Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Trump needs Rosenstein out, right now—because of Manafort, and Cohen, and a piece of paper

TOPSHOT - US President Donald Trump chairs a meeting with administration and state officials on prison reform at the Trump National Golf Club August 9, 2018 in Bedminster, New Jersey. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)        (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Monday’s sudden Rod Rosenstein “resignation” crisis didn’t come out of nowhere—it came out of planted stories designed to make the deputy attorney general look like an intolerable loose cannon. But the timing does seem curious. Donald Trump had already secured an agreement with Republican senators to pitch Attorney General Jefferson Sessions immediately after the midterm elections. That would allow Trump to sideline Rosenstein, with his new AG positioned to take care of the Russia investigation on demand. So why now? Because Trump couldn’t wait. 

The Washington Post report on the morning’s confusion shows what happens when everything is about protecting the autocrat. White House sources are claiming that deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein is not only planning to resign, but has already resigned. Meanwhile reports from the Department of Justice insist that Rosenstein hasn’t resigned, and won’t resign, but expects to be fired. A resignation would obviously play better for Donald Trump. Not only would it provide more possibilities for how Trump fills the vacancy, but it allows Trump to paint the situation in terms of Rosenstein acknowledging that he had done something wrong.

Trump really, really wants that. Because he really, really needs to put someone like the Clinton-hating, FBI-skeptic, unitary executive-loving, Brett Kavanaugh friend Noel Francisco in charge. Then the Russia investigation can wind down gradually, whittled away to nothing, or otherwise silenced. Trump not only wants Rosenstein out—he wants to make Rosenstein part of his Deep State/Drain the Swamp/They’re all out to get me narrative. He wants it immediately. Because this thing is slipping away from him by the hour, and he knows it.

The last month has seen the conviction of Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, the guilty plea from Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen, the news that Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg was testifying under immunity from federal prosecutors, word that Cohen was looking to cooperate, and then the blasting surprise that Manafort had agreed to cooperate with the special counsel. Finally, there was an extra dash of news that Cohen was in the midst of spilling to the special counsel, in advance of any cooperation agreement.

Cohen, Manafort, and Weisselberg’s testimony threatens Trump at his very core. It threatens to reveal the layers of Russia-connected money laundering, tax evasion, and decades of conspiracy that turned Trump from a bankrupt also-ran into an oligarch-powered “success.” It’s a threat to not just Trump’s office, but to his money, his company, his image, and to everything he owns. 

A series of “deep reports” by the Financial Times in 2016 showed how Trump, bankrupted by his epic failure in Atlantic City, unable to secure more loans to support his lavish lifestyle, and hovering on the brink of being booted from his own “tower,” made critical connections that pulled him back into the sun. With the help of intermediaries like Felix Sater and Sergei Millian, Trump turned his organization from a bankrupt real estate firm that was unable to fund the building of a pup tent, into a powerhouse money-laundering firm that saw hundreds of millions pouring in from Russia and former Soviet territory.

That transition was directly connected with one of the people talking to Robert Mueller right now.
Mr Millian claimed Mr Trump then introduced him to Michael Cohen, the Trump Organisation’s chief legal counsel, who granted him rights to market Trump Organisation properties in Russia and the former Soviet Union. “You could say I was their exclusive broker,” he told Ria. “Then, in 2007-2008, dozens of Russians bought apartments in Trump properties in the US.” He later told ABC television that the Trump Organisation had received “hundreds of millions of dollars” through deals with Russian businessmen.
Trump’s “genius” for selling New York and Florida real estate at ridiculous markups actually disguises systematic money-laundering in which the lax regulations around real estate allowed him to bring in illegal funds from Russia filtered through LLCs and banks in Cyprus. While Trump’s personal wealth is in doubt, there seems little doubt that the money involved in these transactions was eventually in the billions.

The details of this money-laundering operation were explicitly spelled out in Mueller’s indictment and conviction of long-time Trump associate and campaign chair Paul Manafort. The eventual agreement reached with Manafort isn’t just shocking in his level of agreed-on cooperation, and the detailed way in which Mueller has limited Trump’s ability to pardon Manafort’s crimes, but in the explicitness with which it describes how Manafort’s money-laundering for Oleg Deripaska worked. By most accounts, replacing Manafort’s name with Trump’s and Deripaska’s with any number of Russian billionaires could describe the majority of Trump’s income, at least over the critical period of his recovery from bankruptcy.

Manafort’s agreement to flip was a shock to Trump. Both he and Rudy Giuliani were still praising Manafort just hours before word emerged that a deal was in the works.

Even when Manafort walked into the courthouse, few people realized that he was not only signing a deal to cooperate in full, on any topic, but was ready to deliver under-oath testimony to a closed courtroom. And Manafort’s deal included massive, personal losses—agreements to hand over most of his real estate, cash, and other assets.

The seizures that Manafort faced scared Donald Trump sh#tless.

