[Photo: Emily Morter via Unsplash]

Stays: Another Reason for the Shutdown?

[NB: check the byline.]

This is a very short post; I needed to put something up here after this popped up in my Twitter feed:

Link to the stay.

This is the suit filed by three senators (Blumenthal, Whitehouse, Hirono) against Trump and Matthew Whitaker with regard to Whitaker acting as attorney general (Blumenthal et al. v. Trump 1:18-cv-02664).

Excerpt:

1. Plaintiffs are three Senators who brought this suit alleging that the President’s appointment of Mr. Whitaker as Acting Attorney General violates the Appointments Clause of the Constitution, U.S. Const. art. II, § 2, cl. 2. The U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia was served on November 26, 2018, and Defendants’ answer or other response to the Complaint is currently due on January 25, 2018. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(a)(2).

The plaintiffs have already filed a memorandum in opposition.

Given Whitaker’s purported current role in the Department of Justice, acting as attorney general after Jeff Session’s departure, how is this requested stay attributed to the government shutdown not an attempt to obstruct justice in any investigation in which Trump is a defendant, target, or subject?

We’re looking at you, GOP Senate, especially Mitch McConnell. Are you part of the obstruction, too?

Treat this as an open thread.

21 People with the Power to Stop the Madness [UPDATE-2]

[NB: I should write a script to auto-embed a reminder to check the byline. Update is at the bottom. / ~Rayne]

Over the past couple of weeks a number of uninformed but angry people have gone off on social media about the Democrats not impeaching Trump already — the 116th Congress only took their oaths last week, one House race in North Carolina remains undecided, and yet impeachment is supposed to have been launched and Trump marched into the sunset surf at Mar-a-Lago.

The stream of problems emanating from the White House will not be resolved by impeachment. It is NOT the end-all-be-all solution.

Impeachment AND removal from office stems the biggest problem, and it’s not on the House Democrats alone.

Read the Constitution: the House impeaches, the Senate convicts and removes.

Article 1, Section 2
…The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

Article 1, Section 3
The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

Impeachment alone is merely a political slap on the hands, just an upgraded form of censure to be borne out in public through House debate and vote. After hearings beginning in the lame duck session of 1998, former president Bill Clinton was impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate in early 1999, remaining in office to serve out his term. By itself, impeachment will not stop a lifelong scofflaw like Trump and may fuel negative sentiment whipping the Trumpian base into a frenzy by the 2020 general election.

Which brings us to the key challenge know-nothings have ignored while they pule about the Democrats ‘failing’ to impeach Trump already: the Senate remains under GOP control. Try complaining about the GOP Senate caucus’ moral and ethical intransigence for a change; of the current 53 GOP senators there are 21 who are most vulnerable to this charge yet have the power to make constructive change happen.

This map tells you which senators are the linchpins to removal:

These are the 21 states Class II GOP senators represent; these are GOP seats that are up re-election in 2020 or will be open, as in the case of Kansas’ Pat Roberts who will retire at the end of his term. These senators are the ones who should be held accountable at the polls if they do not restrain an out-of-control White House. They represent the votes necessary to convict and remove Trump, let alone votes to approve bills reopening government and override a veto (assuming two-thirds of the House would likewise support a veto override). Here are their names to make it easier to identify your GOP Class II senator if you have one:

Dan Sullivan (AK)

Tom Cotton (AR)

Cory Gardner (CO)

David Perdue (GA)

Jim Risch (ID)

Joni Ernst (IA)

Pat Roberts (KS) retiring

Mitch McConnell (KY)

Bill Cassidy (LA)

Susan Collins (ME)

Cindy Hyde-Smith (MS)

Steve Daines (MT)

Ben Sasse (NE)

Thom Tillis (NC)

Jim Inhofe (OK)

Lindsay Graham (SC)

Mike Rounds (SD)

Lamar Alexander (TN) retiring

John Cornyn (TX)

Shelley Moore Capito (WV)

Mike Enzi (WY)

These folks should be squirming already — at least those who must fly home should be. Imagine them needing to fly to their respective states having failed to reopen and fund government services like TSA security staffers and air traffic controllers.

This may explain in part why three of the senators who are among those who must fly the farthest from Washington DC are leaning toward reopening the government — that’s Lisa Murkowski (AK), Cory Gardner (CO), and Susan Collins (ME). They’re vulnerable in an entirely different way because the government shutdown is a bigger threat personally and professionally than Trump’s possible impeachment and removal.

With 66 total senators required to make up the two-thirds necessary for conviction and removal, the 18 remaining Class II GOP senators combined with Democrats and Independents provide the number needed with a little extra in case of a late flip-flop.

You know what to do: Congressional switchboard (202) 224-3121

Need a script? Celeste P. has you covered.

Yes, press them first on the government shutdown; addressing the shutdown’s damage to Americans’ livelihoods, safety, and security is a far more immediate need. A senator who doesn’t think Trump’s self-created crisis and corresponding shutdown must be stopped should be identified as vulnerable in 2020.

