The Last Few Days 04/24/2019

Monday, April 22, 2019 to Wednesday April 24.  Published on Thursday April 25.

 

THE RUSSIAN INVESTIGATION

Mueller Report

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CONGRESS

Subpoenas

 

Taxes and Financial Records

 

Impeachment

 

COHEN, NEW YORK, AND THE OTHER LAWSUITS

 

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

 

TRAITOR TOTS

 

FIGHTING BACK

 

EMERGENCIES, SHUTDOWN, & IMMIGRATION

 

RACISM, RIGHT WING TERRORISM & WHITE NATIONALISM

 

SCOTUS & COURTS

 

#METOO & WOMEN’S RIGHTS

 

COLD WAR 2.0

 

#NEVERAGAIN

 

FIXING THE INTERNET

 

THE PROPAGANDA MACHINE

 

TRADE WAR, HEALTH CARE, & ECONOMY

 

STUDENT ISSUES

 

GOP: THE PARTY OF LINCOLN IS DEAD

 

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

 

PRIESTS & RELIGION

 

ENVIRONMENT & SCIENCE

 

ELECTIONS

 

THINKING AHEAD

 

IN OTHER NEWS…

 

RUMOR MILL

 

That’s it for the last few days.  The Rumor Mill section is a little light for 3 days.  I’ve been more or less not going on social media the last few days.  As much as I want to get back into the swing of things on this site, I’m swamped with personal stuff.  I sold my childhood home over the weekend, and the next several weekends will be spent trying to get it ready for sale.  I also have to handle his affairs.  I hate calling him my father because that term implies a loving and respectful relationship, but I won’t use his name here.

I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, shit will get crazy before they finish.  The next few weeks will be spent going through the Mueller Report and parsing things apart and watching Trump and his cronies attack Congress while they try to do their job.  In my opinion, Impeachment is no longer an if, but a when.  When will it start?  When will the investigations hit full speed?  When will the shit hit the fan?

 

Thank you, and have a good one.

 

“Without Journalists, it’s just propaganda.”

– Katy Tur

Daily Check-In 03/13/2018

Tuesday March 13th.  Today has been a crazy day.  I’m going to have to go short on some of these stories, since I’ve been watching the PA-18 race a little too closely.

 

REX TILLERSON FIRED AS SECRETARY OF STATE DAY AFTER SPEAKING OUT AGAINST RUSSIAN USE OF POISON IN GREAT BRITAIN

So, here’s what we know…

  • Rex Tillerson spoke out against Russia and Putin yesterday, flat out saying that the Skripal poisoning was performed by Russia.
  • About twelve hours later, Trump tweeted out that he was firing Rex Tillerson.
  • Trump will nominate CIA Director and sycophant Mike Pompeo as his new Secretary of State.
  • Deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel will be the first woman to run the CIA.  She’s a life-long spook who ran one of CIA’s black sites where she oversaw torture, then destroyed the evidence of it afterward.
  • Trump’s team tried saying that Rex was asked to leave on Friday, but refused.
  • Rex’s spokesman said no.
  • Rex’s spokesman was fired for not towing the party line.
  • Rex leaves by saying “Russia did it.”

I’ve never liked Rex Tillerson.  He was too chummy with Russia, and a complete left-field choice that was out of his element, when Mitt Romney was probably the best, only choice to be America’s chief diplomat.

Pompeo is a Trump sycophant.  Trump likes him because he’s a yes man, one of his “loyal” men.  I’m worried about him, but this assumes that he even gets to a Senate hearing.

The greatest thing that Rex Tillerson did as Secretary of State was calling Trump a “fucking moron.”

 

ROGER STONE HAD CONTACT WITH WIKILEAKS BEFORE KNOWLEDGE OF HACKING BECAME KNOWN

Two people testified before Mueller’s Grand Jury that Roger Stone told them that he had contact with Wikileaks and Julian Assange before the hacked mails became common knowledge.  One of these men was Sam Nunberg.  The other was the source for this story.

 

PA-18 SPECIAL ELECTION

10:53 PM:  Fuck, I need a drink.  Lamb’s up by 755 votes, but it’s WAAAYYYY too close to call.  The absentee ballots will need to be counted.  Washington and Greene Counties won’t get theirs done tonight, but Allegheny and Westmoreland should have their absentees counted by Midnight.

This could actually fucking happen.

10:56 PM:  95 fucking votes?  Are you fucking shitting me?!  95!  100% of precincts in Greene, Allegheny, and Washington are in.  99% of Westmoreland is in.  The absentees are still outstanding.

Allegheny:  3500 absentee ballots requested

Washington: 1140

Westmoreland:  1800

Greene:  203

11:06 PM:  847 votes.  Pennsylvania does not have automatic recounts for Congressional Districts, only for statewide races.  Allegheny’s absentee votes were counted.  About 90% of the requested absentees were returned.  3143 absentee ballots, plus two precincts fro Westmoreland are left.  They’re likely being driven to Greensburg, and the roads and weather were a little lousy today.

11:22 PM:  Looks like Westmoreland and Washington are counting their absentee ballots tonight.  Saccone would need to pull a 2:1 margin from the absentees to have a shot.

11:39 PM:  Washington county is counting the absentees right now.  This could take a few hours.  I am NOT staying up for that, no matter how much stress I go through.

