McCabe Full 60 Minutes Transcript

Andrew McCabe: I’d never been to a meeting in the Oval Office before. I’m a career FBI agent-government worker.  

Scott Pelley:  Oval Office was above your pay grade.

Andrew McCabe: It certainly was. And the president immediately went off on a almost a gleeful description of what had happened with the firing of Jim Comey. And then he went on to state that people in the FBI were — were thrilled about this, that people really disliked Jim Comey and that they were very happy about this and that it was, it was a great thing.

Scott Pelley: He was telling you what the reaction inside the FBI was? Continue reading “McCabe Full 60 Minutes Transcript”

Twitter Questions 7.0

Did he (Trump) ever really want this job, or was it something else?

There’s a lot of speculation over this. I tend to agree with the line of thought that he never really wanted to be President. He went in thinking there was no way the American people were dumb enough to actually vote for him – even after he received the nomination. I suspect it was yet another Trump self-promotion tour and was designed to give him free publicity for all the deals he was working out (particularly Trump Tower Moscow).

His expression on election night was not an expression of joy. He looked terrified. He looked like a man who just found out his plans to profit off being “robbed” and having an election “stolen” from him failed bigly.

This is also part of the reason the transition failed so miserably: they never expected to win, so they really didn’t even prep to learn how to govern.

There’s another line of speculation that he was forced to run by his Russian handlers. I don’t really subscribe to this kind of thinking. Russia has been cultivating Trump as an asset for a long time for sure, but I would be shocked if they actually manufactured this run. It’s far more likely that they just jumped on the Trump Train to help sow division in the United States, and because they knew he would be way more pro-Russia than Hillary.

Is declaring a National Emergency when there isn’t one an impeachable offense?

“An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.”

-Gerald R. Ford

So, to answer that question in our current situation? Probably. But they’d never get a conviction out of the Senate for it, and I think Pelosi is far too smart to play “The Speaker Who Cried Impeachment.”

She’s going to wait until it counts – and when it’s most likely that enough Senators will defect – before she crosses that bridge. And she should.

If you could blink your eyes and remove on person from the WH (besides Trump) permanently, who would it be?

Miller. No question. He’s the architect of the vast majority of Trump’s disastrous policy.

Regarding the joint USA/ROK maneuvers Trump suspended, how much does that hurt our state of readiness in that area? Also could he just announce he’s pulling US forces out of South Korea?

As far as the joint readiness exercises (JRX) go, they’re important for unit cohesion, but honestly, their being suspended isn’t going to make the Korean Peninsula less safe. We’ve seen that we can scramble a joint US/ROK response within minutes of a provocation from Pyongyang. These guys and gals still train together, they’re just not participating in the massive readiness exercises that simulate invading North Korea, attacking weapons facilities, etc.

The bigger issue is the capitulation from Trump with no guarantees from Kim. I don’t find the lack of missile/bomb testing as comforting as some people do: you reach a point of competency that you don’t need to test as often. We know they’re still working on their staged-engine capability. Intelligence on North Korea clearly shows that Kim has done nothing substantive to curb his nuclear ambitions, or shutter his testing/production facilities. Trump refuses to believe this because it’s bad for his messaging. That’s dangerous.

As far as the troop withdrawal, he could absolutely announce that in an ad hoc fashion similar to what he did in Syria. He probably won’t, because that would be met with far more outrage. But he could.

What happens if the courts side with Trump and uphold the emergency declaration?

I honestly don’t believe they will. Courts look strongly at precedent, and this sets a BIG one. If they defend this, they will also have to defend a Democrat POTUS limiting magazine size or instituting another assault weapons ban via executive action. There’s a reason POTUS is only allowed to circumvent Congress in an *actual* emergency. This is a slippery slope that I don’t think the courts will want to negotiate.

For what it’s worth, I don’t believe the plan was ever for this to be upheld by the courts. It’s a cop-out for Trump; a way to blame the “deep state” for his failures and claim some semblance of victory.

Has a Presidential National Emergency ever been blocked?

“Yes, but not in decades. President Harry Truman tried to use emergency powers to nationalize the steel industry during the Korean War in 1952 over objections from Congress. Truman maintained that “the president has the power to keep the country from going to hell.” The bid was blocked by the Supreme Court, which found in a 6-3 ruling that Truman had exceeded his authority.” via NBCNews

Daily News Dump – Feb 15

Top US General Disagrees With Trump on Syria

“General Joseph Votel told CNN that IS militants were still active in Syria and US-backed forces were not yet capable of handling the threat alone.”

Votel also testified to the Senate that Trump did not consult him – or anyone else at DOD – before announcing the plans to withdraw.

Gen Votel pretty much echoes my sentiments on the blog and on Twitter, so if you’ve followed me for awhile this is nothing new, but it is important.

“[IS] still has leaders, still has fighters, it still has facilitators, it still has resources, so our continued military pressure is necessary to continue to go after that network,” Gen Votel told CNN earlier on Friday.

“When I say, ‘we have defeated them,’ I want to ensure that means they do not have the capability to plot or direct attacks against the US or our allies.” via BBC

National Debt tops 22 Trillion

Woo! Fiscal Conservatism, amirite?

Whitaker

Per DOJ, Whitaker is staying – at least for awhile – even though Barr was confirmed. He is now serving as the senior counselor in the office of Associate AG. Only problem? There is no Associate AG, or acting Associate AG. One might ask who he’s counseling, but given his disaster of a testimony, it’s probably good that the answer appears to be ‘no one.’

