Feb 21 2019

The Mueller Report?

Make no mistake- Jennifer Rubin is a conservative, albeit a never Unidicted Co-conspirator Bottomless Pinocchio one, an ally of momentary convenience only.

Still her commentary on the impending end of the Mueller Investigation into the Russian Treason Plot, unconfirmed by Mueller and his Office and potentially taking many forms if true, is at least less breathless than the Henny Penny cries of doom heard in some quarters so I highlight it as being instructive.

Mueller’s ‘winding down’ may be less than it appears
By Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post
February 21, 2019

The Post reports, “Justice Department officials are preparing for the end of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and believe a confidential report could be issued in coming days, according to people familiar with the discussions.” That report will go to Attorney General William Barr, who refused to promise during his confirmation hearings that he would release the entire report but has little reason to bottle up a report that Congress could subpoena anyway.

The Post report continues, “An adviser to President Trump said there is palpable concern among the president’s inner circle that the report might contain information about Trump and his team that is politically damaging, but not criminal conduct.” That would be the best-case scenario.

Let’s start with what will not be in the Mueller report: The findings from the Southern District of New York, which is exploring possible violation of campaign finance laws and Trump’s financial dealings. That could go on for years, and has always been a more serious concern for Trump’s inner circle. The report will also not contain the finding from any Roger Stone trial and/or plea deal, since that is being handled by the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, not the special counsel’s office. There could be other parts of the investigation Mueller has farmed out to other prosecutors involving Trump, his company, his foundation and his family members. That universe of legal activity will not stop even if Mueller’s part of the investigation does.

As for Mueller’s report, no one outside the special counsel’s team really knows what form it will take. Everything from a simple declination to prosecute to a Leon Jaworski’-like road map to impeachment to a Ken Starr-like potboiler is possible. The restriction on release of grand jury testimony could be lifted by Chief Judge Beryl Howell, the very same judge who recently approved unsealing the Jaworski road map.

I am less concerned than many that Barr, who is a respected lawyer and owes Trump no particular loyalty, will bury the report, especially if Mueller has obtained approval from the chief judge to release grand jury materials to Congress. Perpetuating rumors and speculation about what is in or not in the special counsel’s report serves no one’s interest.

Just as the form of the report is as yet unknown, no outside observer can predict what it will contain. Mueller — who was charged with overseeing both a criminal and counterintelligence investigation — has, with each indictment and conviction, provided previously unknown details, introduced new characters and enlightened us as to the extent of the Russian scheme to interfere with our election.

While court documents and news reports indicate that many members of the Trump team (Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner) had contacts with Russians or the Russian cutout WikiLeaks during the campaign, what Trump knew about these and what actions, if any, he approved have not yet been revealed. He might have been privy to every move, utterly clueless or somewhere in between. Without knowing what a host of cooperating witnesses, including Cohen, Michael Flynn and Donald McGahn, has told Mueller, it’s foolhardy to speculate as to what Mueller has learned.

The only “collusion” by Trump we can definitively identify occurred in plain sight — his public request for the Russians to go find Hillary Clinton’s emails. WikiLeaks would later oblige, releasing the first emails within hours of the “Access Hollywood” tape’s release. (Trump’s efforts to pursue the Moscow Trump Tower deal despite Trump’s public denials provide a possible motive for Trump to cover up his Russian connections, but do not on their face appear to be illegal.)

More likely to be included in Mueller’s report is a catalogue of Trump’s efforts to disrupt and interfere with investigations into his and his campaign’s Russia contacts. Trump’s role in concocting phony cover stories (regarding the reason for firing James Comey as FBI director, to explain the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting), his offers to pardon witnesses, his efforts to influence the Manafort jury by publicly disparaging prosecutors, his attempts to get then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to unrecuse himself, his attempt to persuade Comey to go easy on Flynn, and any potentially misleading written answers by Trump to Mueller’s written questions could be laid out so as to bring us to the inescapable conclusion that Trump obstructed justice.

Trump and his team are right in one respect: Mueller is highly unlikely to indict a sitting president in violation of Justice Department guidelines. (As a former Justice Department official who has worked with Mueller over the years told me, “He’s not a guy to color outside the lines.”) The immediate consequences for the president will be political. Once Mueller is done, the host of other investigations will continue while the focus moves to Congress. Congress and the voters get the last say as to when and under what conditions Trump’s presidency will end.