If these senators are persuadable on the shutdown, they may be persuadable on the question of conviction and removal of the president. (If they aren’t they’re probably co-conspirators and in need of investigation.)

If you call your GOP senator, feel free to share feedback from the call here. Let’s keep track of the Class II folks who really need a primary or a strong opponent in 2020.

UPDATE — 4:45 PM —

There may be 21 Class II senators who need to be nudged but one of them is in particular need of a political boot in his slackness.

McConnell walked into his office after leaving the Senate floor, where he objected to the Democratic request to re-open the government.

 

“I think the way out has been apparent for several weeks,” he told reporters. “It requires an agreement between a Democratic House, the Democrats in the Senate and the President.”

 

After the meeting broke up, members were fairly tight-lipped about any details. Some described what they were working on as a “framework” or “skeleton” they were trying to fill in.

 

“We’ve got a skeleton we’re trying to flesh out. It’s going to take work,” Tillis told reporters. (source: CNN)

Mitch McConnell is the primary gatekeeper enforcing the president’s unnecessary and unpopular wall; he’s the key hurdle between a continuing government shutdown and a return to order.

Sadly, McConnell’s refusal hurts his constituents directly — he’s literally telling them to fuck off and in some cases, die already.

— As of June 2017, there were 36,719 Kentuckyians who were employed by the federal government (source: Governing.com [from cached copy]);

— As of June 2017, there were 33,219 Kentuckyians who were active duty military relying on government services;

— As of 2017, there were 4.4 million Kentuckyians who relied in some way on food inspections because safe food nourished them, their family, friends, co-workers, or people in their communities on whom they depended in some way;

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. As an example, every federal employee who also relies on childcare but can’t pay for childcare because they are now unpaid may also lose their childcare provider. Providers require their services to be paid in cash even if the child isn’t there or their slot is freed up. Providers are also small business owners; they can’t afford massive cuts to their income and must find other revenue sources if they aren’t paid. It’s a major nuisance to find alternative, affordable, safe childcare, not to mention the expense to families.

With nearly 50% of Americans unable to scrape up $400 cash for an emergency, you can bet many of Kentucky’s federal employees have already blown through their reserves. Their inability to pay for goods and services will have a ripple effect throughout their communities — just like childcare providers, other business owners can’t afford cuts to their income stream.

The “fucken wall” only protects those who need the public to be distracted from investigations. One much needed investigation is the possible effect of foreign influence on members of Congress and their campaigns — including Mitch McConnell. His refusal to reopen and fund government including DOJ and FBI functions could be a means to prevent any investigation which might look into his own campaign donations.

Think about it: after the Citizens United decision in 2010, the NRA changed its donation pattern substantially from 2010 to 2012 to help pro-gun rights candidates.

Guess who received the 14th highest amount of gun rights contributions ($135,350) and the 6th highest amount of contributions from outside support for gun rights ($771,175)? Yup, McConnell brought in that much between 1989-2018 that we know of.

How much Congressional campaign money, including donations to McConnell, might have been laundered Russian contributions? Has the active investigation into accused Russian spy Maria Butina uncovered this figure? Has this investigation been affected by the shutdown?

Is this a personal reason why McConnell is so doggedly protecting Trump’s “fucken wall” in spite of the damage the corresponding government shutdown is doing to his own constituents and to the nation?

Sure hope Kentuckyians know to use the Congressional switchboard number (202) 224-3121 — assuming that hasn’t been defunded yet.

UPDATE — 12:40 AM 11-JAN-2019 —

Give me a “fucken” break with this bullshit:

President Donald Trump gave an Oval Office address and headed to the border. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have been holding regular press conferences to rebut him.

But when the shutdown ends, it will likely be the handiwork of the leader who’s stayed offsides: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

On Thursday, McConnell summoned a handful of fellow Republicans to his ornate offices to brainstorm a solution. The group, which included Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Rob Portman, dispatched Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby to give Vice President Mike Pence what aides described as a “skeleton” of a plan to re-open government and return to paying 800,000 federal workers.

“We aren’t there yet,” cautioned a top Senate Republican aide. They didn’t get there, either.

Handiwork my eye. Show me where McConnell did a goddamn thing except for the summoning. This entire article was a piece of fluff designed to puff up the soft-handed, wattle-necked waste of Kentuckyians’ votes.

If you live and vote in Kentucky, please, PLEASE call this wretch and tell him to get off his duff — euphemistically called the “sidelines” — and get the government reopened. He needs to find his nuts and tell Trump the wall doesn’t have support; McConnell never had a problem telling the last president to piss up a rope and that president had a helluva lot more support than this one.

McConnell also needs to get on the right side of history. He can torch the rest of his legacy cozying up to a corrupt narcissist or he can try to salvage what history remembers of him by getting a spine and upholding his oath of office instead of sucking up to an un-indicted co-conspirator.

There’s No Crisis at the Border — There’s a Crisis in the White House

[NB: Whoops — forgot to remind readers to check the byline. This is the other pottymouth broad./ ~R]

Reports say that Vice President Pence and DHS Secretary Nielsen have been laying the groundwork for Trump’s speech tonight in which he is expected to complain about House Speaker Pelosi, Democrats, and the lack of funding for the goddamn wall he claimed Mexico would pay for while he campaigned in 2016. The word “crisis” was used 36 times.