Manafort’s cooperation agreement came on Sept. 14. It took exactly one week before the New York Times ran with a planted story turning a joke made by Rosenstein into a scheme to overthrow the government. And two days after that, before the White House picked up the phone to announce that Rosenstein was resigning. Or had resigned. Will resign. Was definitely resigning.

The scariest thing about Rod Rosenstein isn’t that he protected the continued existence of Robert Mueller’s investigation: it’s that he signed an order expanding the scope of that investigation to include the money-laundering scheme on which Paul Manafort was convicted. Most of the document that contained that expansion was redacted. It’s not hard to guess what was under all that black ink: authority to investigate Trump’s business dealings.

Trump wants that authority ended now. And based on what he’s seen from Mueller in the agreement with Manafort, he cannot afford to wait. This is a part of the authority that Rosenstein extended to Mueller.

“Scope of Investigation and Definition of Authority”
That’s the document that Trump needs to kill—but quick. Those two paragraphs that are visible covered all the money-laundering, tax evasion, bank fraud, and conspiracy on which Manafort has been convicted.

What’s behind the rest of that ink … is everything.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Dr. Ford Is Outplaying These Republican Senators. Eventually They May Realize That.

'Haven't they figured out yet that they really don't have decent options?' (photo: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
'Haven't they figured out yet that they really don't have decent options?' (photo: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

By Charles Pierce, Esquire

22 September 18

They've yet to figure out that they have no decent options.

Well, it seems that the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee will continue to play stupid games with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, and with the possibility of her appearing before them next week, when all their kangaroo suits will come back from the cleaners. She wants to appear on Thursday. They now have offered Wednesday, after insisting for several days on a hearing on Monday next. From Politico:

The GOP is offering to hold the hearing on Wednesday after Ford sought Thursday and is meeting some of her requests but not others, the senator said. The senator added that Republicans are not inclined to agree with Ford’s lawyers that she should only be questioned by lawmakers – not an outside counsel.“We’ll do it on Wednesday, we expect the accuser before the accused, and we do intend to have the counsel do the questioning,” the senator said, summing up the Republicans’ stance.

I don't know who The Senator is with whom Politico spoke. (I have what I think is a good guess, though.) In any event, he or she is bidding strong behind a busted straight. Haven't these people learned yet that they can't make Dr. Ford do anything she doesn't want to do? Haven't they figured out yet that they really don't have decent options? They extended their deadline for Dr. Ford to respond on Friday, and they've already backed off a Monday hearing. They are negotiating very badly, as will often be the case when you have no good negotiating position at all. So, they're scrambling while Kavanaugh's polling numbers sink into the Potomac.

Not only that, but Dr. Ford's team knows very well how to press an advantage.

The GOP has been told that Ford does not want to fly from her California home to Washington, according to the Republican senator, which means she may need to drive across the country to make the hearing. Ford has reportedly told friends she is uncomfortable in confined spaces, indicating a physical difficulty in making the trip by plane.

I wonder why she might be uncomfortable in confined spaces.

Oh, Lord, not this thing again.

Nancy French—wife of David French, and a staunch wingnut in her own right—had a piece in The Washington Post on Friday about the Brett Kavanaugh situation and, in it, she slow-dances with one of the unkillable zombie lies of my career. To wit:

These arguments aren’t new, but they’ve always been flawed. In 2003, Boston Globe Magazine writer Charles P. Pierce wrote a profile of Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.). The article addressed Mary Jo Kopechne, who was the passenger in Kennedy’s car in 1969 and was killed after he veered off the road into the waters off Chappaquiddick Island. After explaining how her death had haunted Kennedy’s political aspirations, Pierce ended with two sentences that show the utter inadequacy and impotence of Prager’s “moral bank account” concept: “If she had lived, Mary Jo Kopechne would be 62 years old. Through his tireless work as a legislator, Edward Kennedy would have brought comfort to her in her old age.” Prager, a Republican, almost certainly wouldn’t accept Pierce’s absolution of Kennedy.

(It is here where a snarky person would add that French's op-ed offal already had occasioned one correction: she had the Boston Globe story running in 2009 when it ran in 2003. Nice googling.)

Christ, I'm tired of explaining this. Instead, I will quote the relevant passages so you can make up your own minds.

If his name were Edward Moore . . .

His brothers might be alive. His life might have been easier, not having mattered much to anyone beyond its own boundaries. His first marriage might have survived, and, if it had not, Joan Kennedy's problems would have been her own, and not grist for the public gossips. It might not have mattered to anyone, the fistfight outside the Manhattan saloon, the foozling with waitresses in Washington restaurants, the image of him in his nightshirt, during Holy Week (Jesus God!), going out for a couple of pops with the younger set in Palm Beach and winding up testifying in the middle of a rape trial. His second marriage simply would have been a second marriage, and Vicki Kennedy would not have found herself dragooned into the role of The Good Fairy in yet another Kennedy epiphany narrative.

All of this would not have mattered, if his name were Edward Moore.