11:59 PM:  All precincts are in, and the absentee ballots are counted for Westmoreland.  Conor Lamb is up by 579.  Washington County and Green have (1195+203) 1398 ballots left.  Greene probably won’t count until tomorrow/today, but it might be a moot point.  Doing the math, Saccone would need to win more than 75% of the remaining ballots there.  Including Greene, Saccone would need…more than 70% of the vote from Washington County.  Saccone is quickly entering mathematically eliminated territory.

 

STORMY WATCH, FROM THE STORM CENTER 6000 METEOROPORNOLOGICAL CENTER

 

NEW CIA DIRECTOR RAN A BLACK SITE

This was during the Bush 43 days, during the “Torture is good” days.

 

GOP REP TOM ROONEY: “WE LOST ALL CREDIBILITY”TREY GOWDY DISAGREES WITH GOP HOUSE INTEL COMMITTEE

Funny how they’ll come out of the woodwork to criticize it after Nunes makes an ass of the House of Representatives.

 

JOHN McENTEE, TRUMP’S PERSONAL ASSISTANT, FIRED FROM WHITE HOUSE

McEntee was Trump’s body man, his PA.  He was forcibly removed from the White House yesterday.  He was grabbed and shown the door.  They wouldn’t let him gather his personal belongings.  Fuck, they wouldn’t let him get his coat.

He is under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security for some serious financial crimes that are unrelated to Trump.  Looks like he has a fuckton of gambling debts from online poker, and a few other financial problems.

In classic Trumpian fashion, he has been hired for the Trump Re-election Campaign, and is being paid with a salary coming from the Republican National Committee.

 

SPEED ROUND!

ICE SPOKESMAN RESIGNS, CAN’T ABIDE THE LYING ANYMORE

EXXON MOBIL WITHDRAWS FROM ROSNEFT DEAL DUE TO SANCTIONS

Exxon stands to lose $200 million from cancelling this deal.  They can pull it from their spare change jar.

SECOND PUTIN ENEMY FOUND DEAD IN LONDON, AS COUNTER-TERROR POLICE LAUNCH INVESTIGATION

MANAFORT COULD FACE ‘REST OF LIFE IN PRISON,’ JUDGE SAYS,CURRENTLY FACES A MAXIMUM OF 305 YEARS

That’s just the known indictments.  This doesn’t include the sealed indictments that are still out there.

PDF: STATUS OF RUSSIAN INVESTIGATION FROM HOUSE INTEL DEMOCRATS

Eric Garland has a quick breakdown here from his Twitter.  I need to go through this with a fine toothed comb.

FBI REPORTEDLY WANTS TO TALK TO A JAILED ‘SEX COACH’ WHO CLAIMS SHE HAS AUDIO RECORDINGS THAT PROVE RUSSIAN ELECTION MEDDLING

This is the woman from Oleg’s boat, who’s stuck in a Thai prison.

ALEX JONES IS FINALLY GETTING THE DEFAMATION LAWSUIT HE DESERVES

Fuck Alex Jones.

KELLYANNE CONWAY SPENT ‘TENS OF THOUSANDS’ OF TAXPAYER DOLLARS ON PRIVATE FLIGHTS THAT LED TO TOM PRICE’S FIRING

FROM RUSSIAN ROULETTE: PAPADOPOULOS CLAIMS TRUMP PERSONALLY ENCOURAGED HIM TO MEET WITH PUTIN

Looks like I’ve got a new book for my listening list.

THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT WILL REVIEW ALLEGATIONS OF RUSSIAN INVOLVEMENT IN 14 SUSPICIOUS DEATHS EXPOSED BY BUZZFEED NEWS

 

RUMOR MILL:  TILLERSON, POMPEO, AND HASPEL

Yes, I rock the Oxford comma.

The firing of Tillerson was a shock, and several of the Alt accounts said that Rex was the nicest of the Cabinet members, and the most patriotic, which was a bit of a shock.

Pompeo is a shit, and no one likes him.  He’s an asshat who has taken more money from the Koch’s than anyone else.

Gina Haspel is a weird one.  Her involvement with the torture and black sites paint a dirty picture, but several people, including those near the NatSec community, say that she’s a good choice for the job, and will put the country first.

 

That’s it for today.

A link to a tweet for the 7000 shoes memorial on the Capitol lawn.  Each pair of shoes represents a child who was killed by gunfire since Sandy Hook.  Each pair is a little boy or girl who will never grow up.  A teenager who will never fall in love.  A kid who loved to play with toys, but never got a chance to outgrow them.  Each pair of shoes is a parent who had to say goodbye to their baby.

According to the BBC, Professor Stephen Hawking has just passed away.  He was 76 years old, and quite likely the most brilliant man of the 20th century.  Because of him, we have a better idea of how the universe and multiverse work.  He has long suffered from ALS.  He held the same chair at Cambridge that Sir Isaac Newton held.  Stephen did not want to receive a knighthood, even though the Queen offered it to him about a dozen times.  He was also the first person to play himself in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

He was one of my childhood heroes.  A Brief History of Time still sits on my bookshelf, and every so often, I’ll flip through it again.

From the stars we came, to the stars we return.  We are all made of stardust.

Thank you, and have a good one.

 

“Without Journalists, it’s just propaganda.”

– Katy Tur

Scandal Speed Run

One of the interesting things with the Trump Presidency is the sheer speed at which their scandals are unravelling and coming out.  Not only are they coming out in rapid fire, but they’re coming out early in the administration as well.

It’s almost like they’re doing a speed run.  How fast can they get through all of the worst scandals in history?

