Can there be obstruction if no underlying crime was committed?

Yes.  See the link below.

https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2019/mar/25/martha-stewart-donald-trump-can-there-be-obstructi/

Per Fact Checking sites.   They really are very good.  I can see why recently Trump attacked Fact Checking websites.  Many of the worst lies (fake news) are disseminated on Facebook by bloggers.  But on occasion,  statements by Donald Trump join the “Pants on Fire” group.  So, do not trust anything posted anonymously by a blogger.  Same goes for Trump’s tweets.   Secondly, there are a ton of commentators particularly on Fox News, who live by selling books and videos, on grand conspiracy theories and deep state nonsense.  I will not vote for anyone with a track record as bad as Trump’s in the 2020 election.

Learn to separate out serious news reporting from late night “news show.”    If you ever watched a Lou Dobbs broadcast, you know what I mean.  Lou makes it very easy for his guests to respond, as there’s hardly a question embedded inside of a question, except,  “Don’t you agree with me?”.

As per the Mueller report,  I support the Attorney General’s approach.  The amount of speculation of what is contained in the report, is really incredible.  His letter cited just two conclusions contained in the report.  Redacting sensitive information from a report, particularly one related to counter-intelligence, requires considerable time.  I reject the call from impatient Democrats, saying they want everything right now.  For our justice system to work, not everything should be disclosed, including FISA subpoenas.

Barr released his letter two days after he got the report because to do otherwise would have politicians claiming he was concealing information.   It is difficult to tamp down or narrow the scope of speculation on what the report concludes.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solid Information on Mueller’s Investigation

Any discussion on the Mueller probe which begins with a half dozen assertions made by President Trump, or highly biased commentators on both liberal and conservative leaning cable stations, has immediately veered off course.  There have been so many claims by commentators that getting to the facts at times seems hard.  The truth is always a bit more complicated and considerably longer.

There are numerous unbiased sources of information on the internet.  I am not about to launch into a discussion of “intellectual honesty”  but this is severely lacking in many of the broadcast networks.

The probe is officially over so Robert Mueller can go home.  Well sort of.  He will be called to testified in the House Judiciary Oversight Committee as to his findings.  The Justice Department has stated there will be no more indictments.  At present, the Justice Department is reviewing the Mueller’s Final Report, to identify what may be provided to Congress.  Under the law, the AG is not obligated to provide any part of the report, but only a summary of the important findings.  The Attorney General William Barr and Deputy AG Rob Rosenstein worked over the weekend to produce the summary and it was posted in the previous blog.

The probe began as a counter-intelligence investigation by the FBI, when they received information that Russia was attempting to meddle in US elections in 2016.  I believe the report will provide very similar details as given in Wikipedia, that the “triggering event” into the investigation was comments made by George Papadopoulos in a London bar to an Austrian diplomat about the Russians had damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

The Mueller investigation is now history.  His investigation was limited to Russian involvement in the 2016 election.  As the investigation proceeded, evidence of other criminal activities were discovered and Mueller referred these to other federal jurisdictions.   The remaining criminal cases will be handled by federal prosecutors.

I believe the best unbiased source on the internet is from Wikipedia.  It is constantly added to keep up with events.  There are over 450 references provided on the Mueller probe and most of them are available just by clicking on the links.

President Trump has attacked the Special Counsel’s investigation over 1000 times, according to Wikipedia.   Many of these attacks are unprecedented by a president, as he has the authority to appoint his cabinet officials and the Director of the FBI.  I feel particularly bad on his attack and firing of AG Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey.  His attacks now seem aimed at the House Oversight Committees’ investigations.   Note, as far as honesty, Trump’s track record is dismal, as only 4% of his statements are judged to be true, by Politifact.com .   Many of them are on immigration, but I think more will come on the Russian Probe.

I can understand that there is information within Mueller’s report which must be redacted because it deals with national security or future prosecutions.  I believe a redacted version of the report will be released.

Russia seems committed to meddling in elections where it can have an influence.   The US will continue to be a target of meddling going forward, because our country is now very evenly divided between Republican and Democratic states.  The 7 to 12 “toss up” states will determine the winner in the 2020 election.

It takes a bit of effort to search for the facts, instead of what comes via Facebook, Twitter (never use it) or other sources.   There are some very good honest information on the internet, if one is selective of the source.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Wikipedia:  Mueller Investigation

Wikipedia: Robert Mueller Biography 

Jeff Sessions

Politifact.com

(see his latest comments,  none of them are true.  The last truthful statement dates back to November 18, 2018).

Factcheck.org

Another excellent fact checker.

AG Barr’s summary of Mueller’s Report

“It was a total and complete exoneration” 

Donald Trump

No it wasn’t.

AG Barr’s memo:

The Special Counsel’s report states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

However, consistent with the President Trump’s statement:

“the Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.”

No clean bill of health.  Not for Trump nor his campaign officials.

I guess it’s best just to read AG Barr’s memo.  It’s only 4 pages.

AG March 24 2019 Letter to House and Senate Judiciary Committees

Normally, I would include links, but there is just so much out there, you can take your choice.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

Mueller’s report delayed

Even the best Mueller investigation trackers don’t know what happened.  The Department of Justice had never officially said a final report would be issued.  I had thought this would be an interim report.  It would not include the ongoing investigation into the inaugural committee and  irregularities in the Trump Foundation, which are being handled by the Federal Attorney Office in the  Southern District of New York.   I’ve thought of these investigations as independent investigations- but maybe not.  A lot of money was flowing into the inauguration committee and there may still be a Russian connection.

Of course, Mueller can issue an interim report with large sections redacted – not a particularly satisfying conclusion to either Republicans or Democrats.  What Mueller abhors at this point is leaked information.  Like a good prosecutor, he’s going after indictments then convictions.  And contrary to what Trump has been saying, he’s been very successful with either guilty pleas or convictions.   Mueller knows that once the Department of Justice has the report, it will be subject to a subpoena by Congress, and the House will want to question Mueller making leaks more likely.   Trump’s lawyers will want to see the report without redacted sections and  that’s where leaks to the media can occur.  It will clue them into unresolved parts of the investigation.