And what of the dead woman? On July 18, 1969, on the weekend that man first walked on the moon, a 28-year-old named Mary Jo Kopechne drowned in his automobile. Plutocrats' justice and an implausible (but effective) coverup ensued. And, ever since, she's always been there: during Watergate, when Barry Goldwater told Kennedy that even Richard Nixon didn't need lectures from him; in 1980, when his presidential campaign was shot down virtually at its launch; during the hearings into the confirmation of Clarence Thomas, when Kennedy's transgressions gagged him and made him the butt of all the jokes.

She's always there. Even if she doesn't fit in the narrative line, she is so much of the dark energy behind it. She denies to him forever the moral credibility that lay behind not merely all those rhetorical thunderclaps that came so easily in the New Frontier but also Robert Kennedy's anguished appeals to the country's better angels. He was forced from the rhetoric of moral outrage and into the incremental nitty-gritty of social justice. He learned to plod, because soaring made him look ridiculous. "It's really 3 yards and a cloud of dust with him," says his son Patrick. And if his name were Edward Moore, he would have done time...

...And that's the key. That's how you survive what he's survived. That's how you move forward, one step after another, even though your name is Edward Moore Kennedy. You work, always, as though your name were Edward Moore. If she had lived, Mary Jo Kopechne would be 62 years old.
Through his tireless work as a legislator, Edward Kennedy would have brought comfort to her in her old age.

It was plain to me, to fair-minded readers, and, I assure you, to almost all of the Kennedy inner circle, that I was taking a hard, clean shot at EMK, and certainly an unprecedented one at the Globe. (The late Adam Clymer, who just passed away, and had written a laudatory biography of Kennedy, wrote me a note asking how I "knew" the senator would have done time, had he not been The Senator. I mean, please) It was clear to media critic Dan Kennedy, twice. It was even clear to James Taranto at National Review, who called it "a paragraph of pure poison."

Even at the time, however, as Dan Kennedy recalls, there were the deliberately obtuse, including Bush cousin John Ellis and professional Canadian blight Mark Steyn. (To be fair, Ellis later admitted he'd read the thing all wrong.) But things didn't really go to the zoo until the Media Research Center got involved. They took the idiot line and gave me their Quote of the Year Award, and that's how this canard has been floating around inside the wingnut bubble ever since.

None of them apparently read very well; Ann Coulter attributed the line to "that New York Times guy," which had me considering legal action. Jonah Goldberg went off the diving board—but, later, admitted that Taranto had maybe, sort of, turned him around. But, as this HuffPost piece makes clear, it was the MRC that persisted in being as stupid as it apparently believes its readers to be. What's worse, as I once wrote in The American Prospect, they didn't even invite me to their awards dinner to pick up my trophy. They had Sam Donaldson accept on my behalf. I may never get over that.

Anyway, it's fairly clear to me that Nancy French did a bit of googling, found either the MRC, or one of the people who was quoting the MRC's deliberate clown act, and then tossed it into her op-ed without a moment's thought. Hey, Marty Baron. I wrote that Kennedy piece for your newspaper! Give a brother a break.

Inexcusably, our tour of the Laboratories of Democracy left out the usual and vital contribution of Blog Official Prairie Dog Translator Friedman of the Plains, who brought us the sad tale of the town of Stilwell, which has been known as the Strawberry Capital of the World, but which, alas, has achieved another distinction. From The Washington Post:

This week, Stilwell earned a more discouraging distinction: It has the lowest life expectancy in the country — just 56.3 years, according to the most detailed local health data ever released by the National Center for Health Statistics. That means folks there are expected to die 22.5 years — an entire generation — earlier than the comparable national average of 78.8 years.

People living in several wealthier neighborhoods, often in urban areas and suburbs, enjoy life expectancy into their 90s, an illustration of how growing inequality determines fundamental aspects of Americans’ lives and well-being. “People who live blocks apart can have very different expectations in how long they’ll live because of the conditions in which people are living,” said Donald Schwarz, a senior vice president at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “That represents uneven opportunity for people, particularly children, to have long lives.”

This is the kind of class-based reporting of which we need volumes more. That there was a little hook on which to attach it was merely the, well, strawberry on top.

This week's best story was the fact that astronomers found an exoplanet orbiting 40 Eridani A, which happens to be the star around which, according to the Star Trek canon, the planet Vulcan orbits. From NBC News:

The newfound exoplanet is 16 light-years from Earth in the Constellation Eridanus. It orbits its host star — a sunlike star with the formal designation of HD 26965 — just inside the habitable zone, where water could exist in liquid form and where life as we know it could be possible. "It came as a total surprise to us," Jian Ge, a professor of astronomy at the University of Florida and co-author of a new paper about the discovery, told NBC News MACH in an email. "We did not have an intention to look for Vulcan orbiting HD 26965."

And yes, it is...fascinating.

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Save The Bones" (New Orleans Jazz Vipers): Yeah, I pretty much still love New Orleans.

