Thoughts on the Redacted Mueller Report – Pt. 1

Firstly, I’d like to apologize for giving Barr the benefit of the doubt and encouraging you all to do the same. To his (limited) credit, he did release a lightly redacted report that’s full of damning information on POTUS. Not so much to his credit, he lied his ass off about it for a month before he released it.

Second: I’m going to break this down similarly to the actual Mueller Report. It will be in 3 sections. The first two sections will be big and/or new information, with some of my thoughts on the evidence Mueller disclosed on the Russian interference / coordination front. Part 3 will be all about obstruction.

Ok, with that out of the way, on to the actual report. It’s a doozy. All quoted material comes directly from the report, which you can read in it’s entirety here.

If you want the “too long; didn’t read” version of the story, basically just take everything Barr said and flip it 180. It’s that bad. I don’t know what he was thinking with that presser today. This report is a clear referral for impeachment from Mueller, even if Mueller *didn’t* say that.

He did.

The Conspiracy

“The social media campaign and the GRU hacking operations coincided with a series of contacts between Trump Campaign officials and individuals with ties to the Russian government. The Office investigated whether those contacts reflected or resulted in the Campaign conspiring or coordinating with Russia in its election-interference activities. Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

It’s important here to realize that the bar Mueller set for himself was high – as it should have been. I, on the other hand, would argue that this *is* tacit agreement of conspiracy to defraud the United States. If two parties understand a relationship to be mutually beneficial and engage in acts that further that relationship, that would seem to be, by definition, coordination.

“Wikileaks began releasing Podesta’s stolen emails on October 7, 2016, less than one hour after a US media outlet released video considered damaging to candidate Trump.”

Old news, but worth repeating.

“Campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos made early contact with Joseph Mifsud, a London-based professor who had connections to Russia and traveled to Moscow in April 2016. Immediately upon his return to London from that trip, Mifsud told Papadopoulos that the Russian government had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of emails.”

We’ve all heard about the famous meeting in May of 2016, where a drunk Papadopoulos shot off his mouth to Alexander Downer, Australia’s high commissioner to the UK, and told Downer that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton. Australia finally publicly confirmed this meeting for the first time. This wasn’t the first time Papadopoulos attempted to conspire with Russia, as seen above.

Oh, and for everyone who said the Five Eyes didn’t do anything to help us: Australia originally alerted the FBI to what Papadopoulos was doing.

Russian Active Measures

We all know the Russians actively tried to influence the election via propaganda on social media, but the scope of the operation is actually pretty staggering to see laid out in one place.

“Using these accounts and others, the IRA provoked reactions from users and the media. Multiple IRA-posted tweets gained popularity. U.S . media outlets also quoted tweets from IRA-controlled accounts and attributed them to the reactions of real U.S. persons. Similarly, numerous high-profile U.S. persons, including former Ambassador Michael McFaul, Roger Stone, Sean Hannity, and Michael Flynn Jr., retweeted or responded to tweets posted to these IRA controlled accounts. Multiple individuals affiliated with the Trump Campaign also promoted IRA tweets.”

You guys probably know how I feel about coincidences. I don’t like ’em – not even in the best of times. Multiple people who ended up in Trump’s administration, or on his list of biggest supporters spreading propaganda from a hostile foreign intelligence service is decidedly not “best of times.” This stinks to me.

“The investigation identified two different forms of connections between the IRA and members of the Trump Campaign. (The investigation identified no similar connections between the IRA and the Clinton Campaign.) First, on multiple occasions, members and surrogates of the Trump Campaign promoted-typically by linking, retweeting, or similar methods of reposting-pro-Trump or anti-Clinton content published by the IRA through IRA-controlled social media accounts. Additionally, in a few instances, lRA employees represented themselves as U.S . persons to communicate with members of the Trump Campaign in an effort to seek assistance and coordination on IRA-organized political rallies inside the United States.

Hacking

“Implantation of Malware on DCCC and DNC Networks

Unit 26165 implanted on the DCCC and ONC networks two types of customized malware, known as “X-Agent” and “X-Tunnel”; Mimikatz, a credential-harvesting tool; and rar.exe, a tool used in these intrusions to compile and compress materials for exfiltration. X-Agent was a multi-function hacking tool that allowed Unit 26165 to log keystrokes, take screenshots, and gather other data about the infected computers (e.g., file directories, operating systems). XTunnel was a hacking tool that created an encrypted connection between the victim DCCC/DNC computers and ORU-controlled computers outside the DCCC and ONC networks that was capable of large-scale data transfers. ORU officers then used X-Tunnel to exfiltrate stolen data from the victim computers.”

I’m not going to get into the hacking bit too much, but it is impressive – and it makes Russia really nervous – exactly how much information about their operation we learned, and how quickly we were able to learn it.

“On July 27, 2016, Unit 26165 targeted email accounts connected to candidate Clinton’s personal office. Earlier that day, candidate Trump made public statements that included the following: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

“Within approximately five hours of Trump’s statement, GRU officers targeted for the first time Clinton’s personal office. After candidate Trump’s remarks, United 26165 created and sent malicious links targeting 15 email accounts including an account belonging to Clinton aide [REDACTED]. The investigation did not find evidence of earlier GRU attempts to compromise accounts hosted on this domain. It is unclear how the GRU was able to identify these email accounts, which were not public.”

Turns out they were listening.

We know from previous public comments that Russia was also able to target – and mostly access – the voting systems in all 50 states.

“The Trump campaign showed interest in WikiLeak’s releases of hacked materials throughout the summer and fall of 2016 [REDACTED due to ongoing matter]”

The new information here is that they’re still investigating the campaign’s interest in WikiLeaks. My first thought was this was related to Roger Stone, but Mueller’s team directly says “Trump Campaign” here, so I don’t think so.

“Manafort also [REDACTED] wanted to be kept apprised of any developments with WikiLeaks and separately told Gates to keep in touch [REDACTED] about future WikiLeaks releases.

According to Gates, by the late summer of 2016, the Trump campaign was planning a press strategy, a communications campaign, and messaging based on the possible release of Clinton emails by WikiLeaks.”

So let’s look at this logically. Candidate Trump TOLD Gates that more releases of damaging information would be coming. The campaign was planning their strategy around these releases. How in the actual hell is that not collusion? Answer: it is.

Trump Jr.

“Donald Trump Jr. had direct electronic communications with WikiLeaks during the campaign period. On September 20, 2016, an individual named Jason Fishbein sent WikiLeaks the password for an un launched website focused on Trump’s “unprecedented and dangerous” ties
o Russia, PutinTrump.org. WikiLeaks publicly tweeted: “‘Let’s bomb Iraq ‘ Progress for America PAC to launch “PutinTrump.org’ at 9:30am. Oops pw is ‘putintrump’ putintrump.org.” Several hours later, WikiLeaks sent a Twitter direct message to Donald Trump Jr. , ” A PAC run anti-Trump site putintrump.org is about to launch. The PAC is a recycled pro-Iraq war PAC. We have guessed the password. It is ‘putintrump.’ See ‘About’ for who is behind it. Any comments?

Several hours later, Trump Jr. emailed a variety of senior campaign staff:

Guys I got a weird Twitter DM from wikileaks. See below. I tried the password and it works and the about section they reference contains the next pic in terms of who is behind it. Not sure if this is anything but it seems like it’s really wikileaks asking me as I follow them and it is a DM. Do you know the people mentioned and what the conspiracy they are looking for could be? These are just screen shots but it’s a fully built out page claiming to be a PAC let me know your thoughts and if we want to look into it.

Trump Jr. attached a screenshot of the “About” page for the un launched site PutinTrump.org. The next day (after the website had launched publicly), Trump Jr. sent a direct message to Wiki Leaks: ” Off the record, I don’t know who that is but I’ll ask around. Thanks.”

On October 3, 2016, WikiLeaks sent another direct message to Trump Jr., asking “you guys” to help disseminate a link alleging candidate Clinton had advocated using a drone to target Julian Assange. Trump Jr. responded that he already “had done so,” and asked, “what’s behind this Wednesday leak I keep reading about. WikiLeaks did not respond. On October 12, 20 16, WikiLeaks wrote again that it was ” great to see you and your dad talking about our publications. Strongly suggest your dad tweets this link if he mentions us wlsearch.tk. WikiLeaks wrote that the link would help Trump in “digging through” leaked emails and stated, “we just released Podesta emails Part 4. Two days later, Trump Jr. publicly tweeted the wlsearch.tk link.”

