You Will Anyway: February 2019

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Oh! Shock! Whatever

President Trump ordered his chief of staff to grant his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, a top-secret security clearance last year, overruling concerns flagged by intelligence officials and the White House’s top lawyer, four people briefed on the matter said.

Mr. Trump’s decision in May so troubled senior administration officials that at least one, the White House chief of staff at the time, John F. Kelly, wrote a contemporaneous internal memo about how he had been “ordered” to give Mr. Kushner the top-secret clearance.

The White House counsel at the time, Donald F. McGahn II, also wrote an internal memo outlining the concerns that had been raised about Mr. Kushner — including by the C.I.A. — and how Mr. McGahn had recommended that he not be given a top-secret clearance.

The disclosure of the memos contradicts statements made by the president, who told The New York Times in January in an Oval Office interview that he had no role in his son-in-law receiving his clearance.

Just under three weeks ago Ivanka was telling an interviewer that the idea was nonsense. The whole family is a bunch of lying crooks.
Mr. Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe D. Lowell, also said that at the time the clearance was granted last year that his client went through a standard process.


The day that Mr. Lowell described Mr. Kushner’s process as having gone through normal routes, aides to Mr. Kushner had asked White House officials to deliver a statement from Mr. Kelly supporting what Mr. Lowell had said. But Mr. Kelly refused to do so, according to a person with knowledge of the events.


Asked on Thursday about the memos contradicting the president’s account, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said, “We don’t comment on security clearances.”
They already did, Sarah! And they lied.
Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Mr. Lowell, said on Thursday: “In 2018, White House and security clearance officials affirmed that Mr. Kushner’s security clearance was handled in the regular process with no pressure from anyone. That was conveyed to the media at the time, and new stories, if accurate, do not change what was affirmed at the time.”
They don't change what was affirmed, no. What was affirmed was a lie, though, ffs.
It is not known precisely what factors led to the problems with Mr. Kushner’s security clearance.
Gee, I wonder if it had anything to do with his family's business trying to secure loans from foreign governments, or that they were selling visas to Chinese for investments, or that they received millions in investments from Israelis when Jared was headed to Israel in 2017, or that Saudi prince MBS bragged he had Jared in his pocket, or perhaps that he had to amend his disclosure of foreign connections SF86 form multiple times because "his assistant" failed to put down everything, or that he failed to mention meeting with the head of a Russian state-owned bank and with the Russian ambassador, asking for a secret back door channel in the Russian embassy.  Did I miss anything?
House Democrats are in the early stages of an investigation into how several Trump administration officials obtained clearances, including Mr. Kushner.

Mr. Trump’s precise language to Mr. Kelly about Mr. Kushner’s clearance in their direct conversation remains unclear. Two of the people familiar with Mr. Trump’s discussions with Mr. Kelly said that there might be different interpretations of what the president said. But Mr. Kelly believed it was an order, according to two people familiar with his thinking.
Precisely the way Michael Cohen said Trump operates in his testimony yesterday. Also the way James Comey described it. And Andrew McCabe. Like a mob boss. Letting you know what he wants without spelling it out.

When this is one day - hopefully! - all over, attorney Abbe Lowell is going to be disgraced and Sarah Sanders is going to be a pariah.

Dump Trump.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.


Crossing the red line

Allen Weisselberg received renewed congressional attention after disgraced Trump fixer Michael Cohen on Wednesday repeatedly mentioned the Trump Org CFO as crucial to various aspects of dubiously legal practices by President Donald Trump, from the Stormy Daniels hush-money payments to potential insurance fraud.

“The [House Intelligence] committee anticipates bringing in Mr. Weisselberg,” a Democratic committee aide told The Daily Beast.

  The Daily Beast
I wish we could have the pleasure of witnessing. And I think we have a right to.
Weisselberg is uniquely positioned to address questions about financial transactions or relationships that concern potential foreign leverage over Trump–which new intelligence committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) has indicated for months that he intends to investigate.
If Trump doesn't spirit him out of the country.
Weisselberg is unique in the Trump orbit. In addition to being the Trump Organization CFO, he’s the Trump family accountant. According to the Wall Street Journal, prosecutors with the Southern District of New York granted Weisselberg, a Delphic oracle of financial information about Trump, limited immunity in its successful probe of Cohen over the Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal hush-money payments.

“Allen is the one guy who knows everything,” a former Trump Organization official told The New Yorker’s Adam Davidson.