Personally I agree more with emptywheel who is less impressed by the rumors of “winding down”.

Questions to Ask before Reporting a BREAKING Mueller Report
February 20, 2019

Because a lot of people have asked me about this and because Williams (and some other journalists) don’t appear to know enough about the Mueller investigation to ask the proper questions to assess that claim, I’d like to lay out a little logic and a few facts. It’s certainly possible that a Mueller report is coming next week — I’d argue that one is assuredly coming on Friday. But I doubt that means what Williams thinks it does.

The conclusory report is not coming next week

When Mueller is done, he has to submit a confidential report to the Attorney General (who is now Mueller’s friend William Barr) telling him what he did and didn’t do. Given everything Barr said as part of his confirmation process, we’re unlikely to see this report.

To assess whether this report is what Pete Williams thinks is coming, we should assess whether public evidence is consistent with Mueller being done.

The answer to that is clearly no. He’s still chasing testimony from Roger Stone flunkie Andrew Miller and from some foreign owned corporation (and has been chasing that, in the case of Miller, since last May).

Given that Miller already interviewed with the FBI for two hours and the foreign company is, by dint of being foreign, a no-brainer target for NSA, it’s quite likely Mueller knows what he’s getting from both of these entities. He just needs Miller on the record, so he can’t change his story to protect Stone, and needs to parallel construct the information from the foreign company. So it’s possible that as soon as Mueller gets both of these things, he’ll finish up quickly (meaning The Report could be soon). But there is no way that’ll happen by next week, in part because whatever the DC Appeals Court says in the Andrew Miller case, the loser will appeal that decision.

So it’s virtually certain that The Report is not coming by next week.

A report talking about “collusion” is coming this week

But maybe NBC’s sources are speaking metaphorically, and mean something else that isn’t the conclusory report but that will more closely resemble what everyone thinks of when they talk about The Report.

That’s likely to happen, but if it does, it’ll just be a partial report.

That’s because both Mueller and the defense have to submit a sentencing memo in Paul Manafort’s DC case Friday. As I noted back in November when Mueller’s prosecutors declared Manafort to have breached his plea agreement, this sentencing memo presents an opportunity for Mueller to “report” what they’ve found — at least with respect to all the criminal actions they know Manafort committed, including those he lied about while he was supposed to be cooperating — without anyone at DOJ or the White House suppressing the most damning bits. DOJ won’t be able to weigh in because a sentencing memo is not a major action requiring an urgent memo to the Attorney General. And the White House will get no advance warning because Big Dick Toilet Salesman Matt Whitaker is no longer in the reporting chain.

So, as noted, Mueller will have an opportunity to lay out:

  1. The details of Manafort’s sleazy influence peddling, including his modus operandi of projecting his own client’s corruption onto his opponents
  2. The fact that Manafort already pled guilty to conspiring with a suspected Russian intelligence asset
  3. The details about how Manafort — ostensibly working for “free” — got paid in 2016, in part via kickbacks from a Super PAC that violated campaign finance law, possibly in part by Tom Barrack who was using Manafort and Trump as a loss-leader to Middle Eastern graft, and in part by deferred payments or debt relief from Russian-backed oligarchs
  4. Manafort’s role and understanding of the June 9 meeting, which is a prelude of sorts to the August 2 one
  5. The dates and substance of Manafort’s ongoing communications with suspected Russian intelligence asset Konstantin Kilimnik, including the reasons why Manafort shared highly detailed polling data on August 2, 2016 that he knew would be passed on to his paymasters who just happened to be (in the case of Oleg Deripaska) a central player in the election year operation
  6. The ongoing efforts to win Russia relief from the American Ukrainian-related sanctions by pushing a “peace” plan that would effectively give Russia everything it wants
  7. Manafort’s ongoing discussions with Trump and the Administration, up to and including discussions laying out how if Manafort remains silent about items two through six, Trump will pardon him

Because those items are all within the substance of the crimes Manafort pled guilty to or lied about during his failed cooperation, they’re all squarely within the legitimate content of a sentencing memo. And we should expect the sentencing memo in DC to be at least as detailed as the EDVA one; I expect it, like the EDVA one and like Manafort’s plea deal, will be accompanied by exhibits such as the EDVA one showing that Manafort had bank accounts to the tune of $25,704,669.72 for which suspected Russian intelligence asset Konstantin Kilimnik was listed as a beneficial owner in 2012. Heck, we might even get to see the polling data Manafort shared, knowing it was going to Russia, which was an exhibit to Manafort’s breach determination.