I wanted to compare Trump to the 7 Worst Presidential Scandals, per U.S. News, and see where The Dotard lined up, in terms of speed, scale, and overall corruption.  And, to see if there’s anything they haven’t done yet.

 

BILL CLINTON: MONICA LEWISNKY

Short Version: Bill Clinton got a blowjob from Monica Lewinsky, an intern at the White House.  Kenneth Starr, the Special Prosecutor investigating Whitewater, heard about this and investigated it.  He subpoenaed Bill Clinton, who lied under oath about getting a blowjob from Monica Lewinsky.  After several years of investigation, the only thing that Starr pulled up was a perjury charge.  Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998 along very partisan lines, but was not removed from office.

Time: The blowjob took place in the last year of Bill Clinton’s first term.  He was impeached in the second year of his second term.

Comparison:  This is a two-for.  We have Trump obstructing justice and paying off a porn star to keep her quiet during the election.  Just because of Watergate, I’ll use Stormy Daniels here.  It took a little over a year for his sex scandal to come to the foreground.

SEX SCANDAL LEVEL STARTED IN ONE YEAR.

 

RICHARD NIXON:  WATERGATE

Short Version: A bunch of crooks with ties to the CIA and the Republican Party broke into the headquarters for the Democratic Party, located in the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C.  The crooks got busted, Nixon was implicated in the cover-up, and he eventually had to resign.

Time: The break-in took place in the last year of his first term, and he left office in his second year of his second term.

Comparison: Trump has already helped with a break-in into the DNC email system, and is well on his way to an Obstruction of Justice charge, which is what took Nixon down.

BREAK-IN LEVEL STARTED BEFORE TAKING OFFICE

OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE LEVEL STARTED IN ONE WEEK

 

WARREN G. HARDING: TEAPOT DOME SCANDAL

Short Version: Harding’s Secretary of the Interior used government resources to obtain oil fields in Wyoming, then awarded them to a company in a no-bid contract that had given him bribes, loans, and payoffs.  Harding’s Interior Secretary became the first Cabinet member to be indicted and convicted while in office.

Time:  The Teapot Dome scandal started in 1922, the second year of his presidency.

Comparison:  Trump’s Cabinet is corrupt AF.  His Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, has abused travel for personal use, and likely had a no-bid contract awarded to an unqualified company to provide power restoration to Puerto Rico.

TEAPOT DOME LEVEL STARTED IN NINE MONTHS

 

U. S. GRANT: THE WHISKEY RING

Short Version: In 1875, Grant’s personal secretary was implicated in a bribery and corruption scheme where Whiskey manufacturers complained about the taxes they had to pay.  It turns out that a few of them were bribing officials at the IRS and the Treasury Department, and keeping the money for themselves.

Time:  1875 was the next to last year of Grant’s presidency.

Comparison:  This one’s hard to compare.  Not for the lack of criminality, but that it required cooperation with the government.  That being said, if we’re looking for a straight bribery charge, an emoluments violation, or his staff being involved in some shady shit, we’ve had them all.  They’re close enough, I’ll count them.

BRIBERY LEVEL STARTED IN FIRST TWO MONTHS

EMOLUMENTS LEVEL STARTED IN ONE WEEK

STAFF CORRUPTION LEVEL STARTED IN ONE WEEK

 

ANDREW JOHNSON: THE FIRST IMPEACHMENT

Short Version: Andrew Johnson was a dick who only became President because Abraham Lincoln had a bad night at the theater.  Johnson was a Right Wing Democrat answering to a Left Wing Republican Congress who was trying to bring the country back together.  They passed a law saying that Johnson couldn’t fire any Cabinet members.  Johnson said “Eat a dick” and fired the Secretary of War.  The House impeached him, and he came within 1 vote of being removed from office.

Time:  Johnson was a bit of a dick from word one, but his impeachment took place in the third year of his presidency.

Comparison:  Trump has already ignored laws passed by Congress in refusing to enact the Russian sanctions.  He hasn’t been impeached for that yet, but the first Articles of Impeachment included the sanctions in it.

JOHNSON LEVEL STARTED IN EIGHT MONTHS

 

JOHN QUINCY ADAMS:  DIDN’T WIN THE POPULAR VOTE AND A CORRUPT BARGAIN

Short Version:  The Election of 1824 was a clusterfuck.  Andrew Jackson won the popular vote and the electoral college, but did not have a majority.  That forced the House of Representatives to vote on the Presidency between the final three candidates.  The one that missed out was Henry Clay, the Speaker of the House.  Clay also hated Andrew Jackson with a passion.  Clay struck a deal with John Quincy Adams, which became known as the “Corrupt Bargain” by Jackson’s supporters.  Clay helped create a coalition that let Adams win, and Clay was named Secretary of State.  Jackson’s supporters used this to spur him on to create his own party for the 1828 election.

Time:  The Corrupt Bargain took place at the beginning of John Quincy Adam’s first and only term, and was 4 years before Jackson took office.

Comparison:  This is a very hard one to compare to, but there are two examples I can think of that directly correlate.  The first was the Mayflower Meeting, and the second being the RNC meeting in Cleveland.  In both situations, Trump’s team asked the Russians for help.  In Cleveland, the GOP Leadership was involved.  And neither of these were a last-chance scenario like the Corrupt Bargain, but were both performed earlier in the campaign.

CORRUPT BARGAIN LEVEL STARTED MONTHS BEFORE TAKING OFFICE

 

CONCLUSION

Out of the 7 worst scandals in United States Presidential History, Donald Trump has managed to have his own version of each and every one of them, and far faster than anyone else in history.  This is a level of corruption that we’ve never seen before in this country.  Hell, most banana republic dictators are less corrupt than Donald Trump.  Of course, most of them are not neck deep in Russian Mafia, or a money laundering device for the world’s most evil and corrupt organizations.