Here is the part I really wanted to discuss in Pt. 1. Barr essentially claimed that members of the campaign can’t be charged with colluding with WikiLeaks because WikiLeaks didn’t execute the hack themselves. My response? Try accepting money from a guy who says he got it from a guy who robbed a bank. See how that goes for you.

Flynn goes fishing

“After candidate Trump stated on July 27, 2016, that he hoped Russia would “find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump asked individuals affiliated with his Campaign to find the deleted Clinton email. Michael Flynn- who would later serve as National Security Advisor in the Trump Administration- recalled that Trump made this request repeatedly, and Flynn subsequently contacted multiple people in an effort to obtain the emails.”

Trump made multiple requests to people besides Flynn to “find Hillary’s emails” because he doesn’t know how computers work and doesn’t mind demanding that people break the law. His requests weren’t ignored, by Russia or his campaign:

“Just weeks after Trump’s July 2016 request to find the Clinton emails. however. Smith tried to locate and obtain the emails himself. He created a company, raised tens of thousands of dollars, and recruited security experts and business associates. Smith made claims to others involved in the effort (and those from whom he sought funding) that he was in contact with hackers with “ties and affiliations to Russia” who had access to the emails, and that his efforts were coordinated with the Trump Campaign.”

I understand that Mueller didn’t feel this information raised to the level of actual conspiracy, but the amount of coordination between the Trump campaign, Russia, WikiLeaks, and outside sources looking for damaging information on Hillary should seriously worry every American. This was a multipronged attack on our election process. Full stop.

Russian Links

Everyone knows the Moscow project continued all through the election and Trump lied to the American people about it, so I won’t cover that here.

“The Office investigated another Russia-related contact with Papadopoulos. The Office was not fully able to explore the contact because the individual at issue-Sergei Millian-remained out of the country since the inception of our investigation and declined to meet with members of the Office despite our repeated efforts to obtain an interview.”

I’m also going to skip Carter Page, because we all know he had about 7 million Russian contacts during the campaign. It appears the only reason he didn’t get charged with anything is because he’s absolutely crazy.

The amount of people in the Trump campaign, or on the transition team who didn’t get charged because they were crazy – or just plain stupid – is pretty discouraging, I must admit. But again, Mueller’s work isn’t done by a long shot.

This one is long enough. I’m going to stop here for now – part 2 will include the Trump Tower meeting, the Flynn stuff, and anything else covered by Mueller up to the obstruction section of the report.

Daily News Dump – April 16

“He’s going to go bonkers”

Go? Seriously? He’s been bonkers since inauguration.

This quote is discussing the release of Barr’s version of the Mueller report on Thursday.

“Very high,” is how one Republican source described the tension among current and former aides. “They cooperated and had to tell the truth. He is going to go bonkers.” via CNN

The same CNN article suggested that Trump isn’t concerned about the release of the Mueller report, and also said that he hasn’t read it or been briefed on it’s contents.

I do believe that DOJ hasn’t shared the report with the administration, but it’s asinine to suggest that he’s not worried about the release – his Twitter account offers direct evidence to the contrary.

Judge may want to review Barr’s Redactions

“Federal District Judge Reggie Walton expressed uncertainty about the redactions Attorney General William Barr is making to special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and suggested he may want to review the Justice Department’s redactions for himself once versions of it are made public.

“Obviously there is a real concern as to whether there is full transparency,” Walton said at a Tuesday court hearing in Washington about a request from BuzzFeed News to have the Justice Department release the report quickly under the Freedom of Information Act. “The attorney general has created an environment that has caused a significant part of the American public to be concerned” about the redactions.

The BuzzFeed case is the second legal effort so far to get a federal judge to review the Mueller report. The other came from the Electronic Privacy Information Center in the first lawsuit filed seeking the full report after Mueller announced he had ended the investigation.

Walton said in court Tuesday he could ask to review the highly anticipated document in full confidentially, after the Justice Department releases a redacted version to the public and Congress on Thursday, and then subsequently give it to organizations that requested it under FOIA. That type of review would be a win for those suing for the document because it would bring in a judge to check the executive branch’s decision-making on redactions.” via CNN

This would be a really big win for transparency. If the report is a flop, there will be far more than two lawsuits aimed at its release.

Barr’s ties to Russia?

“This much is known: On Barr’s public financial disclosure report, he admits to working for a law firm that represented Russia’s Alfa Bank and for a company whose co-founders allegedly have long-standing business ties to Russia. What’s more, he received dividends from Vector Group, a holding company with deep financial ties to Russia.

Vector Group
On his financial disclosure report, Barr notes that he earned anywhere from $5,001 to $15,000 in dividends from the Vector Group.

The company’s president, Howard Lorber, brought Trump to Moscow in the 1990s to seek investment projects there. The trip is widely seen as the first of many attempts to establish a Trump Tower in Moscow.

Alfa Bank
Barr’s former law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP, where he was counsel from March 2017 until he was confirmed as attorney general in February 2019, represented Russia’s Alfa Bank. (Barr earned more than $1 million at Kirkland.)

Barr also supervises, at Justice, another Kirkland & Ellis alumnus with Alfa ties. Early last year, Trump nominated Kirkland & Ellis partner Brian Benczkowski to the Justice Department’s criminal division. In his role with the law firm, Benczkowski had represented Alfa Bank and supervised an investigation into suspicious online communications between the bank and servers belonging to the Trump Organization.

Och-Ziff
Questions have also been raised about whether Och-Ziff Capital Management, a hedge fund where Barr was a board director from 2016 to 2018, may also be too closely connected to the Russia investigation.

The billionaire Ziff brothers, Dirk, Robert and Daniel, provided seed money to hedge fund manager Daniel Och to start the firm in 1992. They retained a small stake in the company after it went public in 2007.

The brothers are also a subject of interest to the Russian government because of their work with billionaire William Browder, a financier who ran afoul of the Kremlin.

Natalia Veselnitskaya—the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr.; Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner; and Manafort in the now infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting—mentioned the Ziff brothers during her meeting as part of the promised “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

Deutsche Bank
Yup, them again.

Barr has significant assets, between $100,000 and $250,000, with Deutsche Bank, which was the only bank that would lend to Trump when all other banks viewed him as too hot to handle. The bank has also been implicated in Russian money-laundering scandals. Two congressional committees are now looking into Trump’s business ties to Deutsche Bank.

It is unclear if Barr has divested from Vector Group or pulled his assets out of Deutsche Bank since he became attorney general.” via Newsweek

Most of this evidence is circumstantial at best, but it definitely should have been enough to warrant a recusal.

Notre Dame Cathedral

“Pledges of hundreds of millions of euros are rolling in from wealthy French and international donors to pay for the planned reconstruction of the Notre Dame cathedral damaged in Monday’s dramatic fire.

The promised donations were announced Tuesday as fire investigators continue to assess the damage to the architectural landmark built over 850 years ago.

President Emmanuel Macron, in a televised speech Tuesday night, said the cathedral could be reconstructed in five years.” via NPR

House Judiciary Committee

“Top Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee requested information Tuesday related to President Donald Trump’s reported offer to pardon a top border official if he acted illegally to block asylum seekers.

Multiple media outlets reported Friday that Trump earlier this month told Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan he’d pardon him if he broke the law to deny migrants the ability to petition for asylum. It wasn’t clear whether the president intended the remark as a joke, and Trump denied later that day on Twitter that he “offered pardons to Homeland Securi[t]y personnel in case they broke the law.” via Politico

I love oversight. The House is the *only* thing keeping Trump from going full dictator right now. I know some people think they aren’t moving fast enough, but I firmly believe they’re doing what they need to.

DOJ won’t unseal Manafort docs due to ongoing investigations

The U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia argued in a court filing Monday that the Washington Post’s request to release sealed and redacted records related to Paul Manafort’s case should be rejected because of the existence of several “ongoing investigations.”