The only thing limiting how much detail we’ll get about these things (as well as about how Manafort served as a secret agent of Russian backed Ukrainian oligarchs for years) is the ongoing sensitivities of the material, whether because it’s grand jury testimony, SIGINT collection, or a secret Mueller intends to spring on other defendants down the road.

It’s the latter point that will be most telling. As I noted, thus far, the silences about Manafort’s cooperation are — amazingly — even more provocative than the snippets we learned via the breach determination. We’ll likely get a read on Friday whether Mueller has ongoing equities that would lead him to want to keep these details secret. And the only thing that would lead Mueller to keep details of the conspiracy secret is if he plans to charge it in an overarching conspiracy indictment.

We may also get information, however, that will make it far more difficult for Trump to pardon Manafort.

So, yeah, there’s a report coming out this week. But it’s not The Report.

Any overarching conspiracy indictment will not be coming this week

It’s possible Mueller is close to charging an overarching conspiracy indictment, laying out how Trump and his spawn entered into a quid quo pro with various representatives of the Russian government, getting dirt on Hillary and either a Trump Tower or maybe a bailout for the very same building in which Manafort met with Konstantin Kilimnik on August 2, 2016. In exchange for all that, Trump agreed to — and took steps to deliver on, with some success in the case of election plot participant Deripaska — reversing the sanctions that were such a headache to Russia’s oligarchs.

Such an indictment, if Mueller ever charges it, will look like what Trump opponents would like The Report to look like. In addition to naming Don Jr and Jared Kushner and Trump Organization and a bunch of other sleazeballs, it would also describe the actions of Individual-1 in adequate detail to launch an impeachment proceeding.

But that indictment, if Mueller ever charges it, won’t be coming on Friday or Monday, as Williams predicts, because it likely requires whatever it is Mueller is trying to parallel construct from that foreign-owned company. And even if SCOTUS denies its appeal today, it’s unlikely that evidence will be in hand in time for a Friday indictment.

Mueller could ensure a report gets delivered to Jerry Nadler next week … but that’s unlikely

There’s one other possibility that would make Williams’ prediction true: if Mueller deliberately triggered the one other way to deliver a report, by asking to take an action William Barr is unlikely to approve, and if Mueller was willing to close up shop as a result, then a report would go to Congress and — if Barr thought it in the public interest — to the public.

The only thing that Mueller might try to do that Barr would not approve (though who knows? maybe what Mueller has is so egregious Barr will surprise us?) is to indict the President.

I think this is unlikely, for all the reasons the first possibility laid out here is unlikely: that is, Mueller is still waiting on two details he has been chasing for quite some time, and I doubt he’d be willing to forgo that evidence just to trigger a report. It’s also unlikely because Mueller is a DOJ guy, and he’s unlikely to ask to do what he knows OLC says he should not do.

Still, it’s hypothetically possible that Mueller believes Trump is such an egregious criminal and national security risk he needs to try to accelerate the process of holding him accountable by stopping his investigation early (perhaps having the DC AUSAs named on the Miller and Mystery Appellant challenges take over those pursuits) and asking to indict the President.

But if that’s what Williams is reporting, he sure as hell better get more clarity about that fact, because, boy would it be news.

All of which is the lesson of this post: If you’re being told — or telling others — that Mueller’s report is imminent, then you’re either being told very very big news, or bullshit. Do yourself and us a favor of learning the base level regulations to understand which it is.

Feb 21 2019

Election 2018

Over Balaclava? I don’t think I’ll ever get over Balaclava.

Republican Mark Harris calls for new election in North Carolina’s 9th District

Mark Harris, the Republican candidate in North Carolina’s disputed 9th Congressional District, said Thursday that he believes a new election should be called after hearing four days of testimony alleging that fraud took place during Harris’ 2018 race.

Harris’ statement, reversing weeks of GOP resistance to a new North Carolina race, came after state officials said Thursday that Harris’ campaign attorney withheld documents relevant to the investigation.