Trump’s Craziest Presser Since the Last Presser

If you didn’t watch that, consider yourself lucky. I knew we were in for a disaster when there was no teleprompter, but WOW. This was a freewheeling, completely off-the-rails, “hey guys this is literally why they made the 25th amendment” truckload of word salad.

He did manage to impressively counter his own argument for a national emergency during the Q&A session, though.

“I don’t need to do this, but I want it (the wall) done faster”

That sound you just heard was every DOJ lawyer who has to defend this already dubious order ramming their face through their monitors.

He also seemed to support giving drug dealers the death penalty by doing a horribly offensive imitation of President Xi.

“You have 1.4 billion people. What do you mean you have no drug problem. Why?” He then did an impression of Xi saying: “Death penalty. We give death penalty to people who sell drugs. End of problem.” via NBCNEWS

Stone Gagged

And not even the way he wanted, drat.

“First, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that attorneys for Stone, Mueller and any witnesses in the case “must refrain from making statements to the media or in public settings that pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case.”

As for Stone, the judge said he could keep talking about the case with the caveat that she could change her mind and amend her order “if necessary.” via Politico

Essentially, the gag order only prevents Stone from talking in or around the DC Courthouse, which is good, because I cant wait to see what he has to say about..

Russia, if you’re listening…

Apparently they were, because they were communicating with Stone, who was being ordered to reach out to Wikileaks (read: Russian intelligence) by a high-ranking campaign official.

You can read the full court filing here, but man oh man. It’s a doozy.

“As alleged in the Netyksho indictment, in 2016, the Netyksho defendants stole documentsfrom the DNC, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the Clinton campaignchairman.  Those defendants then released many of the stolen documents, including through a website maintained by Organization 1.  In the course of investigating that activity, the governmentobtained and executed dozens of search warrants on various accounts used to facilitate the transferof stolen documents for release, as well as to discuss the timing and promotion of their release. Several of those search warrants were executed on accounts that contained Stone’s communications with Guccifer 2.0 and with Organization 1.”

Reminder: Organization 1 = Wikileaks. Gufficer 2.0 = Russian Intelligence.

The biggest revelations here are that information in Stone’s case was discovered while looking at the Russians who were charged with interfering in our elections. This is huge. Information from Russian targets led directly to Stone. Also, they prove coordination with the timing of Wikileaks dumps, which again, Stone was directed to work on by a senior campaign official.

Reminder #2: The same day Trump said ‘Russia, if you’re listening’ and suggested they hack Clinton’s emails… Russia tried to hack Clinton’s emails. The first Wikileaks dump came hours after the Access Hollywood tape.

What does this all mean? They tried to sway an election, and it likely worked. Conspiracy to defraud the United States. Collusion. Whatever you want to call it, they’re cooked.

Senate Panel Launches Bipartisan Probe into Think Tank Linked to Butina, Torshin

“The Senate Finance Committee is launching a bipartisan investigation into how a conservative think tank aided Maria Butina, the admitted Russian agent who sought political influence through her ties with the National Rifle Association.

Butina pleaded guilty to acting as a foreign agent in the United States in December, and her alleged Russian government handler, Alexander Torshin, was sanctioned by the U.S. in April 2018.” via NPR

I like today. Much boom.

Sarah Sandwich Interviewed by Mueller’s Team

Those poor agents. I hope she knows lying is a crime, but one wonders if she’s capable of not. Oh well. Womp Womp.

Belgium Spy Chief Suspected of Spying for Russia

“A senior Belgian counterintelligence officer is under house arrest after allegations that he spied for Russia in a case that could highlight the security threat to Nato and European Union headquarters in Brussels.

The major, head of a division in Belgium’s external security department of the General Intelligence and Security Service (Giss), the equivalent of MI6, is suspected of passing secrets to Russia via a Serbian agent.” via thetimes

Not just happening in America, folks. Putin has global aspirations; anywhere they can find a traitor willing to betray their country, they jump at it. Shame they seem to have found a bunch here.

5 Killed in Illinois Shooting

“Five people were killed and six police officers injured in a shooting at a manufacturing company in Aurora, Illinois, on Friday afternoon.

The suspected gunman, killed by police, was identified by authorities as Gary Martin. Authorities believe Martin may have been employed at the plant, according to Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman.” via NBC

We face yet another example of an actual emergency in our country on the same day Trump declared his fictitious emergency and then went to play golf.

Manafort… thoughts and prayers? Nah.

“Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort deserves 19.5 years to 24.5 years in prison for his conviction for eight financial crimes, special counsel Robert Mueller’s office said Friday night.”

On this episode of “Criminals are Idiots,” we have Paul Manafort, who spectacularly ruined his plea deal with – and recommended leniency from – Robert Mueller by… lying for Trump. I think it’s cute that all these people seem to think they can keep lying to Mueller… apparently Mueller does *not* think so, because he dropped the hammer in this filing:

“Manafort’s age does not eliminate the risk of recidivism he poses — particularly given that his pattern of criminal activity has occurred over more than a decade and that the most recent crimes he pled guilty to occurred from February to April 2018, when he conspired to tamper with witnesses at a time when he was under indictment in two separate districts,” prosecutors wrote. via CNN


Daily News Dump – Feb 14

Trump guts DHS Election Task Force

“Two teams of federal officials assembled to fight foreign election interference are being dramatically downsized, according to three current and former Department of Homeland Security officials. And now, those sources say they fear the department won’t prepare adequately for election threats in 2020.

