it’s not clear whether Putin co-opted the program to plan for destabilization, or if the program had always been intended for destabilization but thwarted in 2010.

What’s clear, though, is that the U.S. paid little heed to Putin’s preparedness for conditions in the U.S. leading to martial law, going back at least as far as 2010.

The Illegals Program revealed to the American public the presence of sleeper cells. The general public has assumed all sleeper cells were rolled up in 2010; the use of the program as fiction fodder in cable network series The Americans marginalizes sleeper cells as entertainment. There’s nowhere near the level of concern about white persons with Russian accents as there is about Asian Americans of any heritage, the latter becoming the subject of hate crimes while the presence of Russians and Russian Americans is treated as no big deal. How would Florida’s Sunny Isles municipality function without the presence of Russian and Russian Americans’ money, after all?

This is part of the same umbrella program of destabilization: Putin knows the U.S. has a deep schism which goes to its foundation and he’s placed pressure on it to force it to open more widely. We know this from the documented efforts of Russia’s Internet Research Agency in 2016. Racist Americans have been encouraged to focus on an “Other” with the help of Trump whose repeated remarks about the “China flu.” With this redirection of attention, it’s too easy for any other remaining or new sleeper cells to be created undetected.

Some of these cells may not need to be Russians any longer. They can be loosely organized anarchic groups which are united by their preference for white supremacy and theocratic government. They could include peripherally-connected but influential individuals like David Duke who moved to Russia and lived there for a handful of years, to return to the U.S. to foment more racist tension.

Duke moved to Moscow in 1999 — the same year Putin was FSB Director. Did Duke have an invitation?

Does Putin’s Programma destabilizatsii go back that far?

I won’t even go into the much larger possibility that the umbrella destabilization program was meant to end NATO — which may mean Brexit was not a proof-of-concept linked to the interference in the 2016 election by the use of Cambridge Analytica/SCL, but wholly meant to work hand-in-glove to sustain an attack on NATO.

If this is the case, of course Putin would want to wall off interference into the 2016 election as a discrete, isolated event. Why would NATO continue to tolerate multiple sustained attacks using hybrid warfare on its member nations jointly and separately and not invoke Article 5?

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Originally Posted @ https://www.emptywheel.net/trump-administration/