I am hoping the investigation is winding down as the final pieces come together.  The wheels of justice grind slowly.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

Stone’s arrest and the electronic trail

I figured this one out soon after Roger Stone was arrested.  Stone’s value to the Mueller investigation was what was on his cellphones, computers, tablets, etc. That’s why 29 FBI agents stormed his house.  They didn’t want him, they wanted his electronic gear.  They didn’t want a single thumb drive or hard disk to get destroyed.   Roger Stone says he would have turned himself if asked, but not before scrubbing clean his residences.

Being 100% clean is tough for Roger Stone, given his long history of deceit and trickery.    Mueller will likely have a treasure trove of bits and pieces.  Big question is how does this all fit into the investigation.

When cellphones first came out, criminals had the upper hand.  No one could tap a cellphone like a landline phone.  But things really have changed,  as the hard drive within a cellphone is loaded with potential incriminating information.  It will take time for FBI digital forensic experts to know exactly what the search warrant of electronic gear will yield.   Julian Sanchez nailed it on this one.   Stone can’t flip on Trump because he’s got zero credibility.

Mueller is going after the Russian hack,  Wikileaks and Republican campaign officials connections.    I don’t know if Mueller will be able to connect all the dots, but I suspect both Trump and Steve Bannon are feeling the heat turned up.   I don’t believe anyone  directly involved in  Trump’s 2016 campaign has been charged with conspiracy with Russian agents,   Well not yet.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Julian Sanchez Opinion as published in the New York Times, Jan 26, 2019.

Mueller’s Real Target in the Roger Stone Indictment

 

 

 

 

Mueller’s final report

Boy, there has been a ton of speculation.  Trump foes would like to see Mueller show how all these indictments and guilty pleas are connected into one grand conspiracy, making impeachment inevitable.   Trump supports are looking for exoneration of Trump.   I have opined that it seems unlikely that the investigation will end anytime soon.   I particularly like the view presented by Renato Mariotti,  a former federal prosecutor and the host of On Topic podcast, as published in Time Magazine this week (Dec 17 issue):

“As America anxiously awaits special counsel Robert Mueller’s so-called final report and proof of “collusion”, it should be very wary of two truths: Mueller may never write a full “final report”, and any bombshells he reveals are unlikely to outline  a grand conspiracy.  This will not be a failure of the investigation but rather of our own expectations.” 

He goes on to state that federal prosecutors aren’t historians or journalists.   He also points out there can not be a charge of “collusion” with Russian agents by the Trump campaign, because the word has no legal meaning.  He also states, “it is hard to imagine any federal prosecutor would ever charge the extensive conspiracy imagined by Trump’s critics.”   Mariotti’s view is Mueller’s team has already been successful, with a careful, targeted approach.  The American electorate has become become either apathetic or numb (neither words used by Mariotti) as he writes:

At any other time in American history, the President’s lawyer telling a federal judge under oath that the President directed him to commit a crime might have ended that presidency.  Yet that detail has been forgotten amid the daily avalanche of Trump-related news. 

The overload of news, mixed with commentary and outright misinformation, principally from Trump and his legal team,  is the way it will be until the end.   It is getting hard to swallow the idea that Cohen, Manafort, Flynn and now Maria Butina are all lying to get lighter sentences.

The more Trump lashes out at the Mueller investigation, the more certain  there were serious crimes committed by Russian agents, campaign officials,  and others, which may include the Trump Foundation and Trump’s Inaugural Committee.  Most knowledgeable attorneys, like Mariotti,  state that under Department of Justice written opinion, a sitting President can not be charged with crimes.   So, any final report would not contain crimes that Trump could be charged with.

The essay by Mariotti ends with a warning similar to his opening statement:  “… if Mueller finds evidence of narrower crimes and is considered a failure, the failure won’t be on him.  It will be on us, for our own outsize expectations, which just might save Trump’s presidency.”

I believe the report will be simply a summary of concluded successful prosecutions.   It is not coming anytime soon.   If it doesn’t make a strong case for obstruction of justice by Trump, then it would be best for Democrats not to waste their time on this.

In this case,  Trump’s way out of the White House would be through the same way he came in, through the election process.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Never let a good crisis go to waste

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. … This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not before.”

This quote comes from Mayor  Rahm Emmanuel.  It has been used completely out of context since he said it in an interview in 2008. What he meant was a crisis gets the public attention to a problem, and puts pressure on government to come up with solutions.

The raging forest fires in California should have been the crisis to tell us that the impacts of climate change are real and resulting in deaths around the world.    Trump’s comments on Californian’s forgot to rake their leaves was laughable.  It’s also sad, because human lives are at stake.  I am not saying that climate change caused the forest fires, but that global warming results in hotter and longer summers in California, resulting in very dry brush.  This makes many large and populated areas more vulnerable to rapidly spreading fires,

So let us add:  “Never let a crisis be pointed to you or your organization.”   With the second important proviso,   “Be creative.”    Trump meant to say that the state of California was responsible.   They didn’t maintain their forests well.   This became laughable again, when Trump insisted that Finland rakes their leaves.   The President of Finland was confused.    Learn to pivot and deflect, at the same time as appearing to answer questions.  Avoid like the plague the follow up question.  The buck stops somewhere else.

As news of Trump’s involvement in a potential Trump Tower in Moscow has leaked out,  an additional proviso comes to mind.  “If creativity fails, try lying.”     Trump claims that the Trump Tower project in Moscow was public knowledge in 2016, which I am hoping that this qualifies as the “Lie of the Year”  for Politifact annual contest.  Another tactic, is to change the subject to a completely different crisis that is not your fault.    Trump has tweeted that the FBI is wasting their time investigating the Russian interference (aka, “Witch hunt” and “hoax”)  when they should go after Hillary Clinton,  James Comey,  Loretta Lynch, Clinton Foundation,  Uranium One, etc,  or really anything connected to  Democratic campaign.      Like science fiction,  the public can never get enough of big  scandal stories, even the manufactured narratives.

