Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Picture This: trump Is Toast

The past couple of days covering the ongoing scandal of donald trump hoarding a number of boxes containing government documents in violation of several laws in the US Code had seen a few twists.

trump's lawyers - some of them newly hired and almost none of them with experience regarding national security matters - had made various court filings insisting on a "Special Master" be assigned by the judge - who happens to be a trump appointee - to go through all the documents seized by the FBI for possible "privileged" information belonging to trump. I'll defer to Emptywheel to explain how wrong the whole thing is:

Yesterday, five days after their first attempt to submit a whack filing asking for (among other things) a Special Master to review the seized documents — but not for attorney-client privilege, but for Executive Privilege (documents that, by definition, belong at the Archives) — and after some polite prodding from an wildly pro-Trump Judge, Aileen Cannon, they submitted their second attempt.

I’m not going to go through it in depth this time... But here are two key details. First, in response to one of the really helpful prods from Judge Cannon, Trump’s lawyers confessed that, no, they hadn’t thought to formally inform DOJ about this lawsuit before she reminded them that’s necessary...

But, two days after she nudged them to do so, Trump’s lawyers decided to call Jay Bratt, and asked him if he’d really like formal notice that they want to sue him to prevent him from doing his job.

He did.

So sometime on Monday, maybe — that’ll be 21 days after the FBI seized 27 boxes from Trump’s hotel, more than three times as long as it took for FBI to find 184 unique pieces of evidence that Trump violated the Espionage Act back in May — DOJ will have formal notice that this is going on, which would be the earliest that Judge Cannon could conceivably say, “Stop what you’re doing!!”

But she won’t, because first she’s going to give DOJ a chance to weigh in, even if on accelerated schedule.

With that in mind, here’s the second point. On their second attempt, Trump’s lawyers managed to ask for the thing they needed to do if they really wanted a Special Master: to ask for an injunction... I’m not sure they’ve made this ask properly. At this point, 18 days after the search, it’s probably not even worth the effort figuring it out. The point, though, is how this will work. 21 days after the search of Trump’s house, 17 days after DOJ told Trump they’re going to pursue some other option to access the stuff already identified as attorney-client privileged (one of which might be asking Reinhart to allow them to access it), and 14 days after Trump started getting stuff — his passports — that was out of scope of the investigation, is the first moment that they will have formally told a judge, “Emergency!!! We need a Special Master!!!”

Emptywheel is spelling out that there's a time limit to these things, and trump's people kept being too slow about it. However: 

Update: Two significant developments. First, Judge Cannon has issued an order to the government — which has not yet been served — to respond to Trump’s motion by Tuesday... Meanwhile, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines has told various Committee Chairs and Ranking Members that the IC is conducting a classification review and what sounds like a preliminary damage assessment. That suggests the stolen documents are already out to the agencies.

Update (to the earlier update): In DOJ’s initial response, they’ve noted that the privilege review is already done...

This is basically the lead-up to the Justice Department's filing last night of their response to trump's lawyers asking for a Special Master injunction: You're too slow, it's too late, you're toast. Back again to Emptywheel in a different must-read article about how THAT went:

DOJ’s response to Trump’s request for a Special Master last night did a bunch of things — most notably, debunking lies Trump’s camp had been telling...

In yesterday’s filing, the government demonstrated what properly protecting NDI looks like in practice. The example that has — deservedly — gotten the most attention is the description of case agents and National Security Division attorneys having to get additional clearances to access this information.

In some instances, even the FBI counterintelligence personnel and DOJ attorneys conducting the review required additional clearances before they were permitted to review certain documents...

In short, "this stuff was so classified our people had to get extra super-clearance just to do their jobs of finding out just what the hell happened." Back to Emptywheel:

DOJ also described that the classified materials that have been seized have been segregated and properly stored.

All of the classified documents seized in the August 8 search have been segregated from the rest of the seized documents and are being separately maintained and stored in accordance with appropriate procedures for handling and storing classified information.

DOJ intends that these special protections will extend to these court proceedings: DOJ demanded that if Judge Cannon decides to appoint a Special Master, she pick someone who is already cleared at the TS/SCI level...

There's not a lot of those to begin with, and not a lot of them who would be favorable to trump after all the damage he's done. Above all, what Emptywheel is pointing to is the reality that the FBI has already had enough to time to sort the documents to where they had already filtered out anything that could be construed as "privileged" for trump, which shouldn't have been that much to begin with.

Thrown in for the judge's review were various photographs documenting just how the FBI served their warrant and how the found the classified materials at Mar-A-Lago. See this?

Pictured provided by the Department of Justice,
shared via AP Newswire

Remember the saying "A picture is worth a thousand words"? Here's the proof. These are documents reportedly recovered from trump's personal office - which was not a secured room - five of which are listed TOP SECRET, most of them with redactions covering certain pages to confirm that these are documents still considered classified.

Other than half of social media pointing out how hideous trump's choice of carpeting was, the other half of social media made up of lawyers and former/current military intelligence officers were pointing out how damaging this evidence is. 

I'm with Betty Cracker at Balloon Juice about how damaging this is:

It does make Trump look bad, and that’s because he is bad. There’s no plausible excuse for taking the documents in the first place, refusing to turn them over when requested, returning some documents and concealing others and lying about that.

But aside from that, I’m so glad the photo was included because, contra Turley, some people really do need you to draw a picture for them, and the court isn’t the only audience here...

More broadly, the picture is a signal that DOJ lawyers understand exactly who they’re dealing with and how he has squirmed out of so many past jams. Trump is a squid who emits ink clouds of lies and chaos to escape danger. A picture cuts through all that bullshit...

At every turn in this saga, Trump did what you’d expect him to do — lie, bluster, rabble rouse, dispatch shoddy weasels to obfuscate on TV — and the DOJ cut him off at the knees every time. It’s not rocket surgery to predict what he’ll do, and not even a mouth as big as Tangerine Baal’s can ingest dozens of boxes of paper, so there was going to be evidence...

If you read closer - both the actual DOJ filings and the mood of the whole situation - you might notice that trump is running out of time (as well as places to hide). In the DOJ filing itself, the department asks that if Judge Cannon does play along with trump's demands and appoint a Special Master that she does so by specific calendar deadlines: Provide a list of candidates for the department to approve by September 7 (a week from now) and ensure the Special Master complete review by September 30 (end of the month).

Attorney General Garland does not want trump to play the DELAY DELAY DELAY game like he always does. There is an unstated implication that the Justice Department has already gathered enough evidence to find criminal charges against trump and others who may have helped him violate the US Code covering Presidential Records, Espionage, and Obstruction.

It's not a question of IF, it's a question of WHEN.

The only thing saving trump now is this court review for a Special Master, but even that won't be long enough to reach 2023 if it happens. The next best thing saving trump is the courtesy the Justice Department gives political figures during election cycles by holding off on any criminal charges or reveling any investigations so as to avoid influencing voter turnout. (FBI Director Comey violated that courtesy when he reported Hillary's emails were under review back in 2016, and there's solid evidence it affected media coverage and voter turnout, and Comey's been eating shit for that ever since). trump himself is not up for a vote but he is a dominant leader of the Republican Party, so the courtesy applies.

So trump may have some time between now and November 8 to breathe a little. After the votes are counted, he's gonna be running for cover like a Thanksgiving turkey, and he may even be eating that meal in a jail cell awaiting his bail hearing.

Let Justice Be Done, everybody.

Anniversary: A Tragic Night in a Paris Tunnel

The websites are reminding me of a tragic event from 25 years ago, back in 1997: The car accident that took the life of Princess Diana.

I can remember that night for the odd situation for myself. I just couldn't get to sleep that evening.

I remember I had gone to bed early (I was scheduled to work in the morning the next day), but couldn't sleep well. My mind was abuzz (I can barely remember why). So I got up figuring that watching some reruns on a weekend night TV would drive me to boredom enough to sleep then. In-between switching channels I got to CNN and they were already hours into their coverage of the car accident.

I sat there transfixed for about 10-15 minutes before a BREAKING NEWS chyron flashed and the reporter broke the terrible news that she had died in the operating room.