Keep in mind, we’re only 13.2 months into the four year term.  We’re just getting started with the corruption, grift, greed, and criminality of Donald Trump.  We’re going. to find out a whole hell of a lot in the next year.

Thank you, and have a good one.

The Justice League

ROBERT MUELLER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE

When Robert Mueller was appointed the Special Counselor for the Russia Investigation by the Deputy Attorney General back in May 2017, one of the first things that he did was assemble a team to help him with the day to day activities.  Not only would these team members do the heavy lifting in the courtroom, but their expertise would shape the investigation.  These hires also tell us who and what they know.

What do we know about this team?

They are some of the best prosecutors in the world, specializing in everything from white-collar crimes to cybersecurity to terrorism.  Many of them gave up 6, 7, possibly 8 figure salaries and partnerships to work on the Russian Investigation at base government pay.

What does this mean?

This means that there is more than enough evidence to convince some of the greatest lawyers on Earth to leave their private practices representing the wealthiest clients in the world to take part in the largest case in history.  At the least, they will take part in the prosecution of the President of the United States.  At the most, their roles will be pivotal in securing the fate of Democracy as we know it.

Who’s on the team, and what do they do?

Robert Mueller, Special Counselor

Former FBI Director, Mueller took over the position one week before the 9/11 terror attacks.  He became the longest serving FBI Director since J. Edgar Hoover.  After his time there, he became a partner at WilmerHale law firm in Washington, D.C.

James Quarles, member of the Watergate Special Prosecution Force

James Quarles was a young man in the 1970’s, but already a skilled lawyer.  He served as an Assistant Special Prosecutor in the Watergate scandal.

Andrew Weissmann, Fraud and Corruption

Weissmann headed up the Enron Task Force between 2002 and 2005.  Before that he was a federal prosecutor in New York.  He took down Enron Chariman Kenneth Lay, CEO Jeffery Skilling, and members and bosses in the Genovese, Colombo, and Gambino crime families.

Greg Andres, White-Collar Crimes

Andres brings foreign bribery experience to the team.  He took down an $8 Billion Ponzi scheme in Texas.

Andrew D. Goldstein, Assistant US Attorney from Southern District New York

Goldstein worked for Preet Bharara in SDNY where he led the public corruption unit.  He has experience in money laundering, fraud, and corruption cases.  Before his boss was fired by Donald Trump, Goldstein and Preet were supposedly working on a RICO case against the Trump Organization.  Rumor has it that he took the evidence against Trump with him down to Washington.

Elizabeth Prelogar, The Russian Expert

Prelogar is fluent in Russian, and clerked for Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan.

Rush Atkinson, Criminal Fraud

Atkinson is a prosecutor in the Criminal Division Securities & Financial Fraud Unit.  He took down a mother and son team that orchestrated a $16 million medicare fraud scheme.

Aaron Zebley, former Chief of Staff to FBI Director Mueller

Zebley has expertise in Counterterrorism and National Security cases.  He was prosecuting Al Qaeda before prosecuting Al Qaeda was cool.  In recent years at WilmerHale, he focused on Cybersecurity cases.

Michael Dreeben, Supreme Court Expert

Less than 10 attorneys in history have argued more than 100 cases before the United States Supreme Court.  Michael Dreeben is one of them.

Adam Jed, Civil Appeals Expert

Jed is an appellate lawyer in the civil division, not the criminal division.  This implies that they’re preparing for civil cases, and expecting them them to challenged on appeal.  His most famous case is United States v. Windsor, where he helped overturn the Defense of Marriage Act and brought about the legalization of gay marriage across the land.

Aaron Zelinsky, U.S. Attorney from Maryland

Zelinsky has worked for Rod Rosenstein, and was a hostage negotiator in the State Department under President Obama.

Kyle Freeny, Money Laundering and Asset Recovery

Freeny just wrapped up work on the “Wolf of Wall Street” money laundering case when she got the call to join the Mueller team.

Zainab Ahmad, Counterterrorism and Witness Flipping

Ahmad has singlehandedly crippled Al Qaeda in the United States.  She has more convictions against terrorists in the United States than anyone else.  How?  She’s THE expert in flipping witnesses. If she can flip hardened terrorists against each other, what chance does a member of the Trump Family have against her?

Jeanie Rhee, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General

Rhee has two years of DOJ experience, and worked with Robert teller at WilmerHale.  She represented the Clinton Foundation in a racketeering lawsuit in 2015.

Brandon Van Grack, National Security Division Prosecutor

Van Grack is an expert in espionage, national security, and International Crime cases.

Ryan Dickey, Cybercrime Expert  

Ryan K. Dickey is a United States Attorney who specializes in cyber crimes. He was the prosecutor who convicted the original Guccifer, and is the man behind the shutdown of MegaUpload. He is one of the best attorneys in the world for prosecuting computer crimes.

Scott Meisler, Appellate Lawyer

Scott has represented the government in appeals involving search warrants, seizures, motions to suppress wiretap evidence, mail fraud, wire fraud, as well as structuring financial transactions and money laundering.  In other words, he knows how to “defend the technicalities.”

Brian Richardson, The New Guy

Richardson clerked for Supreme Court Justice Steven Breyer in October 2016 before joining the Mueller team in July 2017.  He’s also worked in multiple district courts.