The intelligence committee’s interest in Weisselberg is unlikely to affect the oversight committee’s similar interest. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the chairman of the oversight committee, indicated Thursday that Weisselberg was among witnesses named by Cohen whom the panel would likely move to interview. A representative for Cummings did not immediately respond to an inquiry, but a different Democratic staffer said the committee still plans on calling Weisselberg in.
...but hey, do what you will anyway.


Donald Trump lied?!

It's not Donald Trump you need to assure.
The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) will announce final victory over Islamic State in one week, SDF commander-in-chief Mazloum Kobani said in a video released by the SDF media center on Thursday.

“We will announce the complete victory over Daesh (Islamic State) in a week,” Kobani told a group of SDF fighters who were freed from Islamic State’s last enclave near the Iraqi border.

Does that mean they think it will be true within a week, or does that mean they think it's true now, but for some reason they're not making the announcement for a week? Either way, it's bullshit.
The SDF announced on Thursday it had freed 24 of its fighters from the jihadist group.


It was not immediately clear when the video was filmed.
So.....a week from when it was filmed could well have come and gone already.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Planning for a Trump Hotel on every shoreline on the planet

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Grassley's staff must be as senile as he is

Or maybe this was his own idea and no one dared try to stop him.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Poor Otto, he was only useful for two tweets

Mr. Trump said he and Mr. Kim discussed the case of Otto Warmbier, the American college student who died last year after being imprisoned in North Korea.

The president defended Mr. Kim, saying he believed the North Korean leader was unaware of the gravity of Mr. Warmbier’s medical condition.

“He tells me that he didn’t know about it, and I will take him at his word,” Mr. Trump said on Thursday.

Mr. Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginia, was arrested while on a trip to North Korea for stealing a propaganda poster. In 2016 he was sentenced to 15 years hard labor.

More than a year later he was released and returned to the United States gravely ill, with doctors saying he suffered a catastrophic brain injury. He died in June 2017.

Mr. Trump has taken credit for the return of Mr. Warmbier and a handful of other Americans held in North Korea. In the past, the president has pointed to Mr. Warmbier’s injuries as an example of the Kim regime’s brutality.

But on Thursday, Mr. Trump refused to place any blame on Mr. Kim.

“I don’t believe that he would have allowed that to happen, it just wasn’t to his advantage to happen,” Mr. Trump said. “Those prisons are rough, they’re rough places, and bad things happened. But I really don’t believe that he, I don’t believe that he knew about it.”

So he wasn't "tortured beyond belief"?

In Hanoi, [Kim Jong Un] was congenial and diplomatic in his interactions with the U.S. president. But he stood firm in his refusal to give up the country’s crown jewels — its hard-won and expensive nuclear program — for an offer that the North would consider second-rate.

Not agreeing to a deal means North Korea can potentially carry out further work on its nuclear and conventional weapons programs, upping the stakes in future talks.


Kim may have overplayed his hand on sanctions, but he demonstrated he is capable of playing hardball — a capability Trump won’t likely forget. He walks away with arguably more legitimacy than he had before, having convinced the most powerful man in the world to come to Asia a second time in less than nine months. Even in announcing that the talks had failed, Trump continued to praise Kim, stressing that the summit had been generally friendly and constructive.

More importantly, Trump left the door open for negotiations to continue. Kim can work with that.

He has already made big strides toward undercutting support for sanctions in China and South Korea and can be expected to try to keep pushing them farther away from Washington’s increasingly fragile policy of maximum pressure.


Throughout the negotiation process so far, North Korea’s state media have been extremely careful not to criticize Trump directly, focusing their ire instead on lower-level officials like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton. It remains to be seen how the North’s propaganda machine will spin the Hanoi outcome, but it would seem unlikely that their deference to Trump will change dramatically.

Wittingly or not, Trump has repeatedly helped Kim establish himself as a leader on the world stage.


Unlike Trump, who immediately boarded Air Force One for Washington, Kim isn’t rushing out of Hanoi after the summit. He is expected to stay until Saturday and will spend his remaining time sightseeing and meeting Vietnamese officials on what is being billed as a “friendly visit.” That gives him a chance to present to both the world and his domestic audience the image that his meeting with Trump was just one part of a larger, multipronged trip.

The Supreme Dealmaker outsmarted again.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.



Ha!  Sure you do, you asshole.

He wouldn't have tweeted this without that statement from Otto's parents going viral.

Trudeau's own Trumpian obstruction may do him in

There were two hearings yesterday that rocked their respective governments.  Cohen in the US, and an ex-Attorney General in Canada.