I kept watching a little longer, and my first thoughts were for William and Harry. Gods. They've had to carry this pain for 25 years now.

The response to her death was on a scale I've barely seen before. The closest I could recall was John Lennon's. Countries and cultures that had no ties to Great Britain demonstrated incredible levels of grief. Some of had to do with the fact that she had involved herself in various charities and causes like AIDS treatments and landmine removal. Even in the United States, Princess Di was this glamour/fashion icon, more a celebrity than a (divorced) member of a still-relevant royal family of international prestige. We were a nation that was supposed to renounce titles of nobility or even honor it outside of diplomacy, but Diana's charm and grace made even hardened republicans call her Princess.

In the years since her passing, Diana has become this enigmatic symbol - of the perils of fame, of the pressures of royal duty, of the evils of modern media (the hated paparazzi that literally hounded her to her death), of the broken dynamics of bad marriages, the unattainable and the unforgettable - to where we do not know her as a person, we know her as a metaphor. Which is tragic in its own way, because she left behind two sons who loved her and are haunted by the damage to this day.

Gorbachev, Accidental Breaker of Wheels

Daenerys: Lannister, Targaryen, Baratheon, Stark, Tyrell: they're all just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top, then that one's on top, and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground.

Tyrion: It's a beautiful dream, stopping the wheel. You're not the first person who's ever dreamt it.

Daenerys: I'm not going to stop the wheel, I'm going to break the wheel.

-- Daenerys' famous "Break the Wheel" speech from Game of Thrones. Tyrion didn't realize she meant she was going to wipe out all the warring Houses completely.

We had just witnessed last December the anniversary of the Fall of the Soviet Union, a monumental historical moment at the beginning of the 1990s that had ended more than 80 years of political division that affected Europe and the world.

One of the architects of that historic moment, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, just passed away yesterday, and in such moments those of us who follow history and politics are going to need to pause and reflect on the impact a man like Gorbachev had on the great march of humanity.

There is some irony to consider when thinking of Gorbachev as one of those Great Men (and Women) of History, the individuals who rise to the challenges of a crisis and affect the world with tough decisions and glorious outcomes. Because what Gorbachev accomplished - an end to a Cold War that could well have ended in nuclear fire, the breaking up of East/West divisions in Europe to allow for a more unified continent to emerge under more peaceful, conciliatory conditions - were things Gorbachev didn't plan on doing.

Gorbachev didn't mean to end the Soviet Union. His importance to human history is totally by accident.

As I wrote in my take on the 25th anniversary of the fall of the USSR:

It would take a book - no, a library full of books - to go into how the Communist Utopian ideals of the 19th Century gave way to the revolutionary violence of Lenin's overthrow of Tsarist Russia, and the steps towards corruption - the rise of Party elites, the rise of Stalin to place all power into autocratic rule, the buildup of party bureaucracy that calcified Soviet society, the Greed of elites that always threatens every economic system we know, and everyday state-sanctioned brutality that dulled the Russian population into despair - that created by the 1980s a Soviet empire incapable of maintaining itself without serious reforms.

With respect to Gorbachev, it was that need for reform that led to his rise to high office in the first place. Problem was, the reforms that were needed most - honesty from leadership, cracking down on party corruption, curtailing the high costs of maintaining a war footing in a 40-year-long Cold War that included policing their own Eastern European "allies" (occupied territories, really) - were reforms that Gorbachev's own party couldn't abide.

During all of Gorbachev's early steps to fix a broken empire, the Soviet Union was hit hard by the reality of their own corruption causing for example the meltdown of the Chernobyl reactor, exposing not only their engineering failures but their political failures to respond effectively to crises. The empire itself came to an end when Gorbachev freed the Eastern European nations to decide their own policies to enact local reforms: Instead, nearly every nation from Poland to Bulgaria to Czechoslovakia to Hungary to East Germany broke off from Soviet influence as their Communist regimes collapsed with mass uprisings and protests overthrowing them...

Whatever ideology Gorbachev was trying to use to keep the Soviet Union itself intact wasn't sticking. The push for Glasnost - open transparency of the political bureaucracy - and Perestroika - economic reforms to shift away from Communism to a more Socialist model - met with pushback by lower rungs of the system that preferred the corrupt status quo...

Gorbachev was, to his credit, sincere in his calls for reform and willingness to liberalize in more humane ways. He was reluctant to apply force, refusing to fall back on the traditional power moves of Russian leaders to brutalize the population into submission. There were attempts to impose force here and there, but they gave way to acts of compromise. Gorbachev was genuinely trying to lead the Soviet Union... it was just that empire didn't want to go where he wanted it to go. The Soviets were so calcified by their corruption they chose Death By Incompetency when the inevitable coup attempt by old-liners that took place in August 1991 failed through sheer cluelessness by the plotters.

Anne Applebaum over at the Atlantic shared some of the same observations (paywalled):

The one time I saw Mikhail Gorbachev in public was on November 9, 2014. I can pin the day down because it was the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. We were in a very large, very crowded Berlin reception room, and he was sitting at a cocktail table, looking rather lost.

Gorbachev had been invited to this event as a trophy, a living, breathing souvenir of the 1980s. He was not expected to say much of interest. The fall of the Berlin Wall had happened by accident, after all; it was not something Gorbachev had ever planned. He had not set out to break up the Soviet Union, to end its tyranny, or to promote freedom. He presided over the end of a cruel and bloody empire, but without intending to do so. Almost nobody in history has ever had such a profound impact on his era, while at the same time understanding so little about it...

Real change had to wait until the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe of April 1986. News of the accident was initially hushed up, just as bad news was always hushed up in the USSR. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians were allowed to march in the Kyiv May Day parade even as radioactivity spread silently across the city. But the scale of the disaster finally convinced Gorbachev that the real problem with his country was not alcohol, but its obsession with secrecy. His solution was glasnost—openness—which, like the anti-alcohol campaign, was originally meant to promote economic efficiency. Open conversation about the Soviet Union’s problems would, Gorbachev believed, strengthen communism. Managers and workers would talk about what was going wrong in their factories and workplaces, find solutions, fix the problem...

But once glasnost became official policy, once Soviet citizens could talk about whatever they wanted to talk about, then factory efficiency was not their first choice of topic. Nor did they want to rescue the sinking ship of socialism. Instead, there was an explosion of debate and discussion about the past, about the history of mass arrests and mass murders, about the Gulag and Soviet political prisons. Historical accounts, memoirs and diaries that had been hidden in desk drawers raced off the printing presses and became best-sellers. Newspapers printed stories of sleaze and mismanagement in the economy, politics, culture, and everything else. Calls for the creation of a different kind of society, a more democratic society, a more law-abiding society, began immediately. The economists whom Gorbachev had silenced started openly talking about the end of central planning. Poles, Czechs, East Germans, Ukrainians, Balts, Georgians, and others then inside the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union itself all began talking about the end of the empire too. Contrary to the retrospective Putinist historiography now prevalent in Russia, the glasnost era was a creative, exciting, hopeful time for millions of people, even millions of Russians.

Gorbachev seemed bewildered, and no wonder. Having lived much of his life at the top of the Soviet nomenklatura, he never understood the depth of cynicism in his own country or the depth of anger in the occupied Soviet satellite states, most of whose inhabitants rejected even the reformed communism of his youth: They didn’t want the Prague Spring; they wanted to join Western Europe. He never understood the depth of the rot inside Soviet bureaucracies or the amorality of the bureaucrats. In the end he wound up racing to catch up with history, rather than making it himself...

If we speak of Mikhail Gorbachev anymore, it was how he was both a victim of circumstance - put in charge of an empire caught in a death spiral no one could have stopped without mass violence - and a good man who ultimately refused to use violence to keep himself in power. He did see the need to cut back on the arms race between Soviet Russia and the United States, leading to the "trust but verify" disarmament treaties with Reagan and Bush in the late 1980s, which reduced the likelihood of Nuclear Armageddon and one of the truly great strides towards world peace we've seen in our lifetimes.

He himself was not remembered fondly in Russia after his fall from power and his retirement/exile from the international stage. If Gorbachev still had any fans or acceptance, it was in the European states - like Germany, who invited him to that 25th anniversary as gentle "um, thanks" gesture - who felt relief from the end of a nuclear stalemate that had their continent as a giant bullseye.

