Breaking: Another Parcel Bomb Explodes in Austin, Texas


Provided this is the same perpetrator for all the bombings, or at least all the parcel/package bombs, then he (it is most likely a he) is rapidly moving through his escalation cycle.

From CBS Austin:

A new explosion has been reported in South Austin, hours after explosive packages were found at FedEx facilities in Schertz and near the Austin airport — and four other explosions over the past several weeks have left two dead and four others injured.

According to Austin-Travis County EMS, the latest reported incident happened at around 7 p.m. near the intersection of Brodie and West Slaughter Lanes.

The Austin Fire Department is reporting the explosion happened at a Goodwill location.

A man in his 30s was transported to St. David’s South Austin Medical Center with potentially serious, but not life-threatening injuries.

Reaction from the Austin American Statesman breaking news editor who lives near the most recent bombing:

And it appears this may have been a two for, which is often used to lure law enforcement and emergency services in with the first device and then attack them with the second.

I’m working with Alain to try to embed the live feed from CBS Austin, as soon as I can I’ll update.

If you receive a package that you did not order, that does not appear to have normal delivery markings, that appears to be discolored or misshapen, or that seems suspicious: call the authorities. This type of very public type of serial killing will inspire copycats. Better safe than sorry.

Update at 9:15 PM EDT

Here’s the live feed from KXAN Austin:

Updated at 9:25 PM EDT

We have some good news:

Looks to be a low grade copycat.

Stay frosty!

Open thread.

Breaking: Britain’s Information Officer Moves Against Cambridge Analytica

Here’s the Channel 4 expose of Cambridge Analytica:

Senior executives at Cambridge Analytica – the data company that credits itself with Donald Trump’s presidential victory – have been secretly filmed saying they could entrap politicians in compromising situations with bribes and Ukrainian sex workers.

In an undercover investigation by Channel 4 News, the company’s chief executive Alexander Nix said the British firm secretly campaigns in elections across the world. This includes operating through a web of shadowy front companies, or by using sub-contractors.

In one exchange, when asked about digging up material on political opponents, Mr Nix said they could “send some girls around to the candidate’s house”, adding that Ukrainian girls “are very beautiful, I find that works very well”.

In another he said: “We’ll offer a large amount of money to the candidate, to finance his campaign in exchange for land for instance, we’ll have the whole thing recorded, we’ll blank out the face of our guy and we post it on the Internet.”

Offering bribes to public officials is an offence under both the UK Bribery Act and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Cambridge Analytica operates in the UK and is registered in the United States.

The admissions were filmed at a series of meetings at London hotels over four months, between November 2017 and January 2018. An undercover reporter for Channel 4 News posed as a fixer for a wealthy client hoping to get candidates elected in Sri Lanka.

Here’s the actual video:

What Nix and Turnbull are caught describing as their standard operating practice is separate from whatever program Christopher Wylie built for Cambridge Analytica. Rather, they’re describing a hybrid of privatized human intelligence and what are sometimes referred to as black psychological operations (black PSYOP), which is a misuse of the term. Initially black PSYOP was used as short hand for the highly compartmented covert form of PSYOP necessary to support special operations. This is not surprising as Cambridge Analytica is subsidiary business development unit of SCL Group, which claims to provide these services to the British Ministry of Defense and the US DOD. Several boutique companies were created to do this type of work in support of coalition operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and people eventually left these companies and started their own boutique shops. All they’re really doing is creating propaganda and then trying to insert it into the news and social media space without it seeming to come from non-natives.

I’ve had dealings with some of these folks and to be perfectly honest I find them to be largely full of crap about what they actually can and cannot do. Usually they have a very limited understanding of both socio-cultural considerations in general and the specific socio-cultural dynamics of the people they’re trying to influence in specific. One of the most obnoxious of them, another Brit, has only the bare minimum idea of what this work, especially the descriptive statistical analyses, actually entail. But he’s memorized a bunch of jargon, talks a good game, sounds posh, and gets contracts. He gets away with this because there are really no institutionalized quality assurance/quality control programs in place to ascertain if this stuff actually is helpful, let alone if it works, and whether it actually is useful to the uniformed and civilian personnel at the pointy end. And because there are too few folks like me who actually know better, so it is hard to preemptively block these folks before they make there clients dumber and put people’s lives at risk.