Heather Alpino, Counterintelligence and Export Control

Alpino is a Harvard Law graduate who has worked on cases against Iranian hackers, a British National and American who tried to get chemical weapons equipment into Syria, and prosecuted Hamza Kolsuz for trying to illegally export guns to Turkey.

Jonathan Kravis, Corruption

Kravis has experience in prosecuting public corruption cases.  He helped take down former Congressman Chaka Fattah and DEA Agent Artemis Papadakis.

Uzo Asonye, Fraud and Financial Crimes

Asonye is the Deputy Chief of the Financial Crimes and Public Corruption Unit in Eastern District Virginia.

Kathryn Rakoczy, Street Crime

Rakoczy has spent most of the last decade specializing in misdemeanors and violent crime in Washington, D.C.

Deborah Curtis, Counterespionage

Curtis has worked on many cases of espionage, including busting Chinese companies trying to get around North Korean sanctions, nailing an American scientist spying for the Israelis, prosecuting former State Department contractor Stephen Jin-Woo Kim for leaking classified intelligence to an Fox News reporter, and Chelsea Manning.

 

What can we infer?

We have multiple experts in money laundering, fraud, bribery, mafia crimes, cyber crimes, espionage, counterterrorism, asset recovery, witness flipping, international crimes, and Russian culture.  By the way, they also have one of the few people alive that prosecuted a White House for criminal charges.

Mueller is not fucking around.

So far, we’ve got two arrests on white-collar crimes, and two convictions on plea deals for lying to the FBI regarding contacts with Russians.  Plus, there’s a ton of stuff still under seal.

Without hyperbole, this is one of the greatest collection of lawyers ever pulled together.  They’ve been working on this case since May 2017, and the investigation began a year before that.  Any one of these prosecutors coming after a person would cause sleepless nights and panic inducing anxiety.  All of them coming after a person would cause them to seriously contemplate suicide.

They are not fucking around.  People are going to jail, or worse.

Thanks to Reddit user PoppinKREAM and this post for making this post a lot easier to put together.

 

UPDATED FEBRUARY 25, 2018:  From some new information from CNN, I made a few changes:

Kyle Freeney is a she, not a he.  I also added Brian Richardson and Scott Meisler.

UPDATED APRIL 6, 2018:  Corrected spelling of Elena Kagan.

UPDATED JULY 20, 2018:  Based on this article from The Daily Beast, I added the following people:

  • Heather Alpino
  • Jonathan Kravis
  • Uzo Asonye
  • Kathryn Rakoczy
  • Deborah Curtis

UPDATED SEPTEMBER 3, 2018: According to reporting from  this article from CNN, the following lawyers have left Mueller’s team.

  • Ryan Dickey
  • Brian Richardson

UPDATED OCTOBER 3, 2018: According to reporting from Politico, the following lawyers have left Mueller’s team.

  • Kyle Freeny
  • Brandon Van Grack

It’s A Feature, Not A Bug

“It’s not broken, it’s supposed to do that.”

“It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.”

“The system’s working fine, you’re just using it wrong.”

“The only problem here is user-related.”

I’ve heard many phrases like this in my life-long association with technology, but the phrase “It’s a feature, not a bug” didn’t really come into the lexicon until sometime in the early 2000’s, when some higher-up from Microsoft was quoted saying that in response to customer complaints about error screens they were getting in Windows.  Since then, it’s become an inside joke within the IT world to describe a feature, device, program, or system that doesn’t work for the end user, but part of it, usually the error checking, is working normally.

Why am I talking about an IT inside joke?  Because I feel that it’s relevant to the current situation.

Today is January 22, 2018.  Monday.  And Day 3 of the United States Government Shutdown.  A shutdown that was completely avoidable, and 95% the fault of the Republican Party.  I reserve 5% for the Democrats involved, but this is the same level of blame one would give to the owner of a dog that chewed a hole through the fence at the boarding kennel, broke out of the yard, and dug up the neighbors flowerbed.  Sure, they could have done more to make sure the dog wasn’t left at a neglectful kennel, but they’re about fourth or fifth down the chain of responsibility.

Anyway, on Friday, I watched the Senate vote and fail to pass a spending bill.  I sat back, had a couple glasses of wine, and heckled the television as Mitch McConnell blamed the Democrats for not passing the cloture threshold on the spending bill.  While asking which one of the Ninja Turtles turned to evil and grew up to become a Senator from Kentucky, I realized a few things.

  • I have absolutely no social life whatsoever at this point, and I’m happy with that.
  • This shutdown was completely avoidable.
  • I really like sweet red wine.
  • This was put into motion last year when Trump rescinded the DACA protections.
  • The White House has no interest in negotiating in good faith.
  • The Republican Party Leadership is complicit in this mess.
  • At any point in the last 4 months, since CHIP funding ran out, they could have reauthorized it, but decided to use it as a bargaining chip.
  • At any point since October, Congress could have passed bipartisan legislation to codify DACA.
  • This shutdown is a feature, not a bug.

That last one struck me.  Not as hard as the headache the next morning when I woke up, but it still struck me.  This shutdown was planned out since last year when Congress refused to give Trump even a penny for his border wall.  Okay, “planned” is a little strong for these people.  They can’t plan a lunch without screwing it up.  But, the option of a shutdown was put into place.

I think that the Trump White House thought a Government Shutdown would be beneficial for them for a few reasons.