Yet there’s no crisis at the border.

The State Department hasn’t published any documents or statements over the last two years indicating there was a crisis.

While talking about Trump’s speech today, Secretary of State Pompeo laughed — not exactly an indicator of crisis.

Bad numbers have been thrown around over the last couple of weeks, claiming that 4000 terrorists have been stopped at the border. Untrue: the number is somewhere between six and 12, and the designation “terrorist” is as specific as the No-Fly List. This means persons whose names match individuals who are under suspicion for political reasons — like musician Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens — may be the entirety of the 6-12 individuals stopped at the border. Hardly a crisis.

Secretary Nielsen can’t answer questions put to her by Congress about refugees at the southern border without prevarication; she can’t even say how many people, adults or children, have died in U.S. custody. Seems like a cabinet member would have accurate numbers at their finger tips in a genuine crisis.

That a handful of questionable individuals were halted at the border suggests the current system works. Not a crisis.

If funding has been the problem and the theater of angrily shutting down the government was intended to force funding approval, why didn’t the GOP fund it while they had a majority in the House? Why didn’t they fund it when they were in lame duck? Why didn’t they make a point of knocking down the massive tax cut by enough to fund the “fucken wall“?

If aliens breaching the border is a crisis, why were government services including border security shuttered at all instead of finding an alternative method for funding the wall?

And if aliens crossing into the U.S. was such an emergency, why did Trump’s campaign fund a broadcast TV ad placed during CBS’ 60 Minutes this past Sunday night, bashing Pelosi and the Democrats about wall funding?

Because the border hasn’t been and still isn’t a crisis; it’s a distraction from other issues Trump doesn’t want his base to notice. Because it’s a campaign issue that worked in 2016 with the same base eager to lap up his brand of white nationalist hate.

But you know what is a crisis?

Tens of thousands of Americans are dying every year from opioids and Trump has done dick-doodley-squat to work with Congress to shut down opioids. Oh, he’s talked about it? Great — a lot of useless hot air and fapping gestures made as Americans’ bodies pile up.

[Graphic: StatNews – note deaths from opioid variants]

At least 42,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2016. But no speech tonight about this real crisis.

Another crisis: the cost of insulin. People who can’t afford the outrageous prices are risking permanent disability and death by rationing their use below prescribed levels. Worse yet, some government employees, contractors, and their families may be going without insulin right now because they can’t afford it while they are going unpaid. Trump is courting Americans’ deaths for the manufactured wall crisis.

Another crisis being swept under the rug: the government’s gross negligence in responding to Hurricane Maria, resulting in thousands of Americans deaths, and the continued abdication of leadership on climate change, contributing to deadly conditions like California’s wildfires resulting in at least 100 deaths. Who is being held accountable for these fatalities as they mount? How many will die during the next climate change-caused catastrophe?

Who is being held accountable for all the other real crises, like multiple corrupt cabinet members, the collapse of ethics in the White House, the mounting risks to national security posed by officials handling sensitive matters without adequate clearance, or the loss of trust in the U.S. among allies whose relationships have been devalued?

There’s no crisis at the border, but there is a crisis. This country is lead by a lying malignant narcissist who can’t see anyone or anything except for himself; he refuses to accept responsibility and accountability. He is incapable of admitting failure, particularly his failure to uphold his oath of office. He swore to faithfully execute the laws but his manufactured border crisis ignores this very simple and straightforward one:

8 U.S. Code § 1158 – Asylum
(a) Authority to apply for asylum
(1) In general
Any alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States (whether or not at a designated port of arrival and including an alien who is brought to the United States after having been interdicted in international or United States waters), irrespective of such alien’s status, may apply for asylum in accordance with this section or, where applicable, section 1225(b) of this title.

His trash talk bashing the press also violates the First Amendment of the Constitution, which he swore to uphold and defend.

There’s a crisis when broadcast media corporations — after refusing twice to allow the first black president to address the nation on immigration — have allowed themselves to be bullied in to airing pure propaganda.

The networks have in these decisions breached the contract they have as licensed broadcasters, obligated to serve the public interest; they do so with great bias for a man who is a noted racist, having shut out the only president of color on the same issue of immigration. They do so after Trump has encouraged violence against media and elected officials by calling them enemies of state, ultimately resulting in mass bomb and shooting threats.

These media outlets also ignore history — very specific history Trump knows quite well, having read Hitler’s speeches and understanding the aims of Germany’s 1933 emergency Reichstag Fire Decree and Enabling Act — by giving Trump a platform for untruths, defamatory content, and near incitement, none of which serves the public interests.

Lastly, the press also gives preference to an extortive demand for funding labeled by Trump as a crisis — neatly fulfilling Trump’s claim of fake news media — when the only genuine emergency at the border is two-fold: the ongoing violations of U.N. treaties on refugees and human rights, resulting in the deaths of children and adults alike, and the suspension of government services which include border security.