Updated at 5:10 PM EDT:

Updated at 5:22 PM EDT:

And this is a very good question:

Delete your Facebook page!

Don’t take any online surveys!

Stay frosty!

Open thread.


Breaking News: Attorney General Sessions Has Fired Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe

Attorney General Sessions’ statement:

There is no report yet as to whether they have also moved to terminate his pension earned in a 21 year career as an FBI special agent.

From The Washington Post:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions late Friday night fired former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, a little more than 24 hours before McCabe was set to retire.

Sessions announced the decision in a statement just before 10 p.m., noting that both the Justice Department Inspector General and the FBI office that handles discipline had found “that Mr. McCabe had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor — including under oath — on multiple occasions.”

He said based on those findings and the recommendation of the department’s senior career official, “I have terminated the employment of Andrew McCabe effective immediately.”

The move will likely cost McCabe a significant portion of his retirement benefits, though it is possible he could bring a legal challenge. McCabe has been fighting vigorously to keep his job, and on Thursday, he spent nearly four hours inside the Justice Department pleading his case.

Here’s McCabe’s statement:

From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — Andrew G. McCabe, the former F.B.I. deputy director and a frequent target of President Trump’s scorn, was fired Friday after the Justice Department rejected an appeal that would have let him retire this weekend.

Mr. McCabe promptly declared that his firing, and Mr. Trump’s persistent needling, were intended to undermine the special counsel’s investigation in which he is a potential witness.

Mr. McCabe is accused in a yet-to-be-released internal report of failing to be forthcoming about a conversation he authorized between F.B.I. officials and a journalist.

In an interview, Mr. McCabe was blunt. “The idea that I was dishonest is just wrong,” he said, adding, “This is part of an effort to discredit me as a witness.”

Mr. McCabe was among the first at the F.B.I. to scrutinize possible Trump campaign ties to Russia. And he is a potential witness to the question of whether Mr. Trump tried to obstruct justice. Mr. Trump has taunted Mr. McCabe both publicly and privately, and Republican allies have cast him as the center of a “deep state” effort to undermine the Trump presidency.

As a witness, Mr. McCabe would be in a position to corroborate the testimony of the former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, who kept contemporaneous notes on his conversations with Mr. Trump. Mr. Comey said Mr. Trump prodded him to publicly exonerate the president on the question of Russian collusion and encouraged him to shut down an investigation into his national security adviser.

Mr. McCabe, a 21-year F.B.I. veteran, was eligible for a government pension if he retired on Sunday. The firing jeopardizes that benefit, though it was not immediately clear how much he might lose.

“It’s incredibly unfair to my reputation after a 21-year career,” Mr. McCabe said. He said the president’s public attacks were aimed at several targets. “The real damage is being done to the F.B.I., law enforcement and the special counsel,” he said.

To add insult to injury, someone seems to have leaked this to Fox News.

This was an ugly, unnecessary action. McCabe will sue to get his full pension, which will open Attorney General Sessions and the President up to discovery.

McCabe appears ready to name names and provide receipts:

This is going to get real ugly, real quickly.

We are off the looking glass and through the map.

Stay frosty!

Open thread.

Friday Evening Open Thread

A question: What should I make for dinner? It’s been a long week, and I’m not up for cooking something elaborate this evening. But I can’t push the chore off on the mister because he’s been building a fence all day. Nor can I in good conscience order out since we’ve been doing way too much of that lately. I’m thinking something like baked ziti but am entertaining other ideas.

Other than that, I got nothing. Open thread!

Breaking: Special Counsel Mueller Has Subpoenaed The Trump Organization For Documents Related To Russia

From The New York Times reporting:

WASHINGTON — The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has subpoenaed the Trump Organization to turn over documents, including some related to Russia, according to two people briefed on the matter. The order is the first known time that the special counsel demanded documents directly related to President Trump’s businesses, bringing the investigation closer to the president.