  • It would force Congress to push their agenda.
  • It fits with Trump’s “negotiating style.”
  • It would make the Democrats look bad for standing against them.
  • It would make the Democrats look bad for agreeing with them.
  • It would shut down the Congressional Investigations into Trump.
  • It would shut down the Special Counselor’s Investigation.

Congress doesn’t want to pay for a Mexican Border Wall, or a Muslim Immigration Ban.  Congress doesn’t want to screw up all of the trade agreements, or mess with the treaties in place.  They want to keep the lights on, keep things running, and lower taxes for their donors.  Anything else is window dressing.

As far at “The Great Dealmaker” goes, a shutdown is the only way that he can fall back on his traditional methods of negotiation.  From looking at Trump’s history in business, here’s how a typical business deal goes down…

  • Engage in negotiations with someone in a lower position than you, like a small company or someone desperate for business.
  • Demand onerous terms from the other party, while agreeing to give very little.
  • Fail to deliver on even the pittance that you agreed to give in the first place.
  • Fight your partner now opponent at every step of the way, until they’re no longer capable of defending themselves.
  • Continue to attack your opponent and blame them for the eventual failure of the business while you run it into the ground to squeeze it for every spare penny possible.
  • Shut the business down in an attempt to shift the blame, liquidate the assets, and move on to the next deal.

Any halfway competent President would have avoided a shutdown at the last minute when Chuck Schumer was willing to negotiate funding for the Border Wall in exchange for DACA.  That right there should have been the end of the game.  They could have walked out of the White House, shaking hands, high-fiving, and carried that bill proposal to the House and Senate for a vote.  Instead, Trump is a terrible dealmaker.  He wants everything, is unwilling to compromise, and is either too stupid to see a great deal, or is working for other means.

As far as the Democrats go, there’s no way they would come out of this in a good position.  If they agree to the spending bill, they lose any chance of getting DACA on the floor for a vote before the March deadline.  If they don’t agree, they’re stuck in the middle of a shutdown, and they actually realize how that’s a bad thing.

But, what if this is all part of some master plan by Trump and his Russian allies to shut down the government and the investigations into him?  Well, that’s something to think about.  Congress will be too busy arguing with each other to engage any committee work, and all of their pages and assistants are temporarily sort-of unemployed.  The only work that Congress is doing now is restoring funding so that the government can work.

As far as Mueller goes, his investigation continues.  Special Counselor investigations are funded by a special permanent indefinite appropriation, not an annual one like the standard budget.  So, while the parks are closed and soldiers don’t get paid, Mueller’s team keeps showing up to work.

By the way, Senator Claire MacCaskill proposed an amendment to a bill that would allow the military to still be paid during the shutdown, but it would require unanimous consent.  Mitch McConnell objected.

CLOTURE THRESHOLD

I mentioned earlier about the Cloture Threshold.  Cloture, sometimes called a super majority, is the vote threshold that is required in the Senate to break a filibuster.  A filibuster is an action or speech where a Senator can take the floor and not yield to anyone or anything.  Currently, that threshold is 60.  Unless special rules are enforced, like the reconciliation process used for the Tax Bill and the attempted Obamacare repeal, all Senate votes are treated as though they need to break a filibuster.  This is because the filibuster has been relegated to a procedural tool to clog up work in the Senate.

The vote was 50-49 in favor of the last ditch spending bill.  John McCain was in Arizona getting medical care.  5 Democrats, all from conservative states and facing reelection, voted for the bill.  4 Republicans, none of which are facing reelection in 2018, voted against it.

 

That’s it for now.  I’ll be back later with some updates that happened over the weekend, including a story about several Russians attending Trump’s inauguration.

 

Thank you, and have a good one.

2017 Retrospective

Hello there, it’s been a while. December has been a very rough month for me. I’ve had maybe 3 days this month where I haven’t been sick, and 2 of those were spent fighting a broken furnace.

But it’s that time of the year when everyone and their mother throws together a compilation list of the best and worst stuff that happened in the past 365ish days, then go on vacation for the rest of the year.

I hate those posts.

I don’t like nostalgia for nostalgia sake, and 2017 doesn’t deserve a “best of” send off.

I hate it when people talk about the “good old days” and wax poetically about a memory of a time that was a hell of a lot worse than their rose-tinted glasses made appear.

Instead, I want to talk about what changed in 2017, what stayed the same, what was learned, and why it’s worth fighting.

While this is mostly concerned with what has happened in the News, I’m also including personal change as well. I’m hesitant to call it growth, but change is accurate.

WHAT CHANGED IN 2017?

For anyone reading this after waking up from a coma that started the last week of October 2016, I’ve got some bad news. Trump won the Presidential election. But, as we’ve come to learn, he didn’t do it alone. He had a lot of help from his friends in Russia, and there were more than enough Americans that helped him as well.

2017 started off weird, as the Obama Administration has just instituted several major new sanctions on Russia. Trump didn’t seem to want to do anything to Russia, and evidence was still coming in about what happened in November. The MSM was still hoping that Trump, a 70 year old misogynistic, racist, ignorant fool would somehow not embarrass the country in front of the world, and that if we gave him a chance, he might actually not suck.

That hope lasted all of about two days.

After a small inauguration event, Trump’s team went into full-on propaganda mode by distributing false photos of the event where they photoshopped a much larger crowd, while going after anyone who spread the real photos. At the same time, his Administration went after the Parks Service, trying to erase any mention of climate change from Government sites.

That’s when the Resistance started.

The Women’s March. The Alt accounts. The March for Science. The Airport Protests. The March for Reason. More people had marched against Trump by April of 2017 than against Cancer all year long.

