Daily Check-In 01/18/2019

Friday, January 18, 2019 and the weekend.  And this is my 400th post. Yay!

 

THE RUSSIAN INVESTIGATION

What’s The Buzz…Feed?

Following Thursday’s news (Daily Check-In 01/17/2019), there were two major developments.  I’ll address the bigger one first, even though it happened last.

After Friday Night

“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate,” said Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller.

It’s pretty unusual for Peter Carr to say anything.  This is one of the few times that the Special Counselor’s Office has said anything about a story, so it is being over-analyzed like the sermon on the mount.

Twenty Eight words has sent the everyone into a tizzy.  Half the people are scream “Fake News”, half of them are trying to parse out any possible meaning, another half is acting like this is the Mueller team completely eviscerating the report, and another half can’t do fractions.

We’re left with a few questions.  How did this happen?  What is the difference between this and other responses from Peter Carr? Is the story wrong? What does this mean? Where do we go from here?  Has this happened before?

First, let’s start with how this happened.

When a BuzzFeed reporter first sought comment on the news outlet’s explosive report that President Trump had directed his lawyer to lie to Congress, the spokesman for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III treated the request as he would almost any other story.

The reporter informed Mueller’s spokesman, Peter Carr, that he and a colleague had “a story coming stating that Michael Cohen was directed by President Trump himself to lie to Congress about his negotiations related to the Trump Moscow project,” according to copies of their emails provided by a BuzzFeed spokesman. Importantly, the reporter made no reference to the special counsel’s office specifically or evidence that Mueller’s investigators had uncovered.

“We’ll decline to comment,” Carr responded, a familiar refrain for those in the media who cover Mueller’s work.

The innocuous exchange belied the chaos it would produce. When BuzzFeed published the story hours later, it far exceeded Carr’s initial impression, people familiar with the matter said, in that the reporting alleged that Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and self-described fixer, “told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie,” and that Mueller’s office learned of the directive “through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.”

The short version is that Cromier and Leopold of BuzzFeed News approached the Special Counselor’s Team with the crux of the story, and asked for a sign-off on it and a comment.  The SCO’s team signed off on the story, and even gave the reporters copies of the transcripts of Cohen’s plea deal.  It wasn’t until a day after the story dropped that they released the statement talking about something being inaccurate.

This threw everything into a tailspin.  I’ve had close to a dozen arguments over the definition of inaccurate, and also spent a long time listening to people all over the spectrum go completely apeshit over this.  I’ve seen some people claim that the reporters are plants for the Russians designed to spread disinformation.  I’ve also listened to relatively calm people freak out because they think that this means that everything they’ve heard is a lie.  In other instances, I’ve seen people claim that this was meant as a delaying tactic on Mueller’s side to slow down talk of impeachment.  I also had a troll contact me out of the blue celebrating this like it was a victory lap.  By the way, I have screenshots of the conversation if anything screwy happens.

BuzzFeed came out in defense of their reporters, and claim to have evidence of them.  Their opponents dragged up everything they could to attack the credibility of the reporters.  Anthony Cromier is pretty rock-solid, but Jason Leopold has an interesting past.  The funniest attack was an account that posted a pic of Leopold hanging out with a known figure of the Alt Right/Russian Propaganda Machine, which was an account run by someone who was previously friends with an even bigger voice of the Alt Right community.  The irony was lost.

Also, another beautiful side effect of this is that we get to listen to the Right Wing Media praise Robert Mueller for his integrity.  Remember this when the report drops.

What do I think happened?  I’m in agreement with PostimusMaximus, Emptywheel, and Angry White House Staffer.  The crux of the story is absolutely true.  Trump instructed Cohen to lie to Congress, and Cohen briefed the children on the progress of the Trump Moscow project.  Several other members of the campaign also told the same story.   However, there is likely some semantics of the way the story is written that makes it sound to the reader that Mueller’s team gave this info to the reporters.  That isn’t true.  Cromier and Leopold have all but confirmed that their sources are inside SDNY, and that it’s likely that SDNY gave the reporters info on what they knew was handed to Mueller.