The breadth of the subpoena was not clear, nor was it clear why Mr. Mueller issued it instead of simply asking for the documents from the company, an umbrella organization that oversees Mr. Trump’s business ventures. In the subpoena, delivered in recent weeks, Mr. Mueller ordered the Trump Organization to hand over all documents related to Russia and other topics he is investigating, the people said.

The subpoena is the latest indication that the investigation, which Mr. Trump’s lawyers once regularly assured him would be completed by now, will drag on for at least several more months. Word of the subpoena comes as Mr. Mueller appears to be broadening his investigation to examine the role foreign money may have played in funding Mr. Trump’s political activities. In recent weeks, Mr. Mueller’s investigators have questioned witnesses, including an adviser to the United Arab Emirates, about the flow of Emirati money into the United States.

Neither White House officials nor Alan S. Futerfas, a lawyer representing the Trump Organization, immediately responded to requests for comment. The Trump Organization has typically complied with requests from congressional investigators for documents for their own inquiries into Russian election interference, and there was no indication the company planned to fight Mr. Mueller about it.

Much more at the link, but the real outstanding question is why use the subpoena rather than the normal investigator to corporate legal counsel request letter or letters. The reason for the Special Counsel’s decision to go this route is unclear and/or unknown at this time.

Stay frosty!

Open thread!

PA 18 Special Election Part 2

With 93% reporting in PA 18 Conor Lamb has a 928 vote lead over Rick Saccone. Here’s some thoughts from Harry Enten of 538:

Open thread!

The Lajes Protocol Part III: The GOP Majority On The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s Gambit In Perspective

I just wanted to take a minute and follow up on Cheryl’s post in regard to the GOP majority on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s decision to just end their investigation into the Russian active measures and cyberwarfare campaign against the US without consulting the Democratic minority on the committee. As many of you have remarked in the comments to Cheryl’s post, this was clearly rushed out. The one page summary is as well written as the infamous Nunes memo and the Republican members of the committee can’t keep their talking points, let alone their stories, straight in their news media appearances trying to explain what they’ve done, why they did it, and what it means. There is a simple reason for this, which is that several pieces of information regarding what Special Counselor Mueller is doing have broken since the end of last week and over the weekend. And it clearly spooked them.

Bloomberg News reported this morning that Special Counsel Mueller is just about done with the part of his investigation that deals with whether the President obstructed justice in regard to the DOJ and FBI investigation into the Russian active measures and cyberwarfare campaign that resulted in Bob Mueller becoming the Special Counsel.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice is said to be close to completion, but he may set it aside while he finishes other key parts of his probe, such as possible collusion and the hacking of Democrats, according to current and former U.S. officials.

That’s because Mueller may calculate that if he tries to bring charges in the obstruction case — the part that may hit closest to Trump personally — witnesses may become less cooperative in other parts of the probe, or the president may move to shut it down altogether.

The revelation is a peek into Mueller’s calculations as he proceeds with his many-headed probe, while pressure builds from the president’s advisers and other Republicans to show progress or wrap it up.

The obstruction portion of the probe could likely be completed after several key outstanding interviews, including with the president and his son, Donald Trump Jr. The president’s lawyers have been negotiating with Mueller’s team over such an encounter since late last year. But even if Trump testifies in the coming weeks, Mueller may make a strategic calculation to keep his findings on obstruction secret, according to the current and former U.S. officials, who discussed the strategy on condition of anonymity.

Any clear outcome of the obstruction inquiry could be used against Mueller: Filing charges against Trump or his family could prompt the president to take action to fire him. Publicly clearing Trump of obstruction charges — as the president’s lawyers have requested — could be used by his allies to build pressure for the broader investigation to be shut down.

Other key matters under investigation by Mueller’s team, with its 17 career prosecutors, include whether Trump or any of his associates helped Russia meddle in the 2016 campaign. Mueller is also expected to indict some of those responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee before the election and publicly leaking stolen material in an effort to hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton.