It’s also the first whispers that something wasn’t right in the White House. In between trying to undo everything Obama did and implement his Muslim Ban, word came around that Mike Flynn was in some serious legal jeopardy. (SPOILER ALERT: He’s now a convicted felon.) Trump’s team was told in late January by Acting Attorney General Sally Yates that Flynn had lied to the FBI. She was fired the next day. Flynn resigned 18 days later.

This is just up to February.

A couple things changed in February for me.

First, I found PostimusMaximus on Reddit, and read a lot of his posts. I assume it’s a him, but I could be wrong. Reading his work was eye opening, but insane. I saw many of the markers of old school conspiracy theories, but there was something different with his work. Instead of citing places like Coast to Coast, he cited real sources like the Washington Post and New York Times. I decided to keep an eye on him.

Next, I rejoined Twitter and started following a few people. Claude Taylor, Louise Mensch, and John Schindler. Eventually I followed a lot more people like Countercheckist, Tea Pain, Eric Garland, Rick Wilson, and more politicians, lawyers, and spooks than exist outside of D.C.

There was a weird feeling following these people on Twitter. It was sort of like joining a conversation halfway through and only catching small slivers, and then realizing that the slivers are in a different language. They were talking about indictments and grand juries and investigations by the FBI, the Steele Dossier, SIGINT from the Mayflower Hotel, while the rest of the world was still stuck on Trump and Twitter.

In March, that’s when Russia came roaring in to the picture. During a late night rage tweet, Trump said Obama had tapped his phones. Even though this was a horseshit claim, the House Intelligence Committee decided to hold a hearing about it and invited FBI Director James Comey to testify.

The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations confirmed, under oath, that the Trump Campaign was under a counterintelligence investigation that started in July 2016, and that grand juries had been impaneled to deal with that investigation.

Hole. Lee. Shit.

This confirmed that at least part of what the Rumor Mill was saying was true, and that it was worth looking into the rest of their chatter, if just to see if it was a case of a broken clock being right twice a day, or if there was something to this group fighting for Democracy.

Over the next few months, I noticed a few other changes. I stopped viewing the CIA and FBI as “the enemy.” I questioned the source of my news more often. I viewed what other people took as gospel and investigated it myself. I became more politically active. I started sounding like a complete nutter when I tried to describe what I was seeing and hearing about Trump and Russia. I was becoming more and more outspoken in my criticisms.

I also realized that these were historic times, and I should write down what happened so one day my kids could ask me “What The Fuck, Dad?”

I toyed with the idea of doing this blog back in May when Trump fired Comey and Robert Mueller was named the Special Counselor. I was looking into it when news of the June 9 meeting broke, and Donnie Jr proved to be the Dumbest Mother Fucker in the history of Dumb Mother Fuckers. I eventually got around to it in July, and I’ve been here since.

WHAT STAYED THE SAME IN 2017?

This is still the United States of America, a country of laws, not men, or wealth, or personalities.

WHAT DID WE LEARN?

I learned not to take the press for granted.

There are quite a few people willing to sacrifice the future for small gains now, and those people must be dealt with. Unfortunately, there are quite a few more of them than I originally thought, and a lot of them have too much money. That doesn’t mean they’re invincible, it means the battle will be that much harder.

Sometimes conspiracies do exist.

A conspiracy is only as strong as the weakest person involved. It’s been 5 months since George Papadopoulos turned States Evidence against the Trump Campaign, and less than a month since Mike Flynn was convicted and flipped. George is a young man who doesn’t want to grow old in jail, and Mike Flynn just became a granddad.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about Trump and Russia, but the evidence at this point leads to a conspiracy between them to steal the election in Trump’s favor. Nearly every member of his campaign and transition team either had contact with Russians, or knew about it.

Trump is a micromanaging asshole. No one in his circle does anything without his approval.

Donald Trump is unable or unwilling to change his ways.

The Trump Family is a crime family.

Some laws are easier to convince a jury about than others.

IS THIS WORTH FIGHTING FOR?

Absofuckinglutely. The moment we give in is the moment that everything this country was built on dies.

This is America. Churchill said it best when he said that we will always do the right thing, we’ll just try everything else first.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I want my kids to grow up in a world where the United States is still that shinning city on the hill where dreams can and do come true, where everyone is equal under the law, and a persons worth isn’t measured by their bank account, but the content of their character.

That’s it for today. I hope to be back up and writing on a normal schedule soon. Stuff did happen over the past couple weeks, including a confirmation of sorts that the RNC knew about the Trump Campaign colluding with the Russians, and that they actively took part in targeting specific zip codes, using information gained by Russians.

Thank you, and have a good one.

GTKYG – Chain of Succession

Welcome back to the “Get to Know Your Government” series.  Today, I want to talk about a subject that might not be known by too many people outside of history buffs and Constitutional Law scholars, but that I feel will be heading to the forefront of conversation in 2018.

The American Presidential Chain of Succession.

As I covered in GTKYG-Presidential Removal Processes, there are a few ways that a presidency can end prematurely.  When that happens, the Vice President assumes the role of President, and under the powers granted to them under the Second Section of the Twenty Fifth Amendment, they are allowed to nominate their choice for Vice President.  This happened when Gerald Ford assumed the presidency following Richard Nixon’s resignation.

But, how far does the chain of succession go?  What if there were a situation where multiple people died at once, or were removed from office?  What happens then?

In that case, it goes down the line to then person in the chain.