“The clear assessment from the intelligence community is that 2020 is going to be the perfect storm,” said a DHS official familiar with the teams. “We know Russia is going to be engaged. Other state actors have seen the success of Russia and realize the value of disinformation operations. So it’s very curious why the task forces were demoted in the bureaucracy and the leadership has not committed resources to prepare for the 2020 election.” via The Daily Beast

Translation: When Trump’s idea to let the fox guard the hen house (the joint cybersecurity task force with Russia) was shot down, he just decided to leave the door unlocked.

McCabe Drops the Hammer

McCabe is on a warpath and has no f#$&s left to give. I personally can’t wait to read his book (which you can read about here: https://amzn.to/2X4e6mP) on Tuesday, but the comments released today were pretty WOOOW. Some people have said they don’t like the fact that Andy is profiting off of book sales. Personally, I don’t see a problem with it – the guy was fired for obviously political reasons 26 hours before he was eligible to retire, and is STILL fighting for his pension after two decades of service.

Anyway, back to today.

“Andrew G. McCabe, the former deputy F.B.I. director, said in an interview aired on Thursday that top Justice Department officials became so alarmed by President Trump’s decision in May 2017 to fire James B. Comey, the bureau’s director, that they discussed whether to recruit cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office.

The dire concerns about the president’s actions also prompted Mr. McCabe to order the bureau’s team investigating Russia’s election interference to look into whether Mr. Trump had obstructed justice by firing Mr. Comey. The F.B.I. also began examining whether Mr. Trump had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests.” via NYT

McCabe officially confirmed a third prong in the effort to figure out what the hell was going on with Trump after he fired Comey:

  • The original Russia counterintelligence investigation
  • Whether or not Trump was working on behalf of Russia
  • Whether or not a majority of the cabinet would vote to remove him via the 25th Amendment.

“I was very concerned that I was able to put the Russia case on absolutely solid ground, in an indelible fashion,” Mr. McCabe said. “That were I removed quickly, or reassigned or fired, that the case could not be closed or vanish in the night without a trace.”

He also makes clear the idea of Rosenstein wearing a wire was taken very seriously and brought up more than once. That probably doesn’t bode well for Rod’s future, but reports were that he was planning to leave after Barr was confirmed (which happened today) and/or Mueller’s investigation was safe or almost completed.

DOJ issued a very strange and carefully-worded denial on McCabe’s assertations. I think we’ll be finding out that what he said was accurate.

Amazon Not Headed to New York

“Amazon said Thursday it’s abandoning plans for a second headquarters in New York City, a stunning retreat after state and local leaders strongly opposed providing the company with roughly $3 billion in tax incentives.” via Politico

This is surprising. Amazon received a full-throated endorsement from Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio, but was met with heavy resistance from other elected officials. Amazon claims the deal would have created 25,000 new jobs and a boatload of revenue for the area, but it also would have undoubtedly changed the community forever.

Third Suspect in Skripal Poisoning Identified

“Following a four-month joint investigation with our investigative partners The Insider (Russia) and Respekt (Czechia), Bellingcat can now reveal the true identity and background of this GRU officer, who operated internationally under the cover persona of Sergey Vyachaeslavovich Fedotov. In fact, this person is Denis Vyacheslavovich Sergeev, a high-ranking GRU officer and a graduate of Russia’s Military Diplomatic Academy.” via Bellingcat

Another GRU officer? I. Can’t. Believe. It.

In case you missed this story: In March of 2018, MI6 double agent Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with a nerve agent known as novichok in Salisbury. Both survived.

I know it’s hard to keep up with all the Russian poisonings, but this is the one that led to us expelling 60 Russian diplomats and making Trump throw a yuge fit.

National Emergency

Good news! We’re not going to have to deal with another shutdown… yet. Bad news: our Petulant POTUS is going to declare a national emergency to relocate funds from DoD to build his border wall… right before he flies to Florida to play golf.

Some Republicans are falling in line, others are still firmly opposed. Either way, this is a cave from Trump. He didn’t get his money, and this will be met with an immediate legal challenge that the administration will lose. The wall will either crumble in court, or be held up in litigation over eminent domain for decades.

This was always the way it was going to go, but man, the next few weeks are going to be stupid. (Evergreen comment)

“I don’t think this is a matter that should be declared a national emergency,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska. “We as legislators are trying to address the president’s priority. What we’re voting on now is perhaps an imperfect solution, but it’s one we could get consensus on.”

Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, said, “We have a government that has a Constitution that has a division of power, and revenue raising and spending power was given to Congress.” via NYT

Pelosi had the best response of all:

“It’s important to note when the President declares this emergency that it’s not an emergency, what’s happening at the border… the President is making an end run around Congress, around the Power of the Purse… we will review our options and prepare to respond appropriately to it. I know the Republicans have some unease about it, no matter what they say, because if the President can declare an emergency on something he has created as an emergency, an illusion that he wants to convey, just think what a President with values can present to the American people.”

This is a clear warning to McConnell, Graham, et al. The translation? Are you sure you want to do this? We’re going to win in 2020, and you can’t put this toothpaste back in the tube.

Reminder:

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Daily News Dump – Feb 13

Breaking News: Manafort is a liar

Ok, you got me: that’s not really news, but it is big. Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that prosecutors are no longer bound by a deal to recommend a lighter sentence for Manafort.

Remember back to what feels like 8 years ago when Mueller’s team recommended leniency for Manafort’s cooperation? Well, turns out he was *intentionally* lying to Mueller, the Grand Jury, and the FBI during this process.

Judge Jackson found that Mueller’s team provided sufficient evidence to prove that Manafort intentionally lied on 3 of the 5 counts they accused him of. The big one?