So, while Emmanuel just wanted to say how a crisis helps in solving real problems,  he had not envision the new era of creating scandals out of  practically nothing, for purely political reasons.  The best defense is a good offense.   Be inventive and retaliate with another scandal, blown out of proportion.     Example: Hillary’s email scandal was real and 10X worse than the Russian collusion, which we know is a hoax.    Another example — the caravan story  and the imminent  invasion of half of Guatemala’s  criminal population,  along with Middle East terrorists.  This was only good up to the mid-term election.

Remember there is strength in numbers.  You can lie without statistics, but it just sounds more impressive with statistics.   Even false statistics.

So,  to re-iterate:

  1.  You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. … This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not before.
  2.  Never let a crisis be pointed to you or your organization.   Learn to deflect and pivot.  The buck stops somewhere else.
  3.  Be creative.  If creativity fails, try lying.
  4.  The best defense is a good offense.  Be inventive and retaliate with another scandal, blown out of proportion.
  5.  There is strength in numbers.  You can lie without statistics, but it just sounds more impressive with statistics.  Even false ones.

Poor Mayor Emmanuel who looked on the positive side of a crisis.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_best_defense_is_a_good_offense

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Rahm_Emanuel

 

 

That’s all folks – Mueller’s Investigation

 

Do you recognize Porky Pig from the Loony Tunes cartoons?    With Matt Whitaker now the new Attorney General,  there’s been a ton of speculation of what happens next.  Recent news media reports suggest the whole investigation is about to wrap up, with Mueller’s team writing the final report, and all going home for Christmas.    All this is based on leaks, which I believe are coming from Republicans in Congress.

Let me suggest that this isn’t true.   Mueller can not comment on the investigation.   There may be some attempt to develop a  progress report, but not a final report.    Rod Rosenstein knows what has occurred in Grand Jury proceedings.   These are closed door proceedings, used by prosecutors to show they have sufficient evidence to go to trial.  With Sessions gone, Rosenstein has to disclose what he knows to Whitaker, who will take it to the President, and in turn Trump will share it with own attorneys, who will share it with the media, if it helps their case.   I believe that’s why Rosenstein is still there.   They want to know what information Paul Manafort (Trump’s 2016 Campaign Manager) has given the Special Counsel.   What did Don McGahn (White House legal counsel until Oct 17, 2018) tell Mueller?  On the receiving end will be private attorneys Emmet Flood and Jay Sekulow, who have attorney-client privileges.

Information will likely flow from Whitaker to Republicans in the Senate and Congress, to help protect Trump.  When there is an active FBI investigation, this will be a very serious breach of security.

I believe more indictments are on the way.   Mueller’s team on Thursday was in the midst of  oral arguments in the US Court of Appeals, District of Colombia Circuit. The issue was the right to force through subpoena Andrew Miller, a former aid to Roger Stone, to appear in a grand jury.  In June 2018, Miller turned over documents to Mueller’s team.    Roger Stone appears to be the critical link between hacked information from the Democrat’s server and the Trump campaign officials.   Going after Miller, is a way to get Stone to cooperate or indicted.  As reported by ABC News:

More than a dozen individuals associated with Stone have met with the special counsel since last summer and many of those have appeared before the grand jury impaneled by Mueller’s team.

Andrew Miller is a really small fry in a big challenge to the authority of Mueller’s team.   The heavy weight against the authority of Mueller is  the National Legal and Policy Center, a well-funded conservative legal group with a deep history of mounting legal challenges against left-leaning organizations and Democratic politicians.

The claim being made in the Court of Appeals by Andrew Miller is that the appointment of Mueller and the  authority  given to his probe were improper,   hence  Mueller has no legal  authority to issue subpoenas or really investigate anything.  Of course, this is a direct legal challenge to Rob Rosenstein judgement and  the Session’s Department of Justice.    If Whitaker caves on this issue, we might as well say, “That’s all Folks”  not to the Russian probe, but to the principles of the  DOJ.

So,  Whitaker isn’t going to have a minute to get up to speed.   The decision yesterday was to allow the prosecution  to present oral arguments “pre-Whitaker” and possibly permit submission of new briefs later, adjusted to the directives of the new AG.   It’s all pretty crazy, but it will document if the Whitaker is taking steps to obstruct Mueller’s investigation.

Stay tuned (it’s only going to get crazier!),

Dave

Links:

For this blog, I decided to show the entire link, so my followers can see they come from the broadcast network.

Andrew Miller can try to drag his case out for as long as possible.  If he loses in the Appellate Court, he will ask the court to “stay” their decision, pending a request to be heard at the Supreme Court.   Under any normal proceedings,  Mueller’s team would oppose any stay.

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/roger-stone-aide-prepared-supreme-court-battle-challenge/story?id=59069715

https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/08/politics/roger-stone-andrew-miller-robert-mueller-court-russia-investigation/index.html

Note, the article below is from September 18, 2018 but I believe this is the time Trump was deciding how to handle Mueller’s investigation, through firings at the Department of Justice.  The reason was too much evidence was being discovered about Donald Trump, Jr.   The Session’s firing was postponed until after the mid-term elections.

 

 

 

 

 

Jeff Sessions and the Resignation Letter

Was Sessions fired or did he resign? 

Ok, he’s out.  Some are calling it a firing, others characterize Sessions departure as a resignation.  There is a resignation letter, so it is a resignation.  But, the first line says that he is resigning at the president’s request.    Sessions didn’t want to go.  He was greatly enjoying his final chance to serve the country.    See link below for Sessions’ letter.

The letter has no date on it.    A lot of speculation as to when it was written,  but most likely in September 2018,  when it now appeared Trump was going to fire Rod Rosenstein.

Sessions says in this letter that  the Department  “embraced” Donald Trump’s directive to be a strong law and order department, and then goes into the  many accomplishments of the Department.    It is an incredible defense of the work of the Justice Department.  And it is all about the good work of the Department itself, not himself.  If there is a bit of flattery, it is to Trump.  It is the best justification of why Sessions should not have been fired.