State board lawyer John Lawson said Harris’ campaign attorney turned over documents late Wednesday night, a day before Harris was set to take the stand. The records in question should have been turned over earlier under a subpoena sent to the campaign committee, the board said.

Harris’ campaign attorney, John Branch, said he mistakenly believed the documents did not fall under the subpoena.

“I’m here to own that,” Branch said, adding that he did not think to ask Harris’ campaign manager or other campaign employees paid by the consulting firm Red Dome Group to turn over records.

The revelation drew the ire of the election board chairman, Bob Cordle, who called Branch’s actions “unacceptable.”

Mark Harris’ son warned him about operative in North Carolina scandal

In emotional testimony Wednesday, the son of North Carolina Republican Mark Harris said he warned his father about the absentee ballot strategy used by Leslie McCrae Dowless, the political operative at the center of an election fraud scandal in the state’s 9th Congressional District.

John Harris testified before the North Carolina State Board of Elections on Wednesday about allegations of election fraud. Though Mark Harris led Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes in the unofficial ballot count on election night in November, the election board refused to certify a winner, pointing to accusations of fraud.

John Harris, an attorney, said he had been suspicious of Dowless’ operation early on and shared his thoughts with his father and mother. His testimony appears to refute comments made by his father that he was never warned about Dowless, who has felony convictions of fraud and perjury.

After the elder Harris met with Dowless, his son sent him an email on April 7, 2017, that included text of the law on the illegality of collecting a person’s absentee ballot.

“Good test is if you’re comfortable with the full process he uses being broadcast on the news,” the younger Harris told his father in an email as the candidate contemplated hiring Dowless.

John Harris said he believed his father’s mind was already made up despite the warning.

He added that there’s no reason for him to believe his father, mother or anyone else within his father’s campaign knew what Dowless was doing.

“I raised red flags at the time the decision was made to hire Mr. Dowless,” John Harris, whose testimony dominated the third day of the hearing, said.

“I love my dad, and I love my mom. I certainly have no vendetta against them, no family scores to settle,” he said. “I think that they made mistakes in this process and they certainly did things differently than I would have done them.”

Now that Harris and the Republicans have agreed to new elections it becomes highly probable that’s the way the State Board of Elections will rule, so get ready for a redo in NC 09.

Feb 21 2019

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Neal K. Katyal: The Mueller Report Is Coming. Here’s What to Expect.

A concise report will probably act as a “road map” to investigation for the Democratic House — and to further criminal investigation by other prosecutors.

The special counsel Robert Mueller will apparently soon turn in a report to the new attorney general, William Barr. Sure, there is still a lot of activity, including subpoenas, flying around, but that shouldn’t stop Mr. Mueller.

The report is unlikely to be a dictionary-thick tome, which will disappoint some observers. But such brevity is not necessarily good news for the president. In fact, quite the opposite.

For months, the president’s lawyers have tried to discredit Mr. Mueller and this report, but their efforts may have backfired. A concise Mueller report might act as a “road map” to investigation for the Democratic House of Representatives — and it might also lead to further criminal investigation by other prosecutors. A short Mueller report would mark the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end.

The report is unlikely to be lengthy by design: The special counsel regulations, which I had the privilege of drafting in 1999, envision a report that is concise, “a summary” of what he found. And Mr. Mueller’s mandate is limited: to look into criminal activity and counterintelligence matters surrounding Russia and the 2016 election, as well as any obstruction of justice relating to those investigations.

Anthony D. Romero: Trump’s ‘Emergency’ Declaration Is Illegal

Trump’s emergency declaration is a blatant abuse of power in the service of his anti-immigrant agenda and a brazen attempt to subvert the constitutional separation of powers

President Donald Trump declared a “national emergency” on Friday to pay for his border wall. In doing so, he’s violating the law, subverting the Constitution and hurting American communities. That’s why we’re taking him to court.

We all know what an emergency really is. It’s when something unexpected and dangerous happens that requires an immediate response. Trump himself admitted that there is no emergency when he said, “I didn’t need to do this.”

Trump added that his reason for the declaration was that he wanted to build the wall “much faster.” But that’s not how our democratic system works. Congress considered his desire for $5.7 billion in wall funding — and rejected it, instead appropriating $1.375 billion for new border barriers. The president cannot now try to get his way by unilaterally taking money that Congress has already budgeted for other things.

