Thursday, September 19, 2019

The "Ukraine" theory confirmed

In our previous installment (scroll down), we looked at Laura Rozen's suggestion that the whistleblower complaint concerned Trump's discussion with the leader of Ukraine. Well, tonight we have confirmation from the WP.
A whistleblower complaint about President Trump made by an intelligence official centers on Ukraine, according to two people familiar with the matter, which has set off a struggle between Congress and the executive branch.
Two and a half weeks before the complaint was filed, Trump spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedian and political newcomer who was elected in a landslide in May.

That call is already under investigation by House Democrats who are examining whether Trump and his attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani sought to manipulate the Ukrainian government into helping Trump’s reelection campaign. Lawmakers have demanded a full transcript and a list of participants on the call.
To repeat my previous summary: Ukraine needs aid to fight the Russians. Trump promised to give said aid -- if the Ukrainians cook up bogus "evidence" against Joe Biden's son.

Personally, I tend to favor the view that Warren will win the primaries. If she does, won't it be remarkable if Trump is impeached over an anti-Biden dirty trick -- a dirty trick which was ultimately not necessary?

The WP sources its story to "two people familiar with the matter." The most obvious possibilities: Former DNI Dan Coates and former acting DNI Susan Gordon. John Bolton is another possibility; he seems vindictive enough.

Marcy's immediate response:
Reminder that Trump's campaign manager is in prison right now for (in part) trying to convince US lawmakers that politicized prosecutions in Ukraine were not.
How soon we forget. How soon I forget (he said, with much scarlet in his cheeks).

Three hours before this news came out, Bill Kristol tweeted...
If the whistleblower complaint is serious—as the IG seems to think—it won’t be Trump being careless or reckless on calls with foreign leaders. It would have to be an apparent quid pro quo—an offer of a U.S. policy in return for Trump’s personal benefit or electoral advantage.
I suspect Kristol knew the truth well before the WP published. (I did not know it, though I suspected.)

Natasha Bertrand reminds us...
The Trump administration was withholding military assistance aid to Ukraine until recently
Warren is not going to win the primaries. It will be Biden.
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Is the whistleblower scandal about Ukraine/Biden? Plus: Epstein, Bannon, cryptocurrency and more

The whistleblower's complaint involved multiple acts, not just one promise made by Trump to a world leader. Or so says the NYT.
The complaint was related to multiple acts, Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for American spy agencies, told lawmakers during a private briefing, two officials familiar with it said. But he declined to discuss specifics, including whether the complaint involved the president, according to committee members.

Separately, a person familiar with the whistle-blower’s complaint said it involves in part a commitment that Mr. Trump made in a communication with another world leader. The Washington Post first reported the nature of that discussion. But no single communication was at the root of the complaint, another person familiar with it said.
Laura Rozen points to a very disturbing possibility. This scenario seems very credible -- so much so, it goes right to the top of our list of theories.
But the $250m (£280m) of arms for Ukrainian forces, which are confronting Russian backed separatists, has been enmeshed in a bitter battle between the US president and his opponents over accusations that he has tried to manipulate it for underhand political reasons.

The Trump administration had in fact suspended the “Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative”, only agreeing to unblock it after rising bipartisan clamour from congress.

The ostensible reason for the hold-up was to ensure that it tallied with US interests.

The real reason, claim critics, was to pressure the Ukrainian government to target Joe Biden – the possible Democrat candidate for next year’s election – through an investigation into corruption allegations against his son.
In other words, Ukraine needs money to fight Russians. Trump says he'll give the money -- but only if the current leader of Ukraine cooks up "evidence" to frame Biden's kid.

Now, the Independent article quoted above does not mention the whistleblower controversy. But the two scandals seem to be awfully congruent -- so much so, one can't help but suspect that the two are, in fact, one.

This goes way beyond Watergate. Dick Nixon would never have dared. If this Ukraine/Biden theory turns out to be true, and if Pelosi doesn't immediately move into full-out impeachment mode, she should be considered as crooked as Trump himself.

Epstein, Bannon, cryptocurrency. Here's the thing about living in the Trump era: There's always some HUGE scandal which draws attention away from a half-dozen other HUGE scandals. No-one can keep up.

The Hollywood Reporter has published a very bizarre tale involving Steve Bannon and Jeffrey Epstein. On any other day, everyone would be discussing this yarn. It has everything: A child star, underaged sex (homosexual sex, this time around), cryptocurrency skullduggery, Jeffrey Epstein -- and dear old Steve Bannon, former Trumper and head honcho of the international fascist traditionalist movement.

The star of this story is a former child actor named Brock Pierce...
...who as a teenager co-founded the eventually infamous Digital Entertainment Network and who, in the mid- to late ‘90s, was associated with an alleged sex-abuse ring — this one involving young men. Several later contended in court filings that Pierce and two associates had drugged and assaulted them at parties in their Encino mansion. Pierce was never charged with any crime and has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. He settled with one plaintiff, and two others dismissed their cases against him.
At some point, he decided to get in on the cryptocurrency racket (which really is a racket, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise). So did Epstein, who, in 2011, invited Pierce (not a scientist) to attend a conference for top-flight scientists. The confab was called Mindshift.

How did Epstein and Pierce first get together? Dunno. But both were involved with underaged prostitution. In both cases, there have been allegations that rich people were blackmailed.

After the conference, Pierce somehow became a multi-millionaire -- perhaps a billionaire -- playing the crypto game, which was just a-borning in 2011.
It's unclear what, if anything, Epstein expected to get from Pierce, who was unlikely to add to the prestige of the conference. Epstein’s activities in the area of cryptocurrency remain mysterious. In 2017, he gave an interview to website The Next Web in which he expressed a vague interest in the area, and The Wall Street Journal has reported that Epstein claimed that he worked for the U.S. Treasury Department on cryptocurrency.
Say what? The freakin' Treasury Department? This, on top of his claimed work for the spooks?

I've long held the suspicion that, when we finally learn what Bitcoin was all about, we'll learn that it was a scam perpetrated by guys like Epstein.

A side note: We've all seen how a series of financial fads -- gold buggery, pump-and-dump schemes, ponzi schemes, MLM schemes -- turned out to be scams. In fact, Epstein first became rich via a ponzi scheme involving a swindler named Steve Hofenberg, who now peddles stories about Epstein. (Do not trust that guy.) The scammers behind these operations often target working-class and middle-class libertarians -- naive young guys who've read Atlas Shrugged and emerged with delusions of supermanhood. Libertarians of that sort are eternally convinced that they are the hippest of the hip, which means, of course, that they born suckers.

"Pride," says Satan at the close of The Devil's Advocate. "It's my favorite sin."

Cryptocurrency mania, I believe, is just the latest scam targeting libertarians. No doubt some ground-floor insiders have benefited, but the whole edifice is predicated on the false notion that an ultra-volatile currency, unbacked by any state, has value as a means of exchange. The only people who would ever buy into that goofy premise are the dummies who injected the works of Ayn Rand straight into their veins.

Back to our story:
Pierce was also in business starting in the mid-2000s with former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon, who had his own ties to Epstein. Bannon did not respond to requests for comment but he apparently remains a fan of Pierce, who has popped up lately as an unlikely presence in Trump world.
Pierce and partners set up a company called IGE, which facilitated the use of real currency to purchase online gaming goods. Since I'm not a gamer, I can't claim to understand how this world works (and I'm uninterested in learning). The bottom line is that Bannon and Pierce got together on the IGE operation; Bannon brought in Goldman Sachs and hired a bunch of poor schlubs in China to do the scut work.
At some point, Bannon developed his own connection to Epstein, although it’s unknown when or how the relationship began.
I'm willing to guess that Pierce was the go-between.
It was not long after Pierce’s ejection from IGE that he emerged as a player in the world of cryptocurrency. (Bannon also became involved in cryptocurrency.) Pierce founded a number of companies including Blockchain Capital, where his bio identified him as “a member of the Clinton Global Initiative.” (Bill Clinton, of course, also had a relationship with Epstein, though he has denied knowledge of Epstein’s wrongdoing.)
Don't read too much into Pierce's boast about the Clinton Global Initiative, which was all about ending childhood obesity and improving the nation's health. The Initiative wasn't a way to make money, and it had nothing to do with any of the stuff that truly interested Pierce.