Most of what happened after he ended the Soviet Union and walked away isn't entirely his fault: The rise of an autocrat to dominate a still-corrupt Russian federation seemed like an eventuality even back in the 1990s. Historians and sociologists who were still paying attention were dropping warning signs of how the government wasn't fixing its corruption and that the population were receptive for another "strongman" to rise up. The difference in world-views between Russians and the rest of Western culture when it comes to democratic norms never improved, and even Gorbachev seemed unable to understand what "democracy" could really do.

Gorbachev didn't want to end the Soviet Union, but he was the one who had to end it. It may not have been the legacy he wanted to leave the world, but it was for the world a good legacy to leave behind.

Monday, August 29, 2022

The Flop Sweat of Loser Trump

Update: Thank you Driftglass for adding this article to Crooks & Liars' Mike's Blog Round-Up! Hope everyone peruses the blog for all the other insanity I write about!

Earlier today as he faced the growing likelihood of criminal indictments across the legal spectrum, donald trump decided to break out his old battlecry of "STOLEN ELECTION" and "MAKE ME PRESIDENT NOW" by diving further into his own madness. Via the Twittersphere with Spiro Agnew's Ghost:


Part of trump's delusional social media ranting comes from trump's greatest personal flaw: That he can NEVER ADMIT he lost, that he can NEVER be seen as a LOSER, and as such he must always accuse everyone else of cheating him of his "success." Accusing his enemies of committing "a massive FRAUD & ELECTION INTERFERENCE" is mostly deflection/projection of the reality that it was trump and his Republican buddies who attempted the fraud and interference in both 2016 and then 2020.

His throwing out there the wingnut meat of "Hunter Biden's laptop" - a faux scandal pushed by the Far Right to make the Biden family look more corrupt and broken than trump's own - is part of the deflection as well.

It doesn't help trump any that his demands are impossible anyway: There ARE NO Do-Overs in Presidential elections. There are special elections to fill Congressional vacancies, but the Presidency is voted on every four years no matter what (Article II Section 1), and any vacancy gets filled by the 25th Amendment process. This is trump whining like a 5-year-old that he's not being "treated fairly" as though he's not getting his second scoop of ice cream anymore.  

But this latest assault of ignorance from trump is setting up another matter: Inciting his fanbase.

By screaming this message, trump is trying to stir up the GOP faithful to believe his lie that he's both the victim and the hero here. trump is trying to get his followers to accept the lie that Biden is illegitimate, that the Democrats stole the Presidency from him. trump is spreading misinformation that restoring him to power by hook or by crook justified and doable.

trump is trying to set the foundation of another insurrection riot, with his political allies like Lindsey Graham bringing up the threat of rioting to rattle the Justice Department from pursuing any legal case against trump. 

the desperation is telling. As Heather Digby Parton notes at Salon:

Trump, meanwhile, has been throwing everything at the wall on this one and none of it seems to be sticking. The political benefits aren't materializing while the legal threat he faces is so very real. So he's now deploying his most dangerous strategy, one he hinted at right after the search when he sent a cryptic message to Attorney General Merrick Garland:

President Trump wants the attorney general to know that he has been hearing from people all over the country about the raid. If there was one word to describe their mood, it is 'angry,' The heat is building up. The pressure is building up. Whatever I can do to take the heat down, to bring the pressure down, just let us know."

According to the New York Times, this strange message had the senior leadership at the FBI "befuddled." I actually doubt that. These are people who prosecute mobsters all the time and they know a veiled threat when they see it. And it's certainly not the first time they've encountered it with Trump. They are in the midst of the largest investigation in history with the January 6 insurrection cases which are a direct result of his incitement. He was letting the Attorney General know that he might have to unleash his mob again if they pursue this case and they know it...

The fact that Trump is leveraging this particular power to incite violence around these legal cases is a sign of weakness. He cannot persuade anyone who isn't already persuaded and party officials are with him only out of fear or as long as he is useful to them. Calling for riots in the streets is a nuclear option that may or may not detonate the way he thinks it will. But it has the potential to blow the country apart either way...

trump is facing - after years of bending and breaking laws - the real possibility he will get indicted with criminal charges he can no longer evade or settle out of court. And like a Sicilian mob boss facing the reality of serious jail time, trump wants to cut a swath of blood and destruction to do whatever it takes to avoid that fate.

If it means triggering a Second Civil War in every American street, trump will cross that line. he cannot accept any other fate that would confirm his LOSER status in the eyes of everyone around him.

In the face of imminent violence, we as a nation must still hold trump accountable to the law. Let Justice Be Done Though the Heavens Fall. But it's going to be messy as hell.

Gods help us.

Friday, August 26, 2022

All Which Wicked Designs

All which wicked designs, wars, and evil practices of him, the said Charles Stuart, have been, and are carried on for the advancement and upholding of a personal interest of will, power, and pretended prerogative to himself and his family, against the public interest, common right, liberty, justice, and peace of the people of this nation, by and from whom he was entrusted as aforesaid.

-- "The Charge Against the King," published 1648 

One of the thoughts that's come to me this week as we look at the growing evidence that donald trump, former President of the United States, betrayed his oath of office - by taking executive papers that did not belong to him, and treating the classified documents he took with him in such brazen ways at his private resort where such secrets were exposed - is that we've never had someone with such high rank of office abuse the powers of the Presidency in so gross a manner before.

None of the other Presidents were this horrifying in their cluelessness, their ignorance of federal laws, their disdain for the Constitutional limits of the office needed to ensure our government worked for the people it served. In our modern era, for all that Democrats could rail about the likes of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and George W. Bush, none of them could be accused of being national security risks on the scale trump is behaving. For all that Republicans could rail about the likes of John F Kennedy, Lyndon B Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, none of them ever came close to getting investigated for violating our national security on the scale trump already is (and in Clinton and Obama's cases, the GOP really tried to dig through the dirt).

Because that's what we're all seeing today from the court-ordered release of the affidavit that led to the FBI search warrant at Mar-A-Lago earlier this month (which Betty Cracker at Balloon Juice labeled today as Happy Redacted Affidavit Day). All frivolity and schadenfreude aside, the affidavit even in its redacted form revealed a lot of incredible (and horrifying) details, some of which Emptywheel went into detail at her site:

The affidavit spends three paragraphs describing how, after NARA made a referral on February 9, 2022, the FBI opened an investigation to learn:

  • How classified documents were removed from the White House
  • Whether the storage facilities at Mar-a-Lago were suitable for storing classified materials
  • Whether there were anymore classified documents at Mar-a-Lago or elsewhere
  • Who had removed and retained the documents in unauthorized spaces

In a probable cause paragraph, it explains that there were 15 boxes with classified information at Mar-a-Lago and there was probable cause to believe there were more.

There’s a redacted paragraph that may describe the basis for suspecting obstruction. A later sentence in the probable cause paragraph describes that there likely will be evidence of obstruction at MAL.

The affidavit explains that this is an investigation into (among other things) 18 USC 793e — which I was among the first people to predict. This means that DOJ maintains that Trump was not authorized to have these documents...