Trudeau was detonated today by his former Attorney General, Jody Wilson-Raybould, Canada's first Aboriginal A-G. She just testified in Parliament, in meticulous detail, how Trudeau and his staff tried to get her to drop criminal charges against a corrupt company that he liked.

She refused to bend the law for Trudeau's cronies. But they didn't stop. Trudeau; his chief of staff; his principal secretary; even the finance minister. They met her ten times, phoned her ten more. trying to get the charges dropped. She wouldn't. So Trudeau fired her as A-G.

The story leaked out earlier this month, but it was all anonymous sources. The former A-G herself didn't say a word, saying she was bound by attorney-client privilege and cabinet confidences. She was effectively gagged; so Trudeau was the only one talking.

Trudeau took advantage of her enforced silence to claim she supported him and everything was fine. After all, when he fired her as A-G, he appointed her to the minor post of veterans minister. When she heard him make that boast, she quit as veterans minister. He was shocked.

Then suddenly Gerald Butts, Trudeau's right hand man -- his best friend since college -- resigned, claiming he had done nothing wrong. Which is odd. It looked like a compromise -- Butts left, so Wilson-Raybould met with the cabinet and the caucus again.

Wilson-Raybould still didn't say anything publicly. She hired a retired Supreme Court judge as her lawyer, to advise her on what she could say. Under pressure, the Liberal dominated Parliamentary committee invited her to testify, and Trudeau grudgingly waived some privilege.

So today she testified. In great detail. Exactly who pressured her. Exactly how. Exactly when. She named names. Including the prime minister himself. Here's her statement: Transcript at the National Post

It's against the law to pressure the Attorney General to obstruct a criminal prosecution. Here's Canada's Criminal Code. Section 139(2) is obstruction -- it carries a 10-year prison term.

That's an amusing clip, and if she still wants the job, I wish her the best of luck.

Looks like we might share something new with Canada: a criminal at the head of government.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

How Trump's Office of Legal Counsel works

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti talks with Erica Newland who quit her job at OLC because she felt they were simply aiding Trump's lies.  Mariotti and Newland are both on the edge of my listening tolerance as speakers, but I think what Ms. Newland has to say is both enlightening and important.  (And admittedly, I have a very low auditory tolerance, if that's the right way to say there are more things I can't stand to listen to than things I can. 

I'll also note that previous administrations have used the OLC for justifying unconstitutional and amoral policies, but as Ms. Newland describes it, there was a process for ascertaining the truth and necessity of Executive Orders before they were issued that Trump's administration has simply bypassed altogether.

Anyway, the podcast is here. (Or here with other Mariotti podcasts, at Episode 34.)

Check it out.  Also, his other podcasts are pretty much always interesting and enlightening as well.

And, oh yeah, impeach Trump.  (Dump Trump and Ditch Mitch for a return to democracy.)

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

If true, perhaps this is actionable

At the very least, if true, it needs to be investigated.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

This is what Trump supporters listen to

That's what universities are teaching students is a classic case of projection.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.


It's coming from inside the House

Republicans were successfully able to modify the bill requiring background checks on all gun sales — a marquee vote in the new Democratic-led House — with a provision targeting undocumented immigrants who try to purchase weapons.

Democrats learned the specifics of the GOP motion only minutes before the vote.


The surprise win for Republicans — enough Democrats joined with the GOP to successfully attach the immigration related amendment to the guns bill — was the second such setback for Democratic leaders in recent weeks.

Earlier this month, Republicans used the same maneuver to successfully force Democrats to add language condemning anti-Semitism to an unrelated bill to halt U.S. involvement in the Yemen war. The resolution passed, but the GOP amendment ended up derailing the Yemen resolution in the Senate.


Speaker Nancy Pelosi later raised the issue at her weekly meeting with leaders of the various Democratic interest groups — from the Congressional Black Caucus to the Blue Dogs. Pelosi said it was disappointing that veteran lawmakers who had been awarded spots on coveted committees including the Ways and Means and Appropriations panels then chose to turn around and vote with Republicans on Wednesday.

The maybe they should stop picking people for committee appointments on the basis of how much money they raise for the DNC and start choosing people who are appropriate for the committee. Or people they know will vote with Democrats every time, for that matter.
Pelosi said she was concerned these members would also have to take tough votes in committee and questioned how would they handle that if they already felt compelled to side with Republicans on votes that she and others saw merely as procedural exercises by the minority, according to a senior Democratic source.


Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and other top Democrats are weighing revising the House rules to require Republicans give them more notice on specific procedural votes, known as a “motion to recommit,” a wonky tactic that the GOP has used to force Democrats to vote on a range of controversial issues since January.
What they need to change is the ability to tack on unrelated amendments altogether.
Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn have watched with alarm for weeks as Republicans have continued to win Democratic support for their controversial amendments, often from freshmen who have privately expressed concerns about the GOP using these votes against them in campaign ads.


Pelosi has met with the freshmen multiple times, encouraging them to stay unified and vote with the party — thus letting the air out of the GOP’s attack balloon. But multiple freshmen in GOP-targeted districts told POLITICO earlier this month they have no plans to change their strategy.
If true, that's just plain sad. What was the purpose of Americans electing Democrats if they're going to vote Republican? On the other hand, if they really are voting the way their contituents want them to, so be it. That's the only way to end the hell hole of partisanship that is currently our Congress.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Great picture of Trump's failed summit

They look like they've been up all night.  Or asked a question they weren't expecting.  Or got caught doing something naughty.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.


Never mind that he did provide evidence that Trump paid off Stormy Daniels through Michael Cohen with payments made to look like something else.  Or that he provided evidence that Trump falsely reported values of his properties to avoid taxes on them and to get larger insurance payments.  (Not mentioned was the $17 million fraud claiming damage to Mar-A-Lago that never happened.  I wish someone had asked about that.)

The GOP/Trump message is that he never colluded with Russia while ignoring the many crimes he did commit.  The legitimacy of Trump's election is more important than the fact that a criminal is the president.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Failure in Hanoi

Donald Trump has said that a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un broke down over the issue of sanctions, after the talks in Vietnam ended early with no deal.

“It was about the sanctions basically,” Trump said at a press conference in Hanoi. “They wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety and we couldn’t do that ... Sometimes you have to walk, and this was just one of those times.”

He really thought Kim was as easily flattered as he is, didn't he?  Republicans will be blaming it on the Democrats for holding the Cohen hearings while Trump was overseas trying to save the world.  One of them already tried to shame Cohen during his testimony for that very thing.
The US president said that Kim had offered to dismantle some parts of his nuclear infrastructure, including the Yongbyon nuclear complex, but was not prepared to destroy other parts of the programme, including covert uranium plants.

“There is a gap. We have to have sanctions,” Trump said. “They were willing to denuke a large portion of the areas we wanted but we couldn’t give up all the sanctions for that.”
So can we look forward to a return to the nasty rhetoric about "Little Rocket Man"?
“We spent all day with Kim Jong-un,” Trump said. “He’s quite a guy and quite a character. And our relationship is very strong.”

He even defended Kim over the death of US student Otto Warmbier, who had been sent back home from North Korea seriously ill in June 2017.

“He says he didn’t know about it and I will take him at his word,” Trump said, adding that North Korea was a big country and: “Those prisons are rough. They’re rough places and bad things happen.”
Not yet.
Trump said there was no plan for a third summit but made clear that the current status quo would continue, with North Korea continuing to suspend nuclear and missile tests, while the US would not take part in joint military exercises with South Korea, which the US president said he was opposed to anyway.

“I gave that up quite a while ago because it costs us $100 million to do it. I hated to see it. I thought it was unfair,” Trump said, saying South Korea should shoulder more of the costs. “Exercising is fun and it’s nice they play their war games. I’m not saying its not necessary. On some levels it is. On other levels it’s not.”
You don't know what you're saying. I think that's obvious.
He confirmed that the US side had confronted the North Koreans with the existence of covert nuclear facilities outside Yongbyon and demanded they be put on the negotiating table.

“They were surprised we knew,” he said.
I doubt that very, very much, considering that was widely reported in our news outlets after that first meeting.
The press conference came after a scheduled lunch and signing ceremony for the expected joint statement were both cancelled at short notice, as Trump and Kim left the summit venue and returned to their separate Hanoi hotels.


Signs of trouble at the second Trump-Kim summit appeared earlier on Thursday when Trump played down expectations of any kind of agreement in the Vietnam capital and urged the focus to be on longer term relations between the two leaders and the two countries.


“I’m sure over the years we’ll be together a lot, and I think we’ll also be together after the fact, meaning after the deal is made. We had very good discussions last night at dinner, and the pre-dinner was very good. And, there were a lot of great ideas being thrown about,” Trump said.

“So, I can’t speak necessarily for today, but I can say that this, a little bit longer term, and over a period of time, I know we’re going to have a fantastic success with respect to Chairman Kim and North Korea.”