OSC has established by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant intentionally made multiple false statements to the FBI, the OSC, and the grand jury concerning matters that were material to the investigation: his interactions and communications with Kilimnik.

So, we have yet another Trump associate lying about Russia and only Russia. Even while they’re cooperating and trying to keep themselves out of prison for life. This is what we call a pattern, folks. The (obvious) question is why?

Brock Long Out at FEMA

Long says, “While this has been the opportunity of the lifetime, it is time for me to go home to my family — my beautiful wife and two incredible boys.”

I love the ‘spending more time with my family’ excuse in DC. It’s never actually about spending more time with one’s family.

Long fit right in with the rest of this scandal-plagued administration, landing himself in hot water over inappropriate government vehicle use.

“As his agency was preparing for Hurricane Florence’s landfall on the southeast coast in September, Long was being investigated by the DHS inspector general looking into his weekend use of government vehicles for personal travel to his home in Hickory, North Carolina” via USA Today

It’s unknown if the vehicle controversy played a part in Long’s resignation, but he certainly wasn’t the scandal-free member of the administration some are portraying him to be.

Nadler Smacks Whitaker Around… again

You can find the full letter right here. It’s pretty brutal.

“Although the Committee appreciates your decision to appear, Members on both sides of the aisle found many of your answers unsatisfactory, incomplete, or contradicted by other evidence.”

Nadler also leaves the possibility of a subpoena wide open, so Barr’s eventual confirmation won’t save Whitaker from this upcoming Congressional beating.

White House Security Specialist Seeks Whistleblower Protection

Tricia Newbold, the whistleblower that exposed the impropriety with Kushner (and about 30 other) security clearances is seeking official whistleblower protection.

If you don’t remember her story, I wrote about it in my January 31 Daily News Dump, and here’s a brief overview:


Newbold has served in this capacity for 18 years and has never had a complaint filed against her. She decided to become a whistleblower after Kline overrode the two staffers who denied Kushner’s clearance. Newbold suffers from a rare form of dwarfism, and as a retaliatory measure, Kline moved files to an area of the office she couldn’t reach.

The Grand Havana Room… Seriously?

“The 2016 nominating conventions had recently concluded and the presidential race was hitting a new level of intensity when Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, ducked into an unusual dinner meeting at a private cigar room a few blocks away from the campaign’s Trump Tower headquarters in Manhattan.

Court records show that Manafort was joined at some point by his campaign deputy, Rick Gates, at the session at the Grand Havana Room, a mahogany-paneled space with floor-to-ceiling windows offering panoramic views of the city.

The two Americans met with an overseas guest, a longtime employee of their international consulting business who had flown to the United States for the gathering: a Russian political operative named Konstantin Kilimnik.

The Aug. 2, 2016, encounter between the senior Trump campaign officials and Kilimnik, who prosecutors allege has ties to Russian intelligence, has emerged in recent days as a potential fulcrum in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation.” – via The Washington Post

This is the room and the meeting referred to by Andrew Weissmann when he said this goes “very much to the heart of what the special counsel’s office is investigating.”

WE’RE GONNA NEED MORE SWAMP OVER HERE!!

William Barr’s oldest daughter is leaving DOJ for a position at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), and his son in law is going to work for the Office of the White House Counsel.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but something seems imminently improper about a President whose entire cabal is under investigation for financial crimes appointing an Attorney General who at one point said the investigation should go away, followed by moving said Attorney General’s daughter to the agency that is tasked with investigating financial crimes, and then moving his son in law to the area of the administration that will primarily communicate with his father in law.


Daily News Dump – Feb 12

El Chapo Guilty on all Counts

El Chapo was convicted on all 10 counts and will effectively serve the rest of his life in prison. Naturally, Ted Cruz celebrated by making an ass of himself. The Junior Senator from Texas propsed the “EL CHAPO Act” which would use the $14 billion that prosecutors are seeking from El Chapo to… build the border wall. No, I’m not kidding. Yes, I wish I was.

It’s really pretty on-brand for Cruz to be this dumb, though. El Chapo spent his career smuggling vast amounts of drugs through legal ports of entry, tunnels, and submarines. So we should obviously confiscate it to build a useless wall. Right, guys? Guys?? RIGHT?

BBC Cameraman Attacked at Trump Rally

It was only a matter of time, but a cameraman was assaulted at Trump’s rally in El Paso last night. Thankfully, he wasn’t seriously harmed, but here’s another reminder how dangerous Trump’s rhetoric is.

Trump Floats New Tradition

Guys, Trump has a fantastic plan. We’re going to have a YUGE “Salute to America” parade on the 4th of July. It’s a brilliant idea according to Trump because:

“The fireworks (are) there anyway, so we just saved on fireworks. We get free fireworks because it’s already being done. So, that’s very good,” Trump said, referring to the stash launched annually on Independence Day in downtown Washington.”

It’s such a good idea that we… already do it. DC hosts the annual “America’s National Independence Day Parade” every year. So, this was his idea about as much as “Stronger Together” was his campaign slogan. I guess that didn’t stop the official GOP Twitter account from stealing THAT, so why not take the parade too?

Trump’s Former Lawyer Makes a Prediction

John Dowd told a reporter today that when Mueller is done, he doesn’t think the public is going to get any information besides “we’re done.”

Thankfully, this prediction is wrong. There’s absolutely no way the public will accept – or should accept – not being briefed on an investigation of this magnitude. I’m not worried about this in the slightest. Someone will leak it even if Barr tries to block it.