Sessions wasn’t protecting the Mueller investigation from interference by Trump.   After Jeff Session’s recused himself from the investigation,  that job landed to Deputy AG  Rob Rosenstein.  Sessions recused himself because he was part of the Trump campaign and participated in a meeting at the Trump tower in June 2016 where a Russian agent was present.   Sessions has testified over and over again, that he had never participated in any collusion with Russian agents, and nothing has every linked him to the scandal.  So, I believe him.   The recusal  meant  Bob Mueller had the liberty to investigate anyone associated with the Trump campaign, including Sessions.

Now, the Attorney General is Matt Whitaker and regarded generally as a Trump loyalist.   He can do tremendous damage to the Mueller investigation, if he wants   He can also recuse himself from the investigation and put Rosenstein back in charge.  This would immediately take the pressure he’ll be getting from Congress, but Trump could always fire him and Rosenstein.

What happens to Rosenstein, the man that knows too much?   Inside the Justice Department, he will no longer be overseeing the Mueller investigation.   Inside the Department, he would be bound by the Department rules, including not revealing anything he knows.  So, Trump may keep him there.   I don’t see him writing the kind of letter, that Sessions gave the President.

The Russian investigation is the hot potato.     Anyone touching it will inevitably draw the ire of Trump.   The irony is Sessions never touched the Russian investigation.  I don’t believe his recusal was ever the problem.   It was his honesty that got between him and Trump.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Jeff Session’s Resignation Letter

No collusion!

This is purely a semantics problem.  The verb “to collude” is not a standard legal term.   The lawyers understand this,  and know what Mueller is looking at the criminal act of conspiring with foreign entities, obviously Russian agents. So, if one simply substitutes conspiracy for collusion, then yes, we are likely getting close to charges of  conspiracy with those close to Trump’s campaign.

I believe there are more criminal  indictments to come.  It is both ill advised, and premature to begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump.

There is more legal  hairsplitting between a “target” of an investigation and a “subject” of one.   Neither one is pretty as follows:

  • A “target” is a person as to whom the prosecutor or the grand jury has substantial evidence linking him or her to the commission of a crime and who, in the judgment of the prosecutor, is a putative defendant.
  • A “subject” of an investigation is a person whose conduct is within the scope of the grand jury’s investigation.

Donald Trump is the subject of the investigation and not the target of one.  He may be getting closer every day to being a target.

The White House continues to slam the news media,  FBI agents and the Department of Justice.   Exactly how far President Trump is willing to go to defend himself, and close family members is still hard to say.   It has been well established that Donald Trump, Jr.,  Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort attended a meeting with Russian agents in the Trump tower on June 9, 2016.

I believe Attorney General Jeff Sessions made an outstanding decision to recuse himself from the Mueller investigation.   I believe Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein’s selection of Robert Mueller to head the Russian investigation was excellent.  I am very impressed with FBI Director,  Christopher Wray (Trump’s nominated director) and hope that he is able to rise above partisan attacks from Congress.

The investigation is getting complicated.   Mueller has assembled what many consider, the most experienced career  attorneys and FBI agents, to complete the investigation.   White collar crimes, take a long time to litigate because there are teams of attorneys available for those charged with crimes.

The news media is doing a good job of getting the facts as they evolve.  I continue to rely on Wikipedia’s summary, which has assembled one of the best summary of the investigation and its results.   One has to distinguish between the real news reporting,  which recently is the  Manafort trial,  and the commentary which surround it.

There is definitely more to come.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Normally,  criminal investigations do not list every lawyer and FBI agent assigned to the case.  However, congressional leaders,  particularly Republicans in the House, have relentlessly subpoenaed thousands of documents in their attack on the Mueller investigation, to help the president and related campaign officials.

Wikipedia link 

 

 

 

A lot of real news is happening, Mr. President

“Stick with us. Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news. … What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

This is the talk you might hear from some radical or religious cult.   Turn off the TV, don’t read the paper.  These are your enemies.  You have to be very paranoid to think everyone is lying to you.  But this is exactly what  Trump said at a speech in Kansas City to the VFW annual convention on Tuesday.

My advice is to do just the opposite:  Read, see and think.  Compare opinions, ask questions and do your homework.  Don’t stick with anyone.  A lot is happening.  Trump might not like it, but it is happening.   I don’t know exactly which news story he was referring to:   Scott Pruitt horrible record at the EPA or  Ryan Zinke at the Interior,  and their cozying up lobbyists  instead of protecting the environment, the NATO and Helsinki summit messes or the progress in the Mueller investigation.   Take your pick!

Reading means going beyond CNN.  If fact, I like the BBC for more broad coverage.  And news magazines like Time or Newsweek.  You might find our that Trump is furious about comments made by three former intelligence leaders,  John Brennan (CIA),  Michael Hayden (National Security Agency) and James Clapper (National Intelligence Agency).   Each of these three leaders, with long backgrounds in government service, has written a book, the latest one by James Clapper (Facts and Fears).

You might find out about how the White House barred a CNN journalist from the White House Press press briefing,  and the strong criticism from the head of Fox News, Jay Wallace, for this action.   This is very important, as a whole series of commentator deride the “liberal media,”  at the very top, they understand the importance of media access.    As discussed in the link below, something similar happened in the Obama administration with a Treasury Department press conference, and CNN refused to cover it unless Fox News reporter was allowed to attend.

I would plead with people to detach themselves from a rigid group mentality, so they can absorb ideas and political philosophies from both Republicans and Democrats.   Each party claims to be fiscally responsible, but the track record (really up today) shows that our deficits rise, no matter if it is a Republican or Democrat.

I am not a loyalist to any party or platform.   I spent 5 years working at a research center, which taught me the best researchers are great at asking questions, and thoroughly reading everything available on a topic.  Critical thinking is hard work.  You have to compare multiple sources of information and opinions.

I think the greatest people on this planet, are parents who congratulate their children whenever  they ask questions.   When a child extends questioning to both parents, and teachers, I think it’s time for parents to start a college fund.