Weekly Visit To The Pathe Archives: Here are some modern Druids at Stonehenge from 1931. I have some doubts about the authenticity of the facial hair on display here. And, yes, children, I haven't forgotten. History is so cool.

Official Blog Music Archivist The Great And Powerful Oz from KC checks in with a couple of recommendations. First, the latest from Amy Helm, Levon's daughter. Then, as we wait for Volume 14 of The Master's Bootleg Series, this one concentrating on the making of Blood on the Tracks, here, via NPR, is an early version of "If You See Her, Say Hello." Enjoy.

The exact species is unknown, but scientists say bones of a Sauropod, a type of dinosaur, have been found in the small town of Sterkspruit.
Professor Jonah Choiniere says they've been searching in the area, which is a fossil-rich site, for about six years looking for dinosaur species. He says a team of scientists from five top universities including Johannesburg and Oxford were at the site this week. “Just spent the last 10 days picking up a portion of these fossils and what we found is actually amazing. One of them is a dinosaur lying on its side, as it would’ve been when it died, and it’s quite a large animal, maybe six or seven metres long and weighing up to a ton.”

I don't mean to harsh many mellows but my entirely amateur observation is that I don't know how "fossil-rich" this site could have been when it took folks six years to find a seven-meter sauropod lying on its side. Nevertheless, that dinosaur, too, lived then to make us happy now.

The Committee was amazed by how many Top Commenters had bad memories of the DKE fraternity—to which Brett Kavanaugh belonged when he was at Yale—and how many of them were willing to serve them up. Top Commenter Kathleen Schultz takes home the Beckhams for telling a story that is not funny at all. 

He was a DKE? When I was in college (back in the dark ages) DKEs were known for their drunken parties and inviting non-sorority girls, because we were considered lesser beings. I fought off one of them, lucky for me he was too drunk to get back up after I shoved him. 

No, not funny at all.

I'm off to Washington next week to cover whatever the next act under the big top is. Be well and play nice, ya bastids. Stay above the snake-line, and watch out for sauropods in the backyard.

Beto O'Rourke blasts Ted Cruz: 'Tell me, who can miss half the days at work and be rehired'

Sen. Ted Cruz is about as genuine as a 4 dollar bill. That fact has presented itself time and time again. As Texas’ November election comes closer and closer, Cruz has found his once comfortable lead over Democrat Beto O’Rourke evaporate. This has been in no small part due to his challenger’s impressive moments on the campaign trail, speaking to the heart of true American ideals of freedom and resistance—and a little help from well-loved people like Willie Nelson. Cruz is freaking out and on Friday, hoped his mythological “debate skills,” the ones that led him to an imaginary victory over Donald Trump, would help him shine. It didn’t. Asked about “Texas Values” by the moderators of the debate, O’Rourke went directly at Cruz and the negligence he’s shown Texas as his naked ambition to become President preoccupied most of his time as Senator.

Beto: Only one of us has been to each county in Texas and would have an idea of what Texas values are. Within months of being sworn to service, your senator Ted Cruz was not in Texas. He was in Iowa. He visited every single one of the 99 counties of Iowa. He went to New Hampshire, South Carolina. He went to the Republican presidential primary states instead of being here. He shut down your government for 16 days in 2013. Too many people were getting too much health care in the United States of America.
In 2015, he missed one quarter of the votes in the United States Senate. In 2016, he missed half of the votes in the United States Senate. Tell me, who can miss half the days at work and be rehired for the same job going forward? That is not what Texans want. They don't want somebody who was captured by corporations and political action committees and special interests. That is where Ted Cruz gets his money. Our campaign is the largest grassroots campaign the state has ever seen, funded by people. Every single one of the counties and only people of Texas. Every single day.
Ted Cruz has forgotten that in the end, you can talk yourself into believing just about anything, but that doesn’t mean everyone else thinks that what’s coming out of your mouth are roses.

Friday, September 21, 2018

The President* Just Declassified Intelligence Materials to Please the Fox News Crowd

Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida. (photo: Bill Clark/Getty Image)
Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida. (photo: Bill Clark/Getty Image)

By Charles Pierce, Esquire
18 September 18

This probably won't end well for America.

may have mentioned on occasion here in the shebeen that one of the most unnerving things about the reign of El Caudillo Del Mar-A-Lago is that it's making me trust the high priesthood of the intelligence community more than my experience tells me is a smart thing to do.

My entire adult life has been spent watching America's spooks screw up in spectacular ways all over the world with millions of innocent people being put at risk.

I was born a week after the Shah of Iran slapped into prison Mohammad Mosaddegh, the democratically elected president who'd been deposed by Operation Ajax, a CIA-backed coup that had been dialed up at the request of western oil interests. I watched with grisly fascination the Church committee hearings and read the Pike report. I thought the whole FISA court business was a tepid response to the horrors therein.

But even at my most skeptical, I never believed that a president* of the United States would declassify intelligence material in order to assure the Fox News Channel would have programming options for the next year. Also, of course, as a distraction to help save his own ass.