Judge Sullivan Was Prepared For Potential Flynn Perjury and Fraud On The Court

Okay, that was quite a morning at the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse in DC in regard to the Flynn plea and sentencing. In the windup this morning, well before the proceeding began, I cautioned that Flynn and his attorney Rob Kelner would have to back off the right wing Fox News Trumpian nonsense they stupidly included in their sentencing memo. See this report from Marcy on the sentencing memo, and this one as to how the FBI 302’s the Flynn team stupidly demanded be made public ate them alive. And, they really did.

There is already simply a ton of discussion on the Flynn proceeding today, I will leave that to others. But there was one little nugget I say from, I think, Glenn Kirshner, as almost a throwaway comment, on MSNBC that Judge Sullivan insisted Mike Flynn be sworn in before proceeding today. I was not really ready to write about this until confirming it from others in the courtroom this morning. I have now received that corroboration from multiple sources. In fact, Judge Sullivan directly said he was doing so because “he was doing basically an extension of the plea colloquy”. Wow!!

This is fairly notable. Defendants get sworn in for their plea allocution, but not their sentencing. Judge Emmet Sullivan was laying in the weeds for Flynn from moment one. To be specific, here is what I said in a tweet well before the sentencing began regarding Flynn and Kelner having included the right wing nonsense about Flynn being innocent and tricked by the FBI in their sentencing memo:

“Keep in mind that this argument, if pursued to success, then makes his plea allocution effectively a fraud on the court.”

Well, apparently Judge Sullivan was on to the problem that such a direct repudiation by Flynn of his underlying guilt, and the previously sworn voluntariness of his plea, would pose if he was stupid enough to continue down that path. Sullivan was ready, because continuing down that path would have directly undermined everything Flynn swore to in his plea allocution on December 1, 2017.

What Judge Sullivan effectively did was set the first real “perjury trap” to date in the greater Mueller investigation (despite the idiocy purveyed relentlessly on Fox News and by Rudy Giuliani). And it was a federal court and judge that did it, not Mueller or his deputies. Emmet Sullivan was loaded for bear today on multiple fronts, but this is one the media does not seem to have caught on to yet.

Flynn and his attorneys were ready for it after the searing followup sentencing memo filed by the government, but clearly were not ready for just how seething Judge Sullivan really was. Frankly, I think the canard, as suggested by Sullivan himself, that “further cooperation” by Flynn really will change the dynamics for sentencing at this point is absurd. That said, assuming they can keep their client from doing further stupid things in the interim, giving Emmet Sullivan 90 days to calm down is not a bad idea for the defense I guess. What a mess. I remain convinced, however, that Flynn could have walked out of court sentenced to probation today if he had not included that right wing Fox News nonsense in his sentencing memo. Oh well!

The Moment Of Truth Comes For Cohen And Flynn

As you likely know by now, Trump fixer Michael Cohen is getting sentenced this morning. In fact, the proceeding is starting as I write this post, so I am going to get it up so that there is an appropriate place to discuss the events.

There are three sentencing memos in the Cohen matter
1) Cohen’s memo
2) The SDNY Memo
3) The Mueller SCO Memo

The sentencing guideline range is 51-63 months, but the government has already suggested a downward departure, i.e. a reduction for those that do not practice federal criminal law, to 41 months. Remember, he is being, technically, sentenced on two different pleas today, the original comprehensive plea, and the one count of lying to the Feds under 18 USC §1001. The latter is a tack on charge and is really not particularly pertinent for sentencing and, in fact, the government has recommended no additional time for that above and beyond whatever is imposed in the original SDNY case. The judge is William H. Pauley, and, for what it is worth, he is not known for overly lenient sentences, and that is likely exacerbated in this case by the fact that Cohen’s conduct impinged on government.

I will make no bets here, but at one point I thought Cohen would do a lot better at sentencing, but the SDNY sentencing memo was just brutal. Currently having a hard time seeing Cohen walking out with less than the 41 months SDNY recommended, but you never know, only Pauley gets to decide. Do note that, should Cohen wake up and fully cooperate in the future, he can still get relief in the next year under Rule 35 of the Federal Criminal Rules of Procedure. Who knows what is yet to come, but it is technically possible that his sentence is not written in stone.

One interesting question is whether Judge Pauley will remand Cohen into custody today, or allow him to go home and self report at a later date. The presumption is always remand, but Cohen’s wife Laura clearly has health issues from seeing her enter the court this morning. If I were Cohen’s lawyer, Guy Petrillo, I would ask for the courtesy on him taking her home and self reporting later. We shall see.

Also, if interested in the blow by blow in real time, follow Adam Klasfeld @KlasfeldReports on Twitter.

Will add in Some Flynn material in a bit.

Graphic: Quino Al via Unsplash (mod by Rayne)

Grab Your Phone and Dial Now: NO on Farr [UPDATE]

[NB: Check the byline – this is Rayne. Updates appear at the bottom of this post.]

Look, these Senate Democrats will explain why they will vote NO on Thomas Farr for federal judge better than I will:

Amy Klobuchar

Elizabeth Warren

Richard Blumenthal

Sherrod Brown

Kirsten Gillibrand

Cory Booker

Chuck Schumer says the Democrats are united and voting NO.