I hope Americans read newspapers.  I try to read 3 newspapers, one printed and two on the internet.  I can’t compete with the oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett, who reads five newspapers every day, beginning with the Omaha World Herald, which his company acquired in 2011.   I got that tidbit of information from Wikipedia, which seems to be doing a terrific job of providing unbiased and well documented information.

My New York Times just arrived.  Headline news:  “Raging fire turns Yosemite into a ghost town.”  Not fake news.  Front page picture on the Times, is Half Dome at Yosemite, barely visible with all the smoke. .    Also, “US and Europe ease trade feud”, outlining a deal (positive to Trump and EU leaders).   Also, news commentary,  “Cash flowing into Treasury starts to ebb,”  and concern about rising deficits (negative for Trump).   Just finished front page item,  “Promising Alzheimer Drug attacks brain changes and symptoms.” Hope it works.

Real news means going to the source.  In Chicago,  reporter Pam Belluck was there at the Alzheimer’s Association International  Conference to listen and explain in non-technical terms how the new Alzheimer’s drug works,  or really how it is intended to work.  Is Biogen going to soar this morning?  An Associated Press photographer,  Noah Berger, shot the photo of the haze over the 38,000 acre fire obscuring the view of Half Dome

Going past the front page, on to international section.   There is a heat wave in Japan, with peak temperatures going to 106 deg F, and 23,000 people have been hospitalized.  Yes, I’m thinking global warming, and how the acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler should be sent their immediately.  Shucks, there is no mention of global warming,  just the grim facts of how miserable conditions are.   Half the 23,000 people are over 65 years old (my group).

It was awful day in Paksong,  Laos, as flooding and the bursting of a dam caused thousands to flee.  This time, climate change was mentioned, by a group called  International Rivers, which has opposed hydroelectric dams due to the unpredictability of extreme weather events.

Trump would rather people be apathetic and focus on golf and just believe how good he’s doing.  No chance with me.  Sorry, but it’s his pep rallies which are loaded with crap.

Listen, read, and think for yourselves.  Please!

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

The White House Banned a CNN Reporter and Even Fox News Is Crying Foul

Wikipedia: Michael Hayden

Wikipedia: James Clapper

Wikipedia: John Brennan

 

 

 

The Helsinki Disaster

Trump’s responses to questions at Monday’s joint press conference may seem miles away by now.  But, I’ll repeat a few critical parts and add my comments given in italics. It was a disaster, on many fronts.  Unfortunately,  I don’t think Trump was “off his game”  on this one.  I think we’re going to see more excusing the actions of countries with not respect for human rights (Turkey, the Philippines and Egypt, come to mind)  and attacks on our friends.

I have included in the links that the transcript of the entire press conference as provided by National Public Radio.

Thank you. Mr. President, you tweeted this morning that it’s U.S. foolishness, stupidity, and the Mueller probe that is responsible for the decline in U.S. relations with Russia. Do you hold Russia at all accountable or anything in particular? And if so, what would you what would you consider them that they are responsible for?

TRUMP:  Yes I do. I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we’ve all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago, a long time frankly before I got to office. And I think we’re all to blame.  I think that the United States now has stepped forward, along with Russia, and we’re getting together and we have a chance to do some great things, whether it’s nuclear proliferation in terms of stopping, have to do it, ultimately that’s probably the most important thing that we can be working on.  But I do feel that we have both made some mistakes.

I think that the probe is a disaster for our country. I think it’s kept us apart, it’s kept us separated.

There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it. People are being brought out to the fore. So far that I know virtually none of it related to the campaign. And they’re gonna have to try really hard to find somebody that did relate to the campaign. That was a clean campaign. I beat Hillary Clinton easily and frankly we beat her. And I’m not even saying from the standpoint…we won that race. And it’s a shame that there can even be a little bit of a cloud over it. People know that. People understand it. But the main thing and we discussed this also is zero collusion and it has had a negative impact upon the relationship of the two largest nuclear powers in the world. We have 90 percent of nuclear power between the two countries.

It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous what’s going on with the [Mueller]  probe.

Trump’s answer is pretty clear.   He standing there side by side with Putin, and is saying is he wishes that the Russian interference in our elections in 2016 would be just swept under the rug.  When he holds US partially responsible,  this is pointing the finger to Obama administration policies.  It is as if, the Obama administration just didn’t know how to conduct diplomacy.   Trump is not going into any details on the US foolishness, but were the sanctions imposed by Obama really so foolish?  Russia was propping up the regime in Syria with military support, even after they used chemical weapons on their own people.  Russia has been involved in the assassination of dissidents outside their borders.  Residents of England were likely horrified at Trump’s statement were, as they witnessed the Salisbury poisoning (Sergei and Yulia Skripal).   Trump was obviously, avoided past conflicts, including the takeover of Crimea, support of separatists in Ukraine, and human rights abuses, such as the likely Kremlin ordered murder of Sergei Magnitsky in 2005, when he discovered tax fraud corruption among Russia’s richest citizens on a wide scale.  Dissidents and whistle blowers seem to turn up dead. The hand of the Kremlin at going after enemies of the state is worldwide. (see link)

REPORTER: For President Putin, if I could follow up as well. Why should Americans and why should President Trump believe your statement that Russia did not intervene in the 2016 election, given the evidence that U.S. intelligence agencies have provided? And will you consider extraditing the 12 Russian officials that were indicted last week by a U.S. grand jury?

TRUMP: Well, I’m going to let the president answer the second part of that question. But, as you know, the whole concept of that came up perhaps a little bit before but it came out as a reason why the Democrats lost an election, which frankly, they should have been able to win because the electoral college is much more advantageous for Democrats, as you know, than it is to Republicans. We won the Electoral College by a lot. 306 to 223, I believe. And that was a well fought, that was a well fought battle. We did a great job. And frankly, I’m going to let the president speak to the second part of your question. But just to say it one time again and I say it all the time, there was no collusion. I didn’t know the president. There was nobody to collude with. There was no collusion with the campaign and every time you hear all of these you know 12 and 14 – stuff that has nothing to do and frankly they admit – these are not people involved in the campaign. But to the average reader out there, they’re saying well maybe that does. It doesn’t. And even the people involved, some perhaps told mis-stories or in one case the FBI said there was no lie. There was no lie. Somebody else said there was. We ran a brilliant campaign and that’s why I’m president. Thank you.