One of trump's consistent defenses he throws out there on social media and through his lawyers is how his status as President - even as a former President - means he can keep "his" documents and to hell what the Presidential Records Act says. What the Justice Department is setting out in the affidavit is that NO, when it comes to classified documents even former Presidents do not have that authority (and arguably that they shouldn't be abusing that authority when they are sitting in the Oval Office). Just what sort of documents did the FBI find trump was hoarding? As Emptywheel noted:

It does have paragraphs defining:
  • 18 USC 793(e), the Espionage Act
  • EO 13526, the Executive Order governing classified information
  • Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret classifications
  • Secure Compartmented Information
  • Special Intelligence, which is SIGINT
  • HCS, which refers to clandestine human spying
  • FISA
  • NOFORN, material not permissible to share with foreign governments
  • Originator Controlled, meaning whoever created controls it
  • Need to know
  • 32 CFR Parts 2001 and 2003 which describes the Storage requirements for classified information
  • 18 USC 1519, obstruction
  • 18 USC 2071, willfully removing information
  • 44 USC 2201, the Presidential Records Act
  • 44 USC 3301(a), the Federal Records Act

The stuff I highlighted in bold are the ones most troubling regarding national security matters. HCS is also known as "Clandestine Human Intel": Ever see the first Mission Impossible movie? That's the NOC List we're talking about

Ever here of a fellow named Richard Welch? He worked as a CIA operative, specifically in Greece, at the height of the Cold War. In 1975, a former CIA agent published a book naming names, Welch among them, and a month after the book came out Welch was assassinated by Greek insurgents. Leaking the names of operatives can get them killed. NOC (Non-Official Cover) agents are those deep in high-risk operations, where getting exposed would compromise them at best and at most get them killed. For trump to have such lists in his possession is a serious breach of security.

trump also had FISA and NOFORN documents. FISA relates to NSA search warrants to track overseas communications: Those docs could expose to any foreign power who among their officials and citizens might be under U.S. surveillance. NOFORN are documents our government doesn't want foreign government - even our allies - seeing as it might compromise our dealings among them. It's literally in the description: NOT PERMISSIBLE TO SHARE. Given the number of foreign "friends" and business allies trump has, what are the odds any of them got a chance to see NOFORN documents?

Half of these documents are not even supposed to leave certain rooms of certain buildings, that's how sensitive that information can get. How the hell did trump and his lackeys get their hands on them in the first place...?

And if you'll note the part that says 32 CFR pt. 2001 and 2003 describing storage requirements for classified information, the FBI was mortified that not only did trump have all these classified documents at his luxury resort Mar-A-Lago, he didn't store them properly at all. The warrant search revealed trump had documents intermixed with others, kept in different rooms across the place, even in trump's bedroom and closets. Anybody could have seen any of it. And given the lapses in security at Mar-A-Lago - not just the Chinese showing up during trump's Presidency but a Russian-born immigrant with fake IDs in the last few days! - there's even the likelihood documents got walked off by people who had no legal authority to even look at them.

If trump was so eager to keep all of "his" documents, he showed almost no care in treating them with any concern for our nation's safety.

Which leads to the Big Question, as asked by Digby over at her blog:

What was he doing with those documents?

It appears that some of the information they retrieved was extremely sensitive. He kept Human, Signals, and FISA intelligence in an unsecure location for over a year, some of it in a container at the bottom of his closet. WTF????

One of the latest excuses is that he was writing his “memoirs” or preparing for his presidential library. There is zero evidence that he is “writing” anything (he always employed a ghost writer anyway) and there are no plans for a presidential library. It seems obvious that he had some kind of ulterior motive and I’m no longer convinced that it had to do with him wanting to show off his presidential memorabilia to his sycophants. I think he either thought he could cover up his own deeds by taking the documents or that he was preparing to rain down vengeance on his enemies and reward his friends. That’s how he operates...

As Digby notes, there are multiple reasons trump took these documents. One is how a number of documents could expose his own criminal misdeeds before he took office and then during his tenure. The DOJ does accuse trump of obstructing ongoing federal investigations (the 1519 claim), which could cover anything from his involvement in the January 6th Insurrection to anything related to his ties to Russia or other foreign agents. The other reason has to be trump's desire to profit from his access: he is massively in debt and indebted to other nations who propped up his overseas businesses and his flailing administration.

Remember this always: trump does what he does to benefit himself, no one else. If he has to expose our nation's biggest military and foreign policy secrets to enrich himself, trump will do that in a heartbeat. And there's every likelihood he already has.

This is why I can't imagine any other President sinking to the levels of betrayal that we're finding trump this evening. Even the worst Presidents we can think of - Harding, Nixon, Tyler, Buchanan, Grant, Andrew Johnson, LBJ - when it comes to corruption and misbehavior in the White House never even came close to threatening to sell out our nation's secrets in the way trump threatens to do.

The closest examples I can even think of in our American history goes back to our days as a British colony, back to the days of Charles I, who sought to rule the United Kingdom with The Divine Right of Kings to indulge his own anger and ego, who tried to bully his way over Parliament and did so badly it led to their Civil War and to his dethronement (and execution when he kept betraying Parliament by making secret deals with Scotland, which won't be unified with England until 1707).

trump is behaving in the same bullying manner as Charles I: demanding an Executive Privilege he no longer holds; spreading the big lie of still being President even after his popular and Electoral loss in 2020, stirring up calls for Civil War that will spill the blood of thousands of Americans; insisting that the laws of Presidential records and national security do not apply to him.

In times like this, one thinks back to what Patrick Henry said about our nation's need to free itself from the tyranny of the likes of Charles I, and how our legal system MUST step up and hold trump to account for his acts against America's defense and well-being.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Ukraine's Independence Day

Officially, August 24 is Independence Day in Ukraine

Ukrainians are celebrating it by fighting off an unjust invasion by Putin's Russia.

It's been six months since Putin sent in a blitz at Kyiv to try and force that nation into submission, only to be left reeling when Zelenskyy proved he and his fellow Ukrainians were willing to punch back. Ever since then, the war has turned into a slog with Ukrainians trying to retake their eastern part of the nation while Russia is trying to kidnap more Ukrainians to turn them into slave labor or worse.

There's been a few months since the last time I blogged about Ukraine, the biggest news above all is the increase in artillery firepower that they've been using to attack Russian bases in Crimea, a likely move to help retake Kershon and hamper Russia's ability to threaten Odesa.

Don't take my word for it: Hopefully you're following Adam L. Silverman at Balloon Juice who's been doing a lot of daily updates on the war. He relies on some of the intel he gets at his job, but also shares a lot with official assessments from the UK Defense and several other groups focused on the region. His most current update is about today's Independence Day, but let me share some of his thoughts from an earlier posting he wrote:

As we hoped, the Ukrainians rose to the occasion. The defenses of Kyiv held, which prevented Putin from being able to seize the city, replace Ukraine’s leadership with his quislings, and fulfill the pseudo-historical destiny that Putin has concocted for himself and Russia. For the past six months, night and day, Ukraine has stood in the breach and held. It hasn’t been easy. It hasn’t been pretty or pleasant. But right now Ukraine is the frontline in the defense of liberal democracy, self determination, self government, and liberty against those, like Putin, who would remake not just the international system, but all states and societies, into managed, illiberal sham democracies pitted against each other in a perpetual struggle of all against all.

We all owe Ukraine and the Ukrainians a debt of gratitude for not flinching in this grim duty that has been forced upon them. The Ukrainians heroic defense epitomizes Lincoln’s dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg...

We are witnessing the only just war any of us will ever see in our lifetimes. We are watching everything that American leaders have pontificated about as our national ideals be defended by a state and a society that six months ago was still a transitional democracy with all the flaws and blemishes that result from that hard transition.

A great miracle is happening there...

From all we're hearing, Russia is running lower on armored vehicles and other supplies. Their manpower has dwindled by significant numbers, and yet Putin can't risk (yet) any kind of conscription/draft to replenish his cannon fodder.

And summer is going to give way to winter, in that part of the world it comes pretty quick. Previous eras, Russia relied a lot on "General Winter" to stave off invasion and defeat, but this time around the weather favors Ukraine on the defensive. The only thing Putin can hope for now is that Western Europe - which still relies too much on Russian gas and oil - will suffer from the coming winter and choke off their support of Ukraine's efforts.

But NATO is making it clear they are supporting Ukraine as much as international policy allows. Efforts by Finland and Sweden to join NATO before Putin can fck them over are gathering votes and getting closer to completion, especially as the US Senate overwhelmingly voted for their inclusion.

This war will not end anytime soon, let us be honest about that. It won't end until Putin and his Russian underlings fall from power. The warmongering begins and ends with them.

So we need to keep praying for Ukraine to endure, our leaders and governments need to keep supporting Ukraine with money and weapons.

There's a motto: Slava Ukraini. It means "Glory to Ukrainians!"