But here’s the thing: Shit happens. People slide when they think they have cover, when nobody’s watching.

CALL YOUR DEMOCRATIC SENATORS AND TELL THEM NO ON FARR.

You have a GOP Senator or Senators?

CALL THEM AND TELL THEM NO ON FARR because we are watching their votes closely when it comes to Trump’s policies and nominees. We are watching for senators who aren’t supportive of civil rights and voters’ rights.

These GOP Senators are particularly at risk — if they don’t retire — because they are up for reelection in 2020:

Dan Sullivan (AK)
Tom Cotton (AR)
Cory Gardner (CO)
David Perdue (GA)
Jim Risch (ID)
Joni Ernst (IA)
Pat Roberts (KS)
Mitch McConnell (KY)
Bill Cassidy (LA)
Susan Collins (ME)
Steve Daines (MT)
Ben Sasse (NE)
Thom Tillis (NC)
Jim Inhofe (OK)
Lindsay Graham (SC)
Mike Rounds (SD)
Lamar Alexander (TN)
John Cornyn (TX)
Shelley Moore Capito (WV)
Mike Enzi (WY)

MAKE THE CALLS RIGHT NOW — the Senate is supposed to invoke cloture any time now on Farr.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

ADDER — 1:30 PM EST — In case you’re  not up to speed on Farr’s background and you don’t want to listen to the Senate Dems’ speeches linked above, here’s a backgrounder by Ari Berman at Mother Jones. In a nutshell, Farr exemplifies everything wrong with North Carolina’s politics — utterly racist and dishonest to boot.

UPDATE — 2:06 PM EST — Cloture was invoked; the vote is tight, forcing VP to cast the deciding vote. (Time stamp on tweet below is PST for some reason.)

CALL YOUR SENATORS ESPECIALLY GOP ONES. Make them own this vote when they finally confirm Farr.

_________

Treat this as an open thread.

 

Birds of a Feather: Comparing ‘Sparrows’ Chapman and Butina

Name: Anna Vasilyevna Kushchyenko Chapman Maria Valeryevna Butina
Born:

Place:

23 February 1982

Volgograd, Volgograd Oblast, Soviet Union

November 10, 1988

Barnaul, Siberia, Soviet Union

Education Economics (Masters)

Moscow University or RUDN University (unclear)

Moscow, Russia

Political Science, teaching

Altai State University

Barnaul, Siberia, Russia

Marital Status: Divorced (2006) Single
First Entered U.S.: 2009 2011
Visa Y/N: Unclear Yes
Visa Type: Unclear – Acquired residency in U.S. as British citizen by marriage Initially traveled to/from U.S. with Russian official Aleksandr Torshin; applied for F-1 student visa in 2016
Work in U.S.: CEO, PropertyFinder LLC (real estate sales) Special assistant to Aleksandr Torshin; gun rights activist; student
Arrested: 06/27/10 07/15/18
Charged with: 18 USC 371 Conspiracy,

18 USC 951 Agents of Foreign Governments

18 USC 371 Conspiracy,

18 USC 951 Agents of Foreign Governments

Though Marcy has already discussed Maria Butina’s recent attempt to avoid prosecution as a Russian spy under 18 USC 951, it’s worth comparing two Russian women charged on different occasions with violating the same act.

There are some similarities including the hair color, and some key differences — Chapman and Butina aren’t clones. Their behavior and achievements in the U.S. on behalf of Russia suggest a change in methodology over time.

The indictment charging Chapman included her mission, decrypted from a 2009 message sent to Chapman and a co-conspirator:

Butina’s mission appears to be similar, but there’s no decrypted message included in the Department of Justice’s Arrest Affidavit to compare with that in Chapman’s indictment. We must rely on Butina’s translation of another document she shared by email with ‘US Person-1,” believed to be Paul Erickson.

Both Chapman and Butina had missions or assignments; Butina’s appears to be worded more loosely but a full text of the email is not publicly available to make a more accurate assessment. Both women were expected to get close to and develop relationships with U.S. policy makers.

What may explain why Butina’s mission is worded a little differently: between the time Chapman receives her assignment and Butina shares her mission with U.S. Person-1, the policymakers have changed from Democrats to Republicans.

The Democrats were also much more difficult and distant; we can see in other interactions between Illegals Program spies including Chapman that targets weren’t as readily engaged as U.S Person-1. Though Americans who interacted with Illegals Program spies were amazingly credulous, the spies still didn’t get very close to their intended target, Hillary Clinton.

By the time Butina began her work in 2011, methods had changed. Instead of tradecraft seen in the Buryakov case circa 2013-2015 and the earlier Illegals Program circa 2010, Butina is initially accompanied by a Russian official – no need for Butina to implement additional traditional tradecraft to report intelligence when they are their own channel, subordinate spy to superior and minder. Once a relationship between Butina and US Person-1 had been well established, tradecraft was even more nominal – we don’t see in the Arrest Affidavit anything more complicated than a commercially available laptop computer and cellphone.