Another wheeler-dealer named Al Seckel arranged that Mindshift conference.
Presumably Seckel met Epstein through his sort-of wife, Isabel Maxwell — the sister of alleged Epstein enabler Ghislaine Maxwell — whom he had married in 2007, while apparently still married to someone else.
Now that's interesting.
Indeed, in July 2015 Seckel’s body supposedly was found at the bottom of a cliff in France. He was 56. (The echoes of the fate of Isabel Maxwell’s father Robert, found floating in the sea near his yacht in 1991, are hard to miss.) Seckel died, it seems, just as Tablet magazine was preparing an article that alleged a litany of dubious business dealings as well as exposed Seckel’s phony academic credentials and double marriage.
That's more interesting. Apparently, there is good reason to suspect that Seckel faked his death.

Something's going on here. This is yet another one of those occasions when we seem to have about 50 pieces of a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle.

Pierce's wheeler-dealer lifestyle went sotto after John Oliver discussed him on Last Week Tonight. There's much more tot his story; I strongly recommend you check out the article referenced above.
Re: the ganging up on Pelosi for not beginning impeachment proceedings.

Instant gratification isn't new, but it's not as old as Nixon's impeachment. In 1972, most TV sets weren't 'instant on', it still took some 20 seconds for them to 'warm up', most telephones still had finger holes in the dial.

In 1972, Bernstein and Woodward were already told by a CREP member to "follow the money". Nixon was more impeachable in 1972 than Trump is or has been. The official inquiries, i.e, Congressional, started only after Nixon began his second term, i.e., 11 months after the Watergate break-in (and the break-in at Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office), very long after the secret-because-illegal bombings of Cambodia became known in 1970.

Soon after the Watergate break-in, Woodward began being informed by Deep Throat.

Of course Trump deserves impeachment and worse. Of course with today's manic and foolish MSM coverage, we'll hear nothing but bothsideisms. If conviction fails in the current Senate, the Democrats will be perceived as a bunch of schmucks, guilty of that "Clinton conspiracy" Kavanaugh proffered at his confirmation hearing. And, you'll be right about Trump being re-elected.

Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi is the best politician since LBJ, and she probably has Trump's pecker in her pocket. She wasn't elected Speaker in 2007 by the House because of feminism.
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The great guessing game

The game is afoot! We've learned more about that whistleblower complaint: It involves a very troubling promise made to a foreign leader. The promise was made during a phone call.
The fact that the complaint had been filed by an intelligence official was known, but the subject had been a closely guarded secret.

A whistleblower complaint by an intelligence official about a private presidential phone call would be an extraordinary development, likely without precedent in U.S. history.
Currently acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire is covering up for Trump, but the CIA's Inspector General seems to agree that whatever Trump promised was very troubling and deserves to be shared with the intelligence committees.

From what I've gathered while making the internet rounds, most people seem to think that the whistleblower was probably Principle Deputy Director of National Intelligence Susan Gordon, who briefly served as Acting DNI. Here's the Wiki rundown of what happened:
President Donald Trump announced on July 28, 2019, that he intended to nominate Republican congressman John Ratcliffe to replace Dan Coats as Director of National Intelligence (DNI), but withdrew Ratcliffe from consideration five days later.[10][11] After Trump's announcement, it was not immediately clear if he would retain Gordon, who is widely respected throughout the government, as acting DNI during Ratcliffe's confirmation process, or if she would be retained in the agency upon Ratcliffe's confirmation. Two sources told CNN there was an active search underway and that Gordon was not considered likely to be retained because she "is viewed by some in the administration as someone who is not going to be the type of political loyalist Trump wants in that role."[12] Some Trump allies advised him Gordon was too close to former CIA director John Brennan, an outspoken Trump critic, an assertion Brennan dismissed.[13][14] One Democratic congressional official told NBC News, "if he appoints anyone other than Sue Gordon as acting DNI, the Senate will raise holy hell."[15] By law, the Principal Deputy succeeds the Director upon a vacancy, but on August 8, 2019 Trump announced Gordon was resigning and appointed the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Joseph Maguire as acting DNI.[16]
Here's one possible scenario: Gordon assured Trump that she would be a team player, but when she found out about it (whatever it is), she balked. Then she was "axed" to leave. That's when she filed her whistleblower complaint.

If she's the whistlebower, then you can expect the righties to make her the target of the mightiest propaganda effort yet: "She's funded by Soros! She's Hillary's lesbian lover! She once bought a pie at Comet Pizza! She's the secret daughter of Roman Polanski!"

(Hey, they succeeded in making Jim Comey out to be a Hillary acolyte, even though Comey insured Trump's victory by hiding the fact that Trump was under FBI investigation.)

Now, although the smart money is on Gordon, Rayne on Emptywheel has suggested that the whistleblower could actually be Mr. Mustache himself...
Bolton seems in a mood to burn it all down, ‘shanking’ POTUS during a Trumpists-dense luncheon on Wednesday.
You know...I can see that. John Bolton is that sort of fellow, isn't he? But if that's true, then we would see echoes of this internal fight occurring on the right side of the interwebs.

So much for part one of our guessing game: Who is the whistleblower? Question two: Who is the foreign leader? Question three: What was promised?

We know one thing for sure: This matter has to be pretty damned important. The law clearly states that a complaint must be about a matter of urgent danger -- it can't be a simple policy disagreement. This Marcy Wheeler twitter thread offers the two leading theories (as of this moment).
What if it was a promise from Trump to hand over the identities of U.S. intelligence assets inside Putin's government?
Yeah. There was that blown spy who had been close to Putin. That's the sort of, uh, "blow job" which is really, really likely to piss off many within the intelligence community. Remember that phone call between Putin and Trump which ostensibly concerned "Siberian fires" (ostensibly)? Kind of a strange thing for the two leaders to talk about...

But maybe this has more to do with Middle East intrigue...
I'd be more inclined to think it involved Spanky promising something to Al Thani of Qatar. Something, I suspect, that involves Saudi Arabia.
Another interesting idea, this. Maybe Trump knew from the start that the attack on the oil fields was a big fake. If Gordon is the whistleblower, maybe her complaint is the reason why that attack was not used as the pretext for a war with Iran. Conversely, if Bolton is the whistleblower, then obviously Trump must have said something injurious to Bolton's dreams of bellicosity.

And then there are those who think this is all about North Korea...
He promised Kim not to spy or make waves on that
Otto kid who they killed
Or, promised him the U.S. would pull its military from South Korea...
in exchange for a nuclear deal.

...a move that would throw our allies under the bus and potentially destabilize the entirety of East Asia.
Here's my idea: Perhaps the phone conversation involves election rigging. And perhaps the foreign leader was Bibi.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Who's with Lindsay in Lindsay Graham's blackmail photo?

The Washington Post suggests that Lindsay Graham's toadying to Trump has reached a breaking point. Apparently, Graham is more hawkish than Trump on the Iran question. Any "Theory of Lindsay" which does not include the concept of kompromat is simply naive. Yeah, sure, a few moments of disagreement will be permitted, but Graham will do nothing to endanger Trump's presidency. He dare not.

Thus, I introduce the new Cannonfire poll: Who's with Lindsay in Lindsay Graham's blackmail photo?

1. Adult female.

2. Adult male.

3. Underaged female.

4. Underaged male.

5. Dog.

6. Cat.

7. Mammal other than dog or cat.

8. Octopus.

9. Nyarlothotep.

10. Non-Nyarlothotepian horror from the indescribably squamous regions of eldritch eldritchness: Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.

11. Hitler (via Pym particles).

12. Three-way with Jeffrey Epstein and Steve Bannon.

13. ____________________ (Fill in the blank with your best guess.)

If you guess the truth, you win a no-prize. Face Front, True Believers!

(I actually won a no-prize when I was a kid. Empty envelope. I treasured it for years.)

In other gossip news: Years ago, this humble blog covered the allegation that Melania is dating the guy in charge of security for Tiffany's in Trump Tower. (I let Marcy Wheeler babble on about the small and unimportant shit. Here at Cannonfire, we deal with the real issues.) That allegation has made a big, big comeback.

Here's another shot of the alleged boyfriend...

The story's probably fake news. Why would any woman date that guy when she could have Donald Trump?

2, 4 and 7 (goat)

OT - joseph you have teased us over the years about an embarassing incident starring Democratic front runner VP Joe Biden.

It's sad how often I wonder what it is.

Today I ask you - are you aware of a "blackface" incident involving the former VP?

On topic - I am very close to a psychiatrist who makes a lot of money working with rich men who are enduring various midlife crisis. She believes Graham is not gay, but suffering from some deep psychological trauma that involves sexuality but is not necessarily related to sex. She believes Graham is probably phobic of sex, basically too insecure about his sexuality to perform in any way. She suspects an difficult relationship with a mother who herself likely suffered various mental ailments. She feels physical abuse likely a factor. She ventures that Graham has not had successful or fulfilling sex relationships and probably long ago dedicated himself to solo pursuits. The constant warmongering is a facet of his efforts to appear masculine because he must know how it all looks to the public.

