Nancy Pelosi’s Questions On Russia

Nancy Pelosi released a remarkable statement last night. Since she is a strategist, we can analyze it in terms of a strategy, a refreshing change from the last two years.

We have become accustomed to the idea that Donald Trump and his people have connections to Russia. The news has trickled out, first to surprise, now to boredom. But the number and type of connections are remarkable for a President of the United States, and they may well have been unlawful.

The general outlines of the story have been visible since the 2016 Republican primary, and there is a circumstantial case that Trump has been working with Russians and Russian money for a long time and had Russian help in the 2016 election. We have become inured to this and no longer hear it.

Pelosi’s statement is short and to the point.

The indictment of Roger Stone makes clear that there was a deliberate, coordinated attempt by top Trump campaign officials to influence the 2016 election and subvert the will of the American people.  It is staggering that the President has chosen to surround himself with people who violated the integrity of our democracy and lied to the FBI and Congress about it.

In the face of 37 indictments, the President’s continued actions to undermine the Special Counsel investigation raise the questions: what does Putin have on the President, politically, personally or financially? Why has the Trump Administration continued to discuss pulling the U.S. out of NATO, which would be a massive victory for Putin?

Lying to Congress and witness tampering constitute grave crimes.  All who commit these illegal acts should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.  We cannot allow any effort to intimidate witnesses or prevent them from appearing before Congress.

The Special Counsel investigation is working, and the House will continue to exercise our constitutional oversight responsibility and ensure that the Special Counsel investigation can continue free from interference from the White House.

Why did Pelosi release that statement last night? Certainly to further rattle Trump, after her victory over his demand for his wall. But I think there is more to it.

Robert Mueller’s team first established that there was a Russian operation to interfere in the 2016 election. Now Stone’s indictment connects that operation to the Trump campaign.

There is little evidence to support a counternarrative. The New York Times diagrams more than 100 contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians from the his announcement of candidacy in June 2016 through his inauguration. That is far more than can be accounted for by coincidence, and several of his campaign operatives have been charged or found guilty of lying about these contacts. If the contacts were innocuous, there would be no reason to lie.

Russia, sadly, is our adversary. After the Soviet Union broke up, there was a period of time in which Americans could believe that our two countries could work together. The two countries’ interests will always diverge, and Vladimir Putin is currently emphasizing those divergences.

Partnering with an adversary, with their illegal help in a campaign, is something new in a president. Further, we now know that Trump continued negotiations to build a Trump Tower Moscow, with bribery of Vladimir Putin, through most of 2016.

Trump’s behavior toward Russia since becoming President is also abnormal. He refuses to criticize Russia or Putin and has said that he takes Putin’s word over that of the American intelligence services. He is weak in supporting NATO’s mutual assistance Article V and disruptive at NATO and other international meetings. His domestic actions, notably the recent government shutdown, are damaging to the country. All of this can be read as favorable to Russia.

And we become inured to this because it continues, now for two years. But inordinate Russian influence on the President of the United States must be stopped.

That is what Pelosi is telling us. She has been at leadership briefings on the investigations into Russian influence and thus knows more than has been made public. She is an acute politician and understands that the people must be brought along in something this serious. Although it can be argued that much of Trump’s behavior as president qualifies for bringing impeachment now, there are additional qualifications that I believe Pelosi is considering.

One is that an impeachment investigation could interfere with Mueller’s investigation of crimes. Trials and jail for the guilty may be the best way to heal the nation. Pelosi’s statement recognizes the problem while leaving the heavy lifting to Mueller’s investigation.

The country is not prepared for the consequences of what we may learn. If Trump is clearly connected to Russian actions and influence, he should be removed. But Vice President Mike Pence was selected by Paul Manafort. Publicly, he has managed to stay relatively clean of Russian interaction, but it is hard to believe that an investigation would completely absolve anyone in the administration. Further, there is evidence that Russian influence extends into the Republican Party.

A worst-case scenario would be that Russian influence deeply contaminated the 2016 election and much of the Republican Party. Besides the President and Vice President, Senators and Representatives would have to be removed from office. There is a clear line of presidential succession to Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, but the states would have to deal with replacing members of Congress.