Trump ‘Not Happy’ With Deal

I have to say, this is really a fantastic bit of negotiating by the President. We went from $25 billion in border security proposed in exchange for DACA, to 1.7 billion in border security that shot down by the GOP House, to 1.38 billion for 55 miles of fence. Pretty soon, we’ll be able to flip him a quarter and call it good.

I’m starting to understand why all of his businesses went bankrupt, and not just the ones designed to launder Russian money.

In all seriousness, I hope we manage to avoid a shutdown on Friday. Judging by Trump’s most recent Tweets, I think we will:

“Was just presented the concept and parameters of the Border Security Deal by hard working Senator Richard Shelby. Looking over all aspects knowing that this will be hooked up with lots of money from other sources… will be getting almost $23 BILLION for Border Security. Regardless of Wall money, it is being built as we speak!”

I need some Scotch to wash down that word salad, but the loose translation is this:

Cavey McCaveFace completely caved and is trying hard to make this a win for him. I’m sure Spinderella (Kellyanne) will be on TV soon to talk about what a great deal this was for the President, even though it’s almost exactly what Democrats wanted.

AMI has a Negative Net Worth of Over $200 Million

Turns out the National Enquirer parent company is B-R-O-K-E.

Talk about a kick in the Pecker. via Bloomberg

Well, that’s it for now! If previous News Dumps are any indication, something will break as soon as I publish this. As always, keep the questions and comments coming – you guys are awesome!

If you enjoy the work I do and want to help support it, I’m getting *really* close to my next goal of 250 backers on Patreon. Currently at 239. When I hit 250, I’m going to start hosting a second weekly AMA to celebrate! Thank you again for those who have already chipped in, you’re awesome.

Daily News Dump – Feb 11

Fired Advisor to Saudi Prince Still Working Unofficially After Khashoggi Murder

“A top Saudi official who was officially fired from his post by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) for his alleged role in journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder continues to serve as a “royal adviser” in an unofficial capacity, The Wall Street Journal reports. Saud al-Qahtani was reportedly MBS’ “right-hand man” before he was fired after Khashoggi’s murder at Istanbul’s Saudi Arabian consulate late last year.” via The Daily Beast

I mean, we’re not really surprised nobody was actually held accountable, right? The official Saudi story has changed more times than Jared Kushner’s SF-86 form – we all knew this was never a serious inquiry.

While we’re talking about Saudi Arabia…

National Enquirer Publisher Asked DOJ Advice on Saudi Arabia

“The company that publishes the National Enquirer was concerned enough that it may have acted as an agent of Saudi Arabia that it asked the Justice Department last year whether it needed to register as a foreign lobbyist, a person with knowledge of Saudi Arabia’s lobbying efforts in the U.S. confirms to NBC News.”

So… the company that has consistently shilled for Donald Trump and who recently spectacularly failed in an attempt to blackmail one of Trump’s favorite enemies at one point considered they might need to register as a foreign agent for a country whose murder the Trump administration is STILL covering for? Probably just about 63 coincidences. <insert nothing-to-see-here gif>

But seriously. The quid might have found the quo if Saudi Arabia really was the country involved in the Bezos scheme.

“For reasons still to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve,” Bezos wrote.

I bet it did.

Dozens of Trump Supporters Form Human Wall at Southern Border

I snort-laughed just reading that headline. Then I saw the picture and I legit almost died. Here:

I feel safer already, how ’bout you guys?

Trump is rallying in El Paso

Anyone watching? No? Anyone care? Me neither. I’ll read the transcript and cover the crazy points later.

Michael Cohen Postpones Testimony… again

“For the third time this month, Cohen’s scheduled congressional testimony has been delayed, as his attorney said Monday that Cohen’s Senate Intelligence Committee appearance this week had been pushed back.”The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has accepted Mr. Cohen’s request for postponement of tomorrow’s hearing due to post surgery medical needs. A future date will be announced by the committee,” his attorney Lanny Davis said in a statement.” via CNN

Post surgery medical needs. Hmm… ok. Either way, Cohen is running out of time and excuses. He will have to testify before he goes to jail March 6th.

Pentagon Warns of Russian and Chinese Laser Threats to US Satellites

“China likely will field a ground-based laser weapon that can counter low-orbit space-based sensors by 2020, and by the mid-to-late 2020s, it may field higher power systems that extend threat to the structures of non-optical satellites,” the report says. Via CNN

I’ve been following this development for awhile, if you’re interested in reading the entire report released today, you can find it right here, but this is a potentially troubling development. Our adversaries have long-noted our reliance on satellites for everything: weapons targeting, surveillance, navigation, etc.

Russia has already deployed a test version of a ground-based laser battery designed to target satellites and ballistic missiles, but they have yet to demonstrate the capability to do either.

Couple this with reports that Russia tested “killer satellites” as recently as last year, and it’s clear that our biggest geopolitical foes are looking for a way to deny at least portions of space to us in the event of a conflict.

To be clear, I doubt it will come to that any time soon – because we can do the same thing to do them – but this stuff interests me and it’s still worth talking about.

Trump Pushes Iraq to Stop Buying Energy From Iran

“The Trump administration is pressuring Iraq to stop buying energy from its neighbor and sole foreign supplier, Iran, in what has become a major point of conflict between Washington and Baghdad.” via NYT

This is nothing but Trump trying to save face after he pulled out of the JCPOA. He’s trying to get all of our allies to comply with the sanctions he reimplemented against everyone’s advice. The problem is, nobody is biting.