Also: Russia, go fuck yourself.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Release The Full Mueller

I admit I put a lot of faith into Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's involvement with our 2016 election cycle. As I wrote earlier:

Even with all that Mueller did find regarding the Russian end of the scandal - which produced real results, numerous arrests/plea deals/convictions, and exposed the facts of how foreign influence in our elections is an ongoing problem - the investigation closed - thanks to incoming Attorney General William Barr who rewrote and redacted the final report - before any direct links between trump's 2016 campaign and Russian operatives could be proved. At best, Mueller found evidence that trump obstructed the investigation, but he couldn't pursue an arrest and tried to get Congress to file impeachment (which they failed to do. The Democratic House decided to impeach over trump's misdeeds with Ukrainian military aid)...

There is still fallout from what the Mueller investigation achieved, due to how AG Barr bent and warped reality to protect trump from accountability. The legal fight over how Barr mishandled the final report - the conclusions Mueller found, which should have led to trump facing obstruction charges - kicked up a notch last week when the judges overseeing the matter found Barr did bad bad things. Via NPR and AP News:

The Justice Department under Attorney General William Barr improperly withheld portions of an internal memo Barr cited in announcing that then-President Donald Trump had not obstructed justice in the Russia investigation, a federal appeals panel said Friday.

The department had argued that the 2019 memo represented private deliberations of its lawyers before any decision was formalized, and was thus exempt from disclosure. A federal judge previously disagreed, ordering the Justice Department to provide it to a government transparency group that had sued for it.

At issue in the case is a March 24, 2019, memorandum from the head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel and another senior department official that was prepared for Barr to evaluate whether evidence in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation could support prosecution of the president for obstruction of justice.

Barr has said he looked to that opinion in concluding that Trump did not illegally obstruct the Russia probe, which was an investigation of whether his campaign had colluded with Russia to tip the 2016 election.

A year later, a federal judge sharply rebuked Barr's handling of Mueller's report, saying Barr had made "misleading public statements" to spin the investigation's findings in favor of Trump and had shown a "lack of candor..."

While it does not look like this would lead to anything like re-opening the investigation, this may clear a path towards re-opening the final Mueller Report itself, which was so heavily redacted on Barr's orders to where any meaningful understanding of trump's role in the scandals were covered up.

There is serious evidence that donald trump and his campaign aides were directly involved in foreign agents to disrupt and corrupt our nation's electoral system back in 2016. These are problems we are still facing today. A full review of the Mueller Report will show us who the bad actors are, and show us where the faults are in the system so we can get these problems fixed.

Gods, we need to know. And we need to make sure this disaster never happens again.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Regarding the Future of trump's Library

I saw this cartoon shared elsewhere and decided to hunt it down and share it here. Considering my interests as a librarian and my previous semi-serious consideration about the location of any future trump Presidential Library, I feel this is very apt to share.

Cartoon by Bill Bramhall at the New York Daily News
originally issued August 10, 2022

Although, if things end up the way they should with trump in federal prison, the library may well be at the Florence Colorado ADX SuperMax. We would hope.

Hoping for trump's Last Chapter

I like a good detective story myself. Lots of nonsense written, though. 'Criminal discovered in last Chapter. Everyone dumbfounded.' A Real crime - you'd know at once!
-- Mysterious Affair at Styles, Agatha Christie 

Okay, back to blogging about how much trouble donald "Loser of the Popular Vote (Twice)" trump is this year.

In case you're having trouble keeping track of what trump is in trouble for, Bess Levin at Vanity Fair created a simple list of oh twenty or so criminal and civil cases/investigations/trials. If you can't afford the VF firewall, Mahablog cribbed a cheat sheet for us cheapskates: The list seems to be in order of severity/likelihood of trump getting convicted/held liable. Just to keep it simpler than this, let me just list the big ones:

*The Classified Document/Mar-a-Lago investigation

*The Justice Department investigation into January 6/plot to overturn the election

*Fulton County (Georgia) district attorney Fani Willis’s criminal investigation into election interference

*The Manhattan District Attorney’s Criminal Case Against the Trump Organization, Etc.

*The New York Attorney General’s Civil Investigation Into the Trump Organization

The biggest questions regarding each of these are: 

1) How serious are the charges?

2) Is there clear-cut evidence of a crime (aka The Smoking Gun)?

3) Will the authorities (US Department of Justice, state attorneys, county attorneys) bring charges and go to trial?

4) What are the consequences if trump is found guilty? 

For what I know, it looks like this:

The Classified Documents at Mar-A-Lago started out as a seeming back-burner issue compared to trump's involvement in the January 6th Insurrection, but when the FBI got a search warrant to recover more boxes of presidential documents earlier this August, this case moved to the top of the list.

1) How serious are the charges? Massive. The fact it had to take a search warrant approved by the US Attorney General and a judge underscores how serious this is. When it was just the likelihood of trump and his handlers violating the Presidential Records Act, it was still a serious matter because there were felonies attached to the deed under 18 USC 2071 (and the possibility trump could get blocked from any future elected office). Bumping this all up to really fucking serious matter are the allegations trump hoarded classified / top secret documents that violate national security matters covered by 18 USC 793, which is putting us into ESPIONAGE-level (we're talking Rosenbergs/Hanssen/Ames level) charges. Along all of this, the warrant specified possible Obstruction charges (where trump may have taken/hidden/destroyed documents relevant to other federal inquiries) are in play with 18 USC 1519, which seems almost like an afterthought.

2) Is there clear-cut evidence of a crime? The fact trump had boxes of records taken from the White House still at Mar-A-Lago 18 months after he left - and that he and his lawyers lied that he had kept more - should be clear-cut enough. While trump himself doesn't seem to think what he did was a crime - he kept telling his National Archives contacts that the docs "are mine" - and indeed wants those documents back, the fact is the Presidential Records law spells it out very clear that the documents belong to the federal government (represented by the National Archives). trump's ignorance of the law is no excuse. 

With regards to the other related charges - especially the espionage stuff - it all depends on what the FBI finds among the documents recovered: if there are indeed classified documents including stuff on nuclear security matters (something trump has NO unilateral power to declassify) among what trump hoarded, that's evidence of espionage and we're talking Crime of the Century (atop everything else trump's done).

3) Will the Justice Department bring charges and go to trial? Given how much has already taken place - the months of fighting over the recovery of these docs to begin with, with the escalation to search warrant to underscore how serious this is - we're not talking so much about IF the DOJ will press charges, it's a question of When. It may take months for the FBI to secure all the documents and dust them for fingerprints (part of the espionage matter is determining if uncleared persons had access), as well as interviewing other potential witnesses to anything happening with those docs. 

The government has trump dead-to-rights on violating 18 USC 2071. The more serious matters involving 793 and 1519 are not yet confirmed. But if trump DID violate 793 - even once by sharing classified documents with a foreign agent of any kind - it would be insane for Justice to overlook trump when they've gone after people like Reality Winner who release one measly document as a whistleblower. They'd HAVE to go after trump for mishandling classified info with his level of brazenness. And if they find trump violated the 1519 obstruction, the DOJ would have to pursue THAT because if they don't it will encourage future acts of obstruction against other investigations they're running. 

This is too public a case now: Roll over on any of this and they become trump's bitches like everyone else who've rolled over.

4) What are the consequences for trump if found guilty? Again, it depends on the number of charges the Justice Department will put on the table. Every felony, it should be noted, carries with it fines and jail time: minimum times aren't given, but the maximum for 2071 (b) - the one directly related to trump - is three years; the max for 793 is ten years per count (and from what I've read the Justice guys can use each document (thousands of them) as separate counts!); and the maximum for 1519 is twenty years (again, if Justice can identify separate acts of obstructing, those would be separate counts!). Given the severity of the charges - especially 793 - it is unlikely trump won't get the minimums if found guilty, but he won't get the maximums either due to political optics. It all depends on HOW MANY counts trump will face.

Whew. That was just part one...

The DOJ Investigation Into January 6 not only covers the planning of the riotous insurrection that day, but also the plotting to overturn the election through other means - such as Fake Electors - before January 6 became a last-ditch effort.