From The New York Times:
Mr. Trump decided to declassify text messages about the Russia inquiry from a handful of law enforcement officials, summaries of interviews in the case and documents related to the surveillance of a former Trump campaign aide investigated for his links to Russia. For months, Mr. Trump and some of his most fervent congressional supporters have clamored for the material’s release against the protests of the intelligence and law enforcement communities.

The move is all but certain to further deteriorate Mr. Trump’s relationship with law enforcement officials. As part of their monthslong attacks on the Russia investigation, the president and his allies have accused law enforcement officials of improperly obtaining a secret warrant to wiretap the campaign adviser, Carter Page. Little evidence has emerged to back the Republicans’ assertions, and Democrats have accused them in return of politicizing a legitimate inquiry with major national security implications.
Make no mistake. The material being released is cherry-picked in order to keep the rubes riled and to throw sand in the gears of the ongoing investigations. (The release also may be timed to take some of the heat off Brett Kavanaugh, but I think that's a minor consideration. This is about the president*'s chestnuts being in the fire.) It is a release tailored to fit the specifications of the increasingly febrile presidential base.

I'm surprised they didn't have Sean Hannity or Alex Jones do the vetting.
Former and current F.B.I. officials have expressed concern that the Republican efforts to out the materials could have long-lasting consequences, making it harder to recruit informants willing to help with investigations who are the lifeblood of law enforcement. But without the president’s backing, the protracted fight over the materials has left the Justice Department and F.B.I. with little recourse to protect the materials from being made public.
Good. The president* is at war with his intelligence and law-enforcement agencies. That always works well for the country as a whole.
Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida and one of the president’s most ardent supporters on Capitol Hill, praised Mr. Trump’s decision in a statement and said it came in the face of “unnecessary delays, redactions and refusals.”

“These documents will reveal to the American people some of the systemic corruption and bias that took place at the highest levels of the D.O.J. and F.B.I., including using the tools of our intelligence community for partisan political ends,” Mr. Gaetz said.
See? Congressman Gaetz, who is not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, already knows what's in there. He's been inventing the stuff in his head for two years and now he will have The Proof. And, make no mistake. This is a thoroughgoing operation aimed at bringing down the entire Legion Of Supervillains that has been spoon-fed through their radios, their favorite TV news programs, and over the Intertoobz, to various audiences of angry shut-ins since January of 2017.
In addition to parts of the application, Mr. Trump also ordered the director of national intelligence and law enforcement officials to declassify F.B.I. interviews about the case with Bruce G. Ohr, a Justice Department official who has been caught up in Mr. Trump’s attacks on national security officials. Mr. Ohr, a veteran prosecutor who fought Russian organized crime for years, met repeatedly with a British spy who specialized in Russia, Christopher Steele, who compiled a dossier of explosive, unverified claims about Mr. Trump during the 2016 campaign. Mr. Steele was also an F.B.I. informant, but agents ended that relationship in late 2016 because he had spoken to journalists about the work he did for the bureau.
Mr. Steele investigated ties between Mr. Trump and Russia for the same research firm, Fusion GPS, where Mr. Ohr’s wife was a contractor.

To be sure, the president* needs the rubes aflame more now than he ever has before. Michael Flynn will be sentenced this week. Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen are doing their Righteous Brothers karaoke act for the special counsel's office. An electoral catastrophe is looming in November, and his Supreme Court nominee, the only real bona fides he has with the Bible-bangers, is in serious trouble. His administration* is in the trash compactor and he knows it. So it's time to feed the loyal fans some Top Secret Stuff about the Deep State that they can chaw over at the cafes and diners in Zitoville, Ohio. It's time to give Hannity some Hot Stuff he can toss around with Sheryl Atkinson, Tomi Lauren, and other veteran gumshoes. And Robert Mueller, with no expression on his face, reaches across his desk for another document.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Lying liar Brett Kavanaugh lawyers up

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, his wife Ashley Estes Kavanaugh (off frame) and their two daughters stand by US President Donald Trump after he announced his nomination in the East Room of the White House on July 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)        (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Made for each other.
Brett Kavanaugh is doubling down on his denials that he attempted to rape a young woman when he was in high school. He's also lawyering up. Why he's hired an attorney is not entirely clear at the moment. Could it be because there's no statute of limitations on felony sexual assault in Maryland? Because there are potentially more women he attacked who might come forward? Or maybe it's because he's worried about his lies to Congress during his hearings?

It could be any of the above. His denial remains complete: "I have never done anything like what the accuser describes -- to her or to anyone. Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday. I am willing to talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee in any way the committee deems appropriate to refute this false allegation, from 36 years ago, and defend my integrity." But he's a liar. He proved that time and again in his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, so there's some potential legal exposure.

The FBI has professor Christine Blasey Ford's letter, and may or may not be talking to her right now, which is potential criminal exposure for Kavanaugh. Then there's the very real possibility that there are other sexual assault shoes that could drop here, given the swirling rumors in D.C. about reporters chasing down new stories from new accusers. The potential for that is even greater, given his high school track record and the support for Blasey Ford that’s quickly surfacing from her classmates.