“Already, European nations have set up a legal financial mechanism to do business with Iran, and China and India are resisting American efforts at prodding them to cut off oil purchases.”

The goal is simple: Trump wants to destabilize Iran. The problem is that all of our allies understand that. They also understand that Iran was compliant with the JCPOA and aren’t interested in helping create more chaos in an already tumultuous region.

Daily News Dump – Feb 10

Klobuchar in for 2020

In case you missed it, Amy Klobuchar officially announced her candidacy for 2020 today. She did it in the middle of a snowstorm, elicited the world’s dumbest response from POTUS, then had a pretty sick comeback of her own.

Trump: Well, it happened again. Amy Klobuchar announced that she is running for President, talking proudly fighting global warming while standing in a virtual blizzard of snow, ice and freezing temperatures. Bad timing. By the end of her speech she looked like a Snowman(woman)!

There are no words to adequately describe how incredibly dumb this man is. Trust me. I’ve looked.

Klobuchar got him pretty good, though:

Klobuchar: Science is on my side, @realDonaldTrump. Looking forward to debating you about climate change (and many other issues). And I wonder how your hair would fare in a blizzard?

Commentary on the dead ferret on Trump’s head aside, Klobuchar’s speech was pretty good. I still find it ridiculous that she’s being potentially marred by a story about being “mean” to her staff. When’s the last time you saw THAT story written about a male candida… oh, nevermind.

Warren all-in on the POTUS bashing

Elizabeth Warren wasn’t going to let Senator Klobuchar have all the fun today, spending her first full day of campaigning partially on my favorite hobby: making fun of Trump.

“By the time we get to 2020, Donald Trump may not even be President,” Warren said to voters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, gathered at the Veterans Memorial Building. “In fact, he may not even be a free person.” via CNN

More Trump Schedules Leaked

Axios has obtained four more of Trump’s private schedules from last week. He made a small improvement: only 50% of his time over those 4 days was in unstructured “Executive Time”

Annnnd of course, there’s a dumb Tweet about this too:

“The media was able to get my work schedule, something very easy to do, but it should have been reported as a positive, not negative. When the term Executive Time is used, I am generally working, not relaxing. In fact, I probably work more hours than almost any past President… The fact is, when I took over as President, our Country was a mess. Depleted Military, Endless Wars, a potential War with North Korea, V.A., High Taxes & too many Regulations, Border, Immigration & HealthCare problems, & much more. I had no choice but to work very long hours!”

If Trump wasn’t going to jail, I’d say he should definitely be a comedian. I got a really, really good snort-laugh out of that one. Whew. My chest hurts. But no, seriously. Laziest. POTUS. In. Modern. History.

Talks to Avert Shutdown Collapse… again

Via WaPo. The bipartisan group that was supposed to figure out border security when neither side actually wants this damn wall isn’t making any progress. Shocker, huh? I don’t *think* the government will shut down again on Friday, but if it does, I give up. I’m gonna be a full-time blogger.

…Not really, but this is getting ridiculous. We can’t keep holding people’s paychecks hostage for this vanity project that nobody really wants.

Everyone’s Tax Returns Suck!

Breaking news: tax scam turns out to be a scam. Wealthy are pleased. Everyone else? Not so much.

The average tax return is down 8% so far this season, with many more having to pay in, according to this CNN article.

At least CEOs got that nifty cut, huh?

Everything Trump Touches Dies: Farm Edition

“President Donald Trump’s trade war is magnifying some of the toughest farm conditions since the crisis that bankrupted thousands of farmers in the 1980s — and threatening a constituency crucial to his reelection hopes.

The president’s trade policies have sent U.S. agricultural exports plunging, exacerbating already difficult economic conditions facing farmers. Average farm income has fallen to near 15-year lows under Trump, and in some areas of the country, farm bankruptcies are soaring.” via Politico

I was told trade wars were good and easy to win. What happened?! Well, at least Russia was able to step in and take over the loss of US soybeans for China.

From May: China Buys Record Amount of Russian Soy as it Shuns US Growers.

A Mueller hint?

Andrew Weismann may have given at least a partial hint at the scope of the special counsel’s investigation. via NYT

“Comments by one of Mr. Mueller’s lead prosecutors, disclosed in a transcript of a closed-door hearing, suggest that the special counsel continues to pursue at least one theory: that starting while Russia was taking steps to bolster Mr. Trump’s candidacy, people in his orbit were discussing deals to end a dispute over Russia’s incursions into Ukraine and possibly give Moscow relief from economic sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies.”

“According to the transcript, which was heavily redacted, Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kilimnik repeatedly communicated about a so-called peace plan for Ukraine starting in early August 2016, while Mr. Manafort was still running Mr. Trump’s campaign, and continuing into 2018, months after Mr. Manafort had been charged by the special counsel’s office with a litany of crimes related to his work in the country. The prosecutors claim that Mr. Manafort misled them about those talks and other interactions with Mr. Kilimnik.

Pressed by the judge at Monday’s hearing to say why Mr. Manafort’s alleged lies mattered, Mr. Weissmann gave a broad hint about the thrust of the investigation.

“This goes to the larger view of what we think is going on, and what we think is the motive here,” Mr. Weissmann said. “This goes, I think, very much to the heart of what the special counsel’s office is investigating.”

This is proof that the idea of conspiracy and/or coordination between the Trump Campaign and Russia is very much alive in the Mueller investigation. There’s no explicable reason for Trump to want to change the GOP’s Ukraine policy if it wasn’t at the behest of Putin. Trump couldn’t find Ukraine on a map if his life depended on it, much less give you any information about what’s going on there.