The descriptive name of the assignment on which Butina worked also indicated a shift — “Project Description ‘Diplomacy'” —  to building constructive (konstrucktivnyh) relations with an organization central to influence over the Republican Party, with an understanding that they (Russia in concert with Political Party 1 and Gun Rights Organization) had some ‘right to negotiate’. This is far more substantive than Chapman’s assignment to seek and develop ties with key contacts.

Spying operations changed along the arrest and deportation of the Illegals Program spies and in sync with a transition in U.S. Politics:

— The shift in Congress from Democratic Party to GOP with the 2010 election may have been a trigger for a new approach once the 112th Congress was sworn in;
— The transition happened in sync with the embrace of Torshin by the National Rifle Association (NRA);
— Change from Clinton to Kerry as Secretary of State likely played a role given the expectation Clinton would be the front runner for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

But one key factor may have changed the tack Torshin and Butina took compared to Chapman and the Illegals: the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, Appellant v. Federal Election Commission on January 21, 2010.

Now there was a means to funnel money to meet Torshin’s and Butina’s efforts without the level of difficulty other methods might have had before 2010. They could identify, meet, target, influence, and point to a candidate the NRA could fund using Russian money — in effect, developing and recruiting unwitting (or witting) agents.

They collected Republican members of Congress to exploit as useful idiots, in other words.

No wonder Butina had to hide behind a seemingly innocuous student status. Besides masking the reason why she was in the U.S., she needed to appear lower on the cultural status scale than the GOP’s easy marks on which she worked. In contrast, Chapman only needed the appearance of a real estate gig to enable her to poke around.

Note again in the excerpt from the DOJ’s Arrest Affidavit the ‘right to negotiate’ — does this suggest that Citizens United, combined with NRA’s welcome, that Russia felt it had an alternative (read: illegitimate) path to diplomacy, circumventing a Democratic White House between 2011 and 2017?

It’s clear something changed after 2010 at the NRA with regard to allocation of money between lobbying and campaigning.

Never mind that gun control advocacy group the Brady Foundation was outspent by an overwhelming amount. The NRA shifted its practice dramatically in 2012 from spending on lobbying instead to campaigning, just about the time Torshin had fully integrated Butina into a gun rights advocate as his “special assistant.”

In 2012 the NRA also transitioned away from relying as heavily on the  American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), doing more of its policy work and outreach directly through GOP candidates. ALEC executed a PR feint — backing away publicly from gun rights issues and the Stand Your Ground laws it helped promote — but in reality it was ceding to the NRA these efforts because ALEC was no longer needed after Citizens United as a legislative front. The NRA could handle their issues directly with candidates under the guise of campaign support.

The rest is history, with Butina taking selfies with NRA’s president David Keene and various GOP candidates to document her benchmarks along the way through Trump’s 2016 campaign.

(Conveniently, Trump trademarked his tagline, Make America Great Again, in November 2012.)

Butina’s legal team may argue against a charge of violating 18 USC 951 as a negotiating chip, claiming she didn’t spy. If either of these red-capped sparrows could have claimed they weren’t a spy, it wasn’t Butina. Her mission was successful in a way Anna Chapman could only have dreamed.

Kavanaugh Confirmation Standards of Nonsense

Okay, in case you have not already guessed, Marcy is away, mostly, for a couple of days. Even a prolific presence like her is entitled to that. So, you get me for today. Sorry!

Now, because I have been a little involved in trying to figure what is the “real standard of proof” for people in the shoes of, say, Susan Collins and Jeff Flake, I have been a tad predisposed this morning. But let us for now go back to Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh, Collins, Flake, Grassley and the “standard of proof”.

An executive branch nomination is NOT a criminal trial. Any talk about “presumed innocent” and “beyond a reasonable doubt” is asinine and duplicitous. There is no set standard for a nomination consideration, much less one for the Supreme Court. Senators, especially those on the screening Senate Judiciary Committee, get to make their own individual assessments. In a perverse kind of way, it is like impeachment’s “high crimes and misdemeanors”, it is easy for people to argue, but the net result is that it is whatever strikes Congress as being applicable.

Frankly, I think the argument over what Susan Collins’ standard was is kind of silly and diversionary. Collins stated on the record:

“This is not a criminal trial, and I do not believe that claims such as these need to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Nevertheless, fairness would dictate that the claims at least should meet a threshold of more likely than not as our standard.”

This is bullshit. As David Graham, again, pointed out:

Citing the lack of corroboration of Ford’s account as well as lacunas in Ford’s own recollection, Collins said she did not believe the “more likely than not” standard had been met.

Although she did not use the phrase, the standard that Collins offers appears to be the same as “the preponderance of the evidence,” which is the burden of proof required in civil trials—as opposed to the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard in criminal cases. This is also the standard that many colleges now use in evaluating sexual-violence claims under Title IX. Obama-era guidance required schools to use a preponderance-of-evidence standard, though the Trump Education Department has granted schools greater leeway, instructing that “findings of fact and conclusions should be reached by applying either a preponderance of the evidence standard or a clear and convincing evidence standard.”

