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Sunday, September 30, 2018

Fact check shows that Kavanaugh is a skilled liar ... but still a liar

Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony on Thursday was highly partisan, and part of a scripted effort by Republicans who designed and orchestrated the hearings to turn Kavanaugh into a victim and Democrats into his attackers. It was a tirade that should all on it’s own disqualify Kavanaugh from service on any federal court. But there was more to Kavanaugh’s statements than just claims that he was the victim of a conspiracy … there were also a lot of lies.

Republicans were ecstatic with Kavanaugh’s testimony. Not only did it have the tone of angry outrage they demanded, it was filled with partisan attacks. Kavanaugh called the hearing “coordinated and well-funded efforts to destroy my good name and destroy my family” and insisted that it was meant to intimidate him into withdrawal.

And he was quick with an answer—and a sneer—for every question put forward by Democrats. In particular, Kavanaugh had a ready response for every question about items on that 1982 calendar.

And now the New York Times has done some fact-checking on those answers. And the facts do not align with Kavanaugh’s responses. Instead, they could Kavanaugh to be “a skilled lawyer who, when pressed on difficult subjects, sometimes crafted responses that were misleading, disputed or off point.” For those who are not lawyers, what they said is that Brett Kavanaugh is a good, practiced liar.

“Legal” — Kavanaugh stated that as a high school senior, he and his classmates were “legal to drink” even though the drinking age had been raised to 21 before he ever reached the previous legal age.

“Refuted” — like every single Republicans, including committee chair Chuck Grassley, Kavanaugh insisted that witnesses had “refuted” testimony given by Christine Blasey Ford. That’s simply not true. Kavanaugh made this claim at multiple points in his testimony. Only one of the people named was an actual witness, and all of the three testified that they could not recall the party at which the event took place. That’s not a refutation of Ford.

“Beer” — Anyone playing the “every time Kavanaugh says beer, take a drink” game was dead before the the hearing was past the first two questioners, as Kavanaugh expressed his fondness for ‘skis more than three dozen times. But Kavanaugh repeatedly insisted he didn’t drink to excess, which is a fact genuinely refuted by over a dozen genuine witnesses to his drinking in high school and college.

The testimony of those who saw Kavanaugh drinking, and drunk, may be the most telling when it comes to the validity of the central claims.

Lynne Brookes was classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Yale, a fellow athlete, and fellow Republicans. She was also the roommate of accuser Deborah Ramirez. Brookes stated that Kavanaugh’s attempts to classify himself as a moderate drinker who enjoyed a few brews “grossly misrepresented and mischaracterized his drinking” and that his go-to excuse that he couldn’t have been drinking that much because he was also doing well in school and participating in sports didn’t work.
Brookes: He frequently drank to excess. I know because I frequently drank to excess with him.
Daniel Lavan, who was in Kavanaugh’s Yale dorm his freshman year, put it even more clearly.
Lavan: I definitely saw him on multiple occasions stumbling drunk where he could not have rational control over his actions or clear recollection of them. His depiction of himself is inaccurate.
Not only did Kavanaugh present testimony about his drinking before a senate committee, it is also one of the items on the form he filled out for his security clearance. It’s not known how he responded to the questions about alcohol use on that form.

“Alumnius” — Kavanaugh’s yearbook describes him as a “Renate Alumnius.” During the hearing, Kavanagh was particularly irate and aggressive toward Democratic senators who dared to ask about this entry. He repeatedly declared that it was merely meant to “show affection” for a girl who attended a nearby Catholic school and put on a show of anger when asked about it saying that just in asking Democratic senators were “dragging her name through the mud.” But the Times found just what everyone knew to start with: “The understanding at the time was that the many yearbook references to her were boasts about sexual conquests.” Kavanaugh and his friends were the ones who savaged this young woman’s reputation, as part of a football buddies joke.

”Boofed” — Kavanaugh claimed this term referred to flatulence. It actually referred to anal sex. The quickness with which Kavanaugh came up with this response showed that it was a lie he had worked out in advance.

”Devil’s Triangle” — Kavanaugh claimed it was a drinking game. It was actually a sexual act involving two men and one woman. 

“Dr. Blasey did not attend one of those schools” — Kavanaugh claimed that his social group did not associate with girls from the private school Holton-Arms.