A group of women from her high school are circulating a letter of support, writing "We believe Dr. Blasey Ford and are grateful that she came forward to tell her story."

What Blasey Ford is alleging, they write, "is all too consistent with stories we heard and lived while attending Holton. Many of us are survivors ourselves." As of this writing, the letter has more than three dozen signatures. Hell, there might be women there who are also survivors of Kavanaugh.

But also: he's a lying liar. We KNOW that. And that's with something like 93 percent of his actual record being covered up. Who knows what else is lurking in his past that he's gonna need a lawyer for?

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Grandmothers Stalled the Police as Climate Protestors Created the Largest Street Mural Ever

A protest bringing awareness to ocean health. (photo: Justine Calma/Grist)
A protest bringing awareness to ocean health. (photo: Justine Calma/Grist)

By Justine Calma, Grist
18 September 18
ore than 3,000 demonstrators in San Francisco have created what’s thought to be the largest street mural ever made. On Saturday, the 2,500-foot-long, 50-foot-wide mural turned five blocks of city streets into scenes of community-proposed solutions for a warming world.

What’s more, the protesters didn’t have a permit to paint the streets — so a group of indigenous-led grandmothers faced off with police to block roads for five hours while the muralists completed their work. With the grannies from the Society of Fearless Grandmothers holding down ground, none of the protesters were arrested.

“You have to believe in a little magic and imagination to build the future that we want,” says Cata Elisabeth-Romo, an artist and one of the lead coordinators for the mural project.

San Francisco’s demonstration was part of a recent, international upwelling of art and activism. Last week, activists took to the streets in 91 countries with picket signs and paint for the “Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice” marches organized by and dozens of partners. The demonstrations came ahead of the much-anticipated Global Climate Action Summit that will begin in San Francisco on Wednesday.

The summit is spearheaded by California Governor Jerry Brown and will bring together states, cities, businesses, and community groups to discuss how to achieve climate goals set by the Paris Agreement.

The San Francisco mural stitched together 50 scenes depicting solutions to climate injustices, each put together by a different community group. Indigenous artist and ecologist Edward Willie designed a border around the mural unifying all 50 scenes.

The entire mural is temporary. As of Sunday night, four of the five blocks were still painted. The street art was made using charcoal from areas impacted by the recent devastating wildfires, along with tempera paint and raw clay sourced just outside of San Francisco.

Artist Nityalila Saulo designed the mural for the interfaith contingent, which included 2,000 footsteps surrounding the word “Live.” The footprints “remind us of the prints we leave behind as we live on this earth. It is meant to inspire us to value the choices we make every day,” she wrote on Instagram.

The artists’ and activists’ demands include racial and economic justice, and an end to fossil fuel production in favor of a transition to 100 percent renewable energy. From city to city, locals used creative expression to highlight their own priorities.

In New York on Thursday, the sea of protesters included artists and performers in costumes depicting creatures from the sea. No Longer Empty, an NYC group that curates exhibitions to spark community conversations in unconventional spaces, dressed as coral, jellyfish, and a leatherback turtle. It’s all part of a larger work by artist Laura Anderson Barbata called “Intervention: Ocean Blues.

“This work addresses the urgent need to transform our decisions, to influence policy, and to bring awareness to the importance of the ocean’s health and our dependency on it,” Anderson Barbata told Grist.

In New Orleans, demonstrators used banners to call attention to Louisiana’s Cancer Alley, an industrial corridor that stretches from NOLA to Baton Rouge. Organizers say that on top of the plants and refineries in the area, the planned Bayou Bridge pipeline poses another health threat to residents in St. James Parish, where the march began.

350 commissioned protest artwork from artists in six different continents that demonstrators around the world could download and use in their campaigns.

Christi Belcourt, a renowned Michif visual artist who traces her lineage to the Manitou Sakhigan of Alberta, Canada, contributed an image depicting a woman facing water, wielding lightning in one hand and holding a feather in the other. Belcourt has a message to accompany her artwork:
No amount of money can buy back a people’s river.
No amount of money can buy back the sea.
The Trans Mountain Pipeline cannot be built.
Because we love the rivers.
Because we love the sea.
Because we love this sacred earth.
We will defend our home.
With their art, Belcourt and others are mounting a creative defense against climate change.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Credible Kavanaugh Accuser Comes Forward, Will Tell Her Story

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on Thursday September 6, 2018. (photo: Washington Post/Getty Images)
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on Thursday September 6, 2018. (photo: Washington Post/Getty Images)

By Emma Brown, The Washington Post
17 September 18

arlier this summer, Christine Blasey Ford wrote a confidential letter to a senior Democratic lawmaker alleging that Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her more than three decades ago, when they were high school students in suburban Maryland. Since Wednesday, she has watched as that bare-bones version of her story became public without her name or her consent, drawing a blanket denial from Kavanaugh and roiling a nomination that just days ago seemed all but certain to succeed.