Anyway, who knows, just another onion for the stew that we all simmer in.
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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

That's it. Pelosi must go.

Why have I turned against Pelosi, after defending her for so long? This is why. Corey Lewandowski is laughing at Congress, claiming that a Trump crony who has never officially served one day in the White House deserves executive privilege.
It also underscores what has been a central dilemma for House Democrats all year — they have promised to investigate Trump, aggressively, and many of their base supporters want them to move quickly to try to remove him from office. But the White House has blocked their oversight requests at most every turn, declining to provide new documents or allow former aides to testify.
This is bullshit.

The DOJ won't prosecute Lewandowski. The DOJ won't prosecute anyone who defies a subpoena.

If Barr won't enforce the law, Congress can and should. Congress has its own jail -- and there was a time when Congress would toss people into the clink if they defied Congress the way Lewandowski is doing right now as I write. This long-established exercise of congressional authority is called inherent contempt.
Inherent contempt was the mode employed by Congress to directly enforce contempt rulings under its own constitutional authority until criminal and civil contempt statutes were passed, and it remained in use into the twentieth century. Under inherent contempt proceedings, the House or Senate has its Sergeant-At-Arms, or deputy, take a person into custody for proceedings to be held in Congress.
"But Congress hasn't used that power since the 1930s!" So? If nothing else will work, you use the tool you have. I haven't used a pay phone in many years, but if the sitch were desperate, I would walk to a working pay phone (yes, I know where one is) and make the connection. You use the tool you have.

If you don't have a flat head screwdriver, use a butter knife. You use the tool you have.

Nancy Pelosi doesn't get that.

To hell with her. Right now, I have inherent contempt for her. You know damned well that if the shoe were on the other foot, the Republicans would use any tool that gets the job done, and damn the consequences.

Yes, my metaphors just got horribly mixed. I'm too angry to care.

Added note: Seth Abramson's tweets have been spot on.
Here's how to understand Lewandowski's testimony: Barr has made clear he won't prosecute anyone for perjury—so long as the lies are to Democrats in Congress—and Trump has surrounded himself with liars like Lewandowski, so they're doing what they do: lying.
The mechanism the law has to keep someone honest is a threat of prosecution; Trump has effectively removed that—so what you're getting are witnesses whose combativeness, self-contradictions, and outright lies confirm that they think there are no consequences for their actions.
A day like this makes me wish I had some vodka in the house.

Added added note: Just to show that I'm serious about getting rid of Pelosi, I've embedded an interview with the woman who should replace her. Agatha Bacelar is the real deal. I agree with her on pretty much all of the big issues, and even if I didn't, I think she has the kind of guts that Pelosi lacks. There are other primary challengers in that race: One is a BernieBro (NO!!) and the other looks like a hippie version of Satan. Bacelar is the only real choice here. She's bright, she's young, she's serious, she's articulate. It's her turn.
The entire Democrat leadership in the House are just as guilty as Nancy. Every move made by the House Committees has been met by "no" answers from the Trump-led conspirators. Impeachment is the only weapon available for the President, Vice President and Civil Officers which includes the Cabinet - and convictions by a Republican Senate are not possible.

As for any and all other conspirators, laws have been broken and trials can be requested through the judiciary with penalties up to one year in jail and a $100,000 fine. But courts routinely dismiss these cases as "politics " and nothing happens. So using the power of legislative arrests is worthless as well.

So I am left to conclude that the legislature has no power due to the conduct of the other two branches of government - short of refusing to finance the government. And I am not sure that there is a foolproof way to pull that off since enforcing legislative restrictions has often been ignored.
Now this is not a reason I'm opposed to getting rid of Pelosi.

(Pelosi voice) DON'T WORRY 2020 WILL FIX EVERYTHING!!!!

In all seriousness, it looks like the primary is coming down to Warren vs Biden. Kamala is fading (WHO KNEW BUSING WOULDN'T BE A WINNING STRATEGY?), and thank goodness Bernie has raged himself out of serious contention. I actually enjoy following him onw because his campaign is so bad it's become comic relief. But am I the only one who finds this final two incredibly weak? Neither ran in 2016 because Hillary was too strong. I know it doesn't exactly work this way, but if we couldn't win in 2016 with Hillary, how are we going to win with someone who was too scared to even take on Hillary? I do take real consolation that the nominee isn't Bernie though.
Warren will never kick Biden's ass when he is down. That is not her.
But she won't spare Trump.
Let's give her a chance to shine. She might be the genuine article.
Go back a few administrations to the Democratic victory in 2006 and when Pelosi became Speaker in 2007. At the end of the House session of 2006, the House Judiciary Committee's Democratic minority composed an impeachment case against Bush, submitted by its ranking member, John Conyers (who had investigated election fraud in Ohio after the 2004 election). Conyers became the chairman in 2007. He was quickly visited by the FBI, who had him dead to rights over his using tax-supported staff members to perform personal services, like picking up his dry cleaning. He was reminded that Dr. Cyril Wecht, as Allegheny County's coroner and chief pathologist, had recently been indicted by federal prosecutors for the very same offense. Conyers got a slap on the wrist and acknowledged the ethical breach. He didn't call for any impeachment hearings.

When Speaker Pelosi announced that "impeachment is off the table", she said that after Bush sent the Navy's attack fleet to the Persian Gulf.

Now that Trump, AG Barr, and five reactionary Supreme Court justices have made the law effectively illegal, it's impossible for us, who are way out of our depth right now, to grasp whatever drives Pelosi, who also happens to be third in succession for POTUS as long as the Constitution remains viable, lol. If there were a lottery for the salvation of the republic and democratic rule, I would pick the JCOS to save them.
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Did Nancy Pelosi take Russian money?

After I mentioned reporter Sarah Kendzior in the preceding story, a reader informed me that Kendzior had gone cray-cray. Apparently, Sarah Kendzior accuses Nancy Pelosi of taking Russian money. Kendzior cites a source: A series of tweets by the remarkable Jennifer Cohn (who has done great work on election integrity).

The trouble is, Cohn doesn't really point the finger at Pelosi.

Cohn's tweets are about Leonard Blavatnik, 50th wealthiest man in the world. Born in the USSR, he used to be partnered with Viktor Vekselberg, who indisputably is a sanctioned oligarch (though he is officially listed as an Israeli citizen). Blavatnik now holds dual British/American citizenship, and was actually knighted for his philanthropy.  His conglomerate Access Industries made billions from oil, plastics, chemicals, and aluminum. Stuff like that.


Blavatnik bought Warner Music some years ago, and it looks like he caught the movie bug in a big way. They say he wants to buy a major studio -- probably Sony. Maybe he can patch up that Spider-Man tiff...?

This Hollywood Reporter story discusses Blavatnik's ties to both Russia and Trump. Whatever you do, don't call Blavatnik an oligarch in his presence...
The use of the O-word would annoy Blavatnik, 61. The press-shy billionaire has long maintained that he's not an oligarch but a naturalized American citizen who emigrated from the Soviet Union as a young man in 1978. Nonetheless, he has found himself on the radar of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, according to ABC News. Amid the drumbeat of the probe of Russian interference with the 2016 U.S. election, Blavatnik is on a quest to achieve his stated goal of building a "media platform for the 21st century."
Yes, it is true: Blavatnik gave $124,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2019. He normally gives much, much larger donations to Republicans. He gave a cool million to Donald Trump's notoriously corrupt inaugural committee.

So why the DCCC donation? Looks to me as though the guy is giving just enough money to get an audience with a Democratic congressperson, should the need arise. That sort of thing is pretty common.

There's another possible reason. Since Blavatnik is trying to establish himself in Hollywood, he probably needs to distance himself from Trump. The Hollywood Reporter story mentioned above drops some impressive names -- Martin Scorcese and Steven Spielberg and Buz Luhrman and so on. While traveling in that world, Blavatnik would find it advisable to claim that he donates to both parties.

I'm increasingly annoyed by Pelosi, and I'm now open to the idea of replacing her. But Kendzior's claim -- though technically accurate -- is over-the-top.

In the past, some people have called me a conspiracy theorist, while others have called me an opponent of conspiracy theorists. What I oppose are people addicted to playing an adult version of "cooties." There's a picture of Naomi Watts sitting at a restaurant table with Leonard Blavatnik. That doesn't mean she's a secret agent working for Putin. 
Wow, thank you for taking my comment seriously! And thanks for the follow up research.
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Monday, September 16, 2019

There's less hope

A follow-up to our previous story, by way of the superb Sarah Kendzior:
The Manhattan DA who subpoenaed Trump's taxes is Cy Vance. Vance is known for protecting elite criminals. Among those he aided are Weinstein, Epstein, Strauss-Kahn, and Donald Jr and Ivanka Trump. Temper your expectations.
Vance appears multiple times in my upcoming book, which spans decades, just like Vance's contribution to a culture of elite criminal impunity!
Y'know, if George Soros really were what the right imagines him to be, he'd find some way to top Trump's bribe, if Trump has offered one. 