Multiple members of Kavanaugh’s class at Georgetown Prep disputed this.

The Times also looked at some statements that didn’t come from the Thursday hearing but from Kavanaugh’s earlier appearances. In those appearances, Kavanaugh claimed that he had done nothing wrong in using documents stolen from servers of Democratic congressmen. He also claimed that he had not worked on the nomination of Judge William H. Pryor or Judge Charles W. Pickering. On all these topics Kavanaugh … what was that phrase again? Crafted responses that were misleading or disputed. He lied.

The lies that Kavanaugh made before Thursday were more than enough to keep him off the Court. But the lies on Thursday were particularly telling because they — and the angry responses that accompanied them — were clearly not just thought out in advance, but presented as part of a scripted narrative meant to make Democrats look like the aggressors for daring to question any point of Kavanaugh’s testimony.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

The Ford-Kavanaugh Hearings Were a Classic Case Study in GOP Misogyny

Meet the new, sensitive GOP. (photo: Tom Williams/Getty Images)
Meet the new, sensitive GOP. (photo: Tom Williams/Getty Images)

By Frank Rich, New York Magazine
29 September 18
 

ost weeks, New York Magazine writer-at-large Frank Rich speaks with contributor Alex Carp about the biggest stories in politics and culture. Today, the Senate testimony of Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh. 

Going into the Brett Kavanaugh hearing, critics questioned the choice of Republicans to cede many of their questions to Rachel Mitchell, a veteran sex crimes prosecutor. Was the hearing fair? 

The hearing was a travesty, at once tragic, corrupt, and hateful.

The decision of the 11 Republican men on the committee to delegate their questioning to a prosecutor Mitch McConnell called a “female assistant” wasn’t even the most outrageous aspect of the proceedings. It says much about the hearing as a whole that while Mitchell did the men’s dirty work — failing to pursue any evidence that might corroborate Christine Blasey Ford’s narrative (e.g., a conspicuous entry in Kavanaugh’s Summer of ’82 calendar) — she too was in the end was belittled for the failing of being a woman. Banished to her seat at the children’s table soon after Kavanaugh started to testify, she sat in humiliated silence while Lindsey Graham and his bros took over the questioning to beat up on Ford in absentia once her testimony had ended.

The ways in which this shitshow was not fair are many. A fair hearing would have called witnesses, and not just Mark Judge, to testify under oath about the incidents ostensibly being adjudicated, so that their unvetted public statements could be subject to cross-examination. A fair hearing would not have subjected a sexual-assault victim to a sex-crimes prosecutor while shielding the accused from equal scrutiny. A fair hearing would not have allowed men, from the doddering, filibustering chairman Chuck Grassley to Kavanaugh himself, to interrupt, condescend to, and talk over the questioners, particularly women on the committee. A fair hearing might also have been abetted by a coordinated line of inquiry from the Democrats, who often repeated each other’s questions (netting the identical answers) instead of collaborating on a comprehensive strategy that would advance the unraveling of Kavanaugh’s dishonest defense. Indeed, the Democratic men would have been well advised — as some had suggested — to turn over most of the questioning to Amy Klobuchar and Kamala Harris, experienced prosecutors who in their allotted five minutes each drew blood and forced Kavanaugh to bare his teeth in contempt of their gender. But alas, Democratic men will also be men. Each needed his moment center stage. So instances of Kavanaugh’s lying, including those not directly related to Ford’s testimony, both in real time and in the past, went largely unmentioned and unaddressed. The Democrats also failed to debunk Kavanaugh’s repeated misrepresentation that Ford’s friend Leland Keyser had rebutted her account of what happened that summer night in 1982.

Jill Abramson, the co-author (with Jane Mayer) of Strange Justice, the definitive account of the Clarence Thomas–Anita Hill debacle, had it right when she wrote on the eve of this hearing that it had a “predetermined outcome.” Like the 1991 template, in which the showily pious Republican senator John Danforth served as a beard for his peers’ cynicism, the 2018 replay had the window dressing of its own moralistic Hamlet, Jeff Flake. 

Donald Trump’s views are notoriously influenced by how things look on TV. With the country watching, how did Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford do? 

