Russiagate Open Thread: Everybody’s Talking ’bout Me…

Full disclosure, I am writing this at 6am (exhaustion-induced insomnia) so it may well be superceded by the time it appears. But just as a supplement to Cheryl’s promised post…

Sarah Posner, at the Washington Post, “Trump’s lawyer has a big mouth. Here’s what that tells us about Mueller’s probe”:

Keeping in mind that we do not know for certain that Cobb is right about McGahn keeping documents in a safe, or, if he is, what those documents contain, there is nonetheless ample evidence that McGahn, in particular, is likely in possession of information critical to Mueller’s probe of possible obstruction of justice by Trump in firing Comey. There is strong reason to believe that these documents could tell Mueller a great deal about Trump’s state of mind when he fired the FBI director…

We have become accustomed to Trump’s White House leaking bits of information to reporters, cloaked by anonymity. In the Russia investigation, at least, Cobb’s indiscretion is unlike anything we’ve seen so far. If Cobb is right that McGahn has documents has locked away, he not only has (once again) demonstrated his penchant for reckless public chatter. He also may have revealed just how reckless he can be in protecting his client’s interests — by giving Mueller a gift.

Renato Mariotti, at Poltico, “How to Read Bob Mueller’s Hand”:

Although the scope of the special counsel’s investigation is vast, public reporting of his activities indicate the direction his investigation is taking and gives us a good sense of the types of charges that could result. But most of the breathless speculation about what he will ultimately do is likely wrong—the result of a misunderstanding of how the law works, a misreading of the public evidence we’ve seen so far or wishful thinking by those who would either like to see the president driven from office or see everyone on his team exonerated.

As a starting point, it’s important to keep in mind what prosecutors do: They investigate discrete crimes. Although the media often throw around phrases like “Russian collusion,” that term has no legal meaning whatsoever. Mueller won’t charge one grand conspiracy involving everyone he’s looking at. If he brings charges, expect to see individuals charged separately unless they committed a crime together…

… We know Mueller is looking at obstruction related to the firing of FBI Director James Comey for many reasons—most recently, the Justice Department refused to permit a Senate committee to interview two FBI officials who were witnesses on this issue, and when asked about the matter, referred questions to Mueller. This indicates that Mueller believes the FBI officials are potential witnesses. (If Mueller thinks he might use their testimony later, he would want to reduce the risk that potential defendants and their counsel can learn about it in advance. He also doesn’t want to generate inconsistent accounts from witnesses that can be used to undermine them at trial.)
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Open Thread: Criminally Stupid, Too

President Trump’s legal team is wrestling with how much to cooperate with the special counsel looking into Russian election interference, an internal debate that led to an angry confrontation last week between two White House lawyers and that could shape the course of the investigation…

The debate in Mr. Trump’s West Wing has pitted Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, against Ty Cobb, a lawyer brought in to manage the response to the investigation. Mr. Cobb has argued for turning over as many of the emails and documents requested by the special counsel as possible in hopes of quickly ending the investigation — or at least its focus on Mr. Trump…

The friction escalated in recent days after Mr. Cobb was overheard by a reporter for The New York Times discussing the dispute during a lunchtime conversation at a popular Washington steakhouse. Mr. Cobb was heard talking about a White House lawyer he deemed “a McGahn spy” and saying Mr. McGahn had “a couple documents locked in a safe” that he seemed to suggest he wanted access to. He also mentioned a colleague whom he blamed for “some of these earlier leaks,” and who he said “tried to push Jared out,” meaning Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who has been a previous source of dispute for the legal team.

After The Times contacted the White House about the situation, Mr. McGahn privately erupted at Mr. Cobb, according to people informed about the confrontation who asked not to be named describing internal matters. John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, sharply reprimanded Mr. Cobb for his indiscretion, the people said…

Mr. Trump’s legal team has been a caldron of rivalry and intrigue since the beginning. His first private lawyer, Marc E. Kasowitz, grew alienated from the White House in part over friction with Mr. Kushner. The lawyer was unhappy that Mr. Kushner was talking with his father-in-law about the investigation without involving the legal team.