Since the first summit in Singapore in June last year, Trump and his administration had claimed they were on the brink of a historic breakthrough in persuading North Korea to disarm, going beyond the agreements forged by former US presidents.


“No rush. No rush,” he insisted. “We just want to do the right deal. Chairman Kim and myself, we want to do the right deal. Speed is not important. What’s important is that we do the right deal. Thank you all very much.”
Maybe now he'll believe his intel agencies when they tell him Kim will never denuclearize.  (And why would he in today's world?)

All that flattery, wasted.

Will there be a Mission Not Accomplished sign on their return?

Wait.  Is Kim's chair bigger than Trump's?  Sure looks like it.  That's why the talks failed, isn't it?

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

This guy is a Congressman from Louisiana and on the House Oversight Committee

Dear god.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

What a putz!

Hahaha.  Yeah, let's.

You and Trump are the only ones we've seen so far publicly threatening his family in any way.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

The art of the deal

U.S. negotiators are no longer demanding that North Korea agree to disclose a full accounting of its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs as part of talks this week between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, according to current and former senior U.S. officials.

The decision to drop, for now, a significant component of a potential nuclear deal suggests a reality that U.S. intelligence assessments have stressed for months is shaping talks as they progress: North Korea does not intend to fully denuclearize, which is the goal Trump set for his talks with Kim.

Disclosure of a full, verifiable declaration of North Korea’s programs is the issue over which the last round of serious negotiations between Pyongyang and world powers, including the U.S., fell apart a decade ago.

Well, that's one way to get a victory.

Yeah, that's not going to be the boost he needs to counter the Cohen testimony.

What's he going to tell us about this trip when he gets back?

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Cohen's testimony

[The Republicans] provided Cohen with one slow pitch up the middle after another, letting him repeat the cooperating witness’s go-to explanation like a mantra: I did these bad things so often and so long because that’s what it took to work for your guy. I have seldom seen a cross-examination go worse.

If the hearing’s participants needed trial lawyers, its absent subject needs them even more. Whether the danger is looming impeachment hearings or the Special Counsel’s investigation, the president of the United States is in the soup.

Cohen put Donald Trump squarely at the middle of the harebrained scheme to hide hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels. He corroborated that tale with checks from Trump and from the Trump organization. The odd and haphazard way Trump reimbursed Cohen helps make the case that Trump knew the entire ruse breached campaign finance laws—if not clearly enough for a federal jury, at least enough for a House Committee on Impeachment. Cohen offered enough specific examples of Trump Organization financial skullduggery to launch a thousand subpoenas.

  Ken White
Looking forward to it.
He confirmed that Trump’s lawyers knew about, and even edited, Cohen’s prior false statements to Congress, suggesting a possible conspiracy to obstruct justice and lie to Congress. He also claimed that Trump talked to Roger Stone about Wikileaks in advance of the release of hacked DNC emails. That’s not itself illegal or “collusion”—it’s not against the law to receive dirt, even eagerly—but it probably contradicts the statements Trump has given under oath to the Special Counsel, leading to more danger for the president.
I hope we one day, before we get too old to recall what it was all about, get to see Trump's answers and how he might have lied in them.
Finally, Cohen confirmed that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York is still investigating Trump for unspecified crimes. Nothing good has come out of the Southern District for this administration.

Team Trump should be worried. Republicans did not successfully destroy Cohen’s credibility. Cohen, while characteristically squirrelly on some subjects, did not exude his customary arrogance.In fact, he probably gained credibility by limiting his accusations—he passed up numerous opportunities to make expansive claims about collusion or salacious ones.
...but hey, do what you will anyway.


If they are not in some way complicit or ensnared in the Russian collusion aspect of Trump's crimes, then they are indeed fools.



The full hearing (video from USA Today)

Somebody's going to be very sorry, your honor

The Florida Bar has opened an investigation into whether Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) violated professional conduct rules by threatening former Trump fixer Michael Cohen ahead of Cohen’s congressional testimony on Wednesday.

The organization, which licenses lawyers to practice in the state, would not disclose details of the investigation, but spokesperson Francine Walker, said the bar is “quite aware of [Gaetz’s] comments... and we have opened an investigation.”

  Daily Beast
It would be a bit ironic if Gaetz lost his law license a few days after Michael Cohen lost his (yesterday). He won't, of course, but he could be sanctioned or censured or whatever it is the Florida Bar does to slap attorneys on the wrist.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.


Hahaha.  Yeah, let's.

More to come