Twitter Questions 6.0

You’ve been right about a lot, but seeing how team Mueller doesn’t leak, how are you so confident about what he’s going to reveal? I worry about being let down.

This is a good question, and one that I see quite a bit on Twitter. You’re absolutely right that team Mueller doesn’t leak, but there’s enough public evidence of Trump’s malfeasance for me to be perfectly confident that Mueller’s report is going to be damning. Let’s look at a few things that make me feel this way:

  • Consciousness of Guilt: Put quite simply, Trump does not act like an innocent man. Mueller has (publicly) indicted 34 people and three companies, yet Trump still screams ‘WITCH HUNT’ every time someone puts a camera in his face, or a phone in his hand. Some people chalk this up to the whole legitimacy issue, meaning that Trump somehow feels that Mueller’s work somehow makes him less legitimate, even if he wasn’t involved. I say that’s a bunch of hogwash: if Trump wasn’t involved and legitimately believed he did nothing wrong, he would be celebrating Mueller and the FBI doing their jobs effectively. Instead, he declares war on his own intelligence community.
  • Proximity to Crimes: So far, Mueller has charged 6 former Trump advisors, and passed on charging of his long-time fixer to SDNY. Even more close friends and associates have flipped and/or are cooperating. As much as I hate to invoke Occam’s Razor, it’s ridiculous on its face to assume that Trump is the ONE person in his inner circle who isn’t a criminal.
  • The Unusual Fact Pattern: Besides Jared Kushner – who has amended his SF-86 about 384 times (slight hyperbole, but not much) – the rest of Trump’s associates filled them out mostly-correctly. Yet, every single one of them lied about their contacts with Russia, and only Russia. Why is that? Two Trump associates have declared themselves as foreign agents after they were caught with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar. Trump sent his Education Secretary’s brother to the Seychelles to help form a back-channel to Russia. Kushner wanted Kislyak to use the RUSSIAN EMBASSY (insert epic face palm) to channel nonofficial communications to the Kremlin. Why did EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. OF. THEM. lie or obfuscate about Russia and nothing else? I suspect we’ll find out soon.
  • Obstruction of Justice: beyond all of that, the obstruction case is ironclad.

The GOP’s stranglehold of lifetime court appointments, many with troubling records of bigotry and discrimination is freaking me out. Democrats can’t stop any of it. Maybe you can address this in a blog post eventually?

I sure can! This was always McConnell’s game. Stacking the courts has been his goal forever, but it’s not something that I stress too much about, especially in the lower courts, where there is almost always a way to appeal. We’ll see what happens with SCOTUS in the long-term, but so far, Roberts has been the swing-vote to keep Kavanaugh in check, and Kavanaugh’s record hasn’t been completely garbage (yet). He did vote against Roe in a public dissent that probably shows us exactly why he was appointed… and why I’m going to do everything I can to make sure Susan Collins isn’t reelected.

As far as the court issue goes, the courts will always rebalance themselves. Democrats will win in 2020, and probably for a long time thereafter, honestly. SCOTUS is my biggest concern. I sincerely hope RBG stays healthy long enough for Trump to be removed from office.

It’s hard to comprehend how much damage Trump and his cronies have done to this country and US relationships around the world. Do you think we can fully recover?

This question is from Patreon, but it was a good one and I wanted to address it here. Trump and his cronies have undoubtedly done damage, but we will recover. I worry more about the impact of Trump’s domestic policies and divisiveness than I do lasting damage to our relationship with allies. We’ve (thankfully) built up decades of goodwill with our biggest allies, and this won’t be undone by Donald Trump alone. I was even less concerned about this when Mattis was still around, because he had a great way of speaking to our allies and alleviating their fears. Our next POTUS will certainly have their work cut out for them, but most of our allies already understand that this is an aberration, and that Trump does not speak for the majority of the United States.

Domestically, I worry about the lasting impact of his failed policies far more. A report came out this week that EPA inspections have fallen to a 10-year low, and polluters are paying much lower fines for breaking the law. Climate change is the most-serious issue currently facing the United States – and the world – and frankly, POTUS doesn’t give a damn about it.

Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip? Yellow Mustard or Dijon? Coffee: black, light, or light and sweet?

Mayonnaise, Yellow Mustard, Black-ish coffee. Small amount of cream, no sugar.

What city would North Korea most likely target in the US?

I think it’s far more reasonable to assume they’d hit South Korea, Guam, and Japan before attempting a strike on the United States mainland, but if they were, we have a hint from a (probably staged) photo North Korea released in 2013. Kim was photographed in one of his “war rooms” and there was a map on the wall that appeared to show four United States targets: Hawaii, San Diego (ish), Austin/San Antonio (hard to tell because there’s a General’s head in the way in the photo), and Washington DC.

Nuclear war with North Korea isn’t something that I currently stress about a whole lot. I think it is unwise for people to underestimate their capabilities, but they also aren’t stupid: their country would be turned into a parking lot if they attempted a preemptive strike on the United States mainland, and they know that.

Trump’s failed North Korea policy still worries me greatly. In the near-future, I suspect Trump will realize he’s been played and that North Korea has no intention of denuclearizing, and never did. At that point, I worry that he will resort to the standard US policy for dictators we don’t like: REGIME CHANGE! That’s a whole new post, though.

Daily News Dump – Feb 8

Corsi sues Stone

Jerome Corsi claims Roger Stone tried to cause him to have heart attacks to prevent testimony.