There would be questions of legitimacy of the judges and Supreme Court Justices nominated and approved by those Russian-influenced officials. Trump supporters would be up in arms, although I think this factor has been exaggerated.

It would be a difficult time. That is why some are suggesting that we wait for the next election. But that is a form of ignoring the problem, just as letting the torturers of the Iraq War off in the name of national unity was. We are seeing bad actors who should long ago have been punished, like Roger Stone and Eliot Abrams, resurfacing. This time we need to deal fully with the problems.

 

Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner.








Floriduh! Man: The Spirits of the Holiday Edition!

Several Floriduh! Men decided to get into the spirits of the holidays!

Fox 13 Tampa Bay blends up the story for us:

 – Half a million dollars’ worth of tequila was stolen from a truck driver in Hillsborough County, and four men are charged with the crime.

Sheriff’s deputies said a truck driver was heading from Miami to Tampa when his trailer went missing after he went into the Tampa Truck Stop for dinner off U.S. Highway 301 around 11 p.m. Sunday.

“We do know it was organized, and this had been planned because the box truck was there to meet them,” said Danny Alvarez, a spokesperson for Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies arrested Vidal Estrada, Lemuel Escobar, Humberto Ramirez and Alberto Obaya for burglary and other crimes related to the liquor theft. They are accused of detaching and stealing a trailer with 966 cases of Patron tequila inside – worth $507,105 in retail value.

According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, the truck driver went into the truck stop for dinner around 11. The owner of the convenience store told FOX 13 they close their restaurant at 5 p.m. So it’s unclear how long the driver was inside before he noticed his trailer was missing.

Deputies said the driver called to report it missing around midnight.

“When he comes outside, that trailer is gone. His cab is there, but his trailer is gone,” said Alvarez. “So, he calls the police, we respond. We send out aviation. We send out dogs, and we were looking.”

The thieves somehow managed to get roughly 11 miles away to Ike Smith Road and McIntosh Road in Thonotosassa.

“Around 12:30 a.m., we had located the trailer being off loaded into a box truck by four individuals,” Alvarez said.

By the time of their arrests, the suspects had moved 20 cases. Deputies said it was lucky the thieves stayed close by.

“Since it was right there near the highway, that truck could have easily gotten on the highway and headed north, south, east, or west and would have been out of our county in no amount of time,” said Alvarez.

As for the liquor, deputies recovered it all and are figuring out where the tequila was supposed to end up.

Deputies said the truck driver hauling the tequila is working with them to answer any other questions about the crime.

No word on whether they were also in possession of triple sec, limes, and salt.

Open thread.








Breaking News: LTG Flynn’s Sentencing Is????

This morning’s sentencing hearing are not going well for LTG Flynn or his lawyers. Judge Sullivan, a jurist whose rise to the Federal bench would be impossible in today’s politics, is not amused!

Judge Sullivan started off displeased and moved to furious over the course of the morning’s hearing.

Also, Eli Lake is still an idiot and a useless idiot to boot:

Don’t lie to the FBI, its rude and upsets their feelings. Don’t have your lawyers play silly semantic games in their sentencing recommendation memos, its rude and upsets the judge’s feelings.

Unfortunately we are now doomed to three more months and dozens more posts at The Federalist; hot takes by Flynn’s conspiratorial minded supporters led by Flynn Jr, who is also a useless idiot; and Fox News hosts and commentators, like the Blue Footed Booby of Budapest (also a useless idiot) asking if Flynn was set up, if he actually committed a crime, if this is not part of the actual “real” investigation that will bring down the Deep State and the global pedophile ring they’re running.

Open thread!

Update at 1:15 PM

If anyone is interested, I’ve uploaded the Flynn 302s, which the Special Counsel’s Office released with redactions last night.