What makes me think that it’s a semantics battle and not completely fabricated?  Jacob Wohl.  Remember when he tried to frame Robert Mueller for sexual harassment and botched it royally? (Daily Check-In 10/30/2018)  The Special Counselor’s Office made a statement highlighting how it was a false story and that the matter had been referred to the FBI.  If that was the case here, they would have likely said so.  Instead, we get the inaccurate comment.

This isn’t the first time that a story was called inaccurate, or the first time that BuzzFeed News has been under fire.  Hell, it’ll probably happen a few more times before it’s all said and done.

I can’t speak to Buzzfeed’s sourcing, but, for what it’s worth, I declined to run with parts of the narrative they conveyed based on a source central to the story repeatedly disputing the idea that Trump directly issued orders of that kind.

Note that the general thrust of Cohen lying to Congress “in accordance with” or “to support and advance” Trump’s agenda (per Cohen’s legal memo) is not in dispute. The source disputed the further, more specific idea that Trump issued—and memorialized—repeated direct instructions.

Probably an unwise thread, but here it goes anyway

One of the big problems with the current media landscape is that basically nobody understands what editors do, or the process behind the stories you see in the press

And that means that people think some amazing SCOOP by NYT or WaPo holds as much weight as some amazing SCOOP by some random person at TotesTrueFacts-dot-com

And the reason for that is because most people think the hard part of journalism is *getting scoops*, when in real life, the hard part of journalism is *verifying them*

What that means is that at bad outlets, they publish what anything they can get, and at good outlets they publish what they can stand behind.

This becomes really obvious if you ever have the (mis?)fortune to be someone journalists call to factcheck things that are good stories, but in your domain, not theirs

Because what happens is TotesTrueFacts-dot-com will publish some amazing but completely wrong story, but you saw it months ago when two dozen serious journalists called you about it, and you all decided it was bogus.

And what’s *also* interesting is you see the delta between what the journalists know and what the journalists actually publish. Because they often know a lot more than they write, because at good outlets, it’s know what they know, but what they can stand behind that goes to print

Folks are dunking a lot on BuzzFeed because it’s new, and because it has amusing listicles. But their news side is real news, and their news side journalists are as serious journalists as any you’ll find in the old broadsheet newspaper cos.

But here’s the thing. I’ve disagreed publicly with BuzzFeed a few times. Like I said then and I still believe now that publishing the Steele Dossier was a bad call. I know why they did it. But I think they were wrong.

But I’ve seen first hand their journalists publish a lot less than they know. And if their editors are standing behind their reporting, that’s not something you should take lightly. Anyway, that’s all I got.

 

Before Friday Night…

THREAD: What does recent news that Mueller has proof that Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress tell us?

1/ Late last night, @BuzzFeedNewsreported that Trump personally instructed Michael Cohen to lie about about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. https://www.buzzfeednews.com/amphtml/jasonleopold/trump-russia-cohen-moscow-tower-mueller-investigation?__twitter_impression=true …

2/ @BuzzFeedNewsalso reported that Trump supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign, in order to personally meet Putin and jump start the tower negotiations, even though he told the public he had no business deals with Russia.

3/ @BuzzFeedNewsalso reported that Trump, Ivanka, and Donald Trump Jr. received regular updates about the Trump Tower Moscow project during the campaign from Cohen.

4/ The revelation that Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress is big news, because if true, that means Trump committed a federal felony crime. It is a crime to lie to Congress and anyone who knowingly directs someone to commit a federal crime is guilty of the same crime.

5/ This is important news. Even people with a very expansive view of presidential power, like Attorney General Bill Barr, concede that directing someone to lie when they testify is a crime.

6/ Directing witnesses to lie to Congress was also one of the grounds listed in the articles of impeachment drawn up against Richard Nixon.