By many accounts, even Trump was somewhat disarmed by Ford’s testimony — at least enough so to worry, with good reason, that she might impress most of those watching (if not his own base) as credible, courageous, and deeply moving. He was worried as well because in his view Kavanaugh’s pre-hearing prime-time appearance on Fox News had been a flop. He didn’t like his nominee’s PR strategy of presenting himself as a choirboy.

The Kavanaugh that emerged at the hearing understandably was much more to Trump’s liking — he dropped the Mr. Nice Guy pose and let his full Trump roar. He emerged as a bully, a screamer, a conspiracy theorist, a rabid partisan, and a guilt-free purveyor of falsehoods big and small (including about instantly Google-able definitions of sexual terms he used in his high-school yearbook).

For all his self-congratulation about the many (good-looking) women he has appointed clerks, he also behaved like an unalloyed misogynist. In his Fox News interview, he had revealed his contempt for women subtly — by stepping in to man-answer a question the interviewer posed to his wife. In the hearing, he did just what Trump would do: accusing a woman who dared question him (Klobuchar) of the accusation she had raised about him (drinking to excess). If anything, he out-Trumped Trump in one area: While Trump is a teetotaler, Kavanaugh has the personality of a raging, self-pitying, out-of-control drunk. (He seems to think drinking doesn’t count as long as it’s beer.) As he tried to shut Klobuchar down with his bullying and bellowing, it was all too easy to visualize him pushing his hand on the teenage Ford’s mouth to stop her from screaming for help during an attempted rape.

It was hardly a surprise that Kavanaugh said he didn’t deign to watch Ford’s testimony.

Trump didn’t think John McCain was a hero, but he was thrilled by Kavanaugh. No wonder. Kavanaugh stood up to Ford and his other accusers as Trump has to the nearly two dozen women (we know about) who have accused him of sexual assault.

In light of a NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist pre-hearing poll showing that a majority (54 percent) of Republicans believe that Kavanaugh should be on the court even if it’s true that he assaulted women, he is the ideal Supreme Court justice for the party of Trump. We should not forget, however, that this misogynist culture ruled the GOP well before Trump came along: Grassley, Orrin Hatch, and Lindsey Graham, among so many others, were there first. 

Whether in the Senate chamber or out in America, what has this hearing changed, and what has it not? 

About the only positive change to come out of this hearing — and I am being facetious — is that we now know that Republican men have been carefully schooled on how to profess “respect” for female victims of sexual assault. They have become expert at intoning that they care about rape victims because they are speaking “as the father of daughters” — as if those of us who are the fathers of sons, or those men who aren’t fathers at all, needn’t give a damn about women who are abused by men. These senators’ behavior at the hearing amply demonstrated that they don’t mean a word of the flowery sentiments some strategist has forced them to memorize. As committee chairman, Grassley set the tone. “You got what you wanted — I’d think you’d be satisfied,” he snapped at Klobuchar as if she were a maidservant after she thwarted his attempt to bulldoze her. Out in the hallway during a break, Lindsey Graham “praised” Ford by calling her “a nice lady”; Hatch’s term of choice was “attractive.” The guiding principle of the hearing, subscribed to by all of these Republican senators, was that men are the victims most worthy of our sympathy in sexual assaults, not women. The grievance of white male victimization — by women, by minorities, by elites — is Trumpism at its ugliest core.

More than a quarter-century later, it feels as if very little has changed since Clarence Thomas was elevated to the court, #MeToo notwithstanding. Had Ford not been white — and from the professional class — you have to wonder whether the Republican men on the committee would have completely dropped their patently phony pretense of concern for her welfare and stabbed her in the front instead of the back. What will follow now is a national tsunami of rage much as there was after the sliming of Anita Hill. And the aggrieved will not just be those “suburban women” politicos keep pigeon-holing, but most women, and more and more men. We have to hope that this rage will sweep more women into office as it did in 1992, the so-called Year of the Woman. And sweep some women out, too, including Susan Collins, whose tired act — repeated, feckless expressions of being “concerned” about Trumpian horrors while doing nothing about them — should be punished by Maine’s voters when she’s up for reelection in 2020.

What an awful day. My colleague at Veep, the showrunner David Mandel, is a master of finding dark humor in Washington horrors, but he reflected my mood, and I imagine that of many, when he said after these hearings that “it’s starting to seem like it was an accident that the country worked as long as it did.” As I write, there’s a faint hope Kavanaugh will not make it to the Court. There’s a less faint hope that the GOP will lose control of at least one chamber of Congress in November.