“The redactions at issue were undertaken and approved recently — from December 2018, through March 2019. No material changes have occurred in these past months. Although the Special Counsel has concluded his work, he has also referred a number of matters to other offices. The ongoing investigations that required redactions — many of which were already being conducted by other offices — remain ongoing.”

via Axios

Periodic reminder that Mueller’s work is nowhere near done. I still don’t think we’re done seeing indictments, either. Jr.’s current gloating is going to be beautiful when he’s on his way to prison.

White House refusing doc requests

“The White House has told two U.S. House Democrats it will not turn over documents that could show whether Republican President Donald Trump sought to intervene in the regulatory review of AT&T Inc’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc.

In March, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and Representative David Cicilline, who chairs a panel overseeing antitrust issues, asked the White House and Justice Department to turn over records after The New Yorker magazine reported Trump directed then-National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn to use the Justice Department to block the deal.

The pair wrote that if accurate, Trump’s involvement would “constitute a grave abuse of power.” In February, a federal appeals court upheld a lower-court ruling rejecting a Justice Department challenge to the deal filed in November 2017.” via Reuters

Is there really anyone who thinks Trump *didn’t* want to intervene in that deal? I’m pretty sure he made his thoughts on it perfectly clear about 300 times.

More to come!

I’m going to stop there, because this is already over 1,300 words. Hopefully tomorrow won’t be *as* much news and I can include the rest of it there.

Folks have been asking in direct messages again, so just a reminder: if you appreciate these Daily News Dumps and you’d like to chip in to help support them, you can do so right here!


Daily News Dump – April 15

Trump gets his first GOP challenger

Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld is officially challenging President Donald Trump in the 2020 Republican primary.

“I’m running for president of the United States,” Weld said Monday during an appearance on CNN. “I would be ashamed of myself if I didn’t raise my hand and run.”

Weld, 73, most recently ran as the running mate of 2016 Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson. He served two terms as governor of Massachusetts in the 1990s, and was known as a fiscally conservative, socially moderate Republican. He re-registered as a Republican earlier this year in Canton, Mass.” via Politico

I have a feeling the GOP field is going to end up pretty crowded before we get completely into election season. There are whispers of quite a few folks who are considering throwing in their hats.

Trump attorneys threaten to sue accounting firm

“President Donald Trump’s attorneys are warning of potential legal action if an accounting firm turns over a decade of the president’s financial records to the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

Trump attorneys William S. Consovoy and Stefan Passantino are urging Mazars USA not to comply with a subpoena that Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) issued on Monday for Trump’s financial documents, calling it a politically motivated scheme to take down the president.” via Politico

Yeah… ignoring the fact that this is *literally* obstruction, that’s not the way subpoenas work. I hope they go through with the lawsuit though, discovery will be fun.

It’s almost like Trump is SUPER TERRIFIED of people digging into his finances. Looks like the Dems are right over the target.

Deutsche Bank subpoenaed

“Deutsche Bank received a subpoena Monday afternoon from the House Intelligence and Financial Services committees, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The full scope of the subpoena could not be determined. The subpoena is seeking information about loans Deutsche Bank gave to President Donald Trump and the Trump Organization.

Deutsche has about $300 million in loans extended to the Trump Organization. The German lender is one of the few large banks willing to do business with the real estate developer.” via CNN

This is your weekly reminder that elections have consequences. For the first time in his life, Trump is facing real oversight and it’s driving him crazy – and scaring the crap out of him.

Though, some of that could be…

Mueller’s report coming Thursday

DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec confirmed today that Barr is expected to release his redacted Mueller report on Thursday.

We’ll see what he leaves in it, but it doesn’t appear to be good for Trump, who tweeted:

“The Mueller Report, which was written by 18 Angry Democrats who also happen to be Trump Haters (and Clinton Supporters), should have focused on the people who SPIED on my 2016 Campaign, and others who fabricated the whole Russia Hoax. That is, never forget, the crime… Since there was no Collusion, why was there an Investigation in the first place! Answer – Dirty Cops, Dems and Crooked Hillary!”

Yeeaaaaah… so that word salad is tossed with absolute terror. I feel really bad for whoever changes his Depends.

Bernhardt under investigation… already

“The Interior Department’s Inspector General has opened an investigation into Secretary David Bernhardt’s potential conflicts of interest, just four days after the Senate confirmed him to the job.

The Interior Inspector General’s office received seven complaints from a “wide assortment of complainants alleging various potential conflict of interest and other violations by then-Deputy Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt,” according to a letter the watchdog sent to Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, one of the lawmakers who suggested an investigation.” via CNN

That’s gotta be some kind of a record, right? I mean seriously, we’re gonna need more swamp over here.

Rusal lands first US deal since sanctions lifted

“Rusal is making its first investment in the United States since Washington lifted sanctions against the Russian aluminum giant, teaming up with U.S. manufacturer Braidy Industries to build a mill in Kentucky.

Rusal, the world’s largest aluminum producer outside China, announced the deal in one of the main markets for the sector less then three months after it was removed from a blacklist. It had already resumed supplies to the U.S. market.”

Reminder: Rusal is one of Oleg Deripaska’s companies that we inexplicably removed sanctions from… and now they’re spending a ton ($200 million initial investment, and $500 million of aluminum a year for 10 years) of money in Mitch McConnell’s home state. Probably just a coincidence.

The GOP is bigly concerned… still

“Republicans on Capitol Hill are raising alarms at the White House’s resistance to congressional demands, fearing President Donald Trump is bolstering the power of his office at the expense of Congress.

The White House has stonewalled House Democrats on nearly all aspects of their sprawling investigations into the President, refusing to provide documents as requested by committee chairmen, preventing former White House officials from complying with Democratic demands and fighting subpoenas pertaining to the US Census and the administration’s handling of the security clearance process.” via CNN

I know I’ve been telling you guys this for months, but ugh. I’m so tired of reading these stories. I appreciate their concern, and I know it’s legitimate, but it doesn’t matter if they won’t do anything about it.

…and they’re still afraid of mean tweets, so they won’t. For now.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Photo Credit: Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/AFP/Getty Images

First: France, I’m sorry our President is an idiot. Second, thank you for not water-bombing the cathedral. Third, I’m heartbroken over your loss; the amount of history that was destroyed today is staggering.

For those of you who missed it, the Notre Dame Cathedral caught on fire today. The two towers were saved, but the Spire was a complete loss.

The Paris prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into possible arson, which is gut-wrenching to even think about.

In a potential bit of good news:

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said in a tweet that major art pieces and sacred items from Notre Dame were saved from the fire.

“Thanks to the @PompiersParis, the police and the municipal agents,” Hidalgo tweeted, “the Crown of Thorns, the Tunic of Saint Louis and several other major works are now in a safe place.” via CNN

They also just reported the fire is finally under control.


Twitter Questions 18.0

What’s in the tax returns that scares him so much?

According to Tim O’Brien, a financial journalist who has seen Trump’s taxes:

“Tim O’Brien, a financial journalist who has seen Trump’s tax returns but is under court order not to disclose details, said Trump’s main concerns are what kind of income he receives, what his philanthropic activities might have been, and whether he is compromised related to certain countries.

“This is something he is going to fight tooth and nail. It opens a vein,” O’Brien, who saw the tax returns as part of a lawsuit, said. “He’s the most financially conflicted president of the modern era. The tax returns are both emblematic of that and a potential road map of what his conflicts might look like.”

O’Brien said he was opposed vociferously by Trump at every turn when he sought to see what the real estate mogul was really worth.

“The first return we got from them was so redacted that it looked like a crossword puzzle,” O’Brien said. “Our lawyers ended up having to fight tooth and nail for them. He definitely didn’t want to go there.”

Basically, Trump is a lot less wealthy than he says he is, he gives a lot less that he says he does, and he’s entangled with a lot more foreign entities than he says he is.

Trump’s taxes won’t tell the whole story, but they will definitely shed some light on some of the decisions he’s made as POTUS… which is why every candidate in modern history has released their returns.

You’ve said you don’t think Trump will finish out his term. Will Pence push us into a more conservative route, albeit in a less crazy manner?