1) How serious are the charges? Pretty serious, if there are any to write about. The grand jury - if there is one - into this matter has been tight-lipped, there's been little evidence at all that there's even an investigation until the House Select Committee started referring possible charges back in June from their inquiry to Justice for consideration. What we do know is that the DOJ has been pursuing those rioters who were directly involved in storming Capitol Hill, getting many of them to plead out and testify towards others' involvement, which are signs of laying a foundation of evidence to pursue the higher-ups who planned the attack. The only evidence we have that trump may be under investigation is a subpoena from January 6th prosecutors asking the National Archives (see above) to hand over any documents they may have on the matter (whish may be where the 1519 charges above are heading).

At the least, considering the insurrection itself, trump may be looking at an Incitement charge under the anti-riots law 18 USC 2101, likely under a(2) to organize, promote, encourage, participate in, or carry on a riot. A lot depends on what else the Justice Department digs up from other testimony and evidence.

2) Is there clear-cut evidence of a crime? The riot itself is pretty fucking obvious. They've used clips from it for a Star Trek episode for Q's sake. The trick is proving any direct link between the rioters and trump, and that what trump did was intentional to cause that crime in the first place.

This is where the House Select Committee's role investigating the Insurrection has been helpful. They've brought in documents and eyewitnesses who confirm trump's behavior leading up to and during the riots to provide evidence of awareness (other people warning him of the illegality of the riot) and intent (his documented behavior, especially his refusal to respond to calls for help for 187 minutes). Future committee sessions are arguably going to provide proof of links between the planners and rioters that could prove criminal behavior

3) Will the Justice Department bring charges and go to trial? Given the severity of the matter - there was almost an overthrow of the entire federal government! - the DOJ dare not sweep this one under a rug. It does not help trump any that he is running again to be President with every sign that he has learned from his mistakes and will seize power earlier - corrupting every legal safeguard in the Executive branch especially the Justice Dept. itself - and more ruthlessly than before.

The argument revolves around what charges the DOJ could bring to the table. The 2101 anti-riot law is the most likely one, but others - such as evidence trump was involved in the scheme to deploy fake electors in battleground states which violates 52 USC 20511 2(b) involving the procurement, casting, or tabulation of ballots that are known by the person to be materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent under the laws of the State in which the election is held - are of serious enough matters that the people involved - not just trump but the people who agreed to be fake electors and the people who schemed the whole thing - need to be held to account.

4) What are the consequences for trump if found guilty? Again, it depends entirely on what charges end up getting filed. With the anti-riot law, trump would be looking at fines and a five-year maximum. If we throw in the fake electors charges, trump could face fines and another five-year maximum as well. Any other charges would require further review.

Onto part three...

The Georgia Voter Interference affair, a state-level investigation that could also apply federal charges - if pursued - along with the state charges the Fulton County DA can bring to trump and others (for example, Rudy Giuliani was openly named "a target" of the grand jury proceedings he was forced to testify in this past week).

1) How serious are the charges? Serious enough that before the Mar-A-Lago warrant happened, THIS was the legal matter most observers believed was the one trump couldn't wriggle out of. What DA Willis is looking into are the possibilities trump attempted to coerce false testimony from state-level election officials - including Secretary of State Raffensperger - to "find me 11780 votes" (a very specific number that would have flipped the state from Biden) and then provide a slate of fake electors in violation of state law (as well as that 52 USC 20511 mentioned above).

2) Is there clear-cut evidence of a crime? This one has the best smoking gun of them all: trump himself on a phone call to Raffensperger where trump lies to him about having other states going along with the ruse, where trump clearly tries to pressure the state official to "find him" those extra votes, and where trump implied Raffensperger and other Georgia officials would be in legal trouble if they didn't help him. If it quacks like extortion and coercion...

3) Will the Justice  Appropriate legal authorities bring charges and go to trial? This is one of those matters where trump is facing state violations for willfully tampering with election results - under this law here and also this law - as well as federal code (again with the 52 USC 20511). Given how DA Willis is pursuing this matter - she's even working to compel Georgia governor Kemp to testify! - this may likely be a serious matter when it passes the grand jury to trial sooner rather than later (although delays by Lindsey Graham - who had applied his own pressures in favor of trump, even though he's not even the Senator from that state - may actually push this investigation into 2023). Whether the DOJ pursues this depends on their other fake electors probes related to the January 6th investigation.

4) What are the consequences for trump if found guilty? The federal charges would be the same as mentioned above for the 20511 code, a five-year max per charge. 

At the state level, trump would be looking at jail time if convicted of a first-degree felony (maximum three years on each count), but merely fines if convicted as a second-degree misdemeanor. The tricky thing is what happens if he's convicted on any of the felonies: Would trump pressure the state's governor - if it remains Republican under Kemp - for a pardon? While the pardon gets him out, it does leave him vulnerable to any civil matters on this, as well as the fact he'd have to admit as part of the pardon deal that he committed the crimes he's accused of (which also admits he knowingly lied about voter fraud and that he lost for real). If trump succeeds in stealing the vote for himself in 2024 after getting convicted in Georgia, the legal ramifications of having trump in state prison interfering with his ability to even show up at Inauguration to take the oath of office would be incendiary at least.

Welcome to the fourth one, Gods for such a lazy man trump has been busy breaking a lot of laws...

Heading up now to New York, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Criminal Case vs Trump Organization actually had some fireworks last week.

1) How serious are the charges? It's a little serious, but not as bad as the other matters already mentioned. Mostly because trump himself is not at any severe risk.

In one of those oddities of the legal system, the case getting pursued here filed tax fraud charges on the Trump corporation rather than on trump the person. Even though you would think - logically - that trump as CEO making all the decisions were criminally liable as well.

If any one person was charged, it was the financial officer Allen Weisselberg, who pled out last week to many of the charges applied to him. The deal is going to be half-and-half to most observers: Weisselberg will get five months in prison (with some of it served as home arrest, it sounds like) and will make himself available to testify "if the court case proceeds further to trial," but he will NOT testify directly against trump... which is where it gets frustrating. WHO in the end is actually going to be put on trial here?

2) Is there clear-cut evidence of a crime? There was enough evidence for criminal charges already made. At least fifteen years' worth of tax filings that trump and company had spent decades hiding from review, and there was enough on Weisselberg to compel a guilty plea from him before trial.

3) Will the Manhattan DA's office (insert Law & Order donk-donk noise here) bring charges and go to trial? This is the good thing: They already have. The charges were filed last year, and this past February the legal attempt to dismiss all charges was overruled (the judge did dismiss one of the fifteen charges). Jury selection on the matter is set to begin October 24 (mark your calendars!). 

The bad thing is, it does not look like the DA in charge - previously Cy Vance, now Alvin Bragg - is going to pursue the matter any further than having the company itself on trial. In spite of anger from some of the assistant DAs - several who resigned in protest - Bragg is worried about pursuing a case if there's not enough evidence to convict trump himself with absolute certainty. Granted, the caution is warranted (when you come at the trump, you best not miss...), but the assistant DAs who pursued the investigation were certain trump committed more felonies. Also, what would happen if during trial more evidence comes to light that trump is hiding more acts of fraud, or if there's perjury involved, or anything similar. Would those matters be pursued if they happen? A lot of this depends on who will actually testify at the trial (would the defense lawyers risk putting trump himself under oath on the stand?).

4) What are the consequences for trump the Organization if found guilty? As things stand, the consequences for trump himself seem non-existent. HE'S not on trial, technically it's his business that is.

Thing is, I cannot tell what kind of penalties a conviction would apply to a legal corporate entity. I'm not a lawyer and definitely not an expert on business law. I'm waiting on word back from people I'm asking about this...

Where the conviction(s) would not look good for anyone associated with the organization - trump and his family members (Donald Jr, Eric, Ivanka, son-in-law Jared) he's kept as his inner circle - it doesn't seem likely any of them will face jail time or direct fines. Weisselberg's insistence to not testify directly against trump may be the shield that saves him. 

But if the corporation is found guilty... There would be definitely fines and financial penalties of some sort. There may be - if severe enough - legal cause to dissolve the company (I would assume): If that happens, what would trump use as a base of his corporate "empire"? Is this Organization an umbrella of all of trump's holdings - his properties, his golf courses, his hotels and office buildings, and so on - and would all of those holdings be vulnerable to something like asset forfeiture? Again, I really need to find out what the actual stakes are.

And, finally... oh this has taken all day to write...