The question is actual about “election intervention.”   Trump steered the question to  collusion, and since he claims he had never personally met Putin before the election, he feels vindicated.  In Putin’s response, he says:  “We should be guided by facts. Could you name a single fact that would definitively prove the collusion? This is utter nonsense.”   So Trump and Putin see eye-to-eye on this.   Intervention  =  collusion = nonsense.   In Putin’s reply to extradition, he brings up the idea of swapping Mr. Browder for 12 indicted Russians.  Putin states: “They  [Browder business associates]  sent a huge amount of money – 400 million – as a contribution to the campaign of Hillary Clinton.”   The actual figure is $400,000.   I will cover the actions of Mr. Browder in a separate blog.  Putin is not saying no to extradition, but simply saying that it has to go through proper channels.

The following is the question that has help cause an enormous backlash:

REPORTER, AP: President Trump, you first. Just now, President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. My first question for you sir is, who do you believe? My second question is would you now, with the whole world watching, tell President Putin, would you denounce what happened in 2016 and would you warn him to never do it again?

TRUMP: So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server. Why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? I’ve been wondering that. I’ve been asking that for months and months and I’ve been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know where is the server and what is the server saying?

With that being said, all I can do is ask the question. My people came to me, Dan Coates, came to me and some others they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be. But I really do want to see the server but I have, I have confidence in both parties.

I really believe that this will probably go on for a while but I don’t think it can go on without finding out what happened to the server. What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC? Where are those servers? They’re missing. Where are they? What happened to Hillary Clinton’s emails? 33,000 emails gone, just gone. I think in Russia they wouldn’t be gone so easily.  I think it’s a disgrace that we can’t get Hillary Clinton’s thirty three thousand e-mails.

I have great confidence in my intelligence people but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today and what he did is an incredible offer. He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators, with respect to the 12 people. I think that’s an incredible offer. Ok? Thank you.

Trump could have answered this in two short sentences: (1) The conclusion of  election interference  by Russia in 2016 by US intelligence is right, and (2) Putin should not try this again.  He didn’t do either.   Even in the wake of the indictments of 12 Russian military officials, he wasn’t about to walk back on his hundreds of tweets stating that Mueller’s investigation was a witch hunt and the FBI under Comey was incompetent.   Mind you, Trump wasn’t asked if  there was  collusion or even involvement of the Trump’s campaign officials in this interference.   He was defending Putin more than the US government.   This “incredible offer”  was considered by the State Department as absurd.  

In one key phase,  Trump later said he misspoke, and meant to say wouldn’t instead of would.   Lawrence O’Donnell (MSNBC commentator) got it right, when he said the statement was beyond fixing.  To do so, was an insult to the intelligence of Americans.

I count a total of 23 sentences.  I count 19 of these sentences would fall under the category of FBI misconduct  in the areas of deliberately incomplete or improper investigation.  So, he is back on the witch hunt theme.      There’s only one statement (“My people came to me, Dan Coats, came to me and some others they said they think it’s Russia.”)   Yikes!    Dan Coats is the Director of National Intelligence, and it is his job to provide the president of all national security threats from multiple US agencies.   Of course, Dan Coats immediately issued a statement after the press conference, stating that it was absolutely true that Russia interfered with our election.  

Trump  is demeaning the FBI because in 2015 and 2016, it was under Director Comey’s command.   The missing emails  is a mess It confuses  a subpoena from the Benghazi Committee in 2015, with the FBI’s investigation of the Russian hacked  DNC server in 2016.   The first statement about the server of the Pakistani gentleman is false, and the second one refers to accidental deletions of email that were not at Clinton’s direction.   The Benghazi Committee was just trolling for dirt on Hillary Clinton prior to the election.  All Trump was trying to do, is to attack the integrity of the FBI in years before he was president.

Russia is taking the lead, where the US is shrinking back globally.  It supports the Iran nuclear deal and is party to the Paris Climate Agreement.  It even came to the rescue of the World Health Organization, as US pressured countries not to introduce the breastfeeding resolution.   It is looking for strengthening economic ties with China, as we look to punish them with tariffs.   There is nothing more desirable in Putin’s priorities than restoring their hold on the Eastern European countries.   That’s why Putin brings up the Minsk agreements.

The word change only shows how Trump believes he can easily fool the American people.  Helsinki was a disaster for the US and a victory for Vladimir Putin.  Dialogue with Russia is important, but standing firm with Eastern Europe and NATO is vital.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Transcripts of Press Conference

Trump sides with Putin over US intelligence

Donald Trump’s ‘missing’ server comments get all of the details wrong

Clinton’s 33000 emails – Politifact

(The conclusion was that the deletion was not done at the direction of Clinton.  These were old emails, and to the technician in charge of the server, was a routine cleanup effort and unaware of the subpoena.  When he learned of the subpoena, he describes this as the “Oh shit” moment.

Wikipedia:  Bill Browder 

Wikipedia: Magnisky Act

FBI Honesty and Integrity

I’ve been working my way through the 500 pages of the Inspector General report, and at the same time, listening to FBI Christopher Wray and the Inspector General Michael Horowitz in the congressional hearing.   Occasionally, I listen to Fox News nonsense, to hear Lou Dobbs and Ed Rollins tell me what a horrible state we are in with subversive Democrats pulling the strings, operating in some deep state cabal.

Cabal:   a secret political clique or faction. “a cabal of dissidents” synonyms: clique, faction, coterie, cell, sect, junta, camarilla;

We were doing just fine with James Comey, as Director of the FBI, and Christopher Wray is also very capable. I’ve included Director Wray’s biography.   I think Trump believed he could change the course of the Russian investigation with Comey, and was upset when this wasn’t working.  He won’t have any better success with Wray and can’t afford to fire Wray.