NBC also reported this morning that Qatar has evidence/intelligence that shows the United Arab Emirates illegally influencing Jared Kushner, the President’s son in law and senior advisor. And that they’re afraid to share it with Special Counsel Mueller for fear of retribution by the President.

Qatari officials gathered evidence of what they claim is illicit influence by the United Arab Emirates on Jared Kushner and other Trump associates, including details of secret meetings, but decided not to give the information to special counsel Robert Mueller for fear of harming relations with the Trump administration, say three sources familiar with the Qatari discussions.

Lebanese-American businessman George Nader and Republican donor Elliott Broidy, who participated in the meetings, have both been the focus of news reports in recent days about their connections to the UAE and Trump associates.

It is unknown whether Qatari officials were the source of the recent news stories detailing activities by Nader and Broidy published by The New York Times and CNN.

NBC News previously reported that Qatari officials weighed speaking to Mueller during a visit to Washington earlier this year, and has now learned the information the officials wanted to share included details about Nader and Broidy working with the UAE to turn the Trump administration against Qatar, according to three people familiar with the discussions.

Qatari officials believe the meetings — as well as fallout from Qatari business dealings with Kushner — may have influenced President Donald Trump’s public endorsement of a blockade of Qatar by its neighbors that began last year.

A Qatari delegation came to Washington in late January and early February and met with Trump officials to discuss shared national security interests. Despite Trump’s endorsement of the blockade in June, the Qataris felt the meetings with top advisers had been productive and decided against reaching out to Mueller in order to preserve the relationship, according to people familiar with the internal Qatari deliberations.

The news about George Nader broke last week and included that he was both cooperating completely with the Special Counsel’s investigation and that part of that was providing previously unreported/unkown details about the meeting between Eric Prince and Kirill Dmitriev, who runs a Russian sovereign wealth fund and is close to Vladimir Putin. It is important to remember that Nader had been completely cooperating with the Special Counsel’s Office for almost six weeks before news of it leaked out and/or was made public. That amount of time is important! Moreover, the reporting indicates that Prince, who is currently being funded and bankrolled by the People’s Republic of China, perjured himself in his testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

And, of course, we had the All Nunberg, All the Time canine and equine extravaganza that began with him making the rounds claiming he wasn’t going to testify and is still on going as he’s doing the media rounds again tonight post grand jury appearance. Since he testified he’s consistently indicated he doesn’t think what the Special Counsel is doing is a hoax or a witch hunt and that he thinks the Special Counsel has something on the President.

Then a series of news reports about Elliott Broidy, Deputy Republican National Committee Finance Chair and Trump Campaign fundraiser. This includes pitching an idea to the President to raise a Muslim Army to fight for America. Broidy has also been implicated in a Ukrainian criminal probe, as well as being tied to whatever it was that George Nader was actually doing for the Emiratis. Broidy is personally hosting a $35,000 per person fundraiser for the President tomorrow in Beverly Hills as part of the President’s first official visit to California.

If you were wondering why the GOP majority on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence decided to end their investigation, without so much as the courtesy of notifying the Democratic minority before going public with the announcement, and did so in a rush, I would submit all of the above as the reasons. They are clearly scared and felt the need to change the narrative. This won’t stop Special Counsel Mueller and his investigation. It will, however, provide the Fox News talking heads, the talk radio folks, the Republicans and conservatives on contributor contracts for the broadcast and cable news networks, conservative media outlets ranging from the mainstream (whatever that means anymore) all the way out to the extreme, authoritarian right with a new narrative to pitch. That Congress found no collusion, so it is well past time for Bob Mueller to wrap it up.

We’ll leave the final word with Rod Rosenstein, the person that the President personally selected and the GOP majority in the Senate confirmed to be the Deputy Attorney General of the United States with every Republican senator voting in support of his nomination. And who, as the Deputy Attorney General, oversees Special Counsel Mueller, his office, and his work:

Stay frosty!

Open thread.