The other New York case, the state Attorney General’s Civil Case against Trump Organization. Different from the Manhattan (county) criminal case - both in the level of investigation and as a civil court matter - AG Letitia James has gone after trump in the most direct way possible, which involved getting the man himself to testify under oath, something the other major cases haven't done (yet).

1) How serious are the charges? Reasonably serious, even for a civil matter where the possibility of jail time isn't certain (but possible). 

Where the criminal case in Manhattan focused on specific instances of tax fraud, the state's case has looked at a larger picture where trump's organization misled tax agencies (both state and federal) as well as banks regarding the values of various properties and holdings. Given the fact that when trump gave his deposition last week he invoked his Fifth Amendment right from self-incrimination over 440 times, we could be looking at that many number of liability counts against trump himself if this goes to trial.

2) Is there clear-cut evidence of a crime? As similar to the Manhattan criminal probe, AG James found enough to justify a grand jury hearing into the whole thing. Given the complexity of the legal code when it comes to business and taxes, there may not be a "clear-cut" proof, but if it can be mapped out to potential jurors then there's a case here.

3) Will the NY Attorney General's office bring charges and go to trial? This is almost a certainty: James has dug up too many items for investigation - at least 440 of them to force trump to zip his lips - to just walk away from the matter. Unlike a criminal case - where DA Bragg has concerns about 100 percent proof before going after trump - in a civil matter the burden of proof for the state is lesser, so AG James is more likely to proceed on some charges of some kind.

An interesting development due to trump's invoking his Fifth is that James could charge trump with more direct liability than he would have faced if he had answered any of the questions. This would mean trump, from what I'm gathering, would have to pay more severe fines out of his own pocket (considering how he's a clown living on credit, this would be disastrous to him).

4) What are the consequences for trump AND the Organization if found guilty? As mentioned earlier, as a civil matter trump may not see jail time. But in terms of money...

Where I have a question about the penalties on a company under criminal charges, with the civil charges it's clear the Attorney General can invoke a "death penalty" on the company if repeated and persistent acts of fraud take place. Considering AG James can well bring 440 charges to the courtroom against trump, that's a noticeable amount of repeated and persistent fraud.

If the trump Organization is fully dissolved, where would that leave trump financially? Again, are we talking about most of his properties getting seized in forfeiture? Are we talking about getting fined to the point where his creditors - waiting on reportedly millions of dollars in loan payments - will bail on him and he can't borrow one more penny?

If there are legal experts with a better sense of what's at stake, I do hope to hear back from them.

So... WHEW. That's the top five major criminal/civil matters trump is facing this 2022.

So about the OTHER fifteen or more...

Just go to jail, trump. It'll make it easier on everybody else.

Saturday, August 20, 2022


Lest you think this blog is dedicated ONLY to the misdeeds and grifting of donald trump, Loser of the Popular Vote (Twice), it's been awhile since I ranted about THIS sonofabitch. So let's go.

A development this week - via Betty Cracker at Balloon Juice quoting from the Washington Post - is that deep into the 2022 midterms the Republican Senators running for election are running out of money to pay for things like ads, workers, and donuts:

Republican Senate hopefuls are getting crushed on airwaves across the country while their national campaign fund is pulling ads and running low on cash — leading some campaign advisers to ask where all the money went and to demand an audit of the committee’s finances, according to Republican strategists involved in the discussions…

“If they were a corporation, the CEO would be fired and investigated,” said a national Republican consultant working on Senate races. “The way this money has been burned, there needs to be an audit or investigation because we’re not gonna take the Senate now and this money has been squandered. It’s a rip-off.”

The NRSC’s chairman, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, has already taken heat from fellow Republicans for running ads featuring him on camera and releasing his own policy agenda that became a Democratic punching bag — leading to jokes that “NRSC” stood for “National Rick Scott Committee” in a bid to fuel his own presumed presidential ambitions...

As Betty noted, "Who could have predicted that putting a crook like Rick Scott in charge of the National Republican Senatorial Committee would make all the money go poof?"

I love that anonymous quote "If they were a corporation, the CEO would be fired and investigated," because that underscores the reality that Rick "Medicare Fraud" Scott WAS the CEO of a health care corporation who WAS fired while the company was forced to pay a $1.7 billion fine. The amount of money Rick actually stole for himself - it may have been $300 million - is still in dispute.

While the reality of fund-raising in a post-Citizens United world is wide open for candidates to get their money, the candidates still require some base level of support from their own party to cover a lot of their expenses. Senate campaigning can be an issue due to travel logistics (some states are HUGE and lack affordable transit infrastructure), for example. You gotta be certain you're getting some revenue somewhere, and there's no guarantee the richest Republican backer in your state has enough liquid assets (pocket change) in the moment to hand over (most rich folk are actually wealthy on paper: the money is on the stock market, investments, properties, you know like a Monopoly board. Anyway I digress).

As a result, the party that brung ya - in this matter, the Republicans - has to be well-funded enough at the national level to cover all their priorities, which should be 33 contested Senate elections this cycle (remember, the Senate rotates by thirds for their six-year terms).

And yet, the money's not there.

The other thing mentioned in that WaPo article is how Scott has been spending a lot of the party's money on himself, filming his own campaign spots - even though he's not running this cycle, his so-called buddy Marco Rubio is instead - as though he is the only one who matters. Scott also pushed out - against the advice of other party leaders - a policy agenda for Republicans that was a mix of "Contract On America" calls to patriotism, vague promises of culture war victories, and slashing popular federal social programs like Social Security.

If Scott thinks any of this is going to help him run a Presidential primary in 2024, he's not only a crook he's a goddamned idiot.

There is nothing about Scott that would make him popular or well-liked enough outside of the state of Florida to gain any primary victories down the road. He's not even that popular in Florida. He only won here for pretty much the same reason other Florida Republicans won the last 20 years: the demographics and voter turnout barely favored them over a Democratic state organization that's barely organized.

I said this before about Jeb! Bush (remember him?): 

Jeb! is primarily in politics because of the family name: generations worth of Bushes from Prescott to Bush the Elder to older brother Dubya. Jeb won the governorship of Florida (on his second try) at a time the state was solidly Republican, and even though he tried to hide his last name everyone in state knew where he came from. In hindsight his campaigning showed little innovation or risky stances: It was mostly a thing of fait accompli...

I noted almost the same thing about Marco Rubio:

Okay, I dunno if  you paid attention to the 2010 election, but the thing is Rubio won because A) Crist jumped out of the Republican Party that no longer loved him to run as an Independent, B) Crist and the Democratic challenger Greene kind of split their vote making it easier for Rubio to win, and C) in that Tea Party driven election cycle even a dead dog running for the Republican ticket would have won. Don't go giving Rubio props for a skill he don't have.

These guys - it was also Scott Walker from Wisconsin, whom the Beltway media fell in love with being a Rust Belt Republican (but not much else), and Chris Christie from New Jersey, and so many others - get on the national stage thinking they're charismatic and winning, but they always overlook the reality that they only won at a state level where the dogmatic GOP voting base and questionable Dem turnout gave them the illusion of popularity. When they actually canvass the nation for Presidential hopes, they all (Stop Trying to Make Rubio Happen He's Not Going to Happen) flamed out spectacularly against the juggernaut that was the trump Campaign Grift.

2024 won't be any different. If Rick Scott thinks he can forge a platform to run on, the primary voters don't give a fuck about the issues, all they care about is spiting the Libs. If Rick Scott thinks he can impress the voters, he's got nothing to impress them with. The fact he physically looks like the bastard child of Voldemort and Nosferatu will not help him when he goes campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire.

And if Rick Scott thinks he won't be the target of donald trump's bullying - considering how trump dominated the debate stages by ridiculing and mocking everyone else there until they whimpered and rolled over - just wait to see how trump brings up Scott's Medicare Fraud to humiliate him on that. If Scott thinks he can punch back by pointing out all of trump's criminal misdeeds, he is going to anger up the GOP voting base that's already in trump's corner.

I said this earlier: Nothing can stop trump being on the 2024 ticket. Even if he's already faced criminal trials and convicted to jail time, the Republican voters - all of them MAGA, all of them mad - will happily vote for an orange-jumpsuit and orange-colored Shitgibbon.