So, what is the relevant standard? As propounded earlier, there is no set one in these circumstances. It certainly is not “beyond a reasonable doubt” as is in criminal trials. Anybody using that language, including most of the geriatric white geezers in the SJC, is lying.

“Clear and convincing evidence”? Nope, there is no precedent for that either. Preponderance of the evidence/more likely than not? Again, there is scant authority to establish that as a relevant standard. Bottom line is Susan Collins manufactured her own “standard” and then cynically applied it, all without any legitimate basis. And, maybe, that is the kind of intellectual malleability these SJC determinations engender, but, if so, people like Collins, and the journalists that cover her charade, should acknowledge it.

So, what is the real “standard”? Again, there is none I can find. But if the course and scope of “background investigations” conducted by the FBI at the behalf of an Article II Executive Branch request is any indication, it is far different than being duplicitously portrayed by both the White House and Senate Judiciary Republicans.

Here is a specialist in clearance and background investigation issues, Brad Moss:

Um, not totally true. It happens for high level national security operatives working for the NSC and related White House components. Those individuals have to hold TS/SCI access and often times can be subject to invasive polygraph screenings.

Actual vetting, not that Kushner BS.

Here is another, Kel McClanahan, of National Security Counselors:

The White House can’t order @FBI to just rummage through a random person’s life. They can definitely AUTHORIZE FBI to rummage through a person’s life who has agreed to be subjected to a background investigation.

If this is true, it was McGahn & not Trump who was playing games…

Yes. Exactly. And, as a Senator who was one of the maybe 115 American citizens able to actually read the “FBI Investigation” work product, for Susan Collins and Jeff Flake to blithely sign off on the limited, restricted and choked off nonsense, is beyond craven. It is straight up duplicitous. And the New York Times article is kind compared to the chicanery that was clearly afoot from Don McGahn, a close friend and Federalist Society gang member for decades with Brett Kavanaugh.

In short, it is NOT about the relative “standard of proof” used by Susan Collins. She used “more likely than not” standard (effectively a preponderance of evidence standard). When she said that was the standard, she was lying. It never has been, and never will be. That was manufactured bullshit.

People have also argued that the standard should have been “reasonable accusation” or “credible accusation”. And those are even lesser than than the preponderance/more likely than not” standard Collins artificially, self servingly and cynically utilized.

Is clearance on a Background Investigation warranted? Does anybody, including the high holy Brett Kavanaugh, have any god given right to have a clean BI and be elevated to the Supreme Court? Of course not (See Title 32 of the CFR), that is gibberish propounded by old white conservative and misogynistic demagogues, like Grassley, Hatch, Cornyn and Graham in the Senate Judiciary Committee. And it is pure rubbish.

And, so too is the manufactured “standard” Susan Collins magically announced in her drama queen dog and pony show yesterday that seemed to narcissistically go on forever.

The bottom line is that whether under Collins’ manufactured and elevated standard, or even lesser ones such as reasonable or credible allegations, Brett Kavanaugh was not fit for passage and subsequent confirmation.

As Mark J. Stern detailed in Slate, Susan Collins’ manifesto announced with all the drama of a royal wedding, was in incredible bad faith. Her “standard” was nonsense and nowhere close to any applicable standard. It was a joke.

But, even more so, under ANY standard Susan Collins could have cited, her “finding” thereunder was garbage. Even in criminal sex cases, not just occasionally, but often, finders of fact (usually juries), decisions come down to weighing the relative credibility of an accuser versus the accused. And, given the relentless series of outright lies Brett Kavanaugh stated under oath, there is no way that a sentient human could see his testimony as more credible than the measured, and admitting as to gaps, honesty of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. And, again, credibility of witnesses is what criminal trials, much less less than even civil litigation burdens, as here, are decided by every day.

This is because there are usually zero other witnesses to such kidnapping, molestation and attempted rape cases as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford credibly alleged, but also because time and reticence of victims is often a factor. And, yet, cases are filed and determinations made on just such “he said/she said” allegations every day. The implication by Susan Collins, Chuck Grassley, the other wrinkled old entitled white men like Hatch in the SJC, not to mention their cynically hired criminal prosecutor, Rachel Mitchell, are complete baloney.

Somebody go ask Rachel Mitchell, and the sad old men that hired her before they fired her, how many times she has operated off of an accuser’s words. The answer will be a lie, because it happens all the time. And, yeah, that is enough to generate a full and meaningful “background investigation” despite the bullshit being proffered by the White House, Don McGahn and the SJC.

Photo: Pavan Trikutam via Unsplash

Three URGENT Things: POTUS’ Alert Text, Facebonked, Kavanuh-uh

Let’s get right to it, no time for preamble (and don’t forget to check the byline above).

~ 3 ~

There will be an unblockable nationwide test of the Presidential Alert system on all cell phones today at 2:18 p.m. ET.

This infuriates me to no end, especially after Trump’s insulting bullshit at his fan club rally last night in which he denigrated assault survivor Dr. Blasey Ford. It’s as if he’s going to grab us all by the privates at the same time today without our consent.