I don’t think so. Pence will be completely neutered (and not by Mother for once) if he takes office. It would be the lamest lame duck period in American history, and he wouldn’t run in 2020.

Especially with a Democrat-controlled House, there’s nothing Pence could realistically do that would be worse than – or even close to as bad as – what Trump is doing. He’s not brave enough to openly flout the law like Trump, and he wouldn’t have any bipartisan support for his crazier goals. As much as I never thought I’d say this, ever, Pence really wouldn’t be a bad way to close out the final year and a half if we didn’t have any other options.

Present war in Afghanistan, what have current and prior administrations done right? Wrong? What would you have done differently?

This is going to focus on the current Afghan war only. This answer doesn’t take anything pre-9/11 into consideration:

The initial foray into Afghanistan was one of the most-successful military operations in recent history. Special Forces, along with the CIA and the Northern Alliance (primarily Uzbeks, Tajiks, and Hazaras) took territory from the Taliban (primarily Pashtun, with some Uzbeks, Turkmen, and Tajiks thrown in) at a pace that mostly too quick for the “big Army” to even deploy, much less participate in any major operations.

This is a testament to the excellent planning of the CIA and our SF troops. Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) was launched on October 7, 2001. The last Taliban stronghold (Kandahar) fell on December 7, 2001.

The original goal was to capture one airfield in the north, using commandos, American airpower, and the Northern Alliance. This airfield would be used to prepare a spring offensive after what we thought would be a quiet winter.

Then, we planed on inserting conventional forces to take Kabul, but that, too, fell on November 13th. In early December, the conventional forces again thought they’d be needed, expecting the Taliban to put up a massive defense of Kandahar. This failed to materialize and the end result was that approximately 320 soldiers, coupled with American airpower and the Northern Alliance, toppled the Taliban as an organized entity in Afghanistan. This is unmistakably a win for America. The planning, and execution of this operation were first class.

Unfortunately, this relatively-easy success didn’t continue.

After we toppled the Taliban, we headed east to try our luck with Al Qaeda. The Battle of Tora Bora started in late November, or early December, depending on who you ask. Again, we went in with a small force, and our training, combat prowess, and lethality of American airpower and technology was proven again.

Our guys assaulted what was thought to be insurmountable terrain and killed close to 200 enemy fighters. Despite the numbers, Tora Bora was undoubtedly a strategic failure.

This was the first area of the war where we made a big mistake. Cognizant of the Soviets’ plight, our leaders were terrified of looking like an invading force, so they refused to authorize the amount the troops necessary to complete the job, namely blocking the escape routes into Pakistan. Instead, we relied on the Pakistani army to seal the exit for us, and as a result, Bin Laden escaped, most likely with help from the people we were counting on to watch the back door.

This unofficial cap on troops in theater hurt us on multiple occasions. We shouldn’t make combat decisions or set arbitrary caps based on politics. Afghanistan certainly isn’t the first war in which we’ve done this, and it probably won’t be the last, but it is a mistake.

I’m trying too hard not to armchair QB these decisions, because it’s really easy to do with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. I’m comfortable criticizing the troop cap, and the refusal to allow a blocking force, because the guys on the ground knew it was stupid when we did it. We had Rangers in theater that could have secured the exit, and we would have likely gotten Bin Laden in 2001.

Think of all the war and death that could have saved.

Another mistake we made in Afghanistan was making it the secondary war. In 2003, when we invaded Iraq, almost all of our resources were diverted to that theater. Afghanistan was left with almost nothing for a long time. Deployments were extended, air support was lacking, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft was damn-near non-existent. We went *all* in on the hunt for Saddam.

By far the most costly mistake we made in Afghanistan was becoming the occupying force we tried so hard to avoid. After our detour into Iraq, we sent close to 50,000 troops into Afghanistan for the surge. The problems here are:

  1. We always knew it was going to be a limited timeframe surge, so it was easy for the enemy to hide out in Pakistan until we left again.
  2. Most Afghanis have no interest in becoming a democracy. There are some that do, obviously, but there are also some who didn’t realize the Russians were gone from their country. In 2009.
  3. We also tried to do things in a very American way. What good, exactly, does 10 million dollars do an Afghani? How many goats does that buy? Sure, the warlords early in the war were more than willing to take duffle bags full of CIA money, but for the most part, none of the people who would have actually been able to give us actionable information on our targets were interested in our bribes. Our special forces folks were very successful in Afghanistan, because they understood the customs and the culture. They integrated themselves and fully bought-in to the “by, with, and through” strategy. Many of the regular soldiers – and more importantly, a lot of the people making decisions up the chain – did not have this level of understanding, and that hurt the overall mission.

Ultimately, we made the exact mistakes we tried so desperately to avoid, and now it’s hard for us to find a way out without causing a collapse and another destabilizing power vacuum.

Twitter Questions 17.0

What are your thoughts on Barr’s testimony?

In an administration full of new lows on a near-weekly basis, I felt that Barr’s testimony was probably the most disappointing thing we’ve seen so far.

That may sound hyperbolic, but I’m being serious. We expect Trump to do dumb things on a daily (hourly?) basis. Barr, on the other hand, has a pretty solid career in public service behind him – excluding Iran Contra, obviously – that he’s apparently prepared to throw away for Donald Trump. I really hope those new positions for his kids were worth it.

What’s the deal with Trump’s sister?

First, for a brief explanation of the story, for those who don’t know:

“President Trump’s sister has retired as a federal appellate judge in Philadelphia, ending a civil misconduct inquiry launched after a report that she participated in Trump family schemes to dodge taxes.

The retirement of Maryanne Trump Barry was revealed in an April 1 order signed by a top court official in New York, where the misconduct case was assigned to prevent conflicts of interest for judges who knew Barry.” via LA Times

So, a couple things are going on here. This doesn’t end the legal probe into Trump’s sister – it merely ends the judicial inquiry that would have certainly cost her job, and her benefits. Now for the bad news: it also allows her to continue to receive her full retirement salary of $223,700 a year, at least for now.

If we’re being honest, she’s probably never going to face any consequences for her actions. She’s already 82. I know that sucks, but I don’t see any way around it unless they expedite the inquiry somehow.

Why isn’t a doctor stepping in about his obvious mental deterioration?

It’s not a doctor’s job to step in, unfortunately. The Cabinet is supposed to do that, and we know how that goes:

  1. We don’t even have a Cabinet. They’re all acting.
  2. They’re also all servile cowards.

On the bright side, this Presidency has revealed quite a few things that need to change about our current Constitution. On the not-so-bright side, this Presidency has revealed quite a few things that need to change about our current Constitution.

I was hoping you could address Barr and the use of “spying” – what’s up with that?

This question is from Patreon, but it’s one that I’ve gotten quite a bit, so I wanted to answer it here too.

This was the worst part of Barr’s testimony for me. I expected him to ignore or deflect on Mueller related questions. I really didn’t expect much of anything newsworthy to come from this hearing since he hadn’t released the report yet, but he instead chose to feed Trump’s base – and Trump’s ego – this BS narrative for them to run with for the week.

He walked it back almost immediately after, saying he saw no evidence of FBI wrongdoing related to Trump, and then walked back even further later in the hearing, but that didn’t matter; Trump got his soundbite.

Where is Rod Rosenstein in all this?

I’m honestly not sure what is going on with Rosenstein at the moment. If you didn’t see, he issued a statement defending Barr’s handling of the investigation so far:

“He’s being as forthcoming as he can, and so this notion that he’s trying to mislead people, I think is just completely bizarre,” Mr. Rosenstein told the Wall Street Journal.

“It would be one thing if you put out a letter and said, ‘I’m not going to give you the report,’” Rosenstein said. “What he said is, ‘Look, it’s going to take a while to process the report. In the meantime, people really want to know what’s in it. I’m going to give you the top-line conclusions.’ That’s all he was trying to do.