If Rick Scott thinks he can impress Republican voters by being a Medicare Fraud, he is still laughably an amateur compared to the fraud donald trump's committed for 50 years. And the GOP voters already chose trump.

The schadenfreude on this will cut deep, children.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Republicans Will Vote For a Convicted trump

One of the oddities of the American electoral system is that our Constitution barely spelled out any requirements for the office the Presidency.

All that's needed are that the candidate be of 35 years of age, a natural-born citizen of the United States, and having lived in the United States for 14 years.

There are no other qualifications, like say the candidate having previous elected experience (as a Governor or Senator or Congresscritter), or that the candidate has a college degree of some kind, or that the candidate pass some kind of intellectual competency test.

This becomes an oddity because it leaves open the possibility of some monstrously unqualified person running for - and winning - the office of the President. You could have someone who didn't even finish getting a high school education and shows a decided inability to write and read or even perform basic math. You could have someone who displays open psychological disorders like extreme sociopathy and narcissism (oh wait, we already had...). You could have someone getting elected President while sitting in a jail cell as a convicted felon.

Don't laugh, that almost happened. Sort of.

We've had people putting their name in for the highest office in the land while sitting with their homies in Cell Block D. Victoria Woodhull did it in 1872, running as a protest candidate at a time women weren't allowed to vote or hold office. Eugene V. Debs ran on the Socialist Party ticket in 1920 while sitting in jail for violation of the Espionage Act. Lyndon LaRouche ran for President in 1992 while in jail for tax and mail fraud.

It should be noted none of those examples even had a snowball's chance in hell. Woodhull wasn't taken seriously by the (mostly male) voters and none of them were ready for women to have such basic rights until the 1900s when the 19th Amendment finally passed. Debs - who had the best success among these examples with about a million votes - was running as a Socialist in a place - the United States - that never embraced socialism as a political philosophy even during the Progressive Era of the early 20th Century (much to the dismay of the Bernie Bros to this day). LaRouche was a verifiable conspiracy nut spouting racist and incoherent thoughts, and never garnered any major support even when he tried running on a Democratic Party label.

So why should this even be a problem for us?

Because donald trump, currently facing at least THREE criminal investigations and several civil court trials (one of which - the New York inquiry into tax fraud - could involve jail time), could well be a convicted felon by the time the 2024 election cycle rolls around... and the goddamned Republican Party - with enough base voters to give trump at least 62 million votes and at most 74 million - will likely have trump at the top of their ticket for another shot at the Presidency.

We're going to have a future 2024 campaign where one of the candidates - trump - will be forced to wear an orange jumpsuit while Zooming his debate performance from the Florence SuperMax prison.

I'm not the only one looking at this train wreck happen (again). David Frum is documenting the horror over at the Atlantic (paywall):

...Big-money Republicans hoped that 2022 would be the year the GOP quietly sidelined Trump. Those hopes have been fading all year, as extreme and unstable pro-Trump candidates have triumphed in primary after primary. Their last best hope was that the reelection of Ron DeSantis as governor of Florida would painlessly shoulder Trump out of contention for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. Now that hope, too, is dying.

DeSantis ran in 2018 as a craven Trump sycophant. He had four years to become his own man. He battled culture wars—even turning against his former backers at Disney—all to prove himself the snarling alpha-male bully that Republican primary voters reward. But since the Mar-a-Lago search, DeSantis has dropped back into the beta-male role, sidekick and cheering section for Trump.

Trump has reasserted dominance. DeSantis has submitted. And if Republican presidential politics in the Trump era has one rule, it’s that there’s no recovery from submission. Roll over once, and you cannot get back on your feet again...

Or as I like to say it "Once you become trump's bitch you will ALWAYS be trump's bitch." Back to Frum:

Historically, conservatives spoke the language of stability; progressives, the language of change. This summer, however, the Trump Republicans are speaking the language of confrontation, of threat, of violence. Five days ago, Peter Wehner described here at The Atlantic the angry shouts on right-wing message boards and websites. That language of menace is now being used by the former president himself. Allow me impunity or else face more armed violence from my supporters is the implicit Trump warning...

I've mentioned before how terrifying trump is as a political figure: In nearly every situation where a political scandal would bring down an elected official, for some godforsaken reason trump defies gravity and becomes even more entrenched as the standard-bearer for the twisted and broken GOP. In my own words back in 2016:

Here's where my hope turns to despair. For more than a year we've seen Trump campaign exactly in this manner: Shameless, reckless, lying, self-serving, arrogant, noisy, inhuman, insane. Everything he did last night was a greatest hits version of every horror Trump displayed on the campaign trail... and in all those previous disasters, Trump's numbers went up. He kept moving, he kept lying, he kept winning in the worst ways. That shamelessness is key: Most other politicians would never sink to the levels Trump does, because they are actually concerned about their reputation and their futures. Trump doesn't care: He believes his reputation is flawless - hint: it's not - and his soul unblemished, so he continues to behave this way because nobody stops him and because too many people buy into his con game.

The normal dynamics of an election cycle tells us that what happened to Trump tonight would sink any campaign. The law of gravity regarding any single gaffe requires that Trump sinks below his support and fades into zero. But that has not happened to him yet: And after all of the failures and insults and chaos, Trump keeps gaining ground he should not gain. I've seriously begun worrying that either the polls are rigged or that there really are that many clueless voters buying into Trump's scam...

Well, the elections in 2016 and 2020 proved to me there were a lot of voters buying into trump's scam (you may notice I hadn't developed the habit of insulting him by typing his name in lower caps), but it turned out they weren't clueless. Those voters were mostly as spiteful and hateful as he is, and as he granted them license to be that hateful to the world they have sworn him undying loyalty.

It is that shared spite that drives trump's support. To the MAGA voters out there, all of these criminal investigations are not honest efforts to protect our Constitution and our national security: They eagerly accept trump's deflections of them as shams and witch hunts by craven bureaucrats and liberals afraid of trump's "true" popularity and greatness. To these voters, they don't care if trump exposed classified information or violated the Espionage Act, they don't care if trump evaded paying taxes, they don't care if trump has been flushing documents down toilets like he had everything to hide, they don't care if trump has been lying to them for decades. Because to them trump is TRUMP (God/Savior/Emperor) and he can do whatever he likes.

This view among the MAGA crowd is, by the way, open hypocrisy considering how these same wingnuts were screaming - STILL screaming - "But Her Emails" with regards to Hillary Clinton's private server and email scandals... both of which were heavily investigated by Republican-led Congresses and Justice Departments and nothing found criminal. Hillary doesn't break the law and yet the Far Right still screams "Lock Her Up".

For all the fears that when - not if - donald trump finds himself in handcuffs facing criminal charges - be it in Georgia for election law violations, be it in South Florida for espionage, be it in Washington DC for ignoring the Presidential Records Act - that trump's followers will erupt into violence; the equally shocking thing is that even with trump in handcuffs by 2022 and in jail by 2024, the vast majority of Republican voters will still vote for a felon convicted by a jury of his peers.

If there's any good news, it's that trump may appeal to his rabid base but he's not that popular to the general voting public. He lost the popular vote in 2016 when he got 62 million to Hillary by 3 million voters, he only won the Presidency through a broken Electoral College system that favored smaller states. He lost the popular vote in 2020 when he got 74 million to Biden by 7 million voters, which was enough to give Biden the Electoral count as well.

With varying demographic realities - the slow shift to younger Millennial and Gen Z voters who are more liberal as aging conservative Boomers die off - and with the likelihood that enough Independent voters in 2024 will recoil from the reality that the Republican candidate is in jail, it seems unlikely trump can reclaim those 74 million he got in 2020. As long as Biden and the Democrats retain the 81 million who voted for him, trump can't win.

Then again: motherfucking trump defies political gravity (and the Republicans may try to cheat with election results in their GOP-controlled Red states).

Gods help us.

Elections matter, America. If trump does indeed meet justice and is found guilty of his crimes, for the LOVE OF GOD DO NOT ELECT AN HONEST-TO-GOD CROOK TO THE WHITE HOUSE.