But even if those battles are won, the fact remains that America has a major political party more dedicated than ever to stripping women of power by any ruthless means it can.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Jeff Flake shakes up Judiciary Committee vote on Kavanaugh, asks for floor vote delay


Sen. Jeff Flake leaving the committee room for discussions with Democratic senators.

This morning Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) had a gut-wrenching experience, hearing directly from sexual assault survivors what his yes vote on Brett Kavanaugh would mean: "You're telling all women that they don't matter, that they should just stay quiet because if they tell you what happened to them you are going to ignore them."

Flake listened. Sort of.

After private conversations in the anteroom of the Judiciary Committee hearing room with Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Coons (D-DE), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Flake announced that he would ask for a delay in the floor vote on the nomination, but would vote yes in passing Kavanaugh out of committee.

He has demanded a one week FBI investigation into Ford’s allegations. And the nominee was approved, 11-10. What happens now is a little unclear.

That's after Republican after Republican lied today on national television. Every one of them gave some form of the same statement: I believe something happened to Christine Blasey Ford, but I believe Brett Kavanaugh didn't do it.

A reminder from Thursday's testimony:

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL): "Dr. Ford, with what degree of certainty do you believe Brett Kavanaugh assaulted you?" Christine Blasey Ford: "100 percent."
That means every Senate Republican is calling her a liar. Every one except Jeff Flake, the only Republican apparently capable of feeling shame. 

Friday, Sep 28, 2018 · 10:58:38 AM USMST · Joan McCarter
To be clear, Flake has asked for a one-week FBI investigation, and moved for that. They haven’t taken that vote yet. What Flake has done is putting his likely “no” vote out there w/out an investigation, giving cover to Collins and Murkowski and Heitkamp and Manchin to say “no.” 

Friday, Sep 28, 2018 · 11:01:04 AM USMST · Joan McCarter 
Flake's gesture matters *if* he and at least one other R are prepared to vote no on the floor should McConnell not honor his request. If two R Senators are not willing to vote him down, then it's empty theater.
Friday, Sep 28, 2018 · 11:02:31 AM USMST · Joan McCarter
Flake says he would be willing to ask the White House to reopen an FBI investigation. Grassley adjourns on the two-hour rule, causing confusion every where. “Is it done,” asks Feinstein. Feinstein and Leahy want a vote on a motion from Flake for the investigation. 

Friday, Sep 28, 2018 · 11:04:45 AM USMST · Joan McCarter
Grassley’s abrupt end to the hearing without clarifying what has happened in committee is now a problem for McConnell. After Flake’s stand, it will be very, very difficult for McConnell to convince Flake, Collins, and Murkowski to ignore that and rush the floor vote.

Senator Jeff Flake just told us Christine Blasey Ford is either a liar or an idiot

By Laurie Roberts
Columnist
Arizona Republic
Sept. 28, 2018
 
Sen. Jeff Flake on Friday declared that Christine Blasey Ford is either a liar or so addle-brained that she doesn’t know who pinned her to a bed, groping and grinding away as his buddy looked on laughing. 

Flake was the first senator to say he was wanted to hear from the woman who says Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually attacked her when the two were teens.

"If they push forward without any attempt with hearing what she's had to say, I'm not comfortable voting yes," Flake said last week, shortly after Ford came forward. "We need to hear from her. And I don't think I'm alone in this.”

Compelling, but not deal-killing, testimony

Flake was the senator who earlier this week delivered an impassioned speech, defending her right to speak.

“I do not believe that a claim of sexual assault is invalid because a 15-year-old girl didn’t promptly report the assault to the authorities, as the President of the United States said just two days ago. How uninformed and uncaring do you have to be to say things like that, much less believe them? Do we have any idea what kind of message that sends, especially to young women? How many times do we have to marginalize and ignore women before we learn that important lesson?”


“We heard compelling testimony from Dr. Ford, as well as a persuasive response from Judge Kavanaugh," he said."I wish that I could express the confidence that some of my colleagues have conveyed about what either did or did not happen in the early 1980s, but I left the hearing yesterday with as much doubt as certainty.

“What I do know is that our system of justice affords a presumption of innocence to the accused, absent corroborating evidence. That is what binds us to the rule of law.”