But if Vance is going to kill this thing, why did the subpoena even happen?

The New Yorker was all over this story two years ago. October 4, 2017:
In the spring of 2012, Donald Trump’s two eldest children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump, Jr., found themselves in a precarious legal position. For two years, prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office had been building a criminal case against them for misleading prospective buyers of units in the Trump SoHo, a hotel and condo development that was failing to sell. Despite the best efforts of the siblings’ defense team, the case had not gone away. An indictment seemed like a real possibility. The evidence included e-mails from the Trumps making clear that they were aware they were using inflated figures about how well the condos were selling to lure buyers.
Ivanka might have spent some time in a new vacation spot where her wardrobe would have been as orange as her father's face. Ah, but then Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz entered the scene. He had donated $25,000 to Vance's re-election effort -- not an overwhelmingly huge sum, but it seems to have made an impression.
On May 16, 2012, Kasowitz visited Vance’s office at One Hogan Place, in downtown Manhattan—a faded edifice made famous by the television show “Law & Order.” Dan Alonso, the Chief Assistant District Attorney, and Adam Kaufmann, the chief of the investigative division, were also at the meeting, but no one from the Major Economic Crimes Bureau attended. Kasowitz did not introduce any new arguments or facts during his session. He simply repeated the arguments that the other defense lawyers had been making for months.

Ultimately, Vance overruled his own prosecutors. Three months after the meeting, he told them to drop the case. Kasowitz subsequently boasted to colleagues about representing the Trump children, according to two people. He said that the case was “really dangerous,” one person said, and that it was “amazing I got them off.” (Kasowitz denied making such a statement.)
Larger donations followed. Vance and Kasowitz denied a quid pro quo.

The Trump SoHo project involved Felix Sater, whose ties to the Russian criminal underworld (or should that be overworld?) were discussed in many previous posts, and Tevfik Arif, who went to extraordinary lengths to make sure that the world knows that he had nothing to do with underaged prostitutes being used to blackmail VIPs. So whatever you do, don't accuse him of that.

Also: Any suggestion that Vance might be caught up in a kompromat operation would be completely irresponsible, so don't even let that thought enter your head.

Nevertheless, I must ask: Have you noticed any right-wingers subjecting Vance to character assassination? There's really only one way to tell whether Vance is honest: If the InfoWars/Fox/Breitbart crowd continually screams "He's no good!" -- he's good. But if they don't go after Vance, he's dirty.

I'm serious. That's the only way to know.

The New Yorker published a follow-up piece on Vance on October 13.
I use to follow her all the time, but a heads up that Sarah Kendzior has gone crah-crah lately. She's now saying Pelosi won't support impeachment because she's being funded by the Russian mafia. Just a heads up.
If anyone else said this, I'd dismiss the idea.

Truth be told, I'm getting pissed at Pelosi.
Oh, I'm also upset at Pelosi. This muddled impeachment inquiry is madness. But saying she's doing this because she's bought off by the Russian mob is insane. She's just temperamentally too cautious to launch an aggressive impeachment vote without overwhelming support from the public.
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It' a strange and rare day when Mr. Doom N. Gloom uses the H word. But this news warrants it.
State prosecutors in Manhattan have subpoenaed President Trump’s accounting firm to demand eight years of his personal and corporate tax returns, according to several people with knowledge of the matter.
We can't expect much from the Federal prosecutors in New York. There's a reason why Preet Bharara was canned. Obviously, this latest development has some connection to the Michael Cohen proffer. Stormy and Karen may eventually prove to be Trump's undoing, but right now, they aren't nearly as important to me as the possibility of seeing those tax returns.

Of course, Trump will fight this all the way to the Supreme Court, if he can. And he controls the Supremes. So there's not that much hope.

Added note: An NYT reader submitted this comment...
His accounting firm got the subpoena, and it is a State subpoena. Trump has no control over it.
Can Trump's attorneys somehow stop the accountants from complying with that subpoena? I suspect that a whole lotta history hangs on that question.
He will likely file suit against the accounting firms, they way he did against DeutscheBank. (And use campaign funds to do it, of course.)

But here he's on shaky ground.

That doesn't mean he won't do everything he can to delay. Of course he will. And to distract. Of course he will.

Nothing threatens him more than the world finding out that he isn't a billionaire.
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Kavanaugh again

We should never lose sight of the fact that, even if no women had accused him of wrongdoing, Kavanaugh's corruption was provable and damnable. He committed perjury during his testimony by lying about stolen confidential documents. On September 6, 2018, Senator Patrick Leahy tweeted:
“It is simply not ‘normal’ to get real-time insider intelligence from a Democratic 'mole'” and marked 'spying.' Red flags abound. And with 102,000 documents withheld by the Trump WH, mostly about judicial noms, we can bet there’s more.”
Indeed there was. During his early appeals court confirmation, Kavanaugh had falsely testified that he “was not involved and am not involved in the questions about the rules governing detention of combatants.” In fact, the Trump administration to enormous lengths to hide what Kavanaugh did as Dubya's Staff Secretary. Such evidence as we do have indicates that he played a major role in all of the most controversial decisions.

Odd, is it not, how Trump bent over backwards to cover up the crimes of W? Trump didn't even like Kavanaugh -- and he sure as hell never liked W. Michael Wolff's Siege makes this clear, and so do many other sources.

The tweet embedded above proves that Trump's Department of Justice has become an institution devoted to hyperpartisan vindictiveness. Who paid off Kavanaugh's impressive credit card debt? That's no small matter. If any Dem nominee had that sort of "secret Santa," the right would be screaming like an army of banshees.

You may recall that, after the Blasey Ford testimony, a "gang of four" senators demanded an FBI investigation of the claims against Kavanaugh. Liberals were full of good ideas as to how this inquiry should be conducted. But -- in yet another example of Trump's corruption of the DOJ -- the fix was in.
As Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh prepares for his second year on the Supreme Court, new reporting has detailed how the limits ordered by the White House and Senate Republicans last year constrained the FBI investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct when he was a college freshman.

The FBI was informed of allegations that Kavanaugh, while drunk during his freshman year at Yale, exposed himself to two heavily intoxicated female classmates on separate occasions. The bureau did not interview more than a dozen people who said they could provide information about the incidents.

One of the accounts, reported by Deborah Ramirez, was made public at the time of Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings. The other, not publicly known until this weekend, was reported by a male classmate who said he witnessed the incident. He unsuccessfully sought to get the FBI to investigate with help from a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee who asked FBI Director Christopher A. Wray to look into the allegation.
Perhaps the most notable Kavanaugh's defenders is Juanita Broaddrick, the woman who accuses Bill Clinton of rape. Here's her latest...
You know what’s sick about all of this.......Judge Kavanaugh and his family. We are sorry, Judge, you are being subjected to this crap, again. We stand with you.
This, despite the fact that Christine Blasey Ford offered sworn testimony. When Broaddrick was asked to tell her story under oath, she said that Clinton was innocent.

But that's not all: When she decided to change her story -- that is, after it became clear how much money Gennifer Flowers and Paula Jones had made -- her story kept growing and growing. Eventually, she said that he bit her lip, which was bruised and bleeding afterward. But the man she was married to at the time, Gary Hickey, never saw such an injury.
One year later, Broaddrick filed divorce papers against Hickey, claiming he struck her on the mouth. Was that the only time?
It seems ludicrous to suggest that two separate men kept going after the same woman's lip. It's also ludicrous to suggest that Broaddrick was raped by Clinton even though, a short while later, whe quite happily attended a Clinton fundraiser.

Yes, I know -- there are scumball "feminists" out there who will now pounce on me. They will say that it makes perfect sense for a rape victim to smile and smile while attending a fundraiser for the guy who committed such a horrible crime against her. My response to feminists of that sort: FUCK YOU. Believe it or not, I've heard your rap -- heard it endlessly, for more than half a century -- and I have decided against you. Permanently. We are enemies forever. I used to consider myself pro-feminist and I remain committed to the principle of gender equality, but I parted ways with the current crop of feminists when they parted ways with common sense.