7/ So why is this different from news that Trump directed Cohen to commit a campaign finance crime? For one thing, all we know in that case is that prosecutors could prove it by a 51% standard, not beyond a reasonable doubt, though there is reason to believe they have more.

9/ As to this crime, @BuzzFeedNewsclaims they Mueller learned about this through interviews of multiple Trump Organization witnesses, internal company emails, text messages, and other documents. We don’t know enough to evaluate this evidence but it could be overwhelming.

10/ It’s worth noting that there are no reports of Mueller interviewing Trump Organization witnesses. Perhaps New York federal prosecutors did that.

11/ There is also debate about whether a campaign finance crime is an impeachable defense. Some politicians are wary of suggesting that campaign finance violations (even egregious ones) should receive significant punishment. Whereas there is no serious debate here.

12/ It is worth noting that nothing turns legally on exactly what Cohen lied about as long as the lie was “material.” In other words, as long as the lie would have mattered to Congress. It’s not a crime to lie to Congress about trivial things (like your weight!).

13/ The reason I bring this point up is that all of the other evidence about Russia and the Trump Tower project is only relevant legally to show that Trump had an incentive to direct Cohen to lie. And it doesn’t matter legally *why* Trump directed him to lie.

14/ For example, there may be a debate about whether Trump directed Cohen to lie to avoid political embarrassment instead of to avoid legal liability. That doesn’t matter legally. You can’t direct someone to lie to Congress about a material matter for any reason whatsoever.

15/ In this way, the legal issue here is straightforward. Nonetheless, I’ll discuss the implications with former Acting Solicitor General @neal_katyalwhen we record a new episode of my #OnTopicpodcast today. Ask your questions below and @PattiVasquezCHIwill ask them. /end

I’ll have more about impeachment in the Coda.

 

Colludy Giuliani’s Lubing the Truth Tour 2019

In other words, there’s going to be a hell of a lot worse coming out about Trump, the Moscow project, and Trump instructing people to lie to Congress.

 

Rybka

 

 

COHEN, NEW YORK, AND THE OTHER LAWSUITS

 

SHUTDOWN & IMMIGRATION

 

An Offer They Can, Should, and Will Refuse

So, here’s Trump’s negotiating tactic…

He breaks into your house, demanding money.  When you pull a gun on him, he then grabs a picture off of the mantle and says he’ll give you the picture back if you give him money.  When the cops show up, he claims its actually his house and you broke in, and that picture he’s holding of your family is proof that it’s your house.  The cops, knowing he’s insane, take him to the local hospital where he’s immediately released and calls in to the an AM radio show claiming that he was the victim of police brutality.

Trump cancelled DACA, but the courts stopped him.  In an attempt to get his wall funding, he offered to DO WHAT THE COURTS TOLD HIM HE HAS TO DO IN THE FIRST PLACE!  So, in exchange for getting what he wants, he promises to do what he’s supposed to do.  Of course, this will piss off the White Nationalists which make up most of his base, but they really want that wall which isn’t a wall but a fence but isn’t a fence but is a barrier but isn’t a barrier as it’s more an expression of how jealous they are of people of color because they have bigger dicks than them.

 

TRUMP THE RUSSIAN ASSET A.K.A. INDIVIDUAL-1

 

TRAITOR TOTS

 

March for “Life”

 

FIGHTING BACK

Typical with Putin’s Russia, a good domestic US example of why “both sides” demands often fail. When one side wants the crisis itself, good-faith negotiation are a waste of time.

Trump doesn’t want an immigration solution. He needs a crisis and if there isn’t one, he’ll invent it. As I’ve said about Putin for 10 years now, confrontation itself is the goal. There’s no negotiating with that, only winning or losing.

This is why “just give him what he wants” or “meet him halfway” is so stupid. What he wants is conflict. There’s no appeasing that, only losing over and over.