This is what investigations are for

Our system of justice does, indeed, afford a presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
That’s what investigations are for.

Or, in this case, not.

Flake, in announcing that he’ll vote yes to confirm Kavanaugh, just issued a big ol’ shove to women across the country who until recently suffered in silence – the ones who thought #MeToo meant finally that things were changing. The ones who finally stood up for themselves.

And just got knocked down, dismissed. 

Flake has no idea who is telling the truth here. Neither do I. Neither do you.

But apparently, he has no interest in finding out whether Ford – and two other women who have now come forward – are telling the truth.

Me? I’m wondering what the purpose was in hearing from Ford at all if Flake never had any real interest in checking out her story?

In voting to hand Brett Kavanaugh a seat on the United States Supreme Court without a serious investigation into what happened here, Flake is saying that Christine Blasey Ford is either a pathological liar or an idiot.

Or worse, he believes her and it Just. Doesn’t. Matter. 

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Dam breaking, Republican women lose faith in Trump and Kavanaugh


180926_Trump-Approval_fullwidth_v2-1.png
This is getting lost in the flurry of news today, but it seems like ordinary voters are not buying the Republican bullshit about Kavanaugh. Voters who have seen powerful men brough to account for their behavior by #MeToo, who’ve seen the Catholic church confess to decades of abuse by powerful people are not accepting the Republican talking points meant to discredit the brave women coming forward.

Even Republican women have begun to respond to the allegations.


180926-Kavanaugh-Women_sidebar.png
Kavanaugh’s net support among Republicans — the share who oppose his confirmation subtracted from those who support it — dropped 11 points, with 58 percent now in support of his confirmation and 14 percent opposed. The shift was driven by an 18-point fall in support among Republican women, with 49 percent now in favor and 15 percent in opposition. [...]
views of Trump over the past week have been dragged down alongside those of his nominee. Seventy-two percent of GOP voters now approve of the president and 23 disapprove, down 16 points since the poll last week.
(The results for GOP voters have a 4-point margin of error.)
Among GOP women, the drop was 19 points since last week, with 68 percent approving and 26 percent disapproving.
— morningconsult.com/...
Yes, that’s right, Trump’s approval among the GOP has fallen to 72%.

Among Republican women, 26% now disapprove of Trump. Approval is under 70%.

Less than 50% of Republican women now support confirming Kavanaugh.

The dam is breaking.

It is important to remember that the allegations against Kavanaugh have not yet been fully investigated. But, to get a sense of the depth to which powerful people have sunk to cover up abuse in Maryland, you should read this article about the murder of a nun. 

Class, Privilege and Impunity
To get a sense of the privilege that Kavanaugh grew up with, read this account in the local paper:

Mostly, she said, she remembers how boys and girls interacted at the time. “There were people who got away with everything. And there were people who didn’t. If you had money, or were on the winning football team, or both, you didn’t have limits. Everyone else did.” [...]
Elizabeth said she infrequently saw Brett Kavanaugh during this time – often at house parties.  “He was cute. He was always nice,” she said. One night she ran across an apparently inebriated Brett Kavanaugh and things went differently then.  Previously, he had always been nice to her. “ But not that night. He was drunk. He was obnoxious and crude. I had a friend with me and we left. His football buddies were laughing at us. Maybe they were laughing at him, but I didn’t take it that way and they didn’t do anything to keep him from being a jerk.” [...]
“We looked down on the public school kids. We looked down on pot smokers. That wasn’t socially acceptable in my crowd. We grew up in a culture of privilege. We all came from great, comfortable homes and almost everyone I hung around with was white. The right pedigree meant we got away with it. The cops chased us from one place to another – but they didn’t arrest us. They knew our parents – the judges and lawyers and high paid professionals in the county. It was a small club in a large county and we were at the top of the pyramid. Brett Kavanaugh was part of that crowd.
I was. All of my friends were. But the question I ask myself today is, in light of everything that goes on do we want someone sitting in judgment of everyone else who has never had to face the consequences everyone else faces?” — mont.thesentinel.com/...
To underscore that class divide, here’s a statement from an anonymous person who attended Georgetown Prep:

At least one of Kavanaugh’s classmates scoffed at the notion that Swetnick would have been a regular at parties with Georgetown Prep students.
“Never heard of her,” said the person, who declined to be named because members of the class have agreed not to speak on the record to reporters. “I don’t remember anyone from Prep hanging out with public school girls, especially from Gaithersburg.” — www.washingtonpost.com/...
— @subirgrewal

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

How Rosenstein's Firing Could Lead to Trumpian Martial Law and Blood in the Streets

Rod Rosenstein. (photo: Evan Vucci/AP)
Rod Rosenstein. (photo: Evan Vucci/AP)

By Juan Cole, Informed Comment
22 September 18
readersupportednews.org
 
he New York Times report that deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein talked about wearing a wire to record Trump’s insane prattering, and spoke of invoking the 25th amendment, which allows the cabinet to remove the president if he is incapacitated. Rosenstein’s office says that the remarks were facetious. They were recorded in memos by former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, that somehow came into the possession of NYT reporters.

Trump has wanted to fire Rosenstein for some time, and this news report (which Rosenstein says is full of inaccuracies) could well push the volatile hotelier over the edge. One reason Trump wants to get rid of the deputy Attorney General is that he oversees Robert Mueller, who is investigating the Trump campaign for evidence of collusion with the Russian Federation in electoral irregularities that may have won Trump the White House.

Trump has speculated about firing Mueller, who has indicted a number of close associates of Trump. But the president cannot fire Mueller. He works for Rosenstein. If, however, you fired Rosenstein and replaced him with a dutiful Trumpie, then the new deputy AG could fire Mueller, or could just bury his investigation.

But that series of events leads to the Great American Apocalypse.

Let’s say the Republicans in the Senate put Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court next week.

And let’s say Trump fires Rosenstein next week.

The Senate would likely have to confirm any successor appointed by Trump (just as that body confirmed Rosenstein).

So let’s say Mitch McConnell can march the appointment through promptly, before the midterms.

The House and the Senate may both fall into Democratic hands in November.

And let’s say that Trump has the new guy fire Mueller and discontinue his investigation, and that Mueller’s findings are not released.

The new Kavanaugh Supreme Court would back Trump in the firing and suppression of Mueller.

Then I think we’re heading to serious steps toward impeachment early in the new year.

But what if Trump, who isn’t known for his collegiality or grasp on reality, announces that he won’t step down under any circumstances?

What if he tells Mattis to put tanks in the street to put down building protests, and emulates Lincoln in declaring martial law and a suspension of habeas corpus throughout the United States, this time without Congressional approval and in defiance of Posse Comitatus? (Trump after all doesn’t know what that is).

What if Mattis says ‘no’ and Trump fires *him*?

Since the 25th amendment specifies that the vice president and 14 cabinet members are needed to remove the president for being incapacitated, I doubt that Pence would do it. But if Pence won’t do it, does he become implicated in Trump’s crimes?

If the Dems have Congress, they could refuse to confirm a replacement for Mattis.

At that point, the fate of the nation would be in the hands of deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan. He is a civilian who came out of Boeing, rather than a military man. Would he buck Trump if he was ordered to implement national martial law? Would the Joint Chiefs of Staff go along?

Again, the Kavanaugh court would likely prove useless in challenging any Trumpian extra-constitutionality.

If the Dems have Congress, they could push for impeachment. Would some Republicans finally peel off and vote with the Dems to impeach? Would they impeach both Trump and Pence (the latter for refusing to implement the 25th Amendment?)

If so, Nancy Pelosi could be president by next February (the speaker of the house is next in line after the vice president). But then the possibility of a revolt by the Trumpies, who include Neo-Nazis and biker gangs and other criminal elements, rears its ugly head.

And, could Putin stand by and see an administration come to power that might challenge him in the Ukraine and Syria? Would Pelosi need a taster to avoid being poisoned?

Or, a whole new scenario. What if the Dems fail to take either house of Congress in November, and the Republicans go along with the declaration of martial law, and refuse to consider impeachment? And what if the Kavanaugh court sides with Trump that Posse Comitatus is unconstitutional?

Then, game over for the 242-year-old experiment in American democracy.

Thirteen years ago, Tom Friedman of the New York Times so often suggested that “the next six months” would prove fateful for the Iraq War that it was sarcastically called “the Friedman unit.”

This time, the Friedman unit will determine the fate of these United States of America.

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.


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“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.