Following the President and Vice President, the Speaker of the House is third in line. The Speaker is the elected head of the House of Representatives.  That position is currently held by Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin.

After them, it’s the President pro tempore of the Senate.  This position is an honorary one, awarded to the Senator who has served the longest in the Senate.  Currently, that position is held by Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah.

If, by some chance, all four of these people are unable to assume the presidency, or turn it down, the chain of succession goes through the Cabinet, by order that the position was created, starting with Secretary of State, Treasury, Defense, Attorney General (the original four positions from Washington’s first Cabinet), then through the rest of the positions, in the order that they were added.

CHAIN OF SUCCESSION

Below is a list of those positions, those mentioned above and the Cabinet positions, along with who is in the position, and their party affiliation, if available.  OPEN represents that the position is not currently filled, or has an acting head who has not yet been confirmed by the Senate.

  1. President Donald Trump (R)
  2. Vice President Mike Pence (R)
  3. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R)
  4. President pro tempore Orrin Hatch (R)
  5. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (R)
  6. Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin (R)
  7. Secretary of Defense James Mattis (I)
  8. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R)
  9. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke (R)
  10. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue (R)
  11. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross (R)
  12. Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta (R)
  13. Secretary of Health and Human Services OPEN
  14. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson (R)
  15. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao (R) NOT ELIGIBLE FOR PRESIDENT
  16. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry
  17. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos
  18. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin (I)
  19. Secretary of Homeland Security OPEN

If, and I mean IF, by some infinitesimal chance that everyone in the list above is not able to assume the office of President, then the chain would go through Congress, in order of the leadership bodies first (Majority Leaders, Minority Leaders, Majority Whip, etc.), then through each person in order of their tenure in office.

THE DESIGNATED SURVIVOR

I’m not talking about the ABC show with Keifer Sutherland, but the idea that the show is based off of.

Before any joint session of Congress where the President, Vice President, and Cabinet get together, one member of the Cabinet is chosen to spend the event in a bunker somewhere.  They’re taken to a non-disclosed, secure location, where they’re kept under guard.  This is in case the unthinkable happens.

In case the Capitol is attacked, and everyone inside is killed.

If that were to happen, then the Designated Survivor would be sworn in as President, and they would be tasked with restaffing and rebuilding the government.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

It’s important to understand how things work, especially the government.  If something falls apart, we need to know how it can be fixed.

Really?  Ok, here’s why…

We are in uncharted waters with the Russian Investigation.  I’ve written many times about how many people are tied up with Russia, or have their own looming legal troubles.  There is an above zero percent chance that multiple people in the chain of succession could be indicted at once.

Here’s the list again, along with why they might not be able to, or interested in, taking the presidency.

  1. President Donald Trump (R) – Russia, RICO, Obstruction Investigations
  2. Vice President Mike Pence (R) – Russia and Flynn
  3. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R) – Russia, Money laundering at RNC
  4. President pro tempore Orrin Hatch (R) – Clean, but REALLY OLD
  5. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (R) – NY Fraud Investigations, Russia
  6. Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin (R) – Abuse of Public Trust, Taxpayer Funded Trips
  7. Secretary of Defense James Mattis (I)
  8. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R) – Russia
  9. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke (R) – Abuse of Public Trust, Taxpayer Funded Trips
  10. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue (R)
  11. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross (R) – Russia, tied to Putin family in Paradise Papers, Money Laundering ties with Paul Manafort
  12. Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta (R)
  13. Secretary of Health and Human Services OPEN
  14. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson (R)
  15. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao (R) NOT ELIGIBLE FOR PRESIDENT – Immigrants are not eligible for the Presidency.
  16. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry – Abuse of Public Trust, Taxpayer Funded Trips
  17. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos – Russia.
  18. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin (I) – Abuse of Public Trust, Taxpayer Funded Trips
  19. Secretary of Homeland Security OPEN

The craziest of the rumors I’ve heard have Trump, Pence, and Ryan all being indicted and/or removed from office at once.  If that happens, then Orrin Hatch would be the next in line, but he’s 83 years old, has hinted at retirement, and reportedly might have dementia or Alzheimer’s.  After him, the next clean person in the list is Jim Mattis, Secretary of Defense.

Is it likely that we end up with President Jim Mattis?  No.  It’s not impossible, but highly unlikely.  This is one of those crazy scenarios that just isn’t likely to happen.  Then again, I said the same thing about Trump becoming President.

BREAKING THE CHAIN

There is one other part to keep in mind.  Remember when I said earlier that if the Vice President becomes the President, they get to choose their own Vice President?

That could come in to play, and could be used to elevate someone up the chain, especially if there is some kind of Quid Pro Quo in place to provide a stable transition of power.

Let’s face it, Mike Pence is likely to become the 46th President of the United States, and it will happen before 2020.  If it has to happen, I’d rather it happen late next year.  Under the 22nd Amendment, if a Vice President serves more than half of their predecessors term, they can only run for election once.  If they serve less than two years of a term, then they could run for two terms.  If it’s late enough in the year, he won’t be able to cause too much harm, and will be stuck in his own legal quagmire with Russia.

Assuming Mike Pence comes to power, he would get to choose his own Vice President, pending approval of both houses of Congress.  One of the rumors I’ve heard would have him choosing a “safe” choice that would serve as a place holder while he’s going through his own legal mess.  Someone who’s integrity isn’t under question, and knows the lay of the land.

And that’s how we could possibly end up with President James Mattis.