Any claimed "rape victim" who attends a fundraiser for her alleged abuser should never be believed. That's common sense. Any counter-arguments are casuistry, and any citations of bogus psychological studies (probably conducted by feminists of the most maniacal sort) are laughable.

In short: I do not believe Juanita Broaddrick. I would not believe her if she were my sister, mother, or daughter. Anyone who defends her hilariously illogical story on pseudofeminist grounds is a de facto Republican propagandist.

But I do find Christine Blasey Ford very credible.

You know who else felt (and probably still feels) the same way? Donald Trump. "Very credible" were his exact words. We know that he privately despised Kavanaugh, whom he considered a "Bush guy."

Christine Blasey Ford offered him an exit ramp. And I am certain that he was tempted, for a while, to take it. So why didn't he?

Now that is one of the most interesting questions of this whole wretched presidency. If you look carefully enough at the Kavanaugh matter, you will see indications that there are powers above and beyond Trump, manipulating him into doing things he'd rather not do.

(The recent drone attack in Saudi Arabia: Is that another example of those "powers" at work? Very possibly.)

One power above and beyond Trump would be the Federalist Society. I'll have much more to say about them, either in this blog or in a book. They are a real-world example of a powerful secret society funded by mysterious figures and run by a man whose true allegiance goes to the Knights of Malta. That secret society has a long and (at times) bloody history of undermining democracy.

The preceding paragraph may sound Alex Jonesian, but I can defend every word with citations of responsible sources, the sort of sources that academics take seriously.

A Federalist Society hack gave us this shit. I would love for author Mollie Hemingway to explain why Gary Hickey's direct statement deserves to be dismissed while Leland Keyser's much vaguer statement must be taken ultra-seriously. (I suspect that Keyser simply doesn't want to talk about a party he'd prefer not to recall.)
The Federalist Society hack has a trifecta of Federalist Society, Hillsdale College and Fox News.
Forget the sex, it's about the money. I've bought shared season tickets, my brother has bought shared season tickets, my good friend bought shared season tickets. Kavanaugh's story makes zero sense to anybody who knows anything about how these things work.
Wray is listed as a “Contributor” on the Fed Soc website.

The Federalist Society is a dangerous bunch of termites, eating away at our democracy.

I’ll look forward to reading more about them, but I think it all comes down to money and using the courts to kill what’s left of the New Deal and Progressive Era reforms, and return us to an updated version of, say, the 1850’s. Not slavery per se, too expensive to actually own and maintain. But a Constitutionally grounded class of second-class citizens.

As far as Juanita Broaderick is concerned, even Ken Starr couldn’t use her story. If that shit hound couldn’t find anything, there was nothing to be found.

By the way, skip impeachment, elect a Democrat and indict Kavanaugh for the perjury he committed.
As a relative young one who was not old enough to follow or understand the Clinton stuff in real time, with the perspective of reading about it all, and specifically Broaderick, in hindsight, there is zero doubt in my mind she is completely full of shit. Here is the IMO, the most concise summary of the evidence.

* Ken freaking Starr of all people found her story, in his words, "inconclusive". Even if the story couldn't be proven but could be used to smear Bill, Starr would've used it. The fact that he couldn't even do this says a lot.

* The Broaderick allegations only became public after Starr released his report and Republicans were nervous there wasn't enough in the report to justify impeachment. So they used Broaderick as a Hail Mary to convince Republicans who were on the fence. If they actually found her story even vaguely credible, like Starr, they would've been screaming from the rooftops about it way earlier.

* Broaderick also blames Hillary for what happened. To me, this is the simplest tell she's lying. I have never heard a victim of rape, in real life or fiction, blame the spouse of the assailant for what happened. It makes less than zero sense. What would we think of Blassey Ford if she went on a media tour and also blamed Kavanaugh's wife or then-girlfriend for what happened? It's absolutely, completely insane. But, whaddya know, Broaderick blaming Hillary just oh-so-happens to perfectly align with the GOP's political goals.

* The stories of the two other high profile women to accuse Bill of sexual misconduct, Paula Jones and Kathleen Wiley, were found to be false, and both women financially gained from their activities.

* Don't forget 95% of what we've heard is Broaderick's side of the story. These things change a lot when you hear both sides.

* This last one is more speculative and not part of the definitive case I use, but I personally find it very notable. Bill's interactions with Monica were documented in excruciating, and frankly disgusting, detail. In those interactions Bill had about a million opportunities to display abusive behavior. But, he never did. Despite having every opportunity to do so, he never, not once, did anything abusive toward Monica, and IMO, treated her with more respect than would be expected given the situation. If Bill were actually a serial abuser like his critics suggest, I found it hard to believe he would never show those behaviors toward Monica.

Bill is an adulterer. No one disputes this including him. But he's not an abuser.
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Sunday, September 15, 2019

Biden-related. Also: Schiff's complaint.

As readers know, I believe that Joe Biden must not be the nominee. He has a minor scandal in his past which will be treated as THE WORST THING EVER if it comes out at the right time.

For a while, I was in the Kamala Harris camp, until she insisted on playing the game of "make the old white guy apologize because he opposed busing." As if forced busing were the magic ingredient that's going to win over those fickle purple state voters. As if there were all sorts of farmers in rural Wisconsin who spent 2016 telling each other: "Well, I can't vote for Hillary. She hasn't said one word in favor of forced busing!"

So I guess you can call me an Elizabeth Warren man at the moment. Although I also like Cory Booker, who struck exactly the right note in the last debate -- a big, friendly, relatable, really smart guy. And it must be admitted that Beto O'Rourke helped his cause tremendously. Even if this election is not his to win, he'll probably be on the ticket one day.

That said, Joy Reid's antipathy toward Biden has made her unwatchable. I used to think the world of Reid -- hell, I doubt that I could have survived 2016 without her. But she really pisses me off now.

There's also this shit. As usual, white-n-woke progs insist on proving their anti-racist credentials by going after the candidate favored by black voters. If black voters say "Hey, I like this guy!", the white-n-woke types will scream racist racist racist incessantly, like one of those old-fashioned car alarms that never stops blaring. Progs did this same thing in 2016. And where did that get us? 

Here's a strong hint of what's about to hit us:

The "blame Ukraine" ploy will fit right in with the Trumpian propaganda barrage regarding FISA warrants, Jim Comey, Andrew McCabe and Michael Flynn. As I've said before: The Trumpists are going to turn Russiagate against the Dems, and they are going to do so via a Chewbacca defense. It goes without saying that the rightwingers will buy into all of this; those guys were born to be bamboozled by the Chewbacca defense.

What bothers me most of all are the lefties who will give credence to this revisionist drivel. I'm not just talking about known assholes like Greenwald and Taibbi; we're also going to get a lot of horse manure from people like Reid, Virginia Heffernan, Krystal Ball, Michael Moore, and the whole Bernie-or-bust crowd. (Maher? Colbert? I hope not.)

Of course, that same crowd will also buy into the Epstein/Clinton Big Smear when it is unveiled. It's gonna hit us at the psychologically (or politically) perfect moment. The perfection of the timing will indicate the falsity of the charge.

(Don't forget: For a good long while, lefties bought into the Whitewater canard. That smear might be considered a Chewbacca offense.)

About that complaint. As most of you know, Adam Schiff officially complained that Trump's intelligence apparat is deliberately hiding an important whistleblower complaint.  I was surprised at the lack of speculation as to what the whistlebower might be blowing the whistle about.

Come on. This is the internet. Speculation is what we do.

Finally, Rayne on Emptywheel gives us some good old-fashioned tea-leaf reading. I thought that the matter might have something to with that Iranian satellite photo, but Rayne's timeline proves that things were a-stir before that sorry business occurred. These would be the key dates:
28-JUL-2019 — Coats’ departure and John Ratcliffe nominated as replacement announced by Trump via Twitter.

02-AUG-2019 — Ratcliffe withdraws from consideration. [UPDATE-2b]

08-AUG-2019 — Primary Deputy Director DNI Sue Gordon resigned effective 15-AUG-2019, without additional prior notice, as ordered. Resignation letter without handwritten note.

Copy of former PDDNI’s resignation letter with handwritten cover: ODNI_LTR_08AUG2019

12-AUG-19 — ICIG received the whistleblower compaint, via Schiff’s 10-SEP letter [UPDATE-1]
So perhaps the weird vacancy in the DNI's office has some link to what's going on. Marcy Wheeler also seems to be thinking along these lines.
Note the whistleblower complaint the Acting DNI is suppressing would date to not long after Susan Gordon was tired.
I think she means "fired" or "retired." We've all been tired since Trump took the oath of office.