The Constitution assigns Congress the power of the purse. Members of Congress fight to secure funding for national priorities and their constituents’ needs during the yearly budget battles that dominate Washington for months.

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Feb 21 2019


Anna Akana

How to be prolific

Feb 21 2019

The Breakfast Club (Do Something)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

 photo stress free zone_zps7hlsflkj.jpg

This Day in History

Malcolm X assassinated; President Richard Nixon visits China; Televangelist Jimmy Swaggart makes a tearful confession; Steve Fossett is the first to fly across the Pacific Ocean in a balloon.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something.

John Lewis

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Feb 20 2019

Jared’s Time In The Nuclear Barrel

What? You thought we were done? The crimes are limitless.

Remember that canard about Hillary selling out a U.S. Uranium mine (Ridiculous nonsense. Peripherally involved, Canadian company with Russian interests, Operations and Management only- strict export controls.)?

Now we find Jared is selling potentially dual use Nuclear Reactors to The House of Saud.

They actually have a legitimate use for them if they’re reserving Oil for export but they burn enough Methane to power themselves for a year in a day and think nothing of it, not to mention that Sun.

Dual use means of course valuable in making Nuclear Weapons.

I’ve felt The House of Saud had Nuclear capability right along. I would have bought them from Pakistan, highly sophisticated and well tested. Jong Un wishes he could afford these. Still, if a visionary… Prince say, were to decide that future supplies might be, umm… unreliable, a domestic infrastructure could prove remarkably foresighted, hmm…

Top Trump appointees promoted selling nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia over objections from national security officials, House Democratic report says
By Tom Hamburger, Steven Mufson, and Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post
February 19, 2019

Key members of the Trump administration pushed a plan to sell nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia in the months after the inauguration despite objections from members of the National Security Council and other senior White House officials, according to a new report from congressional Democrats.

The 24-page report from the House Oversight and Reform Committee is based on internal White House documents and the accounts of unnamed whistleblowers. It said the objectors — including White House lawyers and National Security Council officials — opposed the plan out of concern that it violated laws designed to prevent the transfer of nuclear technology that could be used to support a weapons program.

Of greater concern to some were potential conflicts of interest on the part of Michael Flynn, the retired Army lieutenant general who was President Trump’s first national security adviser and who had advised a firm pitching the nuclear plan. Yet the effort persisted even after Flynn resigned and left the White House, the report alleges.

The possible sale of nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia was discussed in the Oval Office just last week. The meeting included Energy Secretary Rick Perry, representatives from the NSC and State Department, and a dozen nuclear industry chief executives, one of the people present told The Washington Post.

The Democrats’ report was released Tuesday morning by Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), the new chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, who has pledged multiple investigations into the Trump administration. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday that his panel would join the Oversight Committee in investigating the proposed nuclear sales.

“Multiple whistleblowers came forward to warn about efforts inside the White House to rush the transfer of highly sensitive U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia in potential violation” of federal law, the Oversight Committee report says.

The report, key elements of which were confirmed by people directly familiar with the matter, cites whistleblowers who said that the Trump appointees “ignored directives from top ethics advisers who repeatedly — but unsuccessfully — ordered senior White House officials to halt their efforts.”

The Trump White House has balked at endorsing intelligence reports suggesting that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in the killing of Khashoggi, which was carried out Oct. 2 inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Many American experts on proliferation say it is in U.S. interests to sell American nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia to prevent rival Russian or Chinese companies from rushing in, potentially undermining the long geopolitical relationship between Washington and Riyadh.

Recently, the kingdom has been signaling an interest in forging greater ties with countries aside from the United States. It has been cooperating with Russia on oil policy, and a report Tuesday by the Russian news agency Interfax said the two countries were in talks on air defense missiles.

Saudi officials have said they would like to buy nuclear power plants so that their country is not totally reliant on oil, although it has the world’s second-largest known petroleum reserves. The kingdom says it wants nuclear energy to displace oil burned to generate electricity, especially for air conditioning. That would boost Saudi Arabia’s oil export capacity. Saudi electricity consumption doubled between 2005 and 2015.

But Saudi Arabia also sees nuclear energy as a way to compete with Iran, which has one reactor in addition to the uranium-enrichment program it concealed for years. The Saudi crown prince warned in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” last year that his country would develop nuclear weapons if Iran did. That added to concern among U.S. analysts that the Saudis want the atomic power project as a covert way to develop nuclear weapons.