Now, Ford has decided that if her story is going to be told, she wants to be the one to tell it.

Speaking publicly for the first time, Ford said that one summer in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh and a friend — both “stumbling drunk,” Ford alleges — corralled her into a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers at a house in Montgomery County.

While his friend watched, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.

“I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” said Ford, now a 51-year-old research psychologist in northern California. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.”

Ford said she was able to escape when Kavanaugh’s friend and classmate at Georgetown Preparatory School, Mark Judge, jumped on top of them, sending all three tumbling. She said she ran from the room, briefly locked herself in a bathroom and then fled the house.

Ford said she told no one of the incident in any detail until 2012, when she was in couples therapy with her husband. The therapist’s notes, portions of which were provided by Ford and reviewed by The Washington Post, do not mention Kavanaugh’s name but say she reported that she was attacked by students “from an elitist boys’ school” who went on to become “highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington.” The notes say four boys were involved, a discrepancy Ford says was an error on the therapist’s part. Ford said there were four boys at the party but only two in the room.

Notes from an individual therapy session the following year, when she was being treated for what she says have been long-term effects of the incident, show Ford described a “rape attempt” in her late teens.

In an interview, her husband, Russell Ford, said that in the 2012 sessions, she recounted being trapped in a room with two drunken boys, one of whom pinned her to a bed, molested her and prevented her from screaming. He said he recalled that his wife used Kavanaugh’s last name and voiced concern that Kavanaugh — then a federal judge — might one day be nominated to the Supreme Court.

On Sunday, the White House sent The Post a statement Kavanaugh issued last week, when the outlines of Ford’s account became public: “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”

Through a White House spokesman, Kavanaugh declined to comment further on Ford’s allegation and did not respond to questions about whether he knew her during high school. The White House had no additional comment.

Reached by email Sunday, Judge declined to comment. In an interview Friday with The Weekly Standard, before Ford’s name was known, he denied that any such incident occurred. “It’s just absolutely nuts. I never saw Brett act that way,” Judge said. He told the New York Times that Kavanaugh was a “brilliant student” who loved sports and was not “into anything crazy or illegal.”

Christine Ford is a professor at Palo Alto University who teaches in a consortium with Stanford University, training graduate students in clinical psychology. Her work has been widely published in academic journals.

She contacted The Post through a tip line in early July, when it had become clear that Kavanaugh was on the shortlist of possible nominees to replace retiring justice Anthony M. Kennedy but before Trump announced his name publicly. A registered Democrat who has made small contributions to political organizations, she contacted her congresswoman, Democrat Anna G. Eshoo, around the same time. In late July, she sent a letter via Eshoo’s office to Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.

In the letter, which was read to The Post, Ford described the incident and said she expected her story to be kept confidential. She signed the letter as Christine Blasey, the name she uses professionally.

Though Ford had contacted The Post, she declined to speak on the record for weeks as she grappled with concerns about what going public would mean for her and her family — and what she said was her duty as a citizen to tell the story.

She engaged Debra Katz, a Washington lawyer known for her work on sexual harassment cases. On the advice of Katz, who said she believed Ford would be attacked as a liar if she came forward, Ford took a polygraph test administered by a former FBI agent in early August. The results, which Katz provided to The Post, concluded that Ford was being truthful when she said a statement summarizing her allegations was accurate.

By late August, Ford had decided not to come forward, calculating that doing so would upend her life and probably would not affect Kavanaugh’s confirmation. “Why suffer through the annihilation if it’s not going to matter?” she said.

Her story leaked anyway. On Wednesday, the Intercept reported that Feinstein had a letter describing an incident involving Kavanaugh and a woman while they were in high school and that Feinstein was refusing to share it with her Democratic colleagues.

Feinstein soon released a statement: “I have received information from an individual concerning the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court,” she wrote. “That individual strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further, and I have honored that decision. I have, however, referred the matter to federal investigative authorities.”

The FBI redacted Ford’s name and sent the letter to the White House to be included in Kavanaugh’s background file, according to a Judiciary Committee aide. The White House sent it to the Senate Judiciary Committee, making it available to all senators.

As pressure grew, the New York Times reported that the incident involved “possible sexual misconduct.”

By then, Ford had begun to fear she would be exposed. People were clearly learning her identity: A BuzzFeed reporter visited her at her home and tried to speak to her as she was leaving a classroom where she teaches graduate students. Another reporter called her colleagues to ask about her.

On Friday, the New Yorker reported the letter’s contents but did not reveal Ford’s identity. Soon after, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) released a letter from 65 women who say they knew Kavanaugh when he attended high school from 1979 to 1983 at Georgetown Prep, an all-boys school in North Bethesda.

“Through the more than 35 years we have known him, Brett has stood out for his friendship, character, and integrity,” the women wrote. “In particular, he has always treated women with decency and respect. That was true when he was in high school, and it has remained true to this day.”