A couple of response tweets are worthy of note:
Maybe not? I thought this report was weird at the time, but it makes sense now. Coats barged into Gordon’s meeting and encouraged her to resign. Possibly he knew of the whistleblower and didn’t want Gordon take the blame? She left the same day he did.
My theory is Trump found out that Coates knew about whatever so he fired him. Coates had told Gordon about it so he then told her to quit before Trump found out she knew too and fired her.
This still doesn't tell us what "whatever" is. It may have to do with North Korea; it may have to do with Saudi Arabia; it may have to do with Russia.

Iran? Hm. Maybe. Maybe that is why John Bolton resigned or was fired.

Or maybe this has more to do with the likelihood that Trump asked Coats, Ratcliff and Gordon for personal loyalty oaths. Right now, that's the simplest and most logical theory.

All I know is, we have a number of people involved with that scramble for the DNI's chair, and so far they haven't blabbed about what really happened. Someone is going to have to go on the record, and damn the consequences.
If there really was a "scandal" in Biden's past, it would have come out a long, long time ago. Biden has been in the public eye for something like fifty years. I don't think anything would ever derail his candidacy. I think somebody told you a bunch of b.s.

BTW, Booker is completely on my shitlist because of his support of public education privatization schemes. He is a big charter school supporter, worse even than Obama was, and that is completely disqualifying.

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Friday, September 13, 2019

McCabe: More innocent than a ham sandwich

One of the most ominous developments in recent times is the Administration's decision to bring charges against former FBI leader Andrew McCabe, who displeased Trump and thus became the target of a nonstop hate campaign. He was fired over what appears to be an unimportant, nonsensical brouhaha over authorizing two FBI agents to speak to a Wall Street Journal reporter. McCabe claims that the whole thing was just a misunderstanding.

I've never had a moment's doubt that these charges are bullshit, and that McCabe's persecution is nothing more than a characteristically Trumpian vendetta against a perceived enemy. Yet over on the right, McCabe has received the worse-than-Ted-Bundy treatment. It's absolute mob hysteria over there -- torches, pitchforks, chanting: Kill the pig! Cut his throat! Kill the pig! Bash him in! Whenever I see the rightists in full frenzy, I'm reminded of the climactic scene of Ken Russell's The Devils, except Ken was more subtle.

Trump has literally accused McCabe of treason. On what grounds? God knows.

In a development both amusing and astonishing, it now appears that Barr could not even get a Grand Jury to indict McCabe. For more details, see Lawfare.
Did a federal grand jury refuse to hand up an indictment of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe?

No media organization has reported that this is what happened Thursday, but something clearly happened when the grand jury met—and that something wasn’t the McCabe indictment that everyone was expecting.
Is it true? Is such a thing even possible?

If so...hilarious! We've all heard the saying: A prosecutor's office can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. Apparently, your average ham sandwich is a bigger sinner than Andrew McCabe.
Without saying a word in defense of McCabe’s conduct—which, if accurately described by the inspector general, is condemnable—there are good reasons to be anxious about a case that both seems far from the sort normally prosecuted and involves someone the president has singled out for persecution. There have also long been reasons to doubt the strength of the case, not the least of which is that two of the prosecutors who supervised it have dropped off the matter.
Hey, I'll defend McCabe's conduct. And I refuse to stipulate the impartiality of the inspector general's work. I've argued for a while now that we cannot trust the DOJ Inspector General, Michael Horowitz.

If I may repeat a few paragraphs from an earlier post...
It seems very likely that the Inspector General of the Justice Department -- Michael Horowitz -- has been compromised. I seem to be the only one who has repeatedly pointed out something that should be more widely discussed: As recently as last January, the Alt Right and Russian trolls waged all-out war against Horowitz. Even though he was little-known to the public at large, even though the average person never thinks about the DOJ's IG, the online brownshirts and made him the target of a vicious hate campaign.

Suddenly, suspiciously, the hate stopped. By the end of January, Horowitz had joined the campaign to demonize Hillary. The IG, formerly considered close kin to Comey, is now the Justice Department's answer to Devin Nunes -- and the Alt Righties no longer have a problem with Michael Horowitz.

Kompromat? Threats? Some other form of pressure? Hard to dismiss such ideas. That's how Trump and Putin do business.
Here's an important fact that you need to know: Although 99% of the American population does not know his name, there was a time when Russian trolls fixated on Horowitz. The same sites that spread Pizzagate stories have also accused Horowitz of being a Soros stooge. This, despite the fact that he was actually something of a thorn in the side of the Obama administration, even though Obama appointed him.

The Russian propaganda attacks on Horowitz came to a sudden stop some months ago. Suddenly, tellingly, he's a good guy again -- the one Obama appointee that the Trumpists have decided they like. Compare this propaganda broadside from last December to this one, published in February. Within that short span of time, something changed. Something clicked into place.
It was Horowitz who bestowed the Peter Strzok texts upon the world, giving the propagandists an enormous supply of ammunition. Remember when the Trumpist media rewrote the same outraged articles day after day for weeks, always pretending that the Strzok texts were a new story?
The right-wing hate machine is a very revealing device. When the machine pinpoints an individual, you know that said individual poses a possible threat to Trump's power. When the machine suddenly stops, you know that said individual has been either recruited or rendered harmless.

Barr is Beria to Trump's Stalin, and Horowitz is Barr's creature. With guys like that in charge of the Justice Department, we're all in trouble.
Its really just a cautionary tale, I think. Regardless of what happens to McCabe, all of the trashing of Comey, McCabe, Ohr, the weather service guys, etc is a signal to everyone else -- stay in line and do what you're told or else Trump will destroy you next!
They don't care whether McCabe is actually guilty, or even whether he is found guilty sometime in a year or so. They just want him to have to spend a hundred thousand dollars on lawyers to fight the case.

In August, McCabe filed suit against the Trump administration for "unlawful" termination, claiming that it was the result of Trump's vindictive vendetta against him. A grand jury rejecting the Justice Department's push to prosecute should help McCabe's case immensely. And it will all play out for the nightly news during the 2020 election campaign.

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Thursday, September 12, 2019

I don't know who those protesters were...

I'm writing this directly after hearing protesters harass Biden's final debate answer. Right now, I don't know who those protesters are or what position they espouse or what they hoped to accomplish.

All I know is this: I wish they all had but one skull and I had but one hammer. A big, heavy, iron hammer.

With friends like these...

A friend to this blog directs our attention to this tweet from the extraordinary Carole Cadwalladr:
"£4,563,350,000 of aggregate short positions on a ‘no deal’ Brexit have been taken out by hedge funds that directly or indirectly bankrolled Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign"
Oh. You’re shocked by that? Watch this. This is one of Johnson’s donors. Who also backed Vote Leave. Talking about ‘the morning that has gold in its mouth’ when he woke up £220million richer on June 24
These crooks are profiting from the destruction of the west.

Israeli spying. Here's another example of unfriendliness from a "friend"...
The U.S. government concluded within the past two years that Israel was most likely behind the placement of cellphone surveillance devices that were found near the White House and other sensitive locations around Washington, according to three former senior U.S. officials with knowledge of the matter.

But unlike most other occasions when flagrant incidents of foreign spying have been discovered on American soil, the Trump administration did not rebuke the Israeli government, and there were no consequences for Israel’s behavior, one of the former officials said.

The miniature surveillance devices, colloquially known as “StingRays,” mimic regular cell towers to fool cellphones into giving them their locations and identity information. Formally called international mobile subscriber identity-catchers or IMSI-catchers, they also can capture the contents of calls and data use.

The devices were likely intended to spy on President Donald Trump, one of the former officials said, as well as his top aides and closest associates — though it’s not clear whether the Israeli efforts were successful.
My god. The sheer balls. Yes, I know that everyone spies on everyone else. I'm quite sure that our intelligence agencies find ways to eavesdrop on Netanyahu. But to do this so obviously and so brazenly...!

I've been saying for a while now that kompromat is king in the modern era. I've come up with a name for this new system: Kompromacry.

Some people have wondered how Michael Wolff attained copies of phone conversations Trump had with his intimates. Many of those conversations were with Steve Bannon, who seems to be one of Wolff's bestest buds. (They shared a friendship with Jeffrey Epstein.) But what of the other conversations?

Maybe Wolff got the details from the Israelis. Maybe Seige was a warning to Trump: Give Bibi everything and anything he wants, or the next Wolff book will contain the really embarrassing shit.

(No, I can't find anything to indicate that Wolff is a sayan. But he was friendly with Epstein, and reasonable people suspect that Epstein had relations with Mossad.)