The chief complaint against FBI Director Comey was excessive transparency.  His disclosure to Congress in October 2016  of reopening the email scandal likely  hurt Hillary Clinton’s chances of being elected.   Director Wray spoke about the need for balancing  two essential competing requirements – the need to keep the Congress’s oversight committees informed on FBI work in general, and the need to keep FBI sources and methods confidential during an ongoing investigation.   I call this the simultaneous need for transparency and opaqueness.   At some point, he will be accused of concealment of vital information sought by Congress.  It’s all part of the job.

Finally,  the texting stuff between FBI Special Counsel Lisa Page and FBI agent Peter Strzok.    In hindsight,  the chief crime in all this, was their decision to use FBI issued cell phones to carry on personal conversations.   They did this because they were in a relation and did not want their spouses to know.   In one exchange on Aug. 8, 2016, according to the IG report, Page wrote, “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Strzok’s response: “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.”    It should be remembered this was supposed to be a personal  private conversation, and joking, exaggeration  or excessive chutzpah are allowed.   The inspector general conducted over 100 interviews,  and ultimately cleared Page and Strzok of any political bias in the decisions they were involved in.

Revealing the personal chatter between these two individuals gets pretty silly at some point.  It was a relationship for god sake- they were sharing intimate secrets and passions.    Peter Strzok by August 2016,  had potentially damning information on Trump’s campaign officials, but it was complicated and highly circumstantial.   If he wanted to, he could have done severe damage to Trump’s campaign.    He and everyone at the FBI kept a tight lid on what they knew at the time.   Strzok chose opaqueness,  as any other decision would compromise his professionalism at the FBI.  Yet, partisan Republican are going after Strzok  big time, because he was part of the Mueller investigation, and the only one they have some dirt on.   He is the Director of Human Resources at the FBI, so there is nothing in his current work they can attack.

Everyone in the FBI is entitled to personal political opinions.  They can love or hate the current or future president.   But, what will not be repeated for a long time, is personal conversations on government issued cell phones.   There is spying on employees at work in private businesses, and cellphones become much more of a liability than an asset.

Director Comey would have been blasted by Republicans for concealment of critical information, had he not gone public with his announcement in July 2016,   Loretta Lynch was also routinely attacked by Fox News and conservatives in Congress in 2016, for what appeared to be a rubber stamp of Comey’s clearing Clinton of wrongdoing.   There wasn’t a winning option in all of this.

Trump has gone off into another orbit on this, saying the IG report exonerates him of firing Comey and that Comey’s conduct was criminal.  Wrong on both accounts.  The firing of Comey was pretty close to obstruction of justice, as Trump was asking for Comey’s loyalty in the investigation of Michael Flynn.   That’s why Comey was fired and not his excessive transparency in July 2016.

What the IG didn’t find is likely why the Democrats are embracing the report.   The IG found no evidence that the political bias of FBI agents had any role in the investigation.   The email investigation was done thoroughly by the FBI.

Bottom line:  All evidence points to an honest and hardworking FBI in 2016, 2017 and we still have one today.

Stay tuned,

Dave

See link below:

Factcheck.org: Trump Misleads on IG Report

Christopher Wray

Director Wray – Wikipedia:

Wray joined the government in 1997 as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. In 2001, he moved to the Justice Department as Associate Deputy Attorney General and Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General.[10]

On June 9, 2003, President George W. Bush nominated Wray to be the 33rd Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division of the Justice Department. Wray was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on September 11, 2003.[11][12][13] Wray was Assistant Attorney General from 2003 to 2005, working under Deputy Attorney General James Comey. While heading the Criminal Division, Wray oversaw prominent fraud investigations, including Enron.[10][14] In March 2005, Wray announced that he would resign from his post.[15] His last day at the Justice Department was on May 17, 2005.[citation needed]

In 2005, Wray received the Edmund J. Randolph Award, the Justice Department’s highest award for public service and leadership.

 

 

Trump’s fixer man, Michael Cohen, and his secret business dealings

Michael Cohen is both a lawyer and a business man.    Search warrants  were served on Mr. Cohen because he is  being investigated for possible campaign finance violations, bank fraud and wire fraud.   It is part of a federal grand jury investigation which was empaneled months ago.  On Monday,  Mr. Cohen lost in his request to have all items seized in the raid returned to him.     It was established in court, that in the last year and a half,  Cohen provided legal advice to only three clients,  Donald Trump,  Elliott Broidy and Sean Hannity.   Sean Hannity denied he was Mr. Cohen’s client.

In their search, investigators also sought to obtain records relating to Cohen’s ownership of taxi medallions — high-value assets that are often used as collateral for loans, according to people familiar with the matter.  The value of the medallions was sharply dropping in value, as a result of Uber and Lyft.   Between April and June 2017, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance filed seven tax warrants against Cohen and his wife for $37,434 in unpaid taxi taxes due to the MTA.[13]

Prosecutors are following the money on this one.   The  $130,000 payoff to Stormy Daniels, might be the most visible sign of shady business, but I suspect there are far bigger targets.   Elliott Broidy  needed Cohen’s help to hide the fact that his affair with Playboy model, Shera Bachard, who he made pregnant, and Cohen arranged a 1.3 million dollar payment to hush up the affair.    The child was aborted.

According to the New York Times, Mr. Broidy was a national deputy chairman of the R.N.C.’s finance committee, a title he shared with Mr. Cohen.  Mr. Broidy is the second member of that committee to resign this year amid questions involving their behavior with women and deals to silence them.

So,  how big is this swamp?   Here is more from the New York Times article:

During the wide-ranging October meeting, Mr. Broidy raised numerous topics high on the agenda of the United Arab Emirates, a country that has given his security company a contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars. He pitched the president on a paramilitary force his company was developing for the U.A.E. and urged Mr. Trump to fire Rex W. Tillerson, then the secretary of state, who the U.A.E. believed was insufficiently tough on its rival Qatar.

The documents show that Mr. Broidy has worked closely with George Nader, an adviser to the U.A.E. and a witness in the special counsel’s investigation, to help steer Trump administration policy on numerous issues in the Middle East. Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, is examining Mr. Nader’s possible role in funneling Emirati money to finance Mr. Trump’s political efforts. There is no indication that Mr. Mueller’s team is looking into Mr. Broidy.