The deputy attorney general called on the public to have “tremendous confidence” in Barr and declined to say how the review of the report was going.” via Fox

I don’t know how to feel about this. Rosenstein singlehandedly saved the Mueller probe on numerous occasions, and I really don’t feel like he would let Barr jeopardize it. He’s the one who signed off on everything for the duration of investigation:

  • Over 2800 subpoenas
  • Almost 500 search warrants
  • Over 230 orders for communication records
  • Almost 50 orders authorizing use of pen registers
  • 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence
  • Interviewed around 500 witnesses

All of the above stats are taken from Barr’s original “conclusions” letter, but it helps show the scope and depth of the investigation. This wasn’t a witch hunt. They spent a lot of time investigating, got a lot of guilty pleas, took a lot of money from Paul Manafort, and collected a bunch of derogatory information on POTUS.

If Barr releases said derogatory information on POTUS the way he says he will, we should see immediate impeachment efforts from the House. If he doesn’t, we will probably see immediate impeachment efforts from the House anyway, to use in court to force the release of all of the information.

I trust Rosenstein, he’s done this on the up-and-up from the beginning. It’s hard to comment too much on this without seeing what Barr is going to release, but I suspect next week is going to be absolutely bonkers.

Daily News Dump – April 11

No Enthusiasm for Cain

“Mitch McConnell on Thursday confirmed what’s become painfully obvious this week: There’s a “lack of enthusiasm” among Senate Republicans to installing Herman Cain at the Federal Reserve.

The Senate Majority leader’s remarks to reporters came as four GOP senators have signaled they would vote against the former businessman and presidential candidate either over his lack of experience or because of sexual harassment allegations against him.

And Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said in a C-SPAN “Newsmakers” interview with POLITICO that he was unlikely to support Cain, essentially leaving him without a road to the 50 votes needed for confirmation in the Senate.” via Politico

This was never going to happen. It was a dumb nomination to begin with. On the bright side, it does show that *some* things are still a bridge too far for the GOP.

Trump has amnesia again

“President Donald Trump on Thursday claimed, “I know nothing about WikiLeaks” — but in October 2016, he struck a very different tone.

“Oh, we love WikiLeaks,” he said at a rally in North Carolina, after the site posted reams of hacked Democratic emails that cast a poor light on Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Trump for years has swung wildly from offering praise for WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange to blasting them, depending on which position suited him at the time.” via Politico

Even Spinderella (Kellyanne) is going have a hard time arguing with about 8 different video clips of Trump professing his love for Wikileaks.

Mnuchin could be in hot water

“Rep. Bill Pascrell, an outspoken advocate of getting President Donald Trump’s tax returns, lashed out today at what he considers administration stonewalling.

Congress could hold Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in contempt for failing to meet a Wednesday deadline for delivering Trump’s returns to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, Pascrell, a senior Ways and Means member, told POLITICO. He also said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig should consider stepping down.” via Politico

I still find it absolutely incredible that Mnuchin is risking criminal charges and possible jail time over Donald Trump’s taxes, but here we are.

Trump is the pettiest president in modern history

“The Trump administration pressured the Department of Homeland Security to release immigrants detained at the southern border into so-called sanctuary cities in part to retaliate against Democrats who oppose President Donald Trump’s plans for a border wall, a source familiar with the discussions told CNN on Thursday.

Trump personally pushed Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to follow through on the plan, the source said. Nielsen resisted and the DHS legal team eventually produced an analysis that killed the plan, which was first reported by The Washington Post.” via CNN

I’m getting tired of the Nielsen apology tour already, but this is vile on a whole new level from POTUS. The Mueller report really needs to leak soon. He’s completely off the rails.

Assange

“British authorities arrested WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Thursday in response to a U.S. extradition request, and a U.S. federal court unsealed an indictment charging him with a single count of conspiracy to disclose classified information that could be used to injure the United States.

Assange was taken into custody by British police after Ecuador rescinded his asylum at its embassy in London, ending a standoff that lasted nearly seven years.

London’s Metropolitan Police said a statement that Assange was “arrested on behalf of the United States authorities” and would “appear in custody at Westminster Magistrates’ Court as soon as possible.” British police originally sought custody of Assange for jumping bail after Sweden requested his extradition in a separate case stemming from sexual assault allegations.” via MSN

So far, Assange has only been charged with conspiring with Manning. I suspect he has far bigger problems coming his way.

Huawei Underwater Cables

“While people tend think of satellites and cell towers as the heart of the internet, the most vital component is the 380 submerged cables that carry more than 95 percent of all data and voice traffic between the continents. They were built largely by the U.S. and its allies, ensuring that (from a Western perspective, at least) they were “cleanly” installed without built-in espionage capability available to our opponents. U.S. internet giants including Google, Facebook and Amazon are leasing or buying vast stretches of cables from the mostly private consortia of telecom operators that constructed them.

But now the Chinese conglomerate Huawei Technologies, the leading firm working to deliver 5G telephony networks globally, has gone to sea. Under its Huawei Marine Networks component, it is constructing or improving nearly 100 submarine cables around the world. Last year it completed a cable stretching nearly 4,000 miles from Brazil to Cameroon. (The cable is partly owned by China Unicom, a state-controlled telecom operator.) Rivals claim that Chinese firms are able to lowball the bidding because they receive subsidies from Beijing.

Just as the experts are justifiably concerned about the inclusion of espionage “back doors” in Huawei’s 5G technology, Western intelligence professionals oppose the company’s engagement in the undersea version, which provides a much bigger bang for the buck because so much data rides on so few cables.” via Bloomberg

The obvious concern here is tapping, or otherwise manipulating the underwater cables. Huawei says they’re not doing anything nefarious, but they also said they weren’t using their towers to transmit sensitive data to the Chinese Government, and we know how that worked out now that they’ve been banned from approximately 7 countries.

Sudan

“Sudan’s military overthrew President Omar al-Bashir on Thursday amid increasingly bloody protests over his repressive 30-year rule and the deteriorating economy. But pro-democracy demonstrators were left angry and disappointed when the defense minister announced the armed forces will govern for the next two years.

Al-Bashir’s fall came just over a week after protests in Algeria forced the resignation of that North African country’s long-ruling, military-backed president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Together, the developments represent a second generation of street protests eight years after the Arab Spring uprisings that ousted a number of long-entrenched leaders around the Middle East.” via MSN

What happens to Sudan now is anyone’s guess, but this is a good reminder that all authoritarian regimes eventually fall.

Avenatti could be looking at 330 years

Wowza.

“Michael Avenatti, former attorney for Stormy Daniels, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in California on 36 counts, including embezzling from a paraplegic, court documents released Thursday show.

Avenatti, 48, faces charges of wire fraud, failure to collect and withhold payroll taxes, attempting to obstruct the IRS, failing to file tax returns, aggravated identity fraud, bank fraud and false testimony under oath during bankruptcy.

The lawyer was arrested March 25 on some of the counts, but the 61-page indictment filed by a federal grand jury late Wednesday “significantly broadens the scope of the case,” according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.” via MSN

Embezzling from a paraplegic? Really? How low can you get?

Client #3 is scaaaaaared.

Sean Hannity deleted every Tweet he’s ever posted that referenced Julian Assange, Wikileaks and Michael Cohen.

Wonder what he’s worried about?

Daily News Dump – April 10

Mnuchin Responds

“U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said his department needs more time to decide whether to release President Donald Trump’s tax returns, missing a Wednesday deadline set by a House of Representatives committee.

In a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, Mnuchin said: “The legal implications of this request could affect protections for all Americans against politically-motivated disclosures of personal tax information, regardless of which party is in power.” via Reuters

This is a crock of poo, to put it mildly. This is nothing but a stall tactic that isn’t going to work, my only real question is why Mnuchin is trying so hard on something he knows is a losing strategy.

Trump said again today that he won’t release his taxes until his audit is done, which is also a crock of poo. Being under audit doesn’t prevent you from releasing your taxes either.

Robert Kraft

“Robert Kraft’s lawyers continue to fight against the possible release of the video footage in the Patriots owner’s sex-solicitation case.

Kraft’s attorneys said Wednesday that the release of videotapes that allegedly show Kraft paying for sexual favors at a Jupiter, Fla. spa would cause the 77-year-old to suffer “irreparable harm,” per The Boston Globe. They also stressed it would “destroy” Kraft’s chances of getting a fair trial.” via NBC Sports

Well, yeah… being caught paying for sexual favors would do harm to most people’s reputations. Solution? Don’t pay for sexual favors.