Think about it: so much of your private personal life goes through your phone and now Trump’s FEMA has decided it will inject itself into your phone?

Lifehacker has a decent article suggesting some methods for mitigating or avoiding the text if not blocking it — you can read about it at this link.

Make sure you tell friends and family ASAP about this alert so they don’t freak out and aren’t in the middle of something important when this alert shows up.

Pity the poor residents of Hawaii, having to face this crap first thing this morning.

Time zone conversion for the alert:

Eastern: 2:18 p.m. ET
Central: 1:18 p.m. CT
Mountain: 12:18 p.m. MT
Pacific: 11:18 a.m. PT
Alaska: 10:18 a.m.
Hawaii: 08:18 a.m.

Check time conversion at this link. I’m going to shut my phone off at 2:00 p.m. ET and take an hour-long break.

~ 2 ~

The half-assed FBI investigation will likely be finished today; don’t expect to see the Swiss cheese-y results riddled with holes where testimony wasn’t collected. It’s unlikely the public will see this report.

This means McConnell will likely pursue a vote on cloture today to end debate in order for the full Senate to vote on Kavanaugh before the end of the week.

Which in turn means CALL YOUR SENATORS. Yes, even the steadfast Democrats who are unlikely to sway because their offices are being flooded with right-wing calls demanding their poor rich white frat boy judge be seated for a lifetime on the Supreme Court.

Screw that. Just MAKE THE CALLS.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

Need a script for your call? @Celeste_pewter has them broken into four categories:

– The Democrats who have already said yes, and won’t flip no matter what.
– The red state Democrats.
– The potential GOP flips.
– The GOP senators who will vote yes, no matter what.

And a universal, all-senators script.

Pick the appropriate script and have at it. (Thanks, Celeste!)

HOOSIERS: Make a special effort to thank Joe Donnelly who came out last night as a NO on Kavanaugh. He is surely being pummeled today by Indiana’s finest red staters.

NORTH DAKOTANS: Heitkamp is down but within margin of error of her Republican opponent. Make sure you call so that she doesn’t feel pressure to backslide.

Trouble getting through switchboard or full mailbox? Try contacting your senators’ local offices. Look them up at:

Contacting Congress: https://www.contactingcongress.org
Ballotpedia: https://ballotpedia.org/Who_represents_me%3F

~ 1 ~

Facebook’s massive breach exposes what a bad, BAD idea it was to allow a Facebook login to become a universal login for other applications. Let’s not forget Facebook has also appropriated users’ phone numbers for advertising without users’ consent. It’s a security cataclysm and Facebook is once again flat-footed.

NEVER LOG INTO SITES WITH FACEBOOK USERID.

Never use the same password for more than one site.

Use a password manager.

Read up here about the problem.

What did I do? I gave up Facebook years ago when it was clear to me they were a security cesspool.

~ 0 ~

Now get going. Run!

Treat this as an open thread.

Jeff Flake’s “Investigation” Is A Predicable Trumpian Sham

This was about the easiest thing in the world to predict. Jeff Flake issues some hollow self indulgent bullshit to make himself look like the last great reasonable man, and it is all garbage being run as cover for a complicit Trump White House and weak Senate Republicans (and at least one faux Democrat) desperately and cowardly seeking any fig leaf possible to allow them to put a craven, partisan, angry and drunkard historical sex offender on the United States Supreme Court for the next three to four decades.

If you thought that was just hyperbole previously, read this from NBC News and chew on it:

Instead of investigating Swetnick’s claims, the White House counsel’s office has given the FBI a list of witnesses they are permitted to interview, according to several people who discussed the parameters on the condition of anonymity. They characterized the White House instructions as a significant constraint on the FBI investigation and caution that such a limited scope, while not unusual in normal circumstances, may make it difficult to pursue additional leads in a case in which a Supreme Court nominee has been accused of sexual assault.

The limited scope seems to be at odds with what some members of the Senate judiciary seemed to expect when they agreed to give the FBI as much as a week to investigate allegations against Kavanaugh, a federal judge who grew up in the Washington DC area and attended an elite all-boys high school before going on to Yale.

Yes, of course Trump and McGahn are limiting the scope and time of this “investigation”. It was always going to be a sham, and that is why it was always so absurd that the SJC Minority, and other Dems, not to mention the ridiculously ever gullible national press, bought off on this idiocy. It was an own goal that they set themselves up for and are now being collared by.

This is a fraud being perpetrated on the American public. The media needs to take the time and do their own investigation, the “FBI” one is a sham being manipulated by the sex criminal led and protecting, White House.

I honestly don’t know who is more clueless in what was up with this ruse….the national media as to the forever sucker play of “the last honest Republican, Jeff Flake”….or the Democratic cheerleaders that thought this was anything other than a sham fig leaf cover play. Both are pathetic. This was obvious from the first second Flake uttered the words “limited” and “one week or less”.

PT Barnum said that a sucker is born even minute. A LOT of them were born yesterday. Didn’t have to be that way, but that is the stupidity of DC politics, and press coverage thereof.

image_print