 

 

RIGHT WING TERRORISM & WHITE NATIONALISM

 

White Kids at the Native American March

 

SNOWFLAKES

 

KHASHOGGI & SAUDI ARABIA

 

SCOTUS & COURTS

 

#METOO & WOMEN’S RIGHTS

 

Women’s March

 

COLD WAR 2.0

 

#NEVERAGAIN

 

FIXING THE INTERNET

 

THE PROPAGANDA MACHINE

 

WHITE HOUSE CHAOS

 

TRADE WAR AND ECONOMY

 

STUDENT ISSUES

 

GOP: THE PARTY OF LINCOLN IS DEAD

 

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

 

PRIESTS & RELIGION

 

ENVIRONMENT & SCIENCE

 

CONGRESS

 

ELECTIONS

 

THINKING AHEAD

 

PROGRESS IS PROGRESS

 

IN OTHER NEWS…

 

RUMOR MILL

 

That’s it for the last few days.  I need a couple days off from the couple days off.  Watching everyone freak out can be a little stressful.

Speaking of stress, I want to talk about one theory floating around following the BuzzFeed News story, and that is this statement was meant as a way to pump the brakes on impeachment until after the Mueller report drops.  Or at least Cohen’s testimony.

Why?  The Steele Dossier.

Everyone and their mother by now knows what the Steele Dossier is.  I’ve lost count how many times I’ve covered it, and gone into details about it.  I’ve also lost count of how many times it’s been used as the whipping boy of the fevered Right Wing Fanbois screaming out how this is all a hoax because it was originally paid for by Democrats, and therefore everything we’ve learned is poisoned fruit because libz r evil, blah blah blah.  After a few seconds, they end up screaming about safe spaces and feelings, but bitch about coffee cups and razors.

I went a little off topic there, but the point is that even though Crossfire Hurricane (Daily Check-In 05/16/2018) started in August 2016, it’s roots began back in the springtime of that year, a couple months before the first draft of the Steele Dossier came out.  All Steele did was show that Trump was neck deep in Russia using his own sources, and those sources were different than what the FBI had.  It’s like having a cheating spouse, and after you’ve hired a private investigator to get the dirt, one of your old buddies comes out of the woodwork telling you that they’ve heard that the spouse is meeting with a few booty calls a week at a local motel.  Not only did the PI already know that, but they’re shocked at how easy it was to corroborate the story.

The problem with the Steele Dossier is that it made a good punching bag for the Right Wing Media.  They keep hammering home the non-existent point that everything came from this one document as though their lives depend on it.  Until the Mueller Report comes out disputing that, it’ll keep them going.  And they’ll attack anything that comes from it.

That’s the problem with starting an impeachment trial based off of a BuzzFeed News article.  The RWM will tie everything that comes from it to this article, the reporters, and everything they’ve ever done.  Forget the facts, forget that Trump lies constantly and is a traitor, but if investigations come from this article and the article isn’t 100% right, they’ll attack the whole exercise.  Forget that Cohen is scheduled to testify in a couple weeks, and we’re rumored to have at least part of Mueller’s report in the next month or two.  If we start impeachment off on the wrong foot, it’ll be damn hard to start it again.

Don’t get me wrong, I want the mother fucker impeached and removed as bad as anyone else, but we need to do it the right way.  I like how we’re finally getting serious people talking about impeachment, but we need to do it right.

We’ll get one shot at a serious impeachment movement.  And it needs to start from the most serious of investigations.  It takes too long to restart after a serious botch, and the evidence needs to be overwhelming.  If we have to wait a couple weeks for it to start after Cohen’s testimony or a couple more indictments to drop, so be it.  The multiple committees have begun their investigations, and it will be up to the Judiciary committee to determine whether or not there is ample cause to move forward.

That’s enough of that.  I shouldn’t write so much before lunch.

 

Thank you, and have a good one.

 

“Without Journalists, it’s just propaganda.”

– Katy Tur

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