As the story snowballed, Ford said, she heard people repeating inaccuracies about her and, with the visits from reporters, felt her privacy being chipped away. Her calculation changed.

“These are all the ills that I was trying to avoid,” she said, explaining her decision to come forward. “Now I feel like my civic responsibility is outweighing my anguish and terror about retaliation.”

Katz said she believes Feinstein honored Ford’s request to keep her allegation confidential, but “regrettably others did not.”

“Victims must have the right to decide whether to come forward, especially in a political environment that is as ruthless as this one,” Katz said. “She will now face vicious attacks by those who support this nominee.”

After so many years, Ford said, she does not remember some key details of the incident. She said she believes it occurred in the summer of 1982, when she was 15, around the end of her sophomore year at the all-girls Holton-Arms School in Bethesda. Kavanaugh would have been 17 at the end of his junior year at Georgetown Prep.

At the time, Ford said, she knew Kavanaugh and Judge as “friendly acquaintances” in the private-school social circles of suburban Maryland. Her Holton-Arms friends mostly hung out with boys from the Landon School, she said, but for a period of several months socialized regularly with students from Georgetown Prep.

Ford said she does not remember how the gathering came together the night of the incident. She said she often spent time in the summer at the Columbia Country Club pool in Chevy Chase, where in those pre-cellphone days, teenagers learned about gatherings via word of mouth. She also doesn’t recall who owned the house or how she got there.

Ford said she remembers that it was in Montgomery County, not far from the country club, and that no parents were home at the time. Ford named two other teenagers who she said were at the party. Those individuals did not respond to messages on Sunday morning.

She said she recalls a small family room where she and a handful of others drank beer together that night. She said that each person had one beer but that Kavanaugh and Judge had started drinking earlier and were heavily intoxicated.

In his senior-class yearbook entry at Georgetown Prep, Kavanaugh made several references to drinking, claiming membership to the “Beach Week Ralph Club” and “Keg City Club.” He and Judge are pictured together at the beach in a photo in the yearbook.

Judge is a filmmaker and author who has written for the Daily Caller, the Weekly Standard and The Post. He chronicled his recovery from alcoholism in “Wasted: Tales of a Gen-X Drunk,” which described his own blackout drinking and a culture of partying among students at his high school, renamed in the book “Loyola Prep.”

Kavanaugh is not mentioned in the book, but a passage about partying at the beach one summer makes glancing reference to a “Bart O’Kavanaugh,” who “puked in someone’s car the other night” and “passed out on his way back from a party.”

Through the White House, Kavanaugh did not respond to a question about whether the name was a pseudonym for him.

Ford said that on the night of the party, she left the family room to use the bathroom, which was at the top of a narrow stairway. She doesn’t remember whether Kavanaugh and Judge were behind her or already upstairs, but she remembers being pushed into a bedroom and then onto a bed. Rock-and-roll music was playing with the volume turned up high, she said.

She alleges that Kavanaugh — who played football and basketball at Georgetown Prep — held her down with the weight of his body and fumbled with her clothes, seemingly hindered by his intoxication. Judge stood across the room, she said, and both boys were laughing “maniacally.” She said she yelled, hoping that someone downstairs would hear her over the music, and Kavanaugh clapped his hand over her mouth to silence her.

At one point, she said, Judge jumped on top of them, and she tried unsuccessfully to wriggle free. Then Judge jumped on them again, toppling them, and she broke away, she said.

She said she locked herself in the bathroom and listened until she heard the boys “going down the stairs, hitting the walls.” She said that after five or 10 minutes, she unlocked the door and made her way through the living room and outside. She isn’t sure how she got home.

Ford said she has not spoken with Kavanaugh since that night. And she told no one at the time what had happened to her. She was terrified, she said, that she would be in trouble if her parents realized she had been at a party where teenagers were drinking, and she worried they might figure it out even if she did not tell them.

“My biggest fear was, do I look like someone just attacked me?” she said. She said she recalled thinking: “I’m not ever telling anyone this. This is nothing, it didn’t happen, and he didn’t rape me.”

Years later, after going through psychotherapy, Ford said, she came to understand the incident as a trauma with lasting impact on her life.

“I think it derailed me substantially for four or five years,” she said. She struggled academically and socially, she said, and was unable to have healthy relationships with men. “I was very ill-equipped to forge those kinds of relationships.”

She also said that in the longer term, it contributed to anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms with which she has struggled.

She married her husband in 2002. Early in their relationship, she told him she had been a victim of physical abuse, he said. A decade later, he learned the details of that alleged abuse when the therapist asked her to tell the story, he said.

He said he expects that some people, upon hearing his wife’s account, will believe that Kavanaugh’s high school behavior has no bearing upon his fitness for the nation’s high court. He disagrees.

“I think you look to judges to be the arbiters of right and wrong,” Russell Ford said. “If they don’t have a moral code of their own to determine right from wrong, then that’s a problem. So I think it’s relevant. Supreme Court nominees should be held to a higher standard.”