Acting ICE Director out too

“The acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement is leaving his post Friday, according to an agency spokesperson, the latest departure in a reshuffling of the Department of Homeland Security.

President Donald Trump had nominated the acting director, Ron Vitiello, to become the permanent head of ICE, but pulled his nomination last week.

A DHS official said the agency received an email Wednesday with the news that Vitiello would be leaving ICE.” via NBC

There’s an “emergency” at the border, better fire EVERYONE who is in charge of what goes on at the border on my way to play golf, amirite?

But seriously, I’m starting to get pretty concerned with this DHS purge. The rumor is we’re still not done. I don’t know what Trump’s endgame is here, but it’s worrying.

Supreme Court may get to decide fate of Obamacare before 2020 election

“A federal appeals court on Wednesday granted a Trump administration request to expedite oral arguments in a case challenging the legality of the Affordable Care Act.

The new time frame — with arguments in early July — means that the fate of Obamacare could come before the Supreme Court next term, with an opinion rendered by June of 2020 in the heart of the presidential campaign.

As in 2016 and the 2018 midterms, health care has already emerged as a core issue, though there are fissures in both parties. Congressional Democrats have rallied around Obamacare, while some of the party’s presidential nominees are supporting “Medicare for All” plans that would offer universal, government-backed health coverage. ” via CNN

Again, I’m not sure what Trump’s endgame is here. Trying to take healthcare away from millions of people right before an election is moronic. If he’s successful, this is going to impact just as many of his supporters as it does Democrats.

Investigating the investigators

“Attorney General William Barr has formed a team to investigate potential abuses by FBI and Department of Justice officials involved in the the investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia in the summer of 2016, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.

Congressional Republicans have for the past year called for a thorough accounting of the origins of the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign, which many of them believe began as a result of anti-Trump bias on the part of senior DOJ and FBI officials.

“I am reviewing the conduct of the investigation and trying to get my arms around all the aspects of the counterintelligence investigation that was conducted during the summer of 2016,” Barr told the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday.” via Yahoo

Barr also admitted that he’s seen no wrongdoing by the FBI in regards to this counterintelligence investigation. That’s because they did this by the book.

I’m not as concerned about this investigation as some people are – Barr really only had two choices here: do what POTUS wanted or resign, and he really can’t resign in the middle of the Mueller report coming out. I also know that the FBI did things by the book and that the investigation was started on solid legal ground.

Net Neutrality

“Lawmakers on Wednesday approved a bill to restore net neutrality regulations that would require internet service providers to treat all traffic on their networks equally.

In what may be more a show vote than anything, the House voted Wednesday 232-190 to approve the Save the Internet Act, which would restore the net neutrality rules that the Federal Communications Commission repealed in 2017.” via Forbes

I’m not confident this will pass the Senate, either, but good for the House for getting it on record and showing voters where the GOP stands.

AMI

“American Media Inc. said Wednesday that the National Enquirer is up for sale.

The company, run by chief executive David Pecker, a friend of President Donald Trump, said in a statement that it had decided to change direction and the tabloid title no longer fit with its portfolio of assets.” via NBC News

Probably just a coincidence and has nothing to do with getting caught trying to extort Bezos. Riiiight.

Clean water is overrated

“In the latest move by the Trump administration to boost fossil fuels and cut back on regulations, President Donald Trump announced two executive orders on Wednesday that are aimed at cutting “unnecessary red tape” for American energy companies by making it difficult for states to block projects by using the Clean Water Act.

“My action today will cut through destructing permitting delays and denials,” Trump said at the International Union of Operating Engineers International Training and Education Center in Crosby, Texas.” via ABC

Currently under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, states can choose to reject an infrastructure or pipeline project if they believe it could impact the state’s water. Apparently that’s a bad thing because HOORAY OIL.

Investigators in New York have ‘gathered more evidence than previously known’ in Trump hush money probe

“Federal investigators in New York have “gathered more evidence than previously known” from individuals in the President’s “inner circle,” related to the hush-money payments made to two women who claim they had affairs with President Donald Trump, Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

According to the paper, prosecutors in the Manhattan US Attorney’s office interviewed Hope Hicks, the former White House communications director and longtime confidante of Trump, last spring and Keith Schiller, the President’s longtime bodyguard.

The paper also said investigators “learned of calls” between Schiller and David Pecker, the head of American Media Inc., the company that publishes the National Enquirer. Pecker worked with Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, to suppress potentially damaging claims made against candidate Trump by women, with AMI using a tabloid tactic called “catch and kill.” via CNN

I really hope team MAGA has enjoyed their brief victory lap, because none of this is over by a long shot.

Angry, what scares you the most about right now?

I get asked this question almost every day. Right now, watching Trump circumvent Congress and the Constitution by getting rid of all of his Senate confirmed appointees is pretty disturbing. By leaving everyone in an acting capacity, he’s effectively found a way to bypass the confirmation process altogether. That’s decidedly bad for any President, but particularly this one.

Daily News Dump – April 9

IRS Chief says he’ll decide on Trump taxes

“IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig says it’s his decision — though under the supervision of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin — whether to comply with a request by Democrats to turn over President Donald Trump’s tax returns.

Rettig told a House panel Tuesday that the IRS is “working on” a response to last week’s letter from House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal that asked for Trump’s tax returns.

Neal asked for the returns by Wednesday.

Neither Rettig nor Mnuchin — who testified before two House panels Tuesday — would state flatly which of them would make the decision on whether to release Trump’s tax filings.” via AP

I’m very skeptical that we’ll see Trump’s taxes without a legal battle. We should, because the law is very clear in regards to Congress’ ability to ask for – and receive – tax returns they deem necessary.

I still firmly believe the administration is going to lose the legal battle. They don’t have a leg to stand on here, but they’re determined to delay as long as possible. I hope I’m wrong, but I’d be shocked if the IRS just hands them over.

Mnuchin is not smart

“U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Tuesday that Treasury Department lawyers had held “informational” discussions with the White House about an expected request from House Democrats for President Donald Trump’s tax returns.

Democrats are pursuing Trump’s returns under a legal authority that aims to prevent interference from the White House on the Treasury’s decision whether to release the tax returns, in what the White House chief of staff has called a “political stunt.”

Mnuchin said at a House Appropriations subcommittee budget hearing that the conversations had taken place before House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal’s request last week for six years of Trump’s tax returns. ” via Reuters

In a second hearing later in the day, Mnuchin said the department never sought White House approval on the issue of releasing tax returns.

So that’s at least one instance of perjury for the day.

Then he got into a semi-heated discussion with Maxine Waters and asked her to “gravel” him out. She said no, but like I said… he’s not smart.

New York Declares Health Emergency

“New York City on Tuesday ramped up the battle against the spread of a measles outbreak in a Brooklyn hot spot, declaring a public health emergency and calling for mandatory vaccinations.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the emergency covers four Brooklyn ZIP codes, including most of Williamsburg and Borough Park, which have seen more than 285 cases of the measles since October.

“We cannot allow this dangerous disease to make a comeback here in New York City. We have to stop it now,” de Blasio said at a news conference. “We have a situation now where children are in danger. We have to take this seriously,” he added. The order mandates that all unimmunized children and adults living or working in the area must receive vaccinations unless they can prove a medical exemption applies. Those who do not comply could be guilty of misdemeanor violations and incur fines.” via NPR

I find it absolutely appalling that we’re having a health emergency over the freaking measles in 2019.

Please vaccinate your children if you’re able.

GOP is freaking out

“Trump’s increasingly erratic behavior over the past 12 days — since he first threatened to seal the border in a series of tweets on March 29 — has alarmed top Republicans, business officials and foreign leaders who fear that his emotional response might exacerbate problems at the border, harm the U.S. economy and degrade national security.

The stretch also has revealed that a president who has routinely blamed spiking immigration numbers on others — past presidents, congressional Democrats, Mexican authorities, federal judges, human smugglers — is now coming to the realization that the problems are closer to home. Though his aides have taken the fall, and it is unlikely that Trump will blame himself, the president is facing an existential political crisis ahead of his 2020 reelection bid over the prospect of failure on his top domestic priority.” via Washington Post

He’s been harming the US economy and degrading national security since he took office, so I’m glad the GOP is finally paying attention.