Mr. Kasowitz was eventually pushed to the side, and Mr. Trump elevated John Dowd, a Washington lawyer with extensive experience in high-profile political cases, to take the lead as his personal lawyer. At the same time, Mr. Trump decided he needed someone inside the White House to manage the official response since Mr. McGahn, whose professional experience is mostly in election law, already handles a vast array of issues from executive orders to judicial appointments.

Mr. McGahn’s first choices turned down the job, in part out of concern that Mr. Trump would not follow legal advice…



Only the Best for Donald

You can’t make this shit up:

Mr. McGahn supports cooperation, but has expressed worry about setting a precedent that would weaken the White House long after Mr. Trump’s tenure is over. He is described as particularly concerned about whether the president will invoke executive or attorney-client privilege to limit how forthcoming Mr. McGahn could be if he himself is interviewed by the special counsel as requested.

The friction escalated in recent days after Mr. Cobb was overheard by a reporter for The New York Times discussing the dispute during a lunchtime conversation at a popular Washington steakhouse. Mr. Cobb was heard talking about a White House lawyer he deemed “a McGahn spy” and saying Mr. McGahn had “a couple documents locked in a safe” that he seemed to suggest he wanted access to. He also mentioned a colleague whom he blamed for “some of these earlier leaks,” and who he said “tried to push Jared out,” meaning Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who has been a previous source of dispute for the legal team.

After The Times contacted the White House about the situation, Mr. McGahn privately erupted at Mr. Cobb, according to people informed about the confrontation who asked not to be named describing internal matters. John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, sharply reprimanded Mr. Cobb for his indiscretion, the people said.

Obligatory:








Monday Morning Open Thread: The Toddler Files

As I mentioned Sunday morning, I’ve got an old friend visiting from out of town, so my participation here is liable to be (even more!) spotty and unreliable this week. Think of it as a chance to rack up some TBogg comment units (500+ on a thread), and to read some of the longer projects available:

The point of the [original April 25] tweet was to push back on the occasional impulse by Very Serious People to claim that some speech or act by Donald Trump proved that he was “growing into the presidency.” The hard-working staff here at Spoiler Alerts has been examining Trump’s words and actions for the 2016 presidential campaign and thought this was nonsense. Hence the tweet.

The thing is, it quickly became clear that the evidence that Trump was not growing into the presidency was hiding in plain sight. Barely a week or even a day could pass without someone with access to Trump telling the news media in no uncertain terms the ways in which he was unfit for office. So I decided to keep adding to the thread…

… While Twitter followers can find the thread when I add to it, the functionality of Twitter is not ideal for finding it. Therefore, I have decided to curate this thread here at Spoiler Alerts as well. Below are all the tweets in this thread, in order. Every week I will update this post to include any additional tweets…

One last point: All I’m doing is curating these stories. The real credit goes to the myriad reporters who have wrested these anecdotes and quotes from individuals who, in all likelihood, genuinely want this president to succeed. Yet, in their heart of hearts, they know that the commander in chief of America’s armed forces has the oppositional nature of a 3-year old…

Most recent, so far:


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Apart from being eternally grateful to the Republican Party for wishing this stunted monster on the rest of us, what’s on the agenda as we begin another (hopefully slow news) week?



Trump’s “Voter Fraud” Commission: Yes, They Are Indeed Fraudulent

I keep starting long, link-heavy posts about Kobach’s hand-picked vote-suppression committee… and the evil bastids keep getting ahead of the news. Shorter: These guys are more dangerous to the American way than a coalition of acting-out white supremacists ganged up with a band of black bloc window-breakers.

In an September 7th article for Breitbart News, Kobach claimed that 5,313 New Hampshire voters were not residents of the state. The only “evidence” he could muster, however, was that the 5,313 had registered to vote with out-of-state driver’s licenses but had not registered a car in New Hampshire. Kobach forgot—or just intentionally ignored in furtherance of his own agenda—that thousands of New Hampshire college students from other states reside and attend classes in New Hampshire districts that saw high voter turnouts in 2016.

Kobach added that New Hampshire Democrat Maggie Hassan likely only won her senate race because it was “stolen through voter fraud.” He did not even claim to have proof.