In 2009, Mr. Broidy pleaded guilty to charges that he made nearly $1 million worth of illegal gifts to New York State officials in order to win an investment of $250 million from the state’s public pension fund. Among the gifts were trips to Israel and Italy, payouts to officials’ relatives and girlfriends and an investment in one relative’s production of a low-budget movie called “Chooch.”

It is also reported that there are no emails between Donald Trump and Michael Cohen.   Trump apparently doesn’t use email.

If true, can you imagine the gall of Broidy, wanting to get rid of the secretary of state,  because of his business dealings in the UAE.    Our environmental policies, have been sold out to the fossil fuel companies,  but was  Trump also trading in our relations with other Middle East countries to help support his donors?    Broidy was also on Trump’s inaugural ceremony committee, where millions  were unaccounted for according to MSNBC’s Rachel Madlow and others (see link).

I’m honestly not that interested in Stormy Daniel’s hush money contract, or  Elliot Broidy’s affair,  but the Middle East connections, by way of George Nader.  This might help Mueller’s team.

At this point, it is a legal battle between the president’s lawyers who want to do anything possible to impede the review by the “taint team”  verses the Department of Justice who want to know to get the team’s  review done as soon as possible.   Judge Kimba Woods has stated that case law on confidentiality, applies equally, be it the president of the United States, or the man on the street.   This has also been the opinion of the Supreme Court,  dating back to claims of Executive Privilege in the days of Nixon and Watergate.   Judge Woods  will likely decide soon whether a Special Master should be appointed.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Whatever happened to the money from Trump’s inaugural committee?

 

Client-Attorney Privilege/ Alan Dershowitz

It is very common knowledge that the FBI raided Michael Cohen’s office to seize information relevant to the Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniel’s cases.   Michael Cohen is Trump’s personal lawyer.

There’s been so much commentary on the raid, that it seems hardly worth adding to it.  However, the one person who doesn’t seem terrible angry is Michael Cohen, as follows:

Two days after FBI agents raided his home and office—reportedly seeking documents related to hush payments made to women with whom President Trump allegedly had an affair, among other information—the president’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen had this to say: “I just want my stuff back.” That comment, made to ABC News, was Cohen’s first remark since telling CNN on Tuesday that the raiding federal agents were “extremely professional, courteous and respectful,” contradicting the president’s claim that agents “broke into” his lawyer’s office.

I stated before that it seemed everything was done by the book.  The Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, signed off on the search warrant.  He is a Trump appointee.  There were multiple checks on this search warrant.   Michael Cohen is under investigation for bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance contributions.

The items seized from Michael Cohen are with the “taint team” to determine if what information is relevant under the scope of the search.  It is another safeguard to protect the rights of Michael Cohen, against unreasonable searches.

Alan Dershowitz, the very well known defense attorney and former Harvard professor, doesn’t see it this way.  He obviously doesn’t believe there are enough checks in the system, to allow a search and still protect the legitimate privacy of an attorney’s records outside of what is criminal evidence.  An article appearing in The Hill,  is provided in the links.  He has appeared on Fox News network, with the same opinion.  Others, particularly on CNN and MSNBC,  have voiced far more confidence in the judicial system and believe prosecutors will respect the rights of Mr. Cohen.  I am particularly concerned, when Alan Dershowitz states that FBI raids should be limited to only “major crimes”  which he then states this isn’t one of them.   What will remain in the hands of judges, is the evidence that was used to support the search warrant, so Dershowitz, like the rest of us, is completely in the dark.

We have First Amendment rights of free speech.   This is the protection for individuals, who espouse very unpopular opinions including radicals on the far right and left of the political spectrum.   It  protects  gay rights activist and  atheist organizations.   When high powered attorneys  seek to intimidate people to give up their rights in exchange for money,  I think this is worthy of an investigation.   It is particularly egregious if the Daniel’s contract was invalid and payments were violations of campaign finance laws.   The Supreme Court allows massive donations to be given to political parties, to monopolize the air waves during campaigns.  The courts can not condone campaign violations which also silence dissent during a campaign.

To ignore potential violations of law helps create new rights for the wealthy and powerful class, a form of immunity from the law.  Donald Trump felt that he could have his lawyer fix  his indiscretions through physical harm and hush money to gain the silence of others, leaving him in the clear.    This was done to help his campaign for president, running on a campaign who claimed (until today) that his opponent was crooked.   The First Amendment is needed for small people or people who work for small organizations.

Dershowitz further states that the raid will make people afraid to seek legal advice.  I seriously doubt it.   A good lawyer will be sure to take steps to ensure confidentiality by having a client sign a contract to represent them in a specific matter.   The problem Trump has, is that he wanted Cohen to fix everything, and leave him in the clear.   It likely made Cohen a partner in crime.

Dershowitz goes on, to state this highly intrusive manner of collecting evidence, was done for political reasons.  Again, this seems contrary to facts as there were reviews of this warrant in the Justice Department and the Southern District of New York.  If a similar raid were conducted on Hillary Clinton’s office, it would have to go through the same court system.  I would support this as well.

I believe Michael Cohen subdued reaction is because he knows the FBI has a mountain of incriminating evidence against him.   The role of Trump’s fixer came to an abrupt end, and now the fixer has some real negotiating to do with authorities instead of Trump’s occasional indiscretions.

The late night comedians, such as Stephen Colbert and John Oliver, are having a tremendous amount of fun over the irony in all of this.   Trump appointed an Attorney General, who has been as tough as nails on illegal immigration, drug use and against sentencing reforms.   Yet, Trump is steadfastly trying to make himself an exception to the heightened law and order approach of the Justice Department.

Trump is saying in essence, “Go after criminals, but stay away from my campaign officials and their contacts.”

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

http://thehill.com/opinion/judiciary/382459-dershowitz-targeting-trumps-lawyer-should-worry-us-all

Wikipedia:  Jeff Sessions