Uh. What? I guess his formal complaint (that’s still not a thing btw) against Mueller didn’t go so well, so he’s going to try again with good ole Rog. This time, he’s seeking $25 million bucks from his old buddy for defamation. You can read the court documents here if you want, but be warned: it’s typical Corsi madness. It will be interesting to see how *this* circus plays out.

US Opens Inquiry Into Handling of Epstein Sex Abuse Case

This inquiry started because Ben Sasse was pissed at what he called the “pathetically soft” sentence that Epstein received from Alexander Acosta. Sometimes I really like that guy. Sasse, not Alex Acosta. Ew.

For those of you who missed the original story, Trump’s good buddy Jeffrey Epstein was suspected of running an international sex trafficking ring involving underage girls. Alexander Acosta (who also happens to be Trump’s current Secretary of Labor) granted him a secret plea deal which included federal immunity to him and any potential co-conspirators.

You read that right. Epstein admitted to having sex with underage girls, and he spent a whopping 13 months in jail and was given a non-prosecution agreement.

My question: was Trump one of those co conspirators and is that why Acosta got a position in the administration?

Butina and the NRA

This Mother Jones piece, “The NRA Welcomed Maria Butina – Even As She Worked to Arm Anti-American Thugs Abroad” is a real doozy.

Mother Jones has uncovered a trail of activity showing that during the same period when top NRA leaders welcomed Butina into the fold—meeting with her extensively in Moscow and the United States—Butina actively supported Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military takeover of Crimea. In the immediate aftermath of the invasion and annexation in March 2014, Butina denounced retaliatory sanctions by the Obama administration and traveled to Crimea to promote the arming of pro-Russian separatists. Her efforts there included pledging support to a leader of a militia group that violently seized a Crimean news outlet it deemed “pro-American” and swiftly repurposed for a Kremlin propaganda operation.”

There’s honestly too much good stuff in this piece to recap and do justice, so you should definitely read it when you get a chance. It discusses the role of Alexander Torshin (Butina’s boss, who was sanctioned by the US Government in April and identified as an unindicted co-conspirator in Butina’s indictment) and the NRA since 2013. It also ties in Natalia Veselnitskaya, the lawyer who met with Jr. et al. in the infamous Trump Tower meeting.

The NRA has essentially remained silent about its relationship with Butina since she was arrested by the FBI in July. The gun group also has said very little about Torshin, other than that he paid a small sum to cover membership dues but gave no additional money. Yet NRA leaders also lavished Torshin with VIP treatment at multiple NRA gatherings. And congressional investigators told Mother Jones recently that they think the NRA has not been truthful about additional Russian money the organization may have taken in during the 2016 election cycle, when it put $30 million behind Trump.”

“Butina included photos of herself at an upscale hotel with Keene, Froman, and then-NRA President James Porter, to whom she gifted a Right to Bear Arms plaque. Other NRA figures she interacted with included CEO and executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, top donor Joe Gregory, and Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke.”

I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s not a coincidence that the NRA provided super-favorable treatment and high-level access to all these Russian spies, who also happened to be promoting changes in Ukrainian policy that were decidedly pro-Putin, after the NRA made a huge contribution to Trump’s election effort.

Trump campaign paid legal fees to firm representing Jared Kushner

Trump’s campaign has spent over $100,000 of donor money to pay legal bills to the firm representing Jared Kushner.

Because kleptocracy and nepotism are very legal and very cool.

Trump inaugural… again

Trump’s inaugural committee spent millions on payment to friends and allies, including 1.5 MILLION dollars to Trump’s hotel in DC, $130,000 on seat cushions, $130,000 on Tiffany salad bowls and almost 3 million on a Broadway-style performance.

How. The. Hell. Do. You. Spend. $260,000 on SEAT CUSHIONS AND SALAD BOWLS? Oh, you let Ivanka negotiate the prices. Makes sense now.

This deal obviously violates laws against self-dealing. This is a story worth watching. via ABCNews and ProPublica.

The dumbest line of “questioning” in Congressional history…

Louie Gohmert has never been accused of being intelligent, but he may have hit a new low during the Whitaker testimony today.

“I want to get to this issue of career officials. Colleagues have accused you of not following the advice of career officials. Do you know the background of the people under you? … One of the mistakes Sessions made was that he was listening to people who loved Sally Yates, loved her efforts to disrupt anything President tried to do, loved what President Obama did through the Justice Department. … look at the backgrounds, look at the people who are political hacks. I would encourage you to look beyond career, look where their loyalties are, because even though they may be in a career position, if their loyalties are not to the Attorney General and not to the President of the United States, and are more political than they are Constitutional, disregard what they say.”

This entire quote is a flaming pile of stupid, but it’s important to address for people who aren’t in Government, and might not understand the way this works:

Career officials do NOT owe loyalty to the Attorney General or the President of the United States. They serve the American people and the Constitution. Full stop. For the most part, these officials are apolitical and consummate professionals. Gohmert was attempting to provide cover for Whitaker ignoring the advice of career DOJ folks when it came to his recusal, but this is asinine. Career staffers are the ones who make the Government run. No political appointee can be successful without the backing of their dedicated career employees. Attempting to portray them as partisan or unworthy of acknowledgement is dangerous and counterproductive.

Whitaker testimony

Essentially, this whole thing was a dumpster fire. I’ll post video-links on Twitter for some of the more “OMG” moments. I find it adorable that some people think this was a good day for Whitaker. All he did was earn himself a subpoena.

This is already longer than I expected it to be, so I’m going to stop there. If anything else breaks today, I’ll discuss it on Twitter and add it to tomorrow’s News Dump.

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