Assembled by Trump by executive order in early May, the commission was tasked with completing a report about “vulnerabilities and issues related to voter registration and voting.” Its creation followed erroneous claims repeated by the president alleging widespread voter fraud which the president has claimed cost him the popular vote. Seemingly emasculated by having obtained fewer votes nationwide than Clinton, Trump asserted weeks after his inauguration that between 3 and 5 million illegal ballots were cast for his opponent…

Kobach and Pence eventually appointed five Democrats and seven Republicans to the commission, though Democrat Luis E. Borunda, Maryland’s deputy secretary of state, has since resigned. But it remains completely under the direction of the Republicans.

“Any truly bipartisan commission on these things has to have bipartisan leadership,” Danielle Lang, an attorney for the Campaign Legal Center, told Gizmodo. “There has to be some kind of bipartisan power on the commission—or it’s just a fig leaf. If you look at all of the former commissions that this would be similar to, they all had Democrat and Republican vice chairs. Instead, in this case, you have Kris Kobach and Mike Pence. That alone truly disqualifies it from being truly bipartisan in any meaningful way.” …

And given his background, Hans von Spakovsky should be particularly ashamed of himself, if only he understood the concept of ‘shame’.



Late Night Horrorshow Open Thread: Charlie (Rose) & the Shambling Bannon

Let’s just say, this interview did nothing to dissuade me from the impression that Bannon is an old-fashioned Irish mucker… one who’s measuring the collapse of his liver against the collapse of civilization, and doing his best to make it a photo finish.

Bad news, he’s got the Mercers eating out of his greasy palm, and they’re as nihilistic as Bannon but without the almost-human touches. Slightly less bad news, right now Bannon’s more interested in punishing the not-Trump Repubs than he is in destroying Democrats, and I can’t find it in my heart to feel sorry for anyone in the GOP.
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Monday Morning Open Thread: Another Monday, Already?

(Tom Toles via GoComics.com)
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Apart from keeping our Floridian fellows in our thoughts, what’s on the agenda as we start the week?

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On a more upbeat note, we humans don’t deserve dogs, and yet they forgive us. From the NYTimes, “Gregory Berns Knows What Your Dog Is Thinking (It’s Sweet)”:

Dr. Gregory Berns, 53, a neuroscientist at Emory University in Atlanta, spends his days scanning the brains of dogs, trying to figure out what they’re thinking. The research is detailed in a new book, “What It’s Like to Be a Dog.”

Among the findings: Your dog may really love you for you — not for your food…

Dr. Burns: As a neuroscientist, I’d seen how M.R.I. studies helped us understand which parts of the human brain were involved in emotional processes. Perhaps M.R.I. testing could teach us similar things about dogs. I wondered if dogs had analogous functions in their brains to what we humans have.

The big impediment doing this type of testing was to find some way to get dogs into an M.R.I. and get them to hold still for long enough to obtain useful images.

I worked with an Atlanta-based dog trainer, Mark Spivak, to break down the steps that might make it possible for dogs to go into an M.R.I.

In my basement, I built an M.R.I. simulator. We introduced Callie, the family terrier, to it — acclimating her to the noise, teaching her to climb the stairs leading to the machine, recline into a head rest and be motionless for increasing periods of time.

After she mastered these tasks, we combined them, as would be necessary when she encountered a real M.R.I. It took her three months of practicing every day. After perfecting a training system, we sent out a call to local dog owners for volunteers for the study.

Since 2012, we’ve trained and scanned a total of about 90 dogs. As a matter of principle, we never restrained or drugged any. If a dog wants to get up from the M.R.I. and leave, they can. There’s no compulsion…

We did an experiment where we gave them hot dogs some of the time and praise some of the time. When we compared their responses and looked at the rewards center of their brains, the vast number of dogs responded to praise and food equally.

Now, about 20 percent had stronger responses to praise than to food. From that, we conclude that the vast majority of dogs love us at least as much as food.

Another thing that we’ve learned by showing pictures of objects and people to the dogs is that they have dedicated parts of their brain for processing faces. So dogs are in many ways wired to process faces.

This means that dogs aren’t just learning from being around us that human faces are important — they are born to look at faces. This wasn’t known before…