The NY Post uncritically relays Bibi's denial that he spied on Trump. Consider that confirmation of the original story.
Let’s not be naive about the spy business: everybody spies on everybody else. We spy on them too. There are no innocent parties here. As an anonymous former U.S. intelligence officer was quoted in the Politico article: "Guess what we do in Tel Aviv?"

But another possibility comes from the New York Times back on 10/24/2018: "American spy agencies… learned that China and Russia were eavesdropping on the president’s cellphone calls from human sources inside foreign governments and intercepting communications between foreign officials.”

China, Russia and Israel love Donald, as can be determined from the large number of StingRay-equipped fake cell towers discovered.
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The Chewbacca defense -- or: With Flynns like these, who needs frenemies?

I'm glad someone is paying attention to the right's strenuous efforts to make Michael Flynn look like a saint. That someone is, of course, Marcy Wheeler.

Flynn's lawyers have been demanding, and receiving, all sorts of materials which (they claim) exonerate their client. None of it actually is exonerative.

Take, for example, the polygraph test that Flynn passed in April of 2016. "Horseshit," says Marcy. "How does passing a poly exonerate you from committing a bunch of crimes after you pass it?"

Unfortunately, if you pile up enough horseshit, you can make a mighty fort. See here and here. Most on the left aren't paying attention to what's happening on the right side of the aisle.

What are the Fox Newsers and their ideological compatriots hoping to accomplish? Obviously, they are preparing the way for a presidential pardon of Michael Flynn.

The right is using what South Park fans call a Chewbacca defense -- a confusing mish-mash of non-sequiturs and irrelevant details -- to divert us from the basic facts of the case. And they'll get away with it, too -- because most Americans have forgotten what Flynn actually did. I'm quite certain that most of the talking heads on MSNBC don't have a secure grasp on the story.

Here's a brief reminder of just part of that story.

While Michael Flynn was Trump's foreign policy adviser, he took a cool half-million bucks to lobby on behalf of Turkey. Flynn was not a registered agent at the time. There's a law against that.

This fine New Yorker article gives us to lowdown. In July of 2016 -- note the date, polygraph fans -- Flynn gave a speech excoriating Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whom Flynn accused of being an Islamist. There was a coup against Erdoğan going on at that moment; Flynn supported it.

The coup failed; Erdoğan solidified power. He blamed the coup on a cleric named Fethullah Gülen, who now lives in the U.S. changed hands.

Ah, the magic of money! All of a sudden, Flynn became  Erdoğan's biggest supporter in the US. And Flynn now hated this Gülen fellow, whom he had supported just weeks earlier.
A week later, an op-ed appeared in The Hill, a Washington, D.C., newspaper, authored by Flynn. It heralded Turkey as “our greatest ally” against the Islamic State; accused Obama of “keeping Erdogan’s government at arm’s length”; and described Gülen as a “false façade,” a closet supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood—the Islamist political movement founded in Egypt—and “Turkey’s Osama Bin Laden.”
That characterization of Gülen isn't accurate -- but even if it were, we must not miss the larger point. The point is this: Flynn had supported that coup as it was happening. He's on tape. He can't deny what he said. Flynn changed his views 180 degrees the moment Turkey paid him.

Moreover, he even participated in a plot to kidnap Gülen and hand him over to certain death.

That's the utterly corrupt, money-obsessed creep Trump chose to be National Security Adviser. A mercy-free money-grubber. The moment Flynn got his cash, he was willing to help the Turks kill someone he (Flynn) once supported. As Marcy put it in a tweet:
Again, those defending Flynn are defending him hiding that he was working for a frenemy govt while getting Top Secret briefings as Trump's top Natsec advisor during the campaign.
Moreover, Flynn backed a plan to transfer nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia -- a country which absolutely should not have such capability. Why are we so terrified of Iran getting the bomb when Saudi Arabia is even more corrupt and less democratic?
The proposal, which involved enlisting the U.S. nuclear power industry to build nuclear plants across the Middle East, was backed by a group of retired generals who formed a firm called IP3. Flynn described himself in financial disclosure filings as an "advisor" to a subsidiary of IP3, IronBridge Group Inc., from June 2016 to December 2016 — at the same time he was serving as Trump's national security adviser during the presidential campaign and the presidential transition, the report says.

The report quotes one senior Trump official as saying that the proposal was "not a business plan," but rather "a scheme for these generals to make some money," and added, "OK, you know we cannot do this."
The Saudi nuclear deal would have been completely illegal, for reasons outlined here.

Of course, Flynn pled guilty to making false statements to the FBI. All of that nonsense about an earlier polygraph test is completely irrelevant. It is, in a word, horseshit

So many scandals have happened during this presidency, we forget the details. Most of us have forgotten what Flynn actually did. Frankly, if I wanted to go into all of it, I would have to write a much longer post.

Flynn's lawyers and defenders are using trickery and casuistry to bamboozle the public. Alas, this tactic will probably succeed. Flynn's pardon is in the bag.

Despite the utter hopelessness of it all, I encourage you to read Marcy's point-by-point takedown of the current right-wing efforts to rehabilitate Flynn. Compare her masterful argument to this shit from Fox:
UK memo warned about dossier author’s 'credibility,' Flynn team alleges in explosive filing
The dossier? The freakin' dossier? What the hell does the dossier have to do with Turkey? With Saudi Arabia? With lying to the FBI? What does it have to do with anything relevant?

Folks, what the right is dishing out really is a classic example of the Chewbacca defense. "If Chewbacca lives on Endor, you must acquit!" That's what it comes to. Nothing more.
Regarding Flynn, or at least Flynn-adjacent, check out this new article about Dogu Perincek. It may help to explain Flynn's "flip-flop" on Turkey in 2016.

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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Bolton bolts -- and more

Every other day, we see a headline that makes us say "Woah." Today's big woah: Trump has fired John Bolton. Or did he?

Trump tweeted that he fired Bolton last night; Bolton says that he offered his resignation last night and Trump asked to sleep on it. Fox News host Brian Kilmeade said on the air: "John Bolton just texted me. Just now. He's watching. And he said, 'Let's be clear. I resigned.'"

We never get a straight story from these guys, do we? Not even on the trivial details. Remember the "men in a tiger suit" routine from Monty Python's Meaning of Life? Everything always has to be like that. (See the video embedded above. Classic.)

So what was the main point of friction between Bolton and Trump? Everyone knows that Bolton is a War Guy -- specifically, he wants war with Iran NOW NOW NOW. Trump knows that an Iraq-style mistake is one of the few things he could do that would severely diminish support from all of the Joe SixPacks in his base.

I've long felt that the neocons have been attempting to force Trump into a war, using various covert ops -- like the time the "Iranians" (obviously MEK guys) attacked that tanker. Was Bolton party to these various schemes? Wouldn't be surprised.

As much as I hate to applaud anything that Trump does, I can applaud this move. Sure, getting rid of Bolton will annoy the neocons, but nowadays Trump probably doesn't care if they make annoyed grunting noises. He has solidified his power -- and I'm quite certain that his power is based on kompromat.

Interesting tweet from reporter Kate Bennett:
A source of mine who is close with Bolton texts to say, "Man, you don't want Bolton on the outside shooting at you." This could get ...interesting.
Maybe. But I'll say it again: Trump's power is based on kompromat. How much freedom to speak will Bolton have? Let's put it another way: How much criticism have we heard from Jim Mattis, Don McGahn, Paul Ryan, and a host of others? McGahn detests Trump, but he won't say one unkind word about the guy in public. The only former Trumpist who seems able to speak his mind is good ol' Mooch, whose teevee appearances I quite enjoy. He should have his own channel. Mooch TV.

For what it is worth, Bill Palmer has a theory that the Bolton/Trump contretemps is really about Mike Pence. Kinda.
Yesterday, CNN reported that Mike Pence and John Bolton had both tried to talk Donald Trump out of hosting the Taliban at Camp David. At the time, Palmer Report pointed out that this leak could only have come from Pence and Bolton, because they didn’t want to take the blame for Trump’s asinine idea. This came even as Trump was insisting on Twitter that he had nothing to do with Pence’s decision to stay at a Trump resort on the taxpayer dime.

Donald Trump was so bothered by yesterday’s leak, he immediately insisted on Twitter that the whole story was false. But he obviously knew it was true. Trump presumably wanted to fire Mike Pence over it, but after his handlers explained to him that he can’t fire Pence in the middle of a presidential term, he decided to fire John Bolton instead.
Y'know, this makes some sense, although I strongly doubt that it happened just like that. Obviously, someone leaked the Taliban story, probably because someone felt incensed by the thought of an American president meeting with Al Qaeda's buddies on American soil on (or near) the date September 11. Maybe that someone was Pence. Maybe it was Bolton. Maybe both.