The report released Tuesday notes that one of the power plant manufacturers that could benefit from a nuclear deal, Westinghouse Electric, is a subsidiary of Brookfield Asset Management, the company that has provided financial relief to the family of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser. Brookfield Asset Management took a 99-year lease on the Kushner family’s deeply indebted New York City property at 666 Fifth Ave.

Kushner is preparing for a trip to the Middle East to discuss the economic component of his Middle East peace initiative, according to the report. A lawyer for Kushner did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

The Democratic report singles out several top Trump associates at the time as key proponents of the sales, and identifies Flynn as the leader. A plan was initially floated by IP3, a firm led by several former high-ranking military officers, the report said. They called their plan a “Marshall Plan” for nuclear reactors in the Middle East. Flynn described himself in ethics filings as an adviser to a subsidiary of IP3. The company has denied that it hired him.

Derek Harvey, a senior director for Middle East and North Africa affairs at the National Security Council, was an advocate of the IP3 plan. In late January 2017, after meeting with IP3 leaders, Harvey sought to put together a briefing package about the nuclear sales for Trump ahead of a scheduled phone call with Saudi King Salman, according to the report, which cited an email from one of the IP3 founders to NSC officials.

Weeks after Flynn resigned, there were indications that he remained involved in pushing a nuclear deal. Harvey said during an internal meeting on March 2, 2017, that he spoke with Flynn every night. The report said his remarks came from separate accounts of five unnamed individuals.

Harvey did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday. In July 2017, he became an adviser to Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.), the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.

According to the Democratic report, Harvey’s NSC colleagues warned repeatedly that any plan to transfer nuclear technology had to comply with the Atomic Energy Act. The United States imposes limits on uranium enrichment and the reprocessing of spent fuel, both of which could be used to produce material for nuclear bombs. Saudi Arabia does not want to make those commitments.

On Jan. 30, 2017, the report says, NSC staffers, ethics counsel and lawyers alerted the top NSC legal adviser, John Eisenberg, who reports to the White House general counsel. Eisenberg instructed the NSC staffers to stop all work on the plan, according to the report.

Feb 20 2019

A Big Deal

It’s not exactly breaking news that Cops have been shaking down innocent people for cash or valuable items.

In this case a car.

Supreme Court says constitutional protection against excessive fines applies to state actions
By Robert Barnes, Washington Post
February 20, 2019

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday that the Constitution’s prohibition on excessive fines applies to state and local governments, limiting their abilities to impose fines and seize property.

“For good reason, the protection against excessive fines has been a constant shield throughout Anglo-American history: Exorbitant tolls undermine other constitutional liberties,” Ginsburg wrote. “Excessive fines can be used, for example, to retaliate against or chill the speech of political enemies. . . . Even absent a political motive, fines may be employed in a measure out of accord with the penal goals of retribution and deterrence.”

The court ruled in favor of Tyson Timbs of Marion, Ind., who had his $42,000 Land Rover seized after he was arrested for selling a couple hundred dollars’ worth of heroin.

He drew wide support from civil liberties organizations who want to limit civil forfeitures, which they say empower localities and law enforcement to seize property of someone suspected of a crime as a revenue stream.

The Constitution’s Bill of Rights protects against actions of the federal government. But the Supreme Court over time has applied it to state and local governments under the due-process clause of the 14th Amendment. In 2010, for instance, the court held that the Second Amendment applied to state and local government laws on gun control.

The Eighth Amendment states: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” Two of those commands — regarding bail and cruel and unusual punishments — have been deemed to apply to state and local governments. But until now, the ban on excessive fines had not been.

Ginsburg’s opinion makes clear that the clause applies, and that it is “incorporated” under the 14th Amendment’s due process Clause. Justices Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch agreed with the outcome, but said they would have relied on a different part of the 14th Amendment.

Feb 20 2019

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: On Paying for a Progressive Agenda

Whoever gets the Democratic nomination, she or he will run in part on proposals to increase government spending. And you know what that will mean: There will be demands that the candidate explain how all this will be paid for. Many of those demands will be made in bad faith, from people who never ask the same questions about tax cuts. But there are some real questions about the fiscal side of a progressive agenda.