Trump is also taking heat on the purposed Herman Cain nomination:

“Herman Cain is in deep trouble. And he hasn’t yet even been formally nominated to the Federal Reserve.

Senate Republicans are warning the White House that the 2012 presidential candidate will face one of the most difficult confirmation fights of Donald Trump’s presidency and are making a behind-the-scenes play to get the president to back off, two GOP senators said.

“There are concerns that are being voiced to the administrations about qualifications,” said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the Republican whip. “They’re probably going to hear from a number of our members about concerns that they have. Whether or not that gets them to make a course change or not, I don’t know.” via Politico

Translation: Trump is desperately looking for yes men who will do whatever he wants them to do, even if it breaks federal law, the GOP is unimpressed with his DHS purge, particularly in light of rumors that more are coming, and NatSec concerns are at an all time high, and not just because we just caught a spy in Mar-a-Lago.

While we’re talking about spies at Mar-a-Lago…

“Yujing Zhang, the Chinese woman who was arrested for allegedly attempting to breach Mar-a-Lago with malware-infected thumb drives, paid former day spa owner Li “Cindy” Yang’s company about $20,000 in February to attend an event at the Florida resort, her lawyer said.” via The Daily Beast

For those of you who don’t remember, Cindy Yang is the happy ending massage parlor lady who took photos with the entire GOP, and who was selling access to Trump, his cabinet, and his friends at Mar-a-Lago. When this story first came out I said it sounded like a front for Chinese intelligence… looks like I wasn’t far off.

Interior Secretary Pick is Swampy

David Bernhardt, Trump’s Interior Secretary pick, kept lobbying for a major client after declaring he was no longer a lobbyist, according to the New York Times.

Barr is making another miscalculation

“As Attorney General William Barr decides how much of Robert Mueller’s report to release publicly, recent reports about discontent within the special counsel’s team send a clear message to Barr: redactions are subject to debate.

Legal analysts and lawmakers overseeing the Russia probe — including House members who grilled Barr on Tuesday — say that even if Barr blacks out key portions of Mueller’s report before releasing it, citing factors like grand jury secrecy, classification and confidentiality, Mueller’s associates might second-guess him via the media or Congress.” via Politico

I think this Politico story nails it. Barr said the Mueller report is coming next week. If its an over-redacted dud, I think we will start seeing some serious leaks in the media and/or to Congress. They didn’t work for two years to have it all whitewashed.

Japan Lost an F-35

” Japanese F-35 stealth fighter jet with one pilot on board disappeared from radar while on a training mission over the Pacific on Tuesday night, the defense ministry said. The disappearance prompted Japan’s military to ground its remaining fleet of the U.S.-made warplanes.

The stealth fighter went missing about half an hour after takeoff as it flew about 84 miles east of Misawa, northeastern Japan, a ministry spokeswoman said. It was not immediately clear if it had it crashed, and the spokeswoman said Japan’s forces were “still trying to search for the aircraft.” via CBS

I’m going to resist the obvious “OMG they really ARE invisible” joke here, because this is serious. If Russia and/or China find that F-35 before we do, that’s really, really bad.

The F-35 has a capability called multifunction advanced data link (MADL) which essentially turns every F-35 into its own miniature airborne early warning and control system (AWACS) platform. The easiest way to explain this is that the F-35 basically transmits everything it sees to other linked aircraft in the area, increasing battlefield visibility for everyone. The F-35 can also interface with legacy aircraft. It’s a game-changer on the modern battlefield.

The jet was flying as part of a four-ship, so the MADL would have normally been on. This should theoretically also make it easier to figure out approximately where the jet was when it went down/lost signal, but so far we don’t seem to be having much luck with that.

Daily News Dump – April 8

Nunes sending criminal referrals to DOJ

“California Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday he was planning to send eight criminal referrals to Attorney General William Barr as soon as this week.

Nunes, who investigated accusations of FBI and Department of Justice abuse while he was previously chairman of the intelligence panel, did not say who he would be referring in a Fox News interview on Sunday.

Appearing on Fox’s “Sunday Morning Futures,” Nunes said five of the referrals are related to lying to Congress, misleading Congress and leaking classified information.

The other referrals, Nunes said, are allegations of lying to the FISA court that approves foreign surveillance warrants, manipulating intelligence and what he described as a “global leak referral,” which Nunes said wasn’t tied to one individual.” via MSN

If one of those names isn’t “Devin Nunes,” I’m really not interested in what he’s got to say.

But seriously, I’m sure this will bet yet another well-thought-out Nunes scheme that totally won’t spectacularly backfire in his face. (sarcasm font needed)

Pelosi gets an award

In “Congresspeople Who Don’t Suck” news:

“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was named the recipient of this year’s Profile in Courage Award by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. The award, which has been called the Nobel Prize for public figures, is given for an act, or a lifetime, of political courage.

In a statement, Caroline Kennedy called Pelosi “the most important woman in American political history.” via CBS

I agree with this quote 100%. Pelosi has been a healthy mixture of a Democrat darling and their favorite punching bag over the years, but her contributions to politics – and her indomitable spirit – have been invaluable during her decades of public service.

Nielsen Out at DHS

“Kirstjen Nielsen, the homeland security secretary, resigned on Sunday after meeting with President Trump, ending a tumultuous tenure in charge of the border security agency that had made her the target of the president’s criticism.

“I have determined that it is the right time for me to step aside,” Ms. Nielsen said in a resignation letter. “I hope that the next secretary will have the support of Congress and the courts in fixing the laws which have impeded our ability to fully secure America’s borders and which have contributed to discord in our nation’s discourse.”

Ms. Nielsen had requested the meeting to plan “a way forward” at the border, in part thinking she could have a reasoned conversation with Mr. Trump about the role, according to three people familiar with the meeting. She came prepared with a list of things that needed to change to improve the relationship with the president.” via MSN

I find it interesting (read: repulsive) that “the right time to step aside” wasn’t when children first started being separated from their parents, put in cages, and dying, but that’s just me.

Nielsen gets a lot of deserved hate for the child separation policy, but it’s important to remember that this policy actually came from Sessions. To be clear: Nielsen gets no reprieve here, because she chose to enforce it enthusiastically – just a point of fact that this policy originated from DOJ.

Secret Service Director Out

“United States Secret Service director Randolph “Tex” Alles is being removed from his position, multiple administration officials tell CNN.

President Donald Trump instructed his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to fire Alles. Alles remains in his position as of now but has been asked to leave.The USSS director was told two weeks ago there would be a transition in leadership and he was asked to stay on until there was a replacement, according to a source close to the director.

Secret Service officials have been caught by surprise with the news and are only finding out through CNN, according to the source.” via CNN

I’m told this has nothing to do with the breach at Mar-a-Lago, because the USSS really doesn’t have much to do with who is allowed to come and go in the President’s club, as scary as that sounds.

I suspect that’s not the whole story, though; Trump wasn’t happy when the Secret Service came out and essentially absolved itself of blame in the Chinese spy story.

It could be a coincidence, but I don’t believe in those, especially with this administration.

Rumor is that more high ranking DHS officials will be leaving soon, too.

Swalwell in for 2020

Along with just about every other Democrat on the planet, Eric Swalwell has thrown his hat in the 2020 ring.

At least we can’t say we don’t have options.

Trump encouraged border agents to break the law

“Last Friday, the President visited Calexico, California, where he said, “We’re full, our system’s full, our country’s full — can’t come in! Our country is full, what can you do? We can’t handle any more, our country is full. Can’t come in, I’m sorry. It’s very simple.”

Behind the scenes, two sources told CNN, the President told border agents to not let migrants in. Tell them we don’t have the capacity, he said. If judges give you trouble, say, “Sorry, judge, I can’t do it. We don’t have the room.”

After the President left the room, agents sought further advice from their leaders, who told them they were not giving them that direction and if they did what the President said they would take on personal liability. You have to follow the law, they were told.” via CNN

While a lot of this feels like the Nielsen apology tour, the President of the United States ordering law enforcement to break the law is kind of a big deal.