A word about Afghanistan. Yes, it's long past time for American involvement in the Afghan war to stop. But our exit will insure a Taliban takeover, just as our exit from Vietnam insured a Vietcong takeover. Trump wants to negotiate a face-saving arrangement in which the Taliban get control of the country after they say something along the lines of "We don't like Al Qaeda any more."

That's probably the way things will go down after the election. It's all bullshit, and everyone involved knows it.

Scotland. We've been going through a Scottish phase in this household, although my ladyfriend will never admit that it all started when she got hooked on the Outlander TV series. ("Sing me a song of a lad who is long/Say, could that lad do I?")

Turns out Scotland has been burbling in the background of current events for quite some time. Most of us have not noticed this burbling, but Rayne on the Emptywheel blog has been keeping track. She draws our attention to the University of Stirling, the former employer of the mysteriously-missing Joseph Mifsud, "the Russian agent who told Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos that Russia had Hillary Clinton emails."
You probably read reporting on Mifsud’s mid-2017 disappearance. If you haven’t, check out the detailed profile on this archived page and the University of Stirling’s student newspaper online. Read them while you can; our fellow contributor Jim White noted in January 2018 how Mifsud’s profile online was being scrubbed (indeed, the underlying source for the archived site above has an odd habit of going offline erratically).

What puzzles me after reading quite a lot about Mifsud: how did the London Academy of Diplomacy end up at Stirling — who suggested it, set up the curriculum, funded it?

Why does LAD look like a clone of DAL — the Diplomatic Academy of London — but located in Stirling instead of London?

And why Stirling, Scotland, located a mere 17 miles from Gleneagles Hotel, far away from the United Kingdom’s diplomatic action? Its population is around 36,000, it’s located inland away from an ocean port, and it doesn’t even have an airport.
Those are damned good questions. And there was much more Scottish skullduggery afoot...
Why, for instance, did Steve Bannon show up at a “secret” meeting hosted by think tank Scotland International Ltd. (SIL) at Gleneagles in early December 2017? SIL was founded and funded by investment banker Sir Angus Grossart; the think tank hosts a “secret” meeting each year.

Bannon also met with former Ukip leader Nigel Farage and Tory MP Jacob Rees Mogg that same trip — both of whom are staunch Brexit supporters.
Bannon’s appearance at SIL also hasn’t aged well; his host Grossart received the Pushkin medal from Putin in October 2018, which didn’t agree with Scotland and the rest of the UK after the Skripals’ poisoning. Why does Bannon’s circle have so few degrees of separation from Russia and Putin, even in Scotland?
Now, as it happens, one of my ladyfriend's relatives has been dating a Scot. Naturally, we spent some time talking about Brexit -- and about Scottish independence. If Brexit turns out as disastrously as the Alt Rightists want it to turn out...and if Scottish independence is once again on the ballot...

Well. Things could turn out very differently.

Remember when we found out that the groups pushing for Californian independence have strong ties to Russia? Putin is pulling the same "Fracture Thy Enemy" bullshit in the UK. There is even strong talk of Welsh independence.

Malcolm Nance has been doing some interesting work on Trump's Scottish scandal.
Wales voted decisively to leave the EU, just like England. They aren't going anywhere.

As for Scotland, any independence would be disastrous as their economy relies entirely on hand-outs from England and a rapidly dwindling oil export trade. Scotland only united with England in the first place so we would pay off their debts, and it's been likewise ever since.

Trump's mother was from Scotland.

The IRA's Facebook spending before the election has been widely reported to have included anti-Trump messaging. $5,000 was spent on promoting a documentary called "You've Been Trumped Too". This is a sequel to "You've Been Trumped", which chronicles Trump's attempts to build a gold course near Aberdeen, and the election of one of his victims as Scot of the Year.
Joseph says: "Every other day, we see a headline that makes us say 'Woah'."

Horses don't pull up to things that rhyme with Noah. ('Whoa' gained wide currency among the very young after the older cohorts figured out how to say 'cool' in three syllables.
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Monday, September 09, 2019

Valerie Plame, why won't you talk about Larry Johnson?

Before we get to our main topic, I have to note something odd that happened in the city I call home. In a downtown Baltimore parking garage today, someone discovered a van carrying 1000 gallons of gasoline, Naturally, the surrounding area was evacuated. Details are sketchy at the moment. I'd love to know who owned that van and whether this stunt has any link to either Trump's upcoming visit or the anniversary of 9/11.

Frankly, I was surprised to learn that one can fit 1000 gallons in a van. I presume that we're talking about 100 ten-gallon gas containers. But who the hell is going to stand there and count the containers?

So much for the appetizer. Let's dig into our entree.

Valerie, Valerie... Above, I have embedded Valerie Plame's new ad for her congressional race. Gotta admit: It kicks ass. Great piece of cinema.

Of course, any decent person will feel infuriated by Trump's pardon of Scooter Libby. The full story of that bizarre decision has not yet been told.


Valerie Plame needs to explain her linkage to "former" CIA man Larry Johnson, who functioned as her spokesman during the scandal. Johnson used his Plame connection to ingratiate himself with the left. He even delivered the Democratic Radio Response to the outing of Plame (which you can still find on YouTube).

Then he revealed his true colors as a far-right asshole. This American Prospect article from 2008 looks at the transition. The piece describes Johnson as a good friend and close associate of Valerie Plame and her husband, Joe Wilson.

Johnson's now-defunct site No Quarter was, arguably, the birthplace of Birtherism. He invented the Michelle Obama "Whitey" tape smear. Formerly a Hillary Clinton supporter, he turned against Hillary hard, using his site to spread every possible lie and fabrication about the Clintons. He accused John Kerry of rape. Johnson created the false story that GCHQ (Britain's NSA) wiretapped Trump -- a story which Trump himself endorsed. Currently, Johnson is a big supporter of Michael Flynn and a vehement hater of Jim Comey. In short and in sum, Larry Johnson is Alex Jones without the whimsy.

I want to like Valerie Plame, but she needs to explain her association with a creep like Johnson. That explanation better come fast and it had better be really goddamned convincing.

Otherwise, I am going to retreat to the standard lefty position that there's no such thing as a "former" spook. Back in the 1970s, we old-school lefties learned to distrust the Agency for any number of good reasons -- the Mosaddegh coup, the Arbenz coup, the Allende coup, reasons like that. And let's not mention the Great Unpleasantness of November 22, 1963.

I could go on and on -- hell, I could write a book. But there's no need to do so, since William Blum already did the job.

Don't forget that the CIA used the services of Cambridge Analytica. Don't forget that William Barr was always a CIA lawyer, even when he ostensibly moved into the private sector. As I've demonstrated in many previous posts, there are many indications that huge chunks of the American and UK intelligence communities are pro-Trump.

The word "spy" rhymes with "lie." Johnson proved to be a rat in sheep-dip. How do we know that Plame isn't playing the same game? She worked under cover for years. She lied to everyone around her, every hour of every day. Maybe she's lying now.
First, I will attempt to rearrange some informational disparages.

On March 6, 2007, Scooter Libby was found guilty of lying about his role in the leak of Plame's identity, two counts of perjury, one count of making false statements and one count of obstruction of justice. He was acquitted of a single count of lying to the FBI.

That conviction was imposed despite a really important fact ignored by Jim Comey's favorite Special Prosecutor, Pat Fitz.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage acknowledged Thursday [September 8, 2006] that he [Armitage] was the source who first revealed the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame to syndicated columnist Robert Novak back in 2003, touching off a federal investigation.

Second, your mention of the Obamas takes me to a strange news item whereby Barack and Michelle unsuccessfully sued a company under copyright law for using the name "Higher Ground Enterprises." The Obama company working with Netflix is called "Higher Ground Productions." Since I judge "higher ground" to exist in the real world as an ordinary expression, it seems to me that copyright protection is unavailable.

And then my mind snapped to "Higher Ground" becoming Michelle's presidential campaign slogan when she enters the race. Food for the mind.
(Tried to post this from mobile, but Blogger's UI is wonky; if it posted clearly the first time, feel free to kill this version.)

I only saw a headline about the truck, but my first thought was that it involved credit card fraud, not terrorism. Thieves often 'launder' stolen cards by using them to purchase gasoline, pumping it into massive tanks or bladders within vans or camouflaged trucks; the gas is later sold to less-than-scrupulous gas stations or fleet owners. Every now and then, a theft truck springs a leak or is involved in an accident, with predictable results. There are some nice photos of seized or blowed up real good dummy trucks here.
@maz. Thanks for the link to Brian Krebs. I’d missed that. Interesting look at the ways of the grifter or the crook.

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