Well, I have some thoughts about that, inspired in part by looking at Elizabeth Warren’s proposals on both the tax and spending side. By the way, I don’t know whether Warren will or even should get the nomination. But she’s a major intellectual figure, and is pushing her party toward serious policy discussion in a way that will have huge influence whatever her personal trajectory.

In particular, Warren’s latest proposal on child care – and the instant pushback from the usual suspects – has me thinking that we could use a rough typology of spending proposals, classified by how they might be paid for. Specifically, let me suggest that there are three broad categories of progressive expenditure: investment, benefits enhancement, and major system overhaul, which need to be thought about differently from a fiscal point of view.

Jennifer Rubin: Graham sums up how stupid the GOP has become

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in a number of ways epitomizes the Republican Party’s descent into intellectual rot and immoral opportunism. Graham as a candidate called out President Trump as a bigot and “the most flawed nominee in the history of the Republican Party.”

As one of the late Sen. John McCain’s closest friends, Graham decried autocrats, stood up for human rights and castigated President Barack Obama for failing to exercise global leadership. He considered himself a defender of the military and our national intelligence community.

He’s now among the worst apologists for Trump — vowing to investigate unsubstantiated smears of the Justice Department and FBI and insisting there was no collusion between the Trump team and the Russians (despite evidence of Paul Manafort’s meeting with Konstantin Kilimnik, the Trump Tower June 2016 meeting and the Roger Stone-WikiLeaks connection.)

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Feb 20 2019

It never stops.

It just never stops.

Forget Andrew McCabe, yesterday’s get. Today’s sweeties are Mark Mazzetti, Maggie Haberman, Nicholas Fandos, and Michael S. Schmidt. We’ll see how many have airtime tonight.

I find it mildly disappointing in that it’s mostly stuff we already know. Unidicted Co-conspirator Bottomless Pinocchio has been guilty, guilty, guilty of Obstruction of Justice and he confessed it to the Russian Ambassador and Lester Holt! On Tape!

It’s as good a summary as any I suppose.

Cody Fenwick at Alternet has flagged the new stuff this way-

Here are 7 bombshells from the NYT’s devastating report of Trump’s ‘war’ on the investigations into him
by Cody Fenwick, Alternet
February 19, 2019

  1. Trump pressured Whitaker to install a crony to oversee the SDNY investigation.
  2. Attorneys for the president dangled pardons to both Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn.
  3. Even though Michael Flynn resigned voluntarily, Trump pushed the falsehood that he asked for Flynn’s resignation.
  4. White House lawyers warned about Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s spreading of misinformation.
  5. Trump claims Rod Rosenstein told him the Michael Cohen investigation had nothing to do with him.
  6. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and other Trump allies decided in July 2017 to actively undermine Mueller.
  7. Trump has gone after Mueller and the Russia investigation more than 1,100 times in public.

Anyway, what everybody’s talking about-

Intimidation, Pressure and Humiliation: Inside Trump’s Two-Year War on the Investigations Encircling Him
By Mark Mazzetti, Maggie Haberman, Nicholas Fandos and Michael S. Schmidt, The New York Times
Feb. 19, 2019

As federal prosecutors in Manhattan gathered evidence late last year about President Trump’s role in silencing women with hush payments during the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump called Matthew G. Whitaker, his newly installed attorney general, with a question. He asked whether Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York and a Trump ally, could be put in charge of the widening investigation, according to several American officials with direct knowledge of the call.

Mr. Whitaker, who had privately told associates that part of his role at the Justice Department was to “jump on a grenade” for the president, knew he could not put Mr. Berman in charge because Mr. Berman had already recused himself from the investigation. The president soon soured on Mr. Whitaker, as he often does with his aides, and complained about his inability to pull levers at the Justice Department that could make the president’s many legal problems go away.

Trying to install a perceived loyalist atop a widening inquiry is a familiar tactic for Mr. Trump, who has been struggling to beat back the investigations that have consumed his presidency. His efforts have exposed him to accusations of obstruction of justice as Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, finishes his work investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Look, does anyone hear Mueller talking about “finishing up”? I’m convinced he has the goods and is ready to rock and roll, unfortunately new crimes keep rolling in.

Feb 20 2019


What has Hasan Minaj been doing? So happy you asked.

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