Doug Collins trolling fails miserably

Ranking member Collins appeared to try and one up Nadler this morning, releasing a letter that said:

“If you seek both transparency and for the American public to learn the full contours of the Special Counsel’s investigation, public testimony from Special Counsel Mueller himself is undoubtedly the best way to accomplish this goal

“To that end, Special Counsel Mueller should be invited to testify before the Committee during the week of April 22. Although the House is expected to be in recess that week, I think we can agree this business is too important to wait, and Members of the Committee will surely return to Washington at such a critical moment in our country’s history”

This was Doug Collins doing a couple things:

  1. trying to convince Nadler to leave Barr alone
  2. forcing Nadler to piss everyone off by scheduling a hearing during recess

Nadler took Collins’ recommendation and responded with the following:

Today, Ranking Member Collins called for Special Counsel Mueller to appear before @HouseJudiciary. I fully agree. Special Counsel Mueller should come before the Committee to answer questions in public about his 22 month investigation into President Trump and his associates. 1/2

In order to ask Special Counsel Mueller the right questions, the Committee must receive the Special Counsel’s full report and hear from Attorney General Barr about that report on May 2. We look forward to hearing from Mr. Mueller at the appropriate time. 2/2

So, not only did Nadler *not* take Collins’ bait, he used his own recommendation against him to provide a bipartisan reason to invite Mueller to testify when the time comes.

Point goes to the smart guy.

Spy at Mar-a-Lago had WHAT?

“A Chinese woman charged with bluffing her way past security at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club will stay in jail at least one more week after prosecutors said in court Monday that she “lies to everyone” and authorities found a suspicious variety of electronics in her hotel room.

Yujing Zhang, 32, was arrested March 30 by Secret Service after she bypassed layers of security and got as far as the reception area of the club, which stays open for its members and their guests when the president is there. The incident has amplified concerns that the Florida resort where Trump and his advisers spend so much time is difficult to secure.

When Zhang was arrested, she was carrying a thumb drive with malicious software on it, four phones, a laptop and a separate hard drive, authorities said. A subsequent search of her hotel room turned up more that alarmed investigators: nine thumb drives, five SIM cards for cellphones, about $8,000 in cash, several credit and debit cards, and a device used to detect hidden cameras, officials said.” via Washington Post

Who among us hasn’t been arrested with multiple thumb drives, four phones, a laptop with an external hard drive, five SIM cards, 8 grand, and a device to detect hidden cameras?

I was alarmed when this story first broke. Now I’m somewhere around a DEFCON 2. This is a really BFD.

IRGC

“The Trump administration announced Monday that it is designating a key Iranian military force as a terrorist organization, an unprecedented move against a foreign government entity that met resistance from many in the Pentagon and other departments.

The designation targets Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a group that already faces numerous U.S. sanctions. Iranian officials have blasted the latest move, warning of “consequences” for U.S. troops in the Middle East.” via Politico

I’ve discussed this some already, but here’s example #4823 of Trump not paying attention to the people who actually know WTF they’re talking about and doing things because his gut says so, or because Bolton wants him to.


Twitter Questions 16.0

Buttigieg, thoughts?

I’m definitely not “picking” a candidate this early, but Buttigieg has been on my radar. I think some of his positions are a little more controversial than what we need currently (abolishing the electoral college, and raising SCOTUS to 15 seats), but I do expect him to be a force in the future, no matter what happens this election.

I do have to say, listening to Pete on the issues has been pretty refreshing, even though I don’t agree with all of his positions. I don’t know if it’s because it’s nice to listen to someone who can actually speak coherently about… well, anything, or if it’s really because he’s knowledgeable, but I’m here for it.

Buttigieg has seemingly taken Beto’s place at the top of Fox’s scary progressives list. They’ve already rolled Ingraham, Bongino, and Hannity out to trash him, so I’m sure he’ll be on the receiving end of the angry incel messages on Twitter for awhile.

But seriously, I think Pete might be a really solid VP candidate to start, if not in 2020, definitely 2024. I suspect he’ll be in the spotlight for quite a while, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make it to the White House eventually, as long as he stays scandal-free.

Also: to clarify, I have no problem with abolishing the electoral college, or with raising the number of SCOTUS Justices, I just believe those issues are too controversial to tackle *this* election cycle. This is a win at all cost election.

Plus, the states are well on their way to doing the electoral college thing on their own.

Update: Buttigieg absolutely crushed it on the Sunday shows this morning. If he keeps this up, I might have to rethink that VP comment.

Do you think there’s too much, too complicated a story to tell exactly who/what the Murdochs are and the damage they’ve done?

Short answer: Yes. Murdoch is the closest thing to an oligarch that exists in America and the entanglement in *everything* is insane.

Long answer: the total damage his family has done will take decades to effectively sort out, but we can at least establish a baseline now. The NYT expose on Murdoch and his family does a great job of this:

“The right-wing populist wave that looked like a fleeting cultural phenomenon a few years ago has turned into the defining political movement of the times, disrupting the world order of the last half-century. The Murdoch empire did not cause this wave. But more than any single media company, it enabled it, promoted it and profited from it. Across the English-speaking world, the family’s outlets have helped elevate marginal demagogues, mainstream ethnonationalism and politicize the very notion of truth. The results have been striking. It may not have been the family’s mission to destabilize democracies around the world, but that has been its most consequential legacy.”

I would recommend reading the whole expose, because it does a really, really good job of laying out exactly how Murdoch’s publications have been involved in many of the bigger political flashpoints in the last decade:

  • Support for the Iraq War
  • Trump’s election
  • Brexit
  • Theresa May
  • Australian Prime Ministers pushed out / Australian carbon tax repealed

Nothing perhaps highlights the ever-expanding power of the Murdoch empire better than this quote:

“Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us,” David Frum, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, said in an interview with “Nightline.” “And now we’re discovering we work for Fox.”

This is true. A lot of folks see Fox as being subservient to the Trump White House, but I see it as the other way around. Trump does what Fox tells him to do. He gets his information from talking heads on television rather than the most potent intelligence apparatus in the world. In return, Fox keeps their anchors mostly on message and happily spreads Trump’s propaganda, which was really their propaganda to begin with. It’s a big circle of stupid that’s made Murdoch very, very wealthy.

It’s true that Trump has a sort of cult of personality that makes some of his base turn on Fox now and then, when they see the network as being too critical of “their President,” but for now, their interests are too inextricably entwined for a split from either of them.

I force myself to watch Fox pretty often, just because I want to know what his base is being fed, and I have to say, most of the time, it’s nothing short of disgusting. Hannity, Tucker, and Ingraham stoke racist fears on a nightly basis. Sometimes watching Fox feels like attending a Klan rally from my office. It wasn’t always like this, but it *is* by design. Murdoch makes money off of division and conspiracy; keeping the voters feel like they’re being oppressed or misrepresented by every other outlet keeps them angry, and more importantly, it keeps them watching. There’s a reason Hannity is still talking about Hillary’s emails: it works.

I wish I did, but I don’t really know what the solution is. People, especially uneducated people, naturally gravitate towards information that feeds their biases, and Fox does a great job of feeding them exactly what they want to hear. Even if it’s the same thing, every. freaking. night.

Thoughts on Cohen’s “new” material? More of the same? More damaging? Cheap ploy to delay jail?

Honestly, I suspect this is a bit of all three, though I have to admit I am intrigued by supposedly illegal donations to the GOP from China.

I said from the beginning, I find it absolutely hilarious that the GOP is spending so much time trashing the former RNC deputy finance chair. When they started, he was still listed as the deputy on the RNC website, which I found hilarious.

When this new story first came out – and especially when Lanny Davis said,
“For him to surrender in 30 days would be a detriment to committees search for truth, as well as a miscarriage of justice – I suspected that this was always the plan to try and keep Cohen out of jail. As we learn more, I’m intrigued, but I’m going in with limited expectations. It’s important that we remember Cohen isn’t the hero in this story. If he helps bring light to the GOP’s malfeasance, great, but he still needs to do time for his own crimes.