Flynn 302








The Special Counsel Has Filed The Sentencing Memo Regarding Michael Cohen

The Special Counsel filed his sentencing memo regarding Michael Cohen with the Federal court in the Southern District of New York. You can find it at this link and I’m uploading it as an attachment to the bottom of the post. Here’s some interesting and important excerpts (emphasis mine):

The defendant’s crime was serious. He withheld information material to the investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election being conducted by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (“SSCI”), the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (“HPSCI”), and the SCO. The defendant lied to Congress about a business project (the “Moscow Project”) that he worked on during the 2016 presidential campaign, while he served as Executive Vice President at a Manhattan-based real estate company (the “Company”) and as Special Counsel to the owner of the Company (“Individual 1”). The defendant admitted he told these lies—which he made publicly and in submissions to Congress—in order to (1) minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1 and (2) give the false impression that the Moscow Project had ended before the Iowa caucus and the first presidential primaries, in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations being conducted by Congress and the SCO.

In recent months, however, the defendant has taken significant steps to mitigate his criminal conduct. He chose to accept responsibility for his false statements and admit to his conduct in open court. He also has gone to significant lengths to assist the Special Counsel’s investigation. He has met with the SCO on seven occasions, voluntarily provided the SCO with information about his own conduct and that of others on core topics under investigation by the SCO, and committed to continuing to assist the SCO’s investigation. The information he has provided has been credible and consistent with other evidence obtained in the SCO’s ongoing investigation.

The defendant’s lies to Congress were deliberate and premeditated. His false statements did not spring spontaneously from a line of examination or heated colloquy during a congressional hearing. They started in a written submission that he chose to provide to both houses of Congress ahead of his appearances. These circumstances show a deliberate effort to use his lies as a way to set the tone and shape the course of the hearings in an effort to stymie the inquiries.

The defendant amplified his false statements by releasing and repeating his lies to the public, including to other potential witnesses. The defendant was scheduled to appear before both intelligence committees in closed sessions. Prior to testifying, the defendant made a public appearance at the U.S. Capitol and released his prepared opening statement, which falsely claimed that the Moscow Project “was terminated in January of 2016[,] which occurred before the Iowa caucus and months before the very first primary.” By publicly presenting this false narrative, the defendant deliberately shifted the timeline of what had occurred in the hopes of limiting the investigations into possible Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election—an issue of heightened national interest. 

The defendant’s false statements obscured the fact that the Moscow Project was a lucrative business opportunity that sought, and likely required, the assistance of the Russian government. If the project was completed, the Company could have received hundreds of millions of dollars from Russian sources in licensing fees and other revenues. The fact that Cohen continued to work on the project and discuss it with Individual 1 well into the campaign was material to the ongoing congressional and SCO investigations, particularly because it occurred at a time of sustained efforts by the Russian government to interfere with the U.S. presidential election. Similarly, it was material that Cohen, during the campaign, had a substantive telephone call about the project with an assistant to the press secretary for the President of Russia.

The defendant’s false statements to Congress began in approximately late August 2017, when he submitted his written statement about the Moscow Project to SSCI and HPSCI. His false statements continued through his oral testimony before the committees in October 2017. And when Cohen first met with the SCO in August 2018, he repeated many of his prior false statements about the circumstances of the Moscow Project.1 Only when the defendant met with the SCO a second time on September 12, 2018—after he had pled guilty in United States v. Cohen, 18-cr-602 (WHP)—did the defendant admit that his prior statements about the Moscow Project had been deliberately false and misleading.

Assistance with the SCO’s Investigation

Pursuant to the plea agreement, the Government agreed to bring to the Court’s attention at sentencing in this matter and in United States v. Cohen, 18-cr-602 (WHP), the nature and extent of the defendant’s assistance to the SCO. The defendant has provided, and has committed to continue to provide, relevant and truthful information to the SCO in an effort to assist with the investigation.

The defendant has met with the SCO for seven proffer sessions, many of them lengthy, and continues to make himself available to investigators. His statements beginning with the second meeting with the SCO have been credible, and he has taken care not to overstate his knowledge or the role of others in the conduct under investigation.

The defendant’s assistance has been useful in four significant respects. First, the defendant provided information about his own contacts with Russian interests during the campaign and discussions with others in the course of making those contacts. For example, and as described above, the defendant provided a detailed account of his involvement and the involvement of others in the Moscow Project, and also corrected the record concerning his outreach to the Russian government during the week of the United Nations General Assembly. The defendant also provided information about attempts by other Russian nationals to reach the campaign. For example, in or around November 2015, Cohen received the contact information for, and spoke with, a Russian national who claimed to be a “trusted person” in the Russian Federation who could offer the campaign “political synergy” and “synergy on a government level.” The defendant recalled that this person repeatedly proposed a meeting between Individual 1 and the President of Russia. The person told Cohen that such a meeting could have a “phenomenal” impact “not only in political but in a business dimension as well,” referring to the Moscow Project, because there is “no bigger warranty in any project than consent of [the President of Russia].” Cohen, however, did not follow up on this invitation.3

Second, Cohen provided the SCO with useful information concerning certain discrete Russia-related matters core to its investigation that he obtained by virtue of his regular contact with Company executives during the campaign.

Third, Cohen provided relevant and useful information concerning his contacts with persons connected to the White House during the 2017–2018 time period.

Fourth, Cohen described the circumstances of preparing and circulating his response to the congressional inquiries, while continuing to accept responsibility for the false statements contained within it. 

Conclusion

The defendant’s crime was serious, both in terms of the underlying conduct and its effect on multiple government investigations. The sentence imposed should reflect the fact that lying to federal investigators has real consequences, especially where the defendant lied to investigators about critical facts, in an investigation of national importance.

However, the defendant has made substantial and significant efforts to remediate his misconduct, accept responsibility for his actions, and assist the SCO’s investigation. Accordingly, the Government respectfully submits that the Court should give due consideration to the defendant’s efforts set forth above and that it would be appropriate to allow the defendant to serve any sentence imposed in this case concurrently with any sentence imposed in United States v. Cohen, 18-cr-602 (WHP).

1 This initial meeting with the SCO, on August 7, 2018, was set up at Cohen’s request. In that meeting, Cohen voluntarily provided information relevant to other aspects of the SCO’s ongoing investigation, but when asked questions about the Moscow Project, Cohen provided false answers in what he later explained was an effort not to contradict his congressional testimony.

2 The defendant, without prompting by the SCO, also corrected other false and misleading statements that he had made concerning his outreach to and contacts with Russian officials during the course of the campaign. For example, in a radio interview in September 2015, the defendant suggested that Individual 1 meet with the President of Russia in New York City during his visit for the United Nations General Assembly. When asked previously about these events, the defendant claimed his public comments had been spontaneous and had not been discussed within the campaign or the Company. During his proffer sessions, the defendant admitted that this account was false and that he had in fact conferred with Individual 1 about contacting the Russian government before reaching out to gauge Russia’s interest in such a meeting. The meeting ultimately did not take place.

3 The defendant explained that he did not pursue the proposed meeting, which did not take place, in part because he was working on the Moscow Project with a different individual who Cohen understood to have his own connections to the Russian government.

Since I’m here, I might as well post the Special Counsel’s filing regarding Paul Manafort in the Federal court in DC. This is a locked (dumb) pdf, so I can’t copy and paste. So here’s some excerpts, with commentary, from various reporters and legal subject matter experts on twitter. Its after the jump.

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Heather Heyer’s Murderer Found Guilty

A jury of seven women and five men began deliberating Friday morning and took just over seven hours to reach its decision that James Alex Fields Jr., 21, of Maumee, Ohio, acted with premeditation when he backed up his 2010 Dodge Challenger and then roared it down a narrow downtown street crowded with counterprotesters, slamming into them and another car. Heather D. Heyer, 32, was killed and 35 others injured, many grievously…

Fields’s conviction followed six days of testimony in Charlottesville Circuit Court, where Heyer’s deadly injuries were detailed and survivors of the crash described the chaos and their own injuries. Jeanne Peterson, 38, who limped to the witness stand with the help of bailiffs, said she’d had five surgeries and would have another next year. Wednesday Bowie, a counterprotester in her 20s, said her pelvis was broken in six places. Marcus Martin described pushing his then-fiancee out of the Challenger’s path before he was struck.

Susan Bro, Heyer’s mother, sat near the front of the crowded courtroom every day watching the proceedings overseen by Judge Richard E. Moore. Fields’s mother, Samantha Bloom, sat in her wheelchair on the other side, an island in a sea of her son’s victims and their